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...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Breaking the law

This one is kind of amusing and philosophical.

Malcanis's Law states that
"Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of 'new players', that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."
These days, I'm on CSM8 with that very same Malcanis.  Over the last couple of expansions, it's been increasingly clear to me that CCP might very well be trying to break that law.  The tricky part comes with that descriptive phrase "overwhelming advantage."

Now, breaking Malcanis's Law isn't necessarily new.  This past January, Malcanis himself came up with three possible areas in which CCP had developed the game in such a way as to try to break his law.  And I'm not sure I agree with them, particularly the second one he mentions, the re-balancing of frigates into capable PvP platforms.  To my mind, frigates are the most difficult ships to fly correctly in PvP, and benefit hugely from large numbers of skill points into a wide variety of support skills.  When you've got two ships duking it out with only a few thousand EHP, even 10 or 15 DPS difference between the ships or a couple dozen meters per second can be the margin between victory and defeat.

But he mentions two other possibilities, the changes to NPE that were implemented late last year with Retribution, and the removal of the Learning skills and yes, I'd say that both of those changes broke Malcanis's Law at least to an extent.

The question I had was have a lot of the more recent changes to the game done so as well?

I've already made an argument that a lot of the features of Retribution and Odyssey are aimed much more at newer players than older players.  Bounty hunting was one example I listed where the advantage seemed to swing in favor of newer players.  While to an experienced player, ten or twenty million ISK for blowing up a player like myself with a relatively high bounty is something you might not even notice, to a new player that's a pretty good windfall.  And in Odyssey, there are at least two features -- the Gnosis and changes in support of the new exploration sites -- that it can be argued break Malcanis's Law, particularly if you focus on that "overwhelming advantage" phrase.

When I talked about the Gnosis, I mentioned its most interesting feature: it requires almost no skills to fly, and it gives you its maximum bonuses right from the moment you can put a drone in the drone bay and some medium weapons in the highs.  In addition, it's a ship that is remarkably easy to fit.  Unless you're doing something unusual, you don't really have to compromise very much at all to fit whatever you like.  Flying the ship a time or two myself as a veteran, I am underwhelmed with its performance.  With my skills, it has a poor tank and poor DPS... when compared to alternative ships that I can fly instead as a veteran player.

But a newer player wouldn't be able to tank a combat BC or a cruiser the way I can, nor would they necessarily be able to optimize a fit to overwhelm the DPS of a Gnosis.  So whereas I might prefer a much cheaper Omen (say), a new player might prefer a Gnosis that while more expensive, allows him to match what I can do... particularly in PvE.

So it's a ship that's aimed at newer players that doesn't give veterans like myself an overwhelming advantage.  We get some advantage, yes: I can tweak the fit a bit harder than a new player can, and I can passively armor tank it if I care to and get more EHP out of it than a newer player can with the same fitting.  But the advantage isn't overwhelming.

Ditto the new exploration mechanics.  A couple of my alliance-mates had the good fortune of killing this Imicus in our home system the other day, running data sites with his custom-fit ship.  A newer player was flying the ship, and yet had almost 150 million ISK in his T1 frigate's cargo hold from running the sites.  I don't know about you, but I don't recall making 150 million ISK in a few hours as a newer player.  Sure, I could do it today in an incursion fleet, or running hubs or sanctums, or perhaps some L4 missions in low-sec, or a half-dozen other ways.  But it would require a hell of a lot more skill and up-front expense than a five million ISK Imicus fit.

And again, I can beat his fit here and there with a properly fit covert ops ship, and get a few more percent on my virus strength and the like, a bit more survivability against gate camps with a cloak... but is it an overwhelming advantage?  I think not.

I'm not sure I have a point here.  As with a lot of my more philosophical posts, they don't necessarily have points I'm driving toward.  Hell, I brought up these very examples to Malcanis himself and he was inclined to argue with me a bit.  Maybe he's right.  Maybe I'm right.  But it sure is interesting that the latest additions to EVE can be looked at in this manner, don't you think?

21 comments:

  1. Jester, while making the game 'fun' and 'accessible' for new players is all well and good in certain ways, I'd refer you to poe's boiling a frog post. I'm getting annoyed that it seems like CCP is trying to dumb the game down in the name of new players.

    it was only back in october, remember? just under a year ago. Take note.

    http://poeticstanziel.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-to-boil-frog.html

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    1. Myxx, Which part of Odyssey has dumbed down the game in the name of new players?

      Dumbing down implies that a game mechanic has been needlessly simplified and I can't think of anything in Odyssey where this is the case. Making POSes easier to maintain and run is not dumbing down. Neither is adding an additional layer of complexity to relic & data sites. Or ship rebalancing. In fact, hasn't Odyssey added a major boon to "vet" players with Tags4Sec? Maybe you need to justify and quantify your assertions a bit more Myxx.

