Archive for the CCP Category

The King of Scapegoats

Posted in Alliance Leadership, CCP, Eve History on March 29, 2012 by Easley Thames

The Mittani has long been called the “King of Space.” Though he is reviled by many in this game for a myriad spectrum reasons ranging from “arrogance” to “he killed my alliance,” the Goon-king recently earned a certain level of grudging respect from many players – myself included – as a result of his efforts on CSM 6.

Pushing for vital changes at the height of the Jita riots, when CCP stood on the very edge of the abyss, The Mittani has been nearly-universally praised by his former CSM colleagues for his extraordinary efforts as chairman.

The Mittani helped organize the CSM into a effective organization for the first time, using Skype and other forms of communication to hold informal meetings, so that they would be effective when they faced CCP.

Though many view him as self-interested, the renewed emphasis by CCP on (FiS) “Flying in Space” is attributable in no small part to his advocacy, and this shift has been very popular with the broader community.

CCP’s top executive even mentioned him by name during the keynote presentation at fan-fest this year, where his contributions during the crisis were mentioned. In particular, Hilmar specifically discussed the somewhat tense “emergency summit.”

Many have already discussed the overly-harsh, knee-jerk reaction by CCP to Mittani’s gaff. I am among those who think he should have been allowed to stay on the CSM as a delegate, if not as the chairman; especially after his heartfelt apology, resignation as chairman, and generous compensation paid to the “victim” in this case.

What I want to focus on is something else, CCP’s complicity and hypocrisy in this whole affair. CCP saw the slides in advance. Think about that for a moment. They KNEW that Mittani’s presentation was going to focus on the time spent griefing a player that later claimed to be suicidal as a result of serious real-life issues.

Did CCP prevent this from going forward? Of course not, Eve is all about this kind of behavior. The only real competitive advantage Eve has is its cold, heartless galaxy full of players looking to take full advantage of the sandbox.

Now, and this part is critical, what exactly did CCP approve in his presentation? Based on the facts given in the CCP-approved slide-show, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of a publicly-available kill-board could already find this pilot’s name with minimal effort.

It doesn’t even end with their knowledge of the slides. Consider what these panels are like – generally speaking. If fan-fest is a “party at the top of the world,” then the alliance panel is like a meeting of all the crime-bosses responsible for supplying the drugs and every other manner of vice.

CCP green-lit presentations from people who represent all of the most violent, lawless play-styles in Eve – from suicide ganking, to black-ops ganks, to worm-hole ransoms, to 0.0 blobbing and conquest.

We got to listen to singing ransoms, scamming stories, and plenty of examples of high-sec “griefing.”

They gathered these brutal braggarts, and then fed them tons of booze, all before shoving them in front of microphones set to broadcast LIVE across the internet. What could possibly have gone wrong with this plan?

The lack of foresight here is astounding. That is, of course, if you believe they really care about the kind of behavior The Mittani displayed in the slightest.

I certainly don’t think they ever thought for a single moment about this “Wis” individual. He was just another great story in the dark history of Eve.  That’s certainly how I felt watching the panel.

If they felt the subject matter was even slightly objectionable, CCP could have done a broadcast delay (even as little as 30 seconds) on the live stream.

Had they done this, they would have been able to censor the name of the supposedly-suicidal pilot’s character, as well as some of the profanity in each presentation.

Or, alternatively, they could have censored the presentation material ahead of time by suggesting revisions to the presentations. But why should they have to?

These are the kinds of stories Eve players lust for, and I believe CCP enjoys them every bit as much as we do.

We’re all in this game for the kind of – at times brutal – freedom that we have to interact with (and indeed harm) one another.

The real problem is that CCP is still operating on the basis of a tacit acceptance that “anything goes,” but as soon as they get negative media attention about their players, they shove the offending individuals into the forefront and circle their wagons – feigning outrage and surprise.

They tell the community to HTFU – that’s “harden the FUCK up” one moment – then when people pick on each other in a way that raises flags outside the Eve community, they then turn around an put 100% of the blame on the shoulders of those gamers.

Why did they allow this story in the slides to begin with if they don’t find the idea of someone potentially killing-themselves over a couple-dozen internet spaceships to be amusing in the first place? Is that not strongly implied by their conduct? Is that not the greatest proof that “Eve is real” for the players?

It’s time for CCP to get called-out on this. They have been shameless in their attempts to court the press by convincing them that this was unforeseeable and shocking.

As someone who watched the panel, I didn’t even flinch when he named the name. It was neither surprising, nor shocking, when he joked that we could all go and try to make this guy kill himself.

