Have you ever wondered how some players just knew what you were going to do? Every jump-in is punished, every tick grab is teched, and every uppercut is blocked. It just seems like they’ve instantly downloaded you and every decision you make is wrong. What you might not know is that this player has identified your player archetype.
A player archetype is a framework of how a player reacts to common situations in fighting games. This framework helps to streamline decisions you’ll make to fight against them and helps with making better reads, thus increasing the chance that you’ll win your match.
Observe Key Moments and Collect Data
Understanding your opponent is key to defeating them, so without any prior knowledge of who they are, you need to observe their style of play. Ideally, you’ll want to observe everything your opponent does to make a judgement about them, but it is overwhelming and distracting to try and process every little thing. To help stay alert and keep some sanity, you can focus on some common situations to collect data on. These situations that happen in nearly every fighting game are what I like to call “key moments”. These key moments give you some of the most information you’ll gather about an opponent. Here are some things you’ll want to observe:
- What does your opponent do at the start of the round?
- What does the opponent do while waking up?
- How does your opponent react to blocking against your pressure?
- What does your opponent do to capitalize when they knock you down?
- How confidently do they move and execute moves/combos?
- Are there any predictable patterns that you recognize?
The answer to these questions will inform you about what kind of player you’re up against. The response will clue you in about their emotional state or what they’re thinking of. A particular action (e.g. jumping) has different meanings from game to game but in the context of Street Fighter, some examples of this are:
- The opponent jumps back at round start = They’re scared or prefer to play defense
- They usually go for uppercut on wakeup = They lack confidence in defense
- They hit jab during your pressure = They don’t respect you
- They try to bait your reversal uppercut = They like don’t like taking risks
- They tend to jump a lot = They lack patience
- They usually uppercut during your pressure = They’re crazy
It takes a bit of experience or some figuring out to properly attribute what any of the answers mean about the opponent. Of course, these readings in isolation won’t always be correct but they will form a helpful starting point to build context for the archetype.
If you have trouble attributing a meaning to a response, try to think of how you feel about the way you respond to one of the questions above. What are you feeling when you’re mashing an invincible DP or super on your wake up? Most likely other people have similar feelings in the same situation and you’ll learn to recognize it when you see it.
Building the Archetype
After observing these situations from either playing or watching the games you play, you’ll start to notice some patterns in players. There are some player responses that seem to correlate with each other. This is where we can start creating our frameworks for player archetypes.
Typically a player archetype is dominated by a player’s emotional profile. A majority of the way a player answers problems they’re faced with in the game revolves around their personality. Using this as a framework, we can guess what a player might do in any given situation. Here’s a few basic archetypes you might find:
- Reserved Observer (Scared)
- Will most likely block and not tech throws
- Will most likely block on your wake up to avoid DPs
- Will most likely not challenge your mix-ups and try to block
- Wild Gambler (Lacks shame)
- Will most likely do something risky like DP when at disadvantage
- Will pick unexpected answers that don’t make sense
- Will drop combos to reset you
- Right Answer Robot (Control freak)
- Will play with a flowchart style
- Will try to pick the optimal solution for a given situation
- Will have trouble with unpredictable behavior
- Panicked Player (Lacks patience)
- Will most likely DP or super on wake up
- Will most likely mash while blocking
- Will likely do something risky in neutral when enough time passes
When you gain more fighting experience, you’ll start to get a feel for what archetype players are in fewer interactions. With this faster download speed, you’ll build many more of your own personal archetypes that you can use to make better reads on your opponents.
Just remember that people won’t always fit perfectly into any archetype that you use. These archetypes are mainly starting points to frame your approach to the match. As you improve this skill, you’ll start to better intuit the message that every action communicates.
Use the Archetype to Read Your Opponent
Now that you have assumed what the player’s archetype is, you can start making educated predictions of what their next moves will be. Imagine how this archetype player would act in any given situation then choose the option that counters it.
For example, against the Reserved Observer, you might see that this person tends to attempt baiting your reversal on wake up. When you’re in a wakeup situation where uppercutting seems like a great idea, waking up to walk over and throw them can be very effective (and soul-crushing as a bonus). Now you have the idea that this person is a scared player, so next you’ll guess that tick throws are effective against them. You go for a tick throw and see it work 3 more times and on the 4th attempt, you successfully bait a wakeup uppercut. Download complete. The more you can confirm the archetype you assumed is correct, the more the opponent will feel helpless because it seems like you know everything that they will do.
The archetype you assume won’t always be 100% correct and you shouldn’t expect it to be. If this player was able to tech all the throws properly, it could mean that this is a particular strength this player has, or you may have mis-archetyped this person. You just need to collect more data and readjust your assessment. (This concept is called “predictive model checking” that is a tool used in statistical analysis.)
Archetyping isn’t clear cut when it comes to using it against very strong players. Typically, stronger players will have only parts of their game suffer and have fewer holes in their gameplay. In this case, you’ll have to compartmentalize these archetypes whether it’s for certain aspects of gameplay or for a certain amount of time. For example, a player can exhibit that they’re very impatient and jump a few times, but they may catch themselves and try to play more patiently. But they may turn the aggression up when they think it is the right time and start jumping again.
You’ll have to find something that triggers a negative emotional response and use that window of opportunity to make your opponent crack. Even the best players in the world have cracks in their game, it just takes a lot more work to find and exploit that weakness.
Use what you observe from what a player does in a match because that information is extremely useful. Once you learn to start seeing what archetype a player tends to exhibit, your ability to read the opponent’s moves will skyrocket. This practice of archetypes isn’t a perfect science but it helps to put up a framework to guide your strategy against your opponent and max out your download speed.
Choysauce is a self proclaimed fighting game floozy and plays as many fighting games as possible and then writes about playing them. He also helps with management for toptier.gg. You can catch him on Twitter @choysauce85.