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...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dumbing up

Let's continue the discussion yesterday about the (relative) lack of dumb people in EVE Online lately.  But this time, let's come at it from a completely different direction.

Now, I feel pretty strongly about this subject because I count myself among the champions for breaking EVE out of the Death Star trench-sized niche it's dug for itself.  I've written about this topic many times on the blog before, most obsessively in another pair of linked posts back in September, Triumph of the Will and Conspiracy of Silence.  In those posts, while I celebrated the "return of spaceships" in what would eventually become the Crucible expansion, I also raised a caution flag:
CCP has hard data on this: the majority of people who try EVE Online unsub and move on to other games.  They say it's too hard, or they say you can't identify with your in-game avatar as a ship, or they say they aren't interested in the basic concepts underlying the game, or they say the player base is newbie-unfriendly, or they say the game-play isn't very good.  Guys, it's time to wake up and face reality: an MMO based primarily around spaceships is probably always and forever going to be a niche product.  Star Trek couldn't sell this product to a mass audience.  Star Wars couldn't sell this product to a mass audience.  EVE Online as it is today has no chance of doing it.
It's six months later and it's becoming increasingly clear that CCP has reached the same conclusion... and they're fighting against it.

EVE is a complex, deep game, and I love that about it.  But EVE is sometimes too complex... needlessly complex.  I've made my feelings about that equally clear.  And CCP is obviously coming around to thinking the same way.

A couple of weeks ago, a dev-blog written by CCP Gnauton outlines the first step: simplifying the very names of the items in the game.  This is an advantage that Perpetuum Online has over EVE: their item names are, for the most part, quite straight-forward.  EVE is now going down the same route.  If a hardener hardens against EM, it will have EM in the name.  If a missile launcher fires torpedoes, it will have torpedo in the name.  If an implant goes in slot 7, it will have a 7 in the name.

Now, the point to this is pretty obvious: EVE's developers are trying to dial back the inconsistencies and needless complication of all of the item names in EVE.  For most items, you're only going to have to remember four item prefixes to know which module is the "best" among the low-meta modules.  As Gnauton (who, I note with amusement is a writer, not a developer) says himself:
It's no secret that EVE's complexity holds great appeal to the dedicated gamer (or indeed anyone who appreciates a living breathing interactive system, even if they don't participate in every aspect of it), but it's nonetheless true that there are certain things that add to this complexity in a meaningful way and other things that simply befuddle and obfuscate for no real reason.
Guys, this is about one thing and one thing only: making EVE's naming conventions a little simpler so that new players don't go insane trying to learn them.  And maybe in doing so, some of those people that currently unsub from EVE because it's over-complex will maybe remain subscribed and keep trying to learn it.  That's all.  They're not trying to hurt your feelings.

And yet dear God, it's hard to over-estimate the amount of bitching these simple changes are causing.  The comments thread is up to 30 pages, and doesn't seem to be dying down appreciably.  Hell, the bitching might be accelerating.  It's certainly getting more whiny and self-entitled.

The general sense of the comments is "Don't dumb down EVE!  Don't make EVE less science-fictiony!"  One of the more verbose comments even tries to argue it this way (sic throughout):
I am generally in the boat with the rest of the "omg dont dumb down my module names" group but for a completely different reason. First off, I am good with updating some names and changing things but I also think that what you have chosen is a bit too simplistic. Lets look at the modern brand names of very popular items of which we have a large variety to choose from; in this case, cell phones. Currently i am using an HTC android device running version 2.3.4. Many people have just signed up to buy the Apple iPhone 4s. Then we have the Nokia Lumia running windows platform.The point that I am trying to make here is that we have a wide variety of phones (and knockoffs) and we are generally able to figure out who has what and what kind of stuffs we got running under the hood.
I don't think I can face-palm quite hard enough to reply to this without doing myself damage.  The added layer of bad grammar and worse spelling just adds a layer of irony and pathos.  If you've seen and appreciate the movie Idiocracy, you know what I mean when I say this.  The argument basically goes "EVE players is smart 'cause we knows a Droid Bionic roxx0rs over a DroidX.  So we's can figger out that an N-Type EANM roxx0rs over a Voltaic."

Yeah.  OK.

