Thursday, February 25, 2016

Careless Whispers

I am very bad at using song lyrics to emphasis a point. That has never stopped me from doing it anyway. Over the past two years my understanding and frame of reference for Eve has changed. I am prone to musing about topics that have little to do with game play. They are formed from nothing more than my own opinion and understandings.

Last week during the summit I said that the Producers had asked us to give them their ideal road maps. I took this outside of the summit room (with permission just saying) and brought that here to the blog. From there I got a heap of interesting responses and even a blog banter on the topic. My information sourcing mind is very happy and I expect that I will spend tomorrow and Friday starting a summerization of things.

Of course, as often happens with such topics, the responses developed a life of their own. In my ideal mind everyone would give me a nice little road map. I'd bundle that up, slap a bow on it, and hand it over. For some unknown reason, my ideal situation only partially happened. People took the topic and responded to it in many different ways.

What I started to see was not just an ideal road map, but an ideal image of things people wanted from Eve. Inside of that, I started to see something that at first made me squint in exhaustion before I reflected on what it meant.

People listed wants more than road maps. It is as if each person is an individual and interpreted the topic in their own way. But, this isn't about the interpretations so much as a steady pattern that I began to see. This all leads back to George Michael as well.

In the song, George Michael is apologizing for, I guess, cheating on whomever he is dancing with. Or something. Anyway, he fucked up and it got out and we're all really sad. While not quite the same, I've spent a good bit of time over the last two years coming to understand the cost of CCP's years of player interaction.

In the 13 years that Eve has been chugging along, CCP has made a lot of promises. They have not fulfilled all of those promises. That is understandable. Often times the promises were grand and reality snickered at their efforts. Other times new projects and problems came to light. Some things upon creation did not match their original inspiration. There are reasons why everything has happened. Lots of reasons. But those first made promises, many of them made for years, left a bad taste when they were not fulfilled.

Now CCP of 2013 who is not CCP of 2003 has to pay for those careless words whispered on the dance floor over the years. They are paying for words said by other people. It is a rather terrible situation that they are in. No matter what they do or bring to the table, those past promises bubble up to the surface again and again.

It is one of the larger wounds that never seems to heal between CCP and the player base. At first, I thought I could solve it by just explaining it. That makes sense to me. However, I've been knocked off of that bit of rational thought. It doesn't work because those careless promises were so provocative. Love at first sight or maybe lust. Whichever it was, it caught the imagination, set roots, and sprouted.

I don't think CCP wants to spray weed killer on everything.

The age of the community has worried me for a while now. How do we entertain people for over a decade? Can we expect that people can and will continue to be entertained? But then, I have to add onto it these cuts and hurts that makes things that much harder.

My belief is that they can be healed, somehow. I'm not sure how but I believe it anyway. When I look through the roadmaps I have been given I see a lot of frustration. It has adjusted how I plan to write my summary. Which is a good thing. We dig for gold and sometimes find platinum.

Friday, February 19, 2016

And into Tomorrow

I'm still on my tablet and trying to figure out why google's auto correct does not like my blue tooth keyboard. I am not trying overly hard. I need to finish packing but I figured that there were a few more things to finish off the day. But, little correction and many errors will probably follow this post too.

"We should stop focusing on what happened and look to the future."  That is a sentiment that I hate. We, as a race, already do not learn from our own history. We're past the time when education was reserved for an elite class in most countries. Knowledge of past mistakes are at our finger tips but we still ignore them. It seems to be to be an even greater error to pin, "Fixed" on something and brush ones hands of all that came to cause the break.

Acknowleging the past does not mean that we have to live in it. We have to acknowledge it. We have to break it down and understand why it happened. Then we have to learn from it. The past does not go away. We simply move forward and distance ourselves from it. But we cannot allow that time to be wasted.

There have been so many negitive words said. Emotions and angers have ruled the foreground. They are at risk of defining everything. While I have been here, as much as I have laid out the harsh reality of my view point I have been trying to see the other side of things. The how. The what. The why. And from that, I want to learn.

