Frame Windows and How to Input

Please explain frame inputs to me. I always see people saying that a move starts on frame 2 or has a 3 frame input. But a frame is 1/60th of a second… so how the hell do people even react to that? Can a button even be physically pressed in a frame?

Average human reaction time is 13 frames. This means we have a blind spot of 215 miliseconds before we can react to something that we are expecting in advance and have a planned reaction to. This time is shorter for reactions to things we hear, but we can only hear one thing at a time (we can select what among multiple things we’re listening to).

In DDR, to get a Marvelous (better than perfect) you have to be really close to frame accurate. But I just said that we have a human reaction time of 13 frames, so how can this be? It’s because we can get much closer in accuracy when we have something external as a guide, then we can calibrate our internal sense of timing to match the guide in our blind spot. Furthermore, for a lot of actions, we don’t just do it one time, we practice it. When you practice it, you develop a better sense of how long the thing takes and at what points you should act, so your internal record of the timings for that action improves. When you practice one of that sort of thing, you get better with others, so you don’t just get good at frame perfect combos in street fighter, you get better at them in say vampire savior too.

Many beginners at fighting games don’t know the inputs, but they know the motion their hand went through to get the result it did. Many people actually remember tough timings in a similar way, except they also know the inputs too.
I was doing JC grabs wrong in smash bros for a long time, because I had this reflex of quickly sliding my thumb and index finger off the X and Z, and this used to work for me, but over time my muscle memory (internal timing record) for that thing had gotten so faulty that the motion was horrifically inconsistent, even though it’s very easy to perform. So I had to restart from scratch and very carefully and intentionally do the motion each time.

I had a similar issue relearning DACUS in Project M. I learned to do DACUS in Brawl where the window was so lenient you could hit them with your dash attack and still DACUS. In PM, the window is 2 frames, 1 if you use the Z button, which I do, and I knew I could not unlearn (otherwise I’d need to use a custom control setup and none of those were conducive to how I play). I would grind it out in training mode but still get nowhere. I analyzed the way I was pressing the C-stick down, then the Z button, and could not understand what was wrong until I realized that my thought of it was, “press C-stick down, then Z.” Because I was thinking of them one after another, it didn’t matter how fast I was trying to do them, I was putting in a delay. Instead I changed my thought to, “Do these both simultaneously” and suddenly DACUS was coming out. Because 2 frames means they’re almost right on top of each other.

Shorthopping is a similar thing in Smash Bros. You asked if a button can even be pressed in one frame. Sure, but not released! To shorthop in smash bros, you need to press the button and release it before your character goes into the air. So with a character like Fox, he only squats 3 frames before going into the air, you need to press the button and release it within 3 frames. A lot of people have trouble with this. I’d guess that people have a huge issue pressing and releasing buttons over a 1 frame period. There is a trick in Link to the Past any% (no exploration glitch) where you need to hover over a pit, by pressing the button to dash forwards, dashing 1 pixel, then releasing it and repressing it again within one frame. I heard that this pit takes 27 frame perfect inputs to cross, one of the hardest in all of speedgaming.

I still remember how much trouble I had (and technically still have) doing links in SF, I would sit there in the trial mode confused over how on earth it was ever supposed to work. It became a matter of developing this reflex, to want to act, to do the next action in sequence at the very first possible frame, as soon as possible from when you’re allowed to again. Now that I’m a bit better at that, I’ve gotten accidental link combos on characters I don’t play.

The fact of the matter is, people do things in video games with relatively small timing windows all the time, because they’re partially predicting what is going to happen. To jump accurately in Mario requires releasing button within maybe 6 frame windows to get mario to jump the height you want him to.

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