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...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Minecraft in space

I want to write a pair of posts about space-based industry in EVE Online (as well as a bit about industry in EVE Online in general). But I'm going to write the first post in the context of Kerbal Space Program. The two games are more connected in this small way than you probably realize. Or at least, they should be. Because both of these games involve building things that fly in space. And because building things that fly in space in KSP is insanely fun.

Doing so is challenging, engages your brain, and instills a real sense of accomplishment when you build something big and it happens to work. This applies whether you're doing it in space or on a planet or building some of the truly goofy creations that KSP players have come up with.

Building stuff -- just building stuff! -- in KSP is insanely fun.

Though my progress in the game has slowed down a lot (due to the factors I mentioned this morning), I'm still in the process of building my Jool exploration ship. And I got it into my head that I'd kind of like to use the same basic design as spaceship Discovery from the movies 2001 and 2010: thin and really long, crew cabin up front, engines in the back. But to put a KSP spin on it (and in a slight nod toward reality) I decided that instead of jettisoning fuel tanks from the sides the way I did it with my Enterprise design, this time I'd jettison fuel tanks from the length of the ship.


Fly around for a while, undock from both ends of a fuel tank, cut it loose, redock the remaining components, fly around for a while. Before long, I'll just have the small fuel tank up top left with a few landers (both remote-controlled and piloted) attached to it. I'm making the whole thing modular, and playing around with different modules. Do I want to use the tried-and-true Skipper engine to power the thing? Or do I want to go with a trio of nuclear engines like the movie Discovery? How long should I make it? What should the landers look like? What should the probes look like? It's all pretty much in flux, though I think I've finalized my Leythe lander:


That sucker can make it into orbit from the surface of Kerbal, easy, which means it should also be able to get itself into orbit from Leythe despite that moon's gravity. I'm absurdly pleased with it, actually: everything I need to actually land -- parachutes, landing legs, lights -- is attached to the three outboard fuel tanks and engines. Once it's on its way back to Leythe orbit, I can cut all that stuff loose. The central spacecraft is surprisingly light and nimble.

And in doing all of this, from the design of the ship to the design of the unmanned probes to the design of the landers, I'm using past experience from my previous KSP ships. I'm testing each piece, then I make sure the pieces work together. I'm trying out different engines, trying out different landing strategies, starting to pay more attention to mass than I have previously. It's all immensely satisfying.

It'll be weeks before I actually get around to flying the mission and I don't much care because I'm enjoying the playing and tinkering. I'm having fun, which is kind of the point to playing a game. Anyone remember that?

Compare and contrast with EVE, where building things that fly in space is a workmanlike chore. It's spreadsheets and logistics and huge cans full of obscure stuff. And all of it is about as much fun as one's real job... probably less so, because lots of people do enjoy their real jobs.

Building my space stations in KSP felt like a project, and it was something I was invested in at each stage of the process. I thought about the design, the elements I wanted to include, and how all of them were going to fit together. I thought about my stations in the context of what I was going to use them for, which meant that I had to think about what items I wanted to incorporate and where I wanted to incorporate them. It took skill to do and instilled a real sense of pride of ownership when I was done and they were doing the job that I wanted them to do.

Again, compare and contrast to EVE, where building a starbase is a task that players dread and will avoid if they can at all do so.

As CCP Ytterbium has revealed, EVE is doing an industry-based expansion for the summer. Heaven knows it's been a long time coming. And as a partially industry-focused player, of course I'm happy about it. But in a lot of ways, what was announced in the dev blog announcing this theme is really just polishing the sneaker: making industry a little bit easier, making it a little bit more interesting, and changing the dynamic of how and where things get built (more on that in my second post).

But I don't kid myself into believing that building stuff will be any more fun. The game and the fun that goes with it is still very much about what you do with the ships after they're built, not the enjoyment of building the ships. But does it have to be that way all the time? KSP (and other games that focus on the mechanics of building things, and making building things fun) says no.

It's an answer to the question that maybe CCP should consider at some point.

