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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Incursions - Who, what, how?

Dr. Documentation does not live in Iceland.
Knowing that Incursions are is basically an evolution of what was started in wormholes, I'm naturally curious to see what this is all about first hand. But I guess that's really the crux of it for me - after all of the build up and such, aside from this old dev blog, I can't find anything definitive or 'official' that tells me how the feature is actually intended to work or why it's :awesome:. So, it seems we have a failure to properly document a feature! (Never happens, amirite?)

Is there an official high level overview of how this new feature actually works?  Do you have to kill X of the Sansha to "win"?  All that most people I've spoken to know so far is "ZOMG EVIL NPC'S CONCORD LAG CAREBEAR TEARS!!"  That sounds pretty awesome (to me) but it really doesn't tell us much about the feature itself.  Unless you are an RP'er and hate the damn evil Sansha, there's nothing really out there that ties all the info together for normal folk.

Documentation is what's needed, yeah?  I spent a good part of my morning talking to random people who were all scratching thier heads and not interested in investigating the evil Sansha hi-jinks because all they know about this feature is that a bunch of noobs are getting killed by NPCs in high-sec and there is a bug with CONCORD involving remote repping.

What CONCORD bug, you ask?  Well, apparently you get in a fleet for an Incursion site, wait for the RR chain to get going and then accidentally shoot someone in the fleet... everyone gets Concordokken'd!  Isn't that lovely? So until they change this somehow we're going to see nonsense like this:

Seriously, why doesn't CONCORD stop the Sansha?!
There seems to be precious little information on Incursions unless you actively go looking for it or rely on third-hand speculation / reports.  As far as I can make it out killing Sansha NPCs increases the blue bar (players) and not doing anything makes the red bar (Sansha) slowly increase. I did find this handy bit of info on Scrapheap Challenge this morning with regard to how 'influence' works in the systems where there is an active Incursion:

[|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||] Good
[|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||] Bad
[|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||] Something

Apparently, the red and blue bits on the bars are important!  The more Sansha sites you clear out, the more blue the bar gets.  Blue > Red.  Got it?

The in game Journal is very helpful about the sites but there doesn't seem to be much general info about the feature mechanics themselves out there. The best thing I've found so far is this entry on Incursions on the EVE University Wiki website.

Here's one of the better depictions I've seen yet of the mass confusion and ~fun times~ being had by all:

To close - why should I do these sites?  Why should I fight the Sansha?  What's in it for me?  There are lots of confused people out there who ARE curious but are having trouble figuring out if they should bother and I'd certainly appreciate an official guide of some sort. Maybe if CCP explained it in terms like, "Guys, if you kill them, this happens and you get this nice hat!" there would be more interest. I think an awesome table or a graph is in order, CCP!

Monday, January 24, 2011

How much actual impact does the CSM have?

This is an important subject to clarify, as there are a lot of folks who think they can just "post it on the forums" and it will get the same exposure as if CSM brings an issue up on their agenda. This is soooo not the case and it is very important that people understand why.

You can post away on the forums, but I guarantee you that the chances of "some dev" (specifically one in game design) reading it is pretty low.
 Even if a dev reads it, the chances of that dev becoming motivated to DO something about it RIGHT NOW is practically nil considering he / she probably already has something else on their plate; even if that dev IS motivated to do something about your issue, the chances of him getting approval to get it done in any reasonable time span from his bosses is sometimes laughable. Lastly, even when that dev manages to get something done, the chances of some other dev coming along and hijacking things to the point of nonsense is still fairly probable.

That being said, yes, CCP does read the forums, it's just rare that an idea from there is able to rise up and become reality.

This is where the CSM can, and has been, invaluable in elevating certain issues to a point where they cannot be ignored.
 For example, it took nearly three years of constant lobbying to get the AoE DD removed from the game, and I can honestly stand here and say that if it hadn't been for the CSM's high level of bitching about it, we might STILL be dealing with paper tiger supercaps and who knows what else.

