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, February 26, 2014

Comment of the Week: Inferbiconyssey

So an anonymous commenter dropped a rather flippant little question into my most recent CSM update that I feel deserves a longer response than I can give in the comments:
How about this... in the broadest of terms, what can we expect for the summer expansion in terms of its scope. From 1 to 10, with 1 being Inferbiconyssey and 10 being Apocrypha (5 years ago), where would you put this summer's release?
OK, I can't directly answer this question because doing so would be NDA-breaking. The things that I like and I dislike about EVE are pretty well known at this point. If I say I like this expansion and would rate it highly, that would allow people to read between the lines about the sorts of things that will be in the expansion. I don't want to pre-announce.

But in a way, the question being asked is asking something a lot more specific and that's the question I'd like to answer in more detail.

If you take a step way back and really look at it, the Apocrypha expansion really only had four features: the skill queue, a new scanning system, wormholes, and T3 ships. A number of things that Apocrypha is remembered for -- sized rigs, epic mission arcs, remaps -- weren't in the Apocrypha release at all. Most or all of them were in Apocrypha 1.5 which for all intents and purposes was a separate expansion with a different theme. Step back further still and you'll realize that Apocrypha introduced space which the vast majority of EVE players don't live in. The content -- as such -- was repetitive and rather wretched (and is still with us!). The scanning system has since been revamped again. And of course T3s are a major factor in a lot of different ways of playing the game.

But that was it: exactly four features, one or two of which most EVE players don't use. And yet a lot of EVE players (including myself and former EVE EP CCP Unifex) rate it as one of EVE Online's best expansions.

Meanwhile, the features list of the Inferbiconyssey (I love that!) expansions is miles long. Yet a lot of EVE players (again including myself) generally consider them "caretaker expansions" mostly intended to be fan service and to try to call back lapsed players rather than bring in a lot of new ones or add big ideas to the game.

In all the time I've been playing, EVE has never been about content. There's an interesting new article published by polygon.com about EVE. The whole article is really really worth your time; it's well-written and interesting.(1) But it makes the point again and again that EVE's "content" are the players and the player relationships. What CCP does in terms of game development is almost secondary.

With that in mind, in my opinion one of the big reasons Apocrypha was a successful expansion was because it "created new nodes" in those relationships. Suddenly, there was a brand new type of EVE player, completely different from other types of EVE players. In that way, Apocrypha created content for every type of EVE player: suddenly every player in the game had to account for how they were going to deal (or not deal) with the new class of w-space players. W-space players had to decide how they were going to deal with each other. Apocrypha created "content" but most of that content had absolutely nothing to do with shooting Sleepers... or really, with anything the devs did.

But it could have crashed and burned. It was a risky move. Had w-space not panned out, T3s would have been outrageously expensive, the scanning system would have gone unused, and players would have bitched that they waited six months for an expansion with one real feature: skill queues.

Know what other recent expansion was attempting to create new nodes and create an entirely new type of EVE player, and in doing so create a lot of new inter-player content? Incarna! Incarna was also a risky move. And of course, Incarna did crash and burn.(2)

Since then, CCP has been a lot more cautious. But they're coming out of that phase now.

I've said before: big ideas are coming. And I don't have to break NDA to say that. CCP Seagull's vision of player-built star gates, and various interviews with CCP employees about what might lie beyond those new star gates are public knowledge. What this will eventually look like and how it will work and when it will happen has not been announced and I'm not going to announce it. But I am looking forward to seeing these big ideas implemented in game. Done well, this vision could very well result in another successful expansion of inter-player content.

How much of that will be done for summer and what the "scope" of the summer expansion will be, you can expect me to talk about more when the theme of the thing is actually announced. At that time, I assure you I'll have a lot to say.

Sorry I couldn't answer your question more directly, Anonymous, but now hopefully you understand why. ;-) Thanks for asking it, though! Got me thinking!


(1) Seriously, go read it.
(2) In the middle is the Incursion expansion. That one successfully created a new type of EVE player... but it was a type of EVE player that a lot of other EVE players resent.

