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28Jul/150

Blog Banter 65 – Attributes and Skills

This months Banter was suggested by Jakob Anedalle - "I liked the discussion on The Neocom's recent "Tinfoil Factory" on the future of attributes in Eve. Perhaps piggyback on that and invite those folks into the banter as well?
http://theneocom.com/2015/06/21/the-neocom-presents-the-tinfoil-factory-pilot-attributes/"

Attributes and Skills
Does Eve need attributes? It's been discussed a lot recently. Unlike other MMO's your characters attributes don't make a difference in day-to-day gameplay. They simply set how fast you train a skill. Is it time to remove attributes from the game or totally revamp their purpose? Do they add a level of complexity to the game that is not needed? If you really need to use a 3rd party application to get the most from it should it be in the game? Should they be repurposed with each attribute adding a modifier to your ship? Are attributes a relic from the past or are they an important part of Eve - You make your decision and deal with the consequences? Banter on!

It's been a while since the last time I took part in one of the blog banters, but it's the high time I get back on track, so... here we go!

If not Attributes, then what?

I'm not a professional game designer, but I could name myself an armchair/amateur one. I did design a few progression systems for games that I've never had time to finish, and I love analyzing games that I play from game design perspective. So I will try to get into CCP Fozzie's shoes and attempt to reblance the current Attributes system.

The current state of equlibrium

Right now the Attribute system touches two main gameplay elements:

  • skills (each skill has primary and secondary attribute)
  • implants (slot 1-5 implants affect attributes, ranging from +1 to +5)

There used to be a third element - learning skills - but they didn't add meaningful gameplay and have been removed from the game.

The training time is governed by this formula:

Points per hour = 60 * (primary attribute + secondary attribute/2)

  • Base attributes can range between 17 and 27
  • Best implants add 5 on top of that to an attribute
  • Player can map up to 14 attribute points (a maximum of 10 for one attribute) above the default 17

Assuming the above it gives us the current maximum training speed:

60 * ((27 + 5) + (21 + 5) / 2) = 2700

The same way we can calculate the minimum training speed:

60 * ((17 + 5) + (17 + 5) / 2) = 1980

These will be my reference values for the new system:

  • 1530 with worst remap and no implants
  • 1980 with worst remap and max implants
  • 2250 with top remap but no implants
  • 2700 with top remap and max implants

Now let's have a look at primary and secondary attributes for skill groups:

Skill Group primary secondary count
Armor intelligence memory 14
Corporation Management memory charisma 7
Drones memory perception 21
Electronic Systems intelligence memory 15
Engineering intelligence memory 12
Engineering perception memory 1
Engineering perception willpower 1
Gunnery perception willpower 38
Gunnery willpower intelligence 1
Leadership charisma willpower 14
Missiles perception willpower 24
Navigation intelligence memory 2
Navigation intelligence perception 11
Neural Enhancement charisma willpower 3
Neural Enhancement intelligence memory 5
Planet Management charisma intelligence 2
Planet Management intelligence memory 3
Production intelligence memory 6
Production memory intelligence 6
Resource Processing intelligence memory 2
Resource Processing memory intelligence 26
Rigging intelligence memory 10
Scanning intelligence memory 7
Science intelligence memory 38
Science memory charisma 1
Shields intelligence memory 12
Social charisma intelligence 9
Spaceship Command perception willpower 56
Spaceship Command willpower perception 16
Subsystems intelligence memory 12
Subsystems perception willpower 8
Targeting intelligence memory 8
Trade charisma memory 9
Trade charisma willpower 2
Trade willpower charisma 3

As you can see, some skill groups have multiple primary/secondary attributes pair. We will have to dumb down simplify that in our new system!

Armchair game designer extravaganza!

Here's my core assumptions for the task:

  • I don't want character attributes in the new skill training system
  • I want to preserve training times similar to the current training times
  • I want to preserve the existence of learning implants
  • I want to preserve exisiting, or create new ISK sinks if possible
  • Flexibility comes secondary

In the new system we will get rid of attributes completely. Everything will now be up to implants!

  • The base training speed will be 1500
  • Implants will give a percentage bonus to training time of specific skill groups.
  • There will be new Slot 11 implant, which will significantly boost training time for a specific skill group - this will function like attribute remap works currently

First, let's simplify that skill group table:

Skill Group primary secondary
Armor intelligence memory
Corporation Management memory charisma
Drones memory perception
Electronic Systems intelligence memory
Engineering intelligence memory
Gunnery perception willpower
Leadership charisma willpower
Missiles perception willpower
Navigation intelligence perception
Neural Enhancement intelligence memory
Planet Management intelligence memory
Production intelligence memory
Resource Processing memory intelligence
Rigging intelligence memory
Scanning intelligence memory
Science intelligence memory
Shields intelligence memory
Social charisma intelligence
Spaceship Command perception willpower
Subsystems willpower perception
Targeting intelligence memory
Trade charisma memory

The new implant tiers will have the following bonuses:

Implant tier Primary skill bonus Secondary skill bonus
-no suffix- 3% 1%
Beta 6% 2%
Basic 9% 3%
Standard 12% 4%
Improved 15% 5%

In our example we will look at Spaceship Command, which uses the following implants:

Neural Boost - Improved

This is a data processing unit implanted in the Parietal lobe.

15% bonus to training times of the following skill groups: Subsystems

5% bonus to training times of the following skill groups: Gunnery, Leadership, Missiles, Spaceship Command

Ocular Filter - Improved


This image processor is implanted in the occipital lobe.

15% bonus to training times of the following skill groups: Spaceship Command, Gunnery, Missiles

5% bonus to training times of the following skill groups: Drones, Navigation, Subsystems

And here's the new implant that would be equivalent to Willpower +10 and Perception +4 remap

Neuroplasticity Enhancer: Spaceship Command

This advanced implant bridges specific regions of the brain to improve pilot's cognitive abilities which result in improved training times for Spaceship Command skills.

