Matt Ponton's Fighting Game Career Detailed on Free Step Dodge

Discussion in 'News' started by MattPonton, Feb 12, 2016.

By MattPonton on Feb 12, 2016 at 3:55 AM
  1. MattPonton

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    "千里の道も一歩から"
    "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
    "
    - Laozi

    As the owner of FreeStepDodge and regarded as a highly exceptional Bass player in both tournament results and in real life, Matt Ponton aka "Sorwah" gives us his history and knowledge about the entire DOA series, Free Step Dodge, and his fascinating experiences when he was in Japan. Let's not forget that he will also be attending NEC this year. I'm intrigued to see how far this premier Bass player can go at this year's main event.


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    That's a really cool quote. Where did that quote come from and why did you choose that quote over all the others?

    It's a quote from the Chinese philosopher Laozi, founder of Taoism. This phrase is one of my favorite phrases as every time I read it I feel it relates in another way to DOA, the community, Free Step Dodge, or my personal life.


    Name? Gaming alias?

    Matt Ponton. Many of the old school know me as 'Sorwah' which as a long history, but the new guard know me as 'Mr. Wah'. Starting off I had my name as 「それはひみつです。」 which means 'That is top secret.', back in the start of college I joined a Direct Connect chat hub and had to fit the romaji into Sorwahmitsudes. One time, I would even be close to being banned because the admin was asking what the name meant and I kept telling him it's top secret. The people in the chat were too lazy to type out the full name so would just call me Sorwah. That stuck for awhile as you can guess, in part because it was unique so I would be guaranteed it as an option when registering places. When creating Free Step Dodge I was using a bunch of nods to other fighting game communities and websites (For example, FSD was a nod to 8WayRun who provided a lot of the modifications for the site), and when generating my username I reflected that every time I talked to Bill "Tom Brady" Menoutis he would answer the phone "Ah! Mr. Wah sir!". I felt that was a nice nod to Mr. Wizard of SRK fame.


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    Can you further go more depth about the history of Freestepdodge? Why did you decide on that name?

    I touched on this a bit when discussing my username. Coming up with the name we (virtuapai and myself) were trying to distance ourselves from DoaCentral. Most fighting game community sites had a site name unique to the game like dust loop or shoryuken for example. I wanted it to be a name with three words so you could have a three letter acronym like SRK and 8WR. Lastly, I didn't want the name to reference the systems controversial stun system or defensive hold system. In the end, I settled on Free Step Dodge because it was considered an advanced technique to utilize mid-match, it had to do with the sidestep system which is something I wanted to see improved on in future iterations, and it was a nod towards Jason's 8WayRun site since he helped set up the technical side of the site for me. I've always wanted FSD to be focused but not exclusive to the hardcore competitive discussions. It's not that we don't want casual talk, we just wanted to start talking about the deeper level mechanics. You'll need both in a website in order to survive.


    Country of Origin?

    Born in Germany, raised in the United States. I don't know how to speak German, though I want to learn one day.


    You are one the few players in the DOA community that signs up in a tournament that uses his real name. Why is that? Any history on that matter?

    It's sort of an expansion on the first question I guess. Playing competitively in tournaments I would meet many people over the 10 years I've been doing it. I prefer learning real names, especially as a Bracket Runner it's easier to know that Mike is on-deck for example instead of "oo00X34u2DeathKiller00oo". Additionally, I feel that a nickname is given after earning it and feels egotistical to declare something no one else does. For example, Michael Jordan didn't call himself "Air Jordan", the fans and commentators came up with that. Also, many of the top known players in the FGC use their real names because they make their names into brands for marketing. Justin Wong, Daigo Umehara, Ricky Ortiz, Seth Killian for example to name a few. I felt like using my real name in tournaments so people could just meet me, I have nothing to hide.


    Who is your main character in DOA5LR?

    Obviously, Bass. I jump around with my secondaries though and if I currently had to list them in order It'd probably be Akira, Raidou, Nyotengu, and Mila. But my knowledge on Bass is far superior to any of the secondaries.


    As one of the very few players that main Bass, what would you consider to be his pros and cons?

