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...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Work up to it

Author's note: screw it.  Here's the piece that was going to be published Tuesday afternoon.  I'm going to leave it unedited.  Consider it a reaction piece: my reaction to today's dev-blogs and the other stuff that's coming will be clear enough from what's below.  But worry not: I'll have more to say on this topic tomorrow, too.  -J

Let's go big picture.  I mean really big picture.  In December, I wrote several posts about "what it all means."  Now it's time to tie all of them together.

What are the three most important things that have to happen for CCP in the next eighteen months?  In order of importance, they are:
  1. DUST 514 must launch successfully and must be at least a modest success in the marketplace.
  2. EVE must attract a new generation of, and I mean it, brand new players.
  3. The current EVE players -- particularly the veterans -- must be persuaded to continue playing the game, and more things need to be found for them to do.
Why yes, I did say "in order of importance."  Are you feeling less important now?  You shouldn't.  We'll get to that.  Let's look at them in order.

DUST 514 must be at least modestly successful.  I've been saying this and saying this for months (most recently in "Narrow the gap"), nobody believes me, and I'm just going to keep saying it.  I am reminded of another of my favorite bad movies, Air Force One.  In the flick, Air Force One, the U.S. Presidential aircraft, is hijacked.  Someone on board looking to thwart the hijacking jury rigs a fuel dump.  In response Gary Oldman, masterfully playing the terrorist hijacker, demands the U.S. provide mid-air refueling for the plane.  His persuasive logic in making the demand is impeccable: "It's simple physics.  Without fuel, the plane crashes... everybody dies.  Tell me what I want to hear or I will execute a hostage every minute until the plane crashes... or the refueling plane arrives!"

Needless to say, he gets his fuel.  Needless to say, CCP is not going to drop DUST 514.  The plane that they're on has to carry them.  They simply have no choice.  At this point, they quite literally have too much invested in it.  That plane will carry them or it will crash and take them with it.  DUST must succeed.(1)

Number two, something else I've been saying for months: EVE simply must attract a new wave of brand new players while DUST gets its legs under it.  This has driven dozens of game design choices this year, as also covered in the post above and in others I've written.  As I put it last month:
CCP has been pushing hard toward new EVE players. Every single little feature in Retribution is either aimed directly at new players, or aimed at giving new players the ability to hurt veteran players (bounty hunting, turning Suspect flags on for can-flippers, etc.).
Part of the reason I get so passionate about my various Snapcount posts is that I'm trying to use them to gently influence CCP to understand that the way they attract new players isn't by polishing the sneaker.  In the "Slow bleed" post last month, I made my case for building an expansion around a big idea as a means for growth.  It's increasingly clear that CCP Unifex and CCP Ripley are feeling the same way.  And that's what drove all their pointed questions directed at the CSM that resulted in the "Strategy Document".  I'm so looking forward to reading the CSM Summit Minutes on where the discussion went from there.

But third, CCP also can't forget who's paying the bills.  That's all of you reading this post right now.  Yeah, we're not as important as the two items above, but we're still damned important.  So relax.  CCP Unifex and CCP Ripley also have to keep their eye on who's carrying the ball for them.  The current CSM is made up of a lot of long-time veteran players who are frequently reminding them that the vets have done everything you can do, seen everything you can see, and flown everything you can fly.  They need new content, even if that new content is a new reason to blast at each other.

But CCP also has to be careful.  The worst thing that could happen to CCP right now is for all of us to have some reason to get angry with them.  Another summer of rage like we saw last year might doom EVE and the company at this fragile time.  So they have to proceed gently, gently.  That's why when CCP Fozzie and the rest of that team is out there rebalancing ships, it's frigates and destroyers and cruisers and only gently touching on battle cruisers, and that even more gently and slowly.  Touching the capitals, touching the battleships, or touching the fleet ships might spark another fire.  The ship balancing team has to work up the ladder.

So does everyone else.  Upsetting the apple cart would be a disaster right now.

