Hitting Reset on Replays in Fighting Games

Replays are one of the great, modern conveniences of fighting games, but there is plenty of room for improving this educational service.

Locked away in my Street Fighter IV account rests a handful of triumphant replays against online opponents. Watching this mini-highlight reel is a way to pat myself on the back--but it also has a lot to teach. Every dropped combo, fumbled defense, and unnecessary jump is played back for personal review. After receiving a bit of advice for Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I started thinking of how replay systems could be improved in modern fighting games and made into a more effective teaching tool. There's plenty of untapped potential here, and these are just a few suggestions.

Street Fighter IV breaks replays into different character groups, as well as an all-encompassing new replays board.

Growing up, I never had the pleasure of bartering with strangers for bootleg tapes of "professional" Street Fighter II players. There were no clandestine meetings where briefcases of unmarked bills and unlabeled VHS tapes were slid across warehouse floors at gunpoint--I can only assume this is how it went down. Thankfully, in our modern society, quality replays are in abundance, if you know where to look. Locate the right Twitch channels or YouTube pages, and you will find a bevy of professional matches for (almost) any fighter.

These videos can teach us how to break our own bad habits, and exploit the habits of others.

Whether you are a beginner or a professional, the knowledge gleaned from these fights can be extremely valuable. When I sat down to review Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I had little knowledge of how most characters played. With a cast of over 40 characters, and movesets topping a hundred, it was intimidating to try someone new. Then I got a piece of advice from professional Tekken player Aris Bakhtanians in his article Iron Fist 101 Lesson 2: Game Plan that helped me wrap my head around these fighters:

"Having access to such a large number of moves can make move selection very difficult. The first solution to this problem is to watch matches featuring well known players of your character. When you watch these matches, look specifically for the moves that are being used the most."

The guide then advises making a list of common moves for your character, and learning those first. This may seem obvious to some, but it was news to me. For those more experienced, replay data is just as valuable. Throughout Shoryuken's Lost Strategy series I have seen numerous recommendations of "Record and watch your own matches" or "Watch how your opponent was defending your attacks." These videos can teach us how to break our own habits, and exploit the habits of others.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 automatically downloads multiple replays for selected characters.

So, replays are important, but why not let the community handle their curation? That's because not everyone knows where to look, and even if they did, some simply won't make the effort. As with player education, fighting games themselves should be at the forefront of this service. Currently, results are mixed. Street Fighter IV and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stand out by offering limited character-filtering options and by automatically logging personal replays. Others, such as Persona 4 Arena and Dead or Alive 5, just give you a single leaderboard to sort through on your own.

Across the genre there remains ample room for improvement, and these suggestions could transform a simple convince to an educational service for players of all skill levels.

CURATION

Consider YogaFlame24's channel on YouTube. This channel is constantly updated with quality matches from Street Fighter IV, with notable players earning their own playlists with specific characters. If I'm looking for high-level matches for a specific character in Street Fighter IV, there's a long list of handpicked matches at my fingertips to study.

Imagine if that quality of curation were present within the games themselves. At the touch of a button you could call up a list of all current replays using that character, with recommended players highlighted for your convenience. Maybe you track a few of those players, and whenever they upload a new replay using a character you are interested in, that replay will be added to your personal list. The next time you fire up your machine, there's a customized list of content waiting for you.

TAGS

Even something as simple as adding tags to individual replays would go a long way toward bringing some order to this system. Individual character tags would let you filter not only your preferred character, but also who that character fights against to help study matchups. And get creative with the tags. Individual character tags are a given, but how about "double KO" or "double perfect" tags? Calling up a list of matches where the victor won with only a sliver of health would be very entertaining.

Well, would you look at that, I finally found a replay in Dead or Alive 5.

CLIPS

Going a step further, consider the possibilities of uploading clips from replays. Let's say you have a 30-second clip of a new combo you built for JACK-6 in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. You tag it as such, and when other players search using that tag, they find it and dozens more like it. Group those clips together, and you have a dynamic, crowd-sourced combo video. Refresh the search, and an entirely new one could be generated.

Of course, who wants to spend their time video editing in a fighting game? Solution: have the game generate these clips automatically. Have a system that can detect combos from a single player over a certain number of hits and break them out automatically as the replays are uploaded (I make it sound so easy). Filtering for combo length could be a great way to find popular bread-and-butter combos or to study the popular tactics of the day.