    I often see players always feel their character main is always at a disadvantage. Bass' biggest disadvantage is obviously his speed in a game that favors speed. At neutral he is generally -4 at any given time. He's forced to either weather the storm in a game that makes defense very difficult, or just go ham and hope he lands a hit. His preferred range is mid to long range, but the game doesn't make that easy when characters can just run in before the match starts without a way for him to push them out of the close range fight. His throws obviously do a lot of damage, but it's difficult to condition an opponent to stop hitting the punch or kick button since throws lose no matter what to attacks.


    His biggest pro is obviously his attack damage, if he can land an attack. The game is pretty abusive on getting that momentum shift and he keeps it overall well. I was told at the first DOA5U Japanese Official Tournament that they found it interesting to see me get hit in a 13 hit combo, then do a 4 hit combo in retaliation only to see the life bars were back to even. He's a power-house, and most of his unholdable setups don't even need to be looped as they're generally dead before the second loop anyways.


    I've seen you cosplay as Bass in many streams, videos and pictures. You closely resemble Character. How do you do it? Where did you get the cosplay?

    Over the years I bought various apparel to help increase the costume. Japan calls me "Real Bass" for a reason, though I think there's still stuff I need to actually create or buy to have an actual 1:1 outfit. His DOA5 C1 is honestly pretty realistic overall. I've been trying to work out and bulk up to better fit his body shape, but I think that's a long road with a good goal in the end. Looking at DOA5's story it spoke to me as well when he was asked by Helena why he wasn't entering, and it related a lot with my current desire to step away from competing in tournaments as I aged. Did you know that the first year of DOA5 I was the competitor who traveled to the most events across the country? I didn't realize until doing the brackets for the first TFC. Immerw0lf was a close second with one less event than me. I just couldn't keep up with it.


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    Favorite Bass Costume?

    Though I cosplay as his C1, my favorite would have to obviously be King Bass. I hope to be able to cosplay as him but I want to have a genuine replica NWA World Heavyweight Big Gold Belt, which costs around $2,800 and takes 2.5-3 years to receive after ordering. Also, the fact it was my costume submission helps in my decision.


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    How long have you been playing DOA casually and competitively?

    Casually? Since 1999 in an arcade with Dead or Alive++, but shortly after that spending 5 hours on the Dreamcast kiosk in EB Games with a DOA2 demo is what hooked me in.


    Competitively? Since 2004 at North-East Championships 5. That was my first competitive event, though I'd always play my competitive fighting game friends in the game leading up to that. They were more into SNK and 3S at the time.


    What's your typical routine when preparing for an upcoming tournament? Do you have any players you train with for an upcoming tournament?

    I basically just round up the crew and play some local casuals here and there. When I get to the event I rarely am free to play casuals due to running around making sure players are doing well and prepping for the tournament organization itself. Most of the time, my tournament matches are the only matches I get to have ever. I'm too busy enjoying socializing, chatting, doing wawa runs, drinking, practically anything with the whole group of players. When I was in Japan though I practically stayed in the Arcade as much as I could, but other than that I only was able to get a total of one match with Teru Rock and two with JC Akira, even though they wanted to have some more. I guess I'm just going to have to make sure we get some sets in when they come onto my turf.

    Training for your Reaction Speeds



    Are you the type of person who listens to music or chat amongst friends right before a tournament start?

    Generally have fun with the participants of the tournament. There was a time I would listen to fight music on the way driving to the tournament, but otherwise I find it doesn't really hype me up. I'm really participating in tournaments these days for the social aspect. Yeah, it'd be great to be placing first in the tournament again, but overall I'd rather see other people who have the time and dedication to put in to get that placement.


    What are the tournaments you have attended? What were those results you had on those tournaments?

    It's tough to remember them all... and I wouldn't be able to give you my results for some of them. I rarely got first or even top three at the time. I've probably been at least top eight in most of my events, but those were all before DOA5 and in a time where getting thirty people at a major was considered "Top Numbers" for games such as Third Strike or Capcom vs SNK 2. People often forget how far we as a community have come, both from the DOA perspective and the FGC as a whole. Most of my list really are just the most memorable experiences of mine, and they are the most memorably not because of my placing but because of the activities that surrounded the event with the community.

