Virtua Fighter 5: How A Community Survives A 10 Year Drought

author
Gillstolemyride
17 min
Virtua Fighter 5: How A Community Survives A 10 Year Drought
The FGC is known for having some of the most active community members in all of gaming. Virtua Fighter is but one piece of evidence to support this.

I am Graziano “Gillstolemyride” Fabiano, an active fighting games community member, and I had the pleasure of interviewing various members of the Virtua Fighter community. After hearing their thoughts about the netcode, netplay accessibility, and the impact that this title will have on the community, I wanted also to understand how their personal effort has pushed the scene forward and made it survive for as long as it has.

The current fighting game landscape is a battlefield of season passes, cross-promotional events, holiday events, and guest characters.
We are, by now, very used to the life and the competitive dynamics of a product constantly changing, adjusting to marketing strategies, and being kept fresh by a constant stream of new content.

Failing to deliver what is expected often brings people to question the developer’s care and commitment to a product and to its community.

But what if your favourite game series is stuck ten years in the past, with the latest entry in the series (Virtua Fighter Final Showdown) coming in 2012 as an update from the previous release of Virtua Fighter 5 on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3?
Consumerism pushes fighting game players to want more, and companies have adapted to that. With a largely forgotten legendary franchise that constantly innovated and spearheaded the genre, the potential for Virtua Fighter 5 to be kept afloat has always been there, but to realize that potential, a strongly dedicated community is required.
I have been in touch with both historic and new dedicated members, who are welcoming newcomers every day with plenty of dedicated resources and events to keep the passion strong. I asked them to tell me about their involvement with the series as well as hopes for a possible new main title in this beloved series.

Question 1

Without a mainstay title in the series in almost ten years, how does a community stay alive and thriving, especially in the era of fighting games having constant updates, DLCs, and, in general, a constant stream of content? What has been your personal involvement with the scene?

MisterVFDC:

"I joined the offline Virtua Fighter family when VF5 was released in 2008 and joined my first offline scene in 2009, in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I enjoyed the experience, and in 2012, when Final Showdown was released, I travelled around. London, Prague, and Rome were the places I visited. In 2019 I joined Sakura fight fiesta in London as my last offline event, and I'm still salty that synth didn't spar with me. I am currently helping out with Global Shodown, which was meant to be a goodbye event but now, with the port, we are excited to celebrate the game. The location is great, and we are trying to finish the global crowdfunding. I sometimes struggle with language, not being an English native speaker, but I'm able to coordinate aspects that are written in English."

AdamYuki:
"Me and a couple of other organizers on the East Coast of North America have been organizing events for the longest time. Grassroots in origin, self funded and with a tight scene, we have always provided a steady tournament scene, way past the time in which official events by SEGA were on their last leg. However, as a dedicated group, even in the lack of official or main stage support, we have secured a spot as a side event at CEO for all Virtua Fighter players, old and new and we thank Alex Jebailey for allowing us to support our game at his event. "

BlitzballChamp:
"I have been hosting lobbies on stream and youtube, called "VF Arena" since 2015, which is by now 6 years ago, inspired by players such as Blackstar and IFixMachine in North America, as well as European scene and streamers such as mademan, Mister, Lightwing Dragon. The community has a lot of resources for learning, as well as the discord to keep in touch and spend social time, as well as streams and events being very well supported on Twitter. I can say 100 % confidently that the VF community is one of the most passionate that I have been a part of."

TPT:
"My involvement starts with Yakuza 5 since I could play Virtua Fighter 2 inside the game. I gave it a shot, tried some chars, picked Jacky, executed an upkick, and it was love. I searched for communities for the game, but with the disappearing of forums, it wasn't easy, so I looked on discord and found Virtua Fighter Home and Justice, a user, made Virtua Revival,  which is where my involvement really began. 

Justice, WaitoGorira, Whiteone were the first people I played Virtua Fighter with. Justice had to move on due to real-life commitments, and I was offered to pick up the server.

After a while, I started to promote the game to other people, and I became, for many, "The Virtua Fighter guy." Social media accounts were put up, and many people started joining while I kept promoting the server elsewhere. We also helped users set up PC emulation for some titles since they didn't have consoles".

