Bun = Pen
Bu = Sword
Ryou = Two
Do = Way(s)
"Literary arts and military arts, both ways."
As both a writer and a competitive gamer, I can't think of a more appropriate gamertag.
Well over a year late with this entry, but things started happening so fast that I couldn't possibly keep up with blogs, and I was too burnt out once it was all over to say anything.
In the lead up to Evo, I was both enjoying how nice it was to finally have a thriving local scene and trying to put my finger on just what it was that didn't feel right about the fighting community post-SFIV. It took a long time for me to finally figure it out, but I have.
Evo itself left a bad taste in my mouth, just because I don't feel I performed up to my usual standards. There are a lot of reasons for that which I could list, but I'd really rather not go into it at this point. To make a long story short, no matter what else I end up saying in this post, I intend to go to at least one more Evo and put on the performance I was unable to in 2009. I owe it to myself and to all the time I've put into playing Street Fighter over the last 19 years to have that one really good showing at the Super Bowl of video games. I've even gone so far as to make a pact with ShenlongBo and Kreatzion that we'll all attend next year's event, so I'm looking forward to that.
I honestly don't think I would be the player I am today had Javier Moreno not written his Street Fighter community primer back in 2002, in the lead-up to the first Evo to actually bear that name. For someone who was actually playing from the beginning, it's hard to imagine someone coming up with a more inspirational article - any player with any competitive drive around that time craved having their name mentioned alongside the likes of Thomas Osaki, John Choi, Mike Watson, and of course, Alex Valle. I was no exception.
Looking at the current scene, that's not on the table anymore - adding one's name to that list of old pros is simply not up for grabs now. Apart from the obvious Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara, who will probably always transcend the otherwise decisive generation gaps we're seeing start to form in the community, a completely different breed is dominating today. Becoming a top player today will not get your name mentioned alongside Choi and Watson, but rather, alongside players such as Gamerbee, Infiltration, Poongko, and Momochi. All respectable players, but not a list that carries the same meaning.
It's safe at this point to call AfroLegends the final new member of the old guard, and with that, so goes much of my motivation to become a great Street Fighter player. Of course, there's still a big reason why I can't just pack up my gear and head off into the realm of casual gaming for the rest of my life.
See, no matter what I end up doing, I'm still going to be competitive as all hell. You just can't pry it out of me.
I still want to be competitive in gaming and I still want to play fighting games, I just really need to change my priorities up - I'm at a place in my life right now where I really have to get more out of my gaming to justify its continued presence in my life. I look around, and I see competitive gaming, eSports, still in its infancy. I see a lot of really intelligent people, who may not even be the best players around, but have still found their corner of the gaming world, taken this beautiful growing masterpiece, and made a life for themselves out of it. So it's basically a matter of justification for me; I've put in my time. I want mine.
Of course, to make this work, I have to diversify. I'm not Japanese, there's not so much fighting game stuff going on over here that I can get what I'm looking for from fighters alone, so it's time to expand.
Despite my disdain for shooters (or more specifically, the attitude far too often attached to them) over the years, I've still got a fair amount of natural talent and a strong willingness and ability to learn when surrounded by the right people. I've already jumped into Halo: Reach and am open to playing other competitive shooters as well. I fully intend to be competing at a high level within 12 months in any shooter I decide to get into over the next little while. I have to say I'm quite impressed by what I've seen of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 thus far...
NHL 11 and Forza 3 have also become more competitive than I imagined, which gives me incentive to jump back into two games I already loved.
I'm not leaving fighters behind entirely, but I am jumping back to the one that gave me, arguably, my biggest success to date in the form of an APEX League divisional title. I am, of course, talking about Tekken. Tekken 6 is one of my favorite 3D fighters of all time, and it's felt really good to go back to playing it lately. The fact that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was announced just hours ago also makes my decision to make Tekken my main fighting series feel all the more right.
So that's my game lineup for the time being. Halo: Reach, Tekken 6, Forza Motorsport 3, NHL 11.
However, my immediate priority is getting rid of my Halo rust and reaching a competitive level there.
All these changes will also come with a necessary screen name replacement. DarkCatalyst was a passionate but inevitably unsuccessful fighting gamer. What I'm becoming, while the level of success is far from certain at this early stage, is a different gamer with different game selection and a different approach. I haven't settled on the new tag yet, and may not for a couple weeks, but I'm definitely going for something that reflects what I come from while representing what I'm after.
Truly, gaming has not been this interesting to me in years. I very much look forward to this new journey (and it certainly will be a journey).
Thanks to the new local blood, this year just might manage to beat any love for Street Fighter out of me after all.
