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Blog Banter 38: Dogma

Seismic Stan
Freebooted Junkworks
#1 - 2012-07-28 21:54:43 UTC  |  Edited by: Seismic Stan
Welcome to the 38th edition of the EVE Blog Banter, a community discussion driven by the blogging community that delves broader and deeper into the topics of the moment in all matters EVE Online.

"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?"

As always, the question has been sent to everyone on the Blog Banter mailing list, but the discussion is open to all. Please take the time to read the many and varied entries (these will increase over the weeks, so please come back) and to share your opinion with those bloggers who pique your interest.

For the real meat, the following butchers of the unknowable have already carved their cuts of truth from the carcass of controversy.

The conversation was already in flow with these two juxtaposed opinions:

The continuing bloggery so far:
Global Telstar Federation Offices
#2 - 2012-07-28 22:14:16 UTC
After reading the blogs it comes down to what would make this game easier with out making it to easy.

Jesters Trek and comments was a list of what should be changed to make the game easier and Poetic Stanziel says we should keep some of the things Jester wants to do away with so we still have face-palm moments as we play.

While the devs cannot answer the calls for change in those blogs lets post the list of changes we want here. So the devs can comment on the big and small ideas that people still dislike about this game we play.

If i dont know something about EVE. I check

See you around the universe.

Vera Algaert
Republic University
Minmatar Republic
#3 - 2012-07-29 00:59:05 UTC
... and I thought you had something interesting to say about Dogma (EVE's attribute tracking system) Sad


Abdiel Kavash
Deep Core Mining Inc.
Caldari State
#4 - 2012-07-29 01:51:50 UTC
There is a big grey area between effort vs reward balancing and pointless timesinks. My opinion is that a mechanic should be in game if it either (a) presents the player with a meaningful choice, or (b) rewards player skill or reaction time. If there is no (meaningful) choice in the matter, and the mechanic is not skill-based, it should be taken out or automated.

Several examples:

Ejecting from a TIII to save skill points. This is a mechanic which requires precise timing from the pilot. Eject too late and you lose SP. Eject too soon and your enemies got themselves a free TIII cruiser. Thus it is my opinion that this should stay.

Autopilot warp to 15. This presents the player with a choice: Do I warp manually and enjoy speed and relative safety (except for bubbles and/or smartbombs), or do I autopilot and don't need to pay attention to the game for the next 15 minutes? If autopilot warped to 0, there would be no reason at all to ever fly manually, as there would be no benefits to it. You could take a moderately tanky frigate, plot a course through lowsec, and have dinner while your ship reaches the destination. Changing autopilot to warp to 0 removes a meaningful choice from the player, thus in my opinion it should not be changed.

Jump clone timers. These have two associated issues. First issue is power projection. Jump clone timers work in symbiosis with reinforcement timers - which are for the most part 24 - 48 hours. Imagine an alliance attacking a region far away from home. Now a third alliance attacks their space. Now, if you want to save it, you have to jump clone back home to save your stuff (or take a big risk and a lot of time moving by gates). However that gets you stuck home for the next 24 hours, which means that the timers you set off in hostile space will most likely expire by the time you get back. Removing the JC timer would essentially make it so that every person can be at any 5 places in the universe at the same time.

Fine, you say, let's remove the timer, but only in case you're jumping to a clone in the same station.

The second issue is once again a choice: I can get specialized implants for the next 24 hours, but then I'm stuck with them for this time. Or I can get a general set and keep them all the time. And this is not just the obvious training clone / cheap clone discussion: there are many other implant choices. As a command ship pilot, I can only use one mindlink at a time. Thus changing from a Vulture to a Claymore gets me stuck in a skirmish mindlink clone for the next 24 hours. Now my fleet might enjoy the skirmish bonuses, but I might also know of another strategic fleet several hours later, which absolutely requires Vulture bonuses - thus the correct choice would be not to jump.

Based on the two arguments, I believe that the JC timer is a deliberate balancing measure.

Switching characters to change skill training. I am training something on character A, when I decide that I want to switch active training to character B which is on the same account. To do this I need to:

- Log in to A
- Pause the skill queue
- Log off
- Log in again to B
- Start the skill queue.

None of these is a choice I need to make, they are all required steps to "change skill training". None of these is a measure of skill. They are just unnecessary steps the game is making me do to accomplish a simple task. Therefore I think that you should be able to start training character B at any time, and doing so should automatically pause character A's training.

LP rewards. Once again, this is just a timesink. When you decide to buy 100 widgets, you are not making a decision every time you open the LP shop. You make one decision to buy 100 of them. Thus I think there should be a "buy N of this type" option.

However, one could also argue that the time needed to obtain the item should be factored into the item's price! Maybe it is intended that it's not that simple to buy a bajilion rounds of faction ammo in a moment. As mr. Stanziel pointed out, the time required to buy more profitable items outweighed the extra ISK he would have gained. Is this just a nuisance, or a deliberate mechanic pushing the price of datacores up?

