Anomalous Materials: The Research Race of YC 116
Duncan Ringill

CCP Fozzie announced a contest of sorts yesterday:

Out of character, I can reveal that this storyline and the associated donation drive will lead directly to new technology falling into the hands of players in the near future. The relative success of each empire’s donation drive will determine in what order each faction will get access to this new technology.

Each faction navy will also express their gratitude through a special ingame item representing an honorary commission to their forces. The commissions will be given to the character that donates the highest value of Neural Network Analyzers and Sleeper Data Libraries (combined and weighted) to each faction over the course of the event.

Each commission will be a unique item that will forever contain the name of the winning character in the description.

Sounds like fun for those who do that sort of wormholery.  Rhavas at Interstellar Privateer is clearly interested, but thinks the offer doesn’t go far enough.  In a provocatively-titled post, he says that they’re lying to you.  He’s right, of course, at least in character.

The new tech falling into our hands can only be connected with the promised player construction of stargates leading to a new space, I think (Drackarn lists other, perhaps more likely answers).  CCP says that the new tech is going to trickle down to us through the empire factions.  Rhavas–if he’s not scamming us for gate construction materials–proposes that we force CCP into setting another place at that table by donating to Gillome Renard.  How cool is that?

The contest is a great idea, and doesn’t seem like a lie on its face.  Capsuleers, however, shouldn’t take the word of the empires.  The player base has proven in the past that it can steer CCP in new directions.  Let’s tweak that lore!

Kings, Not Emperors
Duncan Ringill

rome1We were overdue for a threadnaught, and CCP Greyscale delivers in the form of the proposed jump drive changes.

Null-security space is stagnant, he tells us, as though we didn’t already know that, and he is beginning with a giant step (or the opposite of one, really).  The addition of jump fatigue and cooldown timers will seriously slow force projection.  The goal is to make the enormous, headline-making battles less feasible and less well-attended, the theory concluding that EVE will be more interesting.  Surely this will be the case.

Imagine a Roman Empire suddenly lacking in those fantastic tools of conquest, the roads.  Legions less able to cover ground rapidly are less able to enforce Imperial law in the provinces.  Imperial might and the myth of its divine origin lose the ability to awe the citizenry, conquered peoples and rival empires.  An empire built on military might–as they all are–weakens and eventually crumbles.

Other CCP plans will affect sovereignty in many ways, but even a hisec bear such as I can foresee a nigh-inevitable end to the era of the Space Emperor.  At the very least, additional Doughnut resources (time and ISK) will be taken up in logistical planning, strategy and diplomacy.  I don’t know whether the jump-drive nerf must necessarily spell the demise of CFC, but it’s going to make for hella interesting behind-the-scenes sov struggles.  CCP is tuning our EVE experience.

What if the moods, health and welfare of your neighboring friends and enemies suddenly became more important than the edicts handed down from a distant Doughnut Throne?  What happens when the Gauls begin to feel more Gallic than Roman?

War.  That’s what happens.

The result?  Maps redrawn.  The destabilization of nullsec through some sort of nerf to force projection is the sort of thing I’ve predicted and hoped for (without having had a clue as to how to accomplish it), for the sake of GrrGoons as well as for the rest of us.  Their wars will be less CPU-throttlingly spectacular, less exercises in Teamspeak endurance than grand strategy and rapidly-evolving tactics.  The Art of War more than War Gratia War.  Null governors, de facto kings owing less fealty to an Emperor, will be seizing, trading and squabbling over renters, capital ships and moons they once shared.

NBSI will evolve into NRDS. Alliances will split from coalitions and corps from alliances.  Toons will leave null to be replaced by others drawn by the new face of war in New Eden.  The wily old Space Emperor will clutch at power, alienating some alliances to gain or retain others.  Dogs and cats living together! Turnover is what we’re talking about, turnover and interesting war.  More battles and more FCs.

Hope the Space Emperor is up to the challenge.  He’ll be playing a new game, as will everyone else.  I don’t want to see CFC destroyed, mind you; I want to see them earn their legend, and earn it again every goddamned day–or make way for those who will.  Their forum swagger will become more than empty bluster, as will that of their new rivals.  More who-the-hell-are-these-guys will be seen in Local.

