Welcome to Jester's Trek.
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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do you guys ever watch the show?

There's a funny moment in the movie Galaxy Quest that's been on my mind a lot lately.

The premise of the movie is that a cast of a very early Star Trek-like sci-fi television show is actually taken into space and are expected to play out the roles their characters play on TV.  If you haven't seen the movie, go see it.  It's hysterical.  In the particular moment I'm thinking of, the main group of actors have shuttled down to an alien planet, along with another actor (Guy) who once played a "red shirt" guest star on one episode of the show.  They're "ooohing" and "aaahing" over being on an alien planet, and over a distant group of aliens that live there.  "They are so cute!" Sigourney Weaver's character (Gwen) says.  "Sure, they're cute now," Guy says, "But in a second, they're gonna to get mean.  They're gonna get ugly somehow, and there's gonna be a million more of them."  Guy is sure that the aliens are eventually going to turn hostile -- after all, every alien race on the TV show eventually does!  And when that happens, they inevitably kill a red shirt.

Gwen wants to go down and say hello, particularly when she notices one of the aliens is injured.  In exasperation tinged with just a little bit of fondness over her naivete, Guy pulls her back into cover.  "Do you guys ever watch the show?" he asks.  Sure enough, the aliens turn mean.  "Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!" Gwen says when the truth is revealed.

This is kind of a metaphor.  Guy here represents hard-core EVE players.  Gwen represents EVE developers.

Guy's question naturally becomes "Do you guys ever play this game?"  The exasperation tinged with fondness with which the question is asked certainly also applies.  ;-)

That brings me to the "ship balancing" dev-blog released a couple of weeks ago.  I've been asked at least a dozen times if I was going to write about this and I wanted to, but I wanted some time to really focus my thoughts, because this dev-blog is just... strange.  In terms of text, it's quite a wordy dev-blog and in terms of details shared, it's also quite detailed, particularly for a dev-blog about something so long before implementation.  It describes massive changes to one of EVE's bedrock principles, the skill tree system, and promises that the skill trees for getting into spaceships will be nearly completely altered from start to finish.

Right off the bat, let's be clear about something: in terms of where most of our skill points are?  Yeah, Spaceship Command.  In QEN after QEN, it's been made clear over years that most of us have more skill points in Spaceship Command than in any other category.  What do they have to say about this?
That is why we want to remove ship tiers altogether, then refocus our balancing philosophy to be based on role. That means finding common themes, or lines that fit ships with the same purpose, then adjusting slot layout, HP and fittings within each class to support this goal.
That means the devs not only want to tinker with the place where most of us have more SP than anywhere else, they also apparently want to mess with the basic principles upon which many of our ships operate.  In other words, EVE's devs are quite literally putting their hands on the main electrical line powering the game.


On top of that, let's connect this to something seemingly unrelated.  A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the heavy use of Nighthawks for botting.  Based on what's in the dev-blog, getting into a Nighthawk will be much easier, with lower skill requirements.  And CCP Ytterbium, who wrote the ship balancing dev-blog, realizes it.  To get into a Nighthawk will no longer require Assault Ships or Heavy Assault Ships.  As a result, CCP was looking at a situation where "tech 2 ships like Interdictors and Command Ships would require 14-20 less days to train for," because of this but "reducing training requirements for various ship classes is not a side-effect we are necessarily happy with."  Interesting, right?  "That is why we want to introduce new skills, tied with the new concept of ship lines."

Suddenly, these two dev-blogs don't seem so disconnected, do they?  ;-)

Right now, it takes a minimum of 118 days to get into a Nighthawk hull, and CCP pretty clearly wants to keep it that way.  That means that we're going to be seeing new Spaceship Command skills focused on these ship "roles".  The dev-blog is pretty coy about that part, but it seems inevitable.  Otherwise, if you stick with the stated facts in this dev-blog, you will be able to begin training to sit in a Nighthawk quite literally with a 9-day-old character.

The face-palming starts when you start looking at the proposed roles.  As an example, seeing my beloved Armageddon referred to as a "hit and run" flanker comparable to 18th century cavalry literally made me laugh out loud.  There are very few less mobile ships in EVE than a properly-fit Geddon.  Hell, Abaddons are very nearly more agile!  Drakes are comparable to artillery and have average defense?  Mallers and Feroxes have great damage and average defense?  EWAR ships have average damage?

"Do you guys ever play this game?"  If anything, the Armageddon is a fire ship.  ;-)

Yes, I get that these are the roles that the devs want to guide these ships into, not necessarily what they can do today.  Get that.  Still, it highlights how poorly the devs understand how these ships are actually used in the field.

