If you are a Street Fighter enthusiast who likes to learn from top players, this is an interview you won’t want to miss. In addition, this is a real treat for Balrog players because we are interviewing one of the most knowledgeable and skilled Boxer players in the world. With that Said, let’s hear what Brian Foster Aka “Brian F” has to say about the game, the industry, and what it takes to become a competitive player.
Thanks to Brian for his time and his insightful answers.
Now, on with the interview.
1-. We can start with a traditional question at F101 and ask for some background information on you as a gamer. Could you share your top 5 favorite games of all time? It doesn’t matter if the games are not all fighting games. Just a top 5 of games you find to be your favorite.
- This game started it all. It is what got me hooked on competitive gaming and led me on the path I am on today. 1v1 me on Lockout, rifles only.
Street Fighter 4
- My first street fighter game, what introduced me to the community. I have never put so much time into any other game/hobby. Truly life changing.
Super Mario Sunshine
- GOAT Mario, don’t @ me
The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker
- Beautiful game, so relaxing and so much to explore
Crash Bandicoot 2
- My first console was the Playstation, this game was the one to get me hooked on gaming
2-You have mentioned in other interviews that you liked the execution aspect of SF4. This brings up the question of the old school fighting games. To those of us who started with games like Super Turbo, SF4 was a very lenient game with easier inputs. Have you ever player old school execution-heavy games like Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and the Alpha Series? What are your thoughts on those games?
I have barely touched old school fighting games. I like execution in fighting games, but there needs to be a limit. Some input leniency for executing specials is a good thing. I think being able to do a move should be simple, being able to perform a high-damage combo should be complex. With that, I feel doing specials/supers is a little on the side of excessive in old school fighters, but I 100% have more appreciation for the things top players pull off in those games.
As for Alpha, I literally have no idea what is happening when I see footage of that game. I’m an 09’er haha.
Match Highlight 1
Brian_F vs. Momochi – Final Round XX:
“My first breakthrough match of the CPT 2017 season. I choked on going 2-0 vs. momochi but in a way, the dramatic choke got my name out more than if I had just cleanly won. It opened my eyes to the possibility that I can beat the top players and that players were scared of me and my character”
3-I released a video at F101 that discusses the breach between the old school and the new generation of fighting games. In my opinion, SFV is the beta for a game that is meant to be optimized for e-sports. This means that execution will continue to be lowered, and flashy combos will probably continue to be made even easier.
The point is that gaming is now a profitable business, and this means that easy and fun will be a priority over complex and intricate. Fair or not, it seems to make sense from a business standpoint. What are your thoughts on this?
I agree that it appears Capcom is trying to capitalize on an esports model that encourages newer players to join, feel like they are capable of playing, then make them loyal consumers who purchase DLC. The problem with this is long time fans feel alienated by not having advance techniques to perfect to set them apart from the average, and it creates the issue of “when everybody is special, nobody is special”.
Everyone can employ the same tactics/combos that top players do. This makes the game become stale very fast. It’s intended to capture the intention of an outsider to the community flipping through channels on TV. Suddenly they stumble on ELeague on TBS and see flashy crush counter combos and huge damage/comebacks. It’s hype. It’s like a fireworks show or a huge explosion in an action movie.
The issue is, if the viewer then watches the next event, they quickly see, it’s the same fireworks show or action scene over and over. It loses it’s spectacle. The subtlety of past titles like SF4 had beauty in everything the players were NOT doing. This is lost on a casual viewer, but loved by those who understand what is happening in the player’s mind. Now in SFV, the emphasis is to ALWAYS do. Always press, always go for max damage, always jump, etc. It’s the same fireworks show on every weekend.
4-The mainstream has always been about the money. The old school players complain about extremely casual friendly execution, and lack of true reward for technical ability. If they refused to play the new games, someone else will be happy to take their place and pocket the money. This is the reason why I feel that companies like Capcom are probably not too worried about those who complain about the drastic changes.
