Sprites, Combos, Hitboxes, and Other Things

My brother and I have always had an interest in video games for as long as I can remember, one of my oldest memories is of a video game. At one point, circa 2003, we were playing games like Street Fighter III 3rd Strike and Guilty Gear. My brother had also obtained a DVD containing footage from the Evolution tournament that took place in 2000 (and of another year that I can’t remember, tho prolly 2002). Watching these DVDs and playing these games, I had mentioned to him that I would have liked to attend one of these types of events, and so my brother suggested I look on the Shoryuken forums for information. Everything went downhill from there -- and thirteen years later I still have not attended an Evolution tournament. I have been to quite a few local events and to the North East Championship (NEC) event many times, but the only time I’ve ever made it out to the West coast was to attend a Poverty Fest.

Though, his suggestion is what led me to end up wallowing in the cesspools of the Shoryuken forums, circa 2004, and during that time I had gotten interested in creating forum avatars from observing some threads in the Image Mishmash sub-forum. My first inclination was, of course, to make something gaming related and since I was into Guilty Gear at the time I decided to make something that featured I-No. Several internet searches resulted in nothing useful, so I decided to load up the PC version and make some sprites myself. This was an activity that my brother witnessed: I was painstakingly trying to perform moves with one hand while screen capturing with the other hand, then loading the image into Paint Shop Pro and manually removing the background, one pixel at a time. An incredibly tedious and unreliable process, but I’m proportionately stubborn so I kept doing it for several avatars.

I never actually asked my brother for an easier method, it was just his observation of my inefficient method that inspired him to create a better way. I’m not a programmer so I don’t really know much about the sprite ripper that he created other than the program was reading data directly from memory as it was being written. But because this program would rip raw data, that meant perfectly clean sprites, so things that would otherwise be impossible to clean off of a sprite were now being spit right out automatically. Particle effects, projectiles, overlapping/transparent sprites, etc. were all rendered separately and automatically, resulting in perfect sprites and turning a huge project into a one day project.

A sprite file would only be created for a particular image if that data actually went into memory, in other words: The program wasn’t going to produce the sprite files for I-No’s Chemical Love projectile if you never perform that move while the program was running. You had to actually do the move while the program was running in order to get the files for it. But OCD + stubbornness = I ripped them all. It was fun looking through the files anyway because there were a lot of easter eggs that I may never have noticed otherwise, but honestly I just wanted to have every image.

Of course, once everything was done, might as well share it with the Shoryuken forums right? Well, at that time I hosted some of the files on my ISP’s FTP server. That’s when I was approached by the owner of the site that is now titled “Just No Point”. I honestly can’t remember the site’s original name or the owner’s screen name at the time (I think it had something to do with Ky) but his real name was Keith. He noticed the sprites files and offered to host them on his site. Once they were hosted I was again approached by another person, his screen name Adex, and he offered to create a website design for the files (seen: here*). I’m guessing this was sometime around 2005/2006. Everything just kind of sprang up around me without me doing much of anything, without me even asking.

My brother and I had no ties to the Mugen community and no prior experiences with its members, but apparently it was the Mugen community that valued the sprite rips the most, as well as the program which my brother provided the open source code for.

My stubbornness also gave rise to my brother creating something else: Modifications to the emulator known as Final Burn. Around this time, my brother and I had become avid spectators who enjoyed watching match videos, but we had also stumbled on quite a few combo videos in our searches for more match videos. Some of these were so fantastic that I was rather inspired to try and make my own combo videos. Of course, if you’ve ever spent time trying to do the combo challenges for an entire cast of characters then you know this can be rather tedious, but like I said I’m very stubborn and OCD. Well this time I did actually ask my brother if he could help so I am guilty (this time), but he accepted because he wanted to be entertained by “wacky” things that no human could do, such as the type of thing you can see in Tool Assistant Speed Runs of other games. So, he created a re-record function and a frame-step function for Final Burn.

Now, it is my understanding that at this time it was already possible to manually edit a replay in order to get the desired results, or you could use a programmable controller to program the sequence of events as desired instead. So the concept of “tool assistance” wasn’t necessarily new to Fighting Games, but it did provide an entirely new way of looking at it: Live and interactive. The undo function allowed you to save during a recording and load from that save state, so if you were doing a 50-move combo you could go back to the 25th hit and change the rest of the combo without having to redo the first 25 hits. Or you could know what the CPU AI is going to do before it does it. Unfortunately the AI in just about every fighting game is pretty lame and there’s only so much you can do to make it fun and interesting to beat them up (DP’ing every move for a double perfect is boring AF). Fortunately, some characters have an interesting enough design that you can do wacky things regardless of what the AI is doing, and that’s what gave rise to the video for Samurai Shodown 4 bust Basara (seen: here*). It would have been more ideal to do it in Samurai Shodown 5-SP but at the time I didn’t know it had been emulated. Still, that one video wasn’t enough, and the AI was far too disappointing in most games, so the thought occurred to me: What if I controlled both players at the same time. It was certainly possible with frame advance, going frame by frame and inputting commands as I go.

Thus, the four infamous Garou: Mark of the Wolves “match” videos were not choreographed or staged. Rather, they were created, by me. All the players were me (seen: here*). There was actually a fifth one that involved Tizoc (Griffin Mask) and Freeman and was apparently too boring to circulate. Unfortunately, my harddrive where they were originally stored died, so unless someone is able to miraculously resuscitate my old HD then the fifth video probably will never see the light of day.

It was an interesting exercise though and gave me some pause for thought. It made me appreciate the concepts of reaction, anticipation, a player’s overall speed, and matchup experience. I realized knowledge and strategy of a game was really a small fraction of actually being able to play a fighting game well. I knew enough about the game to make the videos but I still sucked at actually playing Garou MotW, so knowledge alone doesn't make you good.

With Vampire Savior, I tinkered with that game and the frame tool a little bit. Two thoughts: First, players had gotten so good at that game that even using the frame-stepper just “looked like people playing normally” and not a robotic machine doing the impossible. There was no point using a tool because humans were already on that level. Second, I tried to recreate the Bulleta (BB Hood) combo that Sakonoko often did on the fly, and I failed. He is somehow able to do something rather consistently that I can’t even do with frame-by-frame input manipulation and I still don’t know how or why. Truly he is gdlk.