    • North East Championships V (2004)
      • This was my first event ever. I remember driving up with my four local friends (who didn't play DOA competitively but felt like trying out the Fighting Game tournament scene). Street Fighter 3 I believe had the most numbers at like 26 people. I dipped out before the DOA2U tournament and group photo, but I participated in the DOA3 tournament and going 0-2.
    • VTYME 2 (Virginia Takes Your Money Everytime 2) (2005)
      • At the time I was in college (2004 - 2008), and about every weekend or once a month I was driving to and from Bill's place in Virginia for practice. Virginia at the time was the hot spot for east coast DOA. I remember this one well because I remember Bill getting his hand smashed by a 65 pound 37" CRT television. This one I remember doing pretty okay in Dead or Alive 3. The funny thing was right next to us was Tekken 5 (just released on PlayStation 2) on the HDTV next to us and DOA3 still looked better sitting on a SD CRT. Manny I believe won that tournament against Carl White. I also remember Bill playing the first match of the DOA2U tournament with someone after completing the DOA3 tournament, and we were all like, "Bill, no, please. No one wants to play that one after playing DOA3.". Haha.
    • Dead or Alive In Dallas 2 (2006)
      • This one was my first time in Dallas for competition. The event was held in some sort of arcade-like event area. I remember Manny (Master) winning tag with Busa/Spartan as back then Morris allowed a tag team to be either one or two players, so obviously a single-person team can coordinate better than a two-person team. It was also the first time I cosplayed as Bass. Dyed my hair blonde and everything. Going through my whole plane ride in costume since it was easier than packing the leather, people didn't realize I was in a costume. They would just stare looking at this 6 foot 7 inches tall biker sitting there on a plane blowing air into the mic of his Nintendo DS. I guess the whole thing was foreshadowing to the present day... heh.
    • GVN Winter Brawl / Summer Jam (2006 - )
      • Before Hubbs merged forces with Big E in Philly, Hubbs started doing a 3D fighters tournament to counter-act Eric's 2D heavy NEC event. There were a few years of these events before the merge, but I went to all of them and had a blast each time. One of them was even being used as a Championship Gaming Series scouting mission. I remember watching Erik (Rikuto) face off against Bill in DOA4, where both players just wanted to leave and hated playing DOA4, but both are so competitive neither could forfeit or sandbag.
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    • DOATEC 2K7 (2007)
      • This was I believe Bill's final FGC event he ran. We were playing DOA4, but there was also SF3S and others at the time. I remember this as the first and only major tournament win by Shade Swifteye - who we would not see again until DOA5's release. Two last things I remember was doing a Dragon Sleeper Suplex to Paul (Rabies), and driving back up I-95 in the middle of a blizzard on a single lane path for a 4 lane-highway. Still remember passing a spun out car, but there was no stopping for us or anyone due to the single lane the snow had made. I hope those people got out okay.
    • Dead or Alive in Dallas 7 (2011)
      • The one where I met Yohei Shimbori and Yosuke Hayashi. Myself, Virtuapai, and Raansu were able to meet and talk with Shimbori about various things such as our likes, dislikes, and wishes on DOA4 and DOAD. I remember knocking Shimbori into the loser's bracket, and Virtuapai eliminating him from the tournament. It was also the first event to have a DOA Dimensions tournament where the amount of desynchronizations told everyone it would be the only event. I also remember arriving in Dallas and wanting to hit up a BBQ joint as soon as we touched down but Virtuapai wanted to opt for McDonald's instead... yeah, I'm still grumpy over that. This was also the event where Awesmic took out Master from the DOA4 tournament, I played DOA3.1 with Shimbori, and bonked my head's cowboy hat onto Shimbori's as we discussed various things.
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    • Big E Gaming's Winter Brawl / Summer Jam / North East Championships ( - 2012)
      • Most of these are a blur of all the years. I would always be the one bringing my Xbox to the event to host DOA3 while participating in other events. Over the time, I found a passion for arcade gaming so began participating in Super Street Fighter II Turbo for a couple years. There were quite a few years where I'd have to go around begging people to sign up for DOA and getting 12 or 16 people. Now mind you, these days Eric was excited when we got 300 people at the event. It was during the time of the FGC resurgence (SF4 release), and seeing those numbers practically double year after year. I learned a lot about Tournament Organizing during these events, but most of all I just remember the great crew and players I got to meet. At that time, sp00ky was practically the only legit streamer and he was learning as he went just as much as any of us.
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    • Summer Jam 6 (2012)
      • This was the event where we had the "v0.95" beta of Dead or Alive 5. It was my first time working with Tom and Sean of Tecmo-Koei, and their first community tournament. Overall, it was a great event. It was also my first time running a 128-man tournament, and there's a lot of things I wish I could go back and fix but sometimes it's just best to learn from those mistakes to not have them repeat again. In the end, it was a fun event for most of the attendees. We got to see the return of Shade Swifteye as well which was great to see. So much hype and fun happened at this event, including a drinking contest between Allan Paris, Sean from KT, and Allan Paris. Sean won as Allan went on a drunk ramble which included Dinosaurs, Jesus, and Grandmothers.
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    Summer Jam
    • Dead or Alive 5 Launch Event
      • The one which Rikuto won. This took place in San Francisco thanks to IGN's IGN Pro League, which was going to set the world on fire before Ziff Davis drew the hammer on IGN. This was a lot of fun, but wasn't a community event. Everyone was hand-picked for an invite as Team NINJA wanted to push that this game was a FIGHTING game. The TVs sadly were humorously laggy, but I got to play the final game with my friends, party, drink, and chat with Shimbori and the KT/TN staff present. I also remember the long walk after the event to hit the bars and diner where I sat with Shimbori, Peter, and Punishere. I recall talking about the DOA5 story and its references to previous iterations before I was interrupted by the delivery of bacon to my table. Mm, bacon.
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    Launch Party Video



