E-Sports vs. EVE-Sports

It is of course not news anymore that Wardlords of the Deep and Camel Empire were accused of collusion during the Alliance Tournament XIII. CCP stepped up declaring that they will investigate the evidence to establish whether this indictment by DHB-Wildcat matches with their data, and the verdict came last week. This outcome satisfied many who felt very strongly about people cheating in the tournament, but I couldn’t help but ponder the different perspectives and it didn’t add up for me. Of course we do not know how exactly CCP got to their conclusions, but with all the information we do have available, there appears to be a very complex issue which can not simply be dismissed by pointing fingers and calling for bans.

The Charge

What Warlords and Camel were accused of was making an in-game agreement for the quarter finals best-of-three. The first match was still supposed to be “legit”, but any match after that would be covertly forfeited by the losing party so both teams could immediately progress and the loser would have a comparatively longer downtime between the matches in the loser’s bracket for the semifinals. To understand that charge we have to know that it is allowed for teams to practice together, share setups and even share the prizes. What they are not allowed to do is set rules for matches between each other, and that is exactly what they were charged with.

Sportsmanship and Repeat Offense

DHB-Wildcat appeared to have a general issue with the underhanded nature of the preparations both teams made in his view. He does note that those were essentially legal according to the Alliance Tournament rules but still not his cup of tea. When he says in his accusation “I have still not won an AT legitly and cannot call myself an AT champion.” it appears that he personally feels that any form of collusion diminishes his personal achievements under an idealistic view of genuine sportsmanship: one should win because of better strategy, tactics and execution, not through metagaming shenanigans.
On the recent JEFFRAIDER show the PL player Gobbins is quoted as having looked through all AT matches where Warlords of the Deep – and previously Hydra Reloaded – have competed, and it turns out that they only won the finals on occasions where they had a team that was working together with them. The most glaring example was AT IX where Hydra Reloaded and Outbreak where technically the same team split into two groups. They famously made a complete mockery of the final match that they both ended up in. As a result many people were offended by the ridiculous display, and that’s understandable. When we watch Alliance Tournament, we want to see the best teams of small-gang players in EVE pit their skills against each other with spectacular fits and tactics. After Hydra Reloaded got banned from participation in AT X  it appears that the message has been received by the leadership. In a strongly worded response to the current ban, Warlords leader Kadesh Princess does acknowledge this: “through experience we learned that CCP hates […] when matches look staged”. Of course CCP are not alone with this, the spectators hate it too, and potentially even more so.
“…the reaction by both players and CCP becomes that much more vindictive.”
Now that people who are formerly from Hydra Reloaded are again found to have pushed the envelope and engaged in matchfixing, the reaction by both players and CCP becomes that much more vindictive. What we have to understand is, that the people who work for CCP on AT execution are doing so on long days and weekends where they would otherwise be off duty. The whole position of the Alliance Tournament as a yearly event appears to be precarious and it is fair to say that the main reason CCP have not cancelled it yet is the enthusiasm of the playerbase for the championship. Considering that CCP is going the extra mile and how invested the AT fans are, it becomes understandable that people are up in arms if teams act in an “unsportsmanlike manner” and at the same time it follows that CCP is listening to the “public opinion” on this issue. There is more at play than that though. bump

The Case of the Defense

Kadesh Princess and Bob Shaftoes have both talked at length about the constraints that they face in the context of the Alliance Tournament. Pandemic Legion are sufficiently large and committed as an alliance to train only among themselves, Warlords and Camel individually can not match this. If they want to prepare for the event, they can’t help but try and find a sparring partner. Of course that opponent for the training ideally has to be equally proficient. At the same time they have to be able to trust their training partner. The contenders for the top spots in AT are extremely protective of their setups and tactics. Even during the tournament itself they will do their best to keep some aces up their sleeve until the final rounds, lest an opponent sees what they could field and how they would fly it. During the tournament it becomes painfully obvious that some teams simply can’t manage to develop enough setups that all their pilots can fly, and eventually they have to field something that has been used before, to which a crafty opponent might already have a hard counter prepared.
“…PL is simply very hard to beat for any smaller alliance that doesn’t have the numbers of high-skilled small-gang PvPers which enable them to practice alone.”
When we come back to Gobbins’s observation that Hydra never managed to throw PL out of the finals without having a second team on the tournament roster, one could also interpret this as the result of the fact that PL is simply very hard to beat for any smaller alliance that doesn’t have the numbers of high-skilled small-gang PvPers which enable them to practice alone. Verge of Collapse is the only other team that ever managed to take the finals since PL managed to become a dominant AT contender. Now that results in an interesting piece of added information which could enter into our considerations.

