NAME: David Boudreau, aka XSPR
HOMETOWN: I played in Boston, before moving to Japan
YEARS PLAYING SF2: since CE/HF days
papasi: Weapon of choice?
XSPR: Any standard Japanese arcade parts I guess, since I’m used to that. I think everyone prefers Japanese buttons at least. As for square/octo gates I’m not even sure what the difference in feel is actually, off the top of my head.
papasi: Tournament results?
XSPR: For ST, one highlight was 3rd place at a tournament in Ikebukuro (Tokyo) with ST sim, in AE. I also got first or second place a few times in local tournaments, outside of the Tokyo area. Before I moved to Japan, I think the best I did was get 2nd in an A3 tournament (Eight on the Break in NJ). Eddie Lee got first, I knocked him into losers’ bracket that tournament, but he managed to come back to win it all in the finals.
papasi: Favorite fighting game?
XSPR: ST is what I’m focused on. I have very little interest in learning another fighting game all over again.
papasi: You have been around for a long time but since you moved to japan a long time ago, many new people do not know you. Can you give us a little background of your gaming history?
XSPR: I saw SF1 the first time at a big arcade. When it first came out, it had the two big buttons and it wasn’t until later that our local bowling alley’s arcade got the 6 button layout version. This was about 1987.
I actually first saw World Warrior in Hong Kong while visiting there, but didn’t play it because it was way too crowded and I wasn’t focused on games then. It was obviously popular though. I didn’t get back into games until the end of CE days, right before HF came out but it wasn’t until ST days that I started with agsf2 and finding out more about competitive scenes. The Internet was about to gain serious traction in society around this time, 1994 to 95, and it allowed the scene to organize and find out about tournaments.
I met up at an NYC gathering then and got involved. It was a lot of fun to meet up with people that were all into the same game. I was not good enough to play at any high level though, and had a “play to win” mindset so I picked Akuma sometimes. It was bad form to compete like this of course, and it was the familiar scenario: you go to an event, you don’t lose EVERY game, so you think you’re alright maybe. But pretty quickly you find out that others don’t quite remember it that way.
Soon after this, Alpha 1 came out and people flocked to the shiny new game but I was disappointed when all the ST machines started disappearing from my area. I didn’t like A1, and I really didn’t like A2 because it seemed more in the same direction that A1 took. You could block fireballs in the air, and even block a DP in the air, but not normal moves, so eventually people just did crouch HP instead of risking a DP, and if it traded it was almost always in your favor anyway. I got more interested in HF at the time, which still had a few players but that was dying out.
At the MIT arcade, from about 96 to 98, I played with Jeff Perlman, Scott Bradburn, Zass and Sirlin. All of those guys were a lot better than I was but I was getting better. Zass and Sirlin were from California and had played with the best guys there, where they held the biggest tournaments. During those years, the Xmen/Marvel games got a lot of attention but I couldn’t play those at all (so I stuck with A2 then). I didn’t realize it at the time, but the best players in our area-- and maybe the entire country-- of those Vs. games (Trien Ho and Jimmy Fong) were actually really good, and when I heard about MvC2 becomming so popular in the US later on, I think they had stopped playing for the most part by then, but did win vs the other best players like Eddie Lee (or Jwong? I can’t remember) early on. I liked SF3 when it came out, but that never caught on much either in the area.
One of the more memorable tournaments I read and heard about from others was B3, Battle By the Bay in California. Then about 6 to 8 Months later, on an unusually warm winter day at the MIT arcade, B2 was held when John Choi faced Sirlin in the finals, Zass got 3rd and Scott 4th I think (Choi’s shoto vs. Scott’s Sakura was the best tournament match that day, Scott had him shut down in the corner but Choi CC’d through a fb for this massive comeback).
