This weekend, the largest fighting game tournament in the world is going down in Las Vegas, and you should watch it. That’s right, you. Even if you don’t play fighting games.
Obviously, most of the people reading this here on Shoryuken play fighting games and are already planning on watching Evo — but this guide is for the folks who aren’t big fighting gamers. So, if you want to bring your friends into the fighting game fold, share this article with them so that they can understand why you’re so “salty” or “hype” next Monday morning. After all, you don’t want to miss something like this:
What is Evo?
“Evo” is short for “Evolution” — a yearly fighting game tournament held in Las Vegas that attracts players from all across the globe to compete for fame, glory, and a few thousand bucks or so. Evolution 2013 is composed of several sub-tournaments, one for each of nine games: Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Street Fighter x Tekken ver. 2013, The King of Fighters XIII, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Persona 4 Arena, and Mortal Kombat.
Unlike many other competitive gaming events, Evo is an open tournament, meaning anyone can enter without having to qualify in advance — which also means that popular games often exceed 1,000 entrants. If you get so excited from watching this weekend’s stream that you immediately pick up a fighting game and start practicing, you too could enter Evo next year! That said, Evo comes at the end of the “Evo tournament season”, called the “Road to Evo”, which consists of a series of major tournaments across North America where well-performing players can earn the chance to be seeded in Evo brackets. A number of tournaments outside the United States are also included in the “Road to Evo International” tournament series.
But ultimately, this question can be summed up perfectly by Richard Li’s fantastic Evo 2012 video.
How can I watch Evo?
If you can’t make it out to Las Vegas for the weekend, fear not — you’ll be able to watch a live video feed through three main channels on Twitch: srkevo1, srkevo2, and srkevo3. Streams will be produced by two community groups called iPlayWinner and Team Spooky. Streams are free, though you may purchase a pay-per-view “Premium Ticket” for $12, which will go towards an NYU Game Center scholarship fund to grant scholarships to fighting game community members who need financial assistance to attend the program (more information).
Three streams is an awful lot to keep up on at once, of course — I recommend using MultiTwitch like this to open multiple streams at once or Twitch’s own Evo 2013 hub to switch between each stream on the fly.
Unofficial side streams will also be available for Street Fighter x Tekken ver. 2013 (Karastorm), Persona 4 Arean (FinestKO), The ST Games (IE Battlegrounds), and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (IE Battlegrounds 2).
Worried you won’t know what’s going on? It’s okay — each streamed match generally has a pair of commentators available to narrate and add context to the action.
The schedule for each stream has been included below. Note that not every match is broadcasted on stream — particularly for the “qualification pools” beginning stage of each tournament and the semi-finals brackets — so if you hear that someone got knocked out of the tournament “off-stream”, that’s what happened. However, every match from each tournament’s top eight is normally shown.
How does Evo work?
Each player starts off in a smaller tournament bracket, called a “qualification pool”, which usually ranges from 16-32 people depending on the size of the tournament. Every tournament is double elimination, meaning that if you lose to someone, you are placed in the “loser’s bracket”, where another loss results in elimination from the tournament. Once each pool has two people remaining — one person at the end of the winner’s bracket, and another at the end of the loser’s bracket — the tournament organizers take those two people from each bracket and distribute them into the semifinal bracket, with the people who qualified undefeated on the winner’s side of the new bracket and the people who qualified with a loss on the loser’s side of the bracket. Players continue to compete in this bracket until eight players are left (four in winner’s, and four in loser’s).
This remaining bracket of eight is called the “top eight” or just “finals” and is saved for its own slot in the schedule — usually on Sunday for most games. At the end of the bracket, the winner of the winner’s bracket plays the winner of the loser’s bracket; the player coming from the loser’s bracket must defeat the other player twice in order to win the tournament. This is called “resetting the bracket”.
Payouts for Evo are mostly derived from entry fees. Each game demands an entry fee of $10/player, and the total pot is paid out at 60% for first place, 18% for second place, 8% for third place, 4% for fourth, 3% for fifth and sixth, and 2% for seventh and eighth. Payouts may be boosted by the addition of a “pot bonus”, which is typically offered by a sponsor.
What are the rules?
There are a few basic rules worth mentioning about the Evo tournament format.
First of all, most tournament matches are best two of three, and later matches in the tournament bracket are often best three of five or even best four of seven. In general, the player that wins a game must stick with his or her character selection into the next game, while the player that loses the match may pick a different character.