COMMUNITY

Having some sort of community spotlight feature would also be a plus. Professional players gather on a weekly basis to duke it out across the country in tournaments and exhibition events. Let's incorporate some of that data into the service. Get some tournament replays up there, and design replay data packets so that they can be easily transferred from one account to another. At the very least, the EVO finals should have its own tab. Many developers have already shown interest in supporting the community, and this would be a great extension of that service.

At the very least, additional uploading options would be nice to have. Make it easier for players to get their replays from the machine and onto YouTube without having to go through a capture kit. This would lead to more quality information from an already active and dedicated community. Knowledge--not just of what your fighter is capable of, but of what the rest of the cast can do--is vital in any fighting game. An improved replay system can support this. It will enable players to better educate themselves by packing information that is already available in more organized, and creative, ways. Replay support may seem like just another ancillary detail, but it can help unlock the talent hidden in its viewers.

Persona 4 Arena's dedicated replay board makes you do all the searching and sorting.

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Discussion

0 comments
fluidmike
fluidmike

surely most of what you seek is already in many games. i follow top ranked players in sf4 all the time. replays automatically highlighted every time i go online. elite channel replays can often be broken down by character, and 3rd strike online already lets me upload automatically to youtube. oh, and as for letting people tag their videos in searchable form - i just wouldn't trust the fgc with that freedom. remember these are the same people who lobbied DOA's creators for bigger breasts in each iteration. Don't feel like seeing a hundred replays tagged 'upskirt sakura slo-mo'

Derugs
Derugs

Nice... I like the concept ;) 

irishdude199210
irishdude199210

I play games for fun, I don't intend to sit and study combos for hours. Besides, I don't like the idea of stealing someone else's combos.

The_Mikester99
The_Mikester99

some great ideas there, for sure.  I´d think that something like, being able to set the practice dummmys play with different styles, in training mode would b very helpful too

Cartr1dgeBased
Cartr1dgeBased

great article.

replays can definetly level up your game if you know what you're looking at

eva02langley
eva02langley

Euh... I learn by my own mistakes in fighting games.

 

Also, the key to success is to exploit weakness and being adaptive. Most of the time, there is a way to counter every moves.

Bilal100
Bilal100

This would be a helpful addition but fighting games can be improved in a lot more ways for example a Story mode even though the fighting in MK isn't at par with SF4 or TT2 but it still has a great innovative story mode and there's nothing stopping street fighter from doing the same SF has been my favorite gaming series of all time and I've been a gamer for more than 14 years yet I see that the series and genre as a whole has a lot of drawbacks.The developers seem content with just creating a solid fighting system and shipping out the game however if you actually listen to fans and add a little story mode and some random stuff like series trivia or something it would make for great fan service and a game that has these features could become the game of the year (YES A FIGHTING GAME CAN BE GAME OF THE YEAR IF THE DEVELOPERS CARE ENOUGH) The only reason why fighting games have survived in this era is thanks to the fighting game community you guys are awesome POWER TO THE FIGHTERS! 

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

This reminds me of when I was in middle school and my friend and I would record TMNT and other games on VHS and watch them later.  I know it is lame but it seemed so awesome at the time.

EPaul
EPaul

These are excellent suggestions hopefully Capcom does a few of them when they make SFV

demonkingx5
demonkingx5

I play SSF4AE on PSN Marvel origins PM me if you want a match 

CKeenan07
CKeenan07

This has just inspired me to play Third Strike O.E. all weekend and whoop some ass.

mccoyca112
mccoyca112

I think adding all that in one go would be a total hassle for devs, but they should definitely take some of these under advisement. You have some really great ideas in this area of the fighter genre; Ones that can really build a new mold for the experience and skill ceiling.

jonasas2
jonasas2

or maybe you should bring  some friends over and play these games for fun?

tgwolf
tgwolf

...Yeah, among the needed improvements would be the ability to actually accrue some kind of reward for repeating what otherwise might as well be a second run through an FPS you've already memorized...

Kiigora_LoP
Kiigora_LoP

I'm of the mind that you should play to improve. Time spent watching a video is time you could've spent furthering your skill.

