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Holding on to what's golden 🏅
My Street Fighter 6 journey has hit a bit of a positive milestone, so I decided to see what's going right, wrong, and different.
This project was supposed to have a few more updates than it ended up having, and I was almost hoping to not get to this point before writing them.
But I’ve hit Gold, and that’s a really good feeling.
According to a ranked distribution chart from Reddit (posted September 6), I’m now in the top 55% of players in North America. While this seems strikingly “average”, this is much better than I did in Street Fighter V.
I’m much more likely to be “sparked” to want to play, rather than dreading it. Even though this “ranked journey” is still being made into content for this newsletter, the idea of streaming every ranked match I played was really poison to learning.
I’m having more moments where my brain goes “Oh wait, you can play Street Fighter right now/tonight! You know you like that.” This is different than a lot of other attempts to be better at games in general.
I started going to the gym IRL. Having some kind of structure for my training in real life made it really easy to transpose the habits into Street Fighter. Being able to say that it didn’t matter what I was doing, as long as I was putting in some kind of effort, made it easier to just boot up training mode to increase muscle memory, or watch a couple sets on Twitch, or ask a dumb question in a Discord.
I started limiting the amount of time I spend in Ranked. In general, I try to play a minimum of 10 matches when I decide I’m going to play against other people. This “minimum reps” allows me to choose whether I want to spend it in Casual, Ranked or Battle Hub, and it kind of forgives me if I’m feeling a bit scared of losing my hard-earn Ranked points.
I’m finding that Battle Hub and Casual have been good teachers in the sense of that I’m comfortable losing against Platinums and Diamonds, and pursuing things like the Challenges for the Battle Pass (which need a certain amount of wins, rather than matches played) allowed me to focus on something else besides Ranked.
There’s also a nice effect where if I’m getting my ass beat by Platinums and Diamonds, I know it’s generally assured that I’m going to have an easier time coming back to Ranked. The hilarious thing is now that I’ve reached Gold, I’ve started being that “high-level player matched with a lower-level one”, which is a bit of an interesting dynamic.
It isn’t going to stop me from trying my hardest, but it’s an acknowledgement that I’m out of the lowest-of-the-low trenches. When I played Dota 2, I could say with confidence that I was probably the worst person on my team, whenever I played; here, I know that if I’m facing Rookies, Irons, Bronzes, and most Silvers, I have a grasp of some fundamentals where they don’t.
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What I’m doing next, and what I’m doing wrong
I’m obviously not stopping — I’d like to try to get to Platinum, where progress is a lot more difficult because of the lack of winstreak bonus. However, I’m not exactly worried about that. I am more just trying to be honest about what I need to refine about my Ken play, and removing the bad habits I’ve already developed.
I autopilot way too much when my offense hits a blocking opponent. In certain situations this is good (because I’m at least committing to muscle memory) but at the same time, I’m losing so much life through not stopping things early when I’ve seen
I try to Shoryuken on reaction (or pre-reaction) way too much. This is a heavy commitment and tends to lose me rounds because of the extra damage I’m taking from Counter combos. Daigo can do this and get away with it, and sometimes it wins, but it isn’t me acting on anything but intuition; it isn’t playing smart.
My throw defence is abysmal. I have a hard time reacting to my opponents throwing me, and on the off-chance I can see it coming, I am not reacting with a button-press. This might be something that’s more difficult on stick as opposed to a controller (two button-presses vs one) but it definitely ends up being free damage on me.
I cannot super combo to save my life. The only time I’m landing super combos are in situations where I have ample time to do so (crumples from Drive Impact, or after blocking high-commitment moves). Even in situations where I have ample time, I am very rarely “sounding out” my combo; sometimes I am just flailing in general directions for the input and it’ll come out. However, it doesn’t feel intentional.
I don’t use Drive Rush nearly as much as I should. The input is a bit clumsy to me, and I find myself not knowing what kind of poke or fishing I should be doing with it. I never use it mid-combo, mostly because I’m a bit nervous to spend resources. Especially with trying to get in with Ken, I can be using this a bit more to be unpredictable and quick on approach.
These all give me something specific to look towards and practice, and the interesting thing is that I’m not being overly hard on myself; I’m still picking up wins by just playing good fundamentals, being more patient, and letting opponents dig their own graves.
Because results are still happening and evident, I don’t feel like I’m being urgently punished for what I’m not able to do (yet). This is a bit of a break mentally that I’m looking to be able to give myself in other areas of my life, and I’m happy that it’s happening here.
What I’m doing well
On the flip side of that coin, I feel like it’s also good practice to be able to acknowledge what I’m doing well. I’m really bad at this with other things, but I figure I can build more of a practice here.
I have been told I have good reactions when it comes to offence. When my opponent is recovering from a knock-down, I feel reasonably good at being able to mask where I’m going to attack from next.
When I’m not mindlessly doing it, I am happy with my ability to abuse Shoryuken’s invincibility as a reversal. Some opponents have moves with long wind-up, and sometimes I feel really good being able to recognize those moments and input the motion quickly.
I am getting better at reading opponents’ habits. Typically I’ll eat at least one desperation OD move on their wakeup, but it won’t happen again. I can also sense moments when the opponent is desperate (about to die) or has resources (Super Art meter) that will lead them to do something a bit more unexpected on wakeup. Being able to think to myself “Alright, this is where they’re annoyed at eating two throws in a row, time to block” and being rewarded for it feels awesome.
I am getting better at blocking in general. I think some of this might come from matchup knowledge, but I’m starting to realize what’s safe and unsafe from my opponents. I am less impatient for it to be “my turn” than I was before, and this leads to being more okay with blocking effectively. There’s definitely this fear that “the longer it’s not my turn, the more likely it is that I will just lose”, but I think I’m being better with knowing when I don’t have the knowledge to sufficiently act.
I can’t say that I’m amazing with fundamentals, but I think the things I’m good at are things that are generalist skills, rather than just “being really good at Ken combos.” This kind of gives me hope, because it means that even if the game changes in a way that Ken isn’t good anymore, I can pick up something or learn new things while other players may not.
I’m also taking it as a good sign that I’m thinking about playing other characters as a way to experiment, or just have fun. This might sound like a small thing, but I can’t emphasize how important it is that I want to play this game apart from it contributing to this project.
It’s signalling to me that I’m actually having fun — and yes, I needed this told to me explicitly.
These are all good signs. We’ll see where it takes me. Until next time!