One again I have the honour of summing up one of the excellent Blog Banters. Thanks once again go to Mat “Sesimic Stan” Westhorpe for co-ordinating and facilitating these.
I’d encourage any Eve Blogger to get involved by taking part, and I know that Mr Stan would also appreciate offers for more people to sum up the banters. This is the second Blog Banter I’ve summed up, and once again it’s been a fascinating activity. I read the individual responses at the time, but it’s only when you take the time to go back and re-read them all together that you can really understand how the community perceives a particular topic.
The question this time was:
“In his recent “That’s just the way it is” post on Jester’s Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE’s design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these “quirks”. In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online’s developers as “relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world”, underlining that he has only four content developers but “a lot” of programmers and engineers.
Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted – expecting the “social engine” to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP’s responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of “emergent gameplay” with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?”
It certainly hit a note, with an excellent 25 people involved, listed on Mr Stan’s blog post. So, let’s begin the summary…
The capsuleers slowly filed into the room, taking their seats and looking out across the scene before them. Nondescript murmuring filled the room as the seats quickly filled. Already seated at two tables towards the front of the room, facing the bench, were two of the best known bloggers in New Eden. He was sat to the left of the public gallery, head buried in papers, furiously scribbling notes, yet even from this distance the immaculately manicured hands and carefully sculpted beard could be seen, and a pair of Gallente women capsuleers could be seen whispering furiously, giving approving looks.
In stark contrast, at the table to the right and with short cropped black hair, she was sitting back in her chair, looking completely relaxed, clearly lost in thought in a far away part of the universe, the beginnings of a smile on a face that exuded confidence and not a small amount self-assurance, possibly even a tinge of arrogance.
Loudly, all those present were called to rise as the adjudicator, Mr Seismic Stan, entered the room and took his seat, taking a moment to look through the details of this morning’s case and the rather extensive list of witnesses that would be called, and their pre-prepared statements.
With a rather obvious sigh, he looked up from the papers, briefly pausing to take in the tense atmosphere within the room, and then nodded almost imperceptibly towards two tall, almost generic looking Caldari Administrators, both perfectly presented in dull grey suits.
The two Administrators made their way around the room passing small packets to each of the capsuleers in the room, before quietly exiting the room. The adjudicator surveyed the faces around the room, watching for a moment as they opened the packages to find the small implant.
He then turned his gaze slightly downward and to his right. “Mr Jester, if you please, you may present your arguments, and try to be concise, it appears we have much to do before I can retire for lunch.”
Jester closed his eyes for a moment, paused for a moment, and then stood up, papers laid out before him for reference should he need. “That’s Just the Way It Is”, he began. Everybody in the room then sat and listened for the next 20 minutes as he presented an impassioned plea for common sense to prevail. In the argument, Jester provided a list of many quirks of Eve, things such as autopilot not warping to zero which helps suicide gankers ply their trade, purchasing things from LP stores that do not allow you to purchase in suitable quantities, requiring upwards of 50 individual purchases.
As he came to the end of the argument, he shook his head slowly and with a snort of disgust stated “The answer to all of the above? That’s just the way it is.” With that, he sat down and rearranged his papers into a neat pile, avoiding eye contact with all in the room.
The adjudicator thumbed through the list of statements and then looked to his left, inwardly knowing that this was probably not going to finish before lunch. “Miss Stanziel, if you would continue please.”
Poetic Stanziel rose, walked around the front of the desk and perched herself on it, a rather ironic smile as she started her speech. “That’s just the way it is? I think that we need those face-palm moments, it’s part of what defines us.”
What then followed was a curt lesson in risk versus reward. Eve is a harsh environment. If you start taking away some of the “character tragedy”, then where would you stop. Prime examples quoted were losing skill points when your strategic cruiser gets exploded with you still in it, or forgetting to update your clone after being podded. The summary simply stated that “we do need choices that exploit the fact that sometimes we are our worst enemies.”
With that, she returned to her seat and glanced around the room, those who dared to meet her stare quickly looking away.
Mr Stan looked at the assembled capsuleers in the room, his brow furrowed “All of you who are about to speak as witnesses, I would remind you that I have carefully read each of your statements in full, and for the sake of my sanity, and my lunch, you should simply state who you are, one or two key points, and perhaps a sentence to summarise your point of view.”
