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.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fanfest 2011 & CCP's 'Future Vision'

Pic Says it all, really.
As you can see from the header pic, this isn't going to be an attempt at spinning certain elements of CCP Presents in a purely positive light. I took a bit of extra time to write this and talked to a lot of people before deciding to write it all down. I'm going to talk about things from my perspective as a seven year EVE player and former employee.  While there were several good things shown at FanFest 2011, my focus for most of this blog post is going to be on the stuff that isn't being reported or talked much about in many of the online magazines. With that out of the way, let's at least start on a less serious note.

The People

This FanFest was a very different one for me as it was the first one I'd been to purely as a player since 2005. My old co-workers were smiles, hugs and handshakes. It was really cool to catch back up with many of them and talk about where things are and where they are going.

As always, the main reason most people come to FanFest in Iceland is to meet other EVE players and connect real names and faces with the virtual ones. For many players it is a game-changing experience as you learn about the people behind the online personalities. It can be a real eye-opener when that bastard you've hated for years ends up being the same guy you've just spent the last hour drinking with.

The best example of this had to be back in 2007 when my table of about 20+ MC members got blobbed by an equal number of Goons. After a short round of WTF, the two groups spent the better part of the next couple days hanging out with each other and swapping stories of the past year or more.  Oh, there was also... singing.

Suas singing to me - "I'm a loser, baby..."
One thing I noticed about this FanFest though was the number of first time attendees and 'younger' players (that had just started playing in the past 2-3 years).  Talking to guys about what it was like in EVE before jump bridges and Titans under every rock was really fun. I really enjoyed listening to the perspectives of these people and they were just as eager to ask questions as well.


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During the 'Main Event', which was Hilmar's 'CCP Presents' keynote, an interesting comment was made to me by one of the press in the back of the auditorium by a rather prominent online publication:"This just shows that CCP is still a small-ish company because a bigger developer would have never given a sponsor this much visibility in their KEYNOTE." I'll be curious to see if he's brave enough to publish that comment officially but I still found it telling with regard to the mood of the audience through much of the two hour presentation.

While I found it odd that he referred to a company with 600+ employees as 'small', honestly, the near hour long Nvidia "circle jerk", as one CCP Dev put it, had people groaning in the audience and quite a few devs even rolling their eyes. I get that they were a major(?) sponsor but it was just a bit much. The Nvidia reps were on stage too long and I found my attention drifting on more than one occasion.  That being said, this video demonstrating CCP's Carbon Character Technology was pretty impressive to those which had never seen it.

It's an older demo, which was a bit disappointing, as I'd like to have seen what kind of progress they've made in the last year or so.

As a side note, I have an ATI 5700 HD with 1GB of RAM that I bought about a year ago for about $160 and I haven't found anything it can't run just fine, including half a dozen EVE clients at once. I was an NVIDIA man for about 6-7 years prior to this card but I just refuse to pay $200+ for graphics anymore (and I'm not cheap when it comes to computers tbh).


I'm not sure if the few, "Where are the spaceships??" shouts came through the EVE TV broadcast but the annoyance in the auditorium was palatable at times.  When CCP Zulu stated that basically his job is about FUCK YEAH SPACESHIPS, lots of us perked up... and waited to hear about the spaceships. What we got were a couple of cool videos about new nebulae effects and possibly, maybe new turret effects coming soon.  Maybe. Possibly. :)

The nebulae are beautiful and the turrets look very cool (music was kickass) but WTF were autocannons doing on Amarr ships and blasters on Ravens arrrrrgh!!!  LOL, I mean, it's the little shit like that which really makes you facepalm and wonder why the people making these vids don't at least pretend they play the game. :)

Of course, I have to mention the obligatory, "Where is my new cyno effect / engine trails?"  It may seem cliche and :bittervet:, but it's been... Two. Fucking. Years.  Seriously, guys, at this point the questions almost seems to be, "Why don't you WANT to make these effects?"  *sadface* 

It's obvious that CCP wants to pitch their latest efforts and show off what they consider to be the future of the game, but I don't think the presenters realize just how snubbed many of their customers felt.  Some people traveling to FanFest for the first time may find all of this stuff about dresses and hairstyles and tattoos interesting, but many of us kept waiting and waiting... and waiting for something about the core gameplay of EVE (spaceships) to be talked about.