I also used this tool to tinker around with X-Men: Children of the Atom. Initially I wanted to mess around with Psylocke’s shadow clones super, but nothing interesting came out of Psylocke in the end. Rather, it was actually a fluke while I was mashing buttons at normal speed that I discovered something about Storm that I didn’t previously know: There’s a 1-frame window during each of her normal moves that allow you to cancel into the next move without incurring hit-stop to Storm (the opponent still enters hit-stop). If anyone ever wondered how much hit-stop actually affected normal gameplay, wonder no more, just watch the Storm video (seen: here*) (MB Ciel clip is unrelated and unassisted). If you’re wondering what the hell is even going on, she’s simply bypassing hit-stop, that’s all. This is actually humanly possible to do consistently with her standing LK or crouching LK, but to get just-frame inputs on every one of her normal moves is not something I would expect anyone could do without tool assistance. Also you'll notice both clips are the same combo up until about halfway, another indication of using undo and save states.

Regarding my Street Fighter Alpha 3 combos, the answer is yes and no. All of the combos that I recorded for SFA3 I had to do manually in order to make sure they were humanly possible to do. However, I also needed to use frame-stepper to re-record the combos while simultaneously controlling the other player in order to make sure the opponent air teched at the right time and the combos were inescapable after tech. I was recording using an emulator which meant the arcade version of SFA3, which did not have a training mode or dummy, so I needed to be able to do the combo with player 1 while inputting air-techs and air-blocks with player2. So I did do all the combos with no assistance first, but then what you’re seeing on screen is the second recording which was tool assisted. Also, my brother provided a quick hack that disabled the background music in SFA3, which was quite useful.

This was another moment that gave me pause for thought. I had gotten some attention for creating lots of combo videos for SFA3, but it was weird to me because hacking away at a dummy for hours doesn’t mean you’re a good player. Also doing a combo successfully once on a dummy doesn't mean you know the combo like the back of your hand and can whip it out in a tournament. Some people may claim I’m a fraud or theory fighter and that’s fine by me, I never claimed to be good at the game. The assumptions of others are not something I bother influencing one way or the other. Assume whatever you like. Practice makes perfect, but if you only practice alone rather than with another human player then you will most likely never progress into a good player. I never had any experience in A3 so I never got good at it, nor did I ever want to.

With Melty Blood, there was never a tool created for it AFAIK, so all of the combos I recorded for Melty Blood were unassisted. But then, with games like that the tools weren’t necessary, since they had a training mode and dummy that could auto-tech. Indeed, the Aoko tutorial and Ikusat combo compilations were not tool assisted at all. And once netplay was available for it I became significantly less involved in combos for it, because now I had access to human opponents more frequently. From my previous experiences with playing games alone, I had decided that when I am able to play versus humans then it was always preferable, so I neglected training mode and combos almost entirely. The Potemkin Flick video was also not tool assisted even though my brother did create a frame tool for that game (seen: here*).

My brother also somewhat-anonymously created some very interesting things for an FPS games that we were both involved in, but that's a different topic.

Next: Hitboxes. Much like the initial days of the sprites, my involvement with the hitbox videos was simply that: Nothing. All I ever did was record the videos themselves. I started with an interest in the hitboxes for games because Mauve had created a tool in which players could view the hitboxes for games like IaMP, and Akatsuki Blitzkampf. All I did was record and post the videos. Various people created multiple tools and I just used them. But with BlazBlue things were not so peachy. I did record hitbox videos for BB and I uploaded them, but a representative from Aksys (NOT Ark Systems) filed a copyright claim, so my videos were removed. Actually I had uploaded quite a few, and they submitted the claims in separate groups, had one more claim been filed then my primary Youtube account would have been terminated. And along with the fact that my hard drive had died, all of my previous videos that I uploaded would have been lost forever. But in the end those claims were not enough to terminate my account, and the infractions were later lifted/removed from my account eventually. I won’t be uploading the videos back onto YouTube though as there’s really no need to. We got what we wanted when we wanted it, and now we’re onto another sequel of BB at this point so the old data is deprecated, and I’m satisfied and unscathed from that ending.

Finally, in the year 2010, a blizzard struck my hometown in northern Virginia/DC and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I decided to move to South Florida, and I did move in 2012. But since that day, back in 2010 when I had made up my mind to move south, my interests/hobbies have shifted away from the FGC. I still enjoy video games, always have & will, but art and music have become more prominent in my life since then, so I’ve drifted away from the videos, forums, blogs, netplay, and even IRC (though people started using Discord anyway). So tl;dr: RIP 2004-2010-ish.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Misnomer

Some time ago I posted about a minor Double Standard within the FGC. Though, as minor as it may be, it's part of a problematic trend within the FGC that has existed for as long as I can remember. Which is: Terminology and definitions.

If you're not the type of person to get hung up on terminologies and definitions then you are not the type to be commentating on the microphone. My mind immediately gravitates to "Fuzzy guard" and how it means entirely different things for 2D FG players than it does for 3D FG players.

I know, it's boring and technical and "no one cares" because it doesn't have anything to do with the game itself or how it's played. Likewise it could be argued that slang can actually incite higher levels of hype and involvement.

But still, I use the following example of an airthrow and a sweep to illustrate a point:
If you call an airthrow a "Hoobiestank" and a sweep a "Floopityflap" then it does not matter what words you actually chose, so long as you use them consistently. The problem I personally have, is when you call both an airthrow and a sweep the same "Floopityflap" name. It makes no sense because the two items, an airthrow, and a sweep, are entirely different in execution and circumstance, possibly risk/reward was well (depending on the game). Basically: They are not alike. It would be a literal misnomer to use "Floopityflap" to describe both actions.

Now, you could have many different names for an airthrow. A "Scoop", a "Hoobiestank", a "Shuttlecock", a "Frisbye". Doesn't matter what words or how many words you use, as long as you are describing the same concept. As soon as you use any of those words to describe a totally different concept is where things become problematic. A sweep should not be called a "Scoop" because you already used that to mean an airthrow.

The English language isn't exactly perfect, but a "Ring Out" should pretty much be when an opponent goes outside of the playing field because it's logical. However, "Ring Out" could also be used to describe a universal defensive block that all character's in a game share involving a ring being deployed (as hypothetical example, to block incoming projectiles). But then if you can knock a player outside the playing field, and also deploy a force field, then saying "Ring Out" for both situations becomes ridiculous.