Do you feel like the FGC would get better results if games maintained the same difficulty in execution that they had in the past? In other words, do you think it’s worth trying to fight against that change, even when that change is responsible for making the FGC profitable?
I think the execution barrier is only a small part of what keeps fighting games niche. Capcom focused on lowering barrier to entry, but did not provide a complete gaming experience. The UI, the game modes, the sound design, the story, arcade mode, the POLISH. These elements bring casuals in. In a traditional fighting game, it doesn’t matter how easy you make execution unless you go full Smash Brothers. SFV combos, infinitely easier than combos of past street fighter games, are STILL too hard for someone who has never played a fighting game before to pick up and do right away. It will always take time to learn.
The problem is, casuals don’t like losing when they are the less skilled player. It causes them distress. No matter how easy you make it, there will always be more skilled/less skilled players. The focus needs to be on the overall gaming experience for casuals to enjoy the game. Then, an extremely small percentage of those who enjoy the game on a surface level, can start to peel back the layers to understanding it from a competitive standpoint. Until that is done, fighting games will always be too hard and too lacking for the average consumer.
Match Highlight 2
Brian_F vs. Mikeand1ke12 – CPT NA 2 Grand Finals:
“My first (and only) CPT win. I was down 2-0 in losers side of grand finals (after going up 2-0 in Winners finals than losing 3 straight). At this point I had lost 5 games in a row to Mikwand1ke. After this, something clicked and I decided to win. I went on to win 6 games straight to win the tournament. Finding the drive to push through and download my opponent and take the win from the grips of defeat was a huge confidence boost.”
5-Also out of tradition in F101 interviews, I like asking players what their favorite button on their main character is. Let’s say you had to use a single button with Balrog for an entire match. You can use specials and supers if the button allows it. Which button would you use and why?
For Balrog, medium punch. Standing medium punch is one of the best anti airs in the game, and crouching medium punch is one of his longest horizontal pokes. I can buffer cr. mp to dash punch to play the ground game, and shut down air approaches with st. mp. I can even do cr. mp xx dash straight xx super as a punish. I’m almost certain I’ve beaten players pressing this button alone before.
6-What kind of stick do you prefer using (Ball top, bat top, square gate) and which one are you using now?
Ball top, square gate. The charge player classic. I can’t handle any other format. I tried playing on an octogate, or even worse, circle gate in the past. Never again.
The Qanba Obsidian – Brian’s current weapon of choice.
7-Do you feel like learning frames is essential, or do they simply make the process of learning matches easier than trial and error?
Some players benefit from understanding the numbers, the engine, what’s going on under the hood. It’s not necessary, but it removes an element of mystery and speeds up trial and error. You can “feel” out a fighting game and be successful, but frame data provides the proof in the pudding for fighting game interactions.
8-How many option selects do you use with Balrog in SFV, if any?
Option selects died in SF4 for Balrog. If you consider delay tech or normals buffered into specials “option selects”, then those still apply. Otherwise, it’s all committing in SFV
9-Judging by your personal experience learning SFV and reaching master status. How long would you say it would take an average person to become a decent SFV player if they play a couple of hours a day?
Consistency is the key. I had the benefit of becoming competent and competitive in SF4, which took years. Hour long sessions at home online, even more in person with locals/friends, traveling… It was a huge investment. I did not have the opportunity to make it to majors and make a splash but I learned how Street Fighter works and became the 2nd highest ranked online Balrog on 360 in SF4 era. This allowed me to practice a handful of hours every weekday to pick up SFV, along with frequently traveling to tournaments.
Point is, consistently putting in some amount of time over a long period is the only way to get it done.
