Somniac is one of Australia’s top SSF4 players. He recently placed top 8 at Battle Arena Melbourne, and was one of the two Melbourne players to travel to Las Vegas for this year’s Evolution.
He consistently places top 8 in Melbourne with his Bison, and was also the first top player I ever encountered on PSN, and the first guy to sort of encourage me to show up to local tournaments.
CW R5 GF Somniac vs Naruga
This interview was done at Deakin University on the 16th of October, 2010. I have to give a big thanks to Igor, who not only lent me his high-quality voice recorder, but also edited the audio file while watching the Season’s Beatings stream at 3 am. Now that’s hardcore.
This is a particularly long interview as Somniac was kind enough to really go into detail with his answers. This is the first time I’ve broken from the low tech combo of pen and notebook for my interviews, and I guess the resulting interview is a lot more fluid. I have also included the audio file for people to listen to.
(To download, right click the link and click “save link as”)
Update: At the behest of Gizmophunk, smaller kb/s files of the audio file are now available thanks to Igor once again.
I did not intend for this to be anything more than a text interview, but when transcribing it, I realised that people might not want to read a 10,000 word document. Please forgive my stuttering and endless annoying “I see”s. I’m not a very confident speaker.
Thank you very much for sitting down with me Somniac, and let’s get started.
1) Tell me about your history in fighting games.
SF4 is the first game I took up competitively. I used to play SF3 just in the arcade. I used to go the arcade on Sundays and play against Junky John, and he basically taught me how to play 3rd Strike. He was one of the more unknown players in the scene, and he was probably one of the best players that I’ve ever played against.
And this is back in high school or?
I used to go to TAFE at Box Hill. And during the lunch breaks and stuff we used to go over there [and play]. ‘Cause there’s nothing else to do. I used to leave class early and go to play at the arcade. It’s like [the] normal story. Everyone does that.
So Third Strike was the first arcade game that you started playing, and Street Fighter 4 was your first competitive tournament game.
Yeah, first competitive game for fighting games, because I used to play Quake 3. Yeah, I won best in Melbourne and I’ve travelled up to Sydney a few times because of Quake 3.
So you kind of have a history of competition [in games].
Yeah since [playing] FPS games, I don’t really like the direction they’re headed, [so] I’ve sort of stopped playing them. And for a while I wasn’t playing anything competitively, until Street Fighter 4 came out in the arcades. I decided to start playing it, and there was an actual scene and I joined up.
So what about a kid, did you play ST on the SNES, or anything like that?
Uh…I was really bad at every game. I never actually played Street Fighter 2 other than on the computer. And I would get destroyed by the CPU and I would give up and not play [anymore]. The most I’ve played Street Fighter was probably Marvel vs Capcom 1, and Alpha 3. But that was just the extent of me just trying to beat the hardest CPU. And I never actually took it anywhere; I never learned the infinite combos like Toxy did. I was pretty bad!
2) Which was the first tournament you ever entered for a fighting game?
First tournament I ever entered for a fighting game was the Box Hill ranbat. It was on every Thursday at the time, I think it was. I actually did pretty well. I think I got top ten?
So you got top ten in your first tournament??
Yeah…but the next three I got like…last (laughs).
Well, top ten first try man…still pretty damn impressive.
Yeah well, I was still learning the game then, and still learning the game now.
Did you beat any big names in your first tournament?
I don’t think I knew anyone back then! Well I think I played um…if you remember a Blanka player…
Havoc, yeah Havoc. We used to play all the time in casuals, and before I actually went to the tournament, all of my Blanka experience came from playing Havoc. He would always try to hit me with a random Ultra, and I got really good at punishing it. Which wasn’t the case today when I missed my punish on Naruga’s.
(note: Somniac and Naruga played a MM at Deakin that day, 3 sets of FT5. In the last game, Somniac managed to block an Ultra from Naruga’s Blanka, but screwed up the punish. He went on to lose the MM to Naruga.)
So when you were in your first tournament, did you feel nervous, or were you just experienced from Quake and other games?
Um…I think at the time I didn’t feel nervous at all. Because I didn’t actually know anyone. You can’t really feel nervous if you don’t actually know anyone.
So was it that you assumed everyone was all on the same level as you?
No, not really. It’s more like you’ve [got] nothing to lose. I feel that the more consistent your tournament results get, the more nervous you get because you have to protect them. But if you’re coming last or it’s your first time, you’re not nervous, really. You just go in and see how you’ll go. I mean if you lose [its like] well, I didn’t expect to win. So nothing lost! I think once you start getting around top 8 or top 3, if you don’t make top 8 you’re really upset. Unless it’s by someone who is top 3 knocks you out. If [it’s by] someone who’s lower than top 8 usually, or someone who doesn’t even actually get into top 8, that really annoys me.
3) You used to be a bit more inconsistent in your tournament placings before Super, but now you’re pretty much perennially in the top 8.
Uh yeah…mostly. I think except for once at a Couchwarriors.
How did you make that jump into making your first top 8, and then the second jump into becoming a consistent top 8 performer?
In this game, there’s a lot of knowledge [involved]. And a lot of players don’t know [that much], they play by feel. And they’re really concentrating on combos, and just punishes and stuff. But they’re not concentrating on zoning or anything. They’re not actually concentrating on mind games either. They’ve got a particular style that they like to play. And if you know that they have that style… I think a key to being consistent is if you play against the same group of people, unless they go off and learn something completely new and they change their style, you’ll be able to beat them pretty much every time because you know what they know and you might know a little bit more. So you’re playing against their playstyle and not really their character at that point, and you can constantly get good results.
