Five Questions with desk

When you consider his entire catalogue to date, it’s easy to make the argument that desk is the best Super Street Fighter IV combo maker around. His videos are consistently creative, innovative, and just plain difficult! How does he do it? Read on to find out.

Maj: Your Ken vs Gief mini-series immediately caught everyone’s attention, and it was probably the reason we got to know each other. For a debut video, it was amazingly good. What gave you the idea to try something like that? (Why Ken? Why Zangief?)

desk-one_handed_combo_trialsdesk: For the 90% of people reading this who don’t know about those vids, they was basically 1/3 machinima, 1/3 combo vid, 1/3 soap opera. The whole concept was born from playing SFEX2 and thinking I might be able to do something cool with it’s quite needlessly involved replay feature.

Again, for people who may not have seen it, it allowed you to re-watch matches but with full control over the camera and the ability to remove the hud, background and/or individual characters. If you have a bit of patience, there’s a huge potential for cool/creative stuff.

Those videos were really ghetto though. They took forever, I had no idea how to edit stuff properly and the actual ‘combo content’ was either massively derivative or not that great. I’m glad they’re not easily available now. Hopefully, anyone who watched them when they came out will remember them as being better than they actually were.

Maj: No need to be so critical, sir. Those videos were awesome! You made them way before zerokoubou showed up and tattooed his name across Street Fighter Alpha’s heart. I think newer SF4 players would really enjoy watching your Ken vs Gief machinima.

Obviously the nature of combo videos means that content tends to become obsolete over time. Does that mean we should be ashamed of our older projects?

desk: Haha, thanks but it’s probably because you haven’t seen them for a while. I certainly wouldn’t say we should be ashamed of our old stuff but, as you move forward and get better at something, it’s natural to look back at the stuff you did when you were starting out and only see your mistakes. Also, I’m not at all concerned with the combos looking old, I’m pretty sure they were old when the video came out :)

Maj: Essentially all of your combo videos so far have been manually executed, which is simply remarkable considering the insane difficulty level of most of your material. You make it look easy, but i know some of that stuff must have taken forever. What’s your motivation for putting so much time and effort into your combovids?

desk: I don’t usually spend a great deal of time actually getting the footage. Thankfully, the quirks of the SFIV system (plinking, timing leniency, etc.) mean that pretty much everything I’ve included in my vids has been fairly straightforward.

One of the exceptions would be that 114-hit Chun combo I posted a while back. It was definitely the most amount of time I’ve spent on a single clip, but my excuse is that I don’t use Chun and I didn’t want to do it at all unless I could come up with a new, more economic technique (for cr. fierce xx lightning legs). That meant I had a few sessions getting used to the timing and trying out new things before I even began trying to capture anything.

Having said all of that, I obviously don’t get everything first (or even tenth) time and my motivation recently has been that I know I’ll get to edit the clips over a piece of music I’ve been working on. It’s kind of like creating a pseudo music video for the track… but one that only features footage of me playing SFIV.

Maj: Speaking of which, we know that you compose and perform a lot of the music featured in your videos. Does playing bass guitar help you become a better Street Fighter player? Has playing Street Fighter helped you as a musician?

desk: I think you have a huge head start when learning something like roll cancels in CvS2 or pretty much anything involving complicated or quick buttons combinations. Simply because, you’re doing surprisingly similar things whenever you pick up your guitar or sit down at a piano. Also, you’ll generally have a mindset that allows you to practice stuff over and over until it becomes muscle memory and obviously, that’s something very useful to bring over to SF.

I think both of those things probably work, to a lesser extent, the other way around too.

Maj: What part of the whole video-making process do you enjoy most?

desk: When all of the footage is ready and you can sit down with a coffee and start editing. At that point all of the hard work is done and you can have fun playing around with the music, syncing things up and thinking about transitions. It’s the most creative and fun part of making a video for me but that’s mainly because the my combos suck and I need to compensate with quick cuts and rocking music.

Coming up with new stuff is cool too but the way I see it, someone was going to stumble across those things sooner or later, I just got lucky.

Maj: Do you look for that same thing when you watch new videos? Or does it take something else to impress you?

desk: In CMVs, I like anything that’s creative and fast paced really. New content is always good but not essential. As long as it’s entertaining, I’ll watch it. Simple fade-in, fade-out combo exhibitions can hold my interest just as much though. The content just has to be really strong.

Maj: What do you have planned next? Do you think SSF4 still has room to evolve as a combo playground, or are you looking forward to other games?

desk-bass_guitardesk: It’s always difficult to think about a game in those terms because you don’t know what people are going to come up with. I can’t see things getting too much crazier to be honest, but then, I didn’t see unblockables coming, so what do I know?

It’s really cool that, people like yourself, are exploring the limits of the system by taking the drawbacks of manual execution out of the equation. I know I’ve seen some things from your TACVs that I never thought would be possible. I think, if there are to be any ground breaking new ideas, glitches or infinites, they’ll probably come from TA vids.

It might be fun to pick up SFxT on release and maybe put a video or two together. Also, if console SSFIV gets new characters, I’ll almost certainly do something with them.

As for immediate plans, I’m toying with the idea of making a Chun Li single character CMV, but I only want to do it if I can get a cool rearrangement/medley of her music recorded for the soundtrack. It’ll have more elaborate editing than any of my other vids too. Again, this will be to distract everyone from the rubbish combos.

Maj: That sounds really cool; i’m looking forward to it! And you’re not giving yourself nearly enough credit for the quality of your combos, sir.

Since you brought up my TACVs though, i do have a question regarding those. Your execution is definitely better than mine, so i’m wondering what percentage of that material makes you think “Oh i could’ve done that” and what portion do you consider practically impossible?

desk: It’s funny you should bring that up actually. I was considering doing a vid a while back that would take 3 or 4 of the combos from your TACVs and I’d do them by hand, just to prove they could be done.

However, at a certain point, it stops being a question of execution and becomes one of patience and I eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it. I still think, as a concept, it’s quite cool though. Like a ‘cover version’ combo video.

To answer your question, I don’t think there’s anything I’ve watched that has made me think “Ah, I could have done that by hand!” I’m really just glad I get to see those combos at all because, if we were constrained to do everything by hand, I never would.

Apart from his combo video projects, desk also plays bass guitar and produces music videos for his bands Calcius Repton and Project Dolphin. You can check out some of their video game soundtrack remixes and medleys on Project Dolphin’s u2b channel.

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4 Responses to Five Questions with desk

  1. Maj says:

    Thanks to desk for providing (vaguely anonymous) photos for me to use.

    By the way if you see this dude, i forgot to ask: Where did you get your nickname?

  2. Juan Fra says:

    As a fellow by-hand combo maker I gotta say I’m impressed at desk’s work and skill.

    Those one-handed combos are testament to his execution skills! I wish I was that good, honestly.

  3. TEC SoL T says:

    Awesome interview as usual Maj, Love reading these :D

  4. craigUK says:

    Great stuff Maj.

    Im really loving the import Saturn style for the Futari EP, which is brilliant, when my copy arrives it can live with my beloved import games :)

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