At the end, during the open Q&A to the Dev Panel, one player summed it all up by asking, "This was all really interesting, but when are you going to throw the veteran players a bone?"

All about the Benjamins? 

As an addition to the above, I also found it odd that CCP did not take the opportunity of such a visible presentation to make a very brief but solid official statement about their stance on micro-transactions with regard to the three intellectual properties they are now developing. FanFest attendees did rectify this error by giving the Dev Panel an opportunity to publicly say that  they are only going to do MT's for vanity items and not for "anything that gives players an in-game advantage". 

This leads me to my next point: Currently CCP has exactly one intellectual property making them money - EVE Online. The profits from EVE currently fund three other projects that we know of:
  • Dust 514
  • World of Darkness
  • Carbon
It stands to reason that CCP wants to maximize revenue flow from EVE in order to keep thier other developing projects moving forward so micro-transactions seem inevitable.  My concern on this point is what the allocation of resources will be toward developing vanity items versus developing the normal 'free' content we've grown to expect as part of EVE. I would hate to think that EVE would miss out on T3 Frigates or Sub-System Targeting because the money / resources needed had been diverted to making sure the Spring 2012 Caldari Fashion Collection was ready to sell.

Of course, I am cognizant of the fact that this is probably just CCP doing the same thing that every other company would do in this situation. I just hope that they have the manpower and financial ability to achieve all of the above without cutting corners and do it in a time span that doesn't have me getting grey hair before it becomes a reality.  This leads directly to the largest bit of hype so far...

:18 Years: ?

At the end of 'CCP Presents', Hilmar debuted what is undoubtedly the most ambitious and eye-popping teaser / trailer in the company's history: EVE Online - A Future Vision

After nearly two hours of looking at avatars and watching NVIDIA and CCP group hug, we finally got a 'vision' that appears to be about 3/4 Dust and Incarna, and maybe 1/4 of spaceships. I got a very large "this wasn't what I signed up for" vibe from that vision and I wasn't the only one.

I was there live in the auditorium in Iceland and, I don't know if it came over the HD stream, but among the FUCK YEAH shouting, there were a lot of people groaning as well.  At the end of the 'Future Vid' the first time it was played, when Hilmar asked, "Do you like it?", at least a few dozen people very loudly said, "NO!"  It was audible enough to cause a slight stir and several confused looks. It may not have been very 'polite', and I'd bet real money if you weren't there you will never hear it (or about it), but there was a lot of frustration in the room by that point.

Many EVE Players will remember the infamous :18 months: plan / misunderstanding from last year that was triggered by this dev blog which led to this emorage feedback thread. It didn't take long for people to start a new meme by looking at this vid and wondering if we were looking at CCP's :18 Years: plan. In many ways, this video has become a symbol for what many long time followers of CCP have come to expect - lots of hype, mostly about things we won't ever get, looking good but with relatively little in the way of probable reality.

No doubt about it - this is an :awesome: vid, even if it is about two games that don't exist yet and probably never will. I give CCP credit for having the balls to say this is where they want to go so blatantly, but it didn't take long after the initial wow factor wore off for both players and the attending press to comment on how high it sets the bar (nearly unobtainable).

This video certainly is a vision, but I'd much rather see something that I can get excited about because I know, "OMG, that's hitting the server this year!"  This is primarily "art" with just enough programmed elements involved to allow something that looks seamless. While I take nothing away from the people who produced this magnificent 'vision' and respect the incredible work done, there are so many contradictions in that video to what is:
  • Possible
  • Probable
  • Stated Fact by CCP
Many long time EVE players consider it fluf, pure and simple. I'd much rather see the efforts of the people making EVE go toward another Dominion or Causality style trailer that highlights what EVE is actually about today. That's a personal desire and I understand why this trailer was made but it's not something I will show to my friends as a reason to play EVE.

The mythical "link" to Dust 514 from EVE is so nebulous and vague at this point that CCP still seems to have no idea what it will be. The round tables at FanFest made it clear that they either have no definitive answers or their theories are still to sketchy to share.  Of course, like any 'new' game, CCP has a right to keep things under their hat until it's more polished; maybe they have a perfect system ready to go that will amaze us all; I just don't think that is very likely to happen without further real iteration on the current EVE sovereignty system.

