Riddles, Puzzles, and Games

Something I’ve mentioned but not really explored is that I think puzzles aren’t actually games. I’m fine with the moniker, “Puzzle Game” as a misnomer referring to a collection of puzzles and I think “Action Puzzle” games like Tetris aren’t actually puzzles (except in B-mode)

Riddles puzzles games.png

Basically, there’s a spectrum of Riddles, Puzzles and Games, which each play on a similar root desire of, “Try to make the thing happen,” but with different emphasis. Puzzles and Riddles are subject to the spoiler effect. Once you know the solution, it’s not a question of whether you can beat it or not, you can always just produce the solution, unless you forget it. This also means that someone can tell you the answer and there’s no challenge anymore. Continue reading

How to Make the Best Worst Action Game Ever

Making a good action game involves doing things like creating a variety of moves that each have a specific niche that they’re good at, but which other moves compete for their place, so choosing the right move for a situation is an interesting choice. Good action games have you use skill to perform moves by either remembering combo strings or finding ways to link different moves together with juggles or cancels.

Good action games have moves with different ranges, speeds, and areas of effect.

Good action games usually have at least 2 different defensive options with tradeoffs that make them easier or harder based on circumstance, and require some type of situational awareness, as well as different payoffs for success that themselves are situational.

In good action games, multiple enemy types are mixed and matched, so their overlapping attack patterns prevent you from just countering any individual enemy and locking them down.

A good action game has commitment, so when you perform an action, you are usually stuck performing that action when it is unsuccessful, so you can potentially take damage. When you are allowed to cancel your commitment or hedge your bets, it is usually costly, or forces you into a different type of commitment instead.

So how do you make a bad action game? Easy, just make everything uniformly functional and only aesthetically different, and give different moves clearly defined purposes that no other move can perform, like a specific key to a specific lock. This way every move is only good for 1 thing and it’s completely clear what that move is good for, and no other move will do.

Instead of making it so you perform different strings or combos through experimentation or skill, make it automatic. Instead of varying the properties of moves, make it so you play a paired animation with enemies and select the appropriate animation so your attacks always connect and always have the optimal followup. Randomly vary the combo followups so they look cool, but because it’s a paired animation, don’t have different properties in any real sense of the word.

Instead of having a few defensive options with varying rewards and situationality, add 1 defensive option that can beat anything regardless of circumstance and always leaves you in a good situation.

Instead of mixing multiple enemies that compliment each other with overlapping attack patterns, mix enemies that have functionally the same attacks, and limit them so only 1 enemy can attack at a time. Allow individual enemies to be locked down easily if there is no one else around to interrupt your attacks, and don’t let them interrupt if you’re in the middle of a paired animation.

Instead of restricting your ability to cancel moves or creating commitment to bad decisions, a bad action game lets you cancel offense into defense or more offense at any time, so choosing between different types of commitment is never necessary. To go further, allow the defensive options to cancel into themselves, or just give you a block against all damage with no associated cost that can cancel anything.

Basically, if you want to make a bad action game instead of a good one, make Batman Arkham Whatever.

Notice that doing this removes all interesting choices from the game and makes it resemble an easy version of DDR more and more as you continue to strip out everything fun. You’ll also end up with a game that is really easy to understand, and frees you up to make any type of cool looking thing you want happen without most of the technical hurdles usually associated with making that work in gameplay, like good collision detection.

So now your character could do absolutely anything as a paired animation with an enemy, and you don’t need to worry about positioning hitboxes and hurtboxes, coding complex state changes on hit, block, or dodge, or coming up with ways that different moves can have tradeoffs with one another while accomplishing similar purposes. Just animate really cool shit happening constantly, and you can have players mashing the button for it all the time.

Doesn’t that sound enjoyable?

How to Actually Change Someone’s Mind

Have you ever gotten in an argument before? A case where you had all the facts on your side and your opponent was clearly wrong and ignorant, yet they just wouldn’t give up, they only dug their heels in harder? Have you ever had that happen, and it turns out that you’re the one who is actually wrong all along? Can you bring yourself to admit you were wrong? Can you do it when the other person was mocking you? Lying to you? Do you feel like admitting fault would be like admitting weakness, like losing the argument? If you withdraw completely to avoid further mockery, do you think that’s cowardly, that you should let your points stand rather than be dishonored?

