Monday, August 31, 2009

Tournaments are back!

That's right! Mark Sept 12th (Saturday) on your calendars because there will be not one, but TWO SF4 tournaments: A beginner's tournament (not even 'intermediate' players allowed this time) and yet another team tournament!

While the last time we had 2 tournaments in the same day, things were pretty packed because we had to fit everything in on a Friday night. This time, however, we have the whole Saturday so things should go ahead more smoothly. Stay tuned for more details and the format for the team tournament!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Improving our scene

While I'm still formulating my summary post of my trip to Japan, I've come across 2 posts from 2 different sources that already explain some of the things I was planning to put in my own post. Both of these guys are very, very good in their respective main-games (which aren't Street Fighter 4 btw) so there is definitely some credibility here. Not to mention, these 2 observations exactly match mine when I was in Tokyo.

First off, here is a summary of a Japan Q&A thread created by top US player, Sabin. I met him in Tokyo and he came across as a really nice and sociable guy. Here is the full summary.

What's interesting are these 2 portions. Just substitute U.S. for Singapore and bingo.

"Q: How can players in the U.S. improve when they only really play each other at tournaments?
Sabin: U.S. players don't share information. Japanese players talk about why said player lost and how they can lose, that's the main difference."


Q: Do players in the Japanese scene help each other out more?
Sabin: Japanese players give each other advice, if I remember correctly, and spread information freely. New strategies get dissected really quickly whereas we save that stuff for nationals — since there is money on the line. I guess because there is no money, no incentive to save information besides glory.

I'm not saying that we DON'T share information at all. In fact, my impression is that we share information more freely than the U.S. community. However, both Singapore and the U.S. pale in comparison to Japan when it comes to how freely they share information (strategies, combos, set-ups etc) amongst the entire community. I'll give specific examples in my next post, but this stands true. We can have secrets that will get us to the top of the Singapore food pile, but that in itself will prevent us from being truly competitive with the Japanese.

Next up, is a post on our very own Round1 forums by top Guilty Gear player, Axel. You can read the whole post (and discuss) here.

Other than also talking about the importance of information sharing, Axel also talks about our attitudes towards casual play and execution:

I believe all Ryu players here have watched matches of Daigo vs Nuki and Nemo, and his combo in that situation will be f.HP, c.MP, c.MP, c.MK, Tatsu. I came from Iluma before dropping by Bugis, and some random Ryu actually pulled that off on me. Maybe Bugis players prefer to stick to simple combos which deal guaranteed damage, but if people don't want to be more adventurous when playing casuals, in tournament when an extra c.MP damage determines a win or loss, it will definitely come back to haunt you.

So true. In fact, I was just talking about these very topics with some of the guys yesterday. In Japan, during casuals, you see top players always trying out the most optimal combos and set-ups in a match. Stuff like safe jump-ins. Akuma's HK>LP loop. Ryu's low strongx2, sweep. Abel's ex-COD armor kara-cancel into ultra. The Grandmasters were actually pulling off these moves in many matches, knowing that messing up could mean them losing the round against some scrub. They wouldn't always pull off those advanced combos and set-ups 100% of the time, and when they would miss a link that would usually mean eating a big combo in return. Against an opponent whose skill level is much lower than theirs. And their reaction? No. Big. Deal. Most of the top players in Japan don't care about maintaining a win streak, or if they lose to a scrub. Casuals are all about training your hands and your mind to pull off the game's most optimal (and usually, harder) combos and set-ups under pressure.

I believe both Sabin and Axel are spot-on, and we absolutely need to follow their points if we are to think of being competitive with Japan in the near future without spending more time with the game.

Edit: The RSS took a while to update but as always, you can discuss this article here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Godsgarden, meetings with top players

Godsgarden was a truly amazing night, probably the most exciting gaming experience ever. The level of play was truly great and the atmosphere at the place was awesome as well. It was held at this place called Loft A, which is usually a bar, but on the night they installed about 19 PS3s with Joysticks.