50% bonus to Spaceship Command skills training time

There would be a total of 11 Neuroplasticity Enhancers introduced to the game:

Nr Implant Name Skill groups affected Old primary attribute Old secodnary attribute
1 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Trade Trade charisma memory
2 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Leadership Leadership charisma willpower
3 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Social Social charisma intelligence
4 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Navigation Navigation intelligence perception
5 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Scientific Armor, Electronic systems, Engineering, Neural Enhancement, Planet Management, Production, Rigging, Scanning, Science, Shields, Targeting intelligence memory
6 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Corporation Management Corporation Management memory charisma
7 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Drones Drones memory perception
8 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Resource Processing Resource Processing memory intelligence
9 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Spaceship Command Missiles, Gunnery, Spaceship Command perception willpower
10 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Subsystems Subsystems willpower perception
11 Neuroplasticity Enhancer - Balanced

Each character will start with Neuroplasticity Enhancer chosen at character creation time. It will be already plugged in to prevent character rolling abuse. Additional Neuroplasticity Enhancers will be available from LP Stores for 90.000 LP and 90M ISK (this should be adjusted with how much of ISK sink the economy needs - IMHO 90M might be even a little too low with current PLEX inflation).

Now let's see how the new formula for training times will look like:

Points per hour = 1500 * (1 + <neuroplasticity enhancer bonus>) * (1 + <ocular filter bonus>) * (1+<neural boost bonus>)

when we substitute placeholders with actual values for top implants, it will look like this:

Points per hour = 1500 * 1,50 * 1,15 * 1,05 = 2716

It seems we just got rid of the attributes and reduced complexity of the game, while preserving similar training times (actually, improved it by 0.5%). We have additionally added an ISK sink the economy needs!

Op success! o7

But really? Is this really a simpler solution? In my opinion it is not, because to find which implants affect which skill group, you will now have to dig trough all of them, and read carefully. Does the game really need more careful reading and a more complicated system just to get rid of some old fashioned character attributes? Does EVE need a less flexible remap system? Please mind the new Neuroplasticity Enhancers would not allow to set attributes gradually like remaps do now; it's either maxed out, or no go at all. And do we really need 11 new expensive implants? To make players even more risk averse?

PS. If I ditched Neuroplasticity Enhancers and used 2250 SP/hour as a base learning rate, the above revamp would actually work!

14Oct/1311

A quick glimpse into the Crystal Ball

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #50.

With the Rubicon expansion being announced and the SOMER Blink scandals (or non-scandals depending on your point of view) that have erupted on the community at the same time, it truly feels like an age of EVE has passed and a new one is dawning.

But which direction is it going? This blog banter can be about several different topics:
- where do you think EVE is going? Is it a good or bad vision ahead?
- if you were EVE's new Executive Producer, where would you take the game?
- What comes (or should come) after Rubicon in terms of the mechanics and ship balancing we've seen? (CSM8 not allowed to answer this one!)
- Is there anything in EVE's ten year past that should be resurrected? Or buried and forgotten?
- What is the future of the community? What should or should not change?

The Banter's topic is actually a funny one, because I thoroughly enjoy speculating about the future of EVE. Let's fetch the *Crystall Ball* (mind you, it's probably useless without skill *Polaris* trained to V).

* /me gazes into the Crystall Ball *

Where do you think it's going?

During Fanfest and then subsequently during Rubicon presentation CCP Seagull shown us a theme of exploration and space colonization. Remember the famous "Badgers" image? (Yes, I know some of them are Tayras actually)

badgers-build-stargate

I tell you what I saw in the crystall ball. I saw new space: space different from K-Space, and space different from Anoikis (also known as W-space). I saw the EVE gate open again. I saw abandoned planet on the other side of the EVE gate. I saw how legends of Earth come true as capsuleers explore the long forgotten point of humanity's origin. I saw space without stargates and without local chat. But I also saw Badgers building stargates. I saw gate satellites that report gate activity to the holder of the system (did I mention there was no local chat?). I saw Sisters of EVE digging for Terran artifacts. I saw SoE battleships. I also saw capsuleers owning stations in high sec space and I saw capsuleers running station establishments. One of the barkeep names was strangely familiar, but at the same time out of place: the name was "Quark"... And then the image went all fuzzy and I saw nothing else.

Is it a good vision? I think it is. Back when EVE was still young, the space was often empty. It was out there to explore and for the taking. Even though there was no Exploration feature as we know it today, flying around 0.0 felt like exploring the unknown. You would rarely meet other people. It was even possible to find empty systems in high sec! Now we have almost fully colonized wormholes, we have exploration mechanic and... suddenly it does not feel unknown at all. There is no real notion to fly around and explore. There, see my TCU? This system is mine. But does colonization really mean simply sticking a flag? Or is it about building housing, mines, roads, farms and so on? Even if EVE gate remains as closed as ever, there is still so much we could do with the amount of empty space we have in EVE.

If you were EVE's new Executive Producer?

Frankly, I'm quite happy that I'm not. This is a very an EXTREMELY responsible position. It takes loads of hard work to gain community's approval, yet it's very easy to loose it.

What comes (or should come) after Rubicon?

POS revamp. Current system works, but only because we have nothing else to replace it. The recent changes in Odyssey were step in the right direction (accessing storage from anywhere within the shield is really cool, and I'm sure Personal Hangar is great for WH residents). But setting up a POS, even with reduced timer is counter-intuitive and the UI to do so is still clumsy. A modular POS where you add modules by sticking them to the Control Tower like Lego bricks seems a much better idea.

A S&I GUI revamp. Seriously! CCP Karkur (and CCP Punkturis, when you get back ;-)), S&I needs your love. Lot's of it!