We've covered the fun and productive stuff this summit. Those are the giggle worthy bits that brighten the eyes and bring a smile to the lips that I do so enjoy about the summit. The future has a lot for us. I'm pretty pleased with it. I've not gotten my way in every area. That will leave a touch of disapointment.

As for the CSM one of the greatest things that we need from here on forward is a clear line to esclate concerns. We don't need to use that every day. But, if we find ourselves feeling locked down and unable to move or do anything, we can reach out and do some sanity checks. Not everything that happens is automatically malicious. That does not mean it is okay when communication breaks down. And this esclation path needs to exist for the CSM -> CCP and for Ccp -> the CSM.

I've talked a lot the last few days. What I want from all of this is to give CSM11 a clear path forward. One that does not have the baggage of CSMX's problems. Hurdles are being ripped down. Streets paved. I fully expect to hear how productive CSM11 is and I will be both pleased and bitter.

The other thing to address is the Air BnB thing. I can go on, at lenght, about how unhappy I was with it. But, I found out more information about why a hotel wasn't an option and I figured that I'd randomly share it with Fanfest coming up.

Iceland is floundering in a huge surge of tourisem. It's Febuary and their tourisem is up by 30%. There is an expectation that they will be understaffed for the upcoming summer by 15%. The increase in tourisem has led to a lack of hotels and rooms in the city. This has driven up rent, made finding a home hard, and spawned a new wave of opportunities for things like AirBnB.

I did check hotels when I learned about the AirBnB and the only options for a week were high end rooms at Hotels far from the city and CCP's office. I'm not willing to also rent a car to get around.

So, yes. Bookings were left too late but htat was only enhanced by the strange state of Iceland's tourist economey. I hope everyone going to Fanfest has already booked their rooms.

Two more months.

I'm leaving the summit with a few homework projects that I will share. Two of them I have already posted and received good discussion over the past week. I also want to write a summary for CSM11 going over a few of the topics we have had zero movement with. This way they can know and hopefully someone will pick them up. We have discussed having a solid overlap from CSMX into CSM11 where we can hopefully give them a smoother hand off considering, at the most, only two members of the next council will have expierence.

This is what I consider cautious hope. I am going to function as if things are changed. I am still going to allow my jaded eye a chance to review what is going on even as I work forward. But, I am not going to ever go, "Let's just move forward and let this vanish into the void." That is how we repeat history.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

So Ends the Summit

It has been my habit the previous trips to Iceland to walk through my day in this blog. I did it for the simple enjoyment of writing about my adventures and struggles in a strange land. But, I also did it for accountability.

The accusation that the CSM is a popularity contest so that the winners can take free trips rankles me. It pisses me off. But, I cannot figure out how to counter it. I could sit back and say that I have the money to travel. That makes me look an arrogant braggart. I could point out that I use up huge amounts of my yearly allotted vacation, but that makes me look the whining martyr. And then, those can be countered by telling me to remote in if it is such a burden. The insult and accusation is well done. It is a slippery trap that I firmly step into and as with many such traps, there isn’t an answer that will render it inert. Even my sad little point that, I’d already been to Iceland for Fanfest before i even ran didn’t make much of a dent.

Instead, I decided to fall back on honesty. Maybe if I pulled the curtain back, people would understand what was inside. The trip is very interesting. I do find it pleasurable to meet with CCP directly and discuss the game that I have been so passionate about. I’ve been as much of a fangirl as anyone else. But, the trip wasn’t why I ran and I don’t actually think anyone thinks that is the reason that I ran. It is an easy and piercing insult. In these days of causing as much harm to others as possible, why not use it?

For three summits and one Fanfest trip I religiously documented my time in an effort to bring transparency and open honesty to the process. Some of it was a suprise to me. I’d not expected the long days and short nights. The cold walks and quickly consumed meals. The mental gymnastics to talk, focus, take notes, and attempt to be a voice for as many people as I had the privilage to represent surprised me in its exhaustion.  But, I hoped that somewhere there was a hint of humor and passion and a bit of amusement and sharing in my day.

