Interview: Body Count Fighting Brings MMA Matchmaking to Fighting Games
There are competitive esports events happening on a weekly basis, but Body Count Fighting is an interesting twist on an established formula. While most fighting games are played in tournaments, BCF instead employs actual matchmaking and creates cards similar to a UFC or boxing pay-per-view. Their next event, Body Count Fighting 3, goes down Sunday, September 24 at 10:00pm pacific time, and features a bevy of title matchups. Since I’m a huge fan of both combat sports and fighting games, I wanted to learn more about the upcoming fight card.
In order to do just that, I spoke with Body Count Fighting producer Jonathan Craig about the event, their mindset, and what to expect from the card.
PlayStation LifeStyle: What really separates Body Count Fighting from a lot of other esports events is that it’s promoted like an actual combat sports card rather than a tournament. What would you say are the biggest advantages of going using that angle to promote an event?
Jonathan Craig: All of the staff at Body Count Fighting are huge fans of fighting games. We watch all of the major tournaments and we attend locals like Wednesday Night Fights as much as we can. We wanted to enter the FGC and help build it up, so we set out to create a unique event that compliments all of these tournaments that we love, as opposed to competing with them.
The biggest difference between our event and other fighting game events is that we don’t take a tournament or bracketed approach to deciding our match ups. We choose match ups that are runbacks of recent tournament matches, or we tap in to player rivalries. As newcomers to the community, we’re proud of this approach as it allows us to work with other tournament organizers to promote their events, and it allows us to work with and promote specific players to help them get sponsored.
What goes into matchmaking for these cards? Obviously there’s the sports angle of trying to see the best compete against the best, but what other factors are there?
First and foremost we want high level matches — we set out to showcase the highest ranked players in their respective games. After that, we’re looking for interesting stories. For example, if a well-known player was knocked out of a recent tournament, we want to give them the opportunity to run that match back and try to redeem themselves at our event. We also look at rivalries. At our most recent event, Body Count Fighting 2 (BCF2) we had an epic Street Fighter V NorCal vs. SoCal rivalry play out where the reigning champion, Commander Jesse, defended his belt and his SoCal turf from the NorCal challenger, LPN. LPN ended up taking the title and the championship belt from Commander Jesse, and has been invited back to compete in BCF3 to defend his title against yet another SoCal challenger, Chris Tatarian.
Tournaments can often tell an amazing story, but it’s a very uncertain one. With BCF’s cards, you get to promote a narrative and really sell an event coming into it. What challenges does that bring from a promoting standpoint?
This is an interesting question. One of the problems we see with the major tournaments we watch is the volume of matches being streamed on any given day. We love fighting games, and we love to watch hours and hours of competitive play, but sometimes the most hype matches can get lost in a 10 or 12 hour stream. We solve this problem by offering only the most hype matches.
We recognize that our events don’t have the same stakes — there are no ranking points on the line and players aren’t in a do-or-die situation where, if they lose, they have to say goodbye to the cash prize at the end of the tournament — our events offer something completely different. We have continuity and storylines that progress every. Admittedly, our approach takes longer to promote and get a following, but we already see an eager fanbase emerging and it’s only a matter of time before everyone is at least aware of what we’re doing.
For those unfamiliar with the fighting game community, can you highlight a few of the upcoming title matches and why they’re compelling?
One of the most noteworthy matches at BCF3 is the Street Fighter V Title Match between our current champion, LPN, and his challenger, Chris Tatarian. LPN is a well-respected player from NorCal and he’s playing another well-known player from SoCal. In tournament rankings, both players are top 100 in the world, and arguably two of the best players North America has to offer.
We’re also lucky to be streaming BCF3 the same week that Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite drops and we have some of the best players in the game competing at our event in both of our Feature Matches as well as our Title Match for the game. The MvC:I Title Match features the #2 ranked player in the world, RyanLV, who won both CEO 2017 and Evo 2017 in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. He’s going up against the #5 ranked player, Ray Ray, who is a consistent figure in Top 8s at major tournaments around the world. The winner will be the first ever Body Count Fighting MvCI champion and has the opportunity to hold onto that title for a long, long time.
There are certainly some larger than life characters in the fighting game community, do you think down the line we’ll see some grudge matches where the conflict takes place not of competition, but animosity between players?
That’s something we’ve definitely talked about as a team and with members of the community, including some of these larger than life characters. Our event brings out some awesome trash talk and competition between players, and that’s definitely something we don’t want to shy away from. For example, BCF3 will mark the third event that has featured SFV player LowTierGod, a controversial figure who is one of the most notorious (and hated) trash talkers in the entire fighting game community. This time he’s playing against NickTanella, an up-and-comer in the SoCal fighting game scene who has the opportunity to silence LowTierGod and his fans.
To be completely honest with you, it’s been challenging for us to find opponents for a guy like LowTierGod. In our first event he said, “people are afraid of me because they lose all credibility for losing to me.” Fans and critics of our show all thought he was exaggerating, but we’ve had him at three events and for three events we’ve had an incredibly hard time finding someone to agree to play him. We reach out to dozens of players and they all echo pretty much his exact sentiment.
I think, over time, people will see that our event is just as much about fun, good-spirited trash talk, as it is about settling serious rivalries. Of course we take note of all of the serious grudges and animosity happening between players in the community, and we’d love to give them an opportunity to settle it at our events. It’s just going to take time for a lot of these players to see that, not only does BCF provide a safe event to do that at, but, they really have nothing to lose.
Currently the games that are played are Street Fighter V, MvC: Infinite, Tekken 7 and Injustice 2. How often will that line-up change, and will we ever see games appear as a one-off for special events?
Our first two events featured SFV and IJ2 most prominently. BCF3 marks our first event with MvCI matches, and our first event with a TK7 title match. We’re really excited to be expanding our roster of games and we intend to showcase all four of these games at all future BCF events. We’re open to featuring games as one-off events, and we also have our eyes on Dragon Ball FighterZ to add to our regular rotation when it comes out early next year.
Production is so important to a streamed event. What can we expect in terms of commentary?
This event will be hosted by Kyle Shire and commentated by Shayan Tamayo, both of which are regulars on our weekly fighting game content. We are blessed to have some very talented commentators in the SoCal FGC, and we’re featuring some of them in our production for BCF3 as well. For Street Fighter V, Kevin Ha will join Shayan Tamayo at the commentary desk. For Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, you’ll see Kevin Ha and Dan “The Comedian” Grove alongside Shayan. For Tekken 7, Jesse Montes will join Shayan. Finally, for Injustice 2, we’ll have the legend Kitana Prime at the desk to share his thoughts and commentary.
Tell our readers why they should tune in on September 24!
Body Count Fighting 3 (BCF3) takes place on September 24, 2017 and will be streamed live starting at 10:00PM PST on our Twitch and our YouTube. If you’re in the SoCal area and want to watch the event live in person, you can join us at the eSports Arena in Anaheim, CA at the FREE SoCal Regionals After Party where our event is taking place — doors open at the conclusion of the SoCal Regionals Street Fighter V Top 8.