Saturday, June 29, 2013

CPM Activity Report #3 - June 29, 2013

When we last left off, I mentioned that we had a meeting coming up with an important staff member in Shanghai – CCP Praetorian. This took place in the middle of the night again between Wednesday and Thursday of last week – 3am for those on the East Coast of the US, 7am in Reykjavik (represented by CCP Dolan) and 2pm in the afternoon in Shanghai. Praetorian called the meeting with the CPM to discuss the changes taking place inside the Shanghai office, and to outline what is now a concrete, public,and focused development road map for the next several months to be rolled out across a series of "rapid fire updates" made possible by recent breakthroughs working with Sony's QA process.

Let's start at the beginning. The most important thing to share is that as of this meeting, its readily apparent now to the CPM that CCP is doubling down on Dust 514's success, investing more resources into bringing staff on board, focusing their direction, and iterating on the processes that have brought the game this far. Dust is clearly one of the company's major long term investments – and despite the rough launch this year, CCP seems adamant on figuring out what they can do to open the pipeline wider – both in terms of total content output, the timing of the updates, and most importantly – communication. 

Now I completely understand that the community has heard this before, but there's no denying here that physical growth is actually taking place. CCP is spending cold hard money, increasing the number of people working on the game, reshuffling teams, and passing out new assignments according to the road map. Disappointing press reviews and a growing malaise amongst the core community be damned, CCP is throwing coal on the fire and putting their noses to the grindstone regardless. I'm actually much more excited now to see what happens in the coming months given this much tangible evidence of investment in Dust 514's success.

The growth taking place doesn't just extend to the many job postings that are up as part of push to grow the studio – there are personnel coming over from Reykjavik as well. Most notable of these staff moves is the the man that will now be overseeing Dust 514's game design – Craig Scott, also known as CCP Flying Scotsman. Scotsman is one of the former Lead Designers on EVE Online – and seems quite keen on bringing in some of the processes and protocols that have worked well on the other side of the globe into the Shanghai office. I've spoken with Flying Scotsman personally about the need for the designers to share their work in progress with the community as frequently as possible, and in a timely fashion before a release is made, and he seems quite supportive of this as well.

We're all familiar with the level of community engagement that CCP FoxFour and CCP Nullarbor have shown, so I see this blending of staff and talent across the two international studios as a healthy sign of growth. And don't worry – both Nullarbor and FoxFour will be staying in Reykjavik as part of Team True Grit and will continue cranking out FW and PC improvements despite all the other shuffling around them.

While we're on the subject of game design I'd like to take a moment and also commend CCP Remnant for his outstanding level of communication the past couple of weeks. Not only for sharing the Commando dev blog in advance of the patch release, with all of the stats and details we've been asking for, but for his candid conversations on the internal forums with the CPM about his upcoming work. Remnant posted a lengthy breakdown of all the changes he'd considering for a certain set of dropsuits (hopefully part of 1.3), including not only precise numerical changes as well adjustments to racial bonuses, but also plenty of commentary on what he was aiming for with the package. We had a chance to provide our own detailed notes and express what we've heard from the community regarding the given role, and its been a really productive conversation. For those of you that keep asking all the time if the CPM discusses balance with CCP – the answer is emphatically yes. This exactly the sort of "shop talk" I've referenced in my earlier reports, and the more designers open up to the community, whether its in the safer environment of the CPM internal forums or whether they plunge headlong into IRC party, its a healthy practice we all want to encourage.

So the studio is growing, CCP's trying to step up their game, devs are opening up about their work – it all sounds great. That said, I think the real question most of you are asking by now is what exactly will they be doing with this new found gusto? Well, they've come up with a road map. Just over a dozen bullet points that need to be hammered out in the coming months. Each focal point had a slide of its own during our meeting, and Praetorian had plenty to say about what they want to develop in each area. This is a pretty big moment, to be honest – not just because its the first time they've sat the CPM down and pulled back the curtain on the whole show, but because the immediate focal points so closely align with the needs we've been expressing for the last year as a community. New player experience. Performance. Aiming. Balance. Movement. Game modes. Bug squashing. An actual marketplace. Factional Warfare. Planetary Conquest. You can read the full list right here – its the same list of slides that were discussed with the CPM, so this is definitely the new road map for the immediate future. (The bullet order is also the order of priority, descending.) Regrettably this kind of incredibly important information somehow ended up buried in the middle of a forum thread, when frankly it should have been a dev blog all of its own. But I'm glad to see progress nonetheless – every bit of transparency counts.

