Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Iterating Better Worlds

First, a minor point before I get started.  The dev blog “Building Better Worlds” could have lifted the quote either from the Weiland Yutani Corporation logo from the Alien mythos, or the Operative from Serenity.  In that movie the line is uttered by a character who believes he is helping create better worlds, but then finds out that his whole ideology was based on a na├»ve understanding of what his superiors were actually doing.  I hope that was not what CCP was implying with the title…
title from a few places.

Ok, that out of the way, let’s get into it.  After thinking and reading about the new industry changes that are coming I think there are a few sides to the topic that have not been talked about all that much.  It all boils down to getting new players while holding on to the old ones.  That is, after all, CCP’s business model.


First, we don’t know exactly what the new cost will be for the new slot-less industry design.  We know the range (0%-14%) and we know it is based on the price of the finished good (derived from the rolling average?).  But we do not know the break points, or exactly how it will play out.  I am sure smarter players than I can tell you more about this, but I’m not overly concerned.  The spreadsheet wizards will always find a way to win at Eve, and the casuals will probably have some rude learning experiences.  Nothing new to see here.  But one thing the new slot-less system will do, regardless of pricing, is provide a fast, immediate way in for anyone.

This is really important.  If you cannot remember what being a new player in industry is like, let me tell you.  You learn about Research and Manufacturing, and maybe get a few BPOs to test things out.  You look around High Sec and realize that any stations worth using are either insanely expensive, full for a month, or both.  You start looking at what it takes to get out to Low Sec and the open research slots there.  If you are really smart, you realize you out to be using a tech two ship to move your goods to avoid losing your assets.  You then realize that training for those safer ships, for a new pilot, is not insignificant.  The training will take weeks or months.  So you have two options.  Either wait for weeks to even start your jobs, or wait for weeks to safely engage in Low Sec.  Both of those options are terrible.

If CCP wants people to engage in industry, it needs to be accessible.  There needs to be an obvious, easy way to at least get started.  The new changes provide this. Any newbie will be able to create an account, train Research to I, and get down to getting down.  Sure, it may be a bit more expensive, and sure it may not be the long term way towards industry in Eve, but it is a start.  I can also think of no other part of the game that is as prohibitive from day one as industry right now.  You can run missions, mine, explore, haul, or get into PvP within hours or days of starting an account.  Again, you will not be doing well at these tasks, and you won’t be using the same ships or strategies in a month or a year, but you can start!  This change lets newbies start exploring industry in the same way as in any other part of the game.

Think of a bike with training wheels.  Yeah, the training wheels suck, but many people need them to get started.  Once you get a feel for the bike, you throw the training wheels away.  In a lot of ways Hish Sec space is the training wheel of Eve.

Null Sec is Best Sec?

Second, the argument that this new system will push industry players to null sec decries pushing players into a specific style of Eve.  Sure, that seems like a logical conclusion, but maybe it is not so bad.  Currently the tinfoil prognosticators say that a very small fraction of players actually live in Null.  I’ll go with that.  But take a look at who has stuck around in Eve for the long haul.  The list mostly consists of Null sec players, Low sec pirates, FW players, and Wormhole residents.  There are some high sec players that have been around a while, but I would wager the age of those accounts is a bit lower, and a fair number of those accounts are second or third accounts of people living outside high sec on the main account.  Go take a look at the blogs and Twitter.  The space famous people who both help create content and help create the community.  They tend to live in places that are not Empire Space.  There may be a good reason to push people out into the edges of Eve.  That is where they really start to engage with each other.

CCP has to keep players interested in the game.  High Sec is not the place to keep people.  It gets boring and dull.  About the only exciting way to live in High Sec is to either do industry or play markets.  Neither of these, by themselves, provides a whole lot of excitement.  Other players provide that.  CCP seems to be tweaking the game to push more people out of the middle.  FW got a revamp.  WH space can provide lucrative rewards.  Null has better isk if you know what to do, and it has all those big fights, and all those really big ships.  Gently prodding High Sec players to move out and explore other options helps them learn the game and build the connections that will keep subs coming in, and keep the player driven plotlines going. 

Seagull Space

Third, there is the future.  Null sec is kind of broken, or at least sov is.  If CCP Seagull’s “new space” is any indication, CCP is more interested in trying something new rather than just burning the whole world down.  Imagine sitting in CCP’s shoes.  You have a core of hardcore long term players that live in the sov of now.  Those players run or play in the player organizations that tend to keep people playing.  You know that sov is spiraling into irrelevance or stagnation for long stretches.  But if you tear down that whole system and replace it on a patch day, you may lose a whole bunch of people who worked really hard to get where they are in the broken system, and who have been paying good money or buying the PLEX that others paid good money for.  Remember, someone paid for every PLEX in the game.  Even if you make enough isk to not pay real money for Eve, someone else is paying that price.

Instead of tearing apart the sov system these players have played in for so long, you could start laying the ground for a new system.  You start trying to implement the little things that will make it work.  At the same time you continue trying to herd players into the regions and player organizations that will adapt to major change and create the community connections that keep online games going.

You do all these little things, and then when the big day comes and you open a new space, you have all the little pieces in place.  You also have the safe haven for the invested players.  You have new opportunities for new and old players.  And you have a live test bed for a long term solution to the old space too.  Let players do as they will for a few months or an expansion cycle.  Then CCP can come back and say “See how well this new thing worked?  Well, we are going to implement that in the old world too.”  Or CCP can say “See how this new thing almost worked, but didn’t?  We’re going to fix it and not touch the old world.”  The process can continue until you get the desired result.

At least, that’s what I hope is going on.  I suppose we shall see soon enough, as the dev blogs and Fanfest approach.  I do wish that CCP would be a bit more open about their plans.  That might provide a light at the end of the tunnel for players who see many of the new changes as an attack on their way of playing Eve.  I wonder how many people would respond favorably to an announcement like this:

“Many parts of New Eden are old.  The players, the game, and CCP have outgrown what currently exists.  This is not a simple problem to fix.  There is entrenched code and there are entrenched interests.  We want to build a better world, but to do so will take time and effort, and there will be growing pains. 

Our plan is to release a new cluster, linked to New Eden, but operating with different rules that govern how players interact with the universe.  In this new cluster we will pioneer that better world while providing a space for new and old players to explore, build, fight and destroy.  We’ll take the opportunity to find solutions that work for all of Eve Online.  By creating new space, we can preserve what players have accomplished in the New Eden Cluster, and provide ample time and space for creating new gameplay mechanics without completely changing the game you know and love overnight.  We invite you to continue flying with us as we continue to expand and refine both New Eden and the universe beyond.”

I would welcome something along those lines.

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