Interview with XSPR

Interview Date: October 2010
Hometown: Boston, MA before moving to Japan
Occupation: IT
Years Playing SF2: Since the CE/HF days.
Main Character: Dhalsim
Other Characters: Ryu
Favorite Fighting Game: Super Turbo
Other Fighting Games:
Weapon of Choice:

STR: Weapon of choice?

XSPR: Any standard Japanese arcade parts I guess, since I’m used to that. I think everyone prefers Japanese buttons at least. As for square/octo gates I’m not even sure what the difference in feel is actually, off the top of my head.

STR: Tournament results?

XSPR: For ST, one highlight was 3rd place at a tournament in Ikebukuro (Tokyo) with ST sim, in AE. I also got first or second place a few times in local tournaments, outside of the Tokyo area. Before I moved to Japan, I think the best I did was get 2nd in an A3 tournament (Eight on the Break in NJ). Eddie Lee got first, I knocked him into losers’ bracket that tournament, but he managed to come back to win it all in the finals.

STR: Favorite fighting game?

XSPR: ST is what I’m focused on. I have very little interest in learning another fighting game all over again.

STR: You have been around for a long time but since you moved to japan a long time ago, many new players may not know you. Can you give us a little background of your gaming history?

XSPR: I saw SF1 the first time at a big arcade. When it first came out, it had the two big buttons and it wasn’t until later that our local bowling alley’s arcade got the 6 button layout version. This was about 1987. I actually first saw World Warrior in Hong Kong while visiting there, but didn’t play it because it was way too crowded and I wasn’t focused on games then. It was obviously popular though. I didn’t get back into games until the end of CE days, right before HF came out but it wasn’t until ST days that I started with agsf2 and finding out more about competitive scenes. The Internet was about to gain serious traction in society around this time, 1994 to 95, and it allowed the scene to organize and find out about tournaments. I met up at an NYC gathering then and got involved. It was a lot of fun to meet up with people that were all into the same game. I was not good enough to play at any high level though, and had a “play to win” mindset so I picked Akuma sometimes. It was bad form to compete like this of course, and it was the familiar scenario: you go to an event, you don’t lose EVERY game, so you think you’re alright maybe. But pretty quickly you find out that others don’t quite remember it that way. Soon after this, Alpha 1 came out and people flocked to the shiny new game but I was disappointed when all the ST machines started disappearing from my area. I didn’t like A1, and I really didn’t like A2 because it seemed more in the same direction that A1 took. You could block fireballs in the air, and even block a DP in the air, but not normal moves, so eventually people just did crouch HP instead of risking a DP, and if it traded it was almost always in your favor anyway. I got more interested in HF at the time, which still had a few players but that was dying out. At the MIT arcade, from about 96 to 98, I played with Jeff Perlman, Scott Bradburn, Zass and Sirlin. All of those guys were a lot better than I was but I was getting better. Zass and Sirlin were from California and had played with the best guys there, where they held the biggest tournaments. During those years, the Xmen/Marvel games got a lot of attention but I couldn’t play those at all (so I stuck with A2 then). I didn’t realize it at the time, but the best players in our area and maybe the entire country of those Vs. games (Trien Ho and Jimmy Fong) were actually really good, and when I heard about MvC2 becomming so popular in the US later on, I think they had stopped playing for the most part by then, but did win vs the other best players like Eddie Lee (or Jwong? I can’t remember) early on. I liked SF3 when it came out, but that never caught on much either in the area. One of the more memorable tournaments I read and heard about from others was B3, Battle By the Bay in California. Then about 6 to 8 Months later, on an unusually warm winter day at the MIT arcade, B2 was