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I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meta on meta

Back when I was writing a lot about Perpetuum Online, and comparing it to EVE, I made a list of eleven things that I thought Perpetuum got really, really right.(1)  #4 was:
#4: Perpetuum doesn't love complexity for its own sake.  This is a big big flaw in EVE.  What does the "Tactical Shield Manipulation" skill do?  What is the difference between "Signature Focusing" and "Signature Analysis"?  What is the difference between a "Projectile Ambit Extension" and a "Projectile Metastasis Adjuster"?  Why would you want a "Signal Amplifier" on your ship, and what is the difference between a "F-89 Synchronized" one versus a "F-90 Positional" one?  Perpetuum just skips all that BS.  Skill names and item names make sense, and are easy to understand.
EVE loves loves loves complexity for its own sake.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the meta system for Tech 1 modules.  Now first, before I get bitched at, I get why there are meta modules, and I even get why there are four of them most of the time.  Each meta module represents an improvement made to the module by one of the major four races for their own use.  I even get that sometimes, it's the Caldari improvement that's the meta 4, and sometimes it's the Amarr, or the Gallente, or the Minmatar improvement.  Get that.  Hell, I even get that there are naming conventions for each race and sometimes, I can even tell you which meta mod was supposedly developed by each race.(2)

But this does not make the meta mods any less annoying, obnoxious, or pointlessly complicated.

Every few weeks, someone starts a thread on the EVE-O forums about why this or that meta module is better or worse than this or that equivalent Tech 2 module.  Kirith Kodachi wrote what I feel is the definitive guide to how to choose between the "best" meta item and the tech 2 item in each category.  And if someone who notices the thread is on the ball, they are pointed to that guide or one like it.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not arguing against the existence of meta mods... just their needless complexity.  The meta mods add not only flavor to the game, but they add an interesting choice for PvPers and missioners that recognize the differences: do you go with the less expensive manufactured T2 mod, or do you go with the meta 4 mod that's just as good, has a lower fitting requirement... but costs four times as much?  Poetic Stanziel, over on her blog, made an argument for renaming the meta mods en masse and I'm not sure I agree with that, either.  If you rename them, aren't we just doing the old D&D thing, replacing a "Longsword +1" with a "Longsword +2"?

Still, there's no question that the meta mod naming and how they're handled in game is making things needlessly complex for beginners.  If you doubt it, ask yourself this: when you go to fit a meta mod, do you look in-game for the one you want?  Or do you load up EFT and look for the mod that's just above the T2 mod and only then search the market for that one?

Yeah, I thought so.  ;-)

It's tempting to just say "CCP, this is overly complex!  Fit it!"  As I've mentioned once or twice on this blog, sometimes CCP just prefers that you point out the game's issues and let them come up with ways to fix them.  However, I'm going to take it two steps farther this time.  First, take a look at the pic to the left.  It's one that Poetic came up with for her own blog entry.  You'll note that the Tech 1 items are sorted in alphabetical order.  This.  Is.  Dumb.  For two reasons.

First, on the Damage Controls, the Damage Control I (meta 0) happens to be on the top of the list because nobody came up with a "A", "B", or "C" for a meta Damage Control mod.  ;-)  But for the Railguns, the meta 0 version is on the bottom of the list.  I happen to know that the IFFA is the meta 4 Damage Control mod, but the order the DCs are shown implies that the Pseudoelectron version (meta 3) is better, which it is not.  The Railguns are in what is essentially random order from top to bottom.  That's needlessly complicated and extremely easy to fix.  So, suggestion one:

When displaying the mods list on the Info dialogue, CCP, please display them in meta order, not in alphabetical order.

This should be a very easy UI fix that one of your UI experts can take care of with minimal effort.  Second, it's virtually always the meta 4 mod that's the most valuable to EVE players.  As I've already noted, meta 4 mods are often more valuable than Tech 2 mods.  At meta levels of 5 and higher, there is a special symbol attached to the upper left corner of the mod to designate its special status.  Meta 5 (Tech 2) mods get a "II" symbol.  Higher metas -- representing faction, dead-space, and officer mods -- get their own special symbols as the meta level increases beyond 5 into the double-digits.  A mod with a little white circle or a white star on a green or purple background demands immediate attention.  Here's a thought: let's take this down one notch!

Give meta 4 mods a symbol in the upper left corner of the mod to designate their special status.  I suggest a small black "4" on a white triangular background.

That will make the meta 4 items in loot easy to spot, and make it clear to newbies that the mod they just picked up off a rat is in some way special and worthy of attention.  And again, it should be a very easy fix for a CCP UI effort.

What do you think?

(1) The list would be longer now.
(2) Example: I'm pretty sure the "Regard" Energy Transfers are Amarr, and the "Partial E95" ones are Caldari.


  1. This solution feels like a bit of a bandaid on a gangrenous wound - it helps, but doesn't address the real problem.

    The real problem being, of course, that meta modules are just a linear progression from average to good when they should ACTUALLY offer different strengths and weaknesses. Obviously this isn't an easy thing to do and would require lots of time and effort on the part of CCP's devs, but I consider it a worthy goal.

