Saturday, 26 April 2014

Only you can save the universe, CCP Seagull

Only you can save the universe, CCP Seagull!

Does that sound dramatic? Good.

In every story there comes a key moment, a time that people later look back on and say then, then was when it all changed.

Eve is at such a turning point.

This story starts with a rather vague presentation that CCP Seagull gave at Fanfest last year on the big picture for Eve development. Something something exploration something something three to five year plan something something player-constructed stargates. Hmm, ok, sounds good but far too vague to get anyone excited. Still the expansion that brought in wormholes was pretty good so the notion of new type of space reached by player-made stargates has appeal.

Most major development in Eve is transforming the game for this goal. It's no accident that a recent dev blog about industry was called Building Better Worlds. In the current iteration of Eve the title is nonsense - you can't put a world blueprint into a station manufacturing slot, wait a week, then collect a fresh made world. It's called that because the grand vision is leading to this new content which will be significantly sculpted by players. (We already know we will be building the entrances and some objects in space).

Since CCP Seagull's announcement of the grand vision Odyssey revamped scanning and probing, Rubicon introduced mobile deployable structures and the Summer expansion will revamp industry. The game is being prepared for an exciting and epic new style of play.

However none of the players are excited yet.

It's too remote, too far off, too vague. It doesn't affect us when we play. It assumes we'll still be here in 5 years but in fact many of us won't be.

Instead what matters to players is what has always mattered in multiplayer online games, something that was absolutely nailed by Jonathan Baron at GDC in 1999: glory and shame. We play games online since we feel or aspire to glory and are likely to leave them when we feel shame.

This is true for every player, every playstyle, every MMO. It underlies the reasons we superficially have for playing - to pwn noobs, to make isk, to put our alliance's name on the map, to become eve-famous, to socialise with our friends.

The latest Eve problem reported by the blogosphere is the shift of optimal manufacturing from high to null, with low sec casually getting squashed in the process. Supporters of the system argue risk v reward, that it's ridiculous for high sec to be better paid than null for members of the industrialist profession. There's also a reason for this shift and it's around the New Worlds masterplan - it would suck to have distant new continents that are hard to get to but still have to buy everything in Jita.

The effect of the industry revamp is to re-distribute glory and shame. An unintended consequence perhaps but a serious one. This revamp is positive for some players and they'll enjoy Eve more, possibly even expanding to more accounts if they find that the changes particularly suit them. Industrialists with well established set ups in high sec have to consider whether to relocate. Relocation to safe nullsec means joining a large coalition either as a line member or as a renter. For many players renting is shameful. You pay your lunch money to the school bully so he won't come beat you up. Why would anyone choose to do that with their leisure time? We can just change game. And for people who are a little vain about their pvp, like perhaps Ripard Teg and Mord Fiddle it would probably undermine that vanity. Income streams need to be neutral for them because their game politics is small band of rebels against  the evil empires. That's not a narrative they can sustain as PL peons.

And here we have to consider the process. The industrial revamp was, as per his admission on Cap Stable, heavily influenced by Goon CSM Mynnna. Now there are good reasons - he's very expert, most of the other CSMs aren't, he actually knows the implications and ramifications better than even CCP's game designers. But having a Goon finance guy design your risk/reward system is like having Goldman Sachs design your banking regulatory system. Even if he's an impeccable paragon of objectivity it looks crooked and its perception not hard numbers that count here as if people feel the process is crooked they'll lose belief in the game.

We're already seeing people outside the Goonosphere lose heart. Mord Fiddle has quit Eve, Jester self describes as a traitor. Gevlon delightedly sees it as a Darwinian extinction event purging the weak. Foo thinks it's not a big deal but that Those manufacturers that are a little tired will leave manufacturing or possibly even Eve itself.  New manufacturers will take their place. Parasoja is one of the tired. Blake is fireselling his compression BPOs. Neville Smit has become a schizophrenic.