held when John Choi faced Sirlin in the finals, Zass got 3rd and Scott 4th I think (Choi’s shoto vs. Scott’s Sakura was the best tournament match that day, Scott had him shut down in the corner but Choi CC’d through a fb for this massive comeback). I went to any tournament that I could manage to afford getting to or had the time. On the East Coast, it was more spread out and the best place for us to meet was in NJ, at the “Eight on the Break” arcade with tournaments run by Todd Dwyer. I think one of the best A2 players was Omar from around the VA area (?) on the East Coast. I also went to a tournament in Philly once, also run by Todd, and drove down to NYC a bunch of times. Alpha 3 came out during the summer of 98. I became one of the best A3 players on the East Coast. Trien and Jimmy played this too, and after 6 to 8 months, they caught up to where they could beat me a lot of the time. Scott and Jeff were still around, but Zass and Sirlin had moved back to California. I held a few local tournaments. I went to the big A3 tournament in late summer of 98 in California, that’s where I met a bunch of top WC players I’d heard about for a while and I also met DreamTR and CigarBob. After the tournament, we went to a special arcade that had Japanese cabinets with the “head to head” setup, and I had never seen Street Fighter on anything like that. I was amazed at the setup: each game had 2 screens, completely separated, with plenty of elbow room. I didn’t like having to sit down but other than that it was awesome. I only played ST but DreamTR was playing A2. His opponent didn’t like throws in the game, and started throwing this huge tantrum. He shouted all these loud threats for a bit, but DreamTR didn’t leave the game, kept right on playing so this other guy started kicking chairs, just looking for a physical fight. He got kicked out of the arcade as diplomatically as possible (but I think he came back 20 minutes later to break a window or something?). Everyone from those arcade days have their stories like this. Even at MIT’s serene, relatively protected environment of an arcade, I was there with Jeff (and Chi? or someone else) and these other guys showed up and they didn’t like throws or something, either. One said to Jeff as they’re playing, “Do that again, watch what happens”, or something like that, in a way like he was going to start something. I remember thinking, I hope something bad doesn’t happen, but if it does, I can’t just sit by the sidelines. It was a little tense at one point but I think we just got them kicked out. In 1999 I moved to Japan, and got a lot better at A3. A lot of people played it and there were lots of arcades. There was an event in Tokyo I went to that Zass told me about- “Team USA vs. Team Japan” in a bunch of games, including ST. So I attended this and saw Japan sweep the US in everything except MvC2 (I hardly ever saw that game in Japan, it just wasn’t played much at all here). The US won MvC2 convincingly, but lost 3S just as convincingly. But then online all these people in the US said things like, “oh it was so close overall, we’re about as good, if only this had happened and if that had happened, we might have just as easily won, so they won technically but we think we’re just as good in our hearts”, etc. Exactly like me and so many others after his first tournament or gathering. Around 2001 to 2002, I got to a point where, in my local area, I had a shot at 3rd in local A3 tournaments on my best days. Our best players were YMD, and 443. 443 had lived in Tokyo before and knew Bas (DA4). He wasn’t as good as Bas, but far above almost everyone in our area except YMD. 443 was somewhat known among top players for coming up with the most creative VC combos in the game. In 2003 I moved to Yokohama, and got back into ST. I played at Kameraya-san’s arcade almost every day that year. After that, AE came out and gathered up the scene again. I preferred ST but it was a close substitute, and there were lots of local tournaments held for it. It’s not fun to pay for games vs. CE characters though with their damage scaling and dizzies. But it also set off a resurgence in ST, so more tournaments were held for ST as well.

