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Understanding the Theory and Flow of Battle (PvP)

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-Credit to Veysey for posting the original thread on dissidiaforums.-

So after having a long conversation with someone over how you're supposed to approach certain match ups which inevitably led into "what do I do here" and "what do I do there", I decided to take a more general approach. At the end of the conversation, I had my otherwise scattered thoughts and ideas in written form and figured it was worth sharing.

By the end of this wall, you should be able to use the information to develop strong gameplan with considerably less "uncertain" game time. Enough with the intro junk and on to the meat.
 

General Concept


The general concept of battle is that you, as a competent competitor, and your opponent, as another competent competitor, know everything about each others tools (character and available movesets). This is hard data that you spend time outside of battle learning and mastering. You also need to learn when and how to punish all those tools. This is common knowledge, but it's also a prerequisite of high level battle AND battle theory.

If you are a Squall main, for example, you obviously know everything about Squall - how his moves work, who can punish them when, how to abuse them for maximum efficiency, etc. BUT do you understand all that about the Cecil you're fighting? What about the Yuna? Tifa? You'd better because you're at a severe disadvantage that isn't skill or match up related if you don't. Still no secret, of course.

Once you understand all this, you start to realize battles have three distinct and recognizable phases. I'll call these phases the Beginning(Gameplan) phase, Middle(Infinite Possibilities) phase, and End(Predecided Outcome) phase. These phases are present in EVERY match, but their length with change depending on player knowledge and skill.

It's very important to recognize these phases AND understand what you're supposed to 'do' in each phase. Knowing this WILL give you an advantage over those who don't and help you develop your game at a much faster pace than someone who say - relies more heavily on intuition and reaction speed (outside of those rare, special cases).

So let's discuss them a bit so you know what they are and what to do with them:


Gameplan Phase (Battle Beginning)


OK, so in any match, you should have some idea as to what your opponents character can do and how you're going to respond to them. You probably also have some idea about the player you're facing and maybe even have some ideas on their preferred strategies. Because of this, you would have some idea of what you'll actually do in the match when it starts.

At this point, you're going to stick to your safer moves - but so is your opponent (if they're good). You'll both test each other with safe pokes and wiffs - each response almost being a predecided action you had planned before the battle even began. The battle will basically progress as both of you expect it to for a time and there will be no surprises. 

We can liken this to Chess: In Chess (for someone of my level), the first 4-5 moves are always "standard" - nothing unexpected or veiled. You understand why you're doing certain things (they're safe moves or safe setups) and understand why your opponent responds the way they do (again, they're staying safe). In Dissidia, I might open with a series of actions in a certain match up (ie: Dash up and neutral dodge just out of range of their fast brv attacks). Depending on how my opponent responds, I'll further tailor my game. Once I get to my personal threshold (where I no longer have a conscious game plan), I step into the second phase. My ultimate goal, however, is to never have to enter into the second phase (you'll see why in a bit).

As previously stated, I want to stay in this phase until I can jump to phase 3 because I can use this phase to gather information about my opponent through safe tactics and approaches. That doesn't mean I won't get hit, it just means I won't be taking any high risks and I'll be focusing on learning my opponents habits and how they treat this area of the battle (it will tell you a lot about their conceptual ability in a fight as well as their general preparation).

As you gather information about your opponent, you can see how deep their understanding is and probably pick up easy ways to expose them (again, unless they're a rare exception).

Most people actually do this (I hope) - just without consciously thinking about it, so let's move on now that you know you should be having a strong mental game plan and why.


Infinite Possibilities (Mid Battle)


So you've inevitably entered into the second phase unless you understand all possibilities at all times (basically impossible if the game has any real depth). You enter this phase when you no longer have a conscious game plan and are now relying on a few things to get you through:

- reactions
- match up knowledge (how their moves work and how to deal with them in relation to yours)
- player skill/technical prowess 
- previously acquired knowledge about the player (in the previous phase generally)

This is how most people play out the entire match when they're still learning. Heck, some of the pros still play like this. Despite that, this is the least desirable area to be in and you should set your sights at getting out asap. This is ALSO the most enjoyable part of battle for a lot of people since it puts a lot of tangible, "hard" skills to the test. The uncertainty and applying your witts is also very appealing to a lot of competitors. 

