Evolution East 2006 - Part 2: The Games
(Don't forget to read part 1 of this Evo East write up here first.)Okay. Drama resolved. Ballroom setup. Players ready. Can we get this thing started now? It was early Saturday morning, I had only around 5 hours of sleep in two days, but it was finally time. Everything should be routine now, correct? In terms of how the tournament was run, it was definitely a well-oiled machine, after so many years of experience. But what made this particular tournament counter to the routines I normally am familiar with was this: I really didn't know anyone anymore. At Evo West, if you recall, I said it felt like a family reunion. Evo East, for me, felt more like a business convention. Not that it was any less casual, not at all. It was just that, for me, it felt a lot like a place where I went to to be introduced to many different people. Sure, there was a lot of the old familiar faces (like Justin Wong, Henry Cen, Chris Li, Mike Creque and David Wright), but otherwise virtually everyone was a new face to me. But what I felt at Evo West seemed to be what most players felt at Evo East. Everyone there knew each other, and I'm hoping it felt as casual and enjoyable to the players as Evo West did for me. It sure seemed like it.The other really cool thing about Evo East was that it really was a different world there. Not only were there new top-tier players that I had never met nor heard of before (one such example was Lincoln Morris. I hear he's a rising star in the East Coast, and he tore fools up in all the games I watched him play, myself included in the Guilty Gear tournament), but there was an entirely different lingo there. A lot of the nicknames they gave moves/characters/etc. were terms I hadn't heard before, and it was definitely interesting trying to parse the slang there.As for the players themselves, I met a lot of new people there, talked to a lot of old guys I had only ever spoken to over Shoryuken.com forums before, and chatted with some old buddies. I'm glad I got to meet so many new faces of people who never have made it out to an Evo Event before, I only hope that most of the people I met can find a way to get to Evo Vegas. It would be great to see them again.
The GamesLet's talk about the games, shall we?Mario Kart DS - Hmm. I guess no one on the East Coast is interested in Mario Kart, eh? If you showed up and played for the first time, you would have qualified for Mario Kart. There were only 7 time entries for the game on Saturday, and on Sunday, only 5 of the players showed up. So pretty much, only two players didn't win money and only one player didn't qualify. Looks like Mario Kart is wide open in Vegas. Time to practice up, eh? My final thought: it doesn't seem like there is much interest in the game right now, but with the prize money in Vegas, you can bet the competition won't be any less intense there.Dead or Alive 4 - There was definitely a lot more interest in Dead or Alive 4 on the East Coast than on the West Coast. We had around 30 entrants, the same amount of entrants as Tekken 5. It actually seemed as if there was a DoA4 contingent here. A bunch of players I saw were here only for DoA4, and I was very happy to see that. I hope that most of the DoA4 players can find their way to Vegas. So once again, my final thought is that the competition will be fierce in Vegas, and it certainly isn't too late to pick up the game if you've played it casually before.Tekken 5 - Lots of interesting things going on here. I'm pretty sure there's been plenty of discussion already on Tekken Zaibatsu Forums already regarding drama in the Tekken community. First of all, there certainly weren’t a lot of pleasantries exchanged between Jinmaster and Spero Gin after their final match together for third place. Second of all, Justin Wong won Tekken. Now, I'm not going the route you probably think I am. I'm not going to go the route of "Oooooohhhhh, a Street Fighter player won Tekken! Ohhhhh..." Nah, that discredits Justin Wong. He dedicated his time to learning the game and he did very well learning it. And he's Justin Wong: he's an "Anything" player (third place in Mario Kart on little practice, come on!). But it was just so very unexpected. Does that mean Justin Wong has the potential to win yet another game at Evo? So my Final Thought is this: this Justin Wong development may breed some interest for those Street Fighter players who normally don't watch Tekken. If Justin can make top 8 in Vegas, there will definitely be some craziness going on during the Finals.Hyper Street Fighter 2 - Mike Creque got Cammy onto the big screen at Evo East as well!!! Cammy power, baby! All you players out there better start practicing up on fighting Cammy, 'cause you might run into one of us! Better learn how to beat this secret top tier character.Lots of drama here as well in the form of the return of the "Black Bracket of Death." For those who have no clue what the Black Bracket is, a few years ago at the Evolution Tournament at UCLA, the brackets were labeled with colors. For Super Turbo, the bracket that was labeled "Black" ended up having, after some random seeding, a ton of top players. So getting out of that bracket wasn't easy, and a lot of great players didn't qualify. And this year at Evo East, there was a similar bracket that included players such as JeRon, Julian Robinson, NKI, Chris Li, Phi, Sirlin, and myself. It was pretty nuts. A few people have complained about it, even claimed there could possibly be a conspiracy, and have demanded proper seeding for tournaments. The only problem with that is that seeding can generate yet even more drama and conspiracy theories. And if anyone has a right to complain, it would be me: I'm the only person