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, August 30, 2012

The emperor's new clothes

In June, I wrote what I thought would be the last post around here about Global Agenda.  That post was called "Saturation", a reference to the saturation of a color palette.  EVE is a dark game, blah blah blah yeah.  But I do want to cover one more aspect of this, circling from Global Agenda to Incarna and back. 

My previous post talked about how dark the ships of EVE are today.  Since I wrote that post, we have heard more from the art team about potential ship skins, both in interviews and in the CSM Summit Minutes.  I kind of poked fun at CCP about how dark all these ships were, focusing on the Amarr Guardian which was always one of the more brightly-colored and cheerful of EVE's ships.  Elise Randolph joked at the CSM Town Hall that that the previous color palette of the Guardian reminded him of Iron Man.(1)  In June, I guessed a little hopefully that the ships of EVE were being darkened with an eye toward developing and releasing more brightly colored ship skins that players could acquire, build, or purchase with Aurum.  The basic palette was dark to encourage this personalization, I guessed.

Since that time we've learned that that probably isn't the case, at least for now.  The art team and devs supporting them have apparently now done just enough research on this topic to decide that player-customizable ship skins would be a major undertaking.  They directly questioned the CSM (and through them, the players) on whether implementing ship skins would be a good use of resources... compared to other things the art team could be doing... like POSs.  And sure, put in that context, opinions are going to vary on that.  I've said that I'd like to see brighter colors in the game.  Other people think differently and I respect that.

Still, here's where Global Agenda comes into it.  As I said in the Saturation post, GA has a series of dye levels that you can apply to your character's armor.  Tier 1 dyes are pale and drab, tier 4 dyes are bright and vibrant, and tier 5 dyes are both vibrant and unusual with a lot of different variations in color and pattern.  And as the tier level goes up, the cost of those dyes goes up, both in in-game money and RL money.  As I said then, some of the most interesting dyes are only available with RL money.

But here's something important: in Global Agenda, the more colorful and vibrant a dye was the more popular it was and the more characters you saw moving around GA's cities and PvE areas using it.  People really got off on those more outrageous interesting colors.  And they didn't seem to mind having to pay for them.  Even if they bought one, if an even more outrageous one came out, sure enough you'd see them making the new purchase to stand out.

You would think that EVE is a different game with a different culture.  Me, I'm becoming increasingly not so sure.

I haven't written about this yet -- the Alliance Tournament got in the way -- but when Inferno was released, a number of new options in the NeX store were released at the same time.  And we've been told by CCP Unifex that these new items didn't take much in the way of developer time.  They were clothing designs the work for which had been done previously that simply hadn't been released yet.  A couple of things about these new clothing items interested me.

First, relative to the previous items that existed on the NeX, they're extraordinarily inexpensive.  The first wave of NeX items ranged from 1000 AUR (Men's 'Precision' Boots) all the way up to the 12000 AUR monocle of which so much has been written.  The average price of this first wave of items was about 3000 AUR, which equates to about $15 U.S. or so.  However, this second wave surprised me with prices that were about one-tenth of the first wave of items.  I believe the most expensive item in the second wave is 3500 AUR or so, but the bulk of the second-wave items are 100, 300 or 500 AUR.

The second surprising thing -- at least to me -- is that the second wave of items are more colorful, attractive, and interesting than the first wave of items.  Reds, golds, and camouflage prints are common among the new items, and even a couple of the items that are black advertise themselves as "true black"... which to put it in GA terms means that we're getting the tier 3 black instead of the more desaturated tier 1 black of, say, the Women's 'Structure' Skirt.

Am I boring you with this stuff?  Stick with me just a few more paragraphs.

It's tempting to say that EVE players don't care about this sort of thing.  It's tempting to say that they only care about spaceships.  It's tempting... but I'm not sure it's exactly true.  Because flying around space and looking at people's portraits, I'm seeing an increasing number of these more colorful items in use.

Far and away the most popular is the Men's 'Esquire' Coat, which comes in any color you like as long as that color is red and gold.  Sure, it's sadly layered on that desaturated almost-grey black of the first-wave items, but you can't have everything.  And most players display only the shoulders, neck piece, and throat of that coat in any case which are dominated by these bright colors.  Other vibrant items are also popular including the white and grey camo in two items, and if you zoom in on some of the ladies portraits you'll find the red heels or white boots make a lot of appearances.  And of course the four new militia-exclusive shirts are being purchased at LP stores and they are being bought, sold, and worn.

Like I said at the top of the piece, the more outrageous the colors and patterns HiRez introduced for Global Agenda, the more those players wanted them and they didn't mind paying a few bucks for the privilege.

Would EVE be the same way?  I suspect it might...

