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...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The dog that didn't bark

I apologize in advance.  This post is written slightly off-the-cuff.  I've only had about a half day to think about it, but the topic is important enough that I want to get some initial thoughts out as quickly as possible.  I might have more to say on this topic in the next few days that might amend, change, or destroy some of what follows.  You have been warned.

In the Sherlock Holmes story "Silver Blaze", a major plot point revolves around a dog that doesn't bark when expected.  Ever since then, thinking about the dogs that don't bark has been an important element of being able to think outside the box.  If something is missing from a business plan or proposal, why is it missing?  As Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management puts it (it's #4), "Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there, but few can see what isn't there."

Keep that in mind as you think about the EVE Online cash PvP tournament announced this week.  Is this Alliance Tournament XI?  No... because we're told that CCP wants alliances to be less of a factor.  CCP wants players to be able to participate regardless of alliance affiliation.  What will the tournament be called, then?  We don't know that, either.  The title of the dev-blog is "New Eden Open $10,000 Tournament", but that's kind of a mouthful.  But we're given some hints.

CCP Navigator, in the EVE Online forum thread about this tournament, provides a little gold mine of such hints and as such I quote the relevant forum post in full:
Steve is right to a large extent but I really want to spend some time talking about this as EVE tournaments and eSports are something that CCP Bro and I talk about at length.

In an ideal world we want to expand eSports to become a really big deal in EVE Online and allow players access to a host of tournaments of different sizes with a range of prizes. This is a long term goal and, if I am being completely honest, we have a lot of decision making and planning to do to make this a reality. We want to see tournaments involving everyone from small groups to huge alliances but this is will be much further down the road.

20 PLEX is not a bid every player can make and, as Steve pointed out, there needs to be a barrier of entry otherwise we would end up with a random drawing of hundreds of teams. We are aware that a tournament of this size will attract some of the best pilots from multiple corporations and alliances and we would expect that these teams will be sponsored by their respective corps and alliances.

This tournament is about celebrating individuals who can form a team, not necessarily from the same corps and alliances, and guide those teams to greatness.
There's a lot there, but before I talk about it, let's add one more hint.  Back in May when the relationship between own3d.tv and CCP was announced, CCP said that they were going to shift the entrance fee to PLEXes -- and in doing so, effectively substantially raise the entry fee -- because they wanted to use the RL money those PLEXes represented to provide a much higher-quality tournament experience.  Now in the end, AT10 turned out pretty well but I think we all know the most memorable thing about some of those tournament fights, and it wasn't the fights.  It was all of the problems actually broadcasting them.

This time, CCP Sreegs skips all that and flatly says:
What we do have is a cost of entry in order to ensure that those who are stating they wish to compete have enough skin in the game to take it seriously.
OK.  With all of that in mind, let's talk about what I think CCP's goals are here, and what's likely to happen that's going to effectively subvert those goals.

Electronic sports, or "eSports" are an increasingly big deal in video games these days.  Video gamers are rarely able to be rock stars or professional sports legends, so who can resist the appeal of being a rock star professional sports legend playing video games?  To use one example, League of Legends, quite literally millions of dollars are involved per year and tens of thousands of dollars are paid in prizes.  Compared to this, CCP's dunking one toe into the eSports pool is pretty small beer, and League of Legends is far from the largest eSports venue in the world.

And of course, these kinds of tournaments are great advertising for the games themselves and go a long way toward attracting new players.  When you get right down to it, for instance, LoL is a quite limited repetitive game.  If it didn't have the eSports cachet, would it have the player base that it does?  I think a reasonable argument can be made that the answer is "no".  LoL directly benefits from its eSports reputation and I'm sure that CCP would like to get in on some of that action.

CCP Bro says:
During ATX we received positive feedback and were asked multiple times, why don't you do more tournaments? We took that question to heart and are here to offer you, you guessed it, more tournaments. Any constructive criticism, pointers and observations are of course completely welcome and will help us better this service to you in the future.
And I'm all for that.  But there's a problem: so far it doesn't look like this tournament has been thought through.  At all.

EVE Online has the most competitive meta-game of any MMO on the planet, bar none.  Even in the hyper-competitive world of eSports, you usually don't hear about players going after other players in real life.  But this sort of thing is part of EVE even before real-life money was thrown into the mix.  Fortunately for this first test, the amount of RL money is extremely small.  Split 16 ways, $6000 U.S. is $375, and I can tell you from experience that the players involved will have to put in at least a hundred hours of work if not much more to claim that $375.  And that assumes that the prize money would be split evenly amongst the players.

You can quite literally make more money running a lemonade stand over the summer or working in a fast-food place than you can make from this tournament.  So every person who is focusing on the RL money involved is missing the point.  You're listening to the barking dog.  Instead, look for the dog that isn't barking.

CCP Bro, CCP Navigator, and the other organizers are looking for concrete suggestions about this tournament.  I have one: get busy writing some rules around meta-gaming this tournament.  Because you've only written four tournament rules and only one of them is looking at EVE's meta-game.  That's the dog that isn't barking.

$6000 U.S.?  That's chump change.  For an EVE player that wants to make some money on this tournament, I can imagine dozens of ways for them to meta-game this format, each one of them able to bring in dozens or even hundreds of PLEXes worth thousands of dollars for each method.  Well-known EVE PvPers will have the ability to quite literally print money in the run-up to this tournament... and then still participate in the tournament with whatever teams they like.  And right now, there's no rules against any of it.

Say you're Garmon, for instance, and you're looking to make an absolute ton of ISK over this.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself as the Captain of a neutral, noob-friendly team, charging four PLEXes per entrant, and privately signing up hundreds of entrants before walking away with all their PLEXes?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself and selling yourself as a free agent to a dozen teams, charging 20 PLEXes per team, and then not showing up for any of them?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself as a professional team coach and adviser, charging 25 PLEXes per team you're coaching, and then not coaching any of the teams?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself as a team coach for a dozen teams at 25 PLEXes per team, coaching and advising them in good faith but also sharing everyone's strategies with everyone else?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from acting as a practice partner for a couple of dozen teams?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from acting as a practice partner for a couple of dozen teams, and then taking notes and using their strategies against them with your own team come the actual tournament?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising a dream team with a half-dozen or a dozen sponsors and asking for and getting 100 PLEXes from all of them, then not acknowledging any of them?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from getting all of these sponsors and then acknowledging them in good faith?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from running all of the scams above and then running a legitimate team too?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.
As far as I can see, none of these things are against the rules.

And all of these questions are ones you can ask before you ask the sillier questions like "what's to stop someone from buying up and/or sponsoring every team so they can RMT PLEXes for $10000 U.S.?"  That dog is barking and I'm ignoring it, thanks.  I'm too busy listening to the dog that isn't barking.

On these kinds of topics, CCP Soundwave had this to say:
Sure, but we're going to be even harsher on colluding and foul play this year, so any sign that you're even remotely doing that and you're getting disqualified (and we'll keep the plexes of course)
But right now, none of these things are against the rules because there are hardly any rules.  So what's legal and what's illegal?  We don't know.

Like I said, running more frequent EVE tournaments is a great idea.  But this one hasn't been thought through very well yet.


  1. As CCP demonstrated during the Hydra/Reloaded incident, the rules don't actually matter and they will fuck over anyone they please. The decision will be final, but don't worry, they will still hold an investigation and investigate weally weally hward.

    1. The butthurt is strong with this Hydra pilot.

    2. What was done with Hydra/Reloaded was the right thing. CCP needs to fuck over people 10 times harder than that when running tournaments with RL cash prizes at stake. Seriously. I wouldn't touch this tournament with a 10 foot pole unless a lot of unambiguous rules are put forth soon. Like, by the end of next week.

    3. What was done to Hydra was a joke because even though many forms of collusion were explicitly permitted, like sparring between rivals, the worst forms of collusion would occur via methods CCP had no direct way of monitoring. Inferring collusion because CCP has crap POS permissions is ludicrous, especially when it all occurs on SiSi.

      They were mad at AT9, so like the bunch of butthurt Goons that they are, CCP Spergs & Soundwaffle leaped at the chance to revenge themselves.

  2. CCP need to get their act together if they want this to be Esports. Look at the rules in any esport game: they're extensive, long, in-depth, and well thought-out. This is because, being a competitive arena, players will do anything to get an edge. Seeing what has been done in the past in Eve really makes me think that Eve as an esport needs even MORE rules, and yet I don't see how they could possibly stop most meta-gaming.

    1. More by-the-book rules = more cheating and more meta-gaming. That's just how it works, even in RL. And, in Eve, we've got way too many space lawyers, always looking for loopholes in the EULA....

      Fewer and broader rules, always subject to final interpretation by a supreme arbitrator, whose decisions cannot be reversed, is the right (and probably only) way to deal with meta-gaming.

      Interpretation by the arbitrator allows the "spirit" of the rules to dominate, rather than the exact letter of the law.

    2. That's counter-productive. Fear of being 'out of bounds' only leads to a lack of creativity, and ends up yielding boring competitions, where everyone flies the same thing and tries the same tactic.

      Write up extensive rules, and then severely punish anyone who tries and still look for loopholes, that's the way to go (and the way esports have gone for a while now, any kind of rule-breaking ends up with disqualification and generally banning from any further competitions).

