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Friday, July 30, 2010

Nerd rage

Not mine. But the EGA stuff that's been hitting the news wires. There are all sorts of reactions going around. Both from inside and outside the EVE community. From the shock of people who don't play EVE at the virulence of the reaction to the (few) who are quitting EVE over it (can I haz your stuffz???).

I realize that a bunch of you are up in arms over the development plan and what's been going on. From a certain point of view it's justified. And it must be said that CCP to a certain degree has made their own bed over this one. However comparisons to SWG's NGE debacle are probably premature. There are a bunch of reasons for this.

1) This is not about ripping things away from players.

SWG's mistake was removing working content and mechanics without substituting equivalent content/mechanics. CCP has avoided this sweeping type of mistake. Their big problem is they have this vision of where the game should be and they have a whole bunch of content that are approaching completion and they are over focussed on that atm. If CCP suddenly removed a whole ship class or 5 - like say HACs - then that might cause something like the SWG's NGE.

2) There (still) is nothing else like EVE out there.

One of the other reasons that this has a good chance of blowing over is that EVE has no competition in it's domain. There are no other PvP/Sandbox/Economic/MMOs out there that even try to do anything remotely like EVE. On the fantasy side you've got Darkfall (not really familiar with it, but from what I've heard) and that's it... Heck it's production and economics game play is complex enough that spreadsheets are not optional to game play for those of us who get into it (how many pages is your main production spreadsheet up to? Mine is at 21 sheets). Welcome to the hardcore. There are no fluffy pink kitties here.

3) We are the hardcore, we hold CCP to a higher standard.

The reality is that we DO hold CCP to a higher standard than other developers. Sometimes they can be hard of hearing, and need to be reminded of it. The reason is that for all it's flaws we can see just how great EVE could be. When it's working well and "a plan comes together", there's absolutely nothing else out there like it. Nothing. This provides CCP with both an advantage and a dis-advantage. On one hand they won't be loosing too many players over this. I mean where would we go? Most other MMOs are bland and tasteless compared to EVE. It is like a technicolor show in the days of black and white. On the other hand you'll get incidents like the threadnaught on that voting page when we feel that CCP is making serious mistakes.

4) Part of the problem is historical.

Right up to Apocrypha there was constant improvement in the lag situation, while good working new content was brought to the table. Everyone agrees that Apocrypha was probably the greatest EVE expansion to date. The wheels came off the cart after that. Lag started to get worse. Even more problematic it got asymmetrical (i.e. attackers got worse lag than the defenders on any grid). It's been getting progressively worse in the two main expansions after Apocrypha. All of this just after CCP was boasting about "Excellence". That right there is the reason for most of the nerd rage. Don't go boasting about excellence when the situation is getting worse. Welcome to getting hoisted on your own petard.

5) The real rock and a hard place

The problem is that the features that CCP is working on and have promised to deliver are things they've been working on for the last 3/4 years. It's been going on so long that it's starting to resemble vaporware (I'm Canadian, as you can see by my unfailing politeness there). So regardless of the nerd rage going on, they ARE going to have to deliver some form of full body avatar soon. Their plan showed that. The problem is they still over allocated resources to the detriment of exiting code. There comes a point where you seriously need to work on your basic infrastructure. Because if it's shaky it does not matter how many new features you put out there, people are going to notice the cracks in the pavement.

Having a vocal player base is a disadvantage in that you occasionally get the rose glasses ripped off your face. The advantage is that you get those rose glasses ripped of your face. At least CCP now knows it needs to re-focus a bit. And although they can be a bit hard of hearing, at least they are not deaf (like the SWG developers were during the NGE thing).

Now I'm not CCP. However I would advise them to seriously consider forming a permanent "balancing" team (or two) who's job is to make sure that fixes and adjustments go out every update (not just every expansion). The backlog of stuff to address is big enough to justify permanent teams (side note: the teams are permanent - the personnel in them do not have to be). Also just because you plan to revise an entire area of the game does not mean that interim fixes on that area should not be done. With your development cycle on revising stuff running multi-year backlogs, it's worthwhile to get smaller fixes out there until the big ones can be done properly.

Another problem is with the Agile method they've been using. It's very good for making sure things are getting delivered. The problem is the "unfinished" feel it leaves behind if there is no follow up after the initial delivery. This is not necessarily a call to abandon Agile. It is a call to make sure there is follow up.

10 comments:

Bryan Ward said...

Well said and well balanced. There are a lot of emotions running high right now, and while I feel for those that feel righteous in their anger, I also feel that they are over reacting to a process not yet completed. Frustration is only beginning, so how does CCP react? We simply don't know the answer yet.

Every day when I log into Eve I am amazed that I am in an active 3D environment, playing with people from around the world, in a spaceship. That wonderment and almost child-like joy means that CCP has a lot of cash in my vault. They may have taken some our lately, but there is a pile left in there.

Charles said...

First-time commenter, long-time reader.

I disagree that CCP hasn't already taken away something from its players. In short, the ability to initiate and follow through with good quality, large-scale fleet actions has been effectively removed from the game.

Every FC in every major alliance knows that while they retain the ability to put ships into any low and null-sec system they desire, the potential for server-side failure is so great that their fleet assets might be completely annihilated w/o a chance of combat.

That scenario has played out multiple times and has taught EVE players a lesson: large fleet combat is at best risky and at worst not attainable without significant resource loss where the risk / loss is due to failed code + infrastructure, not poor game play.

In EVE, resources can be equated to significant time and money (both in-game ISK and RL currency). That kind of cost, due to game mechanics failure, essentially removes certain types of game play from the environment.

Thankfully, the multi-cultural aspect of the game still holds allure. And smaller-sized engagements are feasible. Mostly.

Letrange said...

@Charles the difference is that CCP did not intentionally add lag (if you think that, reality check time). Just like the workable large fleet battles were an after effect of reduced lag, the non-working situation currently are an after effect. SWG devs Intentionally removed stuff.

Mynxee said...

You wrote: "...they have a whole bunch of content that are approaching completion"

Know something I don't? Because I don't believe that for a minute--not for the big stuff that is consuming all the development resources as claimed in CCP Zulu's "Iterations 2011" dev blog. I'm fairly certain that if Incarna was ANYWHERE on the development path past "full body avatars walking in stations is a great idea, let's do it!" we'd have seen some working demos at the Summit.

"But what about those Incarna vids they showed at FF a couple of years ago?" you ask. Animated concept art, I'm guessing. How much would you like to bet that most of the cool features implied in them have been scrapped?

Sorry if I'm a cynic, but just working with the facts at hand points to a very different reality than that there is a whole bunch of content nearing completion. CCP is in dire need of a marketing boost right now; if they had any progress whatsoever that was good enough to share with customers and the media, I think they'd be doing it. Instead, they very obviously ignore all direct questions from their customers about what state Incarna is in right now.

Doesn't take a math genius to add that up.

Eve is a fun and beautiful game, despite its problems. In large part, that is because of the people. If those who want a playable PVP game start leaving out of disappointment, it won't be so fun anymore for as the PVP demographic withers. EVE might continue on just fine, but for us who love PVP it won't be the same game and will very likely not be worth playing anymore.

TeslaNick said...

One comment on Agile: I wouldn't blame the process too much. As a development process, it's especially well suited to developing an iteration-based game like Eve. It does mean that some things get pushed out the door too soon, but in an ideal universe, fixes are also pushed rapidly.

I think the trouble comes when you're moving teams from one project to another, which ensures that no team has deep domain knowledge of a particular part of the software, and you don't get the opportunity to introduce followup patches and improvements.

Like all things, the philosophy is generally fine, it's how people use it that's the problem.

I was a little horrified to learn that their UI code alone consists of 200k lines of (I presume) in-house code. One thing Blizzard did do right was push all that complexity out to LUA and XML files.

Charles said...

@ Letrange: Of course I do not believe that CCP has intentionally degraded game performance.

But I do believe that CCP has indirectly made a decision, through project prioritization and resource allocation, to not fully support a once heavily marketed and loved style of game play: large-scale fleet warfare.

Truly, I understand the point of a production team explicitly deciding to remove feature X verses a flawed release that inhibits a particular type of game play.

Yet, the end result is the same from a practical standpoint: a well-liked aspect of the game is rendered inaccessible.

I now busy myself with null-sec PvE, small-scale PvP engagements and PI activities (*) with the hope that all of my ISK investment and training in capital ship-related stuff will be fully used again, one day.

(*) - I am following your experiments with PI production and have not seen some of the stuff documented in your blog. Do you believe that the PI behaviors experienced in your w-space system are exclusive to w-space?

Letrange said...

@Mynxee - I'm looking at the entire of the next year and a half with that statement.

@Charles - Actually yes I suspect that a lot of it is wormhole specific. But it's nicely reproducible so.... once CCP gets around to actually testing in wormholes they'll be able to fix it.

IMarvinTPA said...

Call me stupid, but what news are you referring to? A link would do me wonders. What is "EGA"?

Thanks,
IMarv

(Are they putting out an EGA client for Eve that is not 3d accelerated for the 1989-challenged?)

IMarvinTPA said...

Found it
http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1360971

IMarv

Shota Cypher said...

Absolutely agree with everything you have said. Yes I understand people are getting angry about 'unfinished' things, I am as well. But I would never stop eve unless CCP did something really stupid. Eve is a beautiful game and I believe that CCP will listen to the players and CSM once they realise that we are serious about our concerns. Getting them to realise will be the hard bit.

I am disappointed that people feel the need to quit because of this. I no longer really play eve for the content, I am much more interested in the people (I spend twice as much time reading blogs as I do playing)as without the players eve would not be the game it is today, or whenever your favourite time in eve's history is. However I still have a great interest in the features of the game.

I rate eve as easily the best MMO out there. It has no real competition in graphics or variation in possible play styles.

I will probably not be popular for this, but I am looking forward to Incarna. I hope CCP will do it justice and bring out the best of what it could be.