Vectoring: The replacement to Directional Influence in Smash 4

Strong Bad

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#1
So after playing Smash 4 for the past few days, and feeling how it is, I began to notice peculiar trends in how knockback is determined. After doing some investigative work, I've successfully determined what's going on and proven it. Before I explain that, though, I would like to explain the mechanic Directional Influence as it appeared in past Smash titles for those who are unaware.

In previous Smash games, Directional Influence is a HUGE factor to not only high/top level play, but even mid-level play. Unlike other competitive fighters where combo & punishment mitigation is nearly non-existent or limited to resource-based mechanics or RPS techs, Smash games (specifically, Melee and Brawl, as well as Project M as a result) give the combo'd player an option to mitigate their punishment and interact with their opponent despite being in stun. By holding a direction by the time a move sends you flying, a player is able to influence the direction they're being sent. Note that the key word here is influence; a player is unable to add or subtract knockback, only change the trajectory angle. Depending on the game this generally allows you to change the launching trajectory of the attack you're hit with by +/- 18 degrees. Click here for a more in-depth guide. Note that this is not the same mechanic as Smash DI.

Now that you understand all of that, throw it all out the window for Smash 4. Instead of DI, a different mechanic is present. To the untrained eye it may seem similar, but it in fact works in an extremely different way that drastically changes how we decide which direction to hold when we take a hit. To explain this mechanic properly, I need to first explain what happens when a character is hit. So what's happening when you get hit?

When you get hit, you receive knockback. This is a raw value calculated based on percent, weight, the knockback values of the move, and the damage/staling of the move, and then your character moves that many in-game units per frame. There's a constant in the game that subtracts from that speed, so you are going X units/frame on frame 1 and then (x-constant*frame#) units/frame on subsequent frames. Other factors take place such as a character's falling speed acceleration and such, but that's the general idea. Physics is fun!

In Smash 4, by holding a direction on the control stick (or circle pad in our case), you're able to add a vector of units/frame to your knockback when launched. A simple explanation of a vector in this context is a value of units/frame as well as a direction. I believe this vector's strength is a percentage of the knockback you're suffering, so it's less powerful at low percents/when hit by weak attacks and more powerful at higher percents/when hit by powerful attacks.

The use of this mechanic, I will call Vectoring. It's called such because it allows you to make a vector additional to knockback (functioning independently) in any direction you'd like. Please note that referring to this mechanic as Directional Influence is not only incorrect, but misleading and can easily cause confusion. Unlike most other series, our community keeps playing games competitively after sequels are released, so it's important to not conflict with prior terminology when describing different phenomena. The problem with calling it DI, and saying it influences your trajectory, is that you can Vector parallel to the initial trajectory. "DIing" an upwards-sending move down doesn't change your trajectory, and as such DI is a poor name for it. The best way to describe the mechanic without confusion is to, as I have, explain that it allows you to add an additional vector to your flight path, that doesn't necessarily alter trajectory. Thus, vectoring is what we should use unless Nintendo gives an official name. (Hitstun Shuffling seems to describe SDI, not Vectoring).

For explanation purposes, let's assume the percentage of this is 20%. You are hit by an Upsmash whose knockback value at your current percentage is 100. For simplicity's sake, the trajectory of this attack is 90 degrees, straight upward.
You are holding down, which grants you a vector downwards of 20 (units per frame, I'm just going to use numbers from now on).

^
|
|
|
|
100

|
v
20

When these vectors are added, the resultant knockback vector you suffer is 80 and upwards.

^
|
|
|
80

Similar is true for if you were to hold up in this situation; the resultant vector would be 120, which would cause you to die at an earlier percent than if you hadn't held anything. This has huge applications for survival as well as combo escapes.

So basically, you get to go a further or shorter distance, or add some adjacent distance to your flight path, but you do not suffer additional/reduced hitstun. It's basically like having a mega Automatic Smash DI that scales with KB.

Example 2: As in the previous example, you are launched vertically with a knockback vector of 100. Rather than Vectoring vertically (up or down), we will Vector horizontally, to the left or right.

^
|
|
|
|
100

— >
20

Unlike in other smash games, the resultant vector's vertical component is not any lower, and as such you will not survive at any later percent than you otherwise would. I don't have the means to describe this vector in ASCII, but it's a vector whose vertical component is 100 and horizontal component is 20.

In the graph below, as in previous examples, the victim is struck by a move that sends straight up with a strength of 0. Their starting point, for explanation purposes, is (40,0).


Visual graph by @ Krynxe Krynxe that represents the possible Vectoring directions and their resultant endpoints.