Mynnna responds with a wall of data and some Goonly charm: Get out. You won’t be missed, and your less hysterical peers will be happy to pick up your slack, and profits

What Mynnna's missing is it's not about the numbers and rational analysis. Games are about emotions - we choose to play them because we find it fun. In real life if your company gets taken over by an organisation you dislike but they pay you more people would take that. It's hard not to be ok about an abstract dislike of becoming part of EA or the Murdoch empire if it means you get paid an extra three thousand a year.

In games we play because it's fun. No one has to just swallow their pride and become a renter because an economy shifts. We can simply play something else.

Now the thing about this is that the unsuccessful people are needed to keep the successful. Goons like Eve because they're doing better than most players - the quality of life for even the least of the Goons is higher than the average player. But without those average and below average players there's no one for Goons to be doing better than. Similarly for Goblins. It's only fun to be a goblin if there's morons and slackers to mock.

Months before implementation this change is costing CCP hardcore veteran players. We have no idea exactly how many as high sec industrialists form one of the least vocal demographics in the player base. Most of them won't give any indication of how they feel until they go.

And that brings us back to the Grand Vision. There needs to be a vision that inspires players in Eve because although CCP has hinted at Building Better Worlds the players who like building things are not feeling good about the game right now. The time for the big reveal is at next week's Fanfest. CCP can't sit on the grand plan any longer or else there's a danger that there won't be the players still around to build it. There's a real danger that people are starting to feel - as I did - that Eve's becoming a game of Go Goon or Go Home.

I'd like to build a better world. I'm improving my skills, building contacts, farming planets. But tell us what's coming and when you hope to deliver. Industrialists plan on a scale of months and years, if there's something to believe in they will stay and set themselves up for it.

But it's time to show us your hand CCP Seagull. Only you can save the universe.


  1. "Go Goon or Go Home"

    Perfect description of the biggest problem with Eve.

    1. So try "going Goon". If anybody is having a ton of fun in Eve it's Goons.

  2. Honestly, I have no respect for anyone who decides to quit before they've even finished releasing the dev blogs, let alone the actual expansion.

    Give the market a few months to adapt to the changes while trying to make the best of it. If at that point it is clear that the market is somehow broken and only goon nullsec manufacturers are making profits, then by all means, unsub in protest. But until then, wait for the changes and see how you can make the best of them.

    The EVE market is quite robust and i doubt there is enough industry in null sec to make a very significant impact on the whole market.

    1. I'm sure you're right and that the game isn't broken.

      That doesn't matter.

      It's enough that it seems broken.

    2. Post by Aryth on the Eve forums:

      A direct quote from that post: "Those of you in sweet spots like JF's are going to get creamed though."

      So basically, industrial changes designed by one of the cartel economic leaders turns out to allow groups like the goons to wipe out high sec industry in any high value / high profit product goons want to.

      I don't need to see how this will play out in the markets when the goons are already openly stating that they will control the parts of the markets they feel are the most profitable.

      But as I posted elsewhere, I think the cartels and CCP have done the calculus, and are happy with the risk of how many accounts will unsub. If 50,000 charatcters do industry, as CCP states, what is that, likely 25,000 accounts? If 20% drop, that is 5,000 accounts, or about 1% of the sub base if CCP is to be believed. I am fairly sure that the cartels have assured CCP that in the long run, the cartels will make up that drop easily. Of course, this ignores all the other accounts that will drop when the mission runners realize how much this hits their LP value, or the amount that will drop when high sec incursions and missions are wrecked as well. Because, you KNOW that has to happen if CCP/ cartels are to fulfill their vision of driving great big chunks of the playerbase into null sec.

  3. Really enjoyed this post and agree with much of it. I think it's an awesome post. Would love to reblog it.

    1. Not sure what "reblogging" is but knock yourself out.

  4. One of your best posts yet mate. Agree with all of it!

  5. Excellent blog post & I think it accurately captures the feelings from players outside of the CFC.

    I'm definitely in the wait & see camp but the game is certainly looking more like Goons Online, especially as they resist all attempts or suggestions at making sov null riskier.

  6. It is important to notice that by now the CFC is an organisation run by bureaucrats and politicians who cater mostly to minmaxers and nullbears. They have reached a point of stability where most of the effort goes into administration and integration rather than expansion and conflict.