The reason I'm blogging about this isn't just as a heads up to MCs. I've been using the term "Neutral" since I started playing SFA3, circa 1999. I used it as a technical term to mean when a character in inactive, meaning a state of inactivity. However, "inactive" is a misnomer because there are some neutral states in SFA3 that occur even when a player is actively doing something. Likewise, there are technical exceptions where a player can be doing absolutely nothing and yet they are considered to not be in neutral (out of neutral).

Some players have adopted the term Neutral to mean any time that the two opponents are not directly touching each other or are not at a serious frame advantage or field(corner) advantage. Well that's fine. You can have the word "Neutral" all you want since it was a misnomer in the first place. Winty put it succinctly when he tweeted "what do you call it when the car isn't in gear". Well I'll be happy to use another word like "Idle" since that's also a misnomer. To me it does not matter what it's called because the community would only use it for the one singular concept in SFA3, which is an esoteric within a niche game anyway. Plus, the game extends far beyond me. I'm a relative nobody in the community so at this point people are going to use whatever term they are comfortable with. I speak only for myself in saying I'd feel fine with calling it something else.

I'd like to point out that Aeris trolled on the mic at Evo, calling "Okizeme" pretty much every single permutation of vowels and consonants except for the correct phonetic sequence/pronunciation. He did this intentionally and I applaud him. It's not as serious as some people might think, especially when you consider that we still use "Fireball" to describe just about any projectile, even when it's neither made of fire nor an actual ball. But, we also don't call a headbutt a "Fireball" either. Aeris might have been trolling but it underlines the point that it doesn't matter how you say it, it matters how you use it and what you're referring to. I personally feel that anyone who starts talking about "Neutral" without understanding what poking, zoning, baiting, feinting, midrange, frame (dis)advantage, and footsies are should just pass the microphone to some one else, preferably to someone who does. Because if that person did understand, they probably wouldn't be using the word Neutral in the first place. Likewise, in the end, everyone knew what Aeris was talking about anyway because he wasn't completely ignorant when he did it, he could not have been ignorant or he might have accidentally said it correctly at least once, and he never did.

In closing: I'm also not going to throw out "Red Blocking" while on a microphone unless I'm sure no one else uses it for something different and that I'm also sure the action I'm referring to is the only one I'll label "Red Blocking" during my commentary. But then I'm the type to fancy the use of "Neutral" to mean neutral frame advantage ( -0 ) on hit/block, anyway. Hence why I don't commentate, I pass the mic.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Casual Progression

Some players are better than others, that's an obvious given but also an important one. The reason gaps are important is the same reason that it's important in basketball/baseball/etc. You will not beat Michael Jordan if you've never even stepped onto a basketball court, and you can't hope to perform as well or be as valued as Babe Ruth if you've never played baseball a single day in your life.

I've encountered some players who say that some games are designed too "hard" or "difficult" and the "learning curve" is not to their liking, and the argument is that these games reward grinding practice far too much. I've also heard the opposite where players say a game is too easy. Well sorry to repeat what I've just said, but if you've put no effort into practicing a game then why should you be favored to win over a player who has put in effort, right? Nope, the player who has worked hard and actually cares about the game and about winning should win. If you think you're so talented that your talent should carry you then go right ahead and keep thinking that, while you continue to not place top 8 at tournaments where other dedicated and talented players do (unless you are placing, then you shouldn't be complaining). When a game is too easy is when things become more about personal experience.

Coin flips are easy and linear, not much to them, but that shouldn't bother you or anyone else. You didn't put effort into training to win a coin flip, so there's no point getting upset over it. There are players who greatly enjoy coin flips though, and you shouldn't try to modify the coin flip game just because it doesn't appeal to you due it being simple. Some people enjoy simplicity. If you don't then at least you know why. Move on.

Exciting things also happen when there's a distinct fissure between players. Style, skill, talent, everything. If every game was Ryu versus Ryu of equal player-skill then it would be boring. It would bore anyone who doesn't main Ryu, bore any observers/spectators, and even bore Ryu mains too, eventually. There aren't twenty copies of Tiger Woods, and the golfing world is probably extremely happy about that.

I personally would agree that a game's difficulty shouldn't be about how difficult it is to perform something like c.MK into fireball. Instead, how difficult is it to land that c.MK in the first place and why. Are you the type of person that throws out a c.MK expecting it to hit, and then gets frustrated when it doesn't hit? I ask because the question itself is something everyone should ask themselves, not only to evaluate their involvement with fighting games, but rather to also consider why frustration is the reaction to "expected [x], but got something different". It extends to both sides of the spectrum: You expected to win, but you didn't.

Most players will get bored doing c.LK c.LK hitconfirm into special/super over and over again against a dummy in training mode. The dummy isn't fighting back. It's the real fans/athletes of the genre that take joy in the next step: Challenge. The challenge of, if the dummy was trying to do the same thing you are, then how do you: A) Prevent the dummy from hitting you with c.LK and B) How do you land your own c.LK knowing that the dummy will try and block or otherwise prevent it (and still also trying to hit you)? With this struggle, it's up to you to find enjoyment in this hobby and whether or not you also would consider Fighting Games as a sport (spectator sport). It's not always going to go your way every match, and that should be a good thing. A fun and interesting and motivating thing.

Watering a game down or making it easy doesn't necessarily kill a game though. Any game will eventually get judged by the community after it gets broken down and analyzed by enthusiasts (usually pretty fast!), and you're free to come up with your own conclusions of course. When a game is dead in the water, it ended up there on it's own accord. Your own personal opinion about a game being easy or difficult makes very little difference in the long run regarding a game's popularity and longevity, as each player experiences the game in their own way and with each other and formulates their own judgement. If a fighting game author were to try and adjust a game's difficulty/ease to try and appeal to the audience after it's initial release, sorry: It has already been judged.

The act of pushing a direction down and pressing the LK button to perform a c.LK is, after all, fairly simple. Most games, though, force you to find creative ways to land that c.LK. So regardless of how easy it is to perform a c.LK or how easy it is to do a two hit or multiple hit combo after landing the c.LK is relatively unimportant to the learning curve and difficulty of the game. What is important is how hard and interesting the game makes it to land the c.LK in the first place, and all the dynamics involved. That is what the community judged in the first place, how fun it is to figure out and exploit strategy.

