One Year in Vampire Arcadia: A Beginner's JourneyBy: Lion's Eye (Patrick Walter)
If you couldn't tell by the size of your scrollbar, this is a long piece. This won't be for everyone, but I do encourage you to read it as you may find something to your liking. It's as much about fighting games as it is about a personal journey. It's heavy and thoughtful. It's a little self-indulgent and at times embellished. I'm not a big name in the community (yet) and this is mostly for new or newer fighting gamers to consider. But, if you have the time and are still interested, as I said, I encourage you to keep reading.
Beginnings are just as important as endings. Having been a passionate writer for almost seven years now I know this better than most. The first sentence must have just as much impact as the last, and all those in-between. It takes a lot of time and effort to make this happen. More than that, it takes passion, patience, imagination, and most important of all, belief in oneself and what you're doing. It takes a reason, or, in some cases, more than one. It takes many things, even friends, and a failure can be just as meaningful as a success. This too, I have learned, applies to many endeavors in life, including, of course, fighting games. And it doesn't matter whether someone is on the outside or the inside of an art, a profession, a trade, or a competition, people will always find reasons to diminish what it is you do. In our world the common phrase is some variation on, "It's just a game." And it is, just a game. But then again, having already spent a year in this community and having only just begun, it really, really, is not just a game.
All That Color and Sound
I had no idea what to expect when I first went to Arcade Legacy. Back then I didn't even realize an arcade could work on another system besides coin-op (Arcade Legacy is a one time pay and you're in). My only prior experience with any sort of arcade was back in the nineties around the time the culture began to decline. And my only experience with fighting games was a vague sense of what they were, particularly Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Back then I thought I was something special if I could do a combo over four hits. And a fatality? The best.
Nowadays I know different. And going to Arcade Legacy (located in Cincinnati, Ohio, if you don't know) for the first time was a half-lesson in humility. I only even got there due to a lot of coincidence and a helping hand. I was working at a game store at the time and had heard and read of a game called Blazblue. Supposedly it was pretty good and it piqued my interest just enough to try it out. So when a Collector's Edition copy was traded in I grabbed it. I jumped online as soon as I got home and promptly got my ass kicked for three straight hours, but what kept me there was the game itself, and the company I happened to find in the very first lobby I joined. It was there my fighting game career more or less began, but didn't really start. I played the game pretty frequently with those friends I met in the lobby for several months before we burned out and moved onto other things, occasionally playing together over the years, but it wasn't until Marvel Vs Capcom 3 came out that we got back together and started playing again, and, after listening to their stories of traveling to various minor and major tournaments, I considered going to some myself. One of them suggested starting small, and directed me to an appropriate local thread on SRK. There was even an arcade associated, and it was within driving distance. So I went there one dark and snowy Thursday night for Fight Night, a weekly get together, uncertain but believing maybe I'd show these guys a thing or two and walk out perceived as a champion among men.
That, as you can guess, did not happen.
As I said, the night was dark and snowy. Quite so. It was slow going and even when I got there I missed the place several times. All in all it took about an hour and a half to two hours for a thirty minute trip. I waited a bit when I got there then walked in, nervous as a kid going to school on the first day, and was immediately engulfed by color and sound. There were bodies moving, lights flashing, and people shouting. It was exciting and intimidating at the same time. I paid my fee and asked if there was any Marvel going on. I was directed to the back of the moderately-sized arcade and went there and did what most newcomers do, that is to say, watch and wait for someone to ask if you wanted to play. It happened and I played and promptly realized I was not quite as all-powerful as I thought I was. I was not the glowing angel descended from gaming heaven to teach all these pitiful fools just what it means to be a true fighting gamer. But I did okay and I had fun all the same. I came back irregularly for awhile after I quit my job at the game store then just stopped for about a month (missing Powerup 2011) before finally making the decision to go every Thursday. I played more Mortal Kombat 9 in those days and even started to help run tournaments. I watched my first EVO there. I learned what the hell this game called Windjammers was all the kids were talking about and even got pretty good at it. I also occasionally heard some strange guy stalking around like a lizardman out for a meal shouting at people for reasons I couldn't discern. There was a lot of noise, but what saved me initially from his shattering siren of a voice was I managed to only half pay attention in spite of his volume alone demanding more. I mean, this guy was crazy, right? Who does that? He was the loudest thing in an enclosed space of loud things. And what the hell did he want? Then one day I found out it was for a tournament he was running each week for this game called Vampire Savior. I didn't know what it was, but I entered anyway. What could it hurt?
I'm probably lucky I never really got acquainted with the traditional fighting game franchises back in the day such as Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom, or King of Fighters. If I had I imagine transitioning into Vampire Savior would've been much more difficult than it was. In fact I know it is from others who've done it or tried to do it. Instead, my largest hurdle in the early goings was learning how to play on stick while simultaneously learning about a game I hadn't even realized was just the Japanese name for a game I already knew about in English. While most of the scene, including the tournament runner, was away eating, I signed up (he had left behind a sign-up sheet for the tournament, easier and more inviting than being yelled at by some stranger, I thought) and sat down to look for a character. I immediately found Gallon AKA Jon Talbain AKA The freakin' Wolf Man! And he knew martial arts! In my mind, I'd made my choice.
