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What Are Footsies?

October 31st, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The term “footsies” refers to a subset of zoning focusing primarily on close range normals, where the most common goals are to knock the opponent down and set up crossup opportunities. What the hell does that even mean?

Unfortunately it means literally everything at the core of competitive Street Fighter strategy. That makes it a difficult subject to cover in one session. None of the short definitions are useful and it takes time to process conceptual ideas before they can be converted into anything practical. I’ll give it a shot, but i have a feeling i’ll have to come back to this on several occasions because there’s always more to it.

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Footsies is figuring out what your opponent wants to do and punishing them for being predictable. Footsies is putting your opponent in a situation where they have to take risks they were trying to avoid. Footsies is knowing both characters’ attack ranges better than your opponent does, and finding ways to exploit that advantage.

The concept is so complex, that you may as well define it as “close-range critical thinking.” When you try to create a comprehensive definition of footsies, that definition refuses to end. Watson, Valle, and Choi could probably write books on the subject.

The simplest concrete example of footsies is walking into your opponent’s attack range to bait them into poking at you, walking back out of range to let their attack whiff, then punishing their recovery animation with a sweep. When someone decides to learn footsies, this is commonly the first tactic attempted. However, anyone who’s actually tried this will tell you that (alert) people stop falling for it very quickly. Then what do you do? Well, mastery of footsies is knowing how to punish everything, including your opponent’s decision not to poke.

Nowadays most fighting game players are great at explaining the basic components of intermediate play. Especially with the more “technical” games such as SF4 and CvS2, lots of players hang out on random fighting game forums and read every article they can get their hands on. It’s just that you get to a point where it’s no longer about what’s a safe poke and what’s a good combo.

Once you cross over into the realm of mindgames, everything becomes far more difficult to pin down. And it’s not necessarily necessary for success. In fact, some of the best footsies players are terrible at explaining the elements they themselves have invented. Nothing wrong with that. After all, not everyone is interested in turning SF into an online university. Most top players are interested primarily in being top players. But for the guy trying to figure out why Daigo keeps walking back and forth at midrange, a straightforward explanation would be nice.

The best way to teach yourself footsies is to commit to the following rules:
1) Don’t jump for an entire match.
2) Don’t dash for an entire match.
3) Limit yourself to one Psychic DP attempt per match.

Every round you play with these rules will help you gain a better understanding of your normal moves, will teach you how to control space by walking, and will force you to learn the meaning of patient offense. If you watch any high-end tournament match, you’ll notice that all top players possess all of these skills. They don’t come easy, but that’s okay. You’ll continue making progress as long as you remember what you’re after.

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  1. Kareeeeem
    November 3rd, 2009 at 04:06 | #1

    This is what makes a game interesting to me. Not what special has the most invincibility, or what special is safest. Using the correct pokes based on hitboxes and spacing while not exactly being the most exciting thing to look at for spectators is just a lot more rewarding to me.

    I also wish that it had been the focus of HDR when balancing certain matchups because really some terrible matchups that are still terrible in HDR could be helped by giving character A a slightly altered hitbox on some normal to combat the normals of character B. But instead it was all about making specials safer/unsafer/more damaging/less damaging etc which really didn’t matter in some matchups.

  2. February 14th, 2010 at 13:50 | #2

    Yeah, HDR turned out kind of weird in certain areas and it’s hard to pinpoint why. Obviously they didn’t have access to absolutely everything. There were certain parts of they game they couldn’t change – because it was too much work, because it caused tons of glitches, or because they couldn’t figure out the archaic programming code. I know they were trying to reverse engineer a lot of that stuff but it’s not easy peeling off 1990 duct tape.

    Then there’s the whole issue of bias. It’s everywhere. Anytime you ask a top player about their character, they’ll list off a bunch of weaknesses that they feel their character has. Then they’ll list a bunch of strengths they think other characters have.

    Everyone thinks their character could be stronger and characters they don’t play are too strong. So it’s no surprise which characters ended up stronger in HDR and which characters got weaker. That’s just human nature, and its influence grows in stressful situations (such as gamedev crunch time).

  3. dannyboy4885
    June 1st, 2010 at 02:44 | #3

    Hey Maj, this is a great article; I really want to try following these rules to learn footsies. I have a quick question: When you say “don’t jump for an entire match”, are you referring to jump-ins or any kind of jumping? I was wondering how to deal with fireball zoning without jumping or FADCing. Thanks!

  4. November 10th, 2010 at 15:00 | #4

    Sorry for the delayed response sir; i missed this when you posted it.

    Um, you’re right, it is tough to deal with fireball characters, but you shouldn’t give up. When i said “don’t jump” the main thing i meant was “don’t jump forward.” Traditionally, jumping straight up has been the “expert” way to deal with fireball zoning. It’s definitely not easy to develop that skill, but it’s important against higher level competition.

    Anyway the main point here is to explore all your options. When you follow your first instinct of jumping, you really don’t learn everything your character can do. The solution really depends on your own character too.

    If you’re using a fireball character yourself, then you really have no excuse for needing to jump. Counter their fireballs with your own – on reaction whenever possible – and make them jump instead!

    And if you have a non-fireball character, they usually have ways of either getting through fireballs, reflecting them, or simply trading with them for more damage. “Don’t jump” is supposed to be a challenge to teach you multiple ways of dealing with the opponent’s arsenal without resorting to arguably the most risky gamble in the game, which is jumping forward.

  5. dannyboy4885
    November 10th, 2010 at 15:25 | #5

    Thanks a lot for clarifying! I kind of thought you might have been referring to jump ins/jumping forward. I’m going to keep trying to improve my footsies using your articles. Btw, I think this is also a great handicap to impose on yourself if you’re playing someone who’s less experienced, without having to resort to health bar handicaps (that is until my footsies improve and it ceases to be a handicap!). A way to play less experienced players and still improve your game, if you will. I’m mostly thinking of my Zangief vs. my wife’s Ken! XD

  6. dannyboy4885
    November 10th, 2010 at 16:21 | #6

    Just one more quick question, if you have the time. I wondered what you thought about focus attack dash cancelling (forwards or backwards) through fireballs when playing by these rules. Is this detrimental to learning footsies? Only because you mentioned no dashing, and I wasn’t sure if you were mostly referring to backdashing out of danger/dashing in for a throw, etc. Thanks!

  7. November 10th, 2010 at 16:33 | #7

    Dude if you’re playing Gief then you should be spinning around all day!

    All daaaaayyy!

    Look, he’s not even trying land that thing 90% of the time. He’s just using it to get through the fireball. See, the cool thing about avoiding fireballs is that your opponent can’t throw another one until it disappears across the screen.

    That gives you time to gain better position. You might not have enough time to get all the way up in their face, but you might have time to walk into a spot that makes it way more dangerous for them to throw another fireball. Street Fighter is all about positioning.

    As for FADC through stuff, it’s probably not as bad as jumping but it’s still kind of a crutch. The problem with it is you can be anywhere in their attack space and still get through whatever they do. That discourages you from learning pixel-perfect spacing like you would learn from traditional footsies. It’s the same complaint people had with parries in SF3.

  8. dannyboy4885
    November 11th, 2010 at 06:29 | #8

    Thanks dude! Right, I’m really hyped to go home and work on this now. I know I have a few habits/patterns I rely on to beat less experienced players which don’t work against better players. This is a great way to overcome this. I’ll check out the link after work!

  9. Killweir
    November 11th, 2010 at 15:24 | #9

    @Maj
    God damn Maj, you are a true gentlemen… Even with this shit storm flying about, you still go the time to answer some dudes questions about footsies, and with links to boot! You deserved a better lot than this, far better.

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