Not the Greatest Thing Ever

I’ve had some reservations about writing this post. I suppose the best place to start is to say that I have the utmost respect for everyone that worked on bringing us Alliance Tournament XI. I also have a high respect for everyone that fought in the matches – providing us with spaceship-explosion-based entertainment. Thank you.

I’m trying to understand the frothing fanboy-esque enthusiasm for this being the ‘best alliance tournament ever’, but I keep drawing a blank. I’m struggling to find many reasons that this year’s event was better than the last. In fact, I’m faced with quite the opposite; I have reasons overflowing from my cup of disappointment as to why it was inferior in almost every way.

This isn’t an angry rant. I’m open to discussion on why I’m an idiot for thinking what I do, and I’m poised to change my mind should someone provide me with a compelling argument of why I’m a moron.

What the Hell is Your Problem?

Lets break it down:

  • Bland set design compared with X.
  • Very little guest rotation at all.
  • No real juicy tidbits about things “just around the corner” in-game.
  • No featurettes at all.
  • Painfully long breaks.
  • Painfully long periods of theorycrafting.
  • No co-presenter.
  • No IC coverage of the matches.

Now, before I continue, I’m going to point out that I don’t begrudge CCP that any of the above were lacking. I’m sure it was because of reasons. I’m merely confused as to how so much excellent stuff can be trimmed or dropped and it somehow be ‘better than ever’.

Set Design

This year felt cold and sterile. The backdrop was flat and uninteresting.

ATX set

Alliance Tournament X set, with an understandably chuffed Anne.

This was last year’s set, complete with a stunning nebula background. Lets quickly compare it to this year’s:

This year's uninspired set.

This year’s uninspired set.

The desk is sat on the floor, rather than an elevated stage, so along with the bland background, there’s no nifty under-stage lighting to convey a sci-fi theme. The logo casts a heavy dropshadow where previously there was the lovely red glow, symbolising combat, fire and explosions – which is what the event is all about, after all.

The improvements between 9 and 10 were leaps and bounds, even looking at the quality of the build of the desk. Between 10 and 11 though, so much just feels lacking.

Guest Rotation

Go re-watch some of the last tournament and tell me you don’t see at least 3 or 4 more devs, a few GMs and more experts around discussing not just the tournament itself, but in-game tactics, available career options for rookie pilots, and answering questions fielded via IRC and Twitter. Much more engagement between the audience and the team.

It felt more like we were there in the studio with them as a proper live audience.

This year there was a disconnect. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t notice any questions being answered from Twitter or IRC. A lack of queries taken and a lack of information given, which leads me to my next point:

No ‘Bonus’ Info or Featurettes

Everything is convention-centric these days, but its always nice to be rewarded for your loyalty to a virtual world; sitting for 8 hours watching a load of people you don’t even know explode pixels belonging to other people you don’t know. Hearing devs talk about soon-to-be features and improvements, even with massive flashing disclaimers of “might not actually happen” is awesome. Talking about already released devblogs doesn’t generate quite the same buzz.

Another thing that I lament the loss of in recent tournaments (not just this one) is featurettes. Short interviews with CCP peeps about what they do, their team, their involvement in past expansions, their team’s favourite feature/proudest moment. It conveys a human side to CCP, and shows how much they care about their game universe. We longer-term players know how much they care, but for the rookies, again, there was no indication of this at all from the streams, and featurettes could have helped with this.

Featurettes could have helped with the next thing too…

Painfully Long Breaks and Theorycrafting

The system of ‘best of’ matches was interesting to watch when the matches were on, as each team would try to second guess the other based on their ban-selections (another great feature, I should add), but it left us with huge amounts of time between some of the matches. At one point, I think we waited 45mins for a match, and then immediately afterwards we had a 50min ‘short break’. Seriously?

This was to be expected in a way, but its far from entertaining on the last day of the tournament – the finals – a day that’s supposed to boast loads of action and explosions.

There were 13 matches in this final day compared to 15 last year, and they still managed to finish somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours later than scheduled.

With the ‘best of’ mechanic, we watched the same four teams all day long, compared to last year, were we saw 16 different teams duke it out. That’s a huge difference in the potential variety of setups, with 16 different team leaders, and up to 160 different pilots, everything is a lot more dynamic than with 4 leaders and 40 different pilots. Its no real surprise that by the middle of the final day the commentators were saying things like “this is the setup as they used 3 times before” or “this is the same setup x team used earlier today”.

And talking of setups, when you have four teams, all bringing one of three (or so) setups and fielding them multiple times in the same day with hour long gaps between some matches, and nothing else to talk about during those breaks, things get tired. Fast. I feel sorry for the guys in the studio as much as (if not more than) the viewers – having to say the same old things about the same old setup and why they brought it, or spend half an hour discussing why PL banned this ship or HYDRA banned that ship.

