A defense of ring-outs

I was going to talk with someone regarding Ring-Outs in the Soul Calibur series when I realized, hey this is a great topic for that blog I don't write!  :p  Soul Calibur has a lot of unique things going for it, and the unique thing about ring-outs in particular is that if you push the opponent outside of the stage's boundaries, it kills them instantly regardless of health.  A lot of people hate losing in such a way, so most of the matches you'll play online will end up with people choosing 1 of the 2 stages that is completely walled off.  However, when you go to compete in tournaments, you'll find that they consistently force random stage picks, where there are far more stages with edges than without (varying sizes and shapes, too).  This article is not going to be an analysis, but simply a full defense of the existence of ring-outs.

The first argument people would make is that it takes no skill to get a ring-out.  While plenty of moves do make for easy ring-outs and some characters are more skilled at it than others (good luck, Talim), it's far from easy to practically pull off.  If you are at a position where the opposing character could push you out of the ring (which may not necessarily mean your back is to it, since some people can throw others behind them), you suddenly have to start thinking about those moves.  If you get hit by one of them and it works out, you've simply failed to defend yourself against it.  The answers are really for each specific move, so because I play Astaroth, I'll use the example of his Bull Rush move (I think that's the name), where he charges straight forward in a crouched position.  It's quick, has good range, and pushes forward a good degree.  It gives off the illusion that it's a low attack, so people will sometimes crouch to guard, when it's actually a mid attack they'd have to stand against.  This one is easily a move of prediction, but it's an easy move to predict coming.  A proper parry or guard impact will quickly put you in a safer position where you can punish the attempt, and you're then back to playing the "real game."  Furthermore, a properly timed & spaced crouch-grab can get him before he even attempts it.  As I said, the answers to ring-out attempts are specific in each case; this is simply one example.
On a similar note, we have characters who are exceedingly good at ring-outs.  Hilde and (I hear) Yoshimitsu have combos which can ring-out from ridiculous range.  Essentially, it means there's no safe spot and it's effectively similar to infinite combos.  For Yoshimitsu, it's difficult enough to perform that many players will discount it, but it's significantly easier for Hilde.  On that front, you simply need to figure out the counter-strategy to Hilde.  Because her combo works with charge moves (meaning she charges attack buttons, not directions like Street Fighter's charge moves typically work), she's not going to be able to poke so much.  The moves are also very punishable when you know they're coming.  She'll also be guarding a lot, hoping for you to make an unsafe move she can block and punish with a win.  You know what beats that?  Grabs, and they're very good at doing so.  To break a grab, Hilde would have to release and hit the right button for what you used, giving you a significant advantage even if she guesses right.  Stick to safe moves and grabs so that she has to vary up her gameplay, and the super-range ring-out becomes far less practical.
By the way, I have absolutely no problem if I lose by ring-out.  It tends to mean that I simply screwed up somewhere and paid for it.  Most commonly, it's from Nightmare doing a low sweep, advancing in, and doing a double-kick that somehow hits grounded opponents.  Siegfried is also troublesome for me with his crouching blockable grabs.  Then I'll play against random low-level Kiliks or Darth Vaders who simply B-grab me behind them when I don't expect it (I just assume everyone I play is going to be skilled).  These are problems I admit I have to address in my gameplay.
 Speaking of low-level ring-outs, you can easily tell when someone is actively aiming for the ring-out.  Sometimes, it simply becomes their most valuable option if they have minimal life.  Sometimes the player just doesn't care about improving their overall gameplay like the Vaders I mention and just back up to the edge, waiting for you to get in grab range.  The more predictable a player becomes, the more easily you can punish them if you know what to expect.  If a player is extremely predictable to the point that you know exactly what move they're going to attempt and they succeed, you have FAILED, period!
You might think then that I have a problem with cage matches.  Actually, I don't.  I take issue with the idea that a cage match is the only legitimate way to win (hence why I rarely host ranked matches, because people will often pick them).  If I pick a random stage and it ends up being mostly or entirely closed-in, fine, I'll deal with it.  It just means that I have to take advantage of wall combos, and I can do things I couldn't before when suicide was possible.  Sometimes, a stage can be deceptive in its boundaries, too.  I forget the names, but one stage with the giant gong only has a very small free section.  To break open more space, I have to get a wallsplat on the breakable vases nearby.  Further deception is in the rails, because you have to push someone over those rather than just make them fall past the boundary.  I can and have done this, though it means any RO attempts I make get more predictable when I attempt them.  Taki has no such problem, though.
By the same token, I do not base my entire strategy around ring-outs.  In fact, if I get my opponent thinking I do, I'm training them to predict certain situations in a way that's advantageous for me (while they're worried about the edge, I get random unexpected things for damage).  I can't tell you how many "responses" I've baited out, making them think I'm going for the predictable RO when I'm actually predicting the answer.  Sometimes, this even gets me a RO because they were predicting I would try one way when I tried another.  Simply put, I go by whatever strategy I believe will allow me to win and take advantages as I perceive them.  Of course, this means I sometimes fall into the same bait traps I just mentioned because I do not anticipate that as being a part of my opponent's style.
In closing, I have absolutely no problem playing whatever stage you want in player matches, with nothing on the line, when it's your turn to choose.  If we play ranked, then even for whatever little meaning the rank has, I insist on random stage picks and enforce that by generally only joining lobbies rather than hosting.  If a cage match comes up, so be it, I will work with it with my gameplay changing to reflect that.  Of course, it doesn't change much, because most of the stuff that gets me RO's will also get me wallsplat combos for more damage.  However, if you insist on playing nothing but cage matches, you are denying yourself the opportunity to improve.  Even if I were to subscribe to the philosophy Smash players have of eliminating supposedly "alien" things (as you can see I do not if you read my post about items), ring-outs have always been a part of Soul Calibur.  They were clearly designed with the intention of being used, and I have no reason to deny myself that advantage.

I play to win.

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