What Does It Mean To Be Frame-Perfect?

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When you dive into the world of competitive gaming, you’ll be hearing a lot about frames; whether it’s frames-per-second or frame data, technical analysis of all esports titles will be done by breaking them down by frames.

To understand the terminology and significance of what it means to be “frame-perfect,” it’s important to know just how big an impact frame rate and frame data has on any esports meta.

The Importance Of Frames

In any media involving motion capture, the frame rate is how frequently a series of images or frames are shown on a display panel; this is measured via frames-per-second (FPS) so when you hear of a game running at 30FPS or 60FPS, it means the game runs at either 30 frames or 60 frames per second.

When it comes to video games, frame rate is especially important because it serves as the foundation for what is possible within a given timeframe. More frames per second means a larger window for gauging how long a button press takes to come out or how much cooldown there is before being able to press another button can be calculated.

This is where frame data comes into play. Frame data tells you what can or cannot be done within the context of the game. For example, if Move X takes 7 frames to come out with 5 frames of cooldown, while Move Y takes 4 frames to come out with 2 frames of cooldown, we know because of the frame data and FPS:

  • If Player 1 wanted to use Move X and immediately follow up with Move Y, he wouldn’t be able to input Move Y until frame 13.
  • If Player 1 wanted to use Move X and then do something else, Player 2 could use Move Y before Player 1 could get any input out.

With frame data as the information on what you can do with your inputs, and FPS as a measurement in time, you have the basis for finding frame-perfect inputs.

What Is Frame-Perfect?

Being frame-perfect means connecting your button press on the exact frame that’s necessary to pull off a particular feat. Essentially, if the game being played is running at 60FPS, you’re doing something perfectly within 1/60th of a second.

In isolation, it’s not the most difficult thing to do; what makes it challenging is that most frame-perfect tricks, whether in competitive multiplayer games or speedruns, are required in higher-stress environments where a lot more is going on. One can probably hit some frame-perfect inputs when practicing it over and over, but try doing it in a tournament match with a million other things going on.

Many games offer input buffer systems, which is when you can input a move while in the animation of another, and this can help when having to pull off multiple frame-perfect or near-perfect moves that are in succession. Some games, such as Super Smash Bros. Melee, have no buffer system which means all frame-perfect maneuvers have to be done…well, perfectly.

Why Is Being Frame-Perfect Important?

Being frame-perfect allows a player to perform feats and techniques that are otherwise impossible, and it can give a huge edge in competition.

The best example of this is Zain’s Marth vs. Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff in Melee. In that matchup, Marth has a pivot-tippered forward smash kill confirm that can land some seriously early stocks and make the matchup much easier. However, the pivot is frame-perfect and as a result, many previous Marth players have struggled to pull it off, at least consistently.

Zain came in and has consistently been able to land the pivot tipper and take many early stocks, which has resulted in him getting many wins over Hungrybox and putting himself in contention for the best Melee player in the world. Had he not mastered that frame-perfect input, many of their matches could have swung the other way.

Analyzing frames and being able to pull off frame-perfect inputs is the bedrock for pushing any competitive game or speedrunning category to the next level. While going for frame-perfect setups should never take priority over mastering fundamentals, being able to do anything with frame-perfect consistency is necessary for becoming great at any game.