If these concepts fail you, then it may be time to sit back and reflect on everything in retrospect. In the end, what is important is your own experience. If you're not having a good one, then consider that others are having a good time and maybe the problem lies elsewhere, not with the game and not with them.

In closing: It's actually a good thing when casual players get butt-hurt over a loss, maybe not for the game's unit sale$, but because young children that are still in elementary school shouldn't be able to compete in the NBA with Michael Jordan. They should get their asses handed to them just as hard on a basketball court as they would in a video game against seasoned players of superior experience and talent. Widening or narrowing the basketball hoop or backboard shouldn't change things at all, the elementary school students should still get whooped by a professional player who has the advantages of: Experience, physique, intelligence. Likewise the same logic can apply to fighting games. Making a combo or universal action easier or harder shouldn't affect the outcome between a newb and a top player. Why should a newb player who has never played Street Fighter a day in their life be able to compete with players like Daigo and Wong during a tournament like Evolution? They should not, and they do not. It doesn't happen. It has not happened in over a decade since Evo started, so it's not something to worry about. The fact remains: The players who put in the most effort and are naturally talented come out on top, regardless of how easy or hard the game is. The way it should be.

- Copyright © Xenozip.


Rooting for the underdog is often quite popular, and comebacks can also be popular. Not just in video games, but even within popular culture like action films and other media. Fighting games have always toyed with the underdog and comeback concepts in various ways with varying results, even to the point of implementing actual mechanics designed to promote comebacks. Whether it’s a fighting game or a fictional novel though, it can be implemented both the right way and the wrong way. In fighting games, the underdog is typically the low tier character who’s not favored in an array of matchups. This is why fighting game designers have always intentionally made some characters stronger than others, not just for variety in order to avoid homogeneity, but also to create the underdogs on purpose. Though in recent years with tier-balancing and comeback-mechanics the underdog could be anyone, or it could be no one at all. Still, pop-culture critics often point out that the Deus Ex Machina can completely ruin an otherwise enjoyable story, and the same is basically true for a fighting game's comeback-mechanic if implemented just as poorly.

Unlike with other forms of media though, the players of fighting games are experiencing the story as it unfolds, so poorly designed mechanics can not only lead to simple disappointment but also frustration and possibly community-wide disinterest in the game itself.

As an extreme example, the Touhou fighting game called Scarlet Weather Rhapsody had to patch an extremely poorly implemented come-back mechanic in order to fix it. Originally, supers could be done at the single push of a button while holding any direction. Therefore, it was too easy to option-select, or even just mash, on the super-button while blocking during situations where you’d either block or reversal. To exacerbate this even further, some supers were fairly safe or even unpunishable while still being incredibly powerful. They fixed this by making it so you could not be blocking before doing a super, and balanced the punishability and damage of some supers. But the point is that this was originally a bad idea that was made a bit less of a bad idea.

The key ingredient seems to be just how easy it is to rely on, contrast with how baitable/punishable it is by the opponent. The comeback is made more appealing when the underdog has to really work for a victory; hence this is why the Deus Ex Machina is not as appealing, there’s nothing attractive about a free win. It’s exciting when it seems like a player really deserved the win, but a letdown when it seems like the other player “got robbed” of a victory.

However, if a comeback mechanic is implemented around the idea that it not only has a very large risk-reward ratio (meaning, very high risk and balanced reward payout) but it’s also not particularly easy to pull off, then it’s not only justifiable when it happens but commendable when successful. That isn't to say it should be useless, but rather just keeping in mind that there needs to be room for skill from both players. It's skillful when an aggressor is able to bait out and punish an opponent's comeback-mechanic, but also skillful when an underdog can land a comeback-mechanic despite the low odds of actually being able to land it and the risk involved when failing to land it.

In my opinion, comeback-mechanics have the potential to be good and enjoyable. If you're not able to avoid getting hit by comeback-mechanics and you're getting owned up because of them then you need to step up your game, yet likewise if you're not able to land a comeback-mechanic and getting steamrolled because you continue to misuse them then you need to step up your game. However, the mechanic itself also needs to be implemented well for it to even be enjoyable in the first place.

- Copyright © Xenozip.


As time moves forward we are seeing more and more fighting games that add new kinds of system mechanics that affect gameflow. Some of these mechanics allow the player to manipulate the behavior of a character relative to other characters, or the game itself, in rather interesting ways.

There are fighting games where some characters have projectiles (fireballs) while other characters do not, but then we could say that is simply character diversity rather than system-mechnical/conceptual diversity. A board view of some examples can be seen in games like Arcana Heart and BlazBlue. Though it’s quite a bit more subtle in games like Street Fighter 4, you do see at least some differences between the cast outside of just normal and special moves. Things like SF4’s Adon getting up slightly faster than other characters, and Hakan having a set of moves that modify the behavior of his other moves, as well as characters universally being able to switch between Ultras. Certainly, almost every game tries to avoid homogenization of the cast by making characters unique, but what makes a character unique seems to be the trend that game designers are seeking the natural conclusion to. Or at least, in the past we have seen an extremely diverse character roster with very unique gameplay between characters, such as Capcom’s Vampire Savoir series, and that has seemingly inspired the next-gen to go even further with the general idea of “everyone is different but equal” (or at least kinda equal).

A more extreme example would be Arcana Heart 3 where the player is able to pick an Arcana which modifies a wide variety of things. Like, picking the Wind-element Arcana allows you to jump cancel some normal attack moves that are otherwise not jump cancelable, and gain additional movement options in the air, whereas picking the Luck arcana will instead boost your chances of getting random bonus counterhits on hits that would not have otherwise caused a counterhit. Even more radically is the Flower-arcana which basically makes it so your character can never be counterhit (nullifies in-bound counterhits). Games like Capcom vs SNK 2 and Melty Blood Actress Again have explored Grooves/Moons which change your movement options (among other things), yet Arcana Heart instead gives every character a dash unless they pick the Ice-element arcana which then causes your character to run when front-stepping.

This sort of customization or “choice” seems like an evolution to me because some concepts are quite old, yet not fully explored in the past until relatively recently. For example, the concept of Magnetism isn’t new, we’re talking thousands of years of knowing about magnetism. But it really depends on how game designers decide to execute the concept that makes it really noticeable.

