Monday, June 24, 2013

SEA Majors 2013 afterthoughts

Okay this is going pretty much going to be a rather long post with not much direction, quite a bit of storytelling and possibly tagents. It's been forever since I blogged about fighting games, which is funny because fighting games are a big part of my life growing up, as compared to other genre of games. The thing is, I get really deep into fighting game technicalities but never tried to go far as a player. This is because I see really talented and smart players around me, who has better reaction, sharper wits, stronger fundamentals and sometimes plays the game more than I do. It developed a mental block telling me how weak I am that stemmed from the CVS2 days, to my Guilty Gear days and eventually the glorious SSF4 era. That's why I never blog about fighting games; because it won't be about the game, more of a constant whining about my incompetence, praising other players, and pointless 'maybe I should have' statements without much solid ground (If I think I should have done something, I should be hitting training mode instead of stating it over a blog).  

When SEA Majors 2013 was announced, I find myself wondering if there is a point for me to spend $40 to take part in UMVC3. It bugged me for a whole week before I signed up. Okay I'm going off to a tangent here. You see, I have not been serious about fighting games since at least 5 years ago. That was around the time when I started taking a relaxed mentally at fighting games and began to realize all the dumb crap I have been wasting my 50 cents to at the arcades. However, it was a little too late. National Service came to took 2+ years away. I signed up for the craziest program under SIT to study at Digipen and that also took 2+ years away. That was also the time when I discovered and fell in love with Games development, which took up a lot of my free time. During that time, Marvel appeared and I picked it up casually because I find the concept of team building incredibly interesting as a gamer and as a games developer. 

So Marvel sort of became my main fighting game which I don't practice often...on average once a week. However, the fact remains that I have spent months searching for a team which I am satisfied with, which is Taskmaster/Spencer/Akuma. People who played with me over the weekends know how often I switch teams, despite not having time to practice. I still spend some my free time practising and playing Marvel, even if it's just once a week. Unfortunately at that time, I was in the mentality that I have mostly 'moved on' from fighting games and concentrate on my passion that is game development. There was a need to improve, but there was not much of a 'burning desire' to improve like I had back in the Guilty Gear days when I would spent hours and hours doing Baiken's tatami FRCs straight (do 10 straight, if drop 1, restart from 0. If completed, raise it requirement by 10, repeat). Nowadays I just play to practice combos here and there, and look for any interesting synergies between characters. I still love doing combos, finding out things and showing off, which is why, I think, I still play fighting games.

Then the simple question had to be asked, "Do I think I am good enough to participate in SEA Majors 2013?" To be honest, I didn't think so. I have never considered myself as a strong player (jokes aside), and I believe many others have the same opinion about me. I have horrible clutch, bad reactions and do stupid things. On top of that, I have a history of playing badly in tournaments, mostly because my opponents are way more experienced than me (CVS2 Revival tournament), or I am simply too new to the game (Guilty Gear VS tournaments). Not to mention I was usually placed horribly in UMVC3 BFFs. Results are still results. No matter how good I think I am, I have nothing to fall back on but bad results. This feeds to the mental block I had. 

But I won't know unless I try again right? I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If I lose twice in a row and get 3-0'ed, so be it. What I really want to know is whether my Task/Spencer/Akuma team can do anything in my hands. It has given me good results in casuals, but I haven't tried it in a tourney (BFFs were somehow organized on Fridays when I'm not free), so what better way to find out than to participate in a major? On top of that, I have never been to a major before so this is great timing for me, before UMVC3 phases out. So I signed up, telling myself that I'm just going to do what I always do, no pressure, try my best, no unneeded risks, do simple combos that I can definitely do and see how far I can go. 

When I went to SEA major on Saturday, it was officially the first time I am showing off what I know internationally. Usually all my techs were known only to a few individuals who play me on weekends.  I played casuals with some players, and as much as I was impressed by some of their techs (those who play teams I have never seen before, always props to those people), they were impressed by mine. That made me rather happy. I didn't get to show my Tron team much though T_T

Tournament time came and I saw my brackets. I would face Mike Ross if I beat my first opponent SLX. I know it's going to be a battle of two fraudulents if we meet. I don't play the game much (as much as it is my main game) and neither does he, but he is still an FGC celebrity with great fighting game sense. The good thing is, I know his team, and he doesn't know mine. The bad thing is, he's using Hulk backed by drones, one of the few combinations I feel that will rape my one trick pony team that is Shield Skills + Tatsu. But all that does not matter if I don't beat my first opponent, so as usual, I expect the expected (which is to lose). 