There are a few other significant rules worth knowing about. Before the match starts, each player is allowed time for a “button check”, where they make sure that their controllers and configurations are in working order — so if you see two players goofing around and generally not fighting each other, that’s probably what’s going on. Competitors are also entitled to request a “blind pick”, where both players separately tell a tournament judge which character they plan to pick in advance, so as to prevent players from waiting for an opponent to pick their character first on the selection screen, and then counter-picking them. Also, if at any point in a match a player pauses the game, they immediately forfeit the match — except in “Inevitable Defeat” situations where they paused while the characters were in a state such that one player is guaranteed to win if the action resumed (say, in the middle of a super combo animation).
For games that are cross-platform, the PlayStation 3 version is considered the official tournament version — though console-specific characters in games that have them are typically banned.
For more information about the Evo structure and ruleset, check out the official Evo Player Guide.
Who should I know and which games should I watch?
Which games should you watch? Simple: all of them. We’ve provided a quick description of each game, as well as a little backstory whenever possible. (I don’t know a whole lot about some of the games, so if you experienced readers want to help me fill in the blanks in the comments, I’d appreciate it!)
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012 is the modern heir to the Street Fighter tradition, and generally considered Evo’s “main event”. It’s probably the most familiar to folks who haven’t followed fighting games since the Street Fighter II days, as it draws a lot of design inspiration from the SFII series — though with a few new mechanics, like high-damaging Super and Ultra Combos, and Focus Attacks that let you absorb an opponent’s attack and retaliate with your own. Players to watch include last year’s champion Sun-woo “Infiltration” Lee from Korea, fighting game legend Daigo “The Beast” Umehara of Team Mad Catz, Desperation Move’s recent challenger Kun-Xian “Xian” Ho from Singapore (who played a very close set with Infiltration at NorCal Regionals 2013) and Simon ”Popi” Gutierrez from Sweden (who beat Infiltration at DreamHack Summer earlier in the year and will be appearing at Evo 2013 courtesy of DreamHack themselves).
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a chaotic three-on-three team fighting game that draws on a roster of iconic characters from both Marvel and Capcom franchises — Avengers, X-Men, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, and so on. Its appeal is so strong and unique that its devotees will often pop into livestream chats just to ask “When’s Marvel?” — because they simply don’t want to watch other fighting games after they’ve discovered the light. Players to watch include Chris “NYChrisG” Gonzalez of Afterglow Elite (who has consistently shut down top players over the last year with his stifling lockdown play), compLexity Gaming’s Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez (last year’s Evo champion), Empire Arcadia’s Job “Flocker” Figueroa (an aggressive combo-heavy player that beat Chris G at East Coast Throwdown V), Justin Wong of Evil Geniuses (the most dominant player during the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 days), and Wong’s Evil Geniuses teammate Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez (a highly aggressive player who has also defeated Chris G in the past).
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a one-on-one fighter with characters from the DC Comics universe (Superman, Batman, etc.); it looks and feels somewhat similar to Mortal Kombat, since it’s made by the same developer, NetherRealm Studios. If fighting games were on a spectrum from crazy (Marvel vs. Capcom) to controlled (Street Fighter IV), Injustice would fall somewhere in-between; on one hand, it’s slower than Marvel and only has two characters on screen, but the combos can still get crazy, and players are capable of interacting with elements of the stages they’re fighting on — for example, some characters can pick up parts of the environment and throw it at their opponent. Players to watch include Carl “Perfect Legend” White of Fnatic (two-time Mortal Kombat 9 Evo champion), Emmanuel “CD jr” Brito, Giuseppe “REO” Grosso, Brant “Pig of the Hut” McCaskill, and Marvel dominator Chris “NYChrisG” Gonzalez (who recently took first in Injustice at Community Effort Orlando 2013).
Street Fighter x Tekken ver. 2013 is a two-on-two tag battle game with characters from both Street Fighter and the Tekken series; while it’s a bit crazier and has more stuff happening on-screen compared to Street Fighter IV, it’s still pretty easy to follow. Players to watch include: Ricky Ortiz, Justin Wong, Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi, Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez, and Ari “fLoE” Weintraub (all of whom are players from professional game team Evil Geniuses); also, last year’s champions Ryan “Laugh” Ahn and Sun-woo “Infiltration” Lee.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is a four-player party brawling game, though its competitive player community has settled on a one-on-one ruleset for serious play. SSBM has a rather interesting background that’s worth explaining; its player community won a breast cancer research charity donation drive with over $90,000 in contributions to earn its status as a main game at Evo. Watch for strong performances by Joseph “Mango” Marquez, Empire Arcadia’s Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, Hungrybox, Adam “Armada” Lindgren from Sweden, and more.
