Evaluating Risk/Reward

Being able to evaluate risk/reward is an essential skill to have in fighting games. Understanding the risk/reward involved in every situation helps greatly when it comes to making important decisions in a match. In order to evaluate risk/reward, you must be fully aware of the situation at hand while taking into account each player’s character, health, meter and options.

Risk is the potential for losing something of value and being put into an unfavorable situation. Any action or move has some level of risk. A simple action that involves risk is jumping. Anytime you decide to jump, you are putting yourself at risk of being hit out of the air, or what’s referred to as being “anti-aired”. Moves with poor frame data also have risk. A move that is extremely negative on block is risky to throw out because it can be punished.

Reward is the potential for gaining something of value and being put into a favorable situation. While there is risk for every action or move, there is also a reward. The reward for jumping is landing a jump attack. If the jump attack is blocked, you are rewarded with offense. If the jump attack hits, you are rewarded with damage. Moves with excellent frame data or moves that can lead into a combo have great reward. A move that is positive on block rewards frame advantage, which means you will be able to move earlier than your opponent after the move is blocked.

Let’s look at some examples and evaluate what the risk/reward is for each situation.

1. High Risk / High Reward

Character: Scorpion
Health: 35%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 0 Bars

Character: Sub-Zero
Health: 35%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 0 Bars

In this situation, both characters are even in terms of health and meter. If Scorpion does a Forward+3,2 into Hell Port, there is a high risk involved. Amplified Hell Port is -14 on block, which can be punished for a full combo. As Scorpion has 0 bars of Defensive Meter and Sub-Zero has 2 bars of Offensive Meter, Sub-Zero will be able to punish for 35% damage while Scorpion cannot break out of the combo. Scorpion has 35% health, which means he will lose the round.

On the other hand, if Forward+3,2 into Hell Port hits, there is a high reward involved. Hell Port can be Amplified and launch for a combo, which can deal over 35% damage. Sub-Zero has 0 bars of Defensive Meter so he cannot break out of the combo. Sub-Zero has 35% health, which means he will lose the round.

There is an equal amount of risk as there is reward in this situation. While using Forward+3,2 is risky, the reward is enough to justify using it as it can win the round. This is evaluated as high risk/high reward.

2. High Risk / Low Reward

Character: Scorpion
Health: 35%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 0 Bars

Character: Sub-Zero
Health: 50%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 2 Bars

If instead Sub-Zero has 50% health and 2 bars of Defensive Meter, the risk/reward changes to be in Sub-Zero’s favor. If Scorpion’s Forward+3,2 is blocked, Sub-Zero will punish and win the round. If the move hits, then Sub-Zero will still have health remaining. Sub-Zero will also be able to use a Breakaway because he has 2 bars of Defensive Meter. In this situation, the risk outweighs the reward. This is evaluated as high risk/low reward.

3. Low Risk / High Reward

Character: Scorpion
Health: 50%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 2 Bars

Character: Sub-Zero
Health: 35%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 0 Bars

Similarly, if Scorpion has 50% health and 2 bars of Defensive Meter, the risk/reward will be in his Scorpion’s favor. If Scorpion’s Forward+3,2 is blocked, Scorpion will still have health remaining and also have the option to use a Breakaway. If it hits, then Scorpion will deal over 35% damage and win the round. In this situation, the reward outweighs the risk. This is evaluated as low risk/high reward.

4. Low Risk / Low Reward

Character: Scorpion
Health: 50%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 2 Bars

Character: Sub-Zero
Health: 50%
Offensive Meter: 2 Bars
Defensive Meter: 2 Bars

Lastly, if both characters have 50% health and 2 bars of Defensive Meter, the risk/reward will be more even. There is not as high of a risk/reward as both characters will still have health left and can use a Breakaway to escape the combo. This is evaluated as low risk/low reward.

Other Variables

There are many other variables that factor into risk/reward. Resources such as Krushing Blows and Fatal Blows can boost a character’s damage output. For example, if Sub-Zero has a Fatal Blow and goes for a punish, he can deal almost 50% unbreakable damage, and can potentially win the round.

Conditioning can also play a role in evaluating risk/reward. For example, if the Scorpion player staggers with Forward+3 and the Sub-Zero player tends to attack after the stagger, then there is more justification in using Forward+3,2. Even if the 1st hit is blocked, there is still the chance that the opponent will be hit by the 2nd hit because they are conditioned by Forward+3 staggers. Conditioning with safer approaches will allow you to go for more risky options.

Evaluation

Evaluating the risk/reward in any given situation requires you to perceive every possible outcome and how they affect the match. In general, it’s wise to play it safe and take as low risks as possible while striving for high rewards. However, there are times where risky decisions are necessary in order to gain an edge over your opponent. Understanding your opponent’s tendencies and playstyle can help when it comes to taking risks. Knowing when to take risks and when to play it safe is ultimately up to the player to decide.

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