Interview with eltrouble

Interview Date: AUGUST 2014
Hometown: LA County, California
Occupation: Proofreader/scopist and full-time student
Years Playing SF2: Since early 90’s but competitively since November 2011.
Main Character: Dhalsim
Other Characters: O. Ryu, O. Ken, O. Guile
Favorite Fighting Game: Super Turbo
Other Fighting Games: N/A
Weapon of Choice: N/A

El Trouble (middle) with the ST Revival staff at So Cal Regionals 2013.

STR: Hello El Trouble. Thank you for the interview. I think a lot of ST players know you from your commentary, the Super Turbo Saturdays show with Sergjiev and also from your tournament matches but I’m sure there is much more to know. Let’s start off with your history. When did you start playing Street Fighter and specifically ST?

eltrouble: I had fond memories of playing WW and CE back in the early 90s. I mostly played them at random 7-11s, liquor stores, donut shops, pretty much everywhere. The SF2 craze was extremely dominant back in those days, and you couldn’t throw a rock anywhere in town without it bouncing off of 2 Street Fighter cabs. But I played SF2 the most when the SNES port came out. I used to go to my cousin’s house pretty regularly during the summer and winter months and we would just grind it out with our friends. We weren’t that great at the game, but the fact that you could go toe-to-toe with the guy next to you like that was pretty revolutionary for its time. But for me, I moved onto other games shortly thereafter, mostly first-person shooters, and I didn’t really touch Street Fighter again until 2011.

When Mike Watson took over Super Arcade, my girlfriend and I decided to stop by and check it out. We’ve never really gone to a hardcore arcade before, so we just wanted to see what the fighting game community was all about. We’ve been hooked ever since. Back then, a player you might know by the name of Muffin Man decided to start running weekly ST tournaments on Wednesday night. The first week only had like 10 people, but week after week soon thereafter, we started to pull in 20-30 people. Even some of the veterans like Valle, Watson, DGV, Afro Legends, started to come out and play with the rest of us. That’s really where I cut my teeth for the game and learned how to play the game at a competitive level.

Side note: I also have to give a special shout out to Stacy aka Time_to_Empress. She was actually the first one to whoop my ass in ST during casual games at Round One Arcade and really got me interested in getting to know the game at a deeper level. This was all well before I actually got to know her, but losing to her ten games in a row certainly bruised my ego and encourage me to learn and play the game a lot more.

STR: If I remember correctly, you started off playing with Ryu and also Guile? Can you explain why you chose those characters and then ultimately decided to switch to Dhalsim?

eltrouble: I played Ryu for the same reasons a lot of people pick him up. Ryu is the poster-boy of Street Fighter, he has a well-balanced design, and a lot of tools he can use to win all of his matchups. He’s simple to learn but difficult to master. Plus I have a serious hard-on for throwing fireballs, and Ryu excels at that. I feel like learning Ryu is an incredible way to learn how to play ST as it teaches you the fundamentals. Besides a few select matchups, there’s rarely a time where you can just autopilot the character and expect to win. You gotta put in some work to play him properly.

I’m not going to lie, I played O.Guile early on because of Mike Watson. He left a pretty lasting impression on me early on with his extremely calculative and methodical playstyle, and that’s something I wanted to learn for myself. Plus, I learned early on that I was getting outplayed HARD by superior shoto players and Guiles, and I found that the matches felt more comfortable for me once I picked up O.Guile. Playing Guile vs. Ryu felt much more natural to me, and I love playing lameduck and throwing fireballs for 99 seconds, so Guile v. Guile was like home to me. Hah, good times.

I made the switch to Dhalsim mostly because of guys like Moocus and Papercut. So for those who don’t know, these two are easily our best Hawk players in SoCal, and quite a large plateau in terms of being able to fight toe-to-toe with many of our scene’s best players. Early on, I really didn’t grasp how to handle Hawk, and so both my Ryu and O.Guile just got murdered. I could play well for 80 seconds of the round, but once they get that touch on you or a hard knockdown, they can win in 10 seconds. The salt is too real.

It was very frustrating to me, so picking up Sim was very much a desperate act to try and learn a counterpick match to fight Hawk. It’s weird, because I actually hated playing Sim in the early versions of SF2. I thought he was a terrible character, very slow, and unwieldy. But I soon learned that I really enjoyed playing Sim, and he definitely suited my boring, safe, and heavily reaction-based style that utilizes a strong knowledge of the game. Plus, he’s a top tier character, so he’s got the tools to fight and win against the vast majority of the cast.

