Friday, March 7, 2014

Gaming well takes work

I was advised by a little bird that I "should have made a Tumblr," so I may end up mirroring this blog on Tumblr as well. If I do, it will be a mirror -- all featured type articles will appear in both places. I may randomly post on Tumblr too, I don't know. It already takes a lot of mental energy to write features every day so I'm not sure. Hopefully that will let people with Tumblr feeds easier access to my (our?) content.

On the stream front, I have no idea; don't hold your breath if you were planning on watching me play LoL or something. It's pretty much all in @Xennith's hands and not much has progressed.

Anyway, today I mostly want to talk about practice. I've written about it a lot before, but there's this idea that you can just play and be good. I want to throw that idea out the window. You cannot just be good at anything, even if you do that thing quite a bit. You need practice time.

Let's use a non-gaming skill for a moment; cooking! On the one side of the spectrum you have people that totally suck at cooking. My best friend is one of those people. He can't cook at all, he doesn't even have the slightest idea on what to do. I'm somewhere in the middle where I don't really need to measure things (unless I'm baking, baking sucks) and I can add or subtract or replace things in recipes and have them come out OK. Really good cooks can just walk into anyone's kitchen and improvise something good with what is there, and they have their own personal arsenal of recipes that are uniquely their own.

That mostly comes from "practice." It's not the same kind of practice but it's the same basic idea. You start out taking recipes that are similar and figuring out why they taste differently. For instance, using different seasonings or other flavorings with the same basic food will change the way food tastes pretty dramatically. You use reasoning skills to determine what flavor is making what change, and suddenly you're a better cook. Sometimes you make mistakes though, and that's part of practice too. It really sucks when you make mistakes with cooking, because you often have to eat something awful or throw away food.

As far as gaming is concerned you have to do the same exact things. You need to experiment with the tools you have ingame and find out the rules of the game. If you're an experienced player of the game and the developers introduce a new feature (like a new character) you can use your existing knowledge of how other things work and extrapolate how the new thing might work.

An example is something like Vel'Koz, a recently released League of Legends character who has some unusual mechanics, but is not really that weird. In my first game against him, I got hit by his splitting bullet spell a little too much, but now I almost never get hit by it. The same goes for things like Zed razor shurikens or really any skillshot. Once you've learned to dodge one, you can dodge all of them.

The trick is mental energy, not time. You have to invest the brain time in order to develop your skills. This is why practice time is important. If you're thinking about winning, you aren't thinking about skills. It's really hard to do that in a real game. I'm practicing Lilith in Vanguard Princess right now. She's a grappler character with a 360 grab plus some other cool stuff. Unfortunately I never really learned to do 360 throws on reaction, so my skills with her are terrible. I can do 360s decently with no pressure, but I'm not practiced enough in the various setups or reasons for doing a 360. For instance, wakeup 360 or poke 360 or safe jump 360. I need to spend a lot of practice time learning all those situations before I can realistically do 360 grabs in a match. Even then I need to also learn the rest of her moveset.

First you need to spend mental energy on a single skill just doing that skill. You need to do it a ton until that skill is so ridiculously mechanical that you can do it all the time without thinking. Only then will that skill actually be useful to you in a real situation. No one wants to get into a situation where his or her big combo gets dropped because it wasn't practiced enough.

It's also true that, even with lots of empty practice you need to apply that practice in stressful situations before that skill becomes reliable. I like to use AI/bot matches for this, so there's a sense of stress without any consequences like losing ranking or whatever. I played probably a dozen matches of Lee Sin where I bought a Sightstone and jumped to wards all game, just to get used to it. Even though bot matches aren't hard, there were times where jumping to something would be really useful and I managed to perform OK in those situations.

The end lesson is that you need to practice. More importantly, you need to spend mental energy on practicing or you won't get any better.

No comments:

Post a Comment