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 Post subject: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:32 pm 


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I always have trouble practicing shooting games. I've looked around and talked to some people and I've gotten some good ideas, but I'd like some more opinions and shit. A quick CTRL+F of the Strategy Board Index yielded no results for "Practice" or "Training" (though one result for the "Gunbird train" appeared), so I figured I might as well make a thread about it.

I find now to be a good time to ask, though earlier would have been better, as I'm a bit stumped by how to approach a game such as ESPGaluda 2. It's quite the complicated game, as anyone can see, and I'm unsure whether to put in single credits in Arcade/360 mode, credit feed to the end every time, play through an entire stage in the practice mode several times and move onto another one, restart the shit out of a stage in practice mode, etc.
I also don't know whether it would be a good idea to play purely for score straight off the bat, or whether it would be a better idea just to work on a path to make it later in the game before worrying especially about how/when/why to Kakusei/Zetsushikai/Over and the way I may constantly fuck up during Zetsushikai (i.e. whether it would be best to completely familiarize oneself with the mode and how to handle it before going on to specific situations, or whether to simply learn each specific situation for each chosen path), etc.

I hope this thread leads to some good discussion and the improvement of more players. The more competitive scoreboards are, the more fun it is. I'd like to keep myself from burning the fuck out on this game, as I rather like it, before I even post a score.

Here is a guide for practicing games in an emulator by PROMETHEUS: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=34497

Good guide, will lead you down the right path, I strongly recommend reading it, etc

Post of Icarus, very informative: viewtopic.php?p=560153#p560153

Useful information on limitations from Bernard: viewtopic.php?p=560232#p560232

Example of progression (tons of included details) from Bernard: viewtopic.php?p=560336#p560336

More heavy info in the same vein as before from Icarus: viewtopic.php?p=560355#p560355

Cool! post by third_strike: viewtopic.php?p=561133#p561133

Wisdom from Enhasa: viewtopic.php?p=563900#p563900

sikraiken, ever the genius: viewtopic.php?p=566816#p566816

This is all from page 1. More indexing in the future.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:29 pm 


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My methods in not-quite-short:

  1. Credit feed
    Contrary to popular belief, credit feeding is a good practice tool, as it will allow you to get more experience with later stages quickly. I generally credit feed for the first few days of serious play, just to see the later stages and to start devising some strategies for them. Only after I feel comfortable enough to attempt a full scoring run do I switch to one-credit play.

  2. Observe
    As you play, make a mental note of sections and patterns that are particularly difficult. When you come back to them in later credits (or via training modes), start to study what makes the section difficult - is it enemy placement or movements? a particular bullet pattern? difficult to score in? The more information you gather beforehand, the better placed you are to...

  3. Strategise
    Now you know what the problem areas are, and roughly what can cause them, start to think of methods to defeat the problem. For example, if a particular bullet pattern causes you problems, determine the form of attack it is - fixed? splurge? aimed? - and then find a method to avoid it - aimed patterns generally can be tap-moved to avoid, fixed patterns have blindspots (like what I found for Batrider, among others), splurges can be led to fire in a particular direction and then sidestepped easily.

    The more information you have from observation, the more strategies you can attempt.

  4. Experiment
    An extension of the above - if you're strategising, don't be afraid to try dumb and crazy stuff to see what sticks. Occasionally, you'll find something that will work.

  5. Don't waste credits!
    If you have a really awful run, like dying in the first stage, or making a small mess of a run, don't throw the credit away. Follow the 'credit feed' rule and continue playing - occasionally one small mistake in a play can still lead to a new high score, and failing that, pump a few more credits in to practice later levels and to perform experiments. Make your limited play time count!

  6. Utilise all your available tools
    Don't be afraid to use guides and replays to help you past particular sections, and always make use of training modes and stage selects to practice later stages. Your play time is limited, so use whatever you can to make improvements. Experience counts for a lot.

  7. Practice! Practice! Practice!
    Practice does make perfect, but only if the practice is structured and focused. If you practice with the right methods, and with dedication, you'll see better gains than a casual randomly flailing around the screen. So in this case, good practice makes perfect.

  8. Compete and discuss
    Competition fuels improvement. Get into an active thread (or make a thread active by taking part) and build rivalries. Use your off-time to discuss strategies with other players. You'll learn a lot more in a group than you will on your own.

