Michael ‘Party Wolf’ Stabile was one of the favorites to win the entire thing in the recently concluded WUFL Soulcalibur VI S1. He got off to an amazing start, winning all his matches on day 1 and winning his game against former Evo winner Bluegod in the first match of the final day.
Things went awry when he first lost to Linkorz and then finally to Skyll, thereby crashing out of the tournament. That said, he was still an amazing player, and the opportunity to learn a lot more about him was one we couldn’t pass up.
Below is an interview with the jovial American as he talks to us about all things fighting games, the origin of his gamertag, and his favorite mechanic from Soulcalibur.
First off, how did you come about your gamertag, Party Wolf? Where did that come from?
Alright, so my gamertag is confusing because there's a trend where people who have names similar to that are known as furries. I am not a furry, to be very clear. I didn't even know what a furry was when I made that name. So I like to get that out of the way first of all, not that I have anything against furries, but it's just a common misconception that happens. So the gamertag came from when I was in middle school. I had a bunch of friends who wanted to make an Xbox clan for Call of Duty. There's a term in English called a party animal. And basically, if you're a party animal, you like to go to parties and get really wild and drink too much, and etcetera. So, everybody that wanted to join the party animal clan had to have a party in the name, and then the animal of their choice. So I ended up opting for Wolf as the one I wanted.
Do you feel the name is a fair representation of your personality? Like, do you like to party a lot, or is it just a name?
So I think overall, I'm a pretty calm person. I don't get too excited, especially when I'm playing. I'm super focused, and like, I don't show my emotions that much because I'm normally just so focused that I can't. As far as like when I'm actually at a party, I definitely do drink (laughs). So I know how to have fun when it's fun time. But when it's down to business for Soulcalibur, it's kind of hard for me to get too crazy.
Then, a question about Soulcalibur. Cassandra. What drew you to Cassandra as a character in Soulcalibur VI.
So, as many people know, Cassandra did not come out when the game was released. So when the game released, I was a Kilik player. And I played him for such a long time; I was very good at being patient. However, I had issues creating an offensive game plan with Kilik that was consistent, and I end up blocking too much, and my guard damage would get destroyed a lot. So when Cassandra came out, I already knew I liked the character just from like aesthetics. But then, when she actually came out, she had many good oppressive tools while also being very good at punishing, which is perfect because I like punishing things in general. And she has their own unique system where you can restore your guard stamina if you do divine force moves. And if you don't know what divine forces are, it's the mode where she has the lightning aura around her weapons. If you do an attack from that stance, you heal your own guard. So my blocking problem got solved too. So a lot of things just ended up making more sense as Cassandra, and she's way more fun to me also. So that's why I settled on her.
Soulcalibur has had an interest in history as an Esports. How do you think tournaments with large prize pools could help the development of the game within esports? And what more do you think the developers could do to make Soulcalibur more attractive as an esport?
I think we were on a really good pace for esports before COVID because a Soulcalibur world tour was already announced, which was great. Everybody was excited about it. But you know, you can't help with the pandemic. So I think Bandai Namco is already doing everything right. I think the only thing they can do anything right now is to create more content for the game. Because right now, we're kind of at a dry spell where we don't have any more incoming news for updates, and I think if they announced something, that would help. As far as community stuff goes, I think we're doing a good job of just streaming on Twitch and playing in online tournaments. But that can also only do so much, It's a symbiotic relationship where both the community needs to play, and the company needs to make content to keep people interested—casuals and competitive players.
Do you think Soulcalibur VI has the edge over its predecessors in the esports niche?
I think it just came out at a very good time because Soulcalibur VI kind of rode on the success of Tekken 7, which was very important because they got people more interested in Namco fighters, specifically 3D fighters because they're kind of like brother and sister games where Tekken is a bit more popular than Soulcalibur, and there's like a lot of crossover audience. So I think that helped a lot— Tekken 7. And I think Soulcalibur VI is also a very aesthetically pleasing game compared to some of the older games, specifically, Soulcalibur IV and V, which had pretty weak single-player content. Also, it wasn’t as flashy as Soulcalibur VI. Also, in Soulcalibur VI, it's very easy to feel powerful when you don't know what you're doing and when you actually do know what you're doing (laughs) so, I think that also helps.
As a Tekken player, do you think your experience with Tekken has impacted your Soulcalibur expertise?
Yeah, so I think the main thing with Tekken 7 is that there, unlike Soulcalibur, there's no guard impact, there's no guard damaging moves. The movement is slightly different because there are no horizontals attacks, besides a very small amount of moves. So Tekken 7 focuses way more on timing and staying at very specific ranges for like jabs. Whereas with Soulcalibur, every character has more range than Tekken characters. So you have to be a lot smarter with your timings in Tekken and your movement overall. This carries over to Soulcalibur VI. However, Tekken 7 doesn't necessarily prepare you for the mechanics of Soulcalibur, where you have to deal with reversal edges, you have to deal with guard impacts, you have to deal with soul charges and other meter mechanics. Also, the fact that people can chase you down easier, and you have to block more. So they both have different skill sets. But I think Tekken can and will definitely help you with your patience and your timing.
