Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Final Frontier

There is, or rather there was a wall across Scotland. Begun in AD 142 it stretched for 39 miles and took 12 years to complete. Now known as the Antonine Wall, was abandoned 8 years later as the Romans redeployed back south to the previously built and more famous Hadrian's Wall in England. It was a sensible decision. The economics of maintaining it did not justify the security it provided. A point that was proved when there was an attempt to reestablish it a few years later. From that point on it was largely forgotten although you can still see parts of what was an astonishing engineering feat. A historical sidenote and largely irrelevant to the larger story of the Roman Empire apart from one aspect. The Empire reached its largest expanse just prior to its building. Hadrian's wall acknowledged that the future was about consolidation rather than expansion. Antonine's Wall was the frontier too far. While the Roman Empire continued to exist for many years particularly in the East, the story would be one of continual retreat in the West. In retrospect we can say Antonine's Wall was as good as it was going to get in terms of imperial aspiration.

This is of course a very melodramatic way of approaching the question around the imminent demise of Captain's Quarters by CCP. Like the ruins of the Antonine Wall, Captain's Quarters represent the archeological remnants of an earlier developer civilisation that had grand ambition. Walking in Stations. 

There was nothing wrong with that ambition. There was everything wrong with its execution. It was an unhappy time. Captain's Quarters are all that remain of that ambition and like Antonine's Wall you can go no further despite the cries of players to "open the door"

Thus the removal of Captain's Quarters is logical and of course an evidence based decision. It is not used players and it is expensive to maintain. The Art department can be busy making more profitable skins. In a world where there will no longer be capsuleers in Eve, just ships. The player avatar is now essentially pointless. So it is not unreasonable that CCP could apply same economic logic and remove the character builder and avatars from the game in order to focus on exciting new features. 

And here lies the problem. I have whined long and often about the death of the Route Map. It used to be a regular feature at Fanfest and EveVegas. It laid out CCP's aspirations for Eve. In recent years it featured less and less and at the last fanfest it disappeared completely to be replaced with some moody looking space images that told you nothing. Vacuous eye candy to be blunt. The hope was there were some nice surprises coming along that CCP had in their back pocket. But what evidence there is suggests the mood is around consolidation. Features will be extended (like HighSec PVE) but there is no desire to do anything new because the economic metrics don't stack up in a way that pleases investors.

Then there is the timing of the announcement itself. While we have not reached the volume of outrage that was generated by Incarna, a rage that killed Walking in Stations stone dead, we are in a period of diminished trust between players and CCP. While some of this is contrived, falling player activity is is more dramatic than anything that immediately followed after Incarna. There are alarm bells sounding somewhere in CCP. We know this because there have been a couple of announcements from CCP. 

Like Incarna, the problem has been determined as a failure to deal with existing game functionality and balance issues. A dev team is going to be dedicated to fixing these. Ambulation support and development will be stopped. The parallels between now and Incarna in terms of CCP's practical (the politics were very different) response are uncanny. But are they the same problem? To me, Incarna was result of too much hype and appalling delivery. Now? Competent (compared with Incarna) but lacklustre delivery and with no vision beyond maximising revenue and reducing costs of the existing assets. So while balancing the game is good, it might be a solution to the wrong problem. 

Ultimately, it is right that Captain's Quarters become consigned to the past. But it is sad that like the Antonine Wall, it could mark the high watermark of Eve's ambition. The final frontier. This isn't an Eve is dying post. The Roman Empire didn't die until a 1000 years later. But it perhaps it won't be anything more either as the aspirations now recede. Potentially Eve could be something less as other economically awkward features are axed. Alternatively, this could be a springboard for a renaissance.  A route map would be a start

Friday, 23 June 2017

Ready Steady Stop

So while the politics and weather are hot, it ought to be a pleasant distraction to hang out in the cold certainty of New Eden. OK, that might be a bit of a stretch but it is something to do while sweat drips out of every pore on your body. 

