A couple more posts in my AT series to go. Since I've never seen this written about, I thought it might be interesting for those of you who have never been in an AT match to know some of what it's like. All times are relative to the actual match broadcast (and scheduled) time. So T-5 minutes is five minutes prior to the broadcast time.
T-4 days (if you're lucky). You learn when your next AT match is going to be. It might or might not be in a TZ that's convenient to you, so if you're smart, you'll start planning your sleep schedule well in advance. This time is full of practicing comps, running intel on your opponents to find out what types of ships their key pilots can fly, and consulting the crystal ball to determine what comp they might bring against you. Trade cell phone numbers with your other team-mates, if you haven't already.
T-2 days. The real worrying begins. By this time, you've got a pretty good idea of whether you're going to be on your alliance's team for the match that weekend or not. Plan out your jump clone timer so you'll be in at AT-legal clone (no pirate implants or the like). Start worrying about playing EVE in front of 10,000 hard-core EVE fans who will be watching to see if you make mistakes. Have a sleepless night or three dominated by EVE-related nightmares. Practicing, practicing, and yet more practicing. Around this time, your team captain will make the final decision about which comp you've been practicing you'll actually be using.
T-24 hours. Confirm you'll be in the proper clone come match time. Final practices. By this time, you'll probably have a pretty good idea of what ship you're going to be flying. Try to calm down team-mates (and yourself). Final second-guessing of this mod over that mod, this warp-in distance over that warp-in distance. Most likely around this time, you'll forget to do something important because all of your brain's CPU cycles are taken up with AT business.
T-12 hours (if you're lucky). Your team's logistics guy is moving ships, fittings, implants, and ammo around. Hopefully he's done a good bit of this already because some ship types, implants, and the like have been completely bought out for days, weeks, or months. For everyone else, try to sleep the night before the match without having a recurring dream about your guns burning out after only one overheat cycle.
T-4 hours (if you're lucky). Wake up before your match time. Realize that pretty soon, a lot of people are going to get first-hand knowledge of how bad you are at this game. Contemplate faking a family emergency of some sort to get out of it. Realize that you can't let your team-mates down. Get on alliance Teamspeak, Mumble, or the like and exchange bleary good-mornings with them. If you're smart, get something to eat at this time. Get pilot to the proper station where your team will be forming up and get docked up.
T-3 hours. Realize some critical member of your team can't wake up from recurring nightmare where the match starts and he can't move his ship. Use previously-traded cell phone number to wake him up. Second-guess drone layout, use (or not) of ECCM, and warp-in distances (again) with team-mates. Try to talk about something non-EVE related. If you're lucky, watch other AT matches to take your mind off your own. Make an ill-considered bet on one of these matches. Lose ISK. Hope that this isn't an omen.
T-2 hours. If you're dumb, get something to eat at this time. The team captain will start gathering the people he wants into a separate channel on Teamspeak or Mumble at about this time. Ships will begin to be distributed. Hopefully, they're fitted correctly and have the necessary implants in the cargo hold. Final discussion of general match tactics, plus a bit more second-guessing about this or that fit. The shakes start.
T-1 hour. Re-gather with the rest of the alliance. Good-natured ribbing and good lucks exchanged. Any alliance rituals around securing good luck from the gods performed. Final chance to go AFK for a few minutes if you need to (if you're smart, you will). If you're smart, let anyone around you IRL know that you're not to be disturbed for the next two hours. Move to either a hidden TS channel, or someone else's TS entirely, to avoid DDoS attacks. The shakes ease up.
T-45 minutes. Final check of ship, fitting, ammo, drones, implants, and the like. The shakes restart. Fleet formed and invitations sent. Roles within the fleet are assigned, both in-game (FC, WC, etc.) and out-of-game (lead FC, frigate FC, e-war FC). Roles of each ship covered one more time. In Rote Kapelle, much discussion about the ship naming convention for the match and who gets this or that ship name.
T-30 minutes. Your team captain is contacted by a CCP GM. Good-natured jokes and/or pornography exchanged. One GM asked us if we were ready to drink the blood of our enemies. If someone asks if you're a god, etc. etc. GM runs some sort of automated script that checks over each ship and clone for anything illegal. He informs your team captain of anything that must be removed or changed. Your team captain informs the GM of which of four beacons you'd like to be teleported to. The shakes ease up.
