Name: Ryan Joseph Hart
Handle: Prodigal Son
Origin: London, UK
Favourite games: Virtua Fighter Series, Third Strike, KOF Series, Tekken Series
OLD INTERVIEW FROM 2008!
1: When and how did you get into fighting games?
Ryan: I first started playing games when I was 10. The first game I played was Golden Axe on the arcade. As far as I can remember - apart from my stint with a vectrex whilst in hospital having a broken leg nursed - this was the first time I played a video or if not it was definitely the first time I ever saw an arcade machine.
I was just walking past a random taxi office when I saw the games inside. Not knowing a things about these machines, I ventured inside to take a closer look. I remember seeing Golden Axe, Double Dragon and there were some other early games too, obviously placed there to entertain customers while they awaited their taxis.
As the machines were vacant I decided to have a go and it was immediately amusing. I didn't really know what I was doing but the basics were clear, beat as many guys as you can without being killed.
I was so impressed by the mechanics of the machine, at the second I press a button it immediately produced a reaction on the screen and each button did something different, seeing this speed of light reaction through the game characters was immensely absorbing.
Much to my knowledge I was immediately hooked and started visiting the taxi cab office occasionally with friends. The taxi cab proceeded to get Capcom's Street Fighter game which is where my fighting games road officially began. Little did I know what was ahead of me, damn, I knew I shouldn't have put that 20p in. haha
2: For more than a decade, you have dominated at various fighting games. Tekken, Virtua Fighter and King of Fighters come to mind. Then later Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. Are there any other games that you specialize in, or want to add to your "to do" list?
Ryan: Well, all the Street Fighter games apart from Alpha 3 can be added already I think and there are some other games that I played loads and gotten to a competitive level at (Some examples are: Mortal Kombat Series, Power Instinct, Killer Instinct, World Heroes Series, Fighter's History, Breakers, Samurai Shodown, Pit Fighter, Mutant Fighter, Street Smart, Art of Fighting, Last Blade). I just never had the pleasure of entering events for those games as in many cases there weren't regional or national events held (or if they were I just never heard about them).
Even when there were marketing fuelled promotions to spark interest, minuscule budgets usually meant that the prizes were not enough to sustain mass interest from middle - lower level players or help gain a new following from the more casual audience making events like that not worthwhile in some ways.
Saying I was good at would be a blatant lie, haha but up until a certain point I had always wanted to get into AM3's Virtual On series as I really liked the style of the game, Katoki's creative prowess, and the technical differences in how each mecha robot (virtuaroid) had to be used and of course the control mechanism itself consisting of two joysticks was what I liked the most.
However after Namco Wonderpark on Great Windmill Street closed down which was our little gaming haven for years on end, there wasn't really anywhere to get competition on it and I didn't fancy emptying my wallet just to learn the game whilst I was in Japan.
3: What is your favourite fighting game at present and why?
Ryan: My favourite game is Virtua Fighter 5 R I would say, the VF series has always been my favourite ever since I started playing VF3 back in 1996. The mind games on this game are by far the most prominent. Sure every fighting game has mind games but the way you have to read your opponent in VF goes through to a deeper channel of psychology.
You definitely can't say that the other guy got lucky like you often hear on other games. If you lose on VF you really lose. It's a game where each move or type of move has it's direct purpose and that's it. You will rarely find a move that beats more than a couple of things and there is always something to beat something, so if you accurately guess a move then you are always rewarded.
The level of satisfaction for correctly guessing or winning on VF is next to none. This is not the case on other games. It's a shame that I can't actually play VF-R as we don't have it in Europe however it is my favourite game in any case.
Out of the games that I do play I would say my favourite is Street Fighter 3 Third Strike. The technicalities involved in playing this game are very enjoyable to use as well as watch. The game can be played in many different ways as the parry system allows for a level of freedom in one's activities. I think that this system also allows more technical players to exercise his/her own level of ability whilst not entirely forcing players to do so keeping the game accessible to a certain extent.
4: When was your first tournament, and what made you decide to enter?
Ryan: My first tournament was in 1994 on Capcom's Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. This event was held in the London Trocadero although it looked so different 15 years ago. I lived in Croydon at the time and we had a massive Street Fighter scene there too like most areas did back then. We had the top players and the average players and the up and coming ones as well. I'd say I was about average then, certainly nothing special.
When the tournament was announced everyone got really pumped up for it. Our top heads thought they had a chance, I thought they had a chance too as it goes. However when we went to the tournament we saw the game played in a way we didn't know possible. Combos into supers were unheard of before that day and boy, did we ever get introduced! :) I decided to enter as everyone was going there and I really wanted to do my best to see how far I could go...which wasn't very far but anyway...
5: What frame of mind are you in before a tournament, and how do you prepare yourself for one?
Ryan: There isn't really a process in my opinion, you always know what you're up against because you've usually got an idea of the competition. It's good to put yourself into certain match situations in your head before a tournament to prepare your mind.
For example it's good to dwell on important factors in a matchup you know. Like what beats your choices in a set situation, and then thinking about what beats the things that beat your choices and stuff like that. That preparation alone has won me countless tournaments. For the lengthy, game specific and more detailed answer, see below:
This is an interesting question that you always hear but in the case of fighting games I think the answer is a unique one. The feeling you have and mind frame to be in for each game is different and you learn this through experience. Let's take VF, Tekken and Third Strike as three examples.
I found that for Virtua Fighter, as it is a total lockdown game, you need to fully connect your brain to your hands to allow freedom of dexterity during the match. Sorry if it sounds too weird or technical, kinda hard putting these things into words at times.
Ok, lemme go again, bascially on VF you have to make sure that you won't allow yourself to freeze up and not do anything. This is common on vf for example and you can often see an amazing top player totally get destroyed in a big event due to this.
The mental lockdown can work in two ways. Totally freezing up and doing nothing or totally going all out on the attack and never blocking, a one track mind either way. This is not good as your brain is not exercising freedom of thought in sync with your gameplay.
Tekken is more of a patience and self control game I think, i.e. you want to attack but the time is not right. Although the game is played quickly, a whole lot of the time is actually spent waiting for the right moment, as almost anything on Tekken results in a big juggle. A lot of that time can be spent just spacing and looking for that big opening you need.
The psychology in Tekken is also pretty immense as well, you really have to get inside the head of the other player to a point where his general game is effected. Sounds cruel and mean right? Well, if you don't do it, you'll be on the receiving end. Your pick...haha
On Third Strike the guessing and mind frame on the day do the talking like the others but how 3s is different to the other two is that its more about gauge build up and intelligent use of the gauges in the match. The gauges make for interesting in game psychology as well as the parrying, spacing and zoning also.
Basically to put it bluntly, the parry system is a function inserted into Street Fighter that allows a player to freely express their mind's prediction at any given moment. That positively gives another dimension to the game and fortifies its potential.
6: Roughly how many events have you entered? and how many have you won?
Ryan: Oh wow, brag permission? Ok cool. I've entered well over 700 (799? lol) events I'd say, and I've won over 450 tournaments worldwide. :D (Ryan looks around his body) Man, where's the sell by date on this thing. lol
7: Over 450 tournaments.... WOW...What is your training Regime like?
Ryan: It's different on every game as you can imagine but generally I'd say whatever I plan to use in the match I'll make sure I have on lock 110%! If I need to use it once in a match I'll practice it til I can do it five times in a row. If I need to use it twice in a match, I'll do it ten times. etc
8: Do you class yourself as an offensive or defensive player? Would you like to improve in any particular area?
Ryan: I would class myself as an offensive player. I think games are more fun played in this manner. On fighting games I find defence is always easier and less enjoyable. I think it takes more skill to cleverly rush someone down than to defend depending on the characters and the circumstances perhaps. I would like to improve my defence, as I don't play as often as before, I don't defend like I used to.
9: Now that you are currently living in Germany, how do you keep trained up at fighting games? What is the scene like over there?
Ryan: Well to be honest, now that I'm there I don't play like before, for example I have no third strike comp there whatsoever so all I have is training mode and my seasonal London trip. I don't think I'm doing too badly though, I've still managed to maintain my winning streak :).
In any case, if I had to train for an event, I'd use the practice mode and make sure I could do everything all the time, all hit confirms, combos, setups, etc. I'd make those fluid before attempting to participate in any big events and I'd advise anyone else in my situation (without a big gaming scene around them) to do the same.
Experience is the key here too, just knowing the game helps big time and once you know a game that knowledge doesn't fade too quickly. The only offline scene here is for Tekken and I occasionally play with the guys here but most of them are casual players and not serious about the game. This isn't good for my training but it's fun to hang with them anyway. :)
10: Looking back at past events/tournaments, which one stood out the most?
