Monday, November 19, 2012

CSM7 Progress Report: November 19, 2012

Hello again, Pod People!

It's time for another no-nonsense archive post, for the purposes of summarizing and centralizing the recent activities of your CSM7 representatives. Links to outside resources will be provided where possible, though some of this content takes place on internal CSM / CCP forums and Skype channels and cannot be directly referenced.

This is by no means the sum total of everything the CSM has been up to, merely the items not covered by NDA that individual CSM reps have self-reported. If I missed a key conversation, posting, or media appearance, I'll update this reference as needed.

The CSM Winter Summit will be held December 12-14 at CCP HQ in Reykjavik, a schedule of the topics to be discussed should be posted shortly.

Public Appearances:

Voices from the Void Episode #58 - with Elise Randolph

Declarations of War Episode 35
- with Alekseyev Karrde and Seleene

Declarations of War Episode 36 - with Alekseyev Karrde

Declarations of War Episode 37 - with Alekseyev Karrde

Declarations of War Episode 38 - with Alekseyev Karrde

Ongoing Forum Conversations:

EVE Online Development Strategy (CSM Public)

CSM Chairman Hotline - AMA (Ask Me Anything)

For all the FW peeps: "Dockblocking" - working as intended?

For all the FW peeps: "Diagonal plexing" - working as intended?

[Proposal] - "Place Bounty" option on forum posts

Reddit community discussion on the Development Strategy Document

Stakeholder Pilot Project:

Interactions with CCP management as part of the Stakeholder project have mostly consisted of feedback regarding the details of the Bounty Hunting system coming in Retribution, as well as CSM7 inquiry into CCP's plans for 2013. 

In particular, CSM7 has been almost unanimously concerned with the fact that kill rights can be so easily shed using an alt purchaser and cheap ships, and urged CCP to prioritize adding selective options not only to who can claim kill rights, but also to who can collect on bounties as well.  These options are critical not only to delivering a healthy bounty system with a marked advantage over the uselessness of the current mechanics, but also in helping to create a true marketplace for paid PvP services.

Additionally, discussion during a recent meeting with CCP Ripley, the new Sr. Producer of Expansion Content, led to the CSM offering a set of recommendations for building compelling expansion material that not only meets CCP's marketing needs but also delivers on fixing core problems.  CCP Ripley was appreciative of the feedback, and shared the document with other management staff as well as with the individual developer teams.  This was a great opportunity to share high-level advice about the coming year just in time before CCP begun the process of developing their own 2013 plans (which are currently underway).  CCP will be monitoring the stickied discussion thread as we go into the summit.

Internal Work With

-Trebor Daehdoow discussed issues that affect color blind players with CCP via Skype, with regards to the upcoming UI changes.

-Elise Randolph posted internally to start a discussion focused on gathering ideas for useful FC tools such as improvements to the overview, ways to facilitate intelligence sharing, and overlays for better tactical management.  Elise emphasized that FC's are essentially content creators and that making their job easier means more content for players to enjoy every single day.

-Two step, Alekseyev Karrde, and Trebor all provided feedback on the new targeting brackets heavily encouraging CCP to better differentiate between the HP bars and to accommodate user-picked information i.e. velocity, transversal, etc.

-Alekseyev pushing for all ECM to be changed to a lock breaking mechanic ie Burst ECM and Lockbreaker Bombs, Hans favors jam time being modulated by sensor strength and ECM drones that simply pop locks, as elaborated upon the blog post linked below.

-While most of the CSM members have chimed with their own walls-of-text in CCP Fozzie's various ship balancing threads, Elise Randolph continues to lead in this effort with immediate and incredibly detailed feedback on every single ship and module change.  Disclosing what each CSM member liked or hated about each of the ship changes is far beyond the scope of this summary, you'll have to contact us individually for further comment.

-Alekseyev has continued to lead the charge internally on wardec issues, asking for and obtaining a 1 vs 1 meeting with CCP Soniclover, to review the current situation and backlog.   Aleks emphasized the need to have a dev blog outlining the upcoming changes to the wardec system.

-Alekseyev called for the bounty minimums on organizations to be drastically reduced.

-Hans Jagerblitzen has been closely monitoring Faction Warfare developments going into Retribution, giving feedback on the work-in-progress NPC overhaul.  As there will now only be single spawns instead of waves of NPC's inside of each plex, attention will need to be paid to the tag drops (in this case, the lack thereof) and encouraged a multiple tag-per-spawn adjustment as well as tuning the drop rate of the plexes to be useful for FW pilots collecting tags for use in the creation of Faction modules.  While praising CCP's decision to bump up the implementation of the geography changes (due to it being a much faster issue to address), Hans continues to emphasize the importance of the timer rollback for unoccupied plexes and the system-wide timer visibility as measures directly affecting the PvP risk level.

-Hans reiterated the need for PvP LP bonuses to be paid at the maximum level possible regardless of Warzone Control, and Alekseyev also seconded the motion.  Elise responded that he wasn't convinced there needed to be an explicit bonus for the losing faction, noting that since the farm-and-push mechanic has disappeared, Amarr have been able to hold Tier 2 consistently and thus the old income discrepancy had narrowed considerably.  Elise also pointed out that the losing side does enjoy increased target availability as bonus for PvPers.

-Hans has been encouraging CCP Fozzie and Team Game of Drones to announce the final list of Faction Warfare features to be released on Dec. 4 as soon as they know which items will meet the deadline.

-Two step and Dovinian both have been leading the feedback effort regarding the removal of corporate hang divisions, Two step posting in surprise at the sudden announcement of Greyscale's changes, and emphasizing the need to have privacy in order to make hauling viable.  Dovinian seconded this, explaining that the "double wrapping" used via courier contract is what makes these services possible and that removing the ability to force gankers to gamble hurts logistical chains, and small-scale operations in particular. He also urged CCP to pay close attention to good posts expressing player frustration with the proposed changes.

-Alekseyev Karrde also provided feedback on the Fleet Hangar changes, calling them positive but wishing for more organizational tools within each hangar.

