Created By: GlennMagusHarvey on November 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on August 13, 2013

Telegraphing Attacks

If you look closely, you can see enemies in videogames signal the attack they\'ll use.

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Trope
Do we have this already? Should we include an examples list? It would be pretty huge. Alternatively, should we include a separate section for attacks that are not telegraphed, or would this even be a subtrope?


A staple of videogame design. If you want to allow a player to dodge an enemy's attack, especially if the attack is particularly hard to avoid or heavily damaging, you give them forewarning (Sucking-In Lines, inhaling deeply before unleashing a Breath Attack, glowing brightly, etc). Sometimes accomplished by Calling Your Attacks. Crosshair Aware is a subtrope of this.

Generally considered a part of good game design. Practically mandatory for boss scripts if you want to include flashy and cool but hard-to-avoid attacks but still want to prevent Mandatory Damage (note: this trope is currently being YKTTW'd, see here for discussion).

However, this is rarely seen for playable characters, especially in Fighting Games, where letting your opponent know your next move can be a pretty big liability. It's not so much that attacks are "not" telegraphed, but rather that the delay between the telegraph and the incoming hit is generally short (a split second at most). The button inputs required to execute a move can also telegraph the move itself -- For example, a traditional Hadouken (down + forward + attack) can be anticipated by seeing the opponent crouch for a moment.

Note that in turn-based genres attacks are almost never telegraphed, making it virtually impossible to predict the opponent's next move. But when they are . . . Oh Crap!.

An Unblockable Attack is often telegraphed more clearly than normal moves since evasion is the only option. An Unblockable Attack will generally have a longer telegraph before it executes, since you can't just block against it.

Two versions of this trope can be considered:
  • one which deliberately gives the enemies signals before they do an attack.
  • one which by design would cue the player on their attacks; this one's a tactical, Meta Game version of the above.

Subtropes of Telegraphing Attacks:

Examples:

  • Several bosses in RuneScape do this. The first one was TzTok-Jad, who has three different animations that he performs before he attacks depending on whether he's going to use ranged, melee, or magical damage. Later bosses adopted similar styles. There's also bosses like Nomad, the Pest Queen, and Shadow-Forger Ihlakhizan (among others), who have special attacks that have to be dodged or interrupted to avoid getting hit For Massive Damage; these attacks are heavily telegraphed with conspicuous charge-up animations.
  • One of the final bosses of Aria Of Sorrow has giant hands. Everytime he's about to attack, his hands sparkle.
  • This is a key feature in the Mario & Luigi games. Enemies attacking only one of the eponymous brothers vary from simply walking up to one of them to making certain gestures indicating who they're gonna hit.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword:
    • All enemies who hold weapons telegraph their attacks and defense patterns, letting you know from what angle you need to slash at them. The only problem is, they also catch on to when you're telegraphing yours, forcing you to throw them off guard by switching your sword position around constantly.
    • Link holds his sword arm in the same position as the player's Wii Remote, and certain enemies (like Bokoblins) will assume the matching defensive position to block that direction of strike. And during the first Boss Battle, Ghirahim will criticize the player for so obviously "telegraphing" their moves if he succeeds in wresting Link's sword out of his hands.
  • One Must Fall gives polite warnings before very powerful attacks.
    • Jaguar's leap attack has the mech coil back as if about to pounce.
    • Shadow blinks and holds still before spawning copies of itself
    • Thorn will sprout spines before shooting them at you
    • Pyros Holds still and must charge up the flamethrower
    • Electra adverts this: none of her attacks have warning, but they all are fairly weak in comparison to the other mechs.
    • Katana Raises his sword and moves his head as if shouting a battle cry
    • Shredder braces himself before unleashing the magnets
    • Flail Will stop and swing the flair in circles
    • Gargoyle Pauses and unsheathes claws before dive-bombing
    • Chronos will pause and blink. A fast blink means "teleport" while a longer, slow blink means "Time Stop"
  • Ness in Super Smash Brothers has an instant kill attack. Your warning is when he winds up the bat and the bat starts to flash.
    • Jigglypuff does this as well. First she will put you to sleep and then she will get really, really close. This is your cue to wake up and run or die!
    • Ness's baseball bat isn't a One-Hit Kill (that's the Home-Run bat, a powerup), but an ordinary "Smash"-level attack (which are often capable of landing a One-Hit Kill anyway.) In Brawl, all Smash level attacks can be charged For Massive Damage, though this gives the opponent more time to ready their defense.
  • In The Sims: Makin' Magic, you can duel other magical Sims, which is pretty much a rock-paper-scissors game of different-colored spells. Before the other Sim attacks, the color they're about to use will flash on their part of the stage, so a player with quick reflexes - or a pause button and a handy chart of which color beats which - is able to pick the best spell to counter it with. The more experienced the NPC, the less time the color flashes on the screen.
  • Punch-Out!!!! is a prime example, with observing the boxers' habits and quirks essential to dodging attacks. Some of them (Punch-Out Wii) are very subtle and must be perceived to get bonuses and quick knockouts.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 4 and onwards, most enemies will do something right before their attack launches. Hitting them with your chip attack while they're in that state will stun them and let you activate Full Synchro, which (aside from giving double damage for the next chip attack) gives you an easier note as to when to do such move again (by creating a purple flash on the enemy when they're about to attack); this allows for a particularly skillful player to "chain" counters and kill the enemies quickly. Part of the challenge of the higher levels of enemies and bosses is that they have shorter time of attack initiation, making counters harder to perform.
  • Pokémon: Some of the two-turn attacks like Skull Bash and Sky Attack do this ("X lowers its head" and "X is glowing brightly").
  • Some enemies in the Dragon Quest games do this, if you see "X is saving its strength" they'll hit much harder on the next turn.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • November 19, 2011
    Katana
    We don't have it to my knowledge but examples are pretty unnecessary imo. Aside from enemies that basically walk into you, I can't really think of many video game enemies that don't telegraph their attacks.
  • November 20, 2011
    GlennMagusHarvey
    Do people think this is tropable?

