Tuesday, 17 May 2016

An Eve for everyone: #1 the New Player Experience

In my last blog post I voiced a strongly worded objection to Neville Smit's influential Occupy New Eden post.

Let me be clear: I disagree with the method, not the goals. The Monoclegate player riots of 2011 saw CCP lay off 150 staff, saw alarmist articles about the company's over-extended financial position and a threat from The Mittani to take his people to a different game. Eve could have closed. Player rebellion is a nuclear option and one that once started is impossible to control.

But Neville's goals?

Broadly they're based, I think, on the feeling that CCP  has experienced some kind of "regulatory capture" where the influence and political shrewdness of the nullsec alliances has placed their concerns front and centre, to the detriment of the 85% of us who inhabit other parts of the sandbox.

I'm going to write a short series of articles exploring how we can make an Eve for everyone, no playstyle left behind.

Today: the New Player Experience.

So I started a new character and responded to what I saw on screen. I clicked through the opportunities until I got stuck. I got stuck at the opportunity that wants me to fit a low slot module. I didn't have a low slot module. I had been given no information about where I could get one. I couldn't progress to the next set of opportunities until I solved this one.

I decided to try killing a couple of rats to see if they dropped a module then realised I had no information about where the rats actually live. In games like Wow you walk out of town and the rats are just there. In Eve you undock and it's just you and a couple of other newbies there.

I "cheated" and used prior knowledge to warp to a combat anomaly where I killed several rats without getting a low slot module. So I "cheated" again and bought an armour repper off the market.

This is concerning.This is a clickout point, a point where an internet user loses interest, gives up and clicks away or alt tabs and does something else. Giving new people a task that appears to be essential but which is not solvable is disastrous.

With the opportunities chain unfinished I next went off to do Career Agents. In fact I'd forgotten how to find them and was told by helpful people in Rookie Help Chat to press F12.

These are clickout points 2 &3.

You can't finish the initial opportunities chain without going off  to do something else. I think a lot of people will want to finish what appears to be the tutorial before going off to do a completely different quest chain in a different area of space but in practice you have to. You can't, for example, complete the Fit a scan probe launcher to your ship opportunity when you're in a rookie ship in Duripant with no money. So broken quest chain is one clickout point.

The other is that you need to talk to people. In most other games the chat is where you call people names after you lose, or spam macros or generally crap in. Many people on starting a new game will minimise chat and never look at it again. For the game to require that you proactively ask the right question and then get helped by someone knowledgable is asking a hell of a lot and for many people this will be their clickout point.

On to the Career Agents. I actually think the agents are pretty good as quest chains, my concern is what they teach. After doing all 5 the only clearly viable way to make money appeared to be mining, Eve's dullest profession. Sure there's scanning down sites but most of those will be too tough for a newbie in an Atron, plus scanning is horrible with newbie skills even if you know how to do it. Those sites where with perfect probe positioning and lowest AU but it still won't get better than 99%: more clickout points. There's missions but the Career Agents don't point you to one nor show you how to use the Agent Finder. Plus the pay from missions is awful. I can go afk in the Venture with a day old character and come back to 1 million isk of minerals in the ore hold, why would I do some horrible level 1 mission for 20k? You're also set up with blueprints but so poor you need to do My time is free style mining to use them. One of the saddest things I saw in Rookie Help Chat was "where do I mine Kernite or Jaspet - I need some Nocxium for my  Career Agent quest." Props for the newbie for figuring out so much, and get it together Eve Online that you're giving people missions without the information needed to succeed.

I'll repeat: it's very bad game design if the new player experience game can't be solved without help from other people. Would it hurt to give the nearest systems with those ores in the mission briefing while reminding pilots to consider buying directly from the market? Maybe you could even give limited duration but unlimited "Civilian Ventures" so rookies could go mine in low sec,but get a new ship if they die.

Then I tried pvp. I went into a Novice plex, I got blobbed and killed, rip my poor frigate. The people who killed me convoed me and offered a corp invite so that was pretty nice.

I tried again but got killed 2 jumps in on the gate by a battlecruiser. As a newbie you're easy to tackle even in a frigate because it aligns a little slow.

This is my next clickout point. Although Eve is meant to be a pvp game there's no New Player pvp. Yes I'm aware Suitonia can beat people with 20  day characters but that's a very good pvper with a focused  skill plan. So for most new players the only option here is to join a corp you can't pvp without submitting to a whole host of rules and obligations that goes with joining a player corp. Even FW doesn't solve this - you're still going to be a free kill until someone helps you.

