The fine art of combat canceling explained by God of War’s Eric Williams

Screenshot of SCEA's God of War II - Image 1Super cancels, guard cancels, and roll cancels – what makes these different combat cancel systems tick? Eric Williams talks about the mechanics behind these different cancel systems and relates them to his own work designing the combat system for God of War. Get technical with God of Wars lead combat designer in the full article after the jump.

Screenshot of SCEA's God of War II - Image 1The art of combat canceling can be described by some as a necessary exploit for many fighting and action games. While it may seem unfair to others, many top tier players can’t live without it.

In a special feature article on Gamasutra, God of War lead combat and systems designer Eric Williams talks all about the mechanics behind action game cancels – the ability to end one animation early and transition it into the beginning of another animation.

Combat canceling first started with the classic roundhouse kick plus Hadouken combo incorporated into Ryu’s moves from Street Fighter II. While this was first classified as a “bug” according to the developers, its usefulness to players made them decide to keep the unintentional exploit, and thus began a growing trend in many action games today.

Canceling is divided into two main categories. Perhaps the best way to explain the two types of canceling would be to hear it from Williams himself:

A “Partial Cancel” allows an animation to be canceled at specific windows during the animation. The two most common conditions for a “Partial Cancel” are Pre-hit frame (the animation can be canceled any time before the first frame of the hit) and post-hit frame (the animation can be canceled any time after the last frame of the hit).

A “Complete Cancel” allows an animation to be canceled at any time during the animation. I’m generalizing, and there are special nuances that exist in certain games, but for the most part, these conditions are used 99 percent of the time.

He then goes on to explain the technical details of how combat canceling works in general on an action game. He mentions that it all depends on the frames preceding or succeeding the attack.

Williams compared the system he design in God of War to other mechanics found in other fighting games like the guard canceling mechanic in Soul Calibur and the super move cancels in Street Fighter 3 and the Marvel series.

All these cancel systems give games a crisp and responsive feel for the player. Asides from that, it helps them plan out offensive and defensive strategies according to their play style.

On a final note, Williams broke down the different combat canceling systems for three of his favorite games: Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry and God of War. You can read the rest of Williams’ technical breakdown of the combat canceling mechanic by clicking on the Via link below.

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