Recent Blog Posts:

The Permaproblem, by Hans Jagerblitzen

Recent Forum Activity:

-Darius III on Crimewatch changes

-Darius III in support of Poetic Stanziel's blog post asserting that CCP has an agenda to make highsec completely safe.

-Issler Dainze sharing her thoughts on upcoming Retribution features

-Issler Dainze reflecting on the Mining Barge changes in a thread about progress on miner issues

-Two step sketching out his suggestion for layered damage indicators rather than the original "pie slice" design from CCP.

-Trebor elaborating on his advocacy for universal UI design

-Trebor referencing a developer tool to assist with design for colorblind players

-Elise Randolph on fitting large shield transporters on the new Scythe

-Hans responding to a call for an update on the state of the Decshield situation

-Alekseyev Karrde elaborating on his confrontation with CCP Soniclover

-Alekseyev touching on Farms and Fields and where it currently stands.

-Kelduum Revaan responding to the idea of a CCP training corporation

-Hans Jagerblitzen on Mineral Compression

-Hans Jagerblitzen on the need for an economic balancing initiative

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Permaproblem

Last week, CCP Fozzie made a post on the Features and Ideas section of the Eve Online forums introducing a series of E-war changes being proposed for Retribution.  Many of you have been actively chiming in on these changes in the comments, which is awesome.   I'm happy that the developers are taking the time now rather than later to tweak these modules, because of the fact that so many of the rebalanced ships depend on them for their primary role.  Damps need love, TD needs tweaking, TP's are still useless for a lot of things, but the real discussion here for me centers around what are arguably the most controversial module in the game - ECM.  I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and I wanted to take some time and share my concerns about these changes.

As I've spoken to Fozzie about, I really don't like flat out nerfing ECM even as a temporary holdover.  I think its masking the underlying problem - ECM isn't a particularly interesting mechanic in a lot of ways.  First of all - unlike other E-war modules, ECM is binary - it either works or it doesn't.  And when it does function - it's effects last for a fixed period of time (20 seconds), a variable which does not change whether the effect is applied by an ECM drone or an ECM module.

I presume as most would that when ECM was originally designed by the developers, the random success rate of its application was a response to the fact that its effect was fixed, and there needed to be some way of modulating it through skills, rigs, and other upgrades.  The result is that using ECM drones or an ECM module is like playing a slot machine - and the more you upgrades you have, the better chance you have of hitting the jackpot.   This is something that is almost completely unique in EVE's mechanics - the only other example I can think off of the top of my head is the success rate of the "mini-professions" codebreaking, analyzing, and salvaging.  Everything else you can do is a direct result of piloting skill, the only random element is what your enemy brings to the table.

Compounding the fact that ECM relies on waiting for a dice roll is the frustration for the victim once a jam is successful - he is now out of the fight for 20 seconds - quite a length of time in a gang situation.  And 1 vs 1?  In solo PvP, one lucky successful jam can allow a much weaker ship to toast his attacker before he can fight back - lending to its popularity on even non-bonused ships.  No other module is as powerful at tipping the scales in a pilot's favor.  Team Game of Drones is approaching this by introducing new skills to increase your sensor strength and resistance to jamming - but this doesn't affect the fact that one lucky diceroll is as powerful as the effect doled out by griffins and blackbirds.  

Griffins, Kitsunes, Blackbirds, and Caldari recon ships are bonused heavily enough for success rate and have enough midslots that they can chain these lockdowns one after another, essentially increasing the chance of getting that lucky dice roll not by how you throw the die, but by simply grabbing larger handfuls of dice.  This doesn't even need Caldari ships, either - any gang can load up on ECM drones and form a cloud around an opponent and keep them "permajammed".

From the slot machine mechanic, to the fact that players are mostly frustrated by jam *duration* not just how often you get jammed, I think there are far more elegant solutions to this than simply making you get jammed less often.  Increasing sensor strength through has other ramifications too - like hiding your ships from probes.   It would be easier for Fozzie to just reduce the success rate of the modules than implement skills to do the same thing (and he'd skip on the side effects).

Personally, I'd much rather a plan be put in place to have jam length reduced by sensor strength, and have ECM drone functionality match that of ECM Burst modules - breaking locks, but not having a fixed-duration jam.  This creates a synergy between scan resolution dampening (which slows lock times) and the ability to pop locks, to create the "permajam" effect players only have to roll the dice for right now.  Drone users, additionally,  could make use of shorter jam periods to relock, switch targets before getting jammed again. It would also justify the new skill addition by having sensor strength be more valuable an attribute than simply reducing the opponent's chances of a jam. 

The real benefit of this is that in large scale fleet situations, more ECM ships and larger clouds of ECM drones could still permajam a key enemy vessel, but that in smaller situations, being jammed wouldn't take you out of the fight for the often-deadly 20 second window.   If you could start relocking immediately, or even in 5 or 10 seconds, your survivability rate goes up substantially.    This takes care of the scaling issue in a tangible way.  This doesn't remove the current usefulness of ECM as "chaff" dumped out to interfere with kiting enemies that are keeping you from an escape, but it does mean that one really unlucky dice roll won't negate the years of time you've spent learning to duel in frigates.

My main concern here is this - there doesn't appear to be any such plan for the future of ECM, other than this current fix.   I suspect that a lot of this has to do with the fact that ECM already is out of place in EVE Online as a random effect, and the devs would prefer to replace it entirely with something thats works more similarly to other forms of E-war.  The difficulty of coming up with a compelling replacement probably led to this weaker short-term solution, out of reluctance to further commit to the random model.  The result is what we've seen posted so far: essentially a shot of morphine to ECM victims, but not the true fix that ECM really needs.

My advice to the development team is this: chance-based doesn't have to be a dirty word in game design. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good, in this case.  Take poker, for instance.  Poker is a game with a random element - you have zero control over the cards you are dealt.  But the individuals who end up in the tournaments every year are not by any means random.  If we give players the ability to have more control over the situation despite the "unlucky draws"  built in to ECM, we can create a more skill-based mechanic without needing to face the scary prospect of throwing it all out and starting over.   