Blessy:
"I started my involvement about a year ago; I played a bit of UNIST but wasn't hooked; I saw Tricky playing Virtua Fighter and thought, "this game is sick," dug out my Xbox, and instantly started fighting top players that were the ones left playing the game. With my experience promoting in the music industry, I started running events and sought involvement with the American scene, particularly through Arturo (Sabin), and started organizing Global Shodown.  We hold a partnership with Matcherino to fund our tourneys and reward our players and were able to crowdfund the European portion of Global Shodown entirely without sponsor involvement.

The response by the community has been really exciting, and at the same time, the workload really hectic, so we started reworking on rankings for the tournaments we are running and integrating them with old rankings. A lot of old players have come back too, very exciting we have run some beginner tourneys to confirm the viability of the netcode, but we will need more staff to meet the increasing amount of entrants and the demands that come with it. The newly announced fixes for invites surely will help!"

TrickyVFDC:
"I got into the competitive scene around 2008, at the very end of VF4Evo and at the beginning of VF5. The first tourney I attended was WCG (World Cyber Games) in which I didn't qualify. When Final Shodown dropped I started to be more involved in person. From then, I started assisting the organization of tourneys after Sega Cup, since Sega's involvement and communication were poor with Final Shodown.  I helped running brackets and started doing commentary for harponeer streams. Cruz helped with the technicalities of running our own streams, which helped the scene grow. 

The last big tourney we had was Defend The North in 2019 which was huge (97 entrants!) and now we have to cap online tourneys at 32.

In the past 2 years, I have been mainly streaming, doing educational videos to help people improve and self analyze, I shifted from direct organization to competition and commentary when possible."

Juicebox:
"As far as locals are concerned, I have heard about an interest here in Phoenix, Arizona. I know that the scene here is very open to multi games, so I want to cultivate this interest, maybe not in a tournament organization form, but definitely to listen and help them develop in the game. 

At the moment our scene is hosted in a local game shop with a side arcade zone, to which we can bring our own setups to. Out of precaution events are currently not allowed but we can still have casuals.

Personally, I became competitive with SF4 and when I was learning the game, I recognized that it was hard for me to gain the knowledge and logical intricacies I needed. 

It's an aspect that is often lost or goes unexplained, and that top players understand but may find hard to explain or teach new people. 

When I am personally learning a game I try to explain a concept to myself many times, and when I talk to other players, they find those teaching useful.

Virtua Fighter has a reputation for being deep and difficult, which is n earned reputation because the game can be broken into a lot of pieces, but since it can be broken into a lot of pieces, it means that it can be difficult to teach. Virtua Fighter is deep in the sense that you can turn a lot of situations to your advantage even when you are at disadvantage. 

I truly feel that in order to make good decisions you must know the mechanics in Virtua Fighter, and that is why I focus on that in my streams. I'll play ranked and the more popular modes, but I want people to come into my stream and understand the game, and not leave with the same doubts they came in with."

Sabin:

"Virtua Fighter has always been around since the arcade days, it's 1994, Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, they'd all be there. I have always known of the game due to the hardcore scene, in my chinatown days, the VF heads were always the craziest ones, importing cabinets from Asia and supporting their game, doing everything they could to play the game.

Since the old days, Josè Cruz I have always known of the existence of the VF hardcore people and I knew of their involvement, we became friends and in late 2010 we got closer and I started streaming in 2017 events for the VF community. I fix machine was the venue and we were streaming VF5 events on the old Xbox and used my reach and my professional ties to give exposure to the game and the scene, and due to working for Matcherino, we raised a lot of money for the first few events.

We raised about $600 for the first major event through Matcherino and organized stretch goals by playing fun games like VF kids and doing fun stipulations. Although the scene may not be the biggest, the scene is passionate, and I'd love to do more with them. When the pandemic happened, we started doing events online with netplay and even for a game that is 2 generations behind, the scene was still showing up and supporting the game, I was really surprised. At defend the north 2019, Japanese players came to our event like Homestay Akira and his wife Tetsuko so we struck a connection with Japan and the Asian region. We started co-streaming and co-organizing events with them. They are both incredible top players and with Tetsuko speaking fluent English, we were able to expand the scene effort. 

Due to Japan gambling scene, Sega was doing events but there were hurdles around E-sports. We started hosting American tourneys and crowdfunding and the Japanese players were surprised that the players could win money with events. We organized events with top Japanese players commentating in English and that is how we took it to the next level and we started thinking of an international fully crowdfunded event which could possibly be the first of its kind in the FGC, at least as far as I know."