  9. R&R
    Take breaks. Even the best players can't focus after a six hour session, so taking a short break to rest the eyes and brain, and to recharge the batteries works wonders. You might even devise some new strategies in your off-time. I know I do. A lot.

  10. Enjoy what you do.
    At the end of the day, you're spending your free time on a game. If you have fun playing it, and have fun making improvements, then you'll get more out of the game, and the genre as a whole.

One other thing, I'm not the kind of player that sticks to the output of one or two companies - I prefer variety, and experiencing as many different styles as possible helps when trying new games out. Variety is the spice of life, of course.

With regards to your comments on Espgaluda 2, my tip is to understand the systems first - Zesshikai is fueled by the combination of Gold and Gems, which are gained in both Normal Mode and Kakusei Mode. The key to scoring here is to work out where to get huge Gold gains quickly, and then where to cash in using Zesshikai - study of the stages here is an important element, but unlike some of Cave's stricter systems, you have a bit more freedom to choose.
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Last edited by Icarus on Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:34 pm 


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if your having particular trouble, watch replays of your run if the game supports it. then try and spot gaps/strategies for the patterns as its easier to work out patterns "in the 3rd person" rather than when youre playing.. havnt actually done this myself yet, but i think itll work.


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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:36 pm 


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DC906270 wrote:
if your having particular trouble, watch replays of your run if the game supports it. then try and spot gaps/strategies for the patterns as its easier to work out patterns "in the 3rd person" rather than when youre playing.. havnt actually done this myself yet, but i think itll work.


Works for me. In fact, it's one of the primary reasons why I bother recording (and distributing) in the first place.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:39 pm 



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Icarus wrote:
My methods in not-quite-short

Please, sticky this. Please.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 4:57 am 


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Hot-damn. Caught a sturgeon on my first cast. That's likely one of the best posts I've ever seen in my entire life. Far more informative than my entire ST for Under Defeat (give a man a fish/teach a man to fish, as they say). For it, I am unable to thank you enough, Icarus.

And yes, I am a total replay slut, lol. For several games I've not even put the effort into figuring out how to dodge a pattern, but watched a part of a replay instead ^_~ Though for every one of those, there's at least one pattern that I figured out by doing extremely stupid shit.

moozooh wrote:
Icarus wrote:
My methods in not-quite-short

Please, sticky this. Please.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:47 am 



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Icarus touched on a few topics already, like gathering knowledge and strategizing. I would like to touch on a few other topics, too. There's a beginner's guide that I still like, but it's in Japanese:

http://galford.hp.infoseek.co.jp/biginar.html

I wrote some commentary on his guide, which you can find here:


Which point is giving you the most difficulty? It sounds like point #2, but I want to be sure.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:14 pm 


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It does sound like point 2 to me.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 2:33 pm 


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m3tall1ca wrote:
It does sound like point 2 to me.


People have different ways of learning things, and it applies to shooting games just as much as it applies to career subjects and interests.

For example:
- some players might find that they learn better by keeping a short journal of thoughts and ideas (for example, read some of the posts at Gaming Journals);
- some players might be artistically-inclined and like to sketch out plans (I used to do this a lot when I was younger);
- some players might learn better by being in regular competition and discussion.

In my opinion, however, the ability to conceive a good plan boils down to two main abilities in the end: the ability to observe systems and patterns in action, and the ability to analyse situations and systems to find solutions. While this sounds horribly scientific, - and I assure you, it is nothing of the sort - in reality all it is, is spotting problems and working out solutions. Remember that a shooting game is just a mass of predefined situations that occur one after another in a set sequence - if you can understand the logic behind a particular sequence (such as a bullet pattern type, or the movement/positioning of a sequence of enemies) then you are better placed to find a solution to the problem at hand than if you just waded in without any foreknowledge.

To set an example for context:
I view a game's stages as a series of small puzzles that require a specific solution. By analysing the cause of the puzzle, such as enemy patterns, attacks etc, I work to theorise strategies, which I then test via experimentation. The methods that do work, I make a note of and commit to memory, which I then continually practice via rote memorisation until I can execute without thinking. By splitting my learning up into chunks, I minimise the amount I need to learn in one go, and can devote my efforts to only the most critical areas.