Modulating jam length based on sensor strength and killing the 20-second lockdown on drones are both popular player proposals. They address many of the frustrations that players have with both ECM as a game mechanic, as the frustrations many of you have right now with the prospect of new "mandatory" skills to inject and invest time in.

If you've got other amazing ideas, I'm all ears (just post them in the forum thread too).   But I think we all need to send the message to CCP that band-aids aren't the way to go with something that is as critical as damage and logistics in fleet compositions....let's take the time to make this truly more interesting and fun.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

CSM7 Progress Report: October 7 2012

Hello again, Pod People!

It's time for another no-nonsense archive post, for the purposes of summarizing and centralizing the recent activities of your CSM7 representatives. Links to outside resources will be provided where possible, though some of this content takes place on internal CSM / CCP forums and Skype channels and cannot be directly referenced.

This is by no means the sum total of everything the CSM has been up to, merely the items not covered by NDA that individual CSM reps have self-reported. If I missed a key conversation, posting, or media appearance, I'll update this reference as needed.

Public appearances

Lost in EVE Episode 79
- with Seleene and Hans Jagerblitzen

Podside Episode 39
- with Hans Jagerblitzen

Podside Episode 39
- with Alekseyev Karrde

Voices from the Void Episode 53
- with Alekseyev Karrde

Voices from the Void Episode 54 - with Elise Randolph

Ongoing Forum Conversations

CSM Chairman Hotline - AMA (Ask Me Anything)

For all the FW peeps: "Dockblocking" - working as intended?

For all the FW peeps: "Diagonal plexing" - working as intended?

[Proposal] - "Place Bounty" option on forum posts

Stakeholder pilot project

During a catch-up meeting on 9/17 with Jon Lander, we reviewed the status of the Stakeholder project and discuss the direction of the Bounty Hunting feature. We also used this opportunity to once again make sure that the POS revamp was still on schedule, and requested as much early information as possible regarding CCP's prototype designs. We also emphasized that messaging needed to begin regarding the Winter expansion, since the full feature set was known and actively under development, there was no reason not to open up to the players at this time. There was also further discussion regarding a memorial to fallen players, and inquiries about when 0.0 improvements would be underway, when the status of the Incarna project would go public, and when CREST would be opened up to third party development.

Internal work with CCP

- Seleene has been pushing CCP Arrow
to give us a UI update, the results of which can be found right here.

- Hans spoke with CCP Masterplan to ask for an update on Crimewatch changes, a list of everything on the table was posted, the CSM worked with the team back and forth, the results of which can be found here in the corresponding Dev Blog.

- Ongoing CSM pressure for a player memorial in the wake of Sean Smith's passing.

- Kelduum has been speaking with CCP Alice about improvements and bug fixes for EVE Gate, and continued to pursue fixes for the issues with the current wardec system (mutual wars, dropping from alliances, and so on).

- Kelduum has working with CCP Sisyphus on upcoming NPE changes - default settings improvements in particular.

- Alekseyev Karrde planted the idea for a video dev blog with the CSM to be recorded during the next summit, to give players a chance to see a "behind-the-scenes" look.

- Alekseyev compiled our collective notes and started a "Roadmap" Titanpad document to prepare our presentations to CCP for the Winter Summit.

- Alekseyev fired up more CCP/CSM Skype dialogue on the lack of iteration to the war feature, including promised fixes to serious defects.

- Aleks lobbied CCP Fozzie on missile changes such as HAM buffs/fitting reductions and moving some of the Heavy Missile DPS nerf into the explosion velocity+radius

- Ongoing collective feedback about the EVE-Dust 514 link

- Ongoing collective feedback about the Unified Inventory and persisting issues that need resolution

- Ongoing pressure for Black Ops improvements.

- Continued heavy work on Faction Warfare mechanics, led by Hans Jagerblitzen

- Hans has been regularly playtesting and providing feedback regarding the Dust 514 beta, you can add him as a contact (under the name "Heinrich Jagerblitzen") if you are also in the beta and would like to invite him to your squad!

Recent Blog Posts

Call me maybe
, by Hans Jagerblitzen

Council of Slayer Management
, by Seleene

Farewell Colleague
, by Trebor Daehdoow

So long, Sean
, by Meissa Anunthiel

Bye Sean
, by Two Step

Goodbye Friend
, by Seleene

Recent Public Forum Activity

Seleene discussing the need to consolidate the Assembly Hall into Features and Ideas

Elise Randolph requesting Buckingham updates for testing

Hans discussing the upcoming overhaul to the Bounty Hunting system and the importance of ongoing player feedback.

Issler Dainze checks in
regarding an Inquiry about Mining

Darius III comments on upcoming changes to Crimewatch

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Call me maybe

I was reading through the comments tonight on Ripard Teg's latest reflection on the upcoming ship balancing, and came across a great question from one of his readers.  I wanted to take the time to respond publicly here so others have a chance to gain some insight on the nature of the CSM's involvement in the balancing process.

You know it's interesting how everyone in eve is seemingly hanging off Fozzie's every word right now and yet there was practically no discussion of frigate/cruiser re-balancing at the CSM summit. Are CSM's priorities right?


Thanks, Chequers.  We've actually been in constant contact with CCP Fozzie throughout the balancing process, we talk daily on Skype as we also work together on the Faction Warfare changes.  There simply wasn't much to say at the summit because CCP hadn't shown us their plans for these ships at that time.  Every single one of the dev blogs or F&I posts that have come out since than we've had a chance to see first and give some preliminary input. 

Ripard raises some important issues about bending EVE's PvP in a "twitchy" direction.  I certainly don't disagree that this risk exists (I know this first-hand as I'm unfortunately called primary quite often these days), but we should also take a moment to put things into context.  Keep in mind that we're also receiving brand new options for mitigating some of this "DPS creep" through low-skilled, low cost logistics platforms at both the frigate and cruiser level.

That being said, one of the positive aspects of CCP Fozzie's balancing process (regardless of whether you love or hate the changes) is that he's posting these up on the public forums with plenty of time before they even  hit a test server.  So while the CSM gets a sneak peak and a chance to give our personal input, they've gone extremely quick (a week on average) from the internal post to the public post. 