    There will always be the occasional outburst of destructive hedonism (like Burn Jita) but that is just to keep up the facade of "Goon Spirit". On a large scale the CFC has become anathema to the PVP culture of EVE quite some time ago.

  7. Interesting analysis. Count me in the wait-and-see camp, too.

    Whatever they're planning to do with the stargates-to-who-knows-where, I hope they figure out a way that it isn't just...taken over right after it goes online. It'd be exciting to explore someplace new that may even work differently from the universe we're currently in, but if it turns into bloc-land right away, meh. It just wouldn't be interesting to me.

    I like stuff diverse, not homogenized.

  8. Excellent post. Level-headed thinking. Sometimes obsession lets things get away from us.

    I've been blogging a flurry of ideas over the last two months hoping to influence the growth of Eve Online from the newer player perspective -- helps me deal with the unknown, I guess.

    You are quite correct, however, in that ultimately a little more information is better than "we'll just have to wait and see."

  9. "having a Goon finance guy design your risk/reward system is like having Goldman Sachs design your banking regulatory system"

    This post is esentially based on some massive misinformation about how the CSM / CPM operates in practice. The idea that "the system was designed by Mynnna" is rather absurd, if nothing else CCP takes enough professional pride in their work that no designer responsible for a feature would ever just hand the keys over to a player, If CCP were to take "Mynnna's plan for nullsec" (or whatever people think this is) and just put it in motion, they incur massive risk not only to the health of their company but to their careers as professional game makers should something go wrong. CCP employees have every selfish incentive to do their own research and make their own decisions, even if they seek out alternative perspectives from the CSM.

    "Even if he's an impeccable paragon of objectivity it looks crooked and its perception not hard numbers that count here as if people feel the process is crooked they'll lose belief in the game."

    This is perhaps the most disheartening (and irresponsible) statement in the entire post. You have an outlet here to inform and provoke discussion, so rather than investigate the truth you choose instead to cater to mass ignorance and hysteria? I'm sorry, but I just can't get on board with this. If perception is what counts, I would hope that you as a blogger would have a desire to help change people's perspectives and orient them (as close as you can with your research) towards something resembling objective truth. Instead, you cater to this idea that CSM members can somehow "puppetmasta" CCP. You're absolutely right, there's a perception problem here - the sad part is that you're fueling it instead of trying to help solve it.

    1. Lets play at "spot the goon"

    2. Or, you know, we could actually have a meaningful conversation about this instead of flailing about with inept cognitive bias. If I'm wrong about the way that the CSM/CPM/CCP operates when building expansions, please explain to others here what is actually taking place (and maybe even include a piece of refuting evidence or two if you're serious and not just trolling).

    3. Hans, I'm not just pulling things out of thin air. Mynnna says in the podcast I linked he put a lot of work into both the refining change and the ESS. Every change that affects nullsec income becomes a threadnaught with the Goon finance guys (Aryth, Weaselior and Mynnna) doing most of the posting. I'll try to find time soon to do a more researched post on how much Mynnna claims to be refining CCP's implementations that affect the nullsec economy but it's a lot.

      I put it to you that his experience on the CSM may differ from yours.

    4. Nah, Hans is pretty much spot on. CCP designs a thing, CCP presents thing to the CSM, CSM comments/makes suggestions, CCP may or may not actually incorporate any of them. CCP then posts thing to F&I, where the process repeats, substitute "players" for CSM. But key there is that the initial design is in the hands of CCP.

      And so you absolutely are pulling things out of thin air. Somehow "I am very active giving feedback" (as an aside you can ask any CSM8 member you trust, I'm pretty damn active giving feedback on everything) turned into "The CSM was involved super early in the design to the point where we got to have input on the overall design objectives and somehow I and I alone am the only one CCP decided to listen to." Or something. It's a downright Dinsdalian conclusion, but as I don't actually know who you are, at all, I'm not sure whether it's purposeful or not.