That was the easy part.
To be honest, I don't remember a lot of those early games. I was partly nervous, partly struck with awe at those who could play it well, and partly constantly seeking ways to improve. A friend (Apocryphic Visions AKA DR4GO) taught me the combo system early on which helped me immensely and I picked up things here and there from others like DaddyNeptune and King Chadwick. I was also given the nickname "Mad Dog" among others by the tournament runner due to my highly aggressive style. Back then there were actually two tournaments, one called "Stay Free," for all the newcomers/low level players, and "VMP" for the guys who, as the tournament runner put it, "Got it." Anyone in Stay Free who "got it" was moved up to VMP for a higher level quality of play. And you got a fancy nickname.
Validation would be mine.
Over time, during my training and playing I got to know the others who would at one time or another take the game as seriously as I would, including Sluch, Fleshpounder, Volkan, Ailerus, Actionhank, GZ-Matthias, King Chadwick, DoragonKoroshi, Mini Maww, RadicalEdward101, Groovyness, Slayer, Osirun, Yettighettoslang, DaddyNeptune, others, and of course the TR himself, Kyle Wattula. Without them and without the others who came later, and especially without Kyle, not only would I not have gotten to the point where I am now, but neither would our scene. It could be argued, but our growth was made that much easier for it. And I am very thankful for that, and them. For even just having an arcade where we can all gather and an owner who is cool enough and courageous enough to make that happen.
If you'd like to see where we were back then, here's a video (this video is farther down the line, but it's still about 6 months out from Powerup and it does give you an idea of where we were back then), I show up at the 13 minute mark:
No, we weren't great, but we were still passionate, and that carried us a long, long way, and it still is. I saw others win tournaments, get promoted, win more tournaments, and I was still stuck down in "Stay Free." I wanted to win, I wanted a nickname, I wanted to be one of the guys. I did not want to keep improving only to lose and know I'd still be stuck in "Stay Free" when I came back.
And I did keep coming back.
If you don't know anything about Vampire Savior it's a fast-paced, momentum-based game with characters based on classic monsters and myths that relies on chains instead of combos, has air-to-air blocks, and is one of the most balanced games (at least as far as balance can go) I have ever played. It's also a game I have yet to grow bored with, and something I'm still learning about even after one year. Every character is unique, interesting, and for the most part, well-made. The game even displays "Cheap Finish" on the screen and boos you if you get a chip kill. How awesome/hilarious is that? Give this game a try, people. There are plenty of options (some of which will be named in this article and others after) and you won't be disappointed.
The fighting game experience does not end in the arcade or at the venue either. Eventually, having become better and better friends with some of the guys, I began to hang out with them outside of the arcade. Mostly at Kyle's place where he hosted Vampire Savior get-togethers for more training and fun. And it was, in spite of playing on Sluch's tiny laptop, Kyle's odd stick, and all being crunched together in one small room sitting on chairs that were at one time comfortable but hours later began to feel like concrete slabs. There was food, there were plenty of terrible (see: great) jokes, and above all, I was getting better. Learning more, feeling more confident, and finally one day, I did get promoted along with Sluch, Fleshpounder, and Osirun. I don't think at the time any of us had won Stay Free, but we were all doing better and Kyle had decided we were at a point where we would benefit more from participating in the higher level tournament than remaining in a doldrums. And we would get to play more too, since VMP was a round robin and not a double elim. Not only that but it felt good to get promoted amongst friends, rivals, like graduating from high school to college. Vampire Savior High: Class of 2011.
And from there things picked up. I was again nervous, and again excited. Ready for new challenges, fully prepared to learn just how far I still had to go. This was the Big Boys' League and I was here now and it was time to step up. So it went. I took my beatings and got better for it. I began to understand the potential my character held. A good comparison is Chun Li from Third Strike; Gallon holds the same status. He has long, quick normals, a jump arc that can evade certain attacks other characters can't, can duck under attacks most others can't, has several great jump-ins to choose from, and that's just the start of it. Of course I was spoiled in this by having Kyle at the arcade, and the arcade itself, and Skankin' Garbage (perhaps the best wolf player (right now) in America) on the Dustloop Vampire Savior forums. And I could see my improvements play out in-game. I also saw the potential of the other characters, even the lower tiers, and why this game is as balanced as it is. RABCs (Random Ass Beast Cannons) and Option Selects quickly became my new favorite tactics in those days. RABCs because as a scrubby wolf player they're a pretty safe fallback move that's also exciting and flashy and basically turns Gallon into a DBZ character. Plus, the ES version can hit five times and deals out significant damage. And it's a hard knockdown that leads to interesting okizeme setups. In low level play just throw this move out and see what happens. Just trust me, it's awesome. The Option Select was and is good too as it's easy to set up and nets you either a command throw with tons of invincibility frames, or a safe close normal that hits people who try to jump out of it. It's great actually, but it's not as thrilling when you're new. Even if you drop the RABC it's still cool because it's out there.
