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Non Player Characters

Many times over the last year, and I note with greater frequency, people have suggested NPCs fill in particular tasks in Eve. I, at first thought that this was a random and rare wish. Yet, I've seen it more and more from various places and for different reasons. It is not something I think that I would ever propose. It is not something that I think I want. Seeing it cropping up has left me to at least wish to talk about it.

Perhaps it was the early exposure to missions that left me with the idea that the NPC empires 'hire' the players to do things and not the other way around. It just feels right. I swagger into their office like a bad ass and they thank me for coming and offer to pay me to help with their problem. This seemed to be the natural cycle to me.

But the latest suggestion of Wex and Dire to have NPC escorts for freighters has left me pondering the topic. Not because I am in live with it. I'm not. It is more to find out if this is something people find comfortable. And then, perhaps, what it would do for the game.

NPC convoys? NPC escorts? NPC guards? NPC hauling? NPC mining?

What would it all mean? I find myself at a bit of a loss creatively. This is not a topic near to my own soul.

There are some that will shun the idea. "Get more friends," is a common response to people. I find myself thinking of a merchant hiring a guard instead of maintaining a stable of professional soldiers. There is a chance that I may have been reading a bit too much military based stories of late. Really, I wind up tying myself in a knot. If one shouldn't have to get friends would NPC allies count? I think they'd would but maybe that, again, is just me.

In a way, Teams were a step towards this. It may be a good starting ground to see how people felt about the NPC influence in their day to day activities.

I have so many questions. CCP has worked to remove many things from the NPC hands and give it to the players. it just feels wrong to me to give some of those back to the NPC. Yet, even I cannot fangirl myself out of the fact that Eve has a lot of tedious busy work that is not complex. I've said before that I will not ask others to light my cynos simply because the job is tedious and boring.

Yes? No? Maybe so?



Comments

  1. Well Wex was actually the one that mentioned NPC escorts. I was thinking of some sort of player escort mechanic but the germ behind the spitballing was similar and Wex is surely correct that NPC escorts would produce great hilarity.

    Provided NPC hirelings don’t increase isolation and disengagement but rather act as another avenue towards player to player engagement I’m rather entranced with the vague notion. To some extent, Eve is already rife with hirelings – drones (fighters, combat drones, mining drones, salvage drones, etc.) & deployable structures (mobile tractor units, mobile siphons, etc.). If we think up clever ways to expand on what we already have all the while paying attention to my earlier not isolating, not disengaging caveats, the whole notion becomes much more palatable. The spitball doesn’t have to be revolutionary, it can evolve into something intriguing.

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    Replies
    1. Some players will never PvP with their own hands, same as some people would never practice contact sports.

      But there's more than I-hit-your-face sports in the world. NPCs could easily become a equivalent to board games like chess, with EVE's "real loss" in stakes.

      Delete
  2. My first reaction would be "not a good thing", mainly out of the "isolation" concerns... and I find it hard to imagine how NPC escort mechanics would provide an actual positive benefit to a freighter moving through High Sec.
    Would I want to be able to hire NPCs to help me gank something I could not otherwise get on my own? No.

    I can see the attraction of having NPC haulers to move around the little stuff that accumulates, but is not worthy of a Red Frog contract. That is really annoying.

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    Replies
    1. OK, I am as much on-the-fence on us 'hiring' NPCs as Sugar is, though for different reasons... but, try this...

      You have a freighter op, say 10 hops and 3 lowsec and you are a OMS solo Industry player who simply does not have the time or ability to play effectively with others... and you prefer the Lone Wolf game, and you always have... You go to the Market and open the NPC Merc Hiring 'board' and look over the available contracts. You hire an NPC 5-ship 'gang' as Transport Defense Support... the support? In this case 2 Rep Cruisers and 3 Ewar Cruisers.

      The gangs ships, fits and compositions are based on the available contracts and prices, What armed ships capable of potentially destroying an attacker? (based on ships and fits) want Battlecruisers? each at a significantly higher cost, scaling upwards by ship/class and gang comp.