As an example, Magneto is a character from the Marvel series that has been in comic books and the Capcom Marvel and Versus titles for a long time, and yet his ability to control Magnetism wouldn’t necessarily be blatantly obvious to those not already familiar with the character. When you simply look at the way he fights, he doesn’t appear any different from other characters. However, games like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure attempted to explore the concept of magnetism with the character Mariah “poisoning” you with increasingly stronger magnetism, making many of her moves faster/stronger with bonuses to attack range and number of hits. It became more obvious what her power was, though it could be argued that each level of magnetism merely powered up her moves rather than modified their behavior. The concept of Magnetism was also explored in BlazBlue with the character Iron Tager also being able to “poison” the opponent with magnetism, which pulls you in closer to him when certain moves activate, which is seemingly rather potent for a grappler-type character who wants to be up close to the opponent.

Some things would appear to translate over to the Fighting Game genre rather naturally and easily, such as Ice Man of Marvel being able to freeze his opponents, while other abilities may need a little more thought put into it. Even though I mentioned Jojo’s Mariah, she’s somewhat of a special case. Many of the characters from the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series also had an array of interesting abilities in the Manga series that simply don’t appear particularly obvious in the Capcom game, if at all.

Summons and Helpers is also one of these concepts that I think could be explored further, to interesting effect. Characters like Zappa and Eddie from the Guilty Gear series have the ability to create an additional “character” on the screen and control them while still controlling themselves. In the same game, however, there are the characters Dizzy and Testament who can “summon” helpers, however these only act on their own, in other words it could be argued that these types of summons are nothing more than dynamic projectiles (or like “thinking” Fireballs). In a more narrow view, you could say that the assists that exist in Marvel vs Capcom 2 are just push-a-button-get-an-attack, in other words the assists are one-button fireballs themselves. The customization for assists in MvC2 is amazing and holds a lot of dynamic, but the actual output is simply push-button-fireball. The cool thing is though; I think players enjoy both the autonomous and the controllable types, which means greater possibility for flexible diversity. The reason that’s cool is because that gives way to possible hybridization or unique out-of-box thought, translating directly into the fighting game genre.

Personally, I always find it very interesting when a game incorporates fresh ideas that modify the behavior of normal play, and I hope to see more games in the future explore certain subjects.

What I hope to see even more of in the future is: character game-play customization, ability to modify game-play, and a broad exploration of secondary characters (summons/assists) that are teamed with the main character and either controllable or autonomous.

@Dammit wrote:
"I recall a post on some blog that matched up all the features with the first game/series that they appeared in. I'd like to see it again if anyone know about it. Ah, it was omni's page: http://lowfierce.blogspot.com/2009/01/combat-systems.html "

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Stepping It

In fighting games there's a certain element that stands as an amorphous blob. Rather, the players themselves have to deal with the ever changing and ever non-changing flow of "the game" which we call challenge.

In almost all fighting games, one strives to maximize damage to the opponent while minimizing damage to their own character. Sounds like simple logic, but the reality of things is not nearly as simple, because when you are face to face with an opponent you need to deal with things like reaction and anticipation and sometimes even luck. Frankly, you can't know the best possible action at any given moment, because that may or may not be what your opponent will do or what they want you to think they'll do. In fact, your opponent is trying their hardest to be better than you, and so they are making sure that you don't know what's coming next. Thus, there's usually more than one option at your opponent's disposal that they're trying hard to implement in order to ensure that you don't get it right every time. After all, isn't that what you try to do.

Actually, some well-seasoned players willingly sacrifice damage in order to lead in to ideal mixup/rushdown/pressure situations. So sometimes it's a really good idea to not maximize damage to the opponent in order to capitalize on human weakness.

Just take a look at any Tool-Assisted "Speed Run" of a fighting game and compare that to actual human matches, then it should be obvious to anyone why no one plays like that. Sure it'd be sweet to be right all the time, but we're human.

Situation: Let's assume you've been spotted on life and given a lead where the opponent has been knocked down and must stand directly up. This is such an ideal situation to anyone familiar with the genre that it needs barely any explanation. The words "Rush that shit down" should suffice. But I will elaborate in saying that in the grand spectrum of things you have the potential to hit from multiple different directions of your choosing, which makes the opponent have to either correctly block high-right(6), high-left(4), low right(3), low-left(1), or do an unblockable move such as a throw. This is a concept that I personally tend to call the 5-way. In a lot of games, you can't react to it. You might plainly think that if the player does a crossup you can just block the other way, which is only true if that's all your opponent ever does, but it's definitely not the case if your opponent switches between the 5 options to the point where you can not react or predict which way you need to block (or not block). You might then rely on trying reversals or other defensive/offensive options to try to get out of this so-called (in recent years) "vortex".

Because of this, there are an overwhelmingly large number of players that will mash an attack button in this situation, or hold up to jump, or try and execute a reversal, anything to "get out of having to block correctly". One might think the reason for this to be obvious: if you can't react then you have to guess, so guess away!

But none of these mashy options actually work in the long run, they typically end in fail initially or the risk/reward outweighs them in the end. Making it a bad idea.

However, there's quite a lot more going on than just that, in addition to the prospect of having to "deal with it" there's also the consideration that the setup is not free at all. Meaning, you can't just put yourself in the position to land the 5-way just because you pressed a button at the start of a match, rather you have to work for it. So that leads also to the argument that if you think it's bullshit to have to deal with a mixup, then don't get yourself in the position where you have to deal with it in the first place.

The 5-way is not guaranteed success because the opponent has a correct action to prevent damage, but the 5-way is in itself a potential reward for putting the opponent in that disadvantageous situation. Like saying: "I deserve this mixup, because I put you there.". While it's not guaranteed that you earn damage off it, the reward for good midrange is the potential to capitalize.

This leads to the concept of midrange, and how do you put the opponent at such a disadvantage that you can land the 5-way (or lesser-number ways thereof), or on the flipside to avoid the 5-way yourself. I've talked about this sort of concept from hither to far, but something that came up along those lines was "what happens next?". What this question actually plays out to is following general gameflow per each step successfully, and then stopping -- the trick here is that the player doesn't know it, or knows it and doesn't know how to move forward. Basically: intuitive failure.