The finding from psychological research is, if someone has a strong belief about something, then being presented with real evidence their belief is incorrect they will not change their mind, rather their belief will grow stronger. When confronted on a belief, one tends to seek out reasons for believing what they do, and the belief grows stronger rather than weaker. We all individually think we’re rational, but we all make the same mistakes, even when we’re aware of those mistakes.
This is why debates on the internet tend to be acknowledged as going nowhere. The purpose of debate and argument is ostensibly to change the other person’s mind, but as one debates more and more, they find that no one is changing their mind. Since they aren’t changing their mind, why should you argue? Many people rationalize this as attempting to convince the bystanders, or that the other person will turn it over in their head and eventually change their mind, or do it for the purpose of refining their own ideas, or simply making the truth known and if the other person weren’t so thickheaded, they’d know good enough to change their mind, and if they aren’t, then they don’t deserve fair treatment anyway.

At this point the fault has become embedded in the system, and people have found reasons to argue, despite it being completely ineffective at the original purpose. Instead of trying to find means that are effective, they’ve come up with excuses for why being ineffective is okay by moving the goalposts. They’re tacitly admitting that changing people’s minds is impossible, so the only option is to polarize undecided people to your side or theirs and hope you win by majority consensus. Being locked in a bitter cycle of disagreement is fine because next time you’ll get to disagree even more strongly than ever before.

So what’s the solution? Don’t make it an argument. If you argue, if you frame each other as adversaries, you’re already in the trap. This is counterintuitive. The simplest thing to do when seeing incorrect information is simply to offer a correction, but if the other person has a strong belief, they will correct your correction, and instead of reaching the truth, you both end up correcting corrections ad infinitum. People think they are being convincing because they have so much evidence, and they can explain it so clearly, and they’re being scrubs.
A scrub is someone who has the goal of winning but doesn’t play to win. They have an idealized version of how the game should be played, and rather than taking the path to success, they doggedly stick to their guns on their ideal way to play, even though it rarely, if ever, works. They undermine themselves and deprive themselves of the skills they need to win on purpose, then rationalize it with concepts like Honor. If you try to prove someone wrong, you’re a scrub. You are directly preventing yourself from doing the thing you want to do. You’re trying to take a shortcut to belief change, and you end up further from the destination than if you had never tried at all, while making yourself and the other person angry and bitter in the process.

The thing to acknowledge is, everyone thinks they’re right. Everyone does what they do for reasons they think are right, and everyone has a self-serving narrative about it. Everyone also thinks they’re better than that and more rational than to be self-serving and think their beliefs are formed by evidence where other people’s are not. We collectively don’t tend to recognize that other people believe what they do for a reason, and we tend to be uninterested in that reason, instead diving headfirst into proving them wrong.

The key is to establish an atmosphere of intellectual honesty. You need to admit fault where you are at fault, and you need to be willing to change your mind in response to what the other person says, or you can’t ever hope to get the same benefit from them, even if you are legitimately completely correct and they are legitimately completely wrong. You need to de-escalate it from being an argument, and instead make it a mutual discussion and search for the truth. If both of you are working together to find out what’s right, then one of you is more likely to actually change your mind, which is what’s important.

This means abandoning the older notion of winning or losing the argument. Nobody can win an argument, because all arguments stalemate with someone eventually backing down because they’re sick of it or have something better to do. What you want is to be right. To act in accordance with the truth. To make decisions that are reflective of the nature of reality . And this is more important than winning an argument. Thus the win condition isn’t just to change the other person’s mind, it’s to have your mind changed too.

Of course, having beliefs isn’t wrong. Arguing for your beliefs isn’t wrong either, but it’s worth double checking at every stage of an argument whether you’re actually right or not, or whether there is anything you could stand to learn. If you are presented with conflicting beliefs or people attempting to prove you wrong, it’s worth trying to re-evaluate your beliefs from scratch. We have the beliefs we do because circumstance has presented us evidence that we think makes them align with truth.

And sometimes you know you’re right and the other person is wrong, and you happen to really be actually legitimately correct, however you cannot act like this is true a priori, because you’re not going to get anywhere, and because there’s no telling what crazy off-chance there is that you might be wrong. If you want the other person to change their mind, you still need to be open to what they say. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will compromise with them or change any of your beliefs at all, but you still need to follow the procedure or you won’t make any progress. If someone comes at you swinging disrespectfully with insults, mockery, and falsehoods, you need to be level-headed and patient enough to de-escalate and ask them to explain where they’re coming from. This is legitimately hard and goes against our instincts as humans, but it is the only way that actually works.

Apart from just being open to their ideas and them to yours and avoiding an adversarial frame, the key is to ask the other person questions about their beliefs and have them ask you questions about yours. Establish a Socratic Dialogue. Asking questions naturally causes you to consider alternative points of view, and helps you understand why the beliefs in the other person formed in the first place. Be legitimately inquisitive and respectful of their beliefs, however much you’re opposed to them. Remember that everyone has a reason for believing what they do that looks legitimate from their perspective and experiences. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine that all the same things happened to you, you only knew what they do, and you think in their way. Then ask yourself if you’d come to the same conclusions as them. Generally, the answer should be yes. If the answer is no, then it’s it’s probably a really weird case, or you have issues with theory of mind and you should work on that.

On the more aggressive front, when you’re relatively certain you’re in the right, you can ask them questions that cause them to realize and themselves point out the issues in their belief. Figure out through questioning what their core values are, and show them a way of looking at your side that is more compatible with their values. Get them to commit to particular stances and use their tendency to be consistent with them to . Avoid attacking them or insulting them, because you want the other person to like you, and you want them to think you’re being fair, which affects whether they’re willing to actually change their mind.

This also means purging yourself of ideas about fairness. Belief change is unfair, and your only win condition is the other person actually changing their mind (or you changing yours). Stalemates are actually losses. Hold yourself to these conditions very firmly and play to win regardless of how unfair the circumstances might seem. Resist the urge to retaliate against the slights of your opponent against you. “Well he did it first, so it’s okay if I do it,” is an excuse to undermine yourself by arguing instead of questioning. It might seem like you’re losing when you turn the other cheek to offenses, but remember your real win condition, which is to effect change in the minds of other people. In the pursuit of that, you should be willing to take any type of abuse or humiliation, because that’s damn better than digging your heels in when you’re wrong, or failing to convince someone because you can’t stay calm over petty offenses. You might have the pure-minded ideal that someone confronted with the facts should have the dignity and rationale to change their mind when shown the truth, but in the same situation, you’d be just as unlikely to change your mind as they are, so you might as well stack the cards in your favor. This is a standard you should hold yourself to, but not anyone else. Always hold yourself to higher standards of intellectual honesty than anyone else and never be unforgiving of other people for failing to meet your standards.

One of the big advantages of this method is also that it usually avoids pissing other people off. Arguments make people angry, where this approach tends to have people end disagreements amicably, even if the point of contention remains by the end, because at least both of you understand where the other person is coming from, and hopefully respect why they hold that value. You can view this entire approach as a style of manipulation, because it’s more effective at changing other people’s beliefs than basically anything else, but on the other hand it also means practicing intellectual honesty, avoiding hostility, and coming to better understand the other person, which means you’ll probably make and keep more friends in the long run as well as learn more stuff and steadily increase the accuracy of your beliefs about the world. You have both the selfish and non-selfish reasons to do this, selfish because it’s the only way to actually change someone else’s mind, and the non-selfish reason of also creating a better community and getting along with other people better.

One drawback is this is time consuming. It takes a lot of time to ask questions, receive answers, and come to a better understanding of the other person. And it’s difficult in longer written formats instead of speaking to the person or text chat which is suited to both short and long messages. It’s much easier to just say why they’re wrong and move on. Unfortunately, this really is the only way I know of to actually get anything done. If it would cost too much time to change someone else’s beliefs about something, then let sleeping dogs lie until a better opportunity arises.

Another drawback is, this doesn’t work on people who are being intentionally intellectually dishonest. It doesn’t work on trolls. It doesn’t work on people who are lying and know it. My best advice for dealing with these people is either don’t, or get to what their real stance is. Remember, (almost) everyone thinks they’re doing what’s right, or at least rationalizes their actions as inconsequential, even if that’s being an asshole and lying to other people. Also don’t be quick to label people as being intentionally intellectually dishonest. That’s a dangerous tactic, because most people are honest with their intentions, even if they don’t have a strong commitment to the truth, and calling them out for something they’re not doing is an easy way to get them to dislike you and not want to listen to you.

