The Oral History of Ozhadou Nationals: The UTS Era

POSTED BY Chee Seng Siow September 12, 2017 in EsportsFeatures, Top Post,
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Ozhadou Nationals (OHN) is the longest running fighting game tournament in Australia. Founded by two fighting game players from Wollongong and Canberra, OHN together with its mother site ozhadou.net helped birth the Australian Fighting Game Community (FGC) as we know it. From its humble beginnings in 2002 at Playtime arcade to its current iteration at the Hilton and being part of the Capcom Pro Tour and Tekken World Tour, we talk to the organisers behind its proud 16 year history – all the hype, near-catastrophes, rivalries, karaoke and arcade cabinets. This is the story of OHN and the people who bled sweat and tears to bring it to life.

The Timeline


The UTS era

Justin:

The next evolution for OHN was when we moved to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) for OHN4, and we had arcade cabinets together with consoles.

TSC was a big factor there because he had connections and he was able to get those Third Strike cabinets into UTS. That was the key to having Third Strike on arcade which kept a lot of Third Strike purists happy.

Every year, the brackets and attendance grew. I think the first OHN with really big brackets would’ve been when we got to upstairs UTS.

For two or three years we were running downstairs at UTS – and it was like in a bar. And we’d section off a little area for backstage and a stage area that could hold 50-80 people squashed together. That was good for the time, but we needed more room.

Youssef “FaYd” Faddoul (OHN Community Manager, Tekken Tournament Organiser 2005-current):

My first tournament ever was OHN4. Back then I literally didn’t know anyone. I had no friends in the FGC. All I knew was I liked this game Tekken.

And then after I looked up a little bit about the game I saw there was this rising tournament happening in Sydney called Ozhadou Nationals. And then I’m like, sweet I just wanna go and participate. And it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.

Everyone’s just playing, everybody is going nuts, everyone is going hype. I could feel that – everyone wants to play and compete, but at the same time the number one thing on everyone’s mind is not the competition but it’s the fact that they were there. I felt that’s what meant more – they were actually there at that moment in time, and that’s where they belong. I was like, fuck this is such a hectic feeling!

I liked the fact that there were interstaters in top 8. That was new to me. I thought it was just going to be Sydney people but then there were interstaters and I was like: oh sick! The people even from different states come and compete – and oh sick they make it to top 8. And I’m like this is so hype, this is so hectic. So it’s not just like Sydney vs Sydney or friends vs friends. Of course in the grand scheme of things everybody is each other’s friend. But it gets deeper than that.

It works twofold. It works because you’re playing for your state. You put your state on your back, and you’re like: I’mma carry.

But at the same time everybody’s cheering for you and giving all their energy and hype: “Please win please win please win.”

So it’s like everybody’s working in unison and it’s enthralling. It’s truly captivating when just everything is just working in sync, everything is working the way it’s meant to be working and you just feel so fucking blessed to just be a part of it. You’re like, I’m a sucker I don’t deserve to be here, but yo, fuck, I’m here. And this is the best thing ever. It’s a great feeling.

Henry “Genxa” Sham (Ozhadou Brand Manager 2005-current):

There was a VERY strong sense of state pride back in the day. Nobody from NSW would ever dare cheer for any other state.

Spencer Wu (OHN Event Director 2011-2015):

Whenever I see someone from my state or from my city, I always go for them. It’s like State of Origin. Because you see them week in and week out there’s a level of investment in them. You play with them every week and every month and you wanna see them do well. And when they do well it makes you feel good inside. When your brothers-in-arms are going into battle you gotta back them a 100%.

I wear my emotions on my sleeve so when I see them do well it’s like everything just rushes: OH MY GOD! “I can’t control it” – it’s basically Dark Phoenix that says it the best.

When you get hype, the people around you get hype, and everybody…that raw energy just keeps boosting up. Everyone just bounces off each other. It’s like yawning right when one person yawns the next person yawns and it triggers a chain reaction. I guess that’s why I get more and more hype as the match goes on. And I end up losing my voice.

