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 Play to Win.

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Hold the Hek
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PostSubject: Play to Win.   Thu Mar 20, 2008 8:08 pm

Playing to Win




Playing to win is the most important and most widely misunderstood
concept in all of competitive games. The sad irony is that those who do
not already understand the implications I’m about to spell out will
probably not believe them to be true at all. In fact, if I were to send
this article back in time to my earlier self, even I would not believe
it. Apparently, these concepts are something one must come to learn
through experience, though I hope at least some of you will take my
word for it.



Introducing...the Scrub



In the world of Street Fighter competition, we have a word for
players who aren’t good: “scrub.” Now, everyone begins as a scrub—it
takes time to learn the game to get to a point where you know what
you’re doing. There is the mistaken notion, though, that by merely
continuing to play or “learn” the game, that one can become a top
player. In reality, the “scrub” has many more mental obstacles to
overcome than anything actually going on during the game. The scrub has
lost the game even before it starts. He’s lost the game before he’s
chosen his character. He’s lost the game even before the decision of
which game is to be played has been made. His problem? He does not play
to win.



The scrub would take great issue with this statement for he usually
believes that he is playing to win, but he is bound up by an intricate
construct of fictitious rules that prevent him from ever truly
competing. These made up rules vary from game to game, of course, but
their character remains constant. In Street Fighter, for example, the
scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations “cheap.”
So-called “cheapness” is truly the mantra of the scrub. Performing a
throw on someone often called cheap. A throw is a special kind of move
that grabs an opponent and damages him, even when the opponent is
defending against all other kinds of attacks. The entire purpose of the
throw is to be able to damage an opponent who sits and blocks and
doesn’t attack. As far as the game is concerned, throwing is an
integral part of the design—it’s meant to be there—yet the scrub has
constructed his own set of principles in his mind that state he should
be totally impervious to all attacks while blocking. The scrub thinks
of blocking as a kind of magic shield which will protect him
indefinitely. Why? Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion
is ridiculous from the start.



You’re not going to see a classic scrub throw his opponent 5 times
in a row. But why not? What if doing so is strategically the sequence
of moves that optimize his chances of winning? Here we’ve encountered
our first clash: the scrub is only willing to play to win within his
own made-up mental set of rules. These rules can be staggeringly
arbitrary. If you beat a scrub by throwing projectile attacks at him,
keeping your distance and preventing him from getting near you…that’s
cheap. If you throw him repeatedly, that’s cheap, too. We’ve covered
that one. If you sit in block for 50 seconds doing no moves, that’s
cheap. Nearly anything you do that ends up making you win is a prime
candidate for being called cheap.



Doing one move or sequence over and over and over is another great
way to get called cheap. This goes right to the heart of the matter:
why can the scrub not defeat something so obvious and telegraphed as a
single move done over and over? Is he such a poor player that he can’t
counter that move? And if the move is, for whatever reason, extremely
difficult to counter, then wouldn’t I be a fool for not using that
move? The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that
playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of
winning. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game
only knows winning and losing.



A common call of the scrub is to cry that the kind of play in which
ones tries to win at all costs is “boring” or “not fun.” Let’s consider
two groups of players: a group of good players and a group of scrubs.
The scrubs will play “for fun” and not explore the extremities of the
game. They won’t find the most effective tactics and abuse them
mercilessly. The good players will. The good players will find
incredibly overpowering tactics and patterns. As they play the game
more, they’ll be forced to find counters to those tactics. The vast
majority of tactics that at first appear unbeatable end up having
counters, though they are often quite esoteric and difficult to
discover. The counter tactic prevents the first player from doing the
tactic, but the first player can then use a counter to the counter. The
second player is now afraid to use his counter and he’s again
vulnerable to the original overpowering tactic. (See my article on Yomi
layer 3 for much more on that.)