There was an interesting unrelated quote posted on FHC today by Kleus, who writes:
Lots of people hurf blurf about keeping the complexity in eve cause it weeds out the weak, but there's a serious difference between complex and fucking retarded. I know many people that love the idea of what eve-o is. Actually playing it? Fuck that shit.
And that is really rather striking.  Without realizing it, I think Kleus has hit an important point about EVE specifically and how CCP developers approach their projects in general.

Even if you have no interest whatsoever in DUST 514, take a look at this DUST 514 dev-blog, about a very similar topic: DUST vehicle roles and how they will interact.  Viewed in this light, this dev-blog is really rather revealing.  It's clear that DUST is going to be every bit as complex in terms of vehicle "fleet" roles, doctrines, and fittings as EVE, something that today's DUST 514 Keynote at Fanfest confirmed visually.  One of the first comments on this devblog says:
Possibly one of the most confusing and complex games ever created? going to be a total headache learning how to play, if it wasn’t free i probably wouldn't of bothered.
Aheh.  That guy should learn to play EVE.  Will FPSers embrace this level of complexity?  Or will they shun it?  We'll know in due course.  But the similarity of the comment to Kleus's comment was also striking.

EVE is defined by its complexity as it is.  "EVE is hard to explain," we've heard CCP employees say again and again.  By proxy, we also understand that EVE is hard to learn and it is hard to teach.  And that's where we're starting from today.

But the dev-blog also points to the conclusion that EVE devs have been inspired by the DUST devs.  DUST vehicles will have specific battlefield roles that they are expected to play within their own vehicle classes.  It seems clear enough that the EVE ship balancing will probably be tilted the same way.  What we don't know yet is how extensive the skill changes will have to be.  We've only been promised that "what you can fly today, you'll be able to fly tomorrow."

Today, the skills needed to get into a given ship are actually pretty clear and straight-forward.  The secondary skills usually get muddled, but the primary skills aren't a problem.  If you want to fly an Amarrian battle cruiser, you need to work up from Amarrian frigates and cruisers, then get the battle cruiser skill.  Easy.  If tomorrow you need those skills, and you also have to train "Attack Ships", "Bombardment Ships", and "Combat Ships" to unlock the three types of BCs?  Not so easy.  CCP will have to be careful not to travel down that path.

At one point during the Fanfest DUST Keynote today, the demonstrators scrolled through the list of DUST skills.  I saw an awful lot of individual skills for individual types of weapons and vehicles...

This kind of game invariably looks really fun on paper: realism FTW!  But then you go to actually play it and you realize that you pretty much have to have a big skill tree poster nearby to keep track of how every skill inter-relates with every other skill.  Unless you're a dev, which means you just give yourself Level V skill in everything... which I noted with interest was exactly what the people demonstrating DUST 514 did.  But in the process, they miss how complex the skills system is and have a hard time understanding why people think it's so complex.

I don't have any answers to these questions, but they highlight how interesting 2012 is going to be, and how important it's going to be for CSM7 to keep a very close eye on what's going on with this.

EDIT (22/Mar/2012): There's going to be a dedicated ship balancing session at Fanfest.  After I see the video for that, I'll almost certainly have a follow-up post for this one. 


  1. Funny. I, too, was just watching Galaxy Quest last night on DVD. Great movie. And, yeah, Guy's remark is right on, with respect to how I feel about the CCP devs, as well.

    The proposed ship "roles" should be our biggest concern, though. Now, rather than allowing the players to experiment with general-purpose "tier" ships, to determine which ships and which fits best suit a given role, the CCP devs are going to tell us all how to play the game, and which ships to use for each role.

    Say goodbye to the sandbox, I guess....

  2. That's not right!


  3. Well I tend to hurf-blurf about CCP making arbitrary changes to mechanics without some "story" reason for it. Basically my stance is they should be coming up with a story, some way that :coolthing: fits into the EVE world, and then implement mechanics that express that. Instead they :arbitrary mechanics are arbitrary: and put a bunch of fanfic.net rejects to work making a "chronicle" about it AFTER the fact. :-/ Not cool.

    Then again, I've never really understood the "reasoning" behind the tiers, either.
    I mean, especially in the frigate and cruiser sizes, once you can fly the "tier-3" version, there's really no compelling reason to ever fly tier-2 or 1 ships again, except in VERY specific fits for VERY specific (and narrow) circumstances. See: all tier-1 frigates and cruisers, all tier-2 cruisers except the Vexor ... the Brutix, the Ferox... need I say more?