Spencer and Genxa getting hype at OHNX

Justin:

We used old digital tapes to record matches. This is before the days of streaming so we had a camera set up on a tripod.

I remember Yang was really persistent about this. He would go “This is my tape area, don’t get past the tape – not even a foot past the tape.” We had to be really clear with all the TOs walking around with a clipboard: “Hey Kevin. Behind the tape.” And when anyone bumped the tape we’d go “Argh damnit.” Watching it back and the camera moves and we’d moan “Who did that?” This is how hardcore things were.

You guys have no idea how easy you have it now. Pop your phone out and record a match. Press a button on your Playstation and it’s shared. Jesus…we would’ve loved that! (Laughs.)

The other important note is that this all happened during the dark ages of the FGC – the ten years drought between Third Strike and SFIV where there was no [new] fighting games.

Jack:

I knew Jonny (Humanbomb) when we were kids, he had already starting playing in arcades as a kid. We felt of ozhadou.net [that without it] we wouldn’t be able to sustain the community. You need a platform to share knowledge, matchmaking. Because the hardest part was the matchmaking. Back in the old days pre-2008 you don’t play console games. You don’t need to match-make or hookup with people…you just go to any arcade and you will have good fun. It’s only post-2000 it’s really hard. And because of ozhadou.net that held everyone together it really kept the scene alive. And thanks to Street Fighter IV, it really revived the whole scene again. If Street Fighter IV didn’t come out, [the scene] would have died out. No doubt.

Justin:

Funny story – the OHN8 logo competition. (OHN8 was when Street Fighter IV came out.)

It was an 8 done in a paintbrush style similar to the SFIV logo. I did this thing where I hid a reference to all 8 original characters from SF2 into the logo. There were little things like Ryu’s hands for the fireball, Zangief’s scars, Chun-Li’s hairbuns, Dhalsim’s skull.

The OHN8 logo: A rorschach test for Street Fighter players

The hard thing was telling everyone that there’s something about this logo, but not telling them what it is so they’d have to figure it out. Because once you say eight characters they’ll see it straightaway. So I said there’s something special about this, about the 8 logo, and we bolded the letter 8 so they’d know it was something about that. And a couple of them were really easy to see. The hadou and Ken’s dragon punch were really easy to see straightaway. But after that they were kinda stuck seeing anything else. They were always looking for a move and not really stepping back and thinking why 8 was a significant number for Street Fighter. It took a little while, and we would watch the guesses on the forums and think to ourselves: is this too hard? Is no one going to get this?

I’m creative but I’m probably terrible at designing a puzzle! But eventually someone (Yiggs) did guess it and they got the free pass to come to OHN8.

David “Kyokugen” Lee (Ozhadou MacGyver 2008-current):

My favourite OHN is OHN7 and it’s been downhill since.

They had these raffle prize sticks…the OHN7 sticks were really nice I remember. That may be what started my stick collection thing.

In terms of custom sticks OHN7 for sure. No other OHN comes close.

Beefy helped me who was really good at that sort of stuff. Someone else made the best cases we ever seen. We made them six button sticks and looking back – that was a dumb thing to do! They should have been eight button sticks.

Kyokugen:

The one that AlexK did the art for as well was pretty cool.

Muttons:

That’s funny that you rate the OHNs by the quality of the custom stick design.

Kyokugen:

Is there another metric that I should be using Muttons?

Henry:

My fondest memory of Humanbomb at an OHN actually has nothing to do with Street Fighter haha.

One year, Iron Myke (our Virtua Fighter lord and saviour) issued a kumite where you play him FT3 in Virtua Fighter 4. You even got to choose Mike’s character – if you won then you get money

Humanbomb was the only person to beat him. I’ve never seen Humanbomb that happy before, much happier than any OHN title!

