Last week, Western Wolves' Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart sat down to talk about his start as a professional gamer, and this week he dives into the UK fighting game scene, his experience at Mad Catz Unveiled, and which games he'd like to see get some love from the FGC. You can check out part one of the interview here.
THE UK: ONLINERS?
Western Wolves: One thing you've mentioned a lot in past in past interviews is that the UK scene isn't as small as some international players would think, but it's mainly held online. We know several Asian countries have some sick players spending most of their days in Arcades, which often results in Asian dominance at events. What's your take on this? How have you seen the UK scene grow, and what do you reckon should happen in order to get not only the UK but the entire European scene up-to-par with Asia?
Ryan Hart: Well, a regular offline fighting game presence of any kind is going to be more fruitful for high level competition than an online one. It’s just unfortunate that in the UK we don’t really have arcades anymore. I mean guys at the HOG arcade in London are doing a great job providing a service for the community, one that is actually sorely missed by many. It’s great that at least we can still get arcade action.
I think that online gaming is good to have as an option but in terms of leveling up there needs to be more structure in general. It’s difficult to have consistent play online because you are at the mercy of the internet connection, have to rely on people being online when you are, that they have as much time as you need them to, that they want to play the same game as you do, it’s all in there and these things make it very difficult to create a structured system for leveling up.
If you have arcades where people just go you could argue that the issues are similar; nobody comes, they don’t play your game, etc. However an arcade involves more natural interaction, nothing feels forced and an arcade makes it easier to arrange multiple people to all be in one place at one time.
Fighting game lobbies only accommodate limited figures of users meaning that players are always left out of tournaments and sessions, and this isn’t good. YouTube has limits, it’s important that there is an open location offline where up and coming players can go to watch and learn from better players, where better players can go to level up with other better players. These things all intertwining together are important.
A large percentage of the modern age day of fighting gamer has developed a misunderstanding about how to game. Now you have more lag abuse, rage quitting, verbal/text abuse, and players online who are not accustomed to being respectable because now you can game from the comfort and secrecy of your own home.
Previously in an arcade that was not possible, you had to be in front of people, personas and all, there was no hiding. To play you had to be present, this kept abuse and bad behavior to a minimum as self-preservation is a natural part of being human, lol.
Additionally due to players only having online to play on, now you have gamers who play a fighting game but have no idea how to really play it, they have no idea how to improve because they play alone online, learn nothing from opponents when they lose and don’t understand what they see of forums and YouTube. As a result, there is no growth and the player forever roams the online lobbies to execute online heavy strategies that have no chance of progress in the offline world. It’s issues like this that contribute to the gaping difference you see in an online community and an offline one.
With regards to what can be done, it takes a number of knowledgeable people who understand these issues and understand what a high level match of – insert fighting game here – should look like to come together and create regular training schedules for people to take part in in their area, country, region and continent. Whatever distance can be reached with the optimal internet connection still intact. This is possibly nothing that hasn’t been done before perhaps but it certainly has not been done on a large enough scale to improve the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012 scene to be able to compete with SE Asia.
Then with the player growth that this would create, having an offline session would be even more productive. Doing this alongside using YouTube to look at what players in each community around the world are doing on the game/s you play would be a great benefit for all communities. It’s important while doing your thing to maintain an up to date knowledge of what is going on around elsewhere the world.
It can happen folks, we have the first most important thing which is willing people. Now I know you could say that just because we see figures online this does not mean they all want to win EVO for example. Maybe many of them enjoy just being average and don’t care much for the game past that point. I however do believe that there are many players who are just looking for opportunity, they are craving tactics, tricks and techniques to get them to that next level and would love to be a part of the tournament scene.
Player evolution is also an important part of the scene’s survival in general. At one time or another one generation fades away and a new one comes in, this requires that new players step in to take the reins of high level gameplay and tournaments at some point.
If we could create a system that filters players through a system of leveling up online and then coming together into offline activity, I think this would be a great help as it would offer a player of any level something valuable.
WW: Of course it's not all SSFIVAE, as we saw you dominate several titles at the VS Fighting event this past month. Why is it most of the attention is drawn to Street Fighter, while other titles such as Tekken and Marvel vs. Capcom still hold a huge fanbase?
RH: Because Street Fighter is THAT game! It’s the game that everybody recognizes when you say the title. Its heritage far exceeds any fighting game franchise out there just because of the impact that it’s had all over the world. I only got my Super Nintendo because it came bundled with Street Fighter II, haha. Street Fighter is the one fighting franchise that brings players from all fighting game franchises together and that unity is a great thing. Other franchises are great too though!