For an example of my methods, take a look at the Resources thread I maintained at namakoHQ for STGT '08, among others - in particular, look at the guides I constructed for my team, and note how they were split up into segments with detailed analysis and technique. I used to enjoy studying the sciences in school, which is probably why I employ the "hypothesis and experiment" method of study. Your mileage may vary, however.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 4:46 pm 


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Yes. I can see that to advance to a "real" master, you could map out each stage on paper and make notes on the attack patterns etc, and study/learn them. This would surely improve your game, but its kind of boring. I prefer to just play the game. Through replaying and replaying you become "familiar" with each stage, but itll take much longer to master the shmup this way.


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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 6:02 pm 


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Holy damn, Icarus; you guys have a nice little thing going on over there! I should comb over your site one of these days. Lots of good stuff.

I think I'm also having trouble, though less significant, with #6. I'm thinking about clearing a bookcase and unscrewing it from the desk it rests on just to put my monitor on it and save some space in the middle of my room (my monitor's on a chair next to my bed...it hasn't been turned on in a week or two). This likely still won't help me with Galuda 2 until I get ... actually, upon further inspection, I might be able to fit my TV up there. That's absolutely dandy.

Pre-posting edit: After writing out a bunch of shit analyzing the bookshelf idea, it turns out that all the work would likely not be worth it. Oh, well. Maybe I should just find a table and get rid of some shit in this room.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 8:12 pm 



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m3tall1ca wrote:
It does sound like point 2 to me.

Okay, good. I wanted to be sure there are no other underlying problems. It's hard to strategize anything if you, say, don't even have the time to strategize!

You probably know of the sikraiken way of practicing: strategize everything until you can get about 90% of some world record and refine from there. For a talented and very disciplined guy like him, he can make this work. For the rest of us, getting to 90% all in one shot could take months or years, and all the while our motivation dies off. As for me, I set goals that I can achieve in about a month. Here's a not-quite-short case study of how I got decent scores in Shikigami no Shiro II.

In Shikigami no Shiro II, I wanted to get a world record for any character. Intuition told me that Kuga was the best, but after watching the Arcadia record replay, it looked like there were too few opportunities to improve upon it. Other record replays for the other characters had glaring flaws that I wanted to capitalize on. So my process will involve figuring out which character is right for me. If you want to commit to a character early on, then you can simplify my process.

There are two phases to my process: survival, then score. Getting a high score obviously involves beating the game. During the survival phase, I only use score as a means for getting extra lives. Once I beat the game, then I can slowly add on scoring tricks, starting from the easy ones. This way, I can get used to the complexity of scoring well while seeing progress.

Survival phase, one quick and easy iteration

Shikigami no Shiro II. In order to figure out which character was right for me, I decided to try them all! Luckily, it was quick and easy to do so. Since I didn't have the Appreciate DVD to have some idea of where to use the bombs, I used my bomb distribution process to figure it out myself. It goes like this: go through the game without using any bombs and note where you died. Then use a bomb where you died on your next run. Repeat until you run out of bombs to distribute. Then figure out which ones are too easy to bomb and practice those areas (the stage select in this game's ports is very helpful here). As you go farther into the game, you will find new places to bomb and find other places to stop using the bomb. Keep doing this until you beat the game.

Oh, I noted what scores I got when I beat the game with each character. This will come in handy for the scoring phase.

Espgaluda II applications. You can use the same bomb distribution process, but this game has two resources you can use to make the game easier: gems for kakusei mode and the guard barrier. If you lose a life in one area, try slowing down the bullets with kakusei mode. If you still get hit or waste lots of gems, try using the guard barrier instead.

If you're really motivated about beating the world record, you might have to go up against Shin Seseri. This involves not dying until you reach her. I would learn to do so before I would move on to the scoring phase. Intermediate goals would be to lose one fewer life upon reaching her until you can lose none at all.

Scoring phase, iteration 1, the big picture

Shikigami no Shiro II. At this point, I have the Appreciate DVD in hand. But first, I set some goals. Each character has different scoring potential -- Chibi Fumiko can only get up to about 5 billion, but Sayo can get up to 7 billion. So for each character, I divided my current score by the Arcadia record score to get a percentage. Then I took the maximum percentage and subtracted it from 100%. I forgot what my actual starting scores were so I'm going to make some numbers up. Say Kuga had the best percentage at 36% of the Arcadia record. 100% minus 36% is 64%.

