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.

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.