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.
2001: A wild Ziggy and F.A.B. appears!
Andrew “Ziggy” Ziogas (Ozhadou co-founder, Bracket Overlord/Tournament Director 2001- current):
I live in Wollongong so I’d sort of given up on arcades – they’d all shut down here. I started working in Sydney in 2000, 2001 and discovered that the arcades were still alive, and that people even went to them. I was amazed.
I’d stumbled across Shoryuken.com around that time and I was looking around for Australian players. So I went on the forums and I saw some guys who’d been talking about playing Marvel in Sydney in the arcade right near where I was studying. I went; I’ll post in here and see if I can hook up with some of these guys. I didn’t get a response from anybody in Sydney but I got an email from a guy in Canberra.
By the name of Justin Hogie.
Final Atomic Buster at OHN8.
Justin “Final Atomic Buster” Hogie (Ozhadou co-founder, Event Director 2001-2011):
We had a group of guys meeting up in Sydney [arcades] and myself coming from Canberra. It was basically Ziggy, Mike “Iron Myke” Abdow (Australian Virtua Fighter legend) and myself. Mike was very Virtua Fighter focussed, he was the mature guy, he was older, and he was the guy that clearly had experience. He’d been to the US and around the world for his Virtua Fighter so he’d seen a lot of stuff and knew things should work and how we should run things.
One thing that’s always struck me as frustrating [about] Shoryuken.com…it’s really hard to find Australians on there. Because it’s just an American site. I said to Justin: I wonder if there are other Australian Street Fighter players out there. I wish there was a website which you could find them. Because I’ve like Googled for Australian Street Fighter and there’s nothing there.
I don’t think Ziggy deliberately pushed us into doing things, but the way we were talking to each other definitely motivated me to go “I can make a website. I can do this.” And we just did it. Neither of us had girlfriends at the time… early twenties, we had time.
We actually had a few different names to go through and we felt that the Hadou thing made the most sense. We liked having an acronym OH that no one had. We knew it had to be clear that it was Australian and about fighting games. Ozhadou was the one that met all the ticks that we wanted. I bought the domain and that’s that!
Joey “Ekin” Nguyen (OHN TO, Marvel vs Capcom legend 2001-2010):
I still remember the first time that all of us got together. It was actually Stefan – XNDL who’d been talking with Ziggy and Justin on Usenet on newsgroup alt.games.sf2 and trying to find out if people were around. Ah this guy’s in Canberra, this guy’s in Wollongong and we had this meetup. Stefan was the connecting point for everyone. He brought these guys from internet but he also knew Jake and Yang from just playing in the arcades.
And I just started talking, oh we’re thinking of putting this website together. We kind of need people to join up and moderators and things. Would you guys be interested?
From the start Ziggy was always in charge. But because we both ran Ozhadou it looked like maybe we were both in charge? But I always deferred to Ziggy anytime I couldn’t answer anything. I always trusted him to make the point of call.
From the beginning I would say my responsibilities were: do anything and everything to make OHN happen. With everything from promoting it online to working out logistics to how we’re gonna run it on the day and lining things up with Playtime. I quickly adopted the title of Tournament Director because I thought it sounded cool and I wanted to be a micro-version of a Cannon (Founders of EVO). And I gave Justin the title of Event Director just because we both had to be director-tier because we were the progenitors of it all. I told him: I’d make sure the bracket works seamlessly and then you make sure everything works seamlessly around it, how’s that sound? So we kind of divvied it up that way.
And we had Yang and a couple of other guys that we could delegate stuff to. We did the bulk of the work the first couple of years in terms of pre-event preparation. During the event we always had a lot of helpers, a lot of staff on hand to help us out and that was fun.
At that time, I said I’d been reading these guides on SRK on how to run double elimination tournaments. Because I’ve got the old Hyper Fight guide from Gamepro.
So I said to Yang off the cuff when I was talking about the Ozhadou concept. Oh we might actually even run tournaments one day. Yang’s like: no way. You’ll never manage to run a tournament. It’ll never happen.
