If you like to watch spaceships shoot at each other with graphs and numbers all over the screen, then the New Eden Open might be right up your street. It's EVE Online's latest competitive tournament and the first one to have a cash prize, pitting teams of players against each other in a bid to win a cut of $10,000 US. Until now, EVE's only foray into the competitive gaming space has been its annual Alliance Tournament in which in-game alliances compete for billions of ISK and blueprints for rare ships. The addition of a cash-prize tournament with fewer entry restrictions is a welcome change; hopefully there are more to come.
The Alliance Tournament has historically been filled with drama and politics, with some teams using spies to manipulate the outcome of matches. With real cash prizes on the table, players have worried that even more rampant spying would ruin the New Eden Open. After three weeks of great fights, however, the tournament seems to be going strong. In fact, EVE's metagame has actually helped the tournament in a way that no one expected.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I give my impressions of the $10,000 New Eden Open, highlight an early match I liked, and look at the strategies players are using to win.
Impressions of the tournament
Aside from the irritating advertisements with no volume controls, the tournament has been really fun to watch so far. I wasn't initially a fan of the complicated overlay with bar charts of each team's defensive and offensive stats, but it turned out to be pretty useful.
It updates in realtime, so you can see how much tank each side has left to chew through, how much they can repair, their total damage output, and the effectiveness of any electronic warfare on the field. It's particularly useful for seeing how a team's composition changes as individual ships are destroyed. My only gripe would be that we can't see the capacitor levels of each ship.
The new banning format has been a great addition, increasing the team variety and often shutting down some popular strategies. A lot of teams just used it to ban logistics and ECM ships, but both types of ships still made an appearance in the tournament and actually provided some incredibly close matches. The fact that teams were no longer coupled to particular alliances also made it very hard to predict the winner.
Rigging the tournament
In an earlier article I expressed concerns that EVE's spying and political metagame could wreck the tournament despite CCP announcing that it would be harsh on people found spying. So far we haven't seen any evidence of tampering, and spying would be very difficult with so many teams involved. If there is any foul play, it's likely to rear its ugly head closer to the final next weekend.
In a strange turn of events, EVE's metagame actually helped the tournament find its feet. EVE gambling website Somer.Blink donated 10 billion ISK to every team in the tournament as part of a massive publicity stunt. This essentially put all the teams on equal financial footing by paying for most of the ships used throughout the tournament. Each team also had to pay an entry fee in PLEX just to qualify for the tournament, and that 10 billion ISK goes a long way to settling the bill.
Highlight: Expendables vs. The Huns
One of the early fights I really liked was the match-up between The Huns and Expendables in day two. Despite the Kitsune electronic attack frigate being banned, The Huns still brought a full ECM setup into the arena. The setup seemed to be designed to blanket-jam the enemy's critical ships, with a Rook and Widow providing massive ECM, an Eos command ship providing gang support, and two Maulus frigates sensor dampening jammed ships to keep them from getting a lock if the ECM failed.
The Huns' only defense was a moderate passive tank on its larger ships and a single Oneiros for remote armour repairing support. In comparison, Expendables brought a fairly standard Minmatar tank-and-gank setup, with two Sleipnirs and a Cyclone for damage and a Basilisk shield support. Two Jaguars, a Sabre, and a Maulus provided additional damage, tracking disruption and web support. I don't want to spoil the outcome, but this was one match that I really didn't see going the way it did.
Which setups worked best?
Interestingly, the ship banning rule did seem to make the tournament break away from cookie-cutter builds more than I expected. Most of the classic tournament setups are built around a few integral ships, and even having to swap them out for something similar changes the game dynamic. Tengus were popular in the last Alliance Tournament and so were unsurprisingly banned in a large number of matches.
Using Ancillary Shield Boosters to keep key ships alive and just packing in as much damage as possible proved to be a very viable strategy. Ancillary Shield Boosters provide a huge burst tank that doesn't use any capacitor, but it does consume charges and takes a long time to reload when they run out. A group using them has to declaw the enemy team before the charges run out or it will surely lose the match. As tournament matches are typically only a few minutes long, it's easy to see why this is such a popular choice. It's also worth noting that the module is due to be nerfed in the upcoming Retribution expansion, so perhaps it's just a little bit broken.
The annual Alliance Tournament has always been the one opportunity I get per year to show my friends EVE and not get rolled eyes in reply. People who don't even play EVE tune in to watch spaceships explode, and I'll bet some of them go on to subscribe to the game. I'm really glad for another tournament, and I can only hope this leads to a much bigger competitive scene in EVE. Somer.Blink's unexpected financial contribution was an added bonus, and I hope it's not the last event the corporation supports.
What would make tournaments like this even better would be if we could record match replays and watch them again from inside the EVE client. Competitive MOBA players often watch and re-watch the replays to figure out what went wrong, which breeds a better competitive scene. If this could be brought to EVE -- and in the future, to DUST 514 -- it would be a big boon to the relatively underdeveloped MMO competitive scene. All eyes will be on the New Eden Open next weekend as the final rounds get underway.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.