A Bit of Game Theory

Let us assume for a moment that Camel and Warlords did not engage in explicit collusion but rather had a tacit collusion going on which had the goal of preventing PL from making the finals because they are potentially the most difficult final opponent. In that case, the loser of the first match in the quarterfinal would still have an incentive to throw the match even if they were not agreeing with the other party on doing so. To understand why, we have to look at game theory. Here we have two very evenly matched teams. They both are confident that their best setups can beat any other contenders left, with the possible exception of Pandemic Legion. With Pandemic Legion likely to come out as winners from their quarterfinals, both Warlords and Camel are likely to face them in a fight for elimination in either the the loser’s bracket or the winner’s bracket for the semifinals. In that case there are two things they need to do:
  1. Make sure they minimise their losses
  2. Make sure they minimise the exposure of superior setups
I will not supply the math for the Nash equilibrium of a multi-stage game here because I simply have no idea how to do it properly in this medium and it involves such complex math that it wouldn’t mean much to the uninitiated, but bear with me when I say that under those conditions none of the two teams would want to field their best setup for the first match. If they lose, they would not want to increase the pressure either by trying to bring a better setup for the next game. In fact, after a loss, the best a losing team can do is to bring the exact same setup again because they know it lost in the first round and they know it is outed. Likewise, the winning team would also have an incentive to bring the same setup again because it won and is already outed too. Playing the game with the two parameters above they optimise the outcome. However, this was not what we saw happen. What we did see was a known setup by Warlords and an effective counter by Camel in the form of a tinker setup that they were very unlikely to use against PL.


Arriving at a Verdict

At this point pure mathematics fail me and there is no way I could prove that this behaviour was not a result of explicit as opposed to tacit collusion, but here we enter the territory of human judgement. In the light of DHB-Wildcat’s published Skype logs it does seem like this match was fixed because the setups each one would bring appeared to have been agreed upon in advance. Furthermore, Kadesh Princess even implied in the response piece that they would not risk a match looking fixed. That is the second piece of the quote that I have used above. The whole of that sentence reads: “through experience we learned that CCP hates more when matches look staged, rather than when they are actually staged.”  Kadesh Princess then goes on to explain how they did the best to put up a good show. When put like this, the response almost comes across like an implicit confession that collusion did happen and in the light of all this, the verdict appears justified. What about the sentence though?