To reiterate, this percentage value in these examples is most likely not the actual value and is only a value used for explanation purposes. In fact, there may be a formula at play to determine how strong it is that scales exponentially, linearly, or otherwise, rather than a simple percentage. I have literally no idea.

You might be thinking to yourself, "An interesting theory, Strong Bad. But I'm pretty sure people have been talking about 'Down DI' for a couple days now, which reduces knockback of all attacks regardless of trajectory by simply holding down. Why should I believe your 'Vectoring' over 'Down DI'?"

A fair question, that has a fair answer. It's simple; I have tested KO percents while holding various directions on the circle pad and found them to support my theory. For these tests, the attacker SD'd between tests to ensure moves were fresh, and the victim performed a long-lasting taunt to ensure the victim didn't walk, jump, or crouch before impact.
YouTube Link

A quick impromptu demonstration of this technique is showcased. Would rather have a better vid but whatever.

Holding down against vertical attacks, as explained earlier, does indeed cause you to survive for longer. The test for this I did was with Game & Watch's fully charged UpSmash against Jigglypuff on FD. With no control stick direction, Jigglypuff dies at 47% (before the hit of course). Interestingly enough and contrary to our prior perceptions of Directional Influence, when holding either left or right, Jigglypuff still dies at 47%, even though she clearly is sent to the left or right and not straight up. Holding down, however, allowed Jigglypuff to survive even when struck at 51%. Later testing found downward-vectoring to allow Jigglypuff to survive at 52% as well, and die at 53%.

However, against horizontally sending attacks, holding down either does not change your kill percentage or actually makes you die earlier. Testing this has been fickle, as anyone well versed in Smash mechanics is aware that "horizotally sending moves" actually send at a trajectory closer to ~45 degrees diagonally upwards, and a character's falling speed acceleration attribute (commonly known as gravity) acts simultaneously with knockback trajectory to make it appear to be more horizontal. But I can confirm that what I said earlier is true, as I have tested this with a fully charged Bowser Fsmash against Jigglypuff at the ledge of FD. Given the same percentage (14% in my tests), Jigglypuff died whether I was holding down or not at all. And as expected given the previous explanation, holding toward the stage resulted in Jigglypuff not dying.

These tests were conclusive; the mechanic in place in Smash 4 is as I described it above, and does not function similarly at all to Directional Influence. Jigglypuff dying at the same percent even when vectoring horizontally confirms this.

In conclusion, this is absolutely one of the biggest mechanical changes in Smash 4 in the context of competitive play. Throws that would normally combo well into the 80s against many characters such as Sheik's Dthrow, Rob's Dthrow, etc. become purely positional throws quite early in a stock if you hold upward. Moves that would otherwise kill you off the top, don't. If for some reason you'd like to die earlier off the top, this is the first smash game to allow you to do so. Vectoring properly against horizontal attacks is very similar to how one would DI them in previous smash games, but vectoring properly against vertical attacks is completely different. As explained earlier, trying to "DI" as one would in a previous smash game does literally nothing to help you live.

I'd like to make a better video and add some nicer looking diagrams, but I think this should suffice for now.
Discuss.
 
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TimeSmash

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#7
So, correct me if I'm wrong, but this differs from DI in terms of something like DI controls an angle in which you go at, but vectoring can control distance, as well as angling? I'm also assuming DI is the better of the two at controlling angling, but vectoring can reduce or add to the distance you fly.
 

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#8
So, correct me if I'm wrong, but this differs from DI in terms of something like DI controls an angle in which you go at, but vectoring can control distance, as well as angling? I'm also assuming DI is the better of the two at controlling angling, but vectoring can reduce or add to the distance you fly.
Correct. You can actually effect the amount of knockback with Vectoring. This means you can suffer less knockback from smash attacks consistantly with no downside and the same hitstun, and you can do this without affecting your direction whatsoever.
 
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KlefkiHolder

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#11
Great discovery. It should be interesting to see how this is integrated and used compared to DI. Instead of trajectory its more of specific knock back, which is really different. Once again, great find.
 
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Strong Bad

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#13
i hope this does not make combos not work at lower percents now :/
That is exactly what it does. You're able to arbitrarily go further from an attack without suffering any more hitstun, making it require more frames for an opponent to reach you. Already tight combos are now just not possible at all.
 
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#14
Correct. You can actually effect the amount of knockback with Vectoring. This means you can suffer less knockback from smash attacks consistantly with no downside and the same hitstun
Hmm...this means that the matches WILL last longer then before once people have mastered their timing on vectoring.
 

Conda

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#15
Is it possible that, at low percents, you'll want to try and vector further (to get more knockback) to try and avoid followups?

