Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Welcome, Sleeper Overlords!

Last week in my Logical Design Decisions post I talked about what I think the "new space" should be and argued it would be the existing Jove space (along with new regions) and that it would be "protected by new Sleeper rats in three regions and Sansha incursion rats in the other three".

Almost immediately after that the tumblr blog that EVE set up started putting up some interesting teaser images.






Also of note someone was puttering around the game files and found these interesting assets in the Jove folders:



And someone on SISI found this:

Click for full size.
To put it all together, I think that the new Sleeper rats are in development and will start appearing in K-space soon in the wake of the Circadian Sleepers rats who are effectively automated scouts. I'm willing to bet the Jovian pilot in the above image is an old placeholder while the new Sleeper assets are developed.

These "Drifter Battleships" will be some of the main Awakened Sleeper rats and because of the teasing images on Now tumblr, I suspect that the Drifter Battleship will be a player flyable ship as well (the partial ship images on grey background looks exactly like the intro images for the Guristas and Tactical Destroyers).

And can I say, I seriously want that Drifter Battleship in my hanger. Hey CCP, my 10 year Blogiversary is coming up, how's that revamped reward program coming along?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fansites and Compensation

Twitter is great for many things to the EVE community, but its horrible to properly get all your points out in a logical and thoughtful manner. Case in point, this conversation about CCP endorsed Fansites and the up and coming Twitch streaming community.




To summarize, there is some question about if Streamers should be welcome into the CCP Fansite program since they may or do make money from the operation of their stream.

I've been a fansite for a few years now and besides the free account for my main I've received no monetary compensation for my blog or podcast. I've avoided adding any advertising through Google or otherwise, not out of a desire to remain pure or unbiased but mainly because I don't want to clutter my website with junk. I've never asked for donations either even though running the website and domain registrations and podcast storage costs me some coin every year its a cost I'm willing to absorb for my hobby.

So the question before the panel today is this: Should a site (blog/podcast/twitch stream/youtube channel/etc) be non-profit in order to qualify for Fansite designation?

Somerblink bring the question into sharp focus as before the scandals hit it was promoted very heavily by CCP and was definitely a for-profit enterprise in the long run. Was the fact it was for-profit that lead it down the path afoul of CCP or was it unrelated?

Should small time streamers that make virtually no money be denied access to the program to be "fair" to the fewer larger streamers that can make money? And what of streamers that do multiple games on their channel? What percentage of content has to be EVE related to retain fansite status as I know I sometimes talk about other games I play, hell until this blew up I was composing a Minecraft post.

Ultimately I think that CCP should ignore the non-profit / for-profit concerns of sites and evaluate them based on their content and appropriateness. That means I think streamers should be welcome with open arms into the Fansite program.

Monday, January 26, 2015

CSM Minutes: A New Concept

Back in December of 2013 I wrote that the CSM minutes were a conceptual failure:

But the minutes themselves that come out of the summits are a failure. Not just in execution, but in their conception.
[...]
But as long as the concept of the minutes is to provide a blow-by-blow, line-by-line account of a week's worth of meetings, the minutes will always be a failure. The handful of nuggets of useful information that comes from the released minutes are not worth the massive effort required to produce and review them and could be imparted in many other ways without the same overhead.
Since then we saw a marked improvement in the release time of the summer minutes at a cost of increased manpower, and then a radical change in the format this winter session to release the minutes each day of the summit.

Not to denigrate CCP Logibro's efforts at being the scribe for 4 days of intensive busy meetings, the resulting minutes are less work intensive as they provide less "blow-by-blow, line-by-line" accounting of the meetings' activities. I believe this trade off of detail for speed is worth it as a faster turnaround means that CSM have the meetings fresh in their minds the week after a summit to answer questions or issue clarifications than they would have months down the road for the release of more detailed minutes.

The concept of the minutes has changed and that's a good thing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Things That Trouble Me About Star Wars

The Twins are getting into Star Wars, especially Twin B, and we've watched Episode IV and V together recently, as well he's been watching all the Clone Wars shows. As a kid I watched and enjoyed all the movies with a child's acceptance, but now as an adult I watch them and thought pop in my head.

1. Why are TIE fighters the primary ship of the Empire? I mean, you just went through a long painful war a decade or so back that demonstrated that cheap and plentiful (droids) are hard pressed when confronted with more capable but less numerous opponents (Clone Troopers) so why would you scale back your Imperial Fleet's main fighter with fragile and under-gunned fighters? Especially when the rebels start showing up with more powerful X-Wings that have more lasers, shields, and can travel through hyperspace? I realize that we eventually see TIE Inteceptors and Defenders (especially in games and spin off material) but in the episodes IV and V they are the only ones we see besides a brief cameo by TIE bombers.