A case would be myself versus Exis. We started out very…well he beat me at BAM 2009 the first time. He qualified [for the top 8] by beating me in the pools. And since then, we’ve sort of met up in tournaments pretty much every time. And my results lately have been very good. Like um… [I’m trying not to] be bragging, but I’ve basically come out on top most of the time. Whereas before it was like 50-50. So it’s more like I play against how he plays.
So “the jump” was not only you getting more knowledge about everybody’s playstyles, but being better able to apply it?
Yeah being able to apply it. You’re learning more about your character as well and your normals and how to use them. And if the other player doesn’t learn that…then you can win. If you know more, you should win in this game. It’s only the people who are very talented who can get away with no knowledge. It’s like you need to know how to punish a move that is generally [seen as] unpunishable, or else you’re gonna get hit by it the whole time.
4) How did you get your name Somniac?
I used to play World of Warcraft for two years, and when I was creating my account I wanted the name Insomniac. But Insomniac was taken, so I picked Somniac. And then it’s become my gamertag. But when I played Quake 3, I used to be called Paradigm, but I changed it when I made the jump to WoW. On PSN, I’m actually Somniax, because someone took Somniac. A word I made up! It’s not even a real word, and someone took it. It makes no sense.
Well you know, someone took Muttonhead as well so…I dunno what kind of people are out there.
And I’ve never actually seen [PSN Somniac] actually play so. I’m pretty sure PSN is only Australia…nono it’s worldwide. So there must be a Somniac out there. He must see me in the results or something and think “Ah that guy’s stolen my name”.
Yeah we should try to find that guy wherever he is.
5) Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do for work? And what else do you do for fun other than SF?
I actually work at IBM…big corporation. I joined up straight after finishing my degree. It’s not really 9 to 5; it’s more scheduled kind of stuff so I can control my schedule a little bit. Basically I just need to get the work done. At about 40 hours a week.
That’s awesome. So you can fit your tournament schedule around it.
Yeah…sometimes it’s very hard. Sometimes I need to skip some tournaments or sometimes I have to not sleep…very well.
So how did you get the week off to go to EVO?
At the start of the year, during a two month period I did three month’s worth of work so I overworked basically during that period. And so that month of leave can be taken whenever, so I just said to my manager, “I’m gonna go to Vegas for a couple of days. Is that alright?” And he said “yeah”.
So did you tell him why you were going over there or what you were gonna do?
I said “Friends. I’m heading there with friends. ” Yeah (laughs).
6) What is the trick to balancing work, life and Street Fighter?
(Exhales and thinks) It’s more than that. Because if I just had work and Street Fighter, I would just play Street Fighter a lot more!
What does your girlfriend have to say about all this? You know, your friends and family. What do you tell them?
Yeah…it’s not as bad as when I played WoW. Because WoW is four hours at least a night, after work. And how many hours do you have in a day? And I catch the train as well so it’s like an extra hour coming home. So basically when I was playing WoW, I worked, travelled home and I played WoW…and I slept. And that was all week because I also played on Saturday and Sunday. Street Fighter is my…
…Casual game. Quote unquote. Some weeks I’ll play 2 to 3 hours, and some weeks I’ll play 5 to 8. It all depends on how much points (Ranked BP) I’ve lost (laughs). Because I won’t stop until I get those points back. And generally that kind of hurts as well because you’re in a losing streak and then…
But I also try to talk to my girlfriend every night. Trying to be a good boyfriend so. I have to, well I don’t have to, I want to dedicate time to that. So my time playing Street Fighter is limited every night. Sometimes I don’t even jump on.
I remember playing you on PSN, and I asked you why it was lagging a little bit. You said that you were Skyping with your girlfriend. But can’t she hear the sound of the buttons? She doesn’t mind?
Yeah she doesn’t mind. I’ve had girlfriends that didn’t want me to do anything while I was talking to them, which was really boring. But I said that I can…I can multitask.
I can beat Muttonhead with one hand, and talking to my girlfriend at the same time…
(Laughs) I haven’t done that for a while. I kind of don’t like playing games unless I can hear everything. It kinda sucks here because the big screen’s going…and I get distracted.
So you don’t like the big screen with the streaming and everything? (We were streaming Season’s Beatings at Deakin.)
Well even at tournaments when they have the big screen right next to you and something’s going on on the big screen. My peripheral vision will see it and I’ll sort of like…it’ll irk me a little bit. It’s kind of like you have to get used to that it’s kind of like playing on your lap. It’s something that I don’t want to do. But I got used to it. At home I try to do it. But when I’m losing, I always go alright. On the table. On the table, [where] I prefer it. But if there’s no space you gotta [play on your lap].
So if the big screen distracts you, does the people sitting behind you saying Go Somniac or Go Melbourne distract you as well? Cos it distracted me when I had my first match on the big screen against Genxa.
A little bit. If I’m not playing very well, yes.
So you feel the pressure behind you.
Yeah. If I’m playing well on the day, I can sort of ignore everything. I’m zoning well, I’m looking at the screen. If I’m not playing well, I get distracted a lot. It’s sort of an irritating thing, if you’re losing badly you start to think ah everything’s annoying me!
It happens online the most. When you lose to something you shouldn’t lose to. Like a bunch of moves hit you and you’re like that doesn’t work! And then the dog’s barking outside (laughs).
7) So why did you pick Bison as your main for SF4?
Honestly, a lot of people pick Bison because they like the character, and they really like his playstyle and they used to play him in ST. But since I came from 3rd Strike, I didn’t like most of the characters in SF4 originally. I didn’t like Ryu. Because everyone plays Ryu. And I don’t like to be everyone.
In 3rd Strike I made the mistake of learning a character that is really bad; Alex. A really cool character, but the way the game works is that frame data is mostly everything. And even if you can parry, it’s still not gonna help you with certain characters. And when I first started SF4 I wanted to sort of pick a character that not everyone used, but I sort of liked.