The execution of this road map will supposedly be aided by these new "rapid-fire updates" made possible by recent iterations on the QA process with Sony. Starting with Uprising 1.2 and 1.3, players should begin to see smaller combinations of content and patch releases on closer to a
monthly basis, as supposed to the quarterly expansion model they've been working with since the beginning of beta. Praetorian was cool, calm, collected, and exceedingly confident that Sony was ready to let them start cranking this stuff out, which is encouraging.

The days since the meeting have been spent on the aforementioned forum and skype chat with Nullarbor, FoxFour, and Remnant in particular – and during this time we've also seen the release of four significant dev blogs:


CCP LogicLoop, CCP Tigris, and CCP Stiffneck discussing their design of game modes


CCP Praetorian announcing Uprising 1.2

CCP Sentinel outlining the new recruiter reward system


CCP Remnant's unveiling of the Commando Suit


Several of these were shown to the CPM in advance on our internal forums with a request for feedback, which is a great practice and exactly the sort of communication and input level we really appreciate. Overall this has been one of the most productive weeks we've spent since right before the deployment of Uprising on 5/14 – and I have every reason to believe our job is about to get a lot more demanding in the months ahead. CCP is getting to work, they're asking for our help more and more, and we won't be able to do it without the support from you in the community. Thanks for keeping in touch everyone, see you next week.


7 comments:

  1. Hans, this is all great news. Thank you for posting this, and for giving a grizzled old merc hope for the future of a game I have invested so much time(and money)in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hans, any chance we could get some stats out of CCP?

    Personally, I'd be really, really interested in some compiled data about weapons. I think it'd be reasonable to graph the distance of the killing blows dealt by each weapon over a 24 hour slice of time - it would be interesting to see whether what CCP intends each weapon's effective range to be matches reality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's probably a tall order, given that we're often having trouble even getting the optimal weapon range itself out of CCP (info that should be IN-GAME on the details for each item), let alone detailed server dumps on how they operate in practice.

      I'll certainly ask about this next time I speak with one of the devs though. Thanks!

      Delete
  3. If you'd check how much dev-response there is on these newly posted devblogs, then I don't think CCP Shanghai understood quite what it means to interact more with the playerbase; despite all "this time we're really going to's".

    Disregarding community managers replies (that don't go into details of the devblogs themselves):

    GameModes Devblog has no replies/followups by the team members and only talks past tense.
    Uprising 1.2 Devblog has no replies/follups by CCP Pretorian
    Commando Devblog has no replies/followups by CCP Remnant

    Despite what might be going on behind the curtains of the CPM, it still looks like a one-way communication channel that effectively isn't any better than what we experienced with Uprising: CCP implementing stuff / changing numbers all over the place without informing the playerbase the reasoning behind these changes - and without dev-replies these changes seem set in stone; or be generally buggered till the next point release when CCP changes the numbers all over again.

    I'd love to see the dev response similar to what we see on the EVE forums in the Features & Ideas threads. Prime example how to interact with the community and make changes for the better (see CCP Rise's recent T1 indy revamps)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't agree more, which is why I find it newsworthy that there's greater blending of staff between the two international studios - hopefully those coming over from Reykjavik will bring with them these best practices when it comes to engaging the community.

      Delete
  4. Well im impressed, I've also invested a lot of time into this game and would rather stick with dust than change now to a different game. Lets just hope that yous manage to keep it interesting :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I still think "matchmaking" is lot more work than simply allowing people to optionally migrate to areas with more reward once they can pay the "entrance fee".

    For example, earn so much isk to buy your way out of battle academy and migrate to better drops and higher caliber play. Just put a bit of thought into it to make it a goal that people want to achieve -- while automatically segregating players by level (no complex coding required).

    ReplyDelete