Third Strike legends: (From left) Akira, Paul T, Kevin (Kechu)

Ziggy:

OHN5 was the first time we played down to a top 8. It was Third Strike and we had four from Sydney and four from Melbourne which was perfect. I think we did a reset and we seeded the top 8 bracket ignoring which pools people came out from. Joey and Benson were the TOs of it and they basically created dream matches of Melbourne vs. Sydney for all four matches. And they blatantly chose Sydney players who they thought had the best chance of beating the Melbourne players based on characters and playstyle. So it was a total blatant rig. As soon as the brackets were put up, Kevin came over to me and said “This bracket is rigged!” I asked what he was talking about. “These matchups, these pairings, this is rigged!” I asked him if we should redo it, and he said: “No. Leave them. But I just want to tell you I know – this is rigged!” And he just went back.

And they just played out, and Melbourne placed 1, 2, and 3. So too bad too sad Sydney, if you try to rig your top 8 it’s not gonna help you, you need to actually get good. It was hilarious.

Photo courtesy of Aurik

We were recording all these matches to make a DVD, and Jack went around interviewing players around the room just giving some of his classic “Jack-isms”, talking to them and getting how they were feeling. It was actually a little micro attempt to do the kind of things you see EVO doing on the big stage talking to players before matches.

Jack:

OHN5 was big because of the EVO moment #37, we created the first DVD and that was the biggest rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne was recorded on video. And obviously Melbourne won again. (Laughs.)

If you ask anybody people will say Third Strike has the best memories or times. The reason why is because a lot of other games have died throughout our history but the only reason people remember Third Strike is because it was continuation, it was a lot of stories… because of the community, of the people that love the game together. Even though I say a lot about Third Strike that’s only an example. Then it was Street Fighter IV and now Street Fighter V.

Jack Luo OHN5

Justin:
UTS had a gamer club and every year we would get everyone to sign up at the gamer club. They didn’t have to do anything, but as long as they signed up to the gamer club and basically punched up the club’s numbers – they would get their funding each year to do stuff. And they would use a lot of that funding to help us at OHN. So we were basically helping each other. But after a few years UTS cut the funding to that side of things and we couldn’t do it anymore. Or maybe they saw our loophole and said you guys can’t do this…(Laughs.)

York Street was already happening at the time for monthlies so we knew that’s where we would go logically.

The Justin Wong OHN6 was at UTS downstairs…and he cleaned up. Oh my god.


Justin Wong wins (almost) everything

Joey:

I was a huge fanboy of American Marvel players. I saw this video…Clockw0rk versus ShadyK. It was videos of them playing Marvel and I was like: holy fuck. I have to do this.

When I started playing Marvel I was stalking these guys, finding as much information as I could and just googling them. I found one of their personal websites and they mentioned an IRC channel. Do you know the Vietnamese swearword for motherf****r: “du ma”?

That was the name of their channel! So I joined this channel and in there were players that are top players to this day. Clockw0rk, ShadyK, Floe, Tragic, Bronson Lee, Viscant.

I was just in this channel and eventually I became friends with them. All of them thought I was someone else’s friend…no one knew why I was there.

I became webmaster of Clockw0rk.com. So I redesigned the website, I helped them put out new videos and I did all this stuff just because I was passionate. So it meant that I had the connections with all these players in the U.S. [Going to EVO] meeting some of the legends, you walk in there for registration. There’s Su Mighty. There’s Alex Valle. And Valle always called me Kangaroo. “Kangaroo! We need to grab a game.” And I would go “Yeah let’s do it.”

These were the people who were introducing us to Justin Wong and all these things. . My relationships in America were very deep solely from talking to people online all the time. These are some of my closest friends.

OHN6: Benson, Joey, Yang (from left)

Ziggy:

TSC was heavily involved in organizing OHN5, because it was his cabinets. The Third Strike community wouldn’t play on anything but arcade. So he was willing to provide the cabinets to ensure that and do a lot of the organization. And part of what he was organizing was he was talking to Triforce of Empire Arcadia to try and get him to bring a bunch of guys primarily Justin Wong but other guys too to OHN5.

Joey:

I don’t know what it started with but it ended up talking about a private plane with all of the best players from the US flying to Australia here to invade OHN5.

It didn’t happen.

Ziggy:

Triforce was talking out of his backside. And none of what he said made any logistical sense whatsoever.

