How to Improve at Mind Games

How can someone become good at playing mind games with their opponent in fighting games?

By practicing it deliberately.

See Also: How to Read a Book: Reads in Competitive Games

Specifically you should watch your opponent’s patterns. What do they keep doing and how can you exploit that? Watch what they do in each situation, get a feeling for their tempo and reaction time. If their reaction time is better than yours, then you need to beat them by acting on the tempo. If they do not adhere to the tempo, then you need to figure out by how much, and either act first to interrupt their options, or act second to punish them.

Watch for common player behaviors and keep a mental record of those. One example of this is, as Marth, I like to run through my opponent, then run cancel with a crouch, and fsmash back at the opponent I passed by. This is because when you run through, many people think they’re safe and do an option out of shield. However this is not foolproof. Players with good reaction time can grab me out of shield before I run through them. Players who are smart can recognize my pattern and either jump out of shield earlier, or hold onto their shield so my fsmash does nothing. At which point the correct response from me is to notice they are doing this and instead do run through, cactaur dash (run cancel and dash opposite direction), grab, because I’ve conditioned them to stay in shield.

Think about how everything you do conditions a response from your opponent and other things you can do instead that beat that response. If you do something that is exploitable, change it up in expectation of your opponent catching on. Watch what you do before you do an action, because that might give it away. Similarly watch for that in your opponent.

Getting good at mindgames is about studying other people, and finding 50/50 scenarios.

Also read this guide.

Here’s 3 other guides on it as it applies specifically to smash bros (though you can extend these lessons outside of those games too)

And here’s a paper on people’s patterns in Rock Paper Scissors and a basic guide to winning:

Click to access 1404.5199v1.pdf

(The short is, winners tend to stick with their choice more often, losers tend to switch more often, and continue switching to unused options.)

Think about what the opponent is actually doing. Remember their responses to scenarios, and keep updating to do the thing that will beat their current pattern. If you have found a pattern that keeps winning, keep doing it, or if it’s just a pure mixup, switch after 2-3 reps, because that’s when your opponent is likely to switch, unless they’re bad and don’t understand the counterplay of the different options.

Of course also look for scenarios in which you can cover all or most of your opponent’s options on reaction and just setplay them. Then you don’t need to guess.

The beauty of competitive games is that there’s a complicated web of counters to different options in different scenarios, with one covering many in many cases, and different ones changing in utility based on the scenario. But to exploit these, you really need to think and pay attention, or you’ll get played.

Is Street Fighter Made Obsolete by Smash?

Have traditional fighting games been rendered obsolete by Smash? How would you convince someone who thinks like that to try out, say, SF? Someone who thinks SF is the same thing every match.

Not a chance in hell. I’ve been meaning to make a post/video on the differences between Street Fighter and Smash Bros. The games emphasize totally different things. They have different forms of blocking, hitstun, combos, damage, moves, movement, knockdown, footsies, zoning.

In my opinion a lot of it stems from 1 really innocuous core change. In Smash Bros, you are allowed to grab someone during hitstun or blockstun. In Street Fighter, you are not. A basic issue that came up during the first version of Street Fighter 2, and Smash 64 was, if people are allowed to get advantage on block, then they can throw instantly, and that’s a guard breaker. So in SF2 World Warrior, you could jump in at someone, hit them with a roundhouse on their block, then just throw them. Easy unblockables. Similar stuff is possible in Smash 64, like shieldbreak combos, and unblockables off higher shield stun aerials. Continue reading

Nerfing Fox

Lemme cite Leffen really quick:

I don’t approve of Scrumpy’s balancing style for multiple reasons. First is, no balance patch exists in a vacuum. If you nerf the top tiers, then you turn away people who previously enjoyed those top tiers. Nerfs are occasionally necessary, and I agree that Fox could use a nerf, but I do not think these are the correct nerfs, especially because they change what fox is capable of and his options, making the character less deep.

I think the Project M fox nerfs were much more appropriately considered, especially the changes to shine and laser. Laser shouldn’t be limited to a single laser, players enjoy using double laser. It should be nerfed in damage instead. Sure this will keep its ability to reset scaling the same (though theoretically that could be jury rigged to count less often in the staling buffer, or be excluded from it completely) Project M went the extra mile and had its damage decrease over distance, while nerfing its base damage to like half a percent. Continue reading

Changes to Fix Melee Weirdness

have you ever done a post on what system-wide mechanical changes you would do to Melee if you could?

