If it is true that 96% of all EVE Online players are male, it is probably safe to assume that most viewers of the EVE Alliance Tournament video stream are, too. I therefore would not have expected to see so many ads for feminine cosmetics and hygiene products.
(Or it’s a personalized ad thing and it has problems profiling me. Facebook is likewise hilariously off whenever I log in and look at the ad sidebar.)
If you’re an EVE player, you probably know about this. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and you’re interested in the game in theory, but rarely play it, you might miss this event otherwise. (I nearly did, I just yesterday asked myself “hasn’t it been a year since the last tournament?”)
For the next three weekends, starting tomorrow, 20 July, the 11th installment EVE Alliance Tournament will take place. Fights start at 13:30 EVE time (15:30 CEST, 9:30 EDT) and continue until 22:00, with a dinner break (or afternoon tea, if that fits your timezone better), each Saturday and Sunday until 4 August. Fights and commentaries will be streamed live, as explained here.
Even though I haven’t actively played EVE in almost a year, I’ll have a look. Last year, I enjoyed watching the fights. I think it’s my preferred form of PvP: watching other people bash each other’s heads in.
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.
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:
Because this post kept getting longer and longer, I decided to split it in two. This is part one. Part two will be released when it’s ready(tm), hopefully tomorrow or on the weekend.
And the winner is… somebody who nobody seemed to have on their list. Me neither, but that’s not a surprise, seeing how I still know very little about powerhouse corps in EVE. So, congratulations Verge of Collapse!
With that out, let’s look at a couple of features. Warning: This will contain tactical theorizing by someone who doesn’t have any clue. As always, I will try to keep it accessible to people without much knowledge about EVE. This is on the one hand to keep it understandable for non-EVE-players, but also because my own knowledge is still limited.
The tournament started with preliminary group stages, where each team was allowed to bring up to 6 ships worth up to 50 points total. The points list was decided and published beforehand by CCP. The cheapest ships (T1 frigates) cost 2 points, up to 20 points for the most expensive (faction battleships). After the group stages, the top 50% of teams went into an intermediate group stage of 4 teams each, fighting round-robin team battles, with the top two teams from each group progressing to an elimination stage. In those two groups, the limits were doubled: up to 12 ships worth up to 100 points in total. The winner was decided by looking at who had killed more ship-points of the opposing team within 10 minutes (or until one team was eliminated, then the survivor was declared the winner, obviously).
One common feature of almost all setups was a dual-battle approach. Most teams brought a group of battleships or battlecruisers for the “big fight”, and a bunch of assault, electronic attack, or plain T1 frigates for a “support fight”. In addition, many teams brought one or two cruisers for logistics (“healing”) or various forms of “debuffing” (neuts, damps). A decisive win in one of these two could decide the battle. Winning the big-ship fight left the enemy with too little firepower to win; wiping out the enemy’s support ships allowed you to cripple the big ships and sway that fight in your favor. This could make for interesting battles, because several things happened at the same time.
There were, of course, exceptions to that rule. Especially during the last battles of the intermediate group stages, if out the outcome didn’t matter any more for qualification, teams brought a lot of “comedy setups”, These fights were actually fun to watch, because they brought some variety.
Other than that, it seemed to me as if there were three main setups that worked a bit like rock-paper-scissors with each other, and another one or two slightly less popular setups. These dominated the tournament, especially as it progressed.
The Minmatar Rush: Felt to me like the most popular setup. The backbone was a relatively large group of T1 and T2 Minmatar battlecruisers, Sleipnirs and Cyclones, specifically. Typically supported by a Scimitar for logistics and ASBs on each ship (more about ASBs in a minute). These can do a frighteningly large amount of damage while being quite resilient (especially the Sleipnirs with their higher innate T2 resists).
The Double/Triple Vindicators: Seemed to work like a great counter to the Rush. The Vindicators (or, as a replacement, sometimes the similar Kronos) are Gallente faction battleships that come with a bonus to webs. If anything comes into their web range, they can slow it down by 90%. This spells doom for the Minmatar battlecruisers, who rely on speed to evade damage from battleships. In addition, the Vindicators can tank an immense amount of damage, especially when supported by an Oneiros Logistics.
The Vargurs: It wasn’t a very popular setup overall, but by the virtue of HUN Reloaded, who went all the way into the final by bringing the same setup over and over again, it made this list. On paper, it looked like a very weird idea. The Vargurs are Marauders, a class of ships that is typically associated with PvE rather than PvP. However, this setup was very flexible, and maybe HUN also was lucky that they always seemed to bring the right counter to each battle. It makes a great counter to the Vindicators, because the Vargurs can stay out of range of the webs, and project a huge amount of damage on battleships. It could also work well against Minamatar Rush teams, provided the support frigates could pin down their enemies, and the Vargurs and their Scimitar Logistics weren’t sensor damped and therefore could project damage from range. HUN even survived an ECM team, which is all the more surprising seeing how ECM is typically the Marauders’ Achilles heel. They just happened to bring support with remote sensor boosters to counter the ECM in exactly the right fight. Honi soit qui mal y pense? I don’t know. The Vargurs finally met their demise in the final match at the hands of a Minmatar Rush team with heavy dampening fielded by Verge of Collapse.
ECM: Every now and then, teams fielded an ECM setup. This is typically very risky and chance-based. Since ECM only has a chance to jam the enemy ships, the fight can easily go either way, and typically ends in total destruction for one of the teams. If you manage to jam out most of the opponents ships until you can kill one or two, you can apply more and more jammers to fewer and fewer ships, which increases the chance that they stay jammed, which makes for a safe victory. If, on the other hands, the jams do not work in the beginning, it is easy to lose one or two of your (typically much weaker in both offense and defense) ECM ships, and the fights tips the other way: you have fewer and fewer jammers left to jam the other team, ships get jammed less often, you lose more ECM ships, and you’re downhill without a chance to recover. I still enjoyed these a lot, maybe because I’m a Caldari pilot myself, and ECM is Caldari territory (and also sadly one of the few setups you actually see many Caldari ships in).
Drone Boats: Also a rather rare setup, the drone teams benefit from two properties of drones. They can reach out quite far with their drones, and they are much less susceptible to ECM, because drones keep attacking their target even if you lose a ship lock due to jams. (They also can switch between light and heavy drone types, so they can kill frigates and battleships equally well, though that wasn’t that important in the tournament, with the drone boats bringing the heavy DPS and the frigates killing each other.) Their downside is the typically more fragile drone boats, and the fact that it seems to be hard to actually get the drones to do the on-paper damage during a real fight. Also the fact that drones typically have to travel to their target first to attack from close, so there is considerable downtime if you switch targets. These downsides resulted in drone teams not doing very well overall. Props for trying, though!