Been awhile. It's not that I haven't been playing or developing my game, it's just more that I've had a lot to think of in the wake of the videos ShenlongBo and I released in the last post.
Part of my self-imposed training regimen has been reading David Sirlin's book, Playing To Win. I've assessed all of the playstyles and philosophies he presented from a wide array of players, and decided (as per two posts ago) that Sirlin's own style speaks to me quite a bit - at your best, it gives you a very high chance of winning against anybody who is simply less patient than you. As such, I decided to reinvent myself as a defense-first, "test the opponent before fighting them" type of player.
A week later, I blogged with 16 videos featuring me as a maniacal (and only moderately successful) predator.
I started to speculate that maybe a playstyle is a microcosm of one's own core personality. "I am an angry person. Therefore, I play in an angry way." I tossed this idea around with Shen for quite awhile, and everything seemed to come back to the very reason I arrived at the screen name you all know me by.
I've presented a few explanations over the years as to how the name "DarkCatalyst" came about. There are elements of truth to all of them, but what really made the decision for me was something much more simple. Batteries run off of both positive and negative energy, and around the span from 01-02 when I started the transition to the DarkCatalyst username, I had a pretty solid mastery over the negative stuff. A side effect has been a subconscious partial acceptance of a mentality I've always rejected both philosophically and as a matter of principle. That being, Jeff "LAAkuma" Schaefer's approach that says the opponent is seriously the enemy. Hate them. Make them hate you. If you're miserable, make them more so. It goes against everything I personally believe in, actively antagonizing opponents and bringing deep negative emotions into the game.
If that's true, then evolving my playstyle will involve a lot more than just practice. In order for me, Patrick Mifflin, to continue playing, my gaming personality, DarkCatalyst, would have to go.
That's one possibility.
There's little doubt that Utah's top player, when he's motivated and available, is Ernie Thompson. I've known the guy for about seven years now, and over those years, I've played many matches against him in many games, typically with Ernie coming out on top. I have never gotten past him in a tournament bracket. Particularly during the infancy of the local resurgence, from 2002 to the pre-Evo battle in 2005, Ernie set a gold standard for the rest of Team Utah to follow, and none of us really have any idea just how he got that good. In Tony "Jaded Perspective" Stockseth's words, "A lot of us may be making strides, but Ernie knows how to fly."
Prior to Evo 2003, I was talking with Ernie about playstyles, particularly in the context of the Utah community. I'm seriously paraphrasing here, as I can't quote him word for word after all this time. Ernie told me, "A lot of these guys, they're really balanced players. They're at least solid in just about any situation. You and I, on the other hand, we're headhunters. We're always focused on how to rip another chunk out of the other guy's lifebar, even when they're throwing their whole meter at us. But that's okay, because we make it work and still translate it into wins."
Thinking back on it now, I'm starting to wonder if playstyles aren't so much learned as they are psychologically pre-determined. I can play Sirlin's way, holding people off with "test situations" before they're able to actually fight me (although having been hit with a few of Sirlin's brick walls, I've got a long way to go before I can present anything that difficult to get around), and I've found quite a bit of success doing that. Still, when I'm presented a matchup against someone who actually knows me, like Shen, the predator emerges automatically.
Could it be that people like Ernie and myself, perhaps even going all the way up to the ultimate predator, Alex Valle, are just "wired" to play that way? I admit, after this last set against Shen (during which the now infamous "Epic" bout was played), I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin as an offense-oriented player. Or is it possible that I can have my cake and eat it too? Is it possible that I could somehow Bruce Lee everyone's methods that I like into something of my own while still keeping it inwardly organized and playable? Maybe I've just assimilated a defensive element into my game, and everything else just needs a little fine-tuning?
This is going to be an interesting few months for me...
I was saying on Facebook, MySpace, and on the SFIV thread in GGD that I might not main Abel after all, and this was before the game even came out. It has indeed turned out to be that way.
I've changed my mindset quite a bit lately, and seem to be remodeling my playing style in the image of players like David Sirlin. Rather than the aggressive headhunter type I was before, I'm now willing to hang back, play every single second of every single match by the book, even to the point of frustrating opponents into making mistakes and opening up their game. Abel just doesn't lend himself well to that type of conservative playstyle. Akuma, however, does.
His low HP doesn't really feel that bad when you consider how good he is at getting into the opponent's head, and dishing out 329-377 damage over a single mistake (which I can now execute almost robotically). Such a combo used to go against my stick-and-move playstyle entirely, yet it fits right in with what I'm about now.