    • GUTS (2012) - 1st place
      • This event came on the launch weekend of DOA5, It shared the same tournament date as I believe was Season's Beatings which Carl White won. I remember hitching a ride with Steven Bjornaas on his Southwest frequent flyer miles to save money. The event overall went great as there were many new and old faces. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it through the event, but the benefit I had was it being 3 out of 5 so I could adjust to my opponent better as I came back from the Loser's bracket.
    • DOA5U Official Tournament 2014 - 9th place
      • My first time competing in Japan, though not my first time playing DOA in Japan. I had to make it through the pools on the day of the event in a single-match elimination set. Luckily, I was able to make it through the pools and end up placing ninth. If I had known the Pai matchup better I might have made it further, even possibly Top 3, but sadly it wasn't meant to be. I was told this event got two times as many players as the DOA5 Official Tournament the year prior, and would be the precursor to the DOA FESTIVAL the following year. I remember going to the sushi restaurant with the whole Japan crew and trying to explain to them that since I'm allergic to fish and crab I can't eat anything but shrimp or egg sushi. "Just try it and see", Yeah, right. Though had a long conversation with Katsuninken (the tournament winner and one of the big advisors for balance) about Bass and his potential.
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    • The Fall Classic (2014) - 16th place
      • This was originally set to be the "Evo" of 3D fighters, or at least what some of us envisioned as it brought together the best of the East Coast Tournament Organizers. The event was still amazing with DOA5 Ultimate's debut tournament. So much fun being had with great matches all over the bracket. I remember Justin Wong tweeting that the DOA5 crew basically stole the show during Finals day.
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    • DOA FESTIVAL (2015) - 9th place
      • This was probably my favorite time spent in Japan overall. By this time, Japan had caught wind that I was apparently the "Real Bass", and it showed in me taking 1st in the costume contest with less than a week's notice. Team NINJA was really helpful in getting me entered into it on time and Khaled (Emperor Cow) was helpful in getting me to Japan on short notice and a good rival for the costume contest itself. Overall, I think the event itself went good, though if I had to improve on anything it would be on the English language stream audio and the format for which the tournament players played. They had us do two matches at a time and would just jump cut if the one finished before the other. It was awkward as the year prior at the Official Tournament they did it correctly with each match being streamed as the other match warmed up. Even with all of that, the event was so popular that it filled the venue literally. It was a PACKED house. I believe they had 50 more people than they expected, making it possibly the most popular DOA tournament of all time. The 3v3 tournament the next day was community-organized and I thank Khaled again for helping me in find a team though we got eliminated relatively fast after I OCV'd our first team.

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    Foreigners such as Netherland's own Gehaktbal, Japan's own Teru Rock and JC Akira will be participating in this year's NEC. What do you think about this? Good for the community? How do you think they will do in this tournament especially the Japanese players who haven't really ventured outside their comfort zone and into the US territory besides Mochi-A?