While we haven't had much work to do in ferrying information because Fozzie has reached straight to the player base directly, we still have the ability to influence the outcome to a degree (changing bombardment frigates to support frigates was one of our recent initiatives.) Don't hesitate to get in contact with us if there's a matter you're especially concerned with or if you have some ideas to share.  This especially applies to the ships whose balancing changes haven't yet been proposed.

And remember - these ideas on the forums are just that.  Tentative plans pending player feedback and testing.  I know from working with Fozzie and fellow designer CCP Ytterbium that both are quite reasonable and open to constructive criticism.  Both understand PvP at each of the various scales intimately and are passionate about making ALL of the ships useful.  They promised the players that if the test server demonstrates something as horribly broken, they'll take the time to make necessary adjustments before they hit Tranquiilty.  I encourage players to get out and participate in these testing events and to play around with the new ships!


While we're still talking about future spaceship goodness, I might as well share these with you for those that haven't had a chance to see them already.  Server sleuth Sarmatiko has dug up some data off the test server and put together a video preview of the new ship models coming in Winter expansion.  Rendered versions of both the submarine-like Caldari missile destroyer, and its bizarre-looking Minmatar missile counterpart.  Out tribal technicians continue to find architectural uses for solar panels that are simultaneously innovative and baffling.  This clip also includes an unskinned prototype model of the brand new Gallente destroyer, a dedicated drone platform.  Last but not least, a special treat for Minmatar fans - an unskinned model of the soon-to-be-revamped Tempest hull.

Fear not, industrialists! You deserve some eye candy too. Luckily Sarmatiko also managed to dig up a rendering of the  new ORE mining frigate.  This ship just makes me want to hang out with Rogue Drones in a dangerous attempt to recreate the iconic scene from Aliens where Ripley battles the  hive queen....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Parting words...

I never had the honor of being able to call him a close friend, nor the privilege of serving alongside him on the Council of Stellar Management, but Sean Smith - known to most of you as "Vile Rat" - still managed to touch my life in a meaningful way and left me with a priceless gift.  I feel compelled to take a moment to share some of the advice he gave me during one of our last conversations before his tragic death yesterday during the attack in Benghazi.  

Sean was a man that was passionate about EVE Online, but even more passionate about its player community, and it was this commitment to each of you that made him expect the very best from council representatives like myself.   There is no way to sugar-coat the truth, Sean was disappointed with CSM7, frustrated that he didn't see a powerful entity waging war on behalf of the players he loved.  This is understandable, as our term in office has not yet been marked by any of the intense trials or tribulations that previous CSM's were forged through.

"Using the CSM to take care of the players when injustice happens, makes me elated."

It is trivial at this point to speculate on whether Sean would have felt the same way had he sat with us this year, had he seen the fruits of the labor he poured out last year.  I know he would have appreciated the fact that CCP is genuinely trying to do a better job of keeping the players informed about what they are working on, and a better job of listening to our advice.  There is not a single doubt in my mind that the reason that each of us on the sitting council have enjoyed a relatively drama-free term is because of the painstaking effort that CSM6 put into fighting for our community last year.

"You are elected to do big things.  It takes real work and a lot of out of game coordination."

Unlike a lot of EVE players who find themselves bored or frustrated with the sitting council, Sean refused to jump on a public bandwagon, and refused to throw stones.  Sure, he could have politicized the situation and done an excellent job of dicing us to ribbons and set himself up well for the next election.  He chose instead to reach out to me personally, privately, and gave me the gift of encouragement where others have simply dished out callous scorn.

One of the things I deeply admire about Sean Smith was his skill in diplomacy - in a game world steeped in never-ending war, Sean was a man who knew how to build relationships as well as destroy them.   Knowing which path to take was a critical part of his success as a leader and representative.

"We absolutely didn't make everything a battle.  You have to pick your fights"

The only way I know how to give back to Sean what he gave to the community is to challenge the rest of the my fellow representatives to honor his death by reaching for the same level of excellence that Sean provided.  Whether we are in the midst of a crisis or navigating peaceful productivity, there is always more work to be done for the players we were elected to defend.  

I won't ever have a chance to speak with Sean again, but I will never forget his warmth, his wisdom, and above all - his courage.

CSM7 Autumn Progress Report

Hello again, pod people!

I'll make the introduction short - this is a no-nonsense archive post, with the intent of summarizing and centralizing all of the recent activities of your CSM7 representatives.  Links to outside resources will be provided where possible, though some of this content takes place on internal CSM / CCP forums and Skype channels and cannot be directly referenced.  

This is by no means the sum total of everything the CSM has been up to, merely the items not covered by NDA that individual CSM reps have self-reported.  Some features for Winter Expansion have yet to be announced and so work on them has not been included at this time.  If I missed a key conversation, posting, or media appearance, I'll update this reference as needed.  

Add this blog to your follow list if you haven't already, this is only the first of a series of updates I will provide as we continue towards Winter Expansion.  Thanks again for your patience with us during the slow summer, we're excited to be back in the busy season again!

Public appearances

CSM May Summit Minutes

TEN EVEning News Special: CSM Discusses their Minutes!   Part 1  Part 2

VandV Podcast: Special Edition: Spring Summit Wrap Up featuring Seleene

CSM7 2nd Town Hall on EVE Radio

Wormholes Town Hall, hosted by Two Step

TEN EVEning News Roundtable #1: Faction Warfare, featuring Hans Jagerblitzen

Hans Jagerblitzen Interview Pt. I - Factional Warfare Segments

Declarations of War Episode 33 - The Ripard Teg / CSM Edition

Ongoing Forum Conversations

Electoral Reform Redux, (many thanks to CCP Xhagen for helping to get the conversation back on track)

Stakeholder pilot project

Previous CSM's have been called "Stakeholders" nominally, but in practice they have had little of the privilege or access of actual CCP corporate stakeholders.  At the May summit, CSM7 demanded that CCP start living up to its commitment to the CSM as an entity and finally grant it the relationship with the development process that players have expected for years but never received.  Senior Producer CCP Unifex agreed and promised us an integrated role for the entirety of a development cycle, assigning us to single team to undergo a pilot program.

