With the upcoming season two of the Halo Championship Series (HCS) and the arrival of the long awaited patch that makes 343i’s Master Chief Collection functional, now is the perfect time to pursue an interest in competitive Halo. With the recent resurgence of people talking about Halo as an eSport, I’ve seen a lot of people lost about where to start. With its years of MLG history scaring newcomers from the game it appears that many need some background information to begin enjoying ESL’s HCS.As previously mentioned Halo has a long history of being played competitively, it’s existence is what gave birth to Major League Gaming. Although most of the players that compete today were active in past competitions it is important to note that you really do not need to know much about the past to enjoy it today. The game that is currently being used to facilitate competition (Halo 2 Anniversary) was released in November of 2014 and although it does take cues from past Halos you do not need to understand the past games to follow along. But what about the historical significance of past seasons? Knowing the history of these players and what they’ve accomplished can be extremely helpful with understanding the context of the game, but just by watching current events you can easily learn the scene’s story. When the grizzled ancients of the Halo scene compete at events, every other word out of the commentators mouth tells the legacy of these players and as long as you have the ability to listen intently you can pick up what you need to know. To expand on your knowledge of Halo history you can head over to eSportspedia to read up on all teams and players past or present. Although the HCS presents itself as a league, it is actually an open circuit. Any team can compete in an HCS event, as long as they sign up or show up in the case of a LAN. Events are split up between LAN and online. LANs are run by organizations separate from ESL (such as Irong Gaming and UGC) while online events are run by ESL themselves. Traditionally LANs are played using a double elimination bracket while online cups only use single elimination. The circuit is scored using HCS points, which are received depending on how a team places in an event. LAN events always give more than the online ones due to them being considered more important. For the first season of HCS they had a distinct breakdown detailing how many points a team would win from each type of event but, as it was announced during the HCS season one finals, they intend to revamp the system for season two. The circuit will still use a similar way of ranking teams though and it is important to have an idea of how it will work next season before you start watching. I already mentioned that the season is split between online and LAN events, but how will that work in the future? Next season there will be two LAN events leading up to the season finals and a currently unknown amount of online ones. So far the only LAN event announced is Iron Games Atlanta, Iron Gaming having previously run an event in Columbus during the first HCS season. On the online side of things, if it works the same as it did in the previous season, there will be an online event played almost every Sunday. These events are not streamed by ESL but teams are allowed to stream their own perspective so that you can watch from your favorite player’s view. It’s important to point out that ESL’s HCS is currently exclusive to North American teams, but Europe isn’t excluded from competitive Halo as a whole. European Halo teams have the opportunity to compete at various events run by the European Gaming League. Playing in these events allows them to qualify for what is essentially the European finals. In the first season of HCS the winner of this event was invited to compete at the HCS season finals. Instead of being seeded directly into the tournament they are instead matched up against the lowest American seed (in the only previous instance this was the 8th seed) with the winner moving on to the rest of the tournament. This European squad is an extreme wild card and no one is quite sure what will happen until they show up. If you’re brand new to the scene then you may need an introduction to the various teams and organizations. As said before, anyone can form a team and sign up but it’s generally the same few teams that actually make it past top 8 and earn circuit points. These teams, ranked in order of how they placed at the season one finals, are Evil Geniuses (Season 1 Champions), Counter Logic Gaming, Noble Black, Cloud9, Str8 Rippin, Denial eSports, Optic Gaming, Elevate and finally the European wild card team,Vibe. Outside of the teams that competed in the finals there’s also Reality Check, Velocity and the newly formed Team Randa. Each of those links leads to their respective eSportspedia pages, so that you can get a better idea of their accomplishments and rosters. Although it’s obviously not required to have a favorite team, it makes deciding who to watch during the online events much easier. For a full database of VODs to watch past events you can visit Team Beyond. Now that you have everything you need to know for the next season of the HCS it’s time to plan out what events you intend to watch. The new season kicks off on April 17th with the LAN event at Iron Games Atlanta. The tournament features a $25,000 prize pool and will be held in the Georgia World Congress Center. Before the official season opener there are also two pre-season cups that are played just for prize money taking place on April 5th and 12th. This upcoming season of HCS will be even more exciting than the last and I hope to see you out there enjoying it too! Originally published on March 10th, 2015 at GoldPer10
Cowley is new to eSports writing but is looking to improve his skills. He mainly follows Halo, Starcraft and League of Legends as well as several obscure games. He can be contacted using his twitter, @eSports_Cowley.