And from there I went: I’m going to prove you wrong.
So that initial gathering happened and the vibe in the air was that we need to do a tournament for this. We did 4-5 tournaments and we were trying to help the other states set up their infrastructure. And as a natural “who’s the best” anytime there’s competition – I feel that OHN came up as a result of that.
They were keen to get things happening in Melbourne. So they put on a Capcom vs. SNK 2 (CVS2) tournament in the January of 2002 just after we’d done our first ones in Sydney and December.
So Justin and myself and Iron Myke, we were all sort of on a high after doing the local CVS2 tournaments. So like, let’s go down to Melbourne and compete. See how we do.
Kevin (Kechu) and Aurik (Oriku), the first two people that we recruited as Melbourne moderators, ran it and they were really hospitable. We stayed at Aurik’s house and he looked after us for a week or something stupid.
I went two and out and got the living snot beat out of me. And Justin didn’t do much better. And that was a nice reality check. Mike did quite well, I think he came second or third.
But because Jonny (Humanbomb) had beaten Mike so convincingly in the CVS2 finals in Sydney…
I remember having conversations on email: “Man! I wish Jonny and Kevin could play. I want to see who wins.” It was this huge clash of styles. Kevin was a Third Strike player using P-groove in CVS2 – which was crazy because P-groove’s crap. Who’s using P-groove? (Laughs.)
Jonny “Humanbomb” Cheng turned up for the very first CVS2 tournament in 2001. Him and Mike and a few other guys like his brother Nin were kind of a clique in Sydney. They hung around together and practiced at home together as well as going out to the arcades. And they were kind of the top tier group. Because any group that is training with Jonny is naturally better than everybody else.
Jonny was clearly at the top. Not many people in Sydney could give him competition. He was young, about 18…still studying at the time.
If Mike who’d come second [in Melbourne] was struggling to stay in top 3 in Sydney, we’d thought: I wonder what would happen if the best in Sydney and the best in Melbourne [play]. We called it a national tournament because as far as we were concerned we were the entire country at that point in time. Sydney and Melbourne, we were Australia, that was how it was going to be.
But OHN was literally born out of the desire to have an interstate rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne in CVS2.
OHN1: The Playtime Era
The first two or three OHNs were held at Playtime arcade, the one across the road from McDonalds, a pretty big arcade at the time.
Yang-Yang “Hebretto” He (OHN Tournament Organiser OHN1- current):
We managed to have this relationship with the arcade owner of Playtime – his name was Peter. It really helped because we’d ask for something and he would make sure that we got it and there would be staff on hand.
Back then they didn’t put the machines on freeplay – we would actually have to put in dollar coins in each one of the machines. The tournament players themselves wouldn’t put in the coins, the organisers would actually have the money. Basically the entry fee you paid covered the cost of the games you played. It’s in your best interest to win if you wanted to get more games in!
We would collect the entry fees through cash and everyone brought ten dollars in. When we had that, all the money that we collected went into a blue 1.5L ice cream tub. And to this day I still sometimes joke with Ziggy about the ice cream tub because that’s something you don’t see these days where it’s all done online.
Sometimes people would want to play on the machines by themselves and we would have to tell them there’s a tournament on. It was a different environment back then, because as you can imagine going to an arcade…you have to share the arcade with other people. It can get quite loud and busy. That was the environment I grew up in.
Jack Luo (Ozhadou Third Strike Community Leader 2001-2012):
[OHN1] was the bomb man. So many passionate players sharing the passion of the game, and you compete…how we played games growing up is different to the way people play these days online. We go out, sit next to a person and put your money down. And people always look behind you while you play. It’s a different atmosphere back then.
At OHN1 the biggest game was not Third Strike, it was Marvel vs Capcom 2 and CVS. It’s only at OHN2 that Third Strike became popular. OHN3 was the biggest for Third Strike, at that time CVS2 already died out. Throughout that time there was a rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney.