    An example of how this might work for projectiles/hybrids/lasers:
    Meta 1: +5% RoF, +10% PG
    Meta 2: +5% Optimal and Falloff, +10% CPU
    Meta 3: -5% RoF, -10% powergrid
    Meta 4: +5% RoF, 5% Optimal and Falloff, T1 PG and CPU

    Obviously thought will have to go into balancing all of this, but I think the end result will be more variety instead of just Meta 4 vs. T2

  2. EVE doesn't love anything. EVE isn't sentient.

    CCP doesn't need more people working on trivial crap. They need more people working on broken crap.

  3. I like. Sorting by Meta Level and giving (at least) Meta 4 a special little symbol would go a long way to simplifying the complexity. Hel, just give each meta level 0 through 4 a special symbol, a digit representing the meta level on a grey triangle.

  4. @Jonathan Negative Nancy
    @Jester: YES

  5. "I suggest a small black "4" on a white triangular background."

    I'd rather have small black dots on a light gray background representing the level of meta 1~4 mods.

  6. I've made several comments on your blog in the past and have at times been very critical. This one is a well thought out solution that seems to stick with the K.I.S.S. moto which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid.

    One thing that I would like to add that would seem to also benefit newer players is the ability to sort or filter your hangar or assets by meta level.

    Now that I've been playing this game for a while it is much easier for me to sort through a month or two worth of mission loot and cherry pick the valuable stuff and melt the rest. For newer players the ability to sort out meta 0 mods that are needed for T2 production and usually sell for higher than reprocessed value and meta 4 and sometimes meta 3 stuff that also sells well could get newer players spending more time flying space ships and less time hitting the info or view market details buttons.

  7. Dead on!

    These changes would be a dramatic improvement. It would especially help new players.

    Great post.

  8. Sorting by Meta level is doable but only in the list form of the hanger UI. Another one of the helpful UI features that is not visable enough to new players.

  9. The Meta Grades are a pain in the back for us newer players. You don't increase a game's enjoyment factor by obfuscating the meaning and value of game items behind confusing names. That's just a pain in the back. I fully endorse this post and the suggestions therein.

  10. I also love complexity for complexity's sake. It's one of my greatest pleasures in fact, exploring the folds and contours in a complex system.

    But not even I can care about this guff. ;)

    Ordering variations by meta level I like. I suggest you throw a thread up on the Assembly Hall/F&I/GD ASAP, and/or mention it in the papercuts thread. If you can catch the eye of Punkturis or someone similar we could see it in the next patch, it's that simple.

    Little tag for meta 4... ern. Well, yes, for the system as it stands now, that makes perfect sense and is a great idea. But I've never been happy with the idea that anything less than meta 4 was worthless, and this would only reinforce that. That is a lot of totally irrelevant modules.

    I am very down on Poetic Stanziel's idea, for the exact reason that she dismisses out of hand in her post: immersion. The "Longsword +X" paradigm is a horrible, nasty, blunt, brutish, crass, crude, cackhanded, inelegant, inept, vulgar, obscene method of conveying this information. (Credit where credit is due: the whole "minor variations/advancements on an archetype" is a pretty poor design concept on its own, and you could well argue that this style of naming is one of a few passable solutions to a bad problem.)

    Honestly speaking, if PS isn't engaged by bad sci-fi gibberish then I do not think she is a proper sci-fi fan ;)

    I think I could be persuaded to get behind a similar proposal, though; an entirely new system of sci-fi gibberish, more consistant across item types and meta levels and, if not immediately intuitive to the uninitiated, backed by some sort of dictionary to tell you what means what.

  11. @Jaggins I really like the idea of the space between 1 and 4 denoting differences, not a linear progression. To be perfectly honest, if I can't fit the meta 5, I already look to the faction/deadspace, as my brain now considers those to be like tech two but better in function or fit, and meat fours are already expensive, so why not just go for the low end deadspace version?

    I very rarely can be bothered to deal with looking at the 1-4 versions because I am lazy, and changing the order or symbol probably won't help much.

    But, if you go along with Jester's idea of ordering in the info window, do this on the Market too. With everything. Implants, I'm looking at you and your absurd XJH Deadeye K4-43 names!

  12. I am waiting for Jester's take on the multiple levels of ore quality. Dense or Concentrated, oh noes!?

  13. @Tarminic

    The <Meta 4s being inexpensive and a gradual steppingstone to tech 2 is good for new players, so they can get upgrades for their ships that don't break their bank or require 4 months of training. Advancement can already feel restrictively slow when you first start the game, having to wait on skills to fit and fly and the ISK to buy each new class of ship. Being able to buy shiny new guns or shields, even if they aren't top of the line, can make you feel like you've accomplished SOMETHING in your time in the early game instead of just collecting ISK and SP.

    Most other MMOs such items would be "uncommon", "rare" and "epic" quality (or whatever designation the game in question uses), and upgrading your equipment from the lesser to higher quality versions is an accomplishment. Don't take that away from the newbies.

