Puzzle Fighter

Okay so it's not really a fighting game. But it is a versus game by Capcom so screw it, I'm talking about it. Actually a few people have asked me (yea, more than one, who knew I was popular?!) what I've been playing lately. Well, short answer is: nothing.

Long answer is as follows: I've been a fan of Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo for a long time. I've always loved the arcade version, personally, even though it's less balanced and glitchy. I sort of prefer the glitchy unbalanced version anyway. Lately I've been playing it online via nFBA emulator and P2P netplay client with some people, and I really enjoy it in general.

First of all, to you Puyo scrubs out there, Puyo Puyo is actually a much "easier game" to play. Puyo doesn't have a lot of strategy and the game is designed for very easy chain-combos, and doesn't emphasize the need to pay attention to your opponent as much. You can basically play it optimally as if you were playing against yourself, ignoring your opponent entirely, which makes it feel more like a single-player game. However, in Puzzle Fighter there's quite a few different strategies, and watching what your opponent does is significantly stronger than only paying attention to your own board, which makes it feel very interactive. Plus, while chains can be strong in SPF2T they aren't always the best option and you have to work to build chains properly. They don't just fall from the sky automatically like they do in games like Puyo Puyo.

Anyway, Some things to note:
- Gems. The squares you build.
- Breakers. The circles that break the squares.
- Damage. The counter-blocks you drop on your opponent.
- Diamond. The shiney white bit that will break all pieces of the same color.
- Chains. When you break some pieces, then break more pieces afterwards on the same "turn".
- Life column. The 4th column and the column that will end the round if it is filled to the top.

In this game the characters have different drop patterns for their Damage. One of the very first tactics that most newbies learn in this game is to specifically counter their opponent's Damage pattern, since it's not random. In most cases the character's "weakness" is either red or blue on the left side. Usually column 2 or 3 are the ones that players start stacking the color that their opponent drops and they throw all their "junk" in column 1 or 6 (using 4 only if necessary).

Honestly, this isn't such a bad tactic since you don't get breakers whenever you want them. But if you're stacking breakers up in your "junk piles" then you may be able to access them when you want, instead of relying on luck to get the color you want when you want it.

What this usually results in is really tall power gems of a single color. It's fairly easy to do against most characters and it leaves a large power gem open to be broken at any time, since it's difficult to cover such a large gem with damage. If a gem was built horizontally it could be easily covered in a row or two of damage, forcing the player to "dig" the gem out with breakers. But with a vertical gem the player can fairly easily place a breaker on it at any time because it's difficult to cover it in damage. But because not all drop patterns are created equal, this leads to character strengths and weaknesses, in other words: tiers.

The first names you hear about in regards to Puzzle Fighter tiers are always Ken and Donovan. They have probably the best drop patterns out of any normal character. Honorable mentions go to Morrigan and Devilot.

The reason Morrigan is interesting is because her colors change in her third row of damage like Donovan. Even though she drops a lot of red in her center, if the opponent tries to counter her by building red, they are taking a huge risk by gambling with their 4th column (since building red means there's red in column 4), making them prone to sudden-kills. Otherwise they will have to either build blue in the left corner or yellow in column 2 and 3, which can be stifled if Morrigan drops 3 rows of damage in one turn, followed by another row of damage in her next turn.

Gouki (Akuma) and Devilot both have diagonal color drops. However, their damage is also nerfed. Even so, Devilot's damage isn't nerfed as bad as Gouki's. She actually does a fair amount of damage both with single large breaks and chaining, as apposed to Gouki who really has to rely on very large chains to do significant damage. Her only real weakness is to Red in the left corner or Blue for columns 2 and 3, but she can easily make it a chore to try and counter her by dropping two or three rows of damage which puts a variety of mixed colors all over the board.

Meanwhile it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the worst character is, master of self ownage, Dan. Though honorable mentions also go to Chun-Li and Felicia who also have some pretty pathetic drop patterns.

However, if your opponent is aware that you are going to try and do this, they can take counter-measures of their own by throwing lots of mixed damaged at you rather than singular rows for you to counter-build against. The best way to do this is with "double breakers" and chaining.

Whether by glitch or design, breaking two colors simultaneously counts mathematically as a singular break. Thus, when you get a piece that contains two breakers of different colors you have the potential to cause a lot more damage with a double-break than with a chain. In the scenario seen to the right, the double break actually does slightly more damage than if the breaker piece is flipped and causes a 2-hit chain.

