April 24, 2014 was the cutoff point for a pilot to be allowed entrance to the twelfth Alliance Tournament. With April 24, 2015 rapidly approaching, I’m getting all wiggly and jiggly in my seat from anticipation for ATXIII.
EVE Online’s premier E-sports event has always been a somewhat strange offspring. MMOs typically have trouble presenting a compelling tournament scene, and with the legendary complexity of EVE Online, there are certainly many challenges presenting it in a fashion akin to StarCraft II or any of the MOBAs. If we take LoL and DoTA to be Football (or “Soccer” for you Yanks, not pansy Rugby) and Basketball respectively, EVE Online is more akin to Hurling. Yes, I know you haven’t heard of Hurling. Google it, that’s part of my point. A sport as challenging as any of the more popular ones, yet somewhat more idiosyncratic and with a much smaller fanbase. I don’t even think that the Alliance Tournament can really be considered a “traditional” E-sport (and yes, I love that the phase “traditional E-sport” even exists now).
The detractors of the Alliance Tournament have many valid points, some of the most predominant being:
A low budget for production.
Commentators, cameramen and others who don’t get weekly practice at this all year round, maybe casting 1-2 weekend tournaments if any in addition to the AT itself.
Repetitive and boring to watch “metas”*, the drone setup being of the former and bastion marauder or tinker setups in the latter.
The top teams remaining the top teams for years on end. For the past six years, PL have taken two thirds of the first place prizes, only a select number of teams place highly each year, with newcomers (almost) always not even being able to give them good matches.
Prize structure: historically, only the top few went home with any prizes, and even then the award system was heavily skewed towards first place.
EVE Online itself being a hugely complex game, and even within that so little of the information of what’s going on to be able to be presented clearly to an educated audience, let alone the layperson.
*meta-game: The game within the game. The common themes of what ships people choose to use, how they fit them and how they fly them.
Horrible issues for any game (and I don’t just mean electronic), but I am here to point out the glorious changes that have been happening over the past 12 months. Simply put, this is the second tournament under what I call “new CCP”, with last year’s being done only just under the new regime, and this year having had it’s entire inception being under CCP Seagull’s beloved regime. One only has to look at reddit to affirm how hard CCP has been knocking it out of the park under Seagull and since they released their new 6 week schedule. We’ve had features and fixes that have been promised for YEARS, without focus suddenly shifting dev attention to an auxiliary feature that gets half done and left in limbo because management thought it was a good idea at the time (yes, i’m referring to walking in stations). Ship rebalancing and tiericide is in full swing, a complete remodelling of sovereign nullsec is well underway and CCP are communicating and taking on feedback from the community for all areas of space at an unprecedented level. Not only is the CSM in the best place it’s ever been, CCP are not being limited to just our electees but reaching out to the specialists to consult on design changes as well as the avalanche of dev blogs. Okay, how does this impact the Alliance tournament you might ask? Well, let’s look at ATXII and work our way forward.
Firstly, the format for ATXII was a great improvement, one I hope we can continue to see staying in the same direction. A 64-man elimination bracket allowed a huge amount of Alliances to participate, and get two shots at giving a good performance in case they ran into a big player like PL or HYDRA in the first rounds. Also, prizes went out to EVERY. DAMN. TEAM. This is amazing not only because it costs a hell of a lot to enter, without sponsorships paying for all the ships and modules and the entrance fees itself even before your first game it rewards every single game of every single match. In ATXII the tournament was given an extra weekend to get through the sheer number of games that had to be played with greatly reduced the fatigue of everyone involved, especially those teams who had to fight tooth and nail through the losers bracket. We saw teams like Tuskers and Nulli come through as underdogs, with so many teams both new and old having interesting storylines.