I have eight characters to choose from. I wanted to eliminate one in each iteration. Whichever character took the longest to get to some scoring goal, I eliminate. Now, I have 64% to go to beat some Arcadia record. I divided that by 8 (the number of characters), which means I wanted to improve Kuga's score by 8% to 44%. Now I want to meet this percentage goal for every character. I did write down what the actual percentage goal was, and it was about 47%.

With Sayo, I started off with about 25% of the record. And I wanted her score to go up to 47%, too. That's not fair: Kuga started with 36% so he needs less effort to get up to 47% than what Sayo requires. Why did I do this? The goal is to find the easiest character to use for score. So I prefer characters that were naturally easy to score with even when I played only for survival.

Okay, now it's time to play. I kept a log of the amount of time each character took to get to 47% of the Arcadia record. Again, whichever character took the longest to get to 47%, I eliminated. Sayo took the longest to get there at about 19 hours, so I graciously bowed to the genius that is Yusemi and eliminated her.

Adjustments for less bookkeeping. You can just set some arbitrary percentage for each character and eliminate which character you hated the most. You can even eliminate multiple characters if you want.

Also, if you want to commit to one character, then you can just use actual scores as your goal. Maybe with Kuga, you started off with 2.0 billion, so you can set the next goal at 3.0 billion, then 3.5 billion, and so on.

Espgaluda II applications. The same method applies, but with only three characters to work with, you'll notice a bigger gap between what you have and what your goal will be. For example, with Ageha, you could start with 10% and end up with a goal of 40%. You can create small goals within an iteration, and I might cover this some other time.

Scoring phase, iteration 1, breaking down the big picture

Shikigami no Shiro II. For each character, I wanted to improve whatever I had to 47% of the Arcadia record. The ports in this game have a powerful tool: stage select. With the stage select, I can set stage goals. Luckily, the Appreciate DVD booklet has a score breakdown by stage, so I basically used those numbers and multiplied each one by 47% to set a scoring goal for each stage.

I also modified my bomb distribution. I considered what bombs were being used in the DVD and thought about what I could add or needed to subtract in order to meet my overall scoring goal.

With a stage goal and bomb distribution in mind, it's time to play. First, I watched the DVD to familiarize myself with the scoring tricks the players used. Then I tried to repeat what I saw. If a trick became too difficult, I resorted to some less risky version of the trick or just plain surviving. Eventually, I would find out which tricks are easy enough to use in order to meet my stage goal.

Now, some of the stages required milking, so I had to decide whether to do it. If I decided not to milk a stage, then it would be too difficult to meet a stage goal. So a stage goal is really merely a guideline to get to what I ultimately want: the overall scoring goal. If all of the practice mode scores I got added up to my overall scoring goal, then I'm good to play the entire game. For example, if I had a goal of 435 million in stage 2-2, but I accepted a score of 399 million, then 399 million becomes my target anyway.

After tallying up all the stage scores in practice, I end up with an overall score that's bigger than my goal. For example, the sum of all the stages in practice mode could be 3.2 billion when I only wanted 2.9 billion. So I reduce each stage's scoring goal to the point in which I could just barely meet my overall scoring goal. For example, I might have a score in 396 million in practice mode, but I can tolerate getting just 358 million. The numbers that I can tolerate become the numbers I use in the full run.

Now it's time for the full runs. I usually have a notebook or a small sticky note on the score (in millions) I would like to have in the end of each stage. For example, I want 358 million in stage 1-1, 656 million in stage 1-2, and so on. At the end of each stage, if my current score is higher than my goal, then I'm all pumped to move on. If it's slightly lower, then I would plow through anyway just to get used to the nerve-wracking experience of a full run. If it's way too low, then I start over. I use mostly my mood to determine whether I want to start over.

If I beat my goal, then great! I'm done. If not, then I practice the stages that made me want to stop in the full runs. Once I get comfortable again, then I go through the full runs again.

What happens if you still can't meet your goals? I'll cover this a little bit later, but basically, just lower your goals.

So in summary, what am I doing here? Set some rough scoring goals for each stage, ensure that I'll have enough bombs to get to the end of the game, practice to get a better idea of what my goals should be, go through the full runs, and cycle between practicing and going through the full runs until I achieve my overall goal.

