Yesterday we kicked off our Training With The Pros series by speaking with Australia's top-ranked StarCraft II player. Today we venture into the arcades to talk to one of Australia's best Marvel vs. Capcom 3 players, Tom "NefeliousG" Body.
For a lot of people, fighting games are about mashing the buttons as fast as you can until something on the screen explodes. But as any gamer who takes their fighting games seriously, there is a lot more to the genre than frantic button mashing: beyond knowing the characters and the moves, it's about the perfect timing, the right combination of character and moves, understanding your opponent and being able to think a step or five ahead. It's a skill that few get their heads around and even fewer master, and so it is with awe that we watch Tom "NefeliousG" Body play Marvel vs Capcom 3. The above video shows him up against the American East Coast's top-ranked player, Chris G, at this year's Evo 2k11 tournament.
So who is NefeliousG and how did he become so skilled at a game that would give most people an epileptic fit if they stare at it long enough?
Hey Tom! Can you introduce yourself to the Kotaku community? My name is Tom, but I play under the nickname of NefeliousG. I’m a Physics uni graduate working as a lab technician. The job is alright — I get a lot of downtime to look up strats (strategies) online haha, but since I work full-time I don’t get enough hours to put everything I read into practice. What's your international ranking in Marvel vs. Capcom 3? There isn’t really a proper ranking system for fighters at the moment, but I placed 25th equal at Evolution 2k11 in Marvel vs Capcom 3 and I’ve won every Australian tournament I attended so far except for Shadowloo Showdown, where I was placed 3rd behind the Japanese players Mago and Tokido.
What was the first game you ever fell in love with and what was so special about it? Street Fighter 2: World Warrior. Every time I smell deep fried chips it still reminds me of 40 cent Street Fighter. I used to play whenever I could with my brother, not just Street Fighter but at any fighting game. Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Double Dragon (the fighting game not the side scroller), Samurai Showdown, Mortal Kombat, you name it. Our dad used to hire out consoles from video stores and I would literally sprint home from school to max out the hours on it before we had to return it.
What attracted you to Marvel vs. Capcom? What is it about the fighting genre that appeals to you so much? It was X-Men vs Street Fighter that really got me started on the VS series (XvSF, MvC1 and 2 etc). Since I was terrible back then my goal was just to do beam supers; I couldn’t do the motions so I felt pretty great whenever I pulled them off!
I can’t really pin-point exactly what I love about fighters; it’s kind of a mixture of everything. The combos, the mind games, the competitiveness, the arcade culture, everything really. I really enjoy the learning phase, the part where you sit down and figure out what you can do to beat this tactic, or what sort of strategy you should be adopting against this team. Very few games combine this sort of strategic outlook with fast paced reaction and execution.
At which point did you decide that you wanted to compete professionally? Very few people in the world could make any sort of substantial income playing fighters at the time being, so I can’t really say I play professionally. I play purely because I love fighting games and they’re a lot of fun.
The point where I wanted to compete at the top level was in 2003 with Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution. With that game, it was the first time I met another player that had the drive to learn and be better. We trained and pushed each other, checked out forums and strats, and basically just tried to improve. We played for a few years before I moved onto Marvel vs Capcom 2, where I met pretty much the same players that I still play against today. I got into that game pretty late, and it was a good two years until I could start to scrape together wins against the old school players. Describe a typical training session. These days my training purely consists of playing against the best players possible, but when the game was still in its infant stages I used to do a lot. I would sit there with my friend Minh and discuss strats every Friday night in between matches, I would watch pretty much every video I could of the streams coming from America and Japan and really try to break down their matches, and I would play with the intent of learning in every match, even if it meant losing. I would read as much as I could, but there is so much misinformation out there that it is hard to filter out what is useful and what isn’t.
For Evo, I was training everyday for four hours after work, and had console sessions on weekends. A lot of very cool people put up a lot of money to send me to Las Vegas to compete, and the last thing I wanted was to be a fraud and not even do well.
I think what really helps the most is building up your own scene, so they can build you up in return. I never withheld information from anyone that asked, and did my best to help others level up. It really showed in the first national event (Ozhadou Nationals) where almost all the QLD players went on to make top 16, before taking out the top 3 spots. We knew all the dirty tactics because we shared the information around, so we weren’t worried about losing to something we hadn’t seen before. What are some of the common rookie errors you see people make when they're playing Marvel vs. Capcom? (Or any other fighting game for that matter?) There are so many, but what really sets back an average player from the best players is their mindset. Far too often I’ll see people blaming un-related factors for their losses, instead of sitting back and figuring out what’s really going on. You learn more when you lose then when you win, so putting your ego on the backseat while you figure out your opponent is definitely the one thing I’d like to see more players doing.
Besides that, playing to learn is another aspect a lot of people have trouble applying. I know some people who have bad habits, and know they have bad habits, but keep repeating them because they play every match like its the grand finals. It takes a lot of work to break down your muscle memory and build it back up again, and I think some people just find the auto-pilot mode where you can just do what you know too appealing.
What tips do you have for people who want to play at your level? Play to learn, be dedicated, and ask a lot of small questions. Try to think about your actions in terms or risk/reward. If you do a certain move, what sort of options do you have? Can your opponent punish you for it? Is it easy to punish? What sort of damage will you give/take given the different scenarios that can happen? What’s the best ranges to do it?
Try to break down your losses as much as you can so you can identify where your leaks are, find out what’s giving you the most issues. Once you’ve done that, hit the lab, find the counter for it, and put it into practice asap. Also remember to enjoy yourself! Half the fun is hanging out with like-minded people, getting better and trash talking each other. Street Fighter is a very social game, you’re likely to meet some pretty good friends and have some pretty fun times, and the more fun it is the more likely you’re going to keep coming back to play again.
Can you show us your gaming set-up?