Interview with Xavier ‘Somniac’ Nardella
Xavier Nardella, better known as Somniac, is one of Australia’s best Street Fighter players of all time. Currently, he’s the highest ranked Bison player online, he took time out from his busy training schedule to talk with Player2 about Street Fighter V and competition. Enjoy!
Adam: Hello Somniac, firstly thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions, we really appreciate your time and input on this.
You’ve just finished up at BAM 8, you had a pretty good run in this tournament and it was clear that the internationals were giving the Aussie’s a hard time. Compared to past years, do you feel the talent and competitiveness of the Australian FGC have risen when you compare it to people like Xian, Momochi and other high-level internationals? Or do you see the same pitfalls that we’ve experienced in the past?
Somniac: Hi mate, happy to help! I would say there is still the pitfall of opportunity, it is difficult to be able to complete with someone who can travel to multiple tournaments in a month all around the world. I was looking at the CPT ranking points recently and noticed some players have already attended 15 events in their country and BAM was effectively the first out of two in ours.
Granted there is the possibility of travelling to other Asia countries to compete, costs are higher for us here in Australia compared to other Asian competitors.
It is difficult to be able to commit to so much travel, but I am seeing a few sponsors start to show interest in the Australian scene so hopefully we can start to represent more and gain the opportunity we lack. Having a CPT ranking event in itself is already a big step up from previous years where we weren’t even on the circuit, so I think that is a great start but we need to be able to attend more events if we want to be able to compete with the best.
It’s great that we have been able to experience international high-level play so early in the game’s life as it will help sculpt the future for our players, we can see what we were lacking and build on it for the next time.
There was some close matches against international players however, Falco knocking Xian into losers was fantastic to see and I was also a match point from eliminating him out of the tournament. Xian proved too strong in the end, as expected from a former EVO champ and managed to make his way back to a respectable 4th place.
I think this has been a great starting point for us in Australia, and I hope that people can build on what they’ve seen and experienced to defend the country in the next CPT event OzHadou Nationals in August.
Adam: I must admit I was beside myself when watching yourself and Falco take it to the internationals, those matches were quite competitive! Was there any specifically difficult to adjust to when battling players of that calibre?
Somniac: There’s the difficulty with the player skill but also familiarity with the character, we don’t have any players who play Fang to Xian’s level so it’s already an uphill battle. I personally play Fang casually so I have a bit of an understanding of what the character can do but my execution of the characters game plan is nowhere near Xian’s level.
I do think that my knowledge of the character helped a lot though, when watching other players fight his Fang they were unsure of what to do and quickly got dispatched.
I had the chance to play Xian at my house and I noticed there were several aspects that I wasn’t considering at the time, it definitely helped to be able to play him beforehand. I had a better understanding of what he knew and what attacks would work on him and what wouldn’t. The biggest adjustment going forward for me is to continue this train of thought and try to figure out these strategies before playing the internationals in the future so that I am ready and nothing will surprise me.
Adam: You’ve been quite vocal on the 8 frames of input lag on the PS4 version of SFV. Explain to us what you think of the whole thing and how it affects competition level of play.
Somniac: Before I get into that discussion I want to make clear that my opinions are intended to improve the game and make it the best possible version there is. I don’t intend to drive people away from the game, but instead, improve the game so that more people will play and appreciate it. I have been vocal about issues I have seen in the game since the early betas, not just the input lag but content, graphical issues and stage lag.
I think that if there is enough focus on an issue, then Capcom will resolve it and we the players will be better off because of it, otherwise, they may just leave it be and we’ll be left wondering what could have been.
There’s actually quite a lot of resources which can explain the 8 frames of input lag in more depth than I can, and this isn’t a new topic per say but just one that has been widely addressed recently.
Professional players are coming out with a variety of opinions on the topic but I believe the most incorrect opinion is that “nothing changes because of it”. Input lag is required in a video game in order to give it time to process your button presses, an optimal amount of time in fighting games is around 3 or 4 frames of lag and in general, this is seen as the responsiveness goal for even other genres of games. This input delay affects all button presses and directional inputs – adding additional time from when you physically reacted and inputted the desired action.
