Blog Banter #59: Terrain

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 59th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

This month’s version comes from commenter Zappity who asks:

“Probably been done before… What about local force projection (as opposed to the longer distance force projection that is often talked about)? I think of ‘terrain’ in EVE to be how systems are mapped together by gates. Strong tactics which exploit terrain have historically been extremely important in deciding battle outcomes. How does this apply in EVE in the presence of cynos?”

You know that old story trope of knowing some place like the back of your hand? It’s a pretty common one in science fiction, you know probably know it well. Someone’s father took them through some treacherous area of space all the time on trading runs so now that skill will conveniently come in handy to escape the bad guys, or something like this. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the “terrain” of EVE allowed for this kind of play?

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Blog Banter #52: Falling Down

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 52nd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

Go to the always useful EVE-Offline.net (http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility) and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.

What’s on the other side of that plateau?

Since its launch in 2003, EVE has seen a fairly consistent period of solid growth. At a certain point however, the jumps in player activity have really only followed expansions, a common effect with MMOs that have been around for a long period of time.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but EVE is facing a hard road ahead, and I’m thinking the plateau will begin a downward slope soon. Lets look at a few of the reasons for this.

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Streaming the Universe

In case you’ve been living under a rock the last few years,  you will have noticed a huge surge in video game streaming. From major events in the realm of exports to the everyday player at home, on demand streaming is here to stay. Maybe it’s time that EVE Online gets on the air.

streaming-twitch

Now its not like there aren’t any EVE streams going on. Even a cursory glance on Twitch.tv shows around a dozen active streams during prime time here in the western hemisphere. Popular channels such as Mad_Ani, SirSqueebles, and TheMittaniDotCom attract hundreds of viewers on a regular basis, and when major conflicts are occurring those streams broadcasting them will have thousands of viewers. Even CCP has been using streaming services more frequently these days, showcasing events and new features.

streaming-mad_ani-fight

There’s certainly interest in people wanting to stream, and people wanting to tune in to those that are streaming. So why not add that functionality to the EVE client?

There is precedent for this concept. Games such as War Thunder and Planetside 2 have Twitch integration built in, as does EA’s Origin client. Even NVIDIA’s ShadowPlay feature allows for recording and streaming of gameplay through the driver software.

The recently released PlayStation 4 has built-in streaming capability to two different services, and has been an interesting feature to observe in use.  Players can easily stream the full user interface, or include viewer chat and a broadcaster camera shot if they own that peripheral. The ease at which people can start a stream and interact with viewers through a console has been interesting to observe. A feature that people had thought wouldn’t be used to any significant amount has become extremely popular with streamers and viewers alike.

streaming-ps4

Providing integrated streaming options for EVE Online could provide easy to use tools for any player to broadcast their gameplay for others. CCP could even go so far to build an interface like the PlayStation 4’s, stylizing it to fit in with established New Eden aesthetics. They could even allow for the selection of themed interfaces for each of the four major races in the game, nullsec organizations, and one themed after the corporation or alliance you belong to.

It’s worth noting that there’s a signal to noise issue that could arise from this. EVE isn’t exactly an action packed first person shooter, and it’s probably not everyone’s cup to tea to sit and watch someone ship spinning in stations. However, just like anything in this game, there’s always going to be someone interested in what others would consider to be mundane.

Showing all facets of the game to a wider audience only serves to highlight the diversity of experiences EVE affords, and an integrated, tailored streaming component could allow anyone to share those with others.

What do you think, is it worth CCP putting some effort to enhance the EVE client with this kind of functionality, providing it doesn’t take away from other more pressing development efforts?

UPDATE:

twitch_streaming_options_window

Looks like CCP’s had this one waiting in the wings for a Rubicon point release.

In the latest dev blog titled “Twitch Integration is Here!”, CCP Rise details the integrated Twitch streaming functionality. I still say there’s an opportunity to theme the stream with EVE livery, but who knows what the future will bring for this feature.

I for one can’t wait to see what players put out there for us to watch.

Sources:

Scorpion Stings

It seems that every couple of years, we are given reminders of just how tenuous the pact that exists between player and game developer can be. In recent days, CCP had been at the center of two community related issues that really highlight the passion behind those involved with EVE and its community.

For most games, developers go about their business tweaking things with few thoughts about how the players might feel. Their idea of community relations consists of hiring a meatshield in the form of a community management team, which spends a considerable amount of time enforcing forum rules rather than communicating concerns upstream. CCPs idea is to form a player government and hold yearly micro-parliaments with them. As progressive and bold a move as that is, it baffles me that they still continue to stumble when it comes to dealing with their customers.

