Greedy Goblin

Friday, January 22, 2016

PCGAMER, the Gods of EVE and the engaged devs

I've read this PCGAMER article and my problem with CCP community engagement became clear: "[EVE is] a whole universe in and of itself, where players, rather than the developers, call the shots. No other MMO has managed to pull it off." This is how EVE is seen. This is how EVE should be. And this is what everyone who actually plays knows to be bullshit. A year ago most of the galaxy was in the hands of the N3/PL coalition, most of it rented out via B0T and NA. This mega-empire fell without a single shot fired, when developers changed the jump ranges. Other patch announced and the Emporium abandoned half of its land. The patch was implemented and they started to lose even this concentrated land and their men shown exhaustion. A patch with passive node regen saved their remaining empire. All these political changes that dwarf the fall of BoB happened without a single shot, just by the actions of developers. Sure there was player agency - or the threat of it - that facilitated the changes, the entosis mechanic isn't a problem to the Emporium if MoA isn't using it, but I claim without doubt that if the game code remained the same as it was in 2014 summer, B0T and NA. would still own most of the galaxy, S2N would still exist, NC. would still be bigger killer than MoA and the Emporium would still own Fountain and would still be called CFC.

EVE is unique in that competitive players play it in various ways. In WoW, League of Legends or World of Tanks, every good player attempts to play the same, optimal way and the one who does it better wins. It's not like there were all-jungler teams in LoL. Therefore any change affects everyone the same, so there is no disagreement between players about development. If a champion is op, everyone agrees that it's op and everyone wants it to be nerfed, since it would be present/banned in every game, resulting decrease of diversity without anyone getting advantage. On the other hand the top 2015 killers of EVE: Goons, PL, CODE and BRAVE play very-very differently, so a game balance change can hit one very hard while having no effect on the others. For example the change to stop criminal pilots from docking in highsec would likely kill CODE, while the removal of faction police would double its kills without having any effect on PL or BRAVE and moderate on Goons.

This means that developers maintain full control of the EVE politics via mechanics changes that favor or unfavor playstyles, therefore the alliances playing those styles. How can it be stopped and control given back to players? It cannot - unless they stop developing EVE besides bugfixes and graphics which is surely inacceptable. This means that the devs - like playful Gods or merciless nature - can rise and smash powers at whim. It's like a meteorite hitting the North American continent, making Russia the strongest power overnight. It's not fair, but it's random and not the work of the Russians. I'm sure that the surviving Americans wouldn't be mad at the Russians and find their place in the new, Russian dominated World, some even ending up as Russian-allied soldier.

On the other hand imagine if president Putin was seen talking about meteorites with God over a beer! I'm pretty sure that the surviving Americans would launch every ICBM they have left. He could tell all day that he spoke on behalf of all mankind and against meteors, not a single person would believe him. This is how EVE players see the devs, the CSM and especially Goons who seem to have very intimate connection with CCP, especially with the community team. Unlike the people who are stuck with God or nature, the players are an uninstall away from getting rid of the game devs. Not like there aren't any other games out there. The elephant in the room is the Document of Shame: the Goons made an open, written statement that demanded nerfs that benefit them and CCP delivered, implementing the most anti-"cold and unforgiving EVE" change ever. After the Document of Shame "Goons dictate to CCP", became "obvious truth" from conspiracy theory.

My gut reaction solution was stopping dev influencing by disbanding the CSM, forbidding devs from talking to players, making CCP totally unapproachable, unreachable. Something that might work, but at a large cost since customers of all services value being engaged. Fans don't go to Fanfest to see devs only at the stage giving corporate bullshit. It's hard for me to understand why would someone want a beer with Falcon (or a beer at all), but I have to accept that most players would - and by extension that his beer offer to me was probably an incompetent attempt to reconcile instead of another attack.