Adjustments for less bookkeeping. It's still a good idea to keep track of the scores you get in practice mode, but then you can arbitrarily adjust your stage goals until they add up to your overall stage goals. Also, you probably don't need to write down what your stage targets are for your full runs -- just keep in mind where you're losing points most often.

Espgaluda II applications. Uhh, I don't know how training mode in the port works...

One other thing to consider is the score bonuses you get for beating the game. I don't think you should get a perfect end-of-game bonus right away. You can set intermediate goals for it too, like dying one fewer times instead of going for the no-miss right away.

The basic idea

There are more iterations to this case study, but there are a lot of things to consider already. Ultimately, what you want to do is to set goals that you can achieve in two to six weeks. Think about what easy scoring tricks you can do within that time frame and implement them through observation and strategizing. If you can't reach your goal, lower it and try again. As long as you see good overall increases in your high scores, you'll be fine.

. . .

As for me, I stopped playing Shikigami no Shiro II when I didn't even peak yet. Why? I got a new job, and I don't have as much free time anymore. But finding free time is an entirely different problem. These days, I'm enjoying things that are more relaxing, like programming a game and learning the Japanese language. But I still maintain some interest in shmups, because I'll never know when I'll have lots of free time again.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:15 pm 


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Great post, BER, and some sound advice. I've been following your progression since you started Bee Preying a long time ago, and it's both interesting and inspiring to read your posts on your progression.

BER wrote:
Ultimately, what you want to do is to set goals that you can achieve in two to six weeks. Think about what easy scoring tricks you can do within that time frame and implement them through observation and strategizing. If you can't reach your goal, lower it and try again. As long as you see good overall increases in your high scores, you'll be fine.


Agreed on all points, especially this one.
Setting targets is definitely an important part of development, and can be achieved in a variety of ways:

1) through general play, by seeing what scores you hit at the end of each stage, and;
2) through competition, by seeing what players around your position are scoring.

Obviously point 1 will give you a rough idea of stage scoring targets, while point 2 will give you an idea of overall game targets. By combining these with a good understanding of the game's scoring system, and a good idea of your own personal limits, you can start to set personal targets which you can aim for on each play.

As for methods, I always use a simple, organised plan:

1) Understand control and scoring systems first.
2) Play a few credits feeder-style, get a rough idea of stage targets.
3) Start to devise scoring techniques for stages, get experience of later stages through feeding or training mode.
4) Optimise current strategies, modify stage scoring targets.
5) Isolate problem areas, develop new techniques.
6) Repeat from point 4 until personal limits are reached and/or no further optimisation can occur, or boredom.

DC906270 wrote:
Yes. I can see that to advance to a "real" master, you could map out each stage on paper and make notes on the attack patterns etc, and study/learn them. This would surely improve your game, but its kind of boring. I prefer to just play the game. Through replaying and replaying you become "familiar" with each stage, but itll take much longer to master the shmup this way.


Mapping at the level of detail I do isn't for everyone, and in most cases even I don't even bother to do it, unless the game is a strict route-based type of game that demands it, or a game's scoring system is particularly complex and requires segmented strategy-building. Most of the time, the strategies I use are devised on-the-fly, committed to memory and learned via rote until I execute them without thinking.

Rote memorisation is an important key to development, as it allows you to focus on other things, but it definitely isn't for everyone.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:28 pm 


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Perhaps not for everyone, but something that I found very useful with playing shmups is to re-focus my emotions (Can't remeber the proper word for it, sorry) If I get angry while playing a game I take short break (like five minutes) and think about what it was that made me angry and how I can use this anger-energy to take revenge on the game (getting a higher score).

I know it sounds like complete new age/jedi crap, but it actually works. And not only for shmups, it helped me a lot in real-life as well.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:22 am 


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I have any tips:
- Play regularly.
- Watch super-plays.
- Understand the score system.
- Do any mathematics calculus.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:10 pm 


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"Observe" is the best advice I've been given. Pay attention to every detail, from base player/enemy features and level layouts to more specific game quirks - notice everything you can, and build up a knowledge base. Guides / replays are a great supplement, but try to understand their contents; don't just copy verbatim.