However, this only really applies to small chains and short chains. A small chain meaning the hits involve very tiny amounts of gems (like one or two gems per chain hit). Or short chains like 3-hits. The multiplier for chaining is actually quite ridiculous, I don't exactly know what the multiplier is but it's pretty obvious that it increases per hit of the chain which gives 6-hit and 7-hit chains the potential to flat out kill your opponent. The playing field is 72 spaces (6 columns, 12 rows) so assuming your opponent's field is clear then that number would result in death on the next turn, and if they have a row of blocks already on the field then instant-death.

But one (dis)advantage to chaining is that Attacking is much stronger than Defending. When playing, if you do damage the damage doesn't actually fall until the opponent finished dropping a piece (ending their "turn"). Instead a number is put on the field and you have a chance to reduce that number with your own damage. But, the amount of damage you do to the counter is actually a lot less than if you had attacked.

In other words, if your opponent does 20 damage and the counter is set to 20, and you break the same number of gems you won't decrease the counter to 0. Actually I think it decreases only to 10. Which means defending is only about half as strong as attacking.

The reason this effects chaining is because you're unable to act while a chain is going on, but your opponent can.

This brings me to the next subject, which is something I like to call "parking". Basically, when your opponent drops a lot of damage the blocks are set to timers, each turn reduces the timer by one. When the timer hits zero it converts the damage into regular gems.

You can take advantage of this by placing breakers on top of damage. And over the next five turns if you placed breakers on all the colors by the time they convert then they will all break simultaneously. You know what that means, huge damage. So although defending is weaker than attacking, countering-damage or "parking" can actually be ever stronger. You send back the same amount of damage that was done to you, plus some.

Now, remember I said this game was glitchy? Well, one notorious glitch in the arcade version is known as "the diamond glitch". It basically involves flipping a piece that contains the diamond vertically. To do so you have to have a column that is blocked off on either side, leaving a 2x1 space. Then you press down to land the piece, and just before the piece locks you rotate the piece by pressing either button to flip the piece vertically. For some reason this only works vertically, not horizontally. And it only works if you actually flip the piece, not rotate it. I believe it also doesn't work if the piece you're landing on is a damage block, but I could be wrong. At any rate, the game calculates the damage you'd do approximately twice instead of once. I don't really know the specifics of the calculations, but I just know that there is a major, significantly noticeable difference between a normal diamond break and a glitched diamond break. I've seen a diamond glitch do about 20-30 more damage than it would have done without the glitch.

In closing, here's some casual online matches between myself and an "anonymous" player:

- Copyright © Xenozip.

World Champion

The first world champion for Street Fighter IV has taken his title.

Lead producer for SF4, Yoshinori Ono, was present at the Evolution grand finals to watch history be made. Along with the 23,000 (twenty three thousand!) viewers on the live stream and the estimated 4,000 (four thousand!) spectators at the Evolution hall.

Although there was not that many players in the hall the begin with, during the events that lead up to the finals and during the finals itself the hall was flooded with ever increasing cheers, energy, and viewers.

Just like the Marvel versus Capcom II finals; the Street Fighter IV finals went to the wire. Both players having been put into the losers and taking matches off each other, putting an extreme amount of pressure and hype on everyone involved.

It was great. Congratulations to everyone involved.



- Copyright © Xenozip.


Evolution Fighting Game Championships: Marvel versus Capcom 2.

It's Marvel, baby.

The finals are officially over now. Between 11,000-13,500 viewers on the live stream to watch the grand finals, and with good reason. They caught quite a show.

I don't want to spoil it for those who didn't watch it (who wasn't watching, really?) but I'll say this; the finalists met in winners. One was sent to losers by the other, and that player came out of losers to knock that same player into losers as well. That means they both lost to each other once. And in the grand finals they both took rounds off each other. It went down to the wire. Holy hell it was epic. They may not have been on the top of their games, but playing three sets and taking wins and losses off each other to the point where it went to the absolute final round was crazy intense.

Once again mad props to Skisonic for his incredible commentary. He was even doing a great job commentating Guilty Gear, despite not playing the game or knowing much about it.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Psychic DP 2K9

Our friend Suou asked why Psychic DP's (Dragon Punches / Uppercuts) were so popular with the crowd in Evolution 2K9. Or rather, maybe he just noted it, and I took it upon myself to explain it a bit.

Seth Killian was the first to write about it, I think. That means he's obviously the guy to go to when you want to know what a Psychic DP is thoroughly. But what I'd like to do is explain it in another way, starting with an analogy.

So, if you can imagine yourself in a real-life fight situation, that's what I'd like to talk about.

