Thank you very much everyone for placing me on CSM 6 and now on CSM 7 where I am currently serving as the Chairman! If you would like to contact me directly, do not hesitate to just send me an eve mail in game. Keep your eyes here and watch for new posts.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CSM 6 December Summit Report

Real life CSMs may or may not resemble the above.
I'm going to preface this blog by stating up front that this summit was the most productive and potentially exciting of any that I've ever attended, either as a dev or a player.  I'll explain those distinctions further along but I want to get started on this.

So... I almost didn't attend this summit. Primarily, the date got changed and I had to flex some travel plans in order to make the trip.  Secondly, after eight years of playing EVE, over three of them working in Game Design at CCP, I thought I had seen it all... then the events of the past spring took place. The consistent, stumbling idiocy of CCP's Incarna roll-out, not to mention everything from Tyranis onward had me ready to throw in the towel. In retrospect, CSM6's first summit was a Unicorn and Rainbows affair. Then there was the fiasco of the meeting minutes release after the Incarna Emergency Summit, where nearly two months was spent 'editing for tone'.  It all only served to reinforce that something was very wrong. Add it all up and I wasn't the only one thinking, "If it's going to be more of the same, what's the point?" I summed all of this up in my Reality Check blog back in September.

Then all hell broke loose and CCP turned the company upside down, shook really hard, and reset thier course. The events leading up to the Crucible release included a remarkable turn around in day to day communications with CCP. The CSM forums came alive and the shared Skype channel with CCP was no longer just about who had a Diablo 3 beta key. CCP'ers were finally doing what they'd always wanted to do and the difference showed in every facet of the CSM's interaction with them.  More on this later on.

I also have to mention a long Skype chat I had with my old friend CCP Diagoras (Lord of the North John Turbefield) that got me fully on board again with CCP's new direction. I hear the term 'bitter vet' tossed around quite a lot; folks, few of you have anything on guys that have been playing since the game went retail and have also had the joy / frustration of said game being your job as well. The events of the past 18 months (heh) were quite the roller coaster ride. I watched features I worked on as a dev go untouched and plans for iteration of the same go stagnant for too long, which was primarily why I decided to run for CSM. A lot of people asked me why I was running for CSM when I had already worked at the company.  You know who didn't ask me?  The people still working at the company. :)

Let's just be honest and admit up front that Crucible is the 'low hanging fruit'. The current expansion is full of everything that should have already been taking place over the last 2+ years. It's great stuff and I take nothing away from the hard work to get it all done but it's also the 'easy' stuff in the sense that it really wasn't that hard to find things to do / fix / iterate. The hard part starts after Crucible. It's still up to us as players and the CSM to help keep CCP ummm... 'focused'.

I tried to take pictures here and there but had to be careful not to catch any ~NDA~ graphs or naked butts so people could see a bit more of what the experience is like.

Pre-Summit Shenanigans

"Yes, I am taking a picture of this. Go get your kid off the runway."
Folks like myself flying in from North America got on our planes early (0600 for me) for our connecting flights either through Boston International or JFK in New York. For me this meant getting up around 0400, catching a couple flights to JFK and then having a nearly 8 hour layover there. This was pretty shit because in order to get to the terminal where Iceland Air flies out of, I had to pass back out of security and there was fuck all to eat. Basically JFK is a horrible airport, second only to London, Heathrow as places I'd rather avoid at all costs.

For whatever reason, only two of us were flying out of JFK but I never spotted the other guy, some dude named xxDeathxx. A 5.5 hour flight landed everyone within 10 minutes of each other around 0640 in Keflavik. I quickly spotted all the other CSM duders that came from Boston and Mittens wasted no time in being the first to ask me the hilariously odd question, "So, have you seen Mr. Death?" This would turn into quite the story that we followed as the day went on.

An hour or so later we were in Reykjavik and, having most of Tuesday to adjust to jet lag and chill, we all grabbed some food and a few hours sleep.  The plan was to meet up with the Euro CSM'ers who were landing in the afternoon and head over to Islenski Barinn, which is pretty much the CCP bar. A few of the devs, including Diagoras, Sreegs and Punkturis, came in early which started the first of many evenings that went long past midnight.

Ketchup in a yellow bottle. Really, Iceland??

Early on we got an update on what was happening with Mr. Death. He'd been unable to make his flight out of JFK the night before and was working on trying to make the next one. I don't claim to understand everything that went on here but apparently there was some kind of screw up with him needing a VISA to get on the plane to Iceland. CCP went into overdrive and Diagoras spent most of his Tuesday trying to expedite matters by, "...getting a Russian national living in the United States a Danish VISA so he can come to Iceland."  By all accounts, considering all of this was taking place in a time frame of less than 18 hours, there was no way Death was going to make it.  "He's gonna have to bribe or threaten someone.  No one is even going to be awake. This situation is too complicated. Welp."

As the evening wore on (we're all still at the bar), Diagoras got a call from CCP asking, "Should we just cancel the flight / hotel?" Not wanting to be subject to the wrath of an angry Russian should a miracle occur, he said, "Let's give it another hour or so."  Thirty minutes later, Diagoras' phone rang - it was Death saying that he had taken care of everything and was getting on the plane. Tinfoil on whose legs were broken and which Danish consulate worker had some extra spending money for Christmas took up the next half hour of partially sober discussion.


Breakfast took place around 0800 at a place right across from the hotel we were staying called The Laundromat. The food was pretty good but what was most important was that it had lots and lots of bacon. This made everyone, especially Mittens, very happy and ready to have some serious spaceship talks.

CCP's 'Expansion Wall' in the reception area. Sorry so fuzzy. :(

The meetings with the CSM take place on the fourth floor of CCP HQ in a large room called 'Trinity'. All of the main conference rooms in the office are named after a past EVE expansion. CCP now has these cool plaques in all of the conference rooms and a wall of them all in the reception area. Each one has listed the number of subscribers at release of the expansion and the number of employees. It's pretty sobering to see that during the first few expansions, CCP didn't even have 60 people working for them. I was hired shortly after the release of Revelations, EVE's eight expansion, and I was employee 117.  Three years later when I left, CCP was over 600 people.  Kinda nuts, huh?

In Tranquility with Prom, Xhagen, xxDeathxx & Elise

Meeting with Senior Producer of EVE & Hilmar

This meeting focused a lot on what's been going on internally at CCP since the 20% layoffs a couple months ago. Without going into specifics, we saw how CCP is being re-organized and who is going to be in charge of what. There are a couple details I'm literally jumping up and down to talk about but they will have to wait until CCP makes them public in the near future. It all looks good on paper (and at least there is actually something on paper now) so we'll see how it all pans out. There should be a video blog about some of this after the holidays.

Future of the CSM

CCP Xhagen and the CSM spent a good ninety minutes discussing everything from how the current CSM compares to previous ones to the actual nomination / election process.  We can't talk about this. There will be a dev blog or three about it. Welp.

EVE Veterans / Loyalty Program

Most online games have some sort of initiative to reward long time players for forking over their money every month for long periods of time. This discussion was not only about what kind of 'rewards' might be offered but also how to continue increasing information flow to players so they don't rage quit over things like the Retribution still only having one mid-slot. CCP is also looking at ways to simplify how players with multiple accounts can access their information. We also saw some pretty cool stats about numbers of subscribers over different periods of time which really need to go into a dev blog soon.

