Archive for June, 2011

EVE Burns (Part II)

Posted in EVE Online on June 24, 2011 by cailais

Dark clouds roiled and tumbled over the City of EVE.  Their ponderous mass flicked by lines of lightning but in the absence of thunder only the hiss of static could be heard.  The hour had come.  The crowd was largely silent, their faces turned up to the singular balcony that jutted forth like an out thrust jaw from the Cathedral of CCP.

A few shouts rang out across the packed square as Zulu appeared upon the balcony in his finest raiment.  Large screens, fuzzy and indistinct magnifying his face for all to see.

The crowd held their collective breaths.

Zulu stepped forward, pausing only momentarily to confer with a hooded and robbed figure of the Sisters Of Eve.  The crowd murmuring, a few obscenities shouted out.  SOE were not loved here in this city.  Their greed and avarice had already brought another  legendary polis to its knees and many refugees had fled to EVE to escape the squalor and misery of that place.

Zulu raised his hands high, and spoke.  His voice echoed out from the speakers arraigned around the square, his face smiling he offered platitudes and peace to the people. He spoke of fear and fearlessness, and of coin and wealth. A murmuring grew in the crowd covered at first by the sharp bark of Zulus voice but its noise began to overwhelm even that.  Zulu grinned wildly the cameras panning away to avoid the growing fear in his eyes.

“I hope I’ve addressed your concerns and cleared up a lot of the issues you’re having”. He said backing slowly from the balcony.  He continued to speak but by now his words were lost.  A great howl erupted from the assembled throng, greater now than any that had gone before.  Incandescent rage had filled the people. Like a pressure valve blowing the violence erupted and lightning cracked over head.  Missiles flew from every quarter raining down upon the hallowed place of CCP.  The guards encircling the Cathedral backed off, looking nervously to one another – they had seen trouble before, it was after all a raucous city -but this? No this was new.

At once the crowed surged forward as Zulu disappeared from site ushered away by the Sisters; the people had waited too long for such passing words.  Like a sea they smashed upon the barricades faces contorted with anger.  A shot rang out, then another.  That noble citizen, Liang of Nuren, was caught by the guards and lost amongst them as they fell back and back into the depths of the Cathedral.  At once two mighty explosions rang out and, at the rear of the square those two mighty Towers of ‘Trust’ and ‘Confidence’ collapsed – their structures burnt away by the flames.

Dust and fire swirled as darkness fell over the City of Eve.  Her once resplendent statues covered in soot and ash, as flames licked hungrily up the Cathedrals walls.  Across great swathes of the City in every quarter and every district rioting broke out as fear, anger, and disbelief washed across her people like a flood. Those who could fled, in panic and confusion, to rivers and waterways to escape the blaze around them.

In sheltered halls those few of the CSM, the peoples voice, watched from high windows as their City consumed itself.  They looked to one another but they found no answers written there.

C.

EVE Burns

Posted in EVE Online on June 24, 2011 by cailais

The City of EVE is aflame.  Buildings burn and crackle, the light from their fires throwing up huge monstrous shadows.  In dark side alleys small gangs run rampant shouting and laughing as they loot and pillage.  The sound of breaking glass, small fights and scuffles.

Closer in the main square is a battle ground.  Placards rise above the baying mob, anger writ upon their faces.  They’re chanting and howling.  On the steps of the once beautiful Cathedral of CCP – Pann, god of shepherds and flocks, tries to subdue them with pleas for patience and parley.  The crowds protests drown her out.  She pleads that she will not sacrifice her friends to the masses to be torn apart but even as she glances nervously over her shoulder the few cheers are swamped by greater jeering.  A bottle flies through the air and smashes at Pann’s feet.  Another and then yet more follow.  She retreats back behind the barricades of corrugated iron and barbed wire that surround the Cathedral to howls of derision.

One protester burns a CCP flag.  Another hoists a pony flag to howls of laughter. All are wearing monocles. Top hats abound.

On the margins of the crowd sit others, there faces ashen – not a few with tear filled eyes.  They talk of NGE’s and broken promises. A few try to remonstrate with the protesters, to rally support for the Authorities but their cause seems hopeless.