A Personal Conclusion

The tournament did look great. I watched it live throughout and rewatched several matches a few times since. The commentators got drawn into the action too and for all intents and purposes we saw exciting fights with good maneuvers. There is a hint though though that DHB-Wildcat might have been called back after bumping a target out of the tinker setup during match 117b. I can see how a pilot could become angry after risking their ship in a move like that and then being slapped on the wrist. I can understand that fans of the Alliance Tournament became angry after former Hydra Reloaded players again appeared to have engaged in matchfixing, and I comprehend how CCP are not amused that people are messing around during an event that they take extra effort to run albeit they don’t have much to gain from it in a broader sense apart from making a part of the playerbase happy.
“I still don’t see a reason to ban a person from AT forever.”
I still don’t see a reason to ban a person from AT forever. We are talking about two teams who have both done their best and brought great fights to the tournament. Many of them only exist as EVE players to compete in the AT. They may have messed up one match through collusion, but as I pointed out above, even if they had not explicitly colluded, they would have ended up doing the exact same in terms of meta strategy if they had acted according to pure game theory. I know that it is an unpopular opinion to say so, but I find the effects of Warlord’s collusion with Camel are negligible. The alliance tournament was exciting despite it, the people who won did win their bout against PL and against Exodus under completely genuine conditions. The advantages that they had under the rules may be “unsportsmanlike” in the view of someone like DHB-Wildcat, but they are also a result of real difficulties that smaller teams face during the preparation phase. Personally I would have found it sufficient to just freeze the first and second place prizes in the hands of the people who won them. Make those ships unsellable either by contract or trade to prevent Warlords and Camel from sharing them and let them get off with that as a warning.
…an EVE tournament will include a level of metagaming and no winner of past or present has purely played according to the ideal of sportsmanship that DHB-Wildcat would love to see.”
On the JEFFRAIDER show there was a comment made that people shouldn’t bring the argument that “this is EVE, and underhanded tactics are part of it” but I would maintain that this is a valid argument. The Alliance Tournament has no chance of ever becoming an E-Sport beyond the EVE player community. The mechanics and tactics of EVE combat are just too complex for anybody outside the game to even begin to understand it. Even commentators and analysts often do not completely get what is going on, so how would external parties even stand a chance to enjoy it in the same way we EVE players can? With that being said, an EVE tournament will include a level of metagaming and no winner of past or present has purely played according to the ideal of sportsmanship that DHB-Wildcat would love to see. What we deserve to see is the best any EVE player alliance can do in terms of tactics and execution, both on the field and in the sphere of metagaming. If the matches look spectacular, then any revelation that they have been accompanied by cunning shenanigans behind the scenes is not a detriment in my opinion. Quite the contrary, that adds a unique aspect to the tournament.  
Tags: alliance tournament, Camel Empire, collusion, Hydra, tarek, Warlords of the Deep

About the author

Tarek Raimo

Former nullsec spy (no not under that name of course) and current failure at lowsec solo PVP, Tarek spends his time not logging in to the game as much as he keeps thinking about its social and metagame nature and sharing some of those thoughts with the CZ readers.

  • Helena Khan

    Warlords could have very well won just by the quality of the pilots. The CCP stats showed just how hard and fast they were working in comparison with the others. Certainly their piloting was superlative.

    And that pisses me off to no end because the collusion was entirely unnecessary, and because it tarnished an otherwise awesome AT.

    • Kamar Raimo

      “And that pisses me off to no end because the collusion was entirely unnecessary,”

      That’s a thing which bothered me as well and the ironic thing is, that if you apply game theory as I did, they could actually have come up with the same result without explicit collusion.

      • Dirk MacGirk

        yep, its probably what chafes a lot of ass out there. They didn’t need to do it. Although let’s be honest, the community goes completely one way or the other on issues like this. Either they exult in the tearing down of a high-profile player/group or they rally behind something that seems entirely arbitrary. Are there any comparisons to be made here with Stunt? Did multiple incursions into the “went too far” category result in the AT permaban for Kadesh? Probably. I don’t know what I “feel” better about: that CCP enforced their rule but some people think it was the raving mob that made them do it, or the fact that they averted the mob going even more haywire if they didn’t do something that “felt” equitable. And then there is this chatter out there about exploiting some information from the API for spying purposes on Singularity. The whole thing stinks as to the lengths some will go to beyond just being good theorycrafters and pilots. And that probably doesn’t begin or end with CameLords.

        • Kamar Raimo

          “The whole thing stinks as to the lengths some will go to beyond just
          being good theorycrafters and pilots. And that probably doesn’t begin or
          end with CameLords.”

          As Shadowandlight said on his podcast: We probably only see the tip of the iceberg.

  • Messiah Complex

    I suspect Kadesh’s permaban was due in part to his initial response to DHB. While I’m inclined to believe his claim that the attempted character assassination was a group effort, that post was still published under his name, and it was an abysmally stupid thing to do. Apart from that, Kadesh has been caught cheating twice now. His first ban didn’t persuade him to compete within the rules, so he’s not getting a third chance. Judging by the rest of his posts on FHC, the guy is a cancer, and it’s good that he’s gone.

    Game theory is irrelevant. Whether EVE can reach beyond its own community in E-Sport is irrelevant. The relative size of competing alliances is irrelevant. The only relevant matter is that two teams that could have placed 1st and 2nd without cheating chose to cheat anyway. Even if the effect of that cheating was “negligible,” it was still done in full-view of all the people that give a shit about the AT.