The Economy & The PLEX

While these two sessions certianly had enough specific information to stand on thier own, CCP Dr. EyjoG was present for both and I'm combining the write up as I remember there being a lot of crossover. Also, as usual, most of it was heavily ~NDA'd~ so I can't go into as much detail as I would like to until the minutes are released.

All of this kicked off with, what else, lots of numbers. Most of what went on in these sessions covered things like the consumer price index and the general health of the EVE economy.  One early point that stood out to me was that EVE currently has four 'markets' - the normal market, the contract / auction system, the loyalty point store and the NEX / aurum. There was some discussion about how to make this more efficient but nothing is written in stone yet.

Incursions got a lot of attention, with respect to how players have quickly figured out how to min / max everything to do with them. Obviously there needs to be some tweaks made but this is one of those good problems to have because it shows how many people are actually using the feature. Personally, I'd like to see the AI evolve even further and have Nightmares camping the Jita 4-4 undock. While CCP is at it, Sleepers should start attacking POS's in WH space.

The PLEX related stuff was super serious and, after some initial points and info from CCP, turned into a massive Q&A session. I can't go into much detail on all this except to say that I walked away a bit less confused and ragey than I went into it.  There will be a more thorough write up about it all in the minutes and over the next several months in dev blogs.  One amusing thing which was noted late in the day was that several of the pie charts used in the presentations all added up to 110%.

We started around 1330 and wrapped up at nearly 1700. After over three hours of this, Prom's eyes were pretty glazed over and he was all, "Chart all the things!!!"


CCP Sreegs is still very Darius Johnson in his presentation skills, which is always good for several laughs.  We got a good overview of what he's been up to and asked the usual questions about botting and people doing bad things, but there's not a lot I can really talk about here until the official minutes are released. Bummer. :(

Day Two
Corporate buzzwords are serious business at CCP.

This day was also the day of a CCP Global Staff Meeting which meant that we were evicted from the fourth floor and conducted our business in the second floor Exodous conference room. It was actually even bigger than Trinity but lacked the over the harbor view and windows of any kind. Despite the lack of natural light, we were mostly sober and awake for what would prove to be an 'energetic' day of discussion. There were six actual sessions scheduled for Day Two, and while the names of the sessions helped to steer general conversation, there was quite a lot of overlap (again). Remember that my summaries are just highlights and do not reflect the complete depth of these sessions, which you'll see more of when the minutes are released.

One of the cool things about these sessions was we had CCP Soundwave with us for the entire day, who is now running the three main design teams aimed at space iteration and development. CCP Greyscale, whose hands are in pretty much everything design related, was also present for a couple hours and an assortment of Team BFF All Stars were in and out of the room all day. Good times.

November Wrap-up

We got an overview of everything Crucible-related and a chance to push for more of this or that. The tentative schedule of future point release patches and what the CSM would like to include in them was also discussed.

Nullsec - Stations, Sov, Resources

There was quite a bit discussed here but the #1 request the CSM made is that we want to blow up stations. Destructible Outposts are going to be absolutely key to any kind of sov revamp. In the past, for Dominion, the idea was to have wreckable stations that you would be able to repair. Progress on several fronts has apparently made it possible to completely destroy player built outposts.  'Possibly' does not mean with 100% certainty that it will happen, but it's looking more likely than ever before. Obviously the mechanics of what to do with people's stuff need to be worked out but I feel like CCP is now on-board with the fact that big explosions are good things.  I'm very curious to see where all of this leads.

Another big topic in this session was how NPC stations in 0.0 affect null sec warfare. Looking at ways to put more control in the hands of the players is something else CCP Soundwave and his team will be looking at this next year.

The old 'Farms & Fields' topic came up again,  along with moon goo re-balancing and other sov / null sec-related incomes. There is a lot to do here but for the first time in years CCP seems to have the resources and the mindset to actually tackle and resolve many of the old issues that continue to plague us all.

Factional Warfare & Wormholes

This was all about one feature that could have been amazing and a feature that is already amazing but could use more love. Both are front and center in terms of things that CCP wants to iterate on in the coming year.  FW will most likely start with a series of minor tweaks before introducing some new elements that breathe new life into the feature.  The Wormholes discussion focused a lot on what it's like to live there and how the economic opportunity scales with other EVE 'lifestyles'.

Game Balance

CCP Tallest (the man is just a shade under seven feet) is Team BFF's primary ship balancer dude and we got to speak with him about... hell, pretty much everything. He asked what all was still fucked in the game and took a lot of notes. This is similar to what happened at the first summit back in May, only this time Tallest has an expansion under his belt and a better feel for how to prioritize things and get stuff done. This talk wasn't just limited to us throwing out ship names, but actually discussing each ship class and some of the specific ships themselves.

Another issue the CSM brought up was something close to my own heart - for characters that have been in supercaps for the past few years (Seleene has been in a Nyx since late 2006), pretty much everyone has maxed their drone skills. With the complete removal of the ability to use drones in supers, this renders several million skill points worth of training completely obsolete. A few different ideas on this were discussed and it kind of branched off into, "Ummm, no, supercaps are not 'fixed' just because you changed a few numbers and removed drones. Let's iterate some more, okay?"

Oh yeah, on supercaps - Yo, CCP, let supercaps fit a supercap point (hic scram) so we can #death2allsupercaps even more better good, okay? Sheesh!

Future High-level Discussion

This was actually broken down into two sub-categories: War and Fixing broken systems.  Seeing as how they are pretty much the same topic (i.e. sov war is Still. Fucking. Broken.), this was one three-ish hour long bitch / brainstorming session.  The positive aspect of this session was made clear when it became increasingly obvious that the people working on the future of EVE are not following any 'Stone Tablets' being handed down from the mountain.

What do I mean by that?  Well, up until recently, the Game Designers of EVE did not set the course of the game, nor were their opinions solicited for major feature work decisions.  For years, a group of what I'll call 'middle management' would go off site for a few days and through some ritualistic process end up with what the next expansion should be about.  The actual Designers would then be handed these ideas to turn into reality.  This process, known as being given Stone Tablets from the mountain top, has now been more or less banished and the results are as plain as the Crucible expansion.

While CCP obviously has a few big feature ideas on the back burner, they aren't talking about them much yet. Instead, the emphasis is on continuing the good work done over the past few months and integrating that into a larger plan.  In other words - one step at a time, make all the pieces fit, avoid ~awesome~. This is good because maybe some of the cool stuff that was supposed to be in Dominion might actually get into the game next year.

Day Three

Web Cell
Yay! (Actual opening slide)
CCP Alice started our day with a look at all of EVE Offline's potential coolness. (EVE Offline is the game that quite a few people with 120m+ skill points play).  A lot of ground was covered here, from how the EVE website and forums will evolve to looking at how to make EVE more accessible to players always on the move. We got a look at the future of 'Spacebook' and some concepts that aim to better explain EVE to people that just happen across the website.

CCP Alice and assorted other denizens...