Question 2

“Are you hopeful for a new title in the series in the next say 3 or 4 years? And if so, do you think it will have rollback netcode?”

MISTERVFDC:
"I honestly hope that they'll move away from the numbered series. Numbers scare people and limit story directions such as reboot etc. I hope that they will renew the wakeup animations and battle dynamics and floating animations. If they were to make a new chapter in the series, rollback is mandatory. Despite personally understanding why it wasn't possible in such a short development time, the larger playerbase won't care and will only look at the finished product. I am scared that they will waste money if they don't include rollback and update their marketing strategies, as it looks as different departments aren't communicating enough nor are on the same base."


AdamYuki:
"I have always been an optimistic person. I hope that Ultimate Shodown is a field test for the brand, which is respected and that holds hungry players for more. If the response has been good as I think,  there may be a sequel for the series. I am however not too hopeful for the inclusion of rollback netcode, as to my understanding, in the Japanese Gaming industry it's not seen as a priority, probably due to their very reliable infrastructure."

BlitzballChamp:
"I'll start with the negatives this time, when Ultimate Showdown was released I was really disappointed, after a decade hiatus, is this all the community deserves? Is this really all we get? Once I saw some veterans coming back though and seeing RGGStudio so open to listen to feedback, made me hopeful for a proper sequel and rollback inclusion in it."

TPT:
"If I'm being honest, I hope that there is one, but with the faith that they're putting in this port, I don't believe that there will be one. If there is a VF6, it MUST have rollback, because if the game has no rollback, it will be garbage. The series keeps losing features from VF4Evo impressive tutorials to quest mode and VF5US is barebones. VF6 would have to come out swinging on all fronts to be successful."

Blessy:
"I am hopeful for a sequel, I'd love to see one, maybe in a few years, since the VF anniversary is 3 years away. They are aware of rollback, so if they were to release a sequel, I don't see it released without rollback. I also believe that Sega will try and address many issues and improve VF5US"

TrickyVFDC:

"I am hopeful, but I don't think it will happen in the short period. I am not hopeful for rollback, especially if development has already started, as it seems to be really hard for developers to include rollback netcode in their games."

JuiceBox:
"I suppose how I feel is very close to how Harada-San feels, he feels that Virtua Fighter is a very important series with a lot of legacy and that remastering a title can be gauging the interest for a new title to consider a new mainstay in the series. If the interest is there, I know that at Sega they are listening and will consider rollback.   I think that Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Shodown may not support rollback  or that it may not be feasible, but since Virtua Fighter 6 will be a title made from scratch, it will be easier to consider the possibility of adding rollback.”

Sabin: 

If a new game was to come out, I believe that it will have rollback, especially due to the larger conversation in the community. They will be paying attention to the reception that VF5US has, in general with the amount of downloads, streaming scene, conversation over social media, etc. I think there is a potential and, of course, I want to see Virtua Fighter 6, and the game compete with other franchise and their next installments."

Moving Forward

As you have read, while new titles and content definitely help rekindle the fire of passion, games can thrive even without it, with a supportive and nurturing environment around them.
Maybe this will help you be a more positive force in your own community? Who knows? : )

I thank all of the Virtua Fighter community for their kindness, availability on short notice, and insight. 

Read my fighting games takes on: Twitter and come learn how to press buttons on YouTube and Twitch. Hell! If you ask nicely, I will even coach you on Metafy!


Credits

Follow Juicebox on Twitch and Twitter.

Virtuafighter.com and especially Myke623, without whom the VF community would have fractured years ago (Twitter and Twitch).

Follow Blessy on TwitterTwitch, and join the European VF Discord if you’re European.

Follow Sabin on Twitter: @NYCFurby, Youtube: FGCSabin, and Twitch: NYCFurby

Follow Tetsuko (Japanese VF stream) on YouTube and follow the international event Global Shodown on Twitter.
Info about the event.

Follow AdamYuki on Twitch.

Follow Tricky on Twitch and Twitter.

Follow BlitzballChamp on TwitchTwitter, and YouTube.

Follow MisterVFDC on Twitter and Twitch.

Follow TPT on Twitch and join the Virtua Revival Discord.

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