The pilot program is focusing on two objectives - to demonstrate the need for CSM feedback at the earliest stages of the development process, and troubleshooting the communication protocols in order to build a methodology that can be used to utilize the CSM as a stakeholder on a greater number of teams.

The pending success of the pilot program should greatly expand CSM7's ability to directly assist with the shape and direction of the POS revamp, ring mining, and other major features for 2013. 

CSM7 is now receiving updates for its assigned team, participating in charter meetings and release planning through access to the recordings and a 48-hour window of opportunity for response with feedback so the team can continue moving at the pace of its sprint cycle.  The exact feature we are working on is still currently under NDA, but needless to say we're already learning a lot about what works and doesn't work about this new process.

Internal work with CCP

-Ongoing focus on ship balancing, including forum feedback covering each set of overhauled ships prior to public release

-Official protest of the changes to the Vagabond, and a call for CCP to "Bring back the Frills!"

-Special emphasis on revisiting Black Ops if resources allow during Winter Expansion, as recent balancing has focused exclusively on Tech 1 smaller ships and CSM believes veterans deserve attention as well.

- Dovinian posted a call for CCP to revisit the issue of "Mineral Compression", as this is one of the major underlying contributors to supercapital proliferation.  Kelduum has been doing detailed research into the specific items that can be manufactured for lower volume than their mineral equivalents, to assist in reaching a faster solution.  CSM is unanimously in support of addressing this long-overdue problem.

- Elise Randolph posted a call for changing oversized prop mods, suggesting CCP look into penalties for their use to offset the incredible power these fittings provide

- Elise Randolph posted a call to revisit booster mechanics and the smuggling process, suggesting ways to facilitate transport throughout the game

- Continued heavy work on Faction Warfare mechanics, led by Hans Jagerblitzen

- Continued collective feedback on the war declaration system and "mercenary marketplace", led by Alekseyev Karrde and Kelduum Revaan

- Kelduum has been discussing in detail corporate management UI and issues regarding the recruitment interface

- Collective feedback about the EVE-Dust 514 link

- Collective feedback about the Unified Inventory and persisting issues that need resolution

- Hans Jagerblitzen has been regularly playtesting and providing feedback regarding the Dust 514 beta, you can add him as a contact (under the name "Heinrich Jagerblitzen") if you are also in the beta and would like to invite him to your squad!

Notable Blog Posts

Response-to-response-on-pos-redesign, by Two Step

Notable Public Forum Activity

- Self-destruct timer changes

- Iterations to ship fitting including ammo and rigs

- Just about everything surrounding the Faction Warfare updates

- Re-nameable POS structures

- Logistics frigates in Winter expansion (we begged CCP not to bother with "sniper-frigates")

- Technetium regulation through new Alchemy reactions

- Release of many remaining NEX store clothing items at greatly reduced pricing

- Rollback of Incursion changes in order to improve Vanguard sites

- Removal of outdated Ethnic Relations skill, replacement with Diplomatic Relations

.....and many more to come!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

In other words, it's time to get down to fixing all the stuffs.

Today Poetic Stanziel sent me an Evemail asking me for the top 10 Faction Warfare fixes that I'd like CCP to include in the Winter expansion.  This wasn't easy - there are certainly far more items that would benefit the community if the resources were committed, but you have to start somewhere.  You have to have a core to work with - in this case, I couldn't slash any less than thirteen.  These are not my own ideas, they are simply the changes that I feel most effectively address the community's concerns and the thirteen I personally hope CCP commits to fixing first.

All of these iterations are interconnected.  Many of them fail if not implemented in conjunction with several others.  I've made it abundantly clear to CCP that there are no "magic bullets" here, a holistic package is necessary if they want to make Faction Warfare rewarding for years to come.  And let me be clear - the most powerful reward for Faction Warfare pilots will always be the quality of the PvP itself, never the underlying isk system needed to support it.  Every change CCP considers must keep this cultural consideration in mind, or it will fail to achieve expected success.

Also, an update on the timeline here:  CCP is currently having their individual teams report on all their work so far and wrap up their release planning.  Release planning will define the scope of the features to be iterated on or developed from scratch this Winter.  It will NOT, however, be the final list of changes to be implemented, but merely the first presentation of what exactly they would like to deliver.  So keep calm everyone, and keep posting.  CCP is actually listening, so let's be civilized about this and put our best foot forward.  Feedback is best focused into these stickied threads.  They are not the only ones you will find developers poking around in or reading however, so keep an eye out for those blue tags.  The more adventurous the devs have become in roaming freely around the forums, the harder they've become to keep track of.  Help each other out and point each other in the right direction if you see a good conversation going on.

My best guess is that we are a couple weeks away from a lot of the stuff CCP is working on hitting the forums for public review, so stay tuned.  I'll keep you posted as it all rolls out.  This goes not just for Faction Warfare iterations, but for all the other elements slated for Winter - Crimewatch, War decs, ship balancing, and more to be announced.  It may seem in the meantime like CCP is lurking, but I can report firsthand that things are once again bustling in Iceland after the long summer break.

So here they are, a baker's dozen in no particular order:

*An end to "market spiking" by reverting LP store prices to pre-inferno levels across all factions, and instead scaling the actual payouts based on the current tier of Warzone Control.  I-HUB upgrade prices and bleed rates would need adjustment to compensate for this and allow a faction to actually live at a tier for an extended length of time. 

*Adjusting the aforementioned payout multipliers so that the losing faction still has a minimum viable income.

*NPC content overhaul inside the complexes. The war should not be won by AFK frigates.

*Slight reboot to the complex "flavors" - we need a complex that allows Tech 1 frigates and rookie ships only, (no pirate ships or dessies).  We also need to increase the spawn rate of unrestricted compounds slightly, to shake up the monotony in fleets fielded.  Everyone is getting bored of the Thrasher thing now.

