Where Should You Look While Playing?

This might sound like a weird question, but when playing fighting games like melee, what should players direct most of their focus on? Their own character? The opponent? Or both? Where should they be looking the most?

It’s not a weird question at all, I’ve had a lot of people ask this before. It’s actually very astute of you to notice that you can be looking in different places. Most people don’t think to ask that.

Basically, it’s a matter of looking at what’s important at any given time. Most of the time it’s best to watch what your opponent is doing. It’s good to watch yourself when you’re trying to space yourself precisely. It’s good to watch between both characters when you’re spacing relative to each other. Watch yourself while recovering generally, especially for the sweetspot. 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

Marth Guide

How do I git gud with Marth on Project M? Annd how the fuck do I Ken Combo properly, the dair seems to have gigantic input lag and it never lets me recover until I’m halfway below the stage’s pit.

Follow Melee guides to Marth. Of all PM characters, Marth functions the most identically to his Melee incarnation and requires the least adjustment. The only big difference is dair has a really short landing lag time, so it’s more useful as a launcher. Continue reading

Marth’s Throw Followups

What’s the best way to use Marth’s throws in Melee/PM? As in, a couple of good examples for each throw? I often end up just using uthrow

Alright, I’ve mapped out Marth’s throw combos and setups rather thoroughly. Basically, Fthrow gets the most frame advantage, dthrow is like a reverse Fthrow with a worse angle and worse advantage time, bthrow is nearly useless, uthrow gets guaranteed combos on all applicable characters. Combos are not guaranteed with any other throw, except fthrow under specific circumstances. So Uthrow is your respect option. It gets the worst followups (on most characters), but it’s guaranteed regardless of their DI. All of Marth’s throws are so fast that they’re unreactable. It’s hard to react to how fast marth can grab and throw you, it’s impossible to react to which throw he decides to use. Uthrow is great on spacies. Fthrow and Dthrow are great on floaties. I recommend dthrow for super heavy characters. Bthrow is good for sending people onto platforms when you want to do platform setups at high percentages and almost nothing else. Continue reading

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.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Good.

What do you think of Spherax’ salty rage quit on Rising Thunder? Does he have somewhat of a valid point beside how bitch he sounds?

This was the MOST HILARIOUS FUCKING THING EVER when it happened. I even told the guy on his twitter to neutral jump the fucking fireballs. Rising thunder was a game that made neutral jumps over fireballs REALLY FUCKING GOOD too! Because all moves were on cooldown, if you neutral jumped a fireball, not only were you not allowed to shoot another until it went offscreen, they had to wait for the whole cooldown to finish!

It also lead to interesting things like if your opponent wasted an anti-air, then you could jump in all you wanted without fear until the cooldown finished.

Also I loved how Chel in that game could cancel sweeps into fireballs. Almost no game does that except Super Turbo.

Like the ironic thing about his whining was, he was playing the best character in the game, Crow. Crow had absolutely ridiculous okizeme pressure, and pressure in general. If he got in close, he could attack, cancel to short ring toss, jump over, crossup, attack high or low, then ring toss again, and so on, then confirm into a combo, into super. Crow was some cool shit, but also evil shit.

In short, No. He does not have a point. All of his whining is completely invalid. He is a bad player who has trouble with a simple low-level playstyle. Chel was not overpowered or broken. Ryu is not overpowered in SF4. Dude got beaten, claims the other player is bad and using a broken character to salvage his ego. It’s as simple as that.

When you get beaten, you need to acknowledge WHY you are getting beaten. You need to understand the faults in YOURSELF. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is using a broken character, you can pick that character too. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is a scrub. You’re a worse scrub for losing to them and being salty about it. If you cannot purge yourself of this mindset then you cannot improve. Developing a mindset like this makes you worse against players you should be beating the most easily.

I played a friend recently who played EXACTLY like this. He’d shoryuken out of everything I did to him after blocking the first hit, be mashing shoryuken in the middle of all my combos in case I dropped. This is a scrubby terrible behavior. I was tired at the time and fucking livid that he was seriously pulling this dumb shit when I was in a mindset where my ability to adapt was slowed down. So I began tapping him once, letting him shoryuken, and doing the crush counter combo. I then did something I don’t do often in SFV and switched characters. I chose a bunch of random characters I never play and beat him with almost all of them (rip zangief). I was annoyed, but I controlled myself enough to not lose to an opponent doing a basic (but bad) strategy.

Zoning is interesting. There’s a lot of ways to zone well, and a lot of ways to get around zoning. If you can’t figure all this out, if you can’t see what’s interesting about it, you’re in a bad mental place.