How to proceed?  In my opinion, from the bottom up.  It's time to swing for the fences again and whether you call that "Jesus features" or something else, CCP needs to start thinking big again.  They need something that they can use to get new players into the game while also keeping vets excited about the game.  But they need to start by getting all of us excited about it first.

Did I say we were the least important?  I might have fibbed a bit.

But we have to do something hard: we have to accept CCP's vision and buy into it.  If they start down this path, we have to trust that the plane will take us someplace we'll want to be when it lands.  As I've said a lot, nobody was asking for Apocrypha when it came out...
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." -- Henry Ford


(1) No, I didn't just compare CCP to terrorists.  It's an analogy.  Lighten up.  ;-)

35 comments:

  1. Aside from that bizarre and useless analogy, you make some great points.

    Seriously though, that analogy was like the least helpful thing ever. Read this a year from now. I suspect you will cringe hard.

    But great points! I totally agree.

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    1. Hee! I was looking for an analogy that described CCP's total commitment to their DUST strategy and all I saw were Gary Oldman's crazy crazy crazy eyes. ;-)

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    2. Heh. When you put it that way, I guess it makes more sense.

      It definitely makes it more hilarious!

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  2. "It's increasingly clear that CCP Unifex and CCP Ripley are feeling the same way. And that's what drove all their pointed questions directed at the CSM that resulted in the "Strategy Document". I'm so looking forward to reading the CSM Summit Minutes on where the discussion went from there."

    Where is this Strategy Document? (You normally link to this stuff.) I'm thinking I've already seen it, but want to refresh.

    (I'm assuming this Strategy Document is not the latest devblogs, since you wrote this before the devblogs were released.)

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    1. Link added to my blog post about the document, but the document itself is at:

      http://eve-files.com/dl/258826

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    2. Thanks for the link. Now I remember the document. The bittervets are made of 50% curds and 50% whey document.

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  3. Do you think some form of new continent, as wormholes were, might be the answer? Sov null sec is looking in serious danger of being fully blued up by the end of the year. I've been thinking that somewhere out of reach of the PL titan blob is needed to give new players somewhere to aspire to.

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    1. I think some new space is the answer, yes. I proposed Jove space last month, but someplace to either get veteran players out of the new players' hair or someplace where new players can go that vets can't.

      Malcanis's Law applies to ANYTHING CCP tries to do with this. I SO hope he's on CSM8, but more on that when I write about that.

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    2. I really like the idea of new space, but there is a huge problem (and definatelly not an easy one to solve) with the blue doughnut, and just creating more space will not fix it. Its more like putting sov null under the rug.

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    3. The vets need a new "space" to brawl over that’s better than the best null space and worth their time/effort/investment. Then maybe the newbies will have more opportunity in high/low/null to get established and gain experience. Coming from a new null-sec player I can say the game really opens up in null-sec / alliance life. The more people who can get into that level of the game will mean more new players that will sub and stay.
      I also think new ships would certainly help retain veteran attention. Specialized ships that utilize a new combat tactics like area of effect webbing or web bubble dictors. Or possibly a new ewar elements like frontal/back cone-effect disruptions or anti-shield regen.
      Like you said, they need to think big.

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  4. I've said it before in other posts but I believe a fairly big boost to EVE numbers when DUST does finally hit will come from DUST alts who's only function is to provide ISK for their dust bunnies, either via grinding or selling PLEX.

    Sooner or later a DUST player is going to say "I can get a crap load more ISK to buy cool stuff in EVE than I can grinding in DUST - so I'll open an EVE account, grind a little while and feed my DUST bunny with ISK and dominate! Muhahaha!"

    In one way I'm sure CCP won't care if those accounts are 'active' or not. Hell - I'm sure any company of an MMO would be happy to have players who pay but never log in.

