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Get hype: How to enjoy EVO 2013 as a total beginner

Get hype: How to enjoy EVO 2013 as a total beginner

This weekend, Las Vegas will be hosting the biggest fighting game tournament of the year, EVO 2013, as thousands of the best fighters from around the world converge to compete for one of the most prestigious titles in competitive gaming.

With so much great talent on display, EVO has a reputation as the most entertaining tournament of the year for spectators watching the competition from home, but it also tends to be fairly opaque and difficult for newcomers to understand. So we've put together a brief guide designed to help the average gamer understand a bit about how to approach this colossal tournament series.

There's a huge amount of content being streamed over the three day tournament, and if you just jump into the waters as a new player you'll find yourself rudderless with no clue where to go or what's going on.

This guide will focus on the key events that are likely to be the most exciting and newbie friendly, and will help give you an idea of some of the players you should watch out for. We're only taking a look at a few of the games being streamed, but all of them are worth looking into. Focusing on these few titles is an effective way to make the massive event that is EVO easier to understand for a beginner.

We've also included all three official streams below along with a full schedule so you can catch all of the action right here.

Tips for enjoying EVO:

Play some fighting games: Never forget that this is what it's all about. The drama of the tournament can sometimes obfuscate the fact that these are games that are meant to be fun. By all means, get caught up in the action, but take frequent breaks to jump into games of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 or Super Street Fighter IV. It helps you remember how talented these people are.

It's easy to lose sight of that when you've forgotten how difficult all of these games are. If you're feeling inspired by a player's performance, take a break from the stream to go try out the character they're using and see if you can replicate their ideas.

Study: This is a wonderful opportunity to study how fighting games are actually supposed to be played. After you've played some fighting games yourself, notice the ways in which the professionals do things different. As an example, amateur players tend to jump constantly as it's a quick way to lead into an attack, but pros almost never jump unless it's for a very good reason.

That's because their opponent's are so good at “anti-air” defense that it's considered an unsafe way to approach. So instead, watch how they initiate exchanges to be more favorable to their character and try to crib ideas. That goes for any aspect of any game. Watch the way Infiltration times his hadoukens, and the way Chris G uses his ultimate attacks in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Research the competitors: It's worth it to keep a web browser nearby when watching the streams so you can run a quick search to gather a bit of information about the player you're watching. Rivalries, controversy, and past successes are all things that contribute to the high drama of live competition.

Many of these things are considered common knowledge in the FGC so commentators might gloss over important facts and history about the players that would be interesting to newcomers. Don't rely solely on commentators to give you the backstory. Investigate for yourself.

Super Street Fighter IV

This will be the best game for fighting game novices to jump into. It's got one of the richest backstories with some of the most well-known players, but more importantly it's also Street Fighter. You've almost certainly played Street Fighter and you probably have a good idea of the basic strategy and game flow. That will give you a good base of knowledge to come into the game and learn something about higher level play. Moreover, it's not a fast-paced game like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 so it's easier for a novice to understand the game.

I don't usually recommend people watch the “pools” stages (read: thinning of the herd) of just about any game, and Street Fighter is no different. The tournament is hard to follow at that stage, because it's still full of amateur players who will quickly be dispatched by the greats. For a novice, I think it would be a great idea to tune in at 6PM (PDT) on Friday (Stream 1) to catch the quarter-final and semi-final rounds. Or if you're not ready to invest a few hours to watch the pre-finals rounds, you can skip right to the finals which will be EVO's main event on Sunday at 7PM.

Be on the lookout for star players like South Korea's Infiltration, Japan's Daigo Umehara, Singapore's Xian, Taiwan's Gamerbee, Puerto Rico's PR_Balrog, Americans Justin Wong and Mike Ross as well as Sweden's Popi (the dark horse candidate who recently shocked everyone with a win over Infiltration.)

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

In my experience, UMvC3 is one of the most difficult games to watch for newcomers. The game is hectic with six characters (two teams of three) cluttering the screen with particle effects, fire balls and non-stop ultras. The game often relies much more on long strings of combos than other games, and much of the intricacy of the game is hard to see for new players.

However, the great thing about UMvC3 is that it has probably the simplest storyline of all the games. Chris G is the man to beat, and everybody wants to take him down. Catch any match you can with Chris G on the docket, and you can be sure that you're up to speed on the drama. He's not unbeatable, either, as he recently lost to another top player, Flocker. Other players to watch out for include Justin Wong (who competes in several titles,) and Filipino Champ.

UMvC3 will be Saturday's main event, and similar to SSF4:AE, you can catch the quarter and semi-finals at 6PM on Saturday evening (Stream 1) with the finals coming on Sunday evening at 4:30 (Stream 1).

Super Smash Bros. Melee

I honestly don't know what to expect from Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Melee community's journey to arriving at this point has been an amazing story so far, so I'm looking forward to keeping up with the tournament at EVO simply so I can see how that story ends.

Will the tournament flop after all this effort to get to the main stage at EVO? Or will the Smash competitors showcase the amazing matches that we know they're capable of? They already had to fight Nintendo just to be able to stream the tournament, but will it be worth the effort?

Tune in on Saturday at 10AM (Stream 3) for the quarter and semi-finals to catch players like Swedish legend Armada and Americans Mew2King and Mango fight for perhaps the most highly coveted title in Melee history. The finals are Sunday at Noon (Stream 1.)

King of Fighters XIII

The big story with King of Fighters XIII this year is whether or not the game will be able to repeat its awesome 2012 performance. King of Fighters XIII practically stole the show with an awesome finals that gathered tens of thousands of viewers for an amazing matchup.

I know as little about the game now as I did back in 2012, but it didn't matter. The finals were still an absolute blast to watch, and I'm hoping it'll return to greatness this year. The King of Fighters XIII quarter and semi-finals begin on Saturday at 2PM (Stream 1) and you can catch the finals at 10AM on Sunday (Stream 1).

Divekick

This small indie game is a big hit in the fighting game community, partially because it's chock full of references to the community itself, but also because it's a surprisingly intricate and complex fighting game despite having only two buttons.

Divekick doesn't have a proper large-scale tournament like many other games this year, but there will be a presentation at 9pm on Saturday (Stream 2) that should be worth watching just to absorb more about this awesome indie.

Mortal Kombat

In many ways, Injustice was the spiritual successor to Mortal Kombat and many in the MK community have recently migrated over to Injustice. As a result, MK may not be the big event it once was, but I still recommend tuning in for one important reason: This is the only tournament which you can watch all in one day.

Every other game is split across multiple days, usually with the grand finals taking place on Sunday, but Mortal Kombat starts at 8AM on Friday morning (Stream 2) and finishes Friday night at 6PM. So if you're only free on Friday then Mortal Kombat could be a compelling choice.

Enjoy!

For a more detailed guide to the entire EVO experience you could check out Shoryuken.com's  excellent EVO guide which gives the rundown on every game along with a translation guide to some of the most common FGC lingo as well as details on the rules of the tournament. 

Stream 1

Stream 2

Stream 3