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Ah, yes another wonderfully controversal Blog Banter 40, this time from CCP Phantom:

There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online’s eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.

Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship entertainment for spectators and participants alike?

Alright, now right out of the gate we have to establish something.  In eSports, there are two types: Game Money and Real Money.  The difference and the potential pitfalls and rewards are pretty huge.  Game Money tournaments, to me, mean battles where the prize money is returned as in-game items, albeit rare or very lucrative in their returns, but their value is only retained in game.  Real Money Tournaments are like the recently announced New Eden Open, on the other hand, award real money to players for winning.  But before we approach the pros and cons for those, let’s start out with the basic issues within Eve Online regarding Tournaments in general.

The Problem of Tournaments in Eve Online

Point #1 – Camera Shy..

Let me go on the record as saying that Tournaments, Arenas, and any sort of activity that one can Gamble in-game money on, should be one of the top priorities for CCP to put into Eve.  This added dynamic would make the sultry, dingy, and desperate universe of Eve just that much more real.  And one on one or team matches should certainly take precident, because this would be awesome..

.. if they’re weren’t some pretty big hurtles to overcome.  The first being, and let’s be upfront about this, camera controls and angles.  Most arena conflicts, tournament conflicts, shoot even REAL LIFE SPORTING EVENTS, are based on an isometric view of a two-dimentional game area.  As examples:

League of Legends

Defence of the Ancients

American Football

That particular angle is great for seeing all the players on the field as well as what strategies and tactics are being employed on a moment by moment basis.  You are close enough that you can pick out who your favorite players are, who you think will make the game winning play, and how well the team matches up against their opponents from start to finish.

It’s also something that is VERY difficult to do in Eve.  To be fair, this isn’t an easy task to try and keep people entertained and wanting to be a part of an event when you have such distances to keep watch over, no real reference points, and contending with the dark background of space.  How exciting can a red dot shooting a blue dot, sometimes with weapon effects you can’t even see, be?  Along with that, there is no easy option to view things from another ship, even if its on the grid..  which is something viewers will want to be able to do.  Which leads into my next point:

Point #2 – Viewer Engagement

When watching a football game, it is relatively easy for a person to look around at everything when they are there, at the game.  It is also easy, when at home to enjoy a game because networks often have multiple cameras covering several areas, each assigned to look for someone interesting, or game movement, or whatever, so that commentators can cut from one camera to the next quickly.  In addition to that however, fans can find stats about those playing easily be it for the whole team or for individual players.  In other words, fans can get involved with the game, be it purchasing a ticket or changing the channel, at some level they WANT to go see it.

Eve Online is only JUST now understanding how to do that, but it still hasn’t figured out how to do it well.  The current Alliance Tournaments are a pretty quiet affair that is over and done with too quickly.  There really isn’t much time for a fanbase to grow behind any team, nor is there much time for people to really FEEL the tournament as it is now.  It is a lot of work to find out what certain ships can do and what their stats are, and it is impossible to even have a basic idea of where the character’s skill level is.

Point #3 – I’m rooting for Bill, I think.

The “feel” of a tournament is often destroyed when, instead of looking at cool spaceships, you are forced to look at blue and red square dots.  Even if the video feed gets close, you really don’t know if that is a ship on the side you like, or a ship on the opposing team.  How can you really get into the game if nearly every action taken adds to the confusion?  Of all the complaints I have, this is probably the most frustrating because it is UI related, not game play related.  The new UI looks like it might improve visability, but then again it might have a host of new issues along with some of the old.

Now, onto the Real Money versus the Game Money Tourneys

Real Money Tournaments

Probably the most popular and well known Real Money Tournament is the recent League of Legends tournaments as well as more classic Defense of the Ancients (Dota).  Those games have cash money prizes totallying amost $2million american dollars now, and it is hard not to lick your lips and think about money like that.  Unfortunately, translating what might work in a MMORTS arena into a true MMORPG game won’t be as… effective.  Most people play MMOs to get away from the real world, to be important somewhere else.  In effect, it’s our insulation against a place we don’t like.  Real Money Tourneys tend to bring in all that stuff we want to avoid and shoves it in our face.  Then, if we add the culture of Eve Online to the mix, you are looking at a lot of out of game lawsuits because.. well.. Eve players don’t play nice and are known to do some serious metagaming, some of which has turned out to be illegal.  How fair could a REAL MONEY TOURNEY be if your star player suddenly was kicked out due to an IP attack at the right time?  If this gets done because of fighting over virtual property, then you can be sure that it will happen if real and serious dollars are involved.  Goons, Russians, whoever you wanna blame, just know that metagame stuff like that WILL happen.

Game Money Tournaments

Oh, yes.. yes, yes and more yes.  Any way you wanna do them and absolutely let the meta games in the background, the underhanded deals, the backstabbing, everything.. oh let it come to pass and let us see, and enjoy, and bet on it.. but only with in-game iskies.

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