So I searched the recruitment page in the corp window and found a list. My search criteria were fw, new player friendly and low sec. Joined their public channel, asked about joining and they said no because I was too new. Another clickout point.

So then: an Eve for everyone.

I think the NPE is a good example of how the game can go in the  wrong direction if player feedback is collected from the very loud passionate invested communities that attend Fanfest and the other player meets. Ask players at those events about starting Eve and they'll say Eve is awesome , the community is awesome, join a corp. Clearly it isn't awesome, in fact it's deeply flawed for new players and joining a corp is fraught with clickout points - maybe they want intrusive background checks, maybe you have to install software, maybe you have to change playstyle (eg always be on comms and in fleet), maybe someone's rude, maybe someone simply doesn't want to group up. This may be a good case of where "listening to the players" is bad for the game.

CCP Ghost told us about the millions of players who try Eve then immediately leave, my look at the game as new character showed me a bit about why. If you're a blogger and want to add your experience to this discussion roll a new character and tell us about your clickout points. Alternatively for people without blogs just post it on /r/eve or Eve O. Link  it in the comments.

Finally I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our newbie-friendly cousin, Pandemic Horde. To join them click the little speech bubble in the chat window to join a new channel and type Join Horde as the channel name. I don't think  you should have to join a corp to start Eve but should you choose to they're one of the best.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Neville Smit's Occupy campaign is bullshit, here's why

Over at his blog, Neville Smit has called for player uproar because of his view that new content is "mostly to the interests of players who operate in null security space."

I think this is simply a mistaken impression, a result of what CCP is hyping, not what CCP is doing.

Certainly in the trailer for the new Citadels it looked a lot cooler to be one of the wreckers rather than one of the builders. On top of that CCP's excellent staff band released a new number, "Bring on the wrecking machine."

Smit goes on to add: "It was my hope that CCP was going to turn more of their attention to enhancing game play options outside of null-sec."

Well, sir, how about a whole new type of space, that isn't null-sec?

 For the past two years CCP has worked on a grand project: player-built stargates. This isn't an addition to lowsec, hisec or nullsec. Like the Apocrypha expansion of 2009 this is a whole new type of space, different from anything we've seen before.

How's that for enhancing game play options outside of null sec? A whole new type of space.

In addition there are a lot of things happening that are huge enhancements for the game play of people all over New Eden. Citadels have caused a huge and lasting boost to the profits of miners and PI managers. There simply aren't the materials to meet the expected demand, a problem that will become more acute as more structures are added to the game. This is great news in particular for people who make P4s, which are traditionally concentrated in high sec. This is because P4s are equally profitable anywhere while extraction of P0s is much better in lower security systems.

In addition to the Citadels that support player organisations there's the new player-made stargates to be built, another huge industrial project.

For the first time Eve players destroyed more than they built. The April Monthly Economic Report shows Empire looking very healthy relative to nullsec: it has 4 of the top 5 mining regions (over 1 trillion isk worth mined in each); all 5 of the top producing regions, the top 5 regions for market value (dominated by Jita) and. in incursions, one of the highest isk/hour activities in the game.

Meanwhile in nullsec the safe and tamed North West has been burnt to the ground and is now an unrecognisable mosaic of interceptor gangs, broken POSes and new immigrants. The vast industry of The Imperium is broken allowing miners and industrialists in Empire to claim a larger share of the profits.

Low sec is flooded with content. 28,000 homeless people have moved in and are clumsily flying around trying to belt rat or do sites or fight the locals.

High sec is flooded with value - isk has become worth more, accounts are easier to plex, competition has been disrupted or destroyed, demand is up.

Now there was a time before when something similar happened, and I'd say for a similar root cause.

In 2011 outraged players shot the Jita monument in a player rebellion against the introduction of a cash shop monocle. This was ridiculous. Who gives a shit if someone puts on a cosmetic item? Monocles have now been in the game for 4 years and I couldn't name a player who has one - not because I don't interact with such but because I simply don't notice. No one does. It's negligible.

The reason players objected is from a kind of bad place: "he's getting something that I'm not." Reacting in a kneejerk way to something that really doesn't matter, that doesn't really affect you. So what if they put something in that isn't specifically for you that isn't all wrapped up in a bow in a parcel with your name on it bestowed on you with a thank you thank you thank you? Throughout its entire history Eve has worked on certain elements of the sandbox one at a time. When they worked on battleships it was not a slap in the face to anyone who does not fly a battleship.