You don't want to be here because this is an area of (basically) infinite possibility. What I mean is in the previous phase, you might have chosen to open with a certain set of actions - but those choices are limited in the number of choices available to you and your opponent. Let's (for sake of example) say you had to choose between 1/3 options (opponent the same) so there was 6 possible "opening moves". By the time the second set of "moves" happens, any one of those choices have 6 possibilities coming off of them in a "tree" fashion. By the time you get to mid match content (this phase), the possibilities to get to that exact moment are enormous (look at the match as one, giant flow through a growing, then regressing tree diagram). 

So back to the point - you can no longer "follow" the battle and are now relying on "hard" skills. It's at this point where you basically no longer have a predecided gameplan and are now adapting as you go (which is higher risk - rarely good in competition if you want to win). So the only thing left to REALLY say is: play this like you normally play and actively look for a way to force your opponent into the final phase.


Predecided Outcome


So you wrestled through the actual meat of the battle and now your "tree" of choices is on the decline. Basically, someone has made a game changing move that is forcing the other player into a corner that will eventually kill them. If you liken it to Chess, this is generally when someone starts chasing a king, forcing checks. (Yes, you can recover from that, but generally not from competent players). Sometimes in Chess, this phase might have opened up 20+ moves before the game actually ends. High level players can see it, too (note: That DOESN'T mean give up - they still might screw up). 

At this point, you've probably landed a hit that put the opponent in a specific situation that (as long as you don't screw up), they can't get out of. Even though it appears they have choices, you have them set up in a way that no matter what they do, you have a guaranteed answer. Maybe that answer leads to another, similar, situation that leads to another that leads to another that leads to [etc etc] that leads to a killing blow. 

The deciding factor that you're in this phase ISN'T good guess work or anything like that, though - it's that the outcome is 100% guaranteed outside of personal slipups. Honestly, these phases are small and less significant in Dissidia, but it's important to know it's there - especially in other competitive games. 


Conclusion


So as you can see, it's really important to have a strong and competent opening game so you can observe and prepare for the inevitable middle phase. The longer you can last, the more information you gather and use your resources to peg your opponents habits (important when considering the length of Dissidia matches). 

After gathering the information and losing your initial gameplan; you'll enter into the meat of the fight where both players apply the information they learned. The better tactician will come out of this phase basically victorious. 

Entering the final phase is basically just formalities and making sure the "winner" doesn't choke. The final chance for the loser to mount a comeback is here if they do. It's very important to note that if that DOES happen, you've essentially just played more "middle phase". You can take that concept how you want so long as you realize that if there IS a screw up, you're back into the mid phase. 

Finally, at the end of it all, don't forget to review your matches and help develop better starting game plans. This closes the battle cycle and it all starts again at the top of this article, going full circle.


So there you have it; Battle Theory 101. Hope this helps some of you understand a few things like the work "pros" put into their pre-game, actual game, and post-game. That's the work you need to put in, too ... if you want to be good.

-Veysey

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"The general concept of battle is that you, as a competent competitor, and your opponent, as another competent competitor, know everything about each others tools."

Not true; dissidia has always been about evolving a meta, at least from early on. (Example: Funky's Kefka)

A gimmick is sometimes used so seldom that others might not have match up experience for it either.

There are also external factors; Environment and Internal variables can tweek a match.

>Live tournament crowds
>Lag on net play
>System variables (PS vs Sega for MvC2 for instance)

>Sleep deprived
>Poor health etc

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On 28/08/2016 at 0:39 AM, Harambe said:

"The general concept of battle is that you, as a competent competitor, and your opponent, as another competent competitor, know everything about each others tools."

Not true; dissidia has always been about evolving a meta, at least from early on. (Example: Funky's Kefka)

A gimmick is sometimes used so seldom that others might not have match up experience for it either.

There are also external factors; Environment and Internal variables can tweek a match.

>Live tournament crowds
>Lag on net play
>System variables (PS vs Sega for MvC2 for instance)

>Sleep deprived
>Poor health etc

I think this is irrelevant for the subject we're talking about.

The topic is to help players understanding how they're supposed to fight; of course you're supposed to have studied your opponent's tools even though matchups are evolving, they only do at a slow rate.

The external factors are obviously an issue but they don't have anything to do with the "theory and flow of battle".

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