ECQ Feedback: An Open Letter To DWD

ECQ Feedback: An Open Letter To DWD

Dear Dire Wolf Digital,

There is a lot I wanted to say about the first competitive season of Eternal that I couldn’t get through in just a feedback form. I also felt it would be good to have more public discussion on the topic. As such, an article felt like the answer.

The first official competitive Eternal circuit was incredibly exciting, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season. I wanted to give feedback on what I thought were the best parts and what I felt needed improvement. Please note that all of this is related to the structure and format of the DWD competitive scene and has nothing to do with balance or game design. All these words and opinions are my own, but many do seem to be shared by other heavily invested Eternal players. Regardless, to those other players, make sure your words are heard in the comments or simply through DWD’s in-game feedback.


The Good

Let’s start with what I thought were the best parts of the official competitive Eternal circuit.

The Prizing

The chance at $2000 for 1st place at an ECQ was just enough to feel really worth it. For a company the size of DWD, I do think this was a great pool of money. The pack offering for doing well was also nice—I never appreciated them the moment as I was always usually bummed about not performing better, but making day 2 or close to it really does give you a significant chunk of packs. Other game companies might charge you more to enter these tournaments and not give you anything at all for not placing, so I considered this area to be a huge success.

Special Drops

Like the packs, it’s a small added bonus that makes watching tournaments even more fun. Definitely keep these.

The Tournament Casting

DWD is definitely gifted with a very good group of tournament casters. They are great at casting on their merit alone, but being the designers of the game took the commentary to a whole different level. There were a few small blunders but in general I loved the casting and was always excited to watch the tournaments for it.

Ease of Entry

The cost of entry for the ECQ’s was very nice between the gold or gems. It felt like enough to warrant a serious environment without also breaking your bank. This is less of an issue for me as I’m a hardcore player that doesn’t typically have issues with gold, but I can imagine it was nice for most casual and semi-competitive players, as well as those who are serious but don’t have the time or real-life money to spend on the game.

That It Existed At All

This might seem a little silly to say, but I can’t emphasize enough how awesome it is to have an officially recognized tournament structure of some sort. Beyond the prize support, having a competitive tournament structure created or 100% endorsed by the creators of the game adds a significant level of legitimacy that makes the tournaments and the victories in them feel much more meaningful. Though I can only predict that it’s ultimately beneficial for creators of competitive multiplayer games to have official competitive outlets, I also recognize that there is probably a lot of business hurdles to overcome in getting there (in addition to the prize money.) I’ve seen too many games die from not taking the proper steps in having an official competitive format, so I’m glad Eternal has one, and with a very respectable prize pool no less.


Things That Need Improvement

Now I want to talk about things that weren’t so good and that I personally think should be improved on in the upcoming seasons.

ECQ Points And Worlds Invites

This was a system that felt almost meaningless once the end of the season came around and it dawned on me that only one person would actually earn an invite from the Showdown. By giving out invites only to the people who made the finals of ECQ’s (or were the winners of the Showdown or Master’s Challenge), it made the process of qualifying feel extremely luck-based. I’m well aware of how one already needs to be lucky to do well in a game of variance like Eternal, but the overemphasis on making the finals creates a very feast-or-famine scenario that leaves out people who consistently do very well yet fail to clinch a finals placement. One example of this is Eternal Titan’s camat0, who top had multiple Top 8 ECQ finishes and a 2nd place finish at the ETS World’s Invite tournament, and still didn’t make it to World’s. There are probably several more players in this category.

In general, I feel the ECQ points should matter more so as to reward players who consistently perform well. I think a possible solution would be to give the World’s invite to the person who got 1st in each ECQ and give the previous 2nd place slots to high point earners. That way, the people who get 2nd will still likely be invited due to the high amount of points they earn while still allowing for consistently strong players to earn a well-deserved slot. This would also have the added benefit of making the Finals much more exciting, as only one player would get the invite, dramatically increasing the stakes and tension of the game for the players and the viewers. The players might care about the $1000 on the line, but the viewers probably don’t. They care about the glory.

Finally, I also think Worlds should be a larger tournament, such as 32 or even 64 players. Even if many of these slots ended up having to have little or no prize support, it gives something for players to consistently work for and still gives the pride of making it to Worlds.