And Melbourne was always better than Sydney. With Kechu and Aurik.
There was really two big rivalries at the time. It was Sydney vs Melbourne in CVS2 and Sydney vs Brisbane in Marvel vs Capcom 2. And at the time there was a lot of unknown quantities for which city was better. A couple of people had gone interstate and my focus at the time was to find who was the best in Australia. That feeling – that whole tournament setting was still really new for us. We’d only just started having tournament six months prior. This feeling of all of Sydney uniting together against this threat was very different because all the rivalries previously had been intra-Sydney.
At the time the best Marvel players in Sydney were myself, Yang (Hebretto), Simon and Jake. Simon kind of had animosity towards everyone but at the same time Sydney was going to have to unite together for OHN. There were all these Brisbane players but they were basically an unknown quality particularly Derrick also known as Bruton.
One of the earlier Marvel tournaments Derrick came down and beat us hands down. That was also riding on the fact that he had Marvel 1 experience and he had actually played with Viscant in the past before. By the time OHN had come around the meta had changed. Whereby the characters that were dominant had changed to a more rushdown meta with characters like Magneto, Psylocke kinda came around. Over the years I don’t think Derrick adapted to the new meta, he still played the older keepaway style with Cable. As OHN went on the second generation of QLD Marvel players came up with James, Tom, Tyrone. They became the next generation around OHN5.
At the time actually it wasn’t just Brisbane and Sydney – it was also Melbourne. At the time Aurik played Marvel as well and there was a whole scene down there. So there were three different cities competing to see who the best was. That’s why it was so exciting.
I remember the night before OHN I stayed over at Jake’s house and we practiced all night. We had a camera filming the ride into OHN. That feeling…I don’t know if I’ve had anything like it since. It was so much excitement and also pride for our city, for hoping to represent, hoping to win.
The lead up to it was very stressful. Mostly because we spent a lot of time online talking to interstate players especially Melbourne guys after our visit there a few months beforehand. Trying to convince them to come up to Sydney and compete. It was a big commitment for anybody to travel at that time given everyone’s age and finances. We had it all lined up and then there was some online drama where some guys in Sydney were talking a lot of unnecessary negativity and the Melbourne players were getting turned off. We had to sort calm everybody down and coax them to relax.
On the day it was pretty full-on because you were going from ridiculous hour in the morning to some ridiculous hour at night running this 60 plus CVS2 bracket on one cabinet. Single game, double elimination because you don’t have any other choice.
The thing that was really cool about it…you had your Sydney vs Sydney matches which weren’t that exciting for the locals but as the top Melbourne players were slowly carving their way through the bracket towards the final 8…and of course everyone gets to watch every match because it’s on one setup!
Aurik went out earlier than expected, he underperformed and was really suffering from tournament nerves back then, but Kevin (Kechu) went all the way to grand finals against Jonny which was the dream match.
We just watched around the arcade cabinet, and that was very intense in its own way. It’s so raw. At the time we still had an ice cream box with money in it. But that ice cream box meant everything…if you got that money it was amazing. OHN: the energy in the room…at the time you didn’t have the clear delineation of that top 8 but when you got to the winner’s quarterfinals, losers semi-finals you had everyone standing around watching each match. All eyes on you. And to walk away from the machine you have to take that walk of shame. The sea parts and you have to walk through. Very different to what it is now!
Oh it was just a lot of fucking nerds.
You have all these people from different states…Back then we used IRC to talk to other players. That was when I met some of the really old-school Melbourne players like Kechu and Aurik. We met them for the first time on OHN. When you talk to someone online and you finally get to meet them…it’s a daunting experience.
It was quite interesting as we were making OHN1 happen in 2002 EVO was born. So we were watching this happening and we’re kind of blatantly stealing ideas from what they’re trying to do with EVO and trying to mirror and mimic and bring that experience to local right of the bat. The more we could mimic that locally and use our own rivalries to power it; we could have that same experience without leaving Australia.
