Monday, December 3, 2012

NEO wrap up

Ugh, man I just don't see how CCP can stomach the handling of the broadcasts for these events. I have watched numerous e-sporting events and if even one was delivered in the manner that the NEO and ATX were delivered in, there would have been a huge outcry.

CCP and Own3d has months to make sure that the broadcast goes smoothly, can they load test under the weight of 4kish viewers, no, but could they have done a better job with the technical glitches they had? I suppose that is the real question. I would like to think so, as other streaming e-sports don't have these kind of problems. We are beyond the point where I would accept an excuse from CCP like "We are new to the streaming business and are still working out some kinks." Hell there are some basically "home" viewers who stream to 10-15k people each time they log in. Right now SK Ocelot has 11k viewers for instance....

Since AT7 at least, CCP has been streaming. Hell, the AT pulls more viewers than the NEO did even on the finals day, somewhere between 5-7k viewers on the stream for a AT compared to NEO's 3-4k viewers. Yet it seems like CCP still hasn't mastered the use of streaming or setup/invested in the technology to make the streams work reliably.

During ATX the commentators blamed the internet connection of being out on Iceland for the issues with the stream. If that is still part of or even a small part of the issues then the solution is simple.
1. If Iceland does not have the infrastructure to provide a 'clean streaming' experience for the anticipated crowd, they need to, or rather, should if they expect to be able to continue to increase viewership, invest in moving the home of the "Eve TV" brand to someplace that has the needed infrastructure to provide a quality experience for the viewers.

Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the NEO, for a variety of reasons I will get into later, but for my experience and ability to watch the matches, it boils down to a matter of time used.

I'll be honest, I have to budget out my computer time, both with my wife AND with the rest of my life. I can find time to watch a few hours of streaming over the weekend with not a huge impact, and usually find some time to do so, be it watching one of the Eve streams listed on the right OR a LoL stream or the occasional Planetside 2 stream. What I can't do is tell my wife, "It'll be done by XXXX time, we can do stuff then." and then hang around for hours afterwards to catch the final matches. THat doesn't fly with my wife, nor should it.

The most surprising thing was that week 1, days 1 and 2 were near error free, usually the problems occur right away, they don't wait a full week! I thought it was a good sign, maybe CCP had finally worked with Own3d to get over the "hump" that had, in my mind, hamstrung their streams thus far. Unfortunately, the truth of that was far from that. The stream degenerated into one technical glitch after another, time on air only seemed to compound the problems. Granted there was only a few interruptions on day 3 & 4, but by the time the final weekend rolled around, a time where I would expect the MOST reliability in the stream, well that is when the entire thing fell apart, ie major stream downtime between, and during matches.

Just to make a quick comparison, could you imagine if MLG tours had those kind of outages? They are trying to do the same thing CCP is trying to do, that is cautiously, continuously build their viewership to a real sporting event level. Provide professional level coverage that can be enjoyed not only by the veteran of whatever game is being played but also by the random, uninformed viewer. What's the easiest way to loose viewers? dead time.


If I could just mute everyone by CCP Fozzie I would be happy. To me, the bitter Eve vet, his comments were the most insightful, correct, and to be frank, made the most sense. Sure he tripped over himself once or twice, but then who doesn't? I hear John Gruden on Monday Night Football in America, on ESPN trip over himself every week. It's not detrimental to stop and correct yourself politely. It's detrimental when you DON'T.

Honestly, the commentators overall were good. I feel they needed more time, or a cheat sheet to break down the teams a bit better. Fozzie, once again, seemed to have the best knowledge of each of the team members. Even dropping by here to correct an erroneous team listing on a previous post. He's also the most informed and analytic about the matches, both before, during and after.

CCP Dolan, is a little like the "everyman" commentator that a complicated e-sport like LoL and Eve need to keep the enthusiasm level high. In fact I missed his high-pitched chirping when CCP Fozzie and CCP Falcon were watching the Malice's die during the RONIN and pixies vs XXXMitty match. His level of engagement and excitement really does add a bit of enjoyment to the matches, even if he is not the most technical of the commentators, or even when he is completely wrong in his assumptions, which is getting more rare.

CCP Falcon, though I know and love him as Verone, was a good addition. This was not his first rodeo, but he should have spent more time getting used to the newer meta game around ship setups and flavors of setups prior to appearing as a commentator. He steadily improved from passable to good over his time as a commentator, but he should have started out as good and improved to great if he had spent a little more time getting prepared.

The 'Banning' System

First I want to say that this banning system is a much refined and honestly much better/more useful idea than the original banning idea bantered about just before ATX. This banning system gave players the time to react to changes in their lineups while not crippling a setup by 'on the field banning' as was brought up for ATX.

The reaction time allowed more setups to be fielded and much more exciting and close matches. Maybe the overall quality of the pilots was higher as well, but I found most of the matches to be more exciting than just the run of the mill match during ATX, and for this I largely give credit to the banning system used.