My rivalries were growing too, not least due to the fact the guys on the other side were getting better too. It's not something you ask for or look for, it just sort of happens. It can be friendly or cruel, but if you get into competition it's going to happen, and you should embrace it. It not only makes your matches more exciting (and occasionally frustrating) but it makes you better too. It gives you extra motivation to get better. Some of them still persist even today, and will remain so across any game we play. I also rediscovered just how angry I could get at losing so many games.
In the beginning, when just starting out with a new game, I feel like I have nothing to lose, so I just play and I have fun and joke and that's it. When I start to get more into it though I obviously become more invested and when it doesn't pan out I feel more or less worthless. If you haven't guessed yet I have confidence issues, and those along with my temper problem, emotional nature, passionate demeanor, and the fact that by this time I still hadn't been able to find another job (I was still living with my dad), just did not add up well. No excuses but these were the circumstances. I once or twice even hulk smashed the cabinets we played on and walked away feeling my anger boiling up out of a poisonous well. What this did not help was my learning process at all. Getting angry is acceptable, getting so angry you take it out on a machine that has done nothing but accept your sloppy inputs is not (except for that one time when it really was the machine's fault). There were frankly times I didn't want to see people. I got so invested I began to feel entitled to wins, began to feel if things didn't go my way something wasn't right. And if I lost to a rival? That was the worst. And I developed this bad habit of dropping matches I had significant leads in. Overall, I began to feel worse and worse. Not all the time. And my constant exercise helped to keep me level a lot. But on days when I didn't or on my worst days, I built an unsavory reputation, to say the least. Thankfully, I was mostly quiet about all of this, but I never said "Good games," didn't smile, didn't laugh, couldn't even enjoy what I was doing anymore. There were even a couple times I apologized to someone for slapping their hand away or just being a whiny jerk about losing. And even one point where I seriously began to doubt I'd ever get around the wall I kept running up against, began to not believe I'd keep improving, and for the first time I even spoke about this with some of them. Their words were truthful and encouraging, but I was still unsure.
However, I still kept going back and still kept trying to get better. You might even say I was desperate to win. That I needed it to feel worth something. So I kept trying, kept fighting once the anger faded and kept putting my pride on the line. One of my better qualities is my ability to endure, and at the end of the day I'm not going to give up, even if I gave up for the rest of the day. I'll keep going, keep trying, keep fighting, to a fault. And, I can take a lesson away from anything. So that's what I did, and I continued to get better. I was finally able to DP from the one player position, started staggering my offense, found a method that allowed me to tech hit consistently (the more buttons you hit while blocking the more chance you have to advance guard them, all the way up to six for 100%), eventually got over my difficulties on the two player side (playing on one cab as a big-framed guy sucks), and overall figured out more of what makes Gallon such a great character. I started going to the money tournaments held every so often on Saturdays, met more people who played Vampire Savior such as Avi, Zinac, Sketch, SonicSpear64, and more, including Kajoq, the best Lei-Lei player in America right now. There were others who started playing as well such as 2KNL8, MurderByDeath, Bonclyde, Steel, and Servo. And all the people who only showed up for one or two tournaments such as TheRedCyclone or Neon Geon. And some who left for various real life reasons such as Volkan, Slayer, and 2KNL8, all of whom came back at one time or another either temporarily or permanently. Thank goodness I didn't have one otherwise I might not be where I am right now.
Back then if I managed to place 9th I felt good about myself. I saw what was going on at the top of our scene and was constantly impressed. I saw the others I'd graduated with continuing to improve too, and the others who'd come after us. There was a lot of back and forth back then, me and Fleshpounder, Sluch, Osirun, and others too. And my goal eventually became just to get a positive score. I'd seen Sluch do it a few times, even win or tie for first in the round robins (Q-Bee is a fair and balanced character), but I kept ending up in the negative. I even had a nickname I liked picked out for when I did. In my eyes I was earning it.
Finally one day I managed to get even. And all it did was make me hungrier for a positive record. I was starting to beat more people and to be more competitive against the best our scene had to offer. I learned about GGPO, which is a great, if flawed tool for playing Vampire Savior and other games at home that otherwise wouldn't be available, and even practiced a bit there. I was trying to do better with my attitude too, made even more friends, but was still coming up short. By now I could consistently hit full ES Beast Cannons and I was starting to work on dealing with Gallon's major weaknesses such as his predictability and character style lending itself to recklessness.
Then one day (about five months after I'd started) I had it, a record of 6 and 4. It wasn't the greatest record, but it was mine. I'd finally done it. After what felt like a great period of darkness, a long stretch of failure and growing despair, I'd achieved my next big goal. And I had my nickname: VMP Positive. Originally I had some more serious ones picked out, but I liked this one better. And for once I felt like I belonged in the VMP group, I felt like I was a real competitor. And I felt like I could go even higher.