Let me lay this out in the simplest possible language, and I'm going to have Zoe and Wash from Firefly help me:
Wash: Telepathy?  Sounds like science fiction.
Zoe: You live on a spaceship, dear.
Wash: So?
Guys, you're playing a game about space-ships.  In space.  In the future.  Soon to be firing Caldari Navy Scourge missiles from Assault Missile Launchers that will impact against an Adaptive Invulnerability Field mounted to a Tengu class Strategic Cruiser running under an Experimental Micro Warp Drive, which is running faster than normal because the pilot has a 'Rogue' NN-603 implant chip in his brain.

I think you'll still be able to figure out that it's science-fictiony, OK?  Really.  I promise.

And yet the bitching and whining goes on that EVE is being dumbed down and will somehow lose its geek cred.  If you still think this, then I challenge you to run that sentence about firing Scourge missiles at a Tengu by your next date without him or her looking at you like you've lost your mind.

Don't worry: you're still a geek.  So am I.  Geek and proud.

In the meantime, though, just maybe the needless difficulty factor of the game will be dialed back from its current setting of 14 on a scale of one to ten.

To 13.

40 comments:

  1. Quafe...the thirst MUTILATOR.

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  2. In my 10-15 yearsexperiences of MMO gaming, I am against this change for one simple and history shown fact: Once the dumbing down starts, the entire game goes downhill from there.

    EQ1 for example, started with bringing scripts and the Bazaar in Shadows of Luclin. It then went to PoP with teleporting books in PoK to anywhere else in the world. EQ2 has since Rise of Kunark been dumbing the game down further and further, for the lowest common denominator player. Do I even need to mention SWG and the CU/NGE debacle?

    Its a slippery slope you tread when making things in your game easier, because its done step by step, in little increments. Such small increments that the hardcore adament players against those changes at the beginning accept those changes with open arms 2 or 3 years down the road because they dont notice where theyve changed from over time.

    And really, thats what its about, change. You have to change and adapt or you will die out. I feel that making the game more accessable to a wider audience instead of a focused demographic is a mistake and from my viewpoint in gaming, has been repeated time and again ruining the gaming experience for myself.

    And I really hope Im not the only gamer who feels this way.

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    1. I agree with Korvus. The names of meta mods should be randomized. Every time you open your hanger the names should be randomized. What are you, a pussy? Harden the fuck up!

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    2. Thats not what I was saying, and to my knowledge, thats never been a game mechanic or bug in any game Ive played =P Turn down youre "stupid" dial a bit, and perhaps you'll be able to competently understand another persons viewpoint.

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    3. Corporation bookmarks are is an example of both a dumbing down and an absolutely needed fix. Selene likes to brag about designing wormhole space, but releasing it without an effective means of sharing information amongst the corp is madness. Everyday I had to scan down the hole, dump a ton of bookmarks into a can and then update a google-doc spreadsheet.

      Is it dumbing down to demand consistency in naming? That you can tell the relative qualities of an item by reading its name instead of memorizing n+1 descriptions?

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    4. We understand your viewpoint, we just think its stupid. That is why we are making fun of you.

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    5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcasm ?

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  3. "They say it's too hard, or they say you can't identify with your in-game avatar as a ship, or they say they aren't interested in the basic concepts underlying the game, or they say the player base is newbie-unfriendly, or they say the game-play isn't very good."

    ...and changing module names partially, PARTIALLY addresses ONE of those concerns, which is perhaps the LEAST among the ones you listed (EVE is "too hard"/complexity for complexity's sake).
    -Can't identify with "ships" as in-game avatars: yesh, shee alsho spaesh Barbiesh. (<-- I need to make an alt avi that looks like Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October lol) Fix? Incarna. Result: n00b confusion (moar complexity in making an avatar, yay!), bittervet RAEG!!! <-- "problem solved".

