How would you break down the many different fighting game playstyles such as rushdown, turtling, zoning, or any others you can think of?
A friend of mine (ClarenceMage) came up with a really brilliant way of separating it out actually.
The idea is you have these two scales: Horizontally, you have a scale between Game Knowledge (left) and Player Knowledge (right). Vertically, you have a scale between Safe Guaranteed Play (top), and Risky Unpredictable Play (bottom).
Setplay revolves around setting up situations and capitalizing off of them. Setplay is highly reliant on game knowledge, it’s all about knowing the game better than your opponent. Examples of setplay players would include Armada (Honest Setplay) and Marn (Dog Setplay).
Buttons is about winning the footsie neutral game. It’s player knowledge, part game knowledge, so it falls somewhere between setplay and reads. You gotta know a bit of what your opponent is thinking, but also a bit of how to use your options best to win. Examples of Buttons players would be Hungrybox (Honest Buttons), PPMD (Opportunistic Buttons), and Infiltration (Dog Buttons)
Reads is about knowing your opponent’s tendencies. It’s about attacking at just the right time in just the right place. It relies heavily on player knowledge. Examples of Reads would be Snake Eyez (Honest Reads), Mango (Dog Reads) and Daigo (also Dog Reads).
Playing Honest is about sticking to guaranteed setups with a small chance of failure. Honest players tend to mix in a variety of approaches instead of pursuing a single gimmick and play according to what has the best odds of success. Honest players are the ones that almost always block low on wakeup or tech neutral. Honest players can have this tendency towards safety taken advantage of, but tend to have very consistent performance to make up for it.
Playing Dog is about going for what works and throwing caution to the wind. It’s about dogged persistence to win the way you want to win. Dog players tend to go for high risk high reward options or get killed trying. Dog players will ultra on wakeup, shoryuken in your face, charge the fsmash in the direction you’re about to roll, go offstage for the gimp.
Playing Opportunistic is a mix of Honest and Dog, trying to adapt to how the opponent is playing at that moment, seizing opportunities to grab just a bit more advantage where you can, but sticking to what you know works when the going gets tough. Opportunistic players are flexible, but can psych themselves out trying to follow their opponent’s patterns and be in the wrong mode at the wrong time.
Of course, there are a lot of ways to divide playstyles or categorize them. If you want to get deep down, it comes down to the player’s tendencies to use some options over others and the frequency of that option use, and you can’t totally quantify that.