In Street Fighter 4, the game was tested at 5 frames of lag so an additional 1 frame over the previous arcade games. The community was able to accept this as the game was still deemed to be overall responsive.
When Street Fighter 4 on the PS4 was released, it had 9 frames of lag. The community deemed this unacceptable, as the game was completely different between platforms and the same gameplay could not be maintained. Capcom were informed that they were required to fix this before tournament organizers would accept running this consoles version in a competitive environment (albeit, there were other issues with the console port as well). They were able to fix these issues, and the community accepted the port as feasible and started to convert towards using it in tournaments.
This isn’t the first time this has happened either, back when the Capcom Classics Collection 2 was released with a version of SF2 Super Turbo it was tested to have 8F of input lag, a full 4 frames higher than the arcade version of the game. This was deemed unacceptable and the ST community refused to play the CCC2 version of the game.
Testing shown here:
This higher input delay does not affect just combos, and actually has a wider impact on gameplay in general. Reactionary blocking, jumping & whiff punishing are all slower when the input delay is higher.
This forces players to adopt more of a pre-emptive style of play rather than a reactionary style. If you cannot react in time or you cannot react with a button press in order to stop your opponent’s action then you need to just guess that your opponent will take certain actions. Brawling rather than calculated play is often occurring as players recognize that they cannot react to too many common tactics.
Rather than reacting to your opponent throwing out a standing Medium punch with Chun-Li, you will just guess that they will do it and attack earlier in order to hit it or just completely ignore it as you may not be able to actually react in time to punish them for whiffing it. Often players will currently stick out moves and force a response from the opponent, and then punish the opponent for trying to punish them.
With additional input delay, you have to consider when your reactions will actually help you, or hurt you.
It seems crazy to me that people would go out of their way to ensure that they have the best monitors, peripherals, lagless converters and PCBs, fastest internet and complain about lag in any other game – but seem to be totally fine with the input delay being high in this version of Street Fighter. Maybe there is a concern that if we ask Capcom to resolve this issue we will no longer have Street Fighter games made for us? I don’t really see the logic in that because a more responsive game can only be better for everyone.
If people want to be more information they can review the following links
Display Lag website showing databases of many games including fighting games
Informative video showing the breakdown of input lag between games and including online tests
Adam: That’s definitely a lot to take into consideration. Have you seen the effects on this in high-level comps at all yet?
Somniac: Yes definitely, players with a reactive style have changed how they approach the game. People are often talking about how punishable moves are going unpunished such as Ken’s run, but they aren’t considering that you cannot react to the variety of different options all at once. You need to expect that they will do the punishable option in order to deal with it.
If you are throwing enough options on the table that the person needs to look for, you can get away with moves that you usually shouldn’t be able to.
Adam: In the matches I saw at BAM, only once did I see someone actually punish Ken’s run, which has been punishable since the beta I’d thought. In closing, we have OHN coming up in August, which will be Australia’s second CPT Event can we expect to see a level up from competing Aussies after some lessons were learnt from BAM? And will we see the #1 ranked Bison (according to online statistics) show up as well?
Somniac: It’s not just Ken’s run but a lot of aspects of the game, but it is what we right now and to compete, you just need to adjust around it. I’m not saying it’s terrible, just that it could be better and I hope that we can get there!
There’s a lot of talk about strategy after BAM and how people are intending to improve, I have to enter the hyperbolic time chamber (DBZ reference) with my new approach and knowledge. Then I’ll be stronger than ever and ready to take on Sydney and any travelling internationals at OHN. Looking forward to it!
Adam: I very much look forward to seeing you at the next big tournament and I’ll cheer for you and every other Aussie competing on the day! Thank you very much for taking the time today Sir, best of luck!
Somniac: No problems, it was a pleasure.