    And that’s the point: if Hydramel only got a slap on the wrist, it would invite (and in fact, require) every other AT team to metagame in a similar way next year in order to be competitive. I can’t emphasize enough that there’s no point in having rules if no one is going to enforce them, and do so in a way that actually discourages further infractions. If Hydramel had kept their title, or kept their prize ships, the next AT would see a pile of teams trying to bullshit their way through the teams that have better comps and better execution. If you want to kill the AT altogether, that would be a way to do it.

    • Kamar Raimo

      It’s not only a matter of comps and execution though. There is a strong level of opsec, espionage, and datamining involved that already creates a level of metagaming which remains closed off to the less crafty. The only way I see for comps and execution to be front and center is to restrict the ships and fits used.

      • Messiah Complex

        I’ve always want to see a separate tournament where the CCP guys create “stock” setups (same hulls, same fits) for each round that all teams have to use. That would put piloting front-and-center.

        And I do acknowledge that there are other forms of metagaming in-play in the AT. The kinds you mentioned, however, fall within the rules. I don’t care that some teams aren’t sufficiently “crafty” to make use of them.

        • Kamar Raimo

          The EVE_NT tournament was done in such a way. There were publicly posted fits which people could bring and the characters had max skills in everything. The opponents wouldn’t know which exact ships the other team would bring, but they did know what the possibilities were.

          One thing that this would take out of AT is the great theorycrafting and development of tactics, and I personally find that to be just as interesting as the execution during the matches themselves.

      • Messiah Complex

        BTW: although I disagree with most of what you said, your article was still entirely worth reading.

        • Kamar Raimo

          Discourse fundamentally develops from respectful disagreement and I rather prefer people disagree with me and discuss it than being fanboys.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            Will you sign my autograph book one day?

          • Kamar Raimo

            Only if you disagree with my signature being in there 😛

    • krw

      > Apart from that, Kadesh has been caught cheating twice now.
      afair he wasn’t part of AT9 hydrabreak team

      • Messiah Complex


        • l0rd carlos

          What is the name of the alt?

          • Messiah Complex

            I thought I read in one of KP’s FCH posts that he was on that AT9 team. If I’m wrong about that, I apologize.

          • Messiah Complex

            This is the KP quote that I was thinking of:

            “The Hydra/Outbreak ban from AT10 enraged me. I knew how teams were integrated during AT9 and how it would change in AT10, it simply felt unjust. With many observations taken into consideration, I am still confident that it was revenge of some CCP employees for AT9 finals, served cold. Some of our guys were saying “farewell” to eve after wasting 2 months of tests just to be banned, I didn’t. I knew there was a good chance I would reconsider my initial intention to ‘quit’ eve.”


            My memory of the details of that quote was apparently faulty. I have no idea whether Kadesh had an alt on that team. The first two sentences of my original post stand.

          • l0rd carlos

            I asked him yesterday and he said he was not on hydra/outbreak team, though maybe he was on at10 team. At least his FHC quote sounds like it.

            Edit: AH yes, he was on at10 team.

          • Messiah Complex

            Thank you for the info.

  • JZ909

    I started playing EVE in large part due to the AT, and I researched eve mechanics a ton just so I could understand what was going on. I know I’m not alone in this. The AT has a larger audience than just EVE players.

    That being said, the AT rules were already so loose, CCP basicly already allowed collusion, just not certain varieties of it. I would prefer for there to be much stricter rules on ship sharing, joint practice, etc. and if you don’t have the numbers to support that, you do true joint teams (i.e. Brave + PFR).

    • Kamar Raimo

      Yeah, that’s a point Diana Olympus of PFR has also raised. I guess some people have too big of an ego or see the name of their alliance as being so important in the tournament that they wouldn’t form a common team under another name. The statements from Kadesh princess definitely reflect an individual with an almost obsessive streak when it comes to winning AT.

      • l0rd carlos

        Gotta get max SKINS!

    • l0rd carlos

      That will get hard to enforce. You will have a lot of borderline issues. For example is it allowed to get a sponsor? Is he allowed to sponsor other people? “My sponsor gave me an AT ship, I did not know he also gave it to other people”

      Are we allowed to practice with another team? Are we allowed to pay for them?

