Understanding Frame Data (DoA4)

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(Note: This is a reproduction of [[User::Trag|trag's]] post on understanding frame data from the doalive.com forums. This is reproduced with the permission of the author.)

With the release of the Official Strategy Guide, players are able to start breaking the game down on a much greater level. However, utilizing the advanced data requires an understanding of how the game mechanics work, some basic terminology, and a little bit of math. The goal of this thread is to help new players understand terms such as "frames", "advantage", "disadvantage", "guaranteed hits", and how they apply to the game. Ultimately it can help them understand why certain things work or don't work at a much deeper level than just "it works" or "it doesn't work".

There has been an influx of theories to how the current DOA4 frame-data works. We've repeatedly tested our own theories over the last week to get to the bottom if it. Hopefully you can find the information you are looking for!


Frame (F)

When a game runs at 60 frames per second (FPS), is means the engine is redrawing the screen 60 times in one second. A frame represents one redraw of the screen (basically, a picture, or a "frame"). It is basically the smallest increment of time recognized by the game engine. Moves are broken up into three distinct parts: EX(ecution), AC(tive), RE(covery). Each part is measured in frames.

Since the game is running at 60FPS, when a move that hits in 30F is performed, it means it hits in 1/2 of a second.

Execution / Impact Frames (EX)

The first part of any move, exexution (EX) frames represent how long a move animates before transitions to the active (AC) frames (where it starts to hit/connect). Many people refer to the EX frames as "i" frames, or "impact". If you are trying to determine what frame a move is active on, simple add one frame to the "EX". After the EX frames animate, the AC frames then take over on the next available frame.

For example: If a move has 10 frames of execution, it means that it animates 10 frames before it becomes active on the next possible frame... meaning, in this case, the move is active on its 11th frame. This move may also be refered to as i11 (or "impact 11th frame").

Active Frames (AC)

The second part of any move, active (AC) frames represent the amount of frames that the move can inflict its effect. This means that a move that has 5 active frames can inflict its effect if any of those frames make contact. If the move hits at the earliest point, the recovery (RE) frames will be as advertised. If the move hits at the latest AC frame, the move will actually have less recovery than advertise.

Recovery Frame (R)

The third part of any move, recovery (RE) frames represent the amount of frames that the move takes to return the attacker back to a neutral state. This assumes that the move strikes on the very first active (AC) frame. So if a move is listed as 10/5/20, it means that the move animates for 10 frames before it begins hitting on the 11th (the first active frame). Once it hits, it it plays out the remaining AC frames (but obviously they don't hit), and then the listed recovery frames. The player cannot move until all of the frames have animated. This means that in the above example, after the move hits on the 11th frame, there are still 4 more AC frames and 20 RE frames that need to animate before the character is free to move around again.

Recovery frames in DOA4 (and other DOA games) are not identical to those from other games which many players are used to. In most games, when the player performs an attack, they will be unable to do anything until all frames have finished animating. In DOA4, they will be unable to MOVE until the animation is done, but they will be able to guard on the last frame of recovery.

The important thing to remember is that recovery frames are basically "wind-down" animation frames after the move has made contact. recovery frames are independent of additional active frames which also must finish animating.

To find out how frames (especially AC and RE frames) affect gameplay, check out the "advantage" and "disadvantage" section.


Duration is the total amount of frames a move takes to finish once it is performed. To get the duration for a move, simply add the EX, the AC, and the RE frames together. Overall, it's not really important to know the duration of moves unless you plan on throwing out "baiting" style moves that purposely whiff. In that case, using low-duration moves is smart.


When an attack that does not knock over, does not launch, and does not cause a [Critical Stun (DoA4) |critical state] strikes the opponent, it inflicts a "hit-stun". While there are different looking hit-stuns, they all behave the same way. During hit-stun, the opponent will be unable to do anything until they recover. This includes guarding, movement, holding, and attacking. Be sure not to confuse hit-stun with critical-stun. Unlike hit-stun, the opponent has options while in a critical-stun.

NOTE: The facet of hit-stun is still being tested thoroughly to look for any anomalies.


When an attack that is not an unblockable or a guard-breaks strikes a guarding opponent, it inflicts what is called "guard-stun". During guard-stun, the opponent will be unable to do anything until they recover. This includes movement, holding and attacking. They can, however, continue guarding.

Of course, if the move is unblockable or causes a "guard-break", it does not cause the standard guard-stun. Instead, the opponent will be hit (in the case of an unblockable), or their guard will be knocked away (in the case of the guard-break).

There seems to be an identical parallel between hit-stun and guard-stun where something that cannot be held/reversed on hit, also cannot be held/reversed on guard.

NOTE: The facet of guard-stun is still being tested thoroughly to look for any anomalies.

Advantage & Disadvantage

The terms "advantage" and "disadvantage" come up quite a bit when talking about frame-data. In fact, most of the reason people study frames is because of these very important elements. Understanding the difference between advantage and disadvantage can really help boost your overall game.

When both characters are not under the influence of hit or guard-stun, and are not performing any move, they are considered even. It basically means that both characters are free to move at the exact same time.