The most interesting development for me was the change in mindset regarding 'EVE Offline'.  For many leaders in EVE, a lot of their time is spent doing things that do not actually involve logging in and shooting stuff yet still requires them to interact with the game client at times.  There has always seemed to be an unwritten law that if you wanted to interact with EVE in any way, you would have to actually log into the client.  That concept is finally evolving to where things like a tablet / smartphone client or app that allow you to manipulate your market orders or log into corp / alliance chat is under serious consideration.  Obviously, such things aren't going to happen overnight, but they are finally being discussed as possibilities and that makes me very happy.

I'm short-changing everything that happened in this session but when the minutes are released you'll have a better idea of some of the details. All in all, I think everyone on the CSM was pleasantly surprised at how cool this session turned out to be.

Convenience Microtransactions
Yes, 'Aurum' is an actual store in Reykjavik.

Stab. Stab. Stab.

Okay, I'm just going to say again that I'm not opposed to CCP making money for fluff in the game. I actually think that if implemented properly they could do some very cool things with it.  Doing it improperly (Incarna) cost CCP more than just some subscriptions - it's made the entire player base even more skeptical of the entire concept. Still, there are a number of cosmetic, non-gameplay affecting things, that could be done through the MT route such as ship paint jobs (flames on my Rifter!) or corp uniforms for Incarna.

Of course, the next sanity check for anything MT related is that CCP needs to, quite literally, get their head out of their ass about the prices. When a t-shirt made of pixels costs more than a real t-shirt in the RL online store You. Are. Doing. It. Wrong. CCP has said that before they dive back into the world of micro-transaction, they will work closely with the CSM so there are no $1000 jeans.

To that end, one of the main points discussed in the the roll out of the NEX Store was the introduction of Aurum as yet another form of EVE currency. Many on the CSM would just like to see Aurum abolished completely and have the entire MT system use PLEX broken down into 'micro-PLEX'.  I'm one of them.  Apparently this is something that CCP can actually do (with some time and tweaking) but there's no promises. Regardless, I think Aurum is stupid and unnecessary. #death2aurum

New Player Experience

We all told (horror) stories about how we got started, how we keep new players from feeling overwhelmed, how to explain to noobs all of the various tools the game client doesn't provide that you actually need to own properly, etc...  Basically, this whole session was an hour of the CSM explaining to the CCPers how to get people to want to keep playing EVE.

Also, did you know that Goonswarm is a newbie training organization? It's true! Mittens took great pleasure in walking CCP through the Goon wiki and a recruitment drive thread on Something Awful. Funny and interesting stuff.

Art - Eye Candy

Monocle God is actually very happy in this pic.
Oh wow, the Art session! At the first CSM summit, I suggested that we have an hour with Art so that everyone on the CSM could better understand the processes they use. Stuff like, "Why can't you lazy guys just add a third turret to the Naglfar IT'S EASY!!" was addressed back in May. Art was happy to talk to us again but this time they wanted to show off and brought in a dedicated uber-box to show us some shineys!

First off, one of the things that CSM 6 bitched about early on was the horrible rookie ships that everyone starts with. This is your introduction to the game and you are forced to fly something that looks pretty ghetto. Well, that's being solved as we were shown the concept art and nearly complete renderings of all four new Rookie ship skins that will be going into EVE "soon".  The new Reaper, in particular, looked amazing and makes me wonder how scary the Rifter will look if / when they get around to tweaking it as well. So, yet another example of how the CSM has no power. :)

Next up were a series of demos showing effects in space. I can't really say much about this (NDA) other than it's obvious the Art duders have been watching a ton of Battlestar Galactica. If they can get some of this stuff in game... holy crap...

There were a couple other things that I can't even hint at which made jaws literally drop but will hopefully be public in the near future.  I suspect that some of this stuff is being held back for Fanfest and rightfully so.  Remember the feeling you got the first time you watched the 'Trinity' expansion trailer? Get ready for that feeling again.

Much like all the other CCPers, the Art guys seemed almost giddy to have an audience they could share their excitement with.  They are working on stuff they want to (SPACESHIPS!) and you could tell they are loving it.

The U.I.
I googled 'bad EVE U.I.' and got this...

This was an extra session that got added into an empty slot on the last day... and it was good.  The only problem is that I can't really discuss many specifics because a lot of what we saw is likely going to be unveiled in dev blogs after the Christmas holidays. What I can say is that there is an extreme focus on efficiency and actually trying to make the interface more attractive. There's simple stuff like stacking multiples of the same kind of active mods (shield hardeners, etc...), glow effects and other widgets that reflect what CCP calls, 'an escape from weirdness'.

One other important thing of note is that there is particular care being paid to the needs of colorblind players. The UI team is taking extra steps to ensure any changes they make will be able to be optimized for the visually-challenged.

We saw a lot of promising mock-ups and while we will probably see some functional changes in the near future, I wouldn't expect to see anything like a full visual overhaul until next summer at the earliest (possibly even later).

The CSM & Hilmar
The room has a red tint for some reason (fire?)...
This was the meeting I'd most been looking forward to as I had a few very specific questions to ask and points to have considered. To Hilmar's credit, while he still has a tendency to be overly corporate in some of his responses, the distinct lack of buzzwords and grand ~ideas~ was a marked change from previous conversations. After the first half hour, he seemed to relax even more and was very blunt about his thoughts concerning the past few months leading up to Crucible. I'm sure the actual meeting minutes will be more detailed as to what was discussed so I'll just highlight a few things.

Among the things we asked about were, quite simply, "How did you miss what was going on? Were people not talking to you? Were you not listening?"

Hilmar was extremely blunt in stating, (I'm paraphrasing here), "It was a fundamental breakdown in the growth of our company... After doing the same things, people want to design new game play... the 'Jesus' features start... When you keep doing the impossible... when you keep doing things over and over that people tell you, 'Oh, no you can't do that! It's crazy', and you keep succeeding... you believe that you can do the impossible and no one can tell you any different.. You become married to your own opinion."

Hilmar said that he sees his role as providing a working environment where the company is structured so that people have known pathways to have thier opinions heard by people that can actually get shit done. This sort of bluntness permeated most of the meeting. He didn't seem to be trying to make excuses and wasn't shy about answering much of anything.

Another point that was raised with Hilmar and that I put particular emphasis on was working to make sure that CCPers feel comfortable actually playing the game. CCP Internal Affairs is still working with basically the same rules that were initially developed 4-5 years ago in response to the T20 scandal. This is a big point for me that I had unexpectedly reinforced on this trip. On Thursday night I was having a talk with someone that will remain nameless and was told he had run a report internally that showed PVP activity for CCP employees in July 2011. The number of devs that were involved on another player's kill mail was exactly eight.  Eight out of over six hundred. Granted, July was a pretty shit month for anyone playing EVE, but that's still a staggeringly low number.

The CSM, and myself in particular, were very adamant about the fact that while devs playing openly is probably never going to happen, there should be an evolution of their policies in this regard. CCP has the tools and oversight to properly monitor their people and almost everyone I speak to on this issue welcomes the idea of having a dev as their wing man in a fleet, even if they do not know about it.  EVE is a better game when the people working on it can enjoy it as much as a 'regular player'.

Of course, we also made sure Hilmar understood that the video dev blogs are the best thing the company has ever done as, "It's harder to rage at faces than words."

Most importantly, I heard this: "The main focus over the next year is fixing the project that is EVE."  In the same line, Hilmar stated that he's mostly concerned with making sure that the people working on EVE are happy, "... which means more Crucible work and fixing what is broken in the game." He indicated that there was a lot of 'retrospective' work done within the company that was very eye opening and shocking for him and he's now focused on making sure the kind of environment that existed for the past couple of years does not happen again.

