Street Fighter 25th Stops in NYC
The Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Tour made its second stop in New York City this weekend, where players looked to qualify for the Grand Finals in San Francisco later this year. Much of the top talent in the US was on-hand to compete in the tournament series that features Street Fighter X Tekken, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and the main event: Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Players on-hand included the Evil Geniuses crew of Justin Wong, Ricky Ortiz, Ari "Floe" Weintraub, new recruit Eduardo "PR Balrog" Perez, 2011 star Joshua "WOLFKRONE" Philpot, and old-timers Sanford Kelly and Henry Cen.
One man stood above them all: Kevin "Dieminion" Landon, a Guile player, New York native, and one of the USA representatives at the Super Battle Opera in Japan last weekend. Dieminion has been on a tear as of late, earning a top 8 finish at EVO 2012, and being part of the only American team to ever get past the first round of SBO in SFIV. Dieminion worked his way to the Super Street Fighter IV finals over top players Justin Wong, Sanford Kelly, and Aquasilk before facing off against Wolfkrone. Wolfkrone's C. Viper was able to take the first game against Dieminion, but it was all downhill from there; Dieminion won three straight to win and secure a spot at the finals.
"When I found out Wolfkrone was coming to this tournament, the first thing I did was go on YouTube" Dieminion told GameSpot after his victory. "That was my first homework, studying his recent matches and his style. The first game he beat me, but I was just kind of feeling him out, testing the waters to see what he wanted to do. After I started to get some momentum though, I knew it was over."
East Coast versus West Coast is a long-standing rivalry, but it has been downplayed recently in favor of a more nationalistic USA versus Japan. One of the biggest defenders of the East Coast, Justin Wong, moved to California in the last few years, swinging the tides in the favor of the West. As a New York City native, Dieminion wanted to exert home court advantage over the other players, and make sure this title stayed home. "My main goal was for someone from this part of the US to win this tournament", he said. "I don't want anyone to come over to the East Coast and feel like the East Coast is free. I want there to be at least one or two guardians that can stop everyone else, and I'm happy to be one of those."
Dieminion's trip to Japan for SBO wasn't just a breakthrough for American Street Fighter, but also served as a training ground with the best players in the world. Although Japan's performance at this year's EVO wasn't as good as expected for a nation that has won nearly every major Street Fighter competition in EVO history, there's no question that the majority of the best players reside there. Consistent practice with these players is invaluable. Experiencing the Japanese culture, and practicing together with his USA teammates, was an experience Dieminion couldn't have gotten anywhere else. "I think I leveled up in Japan, but in a different way," said Dieminion. "All of us on the SBO team, we leveled up, but there was one thing I found there that has helped me during the end of my trip and my win here. I'll just say that I played with my heart. I didn't use my brain like I usually do, I just played with my heart at this tournament. That's something I'll continue to do moving forward."
The event was the last in the US before it heads to Europe in just a few weeks. The tournament circuit that Capcom has created marks the first time the developer has undertaken such an endeavor. They have sponsored events before, but this is the most active they have been with the competitive community that has been with them for nearly two decades. "This is new territory for what we've done for the hardcore community, and the further we get into this series, the more exciting it's going to get," Capcom's Matt Dahlgren told GameSpot. "I'm pretty happy with how the NYC event has gone. The Austin event we didn't cap out all of our tournaments, but feedback there was great, and here we capped Arcade Edition. The fans are pretty hype and our stream numbers are pretty good. These are the first ones under our belt, it's only going to get better from here."
Capcom is utilizing the efforts of the grassroots community for their tour and having longstanding event hosts run each of their qualifiers. Ryan "fubarduck" Harvey--player, commentator, and owner of Arcade UFO in Austin--ran the Ausin qualifier, while North East Championships and Summer Jam organizer Eric Small helped organize the NY event. Capcom has been very wary of the various gaming leagues and events that want to use their games, mainly due to the impact they could have on the community that has formed over the past 20 years. Capcom took that same approach with its own events, ensuring that fans are directly involved wherever possible.