You can occasionally get around this whole process, but only if both you and the other person have a pact with yourselves to absolutely accept the truth as truth regardless of how conflicted you are, close to total impartiality and commitment to the truth over reinforcing previously held beliefs. This is extremely rare, and even if you think the other person might be applying this level of intellectual honesty, you can never be totally sure, and it can break down if the conversation goes poorly. If you both trust each other to be truthful and impartial, and to accept the results of the debate when it is clear what the truth is, then you can get things done a lot more quickly.

Another thing is that these are all skills and procedures you can improve and follow. These aren’t things people are born with or not, though some people and personalities find it easier than others. You’re responsible for having more productive social interactions with other people, and you can get better at it if you notice what people respond to and why.

Learning a New Combo

So lately I’ve been playing Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late [st]. I decided for this game I wanted to play a more challenging character than I usually pick, and I heard Vatista was on the more challenging side, being a charge character that lets you charge in ALL FOUR DIRECTIONS and with button holds on 3 different buttons. Oh yeah, this article will include a lot of fighting game notation, so be sure to brush up: http://wiki.shoryuken.com/Notation

Vatista’s toolset is pretty standard for UNIST, she launches by sweeping with 2C, then hitting them with 5C to launch, then does an air chain into a divekick that carries her opponent down, then hits them off the ground into a finisher. The trouble is fitting her charges into the combo, especially the button charges. When Vatista holds a button for 1 second, she can release it, canceling any normal move, producing a crystal that will explode for a lot of damage when struck. So Vatista’s optimal combos involve getting a launcher, doing an air chain, then in the process of OTGing them, creating crystals and detonating them as the ender. Since the crystals require buttons to be held, you need to hold the buttons used in earlier attacks to release crystals later.

The other parts of Vatista’s moveset are a lot like Guile’s. [4]6 is a fireball, [2]8 is a flash kick. [8]2 is a divekick, which involves holding up for slightly longer than a regular jump.

This is made harder because I play on pad, so if I were to hold a button, I’d need to then fat-finger my thumb onto other buttons to press them to continue the combo. Alternatives are holding the pad with my left hand so my right hand can be turned so I use my index finger to manipulate the buttons, but that isn’t comfortable for me. Luckily, I own a Hori Fighting Commander 4. This contoller has R1 and R2 both on the face, and the shoulder. Fighting games don’t normally let you double bind buttons, but this controller gave me an exception. By binding B and C to R1 and R2, I now had them on the face and shoulder at the same time. This means I can hold a shoulder button while pressing the face buttons freely, and if I ever wanted to hold A, I can use the shoulder buttons to attack instead.

So I started the game out by learning an extremely basic combo, 2C 5C j.B j.C [8]2A 2C [2]8B. In this combo, 2C 5C launches, j.B and j.C buy time for me in the air so I can charge [8] for the divekick, which otherwise would take longer to charge than a whole jump. The divekick knocks them down, then I can OTG with 2C, and cancel that into a flashkick to end the combo.

Not so tough, I picked it up in a few training sessions, then eventually moved up to 2C 5C j.A j.B j.C land j.A j.B [8]2A 2C 2B [2]8B, which is basically the same combo, except you use the leftover hitstun from j.C to give you enough time to land and jump again to connect another j.A.

Then I moved up to using crystals, which meant finally using the shoulder buttons I had double bound. So the combo now looks closer to 2C 5C (delay) j.[B] j.C land j.A [8]2A 2C ]B[. This doesn’t have a real ender, but it sets up a crystal at the end. My first attempt at this, I decided to press j.B on the face, then immediately transfer my hold to the shoulder button, which worked, but eventually I realized it would be easier just to press the shoulder button directly. Another pain point was that I’d do 2C at the end, and release B, but no crystal would come out. I was releasing too quickly. I had to delay my release slightly to actually get the crystal out. That wasn’t so hard though. Easily enough, I had a crystal setup. It dealt less damage than my normal combo, but it was the first step, now I needed to learn the real combo.

2C 5C (delay) j.[B] j.C land j.A [8]2A 2[C] 2]B[ 2A 2B 5]c[
This is the combo I’m still working on. First thing to note is that I can skip the delay at the start if I’m willing to do j.A after launching (scales the combo, making it deal less damage), but that’s not really important. If I don’t delay properly, or use j.A, then the land into j.A later on won’t connect, they’ll be able to tech out after my j.C. The delay makes it so j.C happens later in the jump arc, as I’m landing. The next problem is the ender. It’s hard. So hard I decided to practice the ender by itself before integrating it into the combo. First I’d do this by holding down B for a second, then doing 2C 2]B[.