I’m pretty sure I did that already, but I have more ideas, so I’ll do it again.

My changes would be extremely minor, like increasing leniency on backdash, increasing the range on the controller that is registered as a dash, increasing the shorthop window, remove reduced jump height for frame 1 attacks, allow canceling IASA frames with airdodge or B moves, allow reverse grab boxes to grab at the end of up B moves, fade out portraits and % when they overlap characters. Plus incorporate all 20XX TE changes for convenience. If I want a balance mod on top of this, I’d go with SD Remix. And add more neutral/counterpick stages as appropriate. Continue reading

Stage Hazards

What do you think of stage hazards in fighting games? I don’t like them but I don’t know why. I might just be a scrub.

I am fine with them as long as they are predictable and don’t make the entire game about them.

Much as it may surprise you, I played smash bros casually for many many years before becoming competitive. I played on stages with hazards a lot. I even played with items on at one time in both melee and brawl.

Among the stages with hazards/gimmicks I liked Mute City, Port Town Aero Drive, Brinstar & Brinstar Depths, Pokefloats, Fourside, Big Blue, Onett, Peach’s Castle, Green Greens, Shadow Moses, Delfino Plaza, Mario Kart, Eldin Bridge, Norfair, Frigate Orpheon, Halberd, New Pork City, Skyworld, and Castle Siege. I liked that most of these telegraphed what was going to happen before it did. I liked playing around the unique difficulties of each stage. It was fun.

I don’t think stage hazards work as well in traditional fighting games because things like platforming don’t work as well in them. Smash Bros has a separate jump button. It has air control. It has a robust movement system on the air and ground that traditional fighters don’t. Also you’re allowed to walk through opponents in smash, and side switching happens a lot more often. Characters are smaller proportionally. It’s just better overall.

Over time, the stage hazard systems get less interesting to me, due in large part to how much they interfere with the normal flow of the match, the part I want to explore and improve at. Also most of these stages had serious balance issues, which is the real reason I don’t play on them anymore, that and I just don’t tolerate as much jank anymore. I didn’t like the slightly reworked versions of Skyworld or Temple: M that appeared in Project M while they were legal. I don’t like a lot of the technically legal stages that are in the top row of the PM netplay build. Making a stage that really feels totally right to me now is a lot harder.

The other issue is, a lot of stages with hazards suck. Like Distant Planet has lame hazards. And Summit. Stuff can come out of nowhere and occasionally you just get wrecked.

I liked how PSASBR allowed you to turn off hazards. I didn’t like how all the stages would go through the hazards just once in sequence and never repeat them ever again.

In Injustice I think it’s some cancerous shit.

Smash Bros Melee Beginner’s Guide

I get a lot of people asking me how to learn the basics of Melee. Here’s some essential resources for learning how to play Melee:

This video is a great rundown of the basic mechanics, in an order that is good for beginners:

This video is probably the best place to start, it lays out most of the advanced techniques that are still in use today. Some of the terminology is a bit outdated, some of the topics like DI aren’t explained in as much detail as they should be, but it’s still a pretty good guide overall. If you’ve NEVER played before, pay attention to the in-game how-to-play tutorial shown at the beginning of this one.

This channel is SSBMtutorials, it has tutorials for a ton of characters on a great variety of topics. It’s made by a top player and goes into a lot of detail.

This thread links to videos that show every advanced technique for every character in the game with the inputs for that technique on-screen.

This channel contains “trials” videos for the top tier characters (and Captain Falcon for some reason) showing you basic techniques you can practice in training mode that will help you understand your character better.

This is an article I wrote that explains in depth how the entire grounded movement system in Melee works:

This is another article I wrote about how the grounded neutral game tends to work in Melee:

This last one explains how all the recovery systems in Smash Bros work:

This page links to every characters’ hitboxes and framedata:

This is a compendium of practically everything you could ever want to know about smash bros.

Directional Influence is a subtle mechanic that isn’t explained very well in most tutorials online, here’s some pictures that explain it.
rivals DI tutorial 1rivals DI tutorial 2
directional influence DI infographic tutorial

More L’s Canceled

Do you like the analogy between l-cancelling and dribbling in basketball?

