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In video games, strafing is the technique of moving the player's character from side to side, rather than forward or backward. In the context of first-person shooters, it refers to the movement alone, even when no weapon is being fired. Sidestepping is an integral part of any first-person or third-person shooter as it allows the player to dodge incoming fire while keeping their view aimed at their target. In terms of classical mechanics, "Strafing" refers to rectilinear translational motion along the character's y-axis, while "Circle strafing" refers to Orbital motion around a fixed point.
Particularly in first-person shooters (FPSs), circle strafing is the technique of moving around an opponent in a circle while facing them. Circle strafing allows a player to fire continuously at an opponent while dodging counterattacks. By rapidly circling the opponent, the player evades the opponent's sights. Circle strafing is most useful in close-quarters combat, where the apparent motion of the attacking player is the greatest, and thus the chance of disorienting the opponent by making him lose track of the attacker is higher. The effectiveness of the circle strafing maneuver is mitigated when the opponent's weapon fires projectiles that travel instantaneously (also referred to as a hitscan weapon), or fires a large number in a machine gun-like fashion, although this effect can also be countered by employing firing techniques such as deflection, more commonly known as 'target-leading'.
Circle strafing is especially effective when employed as a form of lag-jumping where the sync speed between the two players affects the defending players' ability to defend themselves. When latency is high, this can lead to the oft-seen phenomenon of two players circling each other, both missing by a considerable margin, until one player unexpectedly collides with an obstacle and is slowed sufficiently for the other to target him.
Many shooters will allow players to zoom down the sights of a gun or use a scope, usually exchanging movement speed, field of vision, and the speed of their traverse for greater accuracy. This can make a player considerably more vulnerable to circle-strafing, as objects will pass through their field of vision more quickly, they are less capable of keeping up with the target, and their lowered speed makes dodging more difficult.
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Particularly in older first-person shooters (FPSs), straferunning (known as speed-strafing among players of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, and as trichording among players of the Descent series) is a technique that allows a player to run or fly faster through levels by moving forwards and sideways at the same time. The game combines these actions and the player achieves roughly 1.4 (square root of 2) times greater speed compared to moving in a single direction. The method used by the game can be demonstrated using vector addition. Pathways Into Darkness was one of the first games to allow straferunning.
The games in which straferunning can be employed treat forward motion independently of sideways (strafing) motion. If, for each update of the player's location, the game moves the player forward one unit and then moves the player to the side by one unit, the overall distance moved is . Thus, in games with such behavior, moving sideways while simultaneously moving forward will give an overall higher speed than just moving forward, although the player will move in a direction diagonal to the direction being faced. This feature is even more enhanced if moving along three axes (e.g. forward + left + up), providing (roughly 1.73) times greater speed, in games such as Descent.
This technique is not possible in all games; most and especially modern games would clamp the player's speed and acceleration to a uniform maximum when moving in any direction.
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