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Monday, December 16, 2013

Mumblings on Recent Reveals

There have been some interesting interviews over the course of December as it relates to the future of EVE Online. The first was an interview CCP Fozzie did with US Gamer 11 days ago. You can read it here. The second was a CCP Pokethulhu interview six days ago with Forbes. You can read that interview starting here and part 2 is here. If you have not already read these please do. They are more than worth your time. Be sure to keep following the Forbes interview all the way through the Valkyrie section. It is long and comes in two parts, but don't miss part two as I reference it below.

I've had a week or so to think about these interviews. I've read them several times, most recently just before I started writing this post. They are too long to discuss everything in them I find intriguing, so I am going to pull a couple things from them and limit myself to that. If you've questions on what I might think of other things please ask me in the comments. I am always happy to pontificate.

I'll start with CCP Fozzie's interview. He was asked, "Will you ever allow us to build stargates? It would be pretty interesting to have systems that will require you to build an exit yourself." This is a bit of an old question at this point. I think CCP Seagull and the rest of the team have answered it pretty well for now. However, CCP Fozzie threw in a little extra in his response. Here's what grabbed my attention.
"The last changes in corp industry roles were very nice but there is one more step to go: Corp Hangar! How about a private tab where a member can share access to BPOs without letting everyone take them? Such a tab could be limited by role assignment. Better yet: A section of your private hangar that allows "view" access to other corp members. 
Yep, so a better way of allowing people to use your BPOs without having control to take them is something we've been thinking about for a while, and is definitely something that we would like to do. Um, I can't say for sure exactly how that implementation is going to work, but it is something we definitely want to do, yes."
When I lived in the C6, we had a corporate theft take place. One of the industrial corporations in the alliance had about 50 billion in BPOs stolen from their POS by an awoxer. That resulted in an alliance order that no one was to store BPOs in the POS. From an industrial point of view, a real pain in the ass. The only thing worse than moving wares up and down a long pipe is moving BPCs up and down a pipe when there is no really good reason for doing so other than the alliance doesn't want the embarrassment of stolen BPOs. If I lose 50 mISK in BPOs, that's my bad. I don't like others telling me I can't take that risk. It's like me telling them not to fly that billion is T3 cruiser. I know they wouldn't stand for that. Implementing this change will make both the industrialist and leadership happy. It's a win-win; can't wait to lock everything down.

But that's a fairly straight forward reveal. Most times CCP doesn't come right out and tell you what they are planning. That's a strategy for keeping secrets as old as secrets themselves. Don't tell them what you don't want them to know. What could be simpler? And it's mostly effective, but there are ways to discover the truth.

The military intelligence community has long known human intelligence, what people tell you, is the best kind of intelligence. But that's not because of what they will tell you. It's because of what they won't tell you, and how many ways they think they need to not tell you. They will talk about everything except what they are not supposed to talk about. That provides an opportunity.

By piecing together everything that is said, the good analyst begins to see the holes in the fabric of the lies. The truth resides within those holes. The objective of an analyst isn't to get someone to tell their secrets. It's to get them to just talk around them. The more they talk, the more they stay away from the forbidden subject. The more they avoid it, the smaller the holes in the intelligence blanket gets, and the closer the truth is to discovery. When all the lies are eventually spoken, only the truth will remain - as plain as day for any with eyes to see.

So using this approach, you take this statement from CCP Pokethulhu (emphasis mine,)
"Going through this, and taking into account the learning curve we have, EVE is a great game but it isn’t a game for everybody. But we know that there are more things in our crazy sandbox that people could be interested in. So, on some level, we’re asking “How can we bring people to this fascinating universe, without making them all play EVE Online, because some gamers don’t want to. "
and this statement  from CCP Fozzie (emphasis again mine,)
"Walking in stations right now is not the priority for us. We're focused on the space game play in EVE: the core game play. It's definitely something we could return to later, but at this time we're very focused on making EVE the best space game it can be."
and I begin to wonder if our ire at walking in stations was a bit of a joke. CCP had to develop the walking part for DUST 514. But was it ever really meant for EVE Online? I no longer think so. I think it was something that would have been done regardless. Unfortunately it needed a great deal of resources to accomplish, and to justify using those resources it was implemented as an "expansion" for the business unit whose resources were repurposed for a time. This is now mostly ancient history. I was torn about even bringing it up, because I personally believe the summer of rage should fade into oblivion. But it has a bearing on what is within the hole encircling that which CCP is not talking about.

Cutting to the chase, EVE Online is no longer their business focus. Not once in his entire interview did CCP Fozzie call it "EVE Online." Perhaps that is simply his preference for brevity, but it is also indicative of a new direction of thought within CCP I'd wager. I see it in CCP Pokethulhu's interview when he talks about the EVE Universe. I see it in a how a lot of CCP employees discuss their brand these days.

