Tilting the Balance, Part 1 (Blog Banter 38)

It’s been over seven months since I logged in to EVE Online or wrote a blog post. I’m spending a good deal of time with the Tweetfleet and giving real thought to returning but am still unsubbed at the moment. Ripard Teg’s post about all the little things that drive us crazy in EVE hit so many nerves, however, that I couldn’t help but respond. Freebooted took up my suggestion and turned it into a full blown Blog Banter:

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?

I left EVE for a lot of reasons. Some were RL, some were truly game-related, and some were a compounding of hassles and annoyances that finally had me saying “Enough!” and tipping the scale to the point of not being in any great hurry to return.

The first paragraph of the banter question – responses to Ripard and those hassles and annoyances – are the topic of this post. The “truly game-related” pieces that actively drove me away and hold me back from returning are closer to the heart of Freebooted’s question about Unifex, which will comprise another post.

Ripard brings up many good points, as do the commenters on his post. The below will not make much sense unless you read his post first. As I write this, there are 58 comments on his blog. Some of the things (like mechanics for LP, POSs, T2 industry and jump bridges) I have no experience with and thus can’t comment on. As for the rest…

Things Ripard and his commenters nail:

    • Clone upgrade reminder. This to me is not a gameplay item – it’s simply ignoring the basic needs of the player. There is no gameplay value in it – it’s just poor design. Make a reminder please, or better yet get rid of the whole mechanic. It’s just a (lame) ISK sink.
    • Eliminating personal sec status. I actually really like the bribery idea – it’s a nice incremental step in banishing the entire personal sec status idea to the graveyard where it belongs. The bottom line here – and this is also a big core play issue – is that security status (for the person, not the system) and GCC are horribly broken. I’ve been saying this for almost two years, along with folks like Rixx Javix. There is so much to recommend Lowsec for many types of player, but no one will live there aside from faction warriors (kudos to CCP for this – that was not true when I left) and -10 pirates with an army of alts. My corp folded last month – not because of lack of enthusiasm or hating lowsec, but because they finally could take no more of the sec-status grind to stay above -2. FIX THIS CCP. It will promote significant player uptick in missioners & miners & small-gang PVPers who are willing to take some risks, but not willing to risk the bubbles and supercaps of nullsec. Antipirates will become as common as pirates. Hans Jagerblitzen had some great ideas on how to fix personal sec status (see “What Happens in Amamake stays in Amamake” section); revive those please Hans!
    • Gate guns. Searsy mentions this related topic in the comments. I actually like gate guns, I think they’re a good mechanic. What’s not a good mechanic is how they work. Today, they have perfect tracking, rendering frigates all but unusable in a gate fight. It would change the entirety of lowsec combat by two simple things: 1) make them large guns, and 2) make them track like any other large guns (that is: poorly). Voila, viable lowsec frigates, while larger ships still get pounded on but can survive a while. I also like Searsy’s suggestion that they be faction-appropriate.
    • Bounties on anyone. Why not? +1
    • PI Design. Good god, I could write multiple posts on the suck of PI. This is one of the core game items that drove me away and will comprise much of the next post. Mechanically, in the “little things” category, it was things like what Ripard notes. Just let me one-click restart so on days I don’t have time to minmax, I can get it done quickly.
    • SMA-role Hauler. This to me is a no-brainer. I hate mining and want to spend zero SP on it, but everyone has to haul. So I can either mine or train for a freighter, despite awesome transport skills, or pay another pilot just to haul ships across high-sec. Really?!?
    • Early mission gate drop points. I hated this as a newbie too. Drop me within 20 Km of at least one ship to shoot at please.
    • 24 hours between clone jumps and skill queue restart requirements. This is perhaps the stupidest mechanic in the game. It is frustrating and serves no actual purpose. My understanding is that it was originally like the need to wait to switch ships, but that has died, so please, please fix this idiocy too.
    • Create a “default to on” setting for modules. One of Ripard’s commenters suggests that Damage Control modules be made passive. I wouldn’t go quite that far, since I still want them to use some level of capacitor and drive awareness in the pilot. However, I do think it would be good to reduce the clickfest by allowing you to select a new default for it to be on unless you turn it off.
    • Logging off to switch characters. I’ve been ranting about this one for years too.  It’s flat-out bad design. FIX THIS.
    • Remote mission acceptance and completion. This was Kik’s suggestion in the comments and is brilliant. If there is no reason to go back, just make it happen. The rest is simply wasted time. I have three hours per day, max, to play this game. Stop wasting my time running back to kiss the agent’s ring so I can get back to PVP!
    • “Look At” should work beyond 100 Km. This was MinorFreak’s suggestion in the comments. I forgot how annoying that is over the last 7 months, but he’s right on. If I’m on grid, let me look.
    • The kludge that is bookmarks. An anonymous poster suggests fixing this. Bookmarks are Object-Oriented Programming gone haywire. This should be as easy as “share bookmark”. I understand this might require a lot of work to reprogram, but what a bad approach to begin with. Dear god, I can bump a couple of phones together today to share map locations and phone numbers, but I can’t in a pod-driven mind-controlled spaceship?!?
    • Sort market items by meta level, not alpha. William suggested this in the comments. Brilliant. And should be easy CCP!