And Alex was a lot like Abel. So I started off with Abel. And then I started playing Zangiefs all the time!
[I went] ah this is terrible! I can’t do anything! When I’m knocked down, he’ll just throw me all the time. Or lariat. And SF4 Zangief was just so hard to beat because that lariat was just so active, and you had to pick the exact moment where you could hit him. And if not, you take so much damage. And then he does it again!
So the matchup for Abel was horrible for me to learn. So I’ve gone, alright. What character can get away from Zangief? So I tried a lot of characters. And then [I found out] Bison’s got teleport! And Bison can devil’s reverse and headstomp and EX Psycho crusher. Which loses to lariat but he’s got scissors kicks, psycho crusher, devil’s reverse, headstomp and teleport as options on wakeup. And back at that time I didn’t even know about backdash, so (laughs).
And against low level players teleport is godlike. You can just do it all day and they have no idea [how to stop it]. And at that time, I picked up Bison because simply I could escape.
And it’s sort of led to bad habits these days in how I try to escape things and then when I get punished, I stop. But at that time when I was learning, escaping was so good! That’s why I picked Bison.
So in that case if Alex came out in SSF4 Arcade Edition, would you switch to Alex?
Yes! I would switch to Alex because I think he would be godlike in Super. The only thing they need to change about him would be his EX shoulder dash. If that could go through fireballs, I would just play Alex all the time because he’d be a better version of Abel.
If they gave him some kind of target combo, so that he could mix up his throws…and then he’s got the headbutt move…it’s so good. I can imagine what his ultras would be..and his supers. Like his super Boomerang Raid, and his ultra would be Stun Gun Headbutt to go over fireballs and stun combo, and then you could get massive damage. And the other ultra would be Hyper Bomb. So you’ve got a character that I think would be so much better than Abel.
And Abel’s already so good.
And Abel’s already so good. But you’ve also got the reversal Two Boots (EX stomp), we call it Two Boots, it’s a 3rd Strike term.
But yeah I think he’d be a really good character.
But do you think he’s gonna be coming to the arcade version?
I don’t think that they’ll bring him out because he wasn’t very popular. He’s popular now, but when they brought him out they tried to make him the hero, and people thought where’s Ryu and Ken? Because the original version of Street Fighter 3 didn’t have Ryu and Ken. And everyone hated it!
And then they put him in. But everyone sort of hated on Alex because he was…
He wasn’t Ryu or Ken.
Yeah. But to me, he’s a cool character. I like him.
It’s interesting that you say that you would play Alex all the time on arcade. You should go to Ono’s twitter and spam his twitter.
And then he’ll say oh I’m going to the president, and then the president said no, but I’ll try again! But he’s really just sitting there at home.
8 ) What is your philosophy or gameplan to playing Bison? How you control space, how you push your opponent back, where do you want to be etc. How do you visualise playing Bison.
My general strategy against anyone is to play how they don’t want me to play. It actually works a lot against rushdown people. It depends how good their rushdown is. A lot of people who claim to be rushdown aren’t very good at attacking. They just like to attack.
They like to be pressing buttons.
They like pressing buttons but they don’t do it very well. So if you can defend, you can beat them. So as opposed to playing their game, I’ll play my game. This is a general thing about how good a player is. A [better] player will make you play the game they want you to play. A better player will force the other person to play their game.
So you just want to take them out of their comfort zone, that’s your whole mentality behind playing Bison?
It’s not like I want to run down the clock, but if they’re very good players but they have a weakness, I’ll exploit their weakness. Rather than throw myself at them and die. If it’s the difference between winning and losing, you do what it takes to win. As long as you’re not pushing them out of the way or something. As long as it’s in the game, it’s all good. You’re not abusing any glitch, or doing something like turning off the system when you’re going to lose. I think it’s all legit.
That’s pretty interesting because I was gonna ask you a later question about how sometimes you’re willing to go to time out to take a victory. I think that this is a perfectly valid style, but I dunno why some people get offended when they see it. I mean it’s in the game, and it’s only smart to turtle when you have the lead right?
I will only turtle when I have the lead when I think it will win me the match and they’re not very good against that style. If it’s in a tournament basically…it actually took me a very long time to get that icon in SF4, [and] in SSF4 I still do not have the timeout icon. And I’ve played 4000 games. You only need 30 timeouts to get that, right? It says that I don’t generally play to timeout. But if the other person’s sitting on the other side of the screen; and you’re here and you’ve got the life advantage. And they’re just throwing fireballs that won’t actually do anything to you. But they want you to come at them. To win. You sit here. You wait. Because they should be coming to you. You don’t have to push to win when you’re already winning. If winning means you sit here; you sit here.
9) Any thoughts on the rumoured AE changes? Bison’s Ultra 2 becoming a charge motion, etc.
Bison’s Ultra becoming a charge Ultra would be terrible. You would never hit it. It’s actually a lot more difficult than people think to hit a reaction fireball against a good player. Because say with Humanbomb; he was telling me that he was watching when I wasn’t buffering [my ultra] to throw fireballs. So, the only way that you really hit a fireball is if you’re really fast [with] your reactions and you’re not doing anything at that time. And if you’re not doing anything at that time, they won’t throw a fireball. It’s basically just a game of can you get them to a fireball or not .
Sounds like what you were telling me about [Alex] Valle [at EVO 2010]. Like Valle would [watch to throw a fireball only when you lost your charge]
Yeah. I couldn’t get anything to hit on Valle because he was watching me. He would understand when I had charge, he would understand when I was buffering. And he would understand the zoning and ranges. Valle destroyed me. Very, very hard. Because he’s insane at the zoning game. I would like to play him again, I think I’ve learnt a fair bit about the zoning game, but I don’t think I would win.