  1. Selecting labs and production lines (it's a pain when there is 40 labs to choose from, and you have to scroll-scroll-scroll-click every time you set up a job). Drawing the lists side by side, rather than one on top of another would probably be a good start.
  2. Start multiple jobs by selecting multiple lines. Hell, the current UI already allows you to select multiple lines, but there is no code to actually make sense of that multiple selection.
  3. Remember last invention choice and last decryptor used (if it's available in hangar). Pretty please!
  4. Some in game tool to plan a production line. Currently we have to write our own third party tools to do that (see LMeve)

More visual feedback would also be fun. For example, ship assembly lines at POS could feature the hulls that are actually being built inside (mind you that would add a lot to immersion factor).

Should something be resurrected? Or buried and forgotten?

Dear CCP, you should never (and I mean it) bring old limited edition ships back. There's plenty of hulls that the team Trilambda created, but are not available to players. I would really love a Roden Megathron in my collection! Or a Guristas Raven, when we are at it:

2012.10.03.16.49.08

What is the future of the community? What should or should not change?

Less drama is all the community needs, really. Most of us are grown ups, and should behave accordingly.

26Feb/132

Propaganda (n.) a marketing tool

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #45.

In a socially-driven game environment such as EVE Online's, everyone has an agenda. CCP promotes its products and has an army of volunteers to do the same; corporations and alliances deliver entertaining recruitment drives, CSM election candidates solicit for voter favour, bloggers and podcasters opine to their audiences.

In this intricate web of communication, influence and control, what part does propaganda play in your game?

In a game as emergent as EVE, metagame is often just as important as using  actual game mechanics. Propaganda is influencing the community point of view. Did you ever wonder why being a miner is so bad in EVE? Or why the word "carebear" has such pejorative meaning? Or why should one join the Goonswarm instead of being one of the pubbies (and why real men don't play with pubbies)?

What is it?

Propaganda is a marketing tool. It can make others join your cause, and it can makes your cause sound cool (or at least better than the others). It makes YOU the one who has influence on what other people think. It is often this influence that makes you good friends (or bitter enemies). And this can in turn:

  • turn the tides of war,
  • make your event bigger,
  • make people hate miners,
  • make griefing a fun thing to do.

How to do it?

In an era of social media it is just a matter of using these media. It usually helps to have some creative skills: wordsmiths and Photoshop warriors will have something to do (GIMP works too). Propaganda can be simply words, because words repeated enough times become the truth. Also notice that a catchy phrase with some catchy piece of graphics is three times* as much catchy - just a friendly tip. By the way, rumour is simply propaganda fitted with a Covert Ops Cloak.

* - an engineer approximation

Propaganda makes you recognized

If you hear "Lukas Rox", most likely you don't know who the hell it is. But you probably immediately recognize The Mittani. You most likely heard of Helicity Boson or Roc Wieler. If you read EVE related blogs, the name of Poetic Stanziel should sound familiar. And if you have an Android phone, you most likely know Marcel Devereux. Metagame and propaganda is the way to the top in EVE.

Examples of successful propaganda actions

  • First off, Goonswarm. With some creative talents and attitude of their leader, they use propaganda tools to make themselves heard, plus they usually do it quite loud. Let's take Burn Jita for example:

68458-227206-5WUAyjpg-620x z11634795Q,Burn-Jita WeVYt mittani_____jita_will_burn___wallpaper_by_foxgguy2001-d4uxyi0

jita4-4 burnjita-advisory 19537174

Did you notice that some of these have not been actually made by the Goons? This is another side effect of propaganda. It seems to have an effect on creative minds, so if you make your marketing cool enough, other people will surely respond (and possibly follow).

  • Another successful propaganda action is/was Hulkageddon. Even though the Hulk ganking operation is periodic, people still do it in the wake of Helicity Boson.

fancyhats_hulkv_01 goonswarm_hulkageddon hulkageddon-opt3-dark_250x450 propaganda

  • Faction Warfare militias uses propaganda as well - to bolster the numbers mainly - and to rally people together

Dave_Pryor_KermitTheGorf_sm

As you can see, propaganda is an important tool for EVE Online players, and moreover, they eagerly use it.

What part does propaganda take in my game?

Propaganda? Me? Are you kidding me?

See what other Banterers have to say

2Jan/130

Review of Crafting (industry) in EVE Online

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #42.

The 2012 Community Review of EVE Online

"A gaming universe as vast and unique as EVE Online is constantly evolving and the experience is different for every participant. Conventional games review techniques cannot possibly hope to provide an accurate measure of every aspect of EVE's gameplay. However, with a community initiative like the Blog Banters, we have the resources to deliver the most thorough and up-to-date review ever.

By combining the experiences of contributors from across the EVE metasphere, we get a wealth of opinions from veterans and rookies alike. We'll be able to combine input from faction warfare specialists, wormhole residents, null-sec warriors, missioners, pirates, industrialists, roleplayers, politicians and more to paint a complete picture of the health and progress of EVE Online in its current Retribution incarnation.

Who better to review EVE Online, than those who know it best?"

Last year The Blogging Community of EVE Online attempted a crowdsourced review of EVE Online. I have taken part as well, and you can read my contribution here. This year we will be changing the way the Community Review is done, by focusing on a single area of the game.

As a member of Aideron Technologies I can do no different, but focus on item crafting, which in EVE is better known as industry.

This review is up-to-date for Retribution expansion.

Item Crafting in EVE Online

Science and Industry in EVE Online is just as important as its famous, unforgiving PVP. While many players call industrialists carebears and consider them inferior type of players, industry and pvp are like yin and yang: one cannot exist without the other and they are not mutually exclusive: combat results in ship destruction, so it's creating a demand - demand for ships, modules, drones and munitions. Nearly all items (with the exception of blueprints, meta 1-4 items, officer & deadspace drops and implants) are manufactured by players. An open, player-driven market completes the picture, allowing manufacturers to sell their goods to combatants (or just re-sell them for profit).

