Friday, February 6, 2015

Blog Banter #62 - Generations after Icarus

What is and/or should be the future for walking in stations?
-Kirith Kodachi

Last year I was debating the perception of Eve and CCP by the player base. I had interacted with more vetran players then every before and I was puzzled why my sense and view of Eve was so different from theirs. I wound up writing one of my favorite posts at that time. I have referenced it more than any other post I've ever written. Not because my post was incredible but because I had managed to write down something about Eve that I think is a very important factor about the game.

Eve has generations of players. The easiest way to look at these generations is by expansion. But, that would not be the best way to look at it because developmental styles and the directional changes of the company have also come into play. As I've worked on my history of Eve's expansions over the last year I have reinforced that belief. With current changes and events since I have started the game I've solidified my belief that the Eve that you start with is the Eve that sets your expectations.

What pounded it in for me was the fact that we now have a generation of player, the "This is Eve" generation who have never known pre-Phoebe teleportation mechanics.

We have an grown generation of players who never played battle cruises online.

When the topic for the banner was first suggested I went through my normal thoughts on how I had nothing to say. I watched people wage extreme opinions for and against the concept of walking in stations and avatar based game play. I realized that I was personally pretty neutral on the topic. That seemed weird. There was so much passion for and against around me. Why was I standing in the middle watching the argument back can and forth to see what happened instead of on one side of the battle?

Because I am a post-Incara child.

I started months after the summer of rage. CCP had gone full back to spaceships. The Tier 3 - now attack battlecruisers - were introduced. As far as I am concerned, they have always been here. I started up Eve, felt a warm flood of excitement as spaceship grapehics happened, and got dropped into the character creator. I spent perhaps an hour sculpting Chella. I upped her age a bit, made her not stick thin. Boots and cargo pants with a t-shirt finished us off. I spent time picking my background and started the game.

I started in the captains quarters. Aura showed my how to walk around and go to my ship. I explored them, went to my ship, undocked, and fell in love. It would not be months until I learned I didn't have to go into my captain's quarters. It would be longer until I adopted the habit of not going into the captain's quarters. I considered them a loading room of sorts. A place to safely hang out while I worked on things, chatted, and etc. It reminded me of the avatar areas of the play station and xbox. Idle, eye candy places that had little or more meaning.

It was not till much later, when I started to sink deeper into the game and community that I learned CCP flew to close to the sun. It was the players who, as Daedalus, watched their loved one plummet to destruction. And it is player, such as myself, who only heard the story and its warnings but did not experience the actual event. I never knew that time in Eve's history.

Now we move forward. We are almost four years past Incarna. Four years where players have entered the game, grown, and learned Eve. Four years for wounds to heal and people to forget. For some, it is only the blink of an eye and they still watch Icarus plummet from the sky. For others, they read a fable and the story it is meant to share.

It creates a rift in perceptions, further detailed and supported by personal interests and choices in the game. I found myself criticized by some for my questions about Avatar changes during the Winter Summit and thanked by others. They came from all ages and experiences in Eve. Some had lived through Incarna and still tasted dreams. Over this last year I have proposed many things and spoken to many people about parts of the game. Three things get attention. Anything about non-consensual game play in high sec, spaceship balancing, and avatars.

I think that the desire for avatar gameplay is only going to start to grow again. It was there before Incarna and it never went away. I do not think that CCP should full stop on spaceships. I hope instead that their efforts to fixing the years of game neglect that came from the fast, big, flashy release generation that desires Jesus features, will allow them to catch back up to themselves and expand out from there.

Avatar gameplay is not inherently bad. Poorly planned avatar gameplay that takes away from spaceships and keeping the game irritated and healthy is bad. Incarna soiled the entire concept. A concept that is very normal and familiar everywhere else. And like most things that have hurt, people avoid it. At the same time, CCP has to rebuild trust and like anything else, negatives carry more weight than positives.

I don't know if it is essential for Eve's future. But, I do think it would create more paths and avenues to explore. Paths and avenues that may bring in a different type of player and open up another layer of game play. At the same time there are so many paths and avenues that have not been explored. I'm looking at you pirates and smuggling, the expansion.

CCP does not have a large enough development team to do it all at once and in my perfect world I'd prefer avatars to be a small dedicated team and the bulk to stay with spaceships and space. But, my knowledge knows that it doesn't work that way. An entire design section that mirrors the current but was smaller would have to be developed for it. It'd be almost a different game and so far we've had Dust launch and have some rocky times and Legion and Valkyrie not make it out of the gate yet, while WoD died before birth.