I think that Valle would be nice to talk to. But isn’t this kind of thing (zoning) is something he can’t really explain [or verbalise] to you…
I think that playing better players and getting beaten…(takes a phone call.)
I think that playing better players and getting destroyed teaches you something. When I lose to anyone, I think about how I can win. I’m not by any means a genius, in this kind of game or any game. I learn by losing, and learning how to win. By Losing.
So I’ve spent a lot of time losing, and I now know how to win!
So I still got, I dunno, ten thousand losses to go?
10) Who are your favourite players to watch? Or your favourite players basically.
There’s actually no one who plays Bison at a high level! I mean, there is but…
There’s no one you like, or enjoy watching.
Yeah…I couldn’t say that I modelled my Bison after any famous player. I had my own style with that, and I sort of adapted with Brodsta’s as well. He’s the other Bison in Australia; top level Bison. I lost against him many, many times. Now it’s about 6-4, to my favour. But that’s after a very horrible amount of losses.
I try to use what he uses in my game. So that I’m balanced. I don’t consider myself a turtle Bison, even though some people do. I consider myself balanced, with both aspects of the game. Moderate at everything. Which I think is my preferred way of playing. I don’t want to be ultra-defensive, like there’s another Bison player called Luong_fu. I find him to be the most defensive Bison I play against. And Brodsta’s the most aggressive Bison. So I try to put myself in the middle.
Yeah, so what do you think of Luong_fu? He’s so good, but he doesn’t show up to tournaments at all.
I’m not sure why. I heard that he’s Chris’s cousin?
Oh he’s Chris’s cousin?
That’s what I heard. But I could be pretty wrong there. He’s very good. There’s a lot of very good players online that never go to tournaments.
Yeah, it’s funny. He beats me down all the time, and I ask him so why don’t you come to BAM, and he goes nah I’m too lazy.
(Laughs) I randomly find people on PSN that aren’t part of the scene [that are very good]. And it’s good. I don’t really want to play against the same people all the time.
11) Describe, in one sentence, what is footsies.
It’s essential to the game, and it’s everything.
I mean everything as in everything you do. It’s zoning, it’s use of your normals, and it’s timing of your specials.
12) What do you feel are your strengths as a player, and what are your weaknesses. What are you working on right now?
I think that when I’m winning, it’s actually a reaction to unsafe play. When my opponent is making unsafe plays, I’m very good at punishing it.
I see, so that’s your strength?
Strength. I notice when I play Eddie, Ero_Oyaji, he’s very unsafe with how he plays Akuma. He’s trying to fix it, but he favours the unsafe mixups. If I’m playing very well, I can punish them all the time. And punishing Akuma is a big thing. But I’m not playing very well; I will lose to them, even if they’re unsafe. So I think that’s one of my major strengths, reacting to an unsafe play and hitting it, basically.
So what are your weaknesses.
I’ve gotten into a habit of wanting to escape.
Oh, what you said earlier, you just want to teleport away or…
Um, I won’t do the wakeup escapes anymore, because everyone option selects. So I won’t do that anymore obviously. But when they’re trying to counterhit trap me, I will wait, and then psycho crusher. It works against some characters; it doesn’t work against some other characters who can Ultra me on block. Like Cammy for example. That really makes that match hard. If they can block my Ex Psycho crusher and Ultra it, it’s very difficult for me to escape. It’ll lead to them throwing me a lot, and it sort of starts to break your game when you get thrown. Because you don’t want to get thrown and you start either mashing crouch tech and getting counterhit, or you’re start trying to escape and get punished. Sometimes you just have to realise that getting thrown isn’t that bad.
So that’s what you’re trying to work on now?
Yeah. Trying to work on my defence heh. I think that my defence needs work, which some other people won’t agree to.
Wouldn’t you say that defence is something that you have to work on with every character? With every new character you play against? So you can’t really have a constant value of defence right?
I think its defence against certain characters. I think it’s easy to have defence against characters that aren’t very good against your character. It’s very easy to do that!
‘Cause you can escape and Ex Psycho Crusher to the other side, and they can’t do anything about it. And they have to start all over again.
13) What part of the screen do you watch when you’re playing a match?
I watch the player, the opponent. All the time. I even do it while watching Youtube. I find myself watching one of the players. I won’t watch both of them; I’ll watch one of them. And then I’ll see the other player attacking from that player’s [perspective]. It’s almost as if I’m favouring one person when I watch Youtube. I’m sort of seeing what they could have done. In any situation if I lose in that situation, I’ll be thinking what could I have done to not be in that situation. And sometimes it requires some winding back. Because there are situations you “can’t escape from”. But they were an accumulation of situations.
14) You’ve written a recap of your EVO2010 experience, which I’ll link here, but I just wanted to ask you which was your favourite part of the weekend.
I think it would just be talking to everyone. As a tournament, playing in it is good when you’re playing. It’s bad when you’re not playing. The only thing you can do when you’re not playing is stand in your pool section and just wait. So I ended up talking to a lot of people. There are a lot of cool girl gamers up there in the US. I have no idea where they’re all from, I never actually asked them that, which makes it hard for me to actually go back and catch up with them.
Don’t you have tags with your names on them or something?
Yeah, but with the lesser known players, I don’t remember their names. At the time, I didn’t even know who Sherry Jenix was. There was some girl playing over at the Mad Katz booth so I went over and played her.
So you’ve never watched the Marn video before?
No not before, but I’ve watched it now.
I think going around and meeting the really famous players was my most favourite part. Um, I’ve talked to the Japanese player Eita…
Yeah you mentioned Eita was your favourite Japanese player…
Yeah but not from playing! From talking to him.
But why was that so?
Because he’s really funny. I felt that I could talk to him, like easily. There’s a lot of people over there in the US that I could talk to pretty easily, have a good conversation with. There’s only a few people that weren’t [friendly].