STR: What other players have influenced your playstyle?

El Trouble:  Too many to name. Pretty much everyone I’ve lost to has influenced my style (that’s a lot of people), but there are a few notable guys who really made a lasting impact on me:

Afro Legends. He was actually one of the first guys I played ST with before I even know who he was, but boy oh boy, he showed me how vast the skill difference was between us. So it’s no secret that he mains Deejay and Boxer, but what’s impressive is how these two characters showcase the different playstyles he can adapt to suit the situation. He can zone you out with Deejay and outplay you in the footsies game, or he can just relentlessly attack you with Boxer and make you feel like a training dummy. His ability to identify and adapt to small changes in your patterns or psychological state is what’s truly impressive, and he’s definitely shared his knowledge with me over the years to try and overcome that different in skill. He’s played a lot of games against me, the majority of which he wins, but it’s also helped me polish up my gameplay and iron out the weaknesses in my game.

Muffin Man. As much shit as I like to give this guy, he is notably the guy who got me started in ST. He’s basically been my coach since day one when he asked me if I wanted to enter a $2 ST tournament and still continues to help me out. He’s been around the scene a long time and I’ve learned a lot by listening to his stories, helping me out with matchup problems I’m having, as well as sharing metagame tricks that aren’t so intuitive to me. He’s also the guy who taught me a lot about how to run tournament events and brackets, so I can blame him for getting me into the TO game, lol.

Mike Watson. There’s a clip of me on youtube where I played my Ryu against Watson’s O.Guile, and he beat me like I owed him money. It was bad, but it was also the first time I got the chance to play Mike in a tournament, and so I learned a valuable lesson that day. Right off the bat, I could tell this guy had an intrinsic knowledge of how the game is meant to be played. He was aware of all the situations, reacted to my movement and actions with speed and precision, and I couldn’t surprise this guy with anything. He basically attacked me when he was safely able to do so, and he backed off and played defensively when I had a brief advantage against him. He’s given me a lot of advice over the past two years on everything from how to control tournament nerves to discovering new counters to specific matchups I had problems with. The guy is, with no doubt in my mind, a legend.

STR: How was your experience at Evo this year with X-Mania USA and ToL II?

El Trouble: Awesome! Evo gets better and better every year. Besides playing a game I love so much and being involved with the tournament, I also get to see and hang out with guys I normally only see a few times a year. It’s always exciting getting to meet new people, especially the international players, and of course it’s great being able to test my might against guys I never or rarely play against. Definitely count me in for next year’s Evo, whenever and wherever it happens.

Player performance wise, I did terrible. Admittedly, I’m not even close to being a major threat in a tournament full of killers such as ToL2, but I really felt like I should’ve done better. I think if I had beaten Valle in loser’s side, I would’ve gone a lot farther than I did. For X-Mania USA, I’m really proud my teammates (Millertime and Muffin Man) got to Finals in our pool. I really wish we had beaten the Daigo, Nuki, Tokido Team, but it was a tough fight, and I’m happy that my teammates both had great moments in the team tournament.

But hey, there’s always next year, and I definitely plan on upping up my game for Evo 2015.

STR: You’ve had a chance to play some Japanese players at the past few EVO but who would be the one you’d love to play against the most that you haven’t yet?

El Trouble: I actually never got a chance to play against MAO, Kurahashi, and Noguchi during casuals. I wish I had gotten in more games with these guys, but it just didn’t happen. I did get a chance to play a lot of matches against Mattsun, Hanashi, and TMF, and that was a fantastic experience.

I would love a chance to meet and play against guys like Aniken, Otochun, Kusumondo, Yuuvega, Muteki, Sasori, Gian, Hakase, Shooting D, Nakamura, Shiki, Komoda, basically anyone who is considered to be the best with their character. I feel like the only way to improve is to play against guys better than yourself, and the aforementioned names are definitely guys well above my grade. After getting a taste of how good the Japanese are atthis game, I want to fight them all.

STR: Is there a routine you have in order to get ready for a tournament?