Wrap Up
Iceland Air likes to name its planes after volcanoes.

No More 'Jesus' Features

There's been lots of speculation about what this means; it's basically Hilmar's way of saying that CCP is no longer looking for a silver bullet ~awesome~ solution to to EVE's subscriber curve. There's a solid commitment to finishing and fixing as opposed to the stone tablet mentality of the past.

A lot of people have mentioned Apocrypha and Crucible in the same breath as examples of great expansions. As I've said previously, what we're looking at right now with the amount of resources that have been refocused on EVE is the potential for an 'Apocrypha' every 3-4 months. That's not bullshit; it's actually possible due to the fact that there are literally five times the number of teams working on EVE today as there were three months ago. The actual content of what is to come is certainly going to be the subject of many CSM / CCP chats as well as continually improving forum communication between CCP and the overall community.

I saw a comment on Twitter a couple days ago that referred to Crucible as a 'tactical' expansion in preparation for the more 'strategic' stuff still to come. That's pretty accurate. As Mittens said, in the aftermath of the 'October War', everyone is gearing up for the inevitable 'Feature War'.

Iceland Air security gets to know Elise a little better.

Will CCP stay the course? Based on what we've seen recently I'd say, for at least the next year, yes. What will happen over the next year is anyone's guess but, aside from the 20% layoffs stuff, morale within the office is way up primarily because folks are getting a chance to work on the things they've been banging their heads against the wall about for years. I'd say we're looking at a solid 12 months of full throttle EVE EVE EVE before CCP takes their foot off the gas. That's fine with me for now because when the people working on the game are doing stuff that they WANT to do and actually have the resources and mandate to do it on a level that's never existed before, we'll probably see EVE evolve quite a lot in the next year.

I'm not all starry-eyed and rainbows about it all, but the immediate future looks good and we should all do everything we can to use this opportunity to help get the game where we want it to be.

Friday, November 18, 2011

December CSM Summit

The official CSM 6 logo.
The dates are now locked in: December 7th - December 9th.

We've had one "pre-Summit" meeting with CCP and a couple more on the horizon. While I expect this summit will be much different in tone to the others, things looks promising overall. There will be no Kool-Aid drinking on the CSM, but we've been encouraged by what we've seen recently. The tone of day to day chats with CCP is unrecognizable compared with just a couple months ago. The numerous written dev blogs and video blogs should keep coming right up until Crucible's release.

One thing we want to make sure of is that we get what information we can about the Summit into your hands as soon as possible. As the Summit gets closer, we will make sure to re-post links to blogs, twitter accounts, etc... so you can follow the non-NDA stuff in real time (more or less). We're also hoping to get a much quicker turn around this time on the official summit minutes, holidays permitting.

Feel free to suggest stuff for us to ask about / discuss and we'll post more in terms of official details / agenda as soon as we can.

Failheap Challenge Forum Thread

Jita Park (EVE-O) Forum Thread

Friday, October 7, 2011

Winter 2011 is Coming

T3 Supercaps?

About three minutes after Hilmar's Apology letter to the community was posted, CCP Zulu released a dev blog that gave everyone a look at what the immediate future of EVE looks like.

EVE Updating - Winter Expansion 2011
The blog has been met with mixed reactions because many people seem to think that we're getting short-changed by what looks to be nothing more than a lot of 'small stuff' with no major bling / content. On the plus side, Zulu improved his posting by at least 60%.  I want to clear this up so everyone has a better idea of where things are now and where they are going:

1.) If it's not been made clear by the numerous blogs and dev postings, CCP basically had to scrap their August release planning because, "What is this shit... I don't even... we are fucked..."

2.) As a result, they spent the last 3-4 weeks not only changing course but re-shuffling resources and prioritizing what they could do with the time and resources left before December.

3.) While all this was going on, CCP also had to unfuck their public relations which meant letting certain people speak up and telling others to shut up. In the end, Hilmar decided to just stomp on it all and attempt to right the ship from the top down. Granted, this should have been done months ago, but at least it's done now and in a way that leaves CCP no room at all for error.

4.) What we will get for Winter will be in preparation for much larger / bigger / shinier stuff come next year. While all of the 'fixes' and updates are going on in the trenches, the Art department and such can go ahead and start working on NEW STUFF that can be coded and mechanically integrated next year.

5.) The next CSM summit is going to focus on whatever 'new stuff' CCP decides to go with for Flying in Space (FiS) and they've said they intend to keep the CSM and the players in the loop as they move toward that.

Basically, winter is going to be all about fixes and updates with a few small new things. I don't know and don't particularly care if they even name it as an expansion but considering the long awaited balancing of hybrid weapons, this seems like a good suggestion:

Click on me for Epic Awesome.
Establishments NOT in Winter 2011

In addition to all of this, last night it was confirmed that after the new racial Captain's Quarters are released, there will be no further development for Incarna in the near future.


CCP Solomon wrote:
"Sadly, the Establishments feature will not be coming in the winter expansion. We hear you guys loud and clear and realize that there is still strong support for a multiplayer, avatar based experience in EVE (we also hear those that don’t want it). However, we think you’ll agree that it has to be a compelling experience and there was a feeling amongst our people that the direction we were taking with the Establishments feature was… well, not that fun. Additionally, we wanted to ensure that our rendering technology was finely tuned to a point that would ensure all of your characters continued to look great while performing well.

It’s humbling to see the support in this thread for a multiplayer Incarna experience and we are still committed to providing it, as and when it’s ready. We want to take the time to do it right and ensure you guys get something that is both fun and involving. There are no promises about when this will happen, just rest assured that while you are enjoying your space based updates this winter, there will continue to be movement on this."

My thoughts on this are simple - in order for Incarna to have any chance whatsoever, there needs to be solid, interesting game play. That doesn't exist, nor has the CSM seen anything on the horizon that looks to change that. Since there never appeared to be a solid idea about what 'establishments' would bring to EVE, CCP basically postponed a feature that didn't exist in the first place.

Incarna has the potential to be amazing but in terms of importance, for example when allocating resources, it pales, or should pale, in comparison to spaceships. Certainly now, and probably for a long time to come as well. In the end, you can take Incarna out of EVE, but you can't take spaceships out of EVE.

Final Thoughts

I am still not sure if certain people in the company 'get it' at all (actually they are probably mad about a lot of this) and won't attempt to de-rail this effort. This is why I'm going to continue to beat the ITERATIONS ITERATIONS drum often and loudly, no matter what ~words~ are released. Still, I think that CCP, with the help of the CSM and continuing to actually LISTEN to their community, has chosen a smart path for the immediate future.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hilmar's 'Apology'

A Letter to the Followers of EVE
Last night the CEO of CCP unleashed a political masterstroke and a heartfelt plea to the EVE community all at once. The politics of business: making a stand as a man, with the gesture of an apology, but without the recognition of root causes and concerns. Commendable and smart in many ways, but is the mere gesture sufficient?