      No impossible, but it’s gonna take more effort from CCP side.

    • Dirk MacGirk

      CCP clarified in 2014 what was allowed and what wasn’t, and it was damn clear that colluding to fix a match was not going to be tolerated. These guys weren’t ignorant of that fact. At all.

      • JZ909

        I don’t disagree that they blatantly broke the rules, I’m just commenting the rules allowed a LOT, and even without this rule violation, maybe too much is allowed.

  • Aralyn

    “Pandemic Legion are sufficiently large
    and committed as an alliance to train only among themselves, Warlords
    and Camel individually can not match this.”

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this. They only reason Camel and Hydra do not have the number of pilots to train amoungst themselves is they choose not to. Are we to believe that if Camel Empire made a post that read “We need 20
    skilled solo or small gang pvpers (you will be tested) to join our
    alliance for tournament testing purposes – to confirm, you will not get
    to fly in the tournament itself, but you can wear our Alliance ticker
    for the duration, and will get an equal share in PLEX rewards, and a cut
    in isk of ship/skin rewards (but no actual ships)” they wouldn’t be
    inundated with applications? They would be rolling in suitable
    applicants, more than enough to test any comp they wished. No, it was purely greed, attempting to maximise the amount of
    reward for the least possible participants.

    “On the JEFFRAIDER show there was a
    comment made that people shouldn’t bring the argument that “this is EVE,
    and underhanded tactics are part of it” but I would maintain that this
    is a valid argument. ”

    As much as I believe the AT should have “typically EvE metaplay”, and
    throwing games, taking bribes, spies, sabateurs, and awoxing should all
    be perfectly legit, this is one issue that makes me want to see this
    particular brand of metaplay cracked down on: The AT has limited
    spots. Obviously this can’t be helped, otherwise we would need several
    hundred rounds. Therefore, every spot that is taken up by a “B-team” is a
    slot that another Alliance could have taken. That’s the crime. They were one team, they should have taken one slot.
    What if everyone had followed their lead? The final weekend would be
    Hydra A vs PL D, Hydra B vs PL C, PL A vs PL B, etc, etc… it would be
    dull and utterly pointless. There would be no slots for the
    plucky-but-bad hopefuls that give us neutrals some of the most fun
    matches to watch. I WANT to see TNT running around orbitting the FC and
    shockingly getting far doing so, I want to see what TEST pulls out the
    bag this year, I want to see CVA put out an all-Amarr fleet with minimal
    hope of success, I want to see someone play a MJD-gimmick like Drop the
    Hammer did, and I want to see some random minor-alliance surprise a big
    name and take a scalp. That doesn’t happen if the top teams get carte blanche to stack the competition with ringer teams.

    • l0rd carlos

      > They would be rolling in suitable applicants, more than enough to test any comp they wished.

      I doubt it. No many eve players want to put in the effort it takes. 3x 2-3h excluding logistics. You don’t just want numbers, you want good and _reliable_ pilots. The later is very important.

      I asked in my old small scale corp. No one wanted to join the team.

      Also you need to know them before. No one wants spies in their team.

      I’m not saying either team can’t do it alone, I’m just saying I doubt your way would be successful.

    • Dirk MacGirk

      “They only reason Camel and Hydra do not have the number of pilots to train amongst themselves is they choose not to.”

      Agreed, its pretty hard to defend a choice to be what is ostensibly an alliance dedicated exclusively to being an elite AT team. They could have done it as a true single entity. Some would have not made it into the tournament proper, but they would have been able to share in the effort and the rewards. Of course, that wouldn’t have allowed for possibly bagging the two top spots, but… never not let greed get in the way.

      I also agree that seeing lower-tier teams play for the fun of it, is as much a part of what the AT is about as seeing those great teams on the final weekend. And for probably 85+% of the teams, they are just there for the fun and not even trying to deal with the crafty stuff beyond basic theorycrafting and piloting. I appreciate what those top teams can do, but not necessarily the lengths they’ll go to outside of theorycrafting, practice and good piloting.