The first problem I had was doing 2A after the crystal release. I’d miss the link, then do a 2B that wouldn’t combo. Or I’d mash and get 2A 2A which wouldn’t combo. Eventually I fixed this by watching vatista’s crystal release animation for when she would retract her hand, instead of watching the opponent’s character (which I normally do during the juggle).

the next issue I had was releasing C to get the second crystal out. The second crystal needs to be released before the first one is done exploding. This means it needs to be released on the first hit of B and no later. My technique at the time for getting the C hold was pressing the C face button, then releasing the B shoulder button, then holding the C shoulder with the same finger, and then doing A and B with my thumb on the face buttons. But this technique had a problem, I was releasing C when I was transfering my hold from B to C on the shoulder buttons. So I’d do the pickup correctly from the first crystal release, and oddly find I could not release the second crystal off the first hit of 2B. I needed to wait a little, and waiting at all meant the second crystal would not be released soon enough to detonate.

Eventually I realized that I needed to continuously hold C from when it was first pressed, but this has another problem, I can’t hold down the C face button because that means I can’t press A to do the OTG. And I can’t just press the C shoulder button, because that would mean releasing B shoulder, so I couldn’t release the first crystal (I could use 2 fingers, but I don’t want to). So my solution was to hold face C a bit longer while I transferred my hold from shoulder B to shoulder C, before I needed to press 2A for the OTG. With a bit of experimentation, I found this worked and I could now do the entire ender! Now that I could do that consistently, I just had to put it together, but that’s where I ran into another problem.

I’d do the entire air chain successfully into the knockdown, then 2C and the crystal release, but couldn’t do the 2A to follow up. It wouldn’t combo! This seemed similar to my issue of timing from earlier, but that wasn’t it. I could do the link fine when practiced by itself, but I can’t do it in the middle of the combo, because I was canceling 2C into crystal release too late. Why’s that? because when I practice just the ender, 2C is my first input, and I only press it once. When I was doing it in the middle of the combo, I was mashing 2C to make sure it came out, but this meant I didn’t know when it was actually coming out, and I couldn’t cancel into crystal release at the correct timing on reaction. So I needed to reduce my mashing to one single press at the right moment in order to do the whole ender.

And that’s about where I am. I can do every part of the combo individually, and I have landed the whole thing in a match once before, but I still need to practice to actually get consistent at it. The hard part is, there’s so many little parts that make this difficult, it’s hard to keep consistent at all of them simultaneously. Also obviously playing on Pad makes this a lot harder than it normally should be, but I’m having fun with it, and nothing is impossible to pull off, even with my ridiculous limitations, which fits the bill for trying out a higher execution character. Plus Vatista is insanely fun, she’s the charge queen with a crazy amount of footsies play too.

Overall, I think there’s something really special in coming up against hurdles, experimenting to figure out the nature of the system, including the actual game, my controller of choice, and my own physical and mental processes of execution.

Reworking DMC’s Controls

I think you’ve already expressed your dislike for Chain Combos, and while I understand where you coming from, I can’t imagine a way to totally get rid of them in 3D Beat em Ups without making the controls an abomination to use

Does DMC4 count? Or is that an abomination?

I’d say God Hand is a reasonable example too, it has 1 chain on square, then command moves on X, Triangle, and down + X/Triangle/Square. Plus it has hidden contextual moves on triangle that are just direction + button, and dashing attacks. Since God Hand lets you assign any move to any button, you have a fair number of moves that you could potentially assign. A chain + 5 command moves.This obviously isn’t the most in the world, but it’s a fair number of moves with no chains required. Continue reading

How to Cater to Fighting Game Beginners

How do you feel SFV and MvCI’s approach to catering to newcomers compares to Sakurai’s approach with Brawl and Smash 4?

It’s not nearly as bad, but it’s very similar in its heavy-handedness.

Instead of trying to lower the skill floor of the game, they did that and lowered the ceiling as well. Honestly, I don’t know as much about MVCI, it sounded like that game did fairly well except for hitstun decay being tied to damage, and the discoveries people (infinites, hitstun decay glitch, the new unblockable) making progressively making the game less and less interesting to play, but whatever.