Different classes of items require different materials and the manufacturing cycle is different. Many items require multi-staged production, so crafting in EVE is far from simple and requires considerable amount of planning. On the other hand, completing big endavours like building a supercapital ship or manufacturing and anchoring a player-owned Outpost in null space rewards a lot of satisfaction.

Item classes and material groups

Items in EVE are divided into several groups, which require different approach to craft and different types of materials.

To manufacture an item, one needs its blueprint and appropriate materials. Obtaining blueprints may be as easy as buying them from NPC, but some advanced blueprints have to be invented or reverse engineered.

  • Tech I is the simplest one, because one only needs an appropriate Blueprint (sold by NPCs) and the right amount of Minerals. Minerals can be obtained from a gathering profession (Mining).
  • Tech II is a more advanced one. Blueprints have to be Invented first, some materials are obtained by Moon Mining and have to be transformed at a player-owned-starbase. One has to build components from these materials. In the last stage, components, minerals, Planetary Interaction products and the base Tech I item are combined to create a Tech II item.
  • Capital Construction is very similar to Tech I in terms of materials, but has two stages: an enteprising player needs to build capital parts first, and then combine them together to make the ship itself. Both parts and ships blueprints are rather expensive, so the barrier of entry is rather high.
  • Tech III is similar to Tech II, but the differences are in details. Activity to obtain the Tech III blueprint is known as Reverse Engineering, and materials are harvested from specific NPCs (sleepers) and specific regions of game (wormhole space).
  • Planetary Interaction has been added as part of the Tyrannis expansion and allows players to extract and produce materials on planets. These materials are later used for making in-space structures, commonly called player owned starbases (prior to this expansion POSs have been sold by the NPCs).
  • Rig manufacturing - allows players to use materials obtained from ship wrecks to make useful jury rigs for ships.
  • Outpost Construction is similar to Capital Construction, but uses both minerals and materials obtained from Planetary Interaction.

Of course as every other activity in EVE, one needs to have an appropriate skillset to make an efficient manufacturer. Four groups of skills are used for manufacturing:

  • Industry
  • Mechanics
  • Planet Management
  • Science

Crafting system design score: 90/100. Crafting in EVE Online is great, but at times seems a bit overcomplicated, especially when looking at Tech II and III production chains, which are quite long and require several stages. On the other hand, finishing a complicated task like this can be considered an accomplishment, and will be a source of  satisfaction for the player.

Science and Industry user interface

Unfortunately S&I GUI have not changed much over the years. CCP has added new activities over the years, but the interface is built with a very small scale industry in mind. Large scale operations in corporations like Aideron Technologies is basically a clickfest, because one need to set the activity and production line for each job separately. Each job requires at least 8 mouse clicks and entering some numbers from keyboard. Setting up 10 manufacturing jobs twice a day and 10 invention jobs four times a day will not prolong the life of your computer's mouse. It also makes setting up jobs hard on laptops with a touchpad only. Setting up Planetary Interaction and production chains at player-owned-starbase also takes a lot of clicking, but this fortunately has to be done only once. Maintenance of planetary colonies has already been streamlined by the CCP, so the amount of mouse clicks in PI has been substantially reduced.

Science and Industry GUI requires a serious rework to reduce the amount of clicks substantially. Optimizations, which would improve player experience include:

  • Grouping jobs - ability to start several identical jobs with just one set of clicks, instead of setting each job separately.
  • Material quota screen should be optional if all materials are available and should only show if anything is missing.
  • Linking structures in POS should be done in a graphical manner, similar to Planetary Interaction. Both interfaces should be made very similar, so players only have to learn once.
  • Planning screen should be added to avoid the use of third party apps and trackers. Such screen would allow player to plan the production of any item, getting a material quota (even for sub-components). A saved plan could be tracked (daily, weekly or monthly), to let the CEO know how much work has already been done.
  • Invention and Reverse Engineering are currently chance based. Random chance is quite easy to include in plans, but has two serious downsides:
    • unsuccessful jobs result in some tedious clicking to be completely fruitless,
    • it requires corporations to keep an extra stock (of blueprint copies, datacores and sometimes decryptors), Deterministic approach would allow more precise resource planning
  • Possible solution: making invention jobs 60% longer, require higher skills and 60% more datacores, but they would always succeed.

Crafting system implementation score: 65/100. Industry in EVE is a clickfest and requires considerable amount of out-of-game tools for larger operations. There is plenty of room for improvement in that regard.

Wrapping up

Total score: 77,5/100. Industry in EVE is rather complicated but also a very rewarding profession. It fuels the war machine of EVE and the player-driven economy would have failed without it. Unfortunately the UI is old and needs a serious rework. It should also be possible to conduct larger operations without the need to use Excel and third party tools, which are currently essential.

Other contributions:

23Nov/120

Humanity has always dreamed of venturing to the stars

This post is a reply to Blog Banter 41: Director's Cut

The universe of EVE is not without its drama and epic stories, both in and out of game. Imagine a publisher, movie studio or television network asked you to prepare a pitch for a new brand of EVE-flavoured entertainment. This could be your big break, what would be your synopsis to bring New Eden to the wider audience?


I could have written a traditional synopsis, just like TV magazines describe saturday night movies. But do you remember any of them? Most likely you do not. I don't, either. But I do remember a couple of movie trailers I've seen (including EVE trailers). So instead, I'd go with a screenplay for yet another trailer in New Eden:

[ Camera is showing stars and nebulas. Imagine something like Star Trek: TNG intro, but done with EVE graphics. A deep male voice says: ]

Humanity has always dreamed of venturing to the heavens. [pause] But they have never imagined it can be such a cold and dark place.

