Tuesday, September 28, 2010

FFYL - Final Round pt 1: Execution and Movesets



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This entry is part of a series on learning the basics of Fighting Games - to read previous entries click here

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We've finally arrived at the end of our journey.

This lesson (which is spread out into two parts ) will be the last, as this will complete your basic training of fighting games. How are you? do you feel a little stronger, a little better? Do you think you can take me in a round or two of Street Fighter or KOF? You probably could...

So are you ready for your final lesson?

Good. Let's dance!


Since this is the last FFYL episode I'll be providing some music while we learn. It gives me an excuse to jam out while I'm typing this.




A word about Execution 

There were quite a few people I had talked to when throwing around the idea of this guide, who stated that their main issue with fighting games were the proper execution. I won't lie to you, reader, execution in fighting games can range from the easy (hadoukens) to the moderate (shoryukens, flash kicks and charge moves) to the downright difficult (Final atomic busters and 360 degree moves). However, none of this is impossible. Every move can be done, it's just a matter of fully understanding the concept of input windows and motions involved in pulling the move off.  To further discuss this, I'll be posting snippets from the wordpress blog; Schlaghund's playground, which really goes in depth here.


In addition to the extra buttons typically found in 2D fighters, they also tend to have more complex and hard-to-grasp motions.  3D fighter special moves generally consist of single or double directional inputs plus a combination of buttons.  For instance, in Virtua Fighter, the majority of the moves you’ll see look like 6P+K, K+G, 33K, and the like.  On the other hand, 2D fighter special moves are most often executed with complex quarter-circle, half-circle, full-circle, dragon-punch, and charge inputs. 
In Street Fighter, a shotokan player stands little chance without having 236P or 623P burned into their muscle memory.  The complexity of inputs is made most apparent when subjected to the “wife test”.  My wife was able to learn and consistently reproduce a good number of Pai’s moves in Virtua Fighter.  But when it came to playing Chun-Li in Street Fighter IV, her consistent move execution was limited to either the lightning legs (repeat K) or her auto-crossup (3HK).  While she was able to do quarter circles and dragon punch inputs after multiple attempts in trial mode, there was no way she could do them on command in the middle of a fight.  And you can forget the half-circles.
Finally, to seal the coffin on the casual player’s foray into 2D fighting, 2D fighters generally have an additional factor of input timing complexity.  Again, the reasons for this are completely arbitrary, but as far as I’m aware, input windows are far stricter, and combos are much more difficult to execute consistently because of these strict timing requirements.  2D fighter combos are traditionally based on two concepts that rely on strict timing – cancelling and linking.  Cancelling is the concept of cancelling one move animation into another.  Combos derived from this mechanic involve inputting two moves in very rapid succession.  This cancelling window is generally small, so the player has to be very quick in order for the combo to succeed.  Linking is the concept of inputting a second move between the end of the first move’s animation and the end of the opponent’s hit stun.  In many cases, the input window for linking moves is extremely small – on the order of one or two frames.  These are typically what make Street Fighter IV’s hard trials… well… hard.  3D fighters, on the other hand, seem to have very lenient timing in comparison, where a player can buffer a second move anytime during the first move’s entire animation, and it’ll follow immediately after the first move ends.
It’s become quite clear that, for whatever reason, the 2D fighting game has a stronger focus on complex execution than its 3D counterpart.  This gives us the opportunity to examine the role of execution in fighting games by taking a closer look at 2D fighters and the characteristics that set them apart from their more strategic peers.  This is not to say that 2D fighters are inherently unique.  The evolution of the genre just happened to put them in that unique position of possessing complex and more difficult execution schemes.
Many people decry difficulty in execution as the biggest “problem” with fighting games.  David Sirlin, famed Street Fighter tournament player and game designer, wrote a widely circulated rant about Street Fighter IV’s “impenetrable wall of execution”.  I’ve also made mention in the past about my disdain for unnecessarily difficult inputs.  But I’m starting to question whether this “execution barrier” is really a problem at all.
Sounds pretty hard huh? It's not. Figuring out how to perform movesets is just mere learning through repetition. Most of the time when I try to get a handle on my characters I spend ample time in training mode doing drills of ten to twenty times each per move until it becomes a part of your muscle memory, and once that happens it'll be more instinctual to apply the appropriate move to combat anything anyone has to use against you.



All too common....