T-20 minutes. Close down any superfluous programs running on your computer. Hope that computer and internet connection will behave during the match. The match right before yours starts. Someone on your team will have a laptop or something open and will relay what's going on in that match. Someone on your team will make everyone nervous by insisting again that everyone look over fittings, ammo, or something. Some spy will show up in Local hoping that one of your team ships will undock. Uncontrollable urge to go AFK for a minute comes up and is suppressed (or not).
T-12 minutes. You and your team-mates are teleported instantly from being docked in station to a line of ships in space somewhere in Jove space. It's actually kinda strange-feeling. You're in space, and you didn't do it. Nearby will be a GM frigate, weirdly only sometimes that of the GM your team captain has been talking to. In Local will be your team-mates, a handful of CCP personnel, and a number of "EVETV Cameras". On your Overview will be your team-mates, the GM ship, six "Battle Arenas" and eight "Team" beacons, four for each team. The closest Battle Arena is 18.4 AU away. Closest enemy team becaon is 23.1 AU away, so there's no point even trying to scan for them. First chance for a good screen-shot.
T-10 minutes. CCP Sreegs starts talking in Local, warning you against smack-talk. He says he'll tell you which of the six "Battle Arena" beacons to warp to, and that you'll have 60 seconds to do it or face penalties. Final instructions from your team captain. Count up the number of neutrals in Local to see how many ships they brought. Make educated guesses about who their FC is and who might be flying their Logistics ship.
T-8 minutes. CCP Sreegs gives you the warp-to. Fleet gets into warp at their proper ranges. Someone (unnecessarily, as it turns out) warns you not to move when you land. First scans of enemy team give you an indication of what you're going to be fighting. Shuffling of fleet bonuses if needed happens. You land and get your first look at your opponents, ships, distances, and angle. Final instructions from your FC about specific tactics and primary target. Final instructions from the e-war and frigate FCs about tactics. Used to be that you could try to move during this period and you'd get half of shield, armor, and structure taken away as a penalty. Today, rumor has it you can't move even if you want to (I didn't try). Second chance for a good screen-shot.
T-7 minutes. Spend a few minutes listening to your team captain, frigate FC and e-war FC giving final instructions. Stare at the opposing team. Hope for them to die (in game, of course). Brief discussion of where you should have warped in. Try not to think about how many people are watching the match.
T-5 minutes. Match begins. Yes, it really does begin about five minutes before you see it broadcast most of the time. By the time you're watching the match, the match is pretty much over a lot of times. You implement your plan. The enemy implements theirs. You see who comes out on top. If there's something goofy about your ship (you're carrying ten drones in your Ishkur when you only have enough skill to carry nine, for instance), this is the first moment you find out about it. The Ishkur pilot in question (not in Rote) found himself paralyzed, unable to move, and died almost instantly. Forget that people are watching the match (really!).
T-2 minutes. PvP like any other PvP, surprisingly enough. Once you're in it, you don't think about the fact that it's an AT match. If you come up for air at all, you're surprised at how fast the time goes. The minutes flash by very quickly unless you're in an ASB reload cycle, in which case one minute is a life-age of the Earth.
T+0 minutes. By this time, the match is probably decided, if not over. You're too busy to take screen shots, or you're in a pod. If you're in a pod, you're paralyzed, but you can't be killed or smart-bombed. The latter is actually pretty cool. If you're alive, hopefully you're killing stuff. If you're dead, hopefully you're passing useful information to the people who aren't. For instance, when I died in our second match, I spent the rest of the match calling out which enemy ship hardeners were still working for our Curse pilot. Might be a good chance for a screen-shot, depending.
T+2 minutes or so. Match ends. If your ship is alive, no matter how much actual time is left on the clock, you only have about 30 seconds to loot wrecks. Used to be you got the full ten minute match length to do this. Today, you don't. So if you see a team pull damage from their vanquished foes late in the match, this is why they did it. Exchange "gfs" with your oppoents (or not). You can restart your browser and watch most of your own match if you want. Last chance for a good screen-shot. Meanwhile, 30 seconds after the last ship on one side or the other dies or 30 seconds after the ten minute match length ends, your ship or pod are teleported instantly back to your previous location.
T+3 minutes. Get back on main alliance TS or Mumble. Find yourself warned sternly not to spoil the ending to the match, heh. Try not to. The shakes return. Listen to your alliance-mates cheer you on (or not).
T+8 minutes or so. Accept the congratulations or condolences of your alliance-mates, as appropriate. Post-fight briefing. Start again at the top for your next match (if you're lucky).
And that's it. I think I covered it all. ;-) Final post in this series: what training for the Alliance Tournament is like. I'll probably go ahead and wait until tomorrow to publish it.