"The 25th anniversary of Street Fighter is a huge milestone for the brand, and we wanted to do a worthy celebration for the fans," said Dahlgren. "We've tried to make it as accessible as possible, with all the North American tournaments free to enter, the top 16 players getting some money, free t-shirts for everyone, etc. Anytime that Capcom in an official capacity is getting into the tournament scene, you need to be respectful of the grassroots scene that exists, and tap those resources with what you're gonna do with what the community wants. Using Eric in New York, Ryan for the Austin tournaments…both of them have run major events in their region and have been longtime supporters of Street Fighter and Capcom. So teaming up on logistics is just pure win, it helps them and it helps us. If it wasn't for those fans that hunkered down and created tournaments to begin with, we wouldn't be here, they're the people that built this scene. All we're trying to do is create another opportunity to take things to the next level."
Capcom's first foray into the competitive scene comes at a time when other developers are starting to make their own big pushes. Riot Games is currently in Season 2 of its League of Legends Championship with major Season 3 details already announced, and Blizzard is currently debuting their own circuit dubbed the World Championship Series. Each of the year-long tournament circuits by these PC gaming giants offer millions of dollars in prize money, large-scale events run in-house by the developers, and high-end HD broadcasts. The efforts and lengths that these developers have gone to in providing for their professional competitive communities should put a little added pressure on Capcom to put on a good show this year, and at their finals in San Francisco.
There's some worry about what might, or might not be there next year. While Dahlgren had no thoughts on what the future might hold, it's safe to assume that Capcom is only running the tournament circuit this year due to Street Fighter's special 25th anniversary. Unlike Riot and Blizzard's League's, there's no guarantee there will be another Capcom-run season for Street Fighter or any of their other titles next year. Right now I'd say it's probably rather unlikely, due to the costs of running each event, and the lack of return in revenue. Capcom and fighting games as a whole are not in the same position as the PC developers who can focus on one title for an extended period of time. Hopefully the players, spectators, fans, and community as a whole can show Capcom differently, and make similar events next year a reality.
Incredible Miracle, SoloMid Take IPL FaceOff
The IGN ProLeague hosted its FaceOff event in San Francisco this past weekend, featuring Starcraft II and League of Legends. SCII included grand finals of the Team Arena Challenge 3 between fan-favorites Team Liquid and Korea's Incredible Miracle. In League of Legends, eight teams were on-hand including Asia's World Elite, Singapore Sentinels, and IPL4 and MLG Anaheim Champions Team SoloMid.
Incredible Miracle showed why they are one of the best StarCraft II teams in the world right now, taking out Team Liquid in what was a close series thanks to Liquid superstar Yoon "TaeJa" Young Suh. Coming from the losers' bracket, TaeJa beat every player from Incredible Miracle in succession, called an "all-kill" in StarCraft, forcing a second and final set. After going down a quick 3-1 hole, Taeja brought the team back to life once again, taking out both IM Protoss superstars, including an unbelievable come-from-behind victory against all odds over Choi "YongHwa" Yong Hwa. GSL Champion Ahn "Seed" Sahng Won was up next, and although a win against him earlier in the day, Taeja was just out of steam. Seed overcame Taeja, and squared off against Team Liquid anchor Song "HerO" Hyeon Deok ian in the final game. HerO has been known to have nerve issues and was a questionable move for Liquid as their final player; he could not stop Seed on his run to the title.
Team SoloMid bounced back after a rough time at the MLG Arena, which saw them get handled by Korea's Azubu Blaze, who swept them 5-0 and left a trail of dominance in their dust. The biggest question coming into this past weekend was if the two Asian teams attending--World Elite and Singapore Sentinels--would be able to do the same thing that Azubu Blaze did just a week before, and lay waste to the Western League of Legends pro teams. The answer, at least for the time being, appears to be that no, they cannot.
SoloMid won yet another title, continuing to secure themselves as the best team in North America while Counter Logic Gaming is over in Korea playing in OGN. They only lost one map the entire tournament, in their very first match, finishing at 9-1 including a sweep of Singapore Sentinels. North American teams SoloMid, Curse, Legion and Mortal Teamwork.NA earned top 4 placings, as both Asian teams underperformed, leaving a good feeling for North American teams as they head into MLG Raleigh, the final event to earn points for the North American Championships at PAX Prime.