Let's cover the basic special moves. I'll be posting up information on each one, while adding commentary and additional techniques that I've learned over the years. For this section we'll be using information gathered from  The beginners guide to Fighting Games

Quarter-circle forward
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The quarter-circle forward (usually “QCF”, also “fireball motion”, “Hadōken motion”, etc.; 236 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “236”.
  • On an arcade stick, you perform this motion by passing the stick through the down position through to the forward position.
  • On a gamepad, you perform this motion by sliding your left thumb from the down position through to the forward position. You may also use whatever feels more comfortable to you so long as you go through the right directions.
  • On the keyboard, you perform this motion by hitting the ‘down’ direction, then hitting the ‘forward’ direction, then letting go of the ‘down’ direction.
  • Don’t be too fast if you’re new to all this. You can build up speed soon enough. That being said, don’t be too slow. You need to be confident in your motions.
  • You can perform this via a half-circle motion if you need to (e.g., out of a block, or if you’re not sure of the command because it’s your first time playing).
XXSP:  - QCF is a straight forward movement that starts from the down button to the left or right button depending on where you're facing. your thumb should arc and at the end of the motion press the appropriate button to activate the move. Some moves like Kyo's 'Wicked Chew' require you to input QCF +P twice with an additional button press at the end in order to pull off a three hit combo. Characters like K' need to perform an additional move (QCF+P then Forward + LK) to throw a fireball. In KOF 2003 and further installments K' has a diagonal fireball that can be done in midair using just QCF+K.

Quarter-Circle Back
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The quarter-circle back (usually “QCB”, also “hurricane kick motion”, etc.; 214 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “214”.
  • Obviously, this is just the quarter-circle forward going the other way. If you know one, you know the other. But just to be safe....
  • On an arcade stick, you perform this motion by passing the stick through the down position through to the backward position.
  • On a gamepad, you perform this motion by sliding your left thumb from the down position through to the backward position. You may also use whatever feels more comfortable to you so long as you go through the right directions.
  • On the keyboard, you perform this motion by hitting the ‘down’ direction, then hitting the ‘backward’ direction, then letting go of the ‘down’ direction.
The quarter-circle back motion comes from the Tatsumaki Senpūkyaku rushing move in Street Fighter. It is often assigned to forward-rushing moves, even in older games (like Terry Bogard’s “burn knuckle”). It is sometimes assigned to backwards-rushing or up-and-over-rushing moves. It is also often assigned to more defensive-minded moves

XXSP:  It's merely just the reverse of QCF so the execution is about the same. In KOF XI QCB is Kyo's default fireball action, as his QCF move is now the flame rekka. Like above Terry's Burn Knuckle is tied to this motion as well as his Crack Shoot move. Additionally you can easily two-in-one two jabs into a burn knuckle for a basic two hit combo.


Dragon Punch 
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The dragon-punch motion (usually “DP”, also “SRK”: both names take after the Shōryūken; 623 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “623”.
  • This one is probably the trickiest out of all the basic motions, but once you’ve got it down, you don’t soon forget it.
  • On an arcade stick, you perform this motion by starting at the forward position, then moving the stick to the downward position (try to make it go through the neutral position instead of the down-forward position), then to the down-forward position.
    • You will see this represented as a “Z” shape on some graphically-oriented depictions of the stick in certain publications (such as magazines, arcade inserts, manuals, strategy guides, and so forth). This is an idealization; it may work for you if you think of it this way, but it may not. Just try it for yourself, and see if it does.
  • On a gamepad, you perform this motion by hitting forward, then hitting down, then sliding your thumb to hit down-forward.
  • On a keyboard, you perform this motion by tapping the forward key, then hitting
  • In many games, you can cheat on this a little (it depends on the game’s buffer behavior, to tell the truth; and some games will do other things to let you cheat: Street Fighter III lets you do 323 and it’ll still work, though the actual purpose of this is to let you start out crouching). It is still preferable to get the motion exact, but don’t worry yourself by thinking you have to – you often don’t, and with enough practice, you will eventually have no problem.
The dragon-punch motion comes from the Shōryūken anti-air move in Street Fighter (which was actually given a voice-acted declaration of “dragon punch” in non-Japanese releases of the first SF).
It is usually assigned to anti-air moves of all sorts
XXSP: This is a pretty tricky move, but the easiest way I could explain how to perform this one is to hold the forward button on the dpad for one second like you were going to walk towards someone and then suddenly input QCF+P. This is a super secret technique I learned from a good friend back in the day, and it works every time without you having to do thumb gymnastics. There's a bit of delay in the older games like SF2 where you have to really wait until Ryu or Ken starts to walk before you can QCF to get the move out, but it really does work 100% of the time, and will save your ass every time.


