After a two-year hiatus induced by the pandemic, the Evolution Championship Series (better known as Evo), the annual celebration of all fighting games, returns to Las Vegas this weekend. Thousands of fighting game players and fans will fill the Mandalay Bay casino halls and arena to make their attempts to finish in the top 8, participate in casual games with people from all over the world, watch panels, browse Artist Alley and general diving you have a chance to be offline again with the fighting game community.
In a more normal year, I’d be there myself, maybe not trying to finish in the top 8, more like trying not to go 0-2 in Street Fighter V or Third shot. But despite a solid policy on masks and vaccines, I don’t want to travel or be in Vegas with the current state of the world. So I’ll spend my weekend comfortably at home streaming a ridiculous amount of content and trying not to feel like I’m missing out too much. If you want 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 from the infamous Evo Moment 37 video or Sony’s acquisition of the tournament series in 2021. If you’re not already a fighting game watcher, here are the basics of how Evo works. There are eight featured main games, which I will list below, as well as a huge amount of less official side tournaments. Each game has the same basic structure, you start in a pool of players, all equal. Tournaments are double elimination, which means you have to lose twice to get eliminated. If you manage to win more games in your group without being eliminated, you move on to the next one, eventually leading to a group in the top 24, then a group in the top 8, leading to the finals.
Part of the excitement of looking at the pools is the upsets. The previous champion has to start like everyone else, and there’s no guarantee that a stranger won’t deliver their first defeat, putting them in the losing pool and one game from losing that repeat dream in the top 8.
As you progress through the matches, the level of play becomes higher and tenser, so if you are less inclined to spend hours watching the safe bet it is to take one of the top 24 or wait for the top 8 to see the true high – the matches in grabs are held.
Each game will feature commentary from people who are experts in understanding and explaining the action on the screen. With a few basics behind them and their patterns, you should be able to keep up with even the games you don’t know.
The key to understanding the double elimination format is that everyone starts in the winners’ pool. If you lose once, you go to the losers’ round. You lose from there and you can sit back and watch the rest, that’s it. Mathematically this means that by the time you get into the top 8, half will be in the losers pool, half in the winners pool and the finals match will have a share of the winners and a share of the losers.
To win the entire tournament on the loser’s side you have to beat the other player twice, once to send him to the loser’s side (known as a group reset). Running a loser is no easy task, but a parenthesis reset always gets the crowd excited. They love a loser, but it also means another set to watch.
If you see an L or a W next to someone’s name on the stream overlay, it indicates whether they are playing from the winners or losers pool. The last useful thing to know is that most games run as before to two, so you have to win two games to beat someone. This generally becomes the first to three wins in the top 8.
This year the main games featured at Evo are:
- Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
- Effort of the guilty equipment
- Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate
- Tekken 7
- The king of fighters XV
- Melty Blood: Lumina type
- Dragon Ball Fighter Z
- Granblue Fantasy: Versus
- Skullgirls: 2nd bis
All games will be streamed on Twitch starting Friday, August 5 at 10am Pacific time. A full interactive schedule of all games can be found here. Half of the matches will have the top 8 in 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 52 other titles, all from the alternate WWII title Akatsuki Blitzkampfto a fighting game barely similar to the classic Neo Geo frisbee-air-hockey Windjammer. A list of all 52 games and a guide summary for each are available here, so take a look if you want to delve into the wider range of titles you may not be familiar with.