*More visibility for when complexes are entered and taken – let players run, but not hide. This could be an explicit notification (all notifications are still supposedly being moved into their own UI in order to end all the email spam) Something much more elegant that I really like is having systems on the mini-map flash to indicate a currently occupied complex instead of redundantly presenting information available in the column to its right.

*Complex capture timers that can be seen system-wide.  POS and POCO timers are known to all, complex values should be known as well.  This creates a sense of urgency for the defender and prevents the ninja-farmer from being able to conceal his activities and avoid a PvP threat.

*Instituting a gradual rollback to "0" for the capture timer when a complex is empty in order to discourage bouncing around to evade PvP. This way it would be more LP-efficient to fight off an attacker rather than to continually flee at the first sign of danger, only to return later and pick up where they left off.

*An end to LP payouts when systems are taken vulnerable.

*System contested percentage “buffers” need to be nuked severely.   A small contested percentage buffer is needed, otherwise the attacking fleet will never have a viable window to launch a proper IHUB attack.   But the tactic of permanently holding systems in a vulnerable state needs to end.

*Defensive plexing - it blows.  "Punishing" players for "winning too much" by boring them to death leads to a lot of people not wanting to play at all.  I don't see any reason that an enemy faction spawn can't appear in a defensive plex environment, ending this one-sided protection that provides zero challenge for half of all plexing that can be done, and I don't see any reason why we can't institute a *reasonable* perk to participation as well.  I want to see militia pilots feeling free to engage in ANY activity in Faction Warfare and not feel like they're missing out on their paycheck.   I want pilots going wherever the war takes them, and not feel continually enslaved to the isk metagame.

*Batch purchasing in the LP stores. (Or if not technically feasible, the introduction of wholesale offers and multi-run BPC's.)

*Better system upgrades:  More industry slots, faster industry speed, lowered POS fuel costs, and the ability to deploy single use, limited-duration cynojammers (with appropriate cooldown) to cover tactical engagements.

*Did I mention that merely hanging out inside a Faction Warfare complex should be a colossal "come at me bro" sign to your enemies?  Faction Warfare complexes need to be crazy risky to justify the crazy profit - but risky because it's much more likely that someone will try to kill you when you go in one.

They should NOT be risky because you may end up wiping to a wave of uber-NPC's.  Whatever happen to complexes this winter - they need to support PvP above all else. 

We already have our agent missions for farming, the time is long overdue for our complexes to be retrofitted for war.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Radio Silence

This is the time of the year I know many of you are anxious to hear more from the CSM, and for good reason.  It's been many weeks since the May summit, and with CCP mid-way through their summer vacation, there is much to talk about in preparation for the developers beginning to work on the next release cycle.  The great news is that the May summit notes are now complete, they merely need a final proofreading (which is a group process since all of us want to have our pass and the more sets of eyes spotting factual errors the better), as well as a final approval from each of the participating devs.   

I'm a bit empty on words at the moment, its been quite the ordeal, but I wanted to share a couple answers I've given elsewhere to some recent questions about the CSM's work.  Now that we're done with the minutes the next step is to get back to communicating at regular intervals between now and the next summit, and I appreciate everyone's patients while we've been so invested in this project. 

In response to an anonymous comment on the blog Jester's Trek:  

"SOV, moon goo, FW, seems like there's plenty of things for them to talk about. The imminent devision of FW into tier 5 control spheres that never interact - that's the sort of thing the CSM should be engaging heavily, and showing some progress on, right?"

It most certainly is. The challenge is finding that balance between working, and taking time away from doing your work to prove that you're doing your work by talking to the community about what you're talking about with the community. (If that sentence sounded redundant, than you understand my point) The first will always take priority over the second for me personally, as I'm not near as preoccupied with public opinion or re-election as I am actually making the most of this opportunity. While CCP is currently on their summer break, my work instead lies with the community itself - making sure I know exactly what to fight for when the discussion resumes with CCP regarding the next content release. When I'm not working on the minutes I'm still forum posting with CCP, forum posting with players, skyping with CCP, fielding email correspondence, and most time-consuming of all: actually talking with players about what's going on in the warzone, not to mention playing the game to see for myself)

For a CSM representative like myself with a major feature on the operating table, this time of the year is even more demanding, given the sense of urgency it is critical that I know exactly what the players want, which takes time to sort out. Forum posts, email responses, impromptu in-game conversations, radio appearances and podcasts, all eat up time that I'm also expected to be making progress on the minutes. Seeing as how good portions of what we do we can't talk about in detail yet (such as anything covered by the minutes and the work-in-progress threads on the internal CSM/CCP forums) its even more challenging to keep up with everyone's insatiable thirst for the latest news.

I am certainly one of the CSM members that hasn't blogged in a bit, but its for the simple reason that I can't in good conscience sit around and chit chat in a neutered fashion when there is still work to be done on the minutes themselves, which are almost complete. We're actually further along than Jester assumes, since the completed sessions are already sailing through the CSM approval progress, many have been signed off by all the CCP participants so there shouldn't be any super-long delay once the final sessions are wrapped up.

I'll blog very soon - both about the work we've been up to on the minutes as well as about Faction Warfare in particular, though anyone following my posts in the dev-sponsored pair of threads related to Faction Warfare in Features and Ideas already knows what I've been talking to CCP about and where the conversation is going.

I know its frustrating, and I appreciate everyone's patience, but I just have a tough time sitting down to write neutered material when I could be delivering what you guys all really want to read instead. We're really aiming for the most comprehensive coverage of the CSM summit to date, and there's no quick way to write three times as much material as typical CSM minutes, as well as deliver them in the same timeframe. Once we're completed, you can all decide whether it was worth the delay, and if you'd rather have less information in the future, you'll certainly find little resistance from the CSM members.

In response to a comment from Cearain on the EVE Online forums:

"All this extra work due to a super secret nda is pretty crazy.

If ccp just did away with the nda they could just record the sessions release it on mp3 and be done with it. Actually I think they still could just delete the parts they feel are too secret for the players, and be done with it."