I entered this Summit in the darkest mood since my term started. In January, I was so deeply angry that the idea of picking up the CSM, throwing it away, deleting Eve and all my Eve related social media and walking away from it all had all but consumed me with its allure. I had nothing positive to say. Venom and anger and bitterness consumed most of my thoughts. I stopped writing. I stopped talking. I looked at the situation that had become the sum total of my existance and I dispaired.

I wondered why I had given everything up. I no longer had a corporation. I no longer had much of a game. I had convinced myself that it was okay if I did not play for now because the CSM was not forever. If I were to focus all of my time and energy into the CSM aspect of my Eve existance I’d be able to say that I had done everything that I could. In a way I could not justify my own gameplay. I felt negligant to my duties and the possibilities and potentuals if I were to turn someone down because I wanted to go do something that I could do at another time.

It is very much my own fault that I found myself in the place that I was at. In ignorance, I had stripped myself of much of my support and the solid foundation for my work. It left me screaming into the darkness and my energy spent fighting a battle that was going no where. In fact, it seemed as if I was slipping faster and faster into irrelevence and fettered uselessness.

I debated not going. I debated it strongly. I’d wander around the house and think about it as I went through my day. I read up on boycotts. I pondered the meaning. In the end, I decided that angry or not, disparing or not, unsure as to what the summit would bring or what I was there for, I should still go. I should go because to many would not understand why I didn’t go. I decided that I would betray everyone who didn’t care about problems between some parts of CCP and the CSm. They’d not care about the concerns and struggles about the CSM’s place in CCP. They’d just want me to do what I could and it’d more or less anger them that other, less fathomable things that we had quietly been struggling with for months had taken precidence over the duties that they wanted me to try to preform.

But, anger taints everything. The travel plans for the Summit came extreamly late. For me, an obsessive planner this detail put me on edge. I do not fly be the seat of my pants. I’d never pack up and just go someplace and let things work themselves out. Last minute things leave me taunt and unbalanced and worried for I have no time to make a back up plan.

Also, the logings were not booked as smoothly as I’d like. Due to a lack of room, we were not staying in a hotel. Instead, AirBnB was called upon. I found myself having to sign up for an unfamilar website to contact a young lady whos apartment I would be staying in for the week.

I’m a deeply personal person. I don’t stay at other peoples homes. I don’t invite people to my own. I am comfortable in hotels bcuase they are richly neutral. Like a resteraunt, it is clear that you are not infringing on them. Things are done in neat scheules with rules. Now, I was staying in a stranger's home. I’m writing on that stranger's kitchen table staring in horror at the ring my tea cup has made that I will shortly clean up.

Really, my inner turmoil made the entire thing harder. I’d have found it hard even if I was calm. But, I was not calm. I was on an emotional rollar coaster full of doubt, rightiousness, anger, and wistfulness.

Somewhere in the middle of everything, I just wanted everything to be better.

And that started to happen.

The week before the Summit, as we changed coordinators has been one of very mixed emotions. Suddenly, into my turomoil was thrown hope.

And hope is what I came to the summit with. Hope wrapped in caution but hope still.

The Summit has been productive. There is good and bad. There is a lot of good. The bad is not horrible. It is just the fustrations of having an agenda and having to fit that agenda into that of CCP’s. It doesn’t always work. While, I understand it, it is still fustrating. And I must walk the path of productively channeling that fustration while knowing that I am not going to finish everything that I want.

But, what the Summit gives is face time with CCP. It is easy, when there is only a screen and a blocked path of communication to lose track of the individual humanities that make up CCP. CCP is a company and as a company CCP has much responsibility. But, CCP is also individuals. And those individuals are not all CCP. As I have asked them to see me as a player and not the CSM so I must give to them their individuality and not just see them as CCP.

I consider myself comfortable with communicating over the internet. I met my husband online thirteen years ago. We communicate by chat client when we are not in the house together. But, sometimes I pick up the phone and call him so that I can hear his voice. So that I can hear him say hello to me and his puzzled worry that i am calling instead of sending a message. It isn’t often that I do this. some days i Just need that extra link to him.