    I've always been a fan of - and been pushing for - global play. I feel there's still many barriers to overcome, but I think we've made a lot of headway from the days where Mochi-A came out to the event. A lot of that obviously should be credited for the dawn of event online streaming. I look forward to seeing how Teru Rock handles the American play style after his showing against Kwiggle at the DOA Festival. Teru Rock is one of those players who will study the frame data and all the logical options and do well with them. It works well with the Japanese style of play, and is why I don't expect him to be losing his National title any time soon, but the American's play a much more "feel" type of play-style. It's one of the reasons I expect Kwiggle was able to overcome him at the festival. JC Akira I expect to do very well if he doesn't second-guess/over-think himself. I think Akira is a very under-rated character in America, and he will run circles on many of our players. It's a lot different than in Japan where I expect a lot of Akira knowledge and familiarity hurts his playstyle. It goes to be said that our top Akira players in the states already admit that JCA is the best Akira player, and that's only after seeing him on stream. Gehaktbal practically feels like he's an American regular, and obviously a heavy hitter. I expect him to be getting in at least the Top 8, maybe Top 4, but it won't be easy.


    Do you think Team Ninja did a good job implementing a Capcom Cup tour like event like Battle Royale? What can they improve on this? Can you consider this a success?

    I feel the Battle Royal was overall a successful event. It kept interest through the whole year. If I had to improve on it, I'd probably honestly put less tournaments in the line-up as there are. It can over-saturate the uniqueness that the name brand brings. It'd be great to see some European qualifier or some international participation next year. If the main event is going to be in Philadelphia, it kind of sucks the wind out of it when most of the events in the tour are in the North East coast of the US. Even with all of that, I would consider it a success.

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    What do you think are ways Team Ninja could do a better job in bringing every player from all parts of the world together?

    One way I would like to see it being done is in expanding the online community in some form. I don't think TN, or KT for that matter, have the sort of cash flow to push for something like SF5's online infrastructure by creating a KT Online account or anything like that. However, I feel it might be great to have some sort of "Watch the latest Battle Royal event live on stream in game!" type of mode, even better if you could like do stuff where you place bets on who's going to win between certain players - fictional money of course. I don't know, ideas can come from anywhere and from any player. I will say that if players want to see more global play they need to work more on growing their local scene. If two players who lived right next to each other keep saying "I'm the only one...", would they ever meet? It's obviously not for everyone, but if you want it to be done you're going to have to put your foot out there and get it done. Much like I see players who complain about the "lack of support" FSD gives to articles or events that aren't in the North East coast, to which I would respond by saying, "Well, why aren't you creating the articles?". There are many of us in the "old-school" mentality where we thrived on creating local friendships and piggy-backing off each other to help improve our game, their game, and our community. Now-a-days it appears less community driven at times as players look out for the individual by trying to compete for sponsorships as ways to afford going - missing out on the social options they have. Don't know if Team NINJA can figure a way to promote more communal efforts to help counter-balance that effect, but it's not entirely up to them to do that. I look forward to any ideas that come of it though.

    Which versions of DOA do you like and hate the most? Why?

    It might be better for me to explain what I think of each of the games.

    • Dead or Alive 1
      • Great potential for a game, showed off the fluidity and capability of Team NINJA. Unique from the series as control scheme was overhauled in DOA++ and DOA2. Without it, we would never have the DOA series, or even the Ninja Gaiden reboot, or *gasp* the Fatal Frame series as if it failed then Tecmo was done. DOA++ was the first to introduce the stun system, as the original DOA had very little stuns since most things were normal hit attacks.
    • Dead or Alive 2
      • Easily the top-selling version of the series due to its numerous versions. Even with those versions, there's so much that changed between them. From DOA2 Hardcore to DOA2 Ultimate especially. DOA2 Ultimate was the first full 3D fighting game online, and set practically a gold standard for what should be done in an online field. Of course, there are so many costumes that were created for it, but most people often forget that the game mechanics were practically set in stone so little development time went into those mechanics.
    • Dead or Alive 3
      • It was hard to play DOA2 once you got into the system mechanic differences of DOA3. This is probably my favorite if I have to choose casually speaking. The story was gritty, dark, and serious. It was the first game in the series to not feature a "Bounce" option of any sort. Oh, and there's some nostalgia tied to it for me due to the Xbox being the first game system I ever purchased with my own money, and DOA3 was the sole reason for that purchase.
    • Dead or Alive 4
      • Ugh, the disappointment when I first played this title. Everything that we had learned about and come to expect from DOA3.1 / 3.2 was removed in that final delay of a month. So quickly that Bryan Dawson did half of the guide review on the "X06" demo copy which featured all of the things that were removed. I give them props in making the characters look vibrant though and some of the stages are interesting. Personally speaking Seaside Market and Casino were the only good stages though, and the music was also bland for the series. It also changed up the stun system to where you HAD to come to full threshold to get a decent launch, and it made it worse by requiring that the attack initiating stun doesn't count towards threshold. This made the game play more heavily in the stun system than previously, and that with the Untechables plus Unholdables system discovery just felt over-powering to me: to the point where it just felt like I was constantly in a guess situation. Didn't help matters that I had to digest it for seven years.
    • Dead or Alive Dimensions
      • Basically the same system as DOA4 with the beginnings of the DOA5 system as Shimbori lead the charge.
    • Dead or Alive 5
      • My favorite competitively speaking. There are some things I'd still like to see altered in the engine, but overall it's the most competitively balanced form of DOA. I think the only area it falters in is in Stage design, presentation, and unlockables. However, over the few iteration upgrades the presentation and unlockables seemed to fill out.
    Is there anything you would like to see changed, added or deleted in DOA5LR such as character balances, more characters or stages?

