Thursday, October 29, 2015

CCP (finally) Sells White Wolf Publishing

Funny.  If only there had been a big fan gathering where this could have been announced.  Oh wait, there was.  /sigh.

Anyway, it appears that CCP has finally divested itself from the World of Darkness brand after having fully cancelled the WoD MMO many months ago.

Having been to GenCon the past two years, and many game stores in between 'Con visits, it's been sad for me to see basically no WoD content for sale.  Tabletop stuff seems to be booming, but although it was a giant 20 years ago, the WoD brand is notably absent.  (Despite a pretty big insurgence of Vampire angst at the box office and TV.).

It's probably best that CCP focus on computer games and let someone else run the tabletop stuff.
“At CCP, we have great admiration for the White Wolf brands and communities, and it was extremely important to us that the acquiring company share the same respect and understanding,” said Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson, CEO of CCP Games. “With Paradox, we know we are leaving the brands in good hands.”
Full article at TGN.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Player Acceleration

There's been a lot of stink about a particular dev blog. Before Vegas there was a lot of words written about it.  At Vegas there were eye rolls and groans from the crowd when it was brought up by CCP.

I had written the backbone of this post before going to Vegas, but got caught up with real life schtuff before I could finalize it.  Now that I'm back and have crashed on the couch after our return trip, I'll see if I can get an answer assembled.

Bottom line up front:  For the record, I don't like the idea of trading skill points.  Philosophically, I dislike things inserted into the game that devalue my time investment.  We talk about the economy having low inflation as being a good thing; I don't know why adding a feature that is effectively "skillpoint devaluation" could be argued as positive.  

Said another way:  I don't like the notion of giving the maximum benefit to the last guy to show up to the party.  

Moreover, I'm fearful that its a thought experiment gone wrong, that it won't actually solve the root cause to the retention problem.

Best I can tell, the logic goes like this: new player tries eve. New player trains a bit, skills complete fast, and things are fine.  Then, new player sees the (long) skill queue required to fly the "perfect skills" meta fit of the week, new player leaves in frustration.  Therefore long skill queues are bad and we should accelerate new players into competitive endgame capability.

It's that last logic leap that I take issue with.  That we should take a new player and accelerate them to catch everyone else.  So, I put forward two ideas:
  1. Character progression and empire building is a core foundation of EVE; short circuiting that process is too high a price to pay.
  2. There are other means to achieve the same retention goals.
To be fair, the word 'retention' doesn't actually appear in the Dev Blog in question.  That's me (and I guess the community) reading between the lines.  

But what to do with newer players as an MMO title ages is not a problem unique to EVE.  WoW has suffered from it, and sometimes dealt with it less than gracefully.  GW2 took great strides in its content to try to eliminate the gaps between maxlvl and lowlvl players where it could in its basic design.  Yes, comparing these games to EVE is apples and oranges in many respects, but the core problem is the same.

The approach I prefer is NOT to accelerate everyone to towards endgame.  Let character progression happen as intended.  Instead, I'd rather see attempts be made to pull endgame (however you define it) content to the left rather than pushing noobs to the right.  

This is kind of a subtle thing, so bear with me.  I want characters to grow and gain capability in the same way that they do today - but I also want the game to be more engaging and unfold in ways that newer players can tangibly participate and compete in.  Said another way:  give players ways to tackle content without pushing them to run missions and "level up and get ready" for whatever endgame they'd prefer to be playing.  See previous post about dynamic content and automatic difficulty scaling (and hopefully soon a Dev Blog regarding the same kind of content coming to an EVE near you) for examples of the type of Content the game could and should have.

Secondly, I'd rather see CCP spending some time looking at the social structures of the game and finding ways to support them.  Why do corps fail?  Why do people run content solo?  EVE has some amazingly engaged and active corps, but the successful few are the exception.  When I ran my own poll here, over half of responders said they are effectively in a 1-man corp.  In a massively-multi-player game.  Think about that.

