3D Basics for 2D Players: 3D Duck vs. 2D Jump

So, Tekken 7 isn’t so far away anymore. Akuma’s in and I bet a handful of you are chomping at the bit to play as him.

If you’ve made it to SRK, I feel somewhat risk free in saying this: You’re not a complete scrub in 2D games. You know your way around them enough to talk with others. That’s awesome! More importantly, though, you know this wasn’t always the case.

Very likely, one of the first things you heard in your larval stage in the FGC is to “stop jumping.” The odds are that the game (we’ll use Street Fighter IV as a broad, easy example) you were playing had lots of people in lower levels that jumped all the time, convinced it was the One True Way to get across the screen. You agreed at first. A few too many c.HPs and Shoryus to your face later, you started considering that perhaps jumping was not doing what you needed it to do.

Someday, some FGC guy probably tried to help you. I hope!

The actual advice you got will vary, but I imagine it went something like this. Please, non-descript FGC commentator, tell us why Jumping Is Really Bad:

“Look. Jumping is slow. Look how long ‘Gief takes to jump. Look at how long Chun takes to jump. You can react to those! Here. I’ll just jump at you randomly, press [whatever beginner anti-air button] when I jump. Easy, right?”

And I bet it was at first, wasn’t it?

So you hit the ranks and you c.HP’d (or equivalent) your way through mashers and hoppers. You focused hard on this very bad habit you, and apparently everyone, has.

As you got better, maybe you started looking for more things. You started reacting to fireballs. You noticed patterns in your opponents. You made reads. Jumpers beware! You were unstoppable.

Except, of course, when it didn’t work. Sometimes you didn’t react. Sometimes players you thought were really good still jumped at you, and it worked, and you weren’t sure why. “Jumping is always bad, but this guy totally jumped in on me like 3 times this round, why didn’t I see it?”

Fighting games are never as solvable as that, of course, and I imagine you know that by now. James Chen has a pretty amusing and accurate analogy of how fighting games test multiple skills all at the same time, comparing it to literally playing three different mini games at once. I like that, and I see no reason to expand further when he’s already done such a good job. Just check it out, man.

James Chen.

Boiled down, we understand that jumping is just a tool. A very easy to react to tool when abused, but a powerful one that eliminates and punishes many horizontal grounded options your opponent wants to use. This is the tug of war of horizontal vs. vertical in the 2D field. This is the ‘theory’ of many 2D games. They all have their slightly different ways of approaching this, but that’s the general substance.

I imagine you know this, and perhaps by now you’re annoyed that I’ve really dug into this basic concept, but it’s important. If you want to play Akuma in Tekken, that is.

Because, man, if there’s one thing you’re not going to be doing in Tekken, it’s jumping.


Pick up any version of Tekken from 3 onward. Pick up Soul Calibur. Virtua Fighter. Jumping is going to be a very different feeling beast from what you are used to in 2D games. You’re still getting hit by pretty much every mid and high in the game, there’s little height and often times little horizontal distance covered. Your moves from jumping state usually aren’t very good, either.

The idea of movement in the field is fundamentally very different in the 3D world, and at first I considered introducing you to side stepping first. And I will! Eventually. Stepping and movement are unbelievably important in 3D games and often times the largest thing that indicates skill gap between players.

But that ignores what jump does for you in 2D games, the very thing you are likely most attuned to from your genre. It would be a mistake to compare jumping vs. stepping, in that light.

Jumping forces a test. It tests your opponent’s reactions and decision making simultaneously. It punishes commitments and forces the opponent to think about both what you and they did in that situation. Its use shapes the entire match. The decision when and how you jump is the core of the majority of your interactions in 2D.

And, in the generic 3D fighter world, that’s what lows do. The tug of war in 3D meta is almost always shaped by your default defensive habits:

High Guard

Blocks Highs and Mids, Loses to Lows/Unblockables, Must Break Throws

Low Guard

Ducks Highs and Throws, Blocks Lows, Loses to Mids, Unblockables and Low Throws (rare).