It is something that needs to be rembered when it comes to interacting with CCP the company and CCP the people. And its a delicate balance. For, we come to them from the CSM as both company and person. And they come to us as both person and CSM. That awkward linkage can create such amazing things and spawn horrific fustration and anger.

The last four days have been productive. There has been a lot of honesty. I’ve clenched my fists and cried, “We can’t keep going in this circle.” And, we can’t. We can’t keep term after term having these barriers and problems. We can’t struggle with accountability and double standards. We can’t keep behaving in this limbo where we are a real thing but not real enough to earn all of the structures that we need to fufill our potentual, to be productive for the entire term, and to work on this game that we love enough that we’ve all been brought together in that room.

I’m not the person that I was two years ago. I regret that in some ways. I love some of the changes and expierences. It isn’t something I ever imagined. But, I hate many other expierences and I wish that standing in this place did not come with everything that it does. I don’t understand a lot of the whys to things that have happened. There is still so much to think and reflect on.

I do believe that I have tried. I’ve given you everything that I have and I have no left overs. And well do I now understand that even your all sometimes isn't enough. Such seems to be the inevitable nature of the thing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Choke Points

Today's question to you from the summit, is about choke points.

This is a topic that has come up several times but one we had a very good discussion about today. The Phoebe changes to jump drives is a contentious one still. I like that we had changed but now, a bit over a year out, we need to look at what the changes did. Did they do what was wanted them to do? Is there room for change?

I have discussed the shape of space before. There are some part sof Eve that we want to be inaccessable. It makes terrain. However, the shape of space was not created around the idea of jumping ships. I am not the only one that felt that the shape of space needed to be addressed when the jump changes came.

I also asked, "What is a choke point?" How do we define this. By there being one route? Is two a choke point still? The answer may be as simple as add another route. It may be more complex then that.

So, I'm calling back in the feedback I've had about the shape of space. I need to dig through my documents a bit as well. I figured that I would freshly open the floor about this topic.

The shape of space fascinates me. What will happen in Great Wildlands if someone opens a freeport Citadel with a market? The shape of space is very much centered around the handful of stations out there just as Syndicate is station heavy.

I have no desire to make all space the same. Please do not walk over the depth of the question with such a shallow assumption.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Your ideal roadmap

To try to be a bit more interesting then blogging yet another daily list of summit meetings, how about a question?

In the producer session, as we try to figure out how to fix and improve our communication with teams and how we figure out who should be gone to for features and changes, we discussed the road map.

We discussed what 'our' ideal roadmap would be. This breaks down into the individual roadmaps for each member of the CSM. After all, we are individiuals and we have different dreams for Eve. We have different goals and features that we want to move forward or go back to.

How close are we to what CCP is looking at and planning? We discussed their safety mesures to weigh the value of features. What will this feature do for Eve? It is not enough to have an ideal road map of things you want. Those things have to have value and that value needs to be enough to dedicate the time to the feature.

Do you have an ideal roadmap? A path for Eve to head in the next year or two once we move past Citadel?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Guest Post: Jinrai Tremaine and the search for Strontium Clathrates

Sugar Kyle has very generously allowed me to borrow her podium in order to talk to you about a proposed change for the Citadel release that I think is going to have very serious long-term consequences for all of New Eden.

Before I go into detail, a brief introduction. I imagine that most of you have no idea who I am, so: my main character in EVE is Jinrai Tremaine and my space-job is mining ice in hisec. I run one of the locust fleets you may occasionally hear solo miners complain about, as we strip ice anomalies bare before they get a chance to make much ISK. I’m actually not here to discuss my playstyle or why I do what I do, I only bring it up to establish my credentials - ice is a big deal for me and has been for several years, so I try and stay on top of upcoming changes that are likely to affect it, which in this case involves the upcoming Citadel release.

