Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tournamess

The second part of being a bitter-vet is being able to recognize in advance when CCP creates a perfectly avoidable mess, then steps in it.

I've already mentioned that I'm not going to be part of the New Eden Open Tournament, nor is the bulk of Rote Kapelle.  And I and they are fiends for tournament play.  Many of us are also big fans of eSports.  Yet there will only be three Rote pilots in the tournament that I know of.  How did this happen?

The simplest reason is -- as I've already mentioned -- that CCP Bro made the decision to schedule the second week of the tournament to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.  That instantly disenfranchised what was likely a good quarter of the potential participants, and perhaps as many as one third.  It's unlikely that I'm going to be able to watch the proceedings that weekend, and I'm definitely not alone there.  Hell, I'm quite sure many of the teams have members that are available for the first weekend and for finals weekend, but not the weekend between.  It is the biggest traveling holiday in the U.S.  Scheduling the tournament to straddle it is the near-literal equivalent of stepping on a rake head and being whapped by the handle.

And it was a mistake that was totally avoidable.  Taking three minutes to run it by the CSM would have avoided the problem.  But once it was scheduled, there was no going back.  Commitments were made to own3d.tv and others.  So some of the most important tournament matches are going to be fought right around Sunday noon in the U.S. on the second busiest travel day of the year in my country.

But the mistakes did not stop there.  By setting the entry fee and the expectations so high, I think the tournament organizers did a fantastic job of driving off a lot of players that otherwise might have found a way to participate.  Yes, the draft mechanics were in place for tournament team sponsors, but not enough ground work was done to see if there would be sponsors or to line those sponsors up in advance and get them excited about the opportunity.  And with PLEX prices at the time quickly driving north of 600 million ISK, that set the minimum entry fee north of 12 billion ISK.  With only half the slots of the Alliance Tournament available for this one, the expectation was set that the true entry fee would probably be closer to 24 billion ISK.

And indeed, once the first team started bidding on the first slot, that's almost exactly what they ended up paying for their slot.

But the high expectations set meant that by the time the last bidders entered, even with CCP quickly changing course and cutting the minimum entry fee in half, that's exactly what they got: three teams that entered with the minimum commitment.  And five slots that weren't filled at all.  Of the 32 tournament slots, only 27 are filled.  That necessitated yet more changes to the rules to give five teams "byes" for round one.

CCP has been forced into a situation where they have had to change course and change course and change course to alter the rules to try to fit these newly-lowered expectations.  Meanwhile, promotion for the event has dropped to near-nil even though the first match is only nine days away.  In a game that's practically about posting on forums as much as it is about spaceships, the comments thread for the tournament dev-blog is three pages long, about a third of those posts written by devs.  There's such a low level of expectations now that CCP demanded that one of the teams -- who initially submitted their team name as "Retard Strong" -- change their team name to something else.  Guess what they renamed their team.

Yep, you got it: Something Else.  That's a team name to be proud of for future tourneys, all right.

It all could have been avoided.  It all should have been avoided.

Forget about being a bitter-vet.  This just makes me sad.  What makes me sadder still is that with CCP's past track record for events that don't meet their expectations, management is likely to view the event as a failure.  They're even more likely to come to exactly the wrong conclusions about why the tournament failed.  They're also going to look at all of the PLEXes that were refunded back to high-paying tournament teams and regard the event as a financial failure, too.  Management isn't likely to look at the lack of planning, the lack of lining up sponsors in advance, the enormously high expectations, the scheduling fiasco, the lack of player involvement in commentary or promotion...  Hell, particularly when the viewership totals are counted up for the second weekend, they may even come to the conclusion that EVE players don't want or even care about eSports!  That's likely not the case... but they'll sure have to dig to find evidence to the contrary!

But that isn't even the biggest issue facing EVE and eSports.

When you look at the games that are most popular on the competitive circuit, they all have one thing in common: as much as possible, they take internal game mechanics out of the loop.  And if there's a game where the mechanics are built from the ground up into the loop, it's EVE Online.