So how to fix this disaster without making CCP unengaged? By the following rules:
  • Mechanics changes (that are not just polishing a few ships or the UI) must aim for increasing playerbase. That's a goal that every player must accept as valid, even if it hurts his playstyle. So when announcing a change, it must be explained how this will lead to more players.
  • A mechanic change that can't even hope to get more players must not be made, especially not if a vocal minority calls for it. Those players are guilty in trying to influence CCP to do their bidding instead of just learning to play. "It would be cool" or "it would add depth to the game" are not acceptable reasons to do something that will destroy alliances and evict players from their hard-earned place. Because every serious change will.
  • The "increases playerbase" must not be blanket statement. It must contain numerical target metrics that are objectively reached or not.
  • After a fixed time (like three months) the change must be revisited and evaluated if it increased the playerbase or not. If it failed to, it must be reverted. This way players who are hit by the change don't quit, as they know that they only need to survive three months and the change can be gone.
Here is an example (please don't argue with the example):
  • Announced mechanic change: "Corps without space assets can opt out of wardecs"
  • Explanation: "It's known that players joining corps are much more likely to stay in EVE. We hope that more corps will be out there recruiting if they fear no wardecs, so more highsec players will be in real corps (other zones are unaffected by the change)."
  • Numerical goal: currently 20% of the highsec players are in a "real PVE corp", 35% are in NPC corps, 40% in corps that appear to be altcorps or maximum 2-3 players real-friend/family corps. Our goal is to significantly increase real corp membership. We also identified that 5% of the highsec players are in corps that actively wardec others. We'll monitor their activity too to see what we'll lose. [All numbers are right out of my butt]
  • [Fast forward 3 months.]
  • Dear players! We are happy to announce that the wardec changes worked! In the past 3 months the membership of real corps increased from 20% to 26% and the increase is continuing. It seems that almost all of it came from players who used to be in altcorps. NPC corp members are largely unaffected, they either want to be solo, or they are farmalts with no need to play with others. Many wardeccers left after the changes were announced, before the patch, but we are pleased to see that their numbers have increased since than and seems to be stabilizing around 3% as they found their way to keep wardeccing corps with assets. So the changes are deemed successful and stay!
With this design rule it would not matter if the change was influenced by Goons or others as it must pass an objective criteria. Their influence would only mean that a good change gets developed faster if Goons suggest it. Also, the CSM would no longer be a problem but a formal place for such influence. It wouldn't mean that a Goon-suggested change wouldn't be Goon-serving, but it would also be a game-serving one, so everyone else would have to accept it and live with it.


Provi Miner said...

curious but have not spun this story a couple of different ways now? Wasn't it something like pay a fee to ccp to opt out of war decs or something like that?

Anonymous said...

So, you want Dust 514 and not citadels. Sorry, but the "new player" ship has sailed for EvE.

Almost no one is interested in them. Hell, CCP doesn't seem to care either. It took them 10 years to get rid of the old tutorials, which they changes with something that isn't that much better.

The main focus of the company nowadays is to make the game interesting so already existing can keep p(l)aying. If old players stop having fun or given new toys to play with, they will start quitting. And when the old players start quitting in droves, no new player will subscribe.

Gevlon said...

@Provi Miner: I obviously used something I know as example

@Anon: absolutely not true. 45% of the pilots who had kills in 2014 had no kills in 2013, so they are newbies. 46% of those who had kills in 2013 had no kills in 2014 so they quit. EVE playerbase is quickly changing.

Anonymous said...

Many of the changes that Goons and other nullsec alliances petition for are good for the game, some are not. Fixing drones a couple of years ago was an essential change that CCP refused to acknowledge was needed until they showed that drones were bad in their current form. Petitioning for sov changes was a good change because dominion sov was horribly out of date and broken and was in dire need of an overhaul with occupancy based sov being the most preferred by both CCP and the players.

You still seem to assume that CCP are in the pockets of the goons despite your evidence being circumstantial at best. CCP are only interested in what will continue to bring the company money, they don't really care what changes benefit who and while they do have influence over the intended outcome of a patch they cannot force the outcome and are often surprised by how the players interpret their changes and use the new system for their own benefit.

CCP can only guide the story, they cannot make it themselves, that's the job of the players.

Gevlon said...

No one is arguing against Fozzie Sov. The big move of the Document of Shame was the anom upgrade which served Goons and damaged EVE more than any other change combined. Practically removed even the chance of a nullsec war.

"CCP" is not making any decisions. Developers do. They are just guys who listen to "friends" over a beer and some can be outright corrupted like T20. Sure, the higher ups wouldn't let them hand out PLEX-es for free. But I doubt if the suits even know what Sov is. For them it's just a black box to market and sell and can't care less what's inside as long as it sells. When it doesn't, they lay off some employees randomly and replace some middle management.

Zax said...

"Developers do. They are just guys who listen to "friends" over a beer"

All of them? Your claim is "Developers make all decisions based on what players say to them"

"But I doubt if the suits even know what Sov is"

I am fairly sure CCP Seagull knows exactly what sov is.

"For them it's just a black box to market and sell and can't care less what's inside as long as it sells. When it doesn't, they lay off some employees randomly and replace some middle management."

Again, I would like your sources for the suits (that would be anyone above middle management), not knowing anything about Eve.

Gevlon said...

@Zax: I didn't say "all decisions". Maybe not even a lot. Just enough for the Goons.

Source: no suits never known anything about anything in mankind's history.

Foo said...

Source: no suits never known anything about anything in mankind's history.

Sometimes I have to wear the suit, and so I suppose that it is fair that some have unfavorable opinions about my knowledge.