Ryan: This is hard to say, I really appreciate every tournament I enter win or lose so there isn't really one that stands out more than all the others. I think one of my very recent wins in Spain was quite significant. In the grand finals opponent was from winners bracket and I was from losers bracket in a double elimination finals. I was 3 games down in a first to 5 game match, meaning he only needed 2 more games to win and me off. Then I managed to really get into his game and I won 10 games in a row to win the tournament. I was very happy about that.
11: Are there any players that you have your sights on at the moment? Players that are hard to beat, or you want to learn from?
Ryan: No not really to be honest. I'm not being arrogant in any way with this, there are of course many players out there who are better than me no doubt, and there are many worldwide players who I respect, but it's still no, no and no as I don't really have anyone in my reachable vicinity that I would say I can't wait to challenge, etc. :)
I like playing the top UK and French players on 3s, but apart from them I don't really feel challenged on that game in Europe to be honest but when I play Zak, for example I really have to think and I like it. I think this guy may have a promising future ahead of him.
12: What advice would you give to players that want to improve their game and possibly become the next "Prodigal Son"?
Ryan: I would say whatever you want to play, try to always play from the heart, enjoy the game, don't play "to be something" at least not at first anyway. If you enjoy playing the game and you have decent competition and you want to get good, you will get good. After that I think you should try to develop yourself using your own creativity and originality, try new things, experiment. You never know what will happen!
13: Should people watch videos to improve their game?
Watching videos is good to get ideas but not to copy what I see directly. I always like to do things my own way and keep things in my own style of play. If I see something like a nice trick done in a match, I'll sometimes go to training mode and play around with the trick and think about what else can be done with it.
I can sometimes push a trick or tactic even further using this method and derive something totally unique. Using videos to develop yourself especially for a new game is best done this way as it's important to exercise one's own creativity with fighting games. It's all the creative guys winning anyway so people who directly just copy what they see without really understanding why it works or what can be done from there are not really strong.
14: Should people use books and tier lists from Asian countries to improve their game?
By all means use whatever you like, but understand what you are using and don't follow it blindly. If a tier list says a certain character is fifth in the ranking look for things in the sixth character that could make him better than the fifth.
If a guide shows a certain tactic, test it out and see if there is something better than what the guide says or a way out of what the guide says. Be stubborn in this way, always look for more things and never settle for just anything or believe anything you hear. This is one method of evolution that Europe severely lack at the moment.
When Japanese guides are released they only show the best tactics up until that stage in player development there but early guides are never anything like the later guides when the game has been out for longer. Why always have to wait for that later guide?
It's better to just find the stuff yourself and use it before others discover it and it becomes common knowledge. That's what using creativity in games is all about. That is why Japanese players are so good, they are always looking for that next trick, that next tactic to give themselves the edge in competition.
If you want to be a robot just work in a factory. lol If you want to be a sheep there are couple fields ready init. The sheep won't mind sharing couple strands of grass I'm sure. :) My point is nothing is set in stone, just because it's words in a book it doesn't make it gospel.
Tier lists change every week even for games over ten years old, and there are always various versions of games before the final version. This means the game creators and tier list creators themselves don't even get it right. So these things should only be used as guidelines and nothing more.
A character should never be chosen merely on who someone who you don't even know says is best. Create your own tactics and find out who the best character is for you by yourself, this is the way to make a game scene stronger as a unit. If all UK players were doing this we'd be much better at all games for sure. We shouldn't follow people who are also learning too, what sense does that make? Blind lead the blind yeah? No thanks.
15: Do you need to learn frames to be good at a fighting game?
No, you don't. I didn't know anything about frames when I was the UK champion on Tekken 3, VF3 and KOF 96. I got beatdown (proper bruckup) so badly on VF during the first part of my first ever trip to Japan, I thought I'd never be good at VF seriously despite already being the UK champion.
However by the time I'd been there a month I could consistenly compete with all top Jap players on their level. Top players at the time where people like Masuku-do hijitetsu (Iron Elbow Jacky), Chibita, Segaru, High Tower Akira, Skeleton and Bun Bun Maru just to name a few so you know I'm really talking about the top top level.
I just knew the guesses in the situations and that was enough and VF is as technical as it gets. I knew nothing about frames and I'm sure some of my losses are partial to that but to think that frames are necessary to be good is absurd. I will add that although frames were not necessarily necessary once I knew the game, learning the frames later on did however help to understand the game better and improve myself even more.
Frames are really for high level I think and cannot be used efficiently until a person is already really good at the game anyway. If you don't know the game well yet, then you shouldn't be trying to use frames anyway. Once a player is experienced in a game, only then does knowing the frames really help and add additional leverage during battle.