Anyway, more about the actual mechanics of what's being announced in the dev blog in my next post.

19 comments:

  1. And, hilariously, the one point where players can enjoy tinkering and customization in EVE is so doctrinized, minmaxed, and enforced that your average joe doesn't spend much time doing it. And, if he does, he's probably labeled as "doing it wrong."

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    1. @ OOZ662, One assumes, as you allude but do not directly say it, that the point that is fun, is fitting your ship... you then state that it is not fun due to how other players play the game. This is true only if you care about what others, many others, some not even friends or corpmates, think.

      The only time I care about what others think about fits is when I am in a fleet op and whatever role I have is a 'part' of a greater whole and my fit needs to support the goals of that whole and the needs of the FC.

      As for whether or not your corpmates troll you for what they call fail-fits... well, mebbe you need to either consider flying with a different group of players, or tell them to shut up... it's your ship and you'll fit and fly as you please.

      I am lucky, the guys in my home corp, HBHI are my sons and we have very similar views on the game, and in the corp I am guesting in ATM, I am flying with guys who I have known for years... guys who are easy going, love to experiment and see no reason to troll anyone for trying out things that aren't cookie cutter and doctrinaire...

      Sov is a very knowledgeable FC and is very very good at understanding how fits work... but he also understands its a game and in the end, it's more about having fun together than anything else really...

      Man, find some guys to fly with who believe the same things you do and screw the L33t A-holes.

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    2. One of my proudest achievements in EVE is building a corp that's willing to experiment with fitting. A lot if the time, conventional wisdom has a point, but not always, and the more people are willing to say what if we X, the more likely you are to find something new and useful.

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    3. My friends list on FB has been all about KSP lately, so I guess I'm gonna have to give it a try, finally. :-) The fitting minigame in EVE *is* fun. I think my SO spends a quarter of his EVE time in EVEHQ and EFT, not even in the client itself.

      @OOZ662, that's true of TTRPGs, too. There are going to be people for whom part of the hobby is telling other people they're doing it wrong.

      I don't have an issue with things like an FC saying to bring an armor fit because, well, that's what we're doing today and we've got armor logis. That's common sense.

      But when things go beyond common sense and into one true way territory, meh. And when someone's gameplay is pretty much all about finding people to tell that they're doing it wrong, double meh.

      There's constructive criticism, and then there's just being annoying. :-)

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  2. Well, you're not really comparing the same things here. In KSP you design ships, whereas in EVE you simply manufacture and mass produce them. The design stage is almost always more fun than the actual manufacturing stage. Manufacturing in KSP would be like placing orders for the components and waiting for them to arrive.

    Designing in EVE is more like EFTing, which many players find quite fun ;-)
    And there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with trying out a whole lot of pvp fits to find one that works.

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    1. Exactly that, and I wonder why Ripard doesn't mentions it. KSP is about designing ships, which in EVE is developer's job, whereas EVE industry is about manufacturing the stuff. Creativity is left to fitting, yet most fits don't work and are not fun to fly as in they will have you killed and that will be a "meaningful loss".

      Of course, EVE could use to have some fun activities which didn't involved victimizing or being victimized, but that would be against the core philosophy of EVE as a cold, harsh and unfun universe where horrible things may happen if you fail (just as IRL).

      One may wonder whether EVE's core philosophy is sustainable/competitive enough, compared to games which are actually fun, but that would be another question...

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    2. I agree - I do find EFTing fun and I play with a lot of zany fits.

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    3. Yes, Ripard’s post really misses the point.

      “Compare and contrast with EVE, where building things that fly in space is a workmanlike chore. It's spreadsheets and logistics and huge cans full of obscure stuff.”

      In the single player KSP, players build a few things in a physics driven space game. In the MMOG EvE, Industrialist players ramp up entire factories in a competitive economic environment. In EvE speak, KSP is a manufacturing mission arc. There is no KSP speak for what EvE industrialists do.