If this change goes through, is it the end of the game?  No, probably not.  It's probably another feature I'll ignore and go about my normal business.  Some will take advantage of the feature, many will not. Maybe it'll be something I'll yammer at Dire about during breaks at EVE Vegas 2025 ... "remember before you could buy skill points??"  

And maybe that's ok.  But if that comes to pass, it might mean that CCP didn't actually solve anything, and introduced another feature (i.e. invested money) on the scrapheap of things that were supposed to ensure player retention, but didn't.  And until we can talk about "the Content problem" in past tense, I don't think we can talk about "the retention problem" either.  First things first.

Monday, October 26, 2015

EVE Vegas Day 3

And EVE Vegas 2015 is all done.  We'll head to the airport in an hour or so. Vegas is always such a surreal experience and it is very much Fall at home, so I'm somewhat expecting my mental soundtrack to make that skipping record sound at some point today.

The big deal yesterday for me was the PVE roundtable session. I went in not expecting to hear a lot, and was happily surprised at the amount of content that got discussed.  CCP Infinity Affinity (thanks VoV!) promised a dev blog when she returns, so I'll not try to transcribe my notes here on the phone.  Bottom line is that I am happy with the direction CCP is going, and hope that the resources required can be applied so that we can see steady progress. 

I should be able to go through my "what I want from highsec" post from a few days back and annotate most of my wish list as "in progress."  Which is pretty cool. It looks like 2016 will be a good year for PVE content, resulting in an EVE that feels more alive than ever.

The rest of the day went too quickly. The Econ brief was good, and like most I'm looking forward to seeing the return of regular Econ updates. We were told the monthly updates would start next month and would likely be available ingame and somewhat in character, which is a nice touch even for non roleplayers.

Time to pack and find some coffee, and make the trip back to the real world.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

EVE Vegas Day 2

One day of EVE Vegas remains.

Yesterday was about providing more details on Citadels and the capship overhaul, though most of what was in the respective presentations were mostly repeated from the keynote.  I didn't attend either round tables that followed the main briefs, but most of the attendees blobbed them, so any additional tidbits will make their way out.

I apparently missed the detail in the first pass that Citadels could be anchored in highsec.  I wonder who the first corp will be that's bold enough to put an XL Citadel 600km from Jita 4-4 ... and who will be the first to blow it up. ;)

We also heard that the sickle doomsday (titan laser sword) will pull cap from surrounding ships, making it impossible to set off 50 of them at once and burning a patch of sky to the ground. Tho I am sure some FCs are already plotting clever things with the mechanics. 

Ghostbuster (dont cross the streams!) and Jedi references abound around the sickle doomsday.  It's good to be a nerd.  ;)

We also heard that existing doomsdays are getting nerfed considerably.  This caused me to remark that "they may as well change the name from Doomsday to Wednesday" as suddenly they didn't sound so special.

We hung out more with Dire and VoV and swapped more stories and history.  There was a session on the First Great War that I initially though might have been about the First Great Northern War that Pukin' Dogs participated in circa 2004. Turns out I am bad at null history and was off by a couple years. The session was more around 2006 events between BoB, Goons, and the other empires of that era.  It made for a better story with the first titans getting to play.

The t20 incident came up 2 or 3 times that I saw. Is interesting to look back at that and realize what a defining moment that was for the game. It's also interesting that I still have a strong negative emotional response about it. (The sense of betrayal is still there after almost a decade, wow.)

We also hopped into the Valkyrie demo and I was blown away by the tech.  I don't really plan to buy a VR rig, but after the demo I was tempted to price check.  To quote Darth Vader, Valkyrie is impressive. Most impressive.

We didn't go to the party last night. I am still mostly on east coast time (hence why I am pecking on the phone at 5:30am) and have been collapsing early each night.  Such a party animal.

Today is the last day. I'll attend the PVE round table, and hope to get another go at Valkyrie. A couple more agenda items of personal interest, and we'll be thinking about going home.  It is 45 degrees there as I type with colder weather on the way.