    Then again, if they're not careful about how they go about it, they may very well end up taking away the "racial" identity of ships and giving them a "class" identity instead, so all the "fast agile 'dogfighting' ships" have the exact same feel, and all the "long-range artillery" ships fly exactly the same...

    But you're right, fucking with the very CORE game mechanics of how things play, feel, etc, is pretty damn risky business no matter what.

  4. Personally, I'd rather they mess with it. Certain parts of skill training do not, and have never, made sense. The disparity between guns and missile skills as an example. It can be argued successfully that either way is the best way to handle weapons training dependent upon viewpoint, but its needlessly complex to have two trees so wildly different from each other in approach. Add in drones and it gets weirder still.

    If CCP wants to bring some sanity and an overall design philosophy down on the skill tree, it can only be a good thing in the long run.

    As for ship roles, I'm pro that too. In theory, it should help alleviate the problem with the tier system. Useless and unused hulls once you achieve higher tiers. In the long run I actually see it adding complexity to the game if all ships are made viable options within a role. I don't think it'll remove viable playstyles or it'll be CCP telling you how to play the game. Look at how many ways there are to fit an interceptor. Same role for all fittings, but some people fit theirs with the idea of keeping one ship tackled no matter what; while others fit for the ability to cross tackle 2 or more targets. Both are viable on certain hulls, but it comes down to personal choice and the gang you're playing with.

    Most of the things CCP is talking about changing with all this is stuff everyone knows is problematic. Basic design philosophies that in the beginning of time were set down as the way it would be, but no one knew what would work and what wouldn't because no game like EvE had ever existed before. Some of it works, other parts are sucking chest wounds that they just keep changing the bandage on every few years. Be worried about what may happen if they flub it up, sure. But the fact they are even considering fixing something of this magnitude is cause for hope.

  5. I have to say that this proposed change is taking it too far. We all know EvE is far from perfect but being able to decided for yourself just how you are going to fit and fly a particular ship and what role its going to fill is the core basis of the 'sandbox' that is EVE. This new dev blog feels like the devs are adults who come over, see some kids playing, and take it upon themselves to show them how to 'play with they're toys the "RIGHT" way'. Honestly, the fact that players dont use a ship in the exact same roles as the devs think they should isnt a bad thing, its a good thing. And it emphasis just how little the devs actually know about this game.

  6. I will admit that I don't understand some things about this. Aside from the utterly nonsensical restructuring and rebalancing of ships - which I am sure is going to be just riddled with issues if it happens - what in the world is the point of trying to add new skills to weed out the fact that we need less?

    I suppose that I may just be one of those silly n00bs that some bittervets keep complaining about, but why in the hell is 20 less days to get into a fun ship a BAD side effect of this?

  7. Unless I totally misunderstood the dev-blog, you will only be able to get into a T2 ship with the T1 ship skill @ V, and you need to go to level IV to open up the next T1 rank.....

    However, as you pointed out the T2 ranks wouldn't be connected to the other T2 ships any longer so you could go straight for Command ship rather than train up Assault ships etc. I presume the Leadership prereq's will remain regardless, and others may even be added as you are suggesting.

    Therefore, to get in a Nighthawk will take much longer than 9 days.... Even if you went straight for a Nighthawk, I understood this as you would need at the very minimum, Caldari Frigates IV, Caldari Destroyers IV, Caldari Cruisers IV, Caldari Battlecruisers V and then Command Ships I, plus other base skills like leadership V etc. Basically it's going to be quicker, but not by the amount you seem to think, unless I got it wrong?

    What this change does is effectively make cross training more difficult and makes capitals more easily accessible, also it will allow for faster specialisation..... Why? to try to encourage new players into roles they are no where near ready to perform of course.

    I am totally in two minds about these changes, done correctly I can see benefit for gameplay, however we all know CCP's propensity to screw things up so I will be concerned till proven wrong.

    1. No, you got it right. I was being a little bit tongue-in-cheeky with that 9 days crack. In practice, without needing Assault Ships and HACs, it'll take about about 15 fewer days than today to sit in a Nighthawk.

      I jokingly say a 9-day-old character can start training for Nighthawks because that's the day you start training Caldari Battlecruiser V.

  8. "Certain parts of skill training do not, and have never, made sense. The disparity between guns and missile skills as an example."

    Which discrepancy is that? The training time for larger missiles? I'd be very much against matching the skill trees for these - that would seem to further flatten out the game.