Also, this won't help with gimping, spikes, or moves that will KO anyway, so it's not a massive lengthener. Players aren't too good now, and matches are still very quick. Becoming better, but then also using vectoring, should result in the same average length as current.
 
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Fly_Amanita

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#17
This can make "DI" pretty weird. A lot of the time, you'd probably just want to hold whatever cardinal direction pulls you away from whatever blastzone you're likely to die off of. In the instance in which multiple blastzones are a threat, just holding directly opposite the move's default trajectory would be good.

On the opposite end of things, holding away from the move's default trajectory could be nice for escaping combos due to the relatively large effect on knockback that could have. What precisely is best will likely vary a lot depending on the exact circumstances.
 
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TimeSmash

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#18
IGNORING a Melee/Brawl debate, I'm curious as to what members speculatively think. Will this game, because of vectoring, return to a Brawl-like playstyle (in terms of attacking, then leaving/spacing, and attacking again when you can)??
 
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#20
IGNORING a Melee/Brawl debate, I'm curious as to what members speculatively think. Will this game, because of vectoring, return to a Brawl-like playstyle (in terms of attacking, then leaving/spacing, and attacking again when you can)??
you might still be able to follow up you would just need to read the way they are going to move
 

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#21
This can make "DI" pretty weird. A lot of the time, you'd probably just want to hold whatever cardinal direction pulls you away from whatever blastzone you're likely to die off of. In the instance in which multiple blastzones are a threat, just holding directly opposite the move's default trajectory would be good.

On the opposite end of things, holding away from the move's default trajectory could be nice for escaping combos due to the relatively large effect on knockback that could have. What precisely is good will likely vary a lot depending on theexact circumstances.
Amusingly enough, diagonal inputs result in a full effect in both directions instead of ~70% effectiveness (similar to Brawl's DI potency). So if, say, you could either die to the left or upwards, you can hold Down-Right and get favorable Vectoring for both outcomes.
 

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#22
Amusingly enough, diagonal inputs result in a full effect in both directions instead of ~70% effectiveness (similar to Brawl's DI potency). So if, say, you could either die to the left or upwards, you can hold Down-Right and get favorable Vectoring for both outcomes.
I'm a little confused haha. So let's say I was flying to the left. There is or is not a difference in me holding down versus down-right?
 

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#25
So could this be related to why Smash DI isn't nearly as strong in this game; instead of SDI it's actually just very small amounts of 'Vectoring' (a good name for description but I doubt it'll stick too well)?

--- EDIT ---
I feel like this should be called Knockback Influence to differentiate it in peoples' minds from Directional Influence
Knockback Influence sounds good; it sounds similar to DI without sharing an acronym with another term or being exactly the same.
 
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Strong Bad

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#26
I'm a little confused haha. So let's say I was flying to the left. There is or is not a difference in me holding down versus down-right?
Holding Down-Right functions as if you were holding Down and you were holding Right. It's not treated as a unique input or given less strength as a properly circular input threshold would do; the horizontal and vertical inputs read would be given a multiplier roughly equal to sin(45). Not for Smash 4.

To answer your question simply, though, yes there is a difference. But in my example, Down-Right results in favorable Vectoring whether your opponent chooses to attack you with a vertical KO move or a horizontal KO move.
 
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#27
so i watched the vod, how much of a difference is the movement at low percents, could you try and read the movement to do a follow up?
 
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#28
I'm a little confused haha. So let's say I was flying to the left. There is or is not a difference in me holding down versus down-right?
There is a difference. You'd get the net effect of holding down and holding right simultaneously, rather than the slightly reduced value for both you'd expect if it was calculated on a circle.

It's an interesting change. I'd assume the intent is to make combo escape and survival inputs more intuitive, but this is a really powerful mechanic in a game where combos are already sketchy and kill %s tend to trend high. Could just be different, could be bad.
 

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#29
So, I just want to make sure I understand completely. I'll reiterate what you said in simpler terms and you tell me if I'm right.

* Holding up makes you go more "up"
* Holding down makes you go more "down"
* Holding any horizontal direction does not help you change your trajectory at all.
* The new "DI" system called "vectoring" has reduced survival DI to just "up" and "down" directions.
* Combo DI (SDI) is now part of "vectoring"
 
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#30
Throws that would normally combo well into the 80s against many characters such as Sheik's Dthrow, Rob's Dthrow, etc. become purely positional throws quite early in a stock if you hold upward.
This part really caught my attention. It sounds like Vectoring is making cg's a thing of the past, or even following up a grab with a move might be impossible if vectored correctly. I obviously no clue if this is true or not, but this is a profound change to competitive play.
 