    On the flip side I think DUST is also going to act as a taster for EVE; the console kiddies are going to get a feel for the larger world, corps and 'real' consequences and so making the next step to EVE itself will be much smaller and easier than going from a traditional MMO like WoW. In that regard I can see CCP simply wanting to 'clean up' EVE and modernise it - move it away from the old school mentality of "people just want to grind" to "people want to have fun" because the MMO landscape has changed since they were first written and EVE still has quite a lot of features that look quite dated now (ie, NPC corp LPs, NPC corp ratings, missions & agents). New players that are introduced to the game via DUST won't feel that the game is the learning cliff that it used to be and be more likely to stick around, even if sticking around is simply to feed their DUST habbit.

    Personally their new dev blog about them saying that they'll do a bit of everything will be a very fun learning experiance for them, especially when it comes to PR. This is simply because different elements of the system would require more time and attention to get them sorted or add the features that they want; but any slight increase of attention towards one 'play style' to another will be seen as a bias and players from the other 'play style' will be up in arms saying that they are being left out etc etc.

    At least with the 'one expansion per play style' method players could be sedated by the devs saying "Don't worry, we'll sort you out in the next expansion" and they'd have to wait and see. Although I believe this 'balanced' approach is a better idea overall I think that CCP will find it hard not to be biased especially when some play styles are under-represented in the CSM and other play styles are seen as 'more attractive' than others.

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    1. You raise some good points.

      One thing, though: EVE players are currently prohibited from sending DUST players ISK. So they can't count on EVE accounts to be props from their DUST market, unless those EVE accounts are at least trained to do orbital bombardment.

      In that, I think CCP made a major mistake in letting any old ship carrying the right ammo do bombardments, but that's also another topic.

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    2. Hmmm. Mercenary contracts of some sort will have to facilitate the movement of ISK to Dust from Eve Players/Corporations/Alliance at some point. Otherwise it's going to be hard to hire Dust Bunnies to blow up my neighbor's PI Command Center. Unless some byzantine mechanic is put in place to prevent it, that would provide a means to finance Dust Bunny units from the Ships In Space side.

      Maybe we'll need to pay them using plex or buy special Dust Bunny ISK using RL money to hire them ;)

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    3. It's going to be years, if ever, before DUST players are taking on EVE player PI infrastructure. I think that was a nice dream, but it's not practical.

      Given the prices of the current DUST items and the strong desire EVE players would have to completely corner the markets on DUST industry, CCP is going to have to be super-careful about any ISK transfer. And to their credit, they recognize that, big time.

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    4. I think I read somewhere that CCP were going to put a tax on ISK transfers at least initally to try and stem the flow a little, but I think players wouldn't be able to make the most of the cash until they have the Skill points to make use of the items the ISK can buy - and since skill points are earnt through game play (rather than through time like EVE) it would still require a fair 'active' time investment in order to make the most of your money.

      The point about bombardments is probably a better pull for DUST players into EVE simply because it cuts out the middleman and gives them direct control and a distinct advantage over other players who don't have an EVE account to back them up.

      Now I would imagine that the situation could get interesting if two opposing factions had the same idea and had two opposing ships in space fighting over which one could bombard the planet then I think that would make for an interesting situation as it would force the DUST player into an EVE fight rather than just using a fairly passive backup alt to do a little dirty work and get put back into the garage until its needed again.

      I'm sure those mechanics are yet to be worked through as I think DUST would devolve into a mess if every man and his dog could turn up outside a planet and bombard the crap out of it as it would be a game of "who has the most mates on EVE" rather than any skill in the DUST game itself.

      From the FAQ (http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/EVE-DUST_514_Link_FAQ) it seems to involve a 'take and hold' type gameplay that would require the bombarding ship to hold position for a short time over the planet until the ground forces can call in the strike - this leaves the ship vulnerable for counter attack

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  5. I don't see a comparison with terrorists so no problem there. I also agree that CCP has vested a lot on the success of DUST and needs to attract new players.
    But I dont like the analogy.
    But anyone on a plane without a parachute has the same problem of not being able to get off in midflight over the antarctic and that's the important part of the analogy I think. No need for terorrists there.
    So who is the terrorist really? Is Gary Oldman CCP and demanding somthing from the players? Or are the players the terrorists demanding stuff from CCP government? I really think players are in a better position to place demands from CCP as the other way around. The problem is that players might lack the vision to see what is needed longer term to create a healthy environment that can grow.