The crowd shuffled slightly nervously, as the first to speak, my Forever Alone Minmatar Closet, stood up. The focus was on one single point, the autopilot that always falls short of the mark, and the conclusion was that this simple “why” produces risk and reward, and has both facilitated suicide ganking and also produced a new industry - that of the courier.
Next to speak was Interstellar Privateer, with not one, but two statements in response. A range of emotions were clear, agreeing with some of Jester’s points such as the need for a Clone Upgrade Reminder(TM), but also agreeing with some parts of Poetic’s rebuttal, such as the skill point loss associated with Strategic Cruisers, and how Eve needs more lore based components, not less. The second part looked in details about why this particular capsuleer hadn’t undocked for quite some time, but also why they were considering returning.
Zeric Sarain of Overheat Everything raises a key consideration from his Everyone’s a Critic statement. “Do we want Eve to move forward, or do we want it to refine its current position?”. He reasons that there is nothing wrong with not liking a mechanic, or for asking for it to be changed, but that it is wrong to “understand that sometimes we have to live with annoying things in order to be given new stuff to play with”.
Emergent Patroller was next to speak, and once again the autopilot was given as an example of a frustration that is not broken. The opinion firmly was that “There should be a reward for not flying AFK, and that reward is less danger and shorter travel times. I would actually propose, that if you make newer players sit at their desk when flying, it actually benefits immersion.” – in summary CCP had the balance tipping in the right direction.
Sand, Cider and Spaceships submission soberly (ironically, given the blog name) reflects that Fixing Stuff can Break Stuff. With interesting suggestions on a skill to reduce jump clone cool-down period and the autopilot reacting differently in different security levels of space, the summary is that “Convenience and something ‘being easy’ are two different things. Some people want the same change for different reasons without thinking of the consequences”
Flying Silent took to the floor, staring directly at Jester throughout his own speech. By breaking the underlying argument down into its component parts [ed - read the post, you'll get what I did there], he almost sneered at Jester as he summed up “Put another way, if that’s what you call being taken for granted, I’d be damn curious to see what being appreciated looks like.”
Margin Call strode across the floor with confidence as he unpacked the six concentric circles of player engagement, his closing words simply stating that “EVE needs to be more hands off, not less – but to be successful, they need to give players the tools to do so”.
Mike Azariah leaned back in his chair as he spoke, “It is what we make it” he reasoned. Comparing theme parks and sandboxes, he talked thoughtfully, almost tinged with sadness at points. “Sometimes I wish for a bit more, here and there. I’d like some of the things we do to have a more permanent effect”. After listing some of the areas that could be considered, he concluded with a simple plea “I do NOT want CCP to take over the stories but I would like to see more encouragement when players run with them. Give us the tools and we can move the universe.”
TurAmarth ElRandir stood and cut to the chase, presenting his appreciation of risk and reward – “EVE is about US. We are the content and we always have been… CCP just (LOL ‘just’) makes the sets, props, costumes and lighting.”, and he goes even further by stating that “I do not believe CCP has started to take player effort for granted. I think they have had high expectations from us right from the start”.
To a few amused murmurs of “yarr” in the audience, Rixx Javix swaggered to the front, an eclectic mixture of confidence and arrogance setting his frame as he smiled at Mr Stan and talked about The Canvas Game. The image of Eve as a blank canvas was startling and captured the audience’s attention. With a flurry Rixx delivered the sucker punch “Satisfaction is the death knell for our canvas game. When you stand back from the painting, emit a sigh of relief and… step away.” He nodded towards Mr Stan, and returned to his seat.
In stark contrast to the pirate who had just spoken, retired Minmatar Colonel Roc Wieler strode to the front, his presence demanding the attention of all in the room. During his speech his eyes scanned those in the room, pausing for a moment on one face as he spoke “Eve Online is a harsh game, on purpose. Will it appeal to most? I certainly hope not.” In his closing remarks he proudly states that “their original goal was met; they have established a self-sustaining social universe. That’s pretty damn cool.” before he again strode confidently across the floor to his chair, and the two Gallente women seated either side.