In order to understand this concept however, you must learn the "No, you can't do that" (concept). This is a concept opposite of the 5-way, wherein the 5-way means there is no correct answer but to guess. The opposite being that there is a correct answer but you're forced to choose that option.

As said previously, a lot of players will mash in hopes that it works out of them, knowing that they can't block correctly. What your "nope" job is: "to knock it out of them". So hence the "no you can't do that" concept. To use an example, a SF4 player might knock the opponent down and do a safe jump to avoid a potential reversal uppercut. As seen with SF4 Ryu doing a sweep, then using an immediate jump roundhouse, it's safe because if the opponent reversal uppercut then Ryu can land and block but if the opponent doesn't reversal uppercut then they have to deal with the Ryu j.HK. This is the most blatant example of "no you can't do that", in the sense that: no, you can not mash out a reversal uppercut in this situation, it always fails.

Now granted this also falls along the lines of option selects which automatically choose the right/best option for you, or mindgames where the opponent is put in a position where every option he chooses ends in failure/damage, but to me it's simple because the opponent should never do the wrong thing so it's really a "no, don't" situation. I other words: just deal with it, and you won't get hit. Another way of putting it would be "here I am doing this, and if you don't take the right action you'll get hit, but I also have something else I can do instead -- deal".

This could also be seen as a process of elimination. This brings us to the point of what happens next. Well, the goal of minimizing self-damage while maximizing opponent-damage involves being right more than your opponent. In order to be right, you either have to be very lucky, very intuitive/psychic, and/or go through the process of elimination by taking advantage of the bad habits your opponent has while not faltering with your own set of bad habits.

What that means is stepping it up. Enforcing good habits. In the (glorious) example of pressuring your opponent into the corner, and instilling so much fear into them that they will not even attempt to poke with an attack in order to keep you out because they are afraid of the psychic dp (or some such other), the next step is: the ballpark is yours. Hit them with a high, throw them, do a low when you expect them to block high, jab them when you think they will try to throw break/tech, etc. At that point you've successfully gotten into their head and dominated: you're right, because everything running across their mind is wrong.

Your opponent is afraid to do anything because anything they do seems to lead to failure, you've done the process of elimination so much that they see each action as failure and take no action, but when they are afraid to do anything their inaction leaves them open to abuse, shenanigans, tomfoolery -- they are an open oyster.

- Copyright © Xenozip.


Just as a general FYI, the Mizuumi hub has gotten an overhaul and is currently in great shape.

My entire experience with IaMP, and lately other games, has been based around my years spent with Mizuumi. I'm glad to see it changing, improving, and expanding. I highly recommend checking it out of if you're into netplay and/or poverty, and certainly for IaMP.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Simultaneous Fapping

FelineKI, Dammit, and MZK bringing that goodness. And the script just keeps getting better and better with more games and emulators supported.
Pleased to be enjoying Super Turbo.

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- Copyright © Xenozip.

Fighting Game Mechanics

FYI: "dammit" mentions that "omni" had a post regarding Combat Systems.

- Blocking
- Airblocking
- Hitstop/Blockstop
- Hitstun/Blockstun
- Counter hits
- Ground recovery (bounces/rolls/slides)
- Air techs (air recovery)
- Launchers
- Juggles
- Gravity scaling
- Knockback scaling (hit/block)
- Hitstun/blockstun scaling
- Damage scaling
- Damage proration
- Damage reduction (self-input/mashing to reduce)
- Off the ground hits
- Off the ground limitation
- Wall bounce
- Wall bounce limitation
- Super jump
- Short jump
- Double jump
- Super short jump
- Neutral jump air control
- Run
- Dash/Backdash (sometimes with inv-frames)
- Airdash
- Rolling
- Dodging
- Guard meter (blocking gauge)
- Pushblock (advancing guard)
- Guard reversal
- Guard counter
- EX block (faultless defense/fortress defense)
- Timed block (Just defend/EX Guard)
- Reversals
- Throw invulnerability (after hitstun, blockstun, wakeup, reset/tech).
- Specials
- EX Specials
- Supers
- Revenge (rage/ultra)
- Special cancel
- Super cancel
- EX cancel (roman cancel/rapid cancel/focus attack cancel)
- Normals (stand/crouch/neutral-diagonal-jump)
- Command Normals
- Dashing normals
- Overheads / lows
- Sweeps (knockdown attacks)
- Standing knockdown attacks
- Airborne knockdown attacks
- Throws
- Holds (throws that drain life)
- Command throws/holds
- Comboable throws
- Normal chains
- Normal chain cancel limitation
- Gatling chain (target combos)
- Rekka (normal/special sequence)
- Renda
- Kara cancel
- Negative edge (button up specials)
- Teching throws (breaking/softening)
- Parrying
- Catch-counters (geese/karin)
- Absorbing (focus attack/ultimate guard)
- Bursts/Bombs (hitstun cancel stocks)
- Critical-Life bonus (damage/supers/defense)
- Custom combos (Cancels/speed/shadows/helpers)
- Power up moves (meter stocks/power/armor)
- Meter charging (generally a bad idea)
- Command throws
- Command supers (sequence inputs / sequence breakers)
- Super command throws
- Assists (calling characters with lifebars)
- Helpers (moves that become autonomous of the player, no life bar)
- Partner (tagging/controlling a second character)
- Stances (modes/weapons)
- Teams (pick more than one character
- Life regeneration (heal)
- Life steal (leech)
- Life drain (poison)
- Status effects (dizzy/freeze/locked-moves/slippery/slow/weak/vulnerable)
- Guard point (armor frames)
- Super armor (1-hit absorb, can be thrown)
- Hyper armor (all hit absorb, can't be thrown)
- Suction/Repulsion (wind/magnetism/ropes/grapples/ice/oil)
- Partial invulnerability (high/low/projectile/melee/throw)
- Activation/declaring (stocks/moves)
- Overheads/lows
- Unblockables
- Charge moves
- Button hold moves
- Held and released moves
- Timer-based moves (countdown)
- Timed moves (just frames)
- Move limits (gauge/stocks)
- Projectiles
- Projectile reflection/absorption/neutralization/push
- Character level (warzard/red-earth)
- Items (food/bombs -- samurai shodown)
- Meter items (gems -- Marvel/BBB/pocket fighter)

- Arcade
- Story
- Survival
- Challenge
- Time trial
- Training
- Lesson/tutorial
- Hitbox/Frame display
- Random select (holds character between rounds / randoms between rounds / picks opponents character between rounds)

- Copyright © Xenozip.