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    1. So what good is a parachute anyways on a plane over the antarctic ( pretty sure you meant arctic or atlantic ) after you land you're going o bejust as dead
      ~DarthNefarius

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  6. "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." -- Henry Ford



    good quote. Really applies to EVE; I bet if you'd asked what people wanted out of apocrypha they would not have said "wormholes".
    You're also correct about Dust, which is worrying to me since I am not convinced the pilot of the aircraft knows what their doing and the ground looks pretty damn close from my window.

    I really hope Dust succeeded and have tried to convince every non-EVE friend I have with a PlayStation to try it out. At this point it feels like the only thing I can do is sit back in my seat and enjoy the rest of the flight, wherever it may take me.

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  7. Unfortunately, CCP has bitten off far more than it can chew.

    The company simply does not have the financial resources to accomplish all three goals successfully, and any attempt to do so is likely to result in dropping in the ball across the board.

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  8. Right there with you, been saying the same things myself for a long time. I still believe it comes down to changing the way CCP looks at its own game and adapting a more targeted, multi-tiered and specific integrated approach to marketing and development that hits each of those three targets. Especially the new player market.

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  9. Give Unifex some facial hair and I dunno...

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  10. Jester I truly believe that no other player writes more thoughtful and discerning posts about Eve than you do. Your love for the game is obvious when one considers the amount of time it must take to ponder all of the different subjects you write about. I understand that you have not definitively stated whether or not you’ll run for membership in CSM8. I hope you do. I would feel much better knowing that a visionary, player and communicator of your caliber is serving his fellow players as one of their representatives on CSM8. I salute you sir!

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  11. To buy into the CCP vision, they must first have a coherent vision to buy into. I spent a lot of time writing about it already, but the impression I get from all that writing is that much of the time, at least in the past, CCP had no such thing, or rather, most of it could be summed up in "we'll let players do X and it will be AWESOME!", with no serious thought given to how players would use that X beyond some very obvious abuse, and what exactly it is that the players really want.

    Unfortunately, such a thing as an evolutionary dead end does exist, and not all naturally occurring and socially emerging things are actually good or long term healthy, just like it is with natural grown food. Which kind of reminds me about this sketch... CCP has been more about relying on player ingenuity than actually supporting it, and that only goes so far.

    I guess I'll see how much this is likely to change when I get to read the CSM minutes.

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  12. As has been stated a few times already, I think a total POS revamp is that jesus feature if done well. Make it something a new player can (and wants) to attain early, make it look really cool, and also make it scale up so vets and Corps like/want them.

    MMO housing peaked in 1997 with UO, and its constantly a feature EVERYONE dreams about. CCP has the tech and the setting to get it right. Hopefully they do.

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    1. And as I've said many times, any feature that doesn't include GAME PLAY doesn't really count as a feature. I agree people living out of POSs will love it. I agree a few new players will get a kick out of it.

      But such a feature is -- at BEST -- Trinity. It changes the game but it doesn't change the game play.

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    2. Is owning property in an MMO gameplay? I think so. It can be really lame gameplay (instance housing ala LotRO), or very frustrating (EVE POS), but its gameplay. Anyone who owned a house in UO will attest to that. Or people really into housing in something like EQ2 or Rift.

      Make owning a POS in EVE fun, achievable on a small scale, and customizable to at least the extent of UO, and yea, that's a ton of gameplay for many vs the massive pain in the ass it is today. Get it really right, and maybe new players in a Corp go live in a C1 just for the sake of the POS itself, crappy ISK and PvP dangers be damned.