Last, upgrading your clone. While in 99% of cases you want to go through with it, one could argue that there are some edge cases when you don't. Maybe you're a starting player who can't afford the upgrade. Maybe you're training an alt who will never undock for the next 6 months, only to move one system over and buy skillbooks. There are even stations without medical facilities in which upgrading your clone isn't even possible. Thus I think that the upgrade should be left as a choice, and not be automated.

But Jester's question was phrased slightly differently: Should there be a popup window every time you die reminding you to upgrade your clone? I don't know. To me, upgrading a clone is just an item on the pre-flight checklist:

- Is my clone upgraded?
- Do I have the right implants?
- Am I sitting in the right ship? Is it correctly fitted?
- Do I have ammo in my cargo? Cap charges? Scripts? Nanite paste?
- Is my ship insured?
- Am I undocking in highsec with a GCC still active? Is my security status or faction standings too low to be here?
- Am I undocking from a hostile station, where I might not be allowed to dock again?

As you can see some of the steps already trigger a warning, some don't. Which ones should and which ones shouldn't is very much a matter of taste.

To sum up, yes, many of the points mentioned fall under the label "thousand papercuts", and hopefully CCP will get to implementing them sooner or later. However care should be taken to understand when a change is merely simplifying a complicated process to achieve a simple goal, and when it is removing meaningful choice or contribution of a player's skill. And sometimes this is not a clear distinction, there is room for interpretation.
Jake Warbird
Republic Military School
Minmatar Republic
#5 - 2012-07-29 02:27:08 UTC
Except for AP warp to zero, I'm with Mr.Teg on this one.
Seismic Stan
Freebooted Junkworks
#6 - 2012-07-29 13:37:43 UTC
Vera Algaert wrote:
... and I thought you had something interesting to say about Dogma (EVE's attribute tracking system) Sad

I wasn't aware of that, sorry to disappoint. We're using the word "dogma" in its more traditional role I'm afraid, as in a set of behaviours followed unquestioningly without reason.
Archibald Frederick III
24th Imperial Crusade
Amarr Empire
#7 - 2012-07-30 03:03:22 UTC
One thing from Poetic's blog particularly stuck out to me:

World of Warcraft went down that road. Look at what their game became. Everything became simple. Anything that rewarded effort was removed. Everything became readily available to everyone. There were few areas left to elitism.

It's clear that a lot of Eve players regard WoW as the exemplar of simplifying = dumbing down, and while that certainly is what happened in WoW, I'm not convinced it's a good analogy for Eve. In WoW (and I speak as someone who played WoW for almost 2 years), your primary game experience is playing against the computer. Whether it's solo questing, instance-running or playing in one of the highly scripted pvp battlegrounds, your main source of 'fun' is interacting with the game's mechanics. When they dumb down the mechanics to a point of no longer being 'fun', they have nothing.

In Eve, on the other hand, your primary game experience is playing with/against other players. Even miners and mission-runners are affecting and affected by player politics and economics, and the most interesting and exciting experiences are always going to be generated by other players. That's what emergent gameplay is all about. If CCP were, for example, to simplify PI by letting players reset all extractors at once, trading perfect efficiency for convenience, they aren't dumbing down the game, because for the most part, the player is not here to 'play' PI. The actual game experience comes through how you use PI to interact with other players - competing for resources, finding the best planets and locations, not getting ganked in your hauler, market pvp with your products, setting up the most profitable production chain - and anything CCP can do to make it easier to interact with players rather than the game should be encouraged.

This doesn't mean that there aren't players who primarily enjoy pve, or that CCP shouldn't try to have engaging pve as well as pvp content. Even so, I disagree with the argument that CCP cannot simplify certain single-player mechanics to better serve the multiplayer side of the game for fear of turning into WoW, because unlike WoW, Eve has never been about playing vs. the gameplay mechanics.
Global Telstar Federation Offices
#8 - 2012-07-30 17:21:42 UTC
This is a great thread needs some dev love thoughTwisted

If i dont know something about EVE. I check

See you around the universe.

Seismic Stan
Freebooted Junkworks
#9 - 2012-07-31 14:10:16 UTC  |  Edited by: Seismic Stan
We've now passed the 10 blogged response mark as well as two excellent forum posts. Go read 'em all.
Seismic Stan
Freebooted Junkworks
#10 - 2012-08-02 14:38:00 UTC
Twenty varied and thought-provoking reflections on the latest Blog Banter topic now await your reading pleasure.
Seismic Stan
Freebooted Junkworks
#11 - 2012-08-08 08:44:21 UTC
Any more thoughts and opinions out there?

Posting on the forum was an experiment to see if we'd get discussion and feedback from forum readers. We've had a couple of great responses, but to make the effort of maintaining a list here worthwhile, it would be good to get more.
#12 - 2012-08-08 13:50:13 UTC  |  Edited by: Noisrevbus
Excellent topic Stan!