Me and Rchan had ALOT of problems finding the place, and once we did it seemed like there was a 'challenge Mago' segment underway. With no warmup games whatsoever and tired from finding the place, me and Rchan decided to challenge him anyways. Little did I know that our matches were on the live worldwide stream, and judging by some of the comments on various forums, we didnt make a very good impression. Oh well, lesson learnt. Never play on a livestream if youre not ready.

During the event I managed to meet lots of people, both from Japan and the US. I met Kuni, a Japanese player and who also translated for Daigo when he was at Evolution 2009. Heres a video with him.

I also managed to talk abit to Uryo, TKD and Tokido. All were very nice people. Tokido, a top, top Akuma player, turned out to be a really nice guy with above average English skills for a Japanese. Guess these Todai dudes really are smart! TKD seemed like the kinda guy who'se aloof and enjoys a good laugh. At first, I didnt know it was TKD when I sat down next to him to play him. But once I saw some of his block strings, I immediately asked him if he was TKD and it turned out that I was right! Uryo is also very very nice and probably has the best manners of anyone Ive met here so far.

I also managed to meet a whole bunch of American players: Haunts (who runs], Magus1234, Marn,"Face", Yosuke, Alex from Sweden, Kim1234 and Fubarduck, who runs ArcadeUFO in Texas. I also ran into a good friend of mine from Korea, D.B.Koopa, who is Koreas best Third Strike player. Turns out, hes staying at SBO Japan Qualifier, Ichi's house. Me and Rchan then had dinner with him and his SBO partner, probably the best Blanka in the world right now, Mizoteru. It was really funny seeing Rchan ask Mizoteru what character he played. I was like "I guess he plays a decent Blanka" in my head lol. Mizoteru seemed quite surprised I knew who he was, sying that hes probably the "20-something" most famous player in Japan. Blanka players will disagree, having watched many of his videos online.

Anyways, there was a tournament held to determine 4 extra players that would be part of the Godsgarden event proper. I was put into a very tough group featuring Bon Chan, Gashuku and a top Ryu player who I see around Daigo often. I ended up losing to Bon Chan AND Gashuku on the big screen so more internet humiliation for me lol. Rchan, on the other hand, repped Singapore much better with a convincing win against an SBO American Qualifier, Fubarduck. He also took a round off Itabashi Zangief and got him down to half life in the last round, and that after missing an ultra after Balrogs headbutt. Go Rchan!!

Both of us didnt make it out of the pools, with Itazan progressing from Rchans pool and Gashukuo progressing from mine after beating Bon Chan. The rest, as they say, is history with some of the greatest SF4 matches ever seen played in front of my eyes. In case you missed the live stream, here is the recorded version.

Mago eventually won the tournament, narrowly beating a very, very impressive Viper by Uryo. Apparently, hes by far the best Viper in Japan now, way ahead of other famous Viper players like Dashio.

Anyways, considering this is Monday night and Godsgarden was on Friday, this post is pretty late. In between then and now, I managed to hit up one of Japan's top clubs, a House Nation party at Camelot in Shibuya, with Rchan. Im not much of a clubbing person so the experience was alright for me. On Sunday I went to Jesus Lifehouse Church. As some of you may know, there are very, very few Christians (about 1%) in Japan, so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to see that the sevice was quite packed, filled with enthusiastic young people on fire for Jesus. Not to mention Japanese Christian girls (I like girls who dress conservatively for some strange reason) who speak perfect English are HOT, lol.

