I wonder if any articles have been penned, or will be penned, in the gaming media by someone unfamiliar with EVE Online, their impressions of our game as an esport. Were they able to understand what was happening on screen? Was it exciting? Boring? Did it pique their interest in the game? Did it compel them to sign up for a trial account? Or did it turn them off?
I’d suspect that any viewer unfamiliar with EVE Online would be terribly confused. The tactics and strategy that we know are inherent in the game, those would be lost on the uninitiated. The new viewer watching brackets float around on the video stream, watching the ships that are not apparently doing much of anything, except for the occasional gunfire flash, the smoking trails of a few missiles, or some strange coloured effects streaming to and from ships, I have a feeling that would not give any viewer unfamiliar with EVE Online the gist of what was actually happening in any given match.
Watching an EVE match is like watching toasters floating about your screen, if you don’t know anything about the game. The commentators do their best to convey a sense of excitement, to explain what’s going on, but mostly what the uninitiated are hearing is a lot of techno-babble. Webs? Points? Repping? Boosting? Logistics? What?
Compare to League of Legends or DOTA. Watching either of those two, even if the viewer is unfamiliar, there’s a better sense in those games of what’s happening. Even without a commentator you can more easily pick up what’s generally going on. The action is more immediate, you’re more able to tell the ebb and flow of a match by what’s being presented on-screen. That’s unfortunately not the case with EVE.
(That’s based on my experience with League and DOTA. I’ve never played either game, yet have watched streaming tournaments and found the action relatively easy to follow. I found them enjoyable to watch, even with zero play experience under my belt.)
Unlike League and DOTA, ninety-percent of the viewers attention is drawn to the “health bars” in an EVE Online match, even for the initiated. The “health bars” are the only indication of what’s mostly going on in an EVE match, and even for the initiated, the conclusions drawn can be wrong. And even then there’s a lot of hidden information that is unknown to the viewer (exact modules being used, capacitor management, cap boosters available, etc.)
An EVE Online-only tournament will likely remain a niche product. Something only accessible to people who play the game, understand it. EVE Online lacks a visual excitement that lends itself to online viewing. The enjoyment of an EVE tournament comes from a) understanding the finer points of the game, and b) recognizing the personalities and alliances involved. EVE is a highly complex game, and it is a highly social game.
CCP’s best bet for breaking into the esports market will likely be with DUST 514.
DUST has gameplay that is immediate. It’s understandable to the average viewer. They’re able to more readily recognize what’s happening on-screen, even if they’re unfamiliar with the game at a specific level. DUST won’t be quite the visual mystery that EVE likely is.
So, once DUST is released, if CCP is serious about breaking into esports, they’d be served well on moving towards their first DUST tournament as quickly as possible. Certainly once the game becomes stable enough for tournament play.
What might break EVE into the gaming consciousness as an esport is if it is coupled with DUST. It is one universe, after all. Why not one tournament?
Imagine an Alliance Tournament that wages battle on the ground and in space, simultaneously. Each side has their capsuleers and their soldiers.
Obviously complicated tournament technology would need to be developed (watching a single match conducted on two different platforms … definitely not a simple technological hurdle to cross.) Watching interconnected battles conducted on the ground and in low-orbit overhead, both vying for a single goal, what does this do for EVE? EVE alone, not viable as an accessible esport. But with DUST? Perhaps EVE becomes more understandable to the average viewer in this context. Now that those brackets and barely animated ships are there to support the DUST players, to support a type of action that the unfamiliar viewer understands, those spaceships have new and added meaning (even if what they’re specifically doing is still lost on the viewer.) With the possibility of orbital bombardments raining down, that space battle is given urgency and excitement within the context of the raging ground battle.
At that point, the uninitiated viewer mutters “Whoa!” to themselves and EVE Online begins to pique their interest.
You can read more of Poetic Stanziel’s opinions at his Poetic Discourse Blog.