Characters in SFV don’t have as much potential for combo creativity as characters in SF4. They made combos easier and more understandable, but they also reduced the number of moves on each character that link and limited the juggle properties of characters even more severely than the juggle points system in SF4 (unless I’m mistaken. SFV’s juggle system is still a bit weird and hard to understand). SFV was intended to correct SF4’s mistakes, but they overcorrected and ended up making new problems.

The issue is, they removed a lot of the potential for advanced play from the game in the name of making the game easier to pick up, and those two goals aren’t mutually inclusive. Having a lower skill ceiling doesn’t attract beginners, and honestly, neither does making the game easier. SF4 was one of the best selling SF games in the franchise, despite being arguably so difficult. Casual fans are more attracted by having a large roster of characters that they like than anything specific about the game systems. Casual fans are more attracted by single player content like Mortal Kombat’s. Brawl and Smash 4 at least delivered on those fronts, there’s a lot you can do without needing friends to play with you, and the rosters are large.

Dragon Ball FighterZ has a really neat auto-combo system that helps bridge the gap even better, without compromising high level combos in the process. Basically, you have 2 autocombos, LLL and MMM, and these will do simple combos. The light autocombo does 3 unique light attacks in a row, the 3rd one launching into a low air combo, where you can again press LLL to do light, medium, and heavy in a row. The Medium autocombo does standing medium, crouching medium, a special, then super if you have meter. What’s cool about these is, lights chain into mediums, and mediums chain into heavies. So instead of doing the next hit of the auto combo, you can at any time do a better attack instead.

What’s also cool is, later on in the combo, you can default back to doing the auto combo. So beginners can easily do LLL or MMM, but they can substitute for better attacks, then default back to the easy stuff where they don’t know the way yet. So you can do MM, but instead of continuing, you could press H to launch the opponent, then go back to doing LLL in the air to finish up the combo. If you do crouching H, then you will even get a hard knockdown off this, which you can combo into super.

In this way, beginners can slowly ramp up their combos into more optimal sequences, LMH > LLL, or LMH > LM > special > super, or 2M 5M > jc > LM 2H > LM dj LM > special > vanish > special > super. The combo trials hint at a lot of these common combo properties across characters, though I still wish they were more extensive, and the tutorial was better.

And the best part is, advanced players still have difficult and advanced juggle combos they can perform for optimal damage, or using assists and so on, so unlike MVCI and SFV, there wasn’t anything compromised in the process of building this system. The air autocombo even has special height gaining properties that make it useful in combos.

I still think they dropped the ball a bit on the tutorial end of the game however. It can be difficult for players to realize all this, especially because they probably don’t understand what’s happening in the combo trials, they just see a list of moves and don’t understand all the different ways it can go. It also doesn’t help that they didn’t include the basic universal B&B anywhere in the Combo Trials. Oh well.

Weird Controls are Good for You

What do you think of games like Octodad or Snake Pass, where most of the difficulty comes from dealing with odd controls?

What do you think of Call of Duty, God Hand, or Mario Odyssey, where most of the difficulty comes from dealing with odd controls?


Learning new control schemes is fun thing to do. All the control schemes we regularly use used to be awkward or confusing when we first encountered them, what do you think of the first time people played FPS games with a controller? Or the first time they played with a mouse? Or the first time they played FPS games at all? Every game was that way for all of us at some point.

What makes these control schemes so odd really is just unfamiliarity. These games are modeling specific types of interactions, and are these the worst controls they could have chosen to do that? Or the best controls? If you want to make a game about slithering like a snake, about gripping objects and wrapping around them, how else could you possibly build it?

Mark Brown did a pretty decent video explaining snakepass, and something he showed rather well was the progression from being bad at the game to coming to a fuller understanding of it, which I really like.

Weird control schemes are a bridge to modeling new types of interaction, and creating new, unfamiliar systems to learn about and develop competency in, which is what games are all about.

How to Perform Fighting Game Motions

A lot of beginners have trouble understanding exactly how the motions are supposed to be performed in fighting games, it can be tricky to understand without being shown in person. I’ve seen a lot of people interpret a dragon punch motion like this before:


Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator has a great combo trial move that starts off by showing you the motions of every character displayed on a stick, with your inputs juxtaposed directly below the example, so you can compare your inputs to theirs. It even shows when the button is pressed, so you can see that too (more useful if you’re trying it yourself, but still).

This helps side-step a lot of the issues beginners have with learning how to do motions and learning notation. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to Guilty Gear Revelator, so not everyone can learn this way.