Today, me and Rchan hit up Big Box again. Today was the craziest day at Big Box, with more famous players around. I finally got to see TKD play in casuals, and tell you something, watching him play casuals and in tournaments are two different things, considering Fuerte CAN showboat when not much is at stake. Some of his blockstrings were crazy and I hope to share as much about the character as I can when I get back. Ok, lets see who was there today.
Shiro, Daigo, Iyo, Fuudo, Itazan, TKD, Mago, Akimo, Nemo, Beru-Beru, Ojisanboy, Mach(I think), Dashio and Mizoteru. Mizoteru in particular, had the longest win-streak of the night! Go Blanka players! And against the likes of Daigo etc too. There was also a Master-Ranked Claw player who was very, very impressive. I lost 2 games to him. =(

However, I manged to win a game against both Iyo and Fuudo today. Needless to say I couldnt win everyone else, but hey, I dont get a feeling that all these players are a level too far above me, or GDLK as some people would put it. I got that feeling when I played Third Strike here 2 years ago, but many people have been saying that in Street Fighter 4, the level between Japan and the rest of the world isnt THAT big. We Singaporeans only need to clean up some aspects of our game in order for us to be ultra-competitive against the top players from Japan. In fact. if you stuck our top 5 players here in Japan for a month, Im very sure they will be able to compete at a Grandmaster level by then. I guess one of the biggest take-aways Ive gotten so far from this trip is the confirmation of how human all these players are. Watching their videos, you get the impression that they either have special reactions or have amazing IQ's or something, but they dont. As Itabashi Zangief also said in an interview here, they just have a better community, with more players and better information sharing. They also treat each game session very importantly, always trying to find the best setups and the optimum damage potentials for their characters in all situations. They also choose a character and they stick with it, through thick and thin, not paying attention to the tier lists at all. (after all, we pay attention to the tier lists made by top players but we sometimes forget that that these top players are just humans beings and their judgements are purely subjective!) Its because of Akimo that Mago rates Honda B tier now. Its because of players like Itabashi Zangeif that somehow keep Zangief at Tier A, despite times when you may think some matchups are impossible.

The Japanese play the game to maximize their skills as a player and maximize the potential of their character at all times. Its not really about winning. If you maximize the potential of the player and the character, winning will come naturally by itself. Ive taken this philosophy to heart in my trip here. Of course, my goal is to Qualify for SBO this Thursday, but thats not as important as becoming the best Fuerte player I can possible become.

The best examples are Iyo and Shiro, really. I can tell that both these guys come to the arcade after a long day's work, with a slightly tired look in their eyes, dressed in business suits. They also arent at the arcades everydayday. In fact, many top Japanese players only hit the arcade once a week. Yet, somehow they are playing their characters at an amazing level.This is good news. Because that means that its not a matter of how much time you put in the game, which is a hard variable to change. We go to work, we study. Those things cannot be sacrificed for a game like SF4. So if its not time, then we're talking about variables that CAN be changed easily. Well, over the next few weeks Ill be talking about these variables in detail but I hope everyone has a rough idea of what Im talking about.

So yea, I hope this is an encouragement to all Singaporean players. We have the smarts and the signs of a top community already. We just need to take the extra step to clean our game up and push our characters to their limits. Mago couldnt even get a win at Big Box today!

In conclusion, yesterday, I had 2 games with Mizoteru's SBO partner, Ichi, who plays Sagat. In the first game, i beat him 3-0. In the second, I lost 3-1. After losing, I went over to say "Good game" to him and he looked completely shocked! "THAT was you??" He asked. I nodded my head, and then he said "I never knew a foreigner could play at this level." I smiled at him and thanked him, such praise coming from a top Japanese player. And then I thought "Man, I would love to see the look on his face when he plays Peihoon!"

you can discuss this post on in this thread

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Arcade happenings,mobile blogging issues.

First off, as you can see by the weird looking pictures below, my genius plan to upload photos using my phone(so I didnt have to bring my laptop) isnt working. hopefully I can find a way to get photos out of my camera and upload them while Im here.Otherwise I guess Ill just have to upload everything in one shot whenI get back.