Warp Drive Active’s witness statement required the audience to think about Tweaking the Machine. He raises the point that “it can become challenging to take features which blow and give them a nice polish.” Once again the focus is on the players being the content makers, closing with “Emergent gameplay for some in the industry is having Twitter notifications of achievements. EVE is a so far beyond the bleeding edge in this regard it’s not even funny.”
Mr Stan coughed in a rather embarrassed fashion. “I’m afraid that, although rather unorthodox for the situation, I have a submission to make on this.” Thereafter a lesson in lessons was imparted upon all who would listen, which was all in the room, as they heard a series of clicks denoting that all exits were now securely locked. The new player experience was the main focus, highlighting the technical improvements, but the removal of the soul of the game. As those looking on became increasing uneasy, the speech became darker as it moved towards it’s conclusion “I like a bleak and dystopian future as much as the next sci-fi geek, but I couldn’t cope with endless clumsily-written jargon-heavy accounts of what the big boys in the space playground did to the slightly smaller boys in the space playground. Plug me back into the Matrix, please.”
In an attempt to return some semblance of hope to the proceedings, Morphisat took to the floor to talk about the fact that some things will never change. In a much lighter speech, he argued that “The 15j travels to pick up an item or do whatever adds to the feeling of vastness of the Eve universe. This would be totally lost if we could just go wherever we please.”, concluding that “Eve requires some sort of effort on the player’s part, you have to do some research and try things out to see what works and what doesn’t. And I hope it stays that way.”
Kirith Kodachi reminded the audience that everybody has Minds of their own, using an ancient technology referred to as SimCity, he reasoned that “There are areas where I think some developer action could stimulate some much needed player activity, such as more spontaneous live events and role playing activities”, but was very clear that he was “in total agreement with Ripard Teg on this one: that crap should be fixed because quality of life is a big bugbear for me.”
Inanity and Doom stood and paused for a moment, head bowed and drawing the audience’s stares. Lifting his head he asked “Who makes this story?“. Looking at both sides of the coin at the same time, he glances around the room as he speaks – “I can’t think of another game that’s out right now where players can reshape the political landscape of the map quite like they can in EVE. But all of this mutability in the hands of the players comes at the cost of any scripted story.” – but this also follows to the undeniable conclusion that “this is the edge of a knife CCP has to balance on; without new players, a game dies. But change the game too much, and old players will leave, potentially faster than you gain those new players.”
With the most imaginatively named witness statement, Aggressive Logistics peers into the underbelly of the universe and after emerging from the murkiness, asks the asks those seated to consider “on the other hand if EvE was the plain old vanilla custard game, newly built and without the quirks, it wouldn’t be half the game we have today imho. We would not be playing it, or at least would not be continuing to play it.” – but the closing thoughts lead the audience to think of the possibilities of Dust, a game without the legacy code to slow it down.
Cannon Fodder quickly jumps to their feet to speak next, with the opening gambit of “Small improvements make a difference“, many nods of agreement can be seen throughout the room. Presenting an almost romantic image of CCP developing story line missions for greater engagement in the lore, but then brings the collective capsuleers back to ground with a bang, sharing his opinion that “The single most important thing for Eve’s continued success isn’t anything CCP is doing at all, it’s all with us, the players. Simple things like convincing new players to keep playing are completely abandoned by CCP and, in my opinion, that is a very telling sign.”, followed by a passionate plea for more live events and a more rapidly and dramatically developing story line in New Eden.
Eve Scientist steps to the front and tries to bring it all back to the sandbox concept. Mr Stan starts to look impatient as she talks animatedly to the gathering in the room, glancing at the clock readout recessed within the wooden desk. With a nod to the writing talents of a fellow blogger, she concludes by saying “I think that CCP has started to take player effort granted, but then I think that this shows the game is maturing nicely and that they don’t have to keep getting involved.”
Keith Neilson slowly walks forward to the front, each step, every movement calculated to try and build anticipation. Looking up he launches into a detailed analysis of recent history, including CCP’s reaction to the Burn Jita riots, as he feels “that CCP have come to realise the value of the resource that we comprise”. He concludes with a paradox, answering the question both yes and no, but on different levels of function within and beyond the game, while acknowledging that he would prefer a resounding yes “I would love it if CCP dialled back on creating fictional fluff for the world and turned on to collating, curating, and integrating the real lore of EVE.”
