Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts

Friday, 27 January 2017

Schrödinger's CSM


Got that? Great. So now it is empirically obvious that the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), which by the way is neither a council, stellar nor manages anything, is the retirement home for the Eve undead aka bittervets, delusional opportunists and endgamers. Why? OK

Obviously, if Schrödinger was still alive you could imagine him playing Eve. I mean the mentality that considers putting a cat in a steel box (non consensually I might add) with poison, a hammer, a radioactive source and a Geiger counter tells you there is something of New Eden about the man. 

As if this cruelty wasn't enough his "thought" experiment went on. When the radioactive source emits whatever it emits (cats don't care about such things I would imagine) the Geiger counter dutifully picks this up and informs the hammer to smash the poison container, which in turn releases the poison that kills the poor moggy. Artistic but perhaps a tad over engineered.

The point being radioactive decay is random so there is no way of knowing when the cute kitten will meet its grisly end. The cat's existential state is unknown until you open the box and are greeted by the smell. The cat can be thought of as both alive and dead at the same time until it is observed. The act of observing the cat changes its state.

Which brings me to the CSM. What observations can we make. Well none obviously because of the Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they all loyally sign. The NDA is the steel box in CCP's faux democracy thought experiment. Sure, they will tell you that lots of useful things were discussed and concerns raised. But when you ask for real information about important stuff (i.e. not yet another tedious rebalance)  then the fountain of knowledge dries up with the NDA being the cited cause. So no means of observation and the CSM have a valid reason for not being accountable to their voters. Ergo, an undead zombie cat of an organisation

Now there are good reasons why CCP won't tell us stuff. They don't need a CSM to not tell us stuff though. They are quite capable of doing that themselves. That hardly adds value. And actually we don't need the CSM to not tell us stuff either. A point the player base collectively told them last year:


That's right. Only 22345 accounts (less people because of multiple accounts) voted for people to not tell us stuff last year. With the CSM summit coming up it looks like taking it to the next level and will not be telling us LIVE!

Of course, the CSM would say from within their steel box that I am missing the point and they are doing an excellent job helping CCP get things right. But CCP haven't been getting things right. Player activity went off a cliff with the Citadels Expansion (but no changes since so zero impact CSM). Pay to Win Omega, while implemented well, is looking like a dead cat bounce (mixing metaphors I know):


The initial honeymoon in attracting FTP new players is over and those figures are heading south too:


If this is excellent work, I would hate to see bad work. CCP have played the only card they had in their back pocket (FTP) at the expense of broader game development. It hasn't gone terribly but it hasn't worked. Maybe I am wrong (but I can't open to box to know) but something smells not excellent.

Of course, some of the CSM do occasionally reach out for information. They are not bad people. But they are not professionals either and it can go badly wrong when it isn't conducted well as this poor guy found out. CCP should be doing this assuming they are actually interested in this sort of feedback.

Fundamentally, the CSM was only good for the entertainment value it provided with all the backbiting and other tomfoolery.This year it hasn't even provided that and has become about as fun as paying inflated brokers fees. There is no justifiable reason for the CSM to exist now. There is no function that it does that couldn't be done by other established and likely more effective means. The CSM might not be dead but it is not alive either. Don't vote for it. It is time for both CCP and us the players to grow up and stop pissing around with pretend politics if we really want Eve to survive

Friday, 9 December 2016

CCP For Sale

The pieces of the jigsaw are beginning to come together. The pieces being, Eve going free to play, The silence of the routemap at EveVegas, the push for VR and of course the moving of CCP's corporate headquarters to London. The move to London was only ever about one thing. Finance. If it had been about a move to more efficient tax regime in Europe then Ireland would have been a better solution. London is for better or worse the financial heart of Europe. London is also experiencing a mergers and acquisition frenzy in the gaming industry. This is fuelled by money from China. This is in part due to the untended consequences resulting from the current Chinese administration. Money is looking for different homes than the traditional property and American bond markets - particularly post Trump. But also Virtual and Augmented reality is huge in China.

So the news today that CCP are for sale and have some potential buyers cannot be considered surprising. What would be surprising is  if a deal fails to materialise. It is a sellers market right now.

What does this mean for Eve? In the interim I would imagine CCP will not want to rock any boat until the deal is done. More longer term, I can't imagine EVE having any priority over CCP's VR products. However, depending who makes the deal, the pressure for Eve to be the cow that is constantly milked to fund VR development might be reduced. Interesting times. There is a quote about that from someone somewhere.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Eve goes Free to Ship Spin

CCP's decision to add a formal Free to Play (F2P) element to Eve Online cannot really be considered to be a surprise. The move to commoditise Skill Points (SP) last year and the Tech 3 hardware uplift indicate the decision was made 24-18 months ago. It was only a matter of when and not if as I and others predicted.

As the proposal stands, it is not hugely detrimental to the game. However, CCP have never made transparency a high priority on this issue, so don't expect Alpha and Omega clones to be the end of the story. Expect gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta,theta, iota, kappa, lambda, etc, etc, clones in the future would be my speculation. And I have not been wrong so far.

The timing is interesting. We are of course in the post Citadel expansion world. Remember one of the benefits of CCP returning to expansions was that it was supposed to give something more tangible that for CCP's marketing people to promote. But it has been catastrophic. Instead of increasing player engagement, player activity has gone done 25 -30%.


Again this was predictable and predicted. The announcements by CCP at fanfest showed that they had no intention of deviating from what they had done for the previous three years. Namely, pandering to a narrow cultural hegemony to the exclusion of everyone else. Unsurprisingly, the disenfranchised have left and found better things to do.

So now CCP had a choice. Not an easy one but a choice nonetheless. Either attempt to learn and recover from the Citadel fiasco, or go nuclear and press the F2P button they already had in their back pocket. As we know, they have gambled on F2P being the white knight and doubled down on the Citadel release being the correct way forward.

To sweeten the pill, there is a loyalty reward for those with active accounts. This comprises of:

  • The Gnosis exploration battlecruiser
  • The curious Apotheosis shuttle
  • A new SKIN designed for the Gnosis
  • A special edition armor suit and goggles set
Coincidently, the Chinese Serenity Server also has a loyalty reward for active accounts. Not because of it going F2P. That hasn't been announced yet and it may not need to be. It is because it is the Mid Autumn festival. So if you have a Serenity account you get:
  • Scorpion Valkyrie SKIN
  • 1 million plus Skill Points
  • 2 attribute remaps
  • 1 character resculpt
So the CCP Tranquility reward isn't that sweet when it comes down to it. If you were in two minds about keeping your account active, which one of those two rewards would be more persuasive?

I digress. With CCP now committed to F2P being a part of Eve will it improve its fortunes? Certainly there will be more people accessing the game. But if CCP's promotion is anything like the small gesture above it won't be as many as perhaps they would like. They need to sharpen their marketing game. Fundamentally though, they have to make the game worth playing and worth paying for. 

Making Eve F2P doesn't fix the underlying problems that has put the game in its current position where people are making the judgement that it isn't worth paying or playing. It just makes access to those problems easier. Put it this way. Paying for a trip to the dentist for root canal surgery isn't fun. A free trip to the dentist but with less anesthetic doesn't make the experience more fun. So with the absence of any other change in direction in the game development terms, F2P could become an embarrassing flop much like Dailies were where players unequivocally voted to ship spin rather than bother a belt rat. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Tinker, Tailor,Soldier, Zombie Skill Point Alt

OK so the rationale of this post is to close off the final in Eve 'project' I started (The Farmer Needs an Alt). It still gets a bit of traffic still  so there is some idle interest out there, but the lack of an outcome would leaves the reader hanging in suspense. Feel free to skip the background, and jump to the outcome if you want to avoid my usual tourettic rants.