LokumNL
LokumNL

I was really dissapointed to find out how the Leaderboards and replays system in DOA5 were setup.Can't look at leaderboards per character...so whoddo i know is a good Mila player for instance without scrolling ages through the normal Leaderboard. On the leaderboard players can only upload 1 replay at the time, however you can't see beforehand what characters they are using...only hoping that they will use their main(which however IS shown in their stats). After downloading the replays an play them...you can't see the player name, so if i downloaded multiple replays how the f do i know who plays who.I don't think FG developers understand how vital it is to have an elaborate replay system, SSFIV:AE still has the most expansive organized replay system...which isn't saying much.

tjoeb123
tjoeb123

To be clear, is this the ORIGINAL SF4, or SSF4AE?  'Cause I only have the former on PC, and I've never seen those screens in my entire life.

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

This is a perfect example of how passionate a gamer is about their gaming and how to form and mold their untapped potential. This is very helpful Maxwell and I thank you for showing what people should use to strengthen their skills. :)

Cappuccin0
Cappuccin0

I love fighting games, but I'm not as passionate as that to review techniques, frames, priorities, etc. I just go with basic character knowledge and raw instincts :P

King9999
King9999

Those are some great suggestions.  There also needs to be basic features like slo-mo and rewind.  Hey Maxwell, have you played Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution?  That game is pretty much the gold standard for a lot of things.

King9999
King9999

 @gatsbythepig Nah man, that's cool that you did that.  I'm sure most people didn't have the means or foresight to do something like that.

Bilal100
Bilal100

 @jonasas2 competition IS fun if you don't suck at fighters that is ;)

King9999
King9999

 @Kiigora_LoP And how do you improve without any sort of direction?  At least by getting some information, you'll know how to deal with something.  You have to play to improve anyhow, so it doesn't hurt to arm yourself with some knowledge first.

majere613
majere613

 @LokumNL I have to agree- the Replay and Leaderboard system is pretty much the only thing in DOA5 that isn't awesome, and it misses that mark by a considerable distance!

Gen007
Gen007

 @tjoeb123 the replay mode was improved in SSF4 and even more with AE

Cappuccin0
Cappuccin0

Reading all you guys mention, I may actually "use" all that information, albeit involuntarily... because I DO notice  - and know - when a particular move will hit or nullify an opponent's, when it will turn into a good combo opening, when it'll leave me open to counterattacks, etc.

 

I'm just not well-versed in the theory itself, I guess.

ZERO_X02
ZERO_X02

 @Cappuccin0

 All of the math is just a way of communicating how things work on-screen. When advanced players go at it, no one is thinking about frames. All they care about is "If this doesn't connect, can my opponent hit me?" or "If this is blocked, can I guard before my opponent can hit me?"

 

The level of technique used is rarely something that the player would consider flashy, too. People use what they can do on reaction. Stuff that you have to think about is generally considered risky because it's, well, hard.

 

Also, priority is a myth. All that matters is your hitbox and hurtbox. The hitbox is the area where your attack can actually hit the opponent (no one's punch is gonna connect when your opponent is behind you) and the hurtbox is where you can be hit (where your character's torso is in most cases). Moves with the hitbox set far from the hurtbox are considered "high priority" because the opponent's hitbox is likely closer to their hurtbox, meaning your hitbox touches their hurtbox while their hitbox isn't reaching your hurtbox. (Think a 7 ft tall guy punching a 5 ft tall guy. The 7 ft tall guy has longer arms, so he can stay out of reach of the little guy and still wail on him.)

 

tl;dr Just look at the characters. You'll understand how moves work, and you don't need math.

LokumNL
LokumNL

 @Cappuccin0 Just seeing how someone plays and what tactics he/she applies can level up your own game alot. Don't need to know frames move priority if you can imitate someone and grasp atleast why do the things they do.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

 @Cappuccin0 I find it best to find as much as you can with player experience. Watching others deliberately is only to add finishing touches to what you already accumulated, imo. There's really only so much you can learn without doing it yourself.

Dareitus
Dareitus

 @Cappuccin0 Same here. I really wish I had the dedication to do that other stuff but its just too much math to think about with all the intensity already going on on screen.

iandavidvinoya
iandavidvinoya

@ZERO_X02@Cappuccin0

Actually, frames is regarded. But not during the fight but before or while a person is practicing. Some people learn frames just so they know which move can connect faster than others. If they determined that move A is faster than B, then they will use move A against B. During a fight, there are some people who can think quickly (but not do the "math" you are referring to) and realize most things they practiced, hence giving them the opportunity to do move A when they saw a move B coming. Also, if you just imitate someone's move or style, you obviously don't need to learn frames. But the person you imitate, he might study those frames, priorities and other stuff and it will gradually evolve to his instincts.

And I agree with the post above, hitbox and hurtbox is also important.