Blood. Sand. From time immemorial mankind has been transfixed by the gladiatorial nature of combat for no other reason than the fight itself. In our modern age our fascination with ‘versus’ (the etymology of which is the Latin for ‘turned towards or against’) is shifting into the digital spectrum: eSports.
EVE Online is frequently described as a ‘sandbox’ MMO and the correlation between a sandbox and the gladiatorial arena is immediately recognisable. Out in the depths of Null Sec great Alliances and Coalitions strive against one another for virtual domination of New Eden. In theory we already have the greatest of eSport spectacles playing out before our very eyes but with one small issue: That interstellar battle proceeds with the pace of glacial crawl.
Sports (accepting the wider picture of leagues, ladders and championships) are more normally delivered in bite sized chunks of (hopefully) exciting and frenetic action. More often than not they usually also deliver a clear and unambiguous result: a winner and a loser. Which pretty much precludes Null Sec territorial warfare from the Monday Night Big Game slot on prime time.
The Alliance Tournament already defines what can be achieved through the current EVE Online client: CCP could tweak numbers participating, restrict ship classes and so forth but the generic format of ‘fleet A versus fleet B’ is the logical ‘bite sized chunk’. But EVE is no longer constrained to just spaceship pew pew – DUST is also an additional arena. The sensible step then is DUST team vs DUST team?
But lets not stop there, because DUST and EVE are linked. How is that even remotely important? Well from a eSports perspective its possible to broaden the playing pitch. Could we see a contest waged simultaneously across both DUST and EVE with the in space war impacting upon the land war and vice versa?
Until now EVEs eSport has been a separate event to Tranquillity – its plausible though that through some ‘arena style’ mechanism the concept of eSports could be embedded in New Eden itself. There are pros and cons to this of course – embedded arenas may detract from the overall immersion of EVE as a wider universe in conflict, but an equal argument could be made that the lack of ‘gladitorial’ match ups in EVE is immersion breaking. After all what precisely would immortal capsuleers do if not pit their skills against one another?
eSports from League of Legends to Starcraft are growing in popularity but CCP has an unfortunate tendency to jump onto the latest band wagon (PI = farmville anyone?). It’s hard to blame CCP directly for this – games influence developers as much as developers influence game design. That said we should be cautious about throwing every effort behind the latest craze. Let’s not forget the bigger picture: that EVE Online is already one of the largest “eSports” – one writ across the entire universe and entrancing an audience well beyond its current populace.
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