A Letter to the Followers of EVE

I've been very vocal about my support of this letter both on the forums and on Twitter. It reminds me of why I dropped everything in my life back in 2006 to go to work for CCP. This sounds like nothing else that has come out of CCP in a looooong time. I'm very impressed with the candor and tone of this letter. Hilmar has done something that few CEO's do in public which is outright admit he was wrong and say so effusively and sincerely.  For that, the man has my thanks and has re-kindled my hope that EVE might one day reclaim the wonder that caused players like me to crusade for new subscribers and even end up working at CCP.

Almost exactly a month ago, I released what I considered to be my 'last straw' blog.  Reality Check was my attempt to get across a message that summed up everything I felt about where EVE is and the black hole it seemed to be spiraling into. Over this past weekend, the Reality Check blog surpassed 15,000 reads making it the most viewed article I've written so far. While I received comments from several CCP employees about it, which were unanimously positive, I have no idea if Hilmar read it but his letter did address several points I made and that's a good thing.

I believe Hilmar's letter represents the first tangible step required to take for CCP and the player base that has spent most of the last 18 months in a state of disbelief with regard to the direction CCP seemed to be taking their product. The reactions to the letter are very warm, with players welcoming the sentiment of the letter.  The most telling of those reactions are those of CCP employees on the forums, Twitter and Facebook roaring their approval for this admission of wrong thinking and change of course. Hilmar spoke of not paying attention to people in the company "raising red flags"; it really makes you wonder just how much the internal communications of CCP need to be improved so things do not get to this point again.

Regardless of what happens in the future, things are never going to be as they were again. Many in the playerbase have compared Hilmar's letter to the old Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie Brown trusts Lucy to hold the football for him to kick and she always pulls it away at the last second, sending Charlie crashing to the ground. Over and over, she promises to not do it and over and over she does it anyway. It's an apt analogy because EVE players have seen ~words~ and heard promises before. This time it is going to take more.

This reminds of of something I saw a while back and I'm going to include a link to it here:

Remember how we got growth?

There's a lot of wisdom in this chart that should be heeded.

The next CSM summit in Iceland is going to go a long way toward my (and other CSM's) continued investment in it all. I know a lot of folks don't want to give us any credit but the CSM has spent a shitload of time these past few weeks hammering away at every mis-step and reminding CCP of where their mistakes are / how to fix them. I am satisfied at the moment that we, as a community, have successfully managed to get our message across. I have a much different outlook going forward than I did a few weeks ago but I won't stop pushing for iterative gameplay that allows players at all levels of EVE to enjoy the game again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Doomsday 'Nerf'

Official CCP artwork.
A quick word on the change that hit SiSi over the weekend. Supercaps have sat untouched for two years now.  There was supposed to be continued iteration, balance, tweakage, new modules, counters, etc… but after CCP's self-inflicted debacle of rolling them out hap-hazard in early 2010, no one at CCP could even be bothered to realize (scared to touch them) what was going on until the problem was so far out of control that we are where we are today.  However, change is coming and all that!

I can pronounce this. Can you?
The Doomsday weapon for titans has finally been iterated on to where it can only fire on capital-sized ships.

I will never regret getting rid of the AoE DD. Changing the DD to a single shot pop gun was a good alternative.  As the person that actually made this change, I'll state publicly that this should have been done sometime last year during or shortly after the Tyrannis patch.  After seeing how stupid it was getting (dozens of titans one-shooting entire logi wings) it should have been iterated on and changed but apparently there was no one at CCP that ~played EVE~ or cared to follow up on the work done during Dominion.

It's fine for people to look back over the last two years and say, "It should have been like this in the first place!" and froth at the mouth if it makes them feel better, but the real issue is that this sat unchanged for the better part of two years. This is the price of Flying in Space features not having a dedicated team or a designer dedicated exclusively to balance issues, both of which are being effectively solved now.

EVE is an ever evolving game. This applies to all aspects of the game, even giant e-peens. Folks that are pissed about this change need to just be happy they had a couple years of ~good fights~. I'm glad some work is finally being done on these ship classes

UPDATE - I've seen several comments on this change that follow this line of thought:

Now where's the solution to logistics wings having more combined repair capacity than opposing fleets have DPS? I'm not looking forward to Titan level alpha being the only way to clear capitals off of the field, which does not feel like an unlikely scenario.
I don't disagree with the sentiment here and this seems to be the main line of argument being taken by people that are opposed to the change. However, ~overpowered~ logis should be addressed at a different level of balancing. Titans shouldn't even be in the discussion. "Balancing" spaceships is a full time job, one reason CSM 6 has pushed heavily to keep a dedicated designer on it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

MY Captain's Quarters?

All by myself... :(

Yesterday CCP released a new dev blog announcing the completion and future addition of the three other racial Captain's Quarters for Incarna:

Racial CQ Dev Blog

I've had a surprisingly strong reaction to this blog and I'm going to explain why.  I'll try not to cover old ground much but some things bear repeating.

This looks better than the Minmatar craphole.

The Good

The damn things look great. I mean, seriously. The one thing you can never fault CCP at is their artwork. Releasing just one CQ initially was a mistake; releasing the Minmatar one and making it look like a cheap hotel in downtown Tokyo was even worse.  With these three new CQ's, we finally see something that says 'sci-fi'.

The best thing about this dev blog tho is that CCP finally took heed of something the CSM said back at the May summit which was, "If you are going to show off something really cool, please please please include a video of it!" Look what we got!

It's atmospheric, well-made and shows off the new shiny stuff in a way mere pictures and words never could.  So kudos to CCP for going the extra mile and doing this.

The Meh

Shortly after the blog was released I began tweeting about it and made a somewhat snarky post on the first page of the thread referencing the fact that a lot of people that just don't like this stuff would summarily disable it and go back to having 'the door' which was the crappy default background image if you didn't want your video card to melt.  So the question was asked, "Will those of us with CQ turned off be receiving updated door pictures?"  We got a rather surprising answer from Torfi himself:

"The door will be replaced by a ship spinning in a hangar, actually."
If this is true then it's great news.  The 'meh' of it is, why not include such an obvious piece of information in the actual blog? If you have forgotten about all the Ship Spinning info, here's the dev blog on that.

The other thing that got left out and had to be clarified is that, according to CCP Fallout,

"The CQ you get is based on the race of the station!!"
I suppose not tying the CQ to the race of your character makes it an interesting way to ensure that players get a chance to see all four styles, but it also leads to something that really worries me: the complete lack of choice and customization.

I am no longer in MY Captain's Quarters; I am just in a hotel room that I hang out in when I dock in a station.


The Bad
The NeX store is missing some key items...
I understand it needs to be done in steps and I understand it can't all come out at once, but five years after the concept was first shown at FanFest 2006 we have:
  • No interaction with other players.
  • No defined game play.
  • No definitive information on when either of the above will happen or what shape they will take.
It's actually been longer than five years, but just so people don't think I'm pulling that number out of my ass, have a look at this post-2006 FanFest dev blog published by Torfi on November 17, 2006:

Walking in Stations Dev Blog

It's kind of mind blogging when you think about how much else has happened in EVE, yet how little has happened with regard to Walking In Stations / Ambulation / Incarna.

The latest blog did not contain one word about 'Establishments' or anything else related to actual character interaction and / or gameplay.  What has been said was said by Queen of Straight Talk CCP Fallout in one of the forum replies:
"For those of you inquiring or wondering about walking in stations via establishments: we will be releasing more information. I currently don't know the timeline for the info release. I do know that my answer will annoy some people, and I apologize. If I run into Guard later (he left for the day) I will see if he's familiar with when that info will be out (Guard is the new king of blog publishing :)).