Ok, down to business. Me and Rchan arrived at Big Box arcade, the prime SF4 arcade in Tokyo (and by extension, the world), at around 7pm. We were both hyped up all the way, even on the flight. Once we got there, guess who was the first person we saw there? Yup, none other than Daigo Umehara himself. Also present then was Nuki, probably the best Chun in the world.

So, me and Rchan got warmed up with some games on another set of machines, away from UmeNuki(thats the nickname for Daigo and Nuki, and they also happen to be SBO partners). I had no idea what to expect: after facing off against some of the best from Korea,Australia and Hong Kong and holding my own so far, I was about to get games in against the best players in the world.

I managed to get 7 wins off the bat against some average players, which helped ease my nerves a little. Once I got Kicked off the machine by a rank A Akuma (I think), I proceeded to challenge the man himself. Now for some strange reason, I wasnt as nervous as I expected I would be. Perhaps its because I knew I had absolutely nothing to lose by playing him. no pride, no insecurities, whatever. I finally got to play Daigo after years of hearing his name and watching his videos.

Needless to say, he didnt dissapoint. Clearly, this guy tries to get in your head from the get go, and reads and adapts to you faster than anyone Ive ever played with. It was incredibly fun to play with him . We played a total of four games. Final score: Daigo 3, Yagami 1.

And yes, it felt REALLY good beating him at least once. =p

Later in the night, Itabashi Zangief showed up. He was really nice and gave us each a brand spanking new SF4 id card to use in Japan! After that, more top players streamed into Big Box. Bon-Chan, Grandmaster Sagat. Uryo, THE BEST Viper in the world. Kindevu, best Rufus. I managed to get one or two games in with everyone except for Kindevu. Lost to all of the above mentioned.Against Nuki is was really close tho. But against Bon-Chans lost REAL badly to Bon-Chan.Really, should I disclose the insane shit he was doing with Sagat,I fear for us all back in Singapore haha. Jokes aside, Ill do a proper writup on what exactly these players were doing that we dont when I get back.

Ok, its getting late. Tomorrow, its Godsgarden!!

Tokee yo!

Me and my partner in crime for the next few days, Rchan (above) have arrived in Tokyo safetly.

Thankfully, the trip to Tokyo was uneventful. Just really crappy airline food from Northwest airlines! I guess the old saying is true: you get what you pay for.

We hit up Big Box arcade, Tokyos SF4 hub, once we settled down.

To be continued..

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First up: Godsgarden hosted by KSK and Itabashi Zangeif

I'll be heading off to Tokyo now for some international Street Fighter 4 action with the world's top players! I'll be joining three tournaments, the first one will be this Friday. The entire event will be streamed on from 3pm to 6am (yes, 6am!!). Daigo Umehara will be there and hopefully I'll get some games with him in, wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Off to Tokyo, lots of updates to come!

I'll be heading off to Tokyo for lots of Street Fighter, shopping, food...and did I mention Street Fighter? There will be three big events going down during the 10 days or so that Ill be there: Godsgarden this Friday, featuring a tournament with top japanese players voted in like Daigo, Tetsu, Mago and Tokido. Then theres a 5v5 tournament open to foreigners going down next Friday, before SBO. Other than the usual japanese suspects, you can expect the likes of Justin Wong and Alex Valle to be there as well. Im currently trying to get team Singapore in, we just need 1 more player. And finally, theres the biggest fish of them all, Super Battle Opera, the worlds premier fighting game tournament! Other than catching the highest level of play, we can also expect details on the next version of Street Fighter 4 to be announced.

Exciting times. Ill be updating this blog daily (I hope) via my mobile, so do keep checking back for updates on my escapades with Rchan, Ganguro and Cody there.

Oh, and this Wednesday night at Bugis will be my "farewell" session. Im hoping to get as many games in with everyone as possible to keep me as sharp as possible for this Friday @ godsgarden. Julius and Cody, if you're reading this, you guys should be there also to get yourslves tuned up for Japan. We have two strong guests from Hong Kong and Japan there tomorrow as well so that should be very interesting.