who was actually involved in both Black Brackets. So if I'm in a Super Turbo / HSF2 tournament, pray you aren't in my bracket. I won't eliminate you, but everyone else in my bracket will!!And congrats to Phil Barnell for backing up his talk and taking this game. However, I'm going to have to change Phil's nickname from DSP to DFN from now on. After defeating Justin Wong to take the finals, Phil threw out his declarative statement: "Daigo's F***ing Next!" So he's now DFN in my book. Because you can't throw that out and take it back later. I wish Phil all the luck in beating Daigo, but I hope he takes is a bit more seriously. The only proper way to beat Daigo is to give him proper respect. Just thinking you're good enough to beat him isn't gonna be good enough. You gotta at least realize he's amazing at the game, and that he's defeated the best in America in past Evo tournaments. And he's not even considered the best in his own country. But it would be nice if America could take back the classic game series, so more power to you, Phil and all other challengers to the crown!My Final Thought: this is building up to be the most hyped up game of them all. Between DSP (DFN) backing up his talk, Graham and Alex Wolfe backing up theirs, and all three of them gunning at the return of Daigo, we've got a real potential doozy here in Vegas. I can't wait! And I'm still holding on to the dream, now, of getting two Cammys onto the big screen. So Mike and I are gonna rock the house! Beware!Capcom Vs. SNK 2 - Beware the SmoothCat. He had a heartbreaking loss to Justin Wong in the Finals of the tournament, but I recall what happened in MvC2 at Evo West. If you recall my Evo West post, I told the tail of how Chunksta also had a crushing loss to Justin Wong, and then at Evo West of this year came back to win the tournament for MvC2. It's like they always say: it takes that heart-wrenching loss before you can achieve the next level. So even though SmoothCat has received a very tough loss, I think it'll only make him stronger and make his resolve more solid. I say look out for this guy at Evo Finals this year.My Final Thought: there is a definite distinction between Evo West and Evo East styles of play. While the West tournament had a lot more offensive-based players, the East Coast still has a tighter more defensive style of play. It'll be interesting to see how the clash between styles at Evo Finals will play out. Which style will take the top? Can't wait to see.Guilty Gear XX Slash - Once again, I entered this game and once again, I think I performed rather sub-par. And after watching the top 4 teams play, I came to the same conclusion I did at Evo West: I have a long way to go in this game. This game is just so much fun to watch. The audience went crazy watching this game, especially at the beatdown provided by the Anji of Josh A.K.A. Zidanel33t. There is always so much action in the game and crazy momentum shifts and insane combos. And every time I watch it, I just want to end up playing it more.And I love the team tournament format. At Evo West, we had Slayer and A.B.A. dominating. And at Evo East, we had Anji going nuts and Chetan's Johnny dropping mad combos on people. At Evo Finals, hopefully we'll have one incredible character variety. I wouldn't even be surprised if the top 4 teams had around 10 completely different characters being used between the 12 players.My Final Thought: Hopefully, we'll be able to see a huge character variety in the finals. If we do, maybe the finals will be able to show people why this game is so much fun, and more people will end up picking it up. It's a great game, and a shame not more people play it. Hopefully, its popularity grows in the coming years.Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 – I have another nickname: instead of Yipes, I want to call him "The Programmable Joystick." Because every time I watch him play, it looks like he’s the Magneto from a Combo Video made by Magnetro2k. And it’s just like Chris A.K.A. "The Matrix" said as his advice for those fighting Yipes in his guest commentary: "Don't get hit. "East Coast MvC2 is on a different level. I mentioned that the West Coast MvC2 players are very passionate about their game, and it's even more so in the East Coast. I think I had as much fun watching the players as I did the actual matches. The players are so loud and raucous, and they are having so much fun watching the game. I think once we get some East Vs. West action going on in the Finals, the whole room will explode. There will definitely be some great rivalries and a lot of players rooting for their guy. It's gonna be crazy stuff.My Final Thought: As with every year, I think the thing that will make MvC2 so much fun in Vegas will be the fact that the tournament will be pretty much 100% U.S. players. So the Finals will almost definitely be some heated and very passionate matches. Bring some earplugs, folks, 'cause it is gonna get loud in the building during finals.Street Fighter III: Third Strike - Of all the games for Justin Wong to not qualify in, it is this game. I think he will bounce back by Evo Finals, however, and hopefully can make it far into the bracket. Last year, Wong himself almost gave U.S. the win over the Japanese in the game. I would love to see the Japanese properly challenged this year, and all Evo East did was prove the Japanese still rule, thanks to the win by the guest from Japan, Issei.My Final Thought: Hopefully, this year players such as Wong and Exodus and Fubarduck (and Evo West players like Pyrolee and Amir) can give Japan a run for their money. If we keep getting closer and closer every year, the only way we can go up this year is to win it all. Let's see what happens at Evo Finals!