STR: So what brought you to play ST?

XSPR: I started playing ST when it came out, and soon I got involved in the smallr scene during college, which the newsgroups helped organize and you could find out gatherings and arrange tournaments so more people would show up. After the gathering in NYC where I met s-kill, inkblot, Dave Spence, and I think Omar was at that one too, I organized a money match (the first one ever maybe?) with some local friends of mine in the Boston area right after this, who were great HF players but not nearly as much in ST. I called my guys the “Rising Dragons”, and put up $100. It didn’t work out so well! We lost. We had other bets for less, but only managed to win one of them. Zass played us in the last one I held, he used boxer, and I even used Akuma (since I was a lot worse than anyone, they actually allowed this!) but they still won. None of those guys plays anymore, except Zass maybe. It wasn’t until A3 days where I could get to that kind of level and win like that. So I didn’t get rich playing the game but slowly got better and better. After this, Alpha 1 started to appear in arcades. I was wondering why people wanted to play the new game when I thought the old one (ST) was better. But that’s where the competition went, a trend that’s always been true in games. I could picture a day like today when people would still be playing ST but most people thought that idea was crazy. Anyway, ST just disappeared from my area so I dragged myself, kicking and screaming through A1/A2, and never really able to compete at all in the Xmen/Marvel stuff. So here is the big gap for ST- I was always interested in it, but even on consoles it was a while before there were any ports of ST. During A2 days I played a lot with Scott Bradburn who had a nasty ambiguous cross-up with Sakura, and that’s the game I played most with no ST around. There was a tiny arcade that had a HF machine at my school, and I got some people into that but it was never more than about 5 to 10 consistent players. A3 came out in 98, and I went to Japan in 99. Japan was an entirely different atmosphere. Arcades were well-lit, clean places with attentive staff. There were a lot more arcades (though, the number has gone down) and finding competition wasn’t really a problem, for many games. It took me a little while to get used to sitting down every time I played games, having stood up in arcades my whole life, and I never really got used to all the cigarette smoke esp in some arcades but other than that they’re great places. I bought a car after a month or two living here, a small 660cc engine Subaru, that I taught myself stick-shift on. It was a lot of fun driving around in a completely new country. I was living in a small city, well outside the Tokyo area so it made sense to have a car but if you live in Tokyo, the train system is excellent (only, it doesn’t run 24 hours, it stops around 12/1am) and generally too crowded/impractical for a car. I have a Japanese driver’s license, and getting that was pretty crazy because you have to memorize a path through a cordoned-off special track. There are also a few really dumb traffic laws that are potentially dangerous, if anyone actually follwed them. At gas stations, it’s common to see young, even attractive females work at these kinds of places. “Do you have any trash that I can empty for you sir?” “Huh? Oh yeah, here, thanks” (hand her the pile of used tissues and food wrappers from the floor seat). It was all full-service back then. Only recently have self-serve stations come into popularity, and that was only about 3 years ago. You don’t pay a human, you just use a vending machine type of system to pay. At some places, the nozzles drop down from a roof and you park kind of under them. So with my car, I started driving down to Tokyo on weekends, mostly for A3. I tracked down Daigo and played with him a few times at his usual arcade, which isn’t there anymore. It was mostly for A3, but the first time, we also played ST as well once. I didn’t understand nearly as much about the game back then so just got destroyed left and right. I could manage much better in A3 games but nowhere as good as he was. It wasn’t until 2003 that I got back into ST. I played at Kameraya-san’s usual arcade called 7 Islands. Kamerya played ken, guile, and is said to have the best footsie game. I played there almost every day that year. We’d get occasional visits by Kurahashi (guile, ryu, ken), top Zangief players, and Komoda Blanka. This was when I got a pretty solid ground game and really enjoyed Ryu again. There was an active player base and people were coming up with little new strategies all the time. My reversal DPs got a lot better and more consistent. Many top US players downplay Execution, but once you start being able to perform DPs that just come up despite initial expectations, kind of like Chilean miners, the fear factor goes up and it really shakes their mixup game as you get up from knockdowns.

STR: Do you like Japanese’s single elimination character locked tournament or USA’s double elimination free for all tournament?

XSPR: Actually, I really like the round robin/pools format of tournament, where you have the most chances to play the most number of other players. Having been to so many tournaments, I think this serves the fighting game players the best. One of our main core values as a community is the competition, and we have always rewarded the top players with priority. If anyone deserves recognition, it is obviously those people. But I often wonder, can we have more of the entrants play each other, while still doing that? I think the main question everyone at a tournament would like answered is not “who is the best” because it’s often known who has the best chances before it even starts. I think it would better serve the community if we could answer for each person “How do _I_ stack up in all this?”as much as possible.

STR: How much time do you play per week?

XSPR: Maybe 5 to 10 hours when I’m active with it, but next to zero when not.

STR: Do you play SF4?

XSPR: I’m not particularly interested in learning SF4 because I don’t want to relearn street fighter all over yet again. There’s nothing so wrong with ST that I would want to devote my time to 4. I said the same thing about Alpha1 when it came out, but where I was at the time, the ST cabinets disappeared rapidly. I can still find people to play ST and since it’s been around for so long, I’m sticking with that.

STR: Speaking of SF4, recently Daigo has started using headphone when he’s playing tournament oversea. Do you prefer the US style tournament where there are more “hype” (and also come with more “noise”)?

XSPR: I’m all for enforcing super-strict rules at tournaments. The same way it’s done in tennis, or golf tournaments. “Why can’t Street Fighter be more like… golf” I realize I take an extreme view on all this (and I realize it’s not likely to ever happen), but closed-circuit cameras/soundproof booths for the players sounds awesome to me! Top players endure crowd noise distractions, but they should not _have_ to, in my utopian, idealized view of how things ought to be. In any case, I definitely don’t want people calling Daigo a bitch over the announcer’s mic, or calling Andre his n-word. Suppress that urge, homeslice! It just makes it all look unprofessional, esp. if tournaments are charging a lot more these days just to enter.

