Tips on turning off your autopilot in fighting games

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • March 19, 2017 at 7:49 p.m. PDT

"Flowchart..." "autopilot"... there are multiple names for that frame of mind we fighting game players so easily slip into, but doing so can often result in a beeline to getting KO'd.

As a game that sees relatively few interactions before victory or loss, SF5 allows for almost no mistakes. Having your head in the clouds while you allow your character to "do that thing they're really good at doing" is an instant death sentence if your opponent shifts to a counter gear.

The problem is, Street Fighter 5 simultaneously promotes and punishes flowchart play in some ways. Some characters in this game have sequences that carry a risk/reward so in their favor that I may go as far as to say they needn't worry about this at all.

It's very easy to identify a move or a sequence that your character does well, and often times these trademark approaches develop organically because you'll win a few times by doing them, (especially online where your list of opponents is ever revolving) but if you find your go-to approaches and knee-jerk reactions aren't netting you wins, read on for some strategies to get around autopilot play.

Lesson one of avoiding autopilot: Be aware of autopilot

When you first begin playing a character, things don't work for you. You explore different moves in different situations until eventually something does work. At this point, it's very easy to bake these into your gameplan as the "correct" answers for said situations and let your fingers simply execute them whenever gameplay prompts them.

We can quickly transition away from this exploratory approach wherein we soak up new information like a sponge, to simply doing the thing that works most of the time. That's autopilot.

It's something every player wrestles with, but the sad reality is that some players never transition back to learning new approaches. They accept that their basic strategy either wins or it doesn't, and they become cemented at the skill level they're at.

Sometimes it works well, but even winning with autopilot doesn't yield much satisfaction. It's almost like playing against an AI boss, identifying his patterns and defeating him. It's fun the first time, but once you've done that the puzzle is solved.

It's not to say that one shouldn't resort to their character's strengths, but they should be thoughtful of the results each and every time they try to implement them. When a strength stops working, you start changing.

Lesson two of avoiding autopilot: Don't get too comfortable

The main reason a player will fall into autopilot is because they're not actively thinking in enough detail about the match in front of them. This can happen to anyone at any moment.

I'll use a recent experience of my own as an example. I was recently playing a friend in a series of first to five sets. I was completely engaged in the first set, looking at their decisions in every interactions and quickly adjusting to counter them.

The first set or two went heavily in my favor, and I actually became (perhaps for lack of a better term) a bit bored with the play. Come to think of it, it was surely a combination of being both overconfident from winning and disenchanted from apparent lack of challenge.

No sooner did I fall into this than did autopilot rear its nasty head. Guess who stopped winning by a landslide? Guess who stopped winning at all?

Lesson three of avoiding autopilot: Steer your emotions before they steer you

Jumping from the logical side of the spectrum to the emotional, I call back on a recent tournament that I participated in. Long sob story short, I wound up losing in the winners bracket in an extremely demoralizing way. (It had to do with knowing Kolin was negative after certain attacks but not knowing the timing to actually punish her. Also, I don't wanna talk about it.)

Transitioning into the losers bracket, my heart was still very much hung up on said demoralizing loss. Sure enough, my head followed and I found myself more focused on how stupid that initial loss was than the game I was playing in the losers bracket.

Thoughts of "I shouldn't have lost that, it wasn't my fault, it's because of some flaw in the game's design..." (you've been there) took the place of thoughts like "Hey, this Karin I'm playing right now has a good read on when I want to jump forward, I should stop doing that."

Negative emotions can distract your brain away from the task at hand, and when that happens, autopilot will inevitably kick in.
As simple of a game as people tend to say Street Fighter 5 is, it requires a constant, high level of focus to be consistent at. It's a decision you make and remind yourself of every time your approach starts to become unsuccessful. The moment you let any outside influences begin affecting your thought and focus, your fingers are going to start doing what they're comfortable with.

Please let us know if this was at all helpful to you so we can plan to do more or less like it in the future. Feel free to offer your anti-autopilot strategies in the comments section below.


Gellus said on March 19, 2017 at 7:56 p.m.

Nah, i'm just going to be like ISDD and scream LOOK AT THIS GUY I HATE THIS GAME

Or when i get bodied i will say this is just a guessing game, which for everyone with a brain just means that you doesn't know how to read, but i clearly makes me feel smarter

It seems to be more effective

enkil said on March 19, 2017 at 7:57 p.m.

The basal ganglia is very difficult to override.

BlankaBeast said on March 19, 2017 at 8:14 p.m.

That's right

Post_a_comment said on March 19, 2017 at 8:14 p.m.

i am on the other side, always fall for opponent autopilot shenaningans.


poetheghost118 said on March 19, 2017 at 8:14 p.m.