In short, each team captain was able to Ban a ship, then the other Capt would ban a ship, then back and forth, allowing a total of two ships banned per side. The interesting bit being that at this level it made almost no sense to ban logistics ships, as it would require a double ban if you wanted to make sure you were fighting against a shield or Armor based comp by banning the two armor or shield logistics, and even then it was not "for sure" because the comp they could fly might just not have a logi in it.

On the field banning would have been much clumsier, and much slower, and I am very happy that CCP did not go that way.

Suggestions for next time

  • Not to beat a dead horse, but CCP could vastly improve the quality of service provided to the viewers just in terms of the stream they provide. I was left with such a good impression after the first two days of smooth sailing that it was very sad to see that impression go downhill, so quickly.
  • A team/event introduction Stream that would take place either just before the day one matches, or the weekend before. This event would introduce the commentators, and more importantly, the teams involved in the event. This is critical in drawing in new viewers. I favor an out-of-band approach to this information rather than trying to paste it in-line as that always feels much more forced. In this event team captains should be interviewed, if possible, even if just for 60 seconds. Unlike in other streaming events where the actual participants are/can be live webcammed or shot "down the line" where all the members of the team smile for the camera, in Eve streams there is a disconnect between the teams and the viewers. Giving viewers a bit more back-story to like/hate each team, or at least form opinions about them is a must. I look at it this way, if I log in to watch a stream, and two teams are playing, one called XXXXUS and the other one called XXXXEU, I'm instantly rooting for US, because I live in the US. If I, on the other hand, see two teams playing called XXXMitty and RONIN, I am less engaged because I (the casual viewer) can't immediately associate with a team. This need only be 40-60 minutes long and could pair with the blow.
  • Standings breakdowns and event reviews as well as a pre-guess on the "matches of the day." In this short segment leading into the stream, commentators would talk quickly about the things they found interesting in the previous day's matches. Trends they spotted and teams that looked strong and or weak. This is yet another attempt to draw in the viewers and give them a bit more of a grip on events instead of a short hello lead-in and then straight on into the matches. Typically CCP does a little bit of this after each match, but I think it would be time well spent to, prior to the first match, provide a little bit more generalized views from the commentators.
  • Streaming the "third/fourth" place match was a great idea, using it to break up the championship matches, I felt, didn't work so well. It made following the championship matches a bit harder. It is a problem unique to Eve. Between matches teams have to re-ship, get new fits, get new orders, get ready, check drones/ammo/cap charges/etc, change out clones if need be.It's not just as simple as in say LoL, where you can have pages of runes and masteries setup and ready to go, where you just need to change your page of Runes or your selected set of masteries and you are ready to fight (after banning and selecting new hero's). Eve's between match hustle takes time and even 15 minutes isn't enough. The Dev interviews were a great way to break up the matches, introducing features and the new looks of the Retribution patch, but even more is needed. Things like recap of in game events, ala a short news show might be worth it, or even shorts centered around, you guessed it, the participants in the finals would be gold for keeping the viewers entertained and involved between matches, instead of just throwing other matches as time filler. Perhaps the three/four place matches are an inevitable time filler, but still more effort could be taken to fill the "dead air' between championship matches with more viewer-useful content.
  • CCP needs to be more open with the registration process. They need to, in order to not distance themselves from the community, provide an accurate or at least nearly accurate accounting of teams that have signed up for the matches. Reveal if a bid is even needed, otherwise just say that all the teams that want to get in, can. Keeping it "secret" harms both CCP and the tournaments. It inspires the feeling from the player base that CCP is just trying to lay their hands on more Plexes, and creates a feeling from the team side that they are just being used as a cash cow. Nothing is more discouraging for players than that feeling. You could see that exact result when it was revealed that some teams grossly overpaid for their tournament slots and later had to be refunded, at a perceived loss of face, by CCP.
  • Include the match participants in the Stream names. Don't just call it Eve TV Dec 2nd #22, how about instead you include the match that is taking place, and if that match is significant call it out. Something like "Eve TV Dec 2nd CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH 3
  • In the intro splash, for important matches, include that in the splash just before the match. Let the viewers know that it is the third Championship match, or the fourth and maybe include the current record, 2-1 or whatever the current "score" is. That would help a lot.

Overall (tl;dr)

NEO wasn't and won't be a competitor to ATX. That simple fact could be seen by the viewership, but also by the level of effort that CCP put into the stream. I'm sure that the amount of time usually used to prep for say an AT event wasn't met, and CCP had to scramble to get things in place, but more polish would still greatly benefit future NEO events. This is a reoccurring theme for CCP, "more polish needed." Maybe you should just replace 'polish' with 'testing' and feedback. 

Bottom line though, was the NEO was a success and I do anticipate more such events in the future, with similar sponsors and participation. But with careful brand management and some improvements, maybe even some I suggested, Eve streaming events will continue to grow in viewers and popularity.

Congrats to the Winners of NEO1, Asine Hitama's Team, A team from the G0dfathers Alliance. Well fought and executed to come out on top. Not to mention good stamina, coming out of the best of 5 style match, bringing in that many ships and fits to emerge victorious.

CCP Games Own3d Stream can be found here for replays of all your favorite matches and to watch the matches you missed!