I went to any tournament that I could manage to afford getting to or had the time. On the East Coast, it was more spread out and the best place for us to meet was in NJ, at the “Eight on the Break” arcade with tournaments run by Todd Dwyer. I think one of the best A2 players was Omar from around the VA area (?) on the East Coast. I also went to a tournament in Philly once, also run by Todd, and drove down to NYC a bunch of times.
Alpha 3 came out during the summer of 98. I became one of the best A3 players on the East Coast. Trien and Jimmy played this too, and after 6 to 8 months, they caught up to where they could beat me a lot of the time. Scott and Jeff were still around, but Zass and Sirlin had moved back to California. I held a few local tournaments. I went to the big A3 tournament in late summer of 98 in California, that’s where I met a bunch of top WC players I’d heard about for a while and I also met DreamTR and CigarBob. After the tournament, we went to a special arcade that had Japanese cabinets with the “head to head” setup, and I had never seen Street Fighter on anything like that. I was amazed at the setup: each game had 2 screens, completely separated, with plenty of elbow room. I didn’t like having to sit down but other than that it was awesome. I only played ST but DreamTR was playing A2. His opponent didn’t like throws in the game, and started throwing this huge tantrum. He shouted all these loud threats for a bit, but DreamTR didn’t leave the game, kept right on playing so this other guy started kicking chairs, just looking for a physical fight. He got kicked out of the arcade as diplomatically as possible (but I think he came back 20 minutes later to break a window or something?). Everyone from those arcade days have their stories like this. Even at MIT’s serene, relatively protected environment of an arcade, I was there with Jeff (and Chi? or someone else) and these other guys showed up and they didn’t like throws or something, either. One said to Jeff as they’re playing, “Do that again, watch what happens”, or something like that, in a way like he was going to start something. I remember thinking, I hope something bad doesn’t happen, but if it does, I can’t just sit by the sidelines. It was a little tense at one point but I think we just got them kicked out.
In 1999 I moved to Japan, and got a lot better at A3. A lot of people played it and there were lots of arcades. There was an event in Tokyo I went to that Zass told me about- “Team USA vs. Team Japan” in a bunch of games, including ST. So I attended this and saw Japan sweep the US in everything except MvC2 (I hardly ever saw that game in Japan, it just wasn’t played much at all here). The US won MvC2 convincingly, but lost 3S just as convincingly. But then online all these people in the US said things like, “oh it was so close overall, we’re about as good, if only this had happened and if that had happened, we might have just as easily won, so they won technically but we think we’re just as good in our hearts”, etc. Exactly like me and so many others after his first tournament or gathering.
Around 2001 to 2002, I got to a point where, in my local area, I had a shot at 3rd in local A3 tournaments on my best days. Our best players were YMD, and 443. 443 had lived in Tokyo before and knew Bas (DA4). He wasn’t as good as Bas, but far above almost everyone in our area except YMD. 443 was somewhat known among top players for coming up with the most creative VC combos in the game. In 2003 I moved to Yokohama, and got back into ST. I played at Kameraya-san’s arcade almost every day that year.
After that, AE came out and gathered up the scene again. I preferred ST but it was a close substitute, and there were lots of local tournaments held for it. It’s not fun to pay for games vs. CE characters though with their damage scaling and dizzies. But it also set off a resurgence in ST, so more tournaments were held for ST as well.
papasi: So what brought you to play ST?
XSPR: I started playing ST when it came out, and soon I got involved in the larger scene during college, which the newsgroups helped organize and you could find out gatherings and arrange tournaments so more people would show up.
After the gathering in NYC where I met s-kill, inkblot, Dave Spence, and I think Omar was at that one too, I organized a money match (the first one ever maybe?) with some local friends of mine in the Boston area right after this, who were great HF players but not nearly as much in ST. I called my guys the “Rising Dragons”, and put up $100. It didn’t work out so well! We lost. We had other bets for less, but only managed to win one of them. Zass played us in the last one I held, he used boxer, and I even used Akuma (since I was a lot worse than anyone, they actually allowed this!) but they still won. None of those guys plays anymore, except Zass maybe. It wasn’t until A3 days where I could get to that kind of level and win like that. So I didn’t get rich playing the game but slowly got better and better.