Adding an update: we are currently expecting more information on this next week."
I'm curious to see what information is coming because this is where I start to get annoyed again. Seriously, what is the point of making my character all snazzy if there's no way for other people to see her / him strutting by?

Where is the personality?

If I am ever going to appreciate or use Incarna in any way, I have got to be able to make the content I see on my screen actually MINE.  I love Legos. I like to build things. My old alliance, Mercenary Coalition, was the first alliance in EVE to build all four racial outpost types. The Caldari one was shit, but we did it anyway because... FIRST! I've spent at least as much time in EVE building stuff as I have destroying it which is why Incarna is such a disappointment to me.

I've written several times about how I think CCP has completely missed the boat with their ridiculous vanity items pricing strategy for dresses and pants, etc... It seems the obvious next step of this would be allowing players to choose whatever CQ template they liked the most and then accessorize, more importantly personalize, it with all manner of crazy shit. I want carpets from endangered animals, a desk made out of wood sacred to some hippies, a couch shaped like a doughnut, mirrors all over the ceiling a disco ball and pet slaver hound.  

I also want to add onto my CQ, kind of like the old XCOM game where you could customize your base layout and make it your own. I want a frozen corpse trophy room so I can show off my old XirtamVOTF and KIAEddz trophies or a big walk in closet that stores my various shoes, trench coats and handcuffs.

Of course, so long as CCP is charging $20 for a shirt, they'd probably want $500 for a disco ball so maybe it's better that none of this ever sees the light of day.


There is literally nothing wrong with this.
All of the above is my attempt to write down some of my frustrations with where things stand in Incarna. In the end, I still subscribe to the idea that EVE is, first and foremost, a game about spaceships. It's where my passions lie and where I put most of my energy into as a player and a member of the CSM. However it doesn't mean that from time to time that I don't think about the missed opportunities of Incarna or how it might be improved or better sold.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lack of Communication

Tony Montana is disappoint.

It's obvious to anyone that's been paying attention that 'something is up'. It should be obvious due to the fact that the CSM has slowed down our rhetoric a bit after a couple Skype meetings with CCP Zulu, EVE Online's Senior Producer, and the fires burning in the player base didn't turn into full fledged forest fires. For anyone wondering why players are on the edge of walking away from EVE or the reasons for their frustration, go read my Reality Check blog that I published a couple weeks ago.

Back?  Okay.

In a nutshell, I can sum a lot this up by pasting a comment from one of my corp members last week.  This is a guy that's been playing EVE for about four years that's decided to leave the game and here is why:
"You get to a point where you wonder if you're going to see anything new in the game you've played for so long. I don't think that I am, which is why my last paid subscription runs out 12 October. When I say I want something to do, I mean I want something else to do. Going on ops and doing the same thing I've done countless times before isn't the be all end all for me. EVE used to evolve along with its players and that's just not happening anymore."
If you play EVE, how many times have you read something like this over the past year or longer? It's something I see happen constantly, especially with people that have been playing at CEO / Alliance leader levels for years.

Many players have hung on just to see if anything will change and if EVE will ever return to pushing the envelope as the spaceship MMO that made it what it is today.  I don't think it is coincidence that CSM6 is largely made up of that demographic - long term veterans with a mind to wake CCP up and help convince them that features like Incarna may eventually (if it's ever finished) bring in new subscribers, but it's going to lose them the people that have been paying the bills for the past eight years.
This is pretty accurate tbh...

Time Machine Dev Blog

The potential rage of both the players and the CSM have simmered down a bit due to the implied promise that 'change is coming'.  The fruit of the meetings CSM6 has had with CCP Zulu and the information in them will be borne over the next few weeks.  I believe the reception to what's coming will be positive. CCP has already started to put out a series of dev blogs last week detailing a few bits and pieces of things they are finishing up at the moment but the dev blog we all seem to be waiting on hasn't materialized yet.

As the CSM understood it, the 'big reveal' was supposed to be early last week.  That got pushed back a couple times until CCP Zulu released 'The Moments that Define History' last Thursday which left pretty much everyone that read it saying, "That's it?" For our part, the CSM was unhappy to say the least. We'd been led to believe that there would be some actual meat in the blog for players to chew on over the weekend. It made no sense to whiff such an opportunity to get some good PR for a change.

Since Thursday, the CSM / CCP Skype channel has been a near constant wall of text with us voicing our frustrations at the current situation.  One of those things we've done the wake of CCP Zulu's last dev blog, is start a thread on the internal forums (the CSM / CCP ones) that we, once again, be allowed to review dev blogs with potential major impact prior to their publication. To best illustrate our intent, I'm going to publish the post I made to CCP on the internal CSM / CCP forums.

Let me preface this by adding that the actual 'Time Machine Dev Blog' was authored by former CSM Chair Mynxee and published on Failheap Challenge last week. It has been re-used with her permission.  Here is the text of my post to CCP:

For those that remember what EVE was like back in 2003, this game became great because in the early days the developers of EVE saw EVE's players as a resource to be tapped. A large part of what made EVE successful was due to the game duplicating and improving on things players were already doing without the in-game mechanics. Yet for whatever reasons, there are voices within CCP that see players as the enemy and the CSM as 'terrorists' whose input is designed to tear CCP down. I cannot fathom how anyone familiar with the political process of getting 'elected' in EVE combined with people having to take RL vacation days to come be Video Game Politicians thinks we would want anything other than for CCP to be successful. Our frustration is because we don't get how CCP continues to blow opportunities to energize the player base.

With the exception of CCP Soundwave and his team's clearly written and informative blogs (because tbh, when BFF posts, it's pretty Space Bro language), there is very little at all 'Fearless' about the complete lack of transparency about what is going on right now from the 'management' level. Technical / QA blogs are a whole other animal and don't tend to cause riots in Jita.

I'll just use CCP Zulu's last dev blog as an example since it's the most recent example of how things continue to break down.

*** Gets in a time machine and pretends we had some input on Arnar's last dev blog ***

Intrepid pilots of New Eden!

We are listening to you and we want you to know that your pleas for more attention to EVE's Flying In Space features have been heard. In recent weeks, CCP has been doing some extensive introspection about our focus and priorities in response to what you have been asking for. As a result, a decision was made to refocus and reprioritize on a scale unheard of within our company. These are indeed defining times.

Torfi’s most recent dev blog provides a small taste of what’s to come. Going forward, we intend for Flying in Space features to be primary and receive as many development resources as we can feasibly allocate to them. As discussed with the CSM, the Winter Expansion will focus on null sec changes, but there is a lot more to come. As you can imagine, such a large scale refocusing impacts a lot of people and resource dependencies. We are in the midst of working up a plan. As soon as we have it mapped out, we'll share it with you. Not the satellite view, not the microscopic view, but the big picture view with enough detail to provide a "warm fuzzy" about the immediate future of FiS features and to permit constructive feedback from the community.

