Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In my own voice....

This last weekend, the official “Lost in EvE” Podcast debates were recorded, giving EvE Online players a chance to listen to the CSM7 candidates talk about the important issues.   I was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts, but I wanted to take a moment to share with you the various other media appearances I’ve enjoyed, so you still have a chance to hear my message.

First to be recorded was my appearance on the EvE-Radio Funkybacon show.  You can tune in to the rewind on the “radio” tab of the EvE-Radio website.  Look for the Funkybacon Show, Feb 18, during the 00:00 time slot.  Other guests include existing CSM6 members Seleene and Two Step.

Next up was my Voices from the Void podcast debate with Kelduum Revaan of EvE University.  Many thanks to hosts Arydanika, “Marcosaurus”, and Bowdy for having me on the show.  It was great fun.   WARNING:  Bring a poncho, listeners to this podcast may get a little wet.    Voters preferring to read a text summary of the debate can find one here, thanks to the time and effort of EvE Uni grad Poetic Stanziel.

My most recent interview was recorded Monday evening for EvE News 24 by the lovely Sindel Pellion.   It’s short (20 mins), sweet, and to the point, so please do me the honor of listening in.   There is even a text summary included for the hearing impaired.   Thanks again to Sindel, Bagehi, and the rest of the EvE News team!

There may be a few of you who are still wondering who I am, what I stand for, and why they should vote for me this election.    Many of you have busy schedules, and there’s a lot of candidate material to wade through.  If several hours of podcasts, 23 pages of writing, or even a 20 minute interview all seem like too much – than my fellow soldier and blogger Susan Black has a very special message for all the voters.   

Friday, February 24, 2012

Igniting the INFERNO (Blog Banter #33)

(This is a response to Blog Banter #33: The Capsuleer Experience.)

Yesterday we heard a few words about the upcoming summer expansion, which will have a clear focus on overhauling the war systems that drive conflict in EvE and will rewrite the very rules that CONCORD enforces.  The advantage to being a little late to jump on the most recent "Blog Banter" discussion is that now I get a chance to share with you the unique opportunities I believe the new expansion could offer new players if CCP plays their cards right.

By now many of you are familiar with Ripard Teg's infamous subscriber curve (or lack thereof), which grabbed media attention last summer and forced CCP to admit that the real fruit of an expansion – community growth – was sorely missing from Incarna.   Crucible was an improvement but largely focused on appeasing existing customers, rather than giving new players a reason to get excited. INFERNO, on the other hand, offers huge opportunities to advance new player enjoyment if CCP gives new pilots the resources they'll need to join the wars they are hoping to inspire.

The expansion title itself sets a high standard for customer expectations – players are going to want lots of explosions this time around. War has stagnated slowly for differing reasons in all of EvE's regions, and any successful attempt to reverse the trend is going to get players talking with their friends again. I hope that CCP is mindful here that selling a war expansion means selling the chance to be involved in those wars to new players as well. Without making a concerted effort to win over new customers and convert them into permanent subscribers, CCP could starve INFERNO of much of the fuel it will need to truly set New Eden ablaze.

The current tutorials do a decent job of instructing players on the basics of mining and missioning, but both activities are simply lackluster when compared to the epic stories that entice most players to create accounts in the first place. What is missing are some of the critical tools players need to start participating in fleet work. New pilots need to be useful to other players in a matter of days, and need to have had their first “butterfly effect” moment within their first week. That is how you hook new players and make lifelong customers.

This is how you make a noob giggle with excitement and pony up for a subscription.
I was lucky enough to find myself in this situation after only a few weeks of play.  Fleet warping BLEW MY MIND.  I probably lasted 20 seconds in combat once we were engaged, but it didn't matter. The important thing was that  "I was there!"    

Tanking skills are one of these critical tools currently overlooked by the existing tutorial. We've all seen those kill mails where the pilot was fitting armor plates and shield boosters at the same time. The problem is that the tutorial gives out these mods and explains how to physically mount them on the ship, but teaches none of the nuance about why it makes sense to stick to only one form of tanking or provide an example of what a proper fit looks like. The result is that PvE-oriented pilots grind excessively, losing ships to trial and error, and PvP pilots end up trolled for their fitting choice when really they didn't know any better.

Last time I checked, the advantages of fitting a shield tank vs. an armor tank, or a passive vs. active tank, are all gameplay fundamentals that haven't changed in years. There is no reason these basics should not be included in the tutorial.

Despite the lack of details in the recent dev blog, one of the features named for inclusion in the expansion is of course Faction Warfare. Over the past few years, the militias have devolved into a gaggle of paranoid veteran corporations, but a golden opportunity exists here to restore FW's ability to provide a fun, active place to learn PvP. Lack of information is once again the major underlying issue.  It pains me to hear so many pilots asking three years later what exactly we do and how it all works. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate that CCP isn't doing a good enough job making this information easily accessible.