By this time it was getting later on in the year. We were well into fall, near winter, and we had financed a stream which allowed us to better record our matches and show off what we'd learned to others. Groovyness had left (returning occasionally for various tournaments) and some of the others had fallen off from playing Vampire Savior as much as the rest of us did such as RadicalEdward101 and Osirun, again, for various reasons. I still didn't have a job and the arcade had become something of a fantasy land for me to escape to once or twice a week, and on rare occasions three. I was struggling with my book, I didn't have a girlfriend, didn't have my own place, couldn't even pay for any of my own things, had other personal issues I needed to work out that certainly didn't help my game either. All in all, outside the arcade life was colder, darker, a little harder to stand, to even just stay standing. Not that it was all bad, but in the arcade I could just relax (when I wasn't getting angry), hang out, play games, win, and have fun. It was it's own little microcosm in a world that had suddenly become a lot more difficult and daunting otherwise. What if couldn't get my book figured out? Why were none of my job applications panning out? What was I going to do if it kept up? All these questions were erased at the arcade. There was just all that color and sound blasting it away and leaving me free and feeling like maybe I was someone again. Even if for just the briefest of moments.
So I kept setting goals for myself. I reached some and some I didn't and others I realized were too high and toned them back. Some I failed once then reached another time. I still wasn't near the top, but I was beginning to think maybe I could be. Certainly others had proven it, or gotten close. Ailerus, Actionhank, Kyle, Kajoq, and Yetighettoslang were consistently there. Hell, Fleshpounder took 3rd at one of our money tournaments and Groovyness 4th, so why couldn't I? With enough hard work and enough time I knew I could be, and Powerup was not that far into the next year. I heard from Kyle he was planning an exhibition on Friday, an 8v8, and I wanted to be in it. And I wanted to place well in the singles tournament too. But I was beginning to realize at the same time maybe I was doing all of this for the wrong reasons. That maybe I'd never thought about why I did it at all. Did I just want to win? Did I want to have fun? Did I want to see myself be great in their eyes? My own? Both? What was I doing this for?
I mentioned early on that a common response to what we do is some variation of "It's just a game." And it is. But when you're in any kind of art, profession, trade, or in this case, competition, no matter what it is, it is never "just anything." It is just never "just something." It becomes everything, to the point where you cannot hear the crowd, where you and what you do become seamless. A boxing match is just two guys punching each other in the face. A soccer game is just two teams of 11 people kicking a ball around until they get it into a net. Marathons are just to see who can move their legs the longest and the quickest. And strongman competitions are just to see who can push more heavy things into the air or one heavy thing into the air more times. I guess what we do is just hit a bunch of buttons with the expectation that what we desire will happen on the screen in front of us while the rest of us yell about it or debate over what just happened. In anything you do in life you have to do it respectfully, with a level head. What we do is everything, and it is not everything. And lately I've been trying to be as clear-headed as I can about everything I do in my life. If I don't understand the why, then why bother? Life becomes chaotic and uncertain that way, and you end up feeling lost and confused. Which would actually explain a lot about my early months with this game. There was an article on SRK not too long ago that addressed this very issue in one of its sections called "Six Psychological Tips To Help You Level Up Your Game Faster," discussing do we really understand why we do the things we do in fighting games, or are most of us more concerned with how long of a combo we can achieve, and whether it looks cool to do?
Upon realizing I had no idea why I played fighting games I was shocked. And to realize maybe I did it for reasons that were completely at odds with my recently-developed (as in three years ago) philosophy, was even more shocking. I've always had a complicated relationship with attention. In certain situations I adore it, and in others I loathe it. This time I wanted it, and I thought maybe that was why I did this. And maybe it was why I got so angry when I failed to get to a level I acquainted with getting it, and perhaps through my emotion I sought it that way too.
In short, I wanted someone to notice me.
As I said, validation would be mine.
So now I had a problem, a major, soul-threatening problem, and at first I solved it incorrectly. I told myself I would feel only self-pride, that I not would cast my burden to others any longer, and I didn't actually figure out why I played fighting games. This was also, again, among all my other as-of-yet unresolved issues. There's a lot that goes into fighting. It's just one part of life, but it's an important part, and when you choose to get into competition in a more focused way, even then there's still a lot that goes into it, and if you don't maintain a certain awareness, you're going to lose, and you're going to fail. That's what I felt then, that I was going to fail. I began to doubt off and on, to lose faith, so to say. I'd return to the problem every now and then when I remembered it, usually when I was exercising since that offered me a kind of peace, and allowed my mind to wander, but it went unsolved for quite awhile.