Observe, analyse, exploit. Don't just try to brute force your way through with raw input skill or sheer mental toughness. Make sure you've got a solid strategy formulated, then begin hammering out a performance you're happy with.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 1:56 pm 


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Excellent thread and incredibly useful information. I generally go with the one-credit rule when I practice, which makes some runs frustrating -- especially when you're underskilled as I am. I'm attempting a decent score in Dragon Blaze for ISM and I'll give these guides a try.


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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:34 am 


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Icarus had this basically all covered from the very first reply, good info! I'd like to say some stuff in this post, maybe focused more on how to maximize performance in limited-time tourneys like STGT. I do follow all this, although I haven't really thought about it carefully until this post, so it's also good for my understanding to get my thoughts down.


Before even starting to play the game, there are different things to consider that will affect your course of action. The first thing to ask yourself is what your goals and priorities are: highest score, 1st loop clear, deep appreciation/understanding of the game, competition, fun, etc. For a tourney it should likely be score. I like to set specific point goals for motivation, particularly for tourneys, and revise as necessary.

The second thing is to decide how much time you have to work with, both in terms of total time and time per day. Obviously for a weekly tourney, you only have a week, but even under no time constraint, you might subconsciously have your own preferences. I tend not to focus on one game for more than several months at a time, while others happily play the same game for years on end. Time per day depends not just on how much time you have available, but potentially how much time you are willing to spend, including how much consecutive time. I tend to do better with intense play (which helps for tourneys), but others do not. Don't bang your head into a shmup for hours and hours if you are hating it and even feel your performance dropping.

As an aside, if it's late and you aren't doing so well, go to sleep! Sleep deprivation is like drunkenness; you don't fully realize how it's affecting you. You will be amazed how much better you will do the next day and how quickly it takes you to surpass your previous tired performance. I know this very well and it still amazes me. Just think: you're going to get the same x hours of sleep and y hours of play anyway, so why not shift those play hours to when they will be most effective?

Finally, figure out what rules you will be following. It sounds silly, but it's not clear-cut, and many people nerf themselves on this step without fully realizing. For a tourney, I will use anything allowed by the tourney such as savestates to practice, autofire 1, etc. Some people have their own moral blocks against things like creditfeeding for practice, which should not be the case if score really is the #1 priority. Indeed, I do place some minor restrictions on myself when playing for score outside of tourneys, where factors like fun have more weight. For example, I like experimenting with games and trying to figure out scoring optimization and secrets before looking at a replay or strategy guide. Even during tourney play, I only paused when I absolutely had to attend to something, but a teammate had no problem with frequent pausing to control nerves, which is technically not against any written rules. Once again, you need to be cognizant of these self-imposed rules and eliminate them if they contradict your priorities.


The rest of this is tourney-specific, although of course you can generalize as necessary. As a reminder, this is what I do and it might not fully apply to you or your goals, but it works for me so hopefully it can be of some help. These steps are not always sequential but sometimes iterative.

If you're not that familiar with a game, the very first thing to do is to feed your way through the game to get a rough feel for it all. You will feel like a dunce if you are making scoreruns and get farther than you are used to. (Believe me, I know.) Make savestates frequently! If you miss an important spot, you will kick yourself later, whereas making too many is no problem. Save at the start of every level, every boss, and at anywhere that looks like it could be a problem spot. This includes anywhere you die or even have a close call.

The next thing to do is watch a scoring replay and read scoring strategy. Many people start with this as their first step, which I think is a mistake. You won't truly understand what's going on, even if you think you do. But now is a good time since you don't want to waste any time using suboptimal strategies. Another pitfall is that the best replay to watch isn't necessarily the highest-scoring one, as they might use techniques that aren't worth it from a risk-reward limited-time standpoint. For STGT, MARP replays and western replays (YouTube and SuperPlay! are good resources) are often the best for this. The previous step of setting a goal will guide your decision here. Feel free to revise your goal after watching, and if it impacts your savestates (e.g. the game is not primarily about survival or has heavy rank), go back and savestate through for a decent score using your new knowledge to create a more representative set of savestates. Feel free to reference your replay whenever necessary, but be sure not to fall into the trap of spending lots of time watching rather than playing. Same with discussing the game. It can be helpful, but nothing is a more effective use of your time than actual playing.

