The first Imperium Tournament concluded Sunday, with Reavers beating Space Violence in 750% reverse-tidi overtime for the title.
This was the first time anyone in the Imperium had made a real effort to organize a tournament, and it was very much a learning experience for all of us involved.
Birth of a Tournament
The idea for the tournament started with a conversation in the Goonswarm FC channels. Buff Fresh argued that a team composed of FCs from around the Imperium would be the best for GSF to send to the AT, Sothrasil countered that they’d be the worst for the job, because FCs have a completely different perspective on fights, and the conversation came around to the suggestion that the Imperium run a tournament, and the idea took off in the FC channel.
Sothrasil ended up being volunteered to organize a tournament, and about two months ago he began hammering out a set of rules based on the Alliance Tournament rules and signing up teams.
Sothrasil developed our tournament ruleset around what we could, and couldn’t easily verify on Singularity as referees. This resulted in some unusual rules. We allowed booster drugs, as originally there would have been no way for us to tell if players were under the influence, and our drone and module restrictions were relaxed considerably compared to the standard Alliance Tournament ruleset. This ultimately caused us some extra work to run on Thunderdome, as we had to manually overrule many “errors” in the tournament setup due to the differences in rulesets.
Sothrasil also adjusted our ruleset to account for the very compressed timeframe leading up to the tournament, with the ship banning and flagship rules being omitted to simplify decisions for the tournament teams, reduce the number of required ship setups, and shorten the match prep times.
New, Unfamiliar Tools
Although we’d initially planned to run this on Singularity, but Soth reached out to CCP, and we were granted access to Thunderdome two days before our originally planned start date of December 3. With only nine teams signed up for the tournament, and a 1900-2300 schedule, we did the math and found that we could comfortably get all the matches into one weekend if we kept them running on time. Our stream producer SkepticNerdGuy needed more time to set up the necessary hardware and software, the referees needed more time to get used to the of oddities CCP’s tournament tools, and the teams needed to reexamine their setups, as Thunderdome was running a pre-Ascension release of EVE Online with major differences in how command ships and tactical destroyers functioned.
The call was made with unanimous agreement from the organizers to stage the tournament on the 10th, and 11th, and so with a week of added breathing room, we set out to prepare properly.
We’ve never used Thunderdome before, and it’s only been available to players for a short time, so the tools we had at our disposal were completely foreign to us. We weren’t familiar with what would happen, and the guide from CCP on the tools was a little thin on the details.
To improve our familiarity and our confidence in the tools we ran test matches during the week with a variety of comedy setups and tried to simulate things going wrong so that we knew what to do during the tournament, we knew how to fix problems, and most importantly, we knew how to avoid problems.
Despite the confusion over the tools, we quickly realized the advantages of having them, as the tournament tool allows for a level of integrity and ease of operation otherwise impossible in the uncontrolled venues of Tranquility and Singularity.
We ran some test matches with captains from the tournament teams as well, to make sure they understood how the matches would work and what was expected of them to be able to get them into the matches quickly.
Even with a week to practice, we still ran into some issues. The developer skill needed to pilot the official CCP-issue spectator’s ship was awarded to referees and spectators earlier in the week, and characters that hadn’t logged in by that time didn’t get the skill. Skeptic missed the skill on one of his camera accounts and rather unwisely decided to sit cloaked in the center of the arena in an Ibis. This proved not to be such a great idea when the Reavers team started smartbombing to clear drones.
We also ran into an issue the first day that almost delayed the initial match. We tried to switch systems early in the tournament day to avoid a scheduling conflict with two other events running on Thunderdome at the same time, but we tried to do it after the setup sequence of the match had been initiated, resulting in a match that was locked to the solar system, and a solar system that was locked for the match. It took us nearly 10 minutes to get our cameras back into position and start the match.
We slipped up as referees on one of the matches – a team brought an illegal fleet composition, fielding two Cruors when our rules clearly specified only one of each ship. We quickly decided to dock points against the offending team, but in the end, it didn’t affect the match outcome.at all.
The second day, you may have noticed the team names didn’t appear – this happened because the in-game tournament brackets within the tournament tool didn’t properly reflect the match results, and therefore we couldn’t use our pre-configured tournament matches on the second day. We decided it was better for generic Team A and Team B names to be displayed than incorrect team names, and ran with it.
The Stream Setup
SkepticNerdGuy really delivered on the execution of the tournament broadcast, pulling together a broadcast-quality production in just over a week’s time. Work started to build the streaming setup around the 2nd, and we did various test runs the week of Dec 4th-10th to make sure everything would run smoothly.