Background


So in March this year, CCP decided to poison the well with its Citadel release. While there were many great ways citadels could have been implemented for the benefit for all, CCP decided to play to the in-crowd at the expense of the main percentage of play-styles. Be compliant or be taxed  was the message delivered to the plebs with more of the same to come for the foreseeable future. It was a hard message but just to be sure it was received and understood it was further reinforced when CCP's Skill Point skunk works announced dailies were to become a thing. So log on everyday, bother a belt rat and tickle the in-crowds ego by playing with their citadels like a good little capsuleer or face the consequences. 

While you can only admire CCP's belief that they could pull that off (and maybe in financial terms they have), but the reality dawning on them is there are more engaging experiences than being virtually waterboarded to subsidise the entertainment of a few. This is of course a completely personal view and others who have expressed a view have said Eve has never been better. I don't doubt that is their experience, but player activity is down and this is following longer term trend (see below). No Incarna pitchforks here, just the silence of the lambs as players vote with their feet. 

Bye bye
As a side note it appears Sion is agitating for a player revolt. This coming from the podcast he participated in that was discussing his article on his (and the Imperium's) website. Yeah a bit circular isn't it. However the article is not the worst thing ever penned and there are some interesting details. The underlying meat of  the story about CCP using Eve as cash cow is neither surprising or exceptional though. While there may have been player sensitivities in the past about it, CCP have ensured the very same vocal activist set of players have had their mouths filled with gold over preceding years or they have just moved on as life dictates. So there will be no Incarna style riot. More an individual and continual flight to the suburbs than a collective torching of the city neighbourhood.

Anyway, March 24th was the day I called it a day. It was also the day in 1765 that Great Britain passed the Quartering Act on the American colonies - one of the tools of oppression associated with the American revolution. It felt appropriate. However, the drop the mic moment was somewhat undermined by the fact I inexplicably had a six month sub that would expire on the 3rd of August. What to do with 133 days?

Result


Meet Lab Otomy.

Mr L Otomy

Lab Otomy is known as just 'it' to the friends it doesn't have (why do capsuleers have to have a gender?). It is my zombie SP alt. It too was created on March 24th and has been accruing SP ever since. As I write 125 days later, it has got 7.5 million SP - or rather it would have if I hadn't drained its brains of 1 million SP. I sold the SP for over 1.2 billion ISK. I then bought a PLEX for just over 900 million and have enough left to buy an extractor for around 200 million. 

I haven't been hugely optimal about this but it is looking like I will get around 3 extractions a month. I have maxed two attributes (Perception and Willpower). I selected those because I happened to have a couple of implants lying around that would further boost those particular attributes. I know I could get better prices if I could be bothered to shop around and not go for the quick sale/buy. I could have also focused on some trading skills to eek out the margins too. Set up costs were largely covered by using skill books I already had spare on my other characters, and since no ship is needed, you only have to sub the zombie long enough for it to hit the 6 million SP mark when you can cash in enough SP to get a Plex. From that point on it should be sustainable.

The dependency you will have will be the price of PLEX. If it rises and the cost of SP stays the same then you will not earn enough to buy a PLEX. However , I suspect there may be an element of self correction however. The people who buy SP are the ones who want to be able to do something right now. It is therefore likely they are funding the purchase of SP by selling PLEX. If I and other zombie SP farmers can't afford PLEX then obviously we won't buy them bring a downward pressure on the price of PLEX. Similarly we won't be producing SP which in turn puts an upward pressure on price of SP. So it should balance out. That's the theory, but time will tell.

The other thing to note is that the profit margin is small but it will scale up reasonably quickly and be cross financing. An army of zombie SP alts will bring economies of scale and clearly some people are already doing this. I am quite content with the one. It proves the principle and if I choose to continue with it, it only takes about 20 minutes of my spare time a month for no other cost. 


Reflection


With the sensible bit over, you will probably want to avoid this bit too if you are rant (dressed up as a profound insight) averse... 

The introduction of PLEX and the commodification of SP both represent business design decisions by CCP rather than pure game design decisions. Whatever you may feel about them, they along with other business decisions have been been successful as CCP are making more money per player than has historically been the case and the Eve markets for both SP and Plex have been vibrant. 

So the business brains at CCP have delivered and one way or another their changes have embraced the entire player base directly or indirectly. Kudos to them, they have earnt their wages and you can't blame CCP for wanting to make money. 

Sadly, you cannot say the same about the purely game design decisions CCP Devs have been making. While they may have pleased some, they have patently failed to deliver as player activity continues to dwindle. To the extent to which I care, I would imagine there is not a little tension between the business and game design cliques within CCP at the moment. The appalling tacky SP dallies experiment that made a thousand and one Facebook games look good might possibly be an expression of that tension as it would likely have to have been a joint enterprise between the two perspectives. 

If I were a CCP business bod, I would be spitting feathers when you consider how Tiancity have managed actually increase player activity this year by using innovative SP promotions  alongside their other marketing activities on Serenity - the Chinese instance of Eve. Admittedly the Chinese haven't been hit over the head with the full consequences of the Citadel release yet so that might change.

Serenity says Ni Hao

Anyhow, I have now staggered into unsubstantiated speculation so lets draw a line there. But what I do know now is what my relationship to Eve is now. I no longer play Eve: The Game. No spaceships or planets cross my path or any other Sci Fi concepts for that matter. What I do play now is Eve: The Business. For juggling with Skill Points and PLEX is the extent of my engagement and these are just business concepts pretty much independent of any spaceship context - but for only 20 minutes a month at zero cost if I remember to log on.

Sod it, one more piece of speculation and then I am done. It is the nature of game devs to want nerf vaguely (in game) rewarding activities - especially ones suited to solo casual players. Ore refining, datacore farming etc etc are a couple of indicative examples. "Balance!" or "It should be more engaging" are the reasons usually cited. It is nonsense of course. The real intent is to coerce players into nullsec and join the sexy alliances. It doesn't generally work but inadvertently has kept the game fresh I suppose. When it comes to SP farming however the discussion might be a little different. It will be the underperforming Game Devs verses smug Business Bods facing each other across the table. When it comes to delivery, who might you imagine would have the upper hand? I would love to be a fly on the wall watching that internal meta game but then again there are genuinely more rewarding and better things to do.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

So about that war

There is a war on you know and it is glorious. I don't have a particular interest in who wins despite the Imperium declaring war on me (and everyone) when they embarked on their intriguing "Clever Girls" tour. But Eve in war time is a wonderful place to behold.

As a generic landfill Eve blogger I think I am supposed to write about it. But the truth is there are just too many intelligent articles to read and I have been busy elsewhere when not watching it. Consequently, I have stepped back a bit and just watched the drama unfold.  The consensus seems to be that this will be seen as a landmark war. What follows after it reaches its conclusion, whenever that might be, will be different from what went before. Perhaps.

What fascinates me is how you attempt to frame what the war is about - (and therefore what its end conditions will be). Yes there is a long history of grievance, and we can talk about various historical outrages that have fueled this fire.  However, the long stagnation after Battle of B-R shows that they weren't in themselves enough to be the spark. But there are two other notable things about this war that will in my mind determine the outcome. I have already hinted at one but that is for another day. The other one can be quite clearly identified.

It is no secret that this war is funded by at least one party - the EVE gambling website IwantISK (IWI). It is not by accident that the loose collective fighting the Imperium are called the Money Badger Coalition (MBC). While this started as a local dispute with Small Monkeys Alliance (part of the Imperium currently), it has been inflamed through cocktail of  conspiracy, miscalculation, opportunism, pure chance and personal animosities to the extent that the Imperium is now embroiled in a battle with a significant portion of NullSec. 

