An Examination of Skill pt.11
Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 11:18AM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Skill

I love to cook. Trying new foods and recipes is something that I'd rather spend my time doing than going to the movies. When it's almost lunch or dinner time the clock starts ticking. I don't have time to cook a meal one step at a time. Though I love cooking, I love eating even more especially when I'm hungry. So the less time I spend working in the kitchen the better. The obvious solution is to multitask, a feat which is best executed with adequate timing skills.

Throughout the cooking process there two sets of timing information that are at odds. The first is how long I expect a task to take. The second is how long it's actually taking. Even with lots of experience preparing the same combinations of dishes, there's little I can do about the emergent inconsistencies that might occur in my less than professional kitchen. Before I take a single step in the kitchen, I visualize the entire process into a mental timeline taking into account how long it takes to prepare, cook, and serve the food. 

The idea is to have as many different tasks going on at once keeping in mind that each task should never hold up the progress of another. When making my custom carbanara or my ginger crunch catfish stir fry in a wasabi teriyaki sauce, I have 3 eyes on the stove all working at once. Optimizing the exact order of steps of a meal is a lot like refining a build order in an RTS like StarCraft or Pikmin 2's battle mode. Instead of hearing something like "upgrade complete" to let me know when a step is done, I listen to the sound the food makes when cooking. The sound that rice makes when it's done is very different form the sound the boiling water makes when half cooked. Onions make distinct sounds when sweated or sauted. And if sound doesn't work, smell and sight do a great job. I use a digital timer when baking, but for everything else I like to use my internal sense of timing. 

Finally, I use timing skills to help cook meat evenly. The rule of thumb when cutting up meat, vegetables, or anything else you plan on cooking is to do so evenly. The more even the pieces the closer the food finishes cooking at the same time. Normally when I cut meat like chicken breast, I have to deal with very irregularly sized pieces. Even when I try to cut them the same size, I end up with thick and thin pieces. When cooking these pieces I use a bit of knowledge and timing to make sure that all of them are cooked perfectly. First I gauge the size of each piece of meat and arrange it in the pan accordingly. The thickest pieces go in the center, the hottest area. And the smaller pieces are arranged near the sides of the pan. Taking into account factors like the surface area of the meat that touches the pan, the pan heat distribution, and the thickness of the piece, I create an internal timer for each piece of meat in my mind. When necessary, I shuffle the position of the pieces so that I can remove them at the same time. 

It's been mentioned before on this blog, but being a waiter is a lot like playing an RTS. Everything is time sensitive, and the more responsibilities you have the harder the challenge. I still remember those few nightmarish days of work when I had to manage an entire restaurant of customers while cooking their food. Just imagine what it's like to have everything so closely timed that if you hesitated for more than a few seconds, somebody's lunch would be burned. 


Having a sense of timing in Super Smash Brothers Brawl is everything. The way each character moves through the air, along the ground, and animates is important when determining how to defend or counter attack. Because the bodyboxes (characters) and hitboxes (attacks) match up fairly accurately to the visual presentation, what you see is what you get. In other words, if you see your character slightly bobbing up and down because of their breathing animation, you know that the actual target you need to hit is bobbing as well. I assure you that this level of detail is not beyond a pro player's awareness. I can recall plenty of times when the difference between a hit and a miss was determined by the slightness nuance of animation. I've also developed specific strategies that turned these nuances into power

Unlike most fighters, the way characters move in Super Smash Brothers Brawl is analog and highly variable vertically and horizontally. At the same time, players can execute moves at a large range of different timings. Smash attacks can be charged up to 2 seconds. Most forward tilts can be angled up or down. The falling speed of air attacks can be adjusted after the attack comes out. Etc. 

Beyond moving and attack, there are many defensive timing elements. After you get hit, you can cancel your hit stun half way through your stun time with an air dodge. Just as you come out of an air dodge, you're vulnerable to attack. Depending on factors like the characters fighting and the stage position, such a strategy varies in viability. When you land on any surface while still executing an air attack, you will experience landing lag animation. Each air attack and B (special) attack has a different animation and therefore a different timing. The more you know the smarter you can fight.

Stages in Smash also have their own timed elements. Platforms can move around on their own timelines. Stages can transform. And some stages are like an amusement park ride flowing from beginning to end on a set cycle of events and timings. 

Really timing is something that's best communicate in real time. Seeing is understanding. So, I made this video. Enjoy. 


Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
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