The extra work really has nothing to do with the NDA. The NDA has this mystique about it - many players thinks that we wave it like a red cape to deflect charging bulls, others think its what CCP uses it to protect its super secret skunkworks plans about the next button to add to the UI that players would rage if they knew existed - but really its much simpler. The NDA covers the stuff that would damage the company - stuff like release dates or pricing that they wouldn't want competitors to hear. I've seen how the sessions have gone through the review process, and the NDA has been used primarily to delete several words here and there, or a sentence at the most. It's not once been used to black out an entire conversation, or to censor a particular topic. If it was discussed at all during the summit, it was recorded.

The reason the minutes are longer, is because of the transparency the players are asking for. You wanted to know who said what about a particular topic, and breaking down conversations in this manner, even to get the main ideas across in each dialogue, takes a lot more words. We avoid the minutia of people talking about the schedule for the rest of the day, or what's for lunch, or who they're waiting on to come back from a bathroom break. So no blah blah.

But you are going to hear some detailed conversations about how exactly to adjust a particular feature, and who wanted to see it done this way or that way. That's what we heard everyone wanted to hear, for accountability's sake as well as to sharply focus player feedback onto the specific direction CCP wants to go with a feature.

I personally think this is a huge step in the right direction, we'll see how this works out for the community. There's nothing to say we can't further iterate on the minutes process for the winter summit. I'm sure there will be no shortage of suggestions on how to make them even better, you'll just have to read them first and see what you think.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Human after all

(This is a response to Blog Banter #37: A Line in the Sand)
“EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE’s success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behavior to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?”

One of the reasons I've found EVE online so incredibly compelling is that it provides the framework for observing human behavior in a “controlled” environment that we often only read about it in, well, science fiction. That may sound a bit redundant - but alternative realities inhabited by human consciousness are a common literary vehicle for exploring morality. Many stories feature characters existing inside “the game” and allowed to, encouraged to, or forced to do horrendous things to other player entities. This affords artists the freedom to use their imagination when answering tough questions about the extent to which we will hurt one another. Psychological researchers often end up on the other end of the spectrum, strictly bound by a code of ethics based on the social norms during their time. The scientific method necessary for experimentation to be productive also restricts the ability to monitor multiple variables at play in a given system.

The EVE universe ends up living in this fantastic place in the middle of it all – its a video game and not a research tool, and so its creators are free to unleash a thousand variables at once into a dynamic system and watch chaos unfurl without being bound by the need to produce meaningful information in the process. Developers are free to throw ingredients into the beaker and pray for explosions. Players can take advantage of the game's social and mechanical freedoms to engage in any number of “fantasies”. The actions themselves however, end up very much part of reality. Ever since the advent of the PLEX system, EVE's economy has been tied to the real world economy in an unprecedented, quantifiable fashion. As players we can transform our real world money into material in the EVE universe, but EVE lacks the vast majority of safeguards as to what happens to that investment once its made. By straddling these two worlds, the imaginary and the tangible, EVE never allows us to completely forget that we are merely “pushing pixels”.

Socially, the barriers between EVE's real and virtual communities all but vanish completely. Relationships extend far beyond the context of the game server, EVE players meet each for drinks, work together, fall in love with each other, and help each other through difficult times. There is no pretending we are anything but human behind the keyboard*, because we've all gone to great lengths to get to know each other in that context as well. It is for this reason that we can't ignore the consequences of our actions, either. I don't believe using an avatar to interact with each other in a virtual universe ever absolves any of us from our responsibility to treat other players like human beings.

What I soundly reject, however, is the idea that this competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behavior to “spread beyond the confines of the sandbox.” 

Veteran and new players alike understand fully the emphasis placed on personal decision-making built in to the game's design. If one of the values of a sandbox is that it encourages players to think about and execute difficult choices, we must resist falling into the all-too-tempting “blame the video game” trap whenever a player ends up committing a crime or otherwise harming one of the other human beings that plays EVE.

Part of the fun of the game will always be the ability to be a complete bastard to other characters. The pilots themselves – the ones that mine the ore, make the stuffs, and sell it to those that blow it up. EVE is the game for those that want to hurt other characters. And want to hurt them in as many ways as possible. We cherish this last ability so much that we monetize it, quantify it, and celebrate it. That's never going to go away, nor should it.

But let's face it: CCP is not encouraging us to siege real world internet infrastructure through DDOS attacks. They are not encouraging us to publicly reveal, humiliate, or slander each other's real world identities. They are not encouraging us to threaten each other's families. They are not encouraging us to invade each other's personal privacy. They are not encouraging us to call each other faggots, they're not encouraging us to sexually harass female gamers. They are not encouraging us to ridicule each other's legitimate physical or mental health issues. They are not encouraging us to hate each other as human beings, no matter how you slice it. (On the contrary - the pub crawls and round table discussions that make up each year's Fan Fest are held specifically to foster a sense of intimacy between players, their in-game enemies, and the developers.)

EVE encourages us to blow up spaceships. It encourages us to steal spacebucks. It encourages us to conquer spacelands. It encourages to spy on each other's spaceplans, and it encourages us to manipulate the spacemarkets. It encourages us to gather spacerocks. It encourages us to taunt the spacepilots that are bad at the game, it encourages us to win spacewars. It encourages us to exploit the failures of other spacecitizens. It encourages us to work together. And most of all, EVE encourages us to think about the decisions we make.

*Exceptions would include robo-blogger Ripard Teg or CSM Vice Chair Trebor Daehdoow, who are both clearly cyborgs, if not outright androids.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Trail of Tears

Last night, I enjoyed some of the most intense fighting I’d experienced in a long time.   The soldiers of the Amarr Militia had seized back Auga, a key low sec trade hub in the Hed constellation, and the system that stands between my alliance and the rest of Matari space.  With Auga fallen, the Amarr were on my doorstep.   By the time I had arrived home from work and logged into the game, they had begun to siege my home system of Kourmonen.   I hopped into a Hurricane, punched the undock button, and warped off to join the fleet.  Any other night, this fight would have seemed routine.   Inferno, however, changes the stakes for all of us.  Failure to hold Kourmonen until May 22 means I will be uprooted from my home, exiled from the comfort of docking and the ability to repair and reship, and forced to convoy over half the ships in my personal fleet to a new safe haven.   This fight mattered more than any other before it.