  14. I enjoy the different naming conventions and yeah, its a little confusing sometimes choosing what I can or cannot afford to buy or sell. But I tell you what, I would most definately have the complex variety instead of the same exact naming conventions SoE started using in EQ2 a few years ago. And I dont play that game anymore =P


  15. Tangent: That link is nice, but does anybody know of one that's, y'know, actually accurate? That one claims, for example, that T2 MWDs give a bigger speed bonus over their meta/T1 counterparts.

  16. @Steph: ha, so it does. I'll have to tease Kirith about that.

  17. By all means. I'd have done so myself on the guide's comment section but there's some kind of Akismet-related error.

  18. I've always, ALWAYS wanted a way to see the meta level on an icon, as they have the t2, t3, faction indicators, though that may compound the difficulty for new players (as a main argument being here that simplifying the obfuscated meta system would help new players). I can see people becoming confused as to what the levels mean and how is a lvl 3 item not as good (generally) as a lvl 2 item (meta 3 vs t2). Anyway, the meta level system will never be made easy to understand until someone explains it to you or you google it for a minute unless something retarded was done like make it targer painter +1, +2 etc.

    The concept really is not that hard to grasp, and an easier solution would be adding a tutorial mission that explains it. For example, you have to procure a certain meta item for your agent who needs it for a specific purpose that the t2 variant or low meta mods would not suffice, and the friendly agent explains to you a couple nuggets of info on the differences between meta levels and t2 mods. It could be called, "Making mountains out of metas."

    And I do like the silly pseudoscientific-sounding names as I think they add an element of realism to the game

  19. Moar complexity please, not less. It's not complexity for its own sake, it's what makes the game more 'real'.

  20. If you add a small 4 on meta 4 modules, why not add a small 3, 2 and 1 as well?

  21. "Honestly speaking, if PS isn't engaged by bad sci-fi gibberish then I do not think she is a proper sci-fi fan ;)"

    You mean Star Trek fan. Good sci-fi doesn't rely heavily on techno-babble.

  22. There's a compare tool; use it. Lets you sort by meta/pg/cpu/etc.

  23. @Poetic Stanziel: Name a few?

  24. This is a good idea but why not take it one step further and apply it to all items. Each item should have a meta level designation in their icon not only tech2 or meta4.
    That way the names could be seen and only used for what they really are. Fluff.

    Here is an idea that a good portion of the eve playerbase will probably kill me for. Repeatedly.

    At the moment Meta 0-2 are useless. There is no reason to ever fit them.
    Meta3s are cheap enough to go for them when you don't want to buy Meta4 or cant fit Meta5. So why not give them a niche.
    Exchange fitting requirements of Meta0 with 4 and Meta1 with 3.
    With great power comes great respo... err ... fitting requirements.
    That would give them at least some value based on how you can make your ship fit.

    As to fittng with EFT that is one reason I prefer EveHQ to EFT. There is this handy little feature called 'Show Meta Variations'. You can access it from a filled slot and it will list you all Metas available for the module in that slot with the option to replace the currently fitted module with another Meta level.

  25. "Each meta module represents an improvement made to the module by one of the major four races for their own use."

    Is this documented anywhere? I'm especially interested in this:

    "Example: I'm pretty sure the "Regard" Energy Transfers are Amarr, and the "Partial E95" ones are Caldari."

    Are there particular names that are used by particular races? Is there a list anywhere that I could look at?

  26. @Anon0307: I've read this a couple of times over the years, but went looking for a reference for this blog entry and couldn't find one. I'm still very sure of my facts here, though.

    For instance, I'm sure that all the "model number" type names are Caldari ones and reflect their "not poetic, just practical" nature. So the J5 and J5b point/scram are theirs. All of the blue ECM mods are also theirs. This would make missile launchers like the TE-2100 theirs also.

    Amarr names are the most flighty and poetic. Look at Amarr ECM mods and you'll see they go from 'Penumbra' to 'Gloom' to 'Umbra', reflecting increasing levels of darkness. The "Fleeting" warp disruptors and scrams are theirs.

    Minmatar names are just descriptive of what the module does, like they're trying to include a manual right in the name. ;-) The "Faint" scrams and points are theirs, as are the "Fleeting" webs and the "Supplemental Barrier" shield extenders.

    Finally, the Gallente names are just goofy. If you can't figure out WHAT the name of something is trying to say, that's the Gallente one. I like to imagine the mod names were all mistranslated from the original French and make total sense in that language. In English, not so much.

    I should make this comment a whole blog post in and of itself.

  27. I agree sorting by meta level would be a good start.

    However progression through the meta's shoul not always be lineal.

    Tarminic had it right.

    Maybe I want a meta 2 because it is easier to fit, or a meta 3 because it uses less cap...or maybe the meta 4 because it is the best overall.

  28. "Still, there's no question that the meta mod naming and how they're handled in game is making things needlessly complex for beginners. If you doubt it, ask yourself this: when you go to fit a meta mod, do you look in-game for the one you want? Or do you load up EFT and look for the mod that's just above the T2 mod and only then search the market for that one?"

    I actually do look in-game (though I'm also an EFT user) and make heavy use of the compare tool in the client. It needs some work, but it's actually pretty handy when deciding which module to go for.


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