DBFZ Impressions

What’s your opinion on FighterZ so far?

Alright, I checked out the DBFZ beta while it was up. I played some ranked, and honestly got my ass scraped. Had like, a 50% win ratio exactly. Feel like I gotta count my losses too.

Felt like I had no idea what the hell I was doing or how anything fit together, but then I watched a vid that explained the universal moves and the basic combo mechanics and it made a lot more sense. Once I actually got the game, I started winning a lot more, and overall the pieces fit into place a lot more, it can just be a bit rough starting out.

I’m gonna use anime numpad notation, so look that up if you don’t know it. 2M and 6M are a universal low, and a universal overhead respectively. 6M is a lot like the 3rd strike UOH, but it can’t be hit meaty, and doesn’t chain or cancel into anything, so unless you call an assist before using it, you can’t combo off it. 2M is a sweep that usually moves forward a bit.

Dragon rush is this game’s equivalent of throw, but it has a startup period before rushing forward to grab. It has low priority, so anything with range will knock you out of it. It sometimes loses to normals, always loses to beams, it’s a pretty crappy throw. It also serves as your snapback, letting you force the opponent’s character out if you land it. Since it has a startup, tick throwing in this game is basically absent. You’re only gonna get tick dragon rush off maybe an assist block pressure, or a reset really. Otherwise, you need to make them scared enough to continue to hold block long enough for the dragonrush to start up, and that’s probably reactable. This means that if you want to fuck up someone who is blocking, you need to mix them up, high and low.

Also, you can cancel ground pressure into superdash, vanish, or S (Ki Blast) to extend it. Ki blast can be canceled into projectile specials, then super, which sometimes can serve as a weak confirm, however your real damage comes from either confirming into H, or getting a combo off 2M.

So that’s the next deal, there’s an interesting progression in the combo system that has all these parts that are really easy to tack on to add up to bigger and bigger combos. First you have the L and M autocombos, which do like 2 normal hits, then a unique attack, then for the L combo, it leads into a launcher, then hard knockdown, and for the M combo, it does the 3 hits, then cancels into special, then super. There doesn’t appear to be any scaling on these, so they get decent damage, like a quarter to third of someone’s health. If you hold back, you can get the unique 3rd hit, without getting the rest of the autocombo. So you can confirm off random hits in neutral, then autocombo your way to victory as an introduction, then you can ramp up to doing L > M > H, which the tutorial shows you how to do. 5H and 2H are your launchers. 5H will launch horizontally and wallbounce, and is usually a big poking move, 2H launches vertically, and is invincible to air attacks, which is important. Then you can do an air combo like L > M > H for a hard knockdown, and then super when you land.

Once you’ve gotten those basics down, you can get a bit more mileage in a couple different ways. First, you can do 2M to sweep, then 5M to launch from the sweep and jump cancel the 5M to follow into the air. Then in the air, instead of doing L > M > H, you can do L > M and jump cancel into another L > M, then cancel to special, then to super. Or, instead of the special into super, you could do 2H, which launches them even higher, and lets you follow up into L > M > special > super. You could also vanish instead of super, letting you combo the wallbounce from vanish into dragon rush for a snapback. You can integrate these combo extensions at pretty much any point for a little extra damage, and far as I know, they’re universal across the cast. Even if you don’t do 2M > 5M, you can still integrate jumping L > M double jump L > M from the H launchers.

Oh, and the chain system is weird, you can chain any button into any other version of that button, but you can’t have the same move in a chain twice, so you can chain 2M > 5M or 5M > 2M, but not 5M > 2M > 5M, which is what would lead to a launch, if possible. This also means you can chain 2M > 6M, the low into the overhead, but 6M cannot chain, so the overhead only combos with an assist.

Beyond that, there’s advanced character-specific combos, which involve comboing off specials or using assists or other business to extend, but still, there’s a basic template that lets you get a good combo, which you can steadily ramp up through and improve at without adding too much complexity at any given point. It also means you can pick up a new character and figure out how to do basic-bitch combos with them fairly quickly by following this template.