The Imperium are of course represented by TheMittani.com (TMC) - a gaming website. The close coupling between TMC and the Imperium present some awkward pressures. If the Imperium loses significantly then TMC also potentially loses income if their community contracts. There are a lot of 'ifs' in that statement but there is real skin in the game. The leader of the Imperium gave up his day job to be employed by TMC so the outcome of the war matters. In essence, what we have ended up with is a war between two websites fought by proxy in a pixel universe with messy real life consequences. IWI will also be making advertising revenue remember.

As a business proposition, this war probably isn't in the long term interests of either party. It isn't sustainable. So what happens when the money/ISK runs out for one or both of the parties? Will some face saving deal or even a merger be considered? This is business after all so shouldn't be ruled out. But then even if a deal could be reached, would that be enough to counter the current momentum of the in-game war? That in part will probably be determined by the other notable aspect of the war that I haven't discussed here. But it is fascinating to see how this pans out and what a glorious war it is.

Disclosure: I also write for Crossing Zebra's - a site sponsored by EveBet 



Friday, 8 April 2016

SP intentions becoming more clear

So I have been banging on about how CCP's intentions on the use of Skill Points has been less than transparent for quite some time now. This was because it was clear there just had to more to decoupling Skill Points from subscriptions to justify the Dev time and from what has been tried on Serenity in China. 

If you recall, I said quite early on when skill injectors/extractors were first announced that SP would be used as a prize at some point. Using a key resource such as SP that is harder to obtain is a common ploy in many games as a means of boosting player participation, particularly in Free to Play (F2P) games. More commonly such resources are awarded in special PVE events, however on Eve in China it has been used as a daily payment for simply logging on in recent months.  

Team Size Matters were the team that were responsible for the original SP project and it was pretty apparent from the complete absence of anything from the CSM winter minutes that they were still working on it. I raised it with a couple of CSM reps but they feigned deafness.

Well finally, CCP have come out into the open and made the following announcement
Hi
I'm here to give you guys a heads up that sometime early next week a small daily activity reward feature will be hitting Singularity and will hopefully be making its way to TQ sometime just after Citadel.
As you guys surely know, having people in game and in space is great and we want to start promoting and rewarding activity a little more directly. The version of the feature we are planning to deploy first will be a simple 10,000 skill point reward that a character will receive the first time they kill an NPC ship every 22 hours. The skillpoints will go into your unallocated pool to be used however you like.
You will find the status of your daily skill boost in the Opportunities info panel and you will also receive notifications to let you know when it becomes available.
That's it for now. If this goes well we hope to expand in several ways, but more on that later!
Feedback appreciate as always,
CCP Rise for Team Size Matters
So basically login, shoot an NPC rat, dock up and you get 10,000 SP. It's not the worst thing and you still have the choice not to do it. But in my current state of mind around citadels it is just another piece of coercion so I find it hard to be enthusiastic about. That said, if it brings more players into the game and encourages them to participate more then that is probably a good thing overall. The other observation I would make is that although Eve might not go F2P, everything you would need to make it F2P is still gradually being put in place 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Blog Banter 73 - The Other Eve Game?

“So soon(tm) we will have Eve Online, Valkyrie, Gunjack and the as yet untitled FPS to replace DUST514/Project Legion. Are we missing anything else? Are then any other games CCP should be looking into? Colony building simulators in the style of Sim City or Rimworld. Should it be on a grander scale link Civilisation or Stronghold Kingdoms. How about RTS games ala Command and Conquer. Survival games such as Rust? Planet based combat like World of Tanks? Would you like to see other game types expanding the Eve Universe or should CCP stick to what it knows?

This is the gig I signed up to when I thought Blog Banter would be save me the effort of thinking of something to write about. And then the above crashed through my inbox. What should be the other Eve Game? Eek!

OK, let’s dive in. There a couple of ways we could approach this. One way would be to take the blue sky, anything is possible and the money no object approach. Who know’s, I might even come up with a half decent idea but in all likelihood it would be undeliverable. So perhaps we need to reflect on where CCP is currently before we get ahead if ourselves. A bit if a reality check is needed.

Context


The really interesting aspect about this question is it is probably not the sort of thing you would ask of your typical AAA game company. They will already know what to produce next and that will depend on how their current titles have performed or whatever the opposition are having success or failure with. Alternatively, a small Independent company would have a very firm and passionate idea of the dream they are trying to bring to fruition as CCP did when they started out. CCP is not in either camp now. Often classified as “boutique” it has an organisational maturity of a long established company but has yet achieve an established money drenched hit beyond Eve Online. Until this year of course.

After some painful false starts with World of Darkness and to a lesser extent DUST514, CCP is back in the news again for the right reasons. Gunjack and Valkyrie as games could probably be regarded as a success already and you can sense the confidence returning to CCP. It is good to see. However, their ultimate success will depend on the wider adoption of VR by the public and that is harder to determine beyond the current  hype. It has the potential to be defining moment for CCP but it also has the potential to be a damp squib. 

Although blindingly obvious, the other thing to bear in mind (and it often gets lost in the enthusiasm) is that games cost money to make. Who knew? CCP have received external investment for VR projects. But this money will likely be assigned to the Project Arena (and here) work along with Valkyrie and Gunjack until they are in a position to be profitable in their own right. CCP have also already stated they are working on a PC FPS to build on what they learnt the hard way with DUST514. I believe there will be an announcement in Fanfest in regards to that. The development for this will presumably come from the profits of Eve Online. When you add the ongoing costs of Eve Online itself (TQ and Serenity) then it is likely there won’t be gazillions of dollars lying around to invest in a new game. Depending upon how exposed CCP feel to a slow take up on the VR products, this might be further squeezed pot might be further because they would want to keep something in reserve.

In this context “The Other Eve Game” (OEG) has to be cheap and chips and probably not VR based (at least initially)  in order to hedge bets and keep costs down. Despite these constraints, we are not necessarily left with Eve Tetris being the only option. CCP has a lot of assets that can be reused or can be elaborated on (as they have done with Valkyrie and Gunjack). If the OEG is set in an Sci Fi context, a lot of the creative work has already been done or is available on tap. CCP also has the monetization platforms in place that can be now be extended to any new titles they choose to produce. An alternative possibility is that the OEG could be a part of the development of an existing game or project. A project that has sufficient functionality to be game in its own right but also enriches - or at least shares code with a bigger project.

The Other Eve Game


With the caveats in place, what should the Other Eve Game be? For me it boils down to two things. One is practical, the other is more a personal wish and probably less viable. 

Practical Suggestion - Android/IOS PVP arena (1v1 at the Sun)

Other game developers think this is viable and CCP should really get in before someone steals their thunder. Gunjack has shown that CCP can develop an excellent mobile product. Eve players complain they have to roam for ages to find some PvP. This game would offer existing players instant  gratification plus and more importantly cater for the wider handheld/mobile audience who don’t care about Eve Online but do want to shoot stuff while they are on the bus. This could be linked to Eve Online for those that have a subbed/plexed account and potentially played within Eve too at some point. If CCP don’t do this, they will be kicking themselves in years to come.

Impractical Suggestion

At this point I have to admit to my second most favorite game of all time. A game I would play now if they still made it. It was not a popular game by most standards but it was recognised as a classic and more importantly was the only other game that set my heart racing and made me break out in a cold sweat in the way that Eve can do.

The genre of the game - survival horror is likely to put it out of the running straight away. CCP were badly bitten by World of Darkness. But on the other hand, the best way of dealing with falling off a bicycle is to get straight back on it. Anyway, I believe putting my second favourite game in a Sci Fi context like Eve would be extraordinary - and at least I would be able to play it again in some way. The game? Depending on where you are located it has one of two names. In Europe it was know as Project Zero but more widely it was called Fatal Frame. Now, change the setting from a decaying haunted japanese mansion to let’s say, a deserted Blood Raider complex or Jovian outpost or even a ‘haunted’ wing of an NPC station (open the door!)  and use an Empyrean equivalent of the Camera Obscura and I think you are onto something. Marinate it in lashings of lore and it becomes the Other Eve Game. Some thought would be needed on the multiplayer aspect but that could actually enhance the game. While I doubt it would be an AAA blockbuster, it would beat ship spinning and would certainly be boutique. And that is CCP we know.