Picture your opponent much bigger than you, and much faster. He punches your guard with a heavy force, so you know he means business. You try to punch him back, but he's much too strong and quick for you, you end up guarding just to keep from getting knocked out. As you back up, you eventually find yourself in the corner. Now you're pinned, nowhere to run, and all you're doing is guarding.

This is the pivotal moment. Your opponent moves his body to your side and that makes you feel vulnerable. You opponent moves closer, invading your space, and that makes you feel even more vulnerable. Your opponent pulls his body in front of his hands.

Now here you are, nowhere to run, and now you don't what your opponent will do. You're so scared, and you don't think you can successfully block this next attack, so your instincts tell you the best defense is a good offense. You throw out an attack to intercept and counter your opponent's obvious actions

Only to get uppercut in the face.

That's because you dropped your guard. You dropped your guard in order to attack. And you did that precisely at the time that your opponent designed. He set up the situation, he forced you, he pinned you. He knew all too well, like a cat toying with a mouse, that if he showed you what he wanted you to see that you'd have a reaction, and that reaction is something he knew he could blow right out of the water with his fist.

That's a psychic DP (Ume Shoryu).

How is this in fighting games? Simple; when some one in invading your personal space it tends to be a natural human reaction to attack in order to push you out. But someone skilled in the ume-shoryu will pressure you in specific ways and eventually "read" your actions by giving you little other choice, which is why it's often called "psychic".

- Copyright © Xenozip.

No Sagats

Good news or bad news, depending how you look at it: There's no Sagat for Evo2k9 tomorrow in the winners or losers. That's right, the final brackets will consist of characters other than Ryu and Sagat. Surprisingly we did not see many Sagats today. It was pretty amazing today actually. I'd like to say that for today; I've been glad to see Akuma, Rufus, Dhalsim, and Viper being represented, among other characters. Not just represented but there was some really awesome choice moments (spoiler: like Balrog whiffs a short rush punch and Rufus does an ultra on reaction, but it was out of range due to the short rush punch).

Actually, I have to say there has been a very very impressive showing in general.

Next, I'd like to say that SkiSonic is awesome. One of the best English commentators we could hope for, in my opinion. Surely DogFace is awesome and we love other commentators like Arturo and Seth, but SkiSonic is something else. I'm not just being bias because I've met him a few times and spoken with him online a couple times, no. He says everything that is going on perfectly, and his understanding is just uncanny and highly appreciated. He says it right as it happens and exactly what happend and/or what should have happened. In other words, he sees all the angles and tells it to you immediately. Seriously, mad props to Skisonic.

Oh and also random note: I increased the embedded stream window size per J-Boogie's request: Evolution 2k9. So if you're having trouble directly connecting you might want to try the embedded stream in that post, it's larger window size now so it's the same thing, but you might get better connectivity.

Also another little golden gem spoiler: When Sirlin was up for the SF-HD remix (HDR) match early this morning the commentators had a thing or two to say about it. Obvious hijinkes ensued. But right as the match was scheduled to start Sirlin refused/objected to play. That's right, Sirlin who was on staff for the HDR project did not play in a scheduled match on the grounds that "he did not like the TV screen", or so we heard. I can't confirm though because all the live-stream-viewers actually saw/heard was the scheduled match players step up to the plate and plug in and set their controls, then Sirlin refusing to play after plugging in.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Evo 2k9 Live

A live steam of Evolution 2009 has been put up for broadcast.

A good opportunity. You'll see more footage than what can fit on a DVD, and you'll see it much sooner than the DVD release, so be sure to tune in.



- Copyright © Xenozip.

Smash Revealed

I was eavesdropping on a conversation between Mauve and Tropsy when Mauve mentioned the words "versus-platformer" and Tropsy responded with "like Smash?".

It was like an epiphany. He was right. All this time I'd been thinking Smash was a fighting game. But it all make sense now; it's not, it's a versus-platformer.

To be fair, I've never actually played Smash. But I tell you; that realization sure was a load off my mind, now I can see the game for what it is and take it at face value. Sweet.

Incidentally I'm now also convinced that 3D fighting games are kind of like versus-beat-em-ups (like a versus River City Ransom) while 2D fighting games are not. Well, crap like VF5 and DBZ, anyway.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Games, Arts, Music and Drugs

Morally or legally obscene/violent/illicit material has frequently been associated with the inspiration or encouragement, and sometimes even the direct cause, of violence or other crimes. For example, when it's learned that a criminal was allegedly influenced by a video game that contains graphic violence, the game itself is blamed as the cause for their actions. Does it not occur to people that this person could just simply be really fucked up in the head, regardless of influences?