Take Starcraft, probably the single most popular competitive game in the world.  The thing that Starcraft really has going for it in this context is that the game is the same for everyone, all over the world.  You can fire up a Starcraft match and it's going to look almost exactly like what you see in competitive play.  Game mechanics are out of the loop.  In EVE, the competitors we're going to see in nine days have different wallet balances and different skill point totals.  They will be doing different damage from the very same gun fired by the from the very same ship due to a million skill points here, a million there, ten million ISK for gold ammo here, ten million there.  A brand new League of Legends player with a gift for the game can be competitive on that circuit in less than a year, and he can practice by starting up a League of Legends match right from day one.

Try doing either of those things for EVE Online competitive play.

A little over a year ago, Kirith Kodachi at Inner Sanctum said "EVE needs arena PvP.  Full stop."  I not only agreed with him, I laid out what arena play in EVE Online should look like and how it should work.  And in my opinion, until EVE Online has this ability to take game mechanics out of the loop, EVE Online eSports will never be successful.  Let me say that again, because it's important:

Until EVE Online has this ability to take game mechanics out of the loop, EVE Online eSports will never be successful.

CCP has a twenty times better chance to get eSports working with DUST 514 for this reason.  At least there, some of the game mechanics -- still not all of them, or even most, but some -- are taken out of the loop.

For this to be successful, CCP is going to have to take out some of these variables.  For EVE, CCP could simulate this a bit by giving tournament teams a pre-built set of characters with a constant number of skill points to use, and limit their ISK expenditures for the tournament to a fixed amount.  That would level the playing field a lot.  Without it, you're going to see the biggest, richest teams with the oldest players absolutely massacre the competition starting in nine days time.

Remember: it all could have been avoided.  Let's hope that CCP learns the right lessons from it.

But being a bitter-vet means I'm predisposed not to believe that.  ;-)

26 comments:

  1. Seriously, if you hadn't posted this I would have probably not have known the tournament was still going till the first weekend.

    Good grief CCP mishandled this, I'm not even close to bittervet status but between last summer and now I'm seeing why they made the term.

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  2. "CCP has a twenty times better chance to get eSports working with DUST 514"
    You haven't seen the extreme level of mistakes CCP made with the Dust514 testers tournament. I probably can't explain them all on here, due to it all being under NDA.
    But there was a LOT of constant swearing at everything that was going wrong with the organisation of it, and things changing last minute.

    We were thinking the opposite "how could they get the testers tournament so wrong, when they have so much experience organising the Alliance Tournament in EVE?"

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  3. Insane.

    Any other tournament out there makes all of the players use the same field and the same equipment.

    All of them. Except apparently EvE online.

    Your notion of a set number of skill points, and a set budget, with a set menu to buy stuff and ships from, would make this a skill based contest, and not a real money or total time playing contest.

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  4. The thing is, EVE is stupid for an esport game. I've watched 2 EVE tournaments. Briefly. Even as an EVE player it was BORING AS SHIT to watch. It certainly won't get new people involved. I would venture it would be quite the opposite. All the way around, this is failure of biblical proportions. THAT is a CCP speciality. Woof!

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    Replies
    1. Yet, despite your personal boredom level, the number of subscriptions increases around the time of the Alliance Tournament.

      Delete
    2. Yup. That's why ther are so many more people logging in daily. Never before has EVE seen such numbers! Nope.

      Delete
  5. Are you sure that EVE players want or even care about E-sports? I mean they play a game that ENCOURAGES "unfair play". If you show up in 1v1 combat alone, you are more or less an idiot. An off-grid booster or a cloak-sebo tornado at 100 are a bare minimum of participating 1v1.

    Two small alliances bring their best play to figure out the future of a station? Cyno up, here comes 150 Foxcats and 80 supercapitals.

    You managed to get enough people to defend your land? Nevermind, a spy just dropped sov.

    This is EVE Online. If CCP would broadcast fair fights, the people would watch it expecting the cloaky nados to show up and blap one (or both) teams. But after a while they'd recognize that they never come and from there the match is quite boring.