And it wasn't until I nearly quit that I solved it. This was a few months later after Arcade Legacy had moved two exits down to a bigger and better venue. To be honest, I'm probably exaggerating some of this, embellishing, and there's a lot to remember so I might even be over-generalizing or incorrectly placing some stuff too. It could be I solved it before I nearly quit being a fighting gamer, then forgot, or solved a piece and then the rest later, I don't know. What I remember is really figuring it out after I left the arcade one Thursday night thinking if I couldn't find a reason I wanted to keep being a fighting gamer, that I would stop. I felt dejected for reasons I can't remember. Maybe I was having trouble maintaining a positive attitude since I was losing as much as I did. Maybe I wasn't making enough progress, maybe it was seeing the others who'd stuck around doing well and me not, maybe it was a particularly bad night. Again, I don't know. What I know is what I felt, and I felt like running away, like never coming back. I thought it would be easier that way, to just walk away and let it go. Stop trying, move on to other things, back to other things. I thought of my many friends, but I couldn't stay for them. Not that I'd stop hanging out with them, but to do it for them would be to do it for the wrong reasons. But I tried to find one anyway, and maybe I should've realized then what this meant toward how I truly felt about it. I'm not trying to be dramatic but that was how it was. I understand most of you might be in this just to have fun and find this silly, and that's fine, but that's still a reason to be doing what you're doing. Just think about it for awhile. That night everything from those middle days just came back all at once. That Saturday there was a ranbat, or ranking battles, part of five. So I only had Friday and Saturday morning to think about it. And unfortunately, ironically, Fridays are usually bad days for me. They're my break from working out every other day, I usually do more work then, or try to anyway, as I feel lazier and less inspired to do much at all except lay around playing games or surfing the Internet. I remember thinking about my problem for awhile, but I wasn't able to come up with anything. Then Saturday arrived and I got up early to work out and kept thinking, trying to find anything, some reason to go back, to show up.
It wasn't until I was nearly finished that I figured it out. Looking back I should've figured it out sooner. It was something I knew about well before, something that was a part of myself and that was important to me, but now I knew for sure why I played. It wasn't a forced decision, it wasn't false, or made up. I found it and it clicked and it's been with me ever since.
I played fighting games for not just one reason, but a few. First of all, I love competition. I've been a part of some form of it since I was a child. Sports, games, whatever. Now it was this. I was tired of being a loser in my life. I was tired of having certain tendencies that I knew led to places that were self-indulgent and ended badly in one way or another. I wanted to be a winner this time, as cheesy as that reads. I wanted to have fun, of course. And most of all, I wanted to see what sort of potential I had, and to take that it as far as I could.
I knew I wasn't done, and I'm still not, frankly. It was time to see what I was made of, and what I would be one day.
So I went, and I played and I did well. Very well, in fact. And I started to get better. Since I had acquired a job by this point and had money now I was able to travel too. I went down to Tennessee with some of the guys to see some friends and make new ones, and to hang out and be a part of the small tournament going on down there at the time. A couple months later we traveled to Atlanta for Final Round, which was much bigger and where I met others. I even tied for 5th in the small, side Vampire Savior tournament. And watching the people up on stage for the other games I knew I wanted to get there one day. I wanted to make a name for myself.
I wanted it to mean something.
I started setting bigger goals for myself. And Powerup was, by this time, only a month and a half away. Less even, if I recall correctly. I'd thrown my name in the hat to be a part of the Vampire Savior 8v8 Exhibition on Friday (it became a 9v9 later due to various reasons, as many of you know), and I knew I was going to enter the singles tournament too, which would be one of the biggest for that particular game this year. I didn't just want to get in the exhibition by default either, I didn't want to just get lucky in the tournament, I wanted to do it on my own merit. So, I set the goal of getting in the top four of our group. I managed to get 4th in one of our ranbats, and I knew by this point I was around 5th or 6th overall. Maybe tied with some others, respectably, but I wanted to go higher. Then I got 3rd in the next ranbat. Maybe due in part to a certain party not showing up, and an easier side of the bracket, but all the same. Powerup was weeks away by this point and I was doing what I could. I could've done more, of course, could've studied more, figured out new setups, watched more videos, talked about it more, but to do that would've been unreasonable. And I had all but mastered my character. I still fumbled one or two techniques but by this point I was mostly focusing on leveling up my player skill, such as being more patient, playing smarter, and adapting quicker. I was turning my attitude around, forcefully if need be. Especially so after a particular Fight Night the week after the ranbat where I took 4th and, after losing to Fleshpounder, fell back to my old ways after he did nothing more than step up his game immensely and beat me fair and square, and in anger grabbed his hand and shook it forcefully, to the point I was unintentionally slamming it on the chair it just so happened to be over. He called me out on it later and I apologized and now we're good though.
Every time I began to doubt myself I altered the scenario. Ifs became whens. I even set a reasonable goal for Powerup I knew I could get: Top 8. Once I'd achieved that I'd consider Top 4 then winning the whole thing. I knew a lot of good players would be there, in part because there were so many in the area, but I'd been training for about a year and I was ready. I believed that every day, made myself believe it, if need be. And I had reason to, if this article shows anything.
Then the Thursday before Powerup 2012 arrived and some of the other competitors showed up, including Kajoq, RainbowDash, and Jais. We had an awesome 3v3 (very loose term as we had teams of 4 and 5, even) round robin in which the out-of-towners took the win, but lots of good, close matches. For about a week then I'd also known I was going to be the representative for Gallon in the 9v9, beating out others. And that Thursday I went home and somehow was able to sleep after a long, excellent night of Vampire Savior. And I was feeling it too. I didn't win all the time, but I had stepped up my game considerably. Hitting nearly every beast cannon, setting them up properly, setting up the option select and hitting it consistently, working a good defense. Again, I was ready.
