Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - SECTIONS - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy editor, and is cur­rently train­ing for a Tekken 6 money match against Princess Anne

Nathan Brown laments the ab­sence of online dead arms

At E3, I en­tered a Street Fighter tour­na­ment. For the sec­ond year in a row, Cap­com was run­ning a sin­glee­l­im­i­na­tion, best-of-three tour­ney for mem­bers of the press. For a fight­ing game fan, it’s a hell of a thing, livestreamed on the same Twitch chan­nel that broad­casts Evo, com­men­tated on by the same pun­dits, and shown on a big screen on the E3 show floor. Last year, I won it, com­men­ta­tors Mike Ross and Peter ‘Com­bofiend’ Rosas say­ing how proud the Queen would be that I’d brought the tro­phy home for Eng­land (as if – as any true Brit knows, our Liz is more of a

Cap­com Vs SNK 2 gal). Any­way, this year, I didn’t win (the Palace was livid). Last year it was Ul­tra Street Fighter

IV, but this year we were play­ing SFV, a game I’d played for only a few hours. Worse still, Cap­com had an­nounced only six char­ac­ters in time for the tour­na­ment, and not one of them was called Ken Mas­ters. I’d gone with a fa­mil­iar, but not fa­mil­iar enough, char­ac­ter – Ryu, I’m afraid – and lost in the semis to a very good Span­ish player. He had a bet­ter Ryu than me, cer­tainly, but later, as I sat lick­ing my wounds in a Rise Of The Tomb

Raider pre­sen­ta­tion, I re­alised I’d made life even more dif­fi­cult for my­self by mak­ing a cou­ple of crit­i­cal mis­takes. They weren’t dropped com­bos, but psy­cho­log­i­cal er­rors born of the fact that I have be­come far too used to play­ing online against op­po­nents who I can’t see, and can’t see me.

I lost the first round to a se­ries of charged, multi-hit fire­balls that were timed to hit me as I was stand­ing up. In SFV, you can’t block these: the first hit breaks your guard, and the fi­nal one knocks you down. I got hit by three or four of them in a row, and af­ter the KO turned to my op­po­nent and said, “What am I sup­posed to do about that?” It’s the sort of thing I’d say all the time while play­ing online, but you can’t do that in per­son – I’d shown, and then out­right told, an op­po­nent I didn’t know how to deal with one of his tricks. I would lose the fi­nal round in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, to a charged ver­sion of Ryu’s su­per that moved a whole lot faster than I was ex­pect­ing.

My other er­ror was to con­tem­plate a char­ac­ter change af­ter that loss, my cur­sor hov­er­ing over Birdie, the lum­ber­ing grap­pler the pro play­ers spent most of E3 wreck­ing each other with, for a good 30 sec­onds, be­fore sim­ply pick­ing Ryu again. Had this been online, my foe wouldn’t have seen any of it, since char­ac­ter se­lect is blind. But here, he’d had a 30-sec­ond dis­play of my cri­sis of con­fi­dence. He knew I was there for the tak­ing and came at me ag­gres­sively. A cou­ple of min­utes later, I was slop­ing for­lornly off to Mi­crosoft’s booth, my phone buzzing as irate texts be­gan to stream in from mi­nor roy­als. I am not alone in this. The best Street

Fighter play­ers I know all agree that the only way to do bet­ter in tour­na­ments is to play against hu­man op­po­nents regularly. It’s not just that play­ing online breeds bad habits, but that lo­cal mul­ti­player has be­come so rare that we all need to re­learn how it works. In my teens, I once won a game of In­ter­na­tional

Su­per­star Soc­cer 64 by giv­ing a friend a dead arm while he took a penalty. That trick might have been frowned upon on the E3 show floor, but the think­ing be­hind it holds true: when your op­po­nent is sit­ting six inches from you, you can get into their heads. At a re­cent SFIV tour­na­ment, I saw one of my favourite play­ers, PR Bal­rog, take his seat be­fore a match and shuf­fle a few inches to the side. When his op­po­nent sat down their arms touched; ’Rog apol­o­gised, but didn’t move, forc­ing his op­po­nent to shuf­fle a bit.

Street Fighter is a game of con­trol­ling space, and he’d started the match the sec­ond he sat down. He won, of course.

For the past decade, de­vel­op­ers have over­whelm­ingly catered for the online player, and I get it. For them, it’s a way of keep­ing the disc in the tray – length­en­ing user en­gage­ment, or what­ever they’re call­ing it this week – with an end­less, con­stantly avail­able mul­ti­player mode. And it suits me, too: it’s an aw­ful lot eas­ier to sneak in a cou­ple of ranked matches while my wife puts the boy down for the night than it is to get a group of friends to­gether for a tour­na­ment in my liv­ing room. Online mul­ti­player brings peo­ple to­gether in a way that the games of my youth never could, but we’ve lost some magic along the way: the psy­cho­log­i­cal tricks, the well-placed dead arms, the look on the face of a well-beaten op­po­nent. And in my case, the stern, dis­ap­prov­ing look of one se­ri­ously pissed-off monarch.

In my teens, I won a game of In­ter­na­tional Su­per­star Soc­cer 64 by giv­ing a friend a dead arm while he took a penalty

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