I know CCP has the talent to make Avatar gameplay. I would worry about making avatar gameplay and the rest of Eve continuing at its current rate of repair, iteration, and growth. Maybe when the repairs are done and its more a focus on iteration and growth some pressure will be eased. Maybe because I have grown up in the generation of Eve being fixed, I'm overly nervous. I don't know.

I don't know an Eve that as a whole, dreamed for avatar gameplay. I do know an Eve struggling to heal from its past and learn from its mistakes. I'm more than happy to see an Eve with a complex future. But I do not think the future is right now. Not when we are so close to sewing closed the final wounds left by the past.

But after? Soon(tm)?

I believe in dreams.

17 comments:

  1. It's an interesting phenomenon, isn't it?

    I'm a child of Incarna, although I joined the September after the "Summer of Rage," and so I missed out on all the fun: all I got was the underlit Minmatar CQ and its terrible framerate--as seen in the Mac client, to boot! it was pretty bad, and I remember being disappointed when I realized that there wasn't even a single practical reason to be there.

    I still want avatar gameplay. I'm a longtime roleplayer. I play characters. Even though I don't do much roleplay in EVE, Dersen is absolutely a character (and how!) and the itch is still there. As much fun as my beloved blaster boats are to fly, having that character entombed in an anonymous ship fails to scratch that itch.

    Even though I was around to see its botched execution, I still believe in the dream. (And the Mac client has improved by leaps and bounds, which doesn't hurt.)

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  2. Sugar,

    For a Post Incarna Child you manage to capture much the right feel. As a player who lived through the commotion allow me to elaborate a little. It wasn’t so much the idea of Avatar game play in itself that was annoying. It was the way it was presented as a ‘Jesus Feature’. Now a Jesus Feature, like the man himself, is the new paradigm changing introduction that CHANGES EVERYTHING. All you do now will pale in comparison to what you do post Jesus. Hang on kids; it’s going to be a miraculous ride!

    Incarna Jesus didn’t deliver. Nor did Dust Jesus (when’s the last time you linked up with a Dust Bunny?). Nor did a host of other Jesuses. For those of us that enjoyed the game we already had, the hubristic zeal to shove next expansion’s Jesus down our throat got a little annoying. From my point of view it felt as if CCP was telling me, “You like spaceships? What kind of loser are you?!”

    Fortunately CCP and many players survived the hubris and such survival enables reflection. The primary problem with Jesus Features is that they aren’t organic. They don’t grow out of the game you have. Rather, they supplant it. For a player driven MMO like Eve, pulling the entire rug out from under the players is unwise regardless of how big, Big, BIG the next thing is going to be.

    Mind you this doesn’t mean big things can’t develop. Rather they simply must be allowed to develop organically. Eve mustn’t dump its storied history; it must grow out of it.

    Hats is a smallish thing. They are also a reasonable organic development as they make good use of the way avatars are actually viewed by players as we currently play the game.

    Thera and the Shattered Wormholes may not be game changingly massive in and of themselves but they do hook onto what we already have in comprehensible organic fashion.

    Caroline’s Star and the new Sleeper sightings aren’t yet rocking our space universe to its very core but their appearance could mean something very big growing from small beginnings.

    The real world evolves. Eve, if it’s to be real, should evolve as well.

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    1. In the real world, warm blooded dinosaurs learned to fly, independently of insects, reptiles and (later) mammals.

      But they learned to fly because thier evolution was not being driven by the Big Ones and their special needs.

      Trusting the core gamers to allow CCP to evolve EVE in a direction not interesting to them is futile.

      "I can't fly!", will shout Mittensaurus Rex. So CCP will scratch project Incarnapterix and when the asteroid hits dinosaurs are gonna be wiped all, both small and big...

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    2. Onions,

      Your no active account approach to playing Eve (‘cause you still play Eve) tickles me to no end. Sometimes you fall prey to your over the top vitriol; sometimes you keep a handle on things thereby enabling us fellow players a chance to find useful nuggets in your comments. Today you’ve kept a handle on things.

      Your response here and independent comment below point at a profound challenge CCP faces sheepherding a game where players generate much of the content. If you empower players (consumers) you . . . well . . . empower players (consumers).

      I’m both less inclined to believe that CCP bootlick kowtows to your “Big Ones” as much as you think and more sanguine about the results should that actually be the case. The Big Ones both have and continue to put a lot more time into the game than me. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise they have more pull than me. Then again, I don’t do envy.


      Sugar,

      Link to the 2015 CODE. Calendar Onions references in his independent comment below: https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=5428502

      Similar to Onions observation, if the ever despicable CODE. (ok, I do envy a little) can find ways to make amusing use of the Avatar game play we currently have, surely there’s room for a little evolution.

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    3. What people don't always seem to get is even if you do disband a huge alliance like BoB, White Noise, Brave, Goons, Test, Northern Associates, etc... The players don't actually leave unless they really want to. So even if Mittani or Progod scream about not being able to fly post-wing change, the people beneath them may just take to the skies without them.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. @DireNecessity

      Well, I quoted the Big Ones as a part of the dinosaur analogy, but the actual Big Ones are everybody who plays the game and strive to keep it as is -which are many, many people.

      I think that he best analogy of the challenges that CCP faces with its consumer base is that of a retirement house where the inmates have a strong voice.

      Veteran players ahve special needs and want them catered first than the needs of all other veteran players, and well before catering to the needs of younger players (in a very CCP way, CCP is improving the NPE once new customers have become a rare sight). Further, the old farts, the big ones, downright oppose doing anything for non-players that could allow them to become players without being pew pew spaceships.

      "Why should you improve the road in while the water of the pool is too cold? Why put a bloody sign outside? Why opening a new wing for people who don't play our games? Why, why, why? If you don't give ME what *I* pay for, *I* will go away!"

      Those old players couldn't find a better director than CCP Seagull, whose design philosophy is to give the customers what they want... but only to those customers, not to any potential new customers. With limtied resources, CCP can't invest both in customers who can voice their opinions strongly (like some CSM wanted to be recorded as opposing everything avatar) and for some potential customers without a voice.

      In any company, it's obvious that customers go first, and the ones who speak are more likely to be heard than those who just leave in silence.

      But CCP's ultimate challenge is that EVE is closing its cycle. There is no way to keep it going unless it does what it never did before -earn customers who don't buy the brand as it is.

      From PvErs to carebears, from casual players to women, the demographics are out there for CCP to analyse and give them EVE their way. A good start would be all the misfits who play or ever played the game in wrong ways...

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  3. As long as I'm not required to engage in avatar game play to do the things I can do now, cool. And I like avatars. I really like the look of the CARBON engine, but with CQ turned off, I can reship faster, I can do all the in-stations things faster. Also, no ability to run? Seriously, CCP?

    I would absolutely love to be able to go out my door and walk around, or at least invite others to my quarters and show off how I've decorated them (oh, yeah, would be extremely cool to be able to personalize our quarters).

    I know lots of pre-Incarna players who hated the idea of avatars from the time they were first proposed, and a goodly number who've been waiting forever. Most players I've talked to don't want more avatar development if it means another Incarna-like choice.

    One thing I have noticed about being able to personalize one's avatar in other games is how addictive it can become, even going so far as to grabbing players (me) who swore they'd never bother with decorating their house, avatar, etc. Look at LOTRO's housing and how that's become a yearly plea to the devs of that game for moar stuffs. Or SWTOR's strongholds.

    More avatar functionality can only be good for the game, as long as we can do more than just dress up our avatars.

    If CCP does go down the more avatar development route, I think they're going to have to bite the bullet and ditch CARBON, alas. My system lags just loading my CQ and my solitary avatar. Imagine what would happen with 4 or 5 or 10 or 20 in the same room?

    But, man, would I love to be able to do something with my avatar :)

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  4. The greatest irony is that avatar cosmethics are a cheap and effective way to let players generate content without fear of breaking the game... and milk them for extra bucks with a little harmless investment.

    I've seen at the forums that CODE (of all things EVE!) made a calendar with their female "agents". That despite how avatars are terribly limited - a few plain uninspiring clothes, a few better quality buyable clothes, no way to pose the characters, and even just switching clothes requires making a new portrait. Let alone how horrible are CQs: the plans were to make them modular so they could be customized and "shown off". Not too bad when there's not even a chance to invite a friend and have a private chat, which could be done even without emotes.

    All that is gone and abandoned, despite it would mean more money for CCP, more player engagement and retention, and a way to set the foundation for actual avatar gameplay.

    The backdraws of more avatar fluff? Some people hate the idea of other players having fun safely docked in station, playing Space Barbies or whatever (how dare they to not become pewpew fodder!!). Others claim that CCP is too incompetent to make avatar stuff without neglecting spaceships.

    But there is one single fact, one that I would like to drive as a wedge into the brains of everyone who loves, or ever loved, that icelandic freaky bitch called EVE Online.

    **EVE the pew pew spaceships game has exausted its niche, and needs a new niche to expand into it.**

    Be it player generated PvE content or player generated avatar content, EVE desperately needs to outreach beyond the pew-pew spacehips niche, because that niche is 12 years old and it's been emptying faster than it replenished for those same 12 years.

