It's about a week into 2018 and the 7th KAC preliminaries are now over. 2017 felt like it went by so quickly! As far as my DDR progress goes, let me review my 2017 goals from one of my other posts, How I Got Better At DDR.

  • AAA all 16s (and below)
  • FC all 17s
  • 900k+ all 18s
  • 800k+ clear all 19s

I completely failed at meeting all of those goals. So what went wrong here? Looking back again, it was likely to be a general lack of focus and not holding myself accountable for keeping track of my progress towards those specific goals. I mostly had forgotten about the goals and had nothing set up to remind myself about them. Plus sometimes life gets in the way and makes managing proper time for DDR difficult. Let's see where I stand with each goal:

AAA all 16s (and below)

I've at least played all the 16s, but haven't even finished getting lamps for all the 15s. There are way too many songs level 14 and below so that is for sure a lost cause. Songs like CHAOS, Pluto, the EVOLVED series, etc. are pretty big road blocks that have left this goal largely incomplete.

FC all the 17s

This goal is also largely incomplete. I have at least gone through and played every 17 for the folder lamp, but I have not even full combo'd even half of the 17s. This would probably take longer to achieve than getting AAAs on all the 16s.

900k+ all 18s

I haven't finished the folder yet. There are maybe one or two songs left to play and I usually don't have the energy or drive to attempt to play through the 18s. I am just under 900k on a few songs like New Decade and Neutrino, but songs like Pluto The First and IX are way below the threshold.

800k+ clear all 19s

Zero plays on any 19. Total wash.

What can I take away from this? These were pretty broad and lofty goals, so maybe I set the bar too high for myself. Going for fewer and more specific goals may have been the better route to take. Even though I keep track of my own scores, I also need to set up some sort of reminder to aim for a certain goal.

Even though I wasn't able to achieve these goals, it's not like the year went by without any accomplishments. I got my first level 18 AAA in the middle of the year, and I won the DDR 2014 tournament at Game Underground Arcade Championships 2.

Things got fairly quiet until the 7th KAC rolled around by the end of the year. With so many more players participating this year compared to the previous year, getting a decent placement was going to be a lot tougher. It was great to have such a surge of interest, especially for the US region. Seeing the community getting motivated for competition is contagious; it gets everyone around them all fired up, myself included. I thought that aiming for top 100 globally by the end of the preliminary round would be a realistically attainable goal for my skill level, so I had my sights set on that.

KAC qualifiers are split up in two groups: Group A and Group B. Both groups consist of three songs and they show up in the game when you sign up for the KAC. Playing all three songs within the same group in the same set will count towards my total EX score for that group. Scores from both groups combined results in my total score for the qualifier. Group A came out first and Group B was revealed about three weeks later.

Group A songs were RISING FIRE HAWK, Be a Hero!, and POSSESSION. Group B songs were Come to Life, Reach The Sky, Without you, and Pluto Relinquish.

Here are my best sets for both groups:

Group A
  • RISING FIRE HAWK - 1928
  • Be a Hero! - 2343
  • POSSESSION - 1813
Group B
  • Come to Life - 2222
  • Reach The Sky, Without you - 1768
  • Pluto Relinquish - 1514

At the end of the preliminary round, my final result is #37 in North America, #112 in the world. The previous year's 6th KAC, I was #14 in North America, #119 in the world.

North America #37 World #112

I'll be honest here, I am actually severely disappointed in how I performed this year. I could attempt to justify my placement in many ways: there were far fewer registered and participating North American players in the previous KAC compared to this year, it was in the middle of the holiday season when time to get out to the arcade was limited, it was difficult to get in consecutive sets where I could feel warmed up enough to perform at my best, the song choices didn't play to my strengths, and I'm sure the list could go on.

Ever since DDR A came to the states, so many people started playing DDR again. Current dance game players, older players coming back into the scene, and newcomers alike stepped up their game within a year. As a person who keeps a close eye on the DDR scene and its community, it's awesome seeing how quickly the newcomers have progressed and how much more the experienced players have leveled up. Though as a competitive player, I am envious. Part of me wants to cheer on my peers and other up-and-coming players throughout their journey with the game, but it leaves me wondering why I'm not progressing along with them. Despite how much work I put into every session, how hard I train, pouring every ounce of my heart, sweat and soul into this game, I come out with fewer and fewer things to show for it. Nothing feels easier now than it did seven years ago, or five years ago, or even one year ago. How many more times do I need to give it my all before something finally starts making sense? What am I still missing?