One of the goals of our test runs was to get the timing of match setup down to a fine science so that the referees could properly cue our stream producer on the match start times for a smooth lead out and transition into the match.
The comedy matches between referees and participants helped us greatly with understanding the timing and they also allowed our stream producer practice time with the camera tools.
We secured copies of various RMT Records videos from the Ministry of Truth to stream directly from Skeptic’s control room between matches, and one of our commentators, Moomin Amatin, took it on himself to interview the teams to prepare the commentators for the live stream.
We used two Discord channels for commentating – the “commentator’s box” for live commentary of the matches, and “the studio” for between-match commentary.
Video clips were preloaded onto the stream PC to fill the gaps between matches and give us breathing room for the team to talk over what was going on throughout the day.
In the end, we did end up experiencing some minor issues with the stream – there were small audio/video sync issues that plagued us, even though they weren’t there during the testing phase, and the second day, the timing of our video transitions was just a few seconds too early.
I attempted to referee and provide between-match commentary on the second day, and in retrospect, I should have kept notes – my memory failed on me at the worst possible moments!
Producing the Tournament
I asked Skeptic to describe his experiences with the stream:
The stream setup was an interesting learning adventure. Having never done a stream in this style the first step undertaken was to draw out a process and plan out what exactly was needed. Both the technical aspects and the stream production aspects. I realized that in order to create a more production style stream, I needed two PCs. One to observe the matches as well as display the commentators, and one to be able to more gracefully transition from one scene to the other from the first PC without issues.
I named the first PC the “Director PC” and the second one the “Stream PC” and set out in developing the pipeline in which eventually became the tournament stream. The graphics assets took some time to create and or gather, probably the longest step in getting things together for the stream.
Once all was set up and tested, on game day, I took the role of “directing” the stream by taking an invisible role, being heard by all but the audience. Probably more than once I disrupted the commentators’ train of thought by busting out laughing at Moomin’s comments.
Both days I scrambled between two PC’s back and forth while talking out loud to the Studio or Commentators letting them know when they were live.
The first day went off with no problems, a complete success in my opinion. But on the second day I ran into some issues with an audio desync. This desync was causing some huge issues where I was constantly cutting off announcers with too early video transitions. I tried multiple times to fix the delay issues during the stream, as well as a complete restart of the stream. All of my attempts failed.
This picture is indicative of the frustration I felt when I couldn’t resolve the desync. I now know what was causing it, and will have it fixed for the next time.
Either way, the whole process of organizing and producing the stream was a blast. The lessons learned from this experience will only set things up for later. We only just got started, and it’s only going to get better.
Given that we’d made the decision to run only one weekend instead of the originally planned two, we ran with an extremely tight schedule throughout the two days of the tournament, organizing the matches into three “tracks” with a referee assigned to each track. The ordering of the matches was shuffled around and breaks were inserted to have a buffer to make up any lost time as well as to guarantee teams a break between each of their matches.
The three “track” approach meant the referee of the next match was always loading the next team into the tournament tool the moment the arena cleared from the previous match, so that as the commentators in the studio discussed the result, the following two teams were getting checked in and brought out to the arena.
We managed to keep on time throughout the entire tournament, using the small amount of buffer allocated to realign subsequent matches back to the scheduled start time.
The commentators did a great job during the tournament, even though we were plagued with mysterious audio sync issues on the second day.
The recap on day 2 ran long and seemed a bit forced – in retrospect, I think it would have been better to have reviewed all the results and then focused on highlights – maybe a bit more of a script to work from here.
In the end, we’d have also liked a bit more time for post-match commentary instead of trying to have a long recap of every single event during the first day.
We enjoyed running this tournament, and it was always our intent to “test the waters” with this one – now that we’ve done that, we really want to run more tournaments, with a broader audience and broader participation. Obviously, a bit more infrastructure has to be created for that, but I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to publicly announce something within the next month or two about our future tournament plans – and next time, all of EVE will be invited…
Alternative formats greatly interest me – I’d love to see a cruiser down or even a frigate size tournament format for a future event.
I’d love to see replay capabilities added to the stream setup, but I think that might require a proper studio setup with on-location commentators to successfully accomplish.
We had an amazing team for this. Sothrasil did a wonderful job organizing the tournament itself, and our referee team, the commentators were amazing, the stream production by SkepticNerdGuy exceeded our expectations, and the Ministry of Truth even managed to drop an amazing RMT Records parody release right into the midst of the stream.
Last of all, congratulations to our winners, thank you to all the teams that participated, and thank you to CCP for allowing the use of the Thunderdome server, and especially to CCP Logibro for his assistance.
Editor’s note: A full list of credits can be found here. Our thanks go out to everyone involved with making the tournament happen!