    There's a few things I'd like to see how the DOA system handles, and I don't think any of them would make it into a DOA5 iteration. First, return it to the point where the critical stun threshold includes the attack that initiates stun. I feel the current version of the game spends too much time in the stun system instead of focusing more on the neutral game. I don't expect the threshold system itself being removed as that's one of the things Shimbori brought to the plate in DOA4. Second, Offensive Holds should not be Hi-counter thrown by throws when in their recovery frames. It's understandable why throws should be Hi-counter'd by attacks since they only have a startup of 3-12 frames primarily - leaving not much room to counter attack punish a whiff. However, OHs are no faster than 16 frames of startup making the hi-counter throw window egregious. Defensive Holds don't follow this thought process either, as you only get Hi-counter throw on a Defensive Hold during its 18 active frames, otherwise it's normal hit on their recovery (same with attacks). Third, Power Blows / Power Launchers should be available at the start of a round instead of 50% life. Although people argue they are "come-back mechanics" I don't agree with them. This is primarily because it's not like a three frame invulnerable Ultra or anything. It actually was a point I brought up to Shimbori at the launch event, but it was too late to have it altered by then. Fourth, command throw breaks. Fifth, getting hit when back dashing being Normal Hit punishment instead of Counter hit. It used to be Hi-counter hit but I was able to give feedback of at least a drop to Counter hit - which I guess they followed. Sixth, I'd be interested in trying the game out where you can't move before the round starts. That's about it. Character-wise, I would like to see Bass' T.F.B.B. do 50% on hi-counter like it did in all other DOAs again.


    Any players you enjoy watching or would like to play against?

    Just looking forward to NEC where I can hang with all of them and hopefully get some games here and there.


    How is the East Coast scene? Can you tell us more about your scene and the players you have over there? Are there any ways you can think of improving your scene and its growth?

    Before DOA5 there was no Maryland scene. Some people would come and go, but primarily it was just me. During DOA5 I took more of proactive approach to getting a scene going. Currently, I started a Maryland DOA Facebook chat to keep the Maryland crew in touch and give them heads up when one of us is free to play. It's been successful so far and I hope others find similar ways to grow their scenes. Specifically my two biggest training partners are Cory "VirtuaKazama" Mewborn and James "Lith" Greene who have made a lot of growth over the years. James is the reason I picked up Akira as a counter-pick to his Ayane. There's even a few Tekken and Marvel players who play the game with us pretty commonly.


    Do you have a personal tier list on DOA5LR?

    Top in alphabetical order: Akira, Ayane, Christie, Gen Fu, Leifang

    Mid in alphabetical order: Else everyone


    Are you interested in DOA6 coming out soon? Any predictions on the release date of the game?

    Yes, I am interested in seeing how they improve over DOA5. My prediction is 2 to 3 years tops. Hayashi tends to stretch the team thin lately. From what I've seen, it seems like they're overloaded with projects so I wouldn't be surprised if it's in the works already. I have no knowledge of it being worked on, I just would expect so. The real fun is in seeing if the community can keep going strong during the time difference of the games, because I don't expect Team NINJA to be supporting DOA5 forever. Depending on the results of NEC16 will probably determine the level of support for next year. It will be interesting to see what happens next year as it's the series' 20th anniversary. I expect at least another DOA FESTIVAL, especially since the Japanese scene is just growing so rapidly (in part due to the arcade).