In conclusion, CCP should have admitted they played a major role in this whole affair.

Either they should rethink they way they approve presentation materials before fan-fest, or they should stop contorting the Terms of Service and EULA to punish someone for an out-of-context real-life communication.

I feel strongly that, at a bare minimum, this means they should have shared in the responsibility. Instead, they came down hard on the man that – in many player’s eyes – had a major role in saving their company’s very soul last year.

The sad thing is, the gaming press will drop this story in a day or two, and even having him step-down as chairman would have been enough of a signal to non-Eve players that “the mean guy got punished,” but instead they removed one of the best voices we have on the CSM entirely.

For all the reasons stated above, as well as man others I have posted in the comments of various news-sites and forum posts, I can’t see CCP’s response as anything but cowardly.

They are just fortunate that The Mittani was so uncharacteristically willing to fall on his sword for them this time. Not everyone would do the same in this situation.


Apparently I Like Innovative Games

Posted in CCP, User Interface on January 9, 2011 by Easley Thames

Those who know me know I’m an MMO junkie. My love for online gaming goes back to the first 2-d online RPGs like Sierra’s “The Realm” and the far better-known Ultima Online. I had a small amount of experience in MUDs as well, but as a child of the Nintendo generation I found pure text to be boring and tedious.

The 2 MMOs I’m currently playing most actively (Eve and Vindictus) got voted #1 and #2 in the “most innovative” category of the 2010 awards. I found this rather validating since I’ve spent quite a lot of time recruiting people into both of these worlds.

“When it came to looking at the game that made the most strides forward in 2010 in terms of pushing the envelope and doing something new, there was actually quite a bit to talk about. Surprisingly, each of these nominees included their changes via an expansion.”

The voting for Most Innovative MMO broke down as such:

EVE Online 32.7%

Vindictus 24.1%

World of Warcraft 18.8%

Global Agenda 13.2%

Pocket Legends 11.1%

What’s so innovative about each of these games?

Starting with the bottom, Pocket Legends, this is the only game on the list I have not played.

Next is Global Agenda, famous for the “No More Elves” videos (if you haven’t seen this – you really should click the link right now). They really created a workable and fun FPS / MMO hybrid. I think World of Tanks is somewhat similar in terms of being an action MMO, but it really doesn’t have the character development of Global Agenda.

Though I am not currently subscribed to WoW, I have to admit that the changes Blizzard has made to the game in the Wrath expansion were pretty immense and innovative as well.

Who could have imagined a duengon where the first boss fight involved riding motorcycles, catapults and steam-punk style bulldozer tanks. That’s quite a change from the days of Molten Core and Black Rock Depths. Ulduar was the most memorable raid in any MMO I have ever played. The duengon finder tool was also a game-changer for casual players and I have to imagine Eve’s “Fleet Finder” was directly inspired by this tool.

Vindictus uses a combat system reminiscent of God of War and combines that with a traditional MMO character development system. You gain skill points passively (Eve style) and through grinding (running missions, which are infinately repeatable and change based on certain conditions). There are also dozens of special “achievements” for each mission and ways to enhance the difficulty (hard mode and heroic mode).

Vindictus allows you to improve your character in lots of ways beyond merely leveling. For example, completing achievements gives you new titles and the titles you posses give you passive bonuses (whether or not you display them).

Vindictus is brilliant for one reason above all other. Instead of taking the standard MMORPG template and making one HUGE change to try to appear unique, there are 100+ SMALL innovations that collectively give it a feeling of being a true next-gen MMO. For example, the in-game friends monitoring system is far ahead of any other game out there.

Additionally, I have never played another game (including Eve) where a lvl 1 character can actively be useful in a battle along-side a max-lvl character like they can in Vindictus. High level characters get a “daily” bonus to 1 dungeon per “area” (there are currently 4 groups of dungeons, with each group containing around a dozen dungeons, and each group is connected to a different story-line).

Because there are 4 areas (separated by level) the highest lvl players are encouraged to join missions with low levels to help them out from time to time. In these missions the low-levels (if smart) can be used to keep the smaller monsters off the back of the high-level while they blitz through to bosses and clear the stage in record time.

Finally, Eve. There’s a sandbox you see… and uh… people form big alliances of alliances and kill each other’s spaceships and then post about it on forums.

CCP’s Latest Expansion :: An Incursion Into Good Game Design

Posted in CCP, User Interface on December 1, 2010 by Easley Thames

With the current state of the game, and given the widespread outcry from players, it seems to me that the Eve Online player-base would prefer optimizations and changes to the current game-play experience over additional features.To my great delight, Incursion seems to offer a little of both.