Half-Circle Forward
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The half-circle forward (usually “HCF”; 41236 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “41236”.
  • On an arcade stick, you perform this motion by starting at the backward position, then quickly moving the stick through the down position over to the forward position.
  • On a gamepad, you perform this motion by hitting back, then sliding your thumb over through the down position (quickly) and ending at the forward position.
  • On the keyboard, you perform this motion by very smoothly hitting back, then down, then releasing back, then
    • Yes, it’s possible to do this perfectly; I do this all the time. It took me a while, though.
  • Any one of these methods will often allow you to do a pretty lazy half-circle, where you do not perfectly hit all the directions in between, but the game will register it as a successful half-circle anyway. It depends on the game (and sometimes even the character; for example, you can perform some half-circle commands in Street Fighter III without hitting the down direction explicitly, but Makoto’s Karakusa grab requires it).
The half-circle forward is often assigned to command throws and trap moves.
XXSP: The author pretty much explains this to a tee.



Half-Circle Back
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The half-circle back (usually “HCB”; 63214 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “63214”.
  • This is just the HCF in reverse. If you’ve got one down, you’ve got the other.
The half-circle back is often assigned to command throws.
XXSP: Iori's "Deadly Flower" move often works better using HCB three times instead of QCB, but I think that's just me.

360 degree motion 
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The full circle (also “360”; numpad notation varies) is a somewhat-difficult motion, as one can probably tell just by thinking about it.
It should be noted that it is rarely actually a full 360º. The requirement is usually that you hit every vertical and horizontal direction once, in order.
Moreover, it is rarely necessary to differentiate between clockwise and counterclockwise full circles.
Finally, it rarely matters to the move itself what direction you start from. What really matters in this case is jumping: because the up direction must be hit at some point, you either have to start from the up direction (with all the risks of an empty jump), or be nimble enough to input the move without causing a jump (which is obviously preferable, but obviously not all that easy to do at first), starting from the side direction. Air 360 commands are pretty rare, so these consequences are practically negligible.
  • On an arcade stick, you perform this motion by starting at the the initial position (top or side), and quickly whip it around the circle until you reach the final position (side or top, respectively).
  • On a gamepad, you perform this motion by starting at the initial position (top or side) and quickly slide around the circle (or manipulate the center of the D-pad) until you reach the final position (side or top, respectively).
    • A lot of players give up on the D-pad for this one point and use the analog stick. This is only okay if the game allows you to do it. Fortunately, it does make this one particular motion much easier. Other than circle motions, many people have trouble making the analog stick do the basic eight directions very well.
  • On the keyboard, you perform this motion by starting at the initial position and ending at the final position.
    • If you start at the top, you need to perform a perfect half-circle when you are ready. This will complete the 360.
    • If you start at the side, you perform a perfect half-circle followed immediately by the up direction. If you can do a perfect half-circle on command, you will probably have no problem timing this correctly.
    • You can, of course, tap the directions really fast if you can’t do a perfect half-circle. This is pretty easy on a set of arrow keys. This is not very easy on an arcade stick or a gamepad (though I suppose that plenty of MK and Tekken players could do it if they tried!).
The 360 is practically always assigned to a command throw (and usually a very powerful one). More recent games pretty much eschew it because it makes playing old-school grapplers (like Zangief or Hugo) very, very hard compared to new-school grapplers (like Daimon, Shermie, or Alex... though Alex’s “Hyper Bomb” super still uses it).
 
 XXSP: Now that I think of it Alex's hyper bomb is pretty easy to pull off compared to a Final Atomic Buster. Then again Tizoc/Griffin's moves are a little easier to pull off in MOTW as well.




 Charge moves
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The first thing you should know about charge moves of this type is that (in 2D games, at least) holding the 1 direction counts as holding both the 4 and 2 at the same time; plus, you will be ready for a crouching block.
It is possible to begin charging during jumps and when knocked down; the former is essential for combos and the latter for reversals.
Some games will let you begin a charge before a round starts, so that you can use a special move at the very beginning of a round if you want; in this case, it is important to keep your options open, particularly if you have a projectile.

Once again, it is worth noting that charges that allow you to hold the 1 or 4 directions allow you to input the command while blocking, and begin the move immediately after; for moves with quick startup, this is exceedingly good at counterattacking.

The particulars of charge move execution vary from game to game, so a charge character may be easy to use, but not necessarily good for beginners.
XXSP: Characters like Remy, Blanka and Guile benefit the most from this information. Take what's being said here to heart. You might want to get some serious practice in if you're interested in using charge characters, or else you can find yourself getting your rear end handed to you often.





Supers
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Supers tend to be variations on normal special moves. There are two types of supers which are the double QCF and QCB motions of Capcom games, and the HCB + HCF motions of the SNK games, or some variation of the two types. I'll let the author of  The Beginner's guide to fighting games explain it further.