The ConclusionDisasters were averted, and hype and excitement has been built up. I think this year, Evo Finals in Vegas has the potential to be seriously the greatest video game tournament of all time. Don't miss out, and please visit!Check out the photos I took from Evo East as well. And note 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 East 2006 PhotosI did 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. And if you see yourself in any picture and want yourself pointed out, leave a comment on the picture's page so I know exactly which photo you are referring to. (Note: Once again, I will monitor the comments religiously, so I only wanna see people play nice, now, okay? Got it? Thanks.)Some final shout-outs: Really, Gilbert deserves the biggest shout-out of everyone. What he did to help us get the TVs from Wal-Mart was incredible. Also a shout-out to everyone who helped out, like Bacardi, Phi, Chris Li, Mike Creque, and so many others. And thanks to my Guilty Gear team for journeying out form California to check out Evo East and for offering to help us with the TV situation. And once again, the dedicated staff: Tom Cannon, Tony Cannon, Seth Killian, Joey Cuellar, and David Sirlin. Let's make Evo Vegas run just as smoothly.See everyone at Vegas! And thanks for reading.- James
Evolution East 2006 - Part 1: The Show Must Go On
I'm not sure if I can even talk about Evo East in the same fashion that I spoke about Evo West. Evo West had nary a hitch, and everything went pretty much according to plan. Evo East? Different story. That is not to say that the tournament did not go well. The tournament was great, and I hope everyone in the east who hadn't managed to ever attend an Evo event in the past had a chance to come out and experience Evo tournaments first hand. And I hope they all had a really good time. And I'm sure everyone has already heard about "The Drama" that happened this past weekend. And for those that don't know exactly what happened, lemme just say that it's just a testament to what the organizers are willing to go through to make sure Evo runs. Not just runs, but runs as well as we can make it.
The ArrivingBefore I go into the drama, (which I've shamelessly teased you with and am leaving you hanging right now), I need to establish, at least, my personal state during which The Drama occurred. I figured I would fly to Evo East and that I would do it with a red eye, sleeping on the plane and checking into the hotel the following afternoon. Never again will I take the red eye. For one thing, I tried to starve myself of sleep Thursday morning so that, on my flight between Thursday and Friday, I would fall asleep easily on the plane. Well, the first sign of trouble was when I overslept my alarm Thursday morning, and got way more sleep than I had intended. So by the time 11:30 p.m. rolled around and I was on my plane, sleeping was not the easiest thing to accomplish. In fact, I think I slept for about 45 minutes and had that half-assed sleep the rest of the flight (half-assed sleep being that state in which you seem to continually convince yourself that you are asleep even though you are actually still fairly conscious). And then on the second leg of my flight, I managed to sleep about an hour on the plane. So by the time I finally reached the Westin Inn in Stamford, Connecticut, the location of Evolution East 2006, I was dead tired. But it's Friday afternoon and there is set-up to be done. So I checked in, showered up, and headed right back down on 1.75 hours of sleep and began the set up process.And set up was a breeze. Everything went super smooth. The AV Staff at the hotel was super cooperative and helpful. We had just the right supplies for what we needed. All of the machines were connected quickly and working (scratch that... we've lost yet another two Dreamcasts. Every time we run a tournament, another Dreamcast or two goes out on us). The Toyota Yaris arrives on time and is set up with no problems. Basically, thanks to Evo West just two weeks earlier and knowing what to expect, everything was smooth sailing. And throughout the whole setup run, those of us on staff were marveling at how smoothly it was going and how fast we managed to setup. We actually thought we might, for once, get some sleep on the day of setup! But you know what they say: Knock on wood, karma bites you in the ass, pride comes before a fall... All of the staff almost had this horrid thought in the back of their minds that something was gonna go wrong. It wouldn't be Evo without us having to do some crazy emergency recovery. But nothing we've ever done has approached what we had to go through at Evo East: The Drama.