Consider. One of the occupy Eve bloggers, Drackarn, explains his outrage by referring to the crimewatch round table. A few years ago we had a whole 6 months expansion devoted to Crimewatch, frankly an amazing amount of time for something that's really rather incidental. But CCP fixing that formed part of a greater whole, where they make the overall game better. The rest of us didn't riot when crimewatch was added even though it has zero affect in nullsec, in wormholes or on peaceful people in high sec.

It really feels to me, like the Monocle, that this is a vanity issue. Sure CCP have added a ton of things that improve PVE like burners and new drifter content, that improve industry like citadels and Crius but they didn't specifically yammer about it at Fanfest and now some poor entitled bloggers are feeling insufficiently pampered.

Everything on Neville's list of demands is something they are actively adding to the game if only he'd pay attention. NPE? They've just hired a new guy who gave a major presentation on it at the Keynote. Lore-based PVE exploration? They've been developing drifter content for a year with continual updates and new features. Variety in harvesting? They've just added new frigates designed for extracting resources from danger zones. He wants mercenary to become a viable career? Wake the fuck up, Neville, half the game is currently on mercenary contracts.

So here's my message to the "85%." Rant less, play more. The content you want is in the game and more is coming. So what if CCP has picked some other people in the community to fawn over and tell them how special they are. Get over yourselves. The road map is not for nullsec. The road map is new space, it's for whoever wants to go there when it's unveiled. Just play the damn game.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Rest in peace, John Bellicose.

A cyno vigil was held in game for former player John Bellicose who we lost to suicide 2 years ago.

Friday, 29 April 2016

BB #74: Fanfest reveals the dragon's treasure

The Most Important Reveal at Fanfest Was......
So when this Blog Banter goes live Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a "nerd-boner". What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

For me it was a reveal by CCP Quant that I believe shows the scale of the disaster that losing Deklein was for The Imperium.

The Wizard of Stats.

First have a look at what he says about null sec in his presentation during the Eve Keynote.

"And for opsec reasons we decided not to show you the top sov station."  (This has to be former Imperium capital YA0).

"However the top sov region holds 69 trillions." 

This is Deklein. Not only does the region hold what until a few weeks ago was null sec's busiest trade hub by a mile but also in nullsec most income is generated by ratting and Deklein is miles ahead. You can see on the Dotlan stats page Deklein has the most rat kills very comfortably for the year, despite ratting having come to an almost complete standstill during April.

On the 12th April I estimated there was 50 trillion isk worth of assets in YA0 station, a guess I'm feeling pretty happy with now. It's reasonable to suppose most of the region's assets are in the major trade hub.

To seal the idea that the Null sec region CCP Quant is referring to is indeed Deklein, see how he handles a question from the crowd:

Q: Which region?

A: You all know that (laughs).

I'm glad that we have this information because the official Goon line from Mittens et al has been that everyone had plenty of notice and got all their stuff out. Clearly this wasn't the case at all.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A quick MBC entosis primer

A couple of points about taking sov in Deklein in the current state of play.

  • 2 entosisers isn't enough. You need 3-4 minimum. We did a timer the other day which went like this: we did 2 nodes, then 2 more, then 2 more, then 5 naturally regenerated. Making us +1 for 90 minutes work. Which sucked.
  • use a googledoc spreadsheet to track nodes and coordinate ships. Columns are system - node number - expiry time - entosiser. Eg: VFK - G58 - 07.56 - Callduron.
  • It's important to catch the older nodes that are about to expire so have your inty pilot direct traffic so entosisers don't waste time (eg by warping to a node someone else is doing).
  • Goons will send Swordfleet. 25-100 inties. With our small numbers we've mostly used destroyers. Most junior FCs won't commit their inties against 10 svipuls. In fact I've watched them bail when I was expecting them to come in and murder us. (It was 90 v 9 and I decided to take the fight because fuck goons but to our amazement they bailed).
  • Goons may send Caracals. Against 60 or so cruisers my small gangs just run away leaving the entosiser to die. It's very difficult for them to get a fleet like this all the way up from Saranen without attracting hunters so just chill in a freeport for 10-15 mins and it will probably be dead or gone.
  • The entosis ship needs tank, eccm, the entosis link and at least 50 stront. Anti-inty combat ability is nice too.
  • Other entosisers are helping you so work with them for ihub, tcu and initial station timers. For final station timers the game mechanics pit you against each other so agree who will get it and don't work against each other.
(Feel free to steal this for internal forums).

Eve after the war.

It's perhaps a little early but I thought it would be interesting to look ahead to Eve after the war.

I think the fall of VFK and YA0 on Friday, which seems utterly inevitable now, will mark the end of an era. The Age of Superpowers will end, the new age will be - The Age of Mercenaries.

