Making Your Analysis Effective - A Guide to VOD Analysis
Sun 1st Dec 2019 - 7:17pm
In the age of competitive gaming, everyone is always looking for that next thing to gain a competitive edge. With the huge popularity of Twitch and Youtube as a medium, this means there are a plethora of resources for us to access. One of these resources is Video On Demand, or VODs. VODs are essentially a playback of a live match often featured on Twitch. The term has been extended now in some communities to just mean any local recording of a competitive match. Many competitors use VODs to improve their gameplay. In fact, in the Super Smash Bros. community, this is commonly one of the best ways to increase your matchup knowledge and make yourself a more well-rounded player. However, this process is not as easy as it sounds. Many players review hours of VODs and see no improvement in their play. This is why I want to break down how to get the most out of your "study time".
For this article, I am going to focus on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; however, at the fundamental level, you can apply this to almost any other game's analysis. There are three main reasons you would want to study VODs in the context of fighting games. These are:
- Character Matchup Analysis
- Player Matchup Analysis
- Personal Review
I am going to go over these three types of analysis and let you know what you should be looking for. I highly suggest a pen and paper or some way to take notes when you sit down and watch a VOD. I am also going to use a few fighting game/Smash terminologies. I am going to list these and their meanings now:
- Neutral - When neither player is at an advantage therefore in a "neutral" state
- Advantage - When a player is in a position that makes them more likely to have a positive outcome
- Disadvantage - When a player is in a position that makes them more likely to have a negative outcome
- Punish - The positive outcome gained as a result of the opponent's actions.
- Mixup - A change in action, usually meant to throw off the opponent.
Character Matchup Analysis
There is nothing a player hates more than losing a match feeling like they weren't outplayed. The reality is that a lot of players won't take the time to properly learn character matchups, and low tier mains thrive on this. They will hit you with their biggest gimmick then go in for the fist bump with a huge grin on their face. Don't worry! That doesn't have to be you. You should begin by looking for the appropriate video. The best choice would be a higher level match between your character and the one you wish to learn about. If you're unable to find this, you can settle for a high-level match against that character.
Every match starts at neutral, so the first thing you should look for is what tools the player is using in neutral. What moves will give that character the most reward? What moves result in success most often? Take note of these. Then, if you were able to find a high-level match, watch what the other player uses to punish these moves. For example, you see a Greninja player constantly dash-attacking in neutral, but the opponent catches on and begins dashing backward as the Greninja approaches them and then countering with their move to punish. You can begin to emulate this in your gameplay.
More things to look for are:
- What landing options does the character have?
- Where are they the weakest?
- Where are they strongest?
Again, you can watch how their opponent catches on to what they're doing and what options they choose to punish it. It is extremely important to take note of the moments in the match where stocks are taken or when they are held in disadvantage for a long period of time. You need to notice how they are looking to finish off your stocks and how to avoid it. There is an incredible amount of depth to character analysis, but I hope this will serve as a starting point for players.
Player Matchup Analysis
Everyone has that one player in bracket they hate playing. No matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to come out on top. Well, do I have the solution for you. Analyzing your opponent is usually something you do during the match and it often separates the good players from the great ones. However, using VODs can make this process so much easier. Having an idea of what your opponent will do before you even enter the game can give you a huge advantage. Every pro CS:GO or League of Legends team does this but at the team level. They analyze team strategies and form their plans to counter them. This is precisely what you are looking to do when you analyze a VOD for a fighting game. The first thing to do is find some sort of video of the player you wish to study. If you there is a VOD of you playing against them that would be the best. Otherwise, your character against that player, or any video against that player will work as well. If all of the above fail, you can ask to play friendlies with the player then save the replay of some of your matches. However, this will not give you the most accurate analysis.