    I obviously do, but I would like some support here.
  • November 20, 2011
    troacctid
    • Several bosses in Rune Scape do this. The first one was TzTok-Jad, who has three different animations that he performs before he attacks depending on whether he's going to use ranged, melee, or magical damage. Later bosses adopted similar styles. There's also bosses like Nomad, the Pest Queen, and Shadow-Forger Ihlakhizan (among others), who have special attacks that have to be dodged or interrupted to avoid getting hit For Massive Damage; these attacks are heavily telegraphed with conspicuous charge-up animations.
  • November 21, 2011
    Chabal2
    Tropeable, but maybe by category (Sucking In Lines, inhaling deeply before unleashing a Breath Attack, glowing brightly, etc.).
  • November 21, 2011
    GlennMagusHarvey
    Okay, let's make a list of sub-tropes then.

  • November 22, 2011
    blueflame724
    If I recall, one of the final bosses of Aria of Sorrow has giant hands. Everytime he's about to attack, his hands sparkle.
  • November 22, 2011
    NESBoy
    This is a key feature in the Mario And Luigi games. Enemies attacking only one of the eponymous brothers vary from simply walking up to one of them to making certain gestures indicating who they're gonna hit.
  • November 22, 2011
    Abodos
    In The Legend Of Zelda Skyward Sword, all enemies who hold weapons telegraph their attacks and defense patterns, letting you know from what angle you need to slash at them. The only problem is, they also catch on to when you're telegraphing yours, forcing you to throw them off guard by switching your sword position around constantly.
  • November 22, 2011
    Generality
    This has got to be a pretty much omnipresent trope, so I'd say no, examples are not needed. Even aversions would be hard to list.
  • November 23, 2011
    lamoxlamae
    This is tropable, though I think only examples of playable characters should be listed. This is because, yes, almost all mooks do this in all mediums. For example, watch ninjas swarm a guy in Kung Fu films and see them shout, draw sword, or otherwise warm with each attack!

    Playable examples
    • Nes in Super Smash Brothers has an instant kill attack. Your warning is when he winds up the bat and the bat starts to flash.
      • Jigglypuff does this as well. First she will put you to sleep and then she will get really, really close. This is your cue to wake up and run or die!