In terms of things we took, we x-copied a lot of their rules, but in terms of how to actually run a tournament…we watched the B5 DVD and that gave us a sense of the atmosphere and how things are running. I was digesting all the articles that anyone on the SRK team would publish on their website about running events. But it was a different scale, because the first OHN was just a few games in an arcade and we didn’t have control over the space. Whereas EVO was already so big they were hiring space to bring arcade cabinets in.
The brackets we definitely borrowed from anything they did in the US. Ziggy did a lot of research on that sort of stuff. He knew exactly how they were doing it. His job’s dealing with math all the time – he was really top-tier at the spreadsheets side of things.
It wasn’t until OHN4 that I started writing some macros in VBA and I just tried to get algorithms to do what I was doing by eye. Because it was way too easy in the heat of the moment on the morning of the tourney to end up with a really bad bracket where you’ve put everyone from Canberra in the same pool. I figured that I needed more eyes looking at this and I figured robot eyes were better than my eyes. So that’s why I started to write VBA macros within my spreadsheets.
The name I gave the spreadsheet was Bracket Seed Generator or BSG for short. Which unfortunately clashes with Battlestar Galactica (laughs.) I think to this day the version that we’ve got on the Ozhadou website now is still called Battle Seed Generator. It needs a sexier name than that…
The feeling I used to get walking up the stairs to Playtime…hasn’t been replicated anywhere else in my life. There was this anticipation, this readiness, this excitement, this shared bond with people. And so it was very exciting with OHN because it was that same feeling but with even more unity and kinship with the other Sydney guys and also this kind of apprehension – how good are these [interstate] guys gonna be? Will they be better than us? They’re on our turf, this is our arcade, our setup.
And there was a lot of nerves too. Because there was something to prove.
The OHN1 interstate rivalry altogether was just because of the fact that the grand final was between Sydney and Melbourne. The first OHN was basically Jonny and Kevin. And everyone wanted their team to win. And that continued on for quite some time because for the longest time you always had a Melbourne vs. Sydney grand final. Throughout the years it’s pretty much ended that way for the main games. Third Strike, CVS2, Street Fighter IV. We will take the L, but that just makes us more hungry for the next time when we come back.
Kevin came second behind Jonny in CVS2 but he convincingly won Third Strike. And being the competitive man that he is, he wasn’t happy about coming second in CVS2. So he walked away going; I am going to come back and I am going to destroy this man Jonny in the next one.
So we were all really excited. OHN2 came on hot on the heels of the first one because of all the hype. So it was only six months later which turned out to be a bad idea in hindsight.
The speed on this arcade cabinet is wrong
It was CVS2 and it was OHN3.
That OHN was the one that really made me want to have consoles. (Laughs.)
We had published the game settings in advance on the forums. Because by OHN3 there had been two EVOs by now. We had started really coping their style, their rules, and their game settings. So we put up the standard stuff. And the Melbourne arcade was set up with the standard settings.
We come to the morning of the CVS2 bracket at OHN3. Aurik and the Melbourne boys are playing warm-up matches. They come up to us and say: “The speed’s wrong.” I replied: “What do you mean the speed’s wrong?”
Aurik: “The speed on this arcade cabinet is wrong.”
So we got the arcade technician over and he pulled up the options settings. We’ve been playing one speed above default all this time. So that’s what everybody in Sydney was used to – playing at that speed; they had no idea.
So we said to the guys, the rules say speed 3 or whatever and this is speed 4. We need to turn this down.
Well you can imagine what the Sydney players said. They wanted to eat us alive. There’s no way you’re changing the speed the day of OHN. That’s the speed, that’s what we all know, that’s what it’s staying at.
So I said to them: “Okay I hate to do this, but let’s put it to a vote.” The rules say to put it down, but if I put it down I’m a dead man. If I leave it up, I piss off Melbourne. I can’t win no matter what.
