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EVE Evolved: Alliance Tournament XI Grudge Match

Brendan Drain
Brendan Drain|@nyphur|August 11, 2013 6:00 PM
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The largest alliance war in EVE Online's history is currently underway, with the latest battle to hit the news reaching over 4,000 players and shattering the world record for players involved in a single PvP battle. While massive battles like are becoming a regular occurrence in EVE and have dominated the news lately, the strategy of just throwing thousands of ships at the enemy and seeing if it works doesn't work in every corner of New Eden. Wormholes, for example, limit the mass of ships entering a hidden Sleeper star system at once, promoting smaller-scale conflicts that are more about deep strategy and execution than scale.

So it is for EVE Online's annual alliance tournament, a fairly matched drawing that attempts to simulate what would happen if small squads of ships from opposing alliances met on equal terms. Teams are drawn randomly against each other and put together squads of ships within the bounds of an imposed point limit. This year's tournament involved only 64 teams and had no elimination stage but still managed to pump out 128 action-packed matches with full commentary and studio coverage. The grand final even played host to the biggest grudge match in Alliance Tournament history as Pandemic Legion faced off against Hydra Reloaded.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I round up all the matches in this year's massive Alliance Tournament and discuss the explosive final that saw old tournament rivals face off for glory and huge in-game prizes.

Game side imageTournament format changes

The Alliance Tournament usually starts with a knock-out elimination stage to determine which 32 teams proceed to the group stages, and the top two teams from each group would then go on to the final tournament. This year saw the format change to a more standard competitive model with a single-stage double-elimination format.

There were no qualifiers this year and the group stage was removed, but only a total of 64 teams was allowed to enter. Those teams were then drawn against each other randomly, with the winner moving on to its next match and the loser entering the loser's bracket for an elimination match against another loser. This is a popular setup in competitive MOBA tournaments as it allows a team to lose one match to blind luck or technical fault and still win the tournament, but losing a second match means your team is out of the tournament for good.

The final three matches in the winner's bracket and the final two matches of the loser's bracket were conducted as best-of-three series to ensure the teams that made their way to the final weren't just getting lucky. The top team from the winner's bracket then faced off against the top team from the loser's bracket in a best-of-five grand final with the team in the winner's bracket starting at an automatic one win advantage.

Game side imagePrizes and rules

Though 32 teams were drawn into the tournament at random, a further 32 won their places by bidding in a silent PLEX auction with a minimum buy-in of 5 PLEX. The top alliances often pay billions upon billions of ISK worth of PLEX to secure their places in the tournament, and it's worth it for the chance to compete for some truly unique prizes.

This year's grand prize was a blueprint copy for the Moracha, a unique Angel Cartel Force Recon ship designed exclusively for the tournament. Second place players received a blueprint for the Chremoas, an Angel Cartel covert ops frigate with five mid slots and some serious firepower for a cloaked ship. If previous years' prizes are any indication, these ships will be worth untold billions on the black market.

Each team was allowed to have up to 12 pilots on the field but had to have the points to provide ships for each of them. One team might decide to bring just a few high-cost battleships and strategic cruisers, for example, while another might opt to field a cheaper squad of tech 1 cruisers and electronic attack frigates. Standard restrictions on the number of logistics ships, energy transfers, and remote repair modules were enforced, and only Tech 1 rigs were allowed. Certain implants and all boosters were also outlawed, and Ancillary Shield Boosters were once again limited to one per ship to prevent booster coasting during the reload time.

Game side imageGrudge Match Final: Hydra Reloaded vs. Pandemic Legion

The grand final of this year's tournament was a very interesting match-up, as AT9 winners Hydra Reloaded faced off against previous three-time champions Pandemic Legion. Alliance tournament IX saw Pandemic Legion's winning streak broken in a controversial piece of meta-gaming, as Hydra actually spied on all of the teams as they trained on the test server and then fed intel to certain teams to manipulate the brackets.

This caused last year's tournament to institute a rule against spying and even led developers to set up a special training server just for tournament entrants. Despite the changes, PL fell just short of reaching the grand final last year after a chance match-up against HUN Reloaded. Pandemic Legion got its shot at redemption this year in an explosive grand final match-up against the team that arranged its early downfall in AT9, leading to one of the most tense grudge match finals in Alliance Tournament tournament history. I won't spoil the outcome, but you can check out the grand final match series in the playlist below:

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If there were any dirty deals with teams being paid to throw matches or betting against themselves, they weren't obvious and didn't seem to disrupt the tournament. The tournament often sees anti-climactic finals with one team losing in a matter of minutes and accusations of corruption being thrown around. In contrast, this year's final seemed to be taken much more seriously; the matches were closer, and both Hydra Reloaded and Pandemic Legion really seemed as if they wanted to win.

This year's Alliance Tournament may have involved fewer teams and might have seen less spying and other shenanigans, but it was one of the best displays of competitive gaming to hit EVE in a long time. The double-elimination format that has become the standard in the competitive gaming scene also seemed to do a great job and significantly simplified the tournament compared to last year. EVE is starting to become a bit of a spectator sport, and tournaments are a great way to show people the strategy that exists in small-scale PvP. I really hope that CCP does more tournaments throughout the year, as it did with last year's $10,000 New Eden Open.

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 brendan@massively.com.
EVE Evolved: Alliance Tournament XI Grudge Match