I think this was helpful. Some may have realized this already, but for people like me that are used to doing things till it works, this was a wakeup call.

celeon said on March 19, 2017 at 8:18 p.m.

wanna see Xian Ibuki vs Poongos Kolin?

FEM2017 tournament.

celeon said on March 19, 2017 at 8:33 p.m.

poongko kolin is getting better and better.

RafaelBUrena said on March 19, 2017 at 8:36 p.m.

Excellent article, original content. This is more of what we want.

bluebox said on March 19, 2017 at 8:37 p.m.

This is in all fighting games, not just in sfv

downvote said on March 19, 2017 at 9:08 p.m.

Nah, I'll just complain about the patch and how the game doesn't play like how I want instead.

All jokes aside I try to avoid auto-piloting as much as I can. Tho I'll admit I've fallen into auto-pilot mode from time to time.

AfterDeath said on March 19, 2017 at 9:39 p.m.

Can I give my honest advice?

I feel auto-piloting is much more often in SFV for certain reasons:

The way SFV flows, and I've been told this by friends and top players since Day 1, that SFV punishes people mainly for "pressing buttons at the wrong time."

So the most effective way of playing the game is to keep constant SAFE pressure on the opponent.

How does this work in a practical setting? Basically, it works because most normals in the game are slow, but have big-frame advantage. So most consistent way to play is to keep pressuring the opponent with safe steady normals, until they make a mistake and did a whiffed throw, or worse, a DP, and then punishing big with shimmy or CC combos.

TLDR is, you're applying safe block strings and trying to fish for a mistake.

Now, there is an element of mind-game involved in this, but some of the lesser skilled players, would just resort to doing the same strings over and over again. And because it is safe (and let's be honest, Capcom hated people who DPed block strings in SFIV, hence the times they nerfed DP), sometimes there's actually not much people can do to counter them.

The end result? Some lesser players, myself-included, just learn to keep applying this constant pressure without really thinking of the mindgame behind. This could eventually lead to an autopilot behaviour in a game.

BlankaBeast said on March 19, 2017 at 9:54 p.m.

This affects me and can be hard to break at times.

These bad habits can be hard to give up especially ones that work well over half the time.

I find myself doing them over and over despite the fact that I recognize them as not the best thing to do and despite knowing better things to do.

Sometimes fighting yourself is the only way to improve.

krain11 said on March 19, 2017 at 10 p.m.

For top tier characters, too many moves with low risk/high reward,also, they can steer their opponent easily to a position which benefits them greatly... They can Autopilot their way through the rankings...

Syirine said on March 19, 2017 at 10:35 p.m.

Got a problem with this when it comes to overly defensive opponents. Always going for the obvious grab when I should be delaying my normals.

Shinpaisuru said on March 19, 2017 at 11:06 p.m.

Nice article man, thanks.

fawaz said on March 19, 2017 at 11:52 p.m.

The problem with this game is that by the time you start getting the hang of things, the round is over. The damage is so high that there is not much time to adjust. The damage reduction in S2 doesn't seem enough. Another big reason is that the input lag is hindering reactive play. The slower white damage recovery makes it worse. Hence the apparent consensus b/w top players that 3/5 is a format that's more suited for this game.

AgingDemon said on March 20, 2017 at 1:23 a.m.

Good article. I think there are occasions where it makes sense to have some sort of safe autopilot gameplan, especially when dealing with overly random opponents. Other than that, the more predictable and flowcharty you play, the sooner you will be figured out and punished at the higher levels.

AngriestAngryArtist said on March 20, 2017 at 2:04 a.m.

Lesson three of avoiding autopilot: Steer your emotions before they steer you

*looks at the pile of metal and plastic from destroyed arcade sticks* can say that sure!

rosy said on March 20, 2017 at 2:44 a.m.

Yep, that's why i never get interested watching sf5 whole match on tournament compare to sf4

nebbiez said on March 20, 2017 at 2:58 a.m.

Thank you for perfectly summarising my experience of this game against online randoms. Jumping in, mashing block strings, rinse and repeat. I guess making that an effective play style is part of Capcom's way of dumbing down SF5 so beginners can compete. Why bother learning all the facets of playing fighting games when jumping in and mindlessly hitting buttons is a viable way to win?

Heta said on March 20, 2017 at 3:16 a.m.

Not a problem in 3D fighters. I'm a fighter of many faces and I challenge myself trying new tactics mid match to outsmart opponents. No patterns in my gameplan.

Balrog1984 said on March 20, 2017 at 4:23 a.m.

Wow his kolin is looking scary. Getting very good. Xyzzy also doing great work with some very clutch moments. Thanks for the link!

Ponyo2015 said on March 20, 2017 at 4:38 a.m.

i like the positive articles to improve and stimulate the community.

its a shame players blame the game again instead of their own faults.

Rahab430 said on March 20, 2017 at 5:05 a.m.

I play SFV with a good friend of mine, we've been playing together since HD Remix came out, and he's always been what I would call "better" than me. That is, he taught me a lot of fundamentals for Street Fighter in general, and we have both grown over the course of numerous games in the series.

That said, I feel he relies too much on auto pilot. But the reason he does is because I fall for it...a lot. It's extremely frustrating because I see what he's doing but I hit a button or make a wrong read and he hits me with the same Ibuki or Akuma combo all the time.

It gets in my head every time.

wewk584 said on March 20, 2017 at 5:19 a.m.

Excellent article. I would like to see more.

Ponyo2015 said on March 20, 2017 at 5:31 a.m.

hé keeps doing the same thing against you because he sees it works. you dont have an answer yet to stop his stuff.

go to training mode and record the same situation and Find an answer to stop it.

then when you play him and you have improved he 1. keeps doing the same again and you keep punishing him over and over again. or 2. he come up with another strategy mix up or whatever and you both lvl up.

also Find more answers than 1. or else you are still predictable

KingKazma said on March 20, 2017 at 6:07 a.m.

PC players be*t Im getting my butt kicked..'flicks on lag switch'

Rahab430 said on March 20, 2017 at 6:34 a.m.

You're right, I need to sit down and recreate his strings and try to see what I can do to get in there.

I have a hard time devoting the time to train, but if I want to grow, it's something I need to do.

Thanks for the reply!

KingKazma said on March 20, 2017 at 6:58 a.m.

Was that a Slamford Kelly reference?

Boris_17z said on March 20, 2017 at 7:13 a.m.

I second that. SFV is very unforgiving with autopiloy play, even more so than SFIV. If you doubt that, try playing an autopilot Guile ;)

Captainbuttocks said on March 20, 2017 at 7:15 a.m.

Ps4 players be like, sh!t im getting my butt kicked. Why is my wifi not kicking in? Time to RQ.

KingKazma said on March 20, 2017 at 7:42 a.m.

RQ'ing was so season 1

Captainbuttocks said on March 20, 2017 at 7:57 a.m.

Playing on wifi is all the rave tho.

Lag switching is not tied to PC, its a switch on the Ethernet cable.

gonzalo said on March 20, 2017 at 8:23 a.m.

As a Laura player, I realize I win most of the time when I go autopilot in oki and sequences.her auto pilot It's just to a way that makes you question yourself if playing the neutral is really worth it.

Boris_17z said on March 20, 2017 at 8:51 a.m.

I have the answer: it's not worth it. You're welcome.

Captainbuttocks said on March 20, 2017 at 9:13 a.m.

Yeah if you are winning why even change? Lol

I think the top tier chars in V are built as autopilot and so they succeed. With urien i find myself just pressing buttons without a plan and things just happen.

KingKazma said on March 20, 2017 at 9:32 a.m.

Wouldnt know....but If I need info on RQ'ing I know who the expert is

Str8Gr8 said on March 20, 2017 at 10:17 a.m.

I think the DP nerf increases the autopilot mentality. Early in fights how much are you really reading the aggressiveness of your opponent opposed to just applying pressure? Do you really ever block on opponent wakeup early in matches?

Obviously, many characters never had this tool and I'm pretty neutral toward its removal. I just notice myself being more predictable and, ultimately, more effective when concentrating on my meaty timing and my strings opposed to ever considering what the opponent may do on wakeup without meter.

lh said on March 20, 2017 at 10:44 a.m.

2 things I keep in mind:
1- every 5 seconds (approx) is a scenario of its own, it's only related to the rest of the match via the clock, health, corner distance, your and your opponent's super/ultra/cart.

2- if you get hit or comboed in a "humbling" way, accept it and back off slightly (not run away), don't try and get back at your opponent there and then in the next 2-4 seconds of time, back off without running away and start another "scenario".

TH_AKB said on March 20, 2017 at 11:52 p.m.

autopilot players will complain... you are random asf bro.

No, im not a sheep I have a mind and strategy of my own lol.

Doesnt mean that If I dont play like I need to of follow the flowchart, means Im random.
Open ur mind.

Captainbuttocks said on March 21, 2017 at 11:03 a.m.

Yeah yeah because its not common knowledge 🙄🙄 please sit down.


Post a comment

You're not logged in, you must Login to your account to post a comment.

If you do not have an account, you need to Register to comment. It's a free and quick process.

You're not logged in, you must Login to your account to post a comment.

If you do not have an account, you need to Register to comment. It's a free and quick process.