Evolution West 2006: My Thoughts
Now that the weekend has come and gone, I must actually say that I had a blast. I'm extremely excited for Evo East, now, and can't wait to see how it turns out. But regarding Evo West, just suffice it to say that I had a really awesome time and I think the tournament went very well.
I'll go into the details now, bit by bit. I do not plan for people who don't know anything about fighting games to read about the details of every game (the games themselves as well as the known players who play them). Thus, the details will become more and more granular as this post goes on. So once I start going into details about every individual game played, if you don't quite understand the details of the game or, even worse, are not interested at all in said game, feel free to skip the later parts of the post entirely.
The AtmosphereThe past Evolution Fighting Game Championship events have all had a tremendous atmosphere. With so many competitors in one room, you'd think the venues would explode just from amassing such huge amounts of tension. There is always the occasional unknown making their way high into the rankings of a game or two, and there is no reason why that unknown couldn't be you. So even if you haven't played in any major tournaments before, believe me the nerves are there.
Also, the tournaments of past years have also been fairly crowded and packed. Getting over a thousand people into one room never sounds quite as impressive as it really is. It gets pretty crazy, especially when those thousand-plus people all yell at the same time when something crazy happens on a giant projector screen. That's when you truly feel the impact of what a thousand people can do when united together. I'm not ashamed to admit that it brings a tear to my eye whenever I think of it.
With all that being said, it is impossible to expect that same number of people to show up to one of the newly added satellite events this year. Evo West is very much ensconced in the far reaches of the west coast, so more than likely the participants of the event will be exclusively from the west coast, since most people will save their long-distance travel for Evo Finals in Vegas. But so far as I could tell, players from Vegas came, players from Northern California came, players from Reno came... I'm not sure from where the players who traveled the farthest are from. But regardless, the amount of people at Evo West did not approach the thousand mark.
But the result of a smaller turn out was something I could not have predicted. Having less people, I was afraid, would take some of the wind out of the sails of Evolution. I will say there was definitely no danger of any room exploding due to an overdose of tension. But that's because of one element I had not factored in: everyone on the West Coast knows each other. And more importantly, just about everyone from the West Coast are buddies.
As a result, Evo West took on the atmosphere of, maybe, a family reunion, a gathering of people you haven't seen in a while like when one of your relatives gets married. You see your cousin, whom you really enjoyed hanging out with in the past, for the first time in years and ask him, "Yo, so what've you been up to? Still playing games?" That's what Evo West was. I got to see so many friendly faces from the past and get formally introduced to others I had known previously only through the internet. Because of the smaller amounts of people in the building, I got to chat with a lot more people, kick it with a lot more people, and just be casual around more people... all while still working the event! I really enjoyed the mood of the event. Most everyone I talked to was having a great time, and it was really cool to see that.
And yet, the finals on Sunday were still very exciting, and a lot of great matches were played. Some matches literally had huge momentum shifts in the final second of one particular game, and the reaction from the crowd was music to my ears. The tension may not have been at maximum level (everyone has their eyes already looking ahead to the big prizes in Vegas in August), but nevertheless the desire to win it all did not seem dampened by the final eight players of every game.
The VenueThe Los Angeles Airport Marriott hotel was quite a nice place, though the cost for parking was a bit much (though I guess they can't help charging so much, being so close to the freakin' airport and all). The ballroom they let us use was huuuuuuuge. And their staff was extremely cooperative. I'm hoping they were happy with us as well. And I hope we didn't disturb the 18th wedding birthday extravaganza that was going on in the room next to us. In one room, you have all these young fellows dressed in fancy gowns and tuxes dancing formal dances. Right next door, you have a ton of gamers carrying around makeshift joysticks and swearing at each other in friendly trash talk (except in one case, which I've heard has already escalated in internet lore to having had someone die at the event. I can promise you that, in the actual incident, nothing happened that is really even worth discussing).
Toyota's presence at the event was also quite a nice addition. Unlike MLG, they were not intrusive in the least, and actually added a lot of cool things to the event. They wheeled in this Yaris that was completely tricked out with not just one, but TWO embedded XBox 360's in the sucker. While one was played on a flip down LCD monitor in the backseat, the other was hidden away in the trunk! When the trunk opened, a HUGE flat screen high definition TV would literally RISE from the trunk until it was in full view. I swear that when we first saw it, angels were heard singing and a ray of sunlight pierced the ceiling of the hotel to shine squarely on the TV itself. It also had some incredible speakers attached on the underside of the trunk. With the trunk open, the speakers faced directly at those gazing upon the TV and their audio output was intense. And as one Vic Ratliff commented, "Those speakers are better than my house." If we turned the volume to the maximum levels, I think those would have caused the room to explode. It was quite amazing.