The superdash is a big deal, it’s kind of like a street fighter jump, in that it lets you get in, it’s safe on block, and combos on hit, but if they’re paying enough attention to AA you, there’s not a damn thing you can do, and they’ll get pretty decent damage off it to boot. 2H is completely air invincible, so if properly timed, it will beat superdashes clean. Superdashes can come out quickly however, and are tough to react to at close range. They deal a hit as they come in, which can be combo’d off. If blocked, then the attacker is not punishable, and they can get out an attack before hitting the ground, making it kind of a mixup scenario on block, which I’d guess is weighted slightly in the defender’s favor. The attacker can also double jump on block to make it almost completely safe. Unlike normal aerials, superdash can be blocked low or high, and you can cancel into superdash from L, M, and H, extending pressure. This move is gonna be the noob killer, because of how difficult it is to react to and shut down and how high priority it is. It goes through small ki blasts, but can’t go through beams and larger projectiles, so you can use those as a less guaranteed and lower reward anti-air, albeit with less harsh timing requirements than 2H. Superdash also has reasonably high priority vs normals.

I’m a bit disappointed by the tutorials and combo trials. The tutorials explain the bare basics, but don’t explain how to play the standard game, or that 2H is invincible. And it’s lacking Guilty Gear Revelator’s more advanced mission modes that fill in that type of information. The combo trials are also fairly simple, and don’t really go through the ramp up in complexity that I mentioned, at least, not nearly as far as Guilty Gear Revelator’s. So a lot of people are gonna have to go online to learn more information about the game, which is disappointing, and might detract from the image of the game, as people get stymied by simple tactics.

The game has a ton of hidden features, both character-wise and system-wise, so it’s shaping up to be an excellent game overall. My notes file on the game is huge. I like the game a lot so far, but I haven’t dedicated much time to improving in it.

Fighting Game Auto-Combos

What do you think of auto combos in fighting games?

Short answer: Letting people mash a single button to get an okay-ish high-commit combo that does not mix up on block in a game that is heavily based on landing difficult high-damage combos is a good idea.

Marvel style games and anime fighters are frequently about landing big, high-execution combos for tons of damage. I’ve learned a few combos in skullgirls and marvel 3, and they get pretty long and tough, even if most of the individual stages are fairly lenient.

Individual hits in these games tend to be low damage, and exist more to define the entry-point of the combo, limiting your ability to confirm and what route you take through the combo. Damage scaling and proration also affect the total damage of the combo based on the opener. It might be easier to confirm off a light (because they self-cancel and come out fast), but you might be shaving off tons of damage in the process.

The perspective to take for these types of games is to think of the combo as one extremely high-damage hit, imagine that in in-game time, you’re skipping directly from the beginning of the combo to the end. Having the combo have all these moves in-between allows combos to vary more widely in their effects and damage, so in “one hit” you can have a much wider variety of outcomes, pieced together by all the moves the attacker chooses to assemble in the combo. From that they can get pure damage, resets, corner optimized combos, corner carry, hard knockdown, character switching, etc.

It also means that different players can demonstrate their skill and creativity with the combo system, practice to improve their damage output, produce different results from the combo system.

However getting to that level is hard. It requires understanding a lot about the game, and having skill at actually executing combos.

So auto-combos give people an easy in. They can play the neutral game using all the different moves they’re given, then confirm into an auto-combo off their openers. They let people deal respectable amounts of damage in a game about dealing a lot of damage, but ultimately to get the real damage, they’re gonna have to learn. Autocombos don’t really affect competitive play in any way, they don’t imbalance the game, they let beginners get an idea how to use combos, how to confirm, etc. So in this respect, pros don’t care about autocombos, so it’s fine to have them.

At a low to intermediate level however, autocombos feel weird. I did a twitter thread on this: https://twitter.com/aGrimVale/status/953268702056763392

As a beginner who was good at neutral, bad at combos, I felt like autocombo systems were a violation of the idea of effort vs reward, and they are. I disliked combos in general at the time, so I didn’t really like games based on long combos. Combos can feel unfair, even if they aren’t actually unfair. It’s like, “why are we even playing each other if only one guy is doing anything?” As you get better at combos and dealing with setups, you get more patient with other people’s combos too, and you know to look out for when they drop or reset. Unless it’s Hokuto no Ken, then you just leave and grab a drink.

Beginners don’t have a good sense of the fairness of fighting games. A common perception is that mashing is just as good as deliberate play, and autocombos add to that, because low level players aren’t familiar with blocking and punishing. It’s also feels like handholding, like simplification of the game, and you’ll see the same combo a lot and you know they’re never ever gonna drop it, so that kinda sucks. So in a way, it simplifies the game at a lower level, because low level players shoot to just do the same thing over and over again, because it’s so much more rewarding than anything else you can do, and it’s frustrating to try to play without that until you can do real combos. You feel like you’re trying to engage with the actual game, but you’re being punished for it, because using multiple moves in neutral and trying to make do without combos is so much less effective than just using the damn auto-combo.

The trouble with auto-combos isn’t that they’re broken, it’s that they give people an easy crutch, but they don’t understand how to build from there. We don’t have the best on-roading structures for leading people to develop better fighting game knowledge and skills. A lot of it requires research outside the game, or having a friend who knows better, and even then, it’s difficult to really understand the basics. The tutorials in most games are insufficient, and they’re external to the process of actually playing. Most games don’t have a medium between autocombo and manual combo, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you can really build (Though DBFZ tried its damnedest).

I don’t have a good solution to this, but hey, autocombos are a neat stop-gap that hurt the game less than people think. If we can figure out a way to lead people to naturally learn about combo systems without having to divert them to another mode, that would be great, but I just don’t see how we can do that.

What Should be Prioritized in a Fighting Game?

What should be prioritized in making a fighting game? Is balance near the top?

The way I like to put it is, Balance is the least important thing that is still important. It’s way more important for the game to be fun than for it to be balanced.

In terms of sales success, I’d say it’s important to have a lot of characters and good single player content. Also looking good is a big factor.In terms of making the game good, it’s about making Rock-Paper-Scissors loops. It’s about making it so there’s a good web of these RPS loops going around everywhere, so you can beat everything in a couple different ways, usually varying by scenario. Continue reading

What are Option Selects?

Can you define what option selects are in fighting games, what they do, and why they are useful? I looked them up on Google, but I still can’t seem to grasp the concept of them.

Sorry for answering late. An option select is when you input one thing that can have multiple possible resolutions depending on what your opponent does.

Probably the most common type of option select in fighting games is one where the move will situationally have two different effects depending on what happens. For example, in 1 button fighting games, you can either throw by pressing forward + attack, or with that same input, just get an attack. In KOF in particular, across every single KOF game, it’s always been possible to option select between throwing, and some fast close range attack, because either your C or D (KOF’s two throw buttons) has a close range version of the attack bound to that button which comes out extremely fast. So if the opponent is throwable, you get a throw, if they’re not, you get a fast and powerful attack.

Another common type of option select is inputting additional actions that will get eaten depending on whether your first input comes out or not. For example, in Guilty Gear Xrd, you’re allowed to Yellow Roman Cancel command throws, but not Red Roman Cancel them. This means if you do a command throw, you can input the cancel, and it will cancel if you miss, and not cancel if you hit. So if you can cancel them when they miss, this means you can do something else immediately after they whiff, such as jump and attempt an air throw, meaning you can run into someone’s face, and either get a grounded command throw or an air throw, you’re throwing them on the air and ground in extremely short succession, and whichever one connects will continue. This is effectively an unblockable.

Another version of this is inputting things during hitstop. Hitstop puts your character in a state where you cannot act. By inputting when this time would happen, you’re making it so you’ll get actions if you fail to hit, but won’t get actions if you successfully hit. You can use this to situationally follow up depending on whiff or hit.

Hitstop also has another function, acting as the cancel window for special moves. In some games, hitstop is actually different on block and hit. This is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! If hitstop is longer on hit than on block, then people can precisely target that interval where hitstop is longer and try to time their cancel for right then, because on hit, they will successfully cancel, and on block, they will be inputting too late to cancel. This means you can commit to risky special moves only on hit, making your moves way more powerful without risking anything. In an earlier version of SFV, Ken had this issue. I heard it also existed in MK9.

In a way, special move canceling by itself can be viewed as an option select, since you’ll cancel on hit/block, but not on whiff. Once you realize this, you can poke with cancellable normals, and time your special move buffer on them so it’s done before the move recovers. Then you can use that special move slightly outside where your opponent is standing to catch them if they move forward and therefore cannot block.

Option selects can occur anywhere where one input or sequence of inputs can be interpreted as 2 possible outcomes. Learning to look for cases like this is very tricky.

These aren’t very common in Super Smash Bros, because there’s almost no cancels in Smash Bros, and moves tend to only have 1 consistent effect regardless of what situation they’re used in. The amount of hitstop on whiff, hit, and block are different, but this doesn’t tend to actually be useful for creating option selects in the smash series. There are cases that are very common however in smash bros where you can position yourself in such a way that regardless of what option your opponent picks, you can react to it and perform the counter option. Smash Bros fans call this option coverage. You sometimes see commentators mistakenly call it an option select, but it’s not the same series of inputs every time, it’s the person consciously changing which input they’ll use based on what they see.