      Also, quoting Poetic Stanziel on EvE is akin to quoting the Bible as an accurate and valid source on the origins of life. One simply doesn't quote Poe if one wants to be taken seriously.

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    2. I really don't agree that CCP is trying to dumb down the game in the name of new players. Some of it... maybe you could make a case for a few things, but in general.. no.

      More common I think whenever CCP "dumbs" something down, it's so people will use the system at all.

      Think about the sheer size of Eve. There are hundreds of systems, thousands of features. The game is mindbogglingly huge. CCP's MO lately has been to find under used systems, and try to see if they can bring it to a larger portion of the playerbase. There are in general, two ways to do that; buff the rewards, or make the system in question less painfully complex.

      Wardec: it got easier.
      Faction Warfare: it got easier and some buffs to rewards.
      Bounty Hunting: massively easier, better payouts.
      Crimewatch: Not under used, but so complex that even if you did know the rules it'd bug out and punish you sometimes.
      Exploration: easier... reward is still out.

      All of them are systems that are now used more that were previously not used very much at all. So you have to ask yourself, is a system that is so painful barely anyone uses it really a buff to the new player, or a playerbase as a whole now that it's approachable?

      Some people who specialized in previous play, because they were masochists, will say, "ZOMG!! CCP is dumbing down game for newbies!!". When in reality, the vast majority of new influx of usage hitting those systems are not new players. But older players.

      I know that because Eve's population growth is not a large enough cliff to explain a massive upswing in usage in a previously under-used feature. They are not aiming at new players and trying to dumb down the game for them. They are trying to make the game better for the people already playing.

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    3. I have yet to see a change that really qualifies as "dumbing the game down" instead of "improve an extremely unintuitive interface", "remove a lot of totally not helpful names of modules and implants", "improve the horrible interface a little more", "remove an obscure crimewatch system", "remove some more interface malefactions" and so on.

      I'll tell you a secret: Poetic was wrong. Just go to a market hub and count the wrecks that died to people with "suspect and criminal flags [which are] such a rare occurence". I crossed highsec in my Venture with a suspect flag several times to catch easy prey and kill it with my Venture. It works! So much about dumbing down...

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    4. They turned the scanning system from something that required a bit of attention to a system that now might as well be completely automated.

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    5. I'll just say this as somebody who has spent plenty of time dealing with most of the systems they've overhauled so far:

      The scanning stuff with odyssey made 'exploration' even easier than it needed to be. I spent plenty of time in an anthema probing things down, its not hard at all, you just had to be not dumb.

      Crimewatch? Again, you just had to not be a complete and total idiot and not do stupid crap of which for the most part, there were plenty of warnings about. The only exceptions to this part being an improvement were with dealing with neutral logi alts in highsec and docking games. Everything else? Basically fucking fine. I'll grant you at most fixing the decsheild problem being an improvement. Thats where it stops. Everything else they changed was to make it easier for idiots. It never once bugged out on me before that patch. Why? I'm not a total and complete idiot.

      Fw I can't comment on and never really suggested anything about, because I give not a single fuck for it.

      Bounty hunting, fine, granted because before it was kind of like giving money to your targets alt.

      Crimewatch and exploration so far though definitely fall under simplifying things needlessly.

      Meanwhile what have we seen? More attempts to "fix nullsec" for the 9 billionth time when it is basically the same goddamn game it was back when BoBv1 was still around. You know WHY its the same game? Because it still revolves around structure shooting and moons as being reasons why you'd live there. unless you're a bear, in which case you rat, endlessly and don't get caught (unless you're an idiot and don't pay attention to local/intel). Thats all it is for the most part.

      Poe was right, by the way, about the boiling frogs part. The way CCP would dumb the game down is by doing it so slowly that nobody would notice. Take note that that is all that Greyscale ever suggests doing, and what his ideas basically amount to.

      Want to know how to truly break malcanis's law? EVE is sterile. It is non-engaging to most 'new' MMO players for a very simple reason: They lack attachment to it and their characters. Why? Because everyone is for the most part, at least on the uppermost surface, identical. We're all represented by ships. At most a character that you can walk around a hotel room that is smaller than some people's living rooms. It'll never happen though, you know why? Because of ignorance of some people that happen to be too fucking vocal of what 'they' think this game should be.

      Hey, what do I know though? Just an 8 year vet with a slightly bloodied and bruised opinion.

      P.S: Fuck Star bases. Right in the face. With a rusty titan. All of them. The only reason I would ever deal with a star base is to see it blow the hell up. I HATE those things.

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    6. Myxx

      Your reply only mentions one thing in Odyssey that you believe has been dumbed down in the name of noobs and that was probing down exploration sites. Obviously I disagree with you as what the changes mainly did was to remove the ridiculous and needless repetition of launching your probes and setting them up.