Has CCP accepted that EVE Online will not get bigger; that a half million gamers are all that will ever buckle down and learn such a complex environment? I believe CCP has come to understand that in order to grow, they have to move to a different sort of game, one with a more immediate return on gamer investment. As CCP Pokethulhu put it (emphasis mine,)
"So, the business model of Dust is free-to-play – grind as much as you want but pay to save time – the free-to-play model you see in many games. But the real reason for making it was that we believe that the magic of the EVE Universe can be a lot bigger, but it may not get there all by itself with EVE Online."
On that stage, EVE Online is only a supporting character, necessary to give the scene a sense of believability, but not the star of the show by any stretch. I'd call that the secret revealed except for the use of the qualifier. That gives the intent of the statement just enough wiggle room to be deniable. But it really reduces the size of the hole in the blanket doesn't it?

I won't call this a bad thing. In a business sense it is healthy and prudent. But as a player of EVE Online, it makes me believe we'll never see the glory of another Apocrypha expansion. I suppose that's not a bad thing either. By taking time and not rushing things, we're likely to get better thought out and implemented changes. We all know how rushing things have created some of the biggest issues with game play we see today. So no alarmist rhetoric today. Just something to mumble about. What's your take on it?

9 comments:

  1. Perhaps the real reason CCP doesn't explore modifying their subscription or trial model after a decade is because the single shard can't really handle significant bursts in the growth curve in users. It's such a slow burn game, you'd think there was a strong draw for making it easy to embrace lapses in ones accounts.

    Likewise, with an expanded lineup of products, they are going to need a common currency to unite the billing of all of their services. I predict a point where you can purchase Aurum in bulk amounts, and then use it to purchase relatively small units of playtime in any of their games. That would appeal to the casuals, the weekend warriors and quite a few CEOs.

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    1. "...because the single shard can't really handle significant bursts in the growth curve in users..." Oh really, why?

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  2. I don't have a link handy, but when he was still Executive Producer, CCP Unifex once talked about how it wasn't practical to do everything they wanted to do in the EVE client, and they were thinking of other games, potentially on other platforms, to complement EVE Online. He mentioned a separate WiS app, and a PI app for tablets.

    I'm thoroughly underwhelmed by the prospect of a separate client for WiS, but I'm happy to be pleasantly surprised.

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    1. The idea of a PI App would be amazing though. I would love to update my PI when I am out and about rather than only being able to do it via the client.

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  3. I don't get this blind spot almost everyone seems to have about expansions and how they all suck because no more big content. At Fanfest, Seagull flat out stated those days are over. I wish we would get more Apocrypha-style expansions, but those days are gone, CCP told us to our face, and yet we still seem shocked.

    I'm not sure if I like it or not, though. On the one hand, like you said, Mab, the changes we do get are more likely to be not as broken. On the other, I'm not sure I can wait 5 years to see the expansion completed. By going to the other end of the extreme, I do sometimes wonder/worry if CCP might be trying to cure the problem by killing the patient.

    After all, if the expansions (are they really expansions, or just updates, now?) don't deliver excitement and some true OMG experiences, how many players will sit still for years and years?

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    1. CCP Pokethulhu has come into CCP with an EA mindset. He has convinced them that Eve is the past and the New Eden Universe is the future. Eve is nothing more than a cash cow from now on. In itself that isn't a problem, it might even make good business sense, but we also have to look at CCP as a company.

      CCP have struggled for years to produce quality new feature, think PI and Incarna. They sounded good in presentations but the implementation was nothing like what was promised. Dust then comes along and has exactly the same problems, over promise, under delivery. lack of compelling gameplay to the masses etc. World of Darkness has been in development for 6 or 7 years and has nothing to show for it. In fact it has almost no staff after the last round of layoffs.

      So...... is letting Eve die so you can diversify into other areas really a good idea for CCP? So far there is no evidence they are able to make another game or massive new features anymore.

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  4. We, the players, were the ones that demanded, during the SoR, that the game be fixed. Crucible caught most of the low hanging fruit in this regard. Fixing the broken things in EVE has and should still remain CCPs top priority - afterall, there's plenty to still fix (I'm looking at you, sov mechanics).

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  5. You could look at DUST514 as the proof of the new paradigm: it's in the EVE Universe, CCP considers it to have delivered on at least one early promise (atmospheric flight), and it's a separate game for a different platform. True, it's not well-integrated at the moment, but it's clearly a test bed for integration. Once CREST is fully developed and tested, and the integration is more or less where CCP wants it, you can bet that they'll try to expand the EVE Universe again, through another game.

    I don't even think it's malign neglect of EVE, it's a basic structural problem: why would you want to encourage huge growth of a game that can't even sustain routine sov wars without node crashes? How they grow EVE's player base is something that they'll have to negotiate carefully until they fix some basic problems with EVE's underlying engine, and possibly even after that, or they'll just make the current problems worse. The number of people playing in the Universe, though, can be scaled up by giving players more than one game to log in to.

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  6. I feel that CCP has made a big mistake since trying to get into the console market. As a player, Over the last 3 years I feel that more resources have been put into other places in the company than catering for its core clientele. (Eve Online players) I really hope they concentrate back on the fans that make it possible for there sake.

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Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.