    And CCP's plans to go beyond pew pew spaceships are unexistant. Specially since doing so would mean diverting resources from the existing customers and the neverending development debt with them.

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    1. This sort of fits with a realization I had this morning. That other than the players, Eve itself isn't really all that interesting. Unfortunately, most of the time you spend avoiding the other players because so many of them just want to shoot at you and then stomp on your face. The end result of that is you either isolate yourself or you go and join an organization hoping they'll keep you safe.

      The balance between competitive and cooperative gameplay is definitely skewed. Far more often, it's better to get alt accounts to do the cooperative things because you can't be sure that you trust even people in your own corporation...

      Opening up the stations for pro-social interactions would be a first step in balancing this out I think.

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  5. I started playing between retribution and odyssey, but I don't want ccp to ever start developing wis ever again. The only reason why it's on in my settings is the ability to ship spin and I never use the walking part and never will. If I wanted to play with avatars I would go play sims. I think it's just waste of recourses. For me the only thing that matters is the spaceships and the people who I fly with.

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  6. My experience was different. While on a fansite for another game that I was burning out on I stumbled into the "The butterfly effect" trailer and I was hooked. A game marketed with math, I had to try it. The first few expansions were nothing more than a new login screen and some music; they simply did not add anything that I perceived as new to my little world which was filled with so many things that I did not understand yet.

    Then there was tyranus with its trailer that asked "what kind of ruler will you be." Only when the feature showed up it had nothing to do with how I ruled. I am not sure what a cruel planetary operator does differently than kind one. Although as a wormholer I have roanoaked more than a few colonist the game play did not have the depth that I imagined it might.

    This was chased by "incursion" which as a lowsec resident at the time left me feeling left out. I did not get a feature, instead I was presented with a hazard to navigation in the form of gate rats which were much too strong and system effects which pushed me to avoid the active constellations as whatever I would normally do was just harder with no additional reward.

    By incarna I was back in wormholes and once more there was disappointment. CCP had spent their time and efforts on something that was not part of my experience. If they had added a pos module that we could have walked around in it might have been different but as it was docking up just was not something I did much so it seemed like a waste of so much effort yet again.

    Not only that but I was forced to craft a new avatar the style of which was far different than the old avatar which I had been pretty happy with. It was time I did not want to spend getting a picture which I thought of as less charming. Sebestior men (although I thought of myself as Thukker, if only I could have that label in game instead) in the old system had tall narrow faces and I had the somewhat horn like clump of hair above each temple on an otherwise bald head which was not available. Most of all at initial release I lost my tattoos which chronicles had spent so much time telling me was an important part of my life.

    I hated incarna for all of those reasons. When expansions only came every six months it was a huge downer being completely left out of the content made worse by it happening twice in a row. That along with it changing images and replacing them with less interesting ones. The transparent gallente clothes were gone as were the tattoos (they came back later but the images were not the same), the vherioker facemask was gone, the clothes were different, my face had different proportions, the entire look was gone and the new ones just seemed more suited to a shooter than t he world I imagined that I lived in.

    For me incarna could have been very different if it had both included me by bringing the experience into my home and had merely offered me the ability to remake in my existing image rather than forcing another. I remember the bitter disappointment.

    - Kynric

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    1. This is a fantastic response. Thank you for taking the time to write it out.

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    2. Kynric's post resonates with me.

      I quit not long after the release of Incarna but that and 'Greed is Good' were merely the straws that broke the camel's back (although I'd never have returned if they hadn't aborted their 'gold ammo' ideas).

      I lived in low-sec. I didn't feel that CCP was interested in my playstyle or my corner of space. Aside from adding BS rats to belt spawns (a pathetic gesture) I don't remember much low-sec iteration after the introduction of FW. I had become very bored.

      Some of the fault for being bored must have been mine...but I felt that fundamental parts of the core game were stale or outright broken. Instead of iterating upon the foundations of EVE Online, CCP were building more storeys onto a house built on sand.

      PI didn't interest me and the introduction of Incursions only exacerbated the imbalance of risk versus reward, which was the fundamental issue that worked to make low-sec the empty and miserable wasteland I was struggling to have fun in. I didn't enjoy having my characterful avatar replaced by a bland stranger and CCP still hasn't recaptured that sci-fi spark. It felt as if CCP were more interested in DUST and WoD than developing EVE content to retain an existing subscriber. I was bored with the fundamental game but all CCP gave me in Incarna was a cage to walk around in.

      To cut away the hype, all that Incarna realistically promised to deliver was a new way to interact with the Station Services menu. This would be less efficient than the current system. Even if Incarna had been a success I would still have quit because I was unhappy with the core game. Incarna was not a failure for me because it didn't deliver on its promises but because it did nothing to alleviate my problems or boredom.