Many of the most powerful alliances in the game are all very open to working on contract - PL, TISHU, MC. Fozzie sov strongly supports the mercenary playstyle where groups of highly incentivised people can devastate larger groups of more casual players. Huge accumulations of wealth have left a number of individuals trillionaires. Some of these trillionaires are ousted bitter Goons who may well be in the market for purchasing a little payback.

So we will be seeing a balkanised nullsec where local conflicts often get decided by the interventions of mercenaries on contract. After all why lose all your space worth hundreds of billions to you when for a reasonable fee you can make the other guy lose all his space?

The MBC is comprised of a mix of people who are happy staking a claim on a map and growing rich off their land such as Test and Snuffbox and people who prefer to work on contract, pvping while others worry about things like ticks and taxes, such as Mercenary Coalition.

So let's look at how things will shake up after the war:

The Mercenaries

This is simple, such groups will go where the contracts are and in-between contracts will ramble around the galaxy making themselves a nuisance. Expect to see rich banker/industrial types start to drive a lot of Eve. People like Eep, Gevlon and Goon trillionaires like Aryth, Mynnna and Weaselior will direct most of us towards people they feel angry with. (I say like Gevlon but sadly not Gevlon himself as that player has decided to move on from Eve and look for new challenges in another game).

The Allies

The low sec people, the small gangers, the various people like NPSI Spectre Fleet will move on to new content. There's just not much to fight here - we're not supposed to shoot each other because it's meant to be all v Goons and the Goons are either hiding or bringing 90 interceptors which isn't all that entertaining to fight. There's already minor tensions and standings issues, someone from MOA got rather cross with us this morning. I've lost almost as many ships to "friendlies" as I have to The Imperium. I think we'll all be quite glad to get back to the clarity of NBSI with hardly anyone blue.

The Sov-holders will settle in. Test have the choice of Deklein or Vale. Personally I think they should take Deklein but Vily sounded quite committed to Vale on the Jeffraider show this morning. Pandemic Horde will have 2 campuses: Fade and Querious and may close one down, whichever seems the less entertaining. MC and CO2 seem quite happy in Tribute although I believe MC will always prioritise contracts over ratting sov. The grr Goons veterans MOA and OOS will probably hold a few constellations and there's enough space over for new alliances to move in and squabble for space. TRI PL and NC. will probably not take sov but at this point can do more or less what they like, and will probably start laying deep plans for tomorrow's metagame.

The Imperium

Enemies of the Imperium focus on the Mittani and Sion and say "how can people trust those awful men?" The directorship is not The Imperium, The Imperium is the community of players who like and trust and rely on each other in ties going back over a decade.

I think Goons is basically broken until there's regime change.

The recent decisions have been terrible. The Kickstarter, the Viceroy programme, the decision to abandon Vale (which effectively knocked two of their own alliances out of the war). The baffling decision to "cheap out" on this war. They've defended the most lucrative space in the game with frigates and Hurricanes. The brain drain.


Next Mittens has been doubling down on bad decisions.

Look, here's roughly how the Goons could have got themselves out of this mess. Appease as many people as possible - the IWI guys would have gone away if exRiver had eaten a bag of candy dicks on stream. Silly but get it over with and get back to business. Alternatively they could have kicked SMA, an alliance they've ended up losing anyway.

PL have always had a door open to Goon diplomacy, maybe something could have been negotiated.

Enemies, most of whom aren't getting SRPed could have been overwhelmed by strong doctrines which trade isk efficiently, T3 cruisers, battleships etc. Lots of people who are invading are individually poor but we're not losing many ships so we're able to keep going.

Mercs could have been hired. It's worked pretty well for the other side.

NB the Goons are the richest players in the game, totally eclipsing the people funding their enemies. They have multiple individual trillionaires.

So here's a plan: regime change, mend diplomatic breaches, stop actively trying to be hated, move to NPC Delve and wreck the neighbours until it's safe to take sov there. That would put them in striking distance of two of the main MBC enemies - The Culture and Pandemic Horde - while the move would see most of the MBC not bother to follow them provided we stop getting wound up by someone promising to hunt us forever and drive us sobbing out of Eve.

The other plan, the plan Mittens has outlined as the future of the MBC is just utterly painful, so much more painful for his own members than for the people it's meant to hurt. Never have sov, never settle, keep fighting the entire universe. It's a plan designed for an epic narrative that's more about page hits and book deals than about protecting the interest of the people he leads.