    -aren't interested in the basic concepts underlying the game. Possible translation #1: "I want to play a tall skinny warrior chick with huge tits wearing a chainmail g-string that somehow gives awesome defense stats."
    Possible translation #2: "I like spaceships, but if I can't have an eRendezvous with tall skinny green women with huge tits wearing glowy g-strings or silk loincloths like Captain Kirk does, nothxbai."
    Possible Translation #3: "There's no Babylon 5 MMO, so I guess this will do." Ohwait, that's me. Never mind. ;-)

    -the player-base is newb-unfriendly. It's a PvP game. EvE = Everyone vs Everyone, right? Ultimately, even if they are a "n00b", you're still technically in competition with them. Even if they pose no threat to you and your machinations NOW, EVE is a game such that in a few months or a year, they very well might. Generally you don't tell people "Ok, it's every man for himself," then expect them to go around HELPING each other randomly. Psychological derp to the max.
    Also keep in mind the "its too hard" and "newb-unfriendly" complaints are remedied how, exactly? Right -- by taking away consequences for misstepps and bad choices. What does that do to EVE? Change it from EVE to "WoW in space", or, as Corelin says "water it down to a crappy vanilla MMO like everything else out there."

    -game play = not good. That's a pretty broad and VERY generic complaint. That complaint could originate with someone who got and market-sold a PLEX, had the bare min skills to fly a Jaguar (cause they're bad-ass yo), and lost his ass because he had no fucking clue what he was doing with it. "Average MMO player" expectation is that "bigger = better = 'I win'", and as we see in EVE _EVERY_DAY_ that simply isn't the case. Smartly flown Iteron V by pilot who knows WTF he is doing beats Navy Domi flown by clueless pilot any day of the week, and twice if it's on YouTube. "Average MMO guy" screams "WTF!!! that's not fair i had [badass item/ship] and pressed the 'iWin' button n nothing happened!!! game r brokededed...*sadface*"

    Bottom line, Jester: EVE is a game you will love, or a game you will hate. It brooks no middle grounds, this we all know. By trying to change it to attract players who will hate it (and will STILL hate it even after making it "easier, moar friendly, and consequence-free), all you will end up with is the same people who hated it before, STILL hate it, and the playerbase that loved it before, HATE it now TOO.

    http://carebearswithclaws.blogspot.com/2012/03/i-was-gonna-praise-ccp.html

    ^ if you're in tl;dr mode, skip the intro, read the last half after the part about "ebil PvPers"

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    1. "...and changing module names partially, PARTIALLY addresses ONE of those concerns"

      There is something worst than a simplified naming system that don't carry an unique'is feeling to each item.

      There is something worst than having a strong SciFi item naming where it takes years of practice to know in a glance what each means.

      It is to have some of the items in one of these paradigms and the rest on the other.

      I think it is a positive thing if CCP continues this effort and adjust the rest of the items, but failing that I hope they revert these name changes.

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    2. So I was in tl;dr mode for most of what you wrote, but one thing caught my eyes: "the player-base is newb-unfriendly". This has nothing to do with Eve being PvP, but with the fact some things are way more complicate than they should be, I still remember my first few weeks playing, how being ganked in Jita and killed in lowsec made thing think, "what a hell is going on here?" and even open chat with my killers to better understand what just happened, but having to right click on every single mod to find out what meta level it was really pissed me off.

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    3. Problem with "tl;dr" mode: you miss some good shit.

      For example, I mentioned huge tits several times. Missed that.

      Poked fun at Jester ... more than a couple times, missed that too.

      Of course, those are your losses (perhaps Jester's too), not mine. I rather enjoyed mentioning tits several times and poking fun at Jester.

      Here's an interesting question:
      If you guys don't like walls of text, why do you "read" blogs anyways?
      Seems like a waste of YOUR time if all you're going to do is "*yawn* tl;dr trollololol derp. u suxx0r."

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  4. There is a related concept in computer programming: bikeshedding. http://black.bikeshed.com/

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  5. Honestly, things as simple as simplifying names can do nothing but improve the game. Stupid little things like that can drive away someone that doesn't want to take the time to learn every name for every meta module for every module type in the game. Despite how simple something may seem to us, considering we've already learned it, it could make someone who could have enjoyed eve very much think it's too obtuse(which it is).

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  6. The funny thing with people bitching is that none of the actual gameplay is changing. You're still going to have the same fights regardless of what your modules are called. If it lets some nub figure out how to fit his ship better then you've got one more competent pilot to challenge you. I'd rather eve be niche because less people like Internet spaceships than because some casual couldn't be bothered to learn 1000 different module names. Honestly HTFU and realize that this doesn't change your f'ing gameplay. Unless you're some role playing Internet spaceship captain I don't really see the big f'ing deal!