    • One Must Fall gives polite warnings before very powerful attacks.
      • Jaguar's leap attack has the mech coil back as if about to pounce.
      • Shadow blinks and holds still before spawning copies of itself
      • Thorn will sprout spines before shooting them at you
      • Pyros Holds still and must charge up the flamethrower
      • Electra adverts this: none of her attacks have warning, but they all are fairly weak in comparison to the other mechs.
      • Katana Raises his sword and moves his head as if shouting a battle cry
      • Shredder braces himself before unleashing the magnets
      • Flail Will stop and swing the flair in circles
      • Gargoyle Pauses and unsheathes claws before dive-bombing
      • Chronos will pause and blink. A fast blink means "teleport" while a longer, slow blink means "Time Stop"
  • December 22, 2011
    TBeholder
  • December 22, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ Weblinks Are Not Examples. (FYI.)

    • In The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link holds his sword arm in the same position as the player's Wii Remote, and certain enemies (like Bokoblins) will assume the matching defensive position to block that direction of strike. And during the first Boss Battle, Ghirahim will criticize the player for so obviously "telegraphing" their moves if he succeeds in wresting Link's sword out of his hands.

    Also of note: An Unblockable Attack is often telegraphed more clearly than normal moves since evasion is the only option.

    BTW, Ness's baseball bat isn't a One Hit Kill (that's the Home-Run bat, a powerup), but an ordinary "Smash"-level attack (which are often capable of landing a One Hit Kill anyway.) In Brawl, all Smash level attacks can be charged For Massive Damage, though this gives the opponent more time to ready their defense.
  • December 22, 2011
    Dawnwing
    • In The Sims: Makin' Magic, you can duel other magical Sims, which is pretty much a rock-paper-scissors game of different-colored spells. Before the other Sim attacks, the color they're about to use will flash on their part of the stage, so a player with quick reflexes - or a pause button and a handy chart of which color beats which - is able to pick the best spell to counter it with. The more experienced the NPC, the less time the color flashes on the screen.
  • December 23, 2011
    hevendor717
    I'd say if it's very important to gameplay, it belongs here. Punch Out!! is a prime example, with observing the boxers' habits and quirks essential to dodging attacks. Some of them (Punch-Out Wii) are very subtle and must be perceived to get bonuses and quick knockouts.
  • January 7, 2012
    morenohijazo
    What do you think about this trope, then?
  • June 11, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Formatting tips:
    1. YKTTW titles are not Wiki Words. Spell them in plaintext, including any punctuation.
    2. Separate any YKTTW meta-discussion from the actual trope draft.
  • August 13, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Bump. I would note that in Fighting Games it's not so much that attacks are "not" telegraphed, but rather that the delay between the telegraph and the incoming hit is generally short (a split second at most). The button inputs required to execute a move can also telegraph the move itself -- For example, a traditional Hadouken (down + forward + attack) can be anticipated by seeing the opponent crouch for a moment.

    Note that an Unblockable Attack will generally have a longer telegraph before it executes, since you can't just block against it.

    Note that in turn-based genres attacks are almost never telegraphed, making it virtually impossible to predict the opponent's next move. But when they are . . . Oh Crap.
  • August 13, 2013
    DAN004
    So far I've seen 2 versions of this trope:
    • one which deliberately gives the enemies signals before they do an attack.
    • one which by design would cue the player on their attacks; this one's a tactical, Meta Game version of the above.

    BTW would this count?
    • In Mega Man Battle Network 4 and onwards, most enemies will do something right before their attack launches. Hitting them with your chip attack while they're in that state will stun them and let you activate Full Synchro, which (aside from giving double damage for the next chip attack) gives you an easier note as to when to do such move again (by creating a purple flash on the enemy when they're about to attack); this allows for a particularly skillful player to "chain" counters and kill the enemies quickly. Part of the challenge of the higher levels of enemies and bosses is that they have shorter time of attack initiation, making counters harder to perform.
  • August 13, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Pokemon: Some of the two-turn attacks like Skull Bash and Sky Attack do this ("X lowers its head" and "X is glowing brightly").
    • Some enemies in the Dragon Quest games do this, if you see "X is saving its strength" they'll hit much harder on the next turn.
  • August 13, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Fixed a Red Link.
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