El Trouble: Not really. I usually try and attend a few ST practice sessions before a big tournament to polish up my game. But on the weekend or day of the tournament, I try my best to eat a decent and light meal, as well as try and get at least 6 hours of sleep. I really ought to develop a more organized regiment, because I have some serious consistency issues at tournaments I need to iron out.

STR: Stepping away from ST for a bit with some fun questions, what’s your favorite movie or TV show?

eltrouble: Too many to choose from, but I’ll list one for each. Favorite movie is Coming to America. It’s a classic Eddie Murphy comedy from before he decided to do weird kids movies. Favorite TV show is easily Firefly. A tragic tale of a truly great sci-fi/western show that had so much potential to become great before Fox decided to ruin our hopes and dreams. Both are on Netflix!

STR: Favorite book?

eltrouble: I don’t read traditional books nowadays, but I particularly enjoyed Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I read it as a kid, but for some reason, it’s had a lasting impact on me. Don’t bother watching the movie, it’ll just ruin you.

STR: Favorite music?

eltrouble: I’m not a huge music buff, but lately I’ve been hooked on video game music, including covers, as well as classic hip hop and r&b. Oh, and goofy music from guys like Turquoise Jeep Music.

STR: What other fighting games or other video games do you enjoy?

eltrouble: I also enjoy playing all versions of SF2, Alpha 2, Alpha 3, CVS2, and occasionally SF4. I’m pretty much a fanboy of “old man games.” I’m telling you, I was born into the wrong generation to get into the fighting game scene. I really only play SF4 so I can troll intermediate players who think they’re good.

As far as other video games, I enjoy pretty much anything under the sun from NES games onwards. I competitively played FPS games for most of my teenage years, ranging from Quake 3 Arena, to Half Life 1, to Call of Duty 1, United Offensive expansion, and Call of Duty 2. Since then I’ve sort of been waiting for another worthy first-person shooter to come around, but it hasn’t happened yet.

STR: Favorite foods?

eltrouble: I love food. Anyone who knows me know I have a deep love for eating, creating, and cooking food. But if I had to pick one thing to eat for my final meal on Death Row, it would be….actually, no, I’m going to cheat, I’ll pick three things. Ramen, yakitori, and a plate of goose from a little alleyway hole-in-the-wall shop two blocks away from my Grandma’s apartment complex in Taipei, Taiwan. I am literally drooling writing this.

STR: What?  No mention of Lollichicken?  Okay, back to ST, what area would you recommend new / intermediate players to work on to improve their game?

eltrouble: Completely ignore combos and focus more on the basic fundamental principles of timing, distance, reaction. ST is a simple game, but hard to master, and you’re going to go further by learning how to play the ground game, anti-air options, the power of positioning, and how to block. They’re simple concepts that apply to every fighting game, but they’re the main tools you need to do well in ST.

Also, don’t jump forward. Usually when I help train a new player, I recommend that they don’t jump forward, and I avoid trying to play a projectile-heavy game. Neutral jumps, jumping back, and walking are all allowed. This really forces them to learn how to stay on the ground, avoid committing to overly aggressive attacks, learn how to bulldog (walk up block), and utilize neutral jumps as a safe method of getting around fireballs. This is usually what makes things “click” in a newer player’s head, in terms of how the game looks and feels at a competitive level.

STR: What are your thoughts on HD Remix? Street Fighter IV?

eltrouble: HD Remix is an okay game. I think it’s great in the sense that it brought in newer players to the scene and finally gave us a console version of SF2 to play at tournaments. ST is a notoriously difficult game to find acceptable and movable setups for, so HDR pretty much made the game more accessible. The gameplay changes had a mixed response, but I’m more irritated at the drama behind all of this and the impression it has left on the community. HDR had a great run in the competitive scene, but suffered in the sense that its release timing coincided closely with SF4’s release, and we all know how much that game dominated the competitive scene. Ultimately, it appears like the bulk of HDR players either moved onto other games, stopped playing completely, or no longer support the game in a competitive setting, which is a damn shame.

SF4 sort of gets the same deal. I personally think the game is mediocre and boring to play, but you can’t deny the effect it has had on fighting game culture. It’s certainly brought a mainstream feel to the fighting game community nowadays, and more importantly, brought in an influx of new players, TOs, sponsorship opportunities, and events. Hate it or love it, the effect of SF4 has been quantifiably good for the scene as a whole.

