It's never easy to overcome your frustration and push through whatever's blocking your path to success. You need patience, perseverance, but more than anything, you need passion. You have to love what you do, and you have to have the drive to be better. Tommy Tweedy did just that: after a year of pandemic, lockdowns and lost motivations, he came back to the top. Just last month, he defeated Biohazard in the grand final of Champions of the Realms II, and this weekend he will be facing him again in the undercard match at the Ultimate Weekend Brawl.
We talked with him about his opponents, game balance, and hobbies.
You'll be participating in the Ultimate Weekend Brawl next weekend. What do you think about this show match format? And should it become something recurring?
I'm excited to play in the Weekend Brawl against Biohazard. I think it's going to be a good set and a good show for everyone. I prefer open tournaments overall, but I do think that mixing stuff in is a really good idea.
Your opponent will be Biohazard, whom you defeated at the Champions of the Realms II not so long ago. Are you confident that you can do the same again?
Yeah, I'm confident I can beat him again. The way Biohazard plays, he's a very mixup-heavy player, so I can never be a hundred per cent sure I'm going to win. He could always guess right a bunch of times and beat me, but I'm pretty confident that I'll beat him.
Recently you've said that you were not far from deciding to let it all go after the competitive break last year, but now you're winning events. What changed? What made you regain your competitive drive?
Ultimately, I feel like people have different reasons for competing. Some people do it to prove people wrong or prove themselves right. But I just like playing in tournaments. I took a long break, and then I just missed competing really bad. Even though there are no offline tournaments right now because of COVID besides the WePlay Ultimate Fighting League, I just miss competing. So I just got back into it, and I pushed through a couple of months of losses, but now I'm pretty good at the game again.
You're known for your Geras, but you've also shown other characters like Baraka, Jacqui Briggs and Frost at some big events. Should we expect any surprises at the Weekend Brawl?
Most likely not. I've been messing around with some of the new DLC characters like Rain and Rambo. I haven't really gotten around to fully exploring them, but for the most part, I just prefer Geras so much to the rest of the cast. And on this game, I've done an excellent job of exploring most of the cast fully. However, I always go back to Geras, and when I play him, he makes me want to play the game more. So I'll most likely be all Geras at this event.
Speaking of Geras, why did you stick with him as your main? Also, do you think he got better with the introduction of Kustom Variations in competitive play? Every character's power shifted somewhat. Did Geras get better overall in comparison to others?
I tried out a lot of the cast. I started with MKX and then played Injustice 2 and MK11, and I got better at learning characters over time. So I wanted to really explore the cast. I knew what characters I thought were better or what characters I had more fun with. And Geras has just the perfect ratio: he's very good – maybe not the best character, but he's good enough to win – and I really enjoy playing him. That's why I stuck with him. And as far as Kustom Variations go, he definitely got better. Because pre-patch, the variation I played was Infinite Warden with the choke launcher. He had no way of keeping his mid safe, and now he can with Kustom Variations. Even though many of his moves are locked behind bans or two slots, that alone, I think, made him better with Kustom Variations.
Tweedy vs Tsunami at Champions of the Realms II
Is there any chance that you could consider taking up another main, or are you set as a Geras player?
It depends. If they changed Frost in a certain way, maybe if they gave her better movement, I would consider her. I always love trying out the new DLCs, so if they came out with a cool DLC character, I would try them out. But I definitely think I'm going to main Geras for the rest of the game unless they change him in a way that makes him not fun for me to play. But I think at this point, he's probably going to stay the same. So I'll probably be a Geras main until the next NRS game.
What sets you apart from the other Geras players like Grr?
To be honest, when Grr's on top of his game and when I'm on top of my game, I feel like it's a coin flip on who's the better player. We're both very good. We're both very different, though, in the way we play Geras because he uses the sand clone, and it changes a lot because he's not using the choke launcher. I'm very damage-focused, and Grr is very setup-focused and runaway-focused. Sand clone lets him run away, and then if someone gets close to him, he can teleport to the clone across the screen. I'm very focused on getting ahead, dealing damage, trying to find new ways to get the hit. Honestly, Grr's Geras is way more in-depth than mine, way more complex. But I don't really like playing characters that are super complex. I like playing characters where I might have a projectile, I might have good buttons, and it's just all about landing the hit and not dropping the combo. I'm very good at landing the optimals with Geras, and that's all I really worry about. There are a lot of differences between him and me. I feel like right now, I'm the stronger player because I've been playing more. But on any given day, either of us could be better; he’s very good as well.
What do you think about the overall state of the game right now? How balanced is it?