EVE blogger Ugleb covered a little bit of this about a month ago on his blog, stepping out of character briefly to farm an EVE-O forum thread on the general topic of WiS.  Most of the post deals with the WiS prototype that was demonstrated in Russia that I already alluded to earlier this month.  But Ugleb also found this gem from CCP t0rfifrans:
We'd like to put out more distinctive stuff, like the full body rubber female suits seen on Singularity, and a full body female leather strap catsuit, both which are important work attire for any serious capsuleer. If the clothes we're putting out now at lower prices sell well, we are very likely to kick off the manufacturing pipeline again, where we were planning to do more exotic ( cyberpunk, pirate etc ) clothes, than the more plain business and military clothes we have now.
Gotta say, I'm completely in favor of that and I think a lot of other people secretly are too.  Anything that CCP can do to further emotionally tie players to the game is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.  And even if only 5% of the player base is interested in this stuff, if this keeps them around, the small amount of dev time devoted to it would be worth it in my opinion.  And of course as I've already said, the WiS Sleeper station thing is quite intriguing.

All in all, I look forward to seeing what Torfi's team comes up with!


(1) My immediate response to that would be "And?  What's wrong with that?"  ;-)

34 comments:

  1. Eve is a different game with a different culture. But it obviously couldn't possibly have been THAT different, that would be simply inhuman. :)

    And if there's anything I can say about Eve players, it's that no matter how evil, aggressive and treacherous they proclaim themselves to be, they're in general very, very normal.

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  2. Yes, if only 5% is kept in game by these things, it worth it.

    Maybe CCP could use other similar items, like non-combat pets like cats in the captains quarters. These pets could have friendly battles with other pets on the same station. And we could use sparky pony mounts in the captains quarters. And non-combat drones that looks like a little Lich or Panda. And some elixir that turns your avatar into a ghost or Tuskarr or Naga would be great too!

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    1. Yeah, I get the sarcasm. But I'm going to once again fall back on subscribers and logged-in players. Concentrating on spaceships to the exclusion of everything else is not helping all that much with either number. CCP's still a business.

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    2. If they make it "Real" enough, I actually wouldn't mind outlandish battle bots and genetically engineered monster's fighting each other in an arena type minigame. Think more Jabba's Palace than what WoW has.

      There are some stipulations. I would want them to be destroyed if they lose. I would want them to be player built, as well as player controlled. And I would want some rudimentary fitting system, which could have drops that feed into the game. I'd also like it to be extremely cheap. A simple game within a game to pass time while sitting in a station for whatever reason.

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    3. Concentrating on PvP also lowers subscribers... look at the spike in numbers online Eve had with the Incursion PvE expansion

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    4. False analogy is false.

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  3. People tend to mix up what really pissed people off last summer. It wasnt the nex store, or even the abyssmal walking in closet "feature", but the percived fact that CCP was on its way to monetize EVE and change the business model radically. So, 100 dollar developer fees for 3rd party developers, nex prices, greed is good and 1000 dollar jeans was what really pissed people off and sparked off the riots. With the business model reined in and reasonable nex prices, i suspect that the average EVE Online player is as fond of personalizaton as other gamers. If their POS project deliver as envisioned, I expect everybody wants one too.

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    1. I think you are correct about what pissed customers off but I think the bigger realisation must have hit CCP square in between the eyes: THE CARBON technology they developed wasn't ready for current hardware technologies...multiplayer WiS would have melted videocards and been a lag fest only 70% TiDi in station coulda helped with.

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    2. Not to mention the absolute focus on WiS at the expense of FiS.

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  4. I Think people still have all that arum from launch, and now that they can actually buy one or two items not insanely over priced with them people are experimenting.

    I think it's a good thing, and adding them to the LP points store was an excellent move, people don't seem to mind having things that cost them nominal amounts (~$1) or some in game time, which probably equates to ~$1 of your sub anyway lol.... So as long as they keep the prices sensible, and it helps make a connection between players and their avatars, then as I see it, more and more people will be playing dress up barbie.

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  5. Does this make me a semi-respectable Blogger now? ;)

    Also for the record most of my posting is out of character, although the to stuff seems to stick in peoples heads more!

    I feel bad about not posting in over a week now too! :s

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  6. Without WiS (really, really advanced WiS, a real game where people do things, and spend meaningful time) this is pointless. Pay RM for clothes for a 32x32 pixel portrait? Sure, some people are that strange, but not many enough to make a steady profit.

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  7. In Reamde by Neal Stephenson, the population of a MMO (built from the ground up to support gold farming) splits into two factions based on palette choice. The two factions are the Forces of Brightness and the Earthtone Coalition.

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  8. I don't get why no MMO ever copied DAoC's dye system. Most base armor/weapons/cloaks were pretty light and white and you could dye every piece individually in one of a lot of colours.

    As it was just a basic color filter layered upon the base texture, I doubt it was a lot of programming work. Yet it was the most customizable dye-system I've seen in an MMO.

