ApologyMan talks FGC events back on LAN, those Faust buffs, and his ‘ride or die’ character loyalty

Character loyalist, former Faust apologist, and multi-game legend.

Photo via Red Bull

The art of being a multi-fighting game player is something many practice but few are able to pull off while maintaining a presence at the top of their respective titles. 

When someone is able to pull this off and replicate it across a number of games, they become a spectacle fans love to watch and cheer for—which is exactly where Vineeth “ApologyMan” Meka stands in the fighting game community (FGC).

Known for sticking to his favorite characters and putting on a show, mostly within Arc System Works and team games using multiple fighters, ApologyMan is a top player in Dragon Ball Fighter Z, Guilty Gear Strive, and the BlazBlue series that has been active for more than a decade. And from fans spamming #APOLOGYMANSWEEP in Twitch chat to dressing as Piccolo while playing DBFZ on stream, he is always putting on a show and giving viewers something to cheer about. 

Following a fifth-place finish at CEO 2022 in Guilty Gear Strive, multiple other top finishes this year, and leading up to Evo 2022, ApologyMan sat down with Dot Esports to talk about joining Red Bull as its newest athlete, his character-centric approach to playing, and what fighting game he would bring back into the modern FGC if he had the chance. 

Q: From sticking in the game for over a decade to joining Red Bull and expanding that brand’s stable of fighting game competitors. How does it feel to pull off an IRL ApologyManSweep with this team up?

ApologyMan: I’m honestly super excited, Red Bull invests in the fighting game community in a lot of ways. 

I previously did an event with them, it was this Japan against North America 10v10 and I had a lot of fun doing that when Guilty Gear Strive first came out. And the way Red Bull supported, helped, and worked with me and beastcoast during the making of that event, I was just like ‘these people really get it and I want to keep working with them.’ Now, one thing led to another and I’m part of the team and there is a lot of new stuff I want to continue doing with them in terms of events and competing. 

Speaking on the current state of FGC events, how do you feel about the return to physical events over recent months after more than two years in an online space? Has it personally changed anything about your approach to preparing for competitions or competing as a whole? 

It has definitely been weird right? Like, the majority of my life I’ve just gone to tournaments in person, it is just so in my routine to just practice, go to my local, or go to a Major because I’ve been playing since like 2008. This was the first time when, you know with COVID, where I just had to step back and spend my time mostly playing online. 

And yeah, it was weird going back to in-person stuff, but it was definitely awesome to get back to it. I think mentally, as a competitor, it took some adjustment because I was not used to things like the stress again after taking even just a year or two off, but it is exciting at the same time. I feel like I’m relearning it in a way and think I’m getting used to it again. 

When you talk about relearning it, is that more about changing your approach to events again? Because a lot of people say for online events, your main point of conflict is with yourself where as at a LAN you’ve got a lot of these outside factors, which you mentioned take some getting used to. 

For me, an online event feels like I am fighting against myself more so than at a LAN event. I don’t know if it might just be like Stockholm Syndrome where I am used to all of the different and weird quirks of LAN events like a setup being different, the venue being really hot, or there are just a lot of people watching. But all that stuff, I’m more used to that then playing online. 

Personally, online took more adjusting but getting back to offline events was weird after being at home for so long. I just had to get back into the groove, but there is this energy that people have when you are sitting next to them and playing against them. Matching that energy is really crucial for me in terms of playing well, and I think if you’re just so used to playing matches in your boxers at home, you’re not going to be playing how you normally would offline. 

In short, getting back to what I did for so long feels so good, but it took a bit of getting used to it.

What did you miss the most about competing in front of a crowd or in a LAN environment? 

The energy. I always love the crowd, the energy, people getting excited for big moments. When you make a big play, and I play with headphones, but I can still hear it right when something big happens even with the game volume up loud. That’s always cool and picks me up. Makes me more confident. 

I am actually really big on the idea of playing next to my opponent. Even it it’s just from the corner of my eye, and I’m obviously focused on the game, but just hitting them with something they didn’t like and seeing a slight head tilt or hearing them say something out loud. Then you’re just like ‘yeah, that’s what I want,’ and can give you more information when it comes to decision making. That’s what I loved about competing in fighting games from the start, it is very head-to-head. 

What made Guilty Gear Strive the next title you wanted to dive into at a highly competitive level? Was it something that spoke to you when you first tried the game or the openness in how many people would be picking it up and competing? 

I’ve always been an Arc System Works fighting game fan. I’ve been playing BlazBlue since like 2009 and that was like my first traditional fighting game. I’ve always been a fan of their series and you know, I played Guilty Gear Xrd a little bit, I played Persona 4 Arena, and obviously Dragon Ball FighterZ is another game I play heavily. 

So when Strive came out, I played the betas before that and thought it was fine and very different. It fixed a lot I didn’t like about the older Guilty Gear games, and when they added rollback netcode it clicked and I was just like “okay, this actually is the future of fighting games in general,’ in terms of like online experience. Plus, I love the IP and the company that makes it, so it was kind of a match made in heaven. 