I think it's extremely balanced to the point that it's almost boring to see tier lists because everyone just agrees on basically everything. And I think the reason behind that is because everyone has a fatal blow, everyone has a breakaway – the strongest mechanics are all shared. It's very hard for the game to have a big gap. The worst character in the game is not that much weaker than the strongest character. And everyone agrees on the top five or so characters. So whenever there's a tier list, it's kind of boring to look at: "Yeah, exactly. That's just everyone's tier list." The game is pretty balanced, but I would almost prefer if they took some risks with the balancing, shake it up a little bit. Obviously, I don't want heavy nerfs to any character. Because people put in a lot of work with good characters, so I don't want to see heavy nerfs to them. But maybe some crazy buffs to some characters would work; that’s what I want to see. But yeah, the balance of the game is very good, for sure.
You’ve played both MK and Injustice competitively and quite successfully: second place at Evo 2018, beating SonicFox on your way to the Grand Finals, and gold medals at Combo Breaker 2018 and Kumite in Tennessee 2019 in Injustice 2. But if we talk purely about the games themselves: which one do you enjoy playing more and why?
It's weird. I feel that I like Injustice 2 more just because I'm not the biggest fan of breakaways and fatal blows in MK11. I like it more when you have to build your super meter, like on MK 11. I don't really like how you get a fatal blow in MK11 just by being low on health. In Injustice 2, if you spend a resource – it's gone. All your meter burn moves or escapes can't be used again. But in MK11, you can break away or a fatal blow and still have resources. So that, I think, what makes me prefer Injustice 2 a little bit more. But I like MK11 enough, though. Especially when I'm playing Geras. I never go, "Oh, I wish this was like Injustice 2" when playing it. I don't really think about that too much, but I do prefer Injustice 2 slightly.
Tweedy vs SonicFox at Evo 2018
How do you usually prepare for the tournaments? Tons of practice to pump you up? Or let yourself rest, calm your mind and achieve a zen-like state? Did any of this change with the predominantly online events we’ve been having because of the pandemic?
I kind of just did whatever for the first couple of years I was competing because I didn't really know when I performed better. But at the Evo 2018, I think I woke up an hour before the tourney, got a little bit of caffeine in because I'm hooked on caffeine like a lot of people are, and I played really good in that tournament. So ever since then, I've tried to recreate that. Even if a tournament starts at 5:00 PM, I try to stay up really late, so I wake up an hour or two before it. I don't like to wake up and have a whole day before the event. There's a saying that your decisions get worse as the day goes on. And I feel like that's really true for me. So my main ritual is, I try to make sure that I wake up not too close, like 15 minutes before, to where I'm groggy playing in it, but an hour or two before, where I'm up, but I haven't been up for a while. Then I try to get some caffeine. I try to warm up a little bit, but not too much, to not get into kind of an autopilot state. I play enough to where I'm getting my hit confirms, but I stop after that. That's basically what I do before a tournament.
Seems like LAN events will be gradually coming back, and the WePlay Dragon Temple was one of the precursors of the change. Did you follow the event? Did you like it?
Yeah, the event was great. Honestly, production-wise, it was one of the best tournaments I've ever seen. In the FGC, there's obviously not a lot of money compared to other esports. A big thing with WePlay was that they paid everyone just to go. That was crazy to see. You hear about that in other esports where people get paid just to participate, but that never happens here because there's much less money in comparison. And then obviously was the stage, the way the commentators were dressed up, it was just a great event. It was honestly one of the best events I've ever seen for any esports, not just FGC. It was amazing, and I hope WePlay sticks around for a long time.
As their media partner, we’d like to ask about WePlay. According to Esports Observer, they are investing $25m into the WUFL project. FGC is obviously very grassroots-oriented, but how important do you think it is to also have a big name tournament organizer investing so heavily in the scene?
It's cool to hear how much they’ve invested into the FGC. I haven't been around forever, right? I've been around since 2015, but I never heard of that much money being invested in the FGC or esports in general. So that's awesome to hear. And it's also awesome to hear that they're doing another event so soon, at the end of March. I believe the last one was in December. That's a pretty quick turnaround, especially during the pandemic. It's a bright light for the community because we've had nothing besides online tournaments since last March. As I said, I hope WePlay sticks around.
You’re from the United States, the country where fighting games are a vital part of the gaming culture. What was your first fighting game? How did you get into FGC?