Then Friday came (Friday the 13th, by the way, and how could it get any better than playing a monster mashup game if front of who knew how many?) and I tried to do some work like I'd told myself I'd do, but only managed about an hour before I got ready to go. From then on it was Vampire Savior pretty much the entire day. And there were even more arrivals, in the form of Heroic Legacy, ZomB, GBursine, ChrisDom, Frankie G, and last but not least, MightyMar, who was a surprise actually, as no one thought he was coming. There were issues, of course, including unforeseen issues with the stream, and some irony involving making an out-of-towner quite salty with me when I bested him more than he bested me in close but consistent matches (he later apologized like I'd done before and we're also good now), an awkward situation involving the other Gallon player from Arcade Legacy, and of course the nerves that tried to set in and eventually did. Then it was 11. Everything was resolved, including the stream issues for the most part, except the nerves. But I'd played with them before. I knew them and I could deal with them. And I was just as much excited. I was told which team I was on, where I would start, and I knew who I might be facing. The cabinets were set up in a head-to-head fashion (something we had wanted for a long time due to space issues on one cab, and which we were all very, very thankful for), the stream screen was behind us, we had about forty or so immediate watchers in the area, and you could feel it building: the hype. I remember someone in the community once describing it as when you're screaming and you don't even know the words that're coming out of your mouth. I'm usually not someone who gets too much into it, insomuch as screaming, but I started to feel it then. It's like a buzzing, at first. People are talking while they wait, you're sitting there trying to prepare yourself, seeing others do the same. You get a couple handshakes, pass them out yourself, get some good lucks and give the same to them. You want to do well, and you want to see others do well too. You start to want to get in a fight for your life and hear the crowd screaming. You want to get in that moment when it's all on the line and you come out the victor. And above all you just don't want to make an ass out of yourself.
Hype is an energy. A surge. An explosion and an eruption. It is raw, pure, and as much focused as it is unfocused. It has no barriers, it isn't as much a definition as it is an experience. It just happens. Exploding out of you as you try to cheer on your favorite player, or just cheer on the match, or just cheer on a good move, even from the person you're rooting against, if there is one. Things don't matter anymore except the match in front of you. And the energy from that one carries over into the next. Losing your voice is like breaking your cherry. It's a rite of passage, one of many in the fighting game community. Like Nike says, Just do it. Just fucking do it. Let go. Let it all go. I mean, who cares? Everyone else is screaming too or showing it in other ways. Dudes are jumping up and down, shaking hands, bumping fists, talking shit, shouting out things that don't make any fucking sense. And it's great. It really is. You cannot contain it, and you shouldn't try to.
But at that time it was just a buzzing. And then it was starting. I was third for my team so I didn't have long to wait. On the other team it was Yetighettoslang versus our guy, Frankie G. Yeti was playing Victor for the exhibition and Frankie was playing Jedah. It wasn't a bad match but Yeti won, and he also beat Slayer too, who'd returned a couple months before, and played Zabel. So it was my turn. And I felt it. I stood up carefully so as not to make an ass out of myself in case my legs were rubber, which they kind of were, and made my way over to the cab. I got some more words of encouragement and sat down. Having a cab to yourself is nice, by the way. There's not only more room but you feel freer and more able to do the things you're trying to do. The only issue for me was I'm a taller guy and the cab was an Astrocab, which meant the control panel was a bit lower, so I had to sit with my legs spread. Not too bad since the cab was there, but I still felt stupid doing it. Regardless, I focused and got ready for my match. I was confident, although nervous, for a couple reasons. I'd been playing Yeti the day before against his Victor and had done quite well. But this was more due to the fact he'd been playing Sasquatch more for the past several months, and Victor, despite being able to deal good damage, having a good jump-in and good anti-airs among other things, is a lower tier for a reason. However, if he hit an anti-air or a jump-in, due to the momentum-based nature of the game, it could change the entire match.
I selected my character and he selected his. As I said, Vampire Savior is a quick game, even the matches load quickly. It was probably better this way. Walk up there, sit down, start, select your character, then begin. You know how to play against this character, but if you give yourself too much time to think about it, you give your nerves too much time to really set in and mess you up. The worst part is you feel more vulnerable than you ever have before. It's all really on the line now. It's not a money match, it's not grand finals, or any kind of finals, it's not even a tournament match, but it is still all on the line. Pride and respect are as much important, if not more so than money or a record. Even having been working on my own pride, myself, it's still there, that fear. And not only that, but for time purposes, it's just one match a piece. No two out of three this time. This is Japanese style.