STR: Why do you think ST has had such longevity and popularity?

eltrouble: For the same reasons that the original SF2 caught on like wildfire in the 90s: It’s simple to play but difficult to master. ST isn’t a game laden with a lot of game mechanics, mired in frame data, and one that requires countless hours of training mode to perfect combos and setups that are absolutely essential to competitive gameplay. You can learn the game by simply playing it and playing it against other people.

I also believe the community is a huge driving force behind its longevity. The men and women I’ve met in the scene have been some of the greatest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and they’re largely incredibly helpful and respectful when it comes to this game. I also believe that ST is the last of its kind, in terms of minimalist game design, well before adding in more complex mechanics and a stronger focus on combos. Of course, nostalgia has a very strong factor, as many of the guys who grew up playing SF2 are now into ST. It’s a part of fighting game history, part of who we are as a person, and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon as long as we’re willing to keep showing up and holding great events.

STR: Who are your three favorite ST players of all time? And why?

eltrouble: Gian (he’s my sensei), Shooting D, Muteki. In my opinion, those three are the all-time best players with their respective characters. They show off what the peak level of excellence can be with Super Turbo, and an inspiration to work harder and try to get anywhere close to being at their level of ability.

Favorite one to hang out with? TMF. This guy was so much fun to hang out with at Evo. I want to be in a buddy cop movie with him.

STR: TMF is definitely a character.  Anyone who was at Evo would know!  Who would you say has been your toughest opponent or rival?

eltrouble: Afro Legends. I’d like to think I’m getting closer to one day being at his level or even surpassing him, but he’s just such a tough opponent to beat. I have to work SO hard to even get a lick of damage off of him, let alone winning a whole round, letting alone winning a game, let alone winning a set. The closest I ever came was beating him 1 set during a random, casual tournament I held during an ST party at my house, and then he promptly destroyed me after the Grand Finals reset. It’s the closest I ever came to victory, and it was delicious. I want more.

So the journey continues.

STR: Favorite ST moment (either as a player or a spectator).

eltrouble: Player: Definitely the moment I beat DGV during the Evo 2013 ST Games Team Tournament. It was a small victory, but at that point, it was the first-time ever that I’ve ever beaten DGV in any capacity. This guy had been whooping my ass on the regular for the past few years, so it was a moment of relief and clarity that made me realize I’m making some measure of progress as a player. Not only that, it was an incredibly tense moment as well, and I’m really amazed I managed to land that final hit to win it for my team. The footage is hidden deep in iebattleground’s twitch archives.

Spectator: Definitely ToL1 Grand Finals. Those sets between MAO and Kusumondo will go down in history as legendary. They are by far the best ST matches I’ve ever had the privilege to watch live. It will go down as a classic match between a great, newer ST player playing Claw versus an established Japanese OG veteran playing Honda. If somehow you guys haven’t seen it, you need to stop what you’re doing immediately and go look it up on Youtube.

STR: Anything else you’d like to tell us about you that people may not know or any final words?

eltrouble: I’m a pretty open book, so if you guys want to find out all kinds of weird stuff about me, you can just ask me in person, lol.

Big thanks to kuroppi for hosting this interview along with everyone part of the ST Revival crew. These guys dedicate a lot of time, energy, and so much more into maintaining and developing the scene into what it is today, and they deserve everyone’s thanks and utmost respect. Special shout outs goes to everyone in the SoCal ST community, as without you guys, I wouldn’t be as involved in the scene as I am today, as well as the player I am and hope to become in the future.

Extra special shout out goes to my girlfriend, Tania, aka Millertime. She’s been with me on this entire journey and has not only been supportive of my hobby but has also joined me in it. She has definitely helped to encourage me to excel both as a player and as a tournament organizer, as well as be my fierce rival, training partner, and competitor in tournaments since the beginning. My only hope is that we continue on the rise together as a duo, similar to what the Wolfe brothers did for each other during the mid-to-late 2000s, and continually push each other to be the best.

STR: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Eugene.  We’ll look forward to seeing you at West Coast Warzone in a couple of weeks!

Click here for more information about the ST West Coast Warzone tournament.

Also, you can catch El Trouble along with Sergjiev and Miller Time on the Super Turbo Saturday show every Saturday at approximately 6PM PST on Arkadeum’s Twitch TV channel.