But the good thing was the community was really forgiving. We told them, we advertised this would be Empire Arcadia invading Australia. And none of that happened.

And yet most people kind of sucked it up and said, yeah well. It would’ve been nice. But we still got the best players from Melbourne and Sydney for Third Strike here and it’s still a kick-arse tournament, we’re happy.

Then you had the other camp of people, and it was very small, who felt legitimately like they’d been jibbed. There’s only really one person that I felt really bad about. And that was Aurik. He’d moved to Japan already by that time and had the choice to either go to EVO that year or come to OHN.

Having come to OHN every year from 1 to 3 when he was living in Melbourne, he chose to come to OHN5 because he thought the Empire was coming because he wanted to defend Australia’s honour against the Americans. And when that didn’t happen, he was not a happy man.

I totally felt horrible about it. In the end he had a great time. And he really enjoyed catching up with the Melbourne players and being on their team and supporting them in the top 8.

Justin:

Justin not being able to make it for OHN5 really taught us to really keep our cards close to our chest before we announce anything. Get things locked in stone: you sure he’s coming? He’s definitely coming? Okay…now we can announce it.

If you break a promise like that it’s very tough. We had to be very careful from then on.

Joey:

We kind of had eggs on our faces. So instead we were like: how do we make up for this? So I started talking to Justin: hey it didn’t work out, but you should still come down to Australia [for OHN6]. He’s like: let’s make it happen.

It was the 20th of September when Justin got in touch and he was super excited to come. We funded his ticket, he stayed at my house with my family.

My mom actually always encouraged me to write an article about it: one week with a top player.

Because it’s very interesting – this person is one of the best in the world at something. You very rarely get to experience this in your life.

Yang:

When Justin came to the airport he was actually detained at the airport. Because of the fact that he got the ticket on such short notice, they thought he may have been a drug mule…

So they had to contact the person who purchased the ticket, because it wasn’t Justin who purchased the ticket under his name.

When we played casuals with him we realised how behind we were to America. Back then Japan being the best players and then [you had] America…we were so far behind. Justin made us look like training dummies. It was an eye opening experience because we thought we were good, but we were humbled.

Joey:

We felt like we were bringing this amazing thing to the scene. This was the first time this international guest had happened and it was so exciting. And that’s why he entered every single game.

There was Puzzle Fighter, Alpha 3 and he won it all.

That was the closing chapter for me. I had moved out of the scene by that time.

Ziggy:

For OHN6 this was pre-Street Fighter IV and the scene was dying and there was no hope in sight. People were saying this is the last hurrah, what if we put together the money to bring someone like Wong out.

On one hand it was great to have him here in the flesh because he was very friendly and very generous with his time and happy to play lots of people. But by the same token there would have been a lot of people for whom that was the conclusion of their journey in the fighting game community. Because they’ve now run into the best of the best from beyond our borders. They’ve seen where they mark against them. And they know within their hearts of hearts that they’ve now peaked as a player. It happened for other people in our scene who went to SBO for example. It’s not necessarily just OHN6 that did it. On the other hand it shows that you can attract that kind of player to these events and therefore attract the kind of people that want to come for that kind of player.

Justin:

We just couldn’t give him any competition…maybe in ST we gave him a little bit because he didn’t care too much about that game but he still beat us. He’s still better than us at every game. It was ridiculous.

Youssef:

The only game he didn’t win at OHN but still managed to make grand final was Tekken Tag Tournament. He got beat by one of our Korean players Park. I remember when Justin Wong won Tekken 6 and we were all like: Oh my god. He’s gonna win Tag as well. And then enter Park. A very good Tekken player but we’d never seen him play Tag before.

And then they sit to play and Park picks Ogres, and back then Justin was playing Changs. Because essentially in Tag 1 there was a triangle for top tiers. Changs beat Mishimas, Mishimas beat Ogres, Ogres beat Changs. That was the top tier triangle.

I remember it clear as anything. As soon as Park picks Ogre, I remember Justin looked around and said “That’s a cheap team.” And then Park proceeded to win and defend Australia.