If you recall, I was rubbing my hands at the prospect of war. My small POCO holding corp had been wardecced by a chancing Corp hoping I would capitulate and fire sale these mundane assets tour de suite. I didn't. I hired a Mercenary group instead and I was ready for action which is where we left off. 

I know, anyone who knows anything about wardecs would tell you that the most likely outcome would be that nothing would happen. Well something did happen. Almost immediately the aggressor offered to surrender. Alright, that is actually a big nothing. I didn't accept the offer but the wardec has now run its course and no spaceships (or POCO's) were harmed in the making of this war. This is all rather underwhelming. I don't blame the participants for this. Wardecs are just a bad mechanic.

I've discussed this before as have many others. But in this instance what has the mechanic achieved? A few emails, a bit of ISK exchanged and a good reason for not undocking in Hisec. Nobody (including the Mercenaries) wins. I am not going to suggest solutions. That has been done to death and CCP have consistently said they are not going to look at it because it is hard.  There is no point.

But from this example it is clear wardecs don't solve the problem they were supposed to address - specifically, every player owned thing should be destructible and this mechanism allows that to happen in Hisec. My POCO's remain intact. It would be interesting to see the percentage of wardecs that result in no ship losses whatsoever. In any case, the consequences of having this mechanism are a barrier to entry the game. The sort of groups that could form and steal my assets just aren't generally viable with the wardec mechanism. A situation CCP might collide with when they introduce the new PVE feature to Hisec the in winter. Perhaps then they might reconsider.

Friday, 16 June 2017

War! Huh?

It's been a while hasn't it? In truth, there hasn't been a whole lot to say since Fanfest. Yes there has been a Reddit drama. Something to do with the 1% of the 15% percent that CCP always caters for. If I have read it right, then CCP finally realised they had overindulged them to the extent that they were on the brink of tanking the economy. The resulting nerf was hasty and clumsy and is probably doesn't tackle the problem which is rather more systemic. But CCP have buckled under the mob pressure regardless so no real change there and nothing to report other than to say the disastrous Citadel expansion continues to pollute the game as predicted.

With everything else going on in my neck of the woods, this has become incidental. I had made my peace with Eve and moved on. Or rather I thought I had. But then I got an in-game mail from someone asking to buy my POCO's. I really should have got rid of them some time ago so I wasn't hostile to the idea. The grand scheme that was meant to define my presence in Eve long since died after various changes have made the prospect of casual solo playing a marginal activity. The glorious "journey" became irrelevant with the commodification of SP. Not got the skills? Just pump them in your head rather than innovate around the constraint.

Anyway, I had acquired some HISEC POCO's to understand the whole PI to product cycle before moving the operation to a Wormhole. But that never came to pass and the POCO's and an Orca are all that remain of that rash dream. So selling them was not a bad idea. I have them on a low tax rate and they don't earn a great deal so they really wouldn't have been missed.

However, while mulling over my bargaining position an apologetic Wardec then arrived in my inbox. The potential purchaser now turned aggressor claimed he/she thought I was away from the game - which to an extent I was, and wanted to get on with getting his/her grubby hands on my assets. So be it.

To be fair, I was always expecting something like this to happen and in many ways I am surprised it hasn't happened earlier. It was always going to be problematic because I don't do PvP. But having my arm twisted into doing a deal is not the way I want to part with my POCO's. Where is the dignity in that? Fortunately, unlike most other games, Eve gives you alternative options. It is one of the truly great things about the game. So since I have plenty of ISK sloshing about, I have employed some Mercs to defend my honour. So far they have been very reasonable and professional unlike my attempts to grapple with the Wardec aspect of the UI. We will see how that goes when the fur starts to fly (assuming the rude purchaser turns up) but at least I get to explore an aspect of the game that would normally pass me by. And it is content or at least ISK for someone. Let battle commence.