Image Credit: Gamesradar
Image Credit: Gamesradar

Recent proposed changes to the Terms of Service caused a significant uproar among the community because of an absurd short-sightedness in what CCP thought would be a minor adjustment to their policies. In order to provide more clear rules with regards to impersonation of other players, they inadvertently painted a target on one of the game’s most celebrated and despised of play styles — the scammer.

“After hearing the feedback and concerns of our players, we have decided to take a deeper look at what we should and should not be enforcing.”

The community’s response was swift, and totally in the right. They appreciate the intricacies of social engineering in order to set up a good scam, however abusing the UI in order to do it (letter substitutions in names, etc.) is far more offensive. By setting tighter policies, CCP would almost kill off a play style that has served to market the game in the past. CCP has since backed off on the change in order to reevaluate its wording, and also to take a look at the the entire Terms of Service and EULA in order to see what other issues lurk there that should be looked at. The CSM will be involved one way or the other.

And then there’s the SOMERblink scandal. Rare things in EVE have historically been given out as rewards for things such as participation in events, winning the alliance tournaments, that sort of thing. Part of the mystique surrounding rare ships in EVE is the knowledge that their numbers are finite, and in order to get them a pilot or organization would have had to accomplish something meaningful (or paid gobs of money to someone who own them). It’s risk versus reward in a very real sense.

“…it is easy to see why CCP Games might be somewhat confused as to the strength of the player reaction to the current arrangement with SOMERblink.”

CCP decided to work with the SOMERblink guys to provide new copies of rare ships as rewards that the site could give out to players. The issue was two-pronged: why was CCP giving away these rare ships again, thus taking away from their current rareness, and what was the relationship between them and SOMERblink that enabled that site access to such lucrative rewards?

CCP has often dealt with player-run community efforts, providing things like game time and other such harmless items for them to use in contests and giveaways. Players should understand that this is usually for marketing purposes, since players that are more active in the game’s community are less likely to stop playing. It also is like a little pat on the back to the community service operators, as CCP has always respected how passionate those people can be.

In Mat Westhorpe’s excellent writeup summarizing this, he brings the concept of CCP working with the community out into the open.

“The revelation that CCP Games’ community team has been providing rare gifts of significant in-game value as a way of rewarding selected community contributors has incited strong but divided opinion amongst EVE Online’s most vociferous players.”

This isn’t much of a revelation, CCP’s been pretty open about this kind of thing with community site operators. The real issue is that there’s never been any clearly defined criteria for what qualifies a community organization for getting ultra-rare goods over some Plexes.

I can’t help but pin that inconsistency on the different attitudes CCP has presented over the years to its community. Back during the days when the WDA podcast was in full swing, getting a developer to guest on the show was often only a matter of coordinated timing between a few folks in different timezones. Then as EVE became more popular, getting developer time was more tightly controlled, frequently losing out to mainstream gaming media who could be able to potentially deliver a message to a wider consumer base. Often it seemed that the organization as a whole was doing its best to shy away from getting asked the hard questions by a community show, even for a show that was recorded and released later.

The point I’m trying to make with this is that this kind of treatment came and went depending on who was in charge of community relations, and what the prime objective of the organization was at any given time. Serve the existing community, or try to grow it more through mainstream PR.  It’s a balance they’ve never really nailed down, and doing so would probably be more perilous for them in the long term.

New, modem, socially integrated CCP has been trying out a lot of different tactics lately, and snuggling up with community sites again is among them. That might be as simple as a retweet for a funky article, a community profile in the dev blogs, or be as interesting as a bit of glad handing with fancy rewards to hand out, such as rare ships.

“We at CCP are committed to making New Eden the best and most immersive “sandbox” universe in all of video games.”

The problem as I see it is not that they are trying, it’s that the community’s perception of it is poisoned by long experience with CCP over the years, and with the inconsistency of community relations as a whole. Just as most companies of its kind that have experienced the kind of growth that they have, being forgetful of past mistakes comes with the territory. The real challenges for CCP: be more cognizant of how the things they do are perceived by their community, and come to terms with a community that, rightfully, continues to remind them that they’re only human.

Further Reading:

Blog Banter #49: Silver Spoon

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 49th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

What is “rich” in EVE? Is it simply having more ISK than most everyone else, is it measured in raw numbers of some other ethereal quality? Can you actually be poor? Have you ever lost nearly everything and had to claw your way back? If you are rich, how do you know and how did you get rich?