And, since I am such a character-driven person, I found a character I love so I was addicted to the gameplay from the start. 

Speaking on that character drive nature, recent changes for Strive seemed to push the game into a state that benefits you and your main, Faust. How happy are you with the current state of the game after the last major update? 

Dude, I’m super pumped. They’ve upped my character, Faust, who was really bad before and I was always maybe on a bit too much hopium believing in the character before, but now I think undoubtedly he’s a pretty strong character and a big threat. 

In general, I just feel more confident at tournaments. I noticed that for so much of CEO I wasn’t thinking as negatively when I throw a bad item out since Faust is an RNG character. When I got unlucky before it felt so bad. I was just thinking it was over and I can’t win. But now, it’s like I have other tools that can still win even if my luck isn’t good. Situations are still quite winnable. 

Was there a moment before that where you thought Faust would just never be viable in a way you felt truly comfortable with? 

Yeah. There was even a moment when I picked up a secondary for a few matchups. I’ve always been a character loyalist, like, I always just play my character. Ride or die for the whole bracket, never switch. This is the first fighting game I’ve ever been like ‘I actually need a secondary, this is too hard.’

It was just the field of competition. It is so deep in Strive and everyone is so good. There is a point you have to check yourself and say you’re not THAT good. So I picked up Giovanna last season and players her for maybe four matchups that I felt were just really bad for Faust. But now, I believe in Faust again. Maybe I will have to do that again in the future, it was a good learning experience for sure. But I think that was the moment when I broke my rule of playing only one character. 

Talking about that depth of competition in Strive, how do you work to ensure your skills translate between so many games? And what game was the easiest for you to pick up? 

That’s a good one because it really depends on the game. Sometimes I will go back and watch older games, right? Like, there was a when Strive came out, for example, I remember I went back and watched older Guilty Gear footage and I would be picking things out like what was strong in each game and pulling from that because there is always something that can be learned that will transfer to future games. 

Specific techniques and mechanics will always be good no matter the game. If you know them, you can expect it will be in future games to some extent for a series, and if you are comfortable with using them the right way you can just assume it will work for you there too. Fundamental ideas typically work in similar ways. 

And I actually thing Dragon Ball FighterZ was the easiest game for me to pick up and go back to. That was the one game I felt like my skill set was a perfect match for when it came out. 

A team fighting game and an Arc System Works game when I have a background from BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, and Marvel vs. Capcom? I think from the get-go I could tell immediately nobody knew what to do and I was just like, this is an ArcSys game and I knew how to use assists. I don’t know, I felt like that was my biggest advantage day one and was like 20 steps ahead of everyone until they caught up. 

Specifically for games where you need to build out a team, like DBFZ and Marvel, what is the first thing you look for in a character since you are so tied to that loyalist mentality? Is there one core element to teambuilding that you stick by? 

You hit the nail on the head. I am all about character aesthetic, especially if there is lore involved. It is all a big part of the appeal and game to me. Like Piccolo, he was my favorite character from anime as a kid and I liked his design a lot so it was a perfect match. 

I was like, no matter what, I play Piccolo and I’m gonna make a cool team that makes him good. That was the core idea. Whether Piccolo sucks, doesn’t matter. I’ll make it work and that is what I like about team games too. You can build around your favorite character. I’m fine playing some other Joe Schmo if they make Piccolo look cool. 

Sometimes I hit the jackpot, right? I’m never picking characters based on how strong they are, but I’m not opposed to playing top tiers. I will play them if they’re dope, that’s fine with me. Piccolo was also really good in my opinion, so I got a strong character and things worked out. 

Is there any new game you are looking forward to? Or is the current slate enough to keep you satisfied while you bounce back and forth between your preferred competitive titles? 

Strive is super competitive right now and it’s definitely my main focus, but I’m also playing Dragon Ball. I took a bit of a break from DBFZ for the last two months because… they released this character that was really broken *laughs* and was just like ‘I’ll wait.’

The game I’m probably looking forward to the most is Project L. At first, I wasn’t super interested and was just hoping it was good and then maybe I would play it. But then I saw the first trailer and it looked like a team game, and Clockw0rk (Daniel Maniago) the combat designer for Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is working on it and I trust that guy a lot. So that got me thinking that this might be sick and now I am super interested. 

If you could have one fighting game make a resurgence and reach a mainstream audience, with big prize pools and viewership, what title would you choose? 

Marvel 3 by far. Easy. Such an easy answer. Ultimate Marvel 3 is still my favorite fighting game of all time. I have so much passion for that game. It’s kina like what made me get my notoriety the most at the start and I played it from like 2011 to 2017. 

The scene for the game was very passionate and there are still a lot of players playing it even now. But one thing I always wanted for it was to have a good online experience. It has like the worst online ever and is super outdated. And yeah, it didn’t have developer support after a certain point, and we don’t know what, but I want that game to be supported. 

It’s such a beautiful game from the art to the characters and movement. It is just so much fun and I love it a lot. That’s the one game I would for sure want to just pump like a bajillion dollars into.