Time to find the Starbucks.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

EVE Vegas Day 1

Day 1 is complete.

As an overall schedule, Day 1 was the simplest.  We had 2 tasks - get badges, attend keynote.  Today will be a little more involved from that aspect. 

At its core, EVE is about People, and Day 1 is arranged to reflect that.  There was a big gap between badge pickup and the store opening; this was time for mingling and wandering.  I met many random people; most were very friendly and since we shared a common EVE vocabulary, conversations were fun once they got going.

We spent more time with Sugar, and though I am forgetting many of the names and faces we encountered, I must give a shout to a few:  VoV, Epigene, Dire, and NoizyGamer are super folks in person.  Mynxee of Signal Cartel is funny and genuine, and we chatted a bit in a group though I realized after that I didn't manage to actually introduce myself.  We likewise spoke briefly to Mike Azriah (spelling his name wrong no doubt) but he got pulled away before we got to trade names, and I found out later who he was.

Badges: the line to get badges initially looked daunting but moved reasonably well once it got started.  We showed up just after 11 and were thru in under an hour.  We figured out that we were in line behind Noizy about 25 minutes in, weird coincidence.  Behind us were a few guys from EVE-Uni, so we got to hear a few things from their point of view and some interesting details if how "personal dancers" work on the Vegas strip.

The Keynote:  I am not a null/capship player, but the Citadel brief had me smiling and cheering.  "But Aba," you say, "you're the guy that wants more PVE content, you should be angry that CCP is spending yet more dev time on other stuff. Wtf?"

Well, I am a PVE guy, sure. But I'm also realistic enough to know that ALL aspects of EVE must be singing in grand harmony. Capship play has been broken a good long time, and CCP has made no secret that there's a roadmap established to move the game forward. The end of that roadmap is player made gates and new star systems.  I'm neither surprised or upset that capships play a role in that future.  It was a good pitch and the changes look fun. EVE needs a nullsec that looks fun. (Said another way: There are plenty of people actively lobbying for null/cap changes, the role I play/represent is different but that doesn't mean I disagree with the need for change).

Oh, and there's a PVE segment today (EDIT: oops, I meant tomorrow). I plan to attend and see what gets said, so I'm reserving nerdrage until after that. ;)

(PS: posting from phone, I'm sure that the capship keynote details are out there, don't have a good way to link them.  I do know that MassivelyOP sent a delegate, so that's where I would check first for stuff.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

EVE Vegas Day Zero

Mmmmm. Coffee.

Sitting on our balcony looking over the strip as it wakes up for another day.  EVE Vegas day 1 is today, but let's start by talking about yesterday.

Other than being hurtful early, our flight went without incident. It was a direct route with no layover shenanigans.  Normally I travel for work, which means lugging around a laptop, extra clothes for work and play, and perhaps a binder of crap or two.  For this trip, all my stuff fit in a smallish carry on.  This meant no waiting for luggage at the carousel, easy security screen, and much less fuss and overall lower stress.  We didn't rent a car, so our only real pause for consternation was trying to find the taxi stand at McCarran international (which is one of my generally less favorable airports, tho O'Hare and Washington Dulles certainly suck a lot more).

I could get used to traveling light. Soooo much easier.

On the ground, we had a great day walking the strip. From Planet Hollywood we ventured north to the Wynn and back, gawking like the tourists we are. We stopped at the Venetian for a bit for a snack and drink and watched the statue lady living sculpture.  Other than dodging all the folks trying to hand us stuff and give us "free show tickets" it was a great morning.

In the afternoon we caught up with Sugar, and chatted for not nearly long enough.  My sister in-law had a break from her conference at the Bellagio, so we introduced her to Sugar.  Sis in-law is not a gamer, but took the nerd things in stride as best she could. We love her anyway. :)

Sugar took our picture to send to mom (mom thinks its super cool that we're here the same time as sis in-law, who we generally see only a few times a year).

