I spotted this on the SRK frontpage. An incredibly good read, and I encourage anyone who cares about this stuff to read it. I’ve copied the full text below after the jump, otherwise you can just go to the link.
An addendum to Links.
I got the idea to write this “article” when listening to Metallica’s The Shortest Straw while driving back home. I hope someone finds it useful.
By now I suppose most players are acquainted with links. Still, I’ll quickly elaborate on how they work before proceeding with the rest of the article.
Moves have startup, active and recovery frames. People usually say that a move has 3 frames of startup if it hits on the 3rd frame. I prefer to say 2 frames of startup, or just “Active on 3rd”. But that’s me being douchey.
A typical move has hitstun and blockstun. As soon as any active frame hitbox touches the opponent’s vulnerable hitbox, the opponent enters a stunreel which lasts a predetermined number of frames, which varies depending on the move you just used.
If a move has 25 hitstun, then the opponent can’t do anything for 25 frames after being hit. On the other hand, if your move has 20 frames of recovery, then you’re bound to only have 5 frames of advantage over him (minus the number of active frames you still had left in your move… supposing you hit him on the first active frame).
He recovers in 25, you recover in 20. The move has 2 active frames and you hit on the first. You have 5-1= 4 frames to do another move. Everyone knows how this works by now.
Allow me to also remind you of pseudo-meaty moves (I say pseudo because a meaty is usually used on the opponent’s wakeup… people started calling everything that doesn’t hit on the first active frame… a meaty). Most moves have at least 2 active frames. Some have more. Still, the above example I gave was supposing that you actually hit on the very first active frame. That’s how frame advantage is calculated. But you can hit on later frames, hence applying the exact same amount of hitstun, and having the exact same number of recovery frames
Now… This article refers to three things regarding links.
a) How is it possible for people to actually pull off something in the timing of 1/60th of a second?
b) What makes a link hard?
C) Why are some 1 frame links easier than 2 frame links?
Note: I’ll be writing 1fl or 2fl from now on.
Doing the inhuman thing.
It seems increadible to some people (specially when you mention it to people outside the genre, or even videogames in general), that players can actually pull something off consistently in a period of ~0,0167 seconds. That’s 1 frame. Well, that’s not really how it works. If you’re used to playing an instrument, or just listening to music, then you end up having the timing down on your head. And the timing is “down to the millisecond”. Our brain is very fast and human beings, just like several other animals, work by patterns. We memorize a pattern by routine, and then we can replay it over and over again in the exact same fashion. Perfectly.
Musicians do it all the time. If we had to simply do it by eye, on the fly, with absolutely no notion of how long until the first move recovers, then we’d fail miserably. You can’t see: “Oh look! The normal I just did, which I NEVER saw in my life, just ended. I can now press the other button on the exact 1st frame after recovering from that other move I just saw, and get a 1fl”. Only if you were a machine. You can get lucky, obviously. Or just pick a new character like hakan for the first time, and guess that the timing on his jab is probably the same as most characters. Still, 1fls and 2fls are a matter of rhythm.
That’s how human beings pull off precise physical moves. Rhythm. We have the rhythm in our head.
This leads to the next issue.
What makes a link hard?
If you’re thinking “well, a 2fl is clearly easier than a 1fl”, then you’re wrong.
A link is hard when its rhythm is off. Allow me to show you a video which might illustrate that properly: YouTube – Lars Ulrich Fails Shortest Straw Motion Capture (Guitar Hero: Metallica)
Linking a s.HK after Dudley’s Overhead is a 1 frame link, but what actually makes it hard is the fact that it has an odd timing. It’s a long delay. If you’re used to linking faster moves, that one is out of your confort zone. You don’t have the rhythm down for it. Just like trying to link moves in CvS2 after playing so much SF4. It’s not that the links are harder (or that you can’t plink… you can still doubletap). It’s that the timing for most normals is completely different. CvS2 has a faster pace.
In the video above, Lars has to count to three in between drum phrases on the intro for the song. And even then, it’s something that you only get right with feeling. Some people can’t even count 10 seconds perfectly in their head. Some count to ten, and actually land on the 11 second mark (they counted too slow). Others land on the 9 second mark (they counted too fast). If you’re used to looking at a watch and counting seconds, then you get the rhythm down.