Notice that the good players are reaching higher and higher levels
of play. They found the “cheap stuff” and abused it. They know how to
stop the cheap stuff. They know how to stop the other guy from stopping
it so they can keep doing it. And as is quite common in competitive
games, many new tactics will later be discovered that make the original
cheap tactic look wholesome and fair. Often in fighting games, one
character will have something so good it’s unfair. Fine, let him have
that. As time goes on, it will be discovered that other characters have
even more powerful and unfair tactics. Each player will attempt to
steer the game in the direction of his own advantages, much how
grandmaster chess players attempt to steer opponents into situations in
which their opponents are weak.



Let’s return to the group of scrubs. They don’t know the first
thing about all the depth I’ve been talking about. Their argument is
basically that ignorantly mashing buttons with little regard to actual
strategy is more “fun.” Superficially, their argument does at least
look true, since often their games will be more “wet and wild” than
games between the experts, which are usually more controlled and
refined. But any close examination will reveal that the experts are
having a great deal of fun on a higher level than the scrub can even
imagine. Throwing together some circus act of a win isn’t nearly as
satisfying as reading your opponent’s mind to such a degree that you
can counter his ever move, even his every counter.



Can you imagine what will happen when the two groups of players
meet? The experts will absolutely destroy the scrubs with any number of
tactics they’ve either never seen, or never been truly forced to
counter. This is because the scrubs have not been playing the same
game. The experts were playing the actual game while the scrubs were
playing their own homemade variant with restricting, unwritten rules.



The scrub has still more crutches. He talks a great deal about
“skill” and how he has skill whereas other players—very much including
the ones who beat him flat out—do not have skill. The confusion here is
what “skill” actually is. In Street Fighter, scrubs often cling to
combos as a measure of skill. A combo is sequence of moves that are
unblockable if the first move hits. Combos can be very elaborate and
very difficult to pull off. But single moves can also take “skill,”
according to the scrub. The “dragon punch” or “uppercut” in Street
Fighter is performed by holding the joystick toward the opponent, then
down, then diagonally down and toward as the player presses a punch
button. This movement must be completed within a fraction of a second,
and though there is leeway, it must be executed fairly accurately. Ask
any scrub and they will tell you that a dragon punch is a “skill move.”
Just last week I played a scrub who was actually quite good. That is,
he knew the rules of the game well, he knew the character matchups
well, and he knew what to do in most situations. But his web of mental
rules kept him from truly playing to win. He cried cheap as I beat him
with “no skill moves” while he performed many difficult dragon punches.
He cried cheap when I threw him 5 times in a row asking, “is that all
you know how to do? throw?” I gave him the best advice he could ever
hear. I told him, “Play to win, not to do ‘difficult moves.’” This was
a big moment in that scrub’s life. He could either write his losses off
and continue living in his mental prison, or analyze why he lost, shed
his rules, and reach the next level of play.



I’ve never been to a tournament where there was a prize for the
winner and another prize for the player who did many difficult moves.
I’ve also never seen a prize for a player who played “in an innovative
way.” Many scrubs have strong ties to “innovation.” They say “that guy
didn’t do anything new, so he is no good.” Or “person x invented that
technique and person y just stole it.” Well, person y might be 100
times better than person x, but that doesn’t seem to matter. When
person y wins the tournament and person x is a forgotten footnote, what
will the scrub say? That person y has “no skill” of course.



Depth in Games



I’ve talked about how the expert player is not bound by rules of
“honor” or “cheapness” and simply plays to maximize his chances of
winning. When he plays against other such players, “game theory”
emerges. If the game is a good one, it will become deeper and deeper
and more strategic. Poorly designed games will become shallower and
shallower. This is the difference between an arcade game that lasts
years in an arcade versus one that lasts 4 months. This is the
difference between a PC game that lasts years on the shelves
(Starcraft) versus one that quickly becomes boring (I won’t name any
names). The point is that if a game becomes “no fun” at high levels of
play, then it’s the game’s fault, not the player’s. Unfortunately, a
game becoming less fun because it’s poorly designed and you just losing
because you’re a scrub kind of look alike. You’ll have to play some top
players and do some soul searching to decide which is which. But if it
really is the game’s fault, there are plenty of other games that are
excellent at a high level of play. For games that truly aren’t good at
a high level, the only winning move is not to play.



