Monday, March 24, 2014

The Championship Tournament of Winners

Reading through Jester’s posts about the recent New Eden Open got me thinking about competitive tournament play in Eve and in other games. I can think of a few broad types of ranked play in gaming. The DOTA/LoL approach, with lots of characters and a set map with set objectives. The FPS approach with identical classes and rankings based on K/D rates and what have you. The RTS approach of winning matches against other players. The WoT approach where you have either informal rankings based on metrics or Clan tournaments. The ad-hoc Eve tournaments with weird buy-ins, metagamey team composition mechanics and various win conditions that have varied. The WoW arena approach. All of these have strengths and drawbacks that are far too numerous to go into at any length. The point is there are a lot of ways to skin this cat.

Coming from a rather uninvolved standpoint, I want to come up with a new way to do tourneys in Eve!

In my experience the biggest problem to most competitive gaming formats is either a lack of depth, or so much depth that the mental barrier to entry is too high for most people to get into a game. Based on comments, the latter seems to be a big “problem” in Eve. Add to that the cost of participation and you have a rather gnarly set of hurdles to overcome. So here is a half-baked idea:

Take the arena system of WoW, in broad strokes. You have XvX teams enter an arena, fight for a certain amount of time, and at the end the one with the most people left standing wins. This is a pretty simple system. Get rid of the stupid arena mechanics. Instead the arena is a grid, Eve-style, say 300km in diameter. That is plenty of room to move around. Both teams start at 200km from the center. No podding. If you go boom, your pod gets put in a station in system, and you go into spectator mode. Go.

Next we need to consider ships. The simplest way is to tier it. Tiers could be based on tech level and hull size. The Tier 1 Cruiser bracket, for example, would allow each team their choice of one Tier 1 cruiser or smaller hull for each player. Fittings would be capped at Tech 2, the impact of implants should probably be negated. Just hulls and mods and rigs. This would create 5 hull tiers, and two tiers for each hull size except cruisers. If we discount tech 3 hulls, there are 10 tiers. Maybe have an anything-goes tier for people who want faction fits, implant sets and all that silly stuff.

To make sure you can fit before fights, put an option in the fitting interface where you can set your tier and that wipes the affect of implants. Now everyone has a pretty even playing field, and most players would have options that are not too expensive. A T2-fit cruiser or frigate is a pretty cheap investment, generally speaking. Those would want to go all spendy could fly in the Tech 2 tiers.

There may need to be some special rules in the fight system. Perhaps a concord-like entity that really bites down on non-sanctioned combat, to allow safe travel in the fight system. Perhaps there need to be a few of these systems set up in order to ease strain. Maybe not.

Then you get to the bracketing. Enter seasons. Let’s go with 3 month seasons, as a number out of a hat. Each week you get X matches (5? 10?) that are ranked. Each team gets a ranking as the season progresses, and then at the end you have playoffs at each tier that leads to the finals. If you have 10 matches per week with a 12 week seasons, that is 120 matches. Not a small number for determining ranks. The post season lasts for a month or two. You get two full seasons a year.

For added fun, let’s make all this happen on the live server. During playoffs, the playoff system gates get locked down so only the competitors can come and go. Once you lose, you have to leave. Put the feed on in Captain’s Quarters. Or at least a link to the Twitch page or something. I’d say let players bet isk on the matches, but that might be difficult, legally and logistically.

Outside the sanctioned matches, put exhibition arenas around the cluster. Little pockets of space where player can queue up to fight each other using the same rules, but without rankings.

This whole thing is mostly a thought experiment. Eve’s competitive PvP, as it stands now, is for a select few, and will hold back Eve’s esports presence because there is not much a normal player can do to join in.

The whole point of this idea is to create a space for competitive small gang pvp with real leader boards and rankings. The current tournament system in Eve features a crazy buy-in process, expensive ships, and convoluted rules. I want to see people flying normal ships with normal modules where tactics, team composition and flying are the main factors that influence the fights. Not weird metagaming, practicing in wormholes, and PLEX buy-ins for auction spots.

The reason there are only a handful of Formula One teams isn’t because people don’t want to drive fast cars. There are only a handful of F1 teams because the barrier for entry is so high. But there are race tracks and racing leagues all over the world where for a small outlay you can throw a car around the trtack and compete against others. If CCP wants players to really get into eSports in Eve, they need players to be able to participate.

A more accessible system could provide this entry point, giving new or space-poor players a simple entry point while allowing a venue for those who wish to field more expensive and skill-intensive ships and fits. Instead of dumping a low-SP alt in RvB, players could dump a new character into the ranked system, and realize that this season they can learn to fly frigates, but next season they will be able to fly cruisers. And then they can move into tech two hulls. If you went with one race’s ships, hitting all 10 tiers would probably take you a good two years to fully fit competitive ships. That would also help keep players in the game, and help CCP’s bottom line. When everyone gets to fight in space, everyone in the real world wins.

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