“You’re all the people that entered. Raise your hands for speed 3, raise your hands for speed 4.”
Of course there was like 6 to 1 Sydney players there; that was the way they voted. I apologised profusely to Aurik and company: look I’m so sorry, but this is what we’re stuck with here. They weren’t happy about it but they said they’d play through it.
I wish we had a video camera filming it. Because it was the perfect kind of drama to film this sort of thing. You look back and you go: oh my god that’s such a major thing. How could they be practicing on different speeds? It was massive, a huge handicap and all the Melbourne players had come up… there was huge, huge drama.
And I think everyone [from Melbourne] died because of that except for Aurik. Aurik somehow managed to adapt and he made it to the grand finals and he still beat Jonny!
I said to Justin afterwards: “Thank goodness…Melbourne won.” For as much as I wanted Sydney to win, if Aurik had lost the drama would have been…irredeemable. I needed Aurik to win to save me from years and years of getting hated on.
So thank you Aurik for saving my bacon!
I think everyone was just impressed that Aurik could win. I don’t remember anyone being salty, not even Jonny. He was like: man, if he’s playing on a handicap and still beating me…that’s fine. It was so close…when you were watching it you couldn’t tell who was gonna win.
Jonny- he’s world class now. Moved to a place with better competition for himself and he’s travelling a lot.
(When told that Humanbomb is in his mid-thirties now) Wow! He still looks like he’s 20. I still think of him as the “Justin Wong”. As the kid [prodigy].
Muttons: That’s almost like the Australian equivalent of the famous John Choi adaptation story vs Valle from B3. (Where Valle used a secret technique “the Valle CC” but Choi famously nearly came back, even adapting fast enough to use the Valle CC back against Valle himself!)
Absolutely it was a classic bit of adaptability. Kechu was almost at that tier of adaptability. He just wasn’t quite as quick as someone like Choi. When he lost to Humanbomb at OHN1, he had to go away and spend the next six months studying, looking at videos of the match, looking at videos of Jonny’s play, refining his team selection and everything to come back to defeat Jonny the next year. Give Kevin the lab time and he will wreck them. But he can’t do it like a Choi who can do it on the spot.
But then again CVS2 was single game. So maybe I’m being a bit hard on Kevin!
Arcade vs. Console: the May Chan era and Good Games
The three main games of the time were CVS2, MVC2 and Third Strike. All those games have a certain amount of difficulty when it comes to migrating them to console. The console of the day was the Dreamcast, there was no other console that ran those games.
The culture at the time was arcade-driven. The players had all met at the arcade; we’d drafted them into our little club through the arcade. They practiced and played in the arcade. If they had consoles at home it was option D. It wasn’t their preference; it was the thing they did to save money to get in more practice before they went to the arcade, it wasn’t where you properly competed.
OHN3 was in the bag by then, we said to people: Playtime is closing anyway. We were losing the arcade option regardless. So we had to go away from arcade and it had to be consoles and that’s what OHN4 was all about. The problem was the Third Strike players weren’t having a bar of it. They still believed it was arcade or bust. And their reluctance to move was being encouraged by the fact that there was a community supporter by the name of TSC who had a collection of arcade boards.
Arcade to console that alone…oh my god.
The arguments that took place. And people saying they were gonna boycott OHN and that console wasn’t real…
I may have even supported that to be honest. Especially in Third Strike [the console version] was not the same. I just remember this fragmentation occurred. It kind of became like Third Strike versus everyone else because Marvel and CVS2 [ports] were ok. But Third Strike was like, no fuck this. And that’s what led to the re-emergence of this Third Strike bubble in a way, which existed in a little store in Chinatown that sold flossed meat and things like that. Everyone else was playing console and Third Strike players were getting together at this store and playing Third Strike, it was very funny.
But when Playtime closed down it really threatened the scene greatly. At that point in time there was no online play. If it hadn’t been for Third Strike taking that step – someone buying a machine…maybe the scene would’ve died much quicker.
