Friday, 2 July 2010

The Art of Armchair Sports

In recent weeks I've have become less the participant and more the spectator, both in EVE and the world beyond. Not only has my EVE time been largely about the click-click-wait fest that it Planetary Interaction, there have been an awful lot of spectator events to occupy my free time (between PI click-athons).

Being an Englishman, the less said about my national team's dismal performance in the Football World Cup the better, but concurrent to that was EVE's more relevant Alliance Tournament 8, which I enjoyed. Or more accurately, I tried to enjoy with partial success.

It was whilst I was at work, sitting in the cab of our vehicle watching a YouTube repeat of one of the early AT8 rounds on my iPhone (HYDRA RELOADED's brazen 'ransoming' offer to Agony Empire in the first round I think) when my crewmate enquired about my chuckle-inducing source of entertainment. An interesting opportunity to lure someone else to New Eden? Perhaps, but unlikely.

My colleague was already aware of my fondness for 'internet spaceships', but has always been bemused by the concept, generally resorting to mocking me with "been on your headset lately?" type comments. Although I shouldn't stoop to his level, I usually return fire with some retort about his funny-shaped helmet, the shaving of his legs or the picking of flies out of his teeth (he's fanatical about cycling). However EVE's venture into the world of the spectator sport through the AT8 videos had clearly picqued his interest. So in order to share the experience, I positioned my iPhone on the dashboard and attempted to explain a fleet battle.

No easy task.

The expert commentary was of little help as it was pitched at the existing player-base, expecting the viewer to have a grasp of the basics, like ship names. We were several minutes in before my colleague asked "So is one team trying to Armageddon the other?"

We might take ship names for granted, with all players recognising the reference to a ship even if they don't know exactly what type it is, but it was with that question that I realised the language we use between EVE players is fairly impenetrable to those outside.

I attempted to translate from Capsulese, providing commentary myself, however this simply devolved into attempting to explain what was going on on the (admittedly tiny) screen. The truth be known, I couldn't really tell and I've been playing EVE for years. Therein lies my problem with EVE as a spectator sport and why I said earlier that I "tried" to enjoy AT8.

When watching a football match or indeed almost any mainstream sport, it is clear what is going on at a glance. The arena is clearly marked out, the goals are obvious and the teams are visually distinctive. The ebb and flow of a team's movement can be seen even by the inexperienced eye and it is not difficult to ascertain who is in the position of strength at any given time. With a little experience the viewer starts to see tactics and strategies and how successfully they are being implemented.

Most of the above does not apply to an EVE Alliance Tournament match. For the most part the screen is just filled with a bewildering mess of drone icons, weapons fire and explosions. The occasional addition of the tactical view box-out was of some use, but without the commentary I would be lost, so a non-EVE player is doomed. Only the sterling efforts from the commentators and the 'camera-men' give the videos any cohesion.

I'm not sure what more could be done to give Alliance Tournaments more spectator clarity, but in the current format they certainly don't work as promotional videos. My crewmate lost interest before the end of the first match we watched, staring blankly out of the vehicle windscreen mumbling something derogatory about Captain Kirk.

4 comments:

  1. A lot of the time it's a case of watching a bunch of red boxes attack a bunch of blue ones, and once drones get launched it's just a complete mess.

    They could make a start by ignoring pods and drones, but the whole thing needs a UI overhaul really.

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  2. First let me start by saying what a good post that was. Stayed on topic with enough back story to explain what you were trying to say. The occasional poke at the funny bone is never overlooked either!

    I think that, for the AT's at least, CCP could provide a POV report from one or both of the sides. They have all of the logs and multiple camera feeds, and could then recreate the battles after words. Perhaps not all of them, but the interesting ones anyways. Do it up a little more dramatically from a well chosen individual. Perhaps each side could be asked if they would like to have their voice coms recorded as well.

    Just some ideas.

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  3. I agree with your views. The commentators did try to name every ship and explain what roles they perform, but it wasn't enough to captivate an audience. While a couple of them delivered excellent commentary, others were extremely annoying and/or biased which lead pilots to update their bio's: i.e. "they need to be firmly seated on their balls."

    EVE isn't the most camera-friendly MMO in the market which makes it even harder to follow the action. At best, a viewer will see lights flashing from ships(turrets), tiny bulbs cruising across the the screen(missiles), or swarms of cross hairs(drones) spinning around, apparently being useful. The highlight was, of course, the breath taking ECM.

    I think Aventine hit the spot. UI needs an overhaul and if they're going to do AT9, CCP had better come up with a better scheme. I have the feeling it won't happen any time soon since they have resource tied up in Dust.

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  4. Cheers for the comments folks, I'm glad to see I'm not alone in finding watching AT8 a little frustrating. And you're right the viasual accessibility issues could be resolved with a UI overhaul including a battlerecorder. What a great idea.

    Will it ever happen though?

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Lay it on me.