Video Game Tuesday: Practice

Michael Blaker
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Michael's blog, Windborne's Story Eatery.


Hi all to celebrate the release of Dark Souls III I’m covering a topic that should help any newcomers to the series, and will help in pretty much any game, for this week’s Video Game Tuesday. It’s all about Practice!

What do I mean by Practice?:I mean to repeatedly do something in order to learn how best to play for you. This will certainly come in handy in Dark Souls III, however it’ll also come in handy in any game. There are two main aspects to practicing that I’ll focus on. Muscle Memory and Spatial Memory.

Muscle Memory?: The process in which something¬†becomes instinctually engrained in your subconscious to the point that you can repeatedly do something without thinking to hard. This works great for pretty much any game, and especially well in MMOs and Fighting Games. However to properly build-up Muscle Memory takes hours and hours of work. For example in MMOs like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV:Heavensward in order to properly build up muscle memory I’d spend hours whacking away at a training dummy in order to memorize instinctually my abilities the way I set them up. This is especially necessary for any damage dealing classes, as you tend to use abilities in rotations or priority lists. With Rotations it’s merely a process of remembering which buttons to hit in which order. It’s not as simple with priority lists, as you need to pay attention to certain things that occur to your character in order to determine when to use abilities. However it’s still good to memorize where the buttons are so you know without looking where that particular button you want is. Despite how much of a time consuming process this particular type of practice I find it’s still less than is required for Spatial Memory.

Really Spatial Memory?: Yes I find the process in which I personally memorize Spatial positions to be a much more time consuming and more involved process than Muscle Memory ever is. For me it’s all about repeatedly doing something until I can judge instinctually without conscious thought where to stand or where to go in order to successfully perform game mechanics. Spatial Memory is incredibly important for Action RPGs, MMOs, and not surprisingly Platformers. In fact the easiest form of spatial memory for me to memorize is where to go if it’s not a random order. I was the “Relic Runner” in my Destiny raid team for The Taken King, and I got to the point where I could start moving to where the next platform would be without it actually having formed already. It took incredible timing on the part of myself and of my team mates in order for them to be where I needed in the proper order in the time I needed. I eventually got the entire process from start to finish down to about 20 seconds consistently, however that took ridiculous amounts of practice for me to be able to do. It actually all stemmed from the Crota’s End raid where I was the swordbearer and had to get in and out to hit Crota without dieing. That particular encounter was eventually done consistently for only the normal difficulty, due to bugs and the inherent bullshit that was the gear system at the time I was never able to do it consistently for Hard mode. But to do it consistently I would load into the boss arena and practice jumping from floor, to rock to platform repeatedly. I did this for hours and hours while I listened to books in order to make it instinctual.

So what does this all mean?: If you keep practicing eventually you’ll be able to get stuff down to the point where you don’t need to think about how you move or what to use at what time and instead focus on other things like boss mechanics. If you want to beat Dark Souls games this is what you’ll need to do for every enemy and boss. It might be frustrating and boring, but it is a great skill to learn.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday! Have fun in your gaming and hopefully this post will prove useful to those who intend to tackle Dark Souls III!

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