The next several hours were intense – two fleets, the Amarrian invaders and the Matari defenders, brawled across the entire Kourmonen system, fighting in each new complex that spawned as the Amarr pressed to capture victory points and tip the system in their favor.  We fought in battlecruisers in the major compounds, and shipped down into cruisers for standard complexes and frigates and destroyer gangs for the minor outposts.   We had a large fleet, so did our enemy, but the time it takes to reship and fact that many pilots had their hangars elsewhere meant that we rarely fought with the entire fleet in one location.  Cruisers would camp entrances to minor outposts, unable to enter due to ship restrictions, frigates would rush to start the countdowns on major compounds until the heavy muscle could arrive to chase off the enemy that would soon follow, and ship after ship after ship was reduced to smoldering wreckage.  This is the type of action we all enlisted in Faction Warfare to enjoy

The system of tiered complexes, victory points, and control bunkers that form our “terrain” and allow pilots to use gang warfare to take and hold space has always led to some incredibly fun evenings like the one I enjoyed last night.  For all of its bugs and imperfections that still need ironing out in subsequent Inferno releases (such as Dramiels and cynabals counting as Tech 1 ships), the system works.  But only if you care enough to use it in the first place.  This has been a major issue for years:  the purely cosmetic nature of occupancy plexing meant that pilots like myself abstained from participating because whether my enemy occupied my home system or not was irrelevant.  Faction Warfare was just a big war dec, and some boring missions I farmed to pay the bills.   All of this changes in less than two weeks.

When the Faction Warfare community first began to see the final list of mechanics slated for the Inferno expansion, many were outraged.   The denial of docking rights to enemy pilots is frightening to those of us who are used to being able to load up a system we want to capture with resources, and then reship as often as possible during the plexing battle in order to win the battle of attrition and come out on top.  As a CSM member, I had opposed the docking rights change from the beginning, citing it as one of the most common reasons pilots live in low sec as supposed to 0.0.  I opposed the extreme scaling of the LP store prices, because I felt it offered little comfort or hope to the faction that had fallen behind.  There is little satisfaction to be gained in seeing an enemy so demoralized by these consequences that they quit Faction Warfare entirely, which is precisely what many individuals on the “losing” side of the war have threatened to do in the past week.  Just as I said during my campaign for CSM, I have little interest in some scorched-earth “total victory”.  If I was, I’d move to 0.0.  I’m just in Faction Warfare for the fights.

Many members of the Amarr and Caldari militias in particular have set their sights on me as the responsible party for the items they’re unhappy with in the Inferno expansion.  They see the CSM member they voted for playing for the winning team, changing the rules on the fly to favor his own faction.  Disregarding everything I’ve ever said on the topic since before I even campaigned for CSM, all they know is the future presents some major obstacles for mounting a comeback, and that they never should have trusted an enemy to represent them.   I’ve abandoned neutrality, they claim.  The great irony in all of this is that despite consistently claiming that the Inferno changes ruin casual PvP and force 0.0 gameplay down our throats, my detractors are actually transforming the community's culture, injecting every drop of the hate-fueled bloodlust that we’ve come to expect from null sec Sovereignty warfare.  Distrust breeds hatred, hatred fuels war, and war brings fights.  CCP’s expansion is already working as intended.

The fact remains that the bulk of the Faction Warfare changes headed our way in Inferno are community-driven.  The crown jewel of the package: generous rewards that enable sustainable PvP and territorial warfare without an NPC grind, is what Faction Warfare pilots have been demanding for years.   We got it.  We asked for consequence and meaning, a reason to fight beyond a system’s name.  We got it.  We asked for a reason for new players to join Faction Warfare, we got it.   Even the most controversial part of the package: the docking restriction I opposed, was originally a community suggestion.  We’re a fickle bunch, often forgetting what we’ve asked for in the past.  The single feature that FW pilots are regretting the most that didn’t make it into Inferno?  Cyno-jammers, a blatantly 0.0-style mechanic.  The irony is still lost on those complaining about the "direction" this is all headed.  Lack of consistency in feedback, combined with the emergent nature of EVE’s gameplay, means that CCP’s developers have little to latch onto as far as a “perfect” set of Factional Warfare mechanics, ones we can all agree will drive small-gang warfare more than ever before.  I didn’t like station lockout, but I don’t know for a fact it will destroy the feature.  Neither do any of you.

This is my message to those in the community that are outraged right now: you can blame me if it helps you get through this.  If you want to accuse me of having "won the meta-game", sucking up for votes from all four factions only to turn around and endorse mechanics designed to crush my enemies, go right ahead.  Believe whatever you want, it doesn't make it the truth.    All I care about is that you do something useful with that hatred.   Forum foot-stomping is pointless – CCP is at the end of their time to tweak the package, and we now know what we are up against.  There will be time to make adjustments later.  Right now, we need to make the most of it.  Take pride in your faction and come up with a plan to win this new war.   The defeatist attitude amongst a handful of players on the forums is not representative of the community that elected me to officeI was elected by players that care more about the number of good fights to be had than about living in comfort. 

As I said before, the bulk of my personal fleet is currently in Kourmonen.  My corporation’s home is the Huvilma constellation – Bosboger, Gulmorogod, and Lulm.  My alliance keeps its assets in Huola.   If you’re outraged, than come at me bro.  We'll work out our differences on the battlefield.  My responsibility as a CSM member is to see that Faction Warfare community enjoys the greatest war it’s ever seen in the years ahead.   It’s my job to make sure we all give a damn about logging in and playing the game.  So by all means, tell your corpmates I'm a horrible person, and call them to arms.  Come out and punish me for my “betrayal”.  Make me regret my supposed “capitulation” to CCP’s awful plan to ruin your game.  Just don't dishonor yourself and your friends by saying its going to be too hard. Work together if you must - the new mechanics allow allied factions to be rewarded for assisting you in burning down my ships, invading my territory, and exiling me from my home.   

I’ll be waiting for you.