    5. Stabs, what you're failing to produce is any solid evidence that Mynnna or any other Goon for that matter actually subverted CCP's original designs and twisted them to their own nefarious interests. All you're doing is saying "But Mynnna said he had influence!" And you're absolutely right, he has. You don't need to go do a more researched post on how much Mynnna claims to have provided feedback, because that much is fairly obvious. It's his JOB to provide feedback and influence design decisions.

      Keep in mind that pretty much no matter what, if the Goons are on the CSM and the Goons are still active in EVE, they're going to be running around sharing opinions about the game AND claiming heavy influence over the decisions that they approve of, (whether or not they actually forced CCP to change their minds at all).

      That's not to say that -Mynnna's- statements are propaganda (Actually, I'm quite delighted by his distaste for such nonsense), only that propaganda is still abundant elsewhere in the organization and that you really shouldn't be so quick to take everything his associates say at face value.

      Start with looking at the difference between correlation and causation. You could write a dozen detailed blog posts highlighting the various nullsec changes that goon finance invades the threads of, but all you'll manage to do is identify correlation. To jump to the conclusion that they are somehow behind the decisions themselves, without concrete evidence, is to give them power through blind trust and belief. They've got enough membership around to do that for them, the rest of us should be taking it all with a much heavier grain of salt.

      Lastly, I put it to you that Mynnna's experience on the CSM has not differed from mine with regards to decision-making processes. As active Chair of the CPM, I'm still in the NDA channels and have been observing all year, working alongside the CSM where needed. The work flow is still the exact same: CCP approaches the CSM with design ideas and proposals, the CSM provides feedback, CCP listens and sometimes adjusts, and sometimes doesn't. Whether or not the CSM agrees with the final decisions, they're most certainly not the ones making them. .

    6. Heh.

      More straw men here than at a pagan harvest festival orgy. Please respond to things I actually said.

    7. Well, you actually said that perception matters more than reality, and in fact you actually said it in the following context:

      "The industrial revamp was, as per his admission on Cap Stable, heavily influenced by Goon CSM Mynnna. Now there are good reasons - he's very expert, most of the other CSMs aren't, he actually knows the implications and ramifications better than even CCP's game designers. But having a Goon finance guy design your risk/reward system is like having Goldman Sachs design your banking regulatory system. Even if he's an impeccable paragon of objectivity it looks crooked and its perception not hard numbers that count here as if people feel the process is crooked they'll lose belief in the game."

      When reading those few sentences, one could come away with the perception that you think my "highly active feedback" was actually something more than feedback, such as early design of the system, or perhaps managing to override CCP's initial design. That perception would only reinforced by the fact that, when challenged on the idea by someone who has every reason to know how things actually work, you posited that "my experience may have been different from his".

      So, if you feel that people are responding to strawmen, perhaps you'd like to explain "what you actually said".

    8. I listened to that podcast after it was linked. Yeah, you took great pride in the fact that you had huge impact on the final product, but now that it is coming into a brighter light, you try real hard to backtrack.

      Bottom line, you guys benefit hugely from this change, and further impoverish high sec, and in this case low sec as well. The contempt you have for high sec was dripping in any answer you gave that touched on the high sec gaming experience.

      It is actually quite a sad day when all the warning I have been doing the last year becomes even further entrenched. So, when do you go after high sec L4 and Incursion income? You need to wipe those out if you REALLY want to get a lot of people into null so fatten those RMT flows.
      Then again, if you empty high sec, who will buy your ISK?

    9. I'm sure you've got a suitably insane explanation for why I'd be backtracking from something I'm apparently so proud of.

    10. Pretty simple answer actually. You are not that politically astute. Without the goon voting bloc, I would have a better chance of getting elected than you.

      Actually, that is not true. Without evil people like you in Eve, I would have no reason to post, other than to argue with truly the occasional stupid game designer, as opposed to the ones that we have now that are in your back pocket.

    11. I'd vote for both of you if we could have a televised debate to watch!

  10. I remember how lame I thought it was when I found out how bad manuf sucked in null. it never made sense that u had to be in high sec to get the best yields. the only real problem with the change is that null is currently a blue doughnut. personally I think its something that should have been in eve from the start. I get the goon hate but look at it as game design.