When one character can move before another character, this difference is called an advantage (obviously for the character that can move first). Likewise, for the opponent that cannot move, this is considered a disadvantage. Advantage and disadvantage is measured in frames. Remember that the game runs at 60FPS (every second that goes by, the screen is redrawn 60 times). Here are some very generic examples to illustrate advantage and disadvantage:

A character that is at a 30F advantage can move a half-second before his or her opponent. 30/60 frames is a half-second. This would be considered a huge advantage.

A character that is at a 15F disadvantage would not be able to move for 1/4 of a second while his or her opponent could move freely. 15/60 frames is 1/4 of a second. This would be considered a big disadvantage.

Most of the time, advantages and disadvantage are much less than both of the examples above, but the point is to explain the meanings. When reading the frame-data, they charts conveniently list the initial advantage and disadvantage when a move connects on hit (represented by H), and on guard (represented by G). Let's look at a real-world example from the actual frame-data charts.

Hayate: P | EX 10, AC 2, RE 13 | H 1, G 2 |

Assuming the move hits on the first AC frame, it leaves Hayate with a 1F disadvantage (as indicated by the H 1). If the move is guarded, it leaves Hayate with a 2F disadvantage (as indicated by the G 2). In both cases, when Hayate performs the stand P against his opponent, he will recover slower than they do (1F and 2F respectively).

Guaranteed/Free Damage

Once you understand how advantage and disadvantage work, you can start to figure out when you actually get "guaranteed" or "free" damage. Basically, what "guaranteed"/"free" damage means is that the opponent cannot do anything about it. Once they are in a disadvantageous situation that leaves them recovering for a long period of time, you can strike or throw them and there's nothing they can do to stop you!

We already pointed out how Jann Lee can score a free PPP against Hayate after blocking Hayate's 6P. As a refresher, remember that Hayate's 6P leaves him at -12. Jann Lee happens to have an i11 standing P (10F EX + 1F AC = i11). Hayate is unable to guard.

We also pointed out how a character cannot move or attack while in recovery either. They must wait until all recovery frames have animated. This is extremely important to remember because in some situations, where a strike is not guaranteed, a throw IS guaranteed.

Examples of Guaranteed Damage

Tina vs Hayate. Tina performs her 8P against Hayate's guard, which leaves her at -5 RE. Hayate, seeing a possible throw opportunity, tries to connect P+G. Unfortunately, Tina can throw out an attack (or low hold) to avoid the throw because Hayate's throw is really connecting on the 6th frame (5F EX + 1F AC = i6). Poor Hayate!

Tina vs Hayate. Tina performs her PP4PK against Hayate's guard, which leaves her at -6 RE. Hayate, seeing another possible throw opportunity, tries to connect P+G. This time, the frame numbers match up. Hayate's P+G is i6 (5F EX + 1F AC = i6) and Tina gets grabbed! There is nothing she can do to avoid the throw attempt, however, she can attempt to escape it (since it's a neutral throw).

Recovery Guard

Previously, we explained how recovery (RE) frames of an attack/throw determine how long the character must wait until they are able to move and attack again. Once all RE frames have animated, the player will return to a neutral state and they will be free to do whatever they choose. However, during the final phase of RE, players still have one option called "Recovery Guard".

As explained, after performing an attack that leaves your character at a disadvantage, you must wait for all of the recovery frames to finish before you can move and attack again. However, you can actually cancel the last frame of RE into a guard. What this means is: If you perform an attack that leaves you at -20, and the opponent performs a move that strikes on the 20th frame (19F EX + 1F AC = i20), you will be able to guard. Although you cannot move or attack, you are free to guard as long as the attack strikes on the final frame of RE (or later of course).

It is highly important to remember that while attacks are guardable on the last frame of recovery, you can still be thrown! Since you cannot move until ALL recovery frames have finished animating, a throw that connects on the final recovery frame is guaranteed!

Examples of Recovery Guard

Hayate vs Tina. Hayate performs 6P which leaves him at -12. Tina retaliates with her 12F standing P (11F EX +1F AC = i12). While Hayate is unable to move or attack, he can still guard against the incoming 12F standing P because it hits on the last RE frame.

Second example: Hayate vs Jann Lee. Hayate performs 6P which leaves him at -12. Jann Lee retaliates with his 11F standing P (10F EX + 1F AC = i11). Since Hayate can only cancel the last 1F of his RE into a guard (12th frame in this case), and Jann Lee's standing P connects on the 11th frame, it becomes a guaranteed hit. There's nothing that poor Hayate can do in this situation (assuming, of course, he didn't use a canned string, like 6PP, 6PK, etc.).


As you can clearly see, there is a bit more to understanding the element of frame-counting in DOA4 than simply matching the initial frame numbers together. Getting to the bottom of advantage and disadvantage (knowing the difference between "guaranteed" and "guardable") actually requires an understanding of the nuances the DOA4 engine utilizes. Once you understand when and where you can guard, hold, and attack/move, you will easily be able to see when you are at a distinct advantage or disadvantage against your opponent, and what options you have available.

A Quick Reminder

During recovery, you can guard on the final frame!

  • You can only guard high/mid if you recover standing.
  • You can only guard low if you recover crouching.

During recovery, you can't avoid throws that make contact on your final RE frame!


The "how to understand frame data" thread on doalive.com.