STR: What about HDR? Do you play it? I noticed you were invited to one of online tourney organized by Otochun. And you are playing classic mode on XBL from time to time.

XSPR: I absolutely prefer ST over HDR, but HDR is the only version on a modern console so I’ve been playing a lot of that lately, ever since I upgraded to Windows 7 last year (ggpo’s framerate gets all choppy and uneven in Windows 7). A friend of mine wanted to play HDR so he got me a point card to get it. Some players on Live ask me how I got so good in HDR, and I say for a modern console, it’s As Good As It Gets: I started with ST, then I took away reason and accountability. Look, it’s like this guy Rakim, who said, “Don’t need to remix it, why prefix it, reversed and switched it? ST performed to near perfection, section for section”?. They tried to TAKE it, say that all the OG’s and player base, are too small. Cool, we don’t need to get upset. But once you actually play it on your console it’s hard not to pull the plug and kick a hole in your TV set. Jet back to the lab, without a stick to grab. And then you add all the changes they had. There was AE, now HDR One after the other one, then they make another one, you start to wonder, when will they be done? I just want to play ST, I get a craving, like a fiend for nicotine. But I don’t need a cigarette. Know what I mean? I’m just raging, ripping it up on the stage and, don’t it sound amazing? Fiending for the original, like heroin After 12, I’m worse than a gremlin. Feed me ST and I start trembling. The thrill of suspense is intense, you’re horrified. But this ain’t the cinemas or “Tales From the Darkside”. By any means necessary, is HDR what had to be done? “Make way ST, cause here HDR comes!”?? The remixer cuts material, acts like some Grand Imperial. It’s a must that I bust any imitator you hand to me. This “remix” is not likely to last anywhere near as long as ST. The original ST has been played and featured in tournaments for nearly 20 years and it’s still going. I will continue playing ST. I think the remixer even won an award for game “design” after HDR initially sold so many copies- but to my knowledge he has yet to design his first shipped video game. HDR is a “remix”; he moved some hitboxes around according to his personal views, but the game itself was already designed basically, and HDR sold well because the title included long-standing intellectual properties owned by Capcom including the familiar title “Super Street Fighter II Turbo”, the Capcom trademarked logo, and all the familiar Capcom characters. If it had been called “David Sirlin’s Greatest Remix of a Fighting Game”, I doubt it would have sold as many copies. I’m sure he’d say something like, “The Art of Sun Tsu says, that the winner of the game design award is won before you even design any video game at all.” He didn’t really _design_ a game, but he seems to have faked it very well.

STR: We know that Japan and Korea have god-like internet infrastructure. Do you think online play can be a substitute of offline play in Japan? From a scale of 1-10 where 10 represent a score closest to offline play, how would you rate Japan’s online play?

XSPR: It’s never a 10 of course, but the basic game is definitely there in online with GGPO/Live for example, so you get what you’re looking for more or less. So I’d give it at least an 8 or 9 when there’s little lag, say 15ms to 50ms. At higher levels of play, the strategy and positioning starts to make less of a difference than Execution so every frame counts even more, and also you start having to play more conservatively than normally because the risks you are comfortable taking offline work out tremendously worse for you in online so you get into habits like not taking the risks in the first place. The speed of light itself isn’t fast enough to give us what we really want but for convenience sake it’s worth playing online. In Korea, something like over 80% of the population lives in highrise apartment complex buildings, where consumer broadband access must scale a lot better. Japan is also very good these days, however it may be somewhat expensive for a lot of people too.

STR: You have created a tool called Execution Aid and reviewing your stick / buttons inputs. SF4 seemed to have taken that idea and have that built in. Do you think there are other areas where capcom and other fighting game developers can improve?