Single Elimination

I’m still undecided about how I feel about the general structure of the 28 single-games qualifier portion of the tournament. However, I am fully convinced that the single-elimination in a 64 person bracket in day 2 just feels bad. Qualifying consistently for day 2 of an ECQ is an agonizing and very difficult process as-is, even for the best players in the game: many of the most renowned players in this game regularly failed to make day 2 for these tournaments, with many probably averaging 1/2 to 2/3rds of the ECQ’s. To get there and then have one bad matchup or even just one bad draw in the 1st or 2nd round and then lose with nothing to show feels miserable. This is about giving players a chance to actually prove they’re the better player, enabling all the hard work they already put in, and not leaving their chances up to the equivalent of some dice rolls. Though I’m fairly certain that swiss with cut to Top 8 is the preferred format of virtually all card game players (myself included), even just moving to double-elimination would drastically reduce the luck required to qualify. It might even have the added benefit of making good narratives, allowing exciting moments where players climb through losers bracket to first place. Both of these formats would require more time, but I think most would be very welcome by players despite the increased time input, especially double elimination as it is a much smaller increase in overall time and resources compared to swiss.

On the note of narratives…

Hype, Build-up, And Narratives

I’m one of the most involved people in this game and I barely knew any of the players in the World’s tournament. With so much money on the line, it was weird that the World’s players, who are some of the best in the game, were little more than game tags on a screen. One of the best parts of watching tournaments is having the narratives behind players. I actually think aReNGee of the ETS did this really well given his extremely limited resources and its one of the many things that made the ETS so incredible from both a player and viewer perspective.

On a small aside, of the narratives that were used, a handful of them felt bad. In many of the tournaments, the casters talked about players who were also professional Magic: The Gathering players, who the casters knew presumably thanks to their own vocation of being professional Magic players. This isn’t bad in itself, and it is not my intent to bring up the personal lives of DWD employees, but regularly talking about professional Magic players in tournaments felt like it came at the expense of the professional players of this game who have made names for themselves in the ETS, the ECL, ladder placements, and/or streaming. (I use the term professional in terms of skill level and achievement since it’s not like Eternal players or even most Magic players actually make a living playing their respective games.) It gave the impression that being a good Eternal player came second to being good at another game and I would have preferred to see home-grown Eternal players and personalities being showcased instead.

In general, there just wasn’t any hype or build-up to World’s. It felt like we just learned about it one day, got a few brief text-only updates and articles, and then it happened. Even without narrative, I think a lot could have been done to building up the pressure of the event, though the narrative is probably the most important for building up hype.

Production

I don’t think the production was bad per se, but it did feel lacking at times (especially at the beginning, though that’s quite forgivable.) I won’t comment much here since I’m fairly inexperienced when it comes to the technical aspect of running shows, but the ETS in its prime showed me how incredible a tournament could look even when it’s being run for free. Things like a pre-show, deck techs, and better transitions/introductions are all things that would be very welcome. Adding just a little more polish and quality to the tournament streams would go a long way. Lastly, I was also disappointed that the World’s stream looked the same as the ECQ’s. If there is any tournament that should be amazing to watch, it should be the most important one of the year.

Communication

This is a phrase thrown around a lot in the Eternal community, but I feel it is at its most important in regards to the Tournament scene. These tournaments are a big deal to people, and knowing when they’re happening is necessary for many of us to play in them. We might not need to buy plane tickets to go somewhere like we would for a physical card game, but we do sometimes need to cancel work or simply just box off the weekend from other plans so that we can play. It doesn’t need to be a full tournament season calendar from the beginning (although that’d be nice), but we do need to know about ECQ’s and the like at least two weeks in advance, and preferably at least 3 or 4.

Beyond that, it would also be nice to have a little bit more of a road map of the competitive tournament circuit (and the game in general.) A large number of competitive Eternal players thought that official competitive play would end and/or the game would die after World’s. I wasn’t one of them, but I’ve regularly felt that the sentiment was there among some of the most invested players in the game. More communication, structure, and talk of the future would easily instill confidence and hype in the community.

Conclusion

I might have given a lot of criticism, but it is only out of love for the game and my desire for it to flourish. Even with all the downsides, I still found the official competitive format to be fun and I really look forward to this next season. Thank you for reading and making such a great game. For those of you who don’t work at DWD, please continue the discussion and say whether you agree or disagree with me in the comments on Reddit or Twitter.


About the Author

Paradox is a team captain for Seek Power Gaming. He was the ETS S2 2018 Invitational winner and was ranked 5th in both ETS Career Series Points and ETS Top 8 showings. He made 5th in ECQ: Burning Hope, made several Day 2 showings in the ECQ series and received an invite to the ECQ: Showdown. He writes the For The Throne article series and occasionally streams, organizes tournaments, and casts tournaments. You can find him on twitter here.


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