Mortal Kombat 9 is the modern-day successor to the classic fighting game franchise; it’s brutal, and bloody, and a heck of a lot of fun to watch. This is MK9′s third year at Evo, and its notable player base largely overlaps with Injustice’s.
Persona 4: Arena merges the characters from the vaunted Japanese RPG series Persona with the fast, frenzied action of a set of games colloquially known as “airdash” or “anime” fighters (Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, The Rumble Fish, and so on). A number of notable foreign players are set to make the trip to Las Vegas to compete in this title, including Die-chan, Stunedge, Tomo, and more, in addition to strong competitors from the United States like Steve “Lord Knight” Barthelemy, Jose “BananaKen” Llera, and Eddie “Brkrdave” Sayles.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the latest in the ground-breaking 3D Tekken franchise; it’s a two-on-two tag-team fighting game that looks somewhat similar at first to Street Fighter x Tekken but plays very, very differently. Players to look out for include CafeId’s Knee and Nin, Aris Bakhtanians of Avoiding the Puddle, Empire Arcadia’s Rene “Kor” Maistry, Eduardo “Inkognito” Rada of Money Inc., Level Up Your Game’s Michael “MYK” Kwon and Reepal “Rip” Parbhoo, Jimmy “Mr. Naps” Tran, and more.
The King of Fighters XIII is the newest game in SNK’s long-running King of Fighters franchise; it follows the series’s traditional format of three-on-three battles, with each player using one character at a time. Last year’s finals won the game several new fans; this year’s tournament might well make a fan out of you. Notable players include the members of CafeId out of Korea (MadKOF, Kensouzzang, Verna), Afterglow Elite’s Jose “Romance” Navarrete, Reynald Tacsuan of ArcadeShock, and Empire Arcadia’s Luis “Luis Cha” Martinez.
What on Earth are you talking about?
Like any niche community, we’ve evolved our own slang in the fighting game community (“FGC”), and if you don’t know any of it, you might have a hard time following along. Here is a glossary of key terms:
Bodied: Completely dominated. Ex.: “I just got bodied by that Gen player.”
Combo: A series of attacks that the receiving player cannot block after getting hit by the first attack.
Dropped combo: ”Dropping” a combo means the attacking player accidentally failed to execute the full combo.
Five Golden Letters: Slang for a PERFECT, where a player wins a round without taking damage. Yeah, we know it has seven letters. Don’t ask.
Free: Requires little effort to defeat. Ex.: “He was totally free in that last match.”
Happy Birthday: When one player in a team-based game manages to hit two opposing characters with a single combo.
Hype: Exciting. Ex.: “Did you see that match? That was hype!” (Note that unlike normal usage of this word, fighting game usage has zero negative connotation.)
OCV: Short for One Character Victory; used in team games where one player wins a match with a single character.
OTG: Short for Off The Ground. In most games, a character that is knocked down cannot be hit; some games allow OTG moves that continue the attack (and often lead to even longer combos).
Reset: Modern fighting games discourage long combos by decreasing each subsequent attack’s damage; this is called “damage scaling”. A reset is when a player intentionally stops a combo with the intention of confusing the defending player and landing another hit in order to start another combo that “resets” the damage scaling. A dropped combo that unintentionally leads to a reset opportunity is called an “American Reset”.
Runback: A rematch. Also see “salty runback”, where one player demands a rematch due to his or her excessive sodium levels following a frustrating loss.
Salty: That unique combination of anger, frustration, and defeat that a player experiences after a loss.
Salty Suite: An after-hours, unofficial event near Evo where top players challenge each other to often high-stakes money matches. It’s usually streamed.
Scrub/scrubby: A player that often makes poor decisions and/or has poor physical execution. Not necessarily a new player.
Stream monster: Someone who religiously watches fighting game streams but rarely attends in-person events. (You, after watching Evo.)
Tech/technology: Slang for new, often situation-specific gameplay techniques. Ex.: “anti-Phoenix technology”.
Vortex: A string of setups starting from a knockdown that make it very difficult for a defending player to successfully block — each of which ends in a knockdown. Usually used in SFIV.
Yipes: AKA Michael Mendoza, a well-known Marvel commentator beloved by stream monsters. Famous for commentating the MAHVEL BAYBEE video (NSFW, included below). He’s responsible for much of the Marvel community’s slang.
Finally, here’s a guide to special smiley faces you can use in the Twitch.TV chat: