After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, the Evolution Championship Series (better known as Evo), the annual celebration of all fighting games, returns to Las Vegas this weekend. Thousands of players and fighting game fans will fill the halls and arena of the Mandalay Bay Casino to try to make it to the top 8, participate in casual games with people from all over the world, watch panels, browse Artist Alley and simply soaking up a chance to be offline again with the fighting game community.
In a more normal year I would be there myself, maybe not trying to finish in the top 8, rather than trying not to go 0-2 in Street Fighter V Where Third shot. But despite a strong mask and vaccine policy, I just don’t feel like traveling or being in Vegas with the current state of the world. So I’ll be spending my weekend comfortably at home streaming a ridiculous amount of content and trying not to feel like I’m missing too much. If you’d like to join me, here’s a quick guide to what the weekend has to offer.
An overview of Evo
You may have heard of Evo before, perhaps the infamous Evo Moment 37 video or Sony’s acquisition of the tournament series in 2021. If you’re not already a tournament watcher of fighting games, here are the basics of how Evo works. There are eight main featured games, which I will list below, plus a huge amount of less official side tournaments. Each game has the same basic structure, you start in a pool of players, everyone on an equal footing. The tournaments are double elimination, which means that you must lose twice to be eliminated. If you can win multiple matches in your pool without being eliminated, you move on to the next one, eventually leading to a top 24, then a top 8, which leads to the Grand Finals.
Part of the excitement of watching the pools is the upheaval. The previous champion has to start like everyone else, and there’s no guarantee that some stranger won’t inflict their first defeat on them, putting them in the losing group and one game away from losing that dream of repetition of the top 8.
As you progress through matches the level of play gets higher and tense, so if you’re less inclined to spend hours watching, the safe bet is to grab a top 24 or wait for the top 8 sees the real high -Stakes matches are happening.
Each game will feature commentary from people who are expert in understanding and explaining the on-screen action. With a few basics under your belt and their patterns, you should be able to follow even games you’re unfamiliar with.
The key to understanding the double elimination format is that everyone starts in the winner’s bracket. If you lose once, you go to the losers bracket. Lose from there and you can sit back and watch the rest, you’re done. Mathematically this means that when you get to the top 8, half will be in the losing pool, the other half in the winning pool, and the Grand Finals match will have a winning side and a losing side.
To win the whole tournament on the losing side, you have to beat the other player twice, once to send it to the loser (known as bracket reset). Racing a loser is no easy task, but a support reset always gets the crowd excited. They like an underdog, but that also means another set to watch.
If you see an L or W next to someone’s name on the stream overlay, that indicates whether they’re playing in the winner’s or loser’s party. The last thing you need to know is that most games go first to second, so you have to win two games to beat someone. This usually becomes the first to three top-8 wins.
This year, the main games presented at Evo are:
- Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
- Guilty Equipment Effort
- Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate
- Tekken 7
- King of Fighters XV
- Melty Blood: Lumina-Type
- Dragon Ball Fighter Z
- Granblue Fantasy: Versus
- Skullgirls: 2nd encore
All games will stream on Twitch starting Friday, August 5 at 10 a.m. PT. A full interactive schedule of all games can be found here. Half the games will have top 8s from the main hall on Saturday. The other four (king of fighters, tekken, street fighterand Guilty Equipment) will have their top 8 on Sunday in the Mandalay Bay Arena.
There are also community-run tournaments for an additional 52 titles, everything from the alternate WWII title. Akatsuki Blitzkampfto a fighting game hardly much like classic Neo Geo air-hockey Frisbee windbreaker. A list of all 52 games as well as a viewer’s guide summary for each can be found here, so check that out if you want to dig into the wider range of titles you may not be familiar with.
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