On a more on topic note, I support the 'Change should increase playerbase; support change even/especially if it nerfs me' with qualifications.

When the changes for C4's getting a second static were announced, I provided some feedback through CSM (Sugar Kyle). At that stage I had a quiet C4>C1 wormhole. It was very difficult to get hostile battleships into 'on demand', and was deliberately chosen as a place to setup to run c4 sites in a very quiet system. Our C4 got a C5 as a second static, rendering the wormhole not fit for our purpose.

My feedback at the time? This is a nerf to my playstyle and we were moving out. However, did CCP believe that the changes would increase total C4 activity? If so, good for the game, bad for me *shrug*.

The closest I came to public commentary at the time was this blog post

I am not sure that "must aim for increasing playerbase" should be a sole requirement for changes, and measurement can be 'interesting' (there are lies, damned lies and statistics) but it certainly is a very good guideline.

An example reason for mild reticence is things like the ban on multi-box broadcasting. This had a measurable loss of the playerbase. I still see the justification for the long term benefit of the game.

Anonymous said...

"no suits never known anything about anything in mankind's history."
That's not a source, it's just the a statement.

And none of us will ever quit no matter what CCP and/or goons do, so CCP really don;t need to care.

Anonymous said...

You seem to have a very cynical view of both CCP and the game so I have to ask, why do you play EVE? You've already stated you don't play for fun and that you have no interest in interacting with others yet you seem heavily invested in securing a change in nullsec.

I don't agree with your insinuation that the developers working for CCP are corrupt and simply do whatever goons tell them to do over a beer, the "document of shame" was not perfect but the changes being asked for were for the most part essential to the survival of the game and yes, that includes increasing anoms in nullsec. Anomalies in nullsec were simply not sufficient enough to support the sheer number of players that CCP wanted to pack into systems, having smaller number of anomalies while a good idea in your mind would only cause the CFC to spread out and take more space where as the current system let's them pack into lesser numbers of systems and in turn free up the space they no longer need for newer smaller alliances which is good for the game.

I have to question whether you think through all the ramifications of what you propose before actually proposing it since you've suggested a number of things that would actively damage the game and drive players away. That's not to say all of your ideas are bad, just some of them.

Anonymous said...

"But I doubt if the suits even know what Sov is."

I don't believe this for a second, I know for a fact that CCP Seagull as well as Hilmar are incredibly knowledgable about the game especially since Hilmar helped make the game 10 or so years ago, I don't know about all "the suits" but the high ranking members of CCP I know are all knowledgable about the game.

Gevlon said...

@Anon: when I started playing, EVE was the best game, hands down. Since then many nerfs were implemented to cater to Goons.

The anoms were sufficient for much more players in 2013. Letting every loser into nullsec completely removed competition from Null. Why would anyone attack anyone competent when there are regions occupied by filler alliances who can't put 30 pilots in a fleet? It also allowed hundreds of ratters to rat in jump range from each other, making ratter hunt a strategic fleet op. It was ridiculous that PL had to be batphoned to kill a SINGLE RATTER.

Finally, I find it outrageous that I have to even explain that "everyone is entitled to own Sov" is wrong. EVE Online 2016 I guess. Give it two more years and CONCORD will protect Deklein from neutrals and MoA will have to pay 500M wardec fee per week just to be able to shoot Goons.

Anonymous said...

"when I started playing, EVE was the best game, hands down"
But if it's not now, why play? You're playing a game you don't like run by players and devs you don't like.

"Since then many nerfs were implemented to cater to Goons."
They weren't to cater to goons, goons simply adapted better to changes. Even changes that made more work for goons, they managed to adapt to and overcome. You call them nerfs to cater to goons, but without many of the changes CCP have put in place, MoA wouldn't stand a chance of doing the damage they do now.

Jim L said...

Everyone is entitled to SOV?

How much SOV are you or MOA entitled to?

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, "increased playerbase" is such a dangerous goal though. Surely, more people would play EVE if it was a Theme Park with scantily-clad space-elves, but obviously we do not want that to happen.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: probably just the intertia. I wouldn't start playing EVE now. I'm actively looking for other game and Crowfall looks good.

No, the changes were especially made for them. The only change they needed to adapt was the jump bridge fatigue. They were flying cheap crap before tiericide. They didn't have much renters before jump ranges. And the elephant in the room, the anom count increase was serving no other group, just them and they explicitly demanded it in writing.

@Jim L: as much as we want. It's just that we choose to fight Goons instead. It's not a profitable war. I would be much better off RMT-ing and MoA would be much better off taking Period Basis for example. Or you say that Ruca Emperor could hold up for more than a day against MoA? With the changes only mad-as-a-box-of-frogs people fight ANYBODY. It's just that Goons managed to have some grudge-enemies from before the changes and we keep fighting them just to spite them.