Match highlight 3
Brian_F vs. Sako – Combo Break Top 8 Losers-quarters:
“Combo Breaker was my biggest performance and the first and only CPT Premier top 8 I’ve ever made. After playing better than I ever had and making winners side top 8, I did not want to go out 0-2. After putting Sako in losers earlier in winners top 64, I wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke and to have my win in top 8. I went down 2-1 and brought it back, solidifying my performance that weekend in one of the best top 8’s ever for SFV.”
10-Have you learned to use Balrog in any game other than SF4 and SFV?
I haven’t played any other fighting games haha so no.
11-Could you tell us which of Balrog’s normals you usually buffer with specials and when?
- This move has a good hitbox lower to the ground and is decent in counterpoking a lot of common normals. It is a good shimmy tool as well to walk back, bait whiffed throws, punish and buffer to dash straight or mk. upper (no charge required). It is ALMOST hit confirmable, you have a window to input the cancel so you can sometimes visual confirm if it connected or not before commiting to the cancel
- Very safe pokes to throw out and can often intercept a lot of buttons from your opponent due to their speed. St. lp also has surprisingly far range. If you buffer to dash punch, you have to practice inputting the buffer EXTREMELY fast so the dash punch does not come out on whiff. Adding this to your arsenal will net you more openings than relying on medium buttons alone.
- Short range makes it amazing for walking just out of an opponent’s range and whiff punishing their moves. It has the most hit stun, allowing you to buffer to hp. dash straight on hit. HP. dash straight leaves you point blank next to the opponent, allowing you to go for a throw or frame trap mixup and keep your offensive pressure.
12-What are your thoughts on new vskills for each character. Do you feel that Capcom should have focused on other aspects that help balance the game, and allow for better neutral game?
New v-skills would add some pazazz that some players need to keep interest, but I already question how something like that could be integrated with the game as it is. For instance, Balrog’s v-skill is integral to the character. Almost all his specials cancel into it. The majority of my frame-kills for knockdown setups rely on a v-skill cancel. It’s baked deep into the character design, and I don’t see how you could rip it out and plug in a different v-skill. On the other hand, characters like Ibuki and Karin could easily have their v-skill replaced as it is just a special move that builds v-bar.
I think the most important changes would come from defensive options, footsie tools, and looking at frame data.
13-Footsies seem to mean many different things to people. How would you explain footsies to someone?
Just show a clip of any boxing match where 1 boxers punch barely whiffs in his opponents face, and he is quickly whiff punished with a blow to his own. That’s footsies. Or I put on Daigo vs. Infiltration Winners Finals at SF25th Anniversary tournament:
14-I believe that tiers are only worth mentioning when someone is a true specialist with a character. With that said, could you give me your personal top 5 SFV tier, and why is each of your top 5 characters on the list.
Top 5, no order:
- Amazing neutral, ever evolving V-trigger mixups, un-reactable quickrise/backroll wakeup animation to 3-frame to v-trigger, good anti airs that can ALSO lead to v-trigger confirms, amazing v-skill that builds her v-trigger… Everything with this character works on a solid foundation on TOP of incredible comeback potential
- Solid in every sense, hits like a truck, and un-reactable 50/50 corner resets for big damage. Only lacking in AA’ing some angles, but others still lead to st. fp AA xx command dash mixups.
- Absolutely suffocating pressure, hit confirms, best AA with back mp., easy to get in a stay in. Only way for certain characters to stop her is to consistently take risks on wakeup with buttons, which players into her top tier frame trap game
- fierce punch. That’s all I need to say. Instant corner carry on any hit… or on block. Instant corner switch once you manage to corner him for once. Reversal, 3 frame, suffocating pressure, throw loops. Always forces the opponent to play his game
- 3 frame, dp, fast walk speed, huge damage, far range normals, throw loops in the corner, and on top of being solid, has demon flip to instantly force the opponent to guess. Offers much more offensive depth with his parry. His v-trigger forces you to respect all approaches with his air fireball, every confirm leads to a hard knockdown to hold more pressure.
You can find Brian in the following online platforms: