Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CSM Endorsements

Hey guys! It is finally that time. Let's get out and vote.

Before I say anything else, I want to say I am floored, and humbled by the outpouring of support for my campaign. 

Here is a list of people who I have found so far that support me:


Thank you so much to every person who has tweeted at me, endorsed me, or even just said that I would be a good CSM. This has been a truly eye-opening experience however the chips ultimately fall.

All that said, here is who will be on my ballot (in no particular order):

Sugar Kyle - This is my easiest pick. Sugar is clearly the best person for the job. She has stood out as CSM 9's Trebor: someone who has proven themselves over time, and can make the CSM functional--and increasingly vital to CCP--as they change their styles of development. 

Even if she didn’t represent my views, I would endorse her. However she has been an excellent lowsec representative, and has filled the gap for faction warfare as needed. Both of these are close to my heart.

Steve Ronuken - For years I have looked for a champion of 3rd party tools to be on the CSM, and thankfully we have found it in Steve. He is smart, and contributes an unending tide of tools for us as EVE players. As far as I am concerned there are few better to have the ear of CCP developers.

Mike Azariah - I have had the fortune to talk to Mike quite a bit and he just has a way about him. He is confident, and represents a more realistic and holistic mindset. I love his pragmatism, and he has proven himself a strong member of the council. As far as I am concerned he can sit on it until he doesn’t want to anymore. 

Corbexx - Corbexx would probably be classified as “my representative” now that I live in a wormhole. He is the biggest reason why I have never claimed to be a wormhole candidate. He knows that space better than anyone else running. I just hope to support him to make life in the holes a bit better.

Chance - I believe that there is a culture shift in EVE, that is ultimately healthy for the game, and Chance represents that culture shift very well. He's flashy, charismatic, and will bring a fresh perspective. I hope that he comes with the understanding that while his ideas are good, the CSM is ultimately not a design team. If he gets that one down, he would be amazing to work with. If I don't get elected, I would want him to carry on my torch for exploration.

Psianh Auvyander - I really like Psianh because he shares the same optimistic vet mentality as I do. However, he comes from a different EVE walk of life. I think he would be great to collaborate with, will provide meaningful contributions, and sincerely look for the best for the game.

Bam Stroker - Lets just say this: Bam is cool. I recently interviewed him, and was delighted by his passion and his accomplishments. There is no one else in EVE that cares more about the community livelihood than him. As the EVE culture continues to grow and be adopted by meetups, festivals and cons, we need this kind of perspective on the council. 

So there you have it, elected or not, these are the people I would like to see serve. I would like to note this isn’t in a really defined order, and isn’t how I will be voting exactly, but everyone here will be on my ballot. 

Get out and vote!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


My thoughts on scouting in EVE, and how it could be improved:

Greetings! I am Ashterothi and this is the first of what I hope will be several audio logs for my CSM campaign to give you guys opportunity to hear me talk about what I think, and what I believe in and kind of the game design direction that I think EVE Online is going in, where it should go in and where it can go in.

I think principally, one of the things that makes me different than a lot of the other candidates is that I tend to try to think of things very holistically. It’s important to me to try to see the mechanics for a whole and EVE Online as a whole. Because, unlike a lot of other games, EVE Online is not just one game, it’s not just one set of things, it’s a collection of sets of things and also, unlike a lot of other games, those things in general interact with each other in a very profound way.

A lot of other video games, such as World of Warcraft, has a lot of different playstyles and a lot of different mechanics, but in general those different things remain kind of separate from each other. Whatever you decide to do, that’s what you’re doing at that time. In EVE, each player decides how they want to play the game, and then that decision, and the decisions that stem from that, impact a huge amount of other players, many of which may not necessarily be deciding to play the same game. And so one of the things I often caution people to do is not think of changes or design decisions in a vacuum but you have to look at them as part far as the whole EVE Online health as a whole.

That being said, what I want to talk to you about today in particular is my feelings about Scouting. And the reason why is that because I, personally, if you could ask me, what would be the gameplay you want to play the most, what I would actually say is scouting. I was a scout in the military, I’ve written about it before, on The Mitanni when I wrote for them, and I teach people to do good reports, and do good scouting and what not. In fact, when i was in Nullsec, I was known for being pretty famous for being the only person that they had that’d be willing to sit on a gate and just watch and report every single thing coming in through the gate for like, four hours at a time - because I found that fun. Or at least engaging on some level. It brought me back.

So, scouting is something that exists in game, the gathering of intel is something that exists in the game, however, in my experience, generally speaking, the active scouting is something that’s relegated to alts. Which tells me that the active scouting - that game play - is not important enough to be its own playstyle. And really, that is unfortunate, because if you think about it, scouting really is the PVP equivalent of exploration, right, so with PVE you have mission running which leads to combat, with exploration it uses the same skills, it uses the same skillsets, but really it’s not as important, it’s not as interesting. So what I would like to propose an idea that might make it more interesting

Now, I want to give a disclaimer about this, and say that I do not think that this is the answer. I do not necessarily think that should be lifted whole-cloth and stuck into the game with no consideration for anything else, I think that this is just an example of a holistic idea that I’d come up with that might work out.
So, first of all one of the biggest problems with scouting is that it’s too easy to hide. So the cloaking mechanisms in the game are too perfect, in my opinion. --Now, there are still some cases in which having covert ops cloaks and cloaks in general are somewhat important.  In particular like in blockade runners and such like that. There are reasons to have cloaks, but I’m not 100% sure if that has a place in scouting. And the reason why is two fold: One, if you can’t be found, then it’s very difficult to counterplay. And as CCP Seagull said in my interview with her it should be a game of play and counterplay so immediately you’re shutting down that immediately, because you can’t see me and that’s the way it works.

The other problem is that real-life scouting isn’t about being invisible. Now, admittedly I think that a lot of scouts would prefer it that way, but really it’s about maneuvering yourself and understanding the terrain and what’s going on enough so that you get information about the enemy without the enemy getting information about you. And more importantly, we have techniques that make ourselves difficult to see - but not impossible to see. And I think that the combat recon rebalance has revealed a very interesting mechanic, that I think that scouts can utilize, and that is that they do not appear on d-scan, I think that much better image of what camouflage can do than covert ops cloaks.

Furthermore, I think you can take that one step further and say the idea is that I see these scout ships as using tech superiority in order to break through enemy sensors, effectively, that’s how I see it as; almost as an ECM but a little different.

So, if I can’t be seen by d-scan, what happens if I also can’t be seen on grid? What if, I’m still visible, you could click on me in space, you could ctrl-click on me in space, if you see me, but, i don’t show up on your overview.

Now this is a mechanic that can be played with a lot. In fact, I actually had the idea that perhaps, asteroid belts, due to the new debris that you saw and the first thing I thought when I saw that new debris is why can our sensors continue to work in this environment?  Wouldn’t it be cool if, the overview just does not work in an asteroid belt? And you literally have to use your camera drones in order to find and target the enemy. And then of course once you’ve targeted the them, then it’s game on, but it allows for the vigilant to be paid off, and draws us away from that ‘we’re just using our spreadsheets’, you know; sometimes your instruments just don’t work - and then you have to fly on observation. And while I do not necessarily think that Covert Ops should always get this ability, perhaps they could re-tool a module to be able to in part this ability.

As a follow up to that, Kyle Yanowski, actually had a wonderful idea that, for an alternative theory, for combat recons, where because of the fact you’re going back into this scouting thing and positions and what-not, it would be very interesting if combat recons simply had their dscan range doubled as their bonus. So now combat recons can see you further away than you can see them. Which means combat recons can sit there in a perch and kind of hunt for things. Which actually becomes really cool especially in gigantic systems like Thera, which is pretty new, so there’s a thought.
At any rate, so you’ve got this guy, he can’t be seen, or he can’t be seen on an overview, he can’t be seen on dscan. Well, a lot of people might be like, ‘Oh my god, that’s a huge thing’, well, it is, but I think there's a  very good counter for this and I think this counter actually fixes a few things. And that counter is, let’s make combat probes take the same amount of fitting as normal probes. Right now, combat probes take a ridiculous amount of fitting and what that causes is it makes it so that any ship that wants to do combat probing is effectively just completely gimped. It can’t do anything else. The Astero can’t even fit it without fitting modules, the CovOps can fit it but basically that’s all they do, stealth bombers I think can theoretically fit it? but then they're basically ineffective and recon ship are kinda the same boat They just take so much fitting that if you want to do that, then that’s basically What You Do. So, the cloak problem and the combat probes problem, makes it so that scouting is almost always an alt activity.

So, I believe that by these two changes, what will happen is, combat probing will actually become part of a normal fleet in the same way you have an FC, and you have a logi wing and you’ve got EWAR, you’re also going to have your combat prober. And he will be with the fleet, maybe not all the time, but the idea is is that while the fleets are engaging each other in martial combat of gunfire and logi and EWAR, like we all know, there's kind of this secret war going on above the field as the combat probers are trying to probe out each other and the enemy fleet’s boosts. So the boosts are having to move around, because they have combat probers coming after them, the scouts are having to watch and try to get something useful for people, trying to get good warp-ins, and also trying to locate each other; there’s intelligence and counterintelligence; it’s that play and counterplay. Because remember, things that can’t be found on d-scan can still be probed down, so you can actually opt to hunt after the enemy prober instead of necessarily after the enemy assets. And I think that this fixes a huge problem and makes it very, very interesting. I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome if the first time you’re engaged in a fight and suddenly your combat prober is like, ‘I got him’, and the entire fleet just warps off and nails the command ship. And what are you going to do at that point? Does the enemy fleet warp in and try to help and therefore engage a fight where now they lost boosts? It just creates a very interesting scenario.

One other fix in order to make that happen is that I believe that scouts, I actually I believe that anybody, should be able to broadcast a coordinate to fleet members in system. So I should be able to be like, I’ve pinned down this person, I’m going to laze him, more or less, I’m going to broadcast him to the fleet the location of this thing that I found. Because that makes it so that scouts no longer have to try to be on field and inch their way while cloaked, because that’s not scouting. Scouting isn’t being cloaked and inching your way towards the enemy at 200m/s and hoping that you don’t get de-cloaked and then having your ally fleet warp in and  then having somebody warp at zero and so you get de-cloaked and then -- That’s not what scouting is. I think it’s about watching, pointing, and then having the forces come in and blow them up.

So that’s pretty much what I think. I think that scout ships could have a primary role in fleets as opposed to an alt role in fleets, I believe that they should not necessarily get covert ops cloaks but they should somehow get d-scan and potentially overview ‘immunity’. I believe that combat probes should be easier to fit on a ship to make it so that it is a more standard-issue peice of equipment for fleets, especially that way if the prober doesn’t -- Sorry, I forgot to mention, if the prober doesn’t need to probe, they still have a ship that’s fairly decent because they’re just utilizing a utility high-slot or something like that, so you lose like a NOS, but whatever - so make it so that scouts can be combat effective despite having combat probes, make it so that people can broadcast to warp without necessarily having to be on grid with the anchor. I think that this would potentially really shake up the meta for how fleets interact with each other it may do a lot to fix combat boosters and it would generally open up a whole other dynamic of playing counterplay and kind of bring Exploration and Probing and all that stuff into a fleet utility purpose.

For extra credit, another thing I advocate is the usage for the hacking mechanic. I think it would be really cool if you could do something like hack their booster somehow in order to disable their fleet boosts or fleet communications, I don’t know. There’s all kinds of different things. You can hack a POS module to get it to shut off instead of just shooting it. But the point of the matter is, I believe that hacking should have some sort of PVP mechanic as well as just a minigame in order to get loot. I think that we have enough of those and I would like to see those kinds of things expanded.

So, there’s my thoughts, I’d would be interested in hearing any and all of your feedback, I have my post on the CSM campaign subform. I’m in the Tweetfleet Slack all the time, I am on Twitter all the time, I am very interested hearing what you have to think and I hope that you like what I have to say. So, vote for me!

This is Ashterothi, out!

Monday, January 26, 2015

New New Player Experience

Reaching new players has always been a major stumbling block to the success of EVE Online. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation once said that EVE “feels like a game that doesn’t want to be played” and to the outside observer it is quite true. If you need a refresher, I suggest watching his video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US92PR1tI1o. While it is several years old, many of his complaints still hold true. However, much of what he found wrong was not so much a problem with the game itself, but rather how it appears to those outside. Many “bad” reviews for EVE have been made over the years, and universally they come from a perspective of someone who has yet to even catch a glimmer of what EVE is actually about. The blame for this does not rest on these reviewers however. Rather the majority of the problem rests on the game itself, and most importantly, its new player experience.

The new player experience of EVE has undergone several revisions and updates over the years, one of the most recent being a project of CCP Foxfour before he went on to  be the paragon of third party development. Although the latest installment is by far the best iteration of the NPE it still falls wildly short of what it should be, predominantly because, although it has been updated and polished, the NPE still follows the same formula it has followed since the beginning. The current NPE comes from a time where it is pretty safe to say CCP did not understand their own game, let alone their players or why anyone plays it. It strives to teach you the mechanics of various aspects of the game, without teaching you the “whys” or really helping the player understand both the awesome moments out of the game, and also how to be successful when striving towards those moments. It is time to reevaluate the NPE.

To design a better NPE, first one must set out some goals for the experience. Next, you test the current system against those goals. Thirdly, you redesign the structure to be more in line with those goals. I have assembled the following goals for my new NPE.

  1. The NPE must teach the mechanics of the game, encompassing as many aspects of the game as possible.  
  2. The experience must be engaging. A tutorial that is bland is one that is not payed attention to, and without proper skills, failure in EVE is almost guaranteed.
  3. It must expose the richness of the game universe. There is a ton of in game lore that helps people attach to the game universe. Unfortunately, most of it is hidden in chronicles. Players that are immersed in the universe are more likely to retain information, press forward, and be successful.
  4. It must set players up for success, not failure. While the tutorial shouldn’t teach players of every pitfall in the game, learning about basic mechanics including Crimewatch, Corporations, the Market, Turrets vs missiles, shields vs armor, etc. will be the foundation to allow players to get full enjoyment out of the game.
  5. It must instill in the player a desire to forge their own future. The most common question I am asked about the NPE comes after the last career agent is finished. That question is “Now what do I do”, and as true as “anything you want” is as an answer, it doesn’t serve the new player very well. There needs to be a clear handoff from tutorial and game that sets in motion player driven goals.
  6. The NPE should protect the player from too much outside interference as the prepare for the sandbox. It is important to note that the NPE IS NOT PART OF EVE’S SANDBOX in the same way as the rest of the game is. Players at this stage should not be considered full EVE members. The skills of EVE are not easily acquired outside of the game universe, and thus New Eden requires a type of “air lock” allowing the new player to become acclimated to our universe. This period of time is the only time a player should be protected from outside interference.  

So let’s first test these metrics against the current system.

  1. The NPE must teach the mechanics of the game, encompassing as many aspects of the game as possible.  
In this regard, the current NPE does a fair job. The tutorials teach the fundamentals of piloting, combat, trade, exploration, industry, and some bits about ship fittings. The information IS there, but it is often unclear, confusing, and incomplete.

  1. The experience should be engaging. This above all else is where the NPE falls flat. Tutorials are already a challenging thing to get new players to do. Like asking for directions, many gamers see tutorials as “beneath them” preferring to figure things out on the fly. EVE is not that kind of game, and bored pilots miss big parts of the training, or simply do not retain the information because they are not engaged by it. Space and spaceships are distracting, you need a tutorial that can teach as well as interest the player.

  1. It must expose the richness of the game universe. The Blood Stained Stars arc does try to tie some of this together, but in a way that is difficult to relate to. Nothing is personal,. Everything is generic. The really cool things, including both lore and mechanics (from pirate factions to Titans) are not clearly related. The result  is that people who spend months killing “rats” without understanding why they even exist in the universe. This creates misunderstandings that may take years to fix, and fails to foster an interest in the depth of the universe thus limiting investment.

  1. It must set players up for success, not failure. None of the mechanics that would help avoid hardship are touched upon in the NPE. CONCORD, Safety settings, the reasons you want to join a player corp, as well as the reasons you should not 100% trust other players are not addressed at all. This failing, while delightful for those who wish to prey on new pilots, is devastating to retention.

  1. It must instill in the player a desire to forge their own future. Absolute failure here. There is nothing in the NPE that explains thip is used for basic combat and with it you destroy the key enemy and watch the rest warp off to an unknown part of space.
  1. hat advancement is personal, or how the sandbox works. As said above, many new players end the tutorial expecting to be ferried off to the next adventure, only to find out there isn’t one without their involvement.

  1. The NPE should protect the player from too much outside interference as the prepare for the sandbox. CCP does a fair job at this. Strict rules against griefing in new player areas exist, as well as a very successful rookie chat. However, as with most of EVE, this is more punitive than preventative. Ultimately it would be nice for new players to have an area of space that is safe for them to learn, but does not function as an area to be exploited by more informed players.

So with this in mind, how can we make an NPE that is worthy of the game it represents? We know we need to make it engaging, show how cool and interesting EVE can be, teach some of the more nuanced rules, and it must inspire new players to do great things.

Unfortunately, I believe that the NPE fails due to fundamental underlying assumptions. Most other games give a cohesive story, one that draws you in and answers the questions of why you are here, and what you are doing. While EVE has a story, it is told through text that is largely ignored. It also is very generic and mechanical, as opposed to really bringing you in.

Stories help us learn, give us something to latch onto, and a reason to invest. While EVE is primarily about player driven stories, you need a bridge to get players from where they are to where you want them to be. To this effect, a well written story adventure can get people trained up and excited, and then can hand the reins over to the player, challenging them to make their own stories.

  • The EVE NPE should be an engaging story, that ultimately hands the drive to generate stories over to the player.