RYAN TALKS MAD CATZ UNVEILED
WW: We saw your impressive performance against the EVO 2013 World Champion Xian at the Mad Catz Unveiled event at Gamescom. What are your thoughts on this match?
RH: Well although a number of people told me I’d be playing Xian in an exhibition, I think it was Zhi who wanted to see us pitted against each other the most, haha. “I wanted someone to get exposed either way,” Zhi said with a smile on his face, “and it worked!”
I beat Xian’s Gen 10-5 with my Sagat. Xian is an awesome player and I have a lot of respect for him. He is very talented and is good at any game he plays. Many players who are not in the know may ask how did Ryan beat Xian since Ryan didn’t even get top 8 at EVO? But let me just say that getting top 8 at EVO is about many factors other than simply how good you are:
- Personal Condition – Is the player well? Sick? Are they suffering from personal issues outside of the game? Did they sleep well the night before?
- Character Choice – Is it a top tier? Is it a low tier? Is it a good tournament character for the current tournament rules?
- Bracket Path – Was it an easy or tough path? Did it push the player into many bad matchups?
- Personal Level – How good is the player generally speaking?
- Tournament Rules – What are the rules?
- Tournament Conditions – Is there sound? Are the monitors laggy? Is the stream laggy? Are people shouting in your ear? Does your stick work ok?
Of course you can argue that being able to deal with things in tournament is all part of being a professional but you have to remember that everyone is different, not everyone in tournament is a professional. There is no default template for what obstructions one should or should not be able to deal with.
Some things are more tolerable than others for different people. So for you, this guy should be able to play without sound because you can, but he needs sound to play so he cannot, that’s just how it is. One thing that makes this community great is the fact that no matter what background and stuff you come from you can go to an event and have your needs catered for, within reason of course.
There are so many things that come in to what decides the outcome of matches but players don’t fall back on things like this in public as it can, in places appear “salty” or unprofessional. Pro players fully understand that these things can make or break a tournament though and these things should not be overlooked by any means.
In any case back to the original thing of me beating Xian, the fact of the matter is there are many good players all around the world and there is nobody that can beat everybody all the time. The level these days is just that close, me vs. Xian is a good example. Yes, that’s right, a guy who came top 48 or whatever can beat the World Champion. That’s just how it is, does it mean me or Xian is better or worse? No, it does not. But it does show that the level is extremely close at the top and that brackets mean a lot in tournaments.
Another factor is that it’s a first to ten, where I’m a much stronger player as I have more opportunity to use my mind. It’s not a first to two like in most tournaments, where a minor number of errors can spell doom for Sagat. You need more strategy, content and mental stamina to go the length and longer sets are better for a character like Sagat.
TO OTHER PLAYERS
WW: Obviously the next Ryan Hart is lurking somewhere behind his telly spamming online matches (let's hope it's not Call of Duty). If you had to name one gaming title new players should look to invest their time in, which one would it be?
RH: Hmm, I really like King Of Fighters XIII, and I really think that this game needs more love in general. It’s really sick, has tons of variety, cool music, good gameplay mechanics, amazing combos and more, but what fighting game doesn’t right? So, why KOF I hear you ask? It is because KOF is amazingly fun, deeper than Street Fighter but more lenient than Marvel, so at least give it a try.
As KOF isn’t exactly new anymore, I’d have to say Killer Instinct, as I had fun on it during E3 and I think it could be really good. Of course we need to see and feel more but from what I saw it has all the components of a great fighting game.
WW: Any last words of wisdom from the fighting games legend in the UK? Perhaps some shout-outs as well?
RH:Thank you all for reading, I really respect and admire all the communities around the world and I appreciate your infinite support.
Shoutouts to Markman! I dunno, because he’s super awesome, what do you want from me? Shoutouts to Western Wolves and Mad Catz with cherries on top! Shoutouts to Robert Brandl for his new Guinness World Record Speed Run on Resident Evil 4! Congratulations.
WW: What's your next upcoming event where fans will be able to see you (hopefully) destroy all competition again?
RH: Haha, thanks for the vote of confidence! I’ll be participating in the Treta Championship in Brazil tournament next month, which will be my first time to visit Brazil, so I’m really looking forward to it.
WW: Alright in that case thanks again Ryan, and see you at Treta Championship in Brazil!
Big thanks to Ryan Hart for sitting down for the interview. For more information about Ryan, visit his Mad Catz Player Profile, and be sure to check out part one of the interview if you haven't already.