      If you are attacked en route they start repping you and the Ewar frigs damp (or neut/etc.) the targets you call. Adding, at a cost, to your defenses... that's all. They can be attacked and destroyed, probably have to be, so you can be attacked and destroyed... just adds gameplay on a Risk vs Reward basis. Your have increased cost for better defenses and the attacker have to factor in dealing with them.

      As for "get more friends" or "avoiding increase isolation and disengagement"... who cares? Seriously... why do we care?? as long as all the players are enjoying the game and paying for their time (IE CCP makes more money so we ALL get a better game) then who cares if there are players who prefer solo?? I mean seriously, why is it a BAD thing?? What, is their money no good? Are they not in space like the rest of us? Or is it they don't play the way e WANT them to?

      The argument seems to be players who are engaged in social gameplay have better long term retention. I say only those players who WANT social gameplay are better retained by social gameplay. And we are limiting ourselves and the game by denying that solo players and solo play has any merits. I call Bullshit.

      They pay for each month whether via PLEX or CC same as everybody. I say that alone is merit enough. We need MORE players, not more of just THIS or THAT kind of player.

      I say give solo players great solo content... as long as we don't change the PvP Open World Sandbox rules in EVE, good Solo PvE gameplay will never kill EVE nor make is "safe" nor make it a Themepark... No quite the converse...

      Good PvE and support for solo gameplay will bring in MORE players period. If we actually do support an respect all playstyles, why not work on retaining ALL playstyles?

      There are enough players in the world who will never play EVE because of the PvP and the Sandbox Open World Rules that we need to seriously consider attracting and retaining ALL playstyles that are wiling to play in such an environment... not additionally limit ourselves even more by saying ONLY social gamers are worth retaining in EVE.

      I say make EVE more not less for everyone...as long as they want to play in an Open World PvP Sandbox.... that is what I would never ever change. You wanna play solo... cool, I hope you ahve an amazing experience 'cause you are still playing EVE and yes, you are still adding to the game as a whole, no matter what the 'socialbears' say.

      Delete
    2. Amen, Turamarth.

      At some point, CCP should stop giving up PvErs, soloers, casuals and all the minorites who don't play like the "Pros".

      Why those people have short tenures? Because they're playing wrong? Or because their game experience is bad?

      And what's more important, what can CCP do about it? Change the mind of their customers? Or improve their game so it suits better to ALL their customers?

      Delete
    3. Ouch... having Angry agree with me dunt sit well. And uh no... I did not say "CCP should stop giving up PvErs, soloers, casuals and all the minorites who don't play like the "Pros"... I never said "...those people have short tenures..."

      I do however truly believe that as long as CCP stands hard and fast to never nerf the Open World Sandbox PvP base game mechanics, and never backs off on the main tenets that Loss and Risk are Real in EVE, all they need to do then I see to it ALL playstyles are accepted and supported to give us the widest possible playerbase.

      And just because I disagree that every player has to be inna corp to play EVE right, does not mean I don't feel that EVE is not a social game... I believe it is, as well as a PvP game... but I also believe it can be what ever each player makes it. That is our greatest strength.

      Delete
    4. Heh, Turamarth.

      i agree with your point, but I just take it a step further. As ALL styles include people who don't socialize and don't shoot each other's face, and that people is being given the finger by CCP.

      "We did everything possible so they pew-pewed and ganged together, and they won't. Thus, we don't want to do anything else about it, let alone see what they do and figure how does that fit in a greater EVE".

      I feel that the current development cycle is about giving more than ever before to the haves and giving even less to the have nots, with a cover of transversal improvemnts that benefit eveyone to disguise the neglect of whole playstyles.

      Delete
  3. So I'm not a fan of this, mostly because anytime you let an NPC do a job that's a job that you no longer need a player for. I mean would we even have things like Red Frog/PushX/Noir/Marmite/Antipirates/Icouldgoonforabit if we'd have had NPC's to fill such roles?