22 comments:

  1. "Know what other recent expansion was attempting to create new nodes and create an entirely new type of EVE player, and in doing so create a lot of new inter-player content? Incarna! Incarna was also a risky move. And of course, Incarna did crash and burn."

    What? No! Not at all! Incarna did burn but it did not try to create a lot of new inter-player content! How could you say that? Do you pretend that living in wormholes equals character spinning in station?!

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    1. Incarna was the first step down the path of playing games like Slay in station common areas, remember? Or am I the only person who remembers that?

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    2. To be fair, once the fuss died down most people realised that incarna had merits, the issue was as an expansion it didn't do anything. It was rushed out unfinished with only one captains quarters (which many people think was the ugliest one anyway) and the only thing it changed was upping the system requirements. Would Incarna have crashed if it had any of those other features?

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    3. If you face down the path and take a step backwards, does that really count as a step down the path? I mean, seriously, absolutely baseline for WiS content is the ability to do something while WiS that's not merely cosmetic. Incarna didn't deliver on that absolutely baseline level of WiS, and the movement code felt twenty years old. It's like if Apocrypha had introduced wormholes, but you couldn't actually go through them, it was just the graphics on the k-space side that were implemented, and if you warped to the k-space graphics to check them out your client usually crashed. Comparing Apocrypha, as delivered, to Incarna as delivered, is hilariously misguided.

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    4. What you are remembering, Jester, is the hype and the intent, but there were no bones under that skin. Incarna added no new sand to the sandbox...if we define “sand” as stuff that players can use to affect each other. Even as a starting point for evolving new beaches to play on, it suffered from a decided lack of roadmap and design. Apocrypha development by contrast was driven by a definitive feature list and associated gameplay design that poured tons of new sand into the sandbox right out of the gate. Contrasting Apocryphya and Incarna with the comment that the former could have crashed and burned like the latter is silly. Not in a million years could Apocrypha have failed like Incarna did, for plenty of :reasons:.

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    5. (Sorry for typos <3 Not enough caffeine yet!)

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    6. I agree.

      There was plenty of excitement for Incarna among lots of quarters. Lets not forget that the whole summer of rage thing, was more about gold ammo and the loss of trust in CCP that generated, than about Incarna.

      Incarna as an idea had people excited. It was the whole "no new space features for 18 months" thing that pissed everyone off.. especially after it had been announced years earlier already by that point. It really just sent that message that all this time had been wasted on it, and the only thing to show for it was "eventually" a single player Barby doll house, with just a single room to play in.

      If they had actually made WIS it wouldn't have been demonized as much as it is now. If they had made a FPS part to EVE, it would have probably been a huge hit.

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    7. Sure, initially there was player interest in WiS, and the idea itself had lots of potential. But, by Incarna, it had been 'under development' for more than 5 years. And in those years the promises got bigger and bigger, but the eventual delivery on them, as usual with CCP, was pretty shit. And players don't pay (or keep paying) for just potential. You have to start delivering on your promises at one point.

      And none of this came as a surprise either. Through the good services of the CSM at the time, the informed players knew (or at the least suspected), that there was something rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark when it came to Incarna.

      The reality was that CCP, by the time of Apocrypha, was still a games developer capable of delivering, and interested in the internet spaceships game. The little engine that could. By Incarna that same CCP seemed to have lost interest in EVE, and more intent to plunder the golden goose to finance adventures elsewhere. The little engine that no longer could/wanted to. And then, yes, it was: no spaceships for 18 months, AND, Aurum for useless eye-patches and snazzy jeans, i.e., even more money-grabbing on top of a top-rate monthly fee.

      Remember? Don't judge on what we say, judge us for what we do? Well, they called Incarna: CCP's vision of the future for EVE, and more of that type of hype. And the players thought it stunk. Still do in fact.

      No wonder players left the game in droves. Lots of hype about nothing, money grabbing left-right-and-centre, and no love for the game you paid top-dollar for? Why stay?

