Ever the bracket threat and gatekeeper, Apologyman is here to prove he can run with some of the best players in Guilty Gear Strive at Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas.

Vineeth “ApologyMan” Meka is a name you’d know if you’ve been around the FGC for any length of time. While he has very few tournament wins to his name, he’s always a threat in the bracket, especially in Marvel vs Capcom 3 where he has taken games off of several top players. Many could consider him a gatekeeper in that game, and now he has his sights set on Guilty Gear Strive success here at Red Bull Kumite.

Apologyman has made a name for himself with his unorthodox Faust pick, a character that many would not consider being top tier. Indeed, while he is not considered a favorite to win this event, you would be foolish to count him out before things even get underway at Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas.

We had the chance to sit down with Beastcoast’s signature Faust player ahead of the competition at Red Bull Kumite to talk about the place of invitationals in the FGC, why he uses Faust, who he thinks the biggest threats are at this competition and more.

Red Bull Kumite brings a “quality of strategy” to every match

Dustin Steiner, Americas Editor, Esports.gg: What does being invited to an event like Red Bull Kumite mean to you personally?

Vineeth “ApologyMan” Meka, Beastcoast: Honestly, it’s an honor and a privilege to be invited to an event like this. It’s different from the open bracket style of tournament. I think with this type of tournament, you know who the players are and you have set plans for what they’re going to do against you, and you know exactly what you’re going to do against them vs the open bracket, where you have no clue who you’re going to play. So I think the quality of strategy that people bring for other players is very high, I think that’s the really interesting thing about invitationals. That’s exciting, but I’m just really excited to be here and I’ll do my best. 

Steiner: Do you think it’s easier or harder to prepare for an event like Red Bull Kumite vs an open bracket?

Apologyman: I think it’s easier. For me as a player, I thrive off of knowing who I play ahead of time. Even in an open bracket, I’ll look at my projected bracket, I’ll predict who will win. When I make really good bracket runs it’s usually when I’m right about those projected brackets. In this scenario, I know all the players and I’ve watched a lot of their footage ahead of time and I think that benefits me. 

Invitationals vs Open Bracket events

Steiner: Something that the FGC has rallied against is the invitational format vs the open bracket, with the big fear being invitationals replacing open bracket events. What would you say to that attitude, and is there any merit to it?

Apologyman: I can see the concern. The thing is, there is no way invitationals will ever replace open bracket events. The open bracket tournament experience is, in my opinion, the quintessential fighting game experience. [laughs] If at any point there were only invitationals, man, I don’t even know if I would play. I love the open bracket format because anyone can play anyone. 

But I do think there’s a place for invitationals. With Red Bull Kumite, it’s about putting on a really good show. The production value here is really cool and it gives opportunities to players to rise as well. The open bracket is the most important thing, but I think they can both live in harmony. 

Steiner: Do you feel like the invitationals are a sign that you’ve “made it” in your fighting game career?

Apologyman: I don’t know – there’s a lot of things there. Every player has different goals. For me, it definitely meant a lot to me, but I viewed it as more of an opportunity to prove myself as opposed to “oh, I did it, cool! I’m the best!” Rather, I just said awesome, I’m going to work hard and do my best. It really depends on the person.

Steiner: Are there any players invited here that you’ve prepared more for than others?

Apologyman: I prepared the most for the Sol Badguy matchup with BNBBN and Skyll, I’m pretty comfortable in that matchup. I prepared for Ino as well with Daru and Diaphone. Man, I am dreading fighting Daru – I think Daru is the favorite for this tournament, I was playing him in the practice room and was like [cringes and sucks teeth]. He’s played against a lot of Faust players too with RF and Nage, so he’s much more familiar with the matchup than I am. 

On Guilty Gear Strive

Steiner: What attracts you to Faust? He’s not exactly a meta pick and many consider his playstyle to be unorthodox. 

Apologyman: He’s just a funny bag doctor guy. Aesthetic is huge for me actually and playstyle as well. I think the thing I like about him the most is because he’s an RNG/luck-based character, every match is unrecognizable from the last. It’s really addicting actually. You get such crazy wacky results with every game. When your opponent doesn’t know what’s happening and I do, that’s a great feeling. He’s a fun character to play.

Steiner: Does that RNG make it difficult to plan your strategy around or do you know how to react when you see a certain result?

Apologyman: Oh, 100%. It screws me over all the time. Sometimes I’ll throw some bad items in places that I don’t want, but that’s part of the character. Just have to roll with the punches with them. But sometimes you get some sick items in a place where it saves you, you have to live for those moments. [laughs]

Steiner: Talk to me a bit about Strive and the differences between this and the older Guilty Gear titles. I know this one is a radical departure from them, has this been a difficult transition for you?

Apologyman: The past Guilty Gear I played was Xrd and a little bit of Accent Core, but not too much. Xrd was a game I played competitively locally but I didn’t practice it as much as my other games. Because of that, it wasn’t as hard to make the jump to Strive, I wasn’t an Xrd or old Guilty Gear loyalist. I played a lot of different fighting games so I have much more of an open mind coming to Strive than most players. It took me a little time to get used to it, but I feel I learned pretty quickly. 

Steiner: If you could compare Strive to other games that you’ve been known for like Marvel 3, do you prefer playing Strive?

Apologyman: I love Guilty Gear Strive a lot. I think at the beginning I was going back and forth, like “hmm… this game is different, it’s not like past Guilty Gears” and in a way, I liked that because there were some things I didn’t like about past games. So I was going back and forth, but there was a point recently, maybe a few months ago, I decided I really liked this game. There’s a point where it clicks in your head. 

At the end of the day, Marvel 3 is always going to be my favorite fighting game, but I really love Strive a lot right now.

Rollback or bust

Steiner: One of Strive’s biggest advantages is that it has rollback netcode, do you think in the COVID era of fighting games, has helped Guilty Gear pop off?

Apologyman: 100%. It’s not even that it just has rollback, it has good, well-implemented rollback. I think it’s going to be the standard now, you can’t really make a delay-based fighting game in 2021. Their implementation of the rollback is soooo good. I played some other fighting games that had worse rollback, I took it for granted when I went back to Guilty Gear and went ‘damn, this is good.’ I think the players love it too. I can play clean matches with people from Japan and I live in California, that’s been a dream.

Steiner: Do you think that’s helped the scene progress in terms of tech and being able to share knowledge? For example in Street Fighter, there are local styles that developed because people weren’t able to play online as easily. What’s your take on that?

Apologyman: I think the main thing is matchup strategies improved a lot. When it came to before the rollback age, when people went to offline tournaments, so often people would say “I don’t know that matchup, we only have this one dude who plays this character, and he doesn’t play the same style as this other guy.” I think that’s the main thing, it’s going to improve the overall level of the game and the meta of the game advances much faster because you have access to playing everyone in the world almost. 

For more on Guilty Gear Strive and Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas, be sure to keep it locked here to esports.gg. We will be on site all weekend long gathering breaking news, highlights, and interviews from the event.

Dustin Steiner - Americas Editor

Dustin Steiner

Americas Editor | Twitter: @GetSteinered

Americas Editor for Esports.gg, Dustin Steiner brings a decade of esports newsroom experience to bring fans what they need to know, helping them keep their finger on the pulse of esports as it happens. When he's not helping run the newsroom, you can find him grinding it out on Smash Ultimate, Final Fantasy 14, or probably binge watching Gundam.