    Anytime a NPC can do a job, even if it doesn't do quite as a good a job, you remove a need for human interaction, and I think human interaction is what drives a game like EVE forward. I think of jobs like the newbie salvager dying out because of MTU's & Noctium (which I hope was accidental and not intended).

    I quite firmly believe CCP is on the right track by putting more and more stuff into the players hands, especially outside of 0.5-1.0 Empire space.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Anytime a NPC can do a job, even if it doesn't do quite as a good a job, you remove a need for human interaction, and I think human interaction is what drives a game like EVE forward"

      I agree, let the humans deal with it!. Protection/escorts exist already in the game but can they defend their charge without being concorded?

      Delete
  4. My response, in 3 parts:

    a) In general, I'm in favor of MORE npcs running around doing npc things. Having the Circ Seekers running around highsec, for example, provides an interesting backdrop to the lore and an immediate connection to "something bigger going on." The cast of characters we typically see (CONCORD, and other npc guards, npc caravans around stations, etc.) at one time drew interest and awe (who hasn't wanted to fly a concord battleship?) but are long stale. Even changing some of the lvl4 mission rats to use newer ship models (the Orthrus is now in some of the Merc missions) is a welcome update.

    b) I am, in general, also against the notion of npc hirelings. Dire, Kaeda, and Super P already covered this well enough so I won't pile on.

    c) Wild tangent: I think I'm in favor of dynamic security status. If there's enough ganks in a given pipe, maybe CONCORD intervenes and the security status raises a notch for awhile. But resources are finite, so maybe a 0.5 somewhere nearby dips to 0.4. This could make the map edges a little more wobbley. (Don't flame me, this is a half-formed thought as I type. :) ) But if this counts as "NPC influence to day to day activities," then I'd put this in the bucket of "hmm, let's flesh that out."

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    Replies
    1. On your last bit. I dont think it would be a good idea to drop another .5 to a .4. That's likely stranding anyone in that system for no fault of their own. I'd suggest instead dropping other higher sec systems like a .8 to a .7 or .6. But otherwise I really like this idea. The problem is that its not going to work. For cases like Udema its just too central to the travel in Eve that players are just going to keep coming back to it as soon as its back down again.

      Delete
  5. "Thou shalt not create a machine in the likeness of a human mind."

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  6. NPCs are an indispensable aspect of any game. What people do, however, is ignore many of them and focus on the ones that go against their agenda.

    Your store! Are you there 24/7 to talk to customers, personally take their money, and then drive the forklift that carries the goods to their ship yourself? Of course not, that would be a logistics nightmare. NPCs do all those jobs. I'm fairly sure that being told "Get more friends" to do those tasks would not bode well with you.

    It's the same thing with Freighter escort. Who is going to make it their job to escort Freighters all day for less pay than even Red Frog will pay the Freighter? And of course, the Freighter pilot makes less too... because they have to pay the escort.

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  7. Wow, Call that one of my favorite topics.

    Let me split it in little pieces to avoid a wall of text.

    1) NPCs are not bad if what they do is a consequence of what players do.

    Think of every game that uses a piece set, like chess. Is chess a PvP game...?

    EVE could use NPCs acting as pawns for players. It would make a lot of sense that capsuleers could have that impact on simple mortal beings. Corruption should be a possibility in EVE. Battles should be allowed to be fought on the boards and not just in space.

    NPC interaction could have its own rules, like a new layer of meta game into the game. As long as there was a human mind behind the wheel, anything a NPC did would be, in itself, a form of player interaction, even PvP.

    2) NPCs are cheap and expendable, players are not.

    Think about certain tasks -like avoiding the destruction of a unarmed ship. That task means 99.99% of idle time, and no player in his mind would do that. But a NPC can be spawned and kept loitering around for as long as needed. Not for free, of course. But, if it's something no player does, or wouldn't do, why not let players hire a NPC instead?

    3) NPCs already are a part of the game for everyone.

    Think CONCORD. They play a key role in PvP. NPC police and Navies also, albeit they've been long obsoleted by players. Partially because there's no players teaching the NPCs how to deal with player behavior...