Also, seconds is an “official” thing. It’s scientific, but it’s not natural. It’s a thing humans invented. Everything below 1 second has a tendency to seem too fast for some people. It’s not. You can punch someone in the face 3 times in one second (much much faster if you practise it). Sorry for the violent example.
What I mean is… You’re usually better off ignoring the difficulty of a move due to it being a 1fl or a 2fl. It’s irrelevant. Your muscles will get it done whether it’s a 1fl, a 2fl, or whatever it is. If the window was even smaller than 0,0167 seconds, you could still pull it off with practise. Sakura’s lk tatsu > c.hp loops are brutally easy, even though they’re a 1 frame link (a big tendency for the tatsu to hit on the later active frames though, but not that often).
Some 2fls, like Fei Long’s Chicken Wing > c.jab/s.jab/c.short are a bit harder for one simple reason: the timing is very very visual, and not based on rhythm AT ALL. That means that not only do you need a visual cue to land them, as you’ll also miss them while playing online way more often than not. Obviously, if you’re used to it, like everything else, then you end up getting the hang of it.
The ball doesn’t always come at the same speed when you’re playing Tennis. You’ll still hit it with your racket. It’s a visual thing. Also achieved with practise. But then again, it’s a different thing from muscle memory. It’s more visual.
I’m not saying it’s “hard”. That’s an important distinction to make. I’m saying it’s “harder”. You can actually pull both off very easily, again, with practise. Rhythm-based sequences are easier to pull off than off-rhythm ones. This also applies to any combo that involves 3 different normals with different recovery times. A good example is Sako’s trademark Cammy combo.
After an EX IDK he does a normal IDK, and then:
s.Strong > c.Fierce (1fl)
> c.forward (2fl)
xx MK Drill (higher damage than HK which usually only hits once due to pushback).
Since the timing from s.Strong to c.Fierce is different from c.Fierce to c.Forward, it’s a harder combo, than say… 3 c.lk from Zangief, which is comprised of two 1fl (c.lk 1fl c.lk 1fl c.lk).
And when I say timing I don’t mean that because one is a 1fl and the other a 2fl. I mean that the moves themselves have different total frames. The rhythm is not “Pa-Pa-Pa”. It’s not consistent. It’s more like Pa–Pa—-Pa.
TL:DR = A link is harder not because of the 1fl or 2fl tag attached to it, but in relation to the lenience a certain normal might have, and/or the habit you might have with that sort of link timing. Ryu’s c.Strong > c.Strong (2fl) is the exact same thing as Akuma’s c.Strong > c.Strong (apart from the probable hitbox difference).
Why? Because both links use the exact same normals, they’re both shotos, and they’re both 2fl?
Nop. Because both combos have the exact same duration in total frames. Ryu’s is 4s 4a 8r, Akuma’s is 4s 3a 9r. Exact total number of frames (16f). If you can do Ryu’s, you can do Akuma’s. Even if the combo was a 1fl, it’d be as easy for you to do with Ryu as it would with Akuma.
Why do some 2fls seem so retardedly hard, and with a different timing?
I’ll grab Sako’s trademark combo described above.
EX IDK > Normal IDK
> s.Strong > c.Fierce (1fl)
> c.forward (2fl)
xx MK Drill
The link from c.Fierce to c.Forward is hard against several characters. This happens because people tend to suppose that on the first active frame, a move’s damage hitbox is on it’s maximum range. Well… It just so happens that several moves don’t share this property. Cammy’s c.forward seems to only fully extend the hitbox on the 2nd active frame or so. (Feel free to confirm it with the hitbox videos)
This means that what was a 2fl, turns into a 1fl vs several characters who, due to the pushback, can’t be hit by the first active frame of Cammy’s c.forward, and are only hit on the second frame. Basically leading you to timing it differentely from the usual c.Fierce > c.Forward combo. Again, the difference isn’t gigantic, but it does change the rhythm a bit.
All things considered, this applies to many other combos, like Rufus’ trial 23, amongst others. Rufus’ trial 23 involves a far.st.jab into a c.forward. By the end of the combo you’re so far away, that the c.forward can only hit on it’s second active frame (limb fully extended = max range hitbox). This turns what used to be a 2fl, into another 1fl.
Well, I hope this could be of use to some of the more technical players out there, whether they play like shit or not. I know I do.