I've likened the learning curve in IaMP to that of a brick wall for years now. I've continued to feel that way even to this day. To elaborate: each brick represents a bad habit or unlearned "function" that you'll beat your head against until you break it. These "bad" habits may come to us naturally/intuitively or be formed from other games. And these "functions" are usually the things that apply to IaMP's game-flow that we may not automatically consider or recognize, but they tend to bite us on the ass.
Simple things like: Attacking first doesn't always win, height superiority has it's advantages and disadvantages, not beating bullets with melee or visa versa, moving backwards can be stronger than moving forwards, using cover for advantage, and how the mixup and pressure games actually work. They sound simple, but if you don't "get it" it can be a real chore to learn it during a round or even multiple sets of games.
Some bricks are harder to break than others. And, all that head-banging is bound to cause some headaches. Indeed, rage and frustration is really rampant in the IaMP scene once you get to a certain skill level and continue to move upwards. This is generally caused by getting repeatedly hurt by something, realizing that something is wrong, and not understanding/recognizing what's wrong or how to correct it. That's when the head-banging begins.
IMO, you must first isolate a single brick among the wall of other bricks and then forcibly break it by grinding it out. If you're not careful and attempt to break too many foundation bricks at once then the whole wall might come crashing down on you. I know it sounds like a silly analogy, but it's actually very real and has happened to others (we've witnessed it first-hand numerous times). If you allow yourself to get too frustrated while banging your head against the whole wall all at once it'll probably end up being much too overwhelming. You'll crack before any brick even starts to. You can't expect to pick it up and be automatically good at it or level up very rapidly. All you can really hope to do is be patient and observant.
The best players in the IRC channel have been around for years, and they were trash at the game when they first started (we have recorded evidence of this). It took a long long time to get good, and the same applies to everyone else.
Know what? I think that's a good thing. A very good thing. If you consider the opposite, it'd be quite a great tragedy to have some newb pick up a game and then suddenly be playing as well as the top 3 players outside of Japan. That would suggest the game has very little to offer in terms of skill development and depth. But I say IaMP holds a vast amount of areas that we can develop and is indeed quite deep. And the same should hold true for any good game, I think.
Unfortunately though, the scene tends to be cruel to newcomers at times. When first starting out; there can seem like such an enormous gap between yourself and the best players around. Which can be even more menacing if you happen to also pick the worst character in the game.
Indeed, this was my experience. I first started playing with Hong Meirin, the inarguably bottom tier character -- and my first real opponent was Bellreisa, one of the top 3 players outside of Japan who is probably very capable of doing well in tournaments in Japan. And that kind of noob hazing is actually a bit common in the scene, I wasn't the first or the last to get demolished on a debut.
Fortunately, I'm the type that gets hungry to level up after a beating. Sure, I freaked out then, but my rage only fueled my interest and desire to learn. I thought to myself, if I could receive that much of a beating with my years of fighting game experience under my belt; then it stands to reason that the game must have a lot to learn in it, and I wanted to learn it, even if that meant more beatings.
Though, I can safely say that at the time I was in great danger of quitting because I was very stubbornly attached to Hong Meirin. Had I actually stuck with her exclusively, I think I can safely say I'd have quit long ago. It's not necessarily the character's fault or the game's fault per se. Actually, one of the fundamental things that I believe in regards to IaMP is experiencing a variety of characters. Had I stuck to just her, I probably wouldn't have learned anything. Be it due to a very narrow perspective of the game, or just due to my overall incompatibility with the character itself. It wasn't until I really tried experiencing other characters that I was able to learn more about the game, and able to realize that I actually like other characters more and at the same time realize I didn't actually like Hong Meirin at all. And that's when the brick breaking process actually really began for me.
Some of us in the scene have also noticed other "narrow perspectives" and some pattern habits that can be associated with other characters. A common one that often arises is the trends we see prevalent among the Youmu players, such as reliance on naked air attacks and tactless brute force. Further leading me to believe that character variety is a window out of this form of tunnel vision.
To put things in a little perspective, let us examine this Alice flowchart made by Bellreisa (click thumbnail for larger view). This flowchart isn't a joke, like the SF4 Ken flowcharts you see floating around the 'net. No, this is actually very much what goes on in the mind of Bellreisa while he's playing Alice, and probably other Alice players like TMN and such. The thing is, that at each junction, you need to know what all the optimal available options are to you. If you don't, guess what, that's a brick that's going to hit you when you ram face first into it. In order to fill out that chart in your head and put it all into muscle memory, that's a lot of bricks you gotta run into and break along the way before you feel competent and in control of each situation.
Fortunately not every character is as complicated as Alice. It's possible that she is the most technical and complicated character in the game. But, it should give you some idea of what you'd be looking to accomplish if you were to pick up the game years after it's initial release, main Alice, and stick with Alice exclusively while playing against players with years more of experience. It's going to be a long and windy road. It's only slightly less windy and less full of potholes if you pick another character, and IMO you can make the ride smoother by choosing to learn with multiple characters rather than maining just one character exclusively.
- Bellreisa says: "I'm busy".
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