Over last weekend, while nobody was really paying attention, CCP posted their EVE micro-transaction strategy.
This devblog is interesting to me not so much because of what it says but because of what you can read between the lines in it. The subject of various iterative improvements to EVE Online was brought up repeatedly during the CSM May Summit. Let's look at the simplest example. The CSM really got behind and pushed on the "dead horse" POS mechanics problem. Just about every single little thing about POSs is bad. There have been so many things tacked onto them and then un-tacked from them over the years that the final product, circa 2011, is so ridiculously badly done from a game design perspective that the only good solution at this point is going to be to throw it all away and start over from scratch.
CCP recognizes this and seems to be open to it. Problem is, that would require new art, and the art team has their "plate full".
This position came up a lot during the May summit. Art is the bottleneck for just about any change envisioned to the game. It came up so often during the summit, in fact, that the CSM -- very smartly -- requested a separate session during the summit to discuss it. It's pages 35-37 of the minutes.
And once the session began, the CSM badly dropped the ball. The session has to be regarded as a total failure. If the minutes for this session (written by Mittens) are any indication, CSM6 should be ashamed of themselves for their handling of it.
Oh, it starts out promisingly enough. The CSM are told the art department "has ~30 people, split into teams - one for characters, one for space and one for station interiors. The Space team is currently working on the turrets, an effort of many months." Further details are provided on the new turret models as an example of the art team's work: there were 65 turret models, they take about as long as a ship model to create, a ship model takes five to six weeks to create, and the team can work on four such models concurrently.
Invoking a little bit of simple math: 65 models divided by four is 16. 16 times five weeks is 80 weeks. Did it really take 80 weeks to make the new turret models? CSM6 apparently didn't ask, and the art team only volunteered that job took "many months."
The CSM then completely ignored the fact that apparently, two-thirds of the art department's time is devoted to "characters" and "station interiors." It didn't come up again. At all. The minutes for the session are 17 paragraphs long. Half of one paragraph has anything at all to do with Incarna. The remainder is the CSM advocating for all sorts of art for the in-space game, when it's clear that the art department is devoted to anything but the space game.
Even more than that, not once did a member of the CSM ask: "How much of the art department's time is currently being devoted to developing clothes and items for the micro-transaction market?" Not once did a member of the CSM ask: "Compared to a ship or turret, how long does it take to create an item of clothing for the micro-transaction market?"
CSM5 had a blind spot with regard to Incarna. CSM6 has inherited it. Mittens has said in public that he doesn't care about "space barbies," and this attitude has infected the rest of CSM6. This really really needs to stop.
Ignoring Incarna and not caring about it is not going to help the CSM or the players understand the resources and time that CCP is devoting to it.
So. Back to that devblog.
The Incarna character models have five slots: "Footwear, Bottoms, Tops, Outer, and Eyewear". The devblog further specifies that there will be three tiers of items for the character models, "an affordable tier, a mid-tier, and a deluxe tier." In addition, there will be "occasional exceptional offers of rare goods for a very limited number of customers" and that "our fashion designers are making coordinated outfits."
So far, I'm counting 15 models that have to be made just to have one "coordinated outfit" in each of the three basic tiers. During the summit's EVE Marketing presentation (page 11), the CSM was told that "variants (e.g. different colors) are different items." The graphic in the devblog most often shows three color variants for each item, something that's also consistent with the free items already available in the character creator. So we're up to 45 models to have one coordinated outfit in each of the three basic tiers, in three color variations each. And I don't think CCP is going to stop at one coordinated outfit in each teir.
Anyone getting the impression yet that this involves a lot of art?
CSM6 really should have delved into this, and it's a real shame they didn't.
One more thing: the devblog is somewhat coy about how much all this stuff is going to cost, hiding the costs behind PLEXes instead of specifying costs in Aurum. Let's do a bit more simple math, shall we? As I said above, there are going to be three tiers. At the affordable tier, we're told that one outfit "can be purchased and assembled for roughly the value of one PLEX in total." One PLEX is 3500 AUR, which means that "affordable" tier items will be between 500 and 1000 AUR each and that the total cost will be 3500 AUR. Or, put another way, about 360 million ISK, or $18 U.S. in real life money. About the same cost as a fully-fit Cynabal. Or two fully-fit battleships. Or three to four fully-fit Dramiels. Per suit of clothes.
Apparently, this qualifies as "affordable."
Mid-tier outfits will cost "3-4 PLEX" total, which comes to about 12,500 AUR, or about $65 U.S. 1.4 billion ISK. Or about the same cost as a fully-fit carrier or Machariel. Or about the same cost as a single monocle. ;-)
Deluxe-tier outfits will cost "two to three times the price of an affordable outfit on a single piece" of the outfit. In other words, you will spend two to three PLEXs per slot, and there are five slots. 12 or 13 PLEXes total, or about 45,000 AUR. Two hundred and thirty dollars U.S. for a single complete outfit. 4.7 billion ISK. And that isn't even the exceptional tier, items "for the wealthiest members of the EVE community."
Good Lord, EVE players are suffering for CCP's art.