    4) NPCs are the single most important thing in game to a large amount of players.

    Think about players who mostly PvE (62% of all players?). Most of them are interacting to NPCs daily, and yet that interaction is mostly useless. Being a PvEr means not playing the game "as you should".

    EVE is a sandbox, but a sandbox can only be used with the tools provided. CCP never added NPC tools. They even have a prejudice against NPCs.

    And yet some players only play the game to interact with NPCs (usually in a very violent way).

    Who is wronger? Those players who avoid shooting other players, or CCP to not provide those players with tools so they can use the sandbox in their way?

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    Replies
    1. I'm quite pleased you chimed in Onions. I knew this was one of your favorite topics and you’ve delivered four insightful bullet points about how to think about the entire question. With your forgiveness, I’m going to walk through your points and elaborate a little here and there because great starting points need the chance to flourish.

      1) NPCs are not bad if what they do is a consequence of what players do.
      This is perhaps the most succinct statement I’ve ever heard getting at how the ideal NPC would work in a sandbox game. Switching what you say around to a positive statement yields something like: NPCs are best when they operate according to player instruction. What tickles me about this approach is that it’s deeply sandboxy rather than themeparky. The bulk of Eve’s current NPCs aren’t much different than slightly animate asteroids; merely resources to be farmed. Your rethink completely switches this around. NPCs become genuine friends or foes because real human players (yourself and/or others) hired them.

      2) NPCs [time] is cheap and expendable, player’s [time is] not.
      I’ve rephrased here a bit for clarity honing the point to fit your elaboration. Similar to above, it’s a great way to think about what player controlled NPCs should be doing.

      3) NPCs already are a part of the game for everyone.
      This is true of the currently existing batch of NPC hirelings but, because there’s a human behind that batch, we don’t think of them as NPCs. When one wanders across a Mobile Tractor Unit for instance, one doesn’t exclaim, “Oh look at the cute NPC!” No, one's run across another player who may or may not be on grid.

      4) NPCs are the single most important thing in game to a large amount of players.
      This is where I get a little uneasy. To get at my unease, let me quote my preferred definition of “CareBear” (http://www.lowseclifestyle.com/2014/12/constructive-use-of-time.html):
      Convenient epithet aside, when it comes to Eve where PvP can descend on you at any moment, the term “CareBear” is in serious need of definitional honing. To be useful, the term “CareBear” shouldn’t refer to the activity one undertakes but rather the expectation that one can pursue that activity absolutely carefree. That is to say, indifferent and oblivious to the environment around them and most especially indifferent and oblivious to the presence of other players. In this sense (and again I think it’s the most useful definition to apply to the term), many Eve players may not be particularly belligerent (they’re not picking fights) but they’re far from carefree and therefore not CareBears.

      Sooooo . . . If NPCs are the single most important thing to a particular player and that player understands, accepts and embraces that engaging in that play still means navigating a universe with other players to partake in that content then all is well. If, however, the NPC centric player instead wants to Dire definition CareBear in up then I’m not a fan since, in effect, that’s requesting a single shard server.

      This last elaboration gets at what I meant behind “isolation and disengagement” earlier on. I’m a big fan of solo play (it’s what I do in game most of the time) but that solo play is built on the desire to navigate a universe with other players. I just usually happen to choose to lone wolfing our player filled universe.

      Delete
    2. Err - *eliminating* a single shard server.

      Delete
    3. Ack! 'eliminating' is equally confusing. Try, "that's requesting a single person server."

      Delete
    4. You're welcome, Dire, as you got my meaning perfectly. Thanks for expanding those bulletpoints!

      On the carebear matter, I too think that the "leave me alone" player is misplaced in EVE. In EVE, you benefit from a universe created by players, and the price is that players will be a aprt o your unvierse, somtiems fo good, sometimes for bad. What I differ from CCP is in what should a player do when other players come for bad.

      Pickig on another concept you got perfectly, player time, let's place it this way:

      In the simplest terms, PvP means disrupting the use of game time.

