A Fighting Game First: Showing Frame Advantage

We just put a new feature in Fantasy Strike that’s notable because it’s never been done before. There are now visual effects on every hit that show if you recover first, or if your opponent does. The bigger the magnitude of the effects, the longer you (or your opponent) has to act before the other player.


The concept of who recovers first after a move hits or is blocked is called “frame advantage” in fighting games. The “frame” is the basic unit of time in fighting games, means a still frame of graphics shown every 1/60th of a second. So if you have +5 frame advantage after your move is blocked, that means you’ll be able to start your next move 5 frames (5/60ths of a second) before your opponent is able to start their next move. This is a very important concept in fighting games, but it's always been invisible…until now.

Expert fighting game players always want to know which moves are safe, meaning which moves have the attacker recovering first when the move is blocked. Fantasy Strike now shows that with the blue visual effects above.

Good players are also conscious of “frame traps.” That term means having frame advantage (blue effects in Fantasy Strike), then attacking again and interrupting your opponent’s move if they tried to do something. For example, imagine you have a move that has 10 frames of startup, and hits on the 11th frame. Suppose your opponent has a slightly faster move that has 9 frames of startup on hits on frame 10. If you both happened to do these moves at exactly the same time, the faster one (theirs) would hit and interrupt the other move (yours). You’d be sad about that. But now imagine that you did some other move that gets blocked and leaves you at +5 (you recover 5 frames sooner than they do). Immediately after that blocked move, if you do your 10-frame startup move, you’re getting a head-start of 5 frames here. Your opponent is stuck blocking for 5 frames, THEN starts their 9-frame move. They are too far behind here and now your attack will win, even though “usually” your attack is slower.

Frame advantage effects being visible all the time mean it’s more clear when frame traps are even happening. This doesn’t really take away anything because anyone who knows what they are doing already knew this. It means that beginners can play the “real game” sooner. It’s easier for them to get on the same page about what is even happening. Attacking when you are at frame disadvantage is risky, but sometimes still smart. Now it’s easier to KNOW you’re in that decision and make a conscious decision whether you want to attack then or not.

That said, this feature is not just for beginners. There’s a lot of nuance in the exact timing and spacing moves that can affect frame advantage, and experts can learn about that now. For example, Setsuki can press C then B to throw a low-to-the-ground kunai, but it could give her frame advantage or disadvantage depending on the spacing and timing. Also, she has a slide attack with a lot of active frames and it could give frame advantage or disadvantage depending on the timing and spacing. Grave’s projectile has frame disadvantage from close, and lots of frame advantage from far away. There’s a particular distance where it’s exactly +0 (both players are able to do their next move at exactly the same time). That’s something you can actually see on-screen now all the time.

I’m really excited about this feature and I find it useful from the beginner level all the way to the expert level. It was a technical challenge to correctly compute frame advantage in a lot of situations, and it was an aesthetic challenge to make the effects visible enough to see if you care about them, but not overly distracting if you don’t care. Try it out and see if it helps you understand Fantasy Strike more. It’s easier to wrap your mind around a game’s depth when you have the information you need to make gameplay-decisions.

Fantasy Strike is currently available on Steam, here.