Galloping Ghost Arcade is one of the largest arcades in the nation. With over 300 cabinets on display, there’s never a shortage of games to play. Over the course of a few months, GGA quickly became my home away from home. I stop by nearly every Thursday for a local fighting game gathering called Windy City Showdown. What’s great is that we have our own room dedicated to fighting games and all we have to do is bring a setup. The Illinois fighting game scene has really thrived because of GGA and it’s only getting bigger.
A few weeks ago, Tom Brady and Perfect Legend stopped by the arcade to check things out. I got a chance to speak with them for a few hours about a variety topics, including the current state of Mortal Kombat, the importance of local scenes, and whether or not Perfect Legend is still competing after winning EVO. This interview should give you a good idea of what goes on in the mind of a Mortal Kombat player after it has been patched repeatedly.
Both of you guys have been hit pretty hard with these patches. What are your thoughts on the current iteration of Mortal Kombat and has it affected your morale for the game?
Perfect Legend: It goes back and forth. It has made me not want to play the game anymore. It has also made me want to light a fire under me. But then I’m back to parting with it because I’ll see a character that’s able to do some really ridiculous stuff, while my character doesn’t have the tools to fight that anymore. And then latest patch was specifically made to nerf my character [Kung Lao]. Other characters got buffed. Some things were taken away – it makes me not want to play.
They’re just trying to make it harder for me for no reason while making it easier for other people. I mean they [NetherRealm] said they were balancing the game for competitive reasons but it seems like they’re balancing things for their own selfish purposes instead. There’s no reason why [some things were changed]. I can see how in early patches they gave some people armor or changed Shang [Tsung] because he was stupid and changed Sub-Zero because he really dominated some characters.
It was kind of ridiculous but, in general, they gave Sub-Zero stuff – I don’t care what you say [Tom Brady] – they gave him more time for somebody to be frozen and he can just rush people down in the corner. I can’t do that. I can’t do a low hat without worrying about someone reacting to it and jumping at me and killing me.
Tom Brady: He needs it.
PL: That’s why I’m playing Cyrax. Next character I play, like Cyrax or anyone else – If one of my characters gets nerfed again after I win a tournament with them, I’ll quit.
TB: My take on these patches is that it has been frustrating because I fell behind. I actually felt the same way as [Perfect Legend] at one time because when I learned the game it was totally different. I learned the foundation of what I wanted to do with Sub-Zero and then, for personal reasons, I wasn’t really able to play the game at all from CEO – when I was at grand finals – all the way to right about EVO time. I went to East Coast Throwdown and I hadn’t really played the game in several weeks. I was playing this version [of Mortal Kombat] for the first time where everyone has armor or whatever. I’m like “Okay”. And then my damage – I don’t have my damage anymore.
And even going into EVO I got to the point where I went to Kung Lao because I thought he would be the easiest to win with. Of course, I know a lot of people felt this way. I’ve done well at a lot of tournaments, placed top at almost every tournament but I still didn’t win, which is what I think [Perfect Legend’s] point is. Doing well is one thing. You could be a good player and do well with any character but that doesn’t mean picking another character and still winning is easy, which is why I can understand his frustration.
I went to Kung Lao for that reason and I wasn’t able to win majors with him. I kinda went to him – I left Sub-Zero and Jonny Cage – because I was thinking “Okay, I don’t know what to do in this game anymore”, and then they patched it again and took away his reset. It made me kind of upset, but I think I didn’t have anyone to play. I was really playing a version of the character that didn’t exist anymore. I had basically told myself that it’s my fault and I kind of stopped complaining about the game and the patches. Now that I have someone to play, I can change what I want to do for this version of the game. That’s when I realized that they actually made Sub-Zero better.
If I had never approached [Mortal Kombat] with an opened mind and just put all the blame on myself, as opposed to the character and the game, then I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I also wouldn’t be where I am right now without someone to play against. The difference is that his point is that, while Sub-Zero has received several nerfs, his tools and his core fundamentals are still where they are.