[ Camera is showing a Temperate planet, slowly zooming outwards. A stargate slowly enters the view ]

Imagine a place so far away in space and time, where people can roam the stars. Where a man could pilot a spaceship with thought alone. How would they use such freedom? What kind of power would it grant them? How would they use this power?

[ as camera continues to move, a couple of frigates and cruisers is shown waiting near that stargate. As lector finishes "how would they use this power", gate activates and a ship jumps in ]

[ the ship turns out to be a freighter. It is immediately tackled and the fleet starts firing upon it ]

One could wonder, if humanity has its most barbaric times behind, buried deep in middle ages, or still awaiting on the horizon of the future?

[ another fleet warps in, and it clearly outnumbers the freighter's attackers. Newcomers engage them immediately ]

A future scarred by war and destruction, where four empires and countless alliances vie for power and dominance.

[ Camera shows DUST mercs fighting over a compund. A group of soldiers is running towards a structure; one of them falls to the ground - killed by a sniper ]

A future where negotiations are done with guns and missiles.

[ Camera is back at the stargate. The attacker group have been obliterated and there are wrecks everywhere. Freighter is on fire, but no one is shooting it anymore. The hulking ship turns around, trying to warp away. The moment later the second fleet tackles the freighter and blows it up ]

A future, where only the strongest can survive.

[ Camera is on the surface again, there are only two mercenaries left, one for each faction. They hide behind obstacles and try to shoot each other. But they run out of ammo. At the same instant they jump out of their cover running unto each other and clash in a melee ]

Will you survive?

See for yourself in [insert cinematic EVE movie title here. Also works if you fill this bracket simply with "EVE Online" ]


Other bloggers entries:

21Nov/120

Panem et circenes!

Bread and circuses in their literal meaning.

This post is a reply to Blog Banter 40: Interstellar Blood Sports

Fresh from publishing the community spotlight on the EVE blogosphere and Blog Banters, CCP Phantom has suggested a banter focus on competitive tournaments.

There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online's eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.

Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship entertainment for spectators and participants alike?

eSports is not a new concept

I've used to be a hardcore Quake 3 Arena player back in 2001-2003. The term "eSports" was born back then, and "normal" people had no clue what it means. Ten years later, eSports is nearly everywhere: there are Real Time Strategy Tournaments and there are First Person Shooter Competitions, not to mention Sports games imitating real football. People perception has changed as well: not only (almost) everyone knows what eSports is, but when watching a Call of Duty match, one can clearly tell what's going on in the game (at least who is winning, more less).

Sport needs spectators

Granted, Alliance Tournaments have been there for as long as EVE exists, but it has not been viewed as an eSport until recently. But this isn't surprising at all. EVE is so different from let's say, a footbal game or Quake deathmatch. Last couple of ATs had commentators, live video streams and spectators - just like real sports have. But real sports have much higher stakes bacause of RL cash prizes. Prizes is what drives emotions of players and spectators high. So we have a competition platform, we have players, and we have spectators (and spectators love games, because all they need is bread and circuses; literally, because some beer is made from bread). Is this enough to call EVE a sport?

Sport needs rules

Sport is an environment where everyone has the same initial conditions and the same chances to win. In a normal day-to-day EVE this would be impossible, because there are no rules that would enforce that. A lonely pilot wanting to fight a 1 vs 1 can quickly end up outnumbered and dead. In FPS games everyone has the same shitty gun and no armor and in RTSs one starts up with one structure and 5 peons. No one can interfere in a 1 vs 1, because it is built in the game rules. Alliance Tournaments is what adds additional rules to the vast sandbox of EVE; rules that enforce the same initial conditions (like maximum number of ships, their types, etc.) and give everyone equal chances to win. Sport is fair, EVE is not.

Rules have to be enforced

Tournaments are organized in an empty system fully controlled by the CCP, who enforces the rules (let's call them referee in this example). Other games have it in their design. I've already mentioned RTS and FPS. But how do you do that in an MMO? Is it possible to make computer the referee?

Yes, you can create a special area (an Arena) where there are additional rules compared to the rest of the sandbox. Rules that allow fair play clash between teams or individuals. There is no such area in EVE currently, but other MMOs already have them. Introducing such concept to New Eden would have a lot of impact on the game. The famous unforgiving and often non-consensual PVP would be reduced substantially, because instead of roaming for targets, players would simply head to the nearest arena. There they could find equally blood-thirsty group and beat the shit out of them.

Is Arena PVP the only solution?

Apart from a protein-based referee? Yes. Open sandbox is too open to become a fair sport. Unless of course you take "no rules" as your only rule 😉

25Aug/120

Home in the stars

This post is a reply to Blog Banter 39: Home

Welcome to the 39th Blog Banter - the community discussion that stretches across the many communities of EVE Online through the use of arcane bloggery. The conversation is open to all and readers are encouraged to visit all of the entries that will be listed below as the discussion progresses. Be sure to leave your thoughts there when you do.

For enquiring minds who would like to know more about the Blog Banters, check out this short explanation or read this overview of the subjects covered in the last year.

After a some heavy topics in the last few editions, this time we'll be taking a more relaxed trip through the thoughts of the blogosphere. The origins of this month's concept come from a suggestion from EON Magazine editor Richie "Zapatero" Shoemaker.

"Some say a man's home is his castle. For others it is wherever they lay their hat. The concept is just as nebulous in the New Eden sandbox. 

In EVE Online, what does the concept of "home" mean to you?"

The definitions of home

Many players will reply that they consider home their current base of operations, be it a system or region. In that sense I've had several homes in my EVE career. At times when I was in null, "home" was just a POS: a large  Tower with several other structures floating nearby. When my alliance had been pushed from our space, home has become nothing more than just a hangar, in a station, somewhere in low or high security space.

