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...

Monday, September 10, 2012

COTW: Agile development revisited

I was reading one of the anonymous comments from my post this morning about winter expansion features vis a vis DUST:
What's really pissing me off is the GLACIAL pace of 'tiericide'. I just do not think making the unused T1 frigates better is more important than making balance changes more popular classes like Cruisers and Battle Cruisers.

At the current rate any meaningful, systemic change seems like it is going to take half a decade to happen.

I think that's what we should just get used to though. CCP has so few resources working on EVE that its taking them 2 weeks per frigate to balance them. That's embarrassing.
And yeah, I'm forced to agree.  Best information says that frigates and destroyers will be done for winter, with the addition of one new destroyer for each race and the new logistics frigates being major features of the expansion.  With the mining ship updates, that's roughly 40 ships rebalanced in 2012.  Which means that at this pace, CCP will be getting around to balancing T2 battle-cruisers sometime late in 2015 and Black Ops, other T2 battleships, and maybe the T3s the following year.  So as much as it sounds like an exaggeration at this level of resources, "a half decade" to get the re-balancing done is pretty much on-the-nose.

It reminded me of something that I wrote last year, comparing CCP's idea of agile development to that of S2Games, developers of Heroes of Newerth, who managed:
...a development time from concept art to finished product in about six weeks.  That's agile development.  S2Games, the developers of Heroes of Newerth, should be proud of their achievement...
Granted, EVE is a much more complex game than HoN and there would be a lot more balancing issues to work out.  But it's increasingly obvious with the ships that have been balanced already that that's gonna happen whether the process is done quickly or slowly.  So it'd be nice to speed things up with a lot of little changes more frequently.  I'm pretty sure that's what we were promised on this topic...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous!

EDIT (10/Sep/2012): CCP Fozzie seems to be letting cats out of bags.  Perhaps this means that we can look forward to some T1 cruiser re-balancing this year, too?

34 comments:

  1. 40 Ships per year balanced 2012, i fear that it will be less in 2013 if they really dig into POS revamp / industry ui overhaul and so on ... so much work to do. I am not sure if i want DUST to succeed and flood ccps wallet with cash for more programers or to fail so they get back to the roots ...

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  2. Succeed, then they can "theoretically" do both.

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  3. Jester, Fozzie's been hinting for at least a week and change that cruisers will be balanced in the winter. He essentially said they would be tonight on twitter as well. Remind me never to take that man to Vegas, he has an awful poker face.

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  4. Shit will hit the fan when a lite Winter expansion is revealed

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  5. You forget ramp up, familiarization with tools, construction of new tools to help with the task at hand, and NDA.

    In other words: save your complaints for when the expansion is delivered. But congratulations on having run out of productive posts that you now have to resort to rumour mongering and doomsaying to get your page views up.

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  6. I predict that at least 2 types of Cruisers will be rebalanced in Winter; maybe the whole lot.

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  7. This issue was actually brought up in the original ship balancing forum thread... and pretty much ignored by the devs responding to the thread. However, they did say that there is no plan to rebalance the T2 PVP ships - just the T1 PVP ships.

    It now seems that this isn't so much about getting all of the ships balanced, as much as it is about making sure that the entry barrier to Eve PVP for DUST players is lowered.

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  8. I don't think it will take them long to finish all of the T1 ships. Probably will be all done by the summer expansion.

    After all, they aren't really balancing existing ships, as much as redoing them completely, and much more simply, since they are turning everything into single-role ships, rather than multi-purpose ships.

    They only need to redesign a single ship in each role, say, the Caldari one, then adjust the stats of the other ships in the same role to more or less match it.

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    1. As a long-time game designer, going back to the pre-computer days, I think this is about right.

      If you had to stay with the old tier system, it would take years to balance right, but, if you can throw all of that history away and change the ship stats completely from scratch, then no problem.

      Usually, you don't get to do this in a running game. The old-timers who originally built the game, as well as the older players tend to rant and rave, until senior management caves in and tells you to leave things as they are, and just fix what is broken.

      Delete
  9. Balancing T1 Ships and lowering the barrier to entry for PVP is a GOOD thing. I can live with the state that some of the T2 ships are in right now, having awesome T1 cruisers will be fantastic, though.

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    1. I agree.

