Footsies Handbook

August 25th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Footsies” is oldschool slang for the mid-range ground-based aspect of fighting game strategy. The ultimate goal is to control the flow of the match, bait the opponent into committing errors, and punish everything.

When i first found the tournament scene back in CvS days, i remember it took me a very long time to understand what players like Valle and Choi were doing on the ground to control the match. At first sight it seems like a bunch of spontaneous normal moves and pokes, but there’s a clear purpose behind each of them.

Nobody really talks about footsies in concrete terms because it’s seen as a complex and elusive subject. Hopefully these articles will help change that perception, because anyone who wants to compete at tournament level absolutely needs to know this stuff. You don’t have to use it but you have to be aware it exists.

Each installment covers three or four specific tactics which you can integrate into your gameplan to achieve practical results. Think of it like one of those chess books showing common situations and how to solve each one. If you absorb enough of these pieces, suddenly you’ll have a solid gameplan.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 1
  – Footsies 101 begins with three universal concepts axiomatic to all Street Fighter games, and the fighting genre in general. Punishing whiffed attacks, intentionally making yourself appear vulnerable, and using poke patterns to set up throws are all fundamental skills.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 2
  – Light attacks often serve as feints due to their quick recovery time. Knowing how to shut them down is equally important as knowing how to use them. - Fighting Game Combos, Tutorials, Matches, Screenshots, and Strategy

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 3
  – A cornered opponent can not escape your attacks by backing away. Obviously this presents an opportunity to capitalize on a massive advantage, if you know what to do.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 4
  – Super moves inflict far too much damage to treat casually. For every matchup, you need several reliable ways to fool opponents into wasting meter without putting yourself at risk.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 5
  – Jumping is one of the biggest gambles you can take in traditional fighting games. Despite the potential for high rewards, jumping usually leads to getting anti-aired, knocked down, and crossed up. It’s risky to say the least, but there are a few right ways to go about it.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 6
  – Although footsies primarily occupy mid-range zones, quite a few basic footsies components can be effective in close quarters too. In fact, having a solid foundation of mid-range footsies opens up direct gateways into point-blank range. Get in there and cause some damage!

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 7
  – Always be on the lookout for minor tricks which can help make you a little tougher to beat. For instance, knowing when to stand in neutral instead of crouching is a big one. It’ll seem straightforward once you read it, but many players don’t know about this and it’s very useful.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 8
  – Hopkicks are significant to the landscape of footsies even though only a few characters possess them. Here’s a basic overview explaining their advantages. If you’ve got ’em, use ’em. If not, figure out a way around ’em before you face someone who knows how to use ’em.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 9
  – Jumping is absolutely a facet of footsies, but the ground game has to come first. Having read all the previous chapters about ground fundamentals, now’s a good time to look into reliable ways of setting up crossups – a major part of offensive footsies in their own right.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Chapter 10
  – Any offensive gameplan requires leaving gaps for the opponent to give you something to punish. However, it’s essential to prevent opponents from picking apart your preferred waiting spots, because then they’ll never hand over what you want. Occasional chaos is a good way to fill some of those hesitant pauses with feints to mess with your opponent’s head, making it harder for them to read your gameplan.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Supplement A
  – No discussion of footsies is complete without a tactical overview on projectiles. This entry is more abstract than previous installments, but it was too big a concept to leave out and too big a concept to cover in one article. Consider this a primer on the topic and look for more fireball strategy articles in the future.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Supplement B
  – After writing so many articles about footsies, it makes sense to write one about avoiding them entirely. Sometimes blocking is the best course of action. Running away works too, especially from easily frustrated opponents. Crazy rushdown is another option for bypassing footsies. It’s always fun to do and watch, but prepare to have your heart broken sometimes.

Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Epilogue
  – Playing footsies the right way demands a certain core confidence. Without it, you’re just somebody’s training dummy. With it, you’re always making progress, always learning, always moving forward, even when a (temporarily) superior opponent destroys you. If you want to improve your game, eliminate doubt and play without fear. The rest will take care of itself.