A few days ago, CCP published the long-awaited Structure Fitting Devblog which included, amongst other things, the reprocessing rates for the various sizes of Citadel in different areas of space. I’m actually not here to talk about those, either - the part I want to bring to your attention is actually near the end of that devblog, where Team Game of Drones mention adding in Strontium Clathrates (Stront for short) as an ingredient for regular fuel blocks, in order to ensure that there’s still demand for Stront in the distant future when Structures have wholly replaced POSes and there is no more stront timing for reinforced modes. They initially planned to require 400 Stront per 40 fuel blocks, which was later revised downwards to 200. Based on my knowledge of ice mining, that still seemed like an extremely high number, so I decided to look into the effects this new requirement would have on fuel production.

Fig 1: Refined ice products from each belt, assuming maximum local refining:

Nullsec (0.0 to -0.5)
Nullsec (-0.5 to -1.0)
Racial Isotopes
Heavy Water
Liquid Ozone
Strontium Clathrates

As you can see from the table above, regardless of where exactly one happens to be mining, any type of ice produces significantly less Stront than it does any other ice product. This is an issue, because the proposed changes to fuel blocks will make Stront the second most numerous ingredient.

As a brief digression, here is how ice/ice product/fuel block production balances out currently:
  • Highsec and Lowsec ice anomalies local production is limited by the available Liquid Ozone in their ice - they over-produce Racial Isotopes (Nitrogen, Helium, Hyrdogen and Oxygen) and Heavy Water
  • Both types of Nullsec ice anomalies are the opposite - their production is limited by available Racial Isotopes and they over-produce both Liquid Ozone and Heavy Water
  • Over-production fuels jump drives (isotopes), Jump Bridges and Beacons (Liquid Ozone) and Industrial Cores (Heavy Water) and is traded back and forth between highsec and nullsec to balance out supply.
  • Heavy Water has low value due to being over-produced everywhere and having little demand outside fuel blocks.

The addition of Stront to fuel blocks changes that entire relationship. Because there’s so little Stront produced in any belt compared to any of the other resources, Stront will become a bottleneck to fuel block production in all areas of space. Every other ice product will be over-produced compared to Stront, much as heavy water is today, which will drastically lower their value at the same time that Strontium values shoot through the ceiling. There’s also no way to avoid this by cherry-picking only stront-heavy ice where it’s available; the only way to cycle ice anomalies and respawn the stront-heavy ices is to completely clear out the entire anomaly and wait 4 hours, which means over-production of other ice products will be built into efficient stront production.

That’s obviously bad news for everyone who mines ice in either highsec, lowsec or nullsec with poor truesec, as they’ll get a lot less stront per anom and a lot more low-value over-production materials. However the real danger is simply that there is not enough Stront production across New Eden as a whole to maintain the current supply of fuel blocks, let alone meet additional demand from the construction and operation of Citadels and their rigs and modules.

Fig 2: Comparative local fuel block production caps per anomaly

Null (0.0 to -0.5)
Null (-0.5 to -1.0)
Without Stront
Liquid Ozone
Liquid Ozone
Racial Isotopes
Racial Isotopes
Fuel Blocks
With Stront
Fuel Blocks

Production change per anomaly

% Change

As you can see from this table, there’s going to be a massive reduction in fuel block production across the whole of New Eden as soon as the existing stockpiles of fuel blocks and strontium run out. If it helps to illustrate the extent of the difference: Currently, emptying a hisec anomaly would fuel a Large POS for 18 days. With the addition of a strontium requirement, that same anomaly would fuel a Large POS for 10 hours. Right now, emptying a deep nullsec anomaly would fuel that same POS for 5 months. With the stront requirement, that drops to a little over 1 month.

As it stands now, nullsec anomalies are likely significantly under-utilized, in contrast with hisec anomalies which tend to be heavily mined. However even assuming a significant shift to nullsec ice mining there’s still a very finite limit on how much can be produced per day - each anomaly takes time to be mined out and then requires 4 hours to respawn, making it effectively impossible to get more than 5 spawns per belt (some systems have multiple “belts” giving them 2 or 3 anomalies at a time) per day. With even the lowest truesec null systems facing nearly 80% less potential production than they currently have it doesn’t seem possible for them to pick up the slack that will be left by the almost complete removal of hisec ice as a viable fuel source.

