Greedy Goblin

Monday, March 11, 2013

TEST expansion, best expansion

The developers of EVE are now rebalancing. That can stop losing subscribers and can even cause a limited increase. But rebalancing is eventually bugfix: you change the ship to be like it supposed to be at the first time it was introduced. Also, rebalancing isn't giving to everyone: nerfing an overpowered ship or feature will make its (ab)users sad. EVE haven't seen a genuine new feature for years. And looking at the long term stagnation of subscribers, it needs one.

When I realized that the New Order stopped at the level of "watch miners explode and have fun", I started to plan my own corporation. It had an ambitious plan: be #1 on EVE-kill with less than 100 members. 100 pilots beating Pandemic Legion and the 10K+ GSF and TEST would make impact on the community. It was also something I was proficient in: I did gank 52B in a month myself, ready to provide 2-3% of the goal on my own. Also had enough income to fill the war chest myself. Where is this corp?

Nowhere because my "list of things to do" became too long, full of elements I'm neither proficient in, nor really would like to do:
  • A forum with proper rights management, moderators, linked to EVE pilots
  • Skillpoint checking to weed out those who can't even fly a T2 Cata or have no Orca alt. Outperforming PL won't happen with random lollers flying T1.
  • Killboard with tools to remove low/null kills that would make our results debatable
  • Some voice chat because let's face it, social people love to chat and stopping them decrease available recruitment pool.
  • Jabber. If someone finds a deadspace Mack in 0.7, a fleet should be assembled fast, grabbing people not logged in.
  • Reimbursement tool. Like it or not, many veterans are dirt poor. They need that pathetic 10M for the lost cata. Hell, the time of processing a reimbursement request would cost me more than 10M in opportunity cost.
Let's face it: I was spoiled by IT services while in TEST. The IT services allows TEST to operate with very low management/member ratio which is great for two reasons: there aren't much people wanting to do it, and those who do are usually the worst assholes playing the game, so you want the bare minimum of them around. I attributed the success of TEST (and Goons) to their large, monolithic corporation and its management automated by IT services. Don't ask me which was first (IT allowed them to grow or growth demanded IT).

Then it hit me. This is the Jesus feature CCP needs. CCP should re-create all the IT services of TEST, integrate them into the game and make them available for every corporation and alliance. This way an aspirant corp leader would need "only" players, and not a bunch of IT experts to create the tools needed to run his corp. A bunch of streamlined IT services would also decrease management cost, which would decrease leadership burnout and the very source of their terrible manners: "if you don't like how I run it, try doing it yourself". On this front I myself failed. While I think James 315 doesn't run the New Order well, I am not skilled/dedicated enough on the IT/management front to do better, so I have to keep suffering the "let's see some miners explode and chill" slackers or quit (picked the second).

The pure existence of TEST IT shows how much EVE needs such services (otherwise TEST wouldn't spend enormous human resources building them). Let the game developer provide it so everyone can enjoy it. The major barrier stopping new leaders appearing (and leader defines the corp) is the extreme management overhead. I'm sure that a "TEST IT expansion", which decreases this overhead would make corps and alliances flourish like never before.

Also, you might say that there is already EVE Voice and chat channels and people don't use them. The problem with these is being bound to the pilot and not the player. These communications break if I log off or relog to alt. What we need are services that are player-bound and not pilot bound. It need a standalone application which is linked to the client but does not need it. So an alliance leader can configure the chat to accept every players who have pilots blue to his alliance without a single click. Also, the standalone nature of these software is needed to allow players do other things and stay alert to things happening. Just like the TEST Jabber informed me about fleet forming while I was doing something else with no EVE client on.


Anonymous said...

If you mean using third-party programs, or to put it bluntly, hacks - then I endorse this idea, within limits. EFT is an example of a great tool that the developers replicated because it was so useful.

Steel H. said...

I see your point. Thought about it for a while (aided by bourbon), and I must say I don't agree. IT is part of the metagame, and an important component of that. EVE is all about the metagame, a super rich layer growing on a relatively minimal actual game. Yes, I did call EVE's complexity "minimal actual game". And all EVE has going for it is the meta - take away that, you're left with an excel overview, a painted background and some gray squares. For this reason, CCP should not co-opt or mess with player content. I believe history is not kind to companies that did that. Blizzard's introduction of BG's, arenas and useless zone towers was widely credited as ruining the open, emergent PvP.

The fact that some are good at IT and others are not is important, and serves to expand user created content across a whole new dimension. Outfits that are skilled at IT and organizing have and advantage over those who don't. If CCP were to do what you say, it would collapse this spectrum, reducing complexity and user created content. You are falling into the same trap every WoW forum whiner fell into: demanding the reduction of tension and more accessibility, without realizing that it's the tension that drives the game, and by removing it, you are making it boring. Think about the removal of hunter ammo in Cataclysm. Suddenly, there was no distinction between Prohunter using the latest tier epic ammo, and Lolegolas who cba to buy/craft epic ammo and uses vendor whites. That dimension of game (as small as it was) was removed, and the game became more boring as a result.

maxim said...

Should Eve as a game be about building better IT systems for your corp?