Jump

Loses to Highs and Mids, Jumps Lows and Throws.

When you first start out in a 3D game, you will be tempted to duck. A lot. This isn’t just because you’re a 2D player and it’s what you’re used to, although I’m sure that’s part of it.

You’ll be tempted to because it’s good, on paper. You win versus the listed options above, and in Tekken, you also get access to a wide variety of powerful launchers for a lot of characters. Its weakness, of course, is that you get wrecked by mids, which are often your opponent’s launchers.

But scrubs online drop combos! The game is new! This guy just grabs/does lows all the time!

No.

Stop.

You’re jumping too much.

Ducking stops your movement and hands your opponent the opportunity to do exactly what they want: land a launcher, take control of the match, and likely score a mixup on you as you get up off the ground. “Just ducking” vs. an opponent is the same as “Just blocking” a jump-in: it’s passive. It relinquishes control. It’s weak.

Standing guard is something you can do more often while moving around (particularly in Tekken, with its backdash cancels. More on that in the future), it opens you up a lot less to your opponent’s actions, and most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to block lows on reaction.

Tokido playing Tekken 7. This could be you!

Reaction. Blocking on reaction. Doesn’t sound like jumps, but…

Back to Street Fighter for a second. You know how scary Dudley and Ibuki’s overheads are, yeah? They both lead to full combos. But, man, are people a lot more scared of Dudley’s.

Ibuki’s, though, people block that on reaction because it’s slow. You may have been hit by it the first time you saw it, but over time it slows down from seeing it so much. In high-level of play, it’s not usually hitting because it’s a overhead. It’s hitting because the opponent committed to a low/throw, or got outspaced, or sometimes even it hits as an anti-air.

Jump-ins don’t hit just because you have to stand block them, but they still will hit even the best players for X reasons.

It’s the same thing as lows and ducking. And unlike in Street Fighter, everyone in 3D games has lows that you need to learn to block on reaction, just like how you anti-air jumps on reaction. If you default block stand guard, and only block slow lows (which are the bulk of lows in all 3D fighters) on reaction, you become a wall that your opponent has incredibly reduced options to break through.

Depending on the game this is really brutal–in Calibur, for example, you can guard and throw break at the same time without a move coming out. You eliminate nearly everything your opponent can do with one option. That’s the true power of the guard button. (And it’s also why SC2’s positive frames on shin kicks made it the best game ever… but I digress.)

If you can pick the right anti-air in a 2D game, you can low block and punish common sweeps and lows in 3D games. Every time you block big, slow lows in most 3D fighters, especially Tekken, you get big, fat punishes off of them. This is also why difficult (or impossible) to block on reaction lows tend to result in very, very strong characters in 3D. It’s the Namco equivalent of a divekick.


“But how do I get in??” you may ask. “This is like blocking overheads! This is not the same as jumping!”

Well, yes and no. This is going to be your biggest hurdle, my 2D friends. It’s a good thing Tekken’s always had good training modes to practice against the entire movelist–there’s very little other than playing other people, and spending a little time in practice mode keeping you from doing this.

I remember one of the very best all-around gamers I’ve ever met, XCTU (who I last remember going by HeartNana in BlazBlue, for all you animeheads!), being asked this same question about the short-ranged Talim in SC2. His response was to shoot a sarcastic grin to the questioner (Was it me? I cannot remember. I hope it wasn’t me.) and hold forward on the stick wordlessly. Talim zipped forward and was in throw range instantly.

That probably seems crazy to you grounded 2Ders, but it’s the truth; you’re almost always in footsie range in 3D games. There aren’t fireballs, and your characters are huge in terms of screen real estate. Jumping isn’t the same in these style of games because it doesn’t make sense for any of their engines. Even when jumping was really good in random 3D games, it wasn’t for the reasons you might think. Look at this curious example of high-level SC2, also featuring XCTU, not-coincidentally.