          Further Reading
    Browse Strategy Articles
What Is Zoning? | What Are Footsies?    
  1. March 21st, 2011 at 12:27 | #1

    It’s crazy but there’s another French translation now, courtesy of Hit Combo.

    Footsies Handbook in French translated by eMRaistlin

    Apparently there are “numerous idiomatic singularities” between Canadian French and Metropolitan French, which he wanted to clarify for casual players in France so he retranslated the whole thing. Dedication!

  2. February 15th, 2012 at 01:07 | #2

    Just got an email with a link to Russian language translations:

    Footsies Handbook in Russian translated by Heven, El Salo, Guido & Gr1nGo

    It’s a work-in-progress, but it looks like they already have the first five chapters translated. What can i say? It’s simply an honor that someone would volunteer their time to do all this work.

  3. February 26th, 2012 at 03:53 | #3

    I probably should’ve thought of this earlier, but i added a further reading link to the end of the index, because i’ve written a lot of relevant/spinoff strategy articles on this website that aren’t included in the handbook.

  4. wds-br
    October 23rd, 2012 at 08:45 | #4

    Oh man! thank you so much for writing this article I´m from Brazil,and almost once or twice in a week I kept reading every time I feel that I´m not playing well the street fighter basics…this article is responsible for me to grow up as a SF player…the hard to me still is the
    “don´t jump” part ,but as a ryu player(I have others chars like cody,akuma,gouken and dudley) this article It´s GOLDEN,Thanks again Mr.Maj,and keep on going!!!

  5. wds-br
    October 23rd, 2012 at 08:47 | #5

    tis article is* GOLDEN

  6. October 25th, 2012 at 21:29 | #6

    Thank you sir. I’m glad this information was helpful for you.

    Good luck with your Ryu! (Haha Cody’s cool too.)

  7. ProjectSeoul
    April 18th, 2013 at 01:15 | #7

    Hey just fyi people still link this guide to try and explain things. At least when I was discussing things with some good PSASBR/Brawl players. Like wds-br said, this article/sub-articles is Golden!

  8. saerreng
    May 20th, 2013 at 23:42 | #8

    Maj how do you feel about “do nothing or waiting as the best option” in fighting games from a game design perspective?.

    I don’t want to confuse the issue with rewarding patience. And of course, in ‘reality’ nobody does nothing at all. I think my point is, how do you feel about zero commitment as a action against a action?. These one or two seconds in which you try to feel your opponent out.

  9. May 24th, 2013 at 01:53 | #9

    That’s a good question. It’s tricky because i think every action in a fighting game should have an inherent cost. Usually the cost of doing nothing is surrendering initiative. You’re hoping your opponent will perform an action that’s punishable on reaction, but if they just wait, you gain nothing.

    If they perform a slow attack with fast recovery, such as an overhead for example, they might even seize momentum and turn the tables on you. Of course they have to read your hesitation to risk that.

    The hard part is designing/implementing that category of attacks, which have slow enough startup to be impractical as pokes, but quick enough startup not to be counterable on reaction. If overheads were a quarter second slower in Street Fighter, using them would probably become complete suicide. Getting those timings right is extremely tricky.

    Street Fighter’s dizzy system is another cool feature that adds an extra layer of depth to this interaction. Whenever you hesitate after performing a combo instead of attacking again immediately, you’re giving your opponent a chance to drain their dizzy meter by matching your patience.

    Guard crush systems serve the same function, with block pressure as the catalyst instead of combos/mixups. It’s a pretty clever mechanic for encouraging players to continue attacking instead of feinting all the time.

    So i would say that i don’t like the notion of “zero commitment” but i’m okay with minimal or conditional commitment. I do believe there’s value in allowing players to bait and fake each other out by walking into a danger zone and not attacking. That takes a lot of discipline and it’s kind of beautiful in a way. I wouldn’t want to lose that facet by making players feel like they have to press buttons all the time.

  10. saerreng
    May 24th, 2013 at 05:50 | #10

    To encourage players to press buttons all the time is as bad as the ‘zero commitment’ notion.
    I personally like guard crush more then a dizzy system. But i agree with the beauty you described but i would just implement it through a more systematically way.

