Okizeme

Published : January 13, 2021

Let's set the scene : you are playing a tense match of Dragon Ball FighterZ. Your opponent, playing Trunks, just hit your last character, Frieza. His combo, ending with his most powerful attack, leaves you on the ground with a silver of health left...

This is a dire situation indeed. Trunks has all the time he needs to setup his next attack, and if you can't defend, you will lose the game. This is where knowing the subtleties of okizeme might save you.

Okizeme in a fighting game is the act of attacking a downed player, just as they get up.

A lot of beginners don't see the transition between the phases of the match, and will get endlessly stuck in a loop, while feeling like they can't play. Okizeme is how you build that momentum: you get your first hit in, then use it to set up the following one, until your opponent can defend.

This also means that, as a beginner, if you understand this, you can start escaping those situations. Notice when you are being knocked down, and get ready to defend. This will allow you to get back in the game, and maybe then you will be the one enforcing this situation onto them.

This article is for beginners and more advanced players alike. I will explain what method I use to manage okizeme situations, which tends to be more theoretical than most. Hopefully, this will help you understand and play better.

I will try to keep this as game-independant as possible. You don't need prior knowledge of DBFZ to follow along.

Basic Okizeme

Let's start with the basics. When you are knocked down in a fighting game, your character enters an invulnerable downed state. After some time, he will get up and be able to fight again.

During this time, your opponent is free to move and do whatever he wants, without any risk. He can't hit you on the ground, but he can time an attack such as it will connect at the exact time you rise up. This method is known as a meaty attack, and is the most basic form of okizeme.

A meaty attack enforces your "turn", if you can call it that. If your opponent attacks, your attack will interrupt them, allowing you to do damage and enforce that situation again. If they defend, you can start applying pressure.

A tip if you have trouble doing meaties : try to aim a little early. You will get less reward, but you won't miss completely and leave yourself open.

In this situation, Trunks can use pretty much any attack he wants. Let's keep it simple and use his 2M. It is easy to use since it can hit the opponent for a large time window, and lead to good damage on hit.

As Frieza, your options here are to attack and lose the game, or block to maybe survive. In that situation, blocking is the best option.

Let's add a second layer

Right now, the situation is advantageous for Trunks, but not that much. Let's try to have our attack hit more often. Let's try adding an overhead.

There is two types of blocking in most fighting games, high and low block.

High block can stop overhead attacks but not low attacks. Low block is the opposite, stopping low attacks but not overhead ones.

The most simple way to do an overhead, is to do an aerial attack. I'm going to time a jump and use Trunk's jH, a large sword slash. It has similar benefits to 2M.

Now Frieza has three options :

This means that now, Frieza can't reliably get out of the situation by just blocking. He has to react to the attack Trunks did, which makes the situation a lot more advantageous for him.

Forcing your opponent to choose between different defenses is called a mixup. This specific one here is a high-low mixup.

This is starting to get more complex, so before we add more layers, let me tell you about the tool I use to keep it manageable.

The Interaction Matrix

No wait, don't run! It sounds more complicated than it is.

Okizeme is having the attacker and defender both choose an option, the result depending on the combination of the two. The most simple way to represent that is with a table, which is also called a matrix if you come from a math background.

Let's build one with what we just discussed earlier. I am going to put the defender's options in the columns, and the attacker's in the lines, which gives us this matrix :

Block Low Block High Attack
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit

This makes the situation clear right away. All the outcomes are beneficial to Trunks, but Frieza can limit how much by choosing correctly.

I haven't seen anyone represent situations like this or in a similar way, which would have helped me a lot when starting out. If you know of anyone or resource using it, please send it my way !

This representation will allow us to keep the amount of options manageable as we go on. Let's build the full matrix now !

Building the matrix

Right now, it is pretty easy to react to both options, since that Trunks need to jump in order to do jH. A way to avoid this is to jump a little earlier, then land and do a low attack. This is called an empty jump low.

Block Low Block High Attack
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit
Empty Jump 2M Block Hit Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit

This might not seem like we added anything, but misdirection is a big part of okizeme ! We will come back to it later.

Up to now, Frieza loses in all situation, is there something he can do to turn the tables ?

Reversals

A reversal is an attack that is invincible from the first moment you do it. You can think of it as a risky attack that beats all other attacks.

Reversals take on new meanings during okizeme. Since the invincibility starts up immediately, you can actually ignore the meaty attack and hit the attacker instead!

Block Low Block High Attack Reversal
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Empty Jump 2M Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit Reverse Hit

This effectively beats all the options that we have covered until now! The situation that was always advantageous for Trunks effectively became a losing situation for him. What can he do ?

