Eyeballing your opponent

One deceptively simple question that I’ve yet to find an answer to is: where do you look at on the screen during a match?

When I was just starting out in SF4, I spent most of my time looking directly at my character on the screen. This was mainly because I was more concerned about hitting my links and such. Over time, I realised that might not be the best approach. Since I play a zoning character, shouldn’t I be eyeballing my opponent 100% of the time for a jump?

I went on to read a few more articles on this matter, and the number of different approaches to eyeballing the screen is quite interesting.

Some people argue that it should be your style that dictates where you look at most of the time. For example if you play a rushdown character like Rufus, you’re probably going to be in your opponent’s face most of the time, or least trying to. Thus, looking at your character would allow you to maintain the consistency of your combo execution, as well as keeping a close tab on your opponent.

Parabellum (a Chun Li player) has an interesting point, choosing to look at the space in between the characters. He says that scientifically, human beings react the fastest to motion just within the range of their peripheral vision. So, looking at the space in between should allow you to continually gauge footsies distance, as well as in theory, react the fastest to a jump.

Personally, I have had similar experiences to what Parabellum discussed before. Sometimes I find myself staring hard at my opponent’s character, only to react somewhat sluggishly to a jump, whereas sometimes I’m focussing more on doing fireball feints such as standing short and crouching strong, and I react almost instaneously to my opponent’s jump just out of the edge in my vision.

I’d really like to get some personal feedback on this, what do you guys think? Do you have a strict philosophy to looking at the screen, or do you guys frequently change the target of your vision within a match?

Edit: From Maj’s incredible interview of James Chen at: http://sonichurricane.com/?p=4511

Maj: What part of the screen do you watch when you play?

jchensor: Mostly the opponent. I discovered this one time while at the arcade during college. One symptom of an impending migraine headache is that the blind spot in your eye (everyone has one) grows larger for some reason. And one day I was playing Alpha 3, my Guy vs. my friend’s Cody, and literally Guy disappeared from the screen.

From what I could tell, there was only Cody until I looked over back to my character. Guy would reappear, but every time I played, Guy would disappear. That’s kinda how I found out I look at my opponent more than my own character because the blind spot is always in the peripheral area of your vision, and it was my character that would keep disappearing. Needless to say, I got a migraine about an hour later, and it hurt like a mother.

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7 Responses to Eyeballing your opponent

  1. ByeBi says:

    Thanks for posting this, I was just thinking about this myself the other day when I realised that I constantly stare at my Sakura (not in a perverted way, though…).

    What a great blog you have.

    • muttonhead says:

      Thank you sir.
      I still haven’t got a concrete philosophy for eyeballing yet, but when I went to EVO Apac qualifiers in Sydney, the Melbourne dhalsim player called Cactus told me that it might also be matchup dependent. For example, when he plays Sim vs Bison, Bison has to attack from the air, so he constantly looks at the space above Bison, in order to quickly discern a jump or headstomp.

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  3. patapete says:

    Great observation. I find that where you look partially depends on the type of game you’re playing.

    Tekken for example is one of those games where I personally look at the opponent’s character rather than the space between due to throws. In Street Fighter, one merely needs to deduce the range between characters and recognize situations where they can occur; in Tekken throws are much more difficult to break due to left side, right side, etc throw breaks.

    You can also visually confirm which throw they initiated by simply looking at the character’s hands, hence the reason why some players look at their opponents.

    Perhaps this is just a nitpick that only occurs in the the 3D realm?

    • muttonhead says:

      That’s great insight into Tekken patapete. I love how you describe eyeballing the hands of your opponent to break throws. It almost reminds me of boxing articles I used to read where boxers describe looking at the shoulders or at the chest for telltale signs of an incoming jab.
      SSF4 is my first competitive fighting game, and I really appreciate being exposed to the depth that other fighting games possess. I might theorise here that different kinds of fighting games train your eyes in totally different ways? For example I often struggle to make sense of the aerial warfare of Marvel vs Capcom 2, perhaps when I look at a Sentinel match and feel confused, it’s because I do not know how the players look at screen when applying their offense.

  4. effullbao says:

    I’m a reaction based player so I’ll focus and look for the most likely/rewarding course of action an opponent would make. For example, if I have the feeling the opponent is itching to jump in, I’ll look at the space above my characters and play my ground game using peripheral vision. If I’m playing against a Ryu trying to fish for a low forward xx fireball, I’ll look at Ryu’s forward/sweep range including the possibility of where he’ll be in the next 30 frames or so. Of course, doing it this way has it’s weaknesses as I’m susceptible to walk up throws but you never really announce when you’re doing it.

    The way I determine where I look is covered in Thelo’s guide to reaction based defense under simplifying reaction. It’s a good read if you’ve never read it before.


    • muttonhead says:

      I have read that article effullbao, and it’s proven very helpful, especially to a new player like me that often struggles with anti-air reactions, and countering specials like rush punches. That article helped me realise so many things, such as anticipation/reaction being far more important that raw reflexes.

      Since writing this article, I’ve since gone on to ask many top players in my scene, and they often provide similar answers to what you have said.

      They tell me often there is no single approach to eyeballing your opponent, but rather they change it up according to how they believe their opponent will react to their actions. I would guess that being able to switch rapidly and appropriately between looking at airspace, footsies range, meter stocks, and even proximity to the corner is what differentiates the top players from average players such as myself.

      I guess a lot of it is simply experience, (which might be why some top players struggle to describe to me exactly what it is that they are doing), but I’m always marvelling at the seemingly omniscient eye of the top players I witness.

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