One example of a true option select in Smash Bros is in Project M with G&W. Game and Watch’s throws are all identical in appearance, so you never know which way he’ll throw you. He gets his best followups off down throw, but you can defeat that easily by inputting a tech right before his throw ends. This means that regardless of whether he actually down throws you or not, you will always tech it.

Another one has to do with meteor canceling. There’s actually 2 ways to meteor cancel, jumping, and up B-ing. There is an 18 frame lockout window after being meteor’d and trying to input too soon will lock you out from canceling, but jumping and up B both count independently from each other, so you can try both instead of just one. So if you get meteored, you can input jump first, then up B immediately afterwards, and if you screw up the first one, the second one might work.

I hope this makes it more clear. Option selects can be really really varied across games. Guilty Gear Xrd used to have one where you could mash roman cancel during combos between 25% and 50% meter, and it would automatically cancel your combo if your opponent bursted out, because they were no longer counted as being in hitstun. This means if they don’t burst, your combo continues, but if they do burst, you instantly YRC, making you safe from their burst. This was later fixed.

Consistency of Skill in Fighting Games

What do you think of consistency in fighting games? If fighting game players are consistent/not consistent with their results in tournaments, is it necessarily a bad thing?

It’s tough. Consistency is a mixed blessing is about all I can say after some deliberation on the topic.

We have two case examples, SFV where players are allegedly really inconsistent, and Melee where players are super consistent. Continue reading

What Makes a Character Annoying?

What makes a character in a fighting game/ enemy in any video game annoying to fight against as opposed to being fun? What’s the best way to avoid making something in a videogame annoying to deal with?

I don’t tend to get annoyed by characters very much. I used to get annoyed by sheik, I got annoyed by how one specific guy played Chun Li against me in 3rd strike (would rely almost entirely on lows and jump-ins + chun’s 3HK, was good AA practice, but it bothered me that he wasn’t understanding the game).

I’m currently a little annoyed by Millia, in that she can do a corner carry combo into tandem top, mix up on okizeme and repeat the process if she guesses right. I’d rather deal with Urien, and he has unblockables.

I’m a bit annoyed at how my friend plays Terumi in BB, just using 6C and throws. 6C is unsafe as hell, but it’s high priority and damaging as fuck, and ends in knockdown, so I get caught by it all the time, and he mixes up between it and throw and for some reason I just can’t force him to play honest. Continue reading

Tekken 7 Overview

Have you played Tekken 7? If so, what do you think of it?

I’m playing it now, I’m still learning how Tekken works, not really having any 3d fighting game experience and I think I’m starting to get it after a lot of studying, guide reading, and a little play with friends and ranked netplay.

Like, the framedata is REALLY different from the fighting games I’m used to. Nothing faster than 10f startup? Different inputs? Everything except jabs is minus on block? -13 is mostly safe? Block in the standing position by default with lows and throws being the reaction tester guard break options? Pressure with jabs is real and loops into itself, but it can be ducked and whiff punished? Continue reading

How to Read a Book: Reads in Competitive Games

Care to do a breakdown on reads in fighting games?

There’s a bunch of different types of reads and types of information you can base reads on. First however, I’m gonna cover reactions, because that’s related.

Human reaction time is about 15 frames for something you’re expecting that you have a specific response planned for. So if you’re blocking low and know your opponent is going to overhead at some point and there’s no other variables, you can see him do that when he finally does it and block high. You can try this with the Millia Blocker game here:
http://www.teyah.net/milliablocker.html Continue reading

RNG Fighting Game Moves

What do you think of fighting characters that have special moves that change based on RNG (Like Luigi’s missfire, Peaches turnip pull, or anything else you can think of)?

I’m not really a fan, because sometimes the opponent just gets a lucky draw and you lose and oh well. Random stuff basically always does this unless there’s fore-knowledge of when it’s gonna come up ahead of time, which doesn’t completely negate the random effect, but mitigates it somewhat.

There’s a few other fighting game characters that have random effects like that, I can think of Faust, Teddy, and Zappa, from Guilty Gear and Persona 4 Arena. Phoenix Wright too, but the randomness screws him over more than his opponent. Game and Watch has a random effect in smash too, on his judgment hammer.

I mean, I just think all instances of randomness should be replaced by something that is deterministic and can be kept track of relatively easily, but which still looks random to the untrained eye, and has about the same level of frequency in outcome.

