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5 big questions we have about EVO online and how it will work

It's going to be different, but in what ways?

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • May 7, 2020 at 7:42 p.m. PDT • Comments: 18

For the first time in 20 years, Evolution will not have an offline event in the United States for its championship series and will instead be held in an online format due to the ongoing worries surrounding the coronavirus. Problem is, we don't really know anything about how it's going to work which has left the fighting game community wondering what they should be expecting of what was going to be the biggest tournament of the year.

With so many details currently left up in the air, John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero and I will be breaking down five of the biggest questions the FGC currently has about EVO online.

EVO co-founder Tom Cannon has stated that their "intent is not at all to port a traditional Evo to online and pretend it's the same" though no further elaborations have been sent out yet aside to say it's going to be "different."

As we try to consider what this endeavor might look like we almost immediately begin running into walls. The logistics of trying to run an online fighting game event that can include most anyone across the globe are mind-boggling, but we do have the minds behind some of the FGC's greatest successes working to make it happen.

Given that we have no idea how organizers will ultimately end up tackling the event, we're keeping an open mind. Still, there are a few apparent hurdles that will likely prove particularly tricky to vault over.

With all that said, below are five questions we've either been asking ourselves or have repeatedly been seeing pop up since we found out EVO would be heading online almost a week ago.

Will EVO Online Be Region Locked?

Perhaps the most important question surrounding EVO's move to online only for 2020 is 'who is even going to be able to play?' It's probably safe to assume that the United States, Canada and the rest of North America can join in, but what about everyone else?

One EVO's main draws over the past two decades has been the global scale of the event that pulls in talent from every corner of the globe into one venue to determine who is the best. Without it, we wouldn't have amazing stories like RB|Arslan Ash breaking out on the Tekken scene last year from Pakistan.

Unfortunately, none of the mainstage titles selected for EVO 2020 have online infrastructures that lend themselves well to online matches across long distances, as every single one uses delay-based netcode except for Street Fighter 5: Champion Edition, which we all know has its own issues.

This will likely make a worldwide competition impossible to pull off, but the situation does make it doable to run multiple, smaller tournaments centered around split up regions with big fighting game stomping grounds like Europe and Southeast Asia.

A move like that would mean we'd be left with a number of regional EVO winners instead of one world champion which might be the best we can hope for at this point.

Even beyond that, many online tournaments that run across the U.S. have broken up their brackets to east and west coasts like Ronin Rumble due to connection issues, so there's no perfect solution that's going to please everyone.

Perhaps in 2021, these potential regional winners could compete against one another at EVO Japan or EVO 2021 to determine a world champ or maybe other perks could be offered to those who do well.

Are Entry Fees and Prize Money Even an Option if Multiple Countries are Included?

We have almost no details as to how EVO organizers will tackle this mountainous task and so the community is left to wonder what kinds of prizes will be awarded to winners (if any) and whether or not we'll have to pay to enter.

Fighting game players are willing to participate in online events when they offer free entry, but are we at a point where we'd be willing to pay for network play?

As we've seen quite extensively through Japan's example, not all nations have the same laws when it comes to winning money via gaming tournaments.

Even if the competition is divvied up into regional play, as we suspect it might, will all participants be competing for the same prizes?

Just a few steps down this particular rabbit hole and we're already encountering some fairly daunting challenges when it comes to piecing this puzzle together.

Can Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Still Make an Appearance?

One of the most surprising announcements to come from the EVO 2020 lineup reveal was the fact that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 would be returning to the mainstage for the first time in over a decade to celebrate the game's 20th anniversary.

This tournament was going to be a bit more limited in scope being made up by a top 8 competition of the previous EVO winners of MvC2 along with qualifiers from other offline majors... which also aren't happening this year.

That by itself would probably be enough to tank the event, but there's an extra snag to keeping it. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 cannot be purchased in any way right now because its most recent release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was pulled down years ago — and even the physical codes have expired at this point.

It's technically possible to run something like this over emulation though Capcom and Disney would probably not be too on board with that particular option.

Without an official re-release, Marvel 2's chances of showing up are pretty much zero unless they run only the prior EVO champs — because they probably own it on last gen systems already.

Will the FGC be Burnt Out from Online in 3 months?

It's a surprise to no one that fighting game experiences offline don't perfectly translate to the experiences you'll get online, and to say that the transition can be frustrating for players is very much an understatement.

It's one thing to participate for fun, another to participate for rankings, and yet another to be competing for cash and prizes.

Many of us know the stress of playing online casually, but the frustrations and negativity that can result from a lag-associated loss that sees you eliminated from a bracket or miss out on prize winnings can have exponentially greater magnitudes.

We've been exploring the online space with the latest vigor for over a month now, and already tournament organizers for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are feeling the need to change approaches to avoid player burnout.

It seems gears are already beginning to grind with so many participating in competitive network play, and with EVO still a good three months away we have to consider how burnouts might affect communal excitement as well as participation rates.

What Happens when Tournaments Run Long or Technical Difficulties Emerge?

Tournament standard time (things running later than scheduled) is almost as certain as death and taxes when it comes to majors, but our minds can easily wander towards the alluring idea that things will naturally run much faster as every player has their own console and systems to keep things moving are already set in place.

Those of us who have participated in online tournaments know, however, that just because the potential is there does not mean things will necessarily run smoother.

Small hiccups like when salty or negligent participants fail to report matches can halt the process with little five or 10 minute stalls. It's hard to say how many players will wind up participating in EVO online, but there's a great chance this will be larger than any online FGC event we've ever seen.

With thousands of potential entrants come thousands of potential stalls that could easily start adding up. Disputes over match outcomes are also going to cause freezes in bracket progression, and requests for latency tests (something that's become an overnight meme in the Super Smash Bros. community due to how frequently they occur) will surely slow progression.

It's not to say that we shouldn't start in on this endeavor simply because we know there will be obstacles, but EVO's massive size means a higher quantity of moving parts and a higher propensity for chaotic ripples when one stops working properly.

One has to wonder if we've had enough practice in this space of online tournaments to be sufficiently prepared to take on something as large as EVO.

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