On Saturday, when CCP Presents was over, I found Noah Ward (CCP Hammerhead, EVE's Lead Designer) and had a chat with him about all of the :awesome: that we'd just witnessed and how little of it had to do with spaceships. When Torfi (CCP Torfi, EVE's Creative Director) came over to shake my hand about being elected to CSM 6, I didn't let him walk away without asking him why the only thing in his presentation about "Iterations" was stuff about turret art and some post it notes that got exactly one slide. I didn't get much in the way of replies, but I wasn't the only one who poked them about this. I didn't get a chance to corner Arnar (CCP Zulu, EVE's Senior Producer), but I did speak with him the day before and still feel pretty good about him.

As a side note, I just want to make clear that the majority of the devs standing at the back of the audience had no real idea what the main presentation was going to consist of either. This isn't unusual. Even when I worked there, the final presentation always had a few things in it that came as a small surprise.  After this one, quite a few of the people wearing black Dev shirts had similar reactions ("Okaaaaaay.....").

Looking forward

I've been to six Fanfests now and this was the first one where at the end I felt completely disillusioned and confused about the message CCP was trying to send. My cynicism isn't rooted in some sort of bitter vet syndrome or desire to see CCP as some sort of 'villian'.  I actually love the people at the company and what they've managed to accomplish but after over seven years of watching CCP do this sort of thing over and over, plus working on the inside, I've just come to be more realistic in my expectations of them and not drink thier particular flavor of kool-aid simply because they know how to make something look :awesome:.

While some of these things certainly spread doubt over a number of issues at CCP, I am still looking forward to working with the CSM to ensure that further iterations and developing their existing game is maintained as an urgent issue alongside future projects.  My next year on CSM 6 will certainly be interesting. Blog coming up on that tomorrow!


  1. "Where are the spaceships??"

    That would've been me and you ;)

    - Sok.

  2. Just to clarify something here - I'm not a 'fan' of Incarna because I have yet to see any real game play value to the feature. It has potential, sure, but I am waiting to see exactly WHAT that potential is. As for DUST, it's currently destined for a console only release which makes no practical sense and instantly nukes in interest in paying for it.

    I'd like to see CCP pull it all together, but not at the (expected) expense of it's core flagship product. I ran for CSM specifically on a campaign of 'Iterations' of current gameplay. Of course, I know Incarna and DUST will be part of the future of EVE, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to put my platform as hard as possible. :)

  3. Thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking post and yes, I was initially blown away by the vid but after a second viewing I was thinking just how far it was from what I was experiencing daily on Eve-Online. It is a spaceship game and we need more of it not less. It is what I signed up for and while the Incarna stuff is cool, but I haven't yet seen anything either. CCP is a commercial company so a revenue flow needs to be maintained. Am resigned to the fact that more new blood is now more important than maintaining the older base. Our expectations, while valid doesn't have a net financial benefit to CCP.

    Congrats on CSM by the way.

  4. Good post, Seleene. Gonna be fun to watch CSM6.

  5. Wow. Just... wow.

    This is without question the most unrelentingly negative thing I've ever seen you write. The EVE Forever video "is about two games that don't exist yet and probably never will"?


    There's an internal inconsistency here, too. How can players:
    a) be amped up on hype about the EVE Forever video; AND,
    b) you acknowledge the video doesn't meet the "OMG, that's hitting the server this year!" test; AND,
    c) players are joking about an :18years: meme?

    ...all at the same time? Doesn't make sense.

    You should know far better than anyone that sticking 100% to what can be delivered in a year for a company CCP's size wouldn't be a good idea. Even if CCP committed immediately to all-spaceships-all-the-time for 12 months starting 2011/April/1, how much could they really get done?

    In short, the bittervet in this post is pretty freakin' strong. ;-)

    Don't take this the wrong way, man, but please remember that as a member of CSM6, you also represent EVE players who *don't* have eight years invested in spaceships and who *aren't* flying Nyxes.

  6. Jester, I knew when I posted this that there would be folks reacting just the way you are but I did it anyway. Why? Mainly because there are so many reports about FanFest that seem to be intentionally overlooking some of the more 'cringe worthy' moments. I don't mean to be 'unrelentingly negative' as I did say a few nice things... but I just spent over $1,000 to fly to Iceland and walked away without the normal WOW factor I typically felt after a FanFest. For many people that weren't there, it's hard to describe how things built up at some of the round tables and then culminated in the big show feeling a bit empty for some.

