Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fixing Stuff Can Break Stuff

Blog Banter 38: Dogma 

In his recent "That's just the way it is" post on Jester's Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE's design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these "quirks". In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online's developers as "relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world", underlining that he has only four content developers but "a lot" of programmers and engineers.

Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted - expecting the "social engine" to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP's responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of "emergent gameplay" with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?

"You know what really grinds my gears?" - Peter Griffin

Rips's post is interesting. In many ways he is right, but he is also treading dangerously in some places. We need to be very careful. The graveyard of deceased computer games is littered with titles where the developers have listened too much to players and made their lives too easy.

Players - This is too hard. Change it!
Devs - OK, if you want, we'll change it.

A few weeks later....

Players - We're quiting the game!
Devs - WHY?
Players - We're bored. There is no challenge here.
Dev - But...... but......... you asked....... WTF?

Do I need to mention Star Wars:Galaxies?

Also I believe we need to ask ourselves who is asking for a particular change. Small groups of players can be very vocal. A small minority can appear to have the voice of a large majority. It doesn't need many on a forum post to make it sound like a suggestion has the backing of the majority of the players. Wherein reality its a tiny number. So what should CCP be looking at to change from some of the things being banded about blog-sphere and by the Tweetfleet? Is it's CCP responsibility to come up with these, or should they rely on the players?

Jump Clones.
These have been highlighted as a problem and they are. However, they mustn't be used as a way of being able to hop around the universe at will. The main problem is this sort of thing -
  • Log on at normal time. Do stuff in your normal area.
  • You need to do something 60 jumps away. You have a JC there just for this. You jump.
  • Next day you log in at normal time, but you are stuck away from your normal stomping grounds for 2 more hours. Nothing needs doing in your local area as you did it before you logged last night..... bugger.
As suggested by others, a skill that reduces jump clone waits would be ideal. I'm guessing here, but I would say 4 hours is a good session on Eve. Therefore if you had it so when trained to level 5 the skill dropped the wait to 20 hours, it would be ideal. Log on at 7pm, do your thing. JC at 10:55pm, do the stuff you need to do in the far reaches of space, sleep, work, eat, log back onto Eve next evening. Hey presto! You're ready to JC back home!

Auto Pilot
In hi-sec, I agree that maybe auto piloting to 0 would save a few carebears from being ganked. In low-sec however, with a few iStabs and warp-stabs you could AP through "dangerous space" without too much risk. Risk vs reward. May be there could different AP warp-ins for different areas of space.....

Warning - Your autopilot route takes you through low-sec. Due to a lower standard of navigational aids in these areas the autopilot can only warp to 10km from the gate and must travel the rest of the distance on conventional engines. This is highly-dangerous. Are you sure you want to do this?

Self Destruct.
When we downed a Nyx earlier this month we praised CCP that even though he self-destructed a killmail was generated. However, we now find that this is actually a bug (which most of us call a feature). CCP are apparently looking into this. Self destruct is needed. Sometimes you need to get somewhere and need to take the "pod express" (self destruct your pod so you wake up in your medical station). This is needed if you get lost in a wormhole and forgot to bookmark the exit hole (known as doing a Sindel) or if a player is griefing you by holding your pod and not letting you go. If CCP implement killmails for ships self-destructed under aggression, then reducing self-destruct timers is not a problem. If they do not, then SD needs to relate to the size of ship. Pods, 10 seconds. Cruisers, 20 seconds. BS two minutes, capitals 3 minutes and supers 5 minutes. Come on, when do you need to self-destruct a super normally?

Moving your base of operations is a PITA. I want to move a few jumps. I have tens of billions of assets in ships and mods. The best way currently for me is via carrier. I can take one million cubic metres of assembled ships (with cargo's full of ammo) and 10,850m3 of mods and . But for someone who has been playing for years, that's not a lot. Now here we are with the conflict. Right now, I would love to see a "Mothership" that is pretty useless for anything but moving. A massive ship hanger, a huge cargo bay. This would make moving base simpler and safer. But do we want Eve to be simple and safe? If it's my war targets moving, do I want them with a ship like this or do I want them having to make repeated jumps or better yet, conventional haulers that I can assplode? I know CCP feels it's already too easy to move. They want to see convoys of industrials protected by wings of combat ships moving through space. How awesome/terrible would that be? Awesome for the attackers, terrible for the people hauling stuff. "Wut? I thought you said jump on contact. WHAT CAMP?"

Bookmarks on Overview.
Please. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease! I want that for GTFO-ability. But wait. Do I want my enemies to have it? Do I want them to be able to bounce safe's easier? I want to be able to, but I don't want my enemies to be able to. May be a good example of something that sounds a good idea, but would make my life both easier and more difficult at the same time.

Loyalty Point Clicks
Interesting one this. Are CCP looking at risk vs reward here? The risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI) verse the reward of lots of goodies. Does the need for so much clicking and arsing about put people off buying certain things from the LP store? If so does that then limit supply therefore reward those who will make the 25,000 mouse clicks?

So there are a few things in the above list that I would want to see in Eve which will make my life easier. Hang on...... making the game easier....... I've been here before in another MMOG.

CCP are in a really difficult position. Eve is hard. We know that, we love that. If it was made easy, would you get the same rush in achieving something in-game? CCP must listen to the player base, but at the same time must consider the outcomes. We might beg them for an "improvement" to make our lives easier, more convenient, but they need to be sure they don't end up "Doing a SOE".

There is also no point pandering fully to new players and making it very easy for them, they'll only suffer worse when they try to step up. But we need new blood in the game and we need to retain new players. How on earth do you get this balance right? How do we stop the new players quiting, yet still prepare them for the long game ahead?

Convenience and something "being easy" are two different things. Some people want the same change for different reasons without thinking of the consequences.

Tread carefully CCP, tread carefully!

1 comment:

  1. To be perfectly honest I don't know if this is CCPs fault. Most of nowadays' children - because they're the ones playing games as a majority, you can't deny that - have no patience at all. I don't know whether you played pen & paper RPGs, oldschool adventure games, Quake, but look...

    If Quake was made today. It's not only the producers. They do what the public demands. Then some of the public goes and end themselves because games have become so dumbed down.

    I think old-school gamers should educate their children accordingly. And it is a rather healthy life principle. Nothing that's worth doing is easy, otherwise everyfuckingbody would do it and it wouldn't be worth doing.