This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

For an introduction to this blog refer to this link. You may also want to check out the guide for new readers

: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

29 Jul 2012

Blog Banter 38 - Witness to Change

Taking a cue from Ripard Teg, the most recent Blog Banter asks a really complex question:

"In his recent "That's just the way it is" post on Jester's Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE's design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these "quirks". In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online's developers as "relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world", underlining that he has only four content developers but "a lot" of programmers and engineers.

Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted - expecting the "social engine" to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP's responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of "emergent gameplay" with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?"

There are actually three questions in this, and I will address them individually:

Q: Are long-time players really accepting the design idiosyncrasies?

From all I know, the answer is no. Issues like the ones Ripard Teg and others mentioned, turn up again and again as suggestions or complaints. I don't know if I ever read a devblog or a developer's forum post, accompanying the latest update, without finding at least a handful of posts in the vein of "why do they introduce feature X now when there is still Y and Z to fix?".

Things like the problematic POS mechanics, the horrible corp management interface, the sec status and GCC troubles, the fact that you can't change subsystems at an SMA, and so on and so forth, come up all the time.

I wouldn't say long-time players accept them, but they have come to live with them, and tolerate them, because they love the rest of the game enough to forget about it for the time being.

Q: Will new players be less tolerant of those problems? 

Very likely yes. Of course many of the problems tend to only manifest themselves after some time. Most people are not very likely to set up a POS or manage a corp within their first month or two. By the time such issues begin to become a regular annoyance, a player might have found their niche in the game already, and become one of those who are tolerating it's flaws for the sake of it's enjoyable aspects.

There are still enough things that will make a new player ask "what the hell is this all about?!" and that might end up with them deciding that they don't want to deal with it.

I remember very well how I very soon ran into the issue that I had to sell everything in my item hangar by individually clicking on each stack, instead of having a "sell all" function that just asks me for every stack whether I want to really sell it at that price or not. It still annoys the hell out of me, but there is enough in the game that I find so enjoyable, that I just swallow this bitter pill.

The tipping point might be different for every individual player, and there will certainly be the ones who are so enthralled with EVE that they switch to the acceptance camp very early. Those who are not, need to be caught as early as possible and given a perspective for the future of their gaming experience.

The big caveat with addressing things that may be annoying for new players, is to avoid 'dumbing down' the game. Many posts have been dedicated to this danger, and rightly so. There is a thin line to walk for CCP which lies between identifying genuinely stupid flaws and robbing their game of it's unique character.

I just want to pick one of the many examples: The autopilot.

Some people have suggested it should always jump to zero. I can't but disagree. There should be a reward for not flying AFK, and that reward is less danger and shorter travel times. I would actually propose, that if you make newer players sit at their desk when flying, it actually benefits immersion.

They get to look at the beautiful background, and see how it changes as they  travel. They can spend time in the new player chat while flying around and (hopefully) get useful information. They can look at ships around them and familiarize themselves with the interface without being under pressure.

As a matter of fact, that is what I did a lot in the beginning. 

Q: Should CCP do more about those idiosyncrasies?

That would be a definitive yes. The way I see it, they actually are doing just that. Presentations at fanfest were addressing security status and GCC mechanics at length. POSes will finally get a major overhaul in the foreseeable future, and the last two expansions did a lot to iron out glitches and fill the gaps in the game. The events of the last summer seem to have resulted in a new way how CCP views expansions, and that's good.

However, also here they are facing a possible pitfall: There are many very vocal older players, a lot of which stand behind CSM candidates who push their agenda with CCP. It would be a mistake to focus too much on changes that make life easier for players who have been around for years, rather than improving things that every player will encounter more-or-less from their first day onward.

Except if you directly come to Goonswarm from somethingawful, you are very unlikely to end up in nullsec sov-space within your first few months, and even if, you will not be dealing with sov mechanics or the shortcomings of capital ships. Just making improvements that work in this context would do nothing to retain new players. Most of the larger nullsec alliances also have strong communities behind them that do their own thing to retain new players. 

In Summary

I do think that CCP can rely on the "social engine" to some extent, especially when it comes to larger alliances and long-standing corporations with their own in-game and out-of-game communities. Where CCP really needs to put their focus is where players are not yet integrated into an in-game community.

The efforts of the more recent expansions have been great in this respect, and I hope CCP keeps going forward like this. Eventually their game will be polished enough for them to drop the next big feature that really expands the game instead of improving or fixing it.

However, for a player to keep on playing it is very important that they stay long enough to become a witness to positive change, and to be able to trust that it will come. That is the most critical "community management" task that CCP is facing.Things like promising all kinds of Walking in Station features for years, and then not delivering them, is something that should never happen again.

New players don't really read that many (dev)blogs or have experienced how the attitude of CCP has changed in a positive way. This message has to be brought to them both by the company and by us who are longstanding members of the community.

Finally, most gamers are not used to the amount of influence and participation CCP allows them in the development process. They view the games they are playing as a given, and take them or leave them. CCP, however, has mechanisms in place that allow players to have a voice in where the development efforts go. They would also do themselves a lot of good to carry that message to players as soon as possible.

It is a balancing act that CCP has to engage in, but at the moment I see the balance tipping into the right direction, and I just hope it stays that way.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really relieved to see you take a macro-view of the issue here, as I was starting to think I was the only one to do so! As always, great post. Way to tackle it head on.