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Danmaku.

I seem to be bouncing from game to game these days with no real focus on any single one.  I want to get those 1ccs in on SA and the like, but there isn’t much motivation since no one around me really cares about danmaku games.  I suppose that means I’m becoming more of a “social” gamer; I stick with games that I’m somewhat lukewarm with if I know enough people playing it, and I will slowly drop games that I like if no one else plays it.

Right now I’m just killing time in a coffee shop,  so I’m going to take this opportunity to geek out a little and write something that’s been bouncing around in my head for a good while.

I think overall dodging skill in danmaku shooters is a combination of several things:

  • The ability to focus past the intimidation of seeing an overwhelming spread of bullets and be able to think/act accordingly
  • The ability to identify each bullet grid in a pattern and comprehend the rules behind how each grid moves
  • The ability to perceive a given bullet pattern and understand exactly where it is threatening and where it is not
  • The ability to come up with a movement solution that allows you to navigate through every grid in a given pattern unscathed
  • The dexterity and timing to carry out this solution

Speed is a large factor in all of this, as you will need to be able to track and react to threats very quickly while executing whatever strategy you’ve come up with.  A strategy towards any bullet pattern is almost always just a guideline that makes things more managable; you still need to use your basic dodging skill in combination with it.  Scope is also important, because the number of threats and grids that one can perceive and track at any given moment also varies from person to person.  

All of this can be combined into what I call “capacity” for danmaku, which is a way to gauge one’s skill level in terms of basic dodging ability.  Everyone’s is different to begin with, and to an extent it can be trained.  I’d say my current capacity is above average but not particularly good, considering that I can usually 1cc Hard and clear Extra in a Touhou game without too much trouble, but have to put in some serious practice time when challenging Lunatic. 

You can also gauge one’s capacity from watching replays; some people use easier strategies and take less risks even when doing scoring runs, probably because they lack the skill to pull off more effective strategies, even if they would potentially score better.  The Lunatic score runs of Perfect Cherry Blossom reflect this pretty clearly; GIL and I.O easily have the highest capacities out of the top players in this scoreboard, judging by how they look right at home when doing things that look utterly suicidal to mere mortal people like us (It’s a little hard to tell to the untrained eye, but GIL never had an unintentional death in his score run).  ASAPIN (who seems to be using the name Kagamin these days) has a noticeably lower capacity compared to these two, and HASEGA is even further behind.  Also note that HASEGA holds the highest score, showing that it’s possible to make up for lower overall capacity with excellent planning and execution.

Anyway, as I said, one’s capacity can be trained.  Just like how reflexes, memory and the like can be trained, the various skills that contribute to one’s capacity can be developed, too.  Talent also plays a factor, but it’s also possible that a person simply starts out with an unusually high capacity because he or she has been doing things that happened to train certain skills at the same time.  So overall, it’s hard to tell where the talent ends and where the practice effect begins.  The point is that even if your capacity seems low to begin with, it’s possible to overcome it with practice, if you’re willing to put the time into it.

Everyone makes stupid mistakes from time to time – it’s what separates people from bots (Well, bots make stupid mistakes too but that’s something entirely different).  So if you’re trying to improve, don’t dwell on the stupid mistakes, and don’t worry about failing repeatedly – it’s just part of the process of improving, and everyone goes through it.  The pros only make it look easy because they put up replays of the finished product and not the countless practice runs that it took to get to that level.  This is something I keep telling myself, since it’s easy to get discouraged when practice runs feel like bashing your head against a wall repeatedly.  But as long as there is some improvement, you’re making progress, and you should notice your capacity slowly growing over time.  So keep at it.

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Categories: Games, STGs, Touhou
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