A small moral victory but a victory nonetheless. It took Tekken for us to defend a clean streak from Justin at OHN that year. And then we had a good time, the boys took him out to karaoke and showed him an absolutely amazing time and he loved it.

Joey:

That karaoke at OHN6 was something for the ages. The energy in there…we have the new Brisbane guys down, Tom and Jim. Old guys like Hai in town. We had Melbourne there. We had all the Sydney guys back, people hadn’t come out for quite a long time. When we all went to karaoke…everyone’s drinking and singing with Justin Wong. I remember at the end of the night, Justin and I were in adjacent toilet stalls throwing up. I was like “Are you alright man?” He’s like “Nah man. Are you alright man?” I’m like “Nah man.”

Trying to get home – we were in Afterdeath’s car. Benson was in the middle, Justin and I were both hanging out the windows, throwing out the car windows, painting the side of the car as we were driving. Absolutely horrific.


EVO APAC: Daigo Umehara makes landing

Joey:

I was the key connection to Daigo at EVO APAC.

I came back just for that, I didn’t care too much about Street Fighter IV but I cared about the scene and thought we could do something cool here.

I remember we had this idea and we’d been speaking to the Shoryuken guys. It was me, Justin, Ziggy and Benson. We submitted a proposal to Tony Cannon that we wanted to have Evolution Asia-Pacific with the idea of allowing the Asian-Pacific competitors to make it to EVO.

It was received well by Tony Cannon, they were very happy. They were offering some funding around that, and then we heard back from Seth Killian that Daigo tried to qualify in Cannes and he lost. And Daigo asked Seth: hey is there anywhere else I can go to get to EVO? And we were like: Fuck yeah there is!

I started with Daigo’s business manager: her name was Shino. Fifty emails back and forth to get it all sorted out. But it was all worth it.

Justin:

We finally got to see Daigo and he bodied everyone like nothing else. It was ridiculous. He drew people out of the woodwork.

(Daigo had two separate win streaks like while moneymatching all of Australia. He only lost once in between– to Melvin aka Kientan.)

Joey:

I remember those final matches at the end between Daigo and Jonny. Ryu versus Ryu. That’s some amazing shit.

Henry:

But I remember Daigo out drinking all of us that year – the man sure does love his beer. This was followed by an overnight session of Mahjong, then straight to the airport where we made him try Vegemite…

Jack:

Funny story: Jonny was beating Daigo at mahjong after the EVO APAC finals, that was the only game he could win!

Ziggy:

For EVO APAC it really was more of a marketing exercise to see if we could carry the EVO name as a collaborative exercise. For me EVO APAC was the peak of my OHN organiser career for lack of a better word. We’d run an event under the EVO name with points and tickets feeding back to EVO. Which is something we’d always wanted to link OHN with a satellite qualifier for EVO. Daigo showing interest and coming was also a cool moment.

Justin:

It felt like the most successful event we’d ever run at the time. Yes Daigo was a big factor of that, but everything else that we did we did it the best we could. We ran the brackets the best we could, we were as efficient as we could, the venue was set up the best it could be, we had the best amount of promotion we could have at the time. All these little things it felt like we finally had done things the best.

We’ve done things better since, but that was the first time we felt like everything came together. And I remember Ziggy myself and a bunch of the other guys were hanging out in the hotel room afterwards. And we were thinking to ourselves – this is the best that we’ve ever run.

Jonny getting love from Sydney after a hype win, EVO APAC

In the next part of the oral history our cast talks about the red room move, burnout and OHN traditions! You can check out Part One here.


OHN15 will be the biggest OHN yet: a Capcom Pro Tour and Tekken World Tour event held at the Hilton Sydney on 15-17 September with a main games lineup consisting of Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Injustice 2, Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros for WiiU. There is a wide range of medal games with the likes of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Third Strike, The King of Fighters XIV, Virtua Fighter 5 and much more.

Register now: http://ohn.ozhadou.net/

For all things Ozhadou go to: http://www.ozhadou.net/

Follow Ozhadou at: https://www.facebook.com/Ozhadou/

Hope to see you there!

 

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