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  6. Arena pvp in Eve? Really? If we are going to go that route might as well add instanced pve sites and achievements too.

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    1. RvB. It's as close as you get to Arena PVP in Eve, it's also very popular. If you haven't done it, do so. You might walk away with a very different idea of if full fledged Arena PVP could work in Eve, and if it's a good thing. I'm personally for it.

      But, that doesn't mean I think Eve will work as an E-sport. The meta game is just too deep. Part of what I think you missed Jester is that all the other E-Sport games have something else in common. They are easy-ish to understand.

      In Starcraft everyone knows what the Zerg are and what they do well. The trick is putting it all together. In LoL, if someone picks Rammus, you know he's a tank.

      In Eve any ship could be anything.

      Another part of the big e-sport games that doesn't translate over. In Starcraft or LoL, I get to see the game develop. I get to see them deploying their strategy and build so I can follow along. What structures or units they build.. what items they buy. I get to follow the thought processes of both teams as the match progresses.

      In EvE, all of that is done before the game even begins.

      In WoT I at least get to see how the two sides deploy their units as the match goes on. How they use the terrain to their advantage.

      But in Eve, there is no terrain, only distances and speeds.

      I don't think Eve will ever work as an e-sport because it's just too complicated to follow.

      Delete
  7. Woow I just read the text about Consoles in the bar in Jita...
    Shivers ....

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  8. Jester, a bit ago the Devs behind this tourney came on EVE radio and were fielding questions. I asked why they chose Thanksgiving weekend and the answer I got set my mind in a different direction. Their response was: Well we really wanted to have a Tourney this year but we knew we couldn't have one after the expansion. This response makes me think they are overly excited about this whole thing. In fact if you look at if from this perspective you realize a lot of their mistakes come from their over eagerness to have this Tourney and not thinking things through completely. If they had just pushed the competition to next year, they would have had the time to work out many of their problems.

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    1. This makes total sense, but it doesn't mean it's the right choice.

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    2. The problem is that the devs behind the tourney, esp. Dolan and Bro, are idiots, with no experience in how to run such an event.

      "Not thinking things through completely"? How about changing that to "not thinking at all".

      Essentially, they just tried to copy the AT format. And, every decision that they made which didn't exactly mimic AT has been proven to be a bad decision.

      Delete
    3. Jester, I agree. It wasn't the right choice. But you and I can look at the these devs from a position of wisdom. I can't say 10 or 15 years ago I wouldn't make the same mistakes they would. And to the other commenter, they are thinking. They could have made this tourney great, but no one was holding onto the reins going: 'Hold up boys, lets slow down and think about this a bit' Enthusiasm is a great thing. It just needs to be directed better than it is now. That's a leadership problem, not a specific dev problem.

      Delete
  9. Take game mechanics out of the loop? Perhaps you want EVE to turn into Formula 1 racing or chess instead of gladiatorial combat?

    You've already identified the single biggest failing of the Open Tournament: it's being held at a time when a third of the potential audience is going to be missing. A close second is the dearth of advertising and marketing. If CCP can fix those two problems for the next session, we'll see what the next biggest bug is that needs to be ironed out of the system.

    EVE Tournaments should be celebrated for the way they are different to every other game's competitions. They just need to be given the opportunity to actually work, without being sabotaged by their own organisers.

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  10. I don’t think any amount of changes will ever make watching EVE PvP interesting to non-EVE players. Hell, how many non-SC players watch SC tourneys? The biggest eSport event this year, the LoL final, was unwatchable if you did not play LoL. It’s a non-issue IMO.

    And part of what makes the alliance tourney interesting is the spending. PL losing their flagship was a highlight because it was worth so much. Those rare ships on the field? Stuff to get excited about. Remove that, and do you really gain anything? Clearly PL did not gain an instant-win button by bringing such ships and pilots, so again, not really seeing an issue.