The Setup / FormatThe setup was great. Half of the room was setup as the main event, the other half was setup for the "BYOC", the Bring-Your-Own-Console area, where players can use the available TVs to play casual matches on any game of their choice, or even hold their own side tournaments. And this year, the staff of Evo decided to use a different format for determining the top 8 of the match. And it worked beautifully. It wasn't a revelatory idea, just one that only this year were we able to accomplish!
In the past years, we ran the pools for just about every game at the same time, so sometimes a player would be forced to play multiple games at once. And oftentimes, they would not show up for the qualifying pool for one game because they were currently busy playing in the qualifying pool for another game, causing delays in the game he was missing from. This would cause long delays for some pools being run, pushing the time it took to complete all of the pools much farther out than planned. Thus, some pools that were meant to start at 5:00 p.m. would be delayed until times like 8:00 p.m., forcing people to wait around for their pool to actually start. And while waiting, they would grow hungry. And because eating is a basic human need, they would go grab dinner and of course still be out when their pool finally started. And so the staff running pools, particularly yours truly, would feel really bad disqualifying anyone and keep giving hem a chance to show up, delaying the pool even further. Thus, our finishing time would always be driven into a pool of excessive tardiness.
This year, we changed the format and ran all of the pools for one game at the same time. So at any given moment on the first day of Evo, only one game was being run. So if you were participating in that game, you would show up at that game's start time and stick around until the final 8 were determined. Then you could go comfortably anywhere you wanted, even, oh, say dinner, without fear. It made for an overall much more streamlined procedure and the tournament ran amazingly smoothly. I think it made for a much better experience for all involved, staff and players.
This new format took many who have attended past Evos a little getting used to. So as a warning to those who will participate in Evo East and Evo Finals, because the start times are pretty clear-cut now, we have much less remorse of disqualifying you if you don't show up for your pools in time (insert evil cackle here). There is only one time to show up for your game, so make sure you're there for your time. This is the concept that some people are still not quite used to. Someone asked me when the "later" pools for his game were going to take place and I informed him there were no later pools. That's the beauty of it all. If you are playing game X, there's only one time you need to show up for its qualifying pools.)
The GamesIt's all about the games, so I'll go through my impression of them one by one:
Mario Kart DS - Mario Kart was awesome! And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that I personally finished third place in Mario Kart (this is the part where I stare at the sky, whistling with my hands behind my back). Honestly, though, it was quite entertaining and though only a few people were there to watch the finals of this game, I thought it was pretty fun (except for when I ate a Blue Shell right before the finish line, knocking me from 1st to 4th...). It was just a lot of fun because it was exciting to play new opponents that I was actually positive were not cheating, as many Mario Kart players do online with their hacking carts that allow them to do things not normally possible.
My Final Thought: If more people show up for Evo Finals in Vegas, this might actually be very entertaining to watch. I'm hoping a few people are willing to show up for the Finals to check it out.
Dead or Alive 4 - I think I was making supply runs during DoA4 pools and the DoA4 Finals. So I literally saw none of this game except, I think, for the last two matches on Finals Sunday. So it's hard for me to comment on the game outside of my one final thought: practice this game now because there is a lot of money to be won in Vegas. And because of the small turnout for the game, that just increases your chances even more.
Tekken 5 - As I told Bronsen (A.K.A. "Insanelee") at Evo West, I really do have a hard time following Tekken 5. Because I'm so unfamiliar with the characters and the mindset required to play the game, it's almost unfair for me to comment on the game. Everything I would say about the game would probably be so incredibly misinformed that I will be stoned by Tekken players everywhere the next time I set foot into a tournament room. I ended up missing the Finals as well, again making a supply run, so I did not get a chance to see Insanelee take his victory.
Hyper Street Fighter 2: Anniversary Edition - You know how I mentioned those rumors that someone died at Evo West? Well, it's true, and he was in the top 8 of Anniversary Edition. After he died, I quietly penciled in my own name in his place. At least, that's the only explanation I can give of how I managed to make top 8 in the game and make the Finals.