“GREED IS GOOD!!” scream the mob, hurling vitriol and venom from their mouths.  Security forces deploy around the Cathedral steps, dressed all in black riot shield and batons in hand.  One crazed rioter throws a placard through the air shouting ‘DIAF!’ and with that the guards surge forward grabbing the culprit and hauling him from the mob.  Later he will be questioned, given a brief chance to plead his case then he will suffer his punishment – banishment from the city; forever.

Inside the Cathedral? No one knows. Perhaps they are locked in frantic meetings to find a solution, a chance no matter how slim to placate the anger pressing onto the walls outside.  No doubt they will see Pann stumble in covered in soot and ash from the flames outside.  Some will feel fear.  Others anger. Those ungrateful plebs – for whom they have worked so tirelessly! Others will do nothing, they will sit and twiddle their thumbs.  Meanwhile outside…

EVE burns.

C.

Winter is coming

Posted in EVE Online on June 23, 2011 by cailais

“Creation is so precious, and greed so destructive.”

EVE Online: Tyrannis Teaser
Summer 2010

TheMittani The Mittani
Protip: In a world economy devastated by unchecked capitalism, titling a pdf “Greed Is Good” will not win friends! #eveonline #tweetfleet
C.

At the monocular level

Posted in EVE Online on June 22, 2011 by cailais

“CCP Zinfandel > The Looking Glass Ocular Implant (right/gold) is fairly expensive. It’s also a machine being installed into your eye and one would not want to buy a cheap version of something to go in your face”.

Said item, one of the first to be released as part of the new NEX micro transactions was on sale to capsuleers for 12,000 AURUM or, in old money, 4 PLEX (around 1.4Billion ISK).  That’s the equivalent of 120 days of game time (a third of a year) or about $80.  Needless to say the communities response has been…explosive.

However we need to put this all into context to understand why we’re witnessing what many will describe as another CCP gaff.  After all CCP is a business, it exists ultimately to make a financial profit and MT are a part of that process in the current MMO industry.

The context though is that we are living in a RL economic climate that is rife with uncertainty.  Many national budgets are still recovering from the shock of the banking collapse and personal finances are often stretched.  For CCPs target demographic, aged somewhere between 20 and 40, this economic climate is at its most extreme.  Many of us will have less than stellar jobs, a moderate income, and quite possibly hungry mouths to feed in the form of children.  These players neither wish to pay for an $80 digital vanity item, nor have said item waved in front of their noses by those more fortunate and better off.

Combine this atmosphere with CCPs recent blog where they proposed monetizing the free player developed sites. Or with the prospect of ships for Aurum.  Taking away something (shiny ships, clever apps) from someone who is used to having it evokes a very strong psychological response.  For those of you who do have kids you’ll recognise this instantly – give a chocolate bar one day and life is all smiles, deny it the next and tantrums are the result.

And so we have the typical player, stressed from work, pressurised financially, seeing their perhaps singular outlet become more expensive – less accessible.

Most I’m sure will be familiar with the basics of game theory – you’ve no doubt heard the phrase ‘win-win situation’.  In this case the ‘win’ for CCP is to achieve greater revenue, a more profitable business and a higher status within the industry.  The ‘win’ for the player is an entertaining game, reasonably priced.  For the vast vast majority of players $80 for a cosmetic alteration to a digital avatar is not ‘reasonably priced’.

The second, but not unrelated, aspect of the NEX (Nobel Exchange) is that it creates items that are rare, not because they are hard or risky to acquire within the game world but because of their equivalent price in reality.  Rare items are in any MMO a visible indication of status or ‘e-peen’. Boil it all down to its constituent element and EVE is essentially about bragging rights.  “I’m better than you because my alliance owns half of EVE”.

MTs though have nothing to do with “I’m better than you because I’m great at PVP and that’s why my alliance owns half of EVE” – its purely because “I’m more successful in reality”.  Which of course is what many of us are seeking to escape from, however briefly.  Over time of course those MT items will filter through the EVE market system and it will not be readily apparent if you acquired them through use of a credit card or by effort in EVE itself.  Which is why introducing expensive items first is a ‘bad idea’. It not that they shouldn’t exist, but that by existing first they are a clear and unambiguous example of real world wealth.

Envy is a powerful thing.  Yes, it drives the sales of items – that must have new gadget your desperate for because your peers have got one.  The fear of being ‘left behind’, unable to compete drives to the very core of our instincts and nature.  Misuse the application of that ‘fear of loss’ however and you generate not desire by hostility.  Make something so unobtainable then it (and the owner) becomes despised by those who are denied it.  It’s why Ferraris get key scratched.  Its why very successful sports teams are hated by so many.