    What's your take on DOAX3?

    Looks fun, but a lot of the design decisions have furthered my suspicions that Hayashi is over-stretching the team's resources on too many projects. I would have liked to see if DOAX3 brought in the guy characters as I think that would have helped them in getting it approved for sale by Western retailers. I mean, guys like vacations too. But with not even all of the female cast in the game, that was a pipe dream.


    If you were to pick one moment that defines you in DOA, what would that be and why?

    I've had so many. I'd probably just have to say creating Free Step Dodge as it was a huge undertaking for me to organize, manage, and grow this site during my many other life priorities. However, it wouldn't be around without every single one of the people who visit it on a daily or weekly basis. I would like to see more community involvement from more players, and hopefully I can find ways to reward such involvement.


    Any other games you play for fun or competitively?

    I play a lot of games, not nearly as much as I did when in high school or college, but currently I'm busy with Metal Gear Solid V and Grand Theft Auto Online. I also started my own indie studio last year so working on my own games these days is eating up a lot of my time.


    If you could give any advice for the aspiring competitive DOA player, what would you say?

    Find someone locally who you can meet up on a semi-regular basis to help your game. Online is good for string recognition basically, but meeting someone in person changes the entire feeling of learning the game since you can't blame it on network delay. Utilize any resources you can, from the DOA Player Map, Facebook groups, Twitter, or anything. The game sells millions of copies world wide, you're not the only one who plays it.


    Any interesting or funny stories you would like to share?

    I have tons as you've noticed. I can share more at tournaments (like I already do), so hopefully whoever wants to listen will be up to chilling, eating, and chatting. But I will give you two stories, one I hope would be interesting and another I consider funny:

    First, I think many or most people would look at the PC version of DOA5LR and say it was a missed opportunity. I think overall I would agree to that assertion. I was told that a part of their decision to go forward with the PC version of the game was based off of feedback from myself and another player. However, many of the benefits we saw in a PC version of the game I feel Team NINJA didn't take advantage of with the released version. I do personally believe that they'd release a better product for the PC should they release DOA6 for it, as it would be designed with PC in mind - unlike DOA5.

    Second, while at the DOA FESTIVAL I was too busy getting surrounded by Japanese people asking for pictures with me in Bass cosplay. At one point I even had the Lisa cosplayer in a fireman's carry! Soon, I was introduced to "Bass' #1 fan." Hara-san. She's one of the costume designers for Team NINJA and DOA. So I was very pleased to meet her as she was way shorter than me (probably around 5'2"?). I put my arm over her shoulder while doing a thumbs up which I was doing for practically everyone else. Immediately I can feel her body shivering in excitement. I was just taken aback that she was so excited to "finally meet Bass". I have never been in such a situation where someone was practically star-struck in meeting me. Must be what rock-stars feel like or something…

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    Who are the DOA commentators you enjoy listening to?

    I think Master and Shade Swifteye do a nice job on the mic, but I'm rarely listening to the commentary of events since I'm typically sitting in the crowd. I think Gill Hustle and Sly Bass do a good job as well, but tend to go off topic too much. I find myself to be less of the color-commentator and more of the analyst. I think if you want to get into commentary, you should look into how the great Pro Wrestling commentators do it by selling the event and atmosphere to the crowd while telling a story about the match participants.

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    Favorite Foods and Drinks?

    Rib Eye Steak (Medium-Rare) and water. Otherwise, Diet Coke and either a bacon cheeseburger, chicken alfredo pasta, or beef and broccoli with rice.


    What are the best places to visit or dine at your local area?

    There's too many to name really... I tend to take my out-of-town visitors around to try out whatever new hotspot I find.


    Do you have a Twitter, Facebook or Youtube channel people can follow you on?

    I'm the only one running @FreeStepDodge. You can find me as Matt Ponton on Facebook. Those would be the best ways to contact me.


    Any last messages? Shoutouts?

    Shoutouts to the members who frequent Free Step Dodge. I'm still trying to find time to work out the details of the FSD shop to help you buy unique DOA apparel and products. Also, you should so donate to the site so that I can have more money for steak... or water.

    I’ll work on that sometime soon haha


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    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016
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