      • merp

        People want to compete and prove their ability, the prizes alone are not always enough. Being stuck on the sidelines is not for everyone

        • Dirk MacGirk

          You’re right, the prizes alone probably weren’t enough. You think the EVE-bet money helped?

          Really though, the point is they needn’t cry over being a small alliance with no internal partners to practice against. That’s the life of a pretend alliance that only exists to gain entry to the tournament. Deal with it. Preferably in a way that doesn’t include collusion.

    • krw

      > they wouldn’t be inundated with applications
      …of opposing teams’ spies.

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  • Ashterothi

    I think the short of how I feel is that EVE is real, in it you can cheat, you can get caught, and you can be forced to suffer the consequences within that system. EVE is about willing something into existence from the primal chaos of those around you who care not for your precious goals. WE make the AT meaningful, and enforcing good play should be part of the standard that tournament fighters are upheld to.

    By that same notion we should just expect CSM members to lie and not provide anything to their tenure. While these aspects are a part of our game, they are systems that we uphold. Yes someone can cheat that system, but then the system itself punishes the person. The players were not punished from a context of an EVE player, they were punished in the context of a Tournament fighter. If EVE really is real, then our sports scandals are real too.

  • fg

    gaming is not a sport fatty

  • Didyouexpectanythingelse

    As long as Eve supports bad behavior and praises the wrong guys this will keep on happening.

    (highsecganking, lowsecpodkilling, pve-hotrdropping and so on… gets hype… all bad fights with like always 0 risk for one side but even24, scamtani and others push such things in the skies like how awesome this is….)

    risk nothing, get everything -> eve is risk averse so they rig tournaments too.

    Eve is dead and the community is even worse then ever.
    All this scams and treachery just shows its going to end soon.

  • Ben Ishikela

    Awesome Read and Analyses, Tarek. I like that sober and unconvential view of yours.

    Imho CCP should have admitted that the tournament format was incentivicing the gameplay we saw. Stick to the motto: “these are the mechanics. now go and win. use everything you can.” Metagaming, Spying and Theft was not banned and therefor EVE got players interested.
    The meta is the most interesting in eve. So fix those damn tournament formats with the instable loosers bracket, before banning players for competing with their A-Game.

    Suggestion: Use the Swiss-System for the tournament next time. It is damn stable regarding collusion. Not that impressive/exicting/hypeable to watch, but way more practical. But do a best of 5 for the two favorites after. or something similar for the show. You might also see impressive matches on the “lower-tier”(lol) side, when some teams can show something instead of getting stomped by some ProTeam.
    Optional: Instead of Bans and Setups –> Pick ships one by one (like dota2-captainsmode)(however, no ship can be picked twice (pick > ban)) then give every team 5 or 15 minutes to fit. then start. I predict more exciting matches. (example: enemy pick tengu, enemy pick vulture –> aha tinker —> therfor counterpick armageddon or similar. then this gets countered again vice versa and so on.)

    Anyway, thanx for reading.

    • Kamar Raimo

      What’s the Swiss system exactly? The method where teams pick ships alternately is also not bad. People could possibly still collude in ways but it would be more difficult.

      I agree with you that one of the problems is that CCP have opened up the tournamentns and their game in general to all kinds of underhanded tacts and then successively try to restrict that through a trial-and-error system that sometimes results in rather harsh punishments that confuse people.

      In this partiicular case I am prepared to accept that the rules have been broken, but the result of the collusion was not all that consequential. In cases of smaller breaches the sentencing could be toned down accordingly.

      • Ben Ishikela
        (with the addition of a knockout/bestOf5 in the finale for the show. Also show highlights of the matches in lowerTier, that people might have missed.)

        Sorry, but that not what i meatn. Underhanded tacts and sceeming is a crucial part in eve for me. You have been a Spy yourself, right? Its what makes EVE unique.

        I dont like the decision to punish players for bringing their best in a format that “made” them collude.

        • Kamar Raimo

          Yeah, we are ery much on the same page about the whole cutthroat backstabbing stuff. Damn I remember alliance tournaments where people offered bribes during the match to have the other party throw it in their favour. Whatever happened to those times 😀