In 2003 Marvel died because nobody played anymore and in 2004 CVS2 died as well. I started running Third Strike weekly tournaments to keep the scene going. Sometimes [it was] so low we would only get six people but I kept on going. 2004 was the lowest because arcade [was] closing down. It was lucky that TSC came and bought the machine. Back then we were all poor we didn’t have the money to buy [the machine]. He invested the money and we were lucky we found a candy shop in Chinatown, it sells beef jerky and bubble tea. We put the machine there and we ran weekly tournaments there. All the proceeds we’d pool it and we’d send players to Japan to compete for Super Battle Opera (SBO).
What they call the May Chan era lasted about six months around OHN5. Because the shop’s name was literally called “May Chan Hiong”. We had quite a few tournaments there which TSC would record and we would seed the footage on BitTorrent. I think that was also the “TSC edit” where he would only upload matches of him winning with Makoto.
Eventually in that little store a second machine came in and there was Super Turbo sometimes or a second Third Strike cabinet. TSC had started to build this empire. It must’ve been around the end of 2006 and at that point in time someone bought a Marvel board.
Eventually TSC sold it to two guys Josh (Sneek) and Kevin (Leia), and that’s when the machine eventually moved to Good Games.
Good Games was a double edged sword, it was an awesome to have a place- suddenly we had an arcade again, a place to get together. But at the same time it was in many ways an hostile environment; people were playing card games and we were constantly told off for noise complaints…
But all in all rather than gather at someone’s place this was a great alternative. And for some games like Super Turbo (ST) and Marvel they hadn’t had a home for so long.
It felt different at the time because the Third Strike scene was so splintered and I think that there was some animosity with Third Strike people to non-Third Strike people and vice versa. I played Third Strike and other games so to me I just felt: let’s just play.
Kevin “Leia” Lui (Good Games, arcade machine owners)
My involvement with OHN was more on the business side of things. My business partner Josh (Sneek) and I (Leia) supplied the arcade machines for OHN. These included the Street Fighter IV Arcade Machines/Street Fighter 3S on Astros/Tekken 6.
The challenges that we had were more on the logistics side of things – transporting the Arcade Machines from one location to another is pretty stressful and time consuming. As the scene was moving towards consoles this affected our business bottom line so we decided to call it quits.
We knew EVO was shifting to console because arcades are just a logistical and financial nightmare. Nobody wants to have to deal with that kind of hardware if they can avoid it.
You walk into Playtime and there might be one CVS2 machine or two CVS2 machines depending on how they’re doing financially. You don’t get a say in that, you’re stuck in running the whole tournament on one or two setups and that’s it. We had dabbled with consoles by doing some conventions. The first convention that Ozhadou ever ran anything at was Animania. And it was all console, and afterwards as TOs (Tournament Organisers) we were all like: how awesome is it that we can scale and have five setups that are all Third Strike just to run the Third Strike bracket part.
This is nirvana. Why on earth are we putting up with running this bracket all day when we could run it at a fraction of the cost/time!
One of the biggest things that happened was bringing Tekken into the because it was such a big arcade game in Sydney but there were no tournaments. The scene’s all together now, but back then Tekken and Street Fighter didn’t talk at all. That was actually an initiative that Benson and myself took on. We ran the first tournament for Tekken ever in Sydney from my recollection.
We ran OHN4 all on console. Tekken 5 had just come out and was the biggest game at OHN that year. It was the first time we had Tekken at OHN. And it was a huge success, we had 50-something people in the bracket. All these new people were competing at OHN, interstaters came, all that stuff was great. Meanwhile the Third Strike bracket was an anaemic fraction of its normal size because all the arcade players just boycotted. They didn’t come to OHN at all. Melbourne Third Strike didn’t come.
In the next part of The Oral History of Ozhadou Nationals, we look into the UTS era, and Justin Wong and Daigo’s arrival
OHN15 will be the biggest OHN yet: a Capcom Pro 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!