Strangely enough, I'm reinventing myself as exactly the opposite type of player I was before, and it's working beautifully.
Better yet, it's easy on my hands. There are no crazy-ass triangle jumps, no rapid close-quarters execution, just good management of active projectiles and well-paced, "tap tap tap" execution of a single money combo that has about three solid starting points. And it drives people nuts.
I'm really feeling this.
Sometimes just rolling with your crew for awhile is all you need to snap out of bad times.
Team Utah is stronger than ever. I'm proud of these guys.
And my head's been cleared, my playing ability has inexplicably returned, I just need to earn 400-500 or so BP back now and it'll be like yesterday never happened.
I'm having the kind of day that makes me feel washed up. Not just the "in a slump, I'll bounce back, it'll pass with time" kind of washed up, but the kind that makes me feel like this really is it for me, that it really is over. At this rate, I'll only be a shell of my former self by Evo. Hell, I'm playing like a shell of my former self right now.
My execution is off. I'm not setting anything up properly. My hands feel more sluggish than ever, like they're no longer accepting any precision commands. I'm losing to people I know I'm better than. My legendary temper from the 90s is making a comeback and screwing things up even worse.
Just now, I nearly ripped the stick out of the base of my Hori EX2 after a loss I can't excuse. I caught myself only at the last moment, and suddenly realized just how symbolic that would've been.
If anything tells me that I just don't have it anymore, it's this. I know deep down I'm never going to be a top player, a known name. I blew my best opportunities for that in 2003 and 2005, and if there's no chance I can be the best, then I can't justify participating.
I've got a lot of things I need to think about.
To be blunt, what happened in Centerville shocked, disappointed, and encouraged me. I ran into an epic Zangief who could work on a gamepad.
It still went the full five rounds, right down to the last bits of health. I got a lot of mileage out of my pre-existing knowledge of the Ryu/Zangief matchup from over the years. In the end, I cornered him, he knocked me down, and I went for the wakeup dragon instead of simply jumping out of the way as he crossed me up.
As I got my head drilled into the pavement for Mother Russia, I collapsed in front of the TV, surprised at how my Nationals bid had been brought to an early end and impressed that this guy had pulled off the Ultra on a gamepad. Now, I had no real delusions of winning Nationals, but getting shocked in the second heat was something I had not even considered.
After the tournament, I did the same thing I did last week as we all filed out of the (thankfully much larger than Ogden's) Centerville GameStop - I told everyone that we were trying to unite the local playerbase, and to go check out the Utah thread at SRK for more information. When word came down that the winners (two Guile players!) would be allowed to select their regional of choice, I was quick to inform them that Seattle would still be the better option between there, San Jose, and Glendale, simply because the level of competition would be drowning at the other two, with the high concentration of California players turning out.
That being said, we are sending two very strong players to Regionals out of Centerville, and from what I heard about the West Jordan tournament, Utah is close to putting its best foot forward altogether, minus a top gun or two who no-showed/was unaware of the first heat and got "eliminated" that way. Somehow I suspect we will have some representation at Nationals next month.
After the tourney, we headed out to Wall's place in Ogden for a gathering. He had three TVs set up, two other local players brought 360s, and of course Wall's TE stick was still in play, and is still the highest-quality accessory I've ever used on any system for any purpose. I completely disrespect these people making $400+ on eBay selling them, but I can totally see why they're pulling down that kind of loot. Plans to mod all of my Hori sticks are now in the works...
We had about eight people for the get-together at Wall's, and for the most part it was such a solid time that I was about to pull out my camcorder and begin recording, hoping to emulate the ownage that was the VF gathering at Plague's house, circa Evo 2004. Then one player, whose quality I must now call into question, brought out Mortal Kombat Armageddon and ruined the whole atmosphere.
The whole thing seemed to lose its way when Gears of War 2 was thrown into the other 360, leaving me to just grumble and spend the rest of the evening on the PS3, playing Virtua Fighter 5 and Street Fighter IV. My idealized three-machines-all-running-great-fighting-games party has yet to come into fruition, but I get the feeling it isn't far off, as the night ended with the Gears of War 2 machine becoming SoulCalibur IV. Hey, it's a start.
The really encouraging moment came when Wall and I went downstairs to jump on SRK for a few minutes. The Utah thread was jumping, with lots of players we funnelled in from GameStop tournaments. To put things into greater perspective, one of my boys, former Gamespot user Dana Torp, wrote this up, and even that list is far from complete. A tournament this week out at ITT Tech drew a whopping 40+ players. We haven't seen numbers like that since the SFII boom era down at Center Street Pizza Palace.
And so begins talk of an Evo convoy...