XSPR: The biggest area for game companies to innovate is the training modes, and implementing more statistics reporting to help us understand what strategies matter the most and which ones don’t help us much. These fighting games have always been difficult to determine why you lost the last round, exactly. Today there could be ways to make that more clear and answer that question in greater detail. Eg an instant replay in slow motion, but with hitboxes displayed, and pausing the on the exact frame that a red box overlapped a blue one that round. What move did you get hit by the most often. We’d like to think these types of things are obvious, but they’re not, often because we’re just not paying attention to them and need to be forced to look and focus exactly where. It was hard enough to determine why you lost before online play was so common. But online, so many times, if the guy doesn’t understand how throws or footsies work, how do you think he’ll understand it any better with rollbacks in the lag? Many games still have traditional features such as a single player mode or a high score, when really, these fighting games we play are only good for human to human competition. Good training modes are much more important and have been a prime, fertile ground for companies to improve on for their console releases, for years now, but it’s only been recently that Capcom has gotten involved at all in tournaments in any serious effort. And that is probably due in no small part to the fact that someone like Seth Killian, who works for Capcom, comes directly from the fighting game community, himself. When a shiny new fighting game comes out, here’s what happens. Keits has an orgasm on srk’s front page and gives about three separate free advertisements over the course of about a week, even though the game is completely untested in the field. When a game is released, and if it’s played at all, players that don’t choose what eventually become top tier characters wind up subsidizing the progress of players that do pick top tier characters, to a small degree, which means the top tier players can take even more risks in their games to figure out the rules of the game all the more quickly. It’s only over time that we begin to learn more and more rules of the game, and it’s almost completely done by the player base. The fighting game community started, and continues on after so many years, to be driven by these kinds of player-driven efforts, without much of any help from the companies making the games. If we are going to be giving them access to our prime real estate, the front page of srk, the portal to our world, maybe we should be getting something in return for that. This isn’t totally bad, because while it’s an ad, we are the exact people that are most likely to be interested in it and want to try it out. But there are lots of things being done by us, community members- people making stuff, like input scripters and hitbox viewability. Remember the MadCatz posts? Those were good because they had indepth videos and really seemed to make an effort. But that company was struggling before, and they are struggling now that that campaign’s cooled off. We gave them a chance to redeem themselves, and they profited hansomely. I complained about it at the time, and probably others did as well, so soon they implemented the nomination system which is really good. As we mature I think it’s important to keep that kind of a grassroots base.

STR: Who has the best character design?

XSPR: I’ve always felt it was Ryu. O.Sagat and Claw banned would be fine. It might be too much, unless there’s money involved. If they were banned I wouldn’t mind at all. “In the right hands” those two characters do have what I’d say are unfair advantages. With claw’s speed, reach and damage in addition to the wall dive stuff, it’s like you’re not even trapped in the corner but you are still trapped, but you know exactly what he’s going to do next. I’m really not impressed with wins by those characters anymore. Boxer and Chun Li for example are really annoying, however they’re beatable. If you get a good read, you can stop them. btw one idea I’d really like to get more people interested in, would be a “Ryu Only” tournament.

STR: Why did you pick Dhalsim as your main?

XSPR: I liked how his game removed a lot of the Execution factor: if you can determine the right attack, and do it early enough, you should be ok. So it let me play more of a mind game without the technical dexterity or combo practice. Dhalsim is slow and has hardly any combos but the best reach and just about any tool that any other character has: a slide, projectile, etc.

STR: Do you have any tips for players who want to pick up Dhalsim?

XSPR: He’s a very strong character overall and I’d recommend trying him out if you like the mind game and don’t mind risk sticking limbs out, because if you miss, you have to drag it all the way back in during recovery. However sometimes you can use them to poke, and whiff moves to kind of “claim territory” on the screen. Like squares on a chessboard, the ones that you attack don’t need to be occupied and the more squares (area) you attack, the better, generally. So you can use that to your advantage, for one example, throw out a move to whiff a few times to try and influence the opponent to react/counter it a certain way. Positionally, with sim it often comes down to staying far away, and just knowing the right counter.

XSPR, playing at Shirone Chance Tourney 2007

STR: Best ST players?