Secondly, and I know this is probably a controversial opinion, I think last year put on the best show. A lot of people complained that in terms of raw “production quality” it may or may not have been an improvement of the year before, but I feel like this year CCP far more willingly embraced what the tournament is; a passion project run by people who love the damn thing, working on nowhere near the budget of a GSL or International or whatever LoL players have. Little jokes like Gargant’s ever-increasing mug size or me downing a glass of water after Falcon awkwardly and painfully slowly fills it, and the incredible player ads (even with CCP submitting their own) allows for the production to be well-run and professional, but still with a lot of tongue in cheek humour that feels more intimate and relatable. It’s its own thing that we all love, and I am of the opinion that it’s better for not trying to take itself too seriously. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see the AT grow, but for now this style is far more appealing to me. As a sidenote, there have been little improvements to the UI showing things like scrams and other such module effects, and the null-sec.com replay tool which shows you a manipulatable model of each match is several kinds of banana pancakes awesome.
Thirdly, and it’s super hard not to sound like a narcissistic asshole here, I agree with the sentiment that this year’s commentators and CCP cast were overall the best that has been put on. I too miss the wonderful specimen of humanity that is Shadoo (the poster i made of him still hangs in my flat (and sometimes other places too)), but still, now with seeing Bob Shaftoes (an experienced AT competitor and commentator extraordinaire) and Laz (CFC FC superstar) cast World’s Collide and all the other media talent we have in the community I think we have grown a better pool of commentators than we’ve ever had before. I was so intimidated by the opportunity to work with the likes of Elise motherfucking Randolph and the in equal parts infinitely passionate and mind-numbingly knowledgeable CCP Fozzie that I spent two months writing a 32 page annotated document (the picture is early in it’s production, every inch of both sides is now crammed with notes from the tournament as it progressed) about every team and their history and the tournament meta that I came out half-decent purely through working at it.
ATXII’s crew was a little new with the staff reshuffling that happened, but from seeing it first hand I wholeheartedly believe that no-one loves the AT as much as the CCP employees who come in on weekends and evenings to run it in addition to their normal duties. I had the opportunity to sit with CCP Seagull and chat to her when it was my turn to be off camera on the final weekend. We talked while watching the stream for at least a good half hour, and within 10 minutes I was already bowled over by her love of EVE, it’s players and her amazing attitude to the game and how it should be improved. I noted that working with everyone there felt a lot like being part of an in game corp of ridiculously enthusiastic and skilled individuals and she wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment. I challenge anyone who cares about EVE to sit in a room with her for more than five minutes and not fall head over heels for her.
Speaking of Worlds Collide, the ruleset shows to me that CCP knows what needs to be improved at a ship level to make the games more exciting. Nerfing perma-tanking setups by banning bastioned marauders and ET-fed logistic “tinkers” then forcing T1 drones to take away their natural advantage in an arena setting were all amazing moves and i really hope that continues to the yet unreleased ruleset for ATXIII. Whether forcing T1 drones completely for AT and not just doing something like banning augmented drones and Geckos is too much of a move I’m not sure, but it’s definitely focus and thinking in a good direction. Worlds Collide itself was an amazing spectacle at Fanfest and I was grief-stricken when I heard that plans for it as I knew I could not attend Fanfest to watch or take up the offer to cast it.
Finally, the introduction of the T3 destroyers, all of which are scheduled to be out by ATXIII, add the potential for whole new flavours of comps and really mix up what is good and isn’t. Now we have a whole new class for comps both to use but also need to be prepared to face. This year we’ve seen further great balance changes to both ships and modules from CCPs Fozzie and Rise which have only improved the relevance of each ship class and philosophies behind ship comps.
As you can probably tell, i’m already most of the way to nerdgasming over ATXIII, and it is my fervent hope is that now you’ve read why, you’re a nursing a semi yourself and want to convince your alliance leaders to take part and to watch this summer’s spectacle.
PS: A big thanks to Sturm from the Camel WC tourney team for looking over this article and offering his thoughts while I was writing it.
Tags: apothne, ATXIII
Apothne is a proud member of Sniggerdly and an experienced roaming FC. He is a Guest FC and Lecturer for EVE University and anyone who invites him to ramble on their comms for a few hours. He is currently one of the most active and experienced player commentators for EVE Tournaments, including hosting and casting AT XII-XV and all #EVE_NT leagues, as well as the Amarr Championships on stage at Fanfest 2016.