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    1. Well, if it doesn't change the gameplay, why not throw the roleplayers (who are in a minority anyway) a bone and keep the old names? Besides, it's always easy to say 'HTFU' if you're not the one negatively affected.

      Personally I think there need to be names just for the ambience. It maybe only a thin disguise over the underlying spreadsheets, but at least it is _a_ disguise - just like the ships in a class have names instead of descriptions. On the other hand, having a fast way to determine the meta level by the name will be useful for both old and new players, so having a combination like with the "Prototype 'Arbalest' Missile Launcher" is probably the best approach.

      ...and I sincerely hope that I remembered that name correctly :)

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  7. Too many words.....

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  8. I don't know who Hong WeiLoh is, but if he wishes to make some kind of point for or against, he should at least text language and grammar that we can understand. Spelling would assist comprehension enormously. Incidentally are we nOObs or newbies?

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    1. Hi, I see the "reply" feature eludes you. ;-)

      Allow me to "dumb-up" my comment for ya: Jester makes points about why the game is so "unpopular", then goes on at great length about one thing (name changing) that really affects the very least among the concerns he brings up. SO I point that out, then go on to :walloftext: him back poking fun at all the other "more important" considerations that're being overlooked.

      In the future, when lobbing stones, especially in regard to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, please refrain from doing so whilst ensconced in one's own glass domicile.
      I will say, though, that at least you put a name to your words, which makes you a hair better than most of the other anony-tators I see round here. :-)

      Reader service is my satisfaction, and I'm hardly servicing you well if obvious condescent is insufficiently obvious. Thank you for playing. ;-)

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    2. Zadorra, did you mean '...he should at least >use< text, language, and grammar...'? Because it's funny that you should castigate someone else for grammar fail when you skipped a word in the very sentence in which you did so.

      Also, you're a 'n00b'. 'Newbies' are simply new people. 'N00bs' are morons.

      Dismissed.

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  9. "firing Caldari Navy Scourge missiles from Assault Missile Launchers"

    You mean, firing Caldari Navy Trauma Assault Missiles from Heavy Assault Missile Launchers? Usually I wouldn't nitpick, but this either proves your point, or it's a level of subtle irony I missed... :)

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    1. Nope. They're changing all Trauma to Scourge.

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    2. damn, and I was just starting to enjoy the idea of flicking 'trauma' around at people....

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    3. I'm sure they just finished changing from Scourge to Trauma... Frankly, as bad as CCP may be, I don't quite believe that make a change then revert it back that quickly. Do you have a link to a devblog or announcement from CCP that they're changing trauma back to scourge again?

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    4. Er... log into Sisi, pull up a market search bar, type "Scourge"? I assure you it's that way right now.

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    5. Ah, I see what you mean now. All Trauma missiles (be they heavy, siege, cruise, whatever) are changing to Scourge.

      I had thought you meant for a minute there they were reverting back to all the old different names for every damage and size class (bloodclaw, thorn, terror, etc on and on...)

      I'm sure it will confuse to start with then people will get used to it. It only annoys me that "Scourge" sounds so close to "Scorch" on comms...

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  10. If I ever quit Eve in frustration and disgust, it won't be because of a loss mail or a game mechanic. It'll be because all the crybaby bitching about every little ~scarey~ change has finally gotten to me.

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  11. Just because it's still science fiction doesn't mean it can't be entirely bland and tasteless. "It's still spaceships" is a very poor counter-argument. If the game were reduced to it's barest, simplest representation(a plain spreadsheet) it would be far far less appealing, even though it's the same game mechanics, and "still spaceships". The set dressings of graphics and item names are all important to the appeal of the game.

    The worst of it is the renaming of many of these items accomplishes their goal of simplifying things in the most hamfisted way possible. Very few people would have opposed merely adding the damage type abbreviation to the missile names for instance. Is a "'Scourge' Kinetic Heavy Missile" really so much more confusing than "'Scourge' Heavy Missile" for the new player that the compromise is so entirely off the table?