2. Who is backing the rebels? And Why? The movies don't get into it because we can tell from moment one in episode IV that the Empire are the baddies, but as an adult I wonder at the overall goals of the rebellion and who is providing them with resources to fight the Empire.

3. Droids are enslaved. Look, they appear for all intents and purposes to be sentient, have feelings and loyalties, believe in the Creator, fear death, form bonds... yet they are treated like property in the Star Wars universe. Found a droid? Let's knock him out and sell him to a farm to work in the fields. Claims he belongs to someone else? Wipe his memory, he belongs to us now. And the salvery is so ingrained in all the biological races that they don't even see it in themselves. We love our droids, but give them free choice? Hahahahaha why would we do that?

4. The Death Star was a colossal failure, yet they decided to build a second one? The Emperor really has issues. The amount of resources could have built another fleet of Star Destroyers to hunt the rebels down with.

5. Blowing up a planet seems like overkill, why not just bomb the surface to dust? Again, Emperor Palpatine has issues.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Logical Design Decisions

2014 was a year of vindication for me in that a lot of the opinions I had towards game mechanics and design were similar to directions CCP took with various decisions. For example, ISBoxer input proadcasting, improving the in game map and fitting window, capital ship jump range nerf, ship skinning being expanded, etc. I like to think that CCP game designer and I are at least on the same wavelength in terms where the game is going and should go in the future.

So I'm going to roleplay a little bit and pretend that I've been asked to map out the overarching design for the "new space" that is eventually coming at the end of the roadmap we are all so familiar with.
Hi, its me again!
Axioms

First, let's define some base concepts that any implementation has to meet.

1. Widely Accessible - What I mean by this is that the new space content added to the game can be experienced by young or older players and solo to small groups to large groups. All current regions of space meet these requirements to various degrees or another; w-space has class 1 wormholes for the newbies and class 6 for the larger experienced groups. NPC null sec offers opportunities for small groups while player owned null sec is the domain of larger groups. Etc.

2. Does Not Detract Adversely from Existing Content - The new content added should expand the game but not at the expense of severely damaging or replacing other parts of the game. Some adjustments to economic or player density in the short term is the be expected, but it should not be drastic.

3. Involves Player Built Stargates - Its an iconic act in the current EVE universe that players cannot participate in. Players can build starbases, outposts, ships, modules, empires, jump networks, but not fully functional stargates. One could argue that the jump bridge networks do cover this already, but I would argue that they are cumbersome in that they require an operational POS, sovereignty, system upgrades, fuel, etc... but the new implementation should be more robust and operate similar to normal stargates.

4. Utilizes The Current Game Lore and Moves it Forward - This is less critical than the other points but I think we can all agree that the dynamic lore and increasing mysteries over Caroline's Star, Circadian Sleepers, Unidentified Objects, etc have energized the player base and we should continue to push that direction with any new content.

With those axioms stated, let's see what logical design decisions we can come up with as if we were in charge of EVE Game Design in this regard for this big push over the next year.

Ready? Here we go...

The Ninveah Game Design Plan

The new space will be centered on existing Jove space (three regions) with three other previously unmapped regions added to the cluster. All normal stargates in these 6 regions will be removed or never existed.

These unconnected system will allow wormholes to spawn in them as whatever Jovian tech was dampening wormhole spawning has failed as the Jovian civilization has completely collapsed and become desolate.

We don't want to devalue wormhole space or null sec so within these regions there will be new resources to be harvested collectively referred to Jovian Remnant Tech which will be found in special sites that are scanned down using the usual probes and accessed via the usual code breaking and salvaging mechanics. These sites will be protected by new Sleeper rats in three regions and Sansha incursion rats in the other three (that have come to harvest the remnant Jovian tech themselves). The new space will have true sec levels like null sec and wormhole space so some areas will have a smaller risk-reward equation than others.

It will operate similar to wormhole space in that there is no local, but since it will be within range of known space systems you can light cynos in the Jovian systems... but it will attract a severe NPC response.

The new Jovian Remnant Tech will be used for two purposes: first, it will be required to reverse engineer blueprints for the new stargate components, and second, it will be required in the construction projects of these new stargates.

There will be three sizes of stargates: Large which will allow all sizes of ships, medium which will allow battlecruiser and smaller, and small which will allow destroyer and smaller. Stargates can be built in any non-high sec system regardless of sovereignty but have to be paired with another same sized stargate within range (7.5 AU for large, 5 AU for medium, 2.5 AU for small).

