How to E-Sports: Understanding the hitbox meme
Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed the “hitbox meme” floating around the internet. The meme shows a stock photo of a man in a suit performing a kick with blue and red boxes around him. The fighting game community is cracking up at these image memes, while the rest of the gaming world seems to be looking at them cross eyed. It looks like someone needs a refresher course on hitboxes, so let’s do it. Let’s explain a joke until it isn’t funny anymore.
What Is a Hitbox
All fighting games (and many other games) are just state comparison machines. To determine whether or not an attack registers, they look at the state of the game on each frame.
Each attack has something called a hitbox, or an area of the attack that is capable of hitting the enemy. Each character has a hurtbox, or an area that is capable of being hit. Every frame, the game looks to see if a hit-box overlaps a hurtbox. If it does, then it registers a hit. If it doesn’t, the move will whiff. If both characters’ hitboxes overlap both characters’ hurtboxes, the moves will trade. Finally, if both hitboxes overlap each other but do not overlap hurtboxes, the moves will “clash” in certain anime style fighting games.
Why This Meme Is Funny
Hitboxes and hurtboxes are not mapped to characters’ exact bodies. Instead, they are drawn in a rough approximation around where the attack is hitting. If you want to give an attack more “priority” you give it a bigger hitbox. This allows it to beat other moves with smaller hitboxes. Similarly, if you want a character to be invincible during certain parts of a move, you can remove their hurtboxes during certain frames.
Each fighting game draws their hitboxes in certain styles and this style contributes to the overall feel of the game. Ever wonder why Street Fighter is so slow compared to Guilty Gear? Hitboxes are partly to blame.
The Street Fighter meme shows the hit box of the kick completely inside the hurtbox of the character. This is why Street Fighter is considered a footsie and spacing oriented game. Most normals can be outpoked with correct spacing. So you have to work hard to hit the enemy explicitly when he isn’t throwing out a move of his own. Compare the meme to this actual hitbox image from Street Fighter IV.
As you can see, Bison’s kick has a ton of range, but its hitbox is nearly completely enveloped by his hurtbox. This makes it a very good move for punishing whiffs, but if it was thrown out at the same time as another move, it would likely trade. If you ever wondered why Street Fighter players spend so much time wiggling back and forth and looking for the exact right time to throw their normals, this is why.
King of Fighters
The King of Fighters meme draws hit-boxes similar to Street Fighters, but draws the kicks hitbox outside of the legs hurt box. This reflects the more aggressive nature of King of Fighters. With higher priority hitboxes, players have to rely on blocking pressure rather than beating pressure with their own counter attacks. This reduces focus on footsies and puts more focus on pressure strings.
As you can see, the same holds true when examining a move from The King of Fighters XIII. Here we see Hwa Jai, one of the higher tier characters in the game, performing a kick whose hitbox completely surrounds his hurtbox, making it very likely to beat other normals.
Guilty Gear’s version of the meme has several more hitboxes drawn, as well as several more hurtboxes, but the most notable thing here is that the kick’s hitbox and hurtbox barely overlap at all. This is because Guilty Gear has a variety of moves which are invulnerable in certain parts, creating a rock-paper-scissors style system where certain moves easily beat other moves but are easily beaten by yet different moves. This kick, for example, would easily beat any attack coming from the front, but could easily be beaten by either a low attack that hits the other foot, or a high attack that comes in from above.
One again, we can compare this to one of Jam’s attacks from Guilty Gear XXAC. Here, we see that Jam has no hurtboxes surrounding her hand and head, which is where the attack will hit, and has no hitboxes over her feet, which is where she can be beaten. This makes this move a good anti-air move, but a poor move to use against grounded opponents.
I have long said that I believe Skullgirls is the best fighting game of all time, and this is one of the reasons why. They were very committed to not only making their hitboxes accurate, but also making them make sense. This absurdly detailed hit-box has the rock paper scissors quality of the Guilty Gear style hitbox, the aggressive quality of The King of Fighters hitbox, and the ability to trade and space well like the Street Fighter hitbox. Honestly… there might be too much detail here because mapping a hitbox this closely to a character’s sprite can sometimes make their attacks feel awkward and miss at random times.
And just in case you were wondering, yes, the hitboxes in this game are actually that complex. Here we can see Parasoul’s attack mapped out. Her hurtbox extends only to her arm, while her umbrella is a disjointed hitbox, although this also extends slightly into her body. It beats forward attacks but is easily beaten by lows or aerial attacks. It trades with deep attacks and can outspace many opponents, but has a hitbox that covers enough area to make pressure a real threat.
Persona 4 Arena
As you might expect from this image, Persona 4 Arena is even more aggressive because of its absurdly sized hitboxes. To break through attacks and pressure in P4A you almost have to use moves with special properties. This is only compounded by the even bigger hitboxes of your summoned personas. This makes P4A a very technical fighting game, more focused on move properties and gimmicks than spacing and footsies.
Sure enough, we can see this reflected in one of Teddie’s aerial attacks. His hitbox extends around his whole head and arms with his hurtbox pulled in tight around his body.
Marvel vs Capcom
The VS series is widely known for its flashy attacks that take up the entire screen. In addition, its top tier characters have moves that have hit-boxes that cover such a huge space that it seems like their main method of approach is to simply use these moves over and over again. This, much like Persona 4 Arena, contributes to its aggressive feel. However, unlike Persona 4 Arena, which uses move properties to counteract these huge hitboxes, the VS series relies on tag gimmicks to allow you to get in real damage. Of course, the meme here has a hitbox surrounding Business Suit Sentinel’s entire body, which is obviously just a joke… or is it?
Here we can see Dr. Doom’s iconic foot dive from UMVC3 and the hitbox does, in fact, cover basically his entire body! There are several moves exactly like this available to much of the UMVC3 roster.
If it wasn’t obvious, the joke is that Smash Bros hitboxes make absolutely no sense, and while this is obvious parody, there is always a nugget of truth.
Here we see Fox’s up tilt from Melee, a powerful combo tool. It covers his foot, but also his head and also about a character’s width off to the left of his foot. It also has a hitbox inside of another hitbox and one on the crotch for good measure.
And now you know why the hitbox meme is funny. Tune in next time on How to E-Sports when we explain why the chicken crossed the road! Here’s a hint: it has to do with frame data.