Do you think the fighting game skills from Japanese titles are also transferable to American fighting games like Mortal Kombat or Injustice?
Yeah, I think they're perfect for each other. I think if you're a strong fighting game player, you can pick up any game you feel like. If you've reached the highest level of competitive gameplay, that's more of a mindset than how the game functions because you just have to discipline yourself and be committed and hardworking to be good at fighting games or any game or anything.
Why are you more committed to Soulcalibur than other fighting games.
Uh, I grew up playing Soulcalibur II as a kid and Soulcalibur III. So I've always liked this series. As far as when I started competing, I decided to start competing in Soulcalibur V when I made some friends on Xbox Live, and I saw that they had gone to tournaments, and it looked like a lot of fun. That inspired me to also want to try it out, and I got hooked on it.
How have game mechanics like reversal edge changed the game?
So I think reversal edge, unlike guard impact, you can pair things for a longer window of time. Guard impact is like for a very specific moment. But you can charge up your reversal edge to parry more attacks. I think that helps you a lot with slower mix-ups. Because if you do a guard impact, you might not necessarily be able to parry like a slower low on time, but with a reversal edge, that would work in that situation. So I think it's a very good tool to get out of pure, like strong 50/50 mix-ups or get to block mid or low. But it does suffer from moves recovering quickly after they complete the animation because you will have time to sidestep the move and then get launch punished, which hurts a lot in this game, especially with how the lethal hit system works. So while it is a useful tool, it's not something you can do all the time, especially at the highest level, because a lot of people play very safe and will use those quick moves often.
Soulcalibur has long been known for introducing fascinating mechanics; which of them do you think has been the most influential over time for you?
I think of all time; I would say guard impact has changed a lot, and it's what the series is usually known for. If you go like way back like, no other game had a guard impact system. So it's changed a lot, so I think that's the most interesting to keep track of between games. But as far as my favorite one goes, I think the lethal hit system in Soulcalibur VI is super interesting. Because a lot of games are really basic in that you either get your damage from a normal hit, meaning you just hit them regularly, or you get a lot of damage from counter hitting them, which means that they press an attack and you hit them out of it. But the way the lethal hit system works is that it creates more unique conditions. For example, some moves will lethal hit on a whip punish. There are some moves out lethal hit if you guard impact people, and you can get unique high damages in those ways, which lets you play the game in a rewarding way.
You and a team of other players participated in the Boominati league recently. Do you feel like there's more pressure when you're playing team tournaments, as your actions not only fact you with the whole squad and other people?
I think initially, it feels like you have a very heavy responsibility to take care of your team and make sure you don't let anybody down. But, at the same time, I think part of being a team is that you really care about the other people on your team, and you don't want them to feel bad for losing. You want to positively reinforce each other. So the more I was playing in that team tournament, I think the less anxiety we had about losing overall just because we all cared about each other. We just want to make sure we were having fun and not making each other feel bad for losing.
Have you ever felt like you were being carried in a team game? And how do you break out of that funk?
Oh, yeah. I mean, if I'm getting carried in a team game, I take it right. I mean, like, yeah, but I think fighting games in general because they’re solo games are uniquely satisfying because you did all the work, and that shows you that you are progressing in your own way successfully and not necessarily being the weakest link in having somebody who is better than you, making you feel like you're something you're not.
What games do you play other than Soulcalibur?
I love playing Call of Duty: Warzone, which is like a battle royale with some of my Soulcalibur friends, and sometimes somebody carries somebody who doesn't play (laughs), but it changes from time to time. And I have a lot of fun with that game.
How do you think the acquisition of Evo by Sony will like affect games like Soulcalibur?
As far as Sony acquiring Evo goes, I think I don't know what to expect. Because one, the lineup will probably be more catered to PlayStation games specifically. But thankfully, Soulcalibur is a PlayStation game. My only concern is that if I were Sony, I would probably be trying to push the fighting games that are more recent and are still receiving updates; that’s from a business standpoint because you want to sell more games and more DLCs. And I feel like Soulcalibur VI is, like I said earlier, in a dry spell as far as content goes, so I am worried about the future of it at Evo. But as far as the game goes, the game is still very good. So I'm still gonna play it either way.
What are the top three Soulcalibur tournaments you'd recommend to watch?
So I think Evo is the obvious one just because everybody knows it, that's the main reason. And by proxy Evo Japan is somewhere, it’s in Japan. I think in the United States, there's a tournament called Combo Breaker that is very exciting to watch. It's in Chicago, Illinois. And that's probably what most people consider the closest tournament to the size of Evo. What I think is one of the nice things about Combo Breaker is that it's not owned by Sony. So it's more grassroots overall. And then, as far as the third tournament goes, I don't really have one in mind, but I think I'd like CEO just because I live close to Orlando and it's very entertaining. The entertainment value is very high because they try to make it like a show, similar to how WePLay UFL is making Soulcalibur VI a show here.