After this, Alpha 1 started to appear in arcades. I was wondering why people wanted to play the new game when I thought the old one (ST) was better. But that’s where the competition went, a trend that’s always been true in games. I could picture a day like today when people would still be playing ST but most people thought that idea was crazy. Anyway, ST just disappeared from my area so I dragged myself, kicking and screaming through A1/A2, and never really able to compete at all in the Xmen/Marvel stuff.
So here is the big gap for ST- I was always interested in it, but even on consoles it was a while before there were any ports of ST. During A2 days I played a lot with Scott Bradburn who had a nasty ambiguous cross-up with Sakura, and that’s the game I played most with no ST around. There was a tiny arcade that had a HF machine at my school, and I got some people into that but it was never more than about 5 to 10 consistent players. A3 came out in 98, and I went to Japan in 99.
Japan was an entirely different atmosphere. Arcades were well-lit, clean places with attentive staff. There were a lot more arcades (though, the number has gone down) and finding competition wasn’t really a problem, for many games. It took me a little while to get used to sitting down every time I played games, having stood up in arcades my whole life, and I never really got used to all the cigarette smoke esp in some arcades but other than that they’re great places.
I bought a car after a month or two living here, a small 660cc engine Subaru, that I taught myself stick-shift on. It was a lot of fun driving around in a completely new country. I was living in a small city, well outside the Tokyo area so it made sense to have a car but if you live in Tokyo, the train system is excellent (only, it doesn’t run 24 hours, it stops around 12/1am) and generally too crowded/impractical for a car. I have a Japanese driver’s license, and getting that was pretty crazy because you have to memorize a path through a cordoned-off special track. There are also a few really dumb traffic laws that are potentially dangerous, if anyone actually follwed them. At gas stations, it’s common to see young, even attractive females work at these kinds of places. “Do you have any trash that I can empty for you sir?” “Huh? Oh yeah, here, thanks” (hand her the pile of used tissues and food wrappers from the floor seat). It was all full-service back then. Only recently have self-serve stations come into popularity, and that was only about 3 years ago. You don’t pay a human, you just use a vending machine type of system to pay. At some places, the nozzles drop down from a roof and you park kind of under them.
So with my car, I started driving down to Tokyo on weekends, mostly for A3. I tracked down Daigo and played with him a few times at his usual arcade, which isn’t there anymore. It was mostly for A3, but the first time, we also played ST as well once. I didn’t understand nearly as much about the game back then so just got destroyed left and right. I could manage much better in A3 games but nowhere as good as he was.
It wasn’t until 2003 that I got back into ST. I played at Kameraya-san’s usual arcade called 7 Islands. Kamerya played ken, guile, and is said to have the best footsie game. I played there almost every day that year. We’d get occasional visits by Kurahashi (guile, ryu, ken), top Zangief players, and Komoda Blanka. This was when I got a pretty solid ground game and really enjoyed Ryu again. There was an active player base and people were coming up with little new strategies all the time. My reversal DPs got a lot better and more consistent. Many top US players downplay Execution, but once you start being able to perform DPs that just come up despite initial expectations, kind of like Chilean miners, the fear factor goes up and it really shakes their mixup game as you get up from knockdowns.
papasi: Do you like Japan’s single elimination character locked tournament or US’s double elimination free for all tournament?
XSPR: Actually, I really like the round robin/pools format of tournament, where you have the most chances to play the most number of other players. Having been to so many tournaments, I think this serves the fighting game players the best. One of our main core values as a community is the competition, and we have always rewarded the top players with priority. If anyone deserves recognition, it is obviously those people. But I often wonder, can we have more of the entrants play each other, while still doing that? I think the main question everyone at a tournament would like answered is not “who is the best” because it’s often known who has the best chances before it even starts. I think it would better serve the community if we could answer for each person “How do I stack up in all this?” as much as possible.
papasi: How much time do you play per week?