The Game

In the past, fighting game players dumped tons of money and time into fighting games at the arcade. Even if they are usually winning every day, they are still putting money into the machine each day that they play. Plus the cost of travel.

That weeded out a lot of players because those that lost would be sticking quarters into a machine and losing, and eventually realizing they are paying just to get steamrolled.

But for those that won, the important thing to remember is that they do not earn anything back either, they put money in with the full knowledge that they will not earn it back.

Even with tournaments, you must take into account that you (or they) would need to assume the player has a realistic chance at placing top three to earn anything. If they do not have a chance at top three then they're really just paying for the entry fee, and playing for no other reason than themselves. Thus, it's easy to say most players are not competing to earn money.

The reason to keep doing it is because of competition and growth. It's a hobby, and an addictive one. Since the beginning of competitive fighting games it's always been about learning to counter the opponent. If you fight a player abusing [x] tactic it becomes a fun and interesting challenge to learn to beat it. What is the [y] the player needs to do in order to counter the opponent's [x] tactic. When you see it in videos it might not be entertaining, but so what -- those players aren't there to entertain you, they are there to entertain themselves. What that "cheap tactic" is doing is helping the community by forcing everyone to level up and fight harder. It's all about setting a bar and having your opponent beat it, or finding some one else who raised the bar even higher so that you could try and beat it.

One might think it's an asshole move to pick top tiers or run the clock for wins, but nothing says "step up your game" better than a loss, because that was your quarter that just went down the drain. It gets the point across, because next time you don't want to lose. If you don't like watching it then don't watch it, if you don't like fighting it then don't fight it, you're only forced to do so if you actually want to win a tournament; in which case you must deal with it in order to face the reality of competition. That's just how it is. A "cheap" tactic is an invitation to counter it, it's an invitation for competition.

These days, in the era of console gaming, online play, and boundless recorded match videos at everyone's fingertips it's easy to get disillusioned. You may not feel like playing a particular game or against a particular person just because something rubs you the wrong way and you think it's "cheap". It is truly a convenient privilege to be able to pick and choose from dozens of opponents at a whim any time of the day, where as without online you'd be stuck with only a handful of players that live in your immediate area and only at specific times when you and they are available.

A lot of tactics that average players would have gotten destroyed by if they never encountered it before are in videos now for all to see. A lot of combos they never would have figured out on your own are recorded both in TACVs and match videos. But it is not just there to entertain you, it is also there to educate you. Information flows in large quantities very quickly, so the game evolves extremely fast. It raises the bar that much higher, that much faster. A lot of those would-be players that, back in the day, lost too many quarters and quit before they began can now see where they went wrong. A lot of players that couldn't figure it out on their own now have a helping hand. A big one.

So let's face reality: tournaments for fighting games, even today, do not rely on spectators because there are none. The spectators are the players. Tournament prizes consist pretty much entirely from entry fees from the tournament. We support our own community, the players themselves, no one else. The videos that people put out aren't there for entertainment, the players are playing for themselves and sharing it with the world to bring others in. Casual online play is there to branch out and bring more players in. Games with easy execution and simple game mechanics and simple combos are there to bring more players in. It might all be seen as spoonfeeding and a disconnection from the days when we were shoulder to shoulder and shoving quarters into a machine, but it's all there to help, not hurt.

No one is forcing anyone, and no one is playing for the sake of anyone else. It's all for the love of the game(s) and ourselves.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

More Boxes (Alpha)

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- Copyright © Xenozip.

RE: Vampire Boxes

Things are looking more on the up and up for older 2D fighting games.

Fortunately, SFA3, another 2D Fighting Game by Capcom, has been implemented into the Lua script that runs in FBA-RR and Mame-RR for displaying hitboxes.

There's also a chance that Jojo's, yet another 2D Fighting Game by Capcom, might also be implemented.

For me it's amazing to see the inner-workings of these games that people have played for years and years. The major intricacies of footsies becoming actually visible right before you.

It's shocking and exciting because the visual sprites don't always match up with the game's hitboxes. A great example is what we see in the thumbnail on this blog; Lilith MK has her leg no where near the actual hitbox. The real hitbox that interacts with the opponent is drastically lower than her sprite's leg appears. Just glancing at the image to the right, you can very clearly see that the attack-box (red) is quite a bit lower than Lilith's extended leg. Imagine for a moment that you can not see her hitbox and only her sprite (like normal gameplay) for round one, but the second round you could only see her hitboxes and not her sprite. I'm certain it would put things in perspective.

While many players can learn the game through trial and error, actually seeing what is really going on can drastically change the way we think, and therefor play.

Personally I always get blown away by how cross-ups appear in-game with hitboxes overlayed onto the sprites. It also gets me giddy to see basic anti-airs used at a pixel's distance.
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- Copyright © Xenozip.

Vampire Boxes

The 2D fighting game Vampire Savior has had very little organized documentation for quite some time, but that is quickly changing.

Bellreisa has been kind enough to host a VSav wiki over at Mizuumi which has been collecting a good amount of information as time goes on. There's still some missing data that has yet to be transcribed, but it's coming along quickly. In the meantime there's GameFAQs for character movelists, and for framedata there's a mirror in Japanese and a mirror translated in English of the shu180sx data site.

Additionally, Felineki over at the RandomSelect forum has discovered the memory addresses for hitboxes in the arcade emulation of the game. Because of that data, MZ over at TASVideos was able to implement a Lua script into their build of Mame-RR and FBA-RR (which was updated by MZ to be able to run Lua scripts) that allowed us to see the hitboxes while playing the game. More information about what the boxes are and where to get the emulators and script can be found: here.

Naturally, I encourage anyone to help transcribe data onto the wiki, as help is appreciated. If you know anything about a particular character, that's cool, but if not then anything would help: move list, frame data, hitbox screen captures, whatever.

In the mean time, please enjoy some videos.

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- Copyright © Xenozip.

Samurai Throdown

The subject of throws, and how to avoid them, in SS5Sp has been the topic of some discussion lately. Throws in 5Sp are a little awkward compared to other Fighting Games, since there are a number of eccentricities about 5Sp that make it unique relative to other Fighters.

