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Brawl Playstyles & Skills pt.4

Playstyles become more varied and therefore more challenging to describe, study, and counter the more moves, options, mechanics, and control a players has in a game. With a game like Pong there's not a lot of freedom to hit the ball back with your own particular style. On the other hand games like Smash Brothers and other fighters tend to have what feels like a text book of important information to consider. To make things easier on ourselves, it's a common practice in the learning process to simplify one's thinking and actions to reduce a game to a manageable state. Over time, players learn and add new ways to attack, defend, move, and think to their game in a slow but effective process. This brings us to an interesting opportunity with a player named Ravyn.

Ravyn has a youtube channel with videos of his battles that go back about a year. The idea is, by looking at how Ravyn's playstyle changed over time, we can better understand the development of his particular style.

If you compare the first to the last there's a clear difference in confidence, movement, and skill of Ravyn's Pit. Considering that the opponents vary in skill level and the videos are all of friendly matches, it's difficult to make accurate observations. But I can say that there is a trend of fewer aimless, whiffed attacks the more recent the videos. Though Ravyn gains a more patient defensive game and some explosive offensive moments, the limit of the arrow and ledge defense begins to show. Arrows are good at a distance. But at medium and close range Pit has far better attacks to wrack up damage. 

Before we continue, let's look at Ravyn's Questionair data. 

  • Name: Ravyn
  • Characters: Pit, Metaknight
  • Best Skill: Timing (spacing)
  • Most Wanted Skill: Adaptation (changing one's strategy)
  • The Skill You Press Over Opponents: Timing (spacing)
  • Most Prominent Playstyle: Defensive / Camping

So I played Ravyn myself to test out a few things. Unfortunately, the best we could manage is a series of online matches with a not so great connection. The video of our matches isn't even worth posting. Still, I tried to get a good sense of Ravyn's particular level of timing and adaptation. The rest of this article will be in efforts to offer suggestions and advice on helping Ravyn develop his best skill (timing) to boost his most wanted skill (adaptation) by increasing the variety of timing that he uses and the variety of playstyles.

For those who don't know, I am a musician. I've been playing violin and piano for most of my life and I've even taught violin. With that said, I am most comfortable talking about timing using musical terminology even when it comes to a fighting game. From what I've seen, Ravyn's defensive arrow, attack, and ledge game are mostly played on the "down beats." Like clapping your hands or nodding your head to a consistent rhythm, Ravyn's most successful attacks fall on the beats and everything else usually misses the target or is done just to fill up space. With enough spacing and Pit knowledge, Ravyn's rhythmic attack patterns aren't going to necessarily get him in trouble. However, if he can hear is own rhythms he can break them. Messing with the opponent's expectations in this way is a great way to adapt within a single playstyle using timing skills.

After all, everyone knows that the more predictable you are the easier it is to be read and countered. To continue the music metaphor, being able to switch from common time (4/4) to something more like a waltz (3/4) or even jazz rhythm (7/4 - ?/?) would show a broader range of timing skills. If this sounds a bit crazy, I'll put it in Brawl terms. If Ravyn can switch from what seems to be a rapid fire defensive arrow game into a slower attacking (tilts) game based on what the opponent does his adaptation skills will increase.

Another interesting thing to consider about Pit is that many of his moves come out quickly and end quickly. So when using the majority of Pits moves, you'll most likely fall into the pattern of attacking on beat. To break up this pattern I use short hop airs that animation cancel and Pits multiple jumps. Furthermore, I use attacks that start on the downbeat but continue to be effective in between these beats. Dragging out a back air, an Angle Ring, or turning around backwards aiming to connect with the second hit of Pit's down smash can be very effective.

Without getting into the fascinating neuroscience of how people think, what they perceive, and how patterns/rhythms affect us (which I'll get into another day), I do think that exploring more with timing is the way to go for Ravyn. Once he can see or feel the rhythms he or his opponent creates, he can begin to do more with his best skill.

Otherwise, I'm surprised that Ravyn stays on the stage after knocking the opponents off. To keep with his defensive playstyle preference, it would do him a world of good to develop defensive off guarding strategies that stay close to the stage while putting a lot of pressure on the opponent.

Hopefully Ravyn will look at his old matches and see that he's been building his game on a foundation of a highly active (attacking and movement wise) rhythmic Pit that's not the most reactive to the opponent.

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