To remedy this, I made gifs of each of the combo trials, with the corresponding motion listed above, so you can have a visual reference for how to do different motions. The buttons are random, whatever I had available from the guilty gear movelist, so please pay more attention to when the button is pressed, rather than which button is pressed. I’ll also list how it’s usually written in notation, so you can be familiar when you run into it. It’s also worth mentioning, all of these assume you’re facing right. I’ll even list them in numeric notation, which is a way of unambiguously specifying which directions you’re pressing. Here’s an explanation of that:


The red ball indicates where your stick/dpad is currently pointing, with the center being neutral, and the 8 dots around the sides being the 8 directions you can point.

Quarter Circle Forward / QCF / down, down-forward, forward / d, d/f, f / 236


This is the most basic motion. This is the basis of all the other motions. It’s called a quarter circle, because if you look at the 8 directions you can point in as a circle, it’s 1/4th of the circle. This motion is in every fighting game.

Quarter Circle Back / QCB / down, down-back, back / d, d/b, b / 214


Same as the QCF, except backwards. You can use a lot of moves just by knowing these two motions.

Dragon Punch / DP / Z-Motion / forward, down, down-forward / f, d, d/f / 623


This is the second most common motion in fighting games, and a stumbling block for a lot of beginners. You’re allowed to input it a bit sloppy, like 63236, just be sure not to accidentally do a double QCF in the process, and to complete the motion before you press attack. 6523 is also a valid way of inputting dragon punch.

Reverse Dragon Punch / RDP / back, down, down-back / b, d, d/b / 421


Same as the Dragon Punch, but backwards. This motion is really uncommon, but it shows up occasionally, and it’s always bizarrely harder to do than a regular DP, even though you’ll be used to doing DPs on both sides from normal play. This gif also shows off a sloppy way of inputting the DP, 4121, instead of a clean 421. And it’s input a lot faster than the others, showing you can do the motions quickly and they will still come out. 4521 is also a valid way to input a reverse dragon punch.

Half Circle Forward / HCF / back, down-back, down, down-forward, forward / b, d/b, d, d/f, f / 41236


Less common than a DP, but more than a reverse DP, half circle motions can be  significantly trickier to perform than quarter circle motions, even though they’re only slightly different. These motions are typically used for moves meant to have a bit more impact than a quarter circle move.

Half Circle Back / HCB / forward, down-forward, down, down-back, back / f, d/f, d, d/b, b / 63214


Same as the Half Circle Forward, just backwards. These are frequently used for weaker command grabs.

Charge Back-Forwards / back (hold), forwards / [b], f / [4] 6


Charge moves involve holding back for about a second, then tapping forwards and a button. They’re usually a bit stronger to make up for this charge time. You can also hold down-back to charge without moving backwards as you charge. Moving the stick to a position that isn’t back will cause you to lose your charge however, so you need to be either immobile, or walking backwards to charge.

Charge Down-Up / down (hold), up / [d], u / [2] 8


This charge move involves holding down, then tapping up and pressing attack. Note that if you’re too slow to press attack, you’ll do a jumping attack instead of your special move. Like with charge back-forwards you can hold down-back to charge and block at the same time. This will charge both charge moves simultaneously, so you can choose to use either one. In Guilty Gear, you don’t even need to press straight up or straight forwards to perform charge specials, you can instead press up-back, or down-forwards, letting you hang onto the other charge.

Double Quarter Circle Forward / 2QCF / QCF QCF / 236236


This is the most common super input in fighting games. It’s as simple as doing 2 QCFs back to back. It can be rather tricky, and frequently you can get Dragon Punches if you’re sloppy, or get supers if you’re sloppy with your dragon punches.

Double Quarter Circle Back / 2QCB / QCB QCB / 214214


Same as double QCF, just backwards. Also a really common super input.

Down Down / 22


Tap down twice, simple as it gets. Uncommon input in most games, very common in games by French Bread, such as Melty Blood. Frequently used as an alternative to the DP input.

Half Circle Back, Forward / HCB F / 632146


This is an extremely uncommon input found only in Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and King of Fighters really. It’s frequently used as a super input in these games, and for command throws.

Quarter Circle Forward Half Circle Back / QCF HCB  / 2363214


Another uncommon input except to those 3 games. This is only used as a super input. It can be tricky, try your best.