Now that you have good savestates, use them to practice. From what I've noticed in STGT and elsewhere in life, it's a good idea to load heavily on the frontend and practice. Many STGT players seem to spend little time on dedicated practice before starting to make scoring runs, whether out of suboptimal time usage or just plain impatience. Me and teammates have spent as little as 1-2 days making actual scoring runs. sikraiken (who only wins STGT every year) spends even less. Practice is focused on the areas you need, especially savestate practice, so it makes sense that an hour of practice is more useful than an hour of making scoreruns.

When you feel comfortable, or if savestates aren't available, make practice runs to understand how to put it all together in continuation and get a feel for the endurance and progression required. Balance these with savestates as you see fit. Practice runs are useful because there is no pressure to score perfectly, your goal is learning rather than score (e.g. you try to survive a pattern without bombing whereas you would bomb if playing "for real"), and because you are not resetting you won't see stages like the first one disproportionally. During this time, you want to credit feed as far as your goals warrant: ALL, 1st loop clear, etc. If you're failing a lot, you probably want to adjust your goals or spend more time savestate practicing.

Now it's time for the real scoring runs. During this time, I feel that it's a mistake not to reset incessantly. Not everyone will agree but I will try to explain my reasoning. Don't reset over truly minor stuff, but as soon as a given run becomes unlikely to set your new high score, give it up immediately and reset. The earlier you reset, the more potential time is saved. Most everyone understands this intuitively, but this means that smaller mistakes are more reset-worthy the earlier you are, whereas later you might not want to reset at all. I promise that this is the most efficient way to score well. The amount of extra practice you get by not resetting will not offset the benefits of maximizing the number of good scorerun attempts you get. And besides, you spent all that frontend time practicing for a reason. Now is not the time for practicing, now is the time for results. Yes, it's possible that your stage 1 death run will turn into a high scoring ALL, but possible is not probable. Be efficient, play the odds, and reset.

If you make your goal, reward yourself and then set a new goal if the time warrants. If you get frustrated, take a break. Now is a good time to watch that replay again, or go step outside or do something else. Some people believe in taking a break with another shmup (crosstraining if you will), but I avoid this since I don't think it's a good idea, at least personally. I don't think it's beneficial to play other types of video games either. This way, whenever you pick up that stick or pad, you know it's shmupping time and you don't lose focus. You have to do that laundry, right? Do it now.


Have fun! Especially during down weeks. ;)
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:45 pm 


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Can you include a couple of diagrams? ie, where are your eyes, and the medal recovery from the Garegga strat. Also, a list/diagram of dodging techniques. A link to the glossary.
Thanks, this is great!
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:50 pm 


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I should get a capture card and edit some video on how to dodge some certain things. I know when I started out two years ago or whenever, I was too afraid to even attempt dodging through certain patterns or bullet streams that I didn't know how to handle in the first place. All it takes is some ballsing up. This part is important.

And about the stuff to add, maybe I'll redo the OP and add some things later. My head is killing me and I'm not really in the mood for bothering. If I don't die or whatever, I'll get around to it eventually. Decent suggestions, though this isn't really the place for them. This thread is more about how to practice, not how to play.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 2:04 am 


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How to practice shooting games?

Learn2play.


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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:56 pm 


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sikraiken wrote:
How to practice shooting games?

Learn2practice.


This thread needs a sticky coating.


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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:42 pm 


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I think another important rule is to stop playing a game (even if only for a few hours or a day or so) if it starts becoming a chore, maybe try a different game or not play at all. You will come back to your main game all the more refreshed.

you may even find a game which helps you improve on the game you are trying to score/beat. when playing Progear I found that a couple of credits on the faster, more manic musihimisama would sharpen up my reflexes and allow me to improve on the slower game.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:34 pm 


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So inspired by this thread, I decided to try out some new (to me) practice methods: basically, to start a new game by setting what I perceived to be a high target and try to achieve it by careful strategising and save-state practice in 2 weeks. The target was to beat Icarus's score on the superplay run on Batrider Advanced course, i.e. A,8xx,xxx.

Today (day 13) I started doing full runs and got a B,9xx,xxx score, which certainly proves the system works. This changes the way I will approach STGT next time I think. However, I won't change my general play style, as this method is less fun than getting to know a game's ins and outs by just playing extensively.


