The sci-fi themed game of EVE Online is one dominated by the players themselves, many of whom join together to form alliances. Those alliances vie for control of the New Eden galaxy, sparking continual warfare and political upheaval among the thousands of pilots flying in EVE at any given time. That's really the beauty of the game: the developers provide the setting, but it's the players who make it what it is. Alliance struggles are one of the defining features of the game, but not all scores are settled through massive fleet engagements. Some alliances opt to engage one another in an arena -- viewed by thousands of EVE's pilots -- the Alliance PvP Tournament.
Alliance Tournament VI kicked off last weekend, continues this weekend with qualifying rounds, and will culminate in final rounds in February, which will be streamed as live video. As the Tournament is so significant to the players, each year CCP Games invites PvP experts from among the playerbase to be the tournament's commentators. Among those veteran combat pilots in EVE Online, Crovan certainly stands out. He, along with a small team of other PvP experts, was selected to provide live commentary on the matches. This should come as no problem for him, given the PvP experience gained from his time with now-legendary Mercenary Coalition and being a familiar voice to many of us with The Drone Bay podcast.
Since The Drone Bay is the official podcast of the tournament, Crovan is recognizable to many listeners as the voice of the EVE Online Alliance Tournament VI. The fact that he's been a past Alliance Tournament competitor also gives him some additional perspective on the event. It's been a while since we spoke with Crovan -- we were fortunate enough to have him with us at Massively in the past through his excellent Rogue Signal column. We caught up with Crovan this week, however, and he told us everything we wanted to know about the Alliance Tournament.
For our readers who aren't familiar with the EVE Alliance Tournament, what is it and why does it have such significance to EVE players?
The EVE Online Alliance Tournament is effectively a means for the alliances within EVE to compete. Corporations are closest analog of guilds from other games, and those corporations can form alliances with one another and hold space. Once a year there is a chance for those alliances to put together specialized teams to go compete against each other in a tournament setting. In today's parlance, it's really an eSport. It's the first MMO eSport that I was aware of to take place.
This is the sixth EVE Online Alliance Tournament and every one since the second one, in 2006, has been televised by EVE TV. So it's been possible for people to watch the actual matches. It's basically a chance to show off and get bragging rights, among other things. A lot of alliances that had previous been largely unheard of have gained quite a bit of notoriety out of past tournaments.
Do alliances compete to gain tangible rewards, or is it more about reputation?
It's more about reputation. The tangible rewards are cool. In fact, one of the tangible rewards *is* basically a reputation reward. The winning team for this year is going to get a statue dedicated to their victory, in the [solar] system of their choice. In any space they control in 0.0, or any Empire system. So most likely we're going to see it in Jita, the busiest system.
So it has to be space they control?
That's my understanding. For example Goonswarm couldn't put a statue outside of a Band of Brothers station.
That's what I was thinking and that would have been hysterical.
[Laughs] It would be hysterical, but I don't think it's allowed. I think it has to be [owned] space. The question being, of course, what happens if you put it out there and then lose that space.
True, you'd never see it again.
Most likely it'll go up in Jita is my guess. But it's permanent. It it says that this team showed up and beat out everyone out for the right to call themselves the best. In addition to that, they're giving away a number of PLEX's... so there's some nice tangible prizes, but really it's about the bragging rights and being able to say that you came in and beat the best.
Can you explain the basic scenario involved with the Alliance PvP Tournament that we'll be seeing -- how are the teams organized, and what are the limitations they have to work with to put together an effective gang?
"The EVE Online Alliance Tournament is effectively a means for the alliances within EVE to compete... In today's parlance, it's really an eSport."
So that's the actual arena. As far as the team organization, each team obviously has a captain. And that captain is more or less in charge of deciding who's coming and what ships they're bringing. The way it works is each team is allotted 100 points, with which to decide what ships to bring. Each class of ship within EVE has a different points cost, up to battleships... you can pick and choose based on what kind of tactics you want to bring. So we see quite a bit of variety in the teams. You have to use at least 75 of your 100 points or you're disqualified from the match. So there's no basically throwing a match by not bringing anything, but other than that the sky is really the limit.
What about pirate implants? [expensive performance boosting technology]
The pirate implants are disallowed, so that's a big change.
They have been allowed in the past and it's actually become one of those bones of contention where people consider it as being an advantage for the richer alliances. It costs 500 million ISK to join the tournament, but you get that money back provided you show up for all your matches. It's not a huge investment beyond the entry fee and the ships. There are restrictions on the super powerful modules within the game; the faction [and deadspace] modules tend to be very expensive and very effective. So basically to get rid of an unfair advantage those are disallowed.
You were a tournament competitor with Mercenary Coalition in past years, is that right?
Right. Most recently in the Fifth Alliance Tournament.
So now that you're on the other side, can you tell me what's involved with competitors getting ready to go head to head with one another -- how much planning and training is involved?
Basically it involves a lot of arguing on your internal forums when it comes to setting up your ships. [Laughs]
We did a fair amount of practicing, both in terms of theorycrafting and getting on the Singularity test server and blowing each other up, and seeing how different setups work. How effective various cap transfer techniques were, things like that. There's a lot of time involved for people planning it. Not always a lot of time involved for the people actually jumping in the ships and flying. But in our case we did do quite a bit of preparation, at least for the round that I flew in last year. We actually ended up losing that round, but it was a good fight all the same.
The hardest part for me as a competitor, looking back on it, is sitting in your ship waiting to get transported by the dev team to the actual tournament system. There's nothing more nerve-wracking, and everybody's watching your every move. You go from Jita one minute to floating in space next to your buddies the next, getting ready to go into combat in front of a huge audience of people. It's quite intimidating, even to someone who's been PvP-ing for a long time, as I have.
One of the great things about the Tournament is that it's the players themselves who are chosen to be commentators on the matches. How did you become one of this year's commentators and why did you want to do it?
"There's nothing more nerve-wracking, and everybody's watching your every move. You go from Jita one minute to floating in space next to your buddies the next, getting ready to go into combat in front of a huge audience of people."
And part of it is that I've always been the kind of person who enjoys public speaking. I was in speech and debate, theater, all that fun stuff growing up. I love EVE, I love talking to people about EVE whenever possible. I will take any opportunity to teach somebody something about EVE and to enjoy the game. It was a trip to Iceland. It was a chance to meet a lot of prominent EVE players, a chance to meet people over at CCP, and a chance to be e-famous, really. And I couldn't pass that up.
It's been a very cool experience so far just working with guys like Verone and KIAEddz who I've dealt with in the past. Back in the day of the Mercenary Coalition I flew alongside both of those guys at one point. But to be able to work with them on a project like this... [is quite different].
How is The Drone Bay podcast cooperating with CCP Games in covering the tournament?
Well we're doing a special series within The Drone Bay. We're doing the official podcast for the tournament. I have this outlet and CCP wanted an opportunity for people to get to hear the experts, the commentators, and the staff before things actually kicked off.
In fact I just recorded one earlier today with some of the other experts and CCP Soundwave. We did a show following up on the first week's events and our impressions of them. There are two episodes previous to that, that were sort of lead-ins to the tournament. The first being a basic overview of what the tournament's all about and how you can tune in, and the second one being a more in-depth look at strategies and likely tactics -- an in-depth look at the rules and rule changes from previous times.
So it's designed to be accessible for new people but has a lot of information that we think the more experienced players would really be after. There will be another podcast after the next round of matches, and probably one more after we come back from Iceland do a bit of a wrap-up show. If all goes according to plan, I'd like to be able to speak with the winners on the show and give them the opportunity to say their piece.