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  9. The Guardian does look like crap now, agreed. Stayed with the article even past the point where it was boring and you asked me to "Stick with me just a few more paragraphs." Left disappointed.

    How about a re-visit on the daily PCU numbers you said you were still collecting back in the Spring? My informal observations tell me they aren't getting any better. In fact, summer slump aside, they seem to be dropping. No Jita riots required.

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    Replies
    1. Was the biggest drop post Escalation orpost Inferno?
      ~DarthNefarius

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  10. I took some screen shot of a few outfits that were on the test server for a brief while.

    Something fun to look at:

    http://imageshack.us/f/228/newsuit3.png/

    Would definitely like to see these in game.

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  11. They add MTX customisation, and it will be like printing money.

    People want it, its a good optional revenue stream for CCP, and I don't see it as being a dev time loss.

    Keeping several revenue streams open will keep Eve going for longer. I wish some players would realise that reality. Its why i am saddened to see a lot of the Dust haters, who seem to want dust to fail, not realising that Dust failing means CCP are up shit creek without a paddle.

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  12. Yeah I seriously dont get it.....they are thinking too hard about it instead of small gradual steps.

    OK for each race pick two new shades, and one class of ships. Nuthing outrageous but definitely a change in the ship texture.

    THINK more like TF2 they gave out paints. it started with hats, then they started with paints and only a couple of choices and they dictated the texture to specific areas. Thus they didnt detract from the games itself and everyone still recognized everything.

    Its limited in scope and requires only gradual implentation. Every couple of months they can release either a new paint that can go on the models already adjusted or add another line of ships that the existing scheme can be applied. And leave it on tech 1 ships hulls. So no screwing with Tech 2 thats is already nice artwork...they are already making tech 1 Frigates much more useable ....combine being able to have a some coloured trim on it....yeah baby.

    Yes its work....but somehow I see CCP art dept is looking at tools and colours etc and expecting to see everyone having flying penises....aka limit also imposes a cost resriction on how many assets are working on it. I dont see penises in TF2 but sure a lot of fun colour being applied.


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  13. Back in the day, when I played Dark Ages of Camelot (still my favourite PvP game oddly..), I played an Albion Infiltrator who was an Alchemist. Of the things he could craft besides potions and poisons where dyes which would colour armour. The most popular colour? Black. By a country mile.

    (For some reason my posts always get eaten when using Chrome)

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    1. Black is a very striking (lack of) colour in a planet-side environment. It looks pretty darn cool, and there's a reason why most fashion magazines insist that all (thin to medium build) women should at least have 1 LBD.

      In space I suspect it's the opposite: people would pay more for a purple ship that sparkles and leaves rainbow engine trails.

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  14. The problem with last summer from what I gather was mostly:
    1. highly expensive NEX store items along with Himlar's letter gave the impression that was all CCP cared about and
    2. all the time developers spent on WIS when all that came out of it was CQ and the rest of the game being ignored.

    If CCP would balance it out better, nobody will complain
    1. good variety of NEX store items at fair prices
    2. work on WIS but not to where the rest of the game suffers

    Spending too many resources on WIS to where the rest of the game suffers is what got CCP in trouble last year. If they go the opposite direction and totally ignore WIS, character/ship customization etc etc will also have the same impact

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  15. Tbh I do not have any intention to spend any AUR on in game clothing. Especially with its currently limited use and the fact that I simply don't care what my in-game character is wearing. This isn't to say that other people feel the same way but I doubt the people purchasing these cloths are spending RL money on them. Not when most of us still have our free AUR still sitting there. As far as space ship paint schemes go I have to say that I'm mostly unenthused by the prospect of a 'bling' nightmare. That said, I would be interested in spending isk/AUR on corporate/alliance logos to go on my ships so long as it wasn't prohibitively expensive. As far as placement it could be as simple and non-descript as the current T2 shipyard logos.

    I do not feel however that CCp should invest any great amount of time or resources into this since what really gets me addicted to EVE is not logging in to see the new nebula or walk around my station closet but is to try out that new ship or new fit that I've been skilling for. So long as CCP keeps spaceships and spaceship mechanics it's first and foremost developmental concern (POS's included) then I don't have a problem with them also developing they're NeX store and items, I just hope they always leave some option for these items to also be purchased with strictly isk much like plex.

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  16. So, if you had a choice between being able to spend (ISK or RL) money on a jacket with your corporate logo on it, or a paint job for your ship with your corporate logo on it, which would you choose? Heck, even just replace the current faction logo with the corporate logo. Paint job is cooler – sad it has been estimated as expensive. Imagine undocking and seeing a ship in a distinctive Tusker paint job undocking right behind you.

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  17. In my opinion, the best value we can get for a small amount of developer effort is to allow corporations and alliances logos on ships. Much easier than the 'full' ship skins feature.