Understanding Framedata: Combos, Traps, and Turns

I want to come back to this later to add animated gifs or webms that show different moves, with overlays displaying the framedata

Many beginners to fighting games, including myself, get intimidated by frame data. They look at it like this huge spreadsheet of numbers that they think they have to memorize. I originally didn’t get framedata, but wanted to understand how combos were built, how people discovered them, and thought, “will I just have to memorize all this framedata to get it?” It took me a while for it to click. In reality, yeah people pick up a lot of framedata incidentally, but almost no one seriously memorizes all the framedata. People really only look for a few things, which moves are unsafe, which moves set up combos, which can follow up combos, and whether each move is plus or minus on block. Continue reading

Fighting Game Alignment Chart

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.

fighting game alignment chart.png

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.

Frame Trainer Tool & How Long Are Frames?

A lot of people ask me how long a frame is. I reflexively measure timings in games using frames (assuming 60fps), and I have a rather good sense of it. This comes both from being an animator, and experience with games in general.

So I had the idea, why not make a tool that helps show how long a frame can be by giving people an interactive example? So I got into flash, putz’d around for a bit, and ended up with this.


https://www.adobe.com/support/flashplayer/debug_downloads.html (download the flash player projector and drag the swf from the zip file above to use the frame trainer, since flash is deprecated on every platform ever now.)

To operate it, click the Go button to start the arrow moving from left to right. Press any key, or click the stop button to stop the arrow. The goal is to stop the arrow when it’s yellow, just before it hits the end.

You can configure how long it takes to get from the beginning to the end by changing the Frame Total text box on the left. And you can change how long it turns yellow with the Frame Window text box on the right.

By changing frame total, you can give yourself more or less waiting time before it turns yellow. By changing the frame window, you make it turn yellow for longer.

If you stop it while it’s green, you did it too early. If you stop it while it’s red, you did it too late. Use the arrow getting close to the end as your visual cue.

By default I set it to 40 frames total (to give you a decent amount of reaction time before you gotta press the button) and a window of 7 frames, which is the window for parries in 3rd strike and L Cancels in Melee. Try setting it to all different periods and trying it out. Try setting it for different periods of time just to see how long they are, like 60 frames is 1 second, 30 is half a second, 20 is a third of a second, 10 is a sixth, 5 is a twentieth.

For reference, here’s some other frame windows from various games and my description of how easy/hard they are.

1 frame: Reversal window in Super Turbo and Guilty Gear before Xrd. Kick Glitch Window in Mirror’s Edge. 1 frame link timing. This is the hardest possible single input in a 60FPS game. Obviously combination inputs can be harder. Coincidentally, I had to jerry rig the setup to allow this window (it would otherwise show red on the last frame), and I managed to test it was working successfully on the 3rd try.

2 frames: Reversal window in 3rd strike, power shield window in Melee, throw tech window in guilty gear. Boost Smash/DACUS window in PM. This input is almost perfect, allowing just enough leniency that people can feasibly get consistent at it.

3 frames: Smallest possible window for a link in SFV, reversal window in SFV and GG Xrd, common window for links across fighting games. This one has a tight timing, you’ll feel that it’s really tight. It’s practically the exact moment that the thing hits, except significantly more lenient than 1 or 2 frames. I can do these consistently in SFV. Any mediocre fighting game player can do these in their sleep.

4 frames: Perfect Shield window in Brawl. Slightly less tight, but still enough to be difficult.

5 frames: Reversal Window in SFIV, parry window in DMC3/4. This is where the window becomes wide enough to let you get the input even if you mashed it (unless of course there’s a lockout period to dissuade mashers, like the DMC parry has)

7 Frames: 3s Parry Timing, L Cancel Timing in Melee. There’s a bit of wiggle room here. You’re no longer pressing the button just as you reach the end, just as the fireball is about to hit you, or you’re about to hit the ground. If you do it a bit early, you are forgiven.

15 frames: Average human reaction time. Throw Tech Window in Blazblue.

20 Frames: The Tech Roll window in Melee. This window is so wide, there should be no reason to miss it if you see it coming, it’s completely outside average human reaction time.

30 frames: Half a second. Blazblue has a 27 frame throw break window for throws during hitstun/blockstun. The Parry Window in Metal Gear Rising is this long. The parry window in Rivals of Aether is this long.

50 frames: Seth Killian once said that the counter window in Batman Arkham Whatever is like 40-50 frames. This is so long that it’s practically impossible to miss.

By the way, if anyone wants me to make a 20 fps or 30 fps version of this tool, then I can do so easily. I tried to add another box that let you change the framerate manually, but it didn’t work.

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