      I get avoiding Incarna and its glance-once-and-done stuff, but I don't see player housing as being that, if done right.

      Plus, again, the PR would be instant and huge. Just show a video of a great looking space station, with modular parts being moved around and refitted, and you grab a lot of attention from non-EVE players.

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    3. We're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I've heard these arguments and I don't buy them. There's simply not going to be enough variation or decoration available for a POS for building a POS to be considered game play in and of itself.

      Honestly, this is not Minecraft. It's never going to be.

      Maybe if I could plant a flower garden outside my POS or something...

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  13. I actually kind of like the analogy, they're always suspect and cringe worthy but they drive a point.

    I agree with you Rip. Specially the last part. As veterans we're too attached to the status quo, to the things we fly, how we fly them and why we fly them. I'll use my own 'cringe worthy' analogy: I used to drive an old, single cab 87 Toyota Hilux 4x4 and I loved it dearly. It was great at bossing people around in the streets, could drive over anything and into anywhere! I resisted changing to a saloon for a long, long time. But when I did I realized I was better off. Sure, I miss my truck, but the saloon fits more people in it, is much better suited for city driving -and parking- than the pickup and switching form 13 miles a gallon to 30 miles a gallon... I should have done that a long time ago!

    Same with Eve. Change that is controlled, planned and thought out is -usually- good.

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  14. None of us want to see CCP go down in flames. However, we all know a sad truth...

    Dust will not be successful. All of us who have played it know this. It would have been cool in 2003, not 2013. Its using an antiquated engine on an antiquated console to do something that is already being done better.

    A lot of us will have much more to say publicly in a few days.

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    1. And you, sir, are the reason it would go down because you're not giving it a chance. There are a lot of dynamics at play here that could turn the tide, and not you or anyone can really predict what will happen.

      Don't let your negativity slap you on your way out.

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  15. If the goal is to attract and keep new players, then CCP should pay attention to what ArenaNet has done with GW2. GW2 has 13million copies sold in 2012. Game mechanics and gameplay that are built around a positive reinforcement loop (EVE gameplay and mechanics are primarily negative reinforcement). ArenaNet has done something right.

    CCP should take note.

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    1. I get what you're saying, but I think GW2 is probably a bad example. I love the game but it's got absolutely no legs to it right now.

      LOL would be a better example.

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  16. ".... vets have done everything you can do, seen everything you can see, and flown everything you can fly. They need new content, even if that new content is a new reason to blast at each other."

    Adding more ships or niche activities does not add more content - it merely provides points of transitory interest for vets to dabble with. How often is it stated by players and CCP alike that content in EvE is produced by player versus player interaction in it's widest sense? My feeling is that bored vets should look in the mirror and ask themselves what have they done lately to add content to the game. Logging in to update your skill queue does not count btw.

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  17. Jester...

    For new content how about this, the Wormhole back to Earth opens up...and we deal with what several thousand years of evolution have done to them...talk about the Ultimate Incursions...

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  18. I do not see new ships doing much for folk. How many of us have favorites we cling to for possibly irrational reasons? Try the new shiny for a month then swing back old faithful. The same can be said for games too I suppose. If I was to try Dust, and I would bet that I would soon shift back to Team Fortress 2. Whats the hook for Dust anyway?

    Maybe its time Concord tried to extend themselves as a fifth policital force? But with an even greater zeal than Sasha's Incursions. I don't have an answer - just some poor guess.

    It is easier to look at PvE motivators since the player driven conflict model seems to have floated into stalemate. Just how many players are currently blue set around null anyway? (I really like to see that stats for that across the game). And we supposed to have conflict? But then any question to the status quo usually results in a dogpile headed by the usually stalwarts.

    In the dark cynical moments I think - reset the board. The game's been won already (or drawn as I suggest above) and some of us are just going through the same old motions. CCP: Your old character is retired. Here's 10mil exp to allocate, 50mil isk to spend. welcome to our latest patch "Eve: Reincarnation".

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