Blastrad Tales takes the floor before Mr Neilson can even make it back to his chair and launches into a very carefully crafted musical analogy in an attempt to recapture the now waning attention of the room. Glancing at Mr Stan, who for some reason appears to be repeatedly glancing at something on his desk. Having captured the group through his eloquent image, he delivers his parting thought… “Someone with the right attitude and personality to be a long-term Eve player will have the patience and tolerance to overlook Eve’s shortcomings and be won over by the sum total of what is, after all, a truly unique gaming experience.”
Mr Stan sighs heavily as Blastrad takes his seat. “Only two more submissions are to be heard. At this point, can I ask you all to ensure that the implants provided are plugged into your spinal socket to ensure that you can participate fully in the closing event.” For a few moments the room was silent, only the rustling of clothes and the packaging around the implant could be heard as the capsuleers attached the implant to their body, looking towards the front as nothing appeared to happen. “The implants are not yet active,” Mr Stan answered the unasked question, “but they will be as soon as the last submission has been heard.
Progressive Horizon waited for a few moments as the last of the capsuleers finished plugging the implant in and settled back into their seat. “This is Creative Anarchy“, he proclaimed, clearly CCP have “taken player effort for granted. I think they’ve learned to cultivate it and learn from it”. He compares the apparent attitude of the developers of Skyrim, and closes by saying that “Perhaps I am too optimistic or simply don’t see an issue with these idiosyncrasies.”
With the final submission, Eve Hermit took to the floor, pausing to look at both Jester and Poetic before starting by rephrasing the question combined with an answer… “are CCP taking for granted the ingenuity of its player base to cover for in game foibles and a lack of CCP directed content? If they are, is there an actual problem with that?”. By comparing a common reaction when starting a new job, he helps us understand why you can sometimes accept that which is around you, imperfections and all. Chillingly, he finishes with this thought – “I don’t however have a view on the final impact of this on the sandpit. It might be better, worse, or just different.”
As Hermit sits, both Poetic and Jester jump to their feet, demanding that they be allowed to add, to expand, to clarify. The noise level in the room rises as more capsuleers add their voices.
A harsh shout from Mr Stan pierces the room. “S I L E N C E ! ! !”
The room falls quiet, Jester and Poetic collapse into their seats as if physically pushed back into them.
“Enough.” he seems to fiddle with something to the side of the desk, and then puts one of the mysterious implants into his own spinal socket. “Does everybody have their implant in? It is essential that everybody does for the next part of this… this discussion.”
All in the room looked around, a few re-checked the implant in their neck and then all looked to the front bench with expectation. “Good,” said Mr Stan, “let’s end this.”
Then silence fell in the room, followed a few seconds later by a bright flash from the desk as an explosion ripped through the room, incinerating everybody and everything in the room.
Mr Stan was helped to the floor, the clone vat goo dropping from his body as he coughed violently, his lungs expelling the last traces of the fluid. A technician helped him to his feet and to the showers where he took his time to cleanse the vat goo from his body.
Afterwards, he walked into his Captains Quarters in a robe, the neocom was flashing urgently. He walked over and touched the screen, over 200 messages waiting for a reply. He smiled as he sat down on the luxury Gallente couch with a glass of Tribal Brand Whiskey. Picking up a datapad, he signed the funds transfer for his clone update and dialled up his contact. A grey suited Caldari man appeared on the screen.
“It worked I trust, Mr Stan?”
“Indeed, I appear to have received a message from every single capsuleer in the room, in fact some have sent more than one message.”
“The Dust 514 implants are a marvel, Sir” offered the Caldari, “although you may find that some of your… guests request compensation for clone costs and lost implants. It appears that Mr Javix had a full Crystal set, and the other kill reports also amount to several billion ISK.”
“Well, perhaps I should spend some time in a wormhole to lay low then, until this Dust blows over.”
He cut the comms and dimmed the lights, even in the new clone the intense headache from the hours in that room was still pounding against his skull.
At least this time he’d remembered to update his clone… damn lazy clone technicians never reminded you as you left the clean up room.
[EDIT: I know, before the comments start, I'll stick to fact rather than fiction in the future ]