And by the way...


And by the way, if CCP were to ever consider integrating its portfolio of games together in some way, maybe just maybe Walking in Stations has come of age? Imagine you drop off some loot at a station, go to Captain's Quarters, go through the door and head to a station community area. While looking through the brawling crowd you see some doors. Words like Eve Online, Valkyrie and MindClash are written on them perhaps. But we might be more interested in the activities going on in the room rather than going through the doors. Nah, CCP wouldn’t want to do that. Would they?

Monday, 15 February 2016

Snakes and Ladders

The relationship you have with any online game is unique to yourself. You pay for a service and in return you receive an experience that is hopefully engaging. The manner in which it engages you down to your own individual peculiarities. When a game hits the spot the experience can become passionate. Something to fight for. And when, as they always do, a game starts to deviate away from that spot it can be similarly emotional. You have devoted time and perhaps money to a partner. You may even have a sense of entitlement because you have been loyal afterall. But in the cold light of day, this is to misread the relationship. The game company values your custom if it has any business guile. But not to the extent that it depends on you. You are at the end of the day just another data point on their spreadsheet. They would love to keep you on board but devoting time and energy to special snowflake customers is not necessarily best investment of time and resource. Making and selling games is a business not a romance.

CCP and Eve Online are no different of course. The product they make is more boutique than most and is an acquired taste perhaps. It is a mature game and has a small following that isn't growing any younger. It is ticking over. For the future, there are high hopes for Eve Valkyrie and Gunjack hasn't caused them any harm, bu the closure of DUST just leaves CCP with Eve Online as a consistent revenue source. A revenue source that not only has to fund the development of Eve Online, but also any new projects - such as the DUST replacement. The investors in Eve's VR commitment - which maybe more than just Valkyrie and Gunjack will naturally want a return on their investment. If the VR projects fail to deliver then it will be Eve Online players that foot the bill. Now I hope that they will succeed but it is a strategy seeking to pursue an untested immature market. There could be great rewards but there is no doubting the risk. But then again it is not as if CCP has much alternative. Living off Eve Online alone is not going to be sustainable forever. 

This poses a dilemma. To break the single point of failure - the dependency on Eve Online, CCP has to invest in new projects. But to invest in new projects, CCP has to sweat their only consistent revenue source to find the investment funds. The very act of doing that could hasten the demise of Eve Online and in the worst scenario bring down everything like a house of cards. It is a difficult tightrope to walk. But the walk has definitely started with Skill Point Trading.

Now as I have said before, I am not a happy bunny when it comes to Skill Point Trading. Magnus or Inga (or any other made up name) from CCP marketing wouldn't understand why though. They way they see Eve is like a game of Snakes and Ladders. All they have done is allowed you to bribe your way past some of the snakes. Now Eve is obviously a lot more complicated than that but I genuinely enjoyed the constraints and finding ways around what I couldn't do and planning ahead for the day when I could be able to do things. Those challenges - which for a solo player are big challenges - are now gone. So much for the snakes.

I don't think Magnus and Inga from marketing have finished either. Flushed with the perceived success of Skill Point Training they will be eager to squeeze more money out of Eve Online. If Eve becomes a Free to Play plus Premium Player game as I believe it will, then in effect as a premium player I get to pay to go up all the ladders as well. Free players wouldn't get SP unless they buy it or grind it, whereas Premium players get SP as part of their sub as they do now. But the monetisation will be more efficient so well done Magnus and Inga. But a game of Snakes and Ladders becomes a game with no snakes and no ladders. Very dull so why play it?

Monday, 8 February 2016

Skill Trading Launch and Offers

Skill Extractors are going to be available for purchase from tomorrow. There has been a fair amount of debate about the costs for these things. The perception seems to be that they are high although I am not sure I agree. I think the emotion is due in part from the way expectations were raised by CCP. They were never going to be cheap, However, in classic marketing style CCP told us we had a problem we didn't know we had. But that was ok because here is the solution to the problem we didn't know we had. The solution called Skill Trading. Many people bought  into that.

So now we are all grateful to CCP for being good to us and especially the newbros. Grateful until they reveal the price. A price that appears to be neither good for us or newbros. Assuming of course you can actually figure out what the price actually is.To me this is the bigger problem. When you factor in the various ways you could buy Skill Extractors in the future then the cost is far from transparent. Or at least the optimal cost is. Adding in the additional promotions and discounts makes it  more complicated again. So it is hard to establish what the cost really is and whether it is value for ISK/Money/Aurum/Plex/Fedos.. I think only UK mobile phone contracts are more complicated. Anyway, there is a dev blog out describing the opportunity and choice we undeserving capsuleers have been given. 

As a side note, the statement:

"If you are looking at renewing your subscription, our offers on 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions now include free Skill Extractors for a limited time"

brought a wry smile. I renewed one of my accounts for six months last week and therefore missed out on the never to be missed introductory offer.. Now I care little about the extractors because I don't intend to sell my SP and the extractor trade will be as manipulated as the plex market is. I am also highly skeptical about where this is going. So I will steer clear of them. But I have learnt one lesson. I won't be renewing that account again for more than one month in advance just in case there is another never to be missed introductory offer for whatever else CCP are planning. 

More widely the raised expectations and subsequent disappointment amongst some of the players will keep simmering. It will be hard to put the expectation genie back in the bottle. So now CCP have a problem they didn't know they had. A simple consistent and transparent cost might be a good start.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Serenity SP Gifts

I have waxed lyrical about Skill Point trading since it was first announced just before Eve Vegas. I'm not going to plough up that debate again because it is going to happen regardless. My existing concern has been and still remains that it is a trojan horse for the introduction of F2P or some other feature yet to be announced. Now that isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself if it brings new players to the game and makes CCP's profits more robust.

The issue as I see it is existing players are being encouraged to mess with their skills without necessarily being given all the facts. The skill points I buy once the February release is shipped might be worthless in say 6 months time because CCP announce the next phase which manipulates the supply and/or the cost of SP.

On the surface, I might appear a bit paranoid and obsessive about this. The reason I am deeply skeptical of CCP motivation is in part due to the way this was announced and that SP Trading alone doesn't seem  to justify the time spent on it. The other part is I try to follow what is happening in China on the Eve Serenity server. The China instance of Eve is interesting. It doesn't have the history of Tranquility so in a way there are less taboo areas for their partners - Tiancity- to steer clear of. It does seem that CCP are trying out ideas in China that could be targeted at Tranquility in the future.

Eve China had a fairly disastrous start because the local gaming culture was to RMT the hell out of it. The game was essentially reset and players were encouraged to return with hefty bribes of Skill Points. I mention all this because CCP/Tiancity are now handing out Skill Points again for a Chinese New Year promotion. I took a google translated screenshot below:


 You can find the chinese link here

There is also a cool video on Youku:





So it is clear that in the right circumstances CCP are quite prepared to shower players with Skill Points. If I were thinking of selling my Skill Points (I am not btw), my instinct would be to sell the SP at the first opportunity because CCP might just flood the market. If you are thinking of buying SP you might want to reflect on what is happening in China where CCP seem quite prepared to mess with the supply. On the other hand CCP could just make it clear what they really intend to do.

Monday, 1 February 2016

CCP Stopping the Press... sort of.

Billy Brag - a British singer/songwriter, used to have an interesting approach to writing a love song. He would try avoid using the word "love" as he thought it was a lazy way to describe something that as we all know is profoundly complex and dammed confusing. Were this made compulsory I can think of a whole raft of terrible songs that would simply disappear in a puff of logic. Sadly this will never happen. I say this to help illustrate a problem. How to write about the CSM without mentioning the actual word. I am struggling but I am open to suggestions. But here I am with another clickbaity post on the topic and I can't just help but feel a little cheap and dirty. This isn't another grr CSM article. Been there, done that,  read my Crossing Zebras piece. I shall take some solace in that.

However the latest catastrophising around the CSM does raise some interesting questions. For those that don't know - and that will be most people I guess, CCP changed the eligibility conditions for CSM candidates. Now CCP are perfectly entitled to do that. The CSM is their creation, they pay for it and they claim it has a purpose that is 'useful', even though they have not spoken to it for 6 months. Maybe they can write it off against tax.(I know, I should just let it go). ANYWAY, the most contentious change is that owners and paid employees of gaming media sites are now barred from being on the CSM. Originally is appeared to be more wider in that even a sad little blogger like me who earns nothing (I don't monetize) would be regarded as an existential threat to CCP's business, but it has been refined in that this now impacts only sites that cover other games. So as long as I don't do a paid review of Tetris I am safe. Assuming of course I was barking enough to actually want to be on the CSM and deluded enough to think that someone would actually vote for me.

You can see the sense in the new rule. If you are paid to work under an Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for a gaming site as well being a CSM under a different NDA for CCP and the site boss demands you provide some inside knowledge to justify your wage then what are you going to do? Feed the kids or enjoy a nice trip to Iceland? There is obviously a conflict of interest and hungry kids make a lot of noise.

So on that level, it is not an entirely unreasonable rule change but of course that is not quite the whole story. The process as to how the rule change came to be is not at all transparent. The White paper that contains the change was originally presented to the CSM to assure. However the version they saw did not contain the change. It was added later. Quite who decided to add it and why they chose to do it deliberately without consultation. My speculation is that it originated from somewhere other than the CCP Leeloo or CCP Falcon. If it did come from one of them then it would have needed sign off from someone higher up in CCP. Either way someone decided to intercede at a late stage with wording that was so initially ambiguous that it would have excluded most of the space famous applying for the CSM. The later refinement that resulted from the outcry may have helped clarify the intention in part but it also then highlighted those to be excluded. Which in effect turned out to be one person - Sion because he receives money from TMC according to The Mittani in tweetfleet slack. It could also have effected Chance Ravinne and Uaxdeath if they were still standing.

Not unsurprisingly, because of the way it has turned out and the way it was executed, The Imperium feel they are being (or are at least portraying they are being) victimised for a variety of reasons. Even if it is not true, the shambles leading to this point makes it a plausible spin opportunity. In their position I would likely do the same. Their actual response we will leave to the drama department and will probably be forgotten in 6 weeks or so. Quite where the refreshed kickstarter appeal sits in this now is hard to see. To me this crystallises the point that is being overlooked. Why should gaming media sites not be represented at the CSM table? Yes the NDA obviously, but put that to one side for a minute. Why wouldn't CCP want feedback from gaming media sites? TMC, when all is said an done, provides a lot of Eve coverage. Others could do more if incentivised to do so. If CCP wants to promote Esports as a new growth area as it has said it does, then it is going to need them and the coverage they bring. So while there is degree of sense in the new rule (if not in its clumsy implementation) for the CSM, there is a legitimate need for a forum where gaming media and CCP can engage. It would also bring some legitimacy back to the CSM as being solely a player council. Although it might just be easier to get rid of the CSM altogether. But then I've said that already (sorry).

Monday, 18 January 2016

Skill Trading Because?

So CCP have faced the harsh reality that it really is a new year and have knuckled down to work. Today they got to "S" on the must do list. Skill Trading in New Eden. The dev blog doesn't offer much more in the way of changes from that proposed before Eve Vegas. A slight appeasement to the vets to allow them to monetise more of their brains and we also now know it is going to be released in February. 

What we also got was An update on the roadmap and the start of 2016 from CCP Seagull which is always refreshing to see. I'll come to that in a bit.

Now I am no fan of the Skill Trading proposition as I have said before. On a personal level I would actually benefit from it - insta cyno alt or something like that for example and I would probably be able to outbid a Newbie for the skill points, which kind of defeats one of the arguments put forward for this feature. So it is not as if I would feel disadvantaged by this being in the game. But that isn't really the point of discomfort I have about it. I'll try to explain why.

Fundamentally, it is not clear to me Skill Trading is needed - or more specifically why this has been given such a priority. CCP_Seagul gave a passionate explanation about the reasoning for it at Eve Vegas which you could possibly accept at face value and leave it at that. But to my mind it didn't explain the priority given to it and the resources it must be consuming when there are so many big changes happening. What we are not hearing is Devs singing its praises and certainly players weren't clamouring for it before it was announced. It is hard to see it being a huge revenue stream, so the return on investment is also hard to see. You can only surmise this has to be a strategic decision coming from above for some unspoken purpose. What would that be?

I can only speculate so tinfoil caveat massively applies, but today's video, welcome as it was, did not describe anything beyond the end of April if you assume that is when the Citadel expansion lands. It wasn't a road map update. Just additional information to what is already known. Cynically I would say it was citadel eye candy plus some recent features to sweeten the Skill Trading message. Nice but begs the question what happens after April and why sweeten the message because the idea has not had universal disapproval by any stretch of the imagination. Put the two together and there must be a phase 2 to this Skill Trading feature later this year would be my thinking.

My guess is that Eve will adopt the free to play (F2P) model later this year. That would be the phase 2. It is the only thing that seems to make sense. Subbed/Plexed accounts will become premium accounts and F2P accounts will have to pay for training either though the market or Aurum would be my first guess. I have no way of verifying this obviously and could well be wrong. It is a big and likely controversial undertaking if it were to happen so the development silence would be appropriate. CCP does need to refresh its user base and it is an established business model so I am not necessarily against the idea (but I do have reservations). 

What I would be strongly against is CCP misleading people with one feature when in fact it was a precursor for another. People could make gameplay decisions based on the Skills Trading feature that might disadvantage them when the full enormity of a F2P came to pass. That would be switch and bait and wouldn't do wonders for the player trust they have built up recently Obviously, I could be totally misreading the tea leaves here. But then ask yourself why has CCP_Seaull pushed this so hard and why is next year's roadmap such a mystery? Interesting times perhaps. Anyway, back to the asylum... 

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Year of Taking it Seriously

This is probably my last substantial post for this year. It gets stupid busy at Kong Towers over the festive period and I will be going on vacation straight after. So I will wish you all a pre-emptive "Happy New Year". May you reach your goals, or at least have fun trying to attain them.

I suppose that makes this an appropriate time to reflect on the year. If there was a way of generically characterising this year, it would be the year I took Eve  a little more seriously. While I still play on the margins of the game, I have made the effort to get involved in it and understand it a bit more. Before, I did a little bit of trading because that was the only thing I had success at. This year I took a stab at exploration. I learnt to fly Astero's, Interceptors, Covops, Orca and now the Stratios. This along with the cloaky Prowlers and Tengus mean there aren't many places if any in New Eden where I can't travel with a reasonable expectation of success. This is a pretty liberating feeling in itself.

I also learnt that I am not suited to being in a Corp. This despite joining the nicest Corp in Eve - Signal Cartel. The hierarchical design of Corps/Alliances in Eve just doesn't work for me. I prefer to collaborate rather than be led. Fortunately, the Eve community (yes, I can confirm there is one) is broader than the game and it has been an unexpected pleasure to get to know so many people this year and this has filled the void that is in the game. I wonder just how many people play Eve without ever communicating with anyone. That was essentially me before this year.

Of course it wouldn't be Eve if there weren't any frustrations. Eve has been going through a big transition and we have not reached the end yet. Often there have been proposed changes that have would have had a pretty horrendous impact on what I was seeking to do. Some of these have been subsequently reversed or at least put on hold. But it is clear that making long term plans is a bad idea right now so I am going with short term objectives instead and I have put my more hair brained schemes on ice until we see how citadels play out. I also stopped dual training once the future ability to pay for SP was announced. While I intensely loath the idea and I am completely unpersuaded by the reasoning behind this change, I would be mad not to take advantage of it if that possibility exists.

Looking forward, CCP have still not given us any real insight into what is happening in Q2 next year. So either nothing is happening and a lot of developers are twiddling their thumbs or something big is coming along. Something they don't want to share with the CSM it seems and you do have to wonder what future that institution has next year. I wrote about that some time ago and current events only reinforce my view on that. 

What will CCP be doing next year? It is not unreasonable to suspect their focus will be Valkyrie, but I expect they will be looking to capitalise on the publicity and attempt to attract more players to Eve. It is (almost) baseless speculation on my part but I would expect Eve will be moving to the Free to Play Model. Those with subscriptions would become the Pay to Advance/Pay to Win whales. CCP clearly has to do something to extend the playerbase and free to play is a proven model. The PVE events and SP changes seem to hint at that this could be the direction of travel. They are certainly not inconsistent if CCP chooses this path . The marginalisation of the CSM by some members of CCP, seemingly with senior support (they haven't spoken up in support of the CSM's role since before Eve Vegas ad they are the one's paying the bills) would seem a tactical choice to manage the introduction of something potentially controversial change. The perceived lack of trust is a convenient back story. Just to be clear, this is certainly fanciful thinking on my part but the Q2 silence is beguiling.

Anyway, I have had a great time this year and looking forward to what next year brings be it good or bad. Have a good holiday folks and if I don't get the chance to write again, I will see you in the New Year.  Fly Safe o7

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Camp of the Broken Butterfly Wing

Clever girls. He was right in one respect. Girls are extremely clever. However, he was wrong in another. The Eve demographic being what it is, more likely it was a bunch of men toying with their mid life crisis that had just pulled the rug from under the Mittani. To the casual observer it was a wonderful schadenfreude moment. For us irrelevant untermensch plodding around new eden, it is always heartening to see Eve aristocracy slipping on a banana skin.

No doubt normal service will be resumed and darkness of anonymity will envelope our subterranean lives and we can... oh wait he said what? He wants to "kill pretty much everybody else"? What did I do? What did we do? Turns out you, I, and "pretty much everybody else" are part of a vast anti Imperium conspiracy. Who knew?

Fortunately, we aren't very good at it. Our collective failure has left our challenged minds in an embittered shambles leaving the destruction of CCP as our only recourse. Clever untermensch. Not to worry though because the fine Imperium military have figured out our dastardly plan and will summarily evict us from Eve. But just could we please just support their book project on the way out.

Ok let's just hold it there for a second, grab a breath and try and get underneath the absurdity. When I posted my impressions of the EVEVegas Keynote, the only statement I made about that book was:

"An Eve story book sponsored by The Mittani..."

The three little dots were shorthand for a host foreseeable problems. But that was the point. They were entirely foreseeable. If my minimal intellect could spot them then you would have thunk that the Mittani media machine would have spotted them too. The Mittani is of course a comedy villain to many who regard it as a toxic brand. A media organisation ought to be able to manage that out  in the same way VW managed out the embarrassing fact that Hitler had been their primary sponsor.  That was what I thought anyway, and besides, books about Eve are a good thing. Not something I personally read but certainly something Eve players like as Andrew Groen demonstrated

What transpired was a farce. The Mittani was put front and centre of the Kickstarter campaign. An exceedingly high target was set without initially explaining the need. With TMC's reputation for monetizing the game, it was easy meat for the unpersuaded. The Fountain war meta re-erupted  from its dormant state but this time the battlefields were social media. It was over before it started and now we have the tantrums laced with hypocrisy and the blame game. Oh and now the leaks

The Imperium may have won Null, or what is left of it, but they misjudged the meta game entirely. Something they were once renowned for. Declaring war on everyone and everything won't change that. They have made the irrelevant relevant and have lost control of the narrative for now at least. Something is very broken at Mittani Central and the mob scents blood.  When you are in a hole, stop digging. If they truly care for the game, maybe they should just play game. Keep it simple. Let the Butterfly Effect drive the meta. That way we all have fun and more people embrace the game. And then maybe we could make a book about that. 


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Wardecs: Another half baked idea incoming

There is a bit of a player debate about Wardecs. That is not really news I suppose because when has there ever not been a debate about it? This debate does seem to be more constructive and looks further than the tourettic "HiSec should just HTFU" school of thought. Beating carebears until their morale improves is not the most convincing logic I've come across in Eve. Before I delve into the messy bits, I had better declare my stance on the topic du jour. I sort of care but don't care. Wardecs are easily avoided if your space game isn't dependent on HiSec. So from that point I don't care. But CCP insist you form or join a Corp to build a POS because of CCP's Hisec wardec reasons. Now I don't mind exploding. I world naturally prefer not to. But I dislike everything about the Corp and Alliance system and resent being forced to adopt it. I could go on but I would just be rehashing what I have said in the past about the organising entities in Eve. I must learn to let go. OK I will just say this. Actually, no. Let us do it this way... 

What are 'Wardecs'? There is no such thing. It is a complete misnomer. Wardecs are not wardecs. They are bribes. Bribes to Concord. Bribes to let Concord look the other way if you have the urge to bash a bear. No war is involved because there is no victory condition. You can continually bribe Concord and you can give bribes to cover multiple groups. The process up this point is entirely aggressor driven. The victim is passive and cannot influence the proceedings. Once they get the notification they have 24 hours to prepare. Which often means bunkering down or simply not playing. It is a horrible mechanic so why is it needed?

CCP has a problem. It has a the design view that every player owned asset must be destructible. And so it is outside Hisec and to a degree inside HiSec with ganking etc. Except that is, when it comes to player owned structures (POS). These can only be squished by a Wardec. This is why you have to be in a Corp to build a POS. A game wide solution for a Hisec problem. The additional problem CCP now face is that a healthy mercenary culture has built up around this mechanic . It would be a shame to lose that. So why "fix" it? It is a barrier to entry for new players who want to establish new Hisec corps with here friends. Have you seen the age demographic for Eve? A increasing amount of us are on the wrong side of the mortality bell curve. At least for those of us who can remember our age.

Can it be fixed? Well CCP haven't rushed into the fray and it has been raised every year I have been playing he game. So it is either not a priority, too hard, or both. Most of the suggestions I have seen tend to want additional functionality added to the game or are just variants on the current scenario that don't really address the key issues. So I am no holding my breath.

What would I do? Not sure. It has probably been thought of before but I would probably focus on the bribe aspect. Maybe invert the concept. Let us accept that Concord is inherently corrupt. We all have to pay a weekly bribe to ensure Concord protect us. If we choose not to pay then it leaves us open (or your Corp open) to attack from the Mercenaries who in effect become debt collectors working on behalf of Concord. Concord being the greedy souls that they are will demand more and more each week because you keep paying. A taper if you like. That would incentivise you to stop paying for at least one week if only so you can slide back down the taper an start paying a reduced bribe to the following week. If you own a POS (and you don't have to be in a Corp) then you have to pay an additional weekly bribe to keep that or any other asset safe in Hisec. There are other metrics you add too but, well its a mad idea. Puts me in good company though. Now what did I eat for breakfast?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Do you get the CSM you deserve?

The idea that people get the representatives they deserve is not a new one. But do we really deserve the Council of Stellar Management (CSM)?

The Principle


Better cover some basics first. Just what is the CSM? Don't be ashamed if you don't know. Many players don't so you will be in good company. Let us start with how the CSM formally describes itself.

"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council who represent the views of the members of the EVE Online community to CCP. To quote part of the CSM white paper summary:
The purpose of the CSM is to represent society interests to CCP. This requires active engagement with the player community to master EVE issue awareness, understanding, and evaluation in the context of the greatest good for the greater player base."

This is all marvellous and worthy. The white paper (PDF) is fascinating and really worth the read. It is also flawed. It skips past refuseniks like myself who find the idea of joining the grand civilisation it speaks of as a constraint on our independence or just simply irrelevant. I don't know the size of the constituency my playstyle inhabits but my guess is it is not insignificant. 

The other obvious thing is it is written in English. 25% of the people who view his blog do not come from an English speaking country. Maybe it is my bad maths but I would guess the proportion of people who play Eve where English is not their mother tongue or even understood would likely be much higher. So the original premise behind the CSM is innovative because it acknowledges the benefit of player representation, but then it excludes a proportion of the player base from the outset. But at this point you might conclude it is better than nothing.

The Institution 

Now let's look at the CSM itself. The institution is funded entirely by CCP and they also provide support and infrastructure. There is no independent bureaucracy - the CSM forums are moderated by CCP for example. So without CCP financial input, the CSM would not be viable. Candidates are elected through the STV system. The candidates are not entirely unreasonably vetted by CCP before they can stand but it means they have the ultimate veto over  players voting choices. 

A successfully elected representative will be obliged to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The primary purpose is to allow CCP to share sensitive information with the elected representatives for their opinions. Information that they cannot then share with the players who elected them. So at this point the mandate the representative was elected on becomes secondary to the CCP narrative. If your policy is "Fix Warddecs!" and CCP say it is covered by the NDA because "reasons", then you are effectively silenced. The CSM is for all intents and purposes a CCP controlled institution following the CCP agenda. This is not to say CCP are evil. They want to make a great game that we enjoy and the CSM can and does provide feed back in the manner I posted about earlier.

To recap where we are. The CSM isn't designed to represent parts of the player base and it culturally excludes others. If you get past those hurdles you may still never hear the outcome of your representation because you representative may be shackled by CCP's NDA. But still maybe better than nothing because at least someone is looking at what CCP is up to in theory. Let us think about how it works in practice.

The CSM In Practice 

At this point we are thinking about human level.  Some organisations are stronger than the sum of their parts. Others are only as strong as their weakest link. This year's CSM has had some hard working and diligent people on the council. But it hasn't taken much for it to be sabotaged by weak individuals (or at least the perception of sabotage through an NDA breach). This is not a unique event. The temptation to use NDA information for personal or group advantage is overwhelming for some. In consequence, the working relationship with CCP is in tatters to the extent that they didn't even get a mention in the Eve Vegas keynote speech. A point that was made by the some CSM members at the roundtable.

CCP's use of the CSM is consequently limited to only where trusted relationships can be forged between individual CSM members and individual Devs. In fact they don't need to use the auspices of the CSM to even do that. I don't think it is a coincidence that CCP has set up subject matter focus groups independently of the CSM. It wouldn't be unreasonable to conclude they were set up precisely because of the problems they have with the CSM. Even if that is not the case, the focus groups' existence undermines the role of the CSM regardless.

Are CCP right to turn their back on the CSM? It is actually hard to judge. CSM members have no accountability and there is no notion of collective responsibility beyond abiding by the NDA once elected. They do not have to participate nor report back to the players who elected them. They are not even bound to tell the truth. They can choose to hide behind NDA as even when it is not appropriate. A CSM member may say one thing in public, and then something completely different to CCP. We can't know. Without accountability there is no basis for trusting your representative to do the job you elected them to do.

Lets recap again if you are still following. The CSM is not representative and it is not bound to represent those who elect it. It isn't trusted by CCP who are circumventing it by selecting their hand picked friends to "represent the views of the members of the EVE Online community to CCP"  The institution is not fit for purpose.

What to do

The sad thing is the CSM is in principle a great idea. To say goodbye to it is to cull something that made Eve and CCP unique. Can we avoid that? What lets the concept down is the CSM is CCP driven rather than Player driven. If it is to continue there needs to be clear blue water between CCP and the CSM that isn't muddied by NDA restrictions that inevitably cause all the dramas. The CSM needs to represent the diversity of New Eden as well as the power and egos. It needs to be accountable, responsible, professional and credible if CCP and the players are to engage with it. It is a big ask. If you read Reddit then maybe you think it is fantasy. But if we truly believe Eve is the amazing community we say it is then it must possible you would think. 

As for the CSMXI campaign, I will follow it with interest if only for the drama but as things stand I will not be voting this time. This is not because there won't be some good candidates. There probably will be some excellent ones. Take a look and see for yourself.  No, I won't vote because I genuinely have no idea of what I would be voting for.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Eve Vegas Keynote: A Couple of Rough Observations

Last night I managed to catch the Eve Vegas Keynote speech by CCP Seagull and her supporting cast on Twitch. Thanks to EOC and TMC for providing a facility that was seemingly beyond CCP. Plenty of good things are coming. I wasn't aware of anything new being announced but there was certainly more detail. Capitals and Super Capitals are in for a big change and this will probably dominate the Everati discourse over the winter. That is not my game so I will leave those best placed to emote about that. As an outsider, it does look pretty exciting but fundamentally irrelevant to what I do. What follows are my rough observations. I take a half empty rather than a half full perspective - its my nature and is a counterpoint to the natural hype that surrounds Vegas. Don't interpret this as an Eve is doomed whinge. It isn't. The future looks good but its certainly going to be different.

Money for Skill Points

CCP Seagull faced this head on. She is deeply committed to it. No explanation as to why though.
Speculation: Subscriptions will in the future play a lesser role if any. Eve will become Free to Play, Pay to Win/Progress (delete according to your prejudice/vested interest). That would certainly bring new players into the game which must be the likely driver for this in the absence of any official explanation. Watch for skill points being offered as rewards as happens on the Chinese version of Eve (might do yet another post about this sometime in the future).

Structures

They look amazing and can do amazing things, ISK price points look reasonable. On course for arrival in Spring 2016.
Speculation: Pending further details obviously, but I would suggest it is goodbye Hisec as we currently know it. Why? You can run a market in a Citadel and set your own tax rate. I asked myself the question where would I set  up a market. Nullsec, Lowsec, Wormholes or Hisec? Well in Jita obviously and undercut Jita 4-4 because that is where the business is. Now it won't just be me that does that. The world + dog will want a piece of the action. That includes the large Nullsec entities who will muscle in and take control. Hisec will become a gangster paradise. When gangsters take over the 'hood it is bad for the local economy. People leave - just look at the empty space in nullsec. Will be interesting to watch.

Capital Ships

If I ever build a citadel, there will be a host of fun things to take it down. If.

Merchandising

An Eve story book sponsored by The Mittani... 
Lots of well crafted and clever things, "Bottle of Tears" , Quafe hip flask and so on, with prices to match if the pictures from Eve Vegas Store are any true reflection. 
Observation: All can only be bought on an American website who's name I can't remember so shipping costs and taxes could well kill this stone dead for those of us who dare not to live there. Personally, I will stick with Tiancity but that is obviously not an option for most people. It's still a missed opportunity.

UI

Dscan - looks great
Detachable Camera: Looks great
First person View: Look really great

Other Things

Brain in the Box, Hardware and other game optimisations demonstrate CCP's ongoing commitment to Eve Online

Science Minigame

I'm curious

General Observations

1) Not a single mention of the CSM (unless I missed it, it was 2am in the morning). Interesting.
2) The development roadmap was restated and goes as far as Spring 2016. Beyond that who knows but I expect the Money to SP feature will be likely at that point considering the commitment CCP Seagull has but behind it.

I've probably missed some things. So some good things coming and some things that are less optimal. I'll give it 7/10

 


Friday, 16 October 2015

Skill Training Completed: Living with Pay to Win


So beyond the kneejerk reaction, time for reflection. Firstly thing to say is  I still regard the proposed ISK to Skill Points change as a Pay to Win feature obviously. Now there is no agreed definition on what Pay to Win means so I am not going to debate that point. Free student tip: You could write a PhD thesis about it. I am just going to say what it means to me and work on that basis.  Simply put, it is paying for a competitive advantage, in a multiplayer game. 

As has been pointed out, Pay to Win already exists in Eve Online. Buying Plex gives you access to ISK. Your ship just exploded? Pay for another one and rejoin the battle. Want new skills? Buy a character off the bazaar. So why the emotion over ISK to SP? 

Let us be clear. I would actually benefit from the change in a significant way. The most skill points I have on any character is 25 million and I have made some dumb choices in the past. Selling skill points wouldn't be my priority, but I can now quickly buy my way out of my current situation. And that is the thing. It is the immediacy. Buying a char was a pain and took time. Guzzling skillpoints doesn't. 

For example, I have no PVP skills and can only fly a limited set of ships. Never needed them. If I wanted to bash someone's POS I would have had to hire a merc corp or train for ages. Not now. Instant Oracle and SP, blast away AFK and job done. Then sell the SP and Oracle. Easy instant gratification when you have money. So Pay to Win it is. That there are other pre-existing examples in Eve doesn't diminish the fact.

But ISK to SP changes the game significantly too. I am not talking about CCP now taking an aggressive monetization stance although perhaps in a more refined form that is now their direction of travel. It is a more fundamental point. You will have to play differently and you will have different options available to you.

Another example. I was thinking of training into Outpost Construction to be ahead of the game when the new structures arrive around Spring. Someone has to build Citadels right so why not gamble on the skills you might need and make a profit before others catch up. Well not now. Everyone will just pile in at the last moment once details are known. There is no future reward for taking a risk with skill training now. That saddens me.

There are the benefits though. I currently have two subbed accounts with dual training on one of them. Now I no longer need to sub one of the accounts. Its was basically doing skill queues online to become a rounded Orca pilot, and similarly dual training is no longer needed as I can just buy the Skill Points instead. That saves me £26/$40 a month. The actual costs haven't yet been released yet so this might not stack up but having a live account just to update a long term skill queue may not be the best way to go. 

Finally, pity the poor Corp or Alliance leader. It is only a matter of time before their members demand a free skill pack for whatever doctrine is the current fad. Or alternatively, the stalinist CEO who demands the poor noob buys SP before he/she can join the roam.  

No, the sky doesn't fall down with this change. But Eve will be different because the change is disruptive. My prediction? PVP will become a more secondary activity to PVE because players will be grinding to pay the rising cost of Plex and Skill Packs. Pay to Win games are like that. Eve will be like that. Maybe you want that. I'm not so sure.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Paying to Win : Drawing a Line in the Sand

Ok, this is a knee jerk reaction to the latest Dev Blog. But I feel strongly about it. I have played a lot of games in the past. Maybe too many. In the past you got them on floppy discs or CD's. Accessibility to the internet allowed patches and fixes to be applied. And then the bean counters stepped in. Monetization opportunities and micro transactions came into play. Paying to Win became acceptable rather than just simply cheating. This fundamentally changed how games were made and played. 

Now I have played these games and I find them cynical and unrewarding. Cynical, because they play on the player's goodwill and loyalty, or even addiction but devalue real gameplay if it doesn't offer a sufficient return on investment. Those that do not engage in war of the wallets become content for the paying whales until they realise the futility of trying to compete. I am not playing a game like that again. It is why I am not interested in Eve Valkyrie. When you see CCP vacancies such as Monetization Manager, you know the direction of travel of that game. Eye candy is not enough to entice me.

Eve, of course, was different. It had already learn't that lesson after Incarna. Vanity items only was the agreement. The new EXPLORING THE CHARACTER BAZAAR & SKILL TRADING dev blog says different. The proposal is to allow the purchase of Skill Points. Pay to Win pure and simple. Already one CSM has spoken against it and claimed this was not what CSMX wanted. If it goes ahead it will be a breach of the Accord. And I am not going to willingly volunteer to be some else's content. Think again CCP


Monday, 5 October 2015

Roadmap: Erm...What's Next?

This is entirely unfair but the new roadmap announced by CCP does beg the question. What is next? It seems a bit ungrateful to ask to be honest. Nevermind, let's go there anyway.

The current roadmap takes us to spring 2016. The date isn't specific but I would imagine CCP marketing would want it around fanfest in late April. This would only really give 3 months before the summer break. Part of that will be refining, balancing, fixing, call it what you will, of all the things released before that period. There won't be a lot of developer time between now and this time next year essentially. Maybe 12 to 16 weeks worth. That's the first thing to bear in mind.

The next thing to consider is the roadmap graphic presented by CCP (see below). 




The bit that is missing from all the current announcements is "Alliances and Corporations". Now I got confined to bed last weekend. Having abused my backbone, it retaliated and froze. To mitigate my misery, I tuned into Sugar Kyle's and Corbexx's Question and Answer session. As an aside, it was an excellent session, but they didn't have a clear idea about what CCP were planning next either. But Sugar speculated that "Alliances and Corps" were a possibility. So lets run with that assumption and say that by this time next year we will be experiencing the new Alliance and Corps features whatever they may be.

Why am I dwelling on this? On one level this is all very good and exciting. But as has been pointed out by others, it can be interpreted as the ongoing appeasement of Nullsec to the detriment to the rest of the game. That is a little unfair given that structures will be used across New Eden but only a small proportion of people set up a POS in Hisec, and if my unscientific survey of Lonetrek is any indication, even a smaller proportion of people actually fuel them. So most of the big ticket changes have most likely gone over most people's heads outside of Nullsec. Alliances and Corps on first sight might seem like more of the same.

Now of course, it depends on what CCP intends to do with Alliances and Corps. Is it just a refresh or is something more radical afoot? If it is the former then Eve won't have changed much, if at all for a lot of players for 18 months or so. Those players don't form a naturally coherent constituency so won't wail in unison if they don't like it. They will just leave or put up with it. So the way the cards are stacked, it is hard to imagine CCP doing something radical. No one is really asking for it with any passion.

But if CCP were to do something more exotic, what could they do? Corps are currently "one size fits all" entities. They are vehicles for command and control. Great if you want to be commanded and controlled. Tiresome if you don't. In real life you have a much broader range of entities. Cooperatives, partnerships, sole trader, trade association, and trade union to name a few. Why couldn't we have these or something like them in Eve? Rather than surrendering yourself to work for someone, why not have the opportunity to work WITH someone on your own terms? 

If I were a miner for example,  it would appeal to me if I could join a trades union AND join a corp. CEO cracking the whip to push up the system index? On strike lads! Give us better terms and conditions! That would make me want to bother asteroids. Who knows, the CSM might become more representative with union candidates, or you could manipulate the market, or offer non profit buyback services for your members or hire mercs to clear the Uedama pipe or, or,.. The block alliances would hate them but the "meta" would be different. Ok back to reality. I don't expect any of that in 12-16 weeks available. At best Wardecs might be slightly tampered with if there is to be any impact at all outside of Nullsec. That is probably the best we can expect if my assumption is anyway near correct. Which it probably isn't.