After dinner, Mrs. Durden and I had drinks on our balcony and watched the strip change colors. I managed to stay awake until 8pm, but had been on the move since 00:30 (yes, midnight-thirty) local time.

Today is registration and the keynotes. We will disappear during the keynote to make our show time up the strip a ways. It should be another good day.

Well, the douchbags on the next balcony are smoking weed, yelling at each other, and spitting snot hockers over the rail, so my moment here is ended.  Coffee is cold anyway.  Time to find a real breakfast and go do nerd things.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Packing for Vegas

It's time.

This week has been a mad blur.  I spent the last day in my old office on Friday.  I left the office, put the last of my cubicle crap in the house and then drove 3 states away for a wedding (was a "destination wedding" at a reasonably popular tourist area).  Got in well after midnight Friday, spent the day Saturday shopping and wedding-ing.  Drove back Sunday, crashed into bed ... started new job on Monday.

New job is going fine, but I'm drinking from a firehose and I've come home each night exhausted.

We decided at the last minute to have a friend check on our cats (they're 16 and 18 years old, respectively), and that means we get the added bonus of cleaning the house a bit (not that we're slobs, but I really haven't been home much since Labor Day to care about more than the bare essentials; some might say 'who cares' ... well, I do. :)  ).

We have an o-dark-early flight tomorrow, but the flight is at least direct.  We'll be on the ground in Las Vegas in time for a late breakfast followed by a free day on the strip.  Will spend the evening watching the Bellagio fountain while trying desperately trying to stay awake after our early wake up and timezone changes.  Will swap hotels to the Planet Holleywood on Friday around the time that registration for the EVE event starts, and maybe have lunch with my sister-inlaw who happens to be there on business this week.

I'm only sitting here at the PC while my boarding passes and other essentials hum off the printer, then I'm going to scramble out and try to remember the 12 things I've no doubt forgotten to pack.

I am looking forward to some down-time, and sleeping in, and perhaps an adult beverage or two.  And EVE.

Cya on the other side... // Abavus

What's Playing:  TOOL, Aenima, Jimmy

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Spot an Abavus in the Wild at EVE Vegas

I don't do social media and generally don't post my picture online.  Long story.

But, if you are reading this and you'll be at Vegas for all the EVE Glory, I'd like to talk to you.

I can't make any promises about after-hours activity.  As luck would have it, my sister in-law (who is non-nerd and mighty confused about a "video game convention" but we love her anyway) will also be in town for work, and we'll no doubt spend some time with her as our schedules permit.  I also got show tix for Mrs. Durden up at one of the other hotels and will probably vanish during the keynote.  But during the day I plan to be in and around the EVE Vegas halls as much as I can possibly stand.  

So, how to spot me: I'm a fairly normal looking white guy, fairly tall at about 6'3" and more gray hair than I'd like.

Day 1 - Friday - I will be wearing a bright blue (I dare say NEON BLUE) FOO FIGHTERS shirt.
Day 2 - Saturday - I will be wearing a dark gray FOO FIGHTERS shirt.
Day 3 - Sunday - I will be wearing a bright/lime green TwinSix shirt with a winged bicycle wheel logo on the chest.

So that's my plan - wearing bright clothes. (My genius is sometimes astounding.) Hopefully it will be enough to spot me in the sea of guys wearing a black howling triple wolves shirt or whatever that meme was.

Looking forward to chatting with many of you and putting some names with faces.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Tomorrow is the last day at my current office.  I've arranged a transfer down the road to a cousin organization.  It's not exactly a promotion but puts me in line for one, assuming I can perform well in the new environment.  Mentally, I swear I can hear the countdown clicking. Tick, tock.

It's been a surreal couple of weeks since I announced my intent to depart.  I've watched my team go through the 7 stages of change (anger, pain, denial, and the rest).  Which was weird for me because /I've/ known that I'm leaving the team for some time now, so it was not new to me.  Watching the news ripple through the team was an odd experience because I wasn't grappling with the same new information as them. I felt like an outside observer, even though I'd thrown the rock that started the ripples.