The DramaThe first sign something bad was when the TVs showed up. We had great TVs in Los Angeles, but shipping them to the East Coast with super fast shipping (to guarantee we'd have them by Evo East) and then having the hotel hold onto them until we arrived was an exorbitant cost that wasn't worth it. So we called every place we could in the areas around Connecticut, and no one had 30 TVs for rent. It was pretty odd that nothing was available. Finally, we managed to arrange something with a company to ship us TVs there from somewhere closer to the West Coast, I believe. Then, before the event, we were contacted by the rental company and they gave us a nice surprise: "Hi, we've upgraded your TV order from CRTs to flat-screen LCDs for free!" I'm sure they meant it as a pleasant surprise for us, but it certainly wasn't. We told them we didn't want the LCDs, but apparently it was too late. So we figured we would hedge our bets and hope these ones would not be bad. But in general, LCDs are horrible for playing video games. If you do not know why, allow me to explain...(Okay, lots of technobabble here. If you are willing to take my word that LCDs are horrible for gaming, skip on ahead to the next section and continue on with the story.)
The TechnobabbleThere are two types of TVs images that can be displayed: interlaced and progressive scan. The older technology, interlaced, basically shows only half of the TV's images at a time: every other line. Thus, if the resolution of the TV is 480 lines up and down, only 240 are displayed at once: line 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. Then, it switches and shows the other half. So it basically flickers back and forth between the two sets of lines, but does it so fast that the human eye can't really notice it... all a person sees is one completed image. But things that are not the the human eye can't see it that way. Ever try to use a camcorder to record the images on a TV? You see that weird large black bar that scrolls up the screen and makes the TV image look terrible? Yup, that's because of the interlaced image. The Video camera doesn't see at the same speed as the human eye, so it looks really bad when you try to record TV images with a video camera.Progressive scan, on the other hand, shows the entire image the entire time, so the image is sharper and stronger. Point a video camera at an image that is progressive scan, and it will look as clear on the movie you've recorded as it does in person. Since progressive scan is so much better than interlaced images, most TVs these days would rather output a progressive image. Most old TVs can only output in interlaced mode. TVs from the years past allow displays in both interlaced and in progressive. And very recent TVs these days, the nicer ones anyhow, tend to only display in progressive.But here's the problem: old VCR's, game consoles, DVD players, etc. all output interlaced images, because that's what all TVs used to support. So that begs the question: what happens when you give interlaced signals to a TV that can only output in progressive scan? It's simple really: the TV itself does some extra work by upgrading the image. It takes the interlaced image and converts it to a progressive scan image on the fly. So even though we pass interlaced images to the TV, it figures out how to combine the interlaced images together to form a nice progressive scan-like image to display on the screen. The person watching the DVD won't even know it's happening. But how about the person playing a video game? Very different story here.If you are watching a movie on a DVD player, processing the image isn't an issue at all -- the TV spits a newly converted image out to you and you see the image and hear it and it all looks great. Nothing is different for you. The issue comes from when you are interacting with the TV, and really only one thing does that: video games. Though the conversion technology the TVs use to upgrade the image is very fast, it still takes time for the TV to do this. It may be just half a second, but it still takes time. So whatever you pump into the TV actually shows up on the screen itself half a second late. So when playing video games, it becomes a huge problem. Particularly when playing a video game where a quarter of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing. Particularly in games where those life changing milliseconds occur every other second.Because of this delay, when you press a button on your controller, the game console gives the TV the image that it is supposed to display. But because now there is an extra processing time required to upgrade the image, there is now a half a second delay between your pressing the button and seeing the result on the screen. This doesn't cut it for fighting games. Many of the situations that require millisecond timing and reaction are visually based. So if you look at the image on the screen and know you have to hit a button right when something happens, you're already looking at an image that's half a second old. So when you hit the button, you're not hitting it at the time you think you are: you are hitting it half a second late. So timing is all out the window and precision is no longer possible. And this makes fighting games unplayable.(Okay, technobabble over. Feel free to read on...)