    You are right that your A / B / C list doesn't make sense, but that's not what I was saying either. I WASN'T amped up over 'EVE Forever', nor were many others. I wasn't trying to imply that people are all three of those, at least not point "A".

    I've made no secret of my skepticism about the complete lack of a foreseeable road map for Incarna game play or how Dust 514 console players are going to magically integrate with EVE PC players. It's up to CCP to provide that information and create excitement. For me, personally, that hasn't happened yet. Maybe I'm hard to please in this regard, no doubt BECAUSE I have been involved with EVE for so long.

    That being said, I'm realistic enough to acknowledge that no company with the ambitions CCP seems to have can stand on one product so it's only natural for them to expand. However, that doesn't change my basic concerns as to how it will affect the game I like to play. More importantly, this was the central issue I ran my CSM campaign on and apparently it resonated strongly with a lot of people - I fully intend to push the 'Iterations' agenda wherever possible.

    As I have said in the above blog and countless times since - Where are the plans or thoughts on Spaceships? Not just Nyxes, but EVE in Space in general?

    If this blog seems 'negative' then it's only because of the assumption that it's coming from a :bitter vet: point of view. To quote a friend, I dislike the use of the term "bitter vet" as it trivializes player complaints under the assumption that people in this 'group' have left the game anyway so their opinions are not important. Well, I haven't left the game; if anything my passion for it is stronger than ever. I can only be honest about my thoughts with regard to what was presented. To me, it was a bit disappointing. :)

    I appreciate you taking the time to call me to task; I hope that you don't think I'm ranting. I will not be an AFK CSM delegate. I don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say nor do I plan to create drama where there is none just for the sake of it. What I will do though is stay true to my reasons for running for CSM by pointing out what I perceive to be problems.

  7. Interesting post. I commend you taking the time to think it out and present it as best you could. There are some thoughts in there that hadn't occurred to me personally, as well as some things I am pleased to know I wasn't the only one thinking.

    In the end, it makes me happy to see you speak so frankly, with conviction and passion. Reiterates your value to the CSM in my opinion.

    I look forward to your future posts.

    PS. Can't believe I didn't get to have a beer with FlashFresh.

  8. Interesting post and comments. I apologise in advance for the length of the following comment.

    While the different reactions about Fanfest and the big presentations have been interesting, there seems to be one thing that has been consistently skimmed over. It's understandable as it holds little value to the veteran player (on the surface).

    After watching the videos I was more comfortable with how CCP is planning for the future. Specifically in regards to Incarna. The first iteration of CQ seems to be almost entirely geared at New Players. Short term, this sucks for veterans. While we all find it amusing and pat ourselves on the back for making it up the EVE learning cliff, in the long run that cliff spells doom for EVE. The current NPE combines all the worst elements of EVE's pve and its no wonder that people don't continue after the trial period.

    For every new player that downloads the client, tries the game and doesn't subscribe, that is much more than just a missed opportunity for a new subscriber. It's in essence wasted marketing dollars. Even if that player comes back after a few months, from a marketing standpoint the damage is already done. In this case 2 things have happened, 1) the marketing has done its job in attracting someone to the game, but still hasn't generated a subscriber/revenue, 2) This person then spreads the word that EVE was not for them.

    The plea for players to help with the marketing of EVE was telling. EVE's marketing dept already has their work cut out for them, in that they are trying to market a complex and mostly faceless game. Dramatically improving the new player experience SHOULD be the first thing they try to accomplish with Incarna. It's long overdue. Additionally, the further development of Incarana and the introduction of Dust holds the promise of generating spill over spaceship subscribers. Considering how much CCP is willing to push the technology and how committed they are to that, keeping EVE running, and staying competitive, is going to require a lot more future subscribers.

    While I know the battle cry of "Where are the spaceships" is currently popular, and obviously as a veteran player you are best suited to represent other veterans, I hope that this CSM doesn't stray too far from big picture. Probably not what your constituents will be asking for, but I hope you keep in mind how crucial new players are to the continued existence of EVE. I'm glad you got elected and I particularly agree with your focus on iteration. But right now we may all need to bite the bullet and hope that Incarna, and CQ, delivers on its potential to generate subscribers that actually stay with the game. From what I saw of Fanfest, this appears to be a priority for CCP.