The biggest thing to look for when analyzing a player, whether it is before the match or during it, are their habits. Every player, even at the highest level, has habits. The difference is how quickly they can change them. Regardless, noticing habits is a great way to be one step ahead of your opponent. The most common place where players will have habits is in disadvantage. It is much easier to think carefully about what you're doing when your back is not against the wall. High-level players will use this to their advantage. During your analysis, you should look for the player's common landing options, ledge getup options, and what option they choose to get out of the corner.
Next, you should begin to look for where they are weakest as a player. An easy way to figure this out is to see where they are getting hit the most. For example, if you see that they're often getting trapped at the ledge you should make sure to take advantage of that yourself. A huge boon in many mid to high-level players' toolkits is their strategy. If you can pick it apart you will see a lot of your opponents come crashing down. The first thing to notice in terms of strategy is if they are more defensive or offensive. Sometimes it feels like your opponent has their control stick stuck in the forward position, and yet they succeed. Offensive players seek to overwhelm you and keep you off balance for the entire match. It is important to keep a cool head against these players and examine how they keep approaching you. On the other hand, defensive players may seek to frustrate you and make you feel like nothing you do can possibly hit them. Against a defensive opponent, you have to take your time finding your opening and then execute it carefully. These are both things you can prepare for mentally, before going into a match.
Finally, you can piece these together. One way of doing this is to immediately examine what they are doing in neutral. If they have an offensive playstyle, figure out what offensive options are they abusing and learn how to punish them. For example, a character like Fox has strong offensive options he can utilize. This means that an aggressive Fox player will likely try and use something like his dash-attack in more than they might shield. This allows you to learn the best way to punish these options so that you can be ready. With all the information gathered from your analysis, you can turn your bracket demon into a free win.
This is arguably the most important of all the types of analysis.
At all levels of play, personal review is where players see the most improvement. If you’ve already applied the other types of review and seen success, then this should prove to be extremely simple. As with the others, the first thing you need to do is find a VOD of yourself. This is why tournament organizers and streamers need to allow players of all levels a chance to play on stream. If your local tournaments do not have a stream, you should see if someone has a way to record or simply save the replays of each match. This analysis is most effective when the match is against a player that is above your skill level. This is because stronger players will expose your weaknesses and provide better insight into the problems in your play. While it can be simple enough to change some habits during a match, your fundamental weaknesses can not be changed so easily. This is why VOD analysis is such an important part of improving as a player.
There are a few ways to recognize your weaknesses. The easiest way is to, much like when you're analyzing another player, take note of every time you get hit.
- Was your opponent punishing a habit?
- Did you get hit with a mixup?
- Did the opponent choose an option that you didn’t expect?
Asking these questions will help you get an idea of what you need to work on. For example, if you keep getting hit in neutral, you should start to work on your gameplan and rethink your options. Alternatively, if you notice that you are taking a lot of damage when you are above your opponent, you might want to get more acquainted with your landing options. When you do this, you will immediately start to notice your habits. This is key to breaking them. The next time you play, you should be very intentional in the areas where your habits show the most. Make sure everything you do has a reason.
Weaknesses aren’t the only thing to look for. Sure, rounding out the bad parts of your gameplay is a great way to improve, but improving your strengths can be just as effective. Essentially, you can do the same thing as when analyzing your weaknesses, except reverse it. However, do not mistake your opponent's weaknesses for your strengths. The best way to distinguish between these two is to watch multiple VODs and find the common strengths among those matches. Then, you can begin to make these even stronger. If you notice you are good at keeping the opponent above you and constantly punishing them for attempting to land, you should begin to look to intentionally put your opponent above you instead of maybe putting them offstage. Doing this can help you generate a better overall gameplan and help you in the long-term.
VOD analysis has become a key aspect of the FGC and Smash community. Many of the top players will stream themselves analyzing VODs in great detail. Sometimes even going frame-by-frame into some of the decisions that top players make. It has become clear that VOD analysis is key to seeing yourself improve as a player. I urge you to review this guide until you can get a foothold into how to make your VOD analysis as effective as possible.
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