I played EA Sports' UFC online, and before that, I played THQ's UFC Undisputed, if anyone remembers those games. I would play those games for a long while, they were obviously based on the UFC fighting, but they were not well-made at all. They were not balanced well, and there would always be a certain situation you can get someone in where it would just be the end because they would not patch it out. And back then, I didn't know about fighting games, or Evo, or Combo Breaker. But then I was streaming my matches on the UFC, and I had a decent viewer base, especially for that game, and someone in my chat wrote, "Oh yeah, I watched Fatal 8. I saw SonicFox win. SonicFox is only 17. That’s so cool." And I said, “I don't even know what that is." I YouTubed it when I was bored, and I saw Fatal 8, and I was all in at that point. Cause it was so cool. Before that, I played Smite and League of Legends, but I could never get over the hump of communicating super well with my teammates without it getting toxic. So I thought, "Wow, these guys are playing on a big esports stage here at Fatal 8. And it's all on them. It's just them. I don't even care if the game is that good. The fact that people care enough to where there's this big stage, and it's one-on-one is already enough." Then I YouTubed more, and I saw Evo where Justin Wong beat ChrisG and then rolled around on the ground with his belly out. And I wanted to do that, too! That's how I got into it, and MKX was the game that I picked because obviously, Fatal 8 was what I watched. And I played MKX so much. I fell off a little bit because of how bad the netcode was, but once they made the netcode good in 2016, I was just all in from there.
SonicFox vs Ketchup at Fatal 8
You've played UFC games, and that makes me wonder, do you watch UFC, the real thing? Or maybe follow any other sports like wrestling or boxing?
Yeah, I'm a big fan of UFC and MMA. More so in the past, I used to like watch every undercard match, and I would watch Bellator and World Series of Fighting, and even back to Strikeforce days, I would watch all those. I was a little too young for Pride Fighting Championships, so I never saw a Pride event live. These days though, I still watch every UFC event. I might miss an undercard fight or two, but I'm still a big fan. As far as wrestling goes, I actually grew up wrestling, but I don't spectate too much unless there's a big match. And with boxing, the same thing. If Canelo, Triple G, or Ryan Garcia are fighting, I'll tune in. But besides that, not really. However, I will watch UFC and MMA most of the time.
You’ve recently talked about Killer Instinct and tweeted about the upcoming Guilty Gear Strive. To what extent do you usually play your “non-main” fighting games? What should they offer you for you to consider playing them professionally?
I would play Killer Instinct, it's just the scene is so small, and it's an eight-year-old game. They've seen a little bit of growth recently, but back to the point of how I got into it with UFC games, I don't really play because of other people, but I needed enough people to care to where there are some tournaments. With Killer Instinct, their community is pretty small, so they don't have that many tournaments. I need a tournament to play in at least once a week. With MK, I have multiple a week. That's a big reason why I'm playing them MK so much. And with Guilty Gear Strive, I'll definitely try it. Their lobby system was really bad, though. They need to fix that. But if they fix that, I'll try it for sure. They had no rematches, and also, the lobby system almost turns into a different game. You're this character, and you walk around to find another character to accept the match with you. They’re trying to do too much. They need just to make so you can just search for a match like in a regular fighting game.
You’re a big anime and manga fan. I won’t go asking banal questions like your favs. Instead, I’m more interested in your rationale when picking up something to watch. What do you usually look for in the titles you’re picking up? What are the essential parts anime or manga should have for you to enjoy it?
I'm actually not a big manga guy. I normally will read a manga if the series I'm watching is so behind, and I just need to know what happens, or I have no faith that the series I'm watching is going to adapt it well. Like Boruto, for example, they have almost a hundred filler episodes. I never know when they're going to catch up, so I'm just going to read it. Or Attack on Titan, it's so mystery heavy that I'm not just going to sit there and wait for a year to figure out what happens next. But as far as me picking up a new show, I try to know as little about an anime as I can before I watch it so that I'm surprised by even the premise of the show. I don't really look for any criteria or anything, but my favorite genre is definitely a slice of life for sure. And I try to watch newer anime. Not because I don't like older anime, but just because new animation is just so cool. Every year I feel like there's a new show with mind-blowing animation. I definitely look for shows with new, groundbreaking animation. In the end, I don't really try to look into the synopsis of a show too much cause I just want to go in completely blind.
You're also a gamer, judging by your 9S user pic. What are some of your favorite games?
Nier: Automata obviously is one of them. I played it just last year, but Dragon Quest XI is one of my favorites, and Dragon Quest VIII back the PS2. Those are two of my favorite games ever. I'm a huge Dark Souls and Bloodborne guy, so I can't wait for Elder Ring. I also love Resident Evil. Final Fantasy, depending on the game. I didn't play all of them, didn't really like XV that much, but I love VI and IX. I'm A Zelda guy too. Majora's Mask and Link to the Past, I'm a big fan of those.
Any final words you want to tell anyone?
I'm going to try my best against Biohazard. It's going to be a good set. Whenever Bio and I play, it’s a super explosive set because I go for high damage, he goes for high mix-ups. I'm sure it's going to be a very entertaining match to have as an undercard. I wish him good luck, and I want to thank WePlay for having us on!
Thank you a lot Tweedy for this conversation. You can find Tweedy in Twitter or on his Twitch channel
And what about a couple of video interviews? We had a chance to talk with A F0xy Grampa and Tekken Master, finalists of WePlay Dragon Temple.
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