[Bittervet] What’s with the references to heroes in MOBA games? Things were a lot simpler when we had spider tanking – that’s what it looks like. I had zero frame of reference for what a ‘Tinker’ or ‘Enchantress’ setup is. You can explain it once a day if you like, but if I miss that info, I’m fucked. I swear, I spent the first day trying to work out WTF they were tinkering – were they playing with the setups each match? Bringing ship setups that are completely out of left field? I didn’t have a clue! Its almost as bad as people who insist on calling characters ‘toons’. Grmbl [/Bittervet]

I enjoy a bit of theorycrafting; discussions about setups, and about the metagame for which EVE is so famous, but I was getting bored. And if I was bored, the cluster of potential EVE subscribers were definitely bored. Its almost as if they didn’t realise that these huge gaps would happen, and were forced to repeat themselves over and over again just to stop there being dead air. Those poor bastards.


Understandably, CCP Sunset was not able to co-present this year due to tenancy issues. But I find it hard to believe that there was nobody else in the Reykjavik office willing to offer some banter between matches.

Co-presenters in this sort of show format are absolutely critical – its a chance to unwind in those unavoidable long gaps between matches.

Chat with the commentators about their thoughts and feelings on the match, rather than just the guys in the studio – its always interesting to get different opinions, especially when your company paid cash to fly some of these EVE experts over there. Its a wasted opportunity to milk an asset.

No ISD Coverage

For tournaments 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, the Interstellar Correspondents (a division of the ISD volunteers) provided detailed break-downs of the fights usually within a very short time of them finishing, along with glorious high resolution screenshots of the action.

If you weren’t able to watch the matches for whatever reason – work, slow connection, etc, then this was an excellent way to still be part of it all. You could read all about the action (almost) as it unfolded and see the explosions thanks to their happy-snappers.

ICs engagement in the tournament has dwindled a little over the years, as can be seen by many missing reports (and screenshots) on last year’s website, so perhaps this played an important part in the decision (or lack thereof) to not utilise the reporters this year. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out though:

I live in hope for a more entertaining tournament next year. The first few days were great this time around, but it really fell, and fell hard, at the final hurdle, regardless of how exceptional the final match was (and it was a doozie).

I still want to say thank you to everyone that took part, as well as everyone in front of and behind the cameras for making it happen. We could have had no tournament at all; that’s actually happened before! I’m not trying to undermine any one person’s, or group’s effort in making this thing a reality, just expressing that – in my opinion at least – this year was nowhere near as entertaining as the last.

Comments for this Post

3 thoughts on “Not the Greatest Thing Ever”

  1. dino
    06th Aug '13 at 1:46 am

    The main part of the tourney were near perfect

    The tourney was very exciting thanks to the format, the bans, the variety of setup (Thanks CCP Fozzie and CCP Rise) and the amount tourney prize ship that exploded.

    The live feed was far better than last year.

    The commentator were very good. Some might be weaker than other but none for cringeworthy. Even Dolan was good… I hope we get Shadoo back next year.

    I didn’t really miss last yet set. I agree ATX set might have been better but it does matter.

    For the lack of news, it’s probably due to the date. CCP is on holiday, Odyssey is already old (nothing much to explain) and it’s too early to talk about the winter expansion.

    • Kalahari Wayrest
      06th Aug '13 at 6:44 am

      The action (when we had it) was good, I’ll not contest that, and I did enjoy the in-fight commentary, especially from Shadoo, because he gets so excited about things!

      I don’t remember having any issues with the feed last year or this year in fairness, or having any gripes about A/V quality. Maybe your mileage varied.

      I think the set might have been the biggest thing for me, on a subconscious level. Like the old and slightly old supermarket skit from Eddie Izzard:

      You notice how they always put the fruit and veg at the entrance to the supermarket? You go in thinking ‘this is a fresh shop, everything in here is FRESH! I will do well to shop here’ You never go straight to the bit with the toilet paper, loo brushes and such do you? You’d think ‘this is a POO shop! Everything in here is themed on POO!’

      The news I might understand. In fact, what you’re saying makes sense, but this tournament was later in the year than 8, 9, and 10 (I didn’t check back further than that), but all of those from what I can see were still after a summer expansion.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂

  2. Apaolo
    09th Aug '13 at 8:31 am

    Great write up ..  i would add you don’t need to apologize, you are right about it.  I thought Dolan was very good and shadow was terrible. He climbed all over Fozie and had terrible rhythm.

    The he fights were good so maybe that is why people liked it but I didn’t. I watched it after it was recorded so I could zoom through and I was still getting bored. Sound wave looked terribly bored.

    Overall it it seemed like CCP’s mind was on other things And this was an obligation for them.

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