XSPR: maybe 5 to 10 hours when I’m active with it, but next to zero when not.
papasi: Do you play SF4?
XSPR: I’m not particularly interested in learning SF4 because I don’t want to relearn street fighter all over yet again. There’s nothing so wrong with ST that I would want to devote my time to 4. I said the same thing about Alpha1 when it came out, but where I was at the time, the ST cabinets disappeared rapidly. I can still find people to play ST and since it’s been around for so long, I’m sticking with that.
papasi: Speaking of SF4, recently Daigo has started using headphone when he’s playing tournament oversea. Do you prefer the US style tournament where there are more “hype” (and also come with more “noise”) ?
XSPR: I’m all for enforcing super-strict rules at tournaments. The same way it’s done in tennis, or golf tournaments. “Why can’t Street Fighter be more like… golf?” I realize I take an extreme view on all this (and I realize it’s not likely to ever happen), but closed-circuit cameras/soundproof booths for the players sounds awesome to me! Top players endure crowd noise distractions, but they should not have to, in my utopian, idealized view of how things ought to be. In any case, I definitely don’t want people calling Daigo a bitch over the announcer’s mic, or calling Andre his n-word. Suppress that urge, homeslice! It just makes it all look unprofessional, esp. if tournaments are charging a lot more these days just to enter.
papasi: What about HDR? Do you play it? I noticed you were invited to one of online tourney organized by Otochun. And you are playing classic mode on XBL from time to time.
XSPR: I absolutely prefer ST over HDR, but HDR is the only version on a modern console so I’ve been playing a lot of that lately, ever since I upgraded to Windows 7 last year (ggpo’s framerate gets all choppy and uneven in Windows 7). A friend of mine wanted to play HDR so he got me a point card to get it. Some players on Live ask me how I got so good in HDR, and I say for a modern console, it’s As Good As It Gets: I started with ST, then I took away reason and accountability.
Look, it’s like this guy Rakim, who said, “Don’t need to remix it, why prefix it, reversed and switched it? ST performed to near perfection, section for section”. They tried to TAKE it, say that all the OG’s and player base, are too small. Cool, we don’t need to get upset. But once you actually play it on your console it’s hard not to pull the plug and kick a hole in your TV set. Jet back to the lab, without a stick to grab. And then you add all the changes they had. There was AE, now HDR-- One after the other one, then they make another one, you start to wonder, when will they be done? I just want to play ST, I get a craving, like a fiend for nicotine. But I don’t need a cigarette. Know what I mean? I’m just raging, ripping it up on the stage and, don’t it sound amazing? Fiending for the original, like heroin–After 12, I’m worse than a gremlin. Feed me ST and I start trembling. The thrill of suspense is intense, you’re horrified. But this ain’t the cinemas or “Tales From the Darkside”. By any means necessary, is HDR what had to be done? “Make way ST, cause here HDR comes!”?? The remixer cuts material, acts like some Grand Imperial. It’s a must that I bust any imitator you hand to me.
This “remix” is not likely to last anywhere near as long as ST. The original ST has been played and featured in tournaments for nearly 20 years and it’s still going. I will continue playing ST.
I think the remixer even won an award for game “design” after HDR initially sold so many copies- but to my knowledge he has yet to design his first shipped video game. HDR is a “remix”; he moved some hitboxes around according to his personal views, but the game itself was already designed basically, and HDR sold well because the title included long-standing intellectual properties owned by Capcom including the familiar title “Super Street Fighter II Turbo”, the Capcom trademarked logo, and all the familiar Capcom characters. If it had been called “David Sirlin’s Greatest Remix of a Fighting Game”, I doubt it would have sold as many copies. I’m sure he’d say something like, “The Art of Sun Tsu says, that the winner of the game design award is won before you even design any video game at all.” He didn’t really design a game, but he seems to have faked it very well.