We have a very welcoming community. Probably the best it has ever been in a long time, if not ever. So many players post their scores, document their progress, and they're met with encouragement and celebration from other players. Especially during KAC time, when everyone was fighting to climb up the rankings. What I've been discovering lately is that I haven't been getting that type of reaction. Even when I had worked all day to get the best EX scores I could possibly get for both KAC groups and I had finally posted up some improvements I was proud of. No "congrats". No praise. No accolades. Instead, I get a comment like this on my Group B video on Christmas Eve:

Were you tired? Or was this the first few sets? Because I know damn well you could do better than thisο»Ώ

Well, I thought I could, too. Within five tries out of seven back to back sets, I got a total of 5397 on Group B. At the very least, this comment was rude, if not mildly insulting. Or maybe they're auditioning to be the next DDR announcer and they're practicing a line for when you fail a song. It's a huge blow to my pride when I give it my all only to receive some snide remark. I was able to improve it only once later to 5504, but that took several more tries on another day. No other Group A attempts after the one posted earlier came close. Even after the struggle, I got nothing. Not even a "good job" or anything. Were people really expecting that much better from me? Did I really under-perform by so much? It sure feels like I did, so I'm sorry for disappointing you all. Perhaps people don't really believe in my abilities or that I'm not good enough to be recognized by them.

Songs like RISING FIRE HAWK and Reach The Sky, Without you, while they don't look so difficult at a glance, they consistently kicked my ass. The scores on those two songs would make the difference between a successful set or a complete wash. I'll run by each song in the qualifier to elaborate my thoughts on them.

RISING FIRE HAWK

Deceivingly difficult. It's on the easier end of the 17s, but it's still a 17. Looking through the chart itself, it doesn't look too bad. Playing it, I have to move around so much and it's exhausting. I needed to study the chart a bit to figure out which foot to use to start certain patterns. The first long 16th note run into a crossover ending with a step-jump freeze combines two of my weakest techniques that always serve me a stream of Greats and Misses. The second crossover stream that makes me turn a sharp right trips me up every time and the crossovers near the end are always a crap-shoot. That EX 1928 must have been a lucky run because I couldn't even come close to that after.

Be a Hero!

Easily my most consistent song and it played to my strengths. Straightforward, fast bursts and stream with no tricks whatsoever. I got 1 Great on this in my second session. Getting above a 2300 wasn't much of an issue, but the song can be draining from how long it is.

POSSESSION

Playing only the Expert wouldn't get me above 1800, so I needed to play the Challenge. There's not much to say about this chart other than it's brutal and draining. The slowdowns kill me every time, the crossover runs put me in my grave, and the 12th note crossover jumps bury me and perform the eulogy.

Pluto Relinquish

I went with the Expert chart in this group because the total EX difference between the Expert and Challenge was negligible and I would score drastically lower on the Challenge. I've played this chart a lot and it never seems to get any easier. I got a full combo on it once on X3, so I thought maybe if I could grind it out some more, I could get a better score on it. I have a lot of trouble reading slow speeds, so anything but the end runs were the most difficult parts for me. Turns out that everything became difficult again. I'd mess up in different places during the slowdown and I'd have trouble keeping a combo and timing the ending. What I couldn't understand was why I was able to play this chart just fine before, but suddenly I couldn't get my body to respond to the patterns the way I wanted it to?

Reach The Sky, Without you

Great song, but no other chart in either group has infuriated me as much as this one. It exposed my biggest weakness to slowdowns, the erratic stops were so awkwardly spaced out making it hard to time, and I started developing a mental block on the very first 16th note run, breaking my combo along with dishing out Greats and Goods. It was demoralizing. Even more so when players around my skill level seem to have no trouble with the chart at all. My 1768 was probably also a fluke run because I'd be lucky to even break 1700 anytime after that.

Come to Life

It's an easier 18, but it's still tiring. There are a few fast crossovers to look out for, but I can never combo them with turning. I just had to crank up the scroll speed, brute forced my way through the chart and hoped for the best.

If you know me well enough, you already know that I will give anything to become one of the best at something. The most daunting thing is never knowing how much work it will take to get there. It's been an incredibly long journey since I started playing DDR in 2003. Since then, I've admired many super talented top players through videos, like Chris Chike, Kevbo, BROSONI, FEFEMZ, and many others for example, hoping that someday I'll become as good as them. I still watch them all, as motivation and as a reminder that I still want to prove to myself that I have what it takes to get even remotely close to their skill level. But it seems so far out of reach right now.

If there's anything I can take away from this KAC, it's that I still have a lot of work to do. I need to try something different. Maybe take a short break from DDR and focus on something else? Then come back with a better plan, because what I've been doing within the last year hasn't been working.

What goals do I have for 2018? Nothing related to score, or collecting lamps, or passing songs. I need to correct all of my weaknesses. Slow reading, crossovers, step-jump patterns, all of those techniques destroyed me in this KAC, just like the last, and for as long as I've been playing. These road blocks need to be cleared from my path as soon as possible or else they'll continue to get in my way. If I can't get these fundamentals down, these techniques that are omnipresent in the upper difficulty levels of DDR, then I'll never progress any further. So my 2018 goal is to get rid of all weaknesses, no matter how big or small, without falling back to workarounds or cheap tricks. Enough is enough.