The solution for CCP is a relatively simple one.

Firstly reduce the value of the NEX goods, probably by a value of 10.  Leave those few ‘ultra expensive items’ already purchased as they’ll serve as a good reminder of a wrong path taken but discontinue them as a available product allowing them to become follies of an item.

Secondly go back to things that have equivalent value to all – new features like smuggling or contraband, sovereignty or factional warfare.  These elements of ‘game play’  – or the ‘entertainment’ piece of our win-win scenario are accessible to all, denied to none.  EVEs popularity will rise as we praise the universe in which we play and CCPs coffers will fill with the sound of new subscribers coins dropping into it.  Why?

Because right deep deep down, at the monocular level it is just a game.

C.

Boots on the ground

Posted in EVE Online on June 21, 2011 by cailais

Well now I’ve got that rant over, lets move on…..

To date CCP have remained comparatively tight lipped about DUST 514 and how those battles on the surface of New Edens planets will actually interface with those battles being waged in the heavens.  As it currently stands it is hard to see how, or rather why, anyone would want to contest the resources of New Eden’s planetary bodies.  Whilst planets through PI provide a reasonable long term drip drip of ISK into the coffers of the average capsuleer their abundance across the universe and limited revenue generation hardly makes them worth fighting wars over.

So if we can be sure of one thing planets will have to become more valuable if conflict over them is to have any relevance.  That value may come in the form of greater worth in pure resource terms or indirectly by influencing mechanics such sovereignty ownership.

We already know that DUST 514 players (or Dusties) can exist within the same corporate structure as regular EVE capsuleers.  From that we can deduce that we will almost certainly see 3 types of corporations evolve: those with pure capsuleer membership, those with pure DUST membership and those who have a mixture of both DUST mercs and capsuleers.

Quite how CCP plan to manage the interface between these players is a mystery but it will be a significant challenge.  Whilst EVEs capsuleers have become accustomed to waiting around for fleets to form and battle to commence the FPS market is far more orientated to pick up and play gaming.  It is hard to envisage any PS3 owner happily sitting in front of their PS3 for hours waiting for a fight to become available.  This gaming environment is far more orientated to getting into the fight all guns blazing as soon as possible.

Equally individual PS3 players who don’t enter hard core clans will still be looking to get in on the action without delay and their degree of co-operation between their transient team mates will be minimal.  This all points to a rather chaotic background in terms of how EVEs capsuleers will be able to direct combat force against an enemy planet side, and to what degree those DUST mercs will be able to select the battles they wish to partake in.

Mercenaries however are…well mercenary.  It seems sensible to conclude that whilst EVEs capsuleers may be able to influence the ground battle and perhaps persuade DUST Mercs to fight on their behalf such support will be by no means guaranteed and its quality dubious at best.  In the same vein DUST Mercs will not be able to rely upon the support of their capsuleer brethren in every instance which rather leaves our initial point in a state of flux:

If planets are of value how are the battles over them be left to the whims of two tenuously linked player groups?

It’s only natural of course for us capsuleers to see the DUST Merc as someone who will do our bidding, running off like so much cannon fodder to defeat our foes, enlarge our empires and fatten our wallets.  The DUST Mercs however will have a completely different perspective – for these players their loyalties are more likely to be with their fellows on the ground.  They will develop alliances, friends and hated enemies of their own, which will often be at odds with those of the capsuleer who thinks to command them.

EVEs wars of conquest will be radically altered by this paradigm shift.  Until the advent of DUST514 we capsuleers have become comfortably accustomed to the loyalty of our fellow corp and alliance partners (at least to a degree) – the outcome of any given battle being largely within our control.

No longer.

DUST514 may well see battles won in space, whilst the ground war is lost.  Alliances leaders will now need to think in an additional dimension beyond the traditional perspective of the ‘flat battlefield’ of EVE.  History tells is that whenever a battlefield space is extended into a new dimension (i.e depth) the ramifications can be considerable.  The impact of both sub surface warfare with submarines, and above ground air power in the 20th Century had a significant impact upon how wars were conducted.