You have often told us that we over-promise and under-deliver. Our tendency in that regard has bitten us in the ass many times. Not fun. So, to avoid it we're taking the time we need to produce solid, realistic draft plan for the FiS features you have said need the most love. By 'some immediate future date', we expect to share the plan with you for feedback and refinement. Meanwhile, I will post at minimum weekly briefs so you remain aware of our progress. Once we share the plan, I will keep the dialog going as the hard work of implementing that plan and tweaking it as necessary continues.

We all want EVE to be the very best game it can be, the game YOU love, the game you can't not play. Together, we can and will make it happen.

Watch this space.

Arnar Hrafn Gylfason
Senior Producer of EVE Online

See? There are even a few weasel words in there to allow for some "flexibility". But at least this kind of information would have given people something tangible to count on as well as the sense that there is a process happening that is organized and makes some sense.

I'm sure some will dismiss this as more ramblings of a former employee that has actually been playing the game for over 8 years and has some inkling of what goes on in player's heads. Yes, I'm mad, because it happened when I was at CCP and it continues to happen to the people elected by the players to liaise with CCP. I've watched this game and the company that makes it change from both sides and I don't understand why things continue as they are. It's obvious that I'm not alone in this feeling due to the number of current and former CCP employees that do speak to the CSM about how frustrated they are.

I honestly don't care about any sort of 'blanket' rule or anything that sounds like the CSM 'demanding' anything. What I am tired of seeing though, and I know that a lot of people inside CCP are tired of seeing, are the people in charge of actually talking to the player base through dev blogs continually screwing it up.

Once again, no one is asking for detailed plans or post it notes or meeting minutes from release planning. What is being asked for is a common sense approach to dealing with a very intelligent and involved player base. Part of that is using the elected representatives of that player base in a way that helps everyone feel they are getting maximum benefit from the process.
Responses to my post and those of the other CSMs have been fairly positive so far. I honestly don't think that CCP wants to continue stumbling over and over again with it's messaging but they have obviously got to change the way they are doing things.

It could happen.

Worth the effort?

The good news is that the CSM isn't alone in feeling this way. Certain folks in CCP are frustrated as well and are becoming more and more vocal about how communication with the players continues to fall short of where it could be.  So, yes, I believe it is worth the effort of the CSM to keep trying and for players to hang on just a bit longer.

Another effort the CSM has started is this thread here to make sure it is public record exactly what we unanimously support in terms of EVE Online's resource allocation:

CSM Statement regarding CCP refocusing

Have a read and please give the thread your support.  Don't 'like' it tho because Trebor is whoring up the likes and rubbing our noses in it, the bastard.

As I noted in the post I made to CCP above, some within CCP already use the CSM regularly to funnel ideas and blogs through but, so far, it's not been an issue we've pushed hard for. Considering the potential for large amounts of information starting to emerge for the 2011 Winter expansion and the course of CCP in 2012, the CSM is doing everything we can to make sure those in CCP that want to improve communication with the players have an opportunity to do so.

We have another meeting with CCP Zulu scheduled for this Wednesday (Sept 28th). Hopefully we'll see something in the next few days that shows they 'get it' and I can start blogging and talking about happy things. I'm tired of all the negative crap tbh but it's been a frustrating road to walk lately.

"Watch this space."  Heh.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Minutes & Meetings

So, at long last the meeting minutes for the Emergency Summit held a couple months ago are public.  I blogged about the issues with the delays last week, complete with a timeline as to what happened and when.  Early this week, everything seemed to be resolved and here they are:


Actual Minutes LINKAGE

Official Forum Thread LINKAGE

FHC Forum Thread LINKAGE

As expected, people haven't wasted time in diving right in and finding what's not there, dissecting the layers of meaning and whatnot. Unsurprisingly, my favorite prolific blogger Jester has already published his overview.  Here's an even more succinct / humorous version on EVE News 24.

What's my overall take?  Well... heh, it could be a lot worse. It almost was! I know some folks are pretty bent over the fact that the minutes aren't full of the CSM going full retard and raging constantly but that doesn't mean there weren't some very loud and heated exchanges at the summit. I've been reading a lot of the forum replies and I'm kind of freaked out that just because the minutes do not read like a Stephen King novel everyone assumes that the CSM quietly sat around and nodded our heads at everything. That's not the case at all; it just doesn't look good to anyone for the minutes to sound like Shadoo FC'ing a PL Fleet. Take this, for example:

After reading the CSM statement, Hilmar made some suggestions as to its tone. The CSM thanked Hilmar for his advice, but decided that it properly expressed their conclusions. It was released unedited.
It doesn't take much to realize that the CSM is trying to be nice here. I listened in on this entire session and we were all pretty much, "Huh? No. Dude! This IS the nice version."

I've seen these summits both as a CCP representative for Game Design and now as an elected CSM member.  I can say with all honesty that the tension in the room for this summit and the level of, "No, that's bullshit WTF is wrong with you guys?!" far exceeded anything I've seen previously.  It was a complete 180 degree difference from the much more cordial setting of the first official CSM 6 summit. It was a very emotional couple of days. So... like... relax.  We raged when it was appropriate.  Hell, I'm pretty convinced that Trebor performed a ritual that caused the volcano to go off that weekend.

So, moving on, something truly interestng / cool happened this afternoon...

CCP Zulu has the eyes of a serial killer.
The Bat Phone Rang

The Senior Producer of EVE, CCP Zulu, arranged to speak to the entire CSM (those available) on a group Skype call today. The official version of what went down was published on the EVE forums but I'll re-print it here because it will make this blog entry look longer:


Hello Everyone,

Amidst the recent forum activity about reports of decreased subscriber count, discontent about lack of resources allocated to "Flying In Space" (or, as we know it, Eve Online) and, despite Gridlock and Team BFF's efforts, general stagnation when it comes to fixes and improvements, the CSM just met with CCP's Senor Producer for Eve Online: CCP Zulu.

During that meeting, we discussed the players' concerns with the man who has the ability to resolve them. We cannot share the details of the meeting itself because it is heavily NDA'd, but ways to resolve your concerns have been discussed and a follow-up meeting is planned.

Stay tuned...

Meissa Anunthiel, Vice-Chairman of CSM 6

So, that's the basics.  WTF does it mean? Well, I made myself pretty clear on my stance on things in my Reality Check blog a couple days ago. This meeting was something of a surprise and the content of it was enough to convince me that CCP is taking the concerns of the CSM and the players very seriously. Beyond that I cannot say more other than Zulu doesn't tend to bullshit people.

It's times like this that I loathe the "NDA" and wish we could say more. I understand why it's not happening now, but it doesn't change the frustration factor for anyone. I believe that CCP understands the current situation is something they cannot stay silent or inactive on, hence why Zulu asked to speak with the CSM today.

I know it's hard for people to accept but the CSM is pushing very hard for complete and solid information to be passed along to the players as quickly as possible. We are scheduled to have another meeting soon and the CSM will continue to push for MORE SPACESHIPS and less Incarna Catwalks (holy shit, right?).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reality Check

It's September which means that we, as EVE Players, are usually returning from summer vacations and have more time to play EVE again... or not?  Historically, the summer always sends EVE into a lull of activity and then things get busy again as people come back and want to shoot each other. Anyone that's been paying attention to the daily PCU for EVE or actually playing the game has probably noticed that a lot of folks aren't bothering to log in at the moment. Some people aren't content to just speculate about this sort of thing and go a bit further.  Enter a guy named Jester.