Boundaries of Playing to Win



There is a gray area here I feel I should point out. If an expert does anything
he can to win, then does he exploit bugs in the game? The answer is a
resounding yes…but not all bugs. There is a large class of bugs in
video games that players don’t even view as bugs. In Marvel vs. Capcom
2, for example, Iceman can launch his opponent into the air, follow
him, do a few hits, then combo into his super move. During the super
move he falls down below his opponent, so only about half of his super
will connect. The Iceman player can use a trick, though. Just before
doing the super, he can do another move, an icebeam, and cancel that
move into the super. There’s a bug here which causes iceman to fall,
during his super, at the much slower rate of his icebeam. The player
actually cancels the icebeam as soon as possible—optimally as soon as
1/60th of a second after it begins. The whole point is to make iceman
fall slower during his super so he gets more hits. Is it a bug? I’m
sure it is. It looks like a programming oversight to me. Would an
expert player use this? Of course.



The iceman example is relatively tame. In Street Fighter Alpha2,
there’s a bug in which you can land the most powerful move in the game
(a Custom Combo or “CC”) on the opponent, even when he should be able
to block it. A bug? Yes. Does it help you win? Yes. This technique
became the dominant tactic of the game. The gameplay evolved around
this, play went on, new strategies were developed. Those who cried
cheap were simply left behind to play their own homemade version of the
game with made-up rules. The one we all played had unblockable CCs, and
it went on to be a great game.



But there is a limit. There is a point when the bug becomes too
much. In tournaments, bugs that turn the game off, or freeze it
indefinitely, or remove one of the characters from the playfield
permanently are banned. Bugs so extreme that they stop gameplay are
considered unfair even by non-scrubs. As are techniques that can only
be performed on, say, the one player side of the game. There are a few
esoteric tricks in various fighting games that are side dependant—that
can’t be performed on the 2nd player side, for example.



Here’s an example of the grayest area of all. Many versions of
Street Fighter have “secret characters” that are only accessible
through a code. Sometimes these characters are good, sometimes they’re
not. Occasionally, the secret characters are the best in the game, as
in Marvel vs. Capcom. Big deal. That’s the way that game is. Live with
it. But the first version of Street Fighter to ever have a secret
character was Super Turbo Street Fighter with its untouchably good
Akuma. Most characters in that game cannot beat Akuma. I don’t mean
it’s a tough match—I mean they cannot ever, ever, ever, ever win. Akuma
is “broken” in that his air fireball move is something the game simply
wasn’t designed to handle. He’s miles above the other characters, and
is therefore banned in all tournaments. But every game has a “best
character” and those characters are never banned. They’re just part of
the game…except in Super Turbo. It’s extreme examples like this that
even amongst the top players, and even something that isn’t a bug, but
was put in on purpose by the game designers, the community as a whole
has unanimously decided to make the rule: “don’t play Akuma in serious
matches.”



My Attitude and Adenosine Triphosphate



I’ve been talking down to the scrub a lot in this article. I’d like
to say for the record that I’m not calling the scrub stupid. I’m not
saying he can never improve. I am saying that he’s naïve and that he’ll
be trapped in scrubdom, whether he realizes it or not, as long as he
chooses to live in the mental construct of rules he himself
constructed. Is it harsh to call scrubs naïve? After all, the vast
majority of the world is scrubs. I’d say by the definition I’ve
classified 99.9% of the world’s population as scrubs. Seriously. All
that means is that 99.9% of the world doesn’t know what it’s like to
play competitive games on a high level. It means that they are naïve of
these concepts. I really have no trouble saying that since we’re
talking about esoteric, experience-driven knowledge here. I also know
that 99.9% of the world (including me) doesn’t know how the citric acid
cycle and cellular respiration create 38 ATP molecules per cycle. It’s
an esoteric thing of which I am unaware, just as many are unaware of
competitive games.