Those alliances who are best able to grapple with the ‘combined arms’ approach and the command and communication challenges that entails will likely be the most successful.  Equally recent blogs and media comments from CCP suggest that DUST mercs will be capable of launching their own campaigns independently of the capsuleers – providing a new axis of threat to controlling space.  Might we see war barges emerge from wormholes to strike and raid at previously secure backwater systems that alliances control? Its a tantalising prospect.

My suspicion is that the physical mechanism of directing / interacting with DUST Mercs will most likely be through the contracting system.  One reason for that is the UI and mechanisms are already in place – rather than request delivery of a package of goods from one star base to another, or a buy order for an item we’ll bid for and place orders for DUST Merc strikes.  DUST Mercs may also be able to do the same in terms of orbital support to their operations.

Such a mechanism would apply a direct value to the use of military force.  How much is a dreadnaught strike onto a planet worth? What about a DUST Merc landing party to disrupt your adversary?  We’ve become used to being there ‘in the thick of it’ – soon we won’t need to be…

in the future will we be sat in our Captains Quarters directing wars from afar, an unseen, unknown adversary?

The Great Betrayal

Posted in EVE Online on June 19, 2011 by cailais

CCP.

Once the developers of what many would class the finest MMO ever made.  A company who dared to be bold, different and innovative.

No longer.

CCP have chosen – and let’s stress this – have made a concious deliberate decision to screw over their most ardent supporters.  CCPs ‘bizdev’ department (a name so laughably ironic that its hard to type) at some stage sat down and thought how to monetize those Apps made by players, for players.  Apps and sites like Eve Fitting Tool, EVEMon, EVEFiles, EVETycoon, EVECommander, DOTLAN Maps and many many more.  These ‘BizDevs’ thought it would be a good, no GREAT, idea to levy a $99 fee against those players; the vast majority of whom get little to no reward in return.

This act is irrevocably an out right betrayal of EVE’s community.

And yet it doesn’t stop there.  Once we were promised that nothing would be injected into EVE Online in the form of Micro Transactions that would compromise the sanctity of competitive play or EVEs player driven market.  How quickly that promise was proven to be nothing short of a lie.  Now we learn that reskinned ships, whole and functioning, will be available for ‘Aurum’ (CCPs thinly veiled term for a cash payment).

It is by now abundantly clear that CCPs supposed love of EVE is nothing more than a façade.  A façade constructed upon marketing spin and smiling front men.  Once we had promotional videos of actual in game footage – now even these are tarted up with fancy ‘UI’ graphics that simply don’t exist within the game itself.  We have senior developers claiming that players love EVE so much that they choose to run multiple accounts, whilst conveniently forgetting that in order to play many aspects of EVE from capitals to scouts it demands additional accounts.

The next expansion, the much vaunted ‘Incarna’ consists of little more than a single dressing up room and a mirror whilst the real expansion to EVEs Universe carefully placed behind a pay wall of the PS3 and yet more micro transactions.

None of these things should bring much joy to any of us but they sit atop a mountain of broken promises:

CCP promised to iterate upon Faction Warfare. Have they?    No.

CCP announced they would revisit Sov Warfare. Have they?    No.

CCP claimed they would revamp the bounty system. Have they?    No.

CCP declared we would see a new contraband system.  Have they?     No.

CCP said they would rebalance and fine tune ships like the B Op BS.  Have they?   No.

PI, for example, was described as a mechanic that would let us rule worlds, command peoples and contest continents: but it is little more than Moon Mining with pipes.  RMT and bots run rampant across much of EVE as alliance warfare in null sec stagnates to the point of tedium.  Low sec remains as unloved as it did 5 years ago when I started playing.

Perhaps you feel differently and see hope and great things upon the horizon for EVE but I, for one, do not.  My account lapses in 67 days time at which point, barring some fundamental shift by CCP, I will be nothing more than a digital echo in New Eden.  At the very least I, and my money, will be out of reach of the clawing grasping hands of those ‘BizDevs’.

I will most assuredly leave bitter, angry but most of all disappointed at the lost potential of EVE Online and it’s once great development team.  That most blatant attack upon those players who have worked so hard to cover EVEs flaws was the final straw.

Perhaps CCPs CEO  Hilmar Pétursson still has the sound of those at FanFest, deluded by marketing spin, shouting ‘F*ck Yeah!’ ringing in his ears.  Well here’s a new cry CCP –

F*CK OFF.

C.

DUST off your wallet….