What is noteworthy in this expansion is that there are significant changes that are wholly unrelated to the new feature (Sansha raids). If CCP can continue to blend optimizations (and not just for server performance) alongside new features, my satisfaction rating will continue to rise.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned some UI fixes I wanted to see implemented. Incursion includes at least one of these (naming ships in hangar without boarding them) along with many other useful changes I have desired for years.

I am not particularly excited about the rocket buff, but it was certainly long over-due. The Hawk is getting some needed special attention, but I feel the ships that will skyrocket in popularity as a result will be the Vengence, Worm and CN Hookbill.

The heretic and malediction also should see a major improvement in their 1v1 capability against small ships. Rocket Maledictions have always been a fairly threatening opponent for certain combat intys, and with this change the plated varieties should be even more dangerous.

The removal of learning skills coming on the 14th is also a long-awaited and highly popular change. I am personally very happy about the early x-mas gift of several million skill points to spend as I please, and the removal of learning skills will reduce the misery of being a new pilot in this game.

In all honesty, it’s fine for the game to be as complex and harsh as it is for new players, that was part of what kept me interested, but creating pointless hurdles for new players that increase the time before they can start obtaining useful and fun new skills is just a bad game design decision. In conclusion, skill reimbursement = epic win!

Arguably the biggest change is the sweeping revision of T2 close ranged ammo types. Long considered worthless by the majority of pilots (especially the close ranged ammo for long-ranged weapons) the removal of some major penalties makes them a viable alternative to faction ammo. The movement penalties, in particular, and lack of significantly higher damage than faction variants were usually deal-breakers for savvy ammo users.

In many cases, I will now be carrying T2 CR ammo in large quantities. I’ve bought-out some large sell orders that still reflected the low (pre-buff) prices. I expect prices rise soon in remote 0.0 regions as demand rises steadily.

As for the actual incursions? Well, I don’t play Eve for PvE. I play other MMOs for that kind of experience. I think PvE in EvE is always going to be lacking a bit because there is so little actual player control over your movement, not to mention a limited extent of module management. It just doesn’t compare to the interaction required by games like Everquest, WoW or Aion.

As a short aside, is there anyone out there playing Vindictus currently? I’m greatly enjoying it in small portions, though the game certainly lacks some depth. Still, you can’t argue with a free MMO where the micro-transactions don’t dominate the game (unlike gPotato games for example where potentially amazing games like Allods are sunk due to excessive “pay to win” cash shop items).

Fixing The Eve UI :: A Few Personal Wishes

Posted in CCP, User Interface on July 28, 2010 by Easley Thames

It’s no secret to anyone with experience playing other MMOs that Eve suffers from one of the most awkward interfaces of any online game.

We are all aware that part of the problem is that the game-play in Eve is fundamentally different from the action-bar-centric games where you control an avatar in worlds with gravity to keep you on the ground (or at least near to it so you have a fixed point of reference).

However, there are many changes that could be made to improve the user experience without requiring a fundamental re-design of the game.

1 – Scanning Changes: There are many ways to improve this system, which is currently a very awkward “drag the camera and click” method.

<> My personal pet-peeve is that un-piloted ships (even those behind a POS forcefield) CANNOT be filtered off the scan results. This makes hunting far more complicated than it should  in certain systems where a moon is directly in-line with belts you will be scanning from your in-gate.

<> Add a “scan angle overlay” option, possibly as part of the tactical HUD we already have in-game. It’s silly that I have to teach new players to use their own ship as an imprecise marker for the center of there scan, and we need a better graphical representation.

<> We need an active scan option that pulses regularly if we are ever going to get local removed. Even if they DO keep local as-is, this would still be useful. Something like a 10-second cycle wouldn’t be as good as a human-operator mashing “scan,” so this puts it in-line with the philosophy of autopilot. Namely, that automated piloting options are acceptable as long as they are less effective than manual operation.

<> Key-bindings for widening/narrowing the scan area. Currently, you need to shift the camera and then mouse over to the scan button (or change the angle, which also initiates a scan). I think there could be bound scan options, such as “scan 360, scan ahead 90 degrees, etc.”

<> Remove the damned scan delay!  Being able to scan more times while in warp is very useful to me and I am annoyed at the loss of functionality. Was the impact on game performance really THAT bad? How about a shorter reduction? I would settle for a .25 or .5 second delay.

2- Hangar Changes: For anyone with many of the same ship in one hangar, it can get confusing as to the fitting of any particular vessel. Short of naming each ship (which can’t be done without climbing inside) with its exact fit using some arcane code, there is no  method to do what I want to do (look at the setup without a session change). There are many other frustrations, even with the advent of the saved fittings.