What needs to be improved in Soulcalibur VI's online mode and what are the flaws with it now?
I think the biggest flaw is that it's not rollback netcode. Right now, it's delayed. Soulcalibur VI currently has delay-based netcode instead of rollback netcode. So most of the time, it's really hard to get matches that simulate offline, and it can be very frustrating because the game isn't necessarily balanced around online play; it's balanced around offline play. So when you have to play online, some things are just way stronger than they need to be. It can be very frustrating for that reason. I think the other thing that's frustrating is that a lot of the community runs tournaments on a server now, instead of the normal netcode with parsec. I don't know if we have mentioned it but, yeah, it runs on parsec, they run the tournaments on parsec. So I think that also divides the player base even further, as far as online goes because most people now only want to play on the server, and they'll never play on normal netplay, which makes the population smaller, even though the quality of parsec is very good. In comparison, it's just harder overall, I think, to find matches. So I don't think the developers can really do anything about it at this point. Just because it's so ingrained to have delay-based netcode in the programming. So I don't know if there's really a solution. But yeah, it's kind of sad. For instance, there are some moves that are slower, that are harder to block on a reaction. For example, Seong Mi-Na has a low that if you space it out to land on tip range, it can cause a lethal hit. But normally, it's not that scary when you're playing offline because you could just block it every time. But when you're playing online, it can lead to very high damage and very high ringing out capability. Also, it's not very punishable either when you block it, so it's a move that becomes so rewarding and so low risk, whereas offline, it's more low reward, low risk, just because the chances that you can even do it in the first place is slim. So that's just an example of something that can be very frustrating.
Since the Soulcalibur community is a little smaller than other FGC titles, how have you all been able to support each other?
I think we're all very connected on social media, which helps. Also, we run online tournaments very often, so there's more reason to get up and play and watch each other and support each other. I think that'd be the main reason and also, like, a lot of people are good friends with each other that are competing offline. As far as like casual audience goes, I think we stream a lot on Twitch to make people interested, though I do think we are weaker at— compared to other fighting game titles— at stuff like YouTube content. I think YouTube content for Soulcalibur is very poor overall, and Twitch to an extent, but if you compare them, but I think, at least in a vacuum, we still have a lot of people streaming regularly. Whereas like YouTube content, there's just not videos being made in general, whereas like, with Twitch, the streams are there. It just doesn't have as high viewership as, say, Mortal Kombat.
Is there any kind of community in Discord?
Hmm, I would say at; first, I would just try to follow people on Twitter. I think on Reddit, there's a link to character Discords like for each individual character, that’s if you want to find people to connect with that share your main. As far as like a general Soulcalibur Discord, to be honest, I think we have too many Discords. So it's really divided as far as like, you know, everybody might be in this discord one day, and everybody might be in that discord one day. So it actually can get kind of difficult if you want to have a giant central hub, it's more of like a bunch of different smaller ones. Which is something that could be improved on, I think.
And how important do you think the community is in keeping the game alive?
Well, you need players to play the game; otherwise, no one's playing the game. So the community, you know, I think it's really hard to see that a game is cool without actually watching it in action. Like I could watch a trailer, for example, at like a game show. Like, ‘hey, here's the new game of whatever coming out.’ And if I'm only judging by the trailer, then I only have a couple minutes to actually know if I want to get it. Whereas the community, if they're showing off the game, there's way more instances where you can tell if you like it or not. So the community is very important for recruiting people in that regard. They're like their own little advertisement for themselves. Also, having a large player base will only make things more interesting just because if you play the same people over and over again, they can get stale.
What do you think the Soulcalibur community can do to show the developers that the game deserves more attention?
I think the only way you can really contact the developers is to tweet at them. But at the same time, if you do too much, it does come off as harassment. But I think it's really hard to become vocal for everybody that has played the game just because you can't represent everybody's feelings. So while there are obviously going to be people who want more content, Namco has to be able to justify the production of it in the first place and have confidence that they'll be able to generate the sales required. So I think if people show that they are really enjoying the DLCs, and they want more DLCs, they'll just have to be more thankful for the ones that they get and obviously purchase them. Because otherwise, I think a lot of times, the developers do want to make more content, but it's more of an issue with the higher positions in the company than the people who are actually developing the game specifically. So you just have to buy by the game. We'll see and make sure everybody knows it’s good.
Do you have any final shout-outs?
I have a Twitter and Twitch with the same handle (Party_Wolf_). So you can follow me there, and I'd be very appreciative. As far as shoutouts go, I am sponsored by AXL gaming. Also, shout out to everybody who supports me online and my friends who have helped me get to where I am, like my friends in Houston and my friends in Florida. Also, shout-outs to everybody who's organizing tournaments still and attending tournaments online and streaming regularly, and just making sure everybody's like connecting with each other. You guys are doing a great job.
Apr 1, 2021
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