  9. Dear ranty bittervet,

    Many of us are excited about Incarna and Dust because it will expand the world of EVE beyond simply flying spaceships around the place. Many of us have hopes for Incarna as a resource for non-spaceship RP.

    As for veterans being, "thrown a bone" - my mother used to tell me, "only boring people get bored." There's also the question of what counts as "progression" in a sandbox game? Too much stability in nullsec leads to stagnation and veterans looking for something more than ratting and blobfests. When Mr "Please throw us a bone, CCP" spoke, the first thing that occurred to me was, "someone's spent too much time being an alliance lapdog and doesn't realise there's more to this game than flying one fitting for one ship in one type of PvP."

    I agree that there was far too much time allocated to nVidia's public masturbation (that there was any time devoted to them means there was too much). They didn't bring us anything new, and just added insult to injury by sending us all 10% discount codes. I am a laptop user: I cannot upgrade by replacing a card. The bastards.

    Don't dismiss the "Future Vision" video as fluff. It is ammunition that CCP has conveniently handed to you. They gave us this video and said, "please help us sell this game to your friends." My first comment on Twitter after watching that was, "what game is that? I want to play the game in the video!"

    Listing the things we saw in that video which we don't have yet would be a good place to start in the "CSM laundry list of things to fix in our internet spaceships game." Fleet warp in formation, orbital bombardment, space elevator upgrades for PI, a reason to deploy a dreadnought and stealth bombers instead of a supercarrier when attacking enemy capital ships.

  10. You make a point here that I've heard several times before. "Currently CCP has exactly one intellectual property making them money - EVE Online. The profits from EVE currently fund three other projects that we know of..." I've always assumed that this logic was slightly flawed, but after hearing you make it, as a former CCP Employee, I can't help but think that it is I who am wrong. I'd appreciate if you'd clarify, is CCP North America not White Wolf Publishing? When I hear the argument that the World of Darkness MMO and Incarna are taking resources away from EVE Online, I have always just assumed that they were getting it wrong, since most of the talk I've seen about Incarna lately has been coming out of people like CCP Chiliad(The slide spells his name wrong, whoops), who gave the presentation on CQ during the keynote. Chiliad stated in a devblog that the last time he worked on EVE was Apocrypha. Reading between the lines here, I assume that he was doing something to earn a paycheck this whole time at CCP NA, and that something was White Wolf related. I then draw the conclusion that things like the WoDMMO and Incarna are actually bringing resources to EVE Online, not away from it. Sort of a "White Wolf has people working on a WoDMMO and are using those resources and that technology to bring Incarna to EVE." Am I completely off base here?

    And if I am, is the statement that EVE Online is the only intellectual property making CCP money true? Certainly CCP North America/White Wolf Publishing isn't just dead weight that EVE Online is it? I've always assumed at the very least that White Wolf Publishing is making enough money that it supports itself, since as a company it's actually older than CCP Games.

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond, and as always, the blog was a terrific read.

  11. Perhaps this fanboyism is due to the large numbers of newish players at FF11 drowning out the bittervets? I tried to inject some realism into the narrative but I always feel like a parent telling a kid that Santa isn't real.

  12. I'm not using bittervet in the dismissive "You don't play EVE Online any more, so your opinions don't count" sense. I'm using it in the "I've already done everything there is to do in space in EVE Online, so obviously, everyone else has too. Therefore, I want new spaceship stuff to do right now please" sense.

    In this sense, you don't think Incarna counts. But it does.

  13. Hm. I didn't realize mentioning this was a Scrapheap repost was going to warrant a post deletion. I apologize.

  14. @Serp - Yeah, I saw your blog and thought it was an interesting round up of the issues. I had similar thoughts before I wrote the original post but I figured it was better to just be honest.

    @Jester - I've actually written / spoken quite a bit about my thoughts on Incarna. While it's certainly not my favorite subject, I do think it 'counts' as something that has to be considered as part of the bigger picture.

    @Loire - Not sure what you are apologizing for or mean by a re-post / deletion? This blog post was written over a few days, mostly from scratch. I've pasted a few things over from SHC and EVE-O in the past because... why re-type the same thing again?

  15. Eh it's nothing. I had a longer comment that had appeared to have been posted which apparently disappeared somewhere between yesterday and today. I'm sure it was just a Blogger fuck up.

  16. /me got ignored. /me is a sad panda.