This is going to hit closest to home for hisec-based ice miners like myself and those actively involved in running POSes, as well as everyone interested in setting up one of the new Citadels once they’ve launched, however it’s important to note that the knock-on effects will be felt by all of New Eden’s residents. Every unit of moongoo is extracted via POSes, large amounts of manufacturing in highsec and lowsec take place in POSes, ore compression and refining in high and lowsec take place in POSes, reactions that produce composites for tech 3 ships and turn gasses into boosters take place in POSes as do huge numbers of blueprint copy jobs. In all of these cases, the people running the POSes are going to look to pass on their increasing fuel costs to consumers further down the line, or else they’ll stop using POSes and pass on the costs that their POSes were saving them (NPC station 10% manufacturing taxes, for example) to their consumers. Either way, this will result in increased prices for most ships and items produced by players.

As a final note, all my figures for calculating the effects of these changes can be found in my Google Spreadsheet in case anyone wants to look at the numbers themselves, or double-check my calculations.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Next Week

The CSM Summit is next week. It has been a frustrating year so far. An anger making one in truth. It is a muddled mess and it has become harder and harder to sort out what can be said and what cannot yet be said and what shouldn't be said and what should. It is a greater struggle to remain polite or neutral about things. It is something that I have always prided myself in but it is something I have not been able to do for some weeks now.

I'm not happy to the change in the white paper that excludes media. I was less happy to learn about it second hand while at work when someone messaged me to inquire about it. I have presented that disappointment to CCP. It is an unacceptable break down in communication. I find myself rather embarrassed in such situations. It is the other side of honesty. "Hi there everyone. I had no knowledge of this change. I'm blindsided by a document that is supposed to define huge swaths of what I've been doing here."

It makes me angry enough that I don't want to have a polite, rational argument about the idea being a good one or not.  Normally, I'd want to sit down and go over pros and cons and figure out what we are accomplishing. Now, I'm angry enough that I want to reject the change.

So, call me frustrated. Ishmael would be a cooler name, but I'll stick with frustrated. Actually, angry but I've been actively working back down to frustrated. I'm a hot head when I am angry and I will say things that I will not regret. However, I don't feel that I have the freedom to do that in a position that isn't just about me. Consider me late to the party.

It also means that next week I still get to be politely productive. I still get to make an effort to be comfortable to work with. Over the last few weeks I've struggled to express the 'stuff' aspect of the CSM. But maybe I can now.

Next week two things will happen. We will sit in many meetings and discuss aspects of game mechanics, player relationships, and pros and cons of the games development features. As happens each time we will learn good and bad things. Limits will have been reached by the developers. Mortality and the limits of it will be faced with all of its frustration. It will be as productive as we can make it.

The second part is, what feels like the endless dance of the CSMs position inside of CCP. Communication. Trust. Interactive. The place in CCPs informational cycle that includes the players feedback. There will be frustration that things where not averted sooner. Often that frustration is that things are not averted before you, the player knows of it. I've long considered that one of our more important jobs. I want developers to dream, reach, and stretch. I just want to be there to point out where it may cause harm or angst in their community before it gets there and frustrations build. I'm delighted when features are rolled back but I want to keep as many of those features from every reaching the public.

It has been a learning experience, one that I still find a bit overwhelming, to figure out how to balance all of these things. It is the second part that is the exhausting part. We're not employees. We're a weird volunteer contractor customer. But, we step into what I consider a professional relationship and when that relationship is not fulfilled and instead struggles along, it becomes an unpleasant experience.

It is one I've tried to share and I have come to feel that I've not done a good job of doing so. This is something I have to sit down and consider. Perhaps, when I write my retrospective, things will be more clear. For now, I refuse to give up on the potential of what we can be and what we should be.

I have a lot of unresolved issues to try to work into the table. More things are cropping up as these major changes are going forward. But that to is the nature of these things.