More Than a Masher #1: The Journey Begins

Welcome to a brand new series that I am insanely excited about. Each week I’ll be chronicling my journey through Dragonball Fighterz going from total FGC noob to tournament competitor.

For those that don’t know me, let’s get some quick background. I have been a professional writer in esports for about 7 years now. Most of that time has been spent working in MOBAs like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. In 2016 I started to follow Super Smash Bros (Melee and Smash 4) and watched the Street Fighter finals for Evo that year. I instantly fell in love with fighting games and have absorbed every bit of content I could over the last 18 months. When DBFZ was announced, I knew it was my chance to break into the FGC as a content creator.

krillin

Aw yea, ready to get stomped on by so many stronger people!!!

The only problem was, I’d never touched a fighting game before. Sure, I owned Marvel 2 on console and mashed some buttons with buddies, but I was never an arcade kid, and knew nothing about the tournament scene. My college time was devoted to World of Warcraft, and after that came League of Legends. If I were to start covering Fighterz, I knew I would eventually need to attend tournaments, or play with people online. The moment I sat down, I would be exposed as a total fraud, and lose any credibility as a writer in the scene.

So, I resolved two things. First, that I would be open from the start with the community. I know esports, and I love fighting games, but I am still learning the history and lore of your incredible community. Second, that I would commit myself to becoming a competent player, and share that journey with you. I’ve set myself a goal to attend CEO in 2019 and make it to top 32 get out of pools (changed back to my original goal based on some helpful feedback). Hopefully I’ll feel confident enough later this year to attend a few events, but I have no idea where to set my expectations yet. It will all be part of the adventure!

With introductions out of the way, let’s get into the first week of my training–how to prepare without the game!

Get a Stick

Starting this process, I knew the first thing I’d need to do was invest in a good fightstick. I play on PC and have an Xbox controller, but after trying out Skullgirls and Street Fighter 4, I figured out three problems very quickly:

  1. My Smash Bros. instincts kept taking over when I was under pressure. I wanted to use the triggers to grab and shield. It was incredibly difficult to get my brain to use them for hard punch and hard kick, let alone EX moves.
  2. I couldn’t crouch block. Having a fully circular pad for the joystick, it was really hard to get my hand to naturally find the right spot where normal crouch became crouch block.
  3. I literally could not shoryuken. It didn’t matter how  much I practiced the motion, I would get a fireball or absolutely nothing almost every time.

Now, both of these are obstacles that could be overcome with practice. However, I’m already so far behind, and felt that a fightstick would solve both issues, instantly pushing me ahead days, if not weeks, in my muscle memory training.

So, I used some cash from Christmas to get myself a Qanba Q1. Y’all, I love this thing so much, I don’t even know how to describe it. First off, look at the thing–it’s gorgeous!

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My precious….

It instantly felt more natural. Within 5 minutes of opening the box my wife had the thing cracked open and we were figuring out how to replace the square guard with the hex that came with it. Now with 8 clear directions, my hand can find crouch block with little trouble. After two tries I could also do the shoryuken motion successsfully and consistently. Executing combos felt so natural, the buttons felt good to press, I’m having more fun just practicing combos in training mode than I have with any game in the last five years. Now that I had the right equipment, it was time to learn how the heck you play a fighting game.

The Skullgirls Tutorial

After seeking some advice on Twitter, I was informed that the best instruction available was through the tutorial in Skullgirls. So far, I have zero complaints. Everything was easy to follow for a beginner. It teaches you the very basics from block mixups to throw techs. I got stuck for about a full day on the throw tech lesson–for some reason I just could not get the timing down.

skullgirls tutorial

I enjoy practicing with Filia. She’s much less….distracting than most of the cast.

That tutorial ended up being a bit too overwhelming to pass, but I had already decided I was not going to skip any lessons. Instead, I took myself over to training mode. I had watched a lot of videos from the Super Couch Fighters where they used training mode to have the CPU repeat recorded actions. This seemed like the best way to practice timing my tech.

It took some doing (the recording system wasn’t super clear about when I was recording the CPU’s inputs or not so I had lots of dead time) but I finally got a solid series of throw mixups input that I could train with. After about 30 minutes of repeatedly practicing my techs, I started to figure out the timing. Then it was back to tutorial to pass the lesson.

At this point, I’m most of the way through the tutorial. Rather than try to burn through it all quickly, I’ve been splitting my training time between three things:

  1. The tutorial itself
  2. Practicing combos in training mode to get used to the mechanics
  3. Fighting CPU opponents to get used to blocking.

At this point I can pretty consistently beat the CPU on Normal difficulty. I’ve been maining Filia as she feels pretty straightforward and her combos into supers are pretty easy to execute. The only character I can’t beat reliably so far is Peacock. I have not yet figured out an answer to that darn airplane/car combo. She puts too much stuff on the screen. I’ve put her to the side for now, and I’m focusing mostly on confirming the combos I feel confident with.

Skullgirls_-_Peacock

Behold the true face of evil

The biggest problem I’ve seen so far with my training method is that I get so comfortable doing the same full combo over and over again that I end up doing a super even if I drop the combo somewhere in the middle, wasting a bar and getting blown up. Hopefully splitting my time between training mode and CPU fights will even out mastering the mechanics with judging when to complete the full combo.

The last thing I’m focusing on right now is a strange habit I’ve discovered when doing combos that involve a command input. Most of the time I find that my finger wants to hit the button twice. If I’m doing quarter-circle back + HP, my finger hits the HP when I start the motion, and again when it finishes. If I pay close attention this doesn’t happen, but in the middle of a fight it usually leads to a dropped combo.


Overall at this point I actually feel really good. I feel like I’m progressing smoothly with only 7 days of practice. There’s still plenty of mechanical things I can work on in Skullgirls that should set me up to better focus on character-specific things once DBFZ comes out. Above all else, I still can’t believe how much fun I’m having. I know I’ll get destroyed, but I want so badly to play against people. No one in my circle of friends cares at all, but I just want to talk about my progress. More than once I’ve found myself giggling after I figure out a way to extend my combo with a few more hits. Tokido was right–fighting games really are great.

Thanks so much for joining me on this journey. For updates in between releases in this series you can follow me on Twitter. Let me know what you’ve been doing to train, or just to survive the agonizing wait until the game drops.

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