Gevlon seems to think it shouldn't. And since atm the corps are designed in such a way that it is required to reach any semblance of efficiency, it then follows that CCP designed a game not as it should be and needs to fix it.

On another hand, Steel H. argues that yeah, it should. Because it allows the guys who can build these IT systems to feel special. About as special as a hunter with purple ammo felt compared to a hunter with white ammo.

I personally can't agree with Steel H.

A game that explicitly rewards one real life skill over another is either extremely niche, or a non-profit exercise. It can be an amazing game (f/ex Dwarf Fortress), but it will also never be a commercially successful game (f/ex Dwarf Fortress). Niche and non-profit stuff are not good MMO material though.

Anonymous said...

Website and corp management stuff is too established as metagame. CCP would upset all the corps with tech advantage and the middle managers if they removed them in a single stroke.

Can't remember any details off-hand but I am sure that there are multiple groups offering basic corp support with custom extras that can be purchased with PLEX. Maybe TEST would offer to rent you their set-up for 60B a month.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that it is entirely fair to say eve hasn't had a new feature in "years". It is even less likely that you can state with any certainty that eve's "genuine" new player influx has stagnated.

But on the idea, its not *terrible*. There have been calls to enhance the corporate interface for a long long while. Everything from the permissions/flag system which is dreadful through to better recruitment tools, taxation tools, metric and so on. Your concept is just a logical extension of this.

It wouldn't be dreadful if eve had a built in reimbursement system that would automatically reimburse from a corp wallet if there was money to cover the reimbursement and the KM matched a corp fit. If the built in tool failed to do what people wanted it to do, the option is still there to build your own better/bespoke tools.

The downside is that you potentially castrate the "business" of IT services. It is true that not all IT services are available as a paid service but many are.

a careful balance must be struck

Gevlon said...

Why should CCP protect the "business" of third party EVI-IT providers?

Also, it's important that every client-based feature is naturally pilot-based while many IT services need to be player-based.

Anonymous said...

Steel is right, but for different reasons.

There is simply no way that CCP have the set of resources to create and support the sort of tools you are talking about on any sort of commercial basis.

Yes, they could create something very basic - and can see exactly what standard that would be if you look at the forums, in game chat channels and the corporation interface together.

Look at the years of complaint that preceded the - minor - changes to the corp interface. Multiply that by five across a whole kit of tools - from Instant Messaging to Market tools all of the same poor standard.

Furthermore, CCP could not sufficiently anticipate the meta to the extent that it would take to continue to build features and remove features into such tools. People would just take the stuff and fork it - or build their own anyway, and then you'd be in exactly the same position you actually are in now.

Anonymous said...

Why should CCP protect the "business" of third party EVI-IT providers?

Because there is already a thriving ecosystem which provides richness to the game. A thriving application ecosystem is not something smart developers want to mess with. They are hard to establish and provide benefits in terms of an active community and saved development costs.

I'm not suggesting that they don't do this (quite the contrary) - but care must be taken.

Sugar Kyle said...

CCP has said that they can work on other things due to their players creativity and skills and don't want to steal their ideas. It was a response tons CCP based kill board. Such a thing would kill every other kill board the moment they on lined it.
The only reason eve players need these tools is because they create the situations where they want them
That sent them off to make a solution to the problem they created.

Many corps have no need for any special tools. I have two alt corps for instance. They are both active corps with assets that do things but they are also just me. They don't need these resources and there are more corps like that or the simple group of friends then massive entities needing management tools.

They chose to become behemoth entities.

Unknown said...

The best part about "powerful, widely available, EVE support services" is that they can often be developed without coordinating with CCP at all!

This is Chribba's style of improving the game. He writes and maintains valuable services to make the game richer and better.

Tharre said...

But all the tools are already available. You got phpBB for your forum, mumble as voice chat and hundreds of jabber clients. There is no real work that needs to be done, most things are already covert by some free, "open source" program. For your killboard you will need some coding, but I or somebody else could do that.

The only real problem could be the costs of the server you need.

Gevlon said...

@Tharre: no, since you need to manually manage accounts on Jabber, Mumble and the free forum too. For every new member you have to create account with rights. For every leaving or kicked you have to revoke. For every promotion or demotion you need to modify. Every time you fly together with other corp you need to join their services or let them join yours.

Tharre said...

@Gevlon: which can be done quite easily with the API that CCP provides. Joining the services of another corp could be a little bit more complicated because you need to define a standart, but that should be manageable too.

Hivemind said...

I disagree that what you're suggesting would be a good candidate for a "Jesus feature". A lot of them are changes that would be very nice to have, but they aren't something that an expansion could be built around. A successful Jesus feature, or even just a core feature for an expansion, has to be something that's easy to explain and has direct and obvious benefits to current players and, ideally, potential new players. As with POSes the things you want to add in only directly affect a small selection of EVE players - not many corps actually have need for most of the features you’re suggesting - but unlike POSes there are already alternatives available that work well enough. You can’t get the line members excited about building a reimbursement payment system into the UI when reimbursements already work fine for them thanks to a few players investing their time and effort to make them work. You might get those few players excited, but that’s all and that’s not enough to invest the dev time and effort to make all of this.