You may remember some incident in the news where a criminal is said to have played a first person shooter game and the media starts pointing fingers -- not at the criminal, but at the game. Perhaps it goes with the need for an answer to the always-asked question: "Why did you do it?". Gaming isn't the only medium to receive this treatment though. Music is often associated with the cause behind violence as well.

And now, some of you may have heard about the issues with sexually explicit material in gaming, written/drawn works, and visual novels in Japan. There is a certain amount of interest in seeing some of the more obscene or grotesque versions of these games either banned or made illegal. Whether or not either banning or illegalization will actually take place remains to be seen (in all likelihood they will not be), but one thing is clear to me personally; it's very sad anyone would consider banning/illegalizing these things, and even more sad if it actually happens. A foreboding snowball effect looms over this concept like a fist of doom.

Why? Well, I believe it is wrong.

I personally believe people who commit violent or illegal acts should not shift the blame onto something or some one else. I believe they are violent people and criminals, regardless. And more importantly, I do not believe the people who create art/games/music should be blamed for another person's violent or criminal acts.

I can safely say that I've been exposed to graphical violence, drugs, and violent music. Yet, I am not a violent person, nor am I a drug addict. Just like people who become violent; I feel that people who become addicts are simply that: drug addicts. They are not the victim, they are the criminal.

I also think that illegalizing the obscene/violent material will only cause harm, not good. It is as though we are saying that the person who is influenced by the material is the victim, and the criminal is the one who created the material. And I truly, honestly, completely disagree with that. Here is what I think you're actually doing when you illegalize such material:
1) You are making the person who commits a crime after experiencing this material a victim, not a criminal.
2) You penalize people who aren't negatively influenced by this material the right to access it.
3) You are making the creators and distributors of this material criminals when they are not.

Unfortunately, the only way I can explain what I mean is to go over it by case. I want to talk about how this effects gaming, but I must first talk about drugs since they are widely illegal.

What happens when you illegalize a drug is make the creators and distributors criminals. The police and DEA don't target drug users so much, but rather their goal is to find the distributors and creators. Occasionally they will hunt down users, but they will offer them bargains in order to gain information on distributors. What they are doing is treating the people who make and sell drugs as the problem. Drug users are often just put in rehabilitation, treated as victims of an addiction to illicit material. Basically it's like saying the world needs to protect people from bad influences by criminalizing the ones that make it available.

In a way it's like illegalizing alcohol, wherein you penalize the people who are able to consume alcohol responsibly and not be negatively effected by it or negatively effect anyone else. And, when you illegalize it, you are suggesting that a person who abuses alcohol and causes a car accident was more of a victim of alcohol, rather than being a criminal who was unable to responsibly drink without becoming a danger to themselves and others. You also, of course, make breweries and distributors criminals for no reason.

Now, imagine what that would mean if they were to illegalize explicit/violent art or writing? That would mean artists and distributors are the criminals supplying the public with a bad influence. And, that would mean that the lunatic that murdered some one because they were supposedly inspired by a book would probably be offered a bargain in order to gain information on distributors. That's right, the murderer isn't the criminal, but a victim.

This could also happen to gaming. If a game is banned/illegalized it sends the message that what authors are doing is wrong and that players need to be protected from illicit material found in games.

Music and drugs are different though.

First of all, if a person purchases and listens to a violent sounding music album, and then goes and commits a crime, I believe that person would have been a criminal anyway, with or without the album's influence. Because I know that if I listened to the same album then I won't commit any crimes.

On the other hand, concerts are a different ballpark. At a concert it's not just the music, but also the environment and the people there. I highly doubt you'd ever see people moshing at a violin recital, but it happens at punk rocker and heavy metal shows. But to me, it is not the music or the artists that are to blame, but rather peer pressure. When surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals, one is more easily influenced and more willing to do things they would otherwise not do. A person might do something to impress their peers, or may suggest something to their peers and some one acts on the suggestion. If you were to hear the messages "You should punch some one.", it could be easily brushed off with a laugh; but in a large group of angry violent people if that messaged is played then some one is likely to actually do it.

Drugs, however, actually effect a person's mental state. Additionally, they contain addictive chemicals. It isn't just that the experience is so enjoyable that a person would want to do it again, but really a chemical that makes them want to.

In the end, I believe drugs have plenty of logical reasons to be illegal. But art, writing, music, and video games should never be banned or illegal. In a way, I guess I am saying that I believe in the freedom of speech.

By the way, happy 4th of July to all you Americans out there.

- Copyright © Xenozip.