  11. Yes you're quite right, Fire Bush, which is why I'm not suggesting everyone give up playing but instead that CCP unveil the big picture. It may be that with this boost to null (reward) some game mechanic will change that offers much greater risk. Destructible outposts perhaps.

    1. And what will you recommend if the last 3 blogs (next one is pure UI improvements, which universally should be applauded), DON'T unveil some new mechanic that adds risk to null, but instead reinforces the huge gifts being given to null?

      That being said, I am sure the null sec mouthpiece, who is running again because his wife lets him, surely will give a seemingly valid explanation about how this is all a buff to high sec, as opposed to a death blow.

    2. I think if Fanfest fails to excite then each person will have to make their own choice. I wouldn't recommend a path to anyone - it's a sandbox we all like different things.

      For me I'll continue to play casually, occasionally roaming while also playing other games like Hearthstone and TESO. But I'm very adaptable, I've played almost every playstyle in Eve. There's always wormholes or FW.

  12. At the beginning of the Cap Stable interview, Mynnna said he's running for CSM9 to "have input on" things that CCP does to Eve. At the end, when citing three changes that CCP allegedly took from player ideas, he says that the CSM took the posting from the forum thread to CCP and said "do this." So I guess Mynnna is telling us that CCP listens to CSM feedback, but not to regular player feedback.

    I was under the impression that the CSM should strive to represent all the players. Is this not true? Because Mynnna's interview makes it plain that he intends to represent nullsec only.

    At the end Mynnna cites three game changes that CCP allegedly took from players: 1. interdiction nullified interceptors, 2. reworked interdiction sphere launchers, and 3. surveillance system LP awarding. He then says "Don't think that CCP will never listen to you [the player]." But from his accounting I wouldn't think that. I'd think "CCP takes player ideas about nullsec changes; player ideas about highsec aren't listened to."

  13. Thanks for the link to that GDC article, by the way. A prof in my game design program mentioned it at one point, but I guess it must've been finals week or something because I never got around to reading it until now.

    CCP does need to worry about player retention. Although our credit card payments help keep the lights on, pretty much every real world corporation I've ever worked for has also believed that you need to simultaneously be looking for underserved markets. The RL company I work for aggressively looks for new places in the world where they could be selling products.

    IMO, that GDC article gives a hint about why EVE growth is where it is right now.

    1. How's the game designing going? Working on anything right now?

    2. Yes, but it's about as opposite EVE as you could possibly imagine. There's PVE -- and PVP of sorts, but...heh. It isn't nicknamed Regency Catfight for nothing. ;-)

      It started as a board game I submitted for a project at school, and I'm hammering out technical design for a digital variant now. I work in business software engineering, so it's a side thing, not full time.

      The article's observations on glory versus shame are definitely something worth considering for any game dev. I'll have to chew on that one for a while before I blog about it.

    3. Sounds great. When it's ready hopefully some Eve players will try it.

      Here's her blog folks

      Added to my blogroll.

    4. Thank you, and back atcha. :-)

  14. What irks me the most about mynnna's responce isn't the smugness - it's that it's hollow.

    He took a big pile of numbers, threw them at the screen and said "see, I'm right, accept it or get out"... never mind the fact that it didn't actually make sense. That's kind of what I expect from Gevlon, *not* the economic expert on CSM.

    Nosy pointed out to him that the transport issue wasn't one. Mynnna said it wasn't important. I asked him "ok, well what *is* the point then"? His answer is that there is *so much industry* going on in highsec that it possibly couldn't all move to Null.

    ... Why not? Isn't that a problem? Isn't that the goal? It's becoming incoherent.

    I'm in the "wait for more information" camp (I manufacture in a POS). But, as Nosy, I'm very frustrated by the poor communication coming from both CSM *and* CCP.

    1. "His answer is that there is *so much industry* going on in highsec that it possibly couldn't all move to Null."

      Quite so Louis.

      The issue is not that all these players might move to nullsec. The issue is that they might move to Star Citizen or Elder Scrolls or some other game.