      A lower entry barrier to PVP would encourage more new players to stay, as well as encourage more use of the T1 ships in PVP, outside of RvB.

      Delete
  10. I think they're going "all in" on Dust. CCP's mea culpa notwithstanding, last year's riots and crises were ultimately due to CCP's desire to make Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money! Hilmar promised it to somebody: the owners and investors. Remember, they were going to be leaders in Microtransactions because the subscription model was old and obsolete. Well, that didn't happen.

    But Dust gives them the promise of riches. It will probably work out for 6 months or so, and then the console FPS guys will move on to something else, CCP will release a Dust client for the PC, and pray.

    In the end, they would gladly throw the entire subscriber base under the bus in exchange for 3 times the number of replacement players on EVE NGE and Dust.

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    1. Eve players are so fickle.

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    2. Release a Dust client for the PC? This assumes they can. They obviously signed some near-suicidal noncompete agreement with Sony (which should be called a nonsucceed agreement, really) and nobody knows what the terms are.

      You got the pray part right, though :)

      Delete
    3. free to play is like a religion right now on the excecutive side, never mind that most of them are getting their heads handed to them using the model, but look I have this spreadsheet that says mega dollars!!! Oh they moved on to the next slick free to play in a heartbeat and left mine all alone? Well at least it was free to play.

      A strong cult following like what Eve has is what great franchises are built on. Too bad they are chosing to ignore it for the religion of the moment, free to play and also pile that tired old first person shooter genre, upon which alter many companies have gone up in smoke.

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  11. Having read up about AGILE, I am wondering whether its really appropriate to game development like EVE online.

    The purpose of AGILE is to reduce overheads like documentation and works best when project management can put development cycle into predictable periods of time (ie, there is little time risk in the development cycle).

    .....but most of the type of development that needs to be done on EVE is new technology or changing variables in a game type that is not well known (persistent sand box worlds)...Which means that changes ARE risky.

    Furthermore, documenting software is really a form of inter-team communication and done right, can save a lot of expensive time. From my casual perspective, I would say that this is the type of communication that would assist their development.

    As an aside, I think that the value of good project managers is often overlooked.

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  12. Let's take a minute to reflect on those killed and the families of 9-11 and our service men and women. Change starts with us. Say a prayer or take a moment and hope for this sort of thing to never happen again.

    The number one saying in business,"If you aren't growing you are dying." CCP seems to understand this even if they are deluded. Hey they wanted to make a Play Station title, fine. Leave it at that. I understand the desire to change EVE to be more lucrative and attract new players. That is what is needed. There was a time when creativity ruled in this vision they had of a game. Now it's a company with the innovators gone. Now it seems the nerf bat has taken center stage and is the go to plan for any change. Did people quit because BOB was too big? Are they quitting because of TEST or GOONS? Titan tracking? Moon Goo? Hulkageddon? No! Incarna? Well... Seems the best and brightest resources have been shunted off to Dust. Hey fix your game and make it better like it was in the beginning with some real creativity. Maybe that would work for attracting new players? See we have all fallen for this line,"The players create content." To some degree that is true but, not for the new guy. Don't you feel a little used? Nothing like stroking your ego to make you feel good about doing someone else's work. Tom Sawyer would be proud. Now it's Dust or Bust. CCP seems to be putting all their eggs in one basket. This is a high hopes proposition. A lot of money and time spent on this new "EVE514" or "BUSTEVE". Most of the time shooting for the moon causes a very big fall. This combining two separate games is not going to make EVE better. It might make Dust better with an already generated story line and world. If Dust needs to be tied to something for game play invent that too. Leave EVE out of it. Heck create STEVE on the PS3. The next Rage is in the chamber. It will be fun to see how they deal with it this time without losing the company. Oh yeah and I have a feeling this time the rage isn't just going to be EVE players. I will give you one thing CCP: You have big balls. Al tho on second thought after four years of seeing how you deal with stuff it's more likely just very thick skulls.
    Andy Roid

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    1. Jesus Christ, wall of text. Paragraphs are your friend dude!

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    2. Haha, sorry. It was prettier first time. Tired at 3am and the rage was flowing. Then went to post with Word Press account and lost it. Then the rage was really flowing. Retyped half asleep.