XSPR: 1. XSPR (on a good day) 2. SJV 3. CigarBob Seriously though, I think it’s too difficult to answer this question, the more I learn about the game and so many great players, especially here in Japan where there are tons of people that nobody’s heard of that are great. It’s one thing to see a recorded match if they’re known, but completely different to actually play that person to really know. If you consistently win in your circle of players, that means that no one is really showing you your mistakes or spoting the holes in your game (which is critical for improving). Also, one person can be good at certain matchups, but not at others but the more you study any particular matchup, it starts to become its own game, so different from all the other matchups. I was out at a restaurant with many top Tokyo players one night after we all played at the original Mikado before it closed. I put this question to them, who is the best among this circle, the best in the Tokyo area. Without much hesitation, many quickly agreed on Komoda. He is like the Don. (Komoda plays Blanka, and plays in Tokyo these days, but originally played in Osaka.) There are good players all over the place. This was coming from a table with guys like Shougatsu, Taira, Pony, Mattsun, etc. And it’s not like these guys have never won games against Komoda either. To make the point, I will cite just three examples of ST experts of characters that Dhalsim has significant advantage over, yet these players destroy me so consistently that I can hardly get any wins in. So at my level, it’s hard to judge ANY player so much better than I am, but against THESE character experts specifically, there is no doubt how great they are, because they win so much DESPITE the disadvantages: Jodim (Zangief), who took the time and effort to teach me precise details about the matchup after a session. After a few lessons from him last year, I was in a tournament vs. Pony, and actually managed to win. Gian was MC’ing and said that I did everything correctly. I attribute it directly to specific lessons from Jodim. So just because I can say, “I won in a tournament vs. Pony”, who would actually think I’m better than he is? I will say that it’s clear to me that he is still the better player, so you start to see how difficult this question is to answer. A couple months prior to this, I played a bunch of games vs. Muteki (Guile). THAT was a “good day” for me, and I had been studying that matchup, specifically. Dhalsim should win that matchup like 9-1, or maybe 10-0! (8-2 is the consensus) At best, I only managed to win half the games, and I never got closer to that since. His skill is truly amazing. Recently I played a long session with YuuVega (Dictator). Like 3 or 4 hours long (but the first half he was DeeJay, which I also had many losses to). Dhalsim vs. Dictator is another match-up I think Dhalsim should just win (I think accepted is 7-3 for sim), maybe not quite as bad as Dhalsim vs. Guile, but pretty close. I got like 5 wins total vs. his Dictator in all that time, and he won all the rest. His DeeJay had like, all these insane comebacks. Like one time, I was about 3 pixels away from perfecting his DeeJay and he was in the corner, but then I guessed wrong ONCE when he was getting up from a knockdown. He suddenly combos me for almost all I’m worth, and then does a blocked super for the rest of my lifebar. It’s a consistent OPPOSITE result of what that match-up should be when I play him: 2-8 instead of 8-2!

Shougatsu won the tournament, facing off against Komoda (Blanka master on the right)

STR: What’s the best way for a beginner to improve his game?

XSPR: Learn from your mistakes. Wouldn’t it be cool if there would be an ST tournament where you recorded not only the footage of the match, but the gamestates and all inputs of each match? Later, we could play it back with hitboxes displayed. The more data we have after the tournament, the better we might be able to come up with the most relevant statistics.

STR: How long does it takes to be competitive at high level?

XSPR: It doesn’t necessarily take years to compete at a high level, but much more importantly your access to competition. PC emulation is getting better and better to practice things like Execution, especially with tools like input scripter and the hitbox viewer. I have to say hats off to the guys that made the hitbox viewer happen, it is truly amazing to see it! With PC emulation, I’d really like to see some of these tools put to good use for statistics (eg Glenn’s Daigo vs Uryo stats) and other ways of analyzing your game to improve it, especially considering the fact that it usually takes many, many games before you even figure out most of the rules for the character that you play and his particular matchups.

STR: Do you have some general tips for intermediate players?