      That's relevant because time is the single most precious commodity in EVE. You're not destroying a bunch of space pixels: you're destroying the time spent to obtain and/or use those pixels, plus the time that would had been spent using those pixels if they hadn't been disabled by your action.

      That's true for EVERY aspect of PvP, from shooting stuff to mining asteroids. It takes time to travel to a empty belt, and to find a belt, or to not find any and just dock back and call it an empty day... every miner knows that, and knows it hurts. And that's because of TIME.

      So, back to player interaction and NPCs. Currently, the ability to actively disrupt the use of game time is limited to either destroy a NPC or destroy a player asset. Game time is measured in terms of tank vs DPS. Someone exausted the asteroid's tank earlier than you. Someone applied DPS faster than your tank and CONCORD could oppose them. Someone spent his time bulding a tank that overcomes your available DPS. Someone planted iddle tank in an abandoned POS and you must spend your time applying DPS to remove it and gain access to that slot. Etc etera.

      NPCs could come to help in two ways: DPS vs tank is the easier solution. Everybody can come up with "escort" NPCs providing tank and/or DPS to a tank vs DPS scenario like "ganker vs freighter".

      But I am a bit more crooked, and I think of "time vs time" scenarios where a player spends time building up NPC relations and that gives him a tool to disrupt someone's time without a tank/dps scenario.

      Say, forcing a player to stay docked. Or holding him iddling in space. Or making him pay a fine for firing on a ship. Or ban him from using a certain ship class. All limited in time, but with a poignant cost in TIME.

      But also, a player could invest his time building NPC relations to avoid those wastes of time. Or just ignore NPCs and have his game time disrupted, much as a player who ignores tanking will face the consequences and will have his game time disrupted by incoming DPS.

      That would make a more balanced EVE, and a darker, harsher one too. Learning to shot ships could prove easy compared to learning to deal with other player's corrupted NPCs...

      Delete
  8. I think the need for NPC escorts is only coming about because high sec ganking is still no appropriately balanced. If you want to pirate then do it in low sec. You should not be able to make a career out of high sec piracy. You know what most of the somali pirates have in common? extreme poverty and low life spans. So too should high sec gankers.

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  9. I think that NPC haulers would undermine EVE's economic geography. We have multiple trade hubs because of the real time and effort required to haul goods; removing the inconvenience of hauling would remove the need for more than one place to buy and sell (and many player-to-player ISK-making opportunities). It seems like a selfish idea because it would benefit an individual at the expense of the richness of the game as a whole. NPC haulers would be far too convenient with CONCORD protection but nearly useless in high-sec without it.

    Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of having NPCs that follow you around and fight with you. If you can afford to hire NPCs then so can your enemy; all we have achieved is to create an entirely new set of balance problems. If NPC guards are cheap then they will be nearly mandatory and if they are expensive then this is simply another way of investing more ISK to create an insurmountable advantage in PVP; that isn't necessarily bad but I don't think it is needed.

    As for freighter guards, I'm not really sure how this would create interesting gameplay options rather than being a convulated way to change the number of players, and the cost of, a suicide gank. Why not just buff freighters instead?

    Being able to hire NPC miners and ratters would amount to passive income but one that is vunlerable to attack; a player might hide when a neutral comes into Local but an NPC wouldn't. A roaming gang could destroy your investment in hirelings if you refused to defend your space. I think that allowing players to hire NPCs to do PVE for them outside of high-sec would help to fix the culture of blue-balling and make AFK cloaking redundant. This is a way that 'farms and fields' could work in practice.

    I'd rather blow up a player than his NPC hireling but I'd rather destroy a player asset than a rat.

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  10. Maybe instead of NPC escorts CCP should make the career path of bounty hunter more appealing? Gankers are a constant threat to haulers, lets make the bounty hunter an active threat to them. Let's have the gankers looking over their shoulder for a change, they have it far to easy by half. Lets have bounty hunting as a viable gameplay Sugar! put it on "yer things tae dae list!" :)

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    1. Pirates are already looking over their shoulders. The neg 10 status puts them outside of the law and available to freely attacked. Basically, the dial is already turned up, there is no where left to turn.