      From what I’ve seen so far, the Summer expansion is adding additional avenues for Industrialists to compete. Along the way the devs also appear to be reducing some of the tedium involved. In the MMOG that is EvE, this is all good news.

      Ripard’s compare and contrast post is asking for improved PvE. While a worthwhile request, it’s not what the summer expansion is about.

      DireNecessity

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  3. I had a thought that would make mining and building a bit more fun within the constraints of the current Eve industry model. What if while mining there is a rare drop from a 'roid that allows a builder to add a slight buff to a ship say something like a 1% increase to velocity for example. This "alien tech" would have to be manually tractored in so afk miners would miss out on it and could be added to an industry job whereupon it would be consumed. I think p,ayers would pay extra for even the slightest buff and it would give miners and industry guys a bit of excitement and variability to an otherwise mundane gameplay mechanic.

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    1. CCP could take some inspiration from Cryptic Entertainment, as mining and harvesting in Star Trek Online is simple, mildly fun and quite difficult to bot.

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  4. So not interested in this expac. Yes it needed doing, and yes it makes it easier for the people who make the stuff I blows up, but /swoon wow what a completely boring not interesting thing for me to look forward to. I hope it has a few small things in there to shake things up, or it shakes things up in null or something. Please!

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  5. Sounds like you're not _manufacturing_ a ship, Jester; you're _inventing_ a new type.

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  6. Just because manufacturing in EVE isn't fun for *you*, doesn't means it's not fun for the subset of people actually doing it. If we weren't enjoying it at least in some way, we wouldn't do it - this is a game, after all.

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  7. I think the tinkering in EVE is on a different level. In KSP or Minecraft you can actually change the outcome of what you build. In EVE the outcome is always the same and the tinkering might be in the spreadsheets or in ship fittings. This appeals to different kinds of people. And to me it feels EVE in general feels sometimes too much like work.

    I personally really would like something more constructive/creative in EVE than just press a button and get the same ship out of it all the time. Or being able to build something in space (after all there's lots of it in EVE) like the B-R monument.

    That being said, it's even technically a hard task to do in EVE, and then there are 1000 other areas like economy, balance etc. which will not make this happen unfortunately.

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  8. the fun part in manufacturing is to be found in project planning / logistics.
    while the clikyclickclick is the work one has to endure, spreadsheeting, deciding which modules/ships to build over which, getting everything in place, reacting to a changing market etc pp ... that is the "fun" part about production.
    unless you do not enjoy that, and see industry only as a semi-afk isk-grind - but grinding for the sake of grinding, well, that is boring in just every game; imho.

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  9. I built things believing (and getting satisfaction from) someone taking those weapons and shooting someone else in the face with them.

    That drive sustained me for oh so long before the sheer tedium of clicking a few hundred times to set up the necessary invention/manufacturing jobs caught up to me.

    What's interesting about Eve industry is figuring out the logistics of how to make things happen in an optimal way and choosing the items to build. Actually doing the legwork is a painful exercise in needless repitition.

    Would batch or semi-automated S&I jobs increase potential competition and/or lower prices/profit margin? Almost certainy and it would still be up to players like myself to figure out which stuff is worthy of being built. Something that I am completely okay with.

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  10. It seems the common theme running through this post and comments is the desire for more of a design type activity within manufacturing. I've always wanted to get into manufacturing, but any game activity that forces me to create a spreadsheet outside of the game, in order to even attempt it, is horribly poor game design, and I'm not interested in it. I don't mind spreadsheets that much, but is manufacturing in any way possible without one?

    PI has an element of designing in it, but is still too isolated from everything else. Also, it's another example of something that practically forces you to leave the game to figure out what the hell you need or even want to do.

    I can't help but think if there were something along the lines of a ship fitting style tool used in manufacturing it would make things a hell of lot more interesting. I was hoping that maybe that last image in the recent dev blog might be something in that vein. For example if I combine a+b+d I get something more efficient/interesting/profitable. While there would obviously be min/maxing, industry needs to have choices built into it that have different benefits.

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