The CSM, believe it or not, cuts through a LOT of the bullshit at CCP primarily because upper management wants to believe they are getting a return on their financial and PR investment. I was there when I watched the initial concept proposed and saw how the CSM delegates affected the game first hand.
 There simply is nothing like devs being FORCED to sit in a room and see a big Serb fellow like Vuk Lau literally pounding on the table about sov warfare (was funny as hell), or Diedra Val from EVE Uni giving a passionate argument about new player incentives, or John Zastrow from Goons wailing like a girl about fueling towers, etc...

To be 100% honest, what's 'obvious' to some players isn't obvious to other players, just as some issues are obvious to some devs but not to others. A lot of this has to do with having devs (and by devs I'm primarily referring to Game Designers) that take a pro-active interest in the daily happenings of EVE. I was such a dev but I freely admit that if it involved something to do with NPCing or running missions, to this day I still get a blank look of terror on my face. When I was at CCP I worked on / pushed things that I wanted to PLAY. Luckily, there's currently a good variety of game designers onboard now whose interests mirror the diverse play styles in EVE.

If you can get the CSM to focus properly and present themselves well, it DOES get the ear of the designers. It also allows the designers to tell upper management that the player council they are paying to fly out to the volcanic rock in the middle of the North Atlantic thinks Issue X is a big deal and CCP should put some time into it.

My main concerns with the CSM elections though are the people who choose to abstain because they feel the CSM is pointless. 
I hope that due to the changes made in the past election cycle and CSM 5 members speaking up about their experiences that it might help boost the number of voters. It's very important that players start to realize what an opportunity this is, not just for the people elected but for the direction of the game as a whole.

Traditionally, the CSM has been made up of a very wide assortment of players and play styles. CCP knows this, so when ALL of them present a united front on any one issue it ensures those issues will get more attention. Even when the CSM disagrees on key issues, it can spark internal debate at CCP about examining why the different players have those disagreements.

That's why it's vital that players actually take the time to vote for the candidate they think is going to promote their favored form of game play in the most intelligent, well-spoken, supported-by-evidence manner possible. Make sure the candidate you vote for is up to the task.
I've got a lot of confidence that CCP wants this to work but it's largely up to the CSM to make the most of the opportunity given to them. 

Whoever is elected can make a difference so it's pretty important who does and does not get a seat on the internet spaceship council. I spent years fighting uncountable battles on a wide variety of issues, some of which I helped win and others which remain unresolved to this day. The key to fighting these battles effectively is knowing who will listen, how to get their interest and attention and having the perseverance to do so without seeming as if you are pushing one particular agenda over any other. It's quite the balancing act. If elected, it is a challenge I look forward to taking on!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The CCP Connection

The infamous CCP Nerf Wheel
Might as well get this out of the way early on.  The questions I get asked the most are:
  1. What was your job title at CCP?
  2. What was your Dev name?
  3. What did you work on?
  4. Why are you no longer employed by CCP?
I was a Game Designer at CCP, one of the first in a new wave of hirings conducted at the time.  Game Designers are responsible for implementing the 'vision' of EVE, coming up with ideas for the same and working with all the other departments to keep the game moving forward. When I was brought on board, CCP was just starting to expand the design team and were recruiting people from both the professional world and within the EVE community.  

My dev name was CCP Abathur.

Over the course of three years I touched on nearly every aspect of EVE game play in some form.  Here is a list of the feature specific design work I was involved with:

Revelations 2
·         Sovereignty 2.0 Evolution
·         Starbase Warfare Improvements
·         Tech 2 Battleships
·         Ship Balancing work
·         Situational Awareness Improvements (broadcasts, etc…)
·         Overview Improvements
Empyrean Age
·         Factional Militias
·         Ranks
·         World Shaping
Quantum Rise
·         Alchemy
·         User Interface Changes
·         Weapon Grouping
·         Certificates
·         Wormholes
·         New & Improved Scanning system
·         Sovereignty 3.0 Evolution
·         Sovereignty Infrastructure System
·         New Doomsday Devices and Capital Ship Changes
·         Improved Fleet Tools
·         Planetary Interaction

Each one of those bullet points could easily be expanded upon into at least a paragraph of their own (maybe I'll do that later). Even when designers are assigned to work on a specific feature, they still do sanity checks and peer review with other designers (most of the time anyway) to make sure something doesn't get completely screwed up. Checking email is a 24/7 job because you never know when someone might try to suggest the next carrier nerf or something.