      Getting better. It would have been one long sentence in the past.=P
      A.R.

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  13. I think the ship-balancing got off to a fairly slow start, but more recently (since CCP Fozzie took over?) it's sped up a lot. Without inside knowledge of CCP, I'd say that somebody was slowly doing it on the side to begin with, and now it's Fozzie's primary job.

    In addition as he gets a better feel for the process, he'll be able to get a good balance right quicker for any particular hull. Also as you move up the ship sizes, there are less hulls in a class to balance.

    At the current rate, I could see all sub-cap combat ships being balanced by Summer.


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  14. As if by magic...
    http://community.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&nbid=73381
    ^__^

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  15. Well you might want to take a look at this one...

    http://community.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&nbid=73381

    just published... your commenter might want to change his time line for ship balance. If they get all this stuff done we can hope to see rebalanced BCs early next year in an .X patch for winter update.

    Maybe I'm too optimistic but I don't want to get infected by bitter vet disease ;-)

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  16. http://community.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&nbid=73381

    So much butthurt and so much win from CCP tbqh. Summer will probably see all T1 stuff revisited and maybe some new ships.

    Fingers crossed.

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  17. To be fair, "Agile Development" as a proper noun used in software development means very specific things about the development process that doesn't necessarily result in institutional agility or rapidly-releasing large features. Agile attempts to be the fastest way to get features in front of users, but in the context of large and complex codebases "fastest" does not necessarily mean "fast."

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    1. Exactly. In my experience in dev teams agile means the ability to react quickly to changing client requirements. It does not mean 'rapid'.

      A CCP dev recently complained about how much of a mess the FW UI codebase was, so comparing EVE to a brand new, much-simpler game that took 6 weeks from start to finish is hardly fair.

      Delete
  18. Fickle is not the word I'd use for the above...

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  19. I think this has already been said, but the devblog released today seems to indicate that CCP does read your blog and wants to put out the fact that no, this won't take forever... apparently they plan to roll out the frigs, destroyers, new destroyer classes, and tiericide Cruisers for this Winter.

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  20. OW snap CCP's new devblog just blew you out of the water son!

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  21. Fake edit (since you require comment approval), but here's the devblog that says that. Literally the first thing I saw on Facebook this morning when I got up. http://community.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&nbid=73381

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  22. Jester, have you read Yitter's new dev blog? This has to be the new QOTW:

    "Like CCP Guard, it should be a mean miniaturized version of the Armageddon, not a public target for bad-taste midget tossing jokes."

    ROFL.

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  23. What is wrong with focusing on the smaller ships first?

    Good trial and error for methodology of rebalancing and the large-scale effects of a screw-up at this level would be a whole lot less than if they screwed up the rebalancing of the more popular ship classes.

    One of the CCP devs admitting to the mistake of the balancing of the Dramiel seems to suggest that they might elect a more conservative trial and error approach.

    Plus even though i am a 2004 player, right now the most fun thing in eve for me is shooting some frigates and destroyers in RvB. So more variety in this game style is always welcome.

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  24. It is amusing to see that there isn't a huge amount of rage coming from the bitter vets, over the ship changes. After all, CCP is pretty much negating all of the years of experience that the older players have in flying, or flying against these ships. This is all trial-and-error knowledge which will need to be learned all over again, putting them much more on par with the noobs, flying these new ships for the first time.

    Ofc, I guess that most bitter vets don't fly T1 frigs or cruisers much anymore, at least, not for any serious PVP. Every time that CCP even sneezes at the caps or super caps, though, there seems to be quite a bit of noise. So, I expect the rage will begin to build up when we get to the BCs, as everyone's favorite ship gets changed into something else.

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    1. You don't understand what a bitter vet actually does.

      They love to fly and come up with new fittings and get to know the ships. They find lopsided encounters where numbers make one side winning a foregone conclusion boring, not new ships.

      It's like giving an experienced coder a new game console, they are going to have it doing wonders in no time, it's not like absolutely everything changes so experiences brings an enormous amount. Anyway, did you not notice that Jester likes coming up with new or oddball fittings? Do you actually read the blog?

      Delete
  25. After all, CCP is pretty much negating all of the years of experience that the older players have in flying, or flying against these ships.

    You say that as if it isn't a massive shot in the arm for jaded veterans.

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