  3. The price of PLEX has been spriling with every FW Tier 5 spike.... this is liable to cause speculators& those interested in this tourney help push PLEX past the 900 milion mark in a few weeks

  4. It' so funny... I love your blog dood, and you pose some... posers, sometimes... but, it 'seems' to 'me' that a lot of the negativity (not yours specifically but in general) re CCP is based on a thier lack of a god like ability to imagine/foresee EVERY POSSBLE variable/iteration/combination/exploit/etc./etc. of all the mechanics in this massive virtual world they are working so damn hard to create, maintain & improve... for US.

    Every time anyone, you or any blogger, or forum poster or troll hammers CCP and the Devs for creating such an 'terribad broken' mechanic/game/etc., I am strongly reminded of (David Andrews enacting) Frank Borman's passionate and harshtruth speech in his address to Congress on the Apollo 1 fire, in which 3 Apollo astronauts died ON THE GROUND in a simple test...

    Clinton Anderson:
    "Colonel, what caused the fire? I'm not talking about wires and oxygen. It seems that some people think that NASA pressured North American to meet unrealistic and arbitrary deadlines and that in turn North American allowed safety to be compromised."

    Frank Borman:
    "I won't deny there's been pressure to meet deadlines, but safety has never been intentionally compromised."

    Clinton Anderson:
    "Then what caused the fire?"

    Frank Borman:
    'A failure of imagination.' We've always known there was the possibility of fire in a spacecraft. But the fear was that it would happen in space, when you're 180 miles from terra firma and the nearest fire station. That was the worry.

    No one ever imagined it could happen on the ground. If anyone had thought of it, the test would've been classified as hazardous. But it wasn't. We just didn't think of it.

    Now who's fault is that? Well, it's North American's fault. It's NASA's fault. It's the fault of every person who ever worked on Apollo. It's my fault. I didn't think the test was hazardous. No one did. I wish to God we had."


    And on-topic this is simply worth reading period...

    The Mechanics of EVE are NOT broken...
    The Tournaments are NOT poorly designed...

    NO ONE in the WORLD, no group of people, no matter how smart and savvy can imagine 'every possible consequence or exploit or confluence of code' in software as deeply complex as the EVE Online server and client applications... can you? Can any of you?

    "He who has written ONLY perfect code, he alone may cast the first stone."

    If they were able to actually imagine and test for EVERY POSSIBLE consequence... they would NEVER reach a release date for anything.

    Would you, would anyone, prefer that?

    1. If only CCP had a group of players that they could run ideas like this past to help them understand how their proposals would be manipulated by players.

    2. go run next CSM, do it better.

    3. Sometimes I think you give the CSM way too much credit. Half of them don't even care they're elected anymore. The other half are concerned about some stakeholder bulllshit.

      Mittens 2013

  5. LOL... NOW we are in full agreement!

    On THAT issue the problem is the group they do have are, by and large, leaders of or player involved in the Great Alliances… not run-of-the-mill players... I'd really like to figure out how to get a truly balanced group representing all playstyles and a true cross section of opinions in the CSM.

    And no, I am sorry I don’t have the answer unless CCP steps in and uses their database and statistics to define classes of playstyles, and then define who is in what class by their Main’s activities in game. Then use that data to define how many ‘reps’ from each playstyle would be able to own a seat on the CSM.

    Of course the shitstorm of ‘words’ and threadnaughts and such that would follow such a set of rules would probably make ‘The Summer of Rage’ seem like a peevish two year old's tantrum in comparison… So many of the really ‘vocal’ EVE players are to such a great extent, so very sophomoric and childish and selfish… dear gods it tires me so…

    But as long as the current Nullsec Alliance Dominated CSM, as a group, believe that;
    “…everyone is so filthy rich that losses really don’t matter.” (Seleene; CSM 07 Minutes; P.47; Para 8
    and that;
    “16, 16-17 (Titans) to go through an Aeon. Not a lot.” (Seleene/Elise; CSM 07 Minutes; P.85; Para 8)
    I am afraid we have a group much like those in charge of RL politics and RL International Corporations… who get millions for dollars in retirement bonuses and are, effectively, above the law.

    I live in a C3 wormhole in a small 4 man corp. I have exactly ISK 10,895,922.00 in my personal wallet ATM. I lost a Loki a few weeks back which I still don’t have the ISK to replace and I lost a Stabber and a Ruppie (granted CCP 'gift' ships) a few nights ago… Now understand I made the decision to get into those fights and don’t regret them at all… had a lot of fun… but I aint RICH by this games standards and I sure as hell aint “filthy rich” as per my CSM Chairs point of view now am I?

    Sometimes… EVE is a little too close to being just like RL… =\

  6. First look at Dota/dota 2/League/etc. eSports happen around popular games not the other way around. Starcraft was popular and THEN became a major eSport.

    And on those possibilities, most of those off under the normal SCAMMING that happens in eve, do it smart and you wouldn't have an issue.