The Drama ContinuedSo when we saw the LCDs arrive, a nice scare was shot through us. Did these LCDs have the same problem as other LCDs that have caused us problems in the past? If these 30 LCDs had lag, it put our entire tournament at risk. So we decided to test them out.And this is the part that confuses me the most. I popped in Capcom Vs SNK 2, a game whose combos I am very familiar with. The staff asked me to try some harder combos and see if there was any lag. And the weird thing is: I couldn't detect any! I tried a few combos, and had no trouble with any of them. (Combo babble here... skip to the next paragraph if you have no clue what on earth I'm talking about...) I performed some combos that I am familiar with. First, I tried C-Groove Chun Li's Jab, Jab, Short into Level 2 Sen Retsu Kyaku cancelled into Roundhouse Lightning Kick. Then I linked that into Stand Fierce buffered into a Level 1 Sen Retsu Kyaku... on my first try. I then did Benimaru's Custom Combo that involves doing his Kick Uppercut move cancelled into a whiffed Standing Short, followed up with Jumping Fierce juggles like three times in a row after only a few failed attempts. I performed Rock's 360 Throw into the corner + follow-up, Juggle with Crouch Roundhouse cancelled into Level 2 Raging Storm which was then cancelled into the Jab Rising Tackle, and finally Juggled with a Level 1 Kick Super. I mean, with lag, these Combos will be virtually impossible. And I didn't experience the lag at all.Thus, we thought we were safe and the set up process, once again, was running almost too perfectly smooth. But then, the players arrived and began plugging in to the provided TVs at the back of the room (these TVs are provided for players to play whatever games they want using their own consoles that they brought from home). And every player experienced lag. And when I went back to try it out, sure enough: there was very noticeable lag. When you hit a button on the controller, the character on screen always reacted a fraction of a second later. This makes just about every fighting game unplayable. Though you can adjust for the lag eventually, who wants to do that? It invalidates the entire tournament. Now it becomes a contest of who can adjust to the lag, not who is the best at the games.So I put a bit of blame on myself for The Drama. How did I miss the lag in my first test? I'm still not sure. Either A) I'm that good. B) Some external factor got in the way. C) That particular TV I used was the only one in the whole set that was fine. D) Muscle memory. We know that A and C are completely improbable. So was it B? I'm not sure. I'm not 100% positive, but I do have a vague memory, thinking back on it, that the PlayStation 2 console I was playing on was not plugged directly into the TV. It might have been going though the splitter that we used to split the image to the TV and the big screen projector. I cannot think of a technical explanation of why that would eliminate lag, but it's the only "outside" influence I can recall. The only other theory is the muscle memory. Maybe I've done the combos soooo much in the past, that they are just second nature to me. But considering the last time I played CvS2 was Evo 2005, I really doubt it.In any case, there's no point trying to figure out what happened. The only thing left to do at that time was to figure out how to solve the problem. And the staff gathered around and discussed it. Canceling the tournament is just not an option. Playing with lag was also not an option. So what on earth were we going to do? After we closed the ballroom Friday night, at around midnight, the staff gathered to figure out our options.We went through a bunch of crazy scenarios. Ask the hotel to borrow their TVs from everyone's rooms? Run the tournament IN all of the staff's hotel rooms, sending players between rooms? Wait until the morning and hit the local CostCo and pray we can buy 20 TVs in the morning? Find a place still open and buy 20 brand new TVs? All are options, but all of those were most likely not going to happen or they provided too much risk. Except the last option. Buying the TVs right there and then was the only option we had left. But it was midnight!! Who on earth was open at midnight that would be willing to sell us twenty TVs?!?Wal-Mart, that's who. There are such things as 24-hour Wal-Marts and we know they have TVs at Wal-Marts. Was it a long shot? Yeah. Are we gonna go for it? Hells Yeah. So we called just about every Wal-Mart in the New England states, it felt like. We tried to find not only one that was actually opened for 24 hours, but was also willing to sell us 20 TVs. And we finally found one... something like 50 miles away from the Westin Inn. So now the question is: do we drive 100 miles round-trip to buy them? And if we do, what on earth do we transport them in?That's where Gilbert comes in. Gilbert is the man who drives the Yaris in a large truck from event site to event site. He's a really cool guy who has been talking a lot with the staff, also using his own time to help out staff and such. He was there helping us late that night and when he heard what we were thinking of doing, he volunteered his truck for us to use. After all, the Yaris was on site already and the truck was empty.So we had everything in place. So did we carry out this crazy idea? You bet we did. 5 of us immediately went out after midnight in two vehicles to drive 100 miles round trip to find a Wal-Mart that we've never been to so that we could buy 20 brand new TVs just to make sure Evo East would run. And I must remind you that I am personally on 1.75 hours of sleep in the span of 40 hours at this point. And most of the other staff isn't