Turns out, reversals are very risky, for little reward. If one gets blocked, you are left wide open for punishments, and most games put you in a special state that makes that punishment even stronger. This is what prevents people from abusing them.

Block Low Block High Attack Reversal
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Empty Jump 2M Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit Reverse Hit
Block Neutral Neutral Reverse Block Hit

Trunks can now beat reversals, but do you notice how the whole situation changed now ? If Trunks chooses to block, the situation becomes a lot better for Frieza. Defending leaves both in a neutral position, which considering how big of an advantage okizeme can bring, is amazing! He can even start his own block pressure instead!

This hinges on making Trunks block, so you have to give him reason to. I'll get back to this later.

This makes the situation a lot more uncomfortable for Trunks. Is there a way to get it back into his control ?

Setups

A setup is a sequence of actions that leads to an attack that is hard to defend against.

The time during the knockdown makes okizeme a prime opportunity to use setups with little to no risk. Let's start with adding a safe jump.

A safe jump is doing a jumping meaty attack very close to the ground with very specific timing. If the defender attacks normally, he gets hit by the meaty. If he does a reversal, the attacker will land before the reversal can come out and will be able to block.

Block Low Block High Attack Reversal
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Empty Jump 2M Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit Reverse Hit
Block Neutral Neutral Reverse Block Hit
Safe Jump jH Hit Block Hit Hit

Now this is a useful tool! This allows Trunks to apply pressure safely once again, but it's pretty easy to block. Let's add another setup to the mix, an offensive one this time.

Trunks has access to 214H, a fast controllable jump. By using it after a knockdown, we can easily end up on either side of the defender quickly, which is very hard to defend against.

In 2D fighting games like DBFZ, you need to press the back direction to block. This also means that, if your opponent goes behind you, you have to react and hold the opposite direction. This is called a crossup.

Block Low Block High Block High Crossup Attack Reversal
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Empty Jump 2M Block Hit Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
Block Neutral Neutral Neutral Reverse Block Hit
Safe Jump jH Hit Block Hit Hit Hit
214H Same Side Hit Block Hit Hit Reverse Hit
214H Crossup Hit Hit Block Hit Hit

This is good! This is a really effective mixup, and really puts the advantage back in Trunk's hand.

This is how the matrix is built in practice : in response to your opponent's actions. The attacker tries to find better ways to open up the defender, who tries to find better answers.

We could continue adding options, like backdash and reflect, but we already have a good sample that is still pretty generic.

Ressources and the Interaction Matrix

We made a matrix adapted to this specific situation. However, it is still quite vague, and different conditions can bring different options. Thankfully, we can adapt it to these situations, so let's look at how they can affect the matrix.

Life and Damage

Health is your most basic ressource. If you have none, you lose the game. In that example, Frieza has very low health, meaning any combo will kill. However in practice, different attacks lead to different routes and damage, which can influence the risk and reward.

A good example of this in high pressure situations is ignoring throws. They tend to do low damage, and not focusing on them can help you react faster.

Meter

Some moves cost super meter, and you can't execute them without it. This both represents additional risk (using meter for nothing) and reward (some options give more meter than others), but can sometimes take out options entirely.

In our example, both Trunks and Frieza have options that take meter. Trunk's 214H setup costs 0.5 bars, while Frieza's reversals cost 3 bars. What would that change in our example ?

Block Low Block High Block High Crossup Attack
Meaty 2M Block Hit Hit Hit
Empty Jump 2M Block Hit Hit Hit
Meaty jH Hit Block Hit Hit
Block Neutral Neutral Neutral Reverse Block
Safe Jump jH Hit Block Hit Hit

Both lost their strongest option, but the overall balance has shifted into Trunk's favor, because he can now do everything with little to no risk, and can run his mixups without interruption. He also no longer has any reason to block, which means Frieza's best outcome is getting into block pressure.

Using meter / gaining meter also has an opportunity cost, since you're also weighting that option against all other uses of your meter.

Positioning

While not often thought of as such, your position and control of the arena can be thought of as a ressource, with for instance different combos giving different amounts of what we call corner-carry, how much distance it pushes your opponent.

The corner in particular can really affect this situation.

An attacker gets access to more dangerous mixups -- in our case, Trunks can do a jump airdash jH, which has the same timing as empty jump low. These will also lead to more damaging combos and block pressure, making the situation riskier.

The defender has some of his options taken away -- backdash for instance is almost ineffective. On the flipside, he doesn't have to worry about crossups outside of specific setups, since the attacker doesn't have the space needed to get behind the defender.

Overall, this is an advantage for the attacker.