    There will always be disparities, the alternative is one ship, one race, one set of guns etc.

  9. I dont approve of this at all.
    Ships already have a role as it is, but it is still "sandboxy"(?) enough to be able to use the slots in diversity.
    This is yet another step of dumbing down eve to the level of insanity, and most of this comes from the fact that people are lazy, and dont want to put effort into actually learning something. No matter if its a spaceship pixel game or life itself.

    But then, you cant really expect much from a generation raised on teletubbies, spungebob and world of warcraft.
    Not be a complete tool, (even though i kinda enjoy it) watch the movie idiocracy. And everything will make perfect sence.

  10. Jester, are you going to do a blog about Dust 514 after they have done all the presentations at Fan Fest?

  11. You guys* are just fucking stupid. Hosi is a prime example.

    "Ships already have a role", yet giving ships a role "is [...] another step of dumbing down eve to the level of insanity".

    Newsflash, asshole: The role of most ships currently is to be useless space-junk no one in his right mind would ever fly, which rather often comes down to them not being in the top tier of their class (i.e. all frigates not a rifter, merlin, tristan, punisher, also: omen, stabber, etc). This is mostly due to them being impossible to fit thanks to lack of slots/pg/cpu. Lifting them to their respective classes top tier of fitting/base ehp/.. and slightly altering the role boni does the opposite of dumbing the game down, by allowing more ships to be fit in more ways, therefore extending the metagame.

    They are not going to change the fucking fitting system and force you to equip every ship the same.

    In conclusion: "you cant really expect much from a generation raised on teletubbies, spungebob and world of warcraft."

    *only referring to the "OMG THEY MAKE MY SANDBOX SMALLER BY MAKING IT BIGGER!!!11!" crowd

    P.S. I dislike the skill changes, tho. Mainly because they give older players another ~3 month worth of skillpoints over new players. (And it's stupid to have a skill for just one ship. (destroyers))

    P.P.S. Spongebob is awesome.

    1. "They are not going to change the ******* fitting system and force you to equip every ship the same."

      Well, actually, that is exactly where they are currently heading. It is much easier for them, as devs.

      The new skill tree is an obvious attempt to get players to stay within a specific "race" as much as possible, esp. new players. In order for this to work, they need to create a more balanced distribution of players in each race, which requires that the available ships of each race be somewhat more comparable than they are today.

      It is much easier for them to "balance" ships between races by making them as similiar as possible - which is why they want to go to "roles" rather than "tiers". General-purpose, ie. "tier", ships are difficult to balance since you simply cannot predict how players will fit and use them within the game.

      With role-specific ships, however, each ship from each race can be "balanced" to have roughly the same performance (after all, this is the only way to be "fair" to each race). This will most likely be done by constraining the variables (slots, PG, CPU, etc.) to limit the possible fits to only slight variations of the role-specific optimal fit, thus maintaining the parity of DPS, tank, and speed.

      In particular, they will want to avoid allowing any unusual fits, which may give one race a significant advantage over the other races.

      In the end, this means constraining the sandbox, to ensure that players are playing the game as the CCP devs see it, not as the players may choose to make it.

  12. Totally ripping off your title today btw. Greyscale needs to watch the HTFU vid.

  13. I personally liked how Destroyers and Battle Cruisers were independent of racial requirements. It effectively meant that I could fly many different ships with only having to invest in Racial Cruiser III. The idea that I might have to train Gallente BC IV for a Myrmidon and Minmatar BC IV for a Cane/Tornado just depresses me.

  14. About Galaxy Quest . . .

    This is a movie I will never watch again, and for just one reason. This idiot SF spoof movie won the Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Convention, in the same year that a little film called 'The Matrix' freed our minds. It won only because the end of the film shows their spaceship crashing into the Convention venue during their annual gathering. I guess if Dustin Hoffman had invited a few of them to be in 'Ishtar', it could have won too.

    Seriously, better than The Matrix????

    Not mad bro . . . just still flabbergasted.

    Back to serious spaceship discussion now . . .

  15. Best quote in Galaxy Quest was Sam Rockwell "Couldn't he construct a rudimentary lathe?"

  16. Strikes me that the easiest way to "fix" the BC and Dessie skills without mucking with the entire skill tree is simply to make the ships dual-bonused (like the faction ships). Key one bonus to Destroyer or Battlecruiser, and the other to racial frigate or cruiser. Might not be as elegant as putting them into the main progression, but achieves the same effect without a total revamp.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.