IRL people will call home the place where the loved ones are. In EVE you can find good friends of course, but it usually gets down to a common base of operations.

But over the years I have accumulated a sizable amount of ships: I tried to get at least one of every ship I can fly, including tech I through III and pirate variants as well. It would be stupid waste of time to haul it everywhere I go, so they stay safely docked in one of the stations in Gallente space. I could say this is my true home in EVE now: the place where my ship hangar count is in hundreds (until Inferno and its awesome features I had absolutely no idea how much they are actually worth).

But I would like something more

So we have two definitions now. To be honest, I'm not happy with either one, because neither of these places which I mentioned is really yours; only the assets are. I would like something more: a real home in EVE. A station perhaps, or a small hangar array, something I own, something more personal.  I could have anchored a POS, but POSs burn fuel. It's a waste of ISK if the POS does not do anything more than storing ships and assets. Space would also quickly get crowded, if everyone could put their space house anywhere.

EVE lore also states, that ships made of Tritanium are not fitted for atmospheric flight, because Trit quickly destabilizes in higher temperatures. So player owned "home" should be either in space (there is plenty of room in empty space, you know), or... on the surface of moons. Majority of these large space rocks don't have an atmosphere, plus they are pretty easy to find in space. It would also be very cool to undock from an underground hangar (your own hangar!) straight into space.

The idea I have outlined above raises plenty of questions:

  1. Should this home be destructible?
  2. Could someone just hack the door and rob my hosue of ships and goodies
  3. Could it be placed anywhere, or just in high sec?
    (it would be pretty annoying in null, because when someone jumped into your system you could simply dock in your "space home".)
  4. How would I call my neighbor players on the same moon? space homies?
  5. How much cargo space should it have?
  6. How much should it cost?
  7. Should it be a one time expense or some kind of monthly fee (like rent or fuel, for example Starbase Charters in high sec)?

While I think about it, it would be even better than working "walking in stations".

What about walking in stations?

Establishments in fully working Incarna environment could also be considered our own home in EVE. Unfortunately since CCP is busy with launching DUST 514, I really doubt we'll get functional walking in stations before 2014. And even then, customizable or not, Captains Quarters are not yours. They are more like a hotel room, a property of the station's owner.

I'd really like that underground hangar 😀

See what others have to say

6Jul/120

What happens in New Eden, stays in New Eden

This post is a reply to Blog Banter 37: The Line in the Sand

EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"

People are usually different in real life when compared to their online persona. The difference is the mask that most people "wear" in real life, which hides some traits and properties our society might not like. Society requires certain behavior patterns, and will reject those who don't accept them. Some kinds of behavior are considered okay, some are considered wrong, but each have consequences. While people usually have only one indentity in the real life society, one can have multiple identities on the internet. It is much harder to escape responsibility in real life than it is online. If a person crossed the line and it resulted in social rejection by the community, all one needs to do is to establish a new online identity. Granted, full anonymity on the internet is more less fiction (unless one is a serious VPN user), but usually only the governments and security services have the means to establish real identity behind an online persona. Normal people have rather limited means* to do so, and that's why people still feel generally anonymous online.

* Google, Twitter -> Facebook

How does above apply to EVE Online?

To answer this, first question to ask would be what kind of group is EVE Online community? Blog Banter #35 would be a very good starting point to answer it. Becasue of the sandbox nature of the game, EVE community is one that generally accepts almost any kind of behaviour in the game itself. Players are even encouraged to play bad guys. Each player can have up to three alternate characters (alts) per account, so assuming multiple identities is as easy as changing ships. Where does that lead? It allows the darkest parts of human psyche to the surface. Some players deliberately exploit this, playing as dirty as the game allows, but the community generally accepts this, because that's the main reason to play a sandbox game in the first place.

What if conflict leaves the sandbox?

It's wrong, but not so bad, when it ends on threats against another player (or his family). For CCP, as well as some of the playerbase (and me too) this is the line: threatening other players is a bannable offense and CCP will swiftly punish the offender with a lifetime ban. The EVE Community as a whole however is rather tentative towards this kind of things, because "it's just words", and some players will still see nothing wrong with that. Since for some players this is already wrong, and for some this is still right, conlcusion is, that RL threats is one of the "gray areas". Real problems arise if we are talking about  harassment in real life. Beating someone up IRL for something that happened in game is so far wrong on the scale, that no one questions it. Why would anyone resort to such extreme means? Because they bought most of their ISK with real money? Maybe because they really value their virtual posessions? Or maybe because they are ******** in real life people with issues in real life, just like they are in the game. The list of possible reasons is quite long. Why? Because even though New Eden is a virtual world, time investment is real. In this sense, EVE is real.

It is worth mentioning, that there is many more gray areas, than just insulting each other. Corporation warfare should only exist in game, but wars tend to leak from the game as a part of emergent gameplay. It is not uncommon for one warring party to DDoS websites and tools of their opponents*, such as Teamspeak/Ventrilo servers in order to gain an extra advantage (or, simply, just for griefing purposes). The anonymity and specifics of a DDoS attack make it hard to provide actionable evidence. As a counterexample, Aideron Robotics CEO stated once that Aura will never be used for metagaming, i.e. as an intel gathering tool. Even banning or locking out opponents from the use of Aura is considered out of line and will never happen.

