On August 4th, Bar Fights returned as the official EVO after party. It was live streamed on Cross Counter TV with VIPs from Arc System Works and Cygames Beast showing up for special announcements and exhibition matches. I joined the staff and assisted with setup and VIP handling. I was also able to ask a few questions with Gootecks in regards to the event.
How does Bar Fights 2018 compare to previous years?
Last year, we had 500 people on each night. We did Friday and Saturday night at Eyecandy lounge in Mandalay Bay. This year, we had almost 2,700 hundred people show up so that was definitely quite the increase. Eyecandy lounge was a really good starting point for building up a relationship inside of Mandalay Bay, but it definitely seemed after last year that we had outgrown it. So this year, we were able to secure House of Blues which is still inside the Mandalay Bay. If you haven't been inside of it, it's hard to tell that it's a full-size House of Blues because it looks like a restaurant from the casino floor. But once you get inside the music hall, it's the same as it is with all the other House of Blues locations. I believe the official capacity of that location is 1,800 hundred people, so we far exceeded the capacity throughout the night.
In terms of sponsors, this year we had Arc System Works, Cygames Beast, Unikrn, and Loft & Bear Vodka. Last year, it was estentially just sponsored by Mandalay Bay. One of the other changes that we had this year compared to previous years was that we decided to make it a charity fundraiser for Extra Life, which uses video games to help raise money for Children's Miracle Network hospitals. As far as I'm concered, this is by far the best event we've ever done and also one of the best projects I've ever done, period.
Is there a possibility of Bar Fights being a 2-night event in the future?
Last year, Mandalay Bay wanted for us to do two events simultaneously at two locations on the same night. Instead, we told them it would be more effective to do a two-night thing: one on Friday and one on Saturday. Last year, Friday was Smash Bros-focused and Saturday was Street Fighter-heavy.
Is it a possibility to do two nights in the future? Yes, because we did it that way before. It's something to think about. Part of the reason why so many people showed up this year was because it was one night. The thing is that there's so many different games now, Smash Bros is kind of it's own. This year, we didn't do anything with Smash Bros nor did we do anything with Tekken or DBFZ. And we still ran late.
Was it intentional that some of the exhibition matches were played on older SF titles? (SF1 with Daigo, SFA3 with Gamerbee) Or was it unplanned and spur-of-the-moment?
Yeah, it was completely unplanned. The Team Cygames Beast open challenge came together at the last minute. It was basically the result of our partnership with Cygames because I was helping them with their booth on the EVO show floor. I felt like it would be cool to have an incentive for people to clear the Shadowverse demo, so one of the prizes was a ticket to play the Team Cygames Beast players at Bar Fights. I wanted to be super respecful of their time because Fuudo made Top 8, and Daigo doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to do, so that's why we put it on early.
We had Street Fighter IV loaded up on the PS4 because we knew later in the night that Team LI Joe was gonna go up against Team fLoE in SFIV. Since PR Balrog and Fuudo had to leave soon, they went first. And when PR Balrog noticed SFIV loaded up on the PS4, he asked if he could play on that, which I was fine with, and he had the sense to turn around and ask the crowd.
Street Fighter V is popular, but it's also arguably more popular to hate on. So when he asked the crowd, they were super stoked and just starting yelling to play SFIV. And that sort of set off this chain reaction of events. I'm just there to faciliate a good time. If the crowd is going nuts for an older game, then who am I to deny them? The crowd was so into it and the place was packed, so it was easy to let them steer the show a little bit.
All 5 of the Cygames Beast players ended up playing an older game. I think everyone assumed they were going to play SFV. But by playing the older games, it sort of establishes them as Street Fighter players, and not just Street Fighter V players. I think it created a really unique and memorable experience for a lot of people. I've been around for a long time and have never seen Daigo play Street Fighter I and I'm pretty sure that was the biggest screen that SFI has ever been on in its 30-year existence.
So to have PR Balrog and Fuudo play SFIV, Daigo play Super Street Fighter II Turbo and SFI, Chris T. play Street Fighter III: Third Strike, and Gamerbee play Street Fighter Alpha 3, I think that they all had a good time and that was my favorite part of the event.
How did Catherine end up being a Bar Fights main stage game?
On Friday morning, Zhi and I were doing IRL streaming with the Gunrun backpack and we had wandered off to the edge of EVO. We were like in the slums of EVO, which is the AnimEVO section. We ran into ChunandRice who I met during Anime Expo weekend and he had been doing his best to help us find some notable anime players for Guilty Gear and BlazBlue segments. It didn't end up working out the way we anticipated, but he and I had been in contact in the weeks leading up to Bar Fights so when I ran into him, he basically gave us a tour and showed us all of the different poverty anime fighter games that were being played; one of which was Catherine.
There were like 32 of the strongest Catherine players in the world here. I played Catherine years ago briefly and heard that Dacidbro and some of the other guys in NorCal made the puzzle element of Catherine into a competitive thing. But I'd never seen it for myself and I'd never met him or spoken to Dacidbro in person. So they were telling me about what was going on with Catherine at EVO, and a lightbulb popped in my head: like hey, we should have this at Bar Fights.
These guys were super stoked to play and they even brought their own commentators and their own PS3, which made things way easier for us. It was great to be able to give a voice to this community.
A lot of the stuff kind of came together last minute. I know my team was freaking out because a lot of the programming wasn't finalized; we had a lot of holes to fill. But I knew that a lot of it would come together once we got to EVO, and that's exactly what happened.
Any additional thoughts about the Extra Life donation drive?
Half of the money was donated ahead of time. When people went to the website to RSVP, there's a donation option when they reserve tickets. So a lot of people took that opportunity to donate ahead of time before they even showed up. Props to them. It speaks a lot about our community that people are generous enough to help others and I think that it's a really good look for the Fighting Game Community as a whole to make these kinds of efforts. I think over the years, the FGC has gotten a bad rap in a lot of ways, but the thing is this community is still willing to come together and help others when they're called upon. So I was super stoked to see it come together that way.
There was a $1K donation from Austin Creed. Is this Xavier Woods?