Types of knockdown

This situation here was a hard knockdown, which is the best kind of knockdown since your opponent has to get up at a specific timing, but is usually hard to get. Trunks for instance can only get such a knockdown from Heat Dome Attack, which costs 3 bars of meter.

A more common type of knockdown allows you some choice in how you get up, usually called techs, either on your position (tech in-place, tech back, tech up) or on your timing (delay tech). In DBFZ, this would be the sliding knockdown, which you can get after almost any combo.

A hard knockdown is pretty much a regular knockdown with no tech choice.

This changes more things than it first appears. Different positions, and especially different timings, can make some setups or attacks whiff entirely, often allowing the defender a return to neutral. For example, safe jumps lose against delay tech because the timing is very strict.

Some situations don't involve a knockdown proper but can work in the same way. An example of this in DBFZ is snapback, which forces your opponent to change characters. Until season 3, that timing was always the same, making for pressure similar to a hard knockdown, which made snapback one of the strongest mechanics in the game.

Different chracters

Different characters don't have the same attacks, but in practice, they aren't so different from one another.

The biggest difference is going to be for the attacking character. Almost all options we mentioned for Trunks are universal. In fact, most characters in 2D fighting games can do the same ones, because the roles of the moves are similar.

However, his 214H setup is unique to him. This is part of what makes the game rich mechanically : different characters will use their own unique way to attack, and the defender has to learn those to be able to respond properly.

Some characters, like Millia Rage from Guilty Gear, have really strong mixup tools that require time to setup, making their okizeme really strong. They often can win the round by scoring one knockdown and looping their ridiculous mixups until you have no health left!

The defensive side however, tends to be more homogeneous, because most of your moves will be interrupted, leaving you mostly with the common system mechanics. But let's take for instance Cooler, Frieza's brother. In that same situation, he has two key differences making him stronger than Frieza.

The first is that he has a meterless reversal. These don't cost meter, and are thus a constant threat to the offense. Frieza's is expensive, and as such if very risky to use and tends to be reserved for dire occasions.

The second, is his access to a counter, a move that activates when the opponents hits Cooler. In okizeme situations, this is going to be similar to a reversal, since it will beat attacks and lose to block. However, by its nature, it beats safe jumps! This shifts the balance away from Trunks and can be very helpful at times.

Some characters have access to more options on defense than others. This includes, but is not limited to, fast attacks, reversals, escape options, and counters. Always keep this in mind when choosing the one for you!

Other resources

Time can also be thought of as a resource. If the timer is close to end and you have the life lead, it might be a good idea to do a safer okizeme choice and continue into safe block pressure to run the clock.

Some resources are specific to the game itself. In DBFZ, you get one trump card per match, Sparking, which can push your opponent away and basically nullify one okizeme attempt.

Some, more specific, depend on the character itself. One example could be Izayoi from BlazBlue, who can build her Zero-Weave gauge which she can use to access new and stronger tools, while another might be Answer from Guilty Gear's scrolls, which he can place around the arena to help his movement and mixups.

Oftentimes, setup-oriented characters will have their own resources, or special knockdowns.

Using the Matrix and Mindgames

Now that we (finally) have a more complete matrix, we can start using it.

This is the part that might change the most depending on your preferences and thinking style as a player. I'll describe the situations I use it in, and expand a bit on what you could potentially do with it. I find it useful both in and out of match.

Evaluating Situations

One first application would be to be able to analyse situations, what can be gained from them, and how the mindgames might go.

Mental Stack and Reaction Times

This last point goes quite nicely into the next : how do you keep all of this info in mind ?

The answer is, you don't have to, and in fact, you shouldn't. There is one part that keeps everything in check, and that's what is called the mental stack.

The mental stack is all the things you are thinking about, the options you are looking for at the moment. The more things in your mental stack, the slower your reactions.

Fighting games work because they are predictive in nature. This happens because there are things you can't react to, and thus are forced to guess. If we could react instantaneously, we would be able to get ahead in all interactions.

Overloading your mental stack increases your reaction time. This means, more of the game becomes predictive instead of reactive, which means you are going to lose more interactions. This is where managing and reducing your mental stack helps.

How can you do that ? Simple, you try to remove options that aren't important to the current situation. Here are a few examples :

You might notice that these are both a combination of building the matrix and using it. That's why I find it a useful tool : it extends from the game situations, and allows you both to adapt to new situations, and get better at managing known ones.

You could technically compute numerical risks and rewards using this framework if you set probabilities for the opponent's actions, although at the time I think this uses too much brainpower.

Final Words

I hope this helped you understand the fighting games on a deeper level. This is what I use when playing and thinking about the game, and has uses beyond okizeme, although at higher abstractions.

Shout out to my good friend Maxime who prompted me to put this into words !