And it begins. A year's worth of work will either pay off now or I'll blow it all. Here it is from 10:00 - 15:00: http://www.own3d.tv/teamspooky#/watch/577085
I did it, 3 points for my team and now we're at a tie. And I'm into it. I'm screaming for my teammates, cheering them on, booing the other guy, and all the while watching the score and order to see when and who I'd be up against next. And then I started to realize who: The Professor himself, Kyle fucking Wattula. Fuck. But okay, positive attitude. I've beaten him before. Unfortunately there's no full video of this match. It cuts off at about the halfway point due to stream issues that night, but I did manage to win. And next was one of my rivals: Fleshpounder. This is the guy whose arm I slammed. This is the guy who I've gone back and forth with for basically the entire year. And he's proven himself to be both dedicated and dangerous in this game. Not only that, but our matches are basically reenactments of The Big Bad Wolf versus Little Red Riding Hood. Except with martial arts and heavy ordnance. Unfortunately this match didn't record either, but in this case it came right down to the wire. I made a costly mistake and he didn't and that was it. And when it was over I shook his hand and sat down. No arm slamming this time. Not as good as the first time I was up, but I still got a win. And I wasn't mad. I still wanted to do well, but for all intents and purposes I was having fun just putting on a show. The matches continued and the points were pretty close, until it gone back to me again, and once again, I was facing the Professor. Here it is from 2:30 to 7:20: http://www.own3d.tv/teamspooky#/watch/577130
And of course the match following it with Fleshpounder again. And that was it for me, but not for the hype. You can watch everything that got recorded at these links:
and if you just want highlights that's here:
It was very close and without a doubt the best Vampire Savior anything I've ever competed in. Handshakes, congratulations, and honestly, it does matter who won, but not as much as the fact we all put on a hell of a show and proved this game is still relevant today, and it's still a lot of fucking fun. Not just that, but it's a game that has depth, variety, the works. And we proved that too, together.
The day after though, that would be different. That was singles. 10 o'clock, Pool B, and I already knew I had the Bracket of Death. In hindsight, it really shouldn't have mattered to me, but it did. My whole goal for singles was just to get in Top 8, and as I am my own worst enemy, I spent most of the week leading up to the tournament weekend forcing myself into a positive attitude, to believe in myself, that I could get there. The funny part about all this is I actually chose Pool B about a week back because I was running a tournament for Powerup at 7, which was when Pool A was taking place. But I believed in myself, even when I found out, finally, after being there for about 6 hours, who I'd be facing first: Actionhank. Okay, no big deal, it's not like he's won our ranbats or anything, it's not like he's placed consistently well in just about every Vampire Savior tournament he's been to. It's not like his character has a massive corner advantage over mine. It's not like he may very well be the best Aulbath player in America right now. Nope, not at all. In light of all this, I remained quite positive. No really, again, I forced myself to just barrel through what could've lost me the match before it even began and put on a good attitude about it. I was going to win, I told myself. And this is what happened:
No, I didn't win. Yes, I was about a second or two away from winning, multiple times in fact. But I couldn't get angry. If I'm going to lose a match, I want it to be like that. (Funny story, Fleshpounder beat him drunk the match after that. WHAT?!). My next two matches go well enough, and then I learn who I'm going to face next. A new rival. The guy who verbally slammed my arm, so to say. Apology accepted. Challenge accepted. Let's go. There's no video for this either (some kind of conspiracy with all these matches of mine not getting recorded, I think) but they were solid matches and he won fair and square. An interesting note though is that he picked Aulbath instead of Sasquatch. It's part of the metagame. Maybe he saw how I'd done against ActionHank's fish. And maybe he also didn't believe he could beat me with his Sasquatch even though Sasquatch is a better character in the game because I'd been consistently beating his in casuals before. It did surprise me. He adapted and I didn't and in the end he beat me and ended my tournament run.
And that was it. Everything I'd done, trained for, all the time I'd spent with the game, trying to get better with my character and as a person, done. Not just done, but ended by a guy who, despite apology accepted, still stings to lose to after all he'd said before the apology. To say I was upset was an understatement.