I see…so what the hell is he doing? (Tian is playing something on the big screen.)
Guile’s theme goes with everything. KFC ad.
Oh no. He found my hard drive. Okay so, what separates American gameplay from ours? Is there a difference in our mentality?
Yes. Americans are far more serious. They’re also very quick to come to conclusions about the match. And that will in turn motivate you not to lose in America. If you lose in America, sometimes by no matter what margin, you’ll be shittalked really bad. Even if the margin is a pixel, some players will say how free the other player was. They take their moneymatches very seriously. Their scene is more serious. They’re very, very technical. They know their punishes for everything. They know their matchups really well. When I said that to Alex Valle “Everyone knows how to punish everything here” he said “Of course! It’s a prerequisite.” A prerequisite!
And then I think about Australia, and I’m getting away with unsafe stuff I know is unsafe. The other players aren’t doing anything about it. I try to tell them, but they kinda don’t want to learn it.
Sometimes it’s hard to…
It’s not true! They say it’s hard, but it’s not hard. You just need to go into training mode and try it.
Can you give me a specific example?
Bison’s Ex Psycho crusher.
With which character?
Basically any player can punish it. If they know it’s coming. Say I’m in a pattern of doing it. Say on wakeup. They generally don’t punish it. They will just block it. Very few players in Australia will punish me for doing it. In America everyone [will punish me].
So that’s what separates us from them. You gotta be top tier in Australia to do that kinda stuff, but the mid-tier people do that in America.
We were discussing this when we went to EVO (Him and the other Australian players who went to EVO). We believe that we are mid-tier. We don’t hold up to the top players in the US, we can give them decent games, [to the] occasional player. Like, I was able to do well against Inthul. But, their style is way different than here. I think that there’s a big difference in the scenes.
15) Speaking of big tournaments :P, any thoughts on BAM?
I think that BAM, someone asked me “Oh you’ve been to the US; this should be like nothing in comparison right?” And I said “No, this is more fun.” More fun, playing-wise. I think it was run a lot better. I think that EVO should do a lot more with their tournament brackets.
But they have so many players.
I know, but that’s why they should do it. They have one person per pool of a 128 people, shouting out names of who’s up next. And unless you’re standing there, you won’t know. So you’ve got 128 people hanging around a pool. And you’ve got how many pools?
They should get projectors or something, to show up this person vs this person come to the stage, you’ve got this much time.
Oh, similar to what we did at BAM. (We had a projector displaying current and upcoming matches.)
Yeah! That’s way better. That means you don’t have to stand around, and be bored for however long it takes to finish a pool. And at EVO, that was a very long time.
What was going through your mind in top 8 and in the Sydney vs Melbourne exhibition? Are you satisfied with your performance at BAM?
I think that at BAM, I think my best match of the day was against Andy.
Oh yeah, I saw that match. And Andy went on to beat ME, so thanks.
(Laughs) I think that I played near-perfect. I would love to see that match on YouTube or something. Because I think that was the best I could’ve played against Zangief. People don’t believe it from that match, but Bison doesn’t have the advantage. And Bison has to, has to hit him. Out of the air. Has to hit him with the heavy kicks. Has to anti air him, perfect. Because if you miss, Zangief can do so much damage to you.
Once you’re on the ground, that’s it.
Yeah well, you have to guess your escape, and if you guess wrong, you’re on the ground again. And if you eat an Ultra, it’s just so much damage. And lariat beats every special that Bison has except for Devil’s Reverse and headstomp, but he’s got option selects or jump headbutt. So Zangief has an answer for everything Bison has.
(Somniac leaves briefly to bring in his girlfriend into the lecture room.)
So we were talking about your performance at BAM.
Yeah that match against Andy. Definitely my preferred match of the day. My other matches, they weren’t as challenging as usual tournaments. I think it was just luck of the brackets. I wasn’t really nervous in singles. I don’t know why.
And in the exhibition? Then you got nervous?
Uh it was a lot of things. In the singles, I got to top 8. I was in the loser’s brackets, because I lost to Humanbomb. I was actually pretty confident against Bomb at that point. I could’ve won a game, I think. But I screwed up so many times. Well, two obvious times. You can’t really get that many screwups against a good player and [get away with it]. Obvious ones that would’ve clutched me the game, and then who knows what would’ve happened in the next one. That was in winner’s brackets of my pool.
And in top 8, I versed Sicario, and he picked Guile. (He normally mains Blanka.)
I don’t think I played bad in that match. I watched it again. I did alright, but it’s just that in tournament you can’t win against a Guile player of equal or slightly less skill [with Bison]. In a tournament situation. Because both players get slightly more [defensive]. In casuals, yeah you can beat Guile, because you rush him down, and you do silly unsafe stuff, and if it works, it works. You win. In tournaments you don’t want to be unsafe. And that means that against Guile, it’s extremely hard because he doesn’t want to be unsafe. His whole game revolves around sonic boom, and down heavy punch, and jump throw. Which Bison has very, very limited answers to, in those situations. Against a Guile in a tournament, Bison should lose.
I’m disappointed he didn’t pick his main, but it was a tournament. It’s valid to counterpick if it gets you the win. I think that if I put in more effort to learn Abel previously, I could have beaten his Guile. I probably would lose my Abel vs his Blanka, but from the weekend from when I played him further on, I’m pretty confident in my Bison vs Blanka match.
There aren’t many Bison vs Blanka matches in Australia [that I haven’t seen]. I think I have the advantage.
You must be pretty proficient at it after playing Exis…
Yeah I play Exis so many times, Naruga so many times. Before that, Havoc. I’ve played a lot of Blanka, so I understand the match.
So yeah. Talk a little bit about Sydney versus Melbourne.
The exhibition match was actually delayed to the next day, Sunday. I would rather it to be on the same day.