    Perpetuum items are a good example. They are easy to tell apart because the meta level is clearly indicated on the item icon, and their meta levels are clearly defined. But the module names themselves? Try asking a fresh, day old Perp player what good a "Nuimtec-Accolon LRS Medium EM-Gun" is. Or which is the better item, a "Sistolox Medium Auxiliary Accumulator" or a "Ovostec-GPC7000 Medium Auxiliary Accumulator". Their system is simpler (and smaller) and their interface is better. The item names have very little to do with that.

    "fixing" the names of warp scramblers/disruptors was a good thing. And I'll readily admit that the Y-T8 was needlessly obscure. But why should we be content with bargain basement build-your-own-scifi-adventure flavor text, when the only thing missing from the original name were 4 letters?

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  12. I'm completely fine with this change. Having standard in names is important and I use it in all of my bookmarks.

    This game still has plenty of roleplay text in the info text.

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  13. I dunno. I just felt like the names really added something to the game. Like, there was a reason out there in the backstory for the jb5 warp scrambler to be called that. There probably isn't, but I could imagine there was.

    I honestly think the fix with meta numbers on the module picture would have been much better.

    Meh. The main reason it annoys me is I have to fix all my eft fittings. =/

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    1. I forgot to mention this post, which you might find interesting, Zenver:

      Strengths and Weaknesses

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    2. The biggest annoyance I have had with the new names is that it broke the killboards for a bit. Heck, Battleclinic still might be broken for all I know. Eve-Kill Forever! :P

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    3. This change actually really bothers me, but for a reason that I don't think anyone else has mentioned. I think the new names are actually HARDER to remember. I guess I must be in the minority because I haven't seen this raised anywhere else. When they decided to change the names of propulsion modules I didn't really think much of it. But since that change I have found it much harder to remember whether the "limited" MWD is better than the "upgraded" one, or whether a "prototype" is better than an "experimental." (Maybe because all four of those words are basically synonyms?) This is especially frustrating when looting a battlefield; it's much more difficult to quickly tell at a glance what kinds of modules you're picking up since the names now sound so similar.

      The old names are not that hard to remember. I've only been playing EVE for about 3 months and I can pretty confidently say that I know the names of the different meta levels of all the modules I use on a regular basis.

      More importantly though, this change does not add anything to the game. The argument that "maybe if the module names are easier to remember people won't ragequit the game" is incredibly weak. Now that all my missles have the same name, I obviously won't get suicide ganked, right? If someone can't be bothered to click "Show Info" once in a while when they forget what meta level a module is, that person will quit EVE sooner or later for some other reason. This change won't prevent people from unsubbing, it will just annoy people who already play the game.

      I don't see what's wrong with EVE being a niche game. In fact I think CCP should do whatever they can to make sure it stays that way. By trying to make EVE appeal to a wider audience, they will inevitably destroy everything about the game that makes it so special and unique to its player-base.

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  14. So the arguments against the change from the comments:

    @Korvus: Slippery slope argument supported by anecdotal evidence. Also part of argument from adverse consequences. The undesirable consequence is a simple (dumbed down) EVE. He implies that simplifying item names is dumbing down or directly leads to dumbing down. Then proceeds with anecdotal evidence, which is also irrelevant. "Game X went downhill after changing item names." - would be at least relevant (but still invalid). Now, he could define dumbing down as simplifying item names. Therefore any game with straight-forward item names would be a dumbed down game. If you reject this definition then the chain of causality is broken.

    (Anonymous replies with a straw man argument... Yes, I like hunting logical fallacies, why do you ask?)

    @Siiee: This post is actually a good argument against the new naming method. It doesn't argue against the change.

    IMO hardcore players usually oppose (neutral) change. It means they must relearn something. It means they will be "noobs" again.

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    1. "IMO hardcore players usually oppose (neutral) change. It means they must relearn something. It means they will be "noobs" again.:"

      Its a neutral change, yes. It adds nothing to the gameplay and takes away something that works perfectly fine. It is simple to hit show info and find out the meta level. Imo, it would be amazing if they sorted by meta levels in the variations instead of alpha. That cause more confusion to me than anything else.

      But yeah...I dont want to relearn something that is definately not broken and "too difficult" for noobs to learn because of this generations ADHD gets in their way.