I remember shaking his hand and walking away. It took me awhile to believe it had happened, that I hadn't even reached Top 8. Hell, I didn't even reach Top 9. I was in the Top 13, which is nice, but not what I was after. I watched some matches in other games at the venue listlessly for awhile until I decided to go back and finish watching the rest of the Vampire Savior matches. I watched them with as much enthusiasm as I could muster and was glad to see who made it through, made it through. It was everyone I expected with the exception of one. You can watch all of that here:
And Top 8 here:
I remember as we were all leaving after it was done I said to Kyle I wasn't sure if I'd be there tomorrow despite the strong possibility of an Arcade Legacy Vs GGPO side tournament we were going to do. I just didn't know if I had it in me anymore, or whether I wanted to support everyone who made it to the spots I didn't. I know that's selfish and I didn't care. He eventually told me to just go home, get some rest, and see about it tomorrow. It was good advice so I took it. When I got home I just sat in my car for awhile thinking about it, trying to remember what my goals were, and whether not going back on Sunday would mean I'd failed. I didn't really come to answer that night (morning), and when I woke up later that morning I felt even worse about it. It felt like waking up in a world I hadn't imagined. It was, to say the least, a bit surreal. But after a couple hours I was able to come to the conclusion that if I didn't go back I'd be exactly what I'd tried not to be all this time: a loser. This was another test in a series of many tests, and I aimed to pass it. I went back and played in Arcade Legacy Vs GGPO and did this:
And finished up here:
I had specifically told Kyle the night before (I don't remember if it was before or after singles) if we did run Arcade Legacy Vs GGPO I wanted to square off against my newfound rival. Oh, and I won this time. I won't say who it was because I'm not out to trash the guy since that whole situation is over with, but let's just say he surprised me with another character selection that was less to his advantage than it was to mine. If you want to check out the rest of the videos, I encourage you to do so, as there are lots of great matches, and especially if you want to see even more why Anakaris (the lowest tier character) can be great in this game. If not, you can find the highlights here:
So if you've for whatever reason made it this far you must either find my writing very interesting or maybe you're just really, really bored. Regardless, thank you for reading. And maybe you've managed to learn something. Maybe you, like me, are one of the newer guys trying to make a name for themselves amongst all the big ones. Maybe you're just trying to feel like you're worth something like I have. Maybe you're trying to find direction. Or remember what it's like to be this young in the scene. Or maybe you're trying to do all of these things. Hell, maybe you just like to play fighting games. All I can say is the best thing you can do is keep trying. Don't quit, don't give up, don't make excuses. Winners look for ways to win, they don't make excuses to lose. And just because you don't reach your goal the first time, or don't get the big prize, doesn't mean you can't the second, or the third. It also doesn't mean there isn't more than one way to go about it. In fact, not too long ago I was able to get second at the ranbats, and I beat out ActionHank's fish to do it (finally). In addition, I have more fun now, have more humility, I'm learning the deepest intricacies of the game, I'm still increasing my player skill, and I'm just doing better overall, as a player and as a person. Not everything's there yet, but it's getting there. And while I'm not glad I didn't get Top 8 at Powerup, I think it is better this way. Better because if I had I might've become too entitled or complacent, and my hunger for the game or to do well with fighting games in general might've been diminished. As it is now I've got that in the back of my mind pushing me, driving me. I have new goals, and I plan on reaching them. I know the scene for this game won't stay on the path it is forever, and one day I'll move onto other games, but while I'm here, and while the scene is still here, I'm going to keep fighting. UFGT is my next target. And after that, who knows, maybe by then a new iteration of the franchise will be out. And hell, as far as Powerup goes, I tore it up in both team tournaments, so 2 out of 3 ain't bad.
Especially for a guy who didn't even know what Vampire Savior was just a year ago.
I'd just like to thank everyone whoever helped me during my first year, or who was just involved in this scene at one time or another. I didn't want this article to stretch on into forever so I over-generalized some things and excluded others. That and I was obviously focusing on myself, but I tried to include some of what they've done and they deserve your respect. Some of that can be found here in this following list of resources in case you'd like to become more involved yourself:
- http://www.twitch.tv/arcadelegacy - Arcade Legacy's stream link. We try to stream every Thursday around 8 P.M. Eastern time and occasionally on Saturdays from around 2 P.M. to around 11 P.M. Eastern time.
- http://wiki.mizuumi.net/w/Vampire_Savior - This is THE Vampire Savior guide. It doesn't have everything, but for the most part, it's a great starting tool and has tons of helpful information.
- Facebook Vampire Savior Community Group - Facebook gathering place for all past or present Vampire Savior players. Everything is discussed here from strategies to the future. Join up, have fun, and learn something.
- http://www.dustloop.com/forums/forum...Savior-General - This is the Vampire Savior section on the Dustloop forums. It has separate threads for each character as well as a video thread (including Japanese videos and players). It's not updated every day, but it gets enough traffic and you'll get a response to your questions or posts soon enough.
- GGPO - This is a free, easy-to-install program, and it works well enough if you don't have the immediate option to play offline. It's a little different than offline, but there are lots of great players there who will both play and help you.
- http://clientes.netvisao.pt/anpedror/bishamon.htm - This site offers frame data for each of the characters and system data too. If you're really looking to get into the game, check this out.
- Japanese videos - These guys are a whole new level. If you want to learn something or see something awesome, check these out. You can find some channels and playlists in the appropriate sections in the Dustloop forums. Plenty of videos get posted in the Facebook group too.
- http://www.youtube.com/user/ArcadeLegacy - Arcade Legacy's youtube channel. We've got lots of uploaded videos here that you can check out for even more content.
- http://arcadelegacyohio.com/ - Arcade Legacy itself. If you live in the area, show up and play. We welcome more competition. And not just Arcade Legacy, but wherever you live. Hit up the arcade. If there's no arcade, start one. If you can't, get a scene going. Start a thread on SRK. Join a thread on SRK. Join Dustloop. Get on GGPO. Go to Powerup, UFGT, NEC, and everywhere else Vampire Savior is played. Make it happen. Find what's out there. You'll have a blast.