Why is that?
Sunday I actually got two hours of sleep. I was up until 5 am; lots of things. But yeah, not a good tournament situation to be in. ‘Cause I wanted to go for 3rd Strike in the morning. So I had to leave at 730 am. I got there at 830 am, and the tournament was delayed till 10.
But I did pretty good in 3rd Strike, but I think it was an accumulation of being in that atmosphere. ’Cause as you know, it was really, really hot…
Yes, tiring right?
Hot and you were meeting people the whole time, and talking…my voice was shattered, and I’m shaking hands with people. I started getting pretty sick on Sunday, I started to get a fever. I think Plaasia/Phil also got one.
So at times, I was running to the toilet every five minutes. Even during the exhibition match! Even during my team matches. When Toxy and Heavy were playing, and I just had to go to the toilet. I had to drink some water…it was really not good to be playing under that situation. I feel that I didn’t pull my weight. I was pretty disappointed in my exhibition match. I was nervous on that, especially when I wasn’t feeling well, and then [you start] to feel the weight of everything.
Basically it came down to me vs Humanbomb. I understood that would be the situation anyway. And I was confident on Saturday…but not on Sunday. I couldn’t have beaten him on Sunday, even if I played 50 casuals.
So what about during the Sydney vs Melbourne 5 on 5. What were you thinking when you saw Sol rip through Sydney.
I was thinking “I hope he wins”.
So did you think he could have beaten Humanbomb with the roll he was on?
Yeah. Uh, one good thing about the weekend is that I understand Humanbomb’s playstyle a lot more. I take an analytical point of view to playing someone and the more I get to play someone, the better I do against them. There’s certain players I don’t get to play very often. The main goal of me moneymatching good players like Rodmole/Naruga, is so that I can close the gap. Even if I lose, I’m learning every time. And eventually, I’ll win.
That’s how I see that. If I play them enough, I’ll understand, and I’ll start to win. But certain players I don’t get any chance to play against. I get occasional matches against Toxy. But it’s very hard to get to play him.
He rarely takes out his main right? That’s what I notice about him when he plays casuals.
We don’t really play casuals together. It doesn’t end up working like that. It’s not because we’re avoiding each other, it’s because we end up on different systems.
You’re on PSN, and he’s on Xbox.
Even on days at this, I haven’t even played Toxy today.
So who really impressed you from out of state?
Um…I didn’t actually get to see the Singaporean player play.
Oh the claw player?
Yeah. He said he played a very bad matchup, and that he’s going to pick up a second character for it. And I’m like Yeah. I understand what you’re talking about (laughs.)
But [in reference to your question]…you mean other than Bomb?
So Bomb was the guy that impressed you?
Well, I kinda knew what he would do…but he played really aggressive, and people didn’t realise it. His style is actually really aggressive. And I gave Toxy the advice to attack him. ‘Cause Toxy is a defensive player. And Bomb is an aggressive player. And eventually, defence crumbles. Eventually.
And Bomb takes a lot of risks, that are based on the situation. In that situation, you’ll go it’s the safe thing to do this. But he understands you want to do the safe thing.
So he’ll do the unsafe thing.
It’s actually playing a lot like Daigo. Like the analysis of the Ricky Ortiz match versus Daigo, and Ricky thought he was just uppercutting all the time. But Daigo was forcing him to play differently.
So even in the exhibition match, a normal person would feel the weight of having to play 4 people. (Humanbomb was the last man standing on the Sydney team and reverse OCVed Melbourne’s team.) But he actually used that as a mindgame. Everyone was playing aggressive against him because they wanted to knock him out. So he countered that, by playing aggressive. Whereas if he played defensive, he would’ve had more chances to lose. Because defence eventually crumbles. I think Bomb’s analysis; his way of playing was impressive.
16) What do you think Melbourne can do better as a community to make sure we do better at the next Sydney Melbourne meetup, maybe OHN or something.
I think everyone in the community needs to look at themselves and how they’re playing. And analyse what they’re doing, more than just to beat their friends.
Say you’ve got a rival. And you play against him all the time. And your goal is to only beat that guy. You might start doing stuff that only works against him. But when you play someone else, you won’t be able to get that opportunity. So it’s like don’t do stuff that shouldn’t work. People are satisfied in Melbourne if they can get a win. Over a “proper win”.
I know it sounds a bit silly. If you’re playing a better player than you, at least online. And you lose five times but you beat them once, how much do you celebrate?
You mean me?
Anyone. Like if you play a better player, like this guy’s got a shitload of points and he’s beating you down, and you beat him once ‘cause you get lucky with uppercuts or reversals. And you’re like yes! I got him. And then you proceed to lose four times. But you beat him once! Yes.
But in reality who is actually getting more out of that?
Oh I see, you mean who is improving more?
Who’s improving more.
The dude that didn’t mash uppercut.
Yeah. You might’ve beat him, you might’ve gotten more points, but you’re losing. You’re losing overall, you’re not as good a player.
You’re losing in the Street Fighter “Level Up” points.
You might concentrate on trying to beat him by doing unsafe stuff but you come to a tournament. Unsafe stuff doesn’t work.
So you’re saying that we should play to improve rather than to play to win.
Play to improve rather than play to win. At least on console. Arcade’s a different matter, everyone plays to win because it’s a dollar.
17) You once told me that one of the few strengths I had was my technical side. But what I’m clearly missing is the “disgusting factor”. What is the “disgusting factor” and how do you acquire it?
The “disgusting factor” is that playing to win. You are playing to improve. But since people are trying to be disgusting against you they’re breaking your improvement.
You’re trying something that is a high level technique. But they’re breaking it with a low level technique. Will you get a chance to use that high level technique again? No, because you think it’s unsafe.