Barring that, there’s ways to build more consistent randomized systems, some of which you can see in Project M, some of which you can see in Dota 2.

One thing Project M did with Peach was make her Fsmash totally deterministic, it rotates the 3 possible items each time it’s used. Another thing is making it so Luigi’s next misfire is guaranteed to show up within the next 6 times it’s used, and allowing you to hang onto it. And with Game and Watch, they made it so the judgment hammer cannot repeat the last 2 numbers, and it has a light over it indicating whether the next number is even or odd, so you can stack the odds in your favor

Zappa in Guilty Gear has an ability to summon a ghost, and this is actually dependent on what second the timer is on. Some seconds still produce a random result however.

DotA 2, and a few other games, use what they call a PRNG (Pseudorandom number generator). Technically all games use a PRNG if you want to get really technical, because computers can’t generate random numbers, but that’s beside the point. Basically, when something says it has a certain odds of success, like 25%, instead of it actually having those odds each hit, it starts at a much lower chance of success and that chance increases drastically for each time it doesn’t succeed. This is set up so an ability with a 25% chance will occur roughly 1 in 4 times every time. By doing it this way, they reduce “floods” and “droughts” of a result coming up or failing to come up. People don’t actually have a very good mechanism for understanding random chance, we tend to fixate a little on the odds in the short term, and expect more uniformly distributed results than are actually likely to occur. This system makes it so a 25% chance effect will only very rarely occur twice in a row, and will only very rarely fail to occur after 6 attempts.

My general recommendation is, don’t include random effects if you can avoid it, it usually doesn’t add a lot, even if it’s funny some times. If you feel it’s necessary, find an RNG algorithm that works for you instead of flat % chance.

Making Effective Counter Moves

What do you think of counter moves in fighting games? (Those in the smash games, cross counter, ect.)

I believe Mike Z made a good statement about those, counters shouldn’t have a distinct animation to them, because nobody’s gonna hit you if they see you in the stance, which is why Valentine in Skullgirls has a counter with no animation until she’s hit.

Counters are kind of like a worse dragon punch. They will beat any attack that hits them, but only if you do it at the same time they attack. The difference is that a counter will not attack afterwards like a dragon punch will, so it will not hit an opponent unless they attack. A dragon punch can be used to beat things like jump-ins or dash-ins, but a counter only works in those contexts if the opponent attacks afterwards. A dragon punch can punish a commitment that isn’t necessarily an attack, but counters only punish attacks.

And because you strike the counter stance, you are telegraphing to your opponent not to hit you, so to be effective with it, you need to go for that hard read that they will attack and not do something else. And if you can read them every time, that works great, but versus good opponents, they’ll realize after you do it twice that you’re trying to counter bait them, and start moving in without attacking, or using grabs instead of attacks. Dragon punches require tighter timing and are more punishable than counters, but they’re much more reliable as a tactic in high level matches.

The actual counter attacks work differently per-game. Sometimes they nullify incoming damage (Marth, Kolin, Valentine, Hakumen), sometimes they take incoming damage as super armor (Dudley in 3s & SF4), sometimes you’re given temporary health versus incoming attacks (Alarak in HOTS).

Sometimes you’re given full invincibility to any followup attack (Marth, Kolin, Valentine, Hakumen), sometimes you just have hyper armor during the counter attack (Dudley in 3s), sometimes the protection is only partial (Marth’s iframes wear off rather quickly, beating multihits, but not projectiles followed by melee).

Sometimes the counter hits a massive area to guarantee it beats long pokes (Leo Whitefang, Hakumen, Valentine), Sometimes the range is more limited and it can be baited out with the right hit (Dudley, Marth), Sometimes it pulls the opponent in like a hitgrab (Zangief in SFV S2.1, Kolin).

Sometimes you have an actual hitbox that catches enemy attacks (Marth has a large shieldbox for his counter that doesn’t cover his feet, Kolin’s V-Skill catches based on a hitbox, Hakumen has a catch hitbox for his D moves), sometimes it counters if the character is hit at all (Valentine, Dudley SF4, Leo Whitefang), sometimes it only catches certain types of attacks (Kolin, Rock & Geese, Zangief, Dudley 3s)

Sometimes you get followups off it (Hakumen), or it just does a lot of damage (everyone else).

The differences in implementation can make these counters more or less effective depending on the game. Marth’s is still useful for edgeguarding certain opponent’s up B moves, assuming they don’t sweet spot.