There's also a lot of stuff missing such as 'bugs' that get fixed and end up being seen by players as major game play changes.  One example of this would be late one Sunday afternoon, in a fit of rage, I filed a bug report and fired off a couple emails explaining that the anchoring and un-anchoring times of POS modules and towers were 'soul sucking time vampires' and not the least bit fun.  Lo and behold, a few hours later, I got to cut them all in half and the change made it into the next patch.  There are hundreds of examples like this that have been done in the past and I wish we would see more of a focus on in the future; just day to day balancing fixes based upon player feedback.

As to why I am no longer there, I was originally hired as a contractor and I worked off-site from my either my home in Germany or the United States. 'Off-site' still meant that I spent 4-6 months out of the year in the main office in Reykjav√≠k. My departure from the company came about as a series of events that constituted a 'perfect storm' of issues in my life.  CCP wanted me to move to Iceland effectively full time but with a house and family in Germany plus additional family responsibilities in the States such a move was just impossible to accommodate.  I briefly considered giving it a try by getting an apartment in Iceland and commuting a lot, but trying to split my life in such a way would not have worked.

As a random fact someone in HR told me once that I was hired when there were less than 120 people at CCP.  When I left it was approaching 500, so I was there during a period of very explosive growth and rapid change. It was a very exciting time and :awesome: to be part of something so unique.  I miss the people there and am looking forward to working with them from the other side of the fence!

Why I am running for CSM 6

Comrade Seleene

As a Game Designer at CCP for over three years, I watched from the inside as the CSM grew from an experiment into something that's now become, what I believe, to be one of the most important forces for change in the direction of the game. At the end of the day, I believe that even the most bitter folks in every EVE community all want the same thing - a fun and balanced game to play.

One of the key elements in moving the next CSM forward will be continuing to improve on the communication and accountability processes between the players and the developers. As someone that has been passionately involved from both sides of the fence, I feel I can do this very effectively.

There are several folks I'd like to see make it onto the CSM, but I believe it's going to take a very solid team effort in order to present and maintain a united front. I'm running because the people I would most likely vote for aren't and I also think I can make a difference and contribute in ways that others cannot because of having worked at CCP.  Additionally, I do have a rather unique perspective on who at CCP is willing and able to collaborate best with the CSM. I was one of the most vocal proponents of the CSM when I was there and I'd look forward to being on the 'other side' so to speak and possibly speak my mind more freely.

It is possible I will be one of the most neutral candidates running, not just in terms of EVE politics (e.g., I'm not locked into a political powerbloc), but also on game play issues. Labels like 'solo' player or 'bear' players or 'pirates' get tossed around a lot. Personally, I want to see everyone have an equally enjoyable game experience whatever their play style. Having worked game design for over three years at CCP, I've had to apply creative thinking to a variety of play styles. While my preferred play style may be making people explode and cry, I have a broader perspective because of the work I did on EVE as a dev. 

My main priority will be iteration and balancing of current features. Sure, I want to see new content as well, but iteration of the current game play would virtually guarantee new content as part of the process. I'll break down my thoughts on individual issues as this thing progresses.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New EVE Character Creator

Seleene on the catwalk.
Seeing as how everyone was busy showing how large their new avatar's breasts were or just how gay they could make their cyno alt look, I decided to start a new thread on Scrapheap Challenge to actually discuss the feature itself and see what people thought:

Okay, so there's threads with lots of boob pics in them but now that it's actually out, what does everyone think of it?

One of the cooler things I've seen happen since yesterday is that it's obvious that even :bitter vets: have a lot of love for their characters. The 'magic' of this new system is obvious even to the most jaded as it gives us the ability to bring to life an image that may have only existed in our minds for 7+ years.

It's also a lot of fun. I logged into TS last night with nearly 40 people arguing about lip gloss and eye shadow and what constituted the perfect 'apple bum', sometimes with significant others sitting in the background giving tips throughout the process. Lots of laughs.

As you go through the process tho, it's hard not to be struck by some of the stuff that's missing. I get that this is Phase One of the Master Incarna Plan, but still, a few points that stuck out to me:

  • The inability to do seemingly basic things like change the color of clothing is a major disappointment. I was very surprised by this tbh and it leads me to wonder if this is due to some kind of artistic control over how CCP wants the game to look or because it's just not ready for deployment.
  • Where is my corp / alliance logo? Even if I couldn't have it as a patch on my shirt / jacket or tattoo'd on my ass, it woulda been nice to be able to stand in front of it as a background or something.
  • Common stuff like lack of accessories. Rings, earrings, necklaces and such. There are far too many gay cyno alts missing their diamond earring studs.
I also do not understand why, once the avatar is finalized and 'locked in', why we cannot go back to the 'creation' process to take more pictures or poses or whatever. It seems ridiculous that you spend all this time perfecting the character and all you have to go on is a final 2D image. I get that when Incarna goes full blown live we'll probably (?) get a dressing room or whatever, but it seems awfully limited that if you forget to take screen shots during the creation process you're just screwed if you want to show your character off.

$$ Money $$

I can only assume that some of the above is specifically being held back for the larger Incarna release. The primary concern, of course, is are we going to be charged for it or will it be free as part of the expansion? We've joked about it and suspicion has run rampant but, so far, we have exactly zero solid information on what CCP's actual plans are in this regard. One could be cynical and say that THEY don't even know what their plan is but, in this case, I call bullshit and believe they do have at least a basic idea of where this is all going to lead.

For myself, if I have to pay in game ISK (of which there's a glut of anyway) to fancy up my characters, I can live with that. There's not enough shit to spend money on anyway these days and ISK sinks are good. However, the monster in the closet is the idea that this stuff will be some sort of micro-transaction or PLEX purchase, which I don't see being very popular to say the least.

Four Years

The sad part of it all though is that after you've (re)made your characters and you've spent a few days showing people pics and marveling over the technology... that's it. It still adds absolutely nothing whatsoever to the actual day to day game play of EVE Online, which is a game first and foremost about SPACESHIPS.

As a former employee, I understand all too well the drive of CCP to create the ultimate Sci Fi universe simulator with all the trimmings, but as many have noted the ambition to reach this goal often sidelines the things which might actually contribute to the day to day enjoyment of EVE. At the very least, the order in which this ambition is being carried out is questionable.

The first time I saw any sort of demo for this was back at FanFest 2006. Since that time they've obviously come a long way in terms of technology and how things look. I think it's safe to say that this is the most incredible 'character creation' technology ever seen in a game, at least in terms of graphics, and CCP is justifiably proud of what they have accomplished. It leaves something to be desired in terms of customization but I've already covered that.

The concern here is the one voiced over and over - where is the GAMEPLAY?

The CSM delegates have gone into great detail about how even in their face to face meetings, there have been no definitive answers. In fact, deflection / no comment seems to be the mantra. The latest EON article hints at things like being able to leave your ship and 'do stuff off the grid', which may prove interesting if implemented correctly but, even then, why not make the effort to present some sort of minimal vision for this feature?

I remain of the opinion that after all these years Incarna is a pretty package with no soul; the heart and soul of EVE is the day to day sandbox game play and player generated drama which has kept so many of us playing for so long. I would still much rather see this level of resources and effort put into something that furthers the game play elements we all share an interest in. How many of you would trade Incarna for a true UI overhaul, sub system targeting, 0.0 / lo-sec iteration, or or or or.... ?

Incarna seems very cool and :awesome:, but I could live without it.

CSM 6 Candidacy

This is the start of something BIG - my first go at getting elected for CSM6.  You really DO want to elect someone with inside perspective who actually plays the game and loves it.

I've got to figure out how to use this blog and employ some help so I can have awesome graphics and stuff. For now, the above pic sums up my state of mind about both the direction of EVE Online and how to use Photoshop.

More to come so stay tuned.