Whatever changes are made to the Faction Warfare system, there needs to be a thorough and simultaneous update of all the information about the mechanics, rewards, risks, and drawbacks in an easy-to-locate Evelopedia source. I urge any developers reading this to keep this in mind, otherwise the fruits of their labor will be wasted if they aren't enjoyable for players of all skill levels.

A major overhaul of the Militia window UI is also long overdue. The UI should provide real-time feedback as to the progress of a system takeover. It should be easy for players to locate the front lines of the war, so they can contribute to their faction's efforts by fighting in the appropriate plex. Nothing should replace traditional scouting for tactical details about enemy fleet presence, but it should still be common knowledge what systems are under attack and where a player can go to find a fleet to help.

The second known update CCP has given us details on is the rookie ships overhaul. My biggest concern here is that re-skinning the rookie ships won't do much to “enhance the new player experience” if they don't also become more useful in the process. I'd love to see a wider array of civilian modules to allow for experimentation and learning without skill limitations. There has to be some real substance here, cosmetics won't be enough to hook players alone.

The last detail sorely missing in the new player is a pilot's very first podding.  New pilots should be coached through every stage of initial loss from ship to clone, be advised as to the importance of insurance on both, and  grow accustomed to the fact that death is only a temporary setback.  

Its never too early to start teaching new players PvP if they want to learn, and I hope that the INFERNO coming this summer invites new players to join the fun as much as it gives veterans the tools they need to enjoy “good fights” every day. It's time for New Eden to grow again, and to facilitate this much-needed growth we simply need to be sensitive to how the changes will affect new players and make sure that they get a chance to participate in all the excitement as well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We've hardly even begun, and I feel like I already need a vacation...

Months of planning, spreading the word, obtaining quiet pledges of support, tallying numbers, and most importantly: writing, writing, editing, and more writing – have finally led to this moment. My campaign is finally live, and now I can get to the exciting part of sharing the news.

Some may say it’s too late in the game, that the major candidates are already out stumping for votes and gaining media attention. While an early start is advantage for some styles of campaigning, where one “throws their hat” into the race and hopes for the best, frankly I find that approach to be both na├»ve and ineffective at actually securing the voter base necessary to win an election.

I personally have seen zero room for error this election cycle. I promised myself that I would not announce myself as a candidate and begin campaigning in earnest until I knew I was already well on the way to winning a seat. Hence, why I’ve stayed quiet about my own campaign despite the launch of so many others.

Regardless of my background as a militia pilot, I also decided that it would be a complete and total waste of this opportunity to bill myself only as a “FW candidate”. I truly believe that the labeling and categorizing of CSM candidates is just as useless as it is in real life politics. The reality is that I make frequent use of the trade hubs, my corp mates conduct research and produce ships in high sec to supply our front lines, and I personally harvest high sec ice belts to obtain fuel for my POS.

If someone had to place a label on me, it would only be fitting to call me an empire candidate. The regions surrounded on all sides by 0.0 have been my permanent home since I began playing the game, and I wish nothing more than to earn the opportunity to see that the game play native to these lands is protected throughout the upcoming development process.

Many of you don't know me at all. I'm not a famous blogger, I have no claim to EvE celebrity. I have no power in the game, I'm usually broke except for the ships in my hangar, and I'm a pretty average PvP pilot, nothing spectacular. I know that many of you have questions – why are you running for office? What do you stand for? Do you really have a chance at success? How you do you feel about ________?

To that end, I've finally completed what I hope will be a thorough introduction to me as a pilot, a person, and a CSM candidate. Instead of declaring my candidacy and then beginning the work of delivering a platform through fielding questions, I have chosen instead to simply give you all a chance to learn about me upfront, what I've been up to, and than decide for yourself what else you’d like to know about me and my campaign values.

It's been nerve-wracking and taken an incredible amount of my free time and emotional energy, but I am relieved to have passed the first milestone – that is, actually building a functioning campaign with enough votes to secure my position as a leader in the race. I am also acutely aware of how much more there is to be done. Regardless of my voting core, until the day the election closes I will be working hard to prove to the rest of you that I am the representative to protect empire citizens as part of CSM7.

In the mean time, I appreciate everyone's patience as I keep up with all your questions and comment on the issues that will no doubt be raised.   I will get back to each of you that hit me up with an inquiry in my campaign thread, my goal is to reply within 24-48 hours. Thank you for patience with me, and best of luck to the other candidates.  It's going to be a hell of a race!