They are happy for me; the new gig is actually a pretty good deal.  They are sad for the team and concerned about what I may know that they don't (truth is: nothing, hah). I have known these people most of my career - 16-17 years, depending how you count, and over the past 24 hours I have said a lot of hard goodbyes.  I'll say many more tomorrow.  Although I am the deputy lead today, members of the team are my former team leads and mentors that held those kinds of positions 15-20 years ago.  I've been a part of their family and they've been a part of mine - weddings, funerals, and graduations all shared.  I'm leaving for the right reasons, but I'll still miss my friends.

Another realization as the countdown clicks down:  Today I am the center of attention, surrounded by friends.  Monday will be a new day, and I will be the new guy, and largely alone.

I type this and it perhaps sound like I'm apprehensive, sad, or scared.  In fact, I'm determined.  It's a path I started on over a year ago.  It's a contingency plan that I kept smoldering over several long months.  It's something I wanted; something I wished for.  Perhaps the reality of the situation is finally settling over me; tomorrow I will turn in my badge and walk out the door. Should I return, I will be a visitor and require an escort.  Between tomorrow morning at 7am and Monday morning at 8:45, my life is going to change and be far, far different.

There is of course another countdown running.  A week from today, I'll be standing next to the Bellagio fountain with a big smile.  EVE Vegas is near.  We have our plane tickets, hotels, and even a show lined up.  We're heading out on Thursday and will hopefully meet up with my sister inlaw who will be there on business.  And then it's time to nerd out.  :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

What I Want from High Sec

It's been an interesting week; I've been meaning to assemble this post but haven't taken the time to really organize my thoughts.

Sugar kicked over an anthill in this post.  The comments started to balloon, and while I expected everyone to trot out the very tired risk/reward hate, on the whole the conversation was pretty constructive.  I chatted with her in game a bit and got out some semi-coherent thoughts.  But the question is still gnawing at me, so I'll take a stab at answering it here.
Sugar asks:  "What about high sec? When will CCP pay attention to high sec and those that cannot spend their time in dangerous space?  This is somewhat how the day started, sparked by a question from an anonymous poster."

My first, kneejerk reaction before I even read her post was to mentally shake my first at the sky and say "What do I want for High?krikey, stop treating high sec differently than other space!"

From ancient times called 2003 and forward, Players (and to a lesser extent CCP) have reinforced the attitude that highsec is for nubs, and the "real" endgame is in 0.0 (the "0.0" being the term many of us used in beta and after).  This is the notion that players (and corporations) should use high only as a holding pen until players are "ready" for the "harder" areas of the game.

As time went on, we (CCP and the playerbase both) differentiated further and created the terms high/low/null/nullsov/wh to describe the 5 basic areas of the game.  Certain parts of the game gained favor in terms of development time and game infrastructure, often at the cost of other areas of the game.  Carrots were added to lure people out of high, but yet the center of the star cluster remained populated.

These definitions/separations perhaps help us have constructive dialog, but they also serve as a mental barrier.  There's an invisible dotted line around the map segregating High from Low.  When you enter low for the first time, the game even has a clickthru warning that basically says: "Abandon all hope; here there be monsters."

Fast forward a decade, and today we have CSM candidates representing various blocks of the game's community, and forum personalities that gain influence by shredding players who prefer certain types of play.

Let's stop and think about all this for a second.  EVE is a fairly small niche game and I wonder if this divisiveness is entirely healthy.   Predicable, I guess, but probably not healthy.

CCP could, I think, set that aside and just generate good PVE content.  The vast majority of PVE is probably going to be done of course in High, but the kinds of things I'd advocate (scaling, dynamic, group and solo PVE) should be deployed across all zones.  High should not be some sort of playground set aside for PVE only activities, and I'd not advocate dev time into "high only" activities.  I wouldn't put more bricks in that Berlin Wall between 0.5 and 0.4 space.

