The EVE Alliance Tournament X, Part 2

This is part 2 of my notes and thoughts about this year’s EVE Alliance Tournament. It seems that there were some problems with the publication date of the first post, and it didn’t show up in some feed readers, so here is the link to part 1.

This year’s stars

Finally, I can recycle a picture I used before! Ahem… I mean: The Harpy, one of the heavily featured assault frigates in the alliance tournament.

The largest difference to last year was the shift towards frigates and assault frigates that were patched in the last months. These patches buffed these ships considerably, and the tournament teams realized this. The low cost, high damage, and potential to field more EWAR made these frigates very appealing to virtually all teams, especially compared to last year, where this ship type was almost non-existent; the only ships of that hull sizes brought last year were pirate faction frigates, and in much smaller numbers. For comparison: of the ten most fielded ships this tournament, five were frigates or assault frigates. Last year, only a single frigate hull made it into the top 10, and it was a pirate frigate (the Dramiel).

No other module was discussed as much during the tournament as the ancillary shield booster (ASB). The way normal shield boosters work is that they continuously convert some of your capacitor into shield, similar to casting heals on yourself in other games: you trade capacitor (mana) for shield (life). The ASB works more like a potion: instead of using cap, it uses charges. When it runs out, it goes into a lengthy reloading cooldown. In effect, it is a bit like health potions in other games: you get some life for “free”, but you can’t use it all the time. The ASBs proved to be very powerful within the confines of the tournament. Since there was a limited amount of ships that each side was allowed to bring, it was possible for many ships to withstand even concentrated attacks without any problems until they had to go into reload. They would die eventually, but it took the opposing team a lot more precious time. It was probably a wise decision to limit the use of ASB modules to at most one per ship; otherwise, we might’ve seen battles that would’ve stalled at some point because neither side could kill off the other. I’m not sure how much influence the ASBs had with respect to armor vs. shield tanking setups; I would assume it favored shield tanking to the point that it would’ve been preferred by the teams (since at least so far, there is no armor equivalent to the ASBs), but it seems previous tournaments seemed to have similar numbers of shield fleets.

The ASBs were more powerful in the 6-ship preliminaries than the 12-ship final rounds, to the point where it was very hard to break ASB tanks for some teams. There was a lot of discussion on how long it would take CCP to nerf this overpowered module. However, I don’t think it is actually overpowered. It can just showcase its advantages very well in these setups: as soon as you have larger fleets battling each other, the incoming damage is too high for the ASB to make much of a difference; it gets overpowered almost immediately and can’t keep up with the incoming damage. I do wonder though whether CCP has plans for an armor repairer equivalent. On the other hand, armor has other perks.

Finally, a thing that makes me sad: the continuing dominance of Minmatar ships, and low number of Amarr ships in the tournament.It’s a well-known fact in New Eden that Minmatar ships are, on average, the best for PvP, and Amarr ones are the worst. I refuse to let this also  become a well-accepted fact, at least in my mind. I dislike Minmatar ship model design (to me, they look like somebody by accident soldered an engine to a discarded scrap metal heap), so maybe I’m just bitter. Nevertheless, it is obvious that EVE is like many other games in that balancing issues plague PvP. At least everybody can train for every ship type, which mitigates the problems somewhat. There is also some hope: in those ship classes that were introduced or rebalanced since last year (frigates, assault frigate, T3 battlecruisers), the numbers of fielded ships are much more even. So maybe we’ll see more even numbers in the future. Though, by the speed the rebalancing goes, that will be a distant future.

My personal favorites

I can’t decide on one single favorite game, so I’ll mention two, for very different reasons. The first one was the second intermediate round match between Pandemic Legion and Rote Kapelle. Both teams had won their first match of the group, and a win in this one virtually guaranteed progress into the elimination finals. Pandemic Legion decided to seal their progression by virtue of bringing the most powerful ships they had at hand. They brought their Bhaalgorn flagship, decked out with ridiculously expensive officer modules, and no less than four limited edition frigates with massive bonuses – these had been rewards from a previous tournament. A rough estimation is that PL invested no less than 100 billion ISK (that’s roughly 200 months of game time, if you buy them on the market) into that match. And lost. They didn’t lose all their ships though, and they made it into the finals by winning their last match, but… that match was impressive the way Ben Hur is: it’s not necessarily a great movie, but it impresses by numbers. Michael Bolton III, one of the commentators (and TEST alliance member) seemed to be close to a heart attack during the match.

My favorite when it came to the setup and originality was the last round-of-sixteen match between Exodus. and Agony Empire. Agony’s team defied all standard logic:

  • Instead of as many ships as allowed, they brought only seven of twelve.
  • The rules required that you bring no more than one logistics ship, and no more than one ship with repairs. Instead of the obvious logistics choice, they put their repair modules on a Tengu.
  • They brought several ships that are typically armor tanked into a shield tank setup.

The reason this setup worked was because of the immense tanks on each of the ships they brought. They set it up in a way that it was almost impossible for the opposing team to kill any ship, and also almost impossible to run out of capacitor, so they could keep up repairs for the whole duration of the match. Of course, their DPS suffered greatly, but their reasoning was that in the end, the team with more points would advance. Which meant killing a single frigate in the available 10 minutes would be enough to advance.

It almost worked out. Agony killed two frigates, and would’ve advanced, but then Exodus. managed to find a weak(er) spot and kill one of the Agony ships before it could be repaired back up. From that point, the match was over.

The final reason why I like this match is because I figured it out really early, while the commentators were clueless for half the match, wondering what the hell Agony was thinking bringing such a setup. Yes, I’m smug, thank you! But it was such a beautifully crafted, interdependent group of ships, with cap transfers, repairs, and massive tanks, all tailored to eke out this minimum-point victory. I’m really sad it didn’t work out in the end.

And now for something completely different

CCP has been toying with one of those fun side projects called “skyward sphere”. It basically is a light plastic cast structure in the form of an EVE Online capsule, that was to be sent to the official border of space (100km above ground) via a weather balloon. The capsule contained the names and portraits of all EVE players who had an active subscription to EVE on 31 December, 2001. Originally, the sphere was to be launched during fanfest, but bad weather made this impossible. CCP launched the sphere a few weeks later, with cameras that streamed the ascend and descent. Sadly, the balloon only got into stratosphere, but the pictures are stunning nonetheless:

I think this is a very cool idea, and CCP already said they want to try again. The footage from the launch was shown in an inter-match break during the Alliance Tournament. Preceding it, there was a very funny skit about “CCP Space Laboratories”, complete with spoofs of Carl Sagan spoof , a German rocket scientist, and “live” centrifuge experiments with hamsters. Sadly, it is not featured by CCP in their youtube video collection, and I couldn’t find it anywhere either. I really want to watch it again.

Finally, the tournament’s live streaming was… less than optimal at times. So, CCP decided to do something about it:

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