There is absolutely no easy way to answer a question such as “what is ‘rich’ in EVE”. The amount of isk you have in your wallet is a function of how much time you can put into the game, and how much effort you are willing to put forward during that time. However, is that the only way to define being rich?

For the sake of argument, let’s make the (completely flawed) assumption that you have infinite time and effort at your disposal for playing EVE. We can then effectively eliminate isk as a richness factor, and get to the chewy center of the richness question: achievement.

For a sandbox game that is this sandboxy, you as a player — subconsciously or otherwise — will be putting a lot of value in whether you feel you are accomplishing something. For a lot of people this will be a fluid thing, since a new player might make getting into cruisers their goal, or capital ships, or making their first billion isk.

I remember playing Earth and Beyond back in the day, and one of the random fellows I ran into was disappointed by the depth of the game’s mining. While chatting with him about this, I found out that EVE would be his holy grail game, as the extraction of minerals from a game for use by others who liked to craft was how he defined the value of his gameplay. He was not interested in making piles of actual money, it was just the simple act of mining that provided him with that feeling of accomplishment. To him, that meant being rich more than anything else.

For some, piloting the biggest ships in the game is how they define being rich, and they’re not far off the mark with that; those ships cost a fortune even without fittings, and sticking basic gear on them is often a bad move. A small fortune and a set of officer mods later and you’ve got a flying tribute to ingame capitalism.

Other than doing mission running, I personally prefer to fly smaller ships. Back when I used to PVP regularly, flying an interceptor was infinitely more interesting to me, and cheaper, than other types of ships. Diving in to a furball with support and capital fleets and coming out alive (hehy, 10% hull is still technically alive) made me feel like a million bucks.

The way EVE is designed, isk is integral to progression. You use it to buy skills which allow you to fly different things and use different modules, it’s the core of the economy. In a way it’s the core of everyone’s experiences, but it’s those experiences and your sense of accomplishment in participating in them that really defines how rich you are.

Source:

Blog Banter #48: The Importance of Lore

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 48th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

This month’s topic is a request from CCP Sisyphus who wants to know how important is Lore in EVE Online?

“How important is “fluff” in Eve online? Would eve online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?”

I can’t imagine having to deal with the extreme challenge that is managing the lore of EVE Online. Whatever you do could mean so much to the game and how it’s played, or it could mean absolutely nothing to everyone. Meanwhile you have to do it all with a feeling for the overall plot that holds up to scrutiny from one of the most passionate gaming communities.  It’s important for sure… but why?

Maelstrom

One can’t really completely separate the graphs and maths of things from the inspiration behind them. The rust and duct tape experts we call the Minmatar use artillery and machine guns, relatively simple by science fiction standards. As a race that had bee subjugated by others for so long, they didn’t have the resources and time to worry about things like beautiful design and next-gen technology to exact revenge with. Their stuff looks slapped together because it draws upon the history of that race.

Hyperion

Contrast this to races like the Gallente which fly sleek ships with fantastic railgun-based weaponry, all funded by a society which favors pornography and drugs to complex corporate maneuvering and religious zealotry. Their libertarian history has resulted with smooth ships which employ the up close and personal touch to dealing with their enemies.

That basic starting point leads then into the design of how these two very different races operate as part of a game. Each favors a different style of tanking, their preferred weaponry force different approaches to combat, the speeds and maneuverability come into play in huge ways; and yet it’s all driven by that basic underlying concept of the story behind the races.

So you hit 2003 and the game launches, and you’re clear to kick back and let the players run around and play in your lore-filled sandbox, right?  Wrong. Reading about the backplot to the game is fine for an hour’s diversion but at some point you’re going to want to change the game in some interesting way, and you’re screwed if you think you can do it just because CCP Obama says he can change things for the better.

Complex plots involving defecting scientists and espionage have been used in the past to introduce new technologies for players to use. These usually start as slow burns, small news stories building up over days to much larger plots and sometimes culminating in some sort of crazy in-game event involving players.

Capsuleer

Is any of it “important” to EVE, though?  Well no, we don’t really need the lore to justify changes to the game; players by now generally get their information about changes through forum posts and patch notes.

However this is one of the few ways these days that CCP can still directly communicate the game’s vision with players. That vision isn’t just about balancing and UI improvements, it’s also directly involves and affects the day to day actions of players, corporations, and alliances.

Interview With Cyber From Eve Bloggers

The EVE blog scene has been a bit heated as of late. Transitions for sites to new owners, and shakeups between similar sites have proved that in game and out of game, EVE Online drama knows no bounds.