Yeah and I get frustrated, and think why am I even trying to do all this stuff…
Yeah, why are you trying because the other guy’s mashing uppercut. So at times, at least in tournament, you need to play to win. Don’t play to improve during tournament, play to improve during casuals. If it comes to the point which the person you’re playing won’t let you improve, play someone else.
If you’ve gone to your plateau against this person, and this person’s just trying to uppercut you or two-choice you every time; like uppercut throw or something like that…play someone else. No point playing him.
I should really do that more.
Don’t play one person so many times that it becomes what you’re thinking versus what his thinking rather than the technicalities of the game.
And the other part of the statement that you made is that you were talking to Toxy that Sydney players are more technical and Melbourne players are more “disgusting”. Why is that? Why is there such a difference in style?
I think that the arcade version of SF4 had a huge influence on that. This is a basic way of describing it, but I heard that Melbourne had more Sagats.
Now Sagat, could win accidentally, back in SF4. You hit your uppercut FADC into Ultra, and you’ve done 70%. So, statistically, you’re going to hit an uppercut if you try enough, and if your opponent is trying other stuff. Your opponent’s trying to mindgame you. You hit your uppercut Ultra, you’re winning. Sagat was just so strong that people had to evolve a style around using what worked rather than using what was technical and would win in the long term.
I see. So why do you think that happened in Melbourne and not Sydney?
I’m not too sure. Maybe it’s just that people weren’t that attracted to Sagat in Sydney? There were a few players, but in Melbourne a lot of top players were using Sagat back in the day.
Yeah, back in the day like Khanh, Heavyweapons…
Yeah Khanh, Heavyweapons were two very, very strong Sagats. Even Toxy was using Sagat. And if you were faced with that overwhelming power, you come to understand that that is a very good character. And if you want to win, you pick that character. Whereas I sort of do it the opposite way. I want to struggle, and win even though the odds are against me.
So Sydney might be of that thought. I think Bomb chose Ryu because I think his idol is Daigo. And he can still win against Sagat. So it’s still not overwhelmingly bad.
So it’s kind of because Bomb kind of showed that you don’t have to do this the “Sagat way”?
Yeah, yeah, you don’t have to do it that way.
18) What’s your personal goal in Street Fighter? Best Bison, best player in Oz?
It really wouldn’t matter to me what character I played. I want to be able to compete, I want to win, but not for the prizes. BAM was a thousand dollars. I can earn that in work in not very long. It’s not my motivation to play this game. My motivation is to compete, and improve. And improve and improve and improve. I think [I] never [want to] stop improving. If I’m losing, it’s because I wasn’t good enough. So, yeah, I think that’s it.
So if I’m the best, I will teach people to beat me.
I see. Because you don’t want to stagnate.
I don’t want to stagnate. Eventually there’s going to be someone better. And the only way I can compete with him is if everyone else helps me. So that’s something the community can do. All work to get better, rather than say I lost because he’s so much better than me, I can’t beat him in a thousand years. Just say I lost because I wasn’t good enough and I want to work on it.
19) You’re one of the last… remaining survivors playing SSF4 on PSN. It seems that every day more and more people are switching to Xbox. Is there a reason you prefer to play on PS3 rather than Xbox? And will you be subscribing to Playstation plus?
I don’t want to justify buying the Xbox just for Street Fighter.
Oh okay. But surely you can affort it right?
I can…but I can afford other things too.
I’ve got enough games on PS3 that I can play. I don’t want to buy Xbox just for Street Fighter. And then I have to pay for the monthly subscription, I have to get an arcade stick. And to be honest, on PSN I do get enough challenge. There are a lot of random players on PSN that are really good. And they aren’t tournament players. I feel that if I went on Xbox I’d be playing everyone that I am playing when I’m going to tournaments.
I get what you’re saying.
If you play someone too much, they can sort of download you. This is just a theory, and this might adversely affect me but…all the tournaments are on Xbox, and there’s a slight difference in timing. And it sort of screwed me up at BAM. I was doing stuff like timing my punch to hit on wakeup. And Cammy gets up in the middle of the medium punch. And the medium punch is still active and she’s in the middle of it but it doesn’t hit her! And that moment I was like What??
It was like the tiniest difference that made that. And if I was playing on [PS3] I wouldn’t have had that problem.
So will you be subscribing to Playstation Plus?
20) What’s the best Street Fighter advice anyone has given you?
Uhhh. A single person?
Valle’s advice? Just gotta come at him. Just walk up and…and I think that Akira [said it] as well. Walk more.
Walk more? Awesome advice.
Don’t dash everywhere. Alex Valle said you’ve gotta get in my range. I like to play a zoning game, but I play it sometimes [to the] extreme. I play so that I’m not in your range, but you’re not in my range. So…you come to my range. But that doesn’t work against good players. Because they’ll stay at their comfort range, which with Ryu is like full screen! And I can’t win from full screen.
21) This is a funky question, but you seem to have picked up an internet fanboy by the name of Suicune 94…
Probably read this too.
Yeah, but what’s the story behind that? Do you feel kinda wierd about the whole thing or you’re just trying to help the guy?
Actually…it’s a bit weird to talk about it. But I think I’ve got some infamy or some form of fame from playing on PSN and being the highest ranked player on PSN [in Australia]. And everyone wants to beat me, and when they do they go wow! I beat him, I’m so awesome, I’m improving.
Yeah. It’s kinda strange when I go on SRK and I see someone post a video of “Top Bison player” against T Hawk, this is how to play T Hawk against Bison. I click on it and see Somniac versus Suicune 94 and go wtf?
Oh no. I lost that match because I’ve never played T Hawk before. And he was hitting buttons the whole time, just mashing buttons. And [if] you’ve never played a character before, you don’t know what the character can do. And since that match, I would say I’m very, very confident in that matchup and I shouldn’t lose to a T Hawk.
