I have several AT11 wrap-up posts that I want to write (matter of fact, there will be two today), but I want to start with an easy one: what I thought of the commentators.
Let's start with overall. Overall, I thought this was the best team of commentators CCP has ever put up for one of these. Nobody was particularly obnoxious, embarrassing, or unwatchable. Everyone involved put on a great show, did their homework, and worked well together as a group. Looking at the team as an overall group, the only glaring omission was a lack of diversity. Every previous year that I've watched has at least one female even if she was in an "interviewer" role. This year there were no ladies and no people of color present. So that's something for CCP to work on for next year.
I've already noted that CCP was trying to make the commentary team look a little more formal with button-down shirts and blazers. Call me undecided on this change. CCP is kind of informal anyway and the Alliance Tournament certainly is (except traditionally on final's weekend) so I'm not sure if this succeeded or not. We'll see if this continues into the NEO later this year.
Individually (CCP employees in experience order, players in alphabetical order)...
CCP Soundwave. Panel: 10/10.
He continues to be the gold standard for keeping panel discussions light, fun, and interesting. Amusingly, he looked kinda scruffy this year compared to the rest of the panel. That would have fit in fine with previous years but in a year when CCP was trying to formal up the gig a little bit he looked a tiny bit out of place sometimes. But he paired up well with everyone involved, kept discussion moving, kept things on track and on schedule. He's going to be sorely missed and will be hard to replace. That kind of job is a lot harder than he makes it look. You need an affable but strong and unifying presence on the right side of the screen and I personally can only think of one other CCP employee who could maybe pull it off next year, CCP Guard.(1)
CCP Fozzie. Panel: 9/10. Match: 9.5/10.
He was the strongest overall member of the commentary team which makes perfect sense given all the experience he has at it. He's slightly stronger in the commentary booth where he can wield his encyclopedic knowledge of the game and his ability to explain complex concepts in simple terms to even the newest EVE player. In the panel discussions, he had a tendency to get a little overwhelmed sometimes by the others which was a shame because there were lots of times I wanted to get his take on some subject and he was drowned out by the others. Fozzie's greatest strength is that he could pair up with just about anyone in the booth and make it work... with one rather glaring exception (which I'll get to).
CCP Dolan. Panel: 8.5/10. Match: 7.5/10.
As I keep saying, Dolan continues to improve every time he appears. This time, he was particularly strong in the panel format where he has a nice mix of humor and knowledge. He rigorously did his homework before each day's matches and has combined this with a reasonably large and growing stock of experience on EVE ships and tactics. He's still a little weak in hands-on tournament experience and this prevents him from being a true expert. I recommend he sneak onto someone's SCL team to pick up more tournament flying experience. I took off one point from his match score for his continued inability to contain and channel his emotions during a close match. This is definitely something he needs to work on before his next tournament.
CCP Rise. Panel: 6.5/10. Match 8.5/10.
Rise's strength is definitely in the booth where his piloting knowledge is self-evident. Everywhere else? Someone give this poor man a cookie or a teddy bear or something! He just looked so gosh-darned depressed and distracted through a lot of the proceedings on the panel. Maybe some of this was nerves? While "Kil2" has been a tourney commentator before and has done a fine job, this was the first year for "Rise." But a lot of it was probably just the grind of match after match after match. By the last day, Soundwave looked a little tired and so did Rise. I know Rise can do better than this and he perked up whenever he was in the booth commenting on something specific.
Apathetic Brent. Panel: 7/10. Match 8.5/10.
Like Rise, Brent's strength was definitely in the booth where his experience in tournament piloting was definitely shown off to good effect. He noted important things happening on the field right away and did a great job first of making players aware of them and then making it clear why those things were important. He was in his element, comfortable, and enthusiastic without being over-excited the way Dolan and Shadoo sometimes were. But on the panel, he sometimes looked a little bit uncomfortable. A lot of this was clearly nervousness but some of it was just him trying too hard to come off as likeable and engaging. Best advice for Brent: relax and let it come naturally. Overall, he did a good job.
Bacchanalian. Panel: 8/10. Match 9.5/10.
He's a natural at this! A lot of this was experience commentating on SCL matches over the last year, but Bacch did a fantastic job both in the panel and in the booth, particularly the latter where he was (IMO) the best match commentator of AT11. But he was also quite good on the panel, smooth, professional, knowledgeable, and still having some fun. He was clearly nervous the first day (day three of the tourney) but by day four he had settled into a groove and he only got stronger as AT11 went on. After Fozzie, he was the second-best overall commentator of AT11. He should be an easy pick for player commentator for next year if he wants to return.
Shadoo. Panel: 9/10. Match 6/10.
Shadoo describes himself as more of a color commentator rather than an expert, which I don't think is quite fair. He's really really good in the panel discussions where he has a broad knowledge of EVE's alliances, overall tactics, and background information. And when he gets animated in a panel discussion, he's a hoot to watch and listen to. Those famous eyebrows of his practically become a second commentator in their own right. In the booth, though, he's not nearly as good. Worst booth pairing of AT11? Shadoo and Fozzie. Fozzie wouldn't interrupt a monologuing psychotic and Shadoo would interrupt his own priest. So in combination they were almost painful to watch.(2) Still, Shadoo wasn't bad, just a little obvious and repetitive sometimes (I'm not sure I can handle hearing that someone is losing huuuuge chunks of armor again for a while...).
So all in all, a really great commentary team! Unlike previous tournaments, there was nobody bad and everyone had strong moments. The commentary team next year has some big big shoes to fill. Excellent work, everyone!
(1) CCP Dolan isn't strong enough, CCP Falcon isn't affable enough, CCP Fozzie is too polite.
(2) Knowing the outcome in advance, re-watch the final PL/Hydra match if you don't believe me.