What’s “Futurestep”?

Legend says that – with my visor sunnies (and current residence in the world) to back the statement up – I come from the future.
I’m assuming you know the standard terminology of 4-panel dance games (rolls, etc). Just a heads up – as an ITG focused article, and just like any other in-depth discussion of a game: if you’re not aware of its content, things will get quite a bit... foreign.

In the early/mid 2010s, Mad Matt authored Loaded Futurepack, a showcase of charts that had generous amounts of footswitches, brackets, and other unique material. That was during a time when this content was considered relatively new, and players would label them with words like ‘exotic’, ‘2030’, etc.

Of course, there were other earlier charts that had these, but it was this pack that established those two specific techniques with the ‘future[step]’ term, at least for me.

The Techniques

Footswitching (FS) is when the same two notes in succession, either ↑ or ↓, are hit with different feet. Let’s go through two examples:

←     │  ←
 ↓    │    ↑
 ↓    │    ↑
   →  │     →

the usual solution

  • Use left foot for ←
  • Right foot for the next note
  • Right foot again because it’s the same arrow
  • Right foot yet again because the next note is a →
  • Talk about how awkward that was to use the same foot three times

This is totally understandable. However, one could also see it this way:

a resolvable alternative

  • L ←, R next note as usual
  • But instead this time, lift R off and use L to hit the same arrow
  • Now you can hit the last → note with R
  • Alternating feet, yay!

The hop off, hop on ‘switching’ action is why it’s named as such.

Keep in mind this doesn’t apply to repeated ← or →. That’s called a ‘sideswitch’, which I don’t consider OG futurestep. There’s a bit more ambiguity to these, unlike footswitches.

Bracketing (BR) is when you hit two diagonally adjacent panels with one foot, ‘cos why not.

[← ↑ ]  ↑  [  ↑→]
     ←     →
[←↓  ]  ↓  [ ↓ →]

Usually you’ll find them begin and/or end a short n-note pattern (3, 5, whatever), but they’re also common during streams, where it may show up like an extra note stuffed in between a regular single-note stream.

That’s all there really is to what I mean by “futurestep”: technical content ahead of a regular player’s time.

Read on if you’re interested about my experience with this kind of content and why I want to “main” and git gud at it.

My Content

Most charts you’ll see me write employ these two main techniques only, along with sprinkles of other non-ambiguous things, like double steps.

I sometimes use other fancy avant-garde stuff like:

  • Centre panels (CP) : think of shock arrows in DDR when they force you to use the centre panel to get off them, like Firestorm CSP or more explicitly Possession 20th CSP
  • Rolls in the context of brackets (RB), either as rolls or holds (no repetitive requirement)
  • 90° stream patterns (90): patterns or streams that require you to face left or right
  • Offset brackets (OB): to notate rapid notes too fast to hit, I treat them as brackets but offset earlier by half of the target quantisation. The problem with these is that the chart loses its quad capabilities
  • Arbitrary stream quantisation, appropriately described, e.g. {14 16 20} if it contains them. Odd values like 17ths or 19ths are only used in meme material
  • Scroll gimmicks (SC): I have the liberty to enforce them with old school BPM changes, or alternatively use SM5’s scroll factor value

A few rules I stick to for my charts:

  • Assume all double ↑/↓ notes are footswitches unless obvious (e.g. a ←/→ hold exists), even if they’re not telegraphed. If the need to double step arises, there’ll probably be a jump involved
  • Crossovers are discouraged because they’re not ‘futurestep’, i.e. DDR/ITG have been using these ever since they made the game, so it’s not a new technique. I may put some during slow 8th/4th sections, but that’s rare

Favour/Criticism in Tech Depends on Purpose

“Tech” overall seemed to be leaning towards catering to the accuracy players in the 10–14 block range. However, my opinion is that a vast majority of the content is ‘missed potential’ in regards to difficulty. The interesting thing about this, though, is that players have wildly different stances on this.

In 2019/20, actual hard tech was considered “overwritten”, and the meta strongly favoured simple tech whose difficulty was boosted via streams. These were named the hybrid ‘stamtech’ chart.

If memory serves me right (unsure of the time and place), Mad Matt, during his visit to Australia, told me something along the lines of

If you’re going to put footswitches in a chart, put lots of it in there, as that’s what gives it part of its appeal

And I totally agree with this, because there’s merit in that statement (Love is Eternity, Flames of the Sky, Nemeton, etc).

I believe the disparate views stem from players having different purposes for playing tech. For me, my fun derives from being able to pass hard shit and blur the lines between what appears to be a keyboard chart when it is in fact a pad chart. For others, the fun comes from well-written content, i.e. conscious, thought out, deliberate decisions in a chart – say, pacing: when to hold back versus going ham. It goes without saying that I put the same rigour of decision-making into my charts, except our views on what’s ‘just right’ is different on this so called sliding scale.

As a fellow local player put it in a really good way (slightly paraphrased for clarity):

You’re targeting the 11-15 block tech/accuracy players – but then they see it, taste it, then spit it out

At the time of writing, I’m confident only a few handful of players out there in the world (like, single digit or low double digit) have genuine interest in peak difficulty tech, so this target audience is scarce.

Interestingly, LET’S JUMP, my first futurestep chart as a “proper tech” 13+, was written in 2014 but somehow still remains my best chart to date.

This do-hard-shit attitude brings us to the controversy I’m known for. That is:

The Deal with Zombie Sunset

Back when the 3.95 version of Zombie Sunset dropped, the local player base’s impression of it was that it was a meme; a joke chart. Which is fine and all in spirit, until it gets put into a competition or event.

I’ve two examples of having direct involvement with this eponymous chart. (To be clear, I have never considered Zombie Sunset to be a meme.)


The first was a local competition where the song was in its own joke scoring bracket above the rest. The assumption was that nobody would clear it. Yet, between this and some other song from the Tachyon series, I got higher on Zombie Sunset, so...


The next occurrence was SRPG 5, where the chart made a nostalgic appearance as the last group unlock song in its faction route.

If you know the chart, you’d understand that playing it required breaking the competition’s existing rule of ‘strictly no bracketing’. So as a result, I got a bit of backlash from my arcade livestream, and even managed to get it disputed for being faked (???).

I did do another stream attempt with Way Offs enabled to prove a point, but as it was a ‘stream will end if I pass it’ challenge that only went for 4 minutes, it’s currently private so as to not make it sound passive aggressive.

Since then, the competition has been updated so that breaking the usual rules is acceptable only if the chart requires it, which really only occurs on an exceptional basis anyway.

Think Twice Before Dismissing Content

All of this ultimately occurred due to someone’s prejudice of the chart down the line somewhere.

Am I in the wrong here for finding it naïve when someone genuinely reacts with a ‘wtf’ or ‘...’ to something? How would they know that there’s probably someone out there who’s passed or even achieved a full combo/good score on it?

Now that I think about it, that’s probably my real purpose when it comes to tech: to challenge what people think is doable. Although it’s true that my niche content becomes even less accessible to the player base – which goes against the point of sharing simfiles – eliciting reactions of slight disgust seems to be the metric of success here, after all...

That, I can fly with.

Well, gotta keep my narrative of being from the future true, right?