While they go down that path they will shed people. People joined the Imperium for a certain playstyle - an extreme hardcore style where you live in low sec and wreck people with awoxing, fast raids and permanent pvp is such a switch. It's more hardcore than even dedicated pvp corps like Waffles and utterly unsuited to the member base. Plus the declarations that everyone in the MBC will be hunted down one by one and utterly destroyed mean that the MBC will in a sense never break up.

See the MBC isn't really a coalition. We share no doctrines or comms and coordination is minimal. We're just a bunch of people who shoot at almost everyone and who have organically accepted we should not shoot each other while there's Goons to kill or Goon stuff to burn. I still get gate camped but if I tell them I'm entosising they let me go. We don't need to be in a coalition to prioritise Goon targets and that will happen so long as Mittens keeps promising to destroy us.

So for me regime change in the Imperium is inevitable and the interim, months of pain and internal strife in low sec while everyone farms them isn't that important.

After the interim new Goon leadership will, I think strike out for sov. It will be a more diplomatic, less domineering Goonswarm, probably just a single alliance rather than a coalition.

The current member alliances will either get "widotted" - folded into the big Goons alliance - or will depart like SMA CO2 and now FCON. INIT will definitely stay independent, they've always had minimal dependence on the coalition. TNT, LAWN, EXE and RAZOR are not, I think viable. If they're smart they'll widot themselves into an alliance that isn't hated like FCON. If they're mulishly loyal they'll widot into Goons where they'll have a tough year but will never not be an interesting part of Eve's rich political tapestry.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

World War Bee: The Deklein Front

Deklein is in a somewhat odd place at the moment. The people who live there are waiting for the axe to fall and putting up quite a spirited defence against the lead elements of the MBC.

There's no doubt that the main thing blunting the edge of our assault is simply the vast amount of space needing to be absorbed. 6 regions outside Deklein are basically being mopped up which takes a lot of manpower.

The Mittani's decision to move all the defensive timers to AU TZ, otherwise known as Fuck You TZ, hurts participation in the capture events on both sides. From the attacker's perspective the Goons are desperately stretched at that time. This morning I freeported DKUK station with a tiny Waffles gang with help from CO2 friends while the Imperium was more concerned with contesting critical Pure Blind timers. Hat tip to the determined Bastion pilot in a Crow who was determined to contest it but eventually conceded that he couldn't do much without backup.

However later on a small combined MOA and Waffles force was shut down by a comparatively strong showing by The Imperium for the DKUK ihub timer (40 strong Caracal fleet plus a separate fleet of 20). A later attempt by me to ninja a timer in a bad ADM system solo was dealt with peremptorily by Danish Goons who blew up my entosis alt then chased my main all the way to Pure Blind.

Ratting has ground almost to a halt in Deklein, jeopardising the crucial ADMs which make the region hard to assault. Yesterday I toured Deklein in interceptors, finding that each system had someone from Pandemic Horde in, enthusiastically typing rubbish into Local chat and trying to engage the sullen Goons docked in their stations.

Tomorrow sees a set of timers for the critical system of YA0. I estimate there's around 50 trillion isk of assets in that station. Tomorrow morning my time (and Eve time) there will be assaults first on the ihub, then on the TCU, then finally to freeport the station. If the station is successfully freeported the final timer will come out Friday morning and the prospect of the richest trade hub in nullsec falling to its enemies may become fact.

What can you do to help?

Come to YA0 tomorrow and Friday. The headshot is lined up, let's not miss.

Fight in Deklein. In WW2 the panzer columns drove around their enemies to the more vulnerable rear areas, cutting troops off from support and gaining massive territory as fast as the tanks could trundle through the countryside. There's no need to mop up in Branch and Fade when the alliances that live there have gone (unless you're more worried about your friends seizing space than about defeating Goons).  Don't get bogged down, push forward, move staging systems closer to the front and let's get the job done.

Support timer events. When things come out of reinforced mode we need to win as many of these timers as possible. This link shows the Deklein timers.

Make new timers. Refer to Dotlan's ADM filter to see which systems have low ADMs. The lower the ADM the wider the timer window. For example X-Z at 2.6 ADM is vulnerable from 03.32 to 10.27. Americans can make timers in their evenings, Europeans can make timers in our mornings.

Turn off station services, especially cloning. As the Goons try to evac their stuff they rely on cynos to move capital ships and particularly Jump Freighters around. You can entosis station services at any time.

Kill cynos. Don't forget to loot or blow up the wreck.

Shut down ratting and mining. Don't let them push the ADMs up.  One system in the Testagram managed 3341 rat kills in the last 24 hours. Come on Test where are you? Don't you want your ancestral home back?

Good hunting everyone! We're nearing the finish line.