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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:35 am 



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BER wrote:


I'm also a new SHMUPs fun, for me the breakdown goes like that:

Knowledge - I know basics about scoring system, however sometimes I don't understand the lingo and/or cannot apply the knowledge in-game e.g. for milking the boss you first need to survive with no trouble.

Plan creation - Didn't try that one, however does setting goals make sense if you have no knowledge whether or not you will be able to achieve them?

Bullet Dodging - this is most important for me I guess. If you cannot bullet dodge everything else doesn't make sense - you won't 1CC, you won't get a high score, etc.

Play time - I can pull 1-2 hours per day.

Talent - I'm new to SHMUPs but I'm pretty good at music games (IIDX, DJMP), so I guess some of it will be useful. I pretty quickly noticed limited hitbox and can sometimes predict how to position myself when the bullet pattern didn't even reach me yet.

Environment - closed room, TATE monitor, X360. Stage select - check. Replays - check. :lol:

I'm trying to practice on Mushihimesama Futari and Espgaluda II. I got Espgaluda II just a few days ago. I can clear both games on 1CC in Novice Mode. In Mushihimesama I die on stage 3 (I use Laser to get rid of first flying/ground bugs easily, however I cannot get past the leeches in later part of the stage).

The limiting factors for me seem to be point 3. I guess it just needs practice.


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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:42 am 


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Castor Krieg wrote:
Knowledge - I know basics about scoring system, however sometimes I don't understand the lingo and/or cannot apply the knowledge in-game e.g. for milking the boss you first need to survive with no trouble.


For lingo, you could try checking out The Glossary for any terms you might be unfamiliar with, or ask any questions you might have. You're in the right subforum for it. ^_-

Castor Krieg wrote:
Plan creation - Didn't try that one, however does setting goals make sense if you have no knowledge whether or not you will be able to achieve them?


Know your own limits, and then set goals that are higher than those limits. For example, if you always get around 5mil from Futari stage1, try aiming for 10 or 15mil. If you always pull 20mil from Espgaluda2's stage2, try to go for 30 or 35mil.

"One small step for man, a giant leap (in progression)". It is in small, incremental changes that the best results happen.

Castor Krieg wrote:
Bullet Dodging - this is most important for me I guess. If you cannot bullet dodge everything else doesn't make sense - you won't 1CC, you won't get a high score, etc.


In order to improve your skills in bullet dodging, you first need good hand-eye co-ordination and confidence in your control. Then, you need to be able to observe patterns and identify their types. There are three main types of attacks - fixed direction, random, and aimed - and all patterns fall under one of these types. Random attacks need reaction dodging, fixed direction attacks often have exploitable blind areas to hide in, and aimed attacks can be dodged by a simple tap of the controls.
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 Post subject: Re: RQ: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:30 am 



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Castor Krieg wrote:
Bullet Dodging - this is most important for me I guess. If you cannot bullet dodge everything else doesn't make sense - you won't 1CC, you won't get a high score, etc.

Glad to see you identify your biggest challenge with shmups. Unfortunately, there's still no good all-in-one guide in English on dodging bullet patterns. All I can offer is my stream-of-consciousness reaction to a Japanese guide:

http://web.archive.org/web/20050217185540/www.shmups.com/beepreying/old/stgtools.txt

It covers the decisions you need to make for dodging the fixed, random, and aimed bullet patterns as well as some other topics, like the n-way spread pattern, the cutback, and my favorite, the bomb distribution. If you need us to clarify anything, please let us know.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:51 pm 



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Icarus: thx a lot, I will try to apply what you said in the first post. This thread is really good and informative for beginners.

BER: That's a lot of text, guess I have some reading to do tonight! I will let you know if I have any questions, thx for the help!


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 Post subject: Now we're getting somewhere
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:16 pm 


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Wow, thanks for the essay BER!
That's exactly what I've been looking for, new ideas and examples to get me thinking of what I can try. How to go about practicing and developing shmup kata.
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 Post subject: Re: GD: How to practice shooting games
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 1:52 pm 


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I didn't see this really addressed above, but I really think it could contribute a bit to practicing:

What's a reasonable timeframe to 1cc a game and/or get a decent score? Sometimes it can be discouraging to play the same game for three weeks solid and still be unable to even 1cc it; I guess this is more of a motivation issue (which goes back to the whole state-of-mind thing Dragoforce touched on).
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