Breaking away from "Autopilot"


I’ve only been playing SF4 competitively for a few months now, and I still have my brain on “autopilot” during matches. I find myself throwing out the same patterns a lot, and over time my opponents will usually catch on and find a way to exploit that.

So my question is: How exactly do you break away from autopilot, and actively think while you’re playing?

I’ve tried numerous times to actively think during a match, but all sorts of scenarios and what-ifs get mashed in my head, and I end up playing worse than I would have on autopilot.

Is there a way to make it easier? I’ve been delving deeply into frame data and match-up knowledge lately (I play Dictator), but it’s a lot to take in at once. But, I figure once I know the technical details, it’ll be easier to access that information in the middle of a match and integrate it into my strategy. Is this a good way to go about it?


For me it was a slow process. You just have to constantly force it on yourself, even if you keep forgetting. Eventually, I got used to it, and started thinking, without even thinking, if that makes sense :rofl:

I also found myself thinking faster, or sometimes taking mental notes of tendencies without realizing it until the same situation came up. All I can say is keep at it, because it wasn’t easy for me either.


I too have been struggling to get off the autopilot. And yeah, as posted above it is a slow process. I have to say learning the spacing and recovery time of your moves is probably the best thing to start becoming aware of. Here’s an example:

I main Gouken, and step one for me was getting 100% execution with his BnB combo starting from j.HP or demon flip dive kick. Once I got this down I would basically just spam that and I managed to get to G2 by pretty much just doing that. The problem is I was doing it a lot of times when it wasn’t safe. So slowly, I started looking for better opportunities to demon flip. Like nowadays, I pretty much only use it as punish for late thrown fireballs, immediately after knockdowns (safe demon flip), or if the spacing is right, a crossup. I still make mistakes, but if I find myself making the same mistake over and over, I WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. Eventually, you’ll start to become aware of your common mistakes. Hope that helped.


It can also be really helpful to take a break for at least a few days, or maybe a week or two. If you’re playing a lot you can very easily get caught in a pattern, but taking a few days to just step back and think about other stuff can give you a fresh start when you return to the game, and allow you to break your old habits a little easier.


D.Khai, that’s a great example.

I would say once you’ve mastered your execution and your bnbs, its time to start looking at character specific matchups. Because if you’re playing good players (which you should always be trying to do) then going on auto pilot will get you raped very quickly. I guess the bottom line is once you’ve mastered your character and can react to your opponents attacks correctly, its time to start looking for openings in their game. Essentially, there should never be an “auto pilot” if your really trying to get better at the game.


I kind of agree, but I think a more efficient approach is mini breaks. If your typical sessions involve like, 100 game sets a few days a week, I’d say break them up into 10-20 game sets with some time to go through them in your head in between. This kind of naturally happens for me when playing in arcades, but it should be just as easy at home.

Of course, this is just my approach, and by means do I mean to suggest its a better approach for everyone.


The autopilot play is what lead me to stop using Ken and switch to el fuerte, because the options I have seem to be larger.


You need to pay attention to repeated situations. What does this guy like to do when he’s in a block string? What does this guy do when I jump at him? What does this guy do when I throw a fireball from this range, that range, or that range? What does this guy do when I’m getting up? What does this guy do when he’s getting up? What does this guy do when I neutral jump?

Then, once you can pick out something that isn’t safe, you find a counter for it. If he’s mashing in block strings, you frame trap him. If he doesn’t anti-air well, you keep pressure on him by jumping. If he’s using unsafe strategies to get through fireballs, you dp him. If he throws you on wakeup, walk up and back dash as he’s getting up, punish the throw whiff. If he throws a fireball as you’re landing from a neutral jump, be buffering ultra to punish it.


I think autopilot is fine, you just need to hone it some more.

Like what Dannkk said, you find their openings and exploit it. But you should already know what your counters are beforehand so that it’s just an automatic response.

For example, somebody jumps at me for free, I anti-air it instinctively. When he leaves the ground my mind is already focused on the followup of what to do when he lands from the anti-air. The more you internalize, the less things you have to do on the fly, which frees you up to identify tendencies and react appropriately.


I don’t think the OP is talking about something automatic like anti airing a jump in, but a mixup situation.


Woo, thanks for the replies everyone. Didn’t expect to get so many.

I’ll definitely try to focus more during a match, even thought it hurts my brain. :confused:


Autopilot is still a killer for my game,
but I’ve found switching to a very different character (but one who uses similar move inputs to your main) helped change the way I thought about playing the game… and when I switched back to my main after a couple of weeks, everything felt new and fresh and I was able to stay in the zone for a lot longer without spacing out.

(It can be a killer for your Battle points if you’re playing online SFIV though :sweat:)

Focusing on character specific tactics mid battle is really useful too, providing you don’t over-think things and slow down your reaction time.


Look at your character specific match ups and than go through other characters match ups for your character to see what strategies they are going to try and use on you. Try new things against these in training to see what’s safe and try and just even if once a match try one of those techniques till you get comfortable with and that will start giving you more options to open up new tactics like with goukens AA crouching fierce follow it up with df mixup see what ya get its not about being random its about getting out of patterns to open up new avenues.