* see this post on Fiddler's Edge

Personal experience

I have experienced different kind of harassment in EVE Online. I made a stupid mistake: being a CEO, I have posted my mobile number on the corp forums, so members could contact me when I am not online. Unfortunately, one of the members was experiencing some personal problems and would keep calling me to talk about his "issues". I would probably turn a blind eye to that,  but because of time zone difference, that guy was calling me in the middle of the night! After two weeks or so I have chosen to lock that person completely out. I have shut down my mobile number for two months (had to buy a prepaid card in the meantime) and blocked all of this person characters in game. However because this was likely not intentional, I did not report this to CCP. Did he cross the line? For me yes, because he has used (abused) my contact information for different purposes than expected. Of course one can say it was my fault in the first place, as my mobile number should have never be posted online.

So there is no line?

As you can see from the examples above, there is no universal line. If we have drawn a line for each person, we would get a gradient instead, from white to black through a lot of lighter and darker shades of gray. The anonimity of the internet and the possibility to create multiple identities in the game unfortunately doesn't help, because players can quite easily escape the responsibility. The fact, that others have different standards doesn't mean everyone should do the same. As a character and as a person you have a choice. EVE is just a game, and it should always remain that way.

For me, the line is clear: what happens in New Eden, stays in New Eden.


EDIT:

When I was reading other Blog Banter entries I remembered one more instance when someone actually got bruised up for his transgressions in a virtual world. A friend of mine took over an IRC channel when we were still at high school. Four thugs caught him when he was going back home and beat the hell out of him for... taking over that IRC channel. So if you wonder if virtual conflicts can turn into real world struggle, then the answer is: yes, definitely.

25May/120

It takes seventeen expansions to build a game as successful as EVE Online

This post is a reply to Blog Banter 36: The Expansion of EVE

Welcome to the thirty-sixth edition of the EVE Blog Banter, the community discussion that brings the collective minds of the EVE blogosphere together to chew the cud, exchange opinions or troll the world.

"With the Inferno expansion upon us, new seeds have been planted in the ongoing evolution of EVE Online. With every expansion comes new trials and challenges, game-changing mechanics and fresh ideas. After nine years and seventeen expansions, EVE has grown far more than most other MMOGs can hope for. Which expansions have brought the highs and lows, which have been the best and the worst for EVE Online?"

As the blogosphere warm themselves by the blazing Inferno, they stare wistfully into the flames and conjure memories of expansions past...

It takes a lot of bricks to build a house, and it takes 17 expansions to build a game as successful as EVE Online.

Internet Spaceships Game has received more expansions than World of Warcraft and Star Trek Online combined. When I started playing EVE, expansions were not something happening every 6 months. The amount of new content was varying from expansion to expansion as well, with one expansion that was, well... a very tiny one. Quantum Rise happened mostly on the server side (Stackless IO & EVE 64), just one new ship was introduced (the Orca) and stargate models have been iterated upon. The amount of new content, however, is not a true measure of success. Everything depends on player perception of that content.

The most epic failure, which almost everyone heard about, was the long awaited Incarna. CCP was mentioning "walking in stations" for a long time and during many events. To be honest, I've been waiting for this since I've started playing in 2005. I don't say that EVE desperately needs avatar gameplay, because it's a game about spaceships. I do think, however, that chatting with corp mates and other in-game friends would be done so much better in a bar scenery rather than in a hangar, while watching your ship spin. Not that ship spinning is bad, you know; I like spinning my ships, but what I really love is to fly them. Unfortunately the way Incarna delivered walking in stations, was miserable at best. Not to mention failed attempt to introduce microstransactions (wait, is 70 USD micro?) to the game. Most of us know how bad the freemium/premium model would be for established games such as EVE. I do not want to delve deep into why Incarna has received so much negative feedback from the playerbase, because 1) I have written an extensive post about Incarna backlash last summer and 2) CCP understood their mistakes and delivered two mind-blowing expansions after Incarna.

I think the best expansion of EVE Online so far was the Crucible, with Revelations, Apocrypha and Incursion as runner-ups. Crucible was successful because of many things. First off, CCP wanted to repair their public image after Incarna's failure, so a lot of human resources have been redirected from WoD and Dust project to work on EVE instead. Second thing was a ton of small fixes, that made the game a lot better and more enjoyable to play (Loot All!!). The third reason is ships: four new ships. Crucible has delivered four new battlecruisers, very different from the ones already existing in the game. Fast and agile, but paper thin "glass cannons" with damage output comparable with the biggest Battleships.  The fourth reason is the new backgrounds and V3 shaders, that made EVE look like a real-time rendered sci-fi movie. Crucible has also delivered more walking-in-stations than Incarna did.

Apocrypha's success was not just the Tech III modular ships; it came from added space, which is governed by a bit different rules, compared to the existing New Eden galaxy. Before Apocrypha, many players complained about Local channel being the main source of intel. Many tactics were used to circumvent Local, logon traps being the most obvious one. W-space, or Anoikis (as roleplayers call it) has a different local; one that does not give away presence (until someone speaks up). Before Apocrypha, CCP had also mentioned an idea of environmental phenomena, that would bend the rules of the game. Wormhole space was a perfect place to introduce these effects. With the Sleepers, PvE pilots have received a new AI to fight against, one that behaves more like other players rather than dumb drones.

Incursion brought even more "smart" and hard to beat NPCs, which require people to band together. The Sansha themed expansion has also removed quality of Agents, making missions more accessible and mission hubs less crowded. The main success of this expansion was the amount of rewards people could gain by running Incursions. Even though many players complained (and even tried to fight against it), majority was happy with this new steady source of ISK. Even though EVE economy suffered a bit from an additional ISK faucet, the overall community perception was positive.

When talking about new space and new ships, one can't forget the Revelations. Surely many players like their Abaddons and Rokhs. Almost everyone loves their Drakes and Hurricanes. This is the expansion, which brought them into existence. CCP did not only deliver eight new ships; they have also opened access to eight new regions of space (now known as the Drone regions). Did you know, that prior to this expansion there were no Rigs and no ship wrecks? Both NPC and player ships would leave a Cargo Container when destroyed, which contained all the loot.