      Do not pretend that probing exploration sites required much more than performing the exact same initial 20+ actions EVERY SINGLE TIME. There was never any deep strategy to probing down exploration sites (fancy probe formations are simply not required for exploration sites, but you can still use them if you wish, they haven't taken it away from you).

      I'm surprised that you have failed to mention that these very same changes now make it a lot quicker and more stealthy to probe down someones ship. Probing down ships to then land on them and blow them up really isn't a noob activity, it's one for the more experienced player. I wonder why you didn't mention this? Maybe because it flies in the face of what you are saying? Just a guess.

      As I said before, dumbing down implies that a game mechanic has been needlessly simplified. With your example of the probing changes, the mechanics are still the same, but the monotony and repetition has been removed. This isn't dumbing down, it's almost the opposite as it has removed the incredibly dumb and needless repetition that could be performed by a monkey. I now have more time to focus on other more strategic and in-depth parts of the game.

      BTW, if you're going to make comments like this:

      "...you rat, endlessly and don't get caught (unless you're an idiot and don't pay attention to local/intel)"

      you probably shouldn't have loss mails like this:

      http://eve.battleclinic.com/killboard/killmail.php?id=10771485

      unless, as you say, you're an idiot. Quite a surprising loss for a vet of 5yrs :-)

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  2. while its true eve is the best its ever been right now the direction its headed is meh. CCP is gonna try to play to the masses.....we know how that worked for all those wow clones. unless the fall expansion has some really good features i think it might be time to move on to something new

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  3. Blizzard went down the route of dumbing the game (even further) down and their subscription levels have been dropping since. The attraction of eve is that it is complicated. (For reference 35mil sp on my toon)

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  4. So breaking Malcanis's law can be summarized as: "design boats that gain little bonus from SP and have little SP-barrier to sit in."

    If this is the case, we must ask: does having skill points AT ALL is beneficial for EVE? Wouldn't EVE be a better game if everyone would get full level 5 in all skills and actions would depend only choices the player make and not how old his pilot is?

    Let me suggest a less aggressive change that would totally break Malcanis law. Currently, for a rank 1 skill you need the following skill points.
    Level I: 250
    Level II: 1414
    Level III: 8000
    Level IV: 45255
    Level V: 256000

    Change it the following:
    Level I: 0 (yes, zero, you get the skill on lvl 1 when inserted)
    Level II: 250 (a few minutes and you have it)
    Level III: 1000 (wait an hour and you have it)
    Level IV: 20000 (you can use it tomorrow)
    Level V: 256000 (the same as now)

    Veterans would get refund if they don't have the skill at 5, (25255 if you had it on lvl 4) but no refund if you had it on 5 as the price is the same. This way a new player could OK-ishly fly a ship soon while perfecting the ship would need the same time. Since high SP veterans have everything on 5, they wouldn't get much refund.

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  5. The current value of the T2 salvage is about 40% of what the killboard states, the massive increase in supply due to the much easier new sigs has crashed the market.

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  6. I am not sure I see the point of directing to a limited (supply) edition ship. Which over time will just increase in price for the Gnosis. In with the seeded BPC from the anniversary pack, it is a finite supply. Unless suddenly you want to use this a lever to move CCP to a BPO or LP purchase implamentation?

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  7. I don't think either the Gnosis is dumbing the game down.

    The gnosis was an excellent point of giving new players a very capable ship that, as pointed out, a veteran wouldn't bother with.

    From someone with low sp PI alts in a WH, having a ship that I can combat fit and use that has some value (particularly when in numbers). In addition, new players within the corp can grab one and be useful in a combat situation, where normally in a wh, they'd be next to useless.

    For my mains, the ship has no purpose, but then it wasn't aimed at them. To me, the gnosis was a great break to Malcanis's Law.

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  8. Dinsdale PirannhaJune 26, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    Believing anything from that null sec cartel sycophant is dangerous, to say the least.
    The only rule he believes in, as well as the majority of the CSM, is improving the income streams for the null sec cartels.

    They want as much ISK in the economy flowing through their hands, for whatever purposes.

    Why does the leader of this group, the failed lawyer, who himself states he does not play Eve that much, bother with the game?

    Is it because he is a sociopath and is truly only motivated by the twisted self-gratification he gets from controlling the gaming lives of a large percentage of the Eve population, through his admittedly superb meta-gaming skills?

    Or is it far more mundane, and he derives a large real life income by manipulating / coercing Eve game designers into diverting more and more of the income streams into the the hands of those that control the null sec cartel pursestrings?

    Or is it both?

    Bottom line, Eve on Tranquility is on a path to creating the scenario as seen on the Chinese server. That is the business model (yes, playing Eve is a business for some), that the cartel leadership, and their acolytes infiltrated within CCP, want to achieve, with maximized income for the leadership.