 On double motion supers...
Almost always for super special moves, some command motions (i.e. QCF, QCB, HCF, HCB, and 360) are doubled up. This is sometimes notated by adding a “×2”, and sometimes notated by doubling up the command; it really comes down to preference rather than convention in this case.
The charge commands are not usually doubled up, because a double-charge would be very strange to manage; instead, the SB-style double form is usually “4 (charge) 646”, and the FK-style double form tends to be fudged in in various ways, such as the “triangle charge”: 1319. (charge)
The double 360 is particularly odd in that just as the 360 tends to actually be 270º, the “720” tends to actually be 630º (a full 360º plus 270º). It is very tough to pull off (especially standing), but if you want to be the baddest grappler player ever... well, get crackin’!
 On HCB HCF supers...

A very common motion for supers in SNK-made or SNK-influenced games (especially the KOF series) involves a combination of a quarter circle going one way followed immediately by a half-circle going the other.
The primary advantage is that these are not difficult to do, and do not often backfire in the same way that doubled-up commands do (e.g., trying to do a reversal dragon-punch and misfiring as a double-QCF super).
The primary disadvantage is that they still backfire (especially because SNK likes to go crazy with buffers and arcane commands). Invent a foolproof mechanism, and nature will come up with a better fool, I suppose....
 There are going to be quite a few times when you push a super out when you meant to push out a special. It happens to the best of us, but with patience and a little time you should have it happen less and less as you go. The big thing to remember is to not force your moves out, or else the inputs will get scrambled. Execution isn't about rushing out moves. it's about properly performing them as the answer to an offensive attack. 



Advanced Method: The Raging Demon and the Rising Storm



There are a couple of moves that weren't mentioned before because let's just face it. these are the trickiest ones to do. Tiger Knee (before it was relegated to QCF+K ) is a pain in the ass to get out sometimes, but the most difficult move to pull off in combat would be the Shungokusatsu: AKA - Instant Hell Murder AKA, Raging Demon. I can pull the move off maybe 40% of the time, but I never use it if I'm playing as Gouki or Evil Ryu against another opponent for that very reason. If I could pull it off successfully 100% of the time, I still probably wouldn't do it, unless I was being a showoff, or knew I could get away with it. The move itself is unblockable, but you can poke someone out of it, or jump over it and start a crossup/mixup rather easily. Now that i've explained the risks, behind performing it, let's show you how to do these moves.


This is a nasty little chain for a nastly little move, which I am going to conjecture may have originally been a quiet shout-out from Capcom to the Mortal Kombat crowd, they being used to tapping directions for specials and such.
The command is “LP, LP, 6, LK, HP”. It is the most famous chain-type command outside the MK world, and the resulting move is quite iconic. Thus, Capcom has copied and parodied it themselves (e.g. Morrigan and Dan have their own “versions” of it), and Eolith snuck a few such similar commands in their two KOF games, just so the SNK crowd could have a few yuks (it’s pretty hilarious when Yuri pulls it off in 2001, I think).
Ironically Yuri has a Shin-Shoryuken (Shin-Shoreppa) in KOF 2001 as well, but that's for another time. The trick to the Raging Demon seems to be in the incredible amount of speed required to pull it off. Most people will tell you that you should be able to perform the command at least within one second or a little over one second in order to pull it off . It's one of the most riskiest gambles, and yet successfully pulling it of leads to extreme bragging rights.

Incidentally another difficult move for beginners to perform is Geese Howard's Raging Storm (which was butchered in one of the SNK Vs Capcom strategy guides as "Rasing a Storm" LOL ahh Americans.)

Also known as “that @#$%ing pretzel thing”, among many other names. This is not that common, actually, but it is kind of fun to be able to do this one on command, and it has all the hallmarks of being a good thing to practice and keep in your arsenal, because Geese’s Raging Storm tends to cover a lot of situations, and it is really scary to face off against someone who can use it at will.
The command motion is “1632143”. That is, it is a down-back, followed by a half-circle, followed by a down-forward. And if you think about it, that really is a pretzel shape.

(This is also a pretty good litmus test for whether you end up liking SNK games or you don’t).
If memory serves me, I think in later games you can just QCF QCB  to cheat it. I know that's what you can do in later games, and with Rock Howard. Still after playing this game you'd think your thumbs would be worn down to the muscle with all these different moves.

The last part of this will be strictly about the psychology aspect of fighting games, and how good use of Mind games will benefit you greatly. Stay tuned.

Game on!

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