Well I finally did it, I made my first trip out to Las Vegas to see the pinnacle of fighting game tournaments, Evolution. Now that I’ve gotten back home I just wanted to give my thoughts and experiences on the whole thing, hopefully for future improvements and for people interested in going. This won’t be for everyone, some people will dismiss it because I didn’t compete (I went with my wife and we did more of a Las Vegas vacation that also included going to Evo finals on Sunday). I did stop by the room both Friday and Saturday some, checked out some booths, saw some of my friends from the Midwest, watched some randoms in pool play for a while. As I said, this is just MY experience, so I can’t speak for everyone by any means.
Timing of finals day: Let me get my biggest complaint out of the way. The timing was poor for EVO. The FGC has a reputation for running late (except for UFGT which has a reputation for running early), but for some reason I honestly expected that this was the year that we would change that. I thought we were getting main stream enough that we should know how important timing is. I know it’s hard to plan when you don’t know if finals will get reset, or if every game will go 3-2 or 2-0, but we need to back up plans. The people who run the Superbowl don’t know exactly how long the game might take, but they have plans on what to do if it’s longer. By the start of AE, we were running 2 hours behind schedule. You can see in the number of viewers for AE that EVO ran too late, it ended at 11:30 P.M. pacific time, that’s 2:30 A.M. on the east coast. People have work and school and EVO has to finish before midnight east coast Sunday night to ever get the viewers it needs. This would also help U.K viewers to see it in the morning before they leave for work. The fact that AE only got 80K viewers proves this point (along with a stream shutdown), and ultimately it hurts the FGC because I honestly believe if we were on schedule we would have had 100K viewers, adding more money from advertising.
We were supposed to have an hour long break in between marvel and AE for awards, but when I went to go get food right after Marvel (something I waited very late for because it was 2 hours behind schedule), I saw on my smart phone that AE was already starting and had to rush through my dinner. On the other hand, nowhere on the schedule did it mention that the gap between KOF and marvel would be over an hour long. A lot of people will point the finger at KOF and how long those matches take, but KOF was scheduled to take longer as well. Personally I have a few thoughts about how we could have done better.
First, button checks are getting out of control. I understand we need to do them, but when people are playing a whole round to check their buttons it is taking too long. Check if your buttons work, that’s it. I realize that many players spend this time preparing their minds for what’s coming up and getting comfortable, but this is valuable time and ultimately it ended up delaying the whole tournament. Why did we get away from having the two monitor set up where the next match can button check while the current game is being played? I’m just curious because I feel like we were moving backwards. Going along with this, people are taking huge breaks in between games to compose themselves. I don’t know if I have a problem with this as much as button checks, but it definitely delays things when you have to pick the same characters again. Not sure how to regulate it, but there was definitely a large portion of time spent on these activities (maybe 45 mins-1 hour total).
Second, we need videos, games, and promotions to start much quicker. I have the utmost respect for the people that put on streams, I know there is a lot of stuff to manage and get ready, but down time pushed us back and back. There was no reason for the 10 minute gap between videos. I wanted to enjoy Filthie Rich’s TTT2 presentation, but with how late we were running people were just pissed. At another time, or if we were on schedule, it would have been awesome. It’s the same with the CC video. It was a great intro for what we were about to watch, but there was too much time in between videos getting ready and started. You literally heard the whole audience groan once they realized they were about to talk about MVC3 after they had talked about AE.
Ultimately though, it’s up to the tournament organizers to find a way to finish on time. It doesn’t affect me a ton, but they are the ones losing money and viewers by running so late. I was honestly shocked at first that MVC3 reached 97K viewers, and AE reached 80K only. I have to believe if we were on time we would have gotten more viewership.
**The extras: **Walking around EVO was great. They had tons of booths and ton’s of set ups. The guys at brokentier did some great things with having pros that you could play against and streaming some of their exhibition matches. Lots of cool shirts for sale. Some Indy games you could play (I didn’t play any but heard some good things about some). MarkMan/MadCatz having big sales and free gear. Team Tekken bringing TTT2 was great and the game looks really solid. The Guidebook App, which had some useful information, like if you wanted to see a Pro’s pool play you could find when their pool started and at what station. I will say that I never saw any live updates, but I only checked that area once Friday morning, don’t know if it got updated. Most of all, a big thank you to Glenn from GetYourTournament. This guy had all of the updates and info I needed when I was out and about Friday and Saturday and couldn’t watch what was going on, I was always informed about what was happening.
