The Capcom Pro Tour makes it to the UK this weekend at Hypespotting V in Glasgow. Running for its fifth year and bigger than ever before, I spoke with tournament organiser Walter ‘VS Affro’ Fraser about this year’s event, the Pro Tour, and the future of what has become a marquee European FGC event.
“Hypespotting exists because there were a lot of people running events really, really poorly.” Fraser says. “One of the events that happened—I think it was SvB 2010 or '11—we had players that came back from it and they were so disappointed in how it was run and the general experience they had. They were like ‘I'm done. I'm done with the FGC.’ I said ‘That's ridiculous, don't let one event ruin it!’ The thing is, that was the pinnacle of events in the UK, the biggest in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe. If we turn up and it's that poorly ran, why bother playing the games and training and putting all this time in—what's the fucking point?”
“I've got a lot of experience in running smaller events so I said I was willing to chuck my hat in the ring.” Fraser continues. “I've got a background in project management—I'm used to having a fair amount of responsibility heaped on me! So I went up to a hotel, asked how much the big room was to hire, gave them a grand and went ‘right, better get advertising!’ I've got a solid group of guys working with me and a community who are passionate and made sure that fighting games didn't die off because of poor representation elsewhere. And that was the beginning of us!”
There’s been some major changes to the Capcom Pro Tour for 2016 and the first ‘season’ of Street Fighter V. There’s a greater focus on regional competition, with each of the split regions having their own final qualifier for the year-end Capcom Cup. Also, Hypespotting isn’t a ‘Premier’ event this year, as Capcom have opted to go with the stop at EGX 2016 for the UK’s Premier date. With a Premier win automatically qualifying for the Capcom Cup, they tend to attract bigger name players from outside of the region. I asked if these changes had had any effect on Hypespotting V.
“It has slightly, as in we're not going to have any outside-of-Europe attendees” says Fraser. “It doesn't make sense for big players from other regions to attend these events. I can see the pros and cons of this. It means that you're going to get more local talent coming through—in theory. People that we haven't heard of because they've not managed to get their name out there yet. The flipside is players aren't going to get that chance to play with those really popular international players. Last year we had Tokido and Mago and a few players from the US, and as a competitor, getting to get your arsed kicked by Tokido is.. well, they love it! People turned up just to get the chance to play these guys. It's a shame, but we're sort of used to seeing names like Luffy, like Problem X and Valmaster. They've attended so many of our events—people still love them—but they don't have the same allure as the big Japanese or American names.”
“I get it, I do, but the player experience has been reduced” Fraser says. “Only a small percentage of the attendees will make the top 32, the rest of the players are there to flesh out the pot. But there's some incentives for those players—I might meet Tokido, for instance—and I can imagine they might be a bit put off when there's no guys from the US, Singapore, Japan. It's shame, but I absolutely understand the point of it.”
The 256 entrant cap on Street Fighter V has been hit, suggesting that the game is in rude health despite the negative reaction to its launch issues.
“We capped it at 256, bearing in mind that the largest SF tournament we’ve done before was around the 190 mark” Fraser says. “This year, we capped it because we wanted to guarantee that we're prepared for the amount of units we'd need, so the pools could be prepared properly. We wanted to avoid the pitfalls that so many other events fall into and schedule it based on known numbers. There's some people going to turn up on the day and be disappointed!”
The release of new fighter Alex on March 30th adds a weird wrinkle to Hypespotting. The Capcom Pro Tour rules state that if a character has been available for less than a week by the start of the tournament, then they won’t be eligible for selection. The game has also been patched twice, with a couple of small but potentially useful Option Selects being removed from the game between events.
“I think it's weird that, say, the best Alex player might appear in Scotland after Hypespotting and that dude, unless he travels to events around the world, won't get a chance to display that” Fraser says. “I'm not a fan of this staged release of characters while the tournament is live.”
“When Marvel vs Capcom 2 first came out, Iceman didn't take chip damage. People were like ‘what the fuck, this is broken. Everyone is going to pick this character.’ Turns out, the character was awful. Irrelevant. No one picked him. So, when things get released, information gets dropped and people have this knee-jerk reaction. A lot of companies respond to it. I remember a discussion a while back on Capcom Pro Talk with Mike Ross. He had Peter Rosas on and he said ‘in order for this tournament to be fair, we're not going to touch it. We're not going to patch it for the first year and then we'll probably look at rebalancing things.’ They've already not done that. They've already removed tech between tournaments.”
Hypespotting V involves tournaments for almost every fighting game imaginable. This year, the ever-growing Mortal Kombat XL has been given a boost from publisher Warner Bros—a sizeable injection of cash into the prize pool.
“Aye, they stuck a casual 10k into the Mortal Kombat prize pot!” Fraser says.”We ran a few events for them last year and the prize pool was, like, a thousand pounds. We were going to do the same this year but we told them that they could save all of their logistics costs, take all that money and slap it in one prize pool at the biggest event in the UK. And they said ‘that's a great idea!’. The sign-ups are reasonably good—MKX is the third-largest game at the moment—it's just a shame that the timing is so close to the release of Street Fighter V, which will have a knock on effect.”
Finally, I asked why anyone should check out Hypespotting. What makes it such an entertaining stop on the Capcom Pro Tour?
“First of all, it’s not just a clever name. The Scottish crowd gets extremely hype. Hypespotting is a much more social tournament than any other tournament you've been to. We realised that getting knocked out of a tournament sucks, so we do other things alongside it. We have a pub quiz at night—you can get shitfaced and we give away thousands of pounds of stuff!”
Hypespotting kicks off on Saturday, April 2nd, with the finals taking place on the Sunday.
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