Thursday, August 08, 2013

Power Creep

On twitter last night I posted this:
Proposition: The alliance tournament prize ships should be distribute to more than just top two teams. Discuss.
I got a couple responses:

Allow me to expand on my thoughts more.

Pandemic Legion just won their fifth alliance tournament which is a remarkable testament to their skill, no doubt about it. Other recent tournament winners, Hydra Reloaded and Verge of Collapse, both did well getting to the final four with Hydra being the team PL beat to win the big prize. In fact, it is my opinion that all of the teams to get to the quarter finals did it on skill and blood and sweat and tears. Congrats to you all.

But how much money did it cost to get that far? A team can easily spend a billion in ships and modules in a match, if not much more. Implants for each pilot (even limited to only +3% or lower) can be hundreds of millions or more each. In double elimination if you fall into the losers bracket you have to get ships for extra matches too.

And then consider some of the compositions we see as the tournament goes on. Not only do we see faction and tech II ships galore but even previous tournament frigates and cruisers come out to play. As Mynnna said in a response to a twitter question of mine:

"Some spend hundreds of billions of isk."

WOW. And outside of the top two teams the rewards are essentially nil. The third place team in previous tournaments may have got a handful of PLEX or straight up 20-25 billion ISK, but compared to the possible hundreds of billions of ISK invested it is a drop in the bucket. And if you don't spend hundreds of billions of ISK to compete, your chances of advancing far are limited at best.

To be fair, not all teams that advanced far had massive budgets.

So it is possible to compete and advance far in the tournament without a massive budget, but just like a professional sports team, its a lot harder. And outside of the top two teams, the tangible rewards are nil.

But for the top two teams, the rewards are massive.

The second place team gets 10 blueprint copies with 5 runs each of a unique tournament prize frigate which are often more powerful than most other frigates in the game and which cost virtually nothing to build but sell for 20 billion ISK each. This Cambion BPC goes for 60 billion last week but does not mention the number of runs. Even assuming a base sell price of 20 billion each you have a winning prize estimated at 500 billion ISK.

The winning team gets 50 runs of a unique prize cruiser. Its hard to get a firm price fix on these as they don't get sold very often. Eve kill estimated the Etana kill at 50 billion, here's someone trying to sell an Adestria last year for 60 billion. Let's use round numbers and say 50 billion as a base price to sell a tournament cruiser. That means the winning team effectively won 2.5 trillion ISK in the tournament.
I was a little surprised too.
Here's my concern.

The winners of the alliance tournament are not just making a profit, they are making a massive profit which they can then turn around and use to their advantage in the next tournament, either for funding the best compositions money can buy for every match in every round, or using the powerful but cheap points-wise tournament ships in the compositions themselves.

Previous winners Pandemic Legion, Hydra Reloaded, and Verge of Collapse were in the quarter finals because they are excellent teams but I think that they have an advantage from previous winnings and second place finishes. A huge advantage? No, but one that increases every time they win either of those massive prize packages. For everyone else, the alliance tournament can be a huge money sink making it more difficult to compete year upon year. The gap increases every year.

I have a proposal to float of course, a simple one that can help alleviate this power creep for future tournaments.

I like the idea of a unique limited number of tournament cruisers and frigates being prizes, but I think we should reward more than just the top two teams (with token cash thrown at the third place). Here is my prize structure:

1st place: 25 runs of tournament Cruiser and 25 runs of tournament frigate
2nd place: 15 runs of tournament Cruiser and 15 runs of tournament frigate
3rd place:  10 runs of tournament Cruiser and 10 runs of tournament frigate
4th place: 5 runs of tournament Cruiser and 5 runs of tournament frigate.

What good will this do? Well, there is still a large payout for the winners (down from estimated 2.5 trillion to 1.750 trillion) but a doubling for second place (up from estimated 500 billion to about 1 trillion) and a a huge payout to third and fourth place (estimated 700 million and 350 million respectively). This also has the effect of ensuring that any overpowered ships are not concentrated and hoarded in a single alliance (perhaps depressing the price of said ships a bit but I suspect that they will always command huge sums being unique, and I don't think that is necessarily bad anyways) and allows a better chance for reward for teams that make it into the semifinals. I'm not opposed to giving tens of billions of ISK to the other four quarter finalist teams either.

By flattening the spike of rewards at the top of the tier you give more resources to more teams to have resources to draw upon for the next tournament. And since there are more "reward spots" you have more chance for a "dark horse" team doing well one year and earning the financial wherewithal for a better run the next.

Ultimately the goal should be reward the winners handsomely while still avoiding or limiting a self-reinforcing cycle where only the top two winning teams get advantages for the next tournament. Spreading the rewards is the best thing to do to fight this.


  1. ignoring the fact that not all tourney ships are actually that good for the tourney. This years for example.