I have almost forgotten about the last one, Trinity. Trinity has delivered most of the ship models you fly these days. V3 is mostly a texture change, but it was the Trinity that brought all the new models. EVE was a completely different looking game before 2007. Fifty man-years of work have been put into re-modelling all the ships, bringing them back onto the cutting edge of graphics awesomeness. If not for this expansion, your ships would look like this:

   
   

Not that EVE was not pretty before Trinity 😉 It just got a whole lot prettier.

If CCP still has the graphical assets from the pre-Trinity EVE (which I'm sure they do) it would make a great EVE-themed tablet game. Both iPad 2 & 3 and Tegra based tablets would handle this kind of GFX easily (check out Galaxy on Fire II - it's possible). Just an idea for the CCP 😉

As you can see, EVE Online in itself is a success. It's an achievement that has been built with many blocks - individual expansions. It is hard to tell which one of them was the best one, because they are only parts of the whole. The game itself is a big success and I think this is all that should matter to the players. CCP's willingness to improve and iterate and most of all - willingness to listen what community has to say is the foundation upon all these blocks are built. Take that foundation away, community will collapse, and the game will die just like many others did. Sooo... keep up the good work, CCP!

PS. Over the years I have collected EVE splash screens from each and every one EVE Online expansion - make sure to have a look 🙂

12Apr/120

For the Nation! (EVE Nation, that is)

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #35.

Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community. 

Is this perception deserved? Should "The Nation of EVE" be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]

Social aspects of massive multiplayer games are a very broad topic. It's actually the foundation, upon which such games are built, so this could easily be a good topic for Ph.d. in Sociology or Psychology.

One Nation

EVE Online player community is a huge pool of personalities, playstyles and individual treats. The whole community can be divided into alliances, power blocs, groups based on different play styles (with PVP dominating over other types of gameplay) or game world geography (high sec, low sec, nullsec, WH). While opinions will most likely vary, based on which groups a given player belongs to, some of them will be the same for the majority:

  • Microtransactions are bad, mkay?
    • This is an aftermatch of the famous monoclegate, which has changed EVE, CCP and the playerbase as well. Players have united to defend the game they play, love and care about (even if they play merciless killers in said game). EVE community often unites when the changes proposed (or already introduced) by the CCP are not good for the game. It seems as if players knew the game better than the devs. No other MMO developer relies so much on player feedback as much as CCP relies on EVE community. Even if sometimes devs seem to ignore player feedback, they will more often listen to it before (sometimes after) introducing some game-breaking features. If CCP did not care about playerbase opinions, there would be no CSM and we would have 256 monocles to choose from right now. Secondly, many game design changes have been revisited if player feedback did not approve them.
  • Boosts are good, nerfs are bad.
    • This does not unite the community as a whole, but rather specific groups who will suffer from a nerf, or from a boost instead. Whining in groups is always better than whining alone.
  • CCP should focus on spaceships
    • Majority of players play EVE for spaceships, not for avatars, and this is the message that constantly reverberates throughout player feedback. CCP  has shifted their priorities accordingly, but also given the avatar gameplay new, meaningful focus.
  • We are not carebears; everyone else is
    • Dominated by males, EVE community has typical features of a testosterone-based group. Players like to boast about their achievements and don't mention their failures.
  • We are elite PvPers
    • see above;
  • EVE is a hard game but we have mastered it
    • It is not as hard as it seems, but CCP views it as something that can be marketed, and most casual gamers will likely be overwhelmed with the vast world of EVE. And males who play EVE with more or less success can boast about it. See testosterone comment above.

Players are part of the game now

I have focused on feedback and the player-dev relationship, which in many ways is unique for EVE Online. And I have done so because I think it goes deeper than just that. CCP has created a game world. But this is a statement true for 2003 through 2005, where there was not enough players to complete the economy and fill the world. but players slowly replace the NPCs and become... part of that world. No, EVE is not real and we don't jack in to a Matrix of sorts (although the game indeed feels real at times). What I mean is that New Eden is not complete without its population anymore. CCP could shape this world the way they wanted when they first created it in 2003, but right now the world can (and will) push back on CCP as well, because players are now a part of it.

Relationship status: It's complicated

The relationship CCP and EVE players have forged overt the years have been a long and a bumpy ride, but it's also quite unique in the gaming industry as such. The fact that for 10 years straight EVE playerbase has been growing steadily is a telltale sign that the way chosen by the CCP is a good one. This fact also indicates, that Crowd Control Productions has a lot to its name.

Did you actually understand the banter's topic, Rox?

Yes I did 😉 This long introduction had a purpose.

Unfortunately the PVP nature of the game, and the fact that over 90% of players are male also causes some misconception about what EVE Online is about. The recent events of Mittanigate would suggest to the outside world, that EVE Online is a game, which goal is to harass other people to the point they commit a suicide. Whatever the reasons behind Mittani's behaviour were, and despite the fact that he actually apologized to his "victim", the image of cruelty sticks. Is EVE online a cruel game? For an unprepared soul, it can be, yes. But for a seasoned player dealing with it is just part of the game. Moreover, CCP is using this image to market their game.

I will always emphasize, that EVE has a white side as well - it offers an unscripted experience of players creating the events and being part of a single open sandbox they inhabit. Most reviews of EVE written by people who only played the game for a little mention this very often. The same can be heard from veterans, so it is close to the truth.

Sorry, no Bonus!

EVE is a unique game, and I don't think it requires a specific keyboard (or mouse) like some other games do. The multitude of actions to choose from in most MMOs make things such as this:

more than just a weird piece of hardware or some twisted nightmare of a gaming gear designer. This can actually be useful for other MMOs, but not for EVE Online.

But if there ever was an EVE specific keyboard, it would probably look similar to this: