Tuesday, 31 October 2017

CCP Layoffs. Reality hits Virtual Reality.

Grim news from CCP indeed. Its venture into VR has come to an end with the announcement of the closure of Atlanta (Sparc), the 'sale' of Newcastle (Eve Valkyrie) and the refocus of Shanghai (Gunjack). It is always easy to point fingers after the event. But this venture was a decent attempt to address a problem. Eve Valkyrie was a standout title when the Oculus was released. But it was not to be and the point problem remains. CCP has now returned to being a one trick pony with Eve Online being their primary source of income.

With a nearly a third of the workforce impacted our thoughts must go out to those facing uncertain times. Let's hope they find new opportunities as soon as possible. The scope of the layoffs suggest the changes go beyond closing down the VR portfolio. There is a broader cost cutting element to this exercise.

Perhaps this is to be expected. The VR investors will still want a return and to labour the point, the problem still remains. CCP needs to diversify away from Eve Online. The Eve player base isn't growing despite going F2P and its getting older. The current situation isn't sustainable in the long term.

The positive spin pitched by CCP is this will benefit Eve Online with more resources and focus being available. I hope this is true but it is not unreasonable to doubt this will happen. CCP's ability to disprove the "Mythical Man Month" - where adding manpower to a late software project makes it later, is not something many of us would recognise. 

Additionally, the ongoing projects - (Nova and Mobile Eve plus whatever they are now cooking up in Shanghai) have an added importance now and will need resourcing. The need for the revenues that Eve produces to underwrite those developments is now more acute. Consequently, taking risks with Eve would be ill advised. At best I think Eve players can expect more of the same. Features that retain the existing player base will continue to be maintained, rebalanced or refreshed. Features that don't will get retired (such as Captains Quarters). At worst, deeper monetisation will be further explored. 

So one way or another the organisational changes will have a profound effect on Eve Online. Seeing how quickly these events have unfolded so soon after the rosy view that was painted at EveVegas there is more a sense of crisis management rather than planned restructure about this right now. What CCP's senior management need to demonstrate somehow is they have a strategy for the future of the game beyond the immediate need to cut costs and the future need to maximise revenue. More details are needed and presumably we'll find out more as time progresses. Hopefully those details will include a strategy for Eve beyond simply milking it.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Post EveVegas

EveVegas needed a good news story. And it had one. CCP Seagull popped up on screen and announced she wasn't going to be there. This is isn't the good news. Fanfest and EveVegas are richer for her attendance. No, she has produced a son and has far more productive things to to than listen to a bunch of drunken 50 year old men whine about spaceships. Congratulations go to her and her family. 

Reality also prodded EveVegas in other ways. It was the location of the latest slaughter that America feels obliged to submit itself to. This plus CCP Seagull's Alt - CCP Falcon meant the keynote felt more of a briefing from the municipal sanitation department rather than a celebration of pixel space. Interesting if sewers are your thing, but you are not really going to get your average punter salivating over a code of practice on odour nuisance. It was notable that the slide remote also held this view and struggled with performing its only role in life.

There are two aspects to events like Fanfest and EveVegas. There is the audience that attends and gets to meet each other. That's the fun bit. Probably. Then there is the information that gets broadcast by various means to the wider public. The perceptions will be different. Twitch was hard going.

Anyway what did we learn. Where is Eve, where is it going? In short, there is less of Eve than there was. Captains Quarters have evaporated. There are sound economic reasons for that but it it reminds me of when Concorde was taken out of service. Commercial aviation had gone as far as it was prepared to go. Flying is now a pain (literally if you are bumped off a flight unwillingly) instead of an engaging experience.

What we will get are iterations of what is already there. The Shipyard PVE is moving to High Sec. Empire/Resource wars and events are to feature. This is no bad thing. But they might not be that great either because of some existing game mechanics that don't seem like they a going to be reviewed. But for all the potential pitfalls it is an acknowledgement that other areas of space need attention.

Structures on the other hand remain a disaster. When Citadels were announced the Devs declared they had no idea what would happen but would intercede if things went pear shaped. They didn't and it has. So now we are told there with be a Structures 2.0. to make structures great again. This would be fine if they didn't appear to be repeating the same problem. 

Discussions around structures revolves around the < 1% of the time when they are involved int a conflict. And treated as static ships (when your only tool is a hammer etc...). If there was the same amount of consideration given to the remaining 99% of the time when the structure is serving its purpose, then they might come up with a better answer

But that was really it from EveVegas unless you were there. Reiterate, rebalance but don't add. It is a holding pattern.

CCP Hilmar implied as much when he described the broader CCP vision and game portfolio. Nothing experimental to come to Eve. Other games such as Project Nova (DUST replacement sort of maybe) and Project Aurora (pocket Eve) may develop features that could at some point be incorporated into Eve. Maybe. 

The big takeaway was the upgrade coming to Alpha clones. What you can deduce is that Alpha clones weren't successful (because we would be talking about Beta clones now if that were the case) but were not disastrous enough to abandon. The discussion still revolves around what you fly (when your only tool is a hammer etc...) rather than what you do. But it does give the player the potential to do more if you are prepared to avoid the groupthink so it will be interesting to see if this latest iteration is more successful.

Next year Eve is going to be 15 years old next. In 15 years time CCP Seagull's son is going to be an awkward teenager. Assuming he is not playing football for Iceland and defeating England in the world cup for the third time, what CCP game do you think he might play? Eve Online or whatever Project Aurora develops into?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Awox Or Con?

This will be a short one. If you wanting the standard narrative of the Circle of Two mugging then go to either:
  • EN24
  • CZ
  • or from INN where I took the following:
(11:07:38 PM) directorbot: I want to smug. You are going to love this. I am the best CSM in history
~~~ This was a broadcast from aryth to all at 2017-09-12 03:07:48.478333 EVE ~~~(11:07:55 PM) directorbot: The next 24 hours are going to be glorious
~~~ This was a broadcast from aryth to all at 2017-09-12 03:08:05.526120 EVE ~~~(11:10:17 PM) directorbot: Flipped Judge at Summit. CCP watched me do it live. Keep is in his hands he has robbed them blind
And that is it. It is the story. Everything you need to know is in those three pings. Let's be blunt.

CCP facilitates a face to face meeting in Iceland that results in the loss of the assets for a section of its player base. So this isn't one of the great Eve heists. Like Gigx's ill considered threats, the conspiracy to defraud was in real life and out of game. And that would be fine if it had stayed there. But it didn't. CSM members, who lets remind ourselves are there to "represent the player community" while effectively in the employ of CCP  conspired to do the opposite. Consequently, the ingame collateral cost for the Circle of Two line members is substantial. Even the execution of the plan was done publicly and streamed into your basement with CCP's oversight judging by the swiftness of their actions.

CCP has a case to answer because they are complicit. The CSM, which I have often said should be disbanded has shown it cannot serve in the players' interests. A great Eve story? Sure, The Judge will make the history books although in my mind Aryth deserves the plaudits as it was he who swung the deal. But no, in reality it seems like a tawdry, well executed but ultimately pathetic real life con and it should be remembered as such. It should be condemned as such. Oh and here is the Judge conveniently talking to another CSM member. Go boost his views and take a look. Spoiler alert. At the end interview the Judge advises players to keep it in game. Priceless.

P.S. For reference, I have no connection with any Nullsec entity.