Player Owned Stargates (POSGs) are owned by the corporation and are built up in place in space from several components built in factories from reverse engineered blueprints. Once completed they are merely "anchored" and not "online" until they are actively paired at both ends with a second stargate within range. Once online anyone from that corporation or its parent alliance or with positive standings can utilize the stargate as long as they fit the size restrictions.

Stargates, however, can be hacked by other non-friendly parties to made available for any appropriate sized ship for a period of time.

Once paired and online either end can be voluntarily put offline (which automatically puts the other end offline) and the owning corp can put it back online to the same or different endpoint as long as all other conditions are met. Stargates can be attacked and put into reinforced mode much like POCOs during which time they are offline, and after reinforcement they can be destroyed. Their hitpoints will scale with their size with the medium ones being like IHubs in terms of hitpoints.

Yes, these new stargates can be built to go from one known space system to another as well as the obvious use case of to Jovian space systems. I feel that as long as they are directly attackable, hackable, and destructible it adds to interactions in space instead of detracts. Also note that once online they become visible on the overview from anywhere in the system, and in Jovian space they activate local chat to become immediate like null sec instead of delayed like wormhole space.

In the Jovian space there will be no or few NPC stations, and new outposts will not be able to be built although POSes (or their eventual replacement) can be anchored, as well as stargates can be built here.

* * * * *

How's that for a first pass?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Compliments

Doomchinchilla, of Overload Everything alliance, said some kind words about Phyridean and myself as the Chimera pilots from Sunday's Guristas event:
I admit that the experience of last Sunday and the previous BMTHOKK3 have left me with less fear of doing a logistic in a fleet than I used to have. I might actually try it sometime.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014 Review of EVE's Logged in Player Numbers

Let's take a look at our favourite status monitor site EVE-Offline and see what the concurrent players numbers look like for 2014.

Overall, 2014 has to be considered a disappointment in comparison to 2013 which saw higher than average numbers except in August and September. It started strong and fell quickly in spring, and September was really dismal for the population averages of the game.

But as the fall came on we saw an uptick that moved the averages back towards respectable and so far has continued in the first month of 2015.

First, let's speculate as to why numbers were declining in early 2014 despite a steady stream of spaceship content development. In April of 2014 I wrote about the CSM 9 campaigns and how a lot of null sec candidates and other commentators were running around claiming null sec was stagnant.

Here we are, about 15 months later, and nothing has changed. Even worse, if we take Sion Kumitomo as an exemplar of high level sov null sec opinion, the current leaders of sov null sec can't see that they themselves are to blame for the stagnation, not CCP's mechanics. Sure, the Dominion mechanics do not help in the matter but the fact is that the professional gamers in the null sec coalitions' leadership have min-maxed those mechanics to the point where they have built a great wall around sov null sec to keep everyone out but themselves and then sit around complaining there is no one new to fight. And should someone new try to scale that wall, the incumbents use those same mechanics to strangle the life out of them.
In a nutshell, null sec pilots, from the top to the bottom, were in a morass of stagnation of their own making and seemed reluctant for any of them to put the guns down to each other's heads and break the logjam. As I concluded: 
In the end, I fear the only way the wall will come down is for the current null sec residents to quit from boredom. Any change that CCP introduces will be consumed and gamed by the entrenched professionals whose investment in the status quo ensures that only their desire to stop guarding the wall will see it breached.
So as 2014 progressed I believe we started to see my fear come true as pilots in null sec began to leave and the changes to industry in Crius did nothing to alleviate the deflation. However, something did change: Phoebe release was announced with a little thing called "Nullsec force projection" as a feature and it radically altered the environment that null sec was festering in. As I said in a post titled "The New Coming Reality":
This Great Jump Nerf of 2014 is the gift that keeps on giving. As the playerbase moves from resistance and/or shock at the coming change to acceptance we start to see people thinking about what the new reality is going to be.
What it meant for null sec was a number of migrations, plans, and doctrine shifts as they adjusted to the new reality and a future planned wars. While some pilots may indeed have unsubscribed in displeasure at the change, many more started logging in to help their alliances adjust and reposition themselves. Hence the bump in average concurrent players over the fall as that mechanic change continues to play out. 

Coming hot on the heels of that radical shift has been the new Tactical Destroyers and Tech II rebalancing changing the theory of ship designs, a renewed interest in moving the lore forward in exciting directions by CCP, new space with new mechanics in Thera and the other shattered wormholes, and the promise of new space and player built stargates. These have all served to galvanize a playerbase in different ways that had become rather indifferent to the changing game around them.

The only question now is: Can CCP keep up the excitement in 2015?

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