So, what I want for the game (not just Highsec) is more Content.  Big 'C.'

With that rant out of the way, here's my wish list:

  • More synergy between contents. Right now if I go blitzing explore points, I have a cruiser for that.  If I run lvl4s, I have a Battleship for that.  What if I undocked, went 2 jumps away to Silence the Informant, and then was still in a reasonable fit to drop in on a couple of exploration spots on my way back?  With align and lock times of the big ships, this isn't something I even think about doing today.  With better content synergy, I could (in theory) react more to opportunities in my environment rather than just be a drone buzzing to the next mission pocket and ignoring everything around me.
  • More layers of content.  If the existing lvl4 content is that difficult to change, I'd advocate leaving it and expanding it both vertically and horizontally.  Horiztonal: keep the burners coming; bring on the lvl3 burners and battleship anomic agents.  Layer vertically into more difficult content, and Dynamic schtuff.
  • Dynamic Content.  By that I mean content that scales in difficulty based on the number and type of players present.
  • Dynamic Events.  By this I mean bad guys that spawn and go on a rampage allowing the local citizens to react.  Something much smaller scale than Incursions.  And in line with the Synergy comment above, the balance point should be fits that mission runners would realistically use, so that if I undock and see shenanigans afoot, I can just jump in.
  • Better support for Fleets in PVE content.  Scaling bounties, payout bonuses for using smaller ships or more Fleet members, etc.  Give me a reason to run missions as a group.  I saw comments in Sugar's thread like "well, they're PVE'ers so they're going to be scattered all over the map."  Why is that something we accept as being true?
  • Incidental Grouping.  I put this in the comments to Sugar's original post, but I'll repeat for completeness.  Right now in PVE content, people that wander into your pocket are seen as poachers or killstealers.  Loot and Bounties aren't split and aren't shared; in fact the idea of can flipping has its own art form.  Bottom line, when someone showes up near me, I have to assume that they are a competitor or griefer there to steal my resources (isk, whatever).  Barring any sort of pvp-type retaliation, I can escalate against them and try to out-blitz them or I can leave.  This is an early 2000's mentality.  Guild Wars 2 does a wonderful job of scaling content for difficulty and then providing payouts based on your own contribution.  When more people show up, they can certainly troll you or try to awox you, but most of the time folks just work together (surprising, I know) to get the job done.
  • Flavor by Region.  EVE is a vast star cluster with a disappointingly low amount of variability  in content from system to system.  More attention to locality and local lore in and around a particular region or constellation would be welcome.  So, for example, if CCP is designing dynamic events, I'd rather that there be several permutations and certain mini-bosses be locked into a specific area of the game.  I am not a lore nerd, but this kind of detail is important to building nostalgia.  Thinking of various events in WoW, GW2, D3, or other games, I know exactly where people are at when they talk about a certain fight; nostalgia can be a very powerful motivator to keeping going in a game.
There, I guess that wraps up the post after a few aborted attempts. Better late than never, I guess.

This time next week, I'll be starting to get things around for EVE Vegas.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hello October

I started this post as a September Wrap Up.  The ninth month came and went with a fury, and I find myself left running around chasing pieces of my life like a herd of cats.  A herd of wild, angry cats.  On fire.

However, writing about it - while cathartic - really isn't all that interesting for a video game blog.  Select all - Delete.

Let's try this again.

I ran my first Lvl 4 mission today since July 31st.  That alone was a major accomplishment.  I've been in and around the game, tending to things that I could tend to (skill queues, my bpc collection, and chatting up old friends), but I hadn't actually undocked to do anything involving spaceship combat in weeks.

I will still be busy in October.  Very busy.  I'm switching jobs, we're going to EVE Vegas, and I have a mountain of chores to do around our 10 acres.

But I also hope to shoot things.  :)

Alpha State

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."  That's one of my favorite quotes from the Matrix 2.  It has to do with the ...