much more well-rested. And we knew that going out to buy 20 TVs and coming back to set them up meant we weren't getting to bed until 5:00 a.m. at best. But we didn't care and set out on our mission. So, although this may sound like shameless self-promotion, I need to say one thing:This is how far the Evo Staff is willing to go and how dedicated we are to put on a good show for the players.We didn't care if we got no sleep, it wasn't even a factor in our consideration. Losing sleep to make the tournament run perfectly was a foregone conclusion. We get a lot of hatred from people for they way we do things. Oftentimes, we are told by people that we don't care about the community. And it's comments like that that drive me crazy. They really don't know what we go through to make sure the ship sails on smooth waters. Sometimes we make decisions that are unpopular, but there are always reasons for what we do. And we aren't doing anything to ruin the community. Everything we do, we are trying to make sure everyone has a great time.And so out we went. And 50 miles later, we were in a Wal-Mart in New York buying 20 TVs and lifting them into a truck. And 50 miles later, we were back in Stamford. (And, as if the night couldn't get any crazier, even more completely disastrous misadventures occurred during the Wal-Mart run. I won't go into details, but just believe me when I say it could have gotten much, much, much worse, were it not for some true heroes of the night... you know who you are if you are reading this). And we took down all of the LCDs and replaced them with the new TVs we bought after hauling all 20 TVs from the truck into the ballroom. And there was no lag on these TVs. And finally, things were ready to go on Saturday. And by the time I managed to climb into bed to get some sleep, it was already light outside. I'm pretty sure everyone who went on the Wal-Mart run climbed into bed at around 6:00 a.m. and we all needed to be back into the ballroom by 9:00 a.m. to start running the tournament. Which is exactly what we all did.
The Drama BroadcastIt doesn't sound like that much of a drama, does it? A problem was presented, we discussed it, we solved it. So why do I keep calling it The Drama? Because right when the problem was discovered, one individual decided to run to the Shoryuken.com Forums and post about it almost immediately. It was almost akin to that tattle-tale kid we all knew in elementary school. Not only did he post about it, he called Evo East, which hadn't even started yet, the worst ran tournament EVER and encouraged those who read the post and were planning on attending the event to not show up. And the thing that really frustrates me is that he did so without talking to a single member of the staff to see if we were going to try and solve the problem. If he spoke to us and we replied with a hearty "**** you, learn to play with lag", he has every right to do what he did. But if he had come to talk to us, he would have known that we were obviously planning something else and were willing to go through drastic measures to do it.Now understand something, I'm not trying to make this person sound bad. I've known him, though mostly through e-mails and the internet, for a while now and he's helped me a lot in the past. He's a respected member of the community. I respect him greatly not only for his technical knowledge, but also for his great play. But to go and do something like this without even so much as a word to us staff asking what we were going to do to solve the problem, well that was completely short-sighted. I'm personally not angry with him, I jut hope that in the future he'll think about talking these things through first before doing something such as trying to tell everyone to boycott the tournament. After hearing about what the staff went through to fix the problem, I hope even he realizes what he did was rather impulsive. Yes, he traveled by plane from a long distance to go to a tournament that, in his mind, was a wash. But so did others I spoke to, and they understood exactly what we were going through and were impressed by the lengths we were willing to go to to fix the problem, so much that they volunteered to help out on the Wal-Mart run (bless their souls). But we knew it was the staff's problem and so it would be the staff that needed to sacrifice their sleep and strength to fix it. So it did become a big drama on the Forums and there was a chance that, if people had listened to the individual, that the event wouldn't have turned out as well as it did had no one decided to show up.
The TournamentOkay, 4.75 hours of sleep in two days later, Evo East began Saturday morning. And since I've already written enough for one post for now, I'll stop here for a bit and let this soak in a couple of days before I follow-up with a post on the actual tournament and my individual thoughts on each game like I did for Evo West.Thanks for reading.- JamesP.S. Everything really did start turning for the better once we rid ourselves of that cursed, evil "Beat-Down Stick." Don't ask.(Edited to fix typos and grammar mistakes made trying to get the post out as fast as possible... Sorry about those. "Me fail english? That's unpossible!")
Evolution West 2006: My Thoughts
I'll have to admit, coming up to the first of the three Evolution Fighting Game Championship events this summer, Evo West, I was a bit apprehensive. Would we be ready? How smoothly would it run? Would people get excited and pumped up at a smaller, satellite tournament? So many questions barreled through my mind as we approached the day.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 PhotosI 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!- James