Last year, I went to CEO 2016 and entered their Smash Brothers tournaments. This year, due to the popularity of the games there last year, they decided to host a brand new, Smash-only event: CEO Dreamland! I registered immediately.
Given what I said about CEO 2016, you would expect me to say I learned my lesson and prepared better for this event, right? Nope! You'd be wrong.
Honestly, I've had a lot going on over the past year and I just simply haven't had the time to devote to fighting games. I did, however, identify a few things I really needed to work on after CEO 2016:
- Patience - I'm a very aggressive player, which makes me rather predictable.
- Movement - My movement isn't very crisp in Smash 4 and my Melee movement doesn't incorporate any advanced tech.
- Awareness - I spend too much time watching my character instead of the opponent's.
I've been slowly working on my movement, but it's been hard to keep up a consistent practice schedule. To help with awareness and patience, I've actually been playing some Street Fighter V. Watching their tournament at CEO last year made me realize that options and spacing are a lot easier to understand in the context of a more traditional fighting game. So, I'm hoping that SFV will help train me to be a bit more cerebral and less impulsive in my play.
Not much to say here. I didn't have a doubles partner (Rstevoa was busy and couldn't attend) and I had to finish something at work, so I wasn't able to attend the first day. I got to watch a little of the stream, but that was about it.
I got to the venue early and played a number of Smash 4 friendlies before pools started. In particular, I played a Pac-Man player for awhile and then a Bowser Jr. player. I had gone into CEO Dreamland expecting to play Kirby instead of Yoshi, whom I'd been practicing with more recently. Playing both of them made me realize, however, that my Kirby was simply not going to cut it - I simply hadn't learned to be patient enough. I also hadn't had enough practice against characters with disjoints that Kirby has some issues with.
While waiting for my first pool, I watched a few matches. In retrospect, this was seriously a tournament for Duck Hunt mains. Dandy Penguin beating Phuzix was surprising, but watching Mew2King lose to him directly afterward was unexpected (and rather sad, since it caused Mew2King to drop out of Smash 4 again). I wish this game had been streamed, but it was extremely close and came down to an off-stage, last-hit situation.
My favorite match, though, was probably seeing the Japanese Duck Hunt player Raito beat the CEO 2016 winner, Anti, in pools:
General consensus of top players at the event seemed to mostly be, "Screw this character." I can understand why. A good Duck Hunt is pretty safe and makes you play at their pace. Duck Hunt is also far more methodical than other characters that do this (like Diddy Kong), which can make things even more frustrating. As a spectator, though, I actually find Duck Hunt matches to be pretty interesting and suspenseful. Duck Hunt players aren't passively camping you like Sonic - they're steadily applying pressure and looking for an opening. The mental chess match might be grueling to play, but it's still good Smash.
After grabbing some food, I found my Melee pool (G4) at 14:00. I've been practicing some Marth tech and cleaning up my game a bit over the past year, so I was hoping I'd manage to at least win a game this tournament. Unfortunately, the worst possible scenario happened: I played two Peach mains.
Peach is my worst match-up in Melee. I fundamentally do not understand how to play it. I went 0-2 very fast against Bwead, who was clearly above my level. I then, shamefully, also went 0-2 to Jebailey himself. He actually played pretty well (far better than he had in the game before me on stream), but both games should have been far closer than they actually were (I believe I was 2- or 3-stocked both times).
At 16:00, my Smash 4 pool (H2) didn't go any better. I had hoped I'd be able to take at least a game and claim an improvement over CEO 2016, but it was not to be. I went 0-2 extremely fast against TheStrangeMentlegen's Bowser, who did a great job punishing unsafe approaches when I made them. I then went 0-2 against Minstora's Little Mac, too. Remember how I said I have a very aggressive playstyle? Little Mac eats people like that for breakfast due to his hard-hitting, strong moves with armor. The match-up is actually also a bit of an achilles heel for me and I wasn't able to rise to the occasion.
Feeling fairly dejected, I ambled over to the Rivals of Aether setups once I'd scrubbed out of yet another tournament. I actually registered for the Rivals tournament, too, but only because I wanted to support the new game. I purchased it in Early Access on Steam, played it once, thought it had some promise, and then promptly forgot about it. I found someone on a setup by themselves, introduced myself, and asked them if they could cover the basics of the game for someone that hadn't played before. I played a few games, settled on Zetterburn as my main (he seemed easiest to understand), and attempted to memorize all the crazy things the other characters could do to me. I then left to grab some more food.
At 18:00, my Rivals pool (I2) started. Or, it might've started. You see, I broke the setup:
Anyway, once we rebooted the setup and I got to play, I finally achieved my goal: I won a competitive match at a CEO event! Not only that, I went on to win four games and two matches!
I'd like to preface my results here by saying that the first player I faced, Ensindic, also had never played the game before CEO Dreamland. My second game was against MSB who, in addition to being quite the character, is also apparently a top-5 player. Naturally, I got #rekt. My third game was against Snover, whom I'm also not sure had a lot of experience with the game. And my fourth game was against Aurecia, who is also apparently a top player. As a result, I don't have a good read on how well I really played: I mostly beat people with a similar amount of experience and lost to people I clearly wasn't going to beat.
All things said, I'm hooked. Rivals, to me, plays like Melee, but with far cleaner design. By that, I mean, the advanced tech that remains (like wavedashing) is easier to perform and advanced tech that's removed (L-canceling is "automatic", crouch-cancelling is removed, and so on) wasn't good for the game anyway. Like Smash 4, there's also no ledge-hogging (actually, you can't grab the ledge at all in Rivals - it's replaced by a wall-jump mechanic), which makes edge-guarding more interesting. And, on top of that, each character has some interesting and unique mechanics for asserting stage control (which requires you to play around not only the opponent, but also each player's smoke clouds, water pools, throwable rocks, and so on).
At any rate, I stayed until Top-12 was decided (both players I'd lost to made it in) and hung out with some of them for a bit. I also made sure to speak with both Dan Fornace (the developer of the game) and Etalus (his community manager) to let them know how much I enjoyed the game and the tournament. I sincerely hope I'll see more Rivals events going forward. The game is awesome and deserves a long-lasting and healthy competitive scene (however small it might remain).
Unfortunately, just like CEO 2016, something came up and I wasn't able to attend the last day. This was a huge shame because I really wanted to be there for the conclusion of Smash 4, Melee, and Rivals. I did, at least, get to watch at home on the stream, though. The Rivals Top 12 and Melee's Top 16 were both incredibly entertaining. Smash 4 had a number of good sets as well, but went a bit more predictably.
While my performance at CEO Dreamland was even more disappointing than at CEO 2016, I do think I've improved over the past year. I think my primary problems are that:
- I haven't adequately addressed many of the bad habits and playstyle faults I have
- I'm not playing other good players enough, so I'm unable to truly break those bad habits
- I'm not playing enough in general to gain critical match-up knowledge (see: my struggle against Peach in Melee)
- Other players are improving at a rate equal to or faster than I am
The last point, I think, is something I need to keep in mind. If I'm not able to keep a consistent schedule for playing others, I'm simply not going to be able to improve fast enough. Despite honestly feeling like I've improved over the past year, it's pretty clear that the bar has been raised.
I've got a lot on my plate between now and CEO 2017, so I'm not sure how well preparation will go. Although Rivals went exceptionally well, I still haven't won a game of Smash at a CEO event.