The community: The community is great, everyone knows that and talks about it. Most people are very nice and helpful. So I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. For the most part I’m an online warrior. When I was in college I had a group of friends I played with, I go to some majors/minors in the Indiana area, but really these are the only people I actually “know”. I’m married, work full time, and live in a small town outside of Indianapolis where it would take me 1.5 hours to play with anyone I know; so for the most part when I play, I play online. I can recognize any big name in the scene, but ultimately they don’t know me. That’s fine, when I go to a basketball game I don’t plan on talking to Lebron James, but it just makes for a weird experience because the community is smaller. With the FGC, we’re small enough to be personal, but large enough to not be. Does that make sense? I can tell a pro how awesome their play style is and how I appreciate what they do for the scene, but at the end they don’t know me and won’t remember, and I don’t expect them too. When you hear the pros talk they’re always saying, “I love Evo, all of my friends I get to see once a year are here”. What they mean is, they get to hang out with other pro’s that live on the opposite coasts or are from other countries. But when you’re a nobody like me (a 2-2 player), there’s not really anyone I’m planning on seeing or hanging out with. I said hi to some people, sat with some of my college friends some during finals day, but most of the time I was sitting by myself in the crowd with people that didn’t know me and I didn’t know them about 150 feet away from the stage (sounds depressing right?). When something huge happened a few of us stood up and cheered, but most of the back of the crowd just sat there and clapped some. That’s the thing; you never see the back of the room on the stream. You see all of the pros and their friends near the front and you don’t see the randoms that sit in the back by themselves. It’s just a weird experience. I know I’m making myself sound like a loser, but I just want to give some people the reality (or at least my reality). You don’t go to Evo and everyone there is as hype as you, not everybody wants to be your friend, and most of the time you might meet a few people there that you keep in contact with but most people you will never see again. I feel like I’m speaking to a large percentage of the audience of people that attended Evo (everyone except the big name players and veterans of the scene). There isn’t a solution to this problem other than for me to get out and meet more people, go to more majors, write more on the forums so people recognize my name, I’m just trying to explain that it’s not like you go to Evo and all of a sudden everyone knows you and you make a ton of friends and you’re part of the community like people make it sound. I know I sound like I’m QQing that I didn’t become Mike Ross’ best friend this weekend, but that’s really not what I’m trying to say; I’m saying the whole experience wasn’t as close knit as I was hoping. While the front of the audience was jam packed and enjoying the hype, my seat was at the back of the room and most of the people there were watching the games with half interest/understanding. When Chris G raw tagged out Morrigan and his doom got blown up I was going insane jumping up and down, the guy next to me just kept sitting and clapped some.
*Side note: Why do they not give commentary to the audience in attendance. Is it for echo reasons? I actually watched most of the SCV top 8 on my smartphone so I could hear the commentary and actually enjoy/learn/understand what was going on since I don’t know that games as well but always enjoy learning more. I always feel like commentary makes events more hype, and as a stream monster I’m used to hearing yipes go crazy when Jean gets popped. I’m sure it has something to do with audio sounding weird, but I think some Esports events have commentary that the audience can hear? Maybe I’m mistaken?
Most hype moment: Mad KOF’s Duo Lon dominating losers bracket and BALA having no answer for it. He made this character look unstoppable and he did whatever he wanted to (rushdown or keepaway). While the whole ballroom was cheering for BALA, you have to give it up for Mad KOF and his composure. King of Fighters had around 75,000 viewers on stream and 900 competitors which meant the game was finally getting the recognition it deserved.
Notable mention: All of MVC3 top 8. There were some great comebacks, some huge blunders, and some amazing set ups. It was everything you wanted it to be, big names, big combos, big attitudes, and even a Mexican MODOK. Watching Infrit’s Sentinel was so hype, and F Champ redeeming himself and dropping Phoenix to show he’s not just a one horse pony was amazing. Pulling off those Doom combos in a high pressure situation, sick!
**Least hype moment: **SFXT duh! Did you see how boring that game was! Seriously though, it was bad. There were only two interesting moments, the two person combo Tokido’s team did, and Mike Ross and Combofiend getting double perfected with Mike never even getting to play and laughing as they got embarrassed.
Notable mention: SSF4: AE v.2012 top 8. I know Infiltration was clearly the top talent in this group, but it literally felt like every match went 2-0. Yes there were 1 or 2 come from behind victories, but AE is my favorite game and this year it was just not interesting. You also definitely felt how people were too tired near the end of the tournament and how AE just got rushed through, and it felt rushed. Hey, looks it’s Poongko… and there he goes I guess? I’m a balrog player and PR is one of my idols, but it was just not interesting at all watching him get destroyed by Infiltration. There was so little excitement my friends started making bets on if the game clock would be odd or even when the match ended, or who would get the first hit. There was just no excitement for AE which was sad because we had so many characters and so many countries represented.
TL,DR: Did I enjoy EVO, absolutely. Will I return for next year, probably not. I don’t really feel like it was anything that special for me personally. I didn’t feel like EVO was better than some of the other majors I’ve been to, it just cost me a lot more money. I actually enjoy meeting people at local tournaments that you might see again. I don’t enjoy being cramped next to people, but I do enjoy how all of the action is near me at smaller venues. As an example, when I went to season’s beatings 2 years ago and saw Marn beat Daigo I was 15 feet away and actually gave him a high five as he walked away. When top 8 of AE was going on, I was 150 feet (maybe more?) away in the back of the room, couldn’t see a single player IRL, and sitting with a bunch of people I don’t know and will never see again. The extras were great though, you could tell a lot of work went into planning this, and the tournament was covered very well through social media (THANK YOU Glenn from GYT and thanks to everyone that helped stream).