In the end, playing to win ends up accomplishing much more than
just winning. Playing to win is how one improves. Continuous
self-improvement is what all of this is really about, anyway. I submit
that ultimate goal of the “playing to win” mindset is ironically not
just to win…but to improve. So practice, improve, play with discipline,
and play to win.

~---~
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:08 pm

Hmm, it's terrific how I don't put forth effort and am still better than most people. Hell, I was afk during most RiF raids, or talking in PMs to Malok, and still out-healed...um...everyone.

It feels good to be made of so much win that I don't have to play for it. /flex
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:14 pm

Jessamoose wrote:
Hmm, it's terrific how I don't put forth effort and am still better than most people. Hell, I was afk during most RiF raids, or talking in PMs to Malok, and still out-healed...um...everyone.

It feels good to be made of so much win that I don't have to play for it. /flex

lies, i out healed you all the time! least back when i cared. Razz

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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:43 am

Arbor wrote:
lies, i out healed you all the time! least back when i cared. Razz

Nuh-uh! You were too busy trying to get nekkid pics from Odo (which I have, btw). Throwing like 700 HoTs on people then jerking off so doesn't count.
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:32 am

Jessamoose wrote:
Arbor wrote:
lies, i out healed you all the time! least back when i cared. Razz

Nuh-uh! You were too busy trying to get nekkid pics from Odo (which I have, btw). Throwing like 700 HoTs on people then jerking off so doesn't count.

Ouch...
i wasnt one of the people who Odo minpulated, she tried to, thats how i got the nekkid pics.

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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:52 pm

Arbor wrote:
Ouch...
i wasnt one of the people who Odo minpulated, she tried to, thats how i got the nekkid pics.

Everyone had the nekkid pics. And I know you didn't go for her...you were busy going for me. =D
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:12 pm

Lies, you were simply one of the more intelligent being's in those raids, and shared the same ideals. But im not gonna argue, cause then we would just being going even more off course of what this thread was intentionally made for.

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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:01 pm

post
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:57 pm

This makes me want to play some CvS2.
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:29 pm



-----


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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:44 pm

it is clear you do not understand the purpose of this thread
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:45 pm

Two thing to state

Firt

Super smash bros brawl>street figther


two

my friend is a damn scrub !!!
we where about the same strengh in melee him with shiek me with link

now with brawl he getting pwned all the time soo jhe claim that brawl suck and he dont want to play -_-

and since i dont play with item i got nobody to play with >_<


AND

im stronger them you !

bench press best 10 shot 335lbs

/flex

i cant remember the firt thing you see in bioshock something like

No god only man Razz



I WANT TO DUEL !!!

remember holder complaining about i use the terrain to win the duel

scrub !!
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:49 pm

flick dumblewick fluutter spicka luck lie in tub wit duks foof plucky dip twat bunnies
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:51 pm

what ever your code say i hate you lol
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:59 pm

fumble coc goblur nu coed ere tu rtard frnchy tooblecane
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:01 pm

im pretty sure yo usay french suck or something like that >_<
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:13 pm

/popcorn

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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:24 pm

(>^-^)(>O-O)>
SUPRISE BUTSECKS
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:08 pm

Gharik wrote:
(>^-^)(>O-O)>
SUPRISE BUTSECKS

She loves it.

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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:21 pm

NO BODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!

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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:54 pm

Quote :
fumble coc goblur nu coed ere tu rtard frnchy tooblecane

you say i wont love time to explanee to the retard frenchy ? i dont get the firt 3/4 words of your sentence

jsut tell me if im close
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PostSubject: Re: Play to Win.   Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:31 am

clse to are am actly no commanding to spek is nly gibrish vry much
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