First of all, most fighting games have either throw teching or throw softening, while Samurai Shodown has neither. Second, in Samurai Shodown if the opponent was not in a throwable state when the throw was input it results in a passive action (a hop) rather than a throw whiff. That generally makes throws quite valuable, especially since all normal throws have 3F startup and even auto-guard during the startup. However, there's quite a few ways to avoid being thrown in the first place. I'll go over the specifics of each one after this little quick-list:

- Jump
- Ducking: 2D
- Hopping: 4D, 6D
- Backdash
- Throw-invulnerable move
- *Rolls: 1D, 3D
- *UOH: BC
- *Airborne Normal

But first, 5Sp has 17F throw invulnerability after blocking, being hit, or waking up off the ground (from being knocked down). That means during that time you have about a quarter of a second real-time before you become vulnerable to throws.

Most fighting games grant a period of throw-invulnerability status after hitstun, blockstun, and on wakeup: as seen here. But if you notice though, Samurai Shodown grants significantly more than any other game listed.

It also does not have any throw invulnerability off a reset. A reset meaning: knocked out of the air by a non-knockdown move. Such as being anti-aired or air-to-aired with a normal that hits you but places you back on your feet rather than knocking you down. This is important because both landing recovery and reset recovery are mostly identical, and therefor vulnerable to throws if left uncanceled.

Now for the explanations:
- Jumping. Jumps have zero startup animation. You transition from the ground to the air on the first frame of a jump. Therefor you are invulnerable to throws from the first frame of a jump input. However, not all jumps are created equal, some jumps are more floaty and more punishable than others, and they all have a cancelable landing recovery.

- Rejumps and Landing Recovery. This is important because while there is no jump startup, there is a cancelable recovery state on landing from a jump or from being reset. The amount of recovery time varies from character to character, however this can be canceled into any action including another jump. But, you can not simply hold up in order to cancel the recovery into a rejump. You must press the input once you have landed rather than before. If timed right this can avoid normal throws and even meaty command throws.

- Ducking. The 2D action has upperbody invulnerability (ducks under mids and highs) and is invulnerable to throws for 21F, starting instantly. After that window there is a special-cancelable window and a recovery window (4F and 7F respectively) where you can be thrown. This is generally the most ideal throw-bait, because your character is stationary during it. Thus, if the opponent attempts to throw during your laying-down state they will whiff a grab instead of a hop, which has a rather long punishable whiff animation. Other anti-throws (hops/jumps/etc) usually cause the opponent to whiff a hop (6D) instead of whiffing a throw, but 2D has a large throw invulnerability period that can bait out an actual throw whiff.

- Hopping. The 4D and 6D movements have lower body invulnerability (dodge lows), are instantly throw invulnerable, and remain throw-invulnerable until landing. They are also special-cancelable on landing. This is less ideal than the 2D action for baiting throws because you are instantly airborne during these hops, which means if the opponent attempts a throw after you've left the ground they will not whiff a grab, instead they will whiff their own hop (either 4D or 6D). They will only whiff a grab if you were on the ground when they input it, but you hopped during their 3F throw startup window. However, this action is still valuable in the sense that hops avoid lows (but vulnerable to mids/highs), while the 2D action is vulnerable to lows (but avoids mids/highs).

- Backdash. The 44 action is bufferable and instantly throw invulnerable. It also has about 3F of full-body invulnerability on startup. It is also air-special cancelable while airborn and ground-special cancelable on landing. However, it should be noted that despite being bufferable there is always a 1-2F suki on landing from a jump or reset before a backdash will begin. This is unique only to backdashes and only on landing from a jump or reset. It also means that backdashes when buffered correctly will always avoid normal throws, but they can be grabbed by meaty command throws due to the backdash suki. Backdashes are quite valuable for avoiding normals throws in general due to the prebuffer window. But it suffers the same issue as hops in the sense that it won't bait out a throw whiff as well as a duck (2D).

- Throw-invulnerable moves. Some special moves gain the property of being throw-invulnerable. This is entirely character specific and may or may not have anything to do with other forms of invulnerability or ground/air-state. A good example would be Yoshitora's 236B (Mid-Nadeshiko) which is not hit/projectile invulnerable or airborn, but it is throw invulnerable on startup. Likewise Yoshitora's 623AB (Heavy-Shirayuri) is hit-invulnerable on startup but not throw invulnerable.

- Rolls. The 1D and 3D actions are 3F full invulnerability on startup. During this time they can avoid throws by virtue of total-invincibility. However, the forward roll is quite vulnerable to throws any time after the startup invulnerability wears off. On the other hand, the backwards roll is slightly better at avoiding throws by virtue of it moving away from the opponent, potentially outside of throw range. Still, forward rolls are probably the least ideal method of avoiding throws while backwards rolls are decent due to the early special-cancel-ability.

- UOH. The B+C action is usually airborne after the third frame, except for some characters like Haohmaru/Charlotte/Gaira/etc. Though, if your character does leave the ground within 3F then it can be useful for avoiding throws in some situations while still granting the potential of hitting the opponent as a nice option select.

- Airborne Normal. There are character specific moves that become airborne rather quickly. For example, 5C for Amakusa, Sogetsu, Suija, etc. They are usually not throw invulnerable on the first few frames, but after the startup occurs they have the same benefit of UOH's in that they become airborne and attack at the same time.

Mina is special in that her jumping arrow attacks incur a 7F uncancelable recovery on landing. This is a true-uncancelable period for Mina's air arrows, however she can block during this uncancelable time (EG. she can perform no action other than blocking). This only effects her air arrows, not her jumping kicks or unarmed attacks or empty jumps.


Bottom line (tl;dr version):
2D is your best bet for baiting throws. Perfectly timed rejumps is your best bet for avoiding meaty command grabs on landing. Backdashes are bufferable and therefor your best bet for avoiding normal throws in most situations (but not for avoiding meaty command throws). To avoid getting hit out of anti-throws it's important to vary what you do, for example ducks and hops have upperbody and lowerbody invulnerability respectively.

On landing: Backdashing always has a 1-2F suki on landing, regardless of anything. The D actions and anything other action have a 0-1F suki randomly. Rejumps never have any suki period.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

Evo 2010 Stream

Top 8 for all games. Live! Let's go!
- http://www.ustream.tv/channel/leveluplive/v3

- Copyright © Xenozip.