Sure, though the way you dribble is a tactical decision frequently. People can steal from you during dribbles.

But you can think up plenty of extra examples. Why would you ever deliberately not meteor cancel? Why would you ever deliberately drop a combo in a fighting game? Why would you ever not shoot directly at an enemy in a first person shooter with a hitscan weapon? Why would you ever not continuously produce units in an RTS, resources allowing? Why would you ever not use the throw option select in Guilty Gear? Especially if you’re Sol with a kick that comes out in literally 3 frames. Why would you ever not crouch jump in half life or TF2?

Why don’t you allow a separate shorthop button? Why not snap to the ledge when you’re close to the sweet spot range? Why not have airdodging into the stage shunt you upwards to avoid awkward deaths at the ledge? Why not let you grab the ledge backwards?

Beyond that, why have hard execution things at all? Why make perfect shields only 2 frames instead of all the frames? Why not have a billion frame buffer on everything?

Look, Sirlin’s been to that territory before. He staked a claim on that territory in early pre-history. I don’t want everyone to go live over in that territory. When you live in that territory you’re not allowed to obtain any type of advantage over your opponent except through better calculation of the odds and memorization of the state space; plus they have crappy wifi over there.

L canceling isn’t 1 frame links. It’s not Ky’s FRC stun edge. It’s not a pretzel input, it’s not even QCF HCB or 632146 HS. Jump install in guilty gear is another thing you basically always want to do and have no downside to doing. There’s a lot harder execution things that don’t need to be so hard to do, a large number that have much better cases for being toned down or outright removed (like jump install). Including things that are arbitrarily hard to execute for the sake of such is not a big deal. L canceling is totally small in the scheme of things. It’s not the hardest tech in the game. It’s not an insurmountable barrier to newcomers.

Have some Borp:

It has been confirmed that due to what may be a programming oversight, shield angling doesn’t affect L cancel timing at all in P:M . Does this change your opinion on L cancelling or not?

That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not the kind of thing that can be changed due to a programming oversight. The shield angling trick works because hitting someone’s shield generates frames of hitstop. By angling your shield, you’re causing them to hit your shield sooner rather than later, generating the hitstop sooner rather than later, which fucks up their ability to see when they’re going to hit the ground. You can’t have a programming error interfere with this one thing specifically, it’s an emergent property of the interactions involved.

No, it doesn’t change my opinion, because the shield angle trick is an extreme corner case anyway.


Literally already bookmarked it. Great read.

Advice for Smash Players Picking up 2d Fighters

Do you have any advice for a smash player that wants to get into 2d fighters (especially stretch fighter 5) I’ve never played 2d fighter but I am thinking about trying it. Also what controller should I get for playing on pc

Only the same advice I have for players trying to get into traditional fighting games in the first place.
This links to a TON of other guides at the bottom. Please consult all of them, and the shoryuken wiki page for the particular fighting game you want to play.

What I’ll say is, the control system will not feel natural to you at first. You have access to more moves at a time, and it’s not going to be as obvious how all of them are used, because they all point in the same direction and they all come out and recover much faster. Learning what each of your normals is good for, getting them all down to the point where you know which one of them hits in which place at which range on command, and being able to identify what a normal is good for on a character you’ve never played before.

Practice anti-airing jump-ins. A great training technique is to record the bot doing something you want to practice against, like jumping in with a medium kick. A good thing to do is have the bot jab twice beforehand so you can react to the timing and simulate reading the move. Learn to use both normal anti-airs and special anti-airs. normals are good for reacting when you’re uncertain when they’ll jump, specials are good for reading, when you’re certain they’ll jump and when. You need both of these, you need to be fast and accurate at both of these.

Get down blocking. Blocking is absolutely critical, a lot of beginners don’t block enough. Block low all the time, then high when they’re in the air or doing an overhead attack. You can’t react to lows, but you can react to the other two, and lows deal more damage. As you get better, learn to fight standing up moving back and forth instead of being rooted to the ground in a blocking stance. Learn to do the block motion while jumping in, while attacking, while dashing, so you always do it the first instant after you stop. This will help you play charge characters too.

Learn what frame advantage/disadvantage is and how to identify which moves have it. Or look up framedata until you get the pattern. Learn when moves hit, how long they take to recover, etc.

