Not even Guilty Gear Strive's netcode was able to sustain EVO 2021's Online LATAM tournament

EVO 2021: The LATAM region break-up is either a bold experiment or a negligent oversight (Image via EVO)
EVO 2021: The LATAM region break-up is either a bold experiment or a negligent oversight (Image via EVO)

On August 8, EVO 2021's Latin America tournament series was abruptly interrupted by technical and net issues during the top eight stream for the Guilty Gear Strive tournament.

As a result, the rest of the tournament was conducted off-stream and its exact happenings are shrouded in darkness.

This has drawn a large amount of criticism from the community, which is rather conflicted about what exactly to criticize. One section is convinced that the responsibility for this failure is entirely EVO 2021's regional breakup.

Others are convinced that the issue is with the ISPs of regions like Brazil. Sometimes it feels almost surreal that a major organizer like EVO could mess up an event of this scale, that some speculate this was a risk EVO 2021 was trying to take as an experiment for their future tournaments.

EVO 2021 Online: The LATAM region break-up is either a bold experiment or a negligent oversight

It's important to note that despite their lack of experience with online tournaments, almost all of EVO 2021's other online tournaments were a wonderful experience for different communities. EVO 2021 online serves as the intermediate step for the implementation of their actual offline tournament that is normally held in Las Vegas.

The intention was to clear out the large process of pooling in an online environment to overcome the barriers of the COVID pandemic, whilst simultaneously making the tournament more accessible to the FGC across the world.

A major problem arose in their tournament series for Latin America. Simply put, the regions that were included in LATAM were far too diverse to guarantee a stable online tournament. The regions that EVO 2021 LATAM includes are:

Bahamas, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay Chile, Argentina.

From this list, the problem becomes apparent. Mexico is part of the North American continent, so it makes no sense that they're grouped with regions of Latin America.

On that note, Latin America is normally further divided into southern and central regions because of how large the region is. This division was implemented for tournaments of few games that had a reputation of having only a decent netcode (Street Fighter V & Tekken 7)

But for games that have a reputation for having fantastic netcodes like Skullgirls and Guilty Gear Strive, there was a single bracket for the entirety of LATAM. Thus, it was this decision that led to the Guilty Gear Strive tournament having horrible issues whilst broadcasting.

What happened during the Guilty Gear Strive tournament in the players experience?

While the account of every player that participated in the GGST EVO 2021 LATAM tournament isn't available, there are in general two major opinions.

The region break-up alone was responsible for the broadcasting issues

This is currently the most popular interpretation of the issue at hand. It's especially prevalent across the Mexican community as they not only firmly believed that they should've shared the bracket with NA, but their players also appeared to have considerable lag against their Brazilian opponents.

Mike Saftig, the runner-up at the event, took to social media to call the event EVO 2021 "LAGTAM."

The games dysfunctional lobby system caused spectating issues, so the matches were fine and only the broadcast failed

A translated tweet from one of the members of the Brazlilian FGC (Image via Twitter)
A translated tweet from one of the members of the Brazlilian FGC (Image via Twitter)

The Brazilian community faced a lot of hate throughout the EVO 2021 tournament, with many labeling them solely responsible for bad connections. The country is infamous for having bad ISPs, and some even believe that they deserve a separate bracket altogether for fair matches.

Whether they deserve a separate bracket is a point of contention, but what is for sure is that their connections this tournament were not as bad as people claim and many Brazilian players had wonderful matches with people outside their country.

This is especially important considering EVO 2021 took it upon themselves to research and ban players from using ISPs that had a reputation for bad routing. They optimized the online environment as much as possible.

The winner of the EVO 2021 GGST LATAM tournament, Vernon Flow, is a Brazilian player who received tremendous hate for his victory but the truth, to put it simply, is that many of his wins were deserved and he has tremendous skill.

Whether this fact remains true for all his matches is hard to tell at this point. But there is no doubt that his victory is well worth celebrating and was a great chance for the Brazilian FGC to showcase their talent across other regions.

What lessons can EVO take away from this experience?

It's important to note that major organizers like EVO do not normally take much initiative to make their tournaments accessible to regions like LATAM. This was their first attempt to host an event of this scale for a region they're not experienced with.

While it may seem obvious that choices like including Mexico in the LATAM bracket are simply false, there may be some ulterior motives for doing so, like testing the waters for future pursuits.

Whether the risk they took was worth it or not, is, as mentioned above, a point of contention. Some members of the LATAM community were thrilled to be able to compete with players from regions they never had a chance to compete with before Others favored an event that had no risk of failures even if it meant having opponents that aren't from a diverse set of communities.

There are other criticisms of EVO 2021, which range from their lack of marketing to their weird regional breakup. Many have praised the lineup of games EVO 2021 has gone with.

But at the end of the day, EVO 2021 LATAM will be a lesson that many TOs will be taking into account for their own tournaments.

Edited by Ravi Iyer

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