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  18. Deck my avatar out in a rubber catsuit? Hell yeah- I'd pay good (real) money for that.

    Perv or sad(or both)? You decide!

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  19. I think the whole colour issue isn't so complex as making aurum ship skins more desirable or not realising that colour is what people want.

    It seems memetic; you see it in the fiction too. Eve is *dark* - in the chronicles everyone dies, in game the ships are grim and muted. Somewhere in CCP people have gotten it into their heads that Eve needs to be ~GRIMDARK~ and that this is best achieved by making things brown and grey. I'm probably coming off harsher than I actually feel, but I'd rather be back flying Iron Man Guardians and bright pink interdictors.

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  20. "... whether implementing ship skins would be a good use of resources..."

    CCP just doesn't get it. The spaceships *are* the real avatars for Eve Online, not the Clint/Brandy of WiS nonsense.

    The focus on NeX clothing just never made sense. Consider that whereas each player account has only 1-3 human avatars, each account is likely to have 1-100+ ship avatars. I'd only buy one monocle for my human avatar, but I'd want to put my corp-customized paint job on *all* of my ships.

    Not to mention that creating a system to support customizable texture maps for non-deformable ship models is far, far easier than building a system for customizable skin/clothing for human avatars.

    Consider, too, that the human avatars (and their clothing) are indestructible, whereas the ship avatars (and their skins) are *very* destructible. How many ships are destroyed each day? Compare this number to the number of daily NeX store transactions and you'll easily see where microtransactions could really be applied in this game.

    Skin prices could even be scaled based on the base cost of the ship - ie. frigates might cost only pennies to customize, whereas a customized titan might cost a couple of bucks.

    Make optional and/or customizable ship skins available, for a reasonable RL price, and CCP would immediately see a substantial increase in revenue. It would also be less controversial and of more general benefit/thrill to more players than a POS fix (or even yet-another-super-cap fix, or rebalancing every damn ship in the game) - and would likely attract even more new players to the game, which would further boost CCP revenues.

    Is this really all that hard to see?

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    1. THIS! To the point, -THIS-!

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  21. "The art team and devs supporting them have apparently now done just enough research on this topic to decide that player-customizable ship skins would be a major undertaking."

    Um... not really.

    Most of the dev work would be related to asset management, allowing players to submit/upload texture maps, which only they (or their corp/alliance members) could access, and to be able to replace the default texture on a specific instance(s) of a ship with the customized texture.

    Tools for building/editing textures... not necessary. CCP just needs to provide players with the existing unwrapped texture maps, which can then be easily edited in Photoshop or GIMP. If CCP wants to be nice, they can also provide low res ship geometry, too, for testing outside of the game. I'm sure that it would not take long for someone to build an out-of-game tool to make 3D texture editing and previewing even easier.

    With regards to prescreening content (ala customized alliance logos), which would put too much of an ongoing burden on the art dept, I'd suggest implementing a peer review system, wherein the CCP art dept selects a volunteer body of Eve players to prescreen submitted textures, for technical correctness, legal issues, and appropriateness. It won't be 100%, but it should catch most of the obviously bad ones.

    With regards to inappropriate paint jobs, which might actually make it past the reviewers and into the game, CCP can simply (a) extend the EULA with regards to allowing only appropriate content to be uploaded, and (b) implement a player flagging system, akin to the existing "Report ISK spammer", which devs/GMs can use to catch/ban offenders.

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    1. The idea of a player-based peer review system to deal with certain issues which are too much or too many for CCP staff to deal with is a good one, and a logical extension of the current ISD programs.

      For example, the alliance logo submission system could easily be turned over to a qualified peer review system, simultaneously improving turnaround times on the approval process and eliminating the need/cost for CCP staff to do this work.

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  22. Jester, you're remarkably good at stroking your readers' egos with the 'EVE players are special (hardcore) snowflakes' BS. Yes, there is a culture among PVP players of being hard-nosed and ruthless and competitive and no-frills. However, CCP tells us those are a small but vocal minority. They're dwarfed by (high & null) 'carebears' that actually make up most of CCP's income, and allow those 1337 pvpers to do their thing at all (via both in-game and out-of-game economics).

    Those 'bears' are just like any other casual gamer; casual gamers who do things like spend hard-earned cash on outfits for imaginary dolls. The prior poster who suggested that ship-skins would be a huge cash cow because ships are the 'real' avatars of the game is totally right, and I think CCP recognizes this. They just don't (yet) have the tools to allow the sort of easy customization built in to the FiS engine while the WiS engine was built around such principals.

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  23. There was a dev comment somewhere along the lines of "V3 ships are dark because space is about to get illumination from the nebulas we're flying through". That is to say, space is about a lot brighter, so the ships are darker to compensate.

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  24. I can tell you now if there was a bright pink skin available for my chimera I would buy it in a heartbeat :P

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