Last week, one of EVE's most prolific bloggers published some information that has opened a lot of people's eyes to the fact that all of the 'EVE is dying (again)' hysteria might not be completely off base.

Some Curves Aren't

If you haven't read this, it's well worth your time. Go ahead.  If you don't like lots of words, I'll save you some time and post the graphs that has everyone like me saying, "See? I told you so!" These graphs represent the rolling averages of players online:
This is the 'all time' graph.

This is the '2011' graph.
Jester and others have written lots of stuff on what all this means but I'll sum it up: Something is WRONG with EVE.

If CCP's internal numbers look anything like this, it proves that Incarna and other recent expansions have done nothing to spike the interest of the gaming community. EVE is stagnating due to a complete lack of player interest in the state of the game. It is also obvious that whatever perceptions CCP had about what Incarna was supposed to do in terms of raising their subscriber base have not played out. Older players, like myself, are losing their enthusiasm due to the fact that much as CCP wants to work in the fashion industry and make games about vampires, their flagship product is a game about spaceships.

As CSM6 continues to say, "We need new things to do, not new things to wear!"

Behold all that EVE might be!

The Reinvention of Null-sec

This brings us to a pair of dev blogs published recently by my former colleague at CCP, Greyscale:

Nullsec Development: Rules and Guidelines

Nullsec Development: Design Goals

I'll let Taylor Swift's awesomely diverse range of facial expressions explain how most EVE Players greeted these blogs:

The Goddess of Being Surprised.
For the most part I think many were happy to see that anyone at CCP was even thinking along these lines. There was an almost audible sigh of relief that someone 'got it'. People spend so much time bashing CCP because of their terrible P.R. and bizarre top-down creative direction that it was refreshing to finally see some blogs come out that said things players, especially veterans, could unabashedly agree with.

However, due to the way things have been going the past couple of years in terms of Flying in Space (FiS) development, the skepticism meter is spiking. The fact is that no matter how much people like Soundwave and Greyscale 'get it', unless they get the resources and manpower needed to implement these ideas we will never see them hit Tranquility.

My personal take on the dev blogs is pretty simple: I've seen a lot of this before. Hell, I've said a lot of this before to players when I was on the other side of the table. It's great to see again but what saddens me is how Greyscale's 0.0 road map reminds me pretty much exactly of stuff that was discussed between Apocrypha and Dominion (about 2.5 years ago). I could go back and pull out old emails and (if I still had access) meeting minutes on the internal CCP 'Trac' pages that had shitloads of similar trains of thought to them. It's all been updated and thought through again, but the core principals and goals are the same: iterate on existing crappy game play and make it more better good fun awesome.

Dominion itself was originally a much larger expansion which everyone acknowledged would be the first in a staged series of expansions that went through the next 2-4 development cycles. Unfortunately, Dominion was never finished properly; it was chopped off at the knees and reinvented into something that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the lofty goals its original design aspired to. Multiple objectives, intel / stargate tools, a proper treaty system, wreckable outposts, real siege / sov warfare, mega alliance-sized industrial projects, wormholes leading to new, completely empty areas of 0.0 that had to be built up from scratch… Basically, a renaissance of industrialization and ISK sinks.

None of these ever made it to Tranquility because somewhere along the way, CCP forgot that what makes their game great is the core game play derived from Flying In Space. Instead, all of the iterative and interactive content was shelved and we got the expansions of Planetville, Sansha Zombies and A Crappy Room To Sit Alone In.

To be honest, the only thing that makes me believe we’ll ever see anything good happen in SPACE is that Soundwave and Greyscale are doing it but that doesn’t mean they will be allowed to follow through on any of it because who knows what butterfly CCP will want to chase next to the detriment of their core product. As I said on last night's special EVE Radio broadcast:

"CCP needs to find the 'romance' of EVE again. CCP needs to fall in love with the game beyond the money it makes for them to work on other projects."
Take the bad away, CCP!!
Time for Revolution

Just imagine what EVE would look like today if the resources of the past two years that have been wasted on all this other stuff would have gone into FiS? Instead of focusing on what made 300,000+ people want to play the game and building THE definitive spaceship MMO for all time CCP decided to branch out in too many directions at once. Instead of proper iteration on the features players really care about, we got new ones completely out of the blue.

Make no mistake about it - without the enthusiasm and drama created by the players of EVE, CCP would never have been as successful as it has become. They laid the groundwork but it was the players actions within the game that made the it interesting to the media and other potential subscribers. Today, those people that helped build EVE to where it is (many of whom are on this CSM) struggle for reasons to even log in. The leaders of EVE are doing the same thing again for the 4th or 5th time and the soldiers following them are desperate for something new that catches their interest. I’ve been playing for eight years now; when I talk to players that are barely two years in and they say they feel like they’ve done it all... something is WRONG with EVE!

The romance of the game is gone. There are no heroes or villains anymore. The old rivalries have faded. The people that used to drive the narrative of EVE are bored and all of the old fires that used to keep things moving have died to embers. Players look around at the space they hold in null sec and wonder why it matters. There is no mystery or wonder left.

My Advice to CCP

There needs to be nothing less than a revolution in how the management of CCP sees EVE Online. I think that the management of EVE has just plain forgotten what 'EVE' is. They have become so distracted by all of the other projects that they are trying to work on (DUST / WoD) that they no longer remember that EVE Online is a game about Spaceships. The Flying in Space part of EVE is the core of CCP's business and they have starved it of resources for too long. Without proper FiS development in EVE, all of CCP's plans for Dust and World of Darkness will not come to fruition.

CCP needs to change course or else the flat-line of player subscriptions and logging in is going to turn into a cliff. Whatever projections they may have had about what Incarna and Tyrannis was supposed to do for their subscriber base is obviously not happening.

EVE Online is still the sole product that CCP produces that supports any other endeavors they pursue. It is their bread and butter. Without an EVE that keeps players excited, CCP are never going to see DUST come to fruition much less see World of Darkness completed. Unfortunately, their core, flagship product is dying right now.  It is dying not just because of a lack of game mechanics or this thing or that thing being 'broken' but because the thought processes that are driving the creative direction of the game are broken.

EVE's managers used to actually play their game.  They used to understand that what got them the good press was the stuff they didn't have to pay for! I'm talking about the players making videos of their exploits and writing stories about what happened. The greatest stories of EVE are not about going into your room and changing into a new pair of sunglasses; they were about taking down alliances with nothing more than a forum post. They are about epic battles and heists; about trickery and all the other human drama that occurs in game. If EVE cannot provide the proper setting for these things to occur, everyone will stop listening because there is nothing good to hear, to do, or to be.

Newsworthy drama resulting from players doing crazy stuff with spaceships sells subscriptions. Drama caused by dumb clothing prices in your (badly presented) micro-transaction store and reported with a sneer by the gaming media and elsewhere does not.

We can continue to talk about game mechanics and everything that needs to get fixed, and those things do need to happen, but in order for the game to get back to what it once was there needs to be a shift in how CCP views this product. They need to see it as something more than just a money maker.  Otherwise we are going to lose the game that so many of us fell in love with a long time ago and so desperately want to fall in love with again.

It is possible to make all our dreams come true: a return to glory for EVE, an increase in revenues for CCP. It just requires CCP's management to turn their heads and put resources into the things that will make those dreams a reality.