360 / SPD / 6248


A fairly common input, limited to grappler characters usually. Even though the instructions generally say to spin the stick 360 degrees, the game actually only cares if you hit all 4 cardinal directions (in any order you want, as long as it’s a complete rotation). An easier way to perform this move when you’re learning it is to do a half circle back, then tap up. Since you need to tap up at some point during the input, if you’re too slow to press punch, you will jump. This means it’s generally easier to do 360s when you’re already jumping in on your opponent, or dashing, or doing some other action that will prevent you from jumping.

Building Deep Traversal Systems

how do you make deep traversal systems for 2D games? I was thinking about outland which has a double color mechanic where you switch them to phase through same colored bullet patterns, but it seems just monkey see, monkey do

The idea is, create different movement capabilities for the player with different physical properties, different niches, and design obstacles around those, without making the obstacles strictly about demanding the player use one type of traversal on it. Don’t make any movement ability a silver bullet for a particular type of obstacle.

You can see this a lot in good 3d platformers (all 2 of them), like Mirror’s Edge, or Mario games. You have a lot of different movement mechanics, but none of the obstacles specifically require you to use one, they’re more generic, like, get up to this height, move across these moving platforms, avoid these obstacles, and leave the rest up to you.

A lot of 2d games already have deep movement systems, like Castlevania Symphony of the Night (and many of the games following in that style), Super Metroid, Smash Bros Melee, Yoshi’s Island, Sonic, Gimmick!, Demon’s Crest, Wario Land 4, Megaman X (especially X3, which had a grapple and airdash), Ori and the Blind Forest, Megaman and Bass, and more.

There’s a lot that can be done with airdashes, double jumps, long jumps, slides, ground pounds, and more.

What are your favorite type of restrictions for challenge runs? (Stuff like no damage, X weapon only, ect.)

I like low% runs. Where you try to limit how much of an essential resource you pick up or use, or whatever. The Mario 64 ABC run is a great example of this, as well as Low% in a number of Metroid games. Min Captures, max moons in Mario Odyssey seems to be shaping up to be this too.

I like restrictions which force creativity. Pacifist runs tend to be cool too. It’s cool to see things that are technically possible, but the game simply wasn’t designed for.

Emo Kid Special Moves (Self Harm)

What do you think of special moves in fighting games that damage the player when they use them?

I’m not a fan of mechanics that push both players closer to losing simultaneously, negative feedback. Mechanics like this could also be called Collateral Damage or Mutually Assured Destruction. The idea is, you’re taking damage, but hopefully you deal more than you take, and even though you’re wrecking yourself, you will push the game closer to ending faster and be on top when it does end.

You can think of moves like this dealing effectively less damage, since they’re damaging you at the same time, so you’re not gaining as big a lead over your opponent by using them. So if I deal 4 points of damage to you, and 1 to myself, I only really dealt 3 points of damage to you, but moved the game 1 point closer to overall conclusion. This can tend to make games more swingy, because it functions a bit like negative feedback. It also makes characters with this trait effectively weaker than characters without it, unless their damage is compensated for the damage they deal to themselves.

In a game like Smash where the amount of damage you can take isn’t capped, and isn’t directly tied to losing, this can work out slightly better, because you can continue to use the self-destructive moves ad infinitum, just taking on additional damage, instead of outright killing yourself. I take this tactic with Snake a lot. He can pull out grenades and go suicide bomber with them, and you blow yourself up a lot, but hopefully you blow the enemy up more often. Also when coming down, you can pull out a grenade and if the opponent hits you, it will cause you to drop the grenade. If they hit the grenade too, then it will explode, damaging both of you, and overriding the knockback of their move, usually for a lower knockback, which can help you survive a lot of hits. In this way you can evade death at great personal cost, while dealing damage to the opponent as well. Since there isn’t a fixed percentage that you die at in smash, you can abuse this a fair amount, and use it to turn the tables on your opponent (though of course, you come out a lot worse in that trade than they do).

Overall though, I think adjusting payoffs in this way doesn’t contribute significantly to the depth of a game. It doesn’t strongly differentiate the game states in my opinion the same way changing the physical characteristics of moves does. I don’t think Pichu is significantly more interesting for damaging himself, I think it’s largely pointless. Even if it is a cool touch for characters like Tien in DBFZ (and it works mildly better in DBFZ, because killing a character is a much bigger benefit than just getting a health advantage, so it can be a tradeoff of orthogonal assets, rather than strictly victory points).