Friday, October 23, 2015

What Is 'Pushing The Meta?'

What Is Pushing The Meta?

This is partly a messy question regarding colloquial language but is fun to think about.

I guess first you’d have to define meta. Wikipedia says: "Metagaming is any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game… In simple terms, it is the use of out-of-game information or resources to affect one's in-game decisions." Most often in the smash context, I hear metagame used more closely to “The sum of methods and tendencies demonstrated by a character/players.” While they look totally different, both definitions can boil down to something like “In order to win the game against a practiced opponent you have to account for how other characters/individuals are liable to play.”

In my personal experience, I’ve found the following words/definitions most useful in this regard. Keep in mind, words are words, melee is melee. Translating melee to words and words to melee can result in a lot of gray area. It’s up to you to determine what is useful and what isn’t.


These are overarching themes that lay out your broadest gameplan.
Let’s say that my base strategy vs marth is something like “Patiently space outside of his range to avoid grabs. Bait and then whiff punish swings. Combo him off stage and secure the stock with an edgeguard.”
A strategy should be simple and effective. Ideally it should function vs any marth player you encounter.


These are smaller interactions that fit into your strategy.
I know that when marth jumps he can’t grab, so whenever I see marth jump I run forward to take space. If he uses an aerial then I can shield it and potentially fair or rest afterward. If he doesn’t aerial then it normally resets but with my having a better position than previously.
This tactic is also simple and effective, but clearly only a part in the whole.

MIXUPS/ 50/50S
These are interactions in which I cannot reactively account for every feasible/common action.
When I’m crouching next to marth’s shield he can hit me with his dair on frame 11 or so after jump, which is less than our benchmark 15 for consistently reactable. However, because I can shield in anticipation of the dair, then get a very beefy punish, both I and the marth player have to guess at the other’s intentions based on our match history.
Mixups are good to look at in detail because it is possible to discover alternative options that can cover multiple options (if puff WDs back instead of shields then she can punish at least dair, grab, and roll in). You might even stumble on a single option that can cover every option, at which point you’ve developed a strong tactic.

Strategies are not necessarily infallible. The marth player might have developed his own strats/tactics/mixups that you are not accounting for. That’s really the fun and the challenge of playing fighting games in a large scene. You will constantly be forced to improve your resources or stagnate and fall off as a player.

I’ve posited that dair spikestun rest can reliably kill, let’s say falco, at relatively low %s. If I demonstrate that getting a dair kills then I should get better results vs falcos. If I integrate dair rest into my game then falco will have to play a bit more evasively to compete, potentially giving puff more stage more often, etc. At this point we could consider the meta moved at least slightly.
Did the spikestun rest discovery actually change the meta? No. As of now, no one has mastered/integrated the technique (or even attempted to for the most part). Dair rest isn’t a real threat for falcos to adjust their gameplan to account for. It is irrelevant so the meta sits.

This is a long-winded way to say that unless you actively use tools they are not relevant. If no one drill rests then no one will be afraid of drill rest. On a more meaningful scale, if YOU don’t drill rest then no one will be afraid of YOUR drill rest. The same can be said for any strat/tactic/etc.

As I understand it, getting good at melee is a two part process.

Step 1) Identify/understand a strategy/tactic/etc. This involves reading, writing, thinking, studying, etc to come up with the best gameplan.

Step 2) Practicing/using the strategies/etc that you’ve developed. Executing what you’ve thought about with the controller in your hands.

You need both parts to succeed. You can’t skip step 1 and you can’t skip step 2. Until you have both any single strat/tactic/etc is incomplete and kept from being truly meaningful.

Until you understand and actively use the tools available to you neither you nor the "meta" that you seem so concerned about moves forward.

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