Currently in the middle of both of those mini-whirlwinds is Cyber (@CyberInEve), the new manager of Eve Bloggers. I wanted to catch up with him about the site, and to discuss some elements of the recent interview done here by a competing site.

 

Winterblink: EVE blogs have caught a lot of attention lately, so what does Eve Bloggers bring to the party?

Cyber: I’ve still got a lot of ideas running through my head for Eve Bloggers, but for the most part I want to keep it the same concept that it started as, a stream that allows people to easily follow the blogging community.

I have plans to add a few more community type features to the site (secret for now :)), as well as other useful resources for the blogging community (and hopefully the greater Eve community itself)

I actually posted a shortish post on the Eve-O forums that explains it a little more in-depth. (Link to thread)

Winterblink: You’ve inherited the site from Marc Scaurus recently, can you talk a bit about how this came about, and how you feel about taking on the responsibility?

Cyber: Perfect timing I think was a major factor in it. I recently got back from a little over a year off of eve due to real life issues, and when I came back I heard rumors that Eve Bloggers wasn’t being updated anymore. I’ve always been a huge fan of the site, and as an avid blogger and webmaster I immediately wanted to see what I could do to help.

When I saw Marc post about looking for a new owner, I jumped at the opportunity. I actually didn’t think he’d pick me since I had just got back from a long absence, but I guess my expertise in the area made me a good candidate. As for the responsibility…I’m deeply humbled by taking ownership and from the feedback I’ve gotten so far. Marc did an awesome job with the site (and Alexia before him), so while I have changes in mind, I also want to stay true to the initial concept of the site and not change it too much. As we both know…the bloggers are a rowdy bunch so I want to make sure it stays a resource that they approve of.

Though, I guess that got off the topic of responsibility I bit…which I guess you’ll find out, I ramble a bit at times. I know it’s going to be a time consuming job but I have a feeling it will be very rewarding to watch the site (and more importantly the community) begin to grow.

Winterblink: You mentioned Alexia; I recently did an interview with him about his own EVE blogging site, and there seems to be some drama with regards to the two services. Assuming you’ve read that interview, I’m going to put you on the spot and ask whether you had any response to some of the assertions made about Eve Bloggers.

Cyber: Well, to start with, I think most of the drama that popped up was more about his new site than Eve Bloggers (or with what he wanted to turnEve Bloggers into if he got it back). Eve Bloggers was create by Alexia to be a “stream” of blogs for the community…yet somewhere along the line he decided that he wanted to confine the blogging community to one website rather than allow people to remain individuals. I do think he had good intentions, I have no issue with Alexia personally…just with that idea, I don’t think it works well for this type of thing. A good example would be podlogs, it was a good site while it was around…got new people into the blogging community…and then it disappeared, leaving tons of people stranded and having to find a new place for their blogs.

While I’m not going to say that Alexia is going to disappear, what happens if he does? What if he loses interest, gets bored, has personal issues, etc. It will put whoever is using the site to host their blogs into the same predicament as podlogs did…having to find a new home for their blog with very little notice. A bloggers domain is his identity…changing it is a big deal. I originally was interested in working with Alexia, somehow working together with the two sites, although we never could figure out how to do so.

Then, when I read your interview with him…where he seems to have lost his temper and decided to bash those of us who prefer to run our own blogs…I realized that working with him would not be an option for me. In my opinion, the blogging community is a group of people…we don’t all have to have our domain at noidentity.blogsite.com.

I’m not sure what he was thinking with those comments. I know it personally made me decide not to support his endeavors…and while I can’t speak for everyone, I’m sure there are plenty of other bloggers that thought the same thing. Not many people enjoy being told to go screw themselves and that their opinions don’t matter…especially when everything we do is based on our opinions as bloggers.

Winterblink: There is an important distinction to make between the two sites really. Alexia is building a blogging consortium of a sort, hosted on his service. You’re administering a kind of Google Reader (RIP) for EVE blogs, aggregating the existing community. Is this assumption generally correct?

Cyber: I think that’s a safe way of putting it. Eve Bloggers intends to be a resource FOR the community, while it seems Alexia is trying to make a site to BE the community.

Though I do intend to add other features to the site that aren’t just based on aggregating content (guest blogs, guides, other eve related links, etc)…I intend to allow the eve community itself to help form the website into what they want it to be through the use of polls and suggestions. I want it to be about the community and not about me.

Winterblink: The blog hosting part of his site is certainly useful (and free) to those who want to start their own, though it will be a bit of an uphill battle against full featured blog hosts like WordPress and Blogger. That’s definitely going to be a challenge for him, and frankly anyone trying to be the EVE Online Uber Community.