Things I agree suck but accept because I think fixing them could break other things:

    • Grouped sales. I agree with Ripard on this in theory, but I also understand why it may be impossible given the higher imperative of a dynamic market.
    • “Buy whole ship fitting”. Theoretically awesome, but I can’t remember the last time I ever could find everything I needed for a ship in one place. I don’t shop in Jita, but I can tell you it flat doesn’t happen (or didn’t 7 months ago) in Rens, Hek or Dodixie, unless you were fitting a rig-less T1 frigate.
    • Lack of an automated long-term skill training queue. Teg’s post doesn’t hit this precisely, but it does dance around the edges, until finally Crash hits on it in the comments. As a player, I loathe the 24-hour training queue, and it in fact is one of the main “little things” that drove me away. As someone who works with game designers and game psychology for a living, I understand it totally. Forcing you to log in maintains stickiness with the game, like it or not. But I still hate it. I want to not only have queues, but an account-wide queue so I can switch automatically between characters when one runs out and start training another on the same account with no interaction. Timing that is nearly impossible. Maybe the compromise here is to allow an automated method to “start when previous character finishes”? It would allow a wonky sort of 3-character skill rotation queue if you wanted it but would no longer require a 2 AM login to be there right when the other character finishes.

Things I think Ripard is wrong on (most of these are in agreement with Poetic Stanziel’s response that is largely summed up: HTFU):

    • Autopilot dropping 10Km from gates. I hated this as a newbie, but at this point I see at as clearly a driver of early learning. I have found that getting blown up in EVE is the single biggest driver to my learning curve progression, and “pilot your damn self” is one of the biggest early lessons.
    • Strategic cruiser skillpoint loss. As one of Ripard’s commenters notes, this was a story-based item, EVE needs more of these sorts of things, not less. Again I agree with Poetic that this is about learning and knowing the game, and making the lore worth something rather than a half-baked facade (guess what one of my actual game-related design gripes is?).
    • POS location based on faction standings. Again, from a story perspective, this is a no brainer. If the Minmatar hate your corp, they should either prevent you from setting up or blow your POS up once you’ve anchored it. Even if you’re “the nice one, really officer!” Now, on the other hand, using Ripard’s idea of paying them to look the other way (see above) … I like that.
    • Galactic vs Regional market view. I used to be a hauler when I was a newbie, and market regionality made me my living. It wasn’t a great living, but if full galactic view had been there, it would have been no living at all. Kik makes this point in Ripard’s comments as well. Again, I hated this as a newbie, but I think it’s the right way.

Tabled for next post, as I consider them core game design issues rather than “little things”:

    • The death of story
    • More ranting on security status and the lowsec wasteland it causes
    • Viable passive ISK for PVP
      • Alts required
      • PI, the little guy, and templated planet buildouts
      • Datacores
      • PLEX
    • The horrors of drone control
    • Trip distances and the failure of exploration
    • External tools required

Hope you’ll join me later for Part 2.

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8 Responses to Tilting the Balance, Part 1 (Blog Banter 38)

  1. Pingback: Tilting the Balance, Part 2 (Blog Banter 38) | Interstellar Privateer

  2. mark726 says:

    I agree with you for the most part, but I’ll have to disagree with you on the first two things you point out: sec status and clone upgrades. I think sec status is necessary in SOME form to point out that some players deserve to be kept an eye on more than others. I know its an imperfect system (they can grind it up, etc etc etc) but I think some form of warning about people I’ve never met is necessary. That said, I wouldn’t be adverse to the solution you mention in your second blog or some kind of isk for bribes solution if there’s some limitation to it. Perhaps it gets more expensive as you do it more and more often or something is necessary.

    As for clone upgrades, I think this is important in at least some circumstances to make death actually matter in some way. Eve is supposed to be dark and gritty, and I think at least some possibility of failure and loss of some kind is necessary. Sure, 90% of players always update their clones anyway, but since we certainly don’t (and never will) have a permadeath in eve, I feel like some kind of punishment is necessary if you don’t take the necessary precautions. But maybe that’s just me.

    As I said, though, I agree with just about everything else in this blog and your next one though.

    • Rhavas says:

      Thanks for your comments Mark. Believe it or not, we’re in agreement in principle – my issue is with the execution of these items.

      As you note, Part 2 speaks about using Hans’ solution to sec status (only the “truly bad” acts count toward driving sec below -2). I actually also agree about “flagging people as dangerous” for the high-sec folks who aren’t looking for a fight, so I’d support some retweaking of the Overview to make it blindingly obvious who has an itchy trigger finger (me) versus who wants to steal your ship, explode your pod, do a fake ransom and drink your tears.

      As far as clones and dark and grittiness, I agree with that as well – which is why I support the T3 skillpoint loss. In my mind, however, loss of your ship, modules, cargo and implants when you get podded is plenty painful for everyday death. But “remembering to upgrade” has nothing to do with skill, it just seems to be a kludgy way to ISK sink in my opinion. We can agree to disagree on that one. 🙂

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