      Delete
    2. No, pirates aren't looking over their shoulders. I've ganked plenty in high sec while -10. But it's a common misconception. The trouble is the comparison between what the defenseless Indy, (or mission runner, or miner, or trader) loses and the pittance it costs for the killers to do their job. Gankers have min/maxed their game down to the penny. And there are plenty in it for the simple collection of tears.

      Delete
    3. Easy Esky: "Pirates are already looking over their shoulders."

      Meh. Pirates use neutral alts to look for targets, use instawarps to undock safely and land on the victim via bookmarks or the "warp to member" fleet function. They also fit ECCM to avoid jamming by neutrals.

      Pirates have worked out their risk to exactly zero point zero above what they please.

      Whereas their victims can tank at 100% and still be killed by just one ship more.

      Delete
    4. When we are having this sort of discussion, it is important to avoid comparing gankers who are playing optimally with targets that are playing sub-optimally.

      Suicide ganking is only a 'problem' if there are large numbers of players being ganked who took every reasonable precaution to avoid being targeted.

      We should ignore all of the losses from players who were auto-piloting, flying the wrong type of barge in a 0.5 or 0.6 (or not using an Orca to save their barge if they have one), not using a webbing alt with their freighter, using a freighter when there were better options (such as an Orca or Tengu), fitting sub-optimally or using an inappropriately expensive fit (i.e. mission boats). High-sec is too safe when players are protected from their own mistakes.

      Everything considered, I'm not convinced that suicide ganking even needs another nerf, whether that be an HP buff, reduction to CONCORD response time or NPC guards with ewar or logi.

      Delete
  11. I'd rather go the other way, hire NPC haulers for minor stuff and then escort it. Comes with a downside of when the game calculates the value, the higher the value the more times it gets attacked by pirates. Not to mention possible other players. So really, what I'm doing isn't hiring things to ward off risk. I'm temporarily increasing my own cargo capacity through use of an NPC service with increased risk baked in. Since CCP seems like they flat out won't add battleship hull sized haulers, this would be a nice fill in. For things too larger for the current cruiser sized haulers, but doesn't require a full blown freighter either.

    ReplyDelete
  12. ther should be a method other than illegal webbing to remote align a freighter.

    Remote rapping a neutral under illegal aggression should be flag free.

    Currently heroes are castrated in Eve - which contributes to the demand that an NPC forefil roles because of the lower player incentive.

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  13. As noted above, most of what people want NPCs for is work that's too tedious to justify the hassle of using an actual player, but maybe it's more apt to use drones for comparison, since they're mostly just another form of ammo.

    Picture a scenario where station gain a "NPC Contracts" button, with expense scaling by duration (minutes or jumps) and frequency/volume of use (like industry). The NPCs could be hired to provide a various amount of defense when the employer is attacked (reps, jams, etc.). Contracts terminate when employer docks or exceeds the contract duration terms.

    Would such a setup really threaten ganking as an activity? Not likely. Gankers might have to probe the defenses of targets before they unload. They might have to take more risk on what extra defenses are in play, but isn't that the point? Ganking right now is mostly a matter of bringing the mathmatically determined number of cheap ships, and hitting targets of cargo value greater than X. The only real "risk" factor is the randomness of the drop. It seems that adding some NPC interaction would make it more interesting, rather than simply adjusting the balance of the scales. I understand the reluctance of adding anything that reduces the agency of players, but we shouldn't overlook the chance to make our interactions more varied and interesting just because it might involve an NPC.

    Adjusting the behavior of existing systems (sec status, CONCORD response, etc.) in response to player activity could create a more interesting environment without NPCs, but that's another topic.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The world have moved on. Why players can't hire others to do things for them.
    We are going to have extensive range of NPCs for hire in Naval Action.
    Escorts, protection fleets, forts and towers, haulers.

    If you are interested - check out www.navalaction.com

    ReplyDelete

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