      The fact is, you can't really compare a solid (it is not brilliant, just solid) expansion like Apocrypha with the absolute disaster that was Incarna. No game developer but a bunch of amateurs would have ever let something like Incarna happen to itself. No game developer would create for itself such a perfect shitstorm of incompetence. And if CCP was anything more than a bunch of amateurs, lets face it, expansions like Apocrypha would happen every year. They still don't BTW.

      And players warned them this would happen. The best-CSM-ever (not the fanboy parade it is now) did as much as they could to warn them. Many others as well. By the time Incarna hit, it had been going for at least a year. But CCP just wouldn't listen. They knew better. And then it was too late.

      And with so many kick-arse space games coming out soon: it still is. CCP and EVE have run out of time.

      The players eventually judged CCP. Not on the imagery and the hype. But for what they did. And what they did was demonstrate that they were a bunch of incompetents, who shot themselves in the foot with a double barrelled shotgun. So a good many players left. And with Dust basically a massive flop, and still no regular Apocrypha quality expansions coming out for EVE, all EVE has been doing is hobbling along, living mostly on past glory. Meanwhile CCP is still syphoning off money for sideshows. They've run out of ideas.

      Only the fanboys haven't got the message yet. Well, good luck with that one then.

      BC

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  2. Apocrypha 1.0 shipped with one more major feature which has since been introduced throughout the game. The Modular AI revamp. Doesn't change your overall point for this post, but at the time it was rather controversial and important. Since then it's moved out into the rest of Eve to a resounding, "meh". But a lot of us, CCP included, saw it as a step toward removing the difference between PVP and PVE fit ships. That's part of what they sold it on.

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  3. I don't consider myself a wormhole player and yet I've done wh combat sites. I've fought with those who choose to live inside them, and taken advantage of them to travel deep into hostile territory without the early warnings of being spotted on intel channels. This is why I'd argue the success of apocrypha does come from its content, it allowed players to do things they could never have done before.

    Anyone can use wormholes from anywhere, the bar to entry is low and there's scalable content for everyone from day trippers to corporations and even alliances. This is why I expect Seagull's vision to fail, I'm not expecting the content to be available to anyone who's not a coalition sized entity living in sov space.

    I'm part of a small to medium sized alliance and all I expect from from Seagull's vision is the people I fight to be handed the most profitable space the game has ever seen, with a bar to entry so high that interlopers such as myself are locked outside the gates.

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    1. That's a way to put my main concern about those stargates.

      We can hope that CCP Seagull and CCP are not stupid, but the fact is that we only know what they have said so far and what they have said is utterly wrong. And as even clever people can be hopelessly blind to cognitive dissonance, this could be the case.

      Admittedly, I would rather give another try to WiS, which could be accessed by anyone anywhere, than create yet another 5% club in space, specially if that comes to the expense of everyone not willing to belong to the club.

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  4. The biggest disadvantage WiS feature had compared to Wormholes is that it was totally disconnected from the other features of the game. In wormholes you fly the same ships, shoot the same guns and use all the other familiar modules. It builds on the foundation of what was already in the game.

    While it is true that WiS has similar possibility to create new connections as Wormholes the amount of work needed before it can start doing that is of the charts compared to wormholes. They tried the iterative approach with it but the lack of connection to the other features made it feel like a failure. With Wormholes they could have take even smaller steps. Just kspace-kspace wormholes first. Then w-space midpoints, but without sleepers etc. Every step would have connected neatly to what was already there.

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  5. I think I started just after Incarna so i just missed all the rioting, but I'm not sure what this 'Slay' you speak of is. Could you dig up some kind of information about it or what you mean?

    Also, nice blog post :)

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  6. Crucible was also a massive, massive expansion, both in features added and players regained.

    As far as caretaker expansions went, it was the best of them (also, engine trails)

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  7. Incarna! Incarna was also a risky move. And of course, Incarna did crash and burn.
    Ripard... Ripard... why do so many absolutely miss this? Incarna crashed because you had a great new player mechanic... but NO PLACE to play in! Imagine EvE with all the ships we ahve now, but you CAN'T UNDOCK... Incarna gave us a new avatar, but no where to USE this new avatar. Wormholes gave us new spaces to play IN with ur exsiting ships... the ONLY reason Incarna crashed was "Lack of playspace"...