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    2. You're right, I'm not at all against the renaming of items. I don't see making basic information more readily available as hurting any meaningful gameplay. What I don't want is for my interesting and varied (even if meaningless) sci-fi "experience" reduced to a tasteless gener-o paste.

      And that is what I feel the big (only?) problem with the renamings. Even if you ignore the fact that the item names are the wrong way to "solve" this "problem", there are so many readily obvious alternatives. They could accomplish everything that the new naming system does but without completely trampling over the existing world building so trivially.

      I may be a bitter vet, but I do understand that there will be some sacrifices along the way, and that they must happen. However, I am absolutely opposed to sacrifices made in this manner that are absolutely and thoroughly pointless. I may be laughing at all the simple minded elitists who's only complaint is that their own flash-card knowledge is becoming outdated, but I'm still going to argue against what truly is a dreadful change right along with them.

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    3. "I dont want to relearn something that is definately not broken and "too difficult" for noobs to learn"

      So basically you have earned your knowledge, time for them to walk 2 miles in the snow up hill both ways.

      This issue with eve players isn't ADHD, it's the elitist attitude. We get it, you play eve.

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  15. Honestly I think this could all be fixed quite easily by putting the meta somewhere upfront in the module name and leaving everything else be. Heck, put it in the module icon, perfect spot for a meta indicator imo. Just add a little number in the corner there and you're good to go, easy to see meta, no confusion.

    I'm glad they standardized the missile names though, that was a mess. For someone who only used missiles on the rare occasion, I was always had to doublecheck "is this the one I want? No, it was the other one... damnit now I have to open my cargohold and look.."

    For propulsion mods though, I kind of hate the new names. The old ones were superior for the simple distinction that they gave you ALL the relevant information upfront right at the beginning of the module name. It was easy to remember that LiF fueled rocket boosters were a 100mn afterburner and if they're catalyzed they're a MWD. Now with the meta up front and the distinction of AB/MWD at the back, it's just all over the place.

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  16. There's a scoping issue here. Currently, if I want a meta-4 launcher, I search for "arbalest", and get approximately 6 hits. I could search for "siege missile launcher", but that's a lot more characters. The problems come with the occasional inconsistencies:

    Examples:
    - 'limos' (meta-2) launchers are sometimes called "bays". There are many other modules where a meta-level module does not share a base name with its base module (eg lasers and masers, or many of the resistance and EW modules).
    - YS-8 and Y-T8 (or whichever way around it was).
    - Similarly, all the meta-3 launchers use a numeric code, but it's not a consistent code, so you can't just substring it.
    - "prototype" is different meta level for railguns (4) and projectiles (3). Likewise "scout".

    People can easily learn small sets of arbitrary keywords as long as they are (1) distinct and (2) consistent. These can be easier to use than generic IDs, as long as the pattern is easy to discover. What CCP needs to do is not make everything generic, but make sure that (1) the patterns are unique to a small enough subset of devices to be useful and (2) make sure that searches work reliably.

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  17. @Jester: ppl on the forums mostly don't whine about the name change, they are upset about they it was done, by a WRITER!!! Overly simplistic, without any real usability cases, and player feedback incorporated.
    There are a ton of very good advice on how to improve names, with better searchabilty of the different modul types. Also meta level distinction on the icons of the moduls are a good way too. U don't have to change the name for that.
    There was even a suggestion of tags on modules, like armor, hardener, AB, MWD, etc. so if it ain't in the name u still can search for those groups, without getting rubbish in the results.
    Most of them agree that we need a better naming convention over the one that we currently have, but not the way it was and is done right now. There are a lot of usability concerns here that has to be taken into consideration before doing any renaming!

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  18. Well here is one CCP snuck in...look at station names in your overview...a system I hang out in had a Fedmart Retail Center and a Fedmart Warehouse..now in my overview just 2 Fedmart Stations. Another system had a Republic Justice Department Law School and a Republic Justice Department Accounting now just 2 Republic Justice Department stations....Federation Navy lost all it's Assembly Plants....this happened this morning after Crucible 1.5.3 patch rolled out....and nothing from CCP in the patch notes.
    Whiney Little Care Bear

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