Hooked On Melee 2: Effective Video Analysis6 months ago
By Clint “Landry” Thomas
In our second entry of Hooked On Melee, we’ll be discussing how to improve your game via analysing VODs. Newer players often have trouble with learning the neutral game. Unlike combos/punishes, which can be grinded out on your own or in 20xx mods, the concept of neutral isn’t as tangible and more abstract. PPMD and the recent successful young Ohio player, Cal, are excellent examples of how VOD analysis can drastically improve players’ fundamentals in the game.
Now as we get into this, let’s address the fact that there is no true 100% correct way to study VODs. Every person learns and thinks differently. As such, I’m not going to sit here and say “you must watch this and think it about this way.” Instead, I’m going to try to offer suggestions how myself and the rest of Kyoto’s SSBM team analyze and why we do it this way.
So first off, I would say always go in with a goal when you’re studying. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said “...If you don't have a goal or plan of where you're going and how you're going to get there, then you just drift around and never get anywhere.” Although you can just watch replay and point things out, it can be a lot more effective if you go in wanting to study one particular aspect. Think about how it is learning a new language in school. A good teacher or professor won’t throw multitudes of grammar and vocabulary at the same time. Instead, they will focus one or the other more to set a foundation which allows you to learn the other.
The same can be said for Melee. Let’s say I want get around something as simple as a Falco up-tilt in neutral when he tries to stop my approach. So in the VODs I would see how players got not only accomplish this, but see what all the different methods they use are, what they do afterwards to follow up, what the Falco player does when they get around it, and what they do when they fail. So now you have multiple ways to get past his up-tilt, you know what to do afterwards to punish it or get an advantageous position, understanding of some of the options that the Falco player has, and what your counter plays are if you approach fails.
After learning these things and applying them, you’ll find they can also be used in different situations, therefore making your overall game better. All because you had this one little aspect that you wanted to figure out leads you to making more and more discoveries. You plant just a seed, but before you know it, a whole forest is sprouting up.
Pause the VOD
If you ever watch Pros analyze videos, they often slow it down at certain points. Melee being the fast game it is, it’s effective to slow the match down sometimes just so you can see the small individual intricacies of what’s happening. Even then, it’s also really good to just pause also. This way you can take time to reflect on what you have watched to make sure you know what’s happening.
When Bizzaro Flame studies VODs, he prefers to pause every time someone wins neutral. He will usually ask himself during this time:
1. Was each person airborne/grounded?
2. Was this more of a reaction based punish, a straight read, or a mixture of both?
3. Was there any habit during the neutral game (such as dashing a certain distance multiple times in the past)?
4. What move was used to win the neutral game and why did it override the other person's move?
5. What could have been done differently by the loser of the neutral game that would have made a difference?
Although I agree these are great questions, feel free to ask different questions. Especially prioritize questions that better align with your goal.
If you were to keep watching the VOD all the way through without stopping, you won’t have time to study to your full potential. Once again, there is just way too much going on to retain everything. You have to stop, take the time to see what just happened, really ask yourself questions about it, and then review. It’s like studying before a big exam. If you cram everything in all the night before, it’s harder to retain all at once. But if you do it overtime, you retain more.
Don’t force answers
As good it is to go in seeking a goal or a solution, you shouldn’t go in wanting a specific answer. Say you have a particular weakness in your game and you’re sure you know what the problem is. You watch a video to try to confirm it. You get so obsessed trying to prove to yourself that you’re right, you end up overlooking everything else that you could have learn. You have just barricaded yourself from reaching your full potential in your quest for confirmation bias.
You’re whole reason for watching a VOD is to confirm your ideas, but to answer your questions. Don’t let your personal biases guide you. Like a jedi might say, open up your mind.
Take notes or talk out loud
Bizzaro Flame feels one of the biggest deterrents to studying VODs effectively is auto piloting while you analyze. I find myself doing it during long sets or if I’m tired from work/life. Recently, I’ve found that by taking detailed notes or speaking them out loud (streaming your analysis) led me to hardly auto piloting at all during a session.
I think these activities really force you to stay in the moment. As someone who can easily get distracted with external devices and memes, something like this that keeps me anchored is valuable. You’ll find yourself being a lot more meticulous with your analysis when putting your thoughts down on paper or out loud. Having to physically articulate your thoughts might be a little extra work but can definitely allow for increased clarity.
With the advent of 20XX mods, it has become significantly easier to expand your combo game in Melee. However, you can still use VODs to help. Though mainly used for neutral, using VODs to improve your combos can better show you what options you have against particular DI, understanding options that are stage position dependent, and what to do if you drop a combo at a certain spot.
For example, say I’m in a Fox ditto on Dreamland. I’m currently chain grabbing the other Fox at center stage. As he DI’s to the left, I wavedash to uptilt because he is getting to a percent where he may pop out of the chain grab. After the uptilt, he continues DIing to the left, putting himself over the side platform. From practice, I know that I can use a weak nair or bair to extend the combo, use a strong nair or bair to knock him off stage, or go for a simple upair. If I miss any of these extensions, he will most likely tech onto the platform. Let’s say I go for a weak forward bair, but I slightly undershoot because I want to make sure I get the sour spot he continues going closer to the ledge. I miss the bair, but because I undershot the bair, I now land on the side platform before he does. Not only that, I have landed on a point on the platform that puts me between him and center stage. Not only do I have an advantage in neutral, but I can now also start tech chasing to help make the punish bigger.
If I watched a VOD of this, I could identify the spots where I could have done different moves in the combo and how if I position myself accordingly, I will can set myself to somewhat auto win neutral if I drop the combo. Putting this into practice in the heat of the moment during the match is obviously much harder to do in practice, which takes me to my final point.
For some, myself included, this can be the hardest thing. Using all that you’ve learned and making it be effective in a match can be so tricky. Given how situational of a game Melee is, you won’t always find yourself in the same situations that you saw yourself or others in during the replays. Being able to find those small micro moments and recognize them as something you seen before will be challenging.
But once again, setting smaller goals in the way you apply your new knowledge will help add these new skillsets to your ingame repertoire. Perhaps the way you saw someone deal with a Marth dashing back, looking for a dash dance grab. Due one option that you learned next time you encounter this, and then build from there. Get a grasp on one option and move onto to the others. Making a conscious effort to apply your knowledge and not auto piloting will also be helpful. There’s not much else to say besides just practice it. It’s just one more thing to grind out in friendlies.
Although this article may not have been helpful for everyone, I hope that it at least gives you different ways to view replays more effectively. As I’ve said, at the end of the day, everyone learns differently. Although I think these are some starting points that work well for me, it’s up to you to figure out what works best for you.