No disrespect to anyone I played, it's just that when you look and the top 8 of the tournament, it was literally a who's-who of fighting game experts from the past, proving that the old-schoolers still have what it takes to take on all the new would-be challengers. The top 8 were Jason Cole, Graham Wolfe, Alex Wolfe, and myself in the winners bracket and Alex Valle, Mike Watson, John Choi, and Seth Killian in the losers bracket. That's quite an impressive lineup (the only glaring outsider being myself). And I'm very pleased with that result as well. It shows that, at the top level of play, Anniversary Edition was not going to boil down to a bunch of Champion Edition Bisons Psycho Crushing each other on a constant basis. Though there was some usage of Champion Edition Bison in the final 8, he did not come out victorious in the end (though Valle's CE Bison just barely lost to Alex Wolfe's Dhalsim).
And the Wolfe brothers, Graham and Alex (attending their first Evo event), took control and took the top two spots (though, again, Alex Valle was a pixel away from keeping Alex Wolfe in third place, until Alex Wolfe made a great comeback), proving that they were definitely never truly out of the scene. The brother vs. brother final was quite intense, though I almost suspect routine for the brothers themselves. But I was so happy to see them and see how well they performed. The Wolfe brothers are true old school, and it doesn't feel right without you guys here and representing! Now go do your job and convince Jason Nelson to come back as well!
My Final Thought: I got Cammy onto the big screen of an Evo Event, so one of my lifelong goals has been fulfilled. And yet, having tasted it now, it only makes me want to practice harder. Watch out Vegas!! And oh yeah, I will say that the repartee between Tom Cannon and David Sirlin for the running commentary during this game was priceless.
Capcom Vs. SNK 2 - Sometime in the last year, I was talking to Kim-Hahn Hoang about CvS2. He is a huge proponent of the game and considered one of the best CvS2 players in the United States. I told him I don't play it anymore because I just feet the game is slow and more defensive-based these days, and no longer exciting. He responded to me, "You just don't understand the game well enough anymore."
I didn't run any of the pools, so I was unable to witness the play during those, but if the Finals were any indication, maybe Kim is right. I wasn't sure what was happening before my eyes, but CvS2 looked... exciting. Players like Kim-Hahn and Campbell "Buktooth" Tran and John Choi attacked so frequently that they made the game look like a rushdown game. And Ricky Ortiz's Vega Custom Combo was very intimidating even when the opponent managed to block! As a player, there is no way I can watch that sequence without thinking what I would do personally if I were on the receiving end of that lockdown. And all I could come up with was: be scared.
My Final Thought: I'm hoping it can remain exciting through Evo East and Evo Finals. And I just have to say that I still think Blanka's Hop into Roll-Cancelled Fierce Electricity is broken.
Guilty Gear XX Slash - There's a rivalry a-brewin'. This weekend's Guilty Gear action can only be defined truly by one match-up: Peter "Combofiend" Rosas versus Paul Kugler. Combofiend's A.B.A. and Kugler's Slayer had some epic matches this past weekend, and it's hard to say who came out on top. Combofiend's A.B.A. is a paragon of execution, with crazy rushdowns that caused his opponents to be stuck with a fully filled Guard Meter almost consistently. Kugler's Slayer had some of the best mind games I've ever seen from a Slayer (that Mappa Feint is broken as hell!!!). Once he got on top of you, it was almost impossible to ever regain your bearings.
Kugler won the BYOC singles tournament run by the players by defeating Combofiend by a sliver. And I mean a sliver. Then, in the team tournaments, Kugler's team (Team 17 Seconds) and Combofiend's team (Team RUN) were the top 2 finishers. Their teams faced off early, with Kugler's team winning it in the end with Kulger himself, again, defeating Combofiend. Team RUN makes its way back out from the Loser's Bracket to take on Team 17 Seconds, winners of the winner's bracket, again. And this time, Combofiend turns it up to another gear and defeats Team 17 Seconds on his own twice in a row to claim the Team Tournament. But everytime they faced off, the winner was determined by who won between Combofiend and Kugler. Can't wait to see their future matches.
I did enter the tournament myself, forming a team with a couple of others looking for a team to compete on. Our captain was one Andrew (I didn't get his last name), a player attending an Evo event for the first time ever. So I was very happy to be on his team to give him a chance to play in the Team Tournament and experience competition at Evo. Andrew, I was definitely glad you made it and I hope you had a great time! Hope to see you in Vegas!