As a side note, I’m not entirely sure CCP could even provide a lot of these services at a competitive level - programs/protocols like Teamspeak and Jabber have been designed from the ground up by dedicated and focused dev teams to do what they do and do it well - the only advantage CCP could bring would be better integration with EVE itself, but that comes at the cost of years of development, refinement and improvement and that one service being their sole focus. It’s also worth noting that some of your suggestions are very specific to your needs - for most corps there’s no benefit to an automated SP check as they’d see SP anyway while performing an API-based background check for infiltration, awoxing etc and their SP requirements won’t be nearly as rigid as yours will be.

For the problem that you are personally faced with - wanting to have this infrastructure without putting it in place yourself - have you considered that you may not need to? Why not just find someone else interested in what you want the corp to do who also has the skills to run the infrastructure, perhaps in exchange for ISK or PLEX to support their accounts? That is basically how the IT services of large alliances like TEST run - finding volunteers rather than paying them usually, but still basically outsourcing their setup and maintenance to members who have relevant skills/experience. Incidentally, the megacorporations started and grew large and the infrastructure grew to support them rather than vice-versa; one benefit to having thousands of members is that you’ll probably have a few with the imagination and skills to set up services that you didn’t even realise you needed.

Gevlon said...

@Hivemind: I don't think they should rewrite Jabber. They might just have to license it and have their own jabber server ran for the players, coding only a gateway that makes rights management, so in-game you just set "allow access to all blues" and suddenly all of your blues get your broadcast.

While I fully agree that only a small group of players are in need of such features, but they are key players in EVE as they provide most of the player-made content. POS-es are annoying but you can't reasonably avoid them, while you can easily avoid the corp management features by not managing a corp, just remaining a player.

gallego said...

excuse my ignorance on the subject but why is it important that your corp members have orca alts?

Gevlon said...

@Gallego: because -10 pilots can't take gates in anything but a shuttle/pod so all their ships must be transported after them and only Orcas have enough hold for that. Freighter is good too.

Agent Trask said...


This could be done with a website.

A stripped down version in game, and a full featured version for out of game second monitor web browsers ... with chat features.

It could be done outside of CCP.

Each corp or alliance registers, and the officers check off how much control they want. The site then creates the needed API template.

New members generate the API needed, and give it to the website.

The website has control and monitoring features for the officers, and provides voice chat ( mumble, TS, skype, whatever ), instant messaging, and IRC for the members.

Hivemind said...

@ Gevlon

I think you're missing my point - "We're making life a lot better for a tiny amount of players so they can make life better for the rest of you" isn't the kind of concept that makes for a "Jesus Feature" or the centrepoint for a 6 month expansion cycle. Add to that that veteran enablers already doing their enabling thanks to third party tools that you want CCP to copy and you're basically asking CCP to spend a 6 month cycle on putting a whole lot in purely in the hope that its presence will create a brand new crop of enablers to add to the game.

As I said, a lot of them are things that would be definite improvements to EVE, but they're not a "Jesus Feature" and there are rather more pressing things - things that players haven't spent years setting up and making available thid party workarounds for - that need attention more.

Anonymous said...

Webs services like forums/chat/voice/.... are also intelligence gathering tools.

They can be used to keep logs that can be extremely valuable in detecting spies ("here's a list of IPs that I acquired from a hostile alliance forum, now let's see if any of these IPs were logged into a fleet channel on our voice server during the last couple of stratops").

That's a functionality CCP is *never* going to replicate.

The EVE community also has developed a lot of knowledge regarding how to set up these services to work on a large scale (distributed mumble setups etc) and cope with the realities of EVE (ddos protection is a big deal).
CCP-run services would probably extremely unstable for quite some time until CCP learns the relevant lessons.

CCP might be working on an EVE voice replacement that runs independently of the EVE client - they partnered with Vivox (the company that supplies EVE Voice) for the C3 beta.

Anonymous said...

Also there are some things an alliance might want to talk about (potential exploits, RMT, GM conversations, ...) that CCP better shouldn't know about.

If a screenshot from a 3rd party forum is leaked to CCP they seem to ignore it as they can't verify its authenticity, if you talk about bad stuff on a CCP-run forum they'll come down on you.

Did I mention that the regular forum rules (rgd foul language, discussion of exploits, ...) apply on the CCP-provided corp forums?

Anonymous said...

I can set you up with
Website, Forum with API Login , directly connected to a TS3 Server.
With some fiddling mumble might be a possibility too. TS3 would work out of the box.

maybe not as perfectly streamlined as TEST or Goons / CFC, but good enough to get a 100 member corp going.

And all it would take is 9,99 € / month. (the cost for the server you would need to host all that stuff on). That would be paid directly to the Hosting provider.

the setup and maintenance i could offer you a very special price not even close to billions.

Contact me ingame-mail:

"Zap Zarrap"

gw2 gold said...

If you mean using third-party programs, or to put it bluntly, hacks - then I endorse this idea, within limits. EFT is an example of a great tool that the developers replicated because it was so useful.