Evaluating Risk/Reward for certain moves and actions is an important part of making sound decisions in a match. First, let us define what risk and reward consists of in the context of fighting games:
Risk is anything that leaves one exposed to getting hit or losing the momentum in a match. Risky decisions can risk things other than just your life bar. One helpful way to rethink Risk is to think of it in terms of commitment. What are you committing to when making this decision? Common examples of risk include:
- Poor frame data on a move. This includes long startup, heavy recovery, or significantly negative/unsafe frame advantage on block. These often result in you having to block or can lead to you getting punished with no opportunity to block.
- Screen position. Normally this comes in the form of being put into the corner or returning to neutral with your back towards the corner. You can no longer retreat to avoid something when in the corner and an opponent's combos can become more damaging with a corner.
- Resource investment. This one is more subtle than bad frame data and screen position since the penalty is not always as obvious as being hit/put in blockstun. Super meter and other secondary meters in almost every fighting game grant access to tools that enhance your character's existing abilities such as reversals, extra durable fireballs, fullscreen attacks, etc. Carelessly burning resources can lead to your character missing tools that would have otherwise handled a particular situation, forcing you to now take a risk when you otherwise would not have had to.
Reward is anything that grants advantage to your character. As is the case with risk, there is more to reward than just damage. Common examples include:
- Damage. The most obvious example of reward is damage since enough of it can win the round.
- Knockdown. While obviously more important in a game like Guilty Gear than other fighting games, knocking the opponent down is universally rewarding. If okizeme is conducted properly, the opponent has a very limited selection of things that they can do when getting up while you are generally free to start your offense. Being able to control your opponent in this manner can lead into a deadly knockdown > mixup > combo > knockdown loop for some characters.
- Resource gain. As mentioned in the Risk section, having meter grants access to certain tools. Naturally, gaining meter and having those tools at hand puts you at an advantage.
- Frame advantage. Being able to act first means (in theory) that the opponent has to respect your next actions or risk getting hit. Reversals can sometimes be used to blow through an opponent acting with frame advantage but such a response is very risky as mentioned previously.
- Screen position. Normally this consists of you putting the opponent closer to the corner or in the corner. Combos, mixups, and okizeme in the corner become more threatening as mentioned in the Risk section. Nudging the opponent towards the corner forces them to eventually deal with you if they have been evading you the whole time.
When evaluating your decision making, it is generally a good idea to focus on minimizing risk at all times and selectively taking bigger risks only to achieve greater than normal rewards. This creates a stable style of play that is generally stable but flexible enough to go for explosive results. How often to go for such big risks is up to personal preference and is dependent on the character being played. Ky or Jin will take fewer risks than Sol or Ragna.
Something else to take note of is that inherent risk does not always make a decision risky! Your opponent's character or even the opponent themselves will sometimes lack a proper response to certain decisions. Poor responses from your opponent or a lack of tools from your opponent's character will let you get away with taking certain risks that would normally be unwise. Conditioning the opponent can also aid in making them wary of retaliating, allowing you to take more risky options without fear of reprisal.
As a general rule, you can categorize risk/reward into 4 categories.
- Low Risk/Low Reward: Relatively safe decisions that don't lead to great results but will eek out a win when stacked on top of each other. These are the majority of decisions you will make in a match if you play a conservative or "standard" character. Pokes with low recovery and full screen fireballs when the opponent has no meter are common examples.
- High Risk/High Reward: These are the big gambles that one takes to escape bad situations, catch an opponent off guard, or make up for a lack of time/health in a match. Reversals on wake up, unsafe mixups, forward airdash, or large attacks that are slow to come out are some examples.
- High Risk/Low Reward: High risk decisions with poor reward seem like moronic things to do once you are familiar with the general way a particular game works. These decisions are so stupid that no sane player would do them and yet you will find that even good players may do them on rare occasion because the opponent does not expect them. Avoid using the same high risk/low reward tactic against any player more than once. Reversals during the middle of an opponent's pressure is one such example.
- Low Risk/High Reward: Spam whatever move or tactic is low risk with high reward since such things are very uncommon in most fighting games outside of knockdown setups. Going for a safe mixup after YRC okizeme in Guilty Gear is a common example.