<> Please let me look at the fitting of any ship in my hangar in a new window, without requiring me to pilot it. You can call this option “view fitting” when it appears on the over-used drop-down menu of doom.

<> I wouldn’t mind being able to rename ships without jumping inside, but this is a lesser issue to me.

<> Allow us to remotely strip the fittings off ships. This often causes issues when contracting items to a courier, since damaged items cannot be packaged.

3- Overview Changes: The overview is something unique to Eve (well… barring Perpetuum which is more or less a direct transplant of Eve game-play mechanics into a planetary-bound mecha game). The problems with the overview range from the size of the window and difficulty of setting it up tabs as a new-player into more complex concerns such as being unable to set a variety of pre-configured orbits and “keep-at’s” for use in tense situations.

<> Please let me save a variety of orbit ranges that I frequently use. It costs precious seconds to continually type in numbers for “orbit at” or to keep using the drop down menu in combat. This needs to be handled more seamlessly. Pre-set orbit ranges would help somewhat, possibly in button form. I think the window with buttons for “approach,” “orbit,” “keep at range” and many other maneuvers needs work and should be integrated into a re-design of how we interact with the overview.

<>Simplify the creation of overview states and tabs. It’s just too complex for a newbie and even I sometimes face frustration when, with the creation of a new patch, I have to add various ships or objects back into my saved overview configurations.

<> Bloated size and the high-cost of adding additional columns. It can really, really get out of hand when you incorporate corp + alliance tickers, velocity, angular speed (the number that matches your tracking without doing any mental math) and various other essentials. A more elegant solution must exist. One suggestion I have is to offer the option to integrate the angular speed, transverseal and standard velocity into a single column.

<> I want the option to have two or more overviews open at once, each with different information. I would also like to be able to apply different filters on each one. Having a single interface for targeting ships while another displays celestial objects of my choosing would be very useful in combat. For those with multiple-monitors, this change would be even more empowering.

4- Local Changes: I am going to set aside the issue of local functioning as an intelligence tool in this post, simply because that’s a topic that deserves many posts in-itself. However, with local functioning as-is, I think there is a need for a few optimizations that would improve the game-play experience for everyone in Eve.

<> Allow me to turn on or off a  “local standings count” of hostile, neutral and friendly pilots. It’s so stupid that in the distant future, my ship’s computer can only display the raw number of pilots in my system, but is incapable of allowing me to view a simply summary of the pilots under red, grey and blue tags. In the status quo, standings are already visible in local, but we have to manually count the numbers to determine this information. In busy systems, such as high-sec trading  hubs, it can also be infuriating trying to keep track of the number of war targets. This is not just a 0.0 issue!

<> Allow me to link a click-able list of all pilots in local to any other channel, so that scouts don’t have to drag and drop every hostile manually when sharing intel with a gang.

<> Allow me to sort the list of pilots in local with a number of filters (standings and war-target or militia status being the most important among all possibilities).

This is not a comprehensive laundry-list of problems with the game’s interface, but I think that these changes would result in a much more enjoyable and less-tedious experience for me and many other pilots.

Furthermore, I realize that some of the flawed features I pointed out, particularly those related to local chat, may have been purposefully left obtuse and hard to operate to offer protection to various play-styles in-game. However, I am strongly opposed to hamstringing the user interface and making it less user-friendly  simply to balance perceived in-game risks against a particular group of players.

I Miss Eve TV

Posted in CCP, Eve History, Eve Tv on June 2, 2010 by Easley Thames

When I was new to the world of New Eden, the one thing that really drew me into Eve Online was the unmatched community. If anything has kept me here, it has been the myriad stories of true player-to-player interaction spanning the realms of politics, cultural interaction, role-play, trade and warfare.

Watching episodes of Eve TV helped me to better understand the world I was playing in and – better yet – I could put a face to some of the names I had read about. Though it would be years before I really had a comfortable grasp on something approximating a history of 0.0 warfare, Eve TV truly cultivated my interest in PvP.

When I learned that Eve TV was going to be shut-down, I was heart broken. If only more people had paid for the episodes, perhaps they could have kept going longer. The free Alliance Tournament coverage is great fun, but nothing can match the weekly shows covering in-game events and interviewing special guests.

I really wonder, is it completely out of the question for the show to return in a monthly fashion at some point? Only CCP knows for sure, but there is certainly zero indication of that ever happening, despite numerous petitions back in 2007 and 2008.

For those who never had the pleasure (or perhaps for those looking to reminisce) you can watch most of the original Eve TV episodes here.