    Yes, no doubt there are quite a number of null sec zealots who are pure sociopaths and psychopaths, who want to see high sec crushed just to gratify some sick need to inflict as much pain as possible on as many people as possible.

    But they are not the ones pulling the strings with the Eve forum propagandists, nor the CCP game designers. No, the first group, the cynical ones, the cartel leaders, they are the ones who are making all the moves to divert more income into their own wallets.

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  9. Did exploration really help new players? Maybe those that went to low sec and null sec within the first week. But with the crash in the exploration goods market, the estimated value of any cargo needs to be revised downward by 300% or more. CCP hasn't finished it's balancing of exploration, so I think the verdict is still out as to the profitability of exploration.

    I had an idea on how to improve exploration https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=3195317#post3195317

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  10. The issue is, CCP has figured out that while it my have a slightly expanding subscription base, the actual player base is not expanding all that fast, if at all. Since they won't publish the numbers, we must go on assumptions and that one is mine. Give that and the simple fact that any organization of individuals for any purpose must either grow or die due to simple attrition over time, then CCP may have rightly figured out that they need to attract new players and keep them or the game will die.

    I used to play a MUD called Gemstone, my wife got me into it a long long time ago in it's version III which was playing over the web. The Gemstone II version was on AOL and they had a crap ton of players and the company made a huge amount of money, they moved to the web and playerbase declined. They updated some things and made some changes along with new cross platform interface and called it Gemstone IV. Somewhere along the line, they decided they needed a visual game and not a MUD and so they started to work on that. They had cash, they had people so they went to work, they made the Hero's Journey engine and it was so good, they licensed it to several game companies. The game still has not transitioned. It is in a slow decline as there are practically no new players entering the game and all the old ones slowly slip away.

    In the video game world, there are still people playing the old games they love and likely will until the game is killed off by the company or they quit playing games. If CCP doesn't figure out how to get new people in and keep them, how to balance the scum factor with the noob factor and keep replacing the old vet players that leave, then Eve will settle into the long, slow, heat death phase as well. Maybe someone at CCP has read the writing on the wall.

    I often enjoy this game, sometimes it is tedious and overly complicated for no reason and many times the interactions with the spurg lords gets on my nerves. We will see how it goes the next year or so. I already have my Star Citizen copy on order with a Freelancer and Aurora so who knows.

    Keep at it, you are doing a fantastic job as CSM chair/co-chair/person who talks and lets people know what the heck is going on regularly. We do appreciate it and I am glad my vote may have helped.

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    1. As for dumbing down the game, I think everyone who has ever used the scanning interface for serious purposes (pve and pvp) agrees that scanning with probes was dumbed down massively in Odyssey. It's so easy now even a 1-day old character can do it effectively. This change eliminates most of the advantage higher SP players had. Their prowess isn't reduced, but noobs can now achieve almost the same results with very little effort or time invested in training.

      I expect to see more of this because I think the reality of CCP's financial future, once DUST fails, is that they need to do a better job of attracting new players to EVE. Dumbing it down is a foregone conclusion, you just hope they don't go too far.

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    2. @anon
      What specifically about probing was dumbed down in Odyssey? I can think of one thing and it's not exactly major.

      "It's so easy now even a 1-day old character can do it effectively."

      It's true that new players can enter into probing a little quicker due to the skill shuffling and new modules. But this makes perfect sense as career activities such as mining, missioning, exploring etc. should all be available as soon as possible to a new player. To get max probing skills still takes the same amount of time as pre-Odyssey. To probe out a low sig frigate still requires the right ship, right setup and a high skilled character to avoid taking ages narrowing it down and subsequently giving the game away.

      "This change eliminates most of the advantage higher SP players had"

      Complete and utter rubbish. Substantiate your claim please.

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  11. I tried some null sec exploration after the patch(hs? forget about it). Avg income is 10~60m per site. Best way to pick up all the loot? Team up with one friend.
    Mini game feels fine(neither fun nor challenging, but acceptable level of random and dull lol).
    It could be an interesting starting profession for new player, similar to good old ninja salvaging——not suitable for everyone, but surly is viable.

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  12. "... I don't recall making 150 million ISK in a few hours as a newer player ... it would require a hell of a lot more ... up-front expense than a five million ISK Imicus fit."

    I recall when an Imi didn't cost anywhere near 5M ISK to fit - more like around 100K ISK.

    That's a 50x increase in cost. So, 150M ISK today is more like 3M ISK yesterday.

    Does that make it easier to swallow?

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  13. I find it amazing that every time CCP fixes a horribly designed, nearly broken, game mechanic people whine that they are "dumbing down the game". Just because you walked up hill in the snow, both ways, to school every day doesn't mean that it was the right thing to do or that everyone else has to do it.

    For reference: I have 3 paid accounts, all of them over 60 million SP (so not a newb).

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