This month’s Blog Banter comes courtesy of CCP Phantom. If you ever wondered whether CCP read blogs or listen to pod casts, I think we can definitely confirm that they do based on recent events.
So, the topic is…
“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? ”
Hmmm. Interesting question. Eve, like many games, can be quite hard to watch if you don’t actually know the game and have actually played it. For example, many years ago one of the local American Air bases (I live in the UK btw) had yearly air shows. At one show I attended, they had a combat flight simulator on a pair of PC’s – if memory serves the game was Falcon. Anyway, you got to fly against an actual F16 pilot to see who would win. This was eSports as the had the players screens shown on two large screens at the same time so an audience could watch what was happening. It was very cool, and people there “got it”, partly because we were at an airshow, so you’d know what a plane was, and partly because it was just something virtually anybody could understand.
Eve is different. The last Alliance Tournament was (feed interruptions excepted) very nicely done. The overlay graphics helped significantly. Previous Alliance Tournaments I had tried to explain to one of my daughters what was happening, and she just didn’t get it at all, even though she’s watched me playing Eve lots of times. This time, she was much more able to understand what was happening, but still only to a degree. Therein lies the problem. Eve as an eSports event is going to struggle as it’s sort of on its own in lots of ways as far as games go.
I’ve seen Quake online and Counterstrike tournaments. It’s something that you can associate with – a human or vaguely humanoid avatar running around shooting stuff. Internet spaceships where, let’s be honest, when you’re in a fight you can’t really see the spaceships as you tend to be zoomed out with your screen full of other windows, chat channels, tactical overlay etc.
Eve does, and in its current presentation format, will continue to have a limited appeal beyond people who play, have played, or are interested in playing Eve.
Could this change though?
Look at the trailers for Eve, and I’m not talking the recent ones, I’m thinking the Dominion trailer and the Eve is real trailer. If Eve could look like that during an eSports event, who wouldn’t watch it? But how could that even be possible? In reality, it’s not, but could we get closer maybe?
CCP have, as I’ve already said, made great strides with the viewing AI, but how much further could they take it? How do actual sports handle this? It’s all about camera angles. Lots of camera angles. The bits of the Dominion and Eve is Real trailers that are superb are those parts where you see grand view, and then come in close. I’d love to be able to manually fly an interceptor how they are shown in the Eve is Real trailer. In reality, the interceptor is flying straight towards the enemy with zero transversal and will get alpha’d off the field, not quite consistent with the image of a Tarranis dancing in between the destructive beams of energy from the Apoc’s.
CCP could, however, make it closer to a real event if they added some cameras to the event. One of the things I noticed in the last Alliance Tournament is that the camera angle reverted when the target ship got destroyed. To move forward, CCP need to create a separate viewer for themselves, not just rely on a sort of modified client which still does things like that.
How about if you had 4 or 5 camera drones controlled by devs / GM’s that could fly around the arena without actually influencing anything. They’d have to be invisible and not bumpable. The controller could choose a ship (or missile) to attach their camera drone to. When the object is destroyed, the camera drone stays where it is, not reverting to a different place so we get to see the explosion. Also, each ship has a default view. The studio director has a feed from all of these “cameras”, and can then give directions to the cameras as they usually would, and then can swich to whatever is the best view.
So, that could help move the current tournament format forward a bit. Lots of work for CCP probably, but if they’re serious about eSports, maybe that’s the sort of thinking they need?
As to what place eSports can play in Eve online… hmmm.
At the last Fan Fest, CCP talked about the possibility of Dust 514 games being something that Eve players could view and place bets on, hopefully within player controlled establishments finally using some of the Incarna features. This would be very cool, and would strengthen the link between Eve and Dust players, possibly resulting in sponsorship deals by rich Eve players, corporations or alliances for the best Dust teams.
However, there is a problem with all of this.
Eve is a game, however in many ways the way we play the game means that Eve is real. Confused, or do you see what I mean? If, in my game time, I logged on and watched my favourite Dust 514 team go a few rounds, making a friendly wager or two on the outcome, I’m not actually doing anything in Eve itself. I’m not producing things, I’m not mining, I’m not moving product or materials from one place to another, I’m not shooting rogue drones and so on.
For the Eve universe to work how it does, in many ways it needs the game to actually work as if it was real. If people could spend their time playing poker in a player owned establishment, or could do “test combat” in risk free virtual Eve arenas for pride and ISK… what about the actual Eve universe?
It’s bizzare, but in one way if CCP is too successful in making Eve a potential eSports arena, then it could actually affect Eve in a negative way, as player numbers might increase, but the number of players actively doing things in the universe that change the universe, decreases.
This is a very alarmist and bleak view, and I’m taking things to an extreme, but it’s still something to consider when shaping the future.