The event itself was marred with problems from the start of day one, including sound issues for viewers, a lack of player booths, and a variety of issues for players between games that delayed the broadcast by quite a few hours. Incredible Miracle's victory celebration as Seed defeated HerO was interrupted by frantic button-pushing by the IPL producer, causing mass confusion, missing Seed's facial reaction, and flashing a large "Incredible Miracle are your Champions!" victory screen before the match had even ended. The IPL 3 Finals in Atlantic City and IPL 4 Finals in Las Vegas were both of vastly higher quality than the event in San Francisco.
MLG Fighters Head to Raleigh
The second Major League Gaming Fighter Arena also took place this past weekend, with Mortal Kombat and SoulCalibur V on display. In Mortal Kombat, everyone wanted to see the runback of the rivalry between two-times EVO Champion Carl "Perfect Legend" White, and Emmanuel "CDjr" Brito, who had choice words for each other at this year's EVO. Unfortunately neither could attend, as Perfect Legend's flight was delayed multiple times on his way to NYC, and CDjr had a wedding to attend (although he showed up to watch the finals--true community spirit). MLG Anaheim Champion Alexander "DetroitBalln" Rayis could not attend the event either, leaving the door open for a new champion.
A new champion is what we got, as Pig of The Hut took home his first MLG event, and claimed his biggest victory yet. After losing the first two games of the tournament, he went undefeated the rest of the way, winning 16 games in a row to finish at 16-2.
"I always joke with everyone that I'm like the Dan Marino or Charles Barkley of the Mortal Kombat community, always coming in second," Pig of The Hut told me after his victory. "I finally broke through and got this one, and it feels amazing."
He'll be the number one seed going into the MLG Raleigh Summer Championships, a position he has never been in before. Although Pig of the Hut didn't play the EVO Champion or either of the MLG champions this weekend, he isn't worried, as his preparation has been quite high since before the Arena. "No one can put more pressure on me than I put on myself for these events," he said. "Going over match-ups, charts, frame data, and the game tape/replays of every player. I'll be doing the same thing for Raleigh, and winning is my goal. It's always my goal."
The Soul Calibur side saw much of the same, as French Champions Kevin "Keev" Akre and Marie-Laure "Kayane" Norindr were both knocked out in the group stages, leaving the door open for Lost Providence and a first MLG title of his own. He defeated Something Unique 4-3 in the finals.
"I didn't expect to win, it still hasn't set in," Lost Providence told me after his victory, almost at a loss for words. "I never think I have a chance. I actually wanted Something Unique to win. I'm more of a spectator/casual player, I don't really like being considered so good at the game, because other people have high expectations of performance. He hadn't won anything major yet, and I wanted him to get this for the exposure instead of myself." Looking forward to Raleigh as the other number one seed, Lost Providence has a very similar mentality. "I always feel pressure when I play. It won't be much different in Raleigh."
The Summer Championships will prove to be much different than the Arenas, as many players who were missing will now be in attendance. This is a position neither player has been in before, and I'm not convinced either can stand their ground as they did in New York City.
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND:
IEM GamesCom Starcraft II and League of Legends: Gamescom started today and will continue through the rest of the week and weekend with the Intel Extreme Masters featuring Starcraft II and League of Legends. The event will serve as the European Finals of the League of Legends Season 2 Championship, featuring the best teams in Europe including Moscow 5 and Counter Logic Gaming.EU. In Starcraft II, GSL champions Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk, Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun, and Jang "MC" Min Chul are in attendance, along with foreign hopes Manuel "Grubby" Schenkhuizen and Rickard "SortOf" Bergman. You can watch both events right here on GameSpot eSports all weekend long:
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2: Reveal and Features: Treyarch is showing off Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 multiplayer features for the first time at Gamescom, with a huge emphasis and focus on eSports. That includes live streaming features, spectator mode, matchmaking, competitive league play, CODcast, and much more. You can watch the live stream all weekend, also here on GameSpot eSports:
TeamLiquid StarLeague Round of 8: The TeamLiquid StarLeague continues into the Quarterfinals this weekend with seven Korean players, and only one foreigner remaining. The 16-year old new Dignitas Zerg star Paul "JonnyREcco" Whyte looks to upset the bracket and has a long road in front of him, first up against MVP's Hwang "KeeN" Kyo Seok. Starts Saturday, August 18th at 2 PM EST on TeamLiquid.net.