    IF however, they had had this ready.... things would have been VERY different...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ajnxq65D220&feature=player_detailpage

    My Incarna ranting...
    http://turamarths-evelife.blogspot.com/2012/11/on-eve-of-contention.html
    http://turamarths-evelife.blogspot.com/2012/11/on-bone-of-contention.html
    http://turamarths-evelife.blogspot.com/2012/11/on-getting-back-in-contention.html

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  8. I still wish CCP had started DUST as "combat on stations" (DOOM-like) and introduced special missions that merged FPS with Spaceships. Imagine Damsel in Distress with a option for boarding the station and recovering the damsel then the squad escaping in the ship or new ways of capturing POS structures that weren't tedious and boring.
    IMHO it would have been the perfect segue to Walking on Stations AND planetside/moonside combat.
    -Mark

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  9. The Polygon article is good. I wished it had the equivalent image to the wonderful one that displayed EvE "occupations" as a flowchart.

    What makes EvE what it is (for me) is that there isn't one grind. There are a staggeringly large number of ways of making ISK. And an even larger number of ways of having fun spending ISK.

    It kind of like the difference between a rail shooter FPS game, and the early games of the Thief series. Yes, you have objectives, but how you get there is up to you.

    If I had a wish, that article would have had a couple of paragraphs that touched on the depth and variety of EvE gameplay, the concept of EvE loss vs. other MMO loss, the difference between time-based skill training and experience point collecting, how the EvE skill tree allows cross-branch movement, and how in game SP and game playing skill are unrelated. (And I say that as a SP rich, but flying skill poor, pilot)

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  10. sounds like a really flimsy attempt to dismiss a not insignificant sector of CCP's customer base that they discovered really weren't interested in player content at all. Just because we cannot explain it, nor comprehend it (being blog minded by nature speaks to the social fabric we uphold,) doesn't give us any credibility when we exclude other playstyles.

    I wonder if CCP can explain it, let alone comprehend it.

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    1. The real crux of the issue is what kind of people are paying the game. In EVE, if you pay your sub, you're doing it wrong. The first thing a veteran must learn is how to pay with PLEX rather than money. People who play EVE right don't give money to CCP, rather trade their time and expertise in the game for somebody else's money.

      Yet someone is injecting PLEX into the game, and those who do, are playing the game wrong. They may be losing pimp ships, or being terrible at PvP, or whatever. They are doing it wrong and thus they will stop doing it wrong, and will stop pumping PLEX into the game and money into CCP's pockets.

      In case that people who pay the game were the wrong people, who play wrong, by neglecting them CCP would be undercutting their own funding.

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  11. And that is why eve is dying, there is no content left in 0.0.
    Only goons and their allies, and some scrubs that can't hope to beat the goons.
    No big wars means no destruction means no new ships needed means the economy will die... .
    No roams in 0.0 because they only get hotdropped.
    No ratters to catch because the mobile structures got meta-ed out of relevance.
    Null sec is devoid of content now... . Blue ball for everyone... .

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  12. Jester, what do you think about that part of the article at polygon.com:

    "We had never made a computer game, and we didn't even know anyone who had made a computer game," Pétursson says. "But we had done a lot of things. We'd done 3-D, we'd done multi-user, we'd done a board game. Then we came up with this thesis of, 'OK, we have $3 million, we have 30 people, so we have to do as little as possible and be very effective in what we do. We can't just create a lot of content for the game because that is labor-intensive, and it's a much bigger production."

    "as little as possible" and "can't just create a lot of content for the game because that is labor-intensive" - interesting read, isn't it?

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  13. And, yet, with all of these "big" plans, did any of you remember to suggest that CCP add "remaps for PLEX" to the game?

    Not all that complicated, will increase PLEX sales (ie. CCP revenue), and deals with one of the more irritating issues of skill training which is that stupid 1 year remap timer.

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