You mentioned Alexia potentially leaving his site stagnant, and how that would affect users of his service. I have to point out, isn’t that exactly what happened to Eve Bloggers in the past?

Cyber: That did happen to Eve Bloggers, and funny enough Alexia was the one that had to give it up, but it went stagnant because of Marc (not Alexia). However, Eve Bloggers does not host peoples blogs so even if Eve Bloggers ended up stagnating again, it would cause no danger towards peoples blogs. (although I do run my own hosting company and have been debating opening a hosting service for isk up sometime, but that’s another story for another time :))

Winterblink: Thanks very much for taking the time to chat with me between fights in EVE.  To wrap up, if folks out there are interested in trying out your site as a blog owner or reader, where should they go?

Cyber: For readers, heading over to http://www.evebloggers.com/ will take them to the main page where they can see the most recent blogs from the community, and then from there find different feeds for different topics, or the full community blog list (coming soon). For owners, http://www.evebloggers.com/get-added would be a good place to start.

 

There’s no shortage of opinions in EVE, and blogs allow people to formulate those more than a simple forum post or tweet. In the absence of Google Reader, aggregating the RSS feeds from all the different EVE blogs can be done with newer services, but finding the blogs in the first place isn’t always easy. With EVE Bloggers now under new committed management, it stands to become another valuable source for people to go to for discovering new and interesting things from the EVE community.

Sources:

Blog Banter #47: Know It All

Kirith Kodachi takes the reigns as overlord of the Blog Banter initiative, and starts things off with a banter about EVE knowledge.

“Ripard Teg over at Jester’s Trek wrote a post called Don’t Do Anything Stupid and offered it as the basis of a Blog Banter as he is curious what others feel on the subject. Personally, I’m restarting manufacturing that I haven’t done in years and finding myself having forgotten almost as much as I knew the first time around.

So this month’s Blog Banter will gravitate around knowledge, specifically EVE knowledge. Some examples of topics to cover: Is EVE too complex for one person to know everything? Is it, in fact, too complex for one person to know everything about one topic? How do you maintain any knowledge or skills related to EVE over time with breaks and expansions? Does CCP do a sufficient job documenting the features of the game, and if not, what could they do better? How does one determine where the gaps in their knowledge even are?

Starting up with EVE Online is a tough thing. I’ve seen it time and time again, where people first log in and take a casual glance around the game, and are immediately flattened by the immense breadth of … well, stuff. They’re ok though because they have a friend who’s been playing the game since it first came out right?  WRONG.

Well, maybe.  I mean the fundamentals of EVE Online are hard to define, because of that massive list of things you can actually do.  That ten year vet may be the biggest expert in the game when it comes to building things, but doesn’t have the foggiest about transversal velocity, or which hybrid ammo type is best to use at extreme long range. When you think about it, the only common denominators we all have to deal with are the user interface and the basic fundamentals of getting from one spot to another.

Taking even a relatively short break from the game can sometimes leave you playing catch-up with new and changed features. In the last year alone the GUI has been updated in many ways which may take some time to get used to, however the GUI is the easiest thing to get past. Mechanics changes are always much trickier to spot and adjust to, since sometimes they’re so subtle you may not even notice them — occasionally with fatal results.

Short of scouring patch notes, there aren’t many options for someone to look at to see a progressive list of improvements that may affect them. A full picture would include those notes, dev blogs, forum posts by developers, game news items, and potentially even feature pages for expansions.  It’s all very scattered about.

I think the biggest problem here is that EVE doesn’t self-document itself very well at all. The new player tutorials have had many revisions since they first came to the game, and even after that they don’t provide all the utility that they should. They get the fundamentals through well enough, but could definitely go deeper into some of the coarse grained “roles” of the game than they currently do.

Once fully engaged in-game though, you’re pretty much left to your own devices. With all the improvements made to the UI, there are still major inconsistencies between features. Compare ship fitting, planetary management, POS management, in-space drone bay, the market, and your skill sheet.  Yes, I realize they serve very different purposes in the game, but there is almost no consistency between them. Taken on their own, they all look like they’re from different games.

There’s always room for improvement, especially in a game as complex and ever-changing as EVE. Maybe the patch notes areas could be improved to index changes by categories and allow us to summarize changes from version x to version y, and maybe the game just needs to be able to better communicate itself to players. I imagine most veteran players such as myself have little issue with the way the game currently functions, yet (for the most part) welcome the improvements as they come. Everyone has their own way of coping with changes and dealing with their own little EVE world, but one thing’s for certain: nobody knows it ALL.