Game Design Discussion: Shortstop.

Alright, let’s get this party started with some observations regarding Shortstop: Shortstop is an abstract layer of tech that is present in most action games that have an auto-ranging rush attack. We should probably quickly summarize these things so everyone’s on the same page: a rush attack is a gap closing attack, the best example in the subject media of our focus being Stinger. Auto-ranging is pretty simple to explain, but it’s also the core functionality that needs to be present for a Shortstop to work: auto-ranging describes the ability for the gap-closing element to stop once it contacts the enemy.

The main utility of a shortstop in a player’s toolkit comes in a few different places. The first is, executing this tech positions you next to the enemy without the game ‘doing it for you,’ and as we can see with various titles, the ability to ‘teleport’ the player to their target or ‘grab’ the target and bring them to the player cheapens the movement capacity of the player character from the player’s perspective: if it isn’t ‘hard’ it doesn’t feel so damned good when you can do it without even trying.

The second is that pretty well universal, the animation commitment behind a rush attack is significant. Even if the execution of the attack can leave the player momentarily feeling as if more is going on, as long as the distance between the player character and the target entity is great enough, there’s usually plenty of opportunity to either buffer or use the rush as a ‘cover’ or ‘mask’ to set up the input of the follow-up.

And the third utility is simple: it looks good to execute a Shortstop, no matter what game you’re playing. The most stylish whiff possible, a Shortstop is an excellent place to set up for expanding a combo or resetting overall positioning to be more desirable. Extra points if the game in question allows the Shortstop to be followed up with a true catch that prevents the sandbag enemy from ever touching the ground.


To execute this, we need to make sure that we have a few things present:

  • An Auto-Ranging Rush Attack
  • Some Form of a Launcher
  • Disjointed Player Character Collision from the Active Hitbox

I’ve already explained the auto-ranging part, and that’s simple enough. In order to have this whole thing work, the movement aspect of the rush attack which we will be Shortstopping is going to need to be, well, stopped, so for that we simply have to arrange for the circumstances in which this can happen.

This is where we insert our launcher. Once the enemy is up in the air, we can start trying to accomplish our goal. Typically, in that I have yet to see an example that runs counter to this, when an attack closes a gap but stops at the enemy, usually just collision between the player and the enemy is a rough approximate for where the rush attack actually determines when to stop.

So we’re looking to brush under the falling enemy with our attack, which while at first seems fairly difficult to do, is actually quite repeatable depending on the game in question. In DMC3, it’s remarkably effortless. In DMC4, it’s really not that much different, and you can even do it in some pretty surprising circumstances in Special Edition with Vergil. In DMC5… It’s not really that consistent to perform, unfortunately. While Nero can execute his with ease, Dante has a number of quirks about him like a larger Stinger hitbox and slightly weirder Stinger ranging that makes it difficult to actually perform the maneuver.

In Final Fantasy 16, we can see that it’s remarkably consistent to perform these. In this case, usually, the trick is getting the Lunge off fast enough. Heat Wave and [Basic launcher] both need fairly immediate inputs, while other setups are less speed dependent and more actual timing and spacing matters. My preferred go to is a Burning Blade, but there’s a multitude of options present in Final Fantasy 16, and you absolutely should experiment.

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