@Anonymous: that's a common misconception. Other games have elves, so there is absolutely no evidence that EVE would get more players by implementing elves. EVE has a niche and it worked. The subscription numbers were increasing, even when EVERY other game, including WoW were losing subscribers. Then they started nerfing and it all started to come down. Damn ship tiericide killed EVE.

Anonymous said...

"No, the changes were especially made for them."
Sorry, but there's no way I can agree to that. Most of the changes have been absolutely devastating to all null players including goons. The only reason they seem to benefit goons is that goons have a weird ability to adapt that no other group seems to have. The anom count didn't help goons, it helped smaller sov holders. If you notice, since the anom change goons have lost significantly more ratters because their intel is harder now their local lists are bigger, which I personally love. Used to be you roll into a system and the two people in it scatter. Now there's 10 people and you can usually catch one or two. It's brilliant.

Jim L said...

You can have as much SOV as you want eh?

Talk is cheap. I can date a Swedish supermodel and be a big time movie star who makes $25 million dollars a movie, but instead I choose to stay at my job and date my regular girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Ship teircide in no way harmed EVE. Want to blame something then blame the endless nerfs to content in highsec. No more can flipping, ever more nerfs to piracy in highsec, total removal of profitable mining barge ganking and so on. The end result is that the only risk that a lot of highsec players used to have has been almost removed resulting in much more boring gameplay. Equally the way logistics and capital blobs work in low and null means if you don't have the numbers to break their logi you cant kill anything so there is no point in undocking. That means less fights which means more boredom.

Gevlon said...

@Anon: Everything that helps "small alliances" help big alliances 10x since as long as a single "small alliance" lives, the big ones are in complete safety as all profit-oriented groups would attack these small fillers instead Goons, Legion of xXdeath or even Darkness. In other words: as long as there are enough cookies that even 5 years olds can hold them, no one will challenge a boxer, simply take it from one of the 5 years olds. Sure there will be grudge-fights, but no profitable ones.

@Jim L: Goons offered Cloud Ring to MoA for a Non-Infrastructure Pact. Doesn't that means something?
Also if you only date your girlfriend because supermodels would turn you down, then I'm sorry for her.

@Anon: ship tiericide meant that practically free T1 ships became useful in serious PvP. This practically removed losses from PvP. As Goons always focused on zerging with cheap crap, they became unbeatable by "elite" alliances who used expensive ships. Ironically MoA "outGooned" the Goons by using Cormorants.

Can flipping and other piracy nerfs had near zero effect on EVE as always a 0.1-1% minority did those. Also, they never posed a threat to anyone but newbies and idiots. Competent carebears always ran L4s with properly tanked, non-blinged ships.

Logistic problems are valid, but they always existed.

99smite said...

I totaly have to agree with GG!
Ship tiericeide was a devastating blow and higsec got constantly nerfed.

Nearly all of my EVE acquaintances who lived in highsec and were never interested in moving to nul now live in nul, either Provi or Kharmafleet or in drone space... Why? Not because it is so challenging and oh so profitable. Life in nul has become the new life in higsec. Boring, totally safe, except for the usual exceptions...

Farming has never been quieter in nul... Even new players go directly into nul and fly the cheap sites because it is safer than in highsec...

Anonymous said...

> ship tiericide meant that practically free T1 ships became useful in serious PvP. This practically removed losses from PvP.

Not true. Tiericide was about ship diversity. There were entire classes of ships in the game which were *utterly useless*. Whole branches of the tech tree for particular races which were never used outside of RP. Tiericide was about giving every single ship a role and a purpose. And it's been wildly successful. The diversity of ships in play has increased as a result. There is data to back this up. The "cheap junk" line is wearing thin. Without allowing for affordable ships to have a role, the average new player would take *years* to be useful in PvP. That is _objectively bad game design_.

> As Goons always focused on zerging with cheap crap, they became unbeatable by "elite" alliances who used expensive ships

Also untrue. Goons focus on what works. They've had very expensive doctrines in the past. The "elite" alliances don't just go around using T3s and what have you. They use what works as well. Sniper battlecruiser doctrines have been used by the most elite groups in the game. Money spent does not equal combat effectiveness. And it shouldn't.

Gevlon said...

@Anon: more basically. Before the tiericide, N good players could defeat 2*N baddies. Now they can beat 1.2N baddies, unless they are SMA-bad and asking for it, like by sitting in brawling range with arty ships against brawlers. This removed the "game" for a single player: why try to improve if you don't get any better results.

Sure, you can adopt, like MoA did, who are essentially "out blobbing" Goons by hitting expensive ratters in Cormorants.

If money spent shouldn't be equal to combat effectiveness, what is the point of the economy in the game?