I met Jonny "Humanbomb" Cheng back in 2009 in a table-top gaming and arcade shop but didn't know who he was at the time. He was playing Street Fighter IV with members of OzHadou, and I took the opportunity to get some game tips off them for an upcoming media tournament (that I lost very badly). While the tips were good, I probably should have asked Jonny for advice because, well, he's the best Street Fighter IV player in Australia.
I must admit I have a soft spot for Street Fighter. Street Fighter II was the first game I ever played and to this day whenever I see anyone playing Streeties on an arcade machine I can't help but stop and watch, much to their discomfort. Regardless of what people think of fighting games -- that they're made for button mashers, that they lack balance because of the character tiers, because even n00bs can fluke wins -- there is no denying that it takes an enormous amount of skill, tact, precision, and understanding to play at a competitive level.
So today I've decided to interview Jonny "Humanbomb" Cheng, the highest ranked Street Fighter IV player in Australia. I hope you enjoy hearing what he has to say as much as I did.
Hey Jonny, can you introduce yourself to the Kotaku community? My name is Jonny Cheng but most of the fighting game community know me as Humanbomb. The game I mainly play is Super Street Fighter IV. I can use a wide variety of characters at a high level, and my current main character is Yang.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in IT and after about 15 years in Australia, I am currently preparing to move back to Hong Kong permanently. [Editor's note: Noooooooooooo!]
There are no national/international rankings or leaderboards for fighting games, but tournament-wise, I have either placed first in most of the major Australian competitions for Street Fighter IV in recent years, or was one of the best placed Aussies below international players.
The first game that I loved playing would be Street Fighter 1, and later King of Fighters.
What was it about Street Fighter that drew you into the competitive scene?
I started out as an arcade player. When I was at school, I didn’t have much money to spend so when I played, the only way I was going to be able to afford to play all afternoon was to stay and win. From there I discovered that I had some talent and could beat players who had been playing a lot longer than me.
At which point did you know you wanted to play competitively?
Beating people with more experience than me spurred me on to practice longer and harder and eventually I decided to start entering tournaments to see how far my practice could get me.
The very first tournament I entered was King of Fighters ’94 which I won. The prize was a Neo Geo CD console which was worth a pretty good prize back in the day.
What skills are required to play at your level?
To get to a certain level you need the correct mindset. You need to understand the mechanics of the game, you need dedication to the game, and be willing and eager to improve and to win.
Before you get to the top, you also need to lose, and lose a lot. It’s hard to improve if you don’t lose. You learn more from your losses than from your wins.
What’s your training regime? How often/for how long do you play? Do you have a routine you follow?
I don’t really have a routine now, but usually I would play an average of one to two hours a day after work in the arcade or online, depending on if there are good opponents available. My play time will increase a bit more before a major tournament like EVO.
If I read about a new technique, combo, setup or set-play, then I will practice in training mode before testing it on live opponents.
What are some of the biggest rookie errors you see people make when they play SFIV?
People not understanding the game enough and not thinking before, during and after matches.
Other things that make me shake my head are players missing combos, bad risk and return management, bad meter management, playing in a pattern, giving too much free damage, pressing buttons for the sake of pressing buttons and unsafe pokes.
What tips do you have for people who want to get to your level?
Settle on a main character and use the character to his/her full potential. Most people have enough skill for one or maybe two characters max. Don’t spread your time too thin by using half the cast.
Training mode is king. You can test a lot of important things there like execution, combos, setups, setplay, safe jump, option select.
And, location permitting, go to arcades, it is as close to a tournament environment without actually being at one. There is something on the line – time waiting in the queue and the money you just put into the machine.