Posted in EVE Online on June 8, 2011 by cailais

There has been no shortage of EVE development news of late, from CCP Snorlax’s dev blog on the Carbon UI framework, CCP Zulus dev blog on virtualgood sales (read: micro transactions) to the latest reveal by CCP Praetorian of DUST 514 as an exclusive on PS3.

Each of these individual elements could probably earn themselves a unique blog here of their own, but perhaps it is more illuminating to consider them in their entirety.  At the core of these developments lies CCPs drive towards ‘micro transactions’ as a revenue source.  Micro transactions are a oft derided revenue stream by many vocal players in EVE.  We shouldn’t necessarily be surprised by this as micro transactions can be seen as a mechanism where by players with deep pockets could conceivably gain an upper hand by simply out spending their competitors.  CCP have been at pains to stress that, within EVE Online at least, micro transactions will not provide a ‘game play’ advantage to wealthier players and will be for vanity items only.

The process of acquiring said vanity items is simple enough – purchase a GTC, convert into a PLEX, fracture the plex into a new in game currency called Aurum and proceed to buy whatever vanity items appeals to you.  This process is somewhat cyclical as you could then sell said item onto the EVE market for ISK with which you could, in theory, use to buy more PLEX.  Whether such a process is actually practical will largely be determined by how much value there is in the ISK trade of vanity items of course.

The argument regarding using micro transactions is something of a mute point considering a player could use GTC/PLEX purchases and sale to accrue ISK to then buy superior ships and modules at any rate.  The cash wall is important however as the Carbon UI dev blog illustrates:  From what we have seen on the Duality test server so far, transiting from “in space” to “in station” automatically places you within the new Captain’ Quarters. From here we will be able to view some rather shiny graphical UI elements and I have little doubt that within those UI elements a ‘Aurum Vanity Market’ window will feature very prominently.

From a cynical point of view it seems quite likely that CQ will, essentially, be a ‘point of sale’ UI.  A mechanism by which every time you dock you are faced with a wardrobe of potential vanity items that you too could earn! – if only you’d splurge a bit on the credit card.  Of course that in itself is another reason why micro transactions aren’t universally popular – we know we’re suckers for a good sales pitch and we’re already alert to the fact that resisting that micro transaction purchase is going to be hard work.

Now the mentally strong amongst us, who find the idea of being plunged into the virtual equivalent of a department store to shop for clothes and furnishings with our better halves a toe curling prospect may think they have nothing to fear.  But CCP have thought of that too:

“DUST 514 will, as EVE Online does, have a dynamic virtual economy and market that offers the tools that will give you a competitive edge, when used skillfully. Players are able to purchase different gear to equip before deploying into battle, using InterStellar Kredits (ISK), the in-game earned currency of the EVE universe, or through real money currency, called Aurum (AUR). This provides players with flexibility and adaptability in how they approach a combat scenario. Certain items are only available through ISK transactions, while others are only available through AUR. These are then traded freely on a player-driven secondary marketplace”.  CCP Praetorian

The key element here is that EVE and DUST514s markets are linked together, as are the players by existing within the same corporations.  Want your DUST mercs to have more flexibility in capturing that planet you need for sovereignty? Well it looks like it will be only a PLEX purchase away.  James Egan on the playstation blog writes that;

“we’re going to have a balanced system. There will be a secondary market with player-to-player trading. A player can buy virtual goods with real world currency, put it on the market, which can be bought by a player with in-game earned currency”.

So whilst buying a new sofa for CQ might not tickle your fancy, can the same be said for some form of attribute boosting for your team of Dusties?

From a purely personal perspective these factors probably won’t have a huge effect on my personal game play in EVE.  Firstly I don’t own a PS3 and don’t have the funds to purchase one so that element of the ‘EVE/DUST 514 mesh’ holds less glamour for me, and secondly I don’t have the excess RL $£ to buy PLEX to convert into Aurum – be that for a new sofa or some T2 plasma rifles. My suspicion is that some elements of EVE will be a pay tier to high and we may see the EVE community fracture along similar lines: those that pay £$ for new “shinehs” and those that don’t /can’t.

Quite whether that division will result in a stratification of EVEs society remains to be seen.  Will corps start filtering by those who can afford to wear the latests threads or fund DUST mercs? Only time will tell us – but it will be an interesting evolution within the MMO/FPS genres.

C.