    1. True, but they still represent a financial windfall that cna be used to finance the next tournament's ships.

  2. The high financial barrier to entry makes the tournament a rich alliance's game. A trillion ISK is pocket change to a nullsec alliance, but less wealthy alliances would be hard pressed to have the excess ISK lying around needed to field a competitive fleet, regardless of how skilled their pilots were.

    Another option might be to expand the tournament to allow additional 'class' brackets that limit the ship classes involved. Frigate and cruiser class brackets would allow relatively cash poor but talent rich alliances to compete.

  3. During AT10, PL spent more ISK on the comp they used against us than Rote Kapelle's entire AT budget including our entry fee... by a factor of three. The ISK differences only went up this year. Every single team Rote fought this year was more expensive than ours. Every one. Including the ones we beat 100-0.

    That said, the advantage of flying in a tournament isn't and shouldn't be financial. And that's doubly true if you do well. As I stated above, only sometimes does all that ISK actually help you. I think the only match where ISK was the deciding factor was the first HYDRA/PL match where HYDRA essentially bought victory for 150 billion ISK. In every other case, the extra ISK wasn't worth very much.

    The bigger worry about tournament is going to be how more casual alliances are going to be pushed out of the game by circumstances rather than ISK. Almost no alliances could have followed the path that PL followed this year. I'll have more to say about that on my own blog today or tomorrow.

  4. You don't need that deep pockets to do well in the tournament as clearly Agony showed. We had a similar budget and got almost as far. Typical Tournament setups cost 2-3b at most and not everything gets blown up every time. In addition, they cut down a major part of expenses this year by limiting hardwirings to 3%. They're cheap and allow even everyday alliances to optimize implants for every setup.

    Even if we had a trillion isk budget and got to where PL got, I'm not sure we would've had the endurance to go through all those matches.

  5. I'm not sure I like your solution. I think I agree with the commentators about being able to have contol of the stock for winning the tournament.

    However, I think there should be better rewards for 3rd and 4th place. I stated somewhere else I think that 3rd should get 50 of the correct factions Navy/Pirate BS, and then I guess 4th should get 50 of that faction's Cruiser. And what if the top 4 teams got their entry fee returned to them?

    As for the advantage in the tourney itself I think that previous years tournament ships should be balanced on points to bring them. They should probably be 2-4 points higher than their normal equivalent.

    I also think that they should, maybe, be limited to the finals weekend but am not as sure about that one.

  6. As Cora cited above, CCP has tremendously leveled the isk cost for the tourney by limiting to +3% hardwirings. Flagship aside, an alliance can easily field a team on 10-30B isk. This isn't theory, my alliance, Exodus., is rather poor (contrary to Brent's statements) and small. We've been able to place 3rd, twice, on modest budgets. This year was probably 15-25B (waiting on final number from our captain).

    Admittedly, going up against Etanas, Cambions, and Malices kindof sucks. I do NOT want them out of the tourney though - its crazy fun to blow up hugely expensive ships and its part of the magic of the tourney, that you actually see them flown, and die.

    Continuing in the theme of limiting power creep, I could see CCP giving prize ships a 1pt higher cost though, to continue a GREAT trend CCP's been on - leveling the tourney playing field, both in isk cost and sheer effort needed, to encourage more tourney competition. The other massive change is the features added to Sisi and now Duality, seeding all systems, saving corp fittings, PW secured dedicated practice systems, etc. All of these changes have made it easier than ever for the little guys to compete with the pros, thereby raising everyone's game and making the event even more exciting. They've done an incredible job, much of which I suspect is Fozie's doing (best hire they've ever made).

    While the greedy side of me would have loved to get shiney stuff for 3rd place, I do not want the tourney diluted. I prefer them keeping that stuff to 1st/2nd. Guaranteed entry or a bit of isk would be nice, but is just that - nice, nbd.

  7. Anonymous7:34 pm

    Rather than distributing more prizes among the winners, which only serves to increase the elite to four teams that consistently make the semis, why don't you just specify that only T2 ships and T2 mods or below can be flown in the tournament? That would level the playing field significantly (although I get a feeling that the alliances that contested the semis would still be in the mix).

    1. I recommend reading the rules section on the AT page.
      Specifically the section relating to "Fitting Restrictions".

  8. While I think it would be good to have more prizes distributed throughout the tournament, I'd have to think more on what would work/make sense.

    While it's true the top two teams get the unique ships which are worth a ton. How many of those have actually been sold to the general populous on TQ?

    I think it was Shadoo who said they don't really think of the prize ships in terms of ISK.

    Also the base value of the prize ships is set by CCP because there is such a limited number of them.

  9. Anonymous9:07 am

    Spreading the prizes around is a no-brainer, upping the stakes for third place and beyond. Extra ship BPCs, or slightly different distributions thereof cost CCP nothing more.

    I wouldn't want to take *much* away from Hydra, for example, who probably would have made the finals without special ships--but I suspect they wouldn't have come in second without those win buttons. Tourney hulls made easy what would have been a couple of harder-fought matches.