Pay very particular attention to the following:

  • How often DTN and XCTU blindly duck guard vs. stand guard. (Almost never.)
  • How often DTN jumps, and more specifically when and why he jumps. (Always vs. very particular mixup situations.)
  • How many tiny, fast lows DTN and XCTU eat and STILL don’t duck randomly.

Jumping in SC2 (and in Calibur in particular) is stronger than any other 3D game because when you get hit in the air in Calibur, you have control over the direction your airborne body flies–very similar to Smash’s DI, in fact. This, combined with the fact that you take scaled damage while hit in the air, means that sometimes it was better to just take a air hit than to risk guessing wrong on a coin flip launcher/low.

You won’t be doing this in Tekken, obviously, because all air hits result in juggle opportunities, but let that be a lesson to how very subtle details in defensive options change everything. It’s also a lesson on how threatening and meta-defining low/mid mixups are in 3D games in general. Every time DTN jumps, he is blatantly saying “I would rather take this damage than the potential damage of your mixup.”

By now I’ve probably made it clear, but just in case it bears repeating: how you deliberately deal with lows will determine your long-term success in basically all 3D FGC environments. A fast, not reactable low, like a quick 2K shin kick, may do little damage and offer no frame advantage on hit, but they add up overtime. Your opponent has pelted you with 3 of them, dancing in and out of your range. He’s moving back in. Do you block low for a 4th one and risk getting opened up for a launcher? Do you preemptively do a move to try and keep him from coming in, and risk him backdashing out and getting whiff punished? Do you risk mashing out a crouching jab type move?

This is 3D meta in its broadest strokes.


One last, probably boring, personal anecdote before I wrap this up. You can skip to the end, but I thought it was connected enough to warrant noting. Forgive me, SRK, if you fall asleep.

I went to a alright sized Detroit weekly for SC4 many, many moons ago. I’m not shy about saying this: my Calibur game is good. I was always a favorite to do well in any Michigan weekly, if not outright win most of the time. Of the 16 or so people that showed up to this thing, there was a new face there, a really young kid compared to the rest of us. I played maybe one or two casuals with him prior to it and wrote him off as being someone who probably would go 0-2, maybe 1-2 at best. His character wasn’t tremendously good in that game (that is, not Hilde-tier) and I was already getting a feel for his rhythm in attacking.

My assumption of how he’d do in the tournament was incredibly unfair, and that’s the kind of funny thing about tournaments. Here’s a big dose of “Just My Opinion”: At a certain point, players are not just good or bad, because people are usually not that simple. Players are good or bad versus other types of players and play-styles. I met him in winners finals. I was pretty shocked. How did this happen?

As I began to play him, it became clear to me.

This kid.

Stand blocked.

Everything

It’s actually that simple. Players fell to him, some of them good players that had played much longer in tournament Calibur, because he held guard and option selected throw breaks. No amount of high-level conditioning, fakes, or lows would sway him from his “never gonna duck” strat. He punished unsafe mids and tried to play spacing just enough to where that mattered more than his (non-existent) reaction to lows. It worked up until he hit winners finals. His refusal to adjust was what caused him to lose to me as I relentlessly disrespected his stand guard.

Does this seem crazy to you?

I am sure it seemed crazy to KnuckleDu when he couldn’t get Marn to stop jumping. Or to FSP when he lost to Gandhi.

Jump-ins in 2Ds and lows in 3D. They shape the game in simple, profound ways that we can easily lose track of.


I like to give tl;dr summaries because this is the sort of muddy, theoretical area that we sometimes, as gamers, want to learn intuitively rather then through study.

Standing guard is the strong, fundamental default defense of 3D games. Every time you duck in a 3D game, just like every time you jump in a 2D game, you give a bit of information away on everything you know about the game’s meta and your opponent.