    And there is this clause:
    " Players who are suspected of joining multiple teams to disrupt the tournament or auction process may be subject to administrative penalties including loss of access to their accounts."

  7. Jester, Shit or get of the pot. Seriously.

    You had your chance to change the outcome, but instead you chose to be a pundit. Do yourself a favor and move EVE Online to the "Departed MMOs" and move on.

    1. Would you like to provide a little justification behind this comment, or did you just want to go with "because I said so"?

  8. What's to stop you from advertising an Erebus for sale and then failing to come up with the goods once you have the ISK. Nothing.

    To be honest, most of your bullets sounds like fairly standard EVE scam fair and a lot of them can be remedied through standard EVE paranoia and a reliable escrow service (i.e. not Mittens).

    Guess Chribba might be busy.

    1. ^This right here.

      Eve has accepted scamming in tons of forms. Why is this a worry? The reason they have been "vague" on the rules may be a way to differentiate it from AT. If they were to hammer out the rules, what makes this different from another AT?

      I was actually excited about the possibility to participate in this for about 3 seconds. In actuality, this really is no different from an AT save that it's (cough) not alliance based (cough).

      I see it as CCP trying to energize a constantly fickle fanbase and generate a little extra revenue. Then wave the accomplishment to the gaming community saying "Hey, we can eSports tooooo."

      Man, I'm getting :bittervet:

  9. There's a real simple solution to all this that CCP know, but probably dread. See, the problem with Eve Online is that you're competing by proxy of your avatar. In other Esports you have a nickname, but you sign up with, and everyone know your real name. You are a real person when competing in Starcraft 2 for example (In the big prizepool LAN tournaments anyway). You're not a real person when you're playing the Alliance Tournament. Real Name signups is the only thing that will limit metagaming to an acceptable level.

    By enforcing something like this you also achieve another goal, one that is absolutely precious to such Esport "scenes". You put a name and a face to an avatar. You associate with this person, you recognize this person, you become a fan of this person and the viewer/fan become much more invested and passionate about the experience.

    I was a great fan of the GSL. When that started up again with Starcraft 2, I hardly knew any of the names there. I remembered Nada and Boxer and that was pretty much it. After a while I became a fan of Lim Jae Duk AKA Nestea, and I really enjoyed getting to know the players in the league and see them do well and make it further into the tournament. It's this thing we need to tap into with these Eve tournaments to succeed. We need to recognize the players, become fans of them and worship or hate them, like we used to do with Alliances many years ago.

  10. I would like to see a tourney format that doesn't depend on PLEX for entry. Every sport out there usually has some form of cheap entry single elimination qualifying brackets to allow everyone to reasonably have a chance at competition. Creating a tourney with an entry fee in excess of $300 guarantees that you are not going to see any teams/pilots other than those already heavily involved in the Alliance Tourney. They can make it open to anyone but the entry fee and the ship ban mechanic guarantees only the "space rich" will compete.

    That CCP has not developed some mechanism for tourney/arena matches other than the heavily manual manipulation of moving the ships and pilots to "special" space is a clear indication they are no where near ready for any type of regular esports.

    1. I really agree with this. If they want a really fair competition, make isk a non-issue. A large qualifying bracket accessible to a much larger player base would make this esport worthy and not an elitist game. It'd also have the benefit of enlightening a bunch of people who think they're 1337 and also possibly allowing a number of good pvpers in that normally couldn't participate. By association it would also make the winners a lot more worthy of their title: they didn't play against 40 rich teams, they played against the whole playerbase.

      I think having to pay for the ships you use also limits the competition, as we saw in the last tourny where 40+ bil fleets were being used by some teams. Keep the current point system for ships, but make alliance reward ships unusable, and make all ships free. You can't have a respectable competition where some players have an advantage due to previous in-game bonuses. You start with a clean slate, or nothing.

      Then you'll really get some creative fleets, with people not limited to what they can afford for the tourny. This, of course, means hosting the tourny on a separate server (which should be simple, just a one-system singularity with one station with all ships available) as DSJ suggests.

  11. I just wanted to say thanks for the reference, I read Silver Blaze the Sherlock Holmes story from which this is and it was a really great read and read the rest in the collection in a few hours. Will read his others.

    Love the site and your comments which are always insightful and thought through well. Nice one.

  12. Although I also share some of the same concerns you laid out in this post, I am still extremely excited about this development. I think it is going to be a very big deal in the long term and extremely popular with players and fans alike. I'm excited to see where this goes.

  13. As far as I can see, none of these things are against the rules.

    A fool and his plexes are soon parted. There are ways around this that solve what is in effect, a principle agent problem. You act like there is nothing anyone can do. Sure Garmon or somebody like him could insist on payment up front, but anyone who paid him would be a fool.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.