My Final Thought: This weekend just makes me sad that I'm actually so bad at this game. My resolve to improve at the game is greatly increased, and I will definitely try to get some more practice. I can't wait for my next chance at, maybe, Evo East and and Evo Finals.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 - I love the MvC2 players. I love them and their entire crowd. I have never seen such a passion for a game in my life. Though the total number of players for MvC2 drops a little every year, the passion for the game from its players seems to increase. This is the only game that has true "camps" distinctly cheering for one player. And they get loud. And rowdy. And excited. And it's awesome. The best part is that the players themselves take it in such stride. "Finesse" (sorry, never caught your real name), for example, was terrific. He was very loudly cheered and he looked to be soaking in the moment very much. And even after a heart-breaking loss to "SooMighty," he took it like a champ, smiled and shook Soo's hand, and looked like he had a great time.
And congrats to Alexandre de Sousa, A.K.A. "Chunksta." I remember a few years ago, in the pools at Cal Poly, Chunksta took a huge lead against Justin Wong only to lose it in the end after a crazy comeback by Justin Wong. It looked like one of those losses in pro sports that can cause a player to spiral into a hole of doubt, judging from the expression on Chunksta's face after that gut-wrenching loss. But seeing him take that experience and allowing it to make him stronger instead was not only great to see, but should be an inspiration to all fighting game players. Good job, Chunk! I was very happy to see you pull through and I expect to see more of that in Vegas! I got the "Chunksta Scream" on film, and I'll get it out there for everyone to see soon!
My Final Thought: Every year, MvC2 goes by and it seems to only get more interesting to me. I enjoy watching it so much and I can't wait... nay, I am salivating with my anticipation to see Evo East's MvC2 run. I can only imagine the intensity there will be on another level, given the even greater passion for the game found on the East Coast. It's gonna be great fun.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike - I was really happy to see Pyrolee come to Evo and represent (though I know he would have come last year had he not had other plans already). And I can't help but be impressed with the Family Fun's crew and their dedication to the game. The top 8 was basically a list of Family Fun players: Pyrolee, Amir, Ed Ma ("THE MASTER!!"), MutantXP, Hung Bee, Mr. Alex Valle, and Combofiend. And serious props goes to Rockefeller, who did his thing announcing Third Strike at Evo West. It may not be for everyone, but I would be a liar if I said I wasn't laughing throughout the commentary.
Oh, and huge huge props go to Peter Yoon, who performed like a champ despite the ribbing from Rockefeller. He knew it was all in good fun and took it like a true champ and played well and looked like he was having a great time. We'll see you in Vegas as well.
My Final Thought: I think it's gonna be exciting in Vegas this year. I think, after Evo East, we'll have a very potentially strong Third Strike crew to give many of the Japanese players a run for their money. Every year, we seem to get closer. Maybe this year at Evo Vegas, things will finally turn around for the U.S. Players.
The ConclusionEvo West rocked. I had a great time, and please check out all of the photos I took for Evo West at this link here:
(Edit: Added a note here to let you know that for every picture, if you click on the "All Sizes" button above the picture, you can view the picture at its full size, and do a right-click/save-as. That way, if you want to save any of the pictures for yourself, you can get it at full size.)
Evo West 2006 Photos
I will do my best to list people's names and such, but will intentionally leave out a lot of names. If you see I've gotten any names wrong or know the names of anyone else on the pictures, feel free to leave a comment and let me know who everyone is. (Note: I will monitor the comments religiously, so I only wanna see people play nice, now, okay? Got it? Thanks.)
I would like to just give a few shout outs before I go. First, a huge shout out to the Reno Crew, who helped unpack the TVs from the U-Haul truck and helped set the TVs up. Another huge shout out goes to Vic Ratliff, Duc Do, Buff Mike, and Jason Villarreal for helping pack everything up after the tournament. Thanks to everyone who helped run pools, thanks to the staff at Toyota and the staff at the Marriott, and thanks to everyone who showed up. And thanks, again, to the crew of Tom Cannon, Tony Cannon, Seth Killian, Joey Cuellar, David Sirlin, and countless others who helped with the planning and running of Evolution West.
If you are on the East Coast, I highly recommend making it out to Evo East. You won't regret it. And if you can make it to Evo Finals, do so! I think it has the chance to be one of the biggest competitive video game events ever! See everyone soon!