    Guilty Gear did actually something great, perhaps you already know it. They introduced ‘negative penalty’. If a player turtles for too long, he/she loses all of her meter and refills the bar with a 20% fill rate for 10 seconds. And i think that player is also more succumb to dizzy.

    You can argument with it’s more a arbitrary rule but i think sf3s parry system destroyed the ‘raw zoning’ only through projectiles. My point is, even as parry is bad for projectile characters, it isn’t as ‘bad’ implented as the arbitrary rule from guilty gear, which say after a specific time “YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING”.

    I feel like the inefficient zoning is a result through parry that forces other player from their comfort zone to establish or fight in a different way but the character design doesn’t approve or can’t even reward you.

    So if we observe that subject isolated, sf3s did it better than guilty gear. But as a whole, guilty gear did it, in my opion, better.

  11. May 28th, 2013 at 01:41 | #11

    The problem with regulatory mechanics like “Negative Penalty” is that players are too smart for a simple system to accurately judge which player is turtling. You might be able to avoid an opponent and fool the game into thinking that both of you are turtling.

    It’s possible to come up with a sufficiently robust system over time and multiple revisions – but the more complicated the system becomes, the less intuitive it will seem to players. I think it could be an interesting design challenge, but going in that direction wouldn’t be my first choice, personally.

    The main problem with SF3’s parry system is that it enables too many option select techniques. The problem with option selects is that they cover up bad decisions. You can guess wrong while trying to make a read, and still succeed because your opponent activated your autopilot parry trap – just because you tap D immediately before every throw attempt.

    The penalty for a failed parry is simply too small and the reward for an accidental parry is too big. Not to mention that parries completely screw up the mid-range game, do weird things to traditional character matchups, and totally ruin projectiles like you said.

    I think SF4’s focus attacks are a much better implementation of the parry concept. I wouldn’t say they’re perfectly polished yet, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

  12. saerreng
    May 28th, 2013 at 08:06 | #12

    Yeah you’re right. But it isn’t like guilty gear was designed around that negative penalty, it helps the gameplay even as a arbitrary rule. Although you’re right about turtling, personally i’ve never seen it happened, because the game has a own definition for a turtle style. If i remember correctly, if you do not press buttons for 10 sec at all (besides movement), you get that penalty.

    I mean, i don’t want to point a finger at somebody for something thats ‘bad’, i just like to discuss about gameplay mechanics and how they or what they should be rewarding. But as you mentioned earlier, in the business world with a dead line and money restrictions, taking everything into account isn’t possible.

    And of course, my first game would be unbalanced as possible, haha.

    For me personally, every button should feel rewarding but that is soo hard to implent, without testing every character that has been designed and will be designed in the near future and absorbed with thought with the system mechanics.

    Although you’re right with SF3s parry system and i absolutely agree with it, i accept it as a lesser evil. The game itself feels so active and distinguishs every other sf game because of it. I mean for myself, i like decision making way more than option selects but on the other hand, they also add layer to the gameplay and tbqh, are not as brain dead as some people mention.

    Mike-Z mentioned in a stream, he would change projectiles in sf3s to be not be able to parry, when they travel 1/4 of the screen. I like that.

    Yeah you’re right, focus is much better implented and has way more risk then parry and changes not traditional match ups to the extreme. But as always, sf4 ae 2012 has its flaws.

    Btw Maj, do you play something these days?. Or are you retired ? :-p?. Or perhaps waiting for cvs3 :).

  13. May 30th, 2013 at 01:21 | #13

    That’s an interesting idea for making projectiles more effective in a game with parries. Although like you said, SF3 was intentionally distinguished from other Street Fighter games by its systems. For better or worse, making projectiles ineffective is one of the defining characteristics of the series.

    Personally i like traditional Shoto gameplay, so i’m not a huge fan of that decision. But if someone prefers divekick characters (Yun) or throw mixup characters (Chun/Makoto), then i suppose those players would be happier with that direction.

    As for me, i’m definitely retired from tournament-level competition. I still play SSF2T and SSF4AE2012 with friends, but i never really took the time to learn SF4’s exclusive techniques like using focus attacks effectively, option selecting against backdashes, or setting up vortexes/unblockables.

    CvS3 would be awesome, but i’m not exactly holding my breath unless they actually announce it. SF4’s longevity has been amazing, so it’s probably still worth picking up. If Capcom releases SSF4AE2013, then i might stop being lazy and finally learn all that stuff. Until then, i just play SF4 Ken like he’s SF2 Ken with slightly different combos.

  14. mike
    November 21st, 2013 at 20:10 | #14

    Hi Maj,thx to you for footsies handbook is a gold mine really.But after 2 years of playing sf4 i have a few problems on my mindset,and all strategy about the global fight and have a few questions if you can respond is helpfull for me.

    -You think footsies is a personal experience and struggle against you?

    -I play sf4 since over 2 year ago really serious but im not a “top player” im not bad but im not really strong,is normal?

    -In fighting games you think experience is the best teacher?

    -You think in fight if you use a great poke is like a “joker” ?

    -You think fighting games is only mindgame or mecanic + mindgame?

    -On match i see weakness of my enemy,should know that I know is weakness?

    -You think footsies is a personal experience and struggle against you?

    I have more questions but I will not do an interview :}

    Sorry if im boring or something but i have trouble about this game,and more i play I realize that it takes more of a life for understand at 100% this game :)

    Thx to you Maj u make good job

  15. November 23rd, 2013 at 13:35 | #15

    Experience definitely helps, but playing the same match over and over against the same people is not necessarily gaining experience. You have to play against players of different styles to learn new things. Alex Valle always said it was important to travel just to experience playing against more styles than in your local group. It’s much easier nowadays because of online play, but online play has its own problems.

    The other part of the puzzle is that you have to constantly challenge yourself. You can’t just play for two hours doing the same things and consider that experience. You have to find a specific weakness in your gameplan and attack it directly. There was a good article about deliberate practice that explained it pretty well.

    I think fighting games are definitely mechanics and mindgames combined. There’s a reward for understanding the game well enough to create new things in training mode, and i think that’s a good thing. Unfortunately sometimes a new discovery breaks the game, but there’s no way of stopping progress. If that happens, hopefully the developer will patch the game or release a new version, or you can always learn a new game.

    But honestly, it’s very hard to become a top player. I would like to believe that anyone can do it with enough practice and dedication, but i don’t know if that’s true. Maybe some inherent talent is required, but we don’t understand that “talent” attribute yet because every top player seems to be unique.

    Anyway the path is different everyone, and you have to try a lot of different things to find the best character and style for you. Then you have to learn how to counter all other styles. If you ask top players how long they’ve been playing fighting games, i think most of them will say many, many years. It’s possible for someone to become a top player in only 1-2 years, but it usually takes much longer.

  16. xebo
    December 20th, 2013 at 11:14 | #16

    soooo how about that ultra sf4 2014???@Maj

  17. December 21st, 2013 at 05:25 | #17

    Looks good so far. We’ll see when it comes out. Too bad about the release date getting pushed back, but that’s nothing new for the game industry.

    If nothing else, i’m happy about USF4 having a properly short acronym. Hopefully it’s a good game so we never have to type SSF4AE2012 anymore.

  18. Sh1k1
    February 24th, 2014 at 17:19 | #18

    Hey Maj. I honestly hope you won’t mind, but I liked this so much that I’m slowly working on converting it to .epub e-book (for easier perusal on mobile platforms). Once I’m done I plan on making it publicly available on my blog and on reddit as well. Is that okay with you? If not I’ll just keep it among my friends. Thanks so much for all the time you invested on this!

  19. February 27th, 2014 at 21:27 | #19

    You know, it’s been so long since i wrote this stuff that i don’t really worry too much about people republishing it in different formats. Thanks for asking permission though. It seems like you have good intentions, so … good luck! Post a link to your blog (and reddit) when it’s ready so i can check it out.

  20. Sh1k1
  21. Kaiza
    November 29th, 2014 at 13:12 | #21

    Maj where can I donate? This is a phenomenal guide, I want to show my gratitude.

  22. November 30th, 2014 at 19:18 | #22

    The offer itself is thanks enough. I’m glad you found the gude useful!

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