PL: They look away my tools and my damage.
TB: He [Perfect Legend] has to relearn a lot of stuff.
PL: I was told – I’m not going to say by who – that it’s my fault for exploiting the game that they changed him [Kung Lao].
TB: I think the game is very good now and I kind of like the pace change. I know people complain about the dash but I like the pace change. I can’t remember the last time I dashed at all. I think footsies actually exist now, where before you can kind of just machine gun dash. I think the game has been changed for the better and I heard a rumor that there’s going to be another hotfix at some point to fix some of the stuff like Cyrax and so forth.
I think – at the end of the day, when they’re finally done with the game – that [Mortal Kombat] will be pretty solid. We had a chance to talk to people from NetherRealm and they talk to a lot of players when they’re at events. Basically, for everyone out there that’s saying “Oh, I don’t want to play this game, my character keeps getting changed” – the tech that you come up with is going to stay, so just play the game and support the game. That’s what I’m going to do.
What are your thoughts on the current iteration of Mortal Kombat? Kung Lao aside, do you think the patches have actually benefited the game in the long run or do you think that it has hindered the experience?
PL: I think it’s…. I’m going to be real. I don’t like it. I don’t like how it’s harder to get in on Kabal, certain characters that zone. You can’t really get next to them because the way they nerfed the dash. Kitana can still just throw air fans from across the screen. It’s a lot harder to get in since you can’t dash block anymore. Me, I used to dash block but I can’t do it as much anymore because the dash nerf is so stupid now. Jax still has 100% percent combos in the corner and random frame advantage off a string. Cyrax still does 70% resets or even 80% resets. I still feel like the game is exactly the same.
What would you do to improve the game?
PL: For one, I would bring dashing back to the way it was. I wish there were attacks that actually broke armor so that you can go through those moves. I would also fix jump kicks. I think they should be untechable knockdowns because right now, there’s no point. Someone can be doing low jab all day and they catch you once and you get caught. Jump kick is the only thing to beat that but it doesn’t really give you anything, unless you have something like say Raiden’s Superman into the corner. Those are the biggest problems to me. You can’t really combat down 1s, even on the ground. Johnny Cage and freaking Sonya stuff – you can’t do anything about it. I wish they would make it so you can 2-in-1 more normals on the ground and then it’d probably be more fair.
TB: I think the dash is good. I know some people don’t agree with me.
PL: You play Sub-Zero…
TB: I used to dash just as much as anyone.
PL: You play Sub-Zero though. It’s hard to get in on him.
TB: Well for me, walking and not dashing has made me a better player. I think the way the game has changed – and me changing my strategy around it – made me realize that the problem was me playing a character that no longer existed. And crying for no reason…
PL: You have to take this into account: You can walk around, yeah, if you have an ice clone on screen. You don’t have to worry about someone doing a random move. You can walk away from a shadow kick or dive kick or superman because of the clone protecting you. Of course you can walk around! No one else can do that.
TB: When the game changes you have to change with it. I mean – when defenders couldn’t rough up receivers as much, that doesn’t mean you stop covering people; you just find a different way to cover that works within the rules. So a character like Kitana, instead of chasing her down using a lightning fast dash, you just make her chase you because she doesn’t have any tools to attack; You just have to change along with how the matchups work.
Kitana is considered very powerful now. Not that she’s not as good as she really is. I think eventually a lot of top players are going to start attacking more because everyone is going to start saying “Why chase her? We can’t dash. She can’t dash either.” That will make her more aggressive and the more life she loses, the harder it’ll be to come back. Except for Crazy Dominican, who I think is the only Kitana that I’ve seen play at a different level.
I think even Kabal corners himself into containment, but it’s easy to say that when you have an ice clone, which is Perfect Legend’s point. I still think there’s something there for other characters to look into. I just think that people sometimes need to look into counter picking. I know [Perfect Legend] doesn’t like counter picking but it is a part of fighting games. There are ways to fight everything at this point and I’m pretty sure NetherRealm knows about the things people find unfair. Think back to the Jax stuff we talked about, it’s eventually going to get worked out. I think MK9 will be better off overall.
