Ever wonder why most competitive Halo veterans refer to the days of MLG Halo as “the good days”? There’s good reason. The matches were the most competitive, the personalities were enormous, and the storylines were compelling. Although Halo esports has grown and matured, the Halo Championship Series (HCS) hasn’t quite captured the magic that was primetime MLG Halo. However, the HCS could imitate some of the triumphs of MLG to better the tournament experience.
Sometimes to forge the best path forward, it’s necessary to look to the past. HCS, the oddball is in your court.
The Pro Circuit Format
For competitive play, MLG utilized a season-like format for their Pro Circuit. The circuit included several open events placed around the country, concluding with an invite-only national championship event. Events were held in areas like Anaheim, Dallas, Columbus, Orlando, and so on. The spread of events across the nation allowed for competitors of all regions to attend tournaments without too much burden. This kind of regional balance is something the HCS sorely lacks. A structured, seasonal open event schedule would allow players to better plan for each event, and could provide some consistency that the HCS needs.
Along with the live events, the MLG Pro Circuit also held Pro Circuit ladders. The ladders allowed teams to schedule matches at their own pace, climb ranks, and earn pro points. At the end of each seasonal period, the ladders would be formatted into a tournament bracket. The top ladder teams would then compete for seeding points at the next MLG event.
This structure benefitted amateur teams who put in the work, and fewer players were left at the liberty of a single-elimination qualifier tournament. Many amateur players were left discouraged during the previous HCS season, as the format seemed to stack the deck against them.
Live Event Experience
Most will agree that the MLG live event experience during the tenure of Halo 2 and Halo 3 carried unmatched hype. Whether it was Walshy likening the defeat of his former team to “taking candy from a baby”, or Faruq Tauheed hyping the crowd with his “Lock it up!” catchphrase, the excitement was always palpable. This type of environment seems absent at HCS Halo tournaments. The long downtimes and the going-through-the-motions style production makes the atmosphere seem deflated. While a professional atmosphere is necessary in today’s esports climate, competitive Halo feels truly at home in a grassroots environment. The HCS can surely better compromise between the two.
MLG events also boasted an incredible viewing experience for main stage play. The teams were seated just next to each other, with large projection screens above each respective setup. The coliseum-style seating brought spectators together and surrounded the main stage with hype. It gave primetime competitive Halo the experience of a sporting event, complete with great commentary and a rowdy crowd.
While Halo esports is more developed than 2008, the HCS should tap into this experience for future events. Put microphones on the crowd, allow some more trash talk, and keep the viewers entertained between or before each match. The Halo World Championship Finals live experience was heartbreaking, and crowd engagement needs a major resurgence.
Although these are just my opinions, I think most will agree with the unforgettable experience that was a MLG Halo tournament. With a year left of Halo 5, the HCS has plenty of time to improve the aspects in which they are lacking. Creating a more consistent, structured tournament format, and a better live experience will almost certainly help cultivate interest in Halo esports. The HWC Finals were ripped online for the tournament experience, and there’s nowhere to go but up.
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