SLX came up to me with an X23 team, backed by Akuma and Strider. I gave away the first match because I was so blur that I only considered his whole team's composition only when I see X-factor 3 Strider in my face. I took a breather and reconsidered my strategy. His team is extremely mobile and covers a lot more space than mine. His strategy is obvious, but very very hard to find a good opening. I have to pin him down somehow. That was when I started playing seriously, like really seriously, because I really wanted to win and face Mike Ross. He made a critical mistake in the end, and I took the game. I felt relieved, because SLX is a  pretty strong player who knows what he's doing (you can tell when both players are playing seriously) and his mixups are ridiculous when you let him do his thing. 

I got to face Mike Ross on stream. Admittedly, I was a little nervous because it is on stream. I don't want to lose like a silly idiot who eat Hulk's standing H, obvious drones mixup and happy birthday ice storms. I was behind Mike when SLX's friend told him that SLX lost. Mike was like "what happened?" and was responded with "stupid shield skills, and that Spencer damage".  What a happy stalker I was. Truth be told though, SLX also talked to his friend IN FRONT OF ME that he died to Shield Skills and he made that critical error popping x-factor 3 on his Akuma. Either I am very unnoticeable, or people in majors really forget random players fast, even if they were beaten by him. I mean, it's understandable that you win and forget the person, but to lose and forget so fast seems strange and a bit disrespectful to me. 

So I fought Mike. I won't say much to discredit him, but his Storm and Sentinel has good fundamentals. I played to my most fraudulent of abilities and we went really close and down to the wire. I made one small little error on my calculations and Mike robbed me of what was supposed to be my win on the last round. Of course, I felt salty, but those 5 games I really felt that I didn't do anything particularly bad, or anything particularly wrong. I don't think I dropped any combos too (maybe 1 or 2 weird ones). I really felt that I played my best, and that gave me insight on what I'm lacking. You can't get this kind of insight when you play casually, when you theory-craft or when you play with the mentality that you are just going to get bodied. It's ridiculous that it took me almost 8 years to figure this out.

I went on to yet again beat someone in my loser's bracket (someone failed to give me his name but I remember his face...he was using Arthur/Doom/Wesker and does weird things like hard tagging Wesker in after giving Arthur gold armor). He plays a solid solid Arthur to the point where I felt that Arthor IS his real anchor not Wesker. Luckily, I play Arthur anchor and casuals so I wasn't that afraid to deal with Chinese New Year super into XF3 into 10000 overhead attempts as compared to dark Wesker. It was obvious, however, that I'm finding it hard to concentrate on my matches after playing seriously for the past 2 matches. Maybe because I'm not used to it? I don't know, maybe veteran major-goers can give me some insight to this. I managed to beat him though, but got to fight SLX again.

SLX came up against me with a vengeance. Despite feeling a bit fatigued, I played my best again. SLX was prepared though. I felt like his strategy changed to a more space-control gameplay. I couldn't pin him down at all. When I finally managed to catch him, I had to snap Strider, which is also very hard to catch with my team since it has no vertical coverage. That when I know he figured my team out; space-control and come in from the air with a safe move. On top of that, he locks me down with Tatsumaki and Vajra assist. I couldn't figure out his adapted gameplay in time and I ultimately lost. And boy he looked so happy defeating me! That made me happy too. I felt a bit like a villain then.

Some players might brand me silly or lousy for thinking that winning 2 games out of 4 games in pools an achievement. But to me, it is. It felt that I can actually do combos and clutch if I put my heart into it. In all 4 games, I didn't feel that I short-changed myself by screwing up badly (the last part against Mike was more of a knowledge problem...'okay I know air blocking Hard Drive is correct...but what next...oh crap'). Still, it feels a little surreal and upsetting that I was literally one right decision away from the alternate universe where I beat Mike Ross and get to fight Don as if it's just another weekend in Tough Cookie. 

I am really glad I joined SEA Major 2013. It was a memorable experience for me, going up on stream, people actually cheering for me, impressed by me, giving me encouragement, not dying for free, not dropping combos, and not making as many dumb decisions as I am notoriously known for, a little bit of playing the hero (almost beating Mike) and a little bit of playing the bad guy (denying SLX). It also gave me a lot of insight implicitly about the state of the community. Yes, I'm a bit upset because I felt that I really could have made it out of my pools, but that actually goes way way way over my initial expectation. This major really helped me a lot in overcoming the mental barrier that I had for the last decade of playing fighting games. I hope no one else had to wait this long for them to overcome theirs.

Anyway I am really grateful for all the people who made SEA possible: the organisers, the commentators, the participants, the stream... arg there's just a really long list that goes on and on. Shoutouts to all of them. Looking back 10 years ago, the FGC has really come a long long way and it will last for many years to come.

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