Also a good initiative crossposting to the forums to bring in more oppinions.

Ripard's Little things:

I started off reading Ripard's piece but i would say that the issues he lift up pertain more to "little things" and if you are to commend CCP for doing something well over the past year it has to be the attention to little things. Most of what Ripard bring up are definately things that can be adressed but what he doesn't assess in the article is that most of them had logic once.

Autopiloting to 0 doesn't exist because once upon a time you couldn't manually warp to 0 either. The clone timer exist because once upon a time "everyone" didn't have a personal capital, and we didn't traverse the entire world in 5min with cyno-chains - it was there to stop power projection. Today of course it's only there to hamper pilots who rely more on implants (mains who fly command links, or pilots who adapt clone sets per security). He's not wrong asking for them to be adressed, but in that regard i feel CCP have been on the ball and seem to continue to be so (they have already discussed clones, for example). The "little things" is a specific team after all, with continued responsibilities.

Crucible's Little things:

If you are to take a more critical standpoint the opposite would be what they have delivered beyond little things and that's where this topic become interesting. I had not personally read the Gamasutra article, but i had derived something similar from the CSM meeting minutes that also came out the other day. It raised several question marks in my mind regarding allocation of resources, how the continued design is dimensioned and where the priorities lie. It raised the same questions that you do with this blog banter.

Before i go into detail i'd like to step off for a second and adress an abstract point regarding sandboxes. I've used it in forum posts before when the topic has seeped over into sandbox-themepark discussions. I've used the term "framework" in the past. No game is void from design influence, that should be obvious to anyone playing EVE. Even though you may have a sandbox, if the frame lose it's integrity the sand will start pouring all over the place. That "mechanical" side of game design is extremely important in an MMO. It's not a question of if content-design exist, it's a question of where you put it: frame or center.

The CSM Minutes Little things:

While it (for good reason) was not entirely confirmed by CCP, the understanding over the past 18 months was that setting the game back on track after Monoclegate was a three-stage scenario. We had the "little things" expansion with Crucible. We had the "low-high mechanics" expansion with Inferno and we await the "nullsec overhaul" this winter.

There have been three larger mechanical projects discussed: Crimewatch, POS and Ring Mining (an extension of the Farms and Fields initiative from CSM6).

Where are we today, after reading the post-Inferno minutes?

Crimewatch, which was the "big" mechanical delivery expected for Inferno (as opposed to little things such as missiles, declarations or mercing; they may be more daunting implementations, but they are still focused so i consider them little things) is delayed. It may possibly delay one full expansion (to this winter), it may possibly delay further.

The POS and Ring mining initiatives have been subject to priority. The minutes refer to them as the same team likely being assigned to work on one after the other. CCP prioritize the POS-work and the CSM chime in discussing POS as conflict-drivers. That we are chosing from either is an indication of it's own, but the concluding result is what set me off:

POS are not FiS. The discussion around POS so far is also very limited in how they intend it to adress FiS issues (my favourite topics that include scaling and dwindling interaction). Most of the discussion from CCP involve little things, such as modular design, docking, asset- and supercapital stores. The CSM raise the question of conflict drivers, but even there the perspective so far only seem to assume conflict among large coalitions. In effect, it's mainly at a large scale that POS are conflict drivers. Compare that to discussion around volume-based mechanics in infrastructure and similar related topics. How to adress the full-scale FiS interaction with POS. They are not covered at all in the minutes.

Enough of Little things: Where is Flying in Space?

Ring mining, as the only purebred FiS initiative, have already been surrendered for the winter expansion.

CCP manage to run several art-design projects simultainously (missiles, ship classes, ship shaders and websites). They push them out on time in consecutive order, but attention to the actual gameplay of EVE-online still seem thin and spread apart, while delivery is shining with it's abscence.

It's been a full year now since attention was said to shift to FiS - but the delivery have been nothing but meager. I, along with large portions of the community, had an understanding for little things 6 months into the mea culpa with Crucible. It's now 12 months and we still have little to show for it, while patience is once again being tested.

I don't mind little things, attention to the budding merc communities or high security wars. I sympathize with the POS managers in sovspace and logistics work in Wormholes. In the end though, the sucking chest wound (as CSM6 once labled it) and heart of EVE online is ships in space: FiS. That, affect everyone.

Trends in the game in that regard have not seemed to change over the past year and CCP seem horribly underdimensioned in the heart of their business. Game design.

How much have actually changed with the corporate reorganisation?

Why isn't Crimewatch, POS redesign (with full-scale attention) AND Ring Mining here this winter? It's been 18 months.
Seismic Stan
Freebooted Junkworks
#13 - 2012-08-24 20:40:58 UTC
We'll be wrapping this edition up soon. Thanks to all for the great input. Now to find a willing reviewer...