You can use whatever controller you want. All major fight sticks have PC drivers. There are PS3 and PS4 drivers and wrappers to make them behave like 360 controllers (which is what most things on PC support). For 2d fighters the control choice doesn’t matter a great amount unless you plan to switch at some point.

Oh, and play a lot of people.

Less Dexteritous Smash Bros

How would you change the mechanics for melee so it would require less dexterity to play but still keep it’s depth?

There’s a lot of ways you could potentially do that. For one, you could fix the bug where the last frame of jumpsquat won’t count in determining whether you fulljump or shorthop.¬†You could allow Shorthops to be bound to a button instead of needing to release within the jumpsquat time. You could extend the valid dash range during dash dancing, add an extra frame of leniency to backdashing. Make it so jumping during normal turnaround still has you turned around. A lot of small input leniency changes that Project M made. You could make shield directly cancel into up smash or up B instead of needing to cancel through jumpsquat first. You could probably make L canceling automatic, and not lose that much (I just resent the idea that such a thing is totally pointless, especially when you have characters like ice climbers, who are very difficult to L cancel against, and who have a valid use for L cancel in the L cancel desync). You could add a small buffer period, like 2-3 frames. You could make Meteor Cancels mashable. You could remove the restriction on IASA frames to not allow dodges or B moves out of them.

And that’s about it. Beyond that, you’re changing the options the characters have or how difficult they are to perform in a way that affects game balance (due to strong options being too easy), or the distribution of options players will pick (due to certain options being over-centralizing).

The resulting game would still take a massive amount of dexterity to perform at, but you can’t really pare it down any more without giving something up about the identity of the game, in some ways this already is compromising some of the identity of the game.

Sakurai: Fraud Designer?

You’ve said that Sakurai doesn’t know anything about game design, but you’ve advocated the theory that Melee wasn’t a “happy accident”. Do you think Sakurai is capable but misguided or simply has his head up his ass, or do you think Melee was an ‘intentional fluke’? Or do you think there were other people behind Melee’s success, but Sakurai gets all the credit becaues of the industry’s obsession with celebrities? That actually happens way to much, a game’s successes get dumped onto a single dev or a handful of individuals, sometimes underservingly so.

You’re right, there is a bit of a contradiction there. I think that the game systems that existed in melee were really complex, enabling the game to function as it does. I think those systems were put in there intentionally. I don’t think they entirely thought out what would be possible as a result of them, like wavedashing, SHFFLing.

I thought they knew the simple rule that you should never let shield stun go higher than landing lag, then Smash 4 proved me wrong in their last patch. Like, it might be that everything I thought they did intentionally correctly was just luck, but I have no real idea.

They chose to have characters whose double jump animations would dip them low, and thereby enable double jump cancels. They chose to have L canceling, like literally at all. They chose to have air dodges that moved people, chose to have shields cancelable with jump, chose to allow you to buffer rolls, chose to allow the initial dash animation to be canceled by going the opposite way, and the run to be cancelable by crouching, chose to have crouching shave off percentage, chose to have SDI like literally at all, chose to have characters get oriented forwards when hit, chose to have hitboxes that can hit forward and reverse, chose to have some that change angle based on percentage, chose to have only a narrow range of attacks be meteor cancelable, and chose to have some moves hit at angles that can’t be meteor canceled (even adjusted Marth’s spike in PAL, but not falco’s), chose to allow shields to be variable density and tilted, chose to allow fast falling, to allow fox/falco to jump out of shine, to allow jumpsquat to cancel into grab, up smash, up B, to allow you to catch items in the air, to have ground momentum carry over into air momentum and vice versa. These are all intentional decisions, and many of them are extremely slight or would go unnoticed by most players.

Look at all the differences between Marth in melee versus smash 4. Marth is an extremely simple character design, yet they altered it in bringing it over to Smash 4 in ways that limited his ability to make moves work together and stripped some moves of their alternate uses, like side b’s use as an air stall.

The other thing is, Sakurai did have help. Hal Laboratories worked on Smash up to melee, but not past it. When they left, the games got bad. Also, Satoru Iwata stepped in to help debug Melee right before release, and he was a legendary programmer. That and his post-brawl interview communicates that he tried his damn hardest on Melee and it was “The sharpest”, but I think he changed his mind after that one, it was “too hard”.

Who knows?