One thing I noticed about you guys is that you really go out of your way to help other players. You could tell that some of them were just barely learning the game. You guys actually took the time to help them out. That’s something I don’t usually see. We’ve had top level players come to GGA before and they usually just body people and leave. Why didn’t you guys just do that?
PL: It’s important to any fighting game scene – regardless of how big or small – that there are more strong players. It just makes the game and the scene stronger – so if we can help in any small instances, it helps push things to the next level.
TB: This is true. I think one of the biggest misconceptions with fighting games is that you have the elite players in the area and they’ll look at someone who’s new to the game and say “he’s free”. You hear that term all the time. You don’t know how good this guy could be; in reality this guy could potentially get to a high level and help you go further than you ever would. But because you didn’t help him, he gets frustrated and says “you know what, I quit”.
So the thing is, you never really know the potential of the person sitting next to you. Let’s say one of the guys we were helping out [at Ignite Network] says “You know what, I didn’t know these things. I was getting ready to quit this game.” So he comes back in as a stronger player and helps out your best players. It’s just like a cycle and it really helps improve fighting games. It doesn’t take that much time. Most people just want a simple answer. They’re not asking you how to be best player in the world, they’re just asking you “how do I get out of this?” It takes two seconds to help them.
PL: The biggest thing for fighting games is the learning curve. It’s really hard to get over that. With shooters you can just – even at a basic level – get in and understand how to play. With fighting games, you have to buy a guide or watch some videos just to learn.
TB: I’m not trying to knock shooters because there is a high level to them – but at a beginner level it’s basically point, aim, run, jump, and shoot. It’s basically the same for every shooting game. And while obviously there are way more advanced levels than what I’m speaking about, just the basics for shooting games are kind of universal. Whereas for a fighting game, most people sit there and play and say “I don’t even know how to play”. I got a simple question yesterday: “how do I anti-air somebody with a jab?”. He couldn’t even do that, you know, so we just teach him how to do it.
Yeah, it was amazing watching you guys doing that. I was doing commentary with Medina and we mentioned it because it’s something you just don’t see often. I wanted to thank you guys for doing that because you guys are top level players, and Tom Brady, you wrote The Living Guide. You get a lot of crap online but so many people use your strategies. A lot of people depend on you to level up, whether or not they want to admit it. It’s really good for the community.
TB: A lot of top level players forget that…
PL: They all used to be scrubs.
TB: Well, scrubs, I don’t really like that term.
PL: Ok, scrubs, beginners, whatever.
TB: I mean, the thing is, what people don’t realize, gaming has changed. It used to be the old school gaming mentality, you know, just like how everything has changed. Sports has changed. You know how they talk about football in the old days where it was all smash mouth and everybody hated each other? You can’t do that anymore, so what are you going to do? Stop playing football? Obviously not.
It’s the same thing with gaming. There used to be this time in gaming where it really wasn’t getting the attention it’s getting now. Gaming requires technology. So as technology improves, gaming will become bigger in the world and in the subculture. But in the old days, it was common to “put the scrubs in their place.” I think everyone is familiar with that attitude on any message board.
The difference in gaming is that a lot of these guys come out just to support their players saying “Hey, this guy is good and I really want to learn from him.” When they go out there, they get talked down to and they lose interest. I think fighting games in general have been shooting themselves in the foot for a long time. Fighting games turn on themselves all the time, you know?
No matter who it is, don’t ever look at someone like they’re not worth your time. Somebody might say “I’m not going to play this game if only ten people play it”. Well, if thirty people play it then that guy might say “Yeah, I’ll play. Thirty people? Sure, it looks like fun”.
That’s it for now. In part 2 of our interview, Perfect Legend and Tom Brady talk about the recent trend of demanding patches, why they even play Mortal Kombat, and more.