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    1. People watch football without playing it because it is presented well, and I think the same applies to video games. I do watch Starcraft 2 content and I haven't played Starcraft 2 in over a year, and I actively play LoL and don't watch League tournaments. It's all about presentation. Starcraft has both player and caster personalities that are interesting to watch and follow, and League has a bunch of rude nerds for players and people that don't understand the game enough for casters.

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  11. I've always felt it was ridiculous to have a space combat game in which you spend more time trying to fight than actually fighting. CCP definitely needs more "log in and shoot each other" features, whether it's arena pvp or some other change. The random "roam" is the single worst part of playing eve.

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  12. As one who has never 'esported' and one who is hopeful for spacebarbie play I see an instant connection. Tournaments might be best served as a simulation one must climb into in-station after braving space to fly to the hosting station (much like how the Superbowl is played in a hosting stadium sometimes far removed from either team's home stadium). This will allow for the leveling of the playing field in the actual tournament (by virtue of the 'simulation' being able to be controlled - skillpoints/ships/fittings) and yet still allow for the gankiness and trademark "eve-nastiness" to occur in space enroute to the tournament. Consider the tiering of the rounds- frigates all the way up to battleships with a final round of mixed class to show teamwork. The best part of this would be the controlled aspect... oh and the gambling occurring in the canteenas in stations across New Eden.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this
    Mikaila Penshar

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  13. eSports and Eve meta-gaming are incompatible.

    When the organizers of the event also happen to have friends participating in the event, you have to seriously question whether or not the event is actually being run fairly and impartially.

    For example, issues were raised regarding the whole auction business. CCP Bro told everyone on the forums that there were more than 60 teams signed up, yet only 27 teams bid. As Poetic pointed out on his blog, no one would have bid 40 PLEX, if they knew that less than 32 teams were going to participate in the auction. Some teams held out for minimum bids, but the question arises: How did they know to do that? It is probable that some people had inside information that was not being made publicly available.

    Someone else has pointed out that a couple of the teams, who just happened to know to low bid in the auction, are also among the teams which are getting a bye in the first round of the tourney. Is this evidence of collaboration? Of course not... but it does look very suspicious.

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    1. I agree. Cheating especially is a part of EVE which doesn't work well in e-sports.

      Would I be surprised to hear that MBIII is using his dev status to spy on teams for his pals in the tournament? Nope. Is there any specific tournament rule against it? Nope, since the EULA doesn't really apply here.

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    2. Reply to Anonymous 4:19PM - Our team bailed out when we were told that Michael BoltonIII and CCP Dolan were the same person.

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  14. The real question about Eve tournaments is: do they bring in new players who then keep playing? Since CCP's management apparently wasn't too keen on this new tournament, we can guess the answer might be no.
    If CCP implemented those PvP arena (as explained in your post), maybe it would be different. But then it comes down to how much resources are needed versus the benefit it might bring, and then compare this to other Eve projects. I think this might be worth its own post ;)

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  15. Honestly for a tournament like this, it should be done on SiSi. Each team should get their character's SP reset, given 30mil SP (or however many, not important) to freely distribute and a couple billion to split as a team on a market with fixed price items.

    If there was a way to do it on TQ that would be even better, but for a tournament with real money on the line (not spaceship prizes), it should be equal on all levels.

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  16. This tournament was biased from day one. Dolan and Bro only wanted their alliance buddies to be able to play for the prizes. The PLEX entry fee was deliberately implemented to exclude a large part of the player base, incl. many of the best small gang players in the game. Given the rules, there is also no way that a group of new players could even hope to participate.

    I think this whole thing would have worked out better if (a) there was no ridiculous PLEX entry fee, and (b) ships are restricted to T1 ships and T1 modules only. RvB runs these sorts of matches frequently, and they are always popular.

    If this is supposed to be an "Open" tournament, then, dammit, make it open to everyone.

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  17. Arena servers, similar to sisi can be a perfect environment for arena style PvP. Though why bother with something like that? I would far more prefer an arena for fighter pilots as ingame simulater with betting and league features instead of expanding the real eve into sport. Eve is real, if we want sport events in eve we can create whatever sport we like for it.

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