Dragon Ball FighterZ Has People Debating Fighting Game Notation

Illustration for article titled iDragon Ball FighterZ/i Has People Debating Fighting Game Notation

Dragon Ball FighterZ has been a wildly popular game, but it’s also resurfaced some old discussions among the fighting game community—namely, numpad notation.

The method for transcribing long strings of combos has varied over the years, thanks to different games having different inputs. Street Fighter has punch and kick buttons, while other games like FighterZ have general light, medium, and heavy buttons. Some games, like Injustice, even just rely on numbers to convey which button should come next.

It all comes together to form a pseudo-language that fighting game players can use to convey combos. For an easy one, here’s one way of writing how to throw a hadoken as Ryu in Street Fighter: qcf.P. This translates to, “quarter-circle forward, then any punch.” Bam! Fireball.

That’s the good stuff.

While the letter versions are used in many games, numpad notation is a different method of transcribing these moves, using the numpad of a keyboard to represent the motion of the joystick. Instead of “qcf” for quarter-circle forward, now it’s “236.” The stick goes down to 2, across to 3, up to 6. Add a punch, and Ryu’s still tossing hadokens.

Not this guy, though.

Many anime-style fighting games have been using this variant of notation for years, but the spreading popularity of FighterZ in particular has exacerbated the issue of whether to use English alphabetical letters or numpad notation.


Each case makes a compelling side. Numpad notation is universal, and has an easy-to-follow visual; letters, on the other hand, make it easier to speak aloud (in English) and work better with games that already use numbers to refer to their button inputs, like Injustice and Tekken.

Me personally? I’m a fan of numpad. It just reads clearer in my head, I don’t need to look up definitions of certain abbreviations, and it looks neater in writing. As some have pointed out, it’s also international! For commentary though, it’s understandable why some long-time fighting game commentators are hesitant to switch.


The talk rages on, but one net-positive are the jokes to come out of it.


Freelance writer, Dota enthusiast, Texan.

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I think numpad notation is better, because there’s less risk for misunderstanding.

I mean, quarter-circle-forward is incredibly ambiguous. What about 123? Isn’t that also a quarter-circle-forward? Or 896?

And then there’s the part about being internationally understandable. In theory I could visit a Japanese website and look at a list of moves in numpad notation, and I’d still understand how to pull them off. But “qcf”? Does that mean “quick crouching feint”? Now I have to learn what each letter is supposed to represent.

On the other hand, numpad notation has a little disadvantage. Some people might mix up 123 and 789, depending on the kind of numpad they’re thinking of. On my PC, the numbers go from bottom to top, but on most (if not all) ATMs and dumb phones, the numbers go from top to bottom.

Of course, the ideal notation would be to just use arrows.