In a big way, EVE, especially given the current story arc, is about authority vs. God like powers. The empires have created these super powerful immortals and seek to control them. This conflict results in exploration sites, Highsec vs Lowsec vs Null. Also trailers such as the one for Rubicon. We can use this conflict to teach about the struggle between safety and autonomy in EVE. Let’s assume that all pilots start out as empire sponsored trainees. This would mean they are within the system, and taught to toe the line. However there are thousands of these God-Men (of which you are now one) that want to drive you away from the warm glow of empire and towards the freedom of the capsuleer life as we know it.

  • The NPE is set in an empire-controlled facility, where you're being transformed into a capsuleer, but an agent is there to convince you not to stick with the "man"

EVE also has some really, really cool things, such as Titans and empire structures out in Null. However a player who is playing it safe in the space lanes never see them in action. Furthermore, because things like Titans are big and flashy, a lot of members think that to “win” EVE you would require one of these. *We* as experienced pilots know that this is false. So we should introduce players to these cool things, but as tools to be used, not goals to shoot for from day one.

  • During the NPE, the player should encounter a Titan, and use it to bridge to do something cool.

Also, while protections do exist, ultimately the space in which new players work to learn is just a normal part of space. While this is cool to some extent, In order to ensure a successful training, and to allow for things that simply are not allowable in the normal space, a new area of space will be required. A secondary sandbox so that people engaging in the NPE can have their content, that eventually dumps them out into the normal universe with no way, or reason to return.

  • The NPE should take place outside of the normal solar systems.

The Narrative (Caldari Perspective):

EVE NPE starts the day before the transformation. You have just finished the most intensive simulator the Caldari State Capsuleer Training Program have to offer. However, since you are not yet a clone, these practices are dangerous and your brain is slightly scrambled. Aura, your personal cyber assistant wakes you up and recommends you prep yourself for the transformation. Several simulations are available as you can review basic things such as manual piloting, navigation controls, etc.

From there, the user is taken through the process of their first cloning. This is important to really instill in the user that this game is fundamentally different than other games in its views on death, and your place in the world. You get to witness your death, and experience your resurrection, but shortly thereafter, the Guristas Attack.

The (New) Battle for Caldari

A band of Guristas attack the installation you are at. Perhaps some reports may indicate this is linked to their kidnapping of pilots and stealing of tech (Valkyrie anyone?). You hop in your ship and go forth to defend the State under orders. Your noob s
The Caldari tell you that it is assumed that the Guristas are using the pirate gate networks, and they think this this evidence that a gate in that network is within the very system you are in. They outfit you with a probe ship and tell you to find the gate and observe it. Once the player does that, the Caldari decide to move forward.

The key feeling that a new pilot should get from this portion of the experience is “expendability”. To the State, you are no longer a person, you are an asset to be used. Again and again. This time they send you through the gate with a ship fit with mining tools and a new deployable. (Mechanically it could be basically a mobile depo. Once you have secured the area on the opposite side of the gate, and collected the resources, an ally jumps in and uses the supply to anchor a POS as a beachhead within this hostile space.

You are sent on several scouting missions including one suicide mission to collect information about a high profile installation through another gate. The plan to attack and destroy the installation is made, and the plan includes a major fleet including dreds and Battleships. For a show of force the State will be bridging from the beachhead directly onto grid with the installation. For that they need a Titan.

Meanwhile you get contacted via fluid router by a mysterious pilot who identifies himself as a capsuleer. He warns you that the State holds no value to your life, or anything about you. That outside of the bounds of Empire sit a thriving community of Space Gods ruling rather than being ruled. The systems in your hydrostatic pod are allowing the State and CONCORD to have control over you, and he is working to free you from your bonds.

From there, you are sent to collect some more resources and use the POS to manufacture some basic equipment, including a Cyno generator. Once built you use a Cyno to jump in a Titan, that gets attacked by Guristas forces. You must defend the titan as it enters into warp, following targets that are broadcasted for you to clear (Hictors who have the Titan pointed). The titan warps to the safety of the POS.

Now is time for the final battle. A small station has been established, including cloning facilities. You take your Noob ship to the Titan and bridge through into the climatic battle.

It is explained that the massive weapons being used can not track a small target such as yourself, but only if you keep moving. You are given several targets (including pointing the BBEG), and if you get popped they do pod you, sending you back to the med clone in the small station. It is OK to die here, your ships are provided, and it should be mildly challenging. This is when the player can really test their understanding of combat mechanics. It is also time for them to realize death is only part of the story.

Once successful, the capsuleer breaks in stating they are here to break you free. You warp to the destination to find a secondary, small POS and a jump bridge that takes you into normal space. From there the capsuleers teach you the importance of Safety settings, CONCORD, Crimewatch, and Corporations. This of course hands the players increasing agency, until they are a full fledged member of EVE Online.