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#31
I take it that you wouldn't need to hold all the way straight up to get the maximum vertical amount added to the knockback vector, too? It sounds like vectoring basically works in an inscribed square.
 
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#32
There is a difference. You'd get the net effect of holding down and holding right simultaneously, rather than the slightly reduced value for both you'd expect if it was calculated on a circle.

It's an interesting change. I'd assume the intent is to make combo escape and survival inputs more intuitive, but this is a really powerful mechanic in a game where combos are already sketchy and kill %s tend to trend high. Could just be different, could be bad.
it needs more testing but from the numbers in the op it seems it would only save you once or twice at most for kill moves
 

Mythra

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#33
This is awesome man, great work! For the first time I can use my Vectorial Calculus knowledge on something :shades:
Vectoring is a perfect term for this I hope it becomes its "official" name.
But just in case, suppose that x character gets hit by a fsmash and gets sent right and upwards in a 60° angle, I'll need to hold the pad down+left at an angle of 240° to make a perfect and favorable Vector?
 

Noteka

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#35
So to what are the optimal survival directions for horizontal and vertical attacks? Up it towards for horizontal and down for vertical?

And what are the effects this might have on combos?
 

TL?

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#37
Can we not call it vectoring? I feel like that name is a little too abstract and ambiguous. It's considerably different than our old "DI", but I think the label of "Directional Influence" seems to still describe this well. Or we could just adopt nintendo's name of "hitstun shuffling" as goofy as it sounds.

As for how it will effect things? I think it's very intuitive and simple to explain now(hold a direction, you will go that direction). But I think it might oversimplify things in that most of the time you'll just be holding towards the opponent. I think the main problem is that essentially you can subtract distance instead of just altering the trajectory which will lead to people living even longer. It should be interesting to see how this unfolds though.
 

TimeSmash

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#38
Holding Down-Right functions as if you were holding Down and you were holding Right. It's not treated as a unique input or given less strength as a properly circular input threshold would do; the horizontal and vertical inputs read would be given a multiplier roughly equal to sin(45). Not for Smash 4.

To answer your question simply, though, yes there is a difference. But in my example, Down-Right results in favorable Vectoring whether your opponent chooses to attack you with a vertical KO move or a horizontal KO move.
This helps a lot, thanks. To elaborate using the flying to the left example, visually, if I used down-right while flying left.

<------------

Normal, flying to the left trajectory.

<---------

Inputting vectoring directly to the right, Distance is reduced.

___---
<----

Using vectoring down-right, reducing distance and also adding a slight downwards angle to travelled trajectory. How does the down vector effect distance, though?
 

Strong Bad

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#39
so i watched the vod, how much of a difference is the movement at low percents, could you try and read the movement to do a follow up?
I had limited time with the game and now don't have access to it until the US release, but from what I can tell at percents where you'd be capable of followup, the Vector results in movement that's quite subtle and ambiguous. It'll take time to be sure, but I imagine it'd be quite difficult for someone to react to such subtle changes in flight path, since people struggle to react to proper SDI of single hit moves at high level play in Melee/Project M even after years of play.
So, I just want to make sure I understand completely. I'll reiterate what you said in simpler terms and you tell me if I'm right.

* Holding up makes you go more "up"
* Holding down makes you go more "down"
* Holding any horizontal direction does not help you change your trajectory at all.
* The new "DI" system called "vectoring" has reduced survival DI to just "up" and "down" directions.
* Combo DI (SDI) is now part of "vectoring"
Horizontal directions DO change your trajectory! Quite a bit. But the vertical component of your knockback remains unchanged, and you still die at the same percents.
I take it that you wouldn't need to hold all the way straight up to get the maximum vertical amount added to the knockback vector, too? It sounds like vectoring basically works in an inscribed square.
I doubt it. Recall that Brawl's input threshold for the control stick reads diagonal inputs as (1,1), yet still requires full inputs for maximum DI. I think that's what's going on here.
 
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#40
Can we not call it vectoring? I feel like that name is a little too abstract and ambiguous. It's considerably different than our old "DI", but I think the label of "Directional Influence" seems to still describe this well. Or we could just adopt nintendo's name of "hitstun shuffling" as goofy as it sounds.

As for how it will effect things? I think it's very intuitive and simple to explain now(hold a direction, you will go that direction). But I think it might oversimplify things in that most of the time you'll just be holding towards the opponent. I think the main problem is that essentially you can subtract distance instead of just altering the trajectory which will lead to people living even longer. It should be interesting to see how this unfolds though.
but you are not always subtracting distance it seems and you can add it when you push the stick in the same direction as the moves launches normally
 
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