      I think that a lot of the stigma attached to Incarna is contextual and it would receive a better response today than all those years ago because the core game is in a better state. If they ever iterate on WiS then it really needs to be after they 'fix' null-sec and they cannot afford to develop it to the detriment of their full-loot PVP sandbox.

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    3. @ anonymous: Incarna was the second iteration (or maybe third) of avatar content. Back in 2006-2007, CCP developed a concept called "War on impossible" which spanned to several aspects of the game -and adding avatar content was one of them. It involved stuff like players selling food to other players who could grow fat and would require the use of players with the skills to rebuild their clones back into shape. Plus players selling clothes and setting up shops for players, and gambling and smuggling and more.

      It was, literally, another universe within stations, intended to be as complex as the one outside in space. Then (apparently), around 2008 CCP hired new executive people and they changed the direction of "WiS" into what Incarna pretended to be. Very notably, everything already developed for WiS was scratched and CCP started all over again with what would be the CARBON engine, and with little idea of what to do with it beyond selling ludicrously priced MT vanity stuff.

      Behind it all, it was made obvious (and CCP agreed) that the "old" CCP was so vane that they figured that players would do what they were told to and would use the content as delivered and not as it suit to their interests. That proved terrible when Incarna didn't suit the interests of nobody... I recall the cold grasp in my guts when, few days before Incarna release, the Sisi version was considered final and still was awfully lacking... I couldn't believe that that horrendous thing had been greenlight for release, and yet we still didn't knew of the price structure for the NEX store. Just in case we had any hope left...

      And yet, the tragedy is that EVE needed WiS/Incarna. It needed it in 2006, needed it more in 2009, and it was essential to get it right in 2011.

      Since the faillure of Incarna, EVE has been in post-apocalypse mode. It still is. It's not growing and CCP is trying all the tricks in the bag to prevent a collapse of population.

      Multiple accounts was done and finished. More revenue per account is not working very well because CCP are quite inept at reinventing the wheel (destructable ship skins, l look at you). Faster release cycles so people don't quit until next expansion already are implemented -but they will come to a price for everyone as novelty stress settles in.

      They still have got one resource left, though, and nobody would want to see them using it. Its name is F2P, and CCP is hinting at it, toying with the idea of permadeath characters.

      Or, maybe, CCP could just look for non-customers with non-existing game content. Avatars, PvE, they all are missing from EVE the game were the content it's you and what you do. You can't do anything as PvEr. Neither as an avatar. And that is CCP's FAULT as it stems from CCP's DECISSIONS.

      The guys who are oh so happy with all the new pew pew spaceship content will not do anything to change the game, neither CCP will do unless the misfits convince them, somehow, that the only customers they have left are the ones who will not play the "core" game as is in a million years but could be invited to play it in different ways.

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  7. why hasn't anyone mentioned DUST? It officially started jan'13 two years after the summer of rage and now two years later...how much effort would it be to take the walking in dust to eve?

    why hasn't anyone mentioned that snippet in that prophecy trailer about dust drop ships with marines boarding ships?

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  8. I suppose I'm in a bit of an odd position. When I first came to EVE (late 2005, as I recall), one of the first things I remember trying to figure out was how to get out of my ship and walk around. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered it was not possible. I was not alone in this experience, as it was a frequent question whenever new players showed up, and it soon became an oft-requested feature.

    Eventually, CCP heard the requests and announced that they were working on avatar-based play. Over time, we began to get dev blogs describing how it would work, followed by incredible demos that seemed to go beyond our dreams of what avatar play could mean for EVE. CCP made it clear that their vision was for the EVE sandbox to grow into a "comprehensive sci-fi simulator," in which nearly anything would be possible, and the use of spaceships would not be a restriction or limitation, but simply one aspect of a vast game world with almost limitless possibility.

    Then, for a variety of reasons, I found myself taking a break from EVE for a couple of years. By the time I returned, the Summer of Rage had passed and already begun fading into memory. I had missed Incarna completely, only reading about it and the aftermath in old forum posts and blog archives. I understand all the anger over the locked door, monoclegate, "Greed is good," and gold ammo, but I did not experience it directly. In my mind, the issue to be the most angry about is the fact that it is nearing ten years since I started this game, and EVE still does not have functional avatar gameplay. I am still waiting for the grand sci-fi simulator which CCP promised and sold to us years ago. As far as I am concerned, until CCP delivers on that vision, EVE will always be less than it has the potential to be, and that is the real tragedy of the game as it stands now.

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