XSPR: HUSTLE REDUNDANTLY and cultivate SENTE: Recently, I finally got around to reading a book I’d heard so much about over the years. It’s called The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks. There’s one part where he talks about “hustle”: “A baseball manager recognizes a nonphysical talent, hustle, as an essential gift of great players and great teams. It is the characteristic of running faster than necessary, moving sooner than necessary, trying harder than necessary . Hustle provides the cushion, the reserve capacity, that enables a team to cope with routine mishaps, to anticipate and forfend minor calamities.” The best thing about hustle is, anyone can perform with it. In a physically-demanding sport like baseball, your DNA and my DNA eliminate us from ever getting close to playing in the major leagues. Street Fighter takes much of that physical requirement away and leaves us with things like more of a pure hustle. There is a lot of very very small, subtle stuff that can add up and make a big difference quickly in a round of Street Fighter to determine which player gets the edge over the other. I should be careful to mention that hustle does not always apply to Street Fighter in a very very basic sense. John Choi for example recommends a conservative approach, eg block and punish more, instead of taking unreasonable chances. Valle expresses it more concisely: in A2, don’t stand up; in ST, don’t jump. That means, you want the other player to make the first mistake, because it’s far easier to just punish and capitalize on; get him to jump first. But what about at the higher levels, where you’re both aware of the risks, and neither of you are jumping a lot? That’s where I’d say hustle comes in. When you see a great Blanka player for example, he not only knows when to block, he also knows when to spot the rare opportunities of his own offense. It’s been said that “luck favors the prepared.” When a great blanka player spots that rare opportunity, he is well prepared to take full advantage and do much damage. He’s definitely not “lucky”, but he definitely knows how to make his own luck. Someone once said that playing as Blanka requires three times the amount of a person’s brain CPU cycles than playing as better characters to accomplish the same results. Top players hustle in such a way that they tend to build meter quicker than other players do. They accomplish that but in safe ways, and often redundant ways, just in case the opponent does certain things that are potentially dangerous. E.g. “it turns out, he didn’t need that super meter after all, as he won the round without it”. But is that totally accurate? Having the meter full is a significant threat, in itself, especially for certain characters. Hustling is doing the things that often turn out to be redundant, especially in hindsight. There is a Japanese word that describes a certain kind of hustle, but “hustle” is probably not the best translation of it. Literally, this word means “first move” in English, and connotes the advantages that come with moving or being in a position to move before your opponent is able to. “Tempo” may be a better translation of it. I learned this Japanese word while playing the board game go. The word is sente. In go, probably the most valuable skill to cultivate of all is sente. You should do whatever you can to acquire and retain sente for as long as possible. When you have sente, your opponent is playing _your_ game. He is often forced to respond to your threats. If he is responding to your threats, he is not making threats of his own. Ryu vs. Guile is fairly even, and some say Guile has the edge. I’d say that Ryu’s ability to cultivate and exercise sente in his offense is how he out-hustles Guile. In business, it’s often a good idea to satisfy your customers’ needs, but only barely. If you overserve them it can be inefficient. Your threats to your opponent must be enough so that your opponent responds to them, but only just barely that much of a threat and not too much more. Use any leftover momentum (in the form of recovery time or frame advantage) to retain the sente and use it to continue playing your own game, and just keep doing this as long as possible to stretch it out, just like a corner trap. URGENCY CHECKLIST: When you play Street Fighter, there is a kind of list of things to check, many many times over, as the round evolves and takes shape. Checking the entire list is usually done mentally in far less than one second. There are many small things you consider before following through with a move as a part of your strategy. (The great Blanka player has a list longer than yours and he has to run through it even faster than you do with your character.) At the top of the list is something like, “Am I safe right now?” ie should I be blocking? if so, which direction? Do I need to escape harm’s way/some shutdown happening? Do I need to shake out of a dizzy? Next might be, “Do I need to avoid a threat that will get me into trouble really soon if I don’t do something about it now?” And only after are there offensive considerations, like “Should I poke from this distance with this move? How about that move?” etc. Way, WAY down at the bottom of the list is, Can I go for a big huge fancy combo? and, last, Is the round over yet? (one reason I’m not a fan of crowd noise is that the crowd gets that last one wrong so often) As you notice, the defensive considerations in the list take priority, at the top. But it also helps to make a distinction between “urgent” things and “important” things. Urgent things are the threats (and potential threats) that you need to deal with immediately, and those take priority over the important things. The best players are those that are able to do more “important” things more often, like dish out big combos and the things far, far down on their list, that are not necessarily “urgent”. They’re able to do that more than other players can. EXECUTION: “I can call spirits from the vasty deep. Why so can _I_, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?” Shakespeare, King Henry That’s Execution. Will the spirits of your moves come out when you try to do them? One thing you can never be 100% sure of is your opponent’s next move. (Sometimes he’s not so sure of that himself Accidental Victories bare witness to that.) You have a lot more control over your own Execution, and that’s something that can always be improved, no matter what your level is, and no matter how much you lag online. John Choi’s recent “take away” series was good, and I’d say Campbell Tran’s and his own gave the best advice. They played down the importance of Execution, for example, many players blaming a loss on Execution instead of how to avoid the situation itself entirely. I’d agree with everything they said but Execution is still important and can still give you an edge, on consistency if anything. Look at DGV, because of his consistent Execution, he gives you that many LESS chances to make as many mistakes.

STR: Can you tell us a few things that people don’t know about you or not expected from you? (hobbies, other games you play, special skills you have, some trivia?)

XSPR: I also like to play go (the boardgame) and one time, had a great opportunity to play one of the best players of our time, Satoshi Kataoka, and actually win. David vs. Kataoka In the photo I’m standing next to Michael Redmond, another top player (I’m on the left, and he’s on the right).

STR: Thank you very much for your time, David.