If you have this down, this is a significant chunk of getting into 3D games. The other chunk? The infinitely more complicated monster that is movement. Whew. When’s Tekken 7 coming out again?

Sources: UltraChen TV, TokidoFans blog, XCTU

General: SPONSORED – Online Turn-Based Tactical ?Shooting Girl? Debuts on Nutaku.com

Guns, schoolgirls, and world-eating robots: if your first thought is a popular new anime, you wouldn't be too far off. Instead it's Nutaku's Shooting Girl, a turn-based tactical combat game that takes place in a future version of Japan devastated by alien invasion. Locked in a war with spiraling casualties against a superior foe, the remnants of the Japanese government have begun arming teenage 'shooting girls' in a desperate bid to reclaim the city of Tokyo.

General: Vampyr: A Grim ARPG With Tangible Consequences

One of the more intriguing games I saw at E3 this year was Vampyr, a "semi-open world" action RPG from Dontnod, the developers of Life is Strange. But don't make the mistake of thinking that Vampyr is going to be full of teenage angst and heart-warming moments of friendship. So far it looks violent, grim, and captivating--despite the fact that I have some pretty big reservations on whether or not it can deliver on everything it promises to.

Vampyr: A Grim ARPG With Tangible Consequences

One of the more intriguing games I saw at E3 this year was Vampyr, a "semi-open world" action RPG from Dontnod, the developers of Life is Strange. But don't make the mistake of thinking that Vampyr is going to be full of teenage angst and heart-warming moments of friendship. So far it looks violent, grim, and captivating--despite the fact that I have some pretty big reservations on whether or not it can deliver on everything it promises to.

Super Smash Con Announces the 1st Smash Masters, with the Help of GEICO Gaming

While people can quite easily name the best individual Smash player for each game, no one has determined who is the best overall Smasher across all 4 officially sanctioned Smash titles. Well, Super Smash Con seeks to (maybe) put an end to this question with its new Smash Masters event, which sees 4 players known for their proficiency across multiple Smash titles competing to find out who is the best all-around Smasher.

There are only 4 contestants for this initial competition, with Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, Eric “ESAM” Lew and Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett all vying for the title of Smash Master. The way the tournament will work is that, rather than striking stages, players will strike games in the series at the start of a set, until only one game out of the 4 remains. Players then play a best-of-3 set in that game using standard tournament rules, with the loser of the set picking the next game. This will happen until all games in the series have been played. If the set is tied 2-2, the set will be decided by individual game victories and if that still doesn’t decide the set, Super Smash Con will then decide who wins based on so called “Big Victories,” which is if someone wins via a 2 stock in Brawl and Wii U, or a 3 stock in 64 or Melee. It’s all a bit confusing to tell you the truth, but full details on the rules and the bracket can be found on the official Super Smash Con website.

Such a small bracket makes sense when you have to play on 4 different games, but the obvious lack of a certain non-sanctioned Smash game makes the whole situation awkward should a 2-2 result happen. What would make more sense is if the final round was played out on Rivals of Aether or maybe even Wavedash Games’ unannounced platform fighter. In any case, it should be a fun side event which gives each Smash title its time to shine.

Source: Super Smash Con

Catch a Glimpse of How Ibuki and Balrog Could Have Looked in Street Fighter V

Street Fighter V has proven to be a great opportunity for Capcom to go and revise the designs for many of their returning characters, and incoming cast members Ibuki and Balrog are no exception.

In a series of Cutting Room Floor blog posts on the Japanese CFN portal, Capcom has shared concept art for the costume studies for both Ibuki and Balrog. This includes both the final designs that made it in, as well as those design studies that did not.

The designs themselves range from simple changes, such as Ibuki donning a hood over her classic costume, to some more outrageous ones, like Balrog wearing something out of a Mad Max film, or Dudley’s outfit.

You can check these out in the gallery below.

Click to view slideshow.

Source: Capcom (1, 2)