Even when I went to America and I played against a couple of T Hawks; pretty good ones. And I still won. I understand that match, I understand the range of his normals, I understand how to keep T Hawk away. And all of his gimmicks don’t work. It’s all reaction timing though.
T Hawks like to do that condor dive and then Ultra. You can actually reaction hit him before he can Ultra you. Because he has recovery. People don’t understand that. They wait, and go I shouldn’t have blocked! If you have good reactions, you should never lose to T Hawk. At least at the level that I’ve seen of T Hawk. And that’s what makes him a bad character.
So even a dude like Suicune 94 has his place in teaching you something?
Yeah, I think that everyone has their place in teaching you something. I don’t exclusively focus on playing against one certain type of player. I think if you only play good players, you’ll be lacking something in your game. I don’t want to say bad players, but people who aren’t as experienced can actually teach you that a move is good or bad, against a character.
There’s this really, really good player on PSN. Probably one of the best on PSN. And he doesn’t go to tournaments. Punk54U.
Oh the Cammy player?
The everything player. He plays every character but he abuses..
He’s a pad player too as well right?
Yeah he is. He abuses facts about the characters. If he’s playing Fei Long he’ll abuse chicken wings. If he’s playing Cammy he’ll abuse Spiral Arrow. He abuses what’s really good about a character.
And at first it’s like what do I do? How do I beat it? Like Blanka with the electricity trap, and the hop trap and everything like that. But if you verse that same gimmick so many times, you actually will get such a good defence against it. So playing against him, even though he’s not playing properly, I learnt so much about those characters.
Like Fei Long. His Fei Long was really good. And he taught me how to beat Fei Long. And I think I’m pretty confident in that matchup now.
22) Okay, last question. What’s your top 8 for Australia.
It’s a bit hard. There are certain people who can beat certain people. And there are certain people who are overall good. Like you could say Robsux can beat, I’m not even sure who he can beat, but he beat me at EVO Apac. I think it’s very hard to say. I’m only exposed to really Melbourne. And even then the top 8 in Melbourne is hard to say.
Definitely Bomb, Toxy, Rodney (Naruga).
That’s the top 3.
Yeah. And then you’ve got players who sort of float in and out the last 5 positions. You’ve got Kientan, Brodsta, Robsux…uhh myself (laughs).
Okay but having said that, who in Melbourne do you think has the potential to come up and become one of the top 8.
I think Sol does. Definitely.
But Sol’s already in…
Well yeah. He’s getting there. He hasn’t always placed that well. Now he is.
Maybe one of the less established dudes than Sol. One of the other dudes. Like I dunno, Stryfe, or Cactus…
Cactus, definitely. He just needs to learn more matchups. He needs to play with Dhalsim more, he hasn’t had that much experience.
23) Awesome. Any last thoughts, anything else you wanna say?
I was discussing this before with Sol, about character balance. I was discussing what I believe to be a theory about characters that are complete, and there are characters that are incomplete. And mostly, the characters that are complete, they’re the top tier characters.
Akuma, Sagat etc.
Uh, I don’t think Sagat is complete at the moment. In Super.
In Super, I would say Bison is a complete character. He’s very good. He’s not abusable good. His moves aren’t like ridiculous and you can’t counter them. And they don’t do a lot of damage. But he’s good. All his normals are pretty usable and he can beat everyone…except for Guile.
He is a complete character. Chun Li is a complete character. Ryu is a complete character. These characters are good overall. And then when you put a complete character against an incomplete character, like Hakan.
You’ll think that the complete characters are overpowered, and too strong. So you’ll want to say; nerf that character. But in reality, you should make the lower tier better.
You should complete the incomplete character.
Yeah! It’s not like Hakan has answers for everything. In fact he has very little answers for most things. You shouldn’t reduce the amount of answers a good character has, because at the level of complete characters, they will all play each other at a really good game level. But incomplete characters versus complete characters, it won’t seem the same.
When arcade is brought out, I don’t want them to just nerf top tier. I want them to fix low tier. Some characters could use nerfs. Um Guile.
Guile doesn’t need to be technical at all to win. You don’t need to counterhit and everything. You can keep them away all day, and you can win. Um and he’s got very few bad matchups, very, very few. I think they should just fix his boom recovery. It’s too strong. Especially it’ll make it a bit more even for Bison. The fireball recovery is just insane.
You can’t hit him with anti-fireball supers.
Yeah. Yeah, goddamn I know.
They need to fix that.
And then Cammy, I think Cammy is sometimes too strong. She is a complete character. But her aggressive game completely puts you into a guessing game. Because with the ambiguous crossups, Cannon Spikes are safe…Unless you have an uppercut, your answers are limited. The only downfall to her is probably her health. Other than that, she’s very very strong.
If they get rid of that instant cannon strike, it’ll be a lot better. Her aggressive game will be slightly less [powerful].
Well I mean, if you complain about Cammy, what about Rufus?
I think that Rufus is not as complete as Cammy.
I was discussing this before, Cammy’s a better version of Rufus. Apart from the jump heavy kick, she’s got better normals, better specials. Only thing is, her combos are slightly harder. But the reward is around the same. And her uppercut is insane.
Yes it is, and her wakeup timing, why did they have to make her wake up a frame slower…
Yeah, like Adon’s timing, they should fix that.
Yeah they should fix that, definitely.
But other than that, I want to see low tier get improved, not high tier nerfed. I’m not saying that because I picked Bison because he’s high tier. I actually picked Bison when he was not very good. But yeah, I just to see in the interest of balance, small tweaks. Not overreactions. It’s not SF4 anymore. There’s no Sagat.
I get what’s you’re saying. Cool man, thanks so much for taking the time for this Somniac.