There will be battle reports I’ll actually read.  Thanks, CCP.  I believe you’ve figured out how to think big by thinking small.  Great idea.

Never the Twain Shall Meet
Duncan Ringill

trains01A bridge between Tranquility and Serentity?  Chinese players able to interact with those in other countries?  That a theme Art has touched on, and he hits it again this week.

It’s an idea to fire the imagination, and perhaps the coolest notion of all is that of new (to us) players chattering in an alien language in some of the same comm channels.  Yeah, I can see why this is desirable; cross-pollination has to be a good thing, right?

‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, all right.  World gamers getting to know their Chinese counterparts couldn’t help but defuse the international tensions willfully (or otherwise) deepened and prolonged by the current segregation.

Well, if it happens, it’s not going to be accomplished by CCP.  Standing between us Tranquilitarians and the Chinese is The Great Firewall, a technological and political barrier that we barbarians are not going to be allowed to scale anytime soon.  It’s unfortunate, but Chinese authorities are not going to permit ISK transactions and uncensored chat.  Heck, we’d be lucky to be able to pass EVEmail back and forth; forum wars and ISK trading aren’t about to happen, either.

The barrier’s not insurmountable, but CCP isn’t going to tear down this wall.  Even if they had the permission from the People’s Republic, there would remain a last hurdle: sharding.

Chinese players on Serenity aren’t playing in different space; they’re on a clone of the universe we inhabit.  Serenity, like Singularity, is filled with the same star systems we see on Tranquility, with (presumably) the same divisions among hi-sec, losec, null and w-space.  As amusing as it would be to watch an attempted merger of CFC sov with its Chinese counterparts, that’s not a task CCP is going to undertake.

Did I say that was the final hurdle?  Strike that.  The ultimate concern is budgetary.  The desirability of international brotherhood aside, there ain’t no money for trying to merge what was sharded by design.  The new space to which our player-owned stargates will bridge us is not going to be on Serenity–not until the government of China changes.  Or changes its mind.

Pull Up to the Bumper (Musclemix)
Duncan Ringill

Ask your grandparents

Much was made earlier in the year of a long-term dev scheme to push high-sec players out into low and null.  CCP knows that players who play together tend to subscribe longer, so space that more or less forces lone wolves to band together must have sounded like a good idea.

Applause/boos greeted it, because this is EVE.

I think that my dim view of the plan was based on instant resentment toward being pushed anywhere.  Who the hell is CCP to tell me how to play?  The hell with that!  I’ll plant my happy ass so deep in a high-sec station that there’ll be buy orders put in on it, thank you very much.

The recent tweaks of minerals and industry no doubt began the process, but what do I care?  I haven’t mined anything in over a year, and I don’t manufacture.  No, the first manifestation of which I’m taking note is the announcement of the Burner missions coming in Hyperion.

These will be L4 security missions, popping up randomly in rotation with the familiar PvE content.  Each will pit a capsuleer against a single frigate-clad NPC who will be using PvP tactics and modules,  That does sound cool.  Baby’s First PvP!  Or it would be, if this were happening in L1-3 missions, too.  Why the heck isn’t that the case? 

As odd as the implementation might be, I can dig it.  This doesn’t smell as much like a push as it does a pull.  Try this soupçon of PvP, says CCP, and if you like it you know where to find more.  In the meantime, it’s free training (plus loot) in how not to panic when scrammed by a frigate–and in how to plan for it.  Become a better pilot, ready for whatever the next step might be.

Fimbulvetr
Duncan Ringill

Mittani may have evolved as far beyond actually logging into EVE as the rest of us have beyond ants, but here he is offering a view from his altitude of the NPE that matches up well with the experiences of mere immortals: namely, that EVE’s NPE sucks and always has.  With entertaining hyperbole (the tutorials aren’t really bad IMO; they just need a lot more context), he even makes his case clearly and convincingly.  Only Nixon can go to China, it seems.

A newbie zone, huh?  Yeah, it’s a no-brainer and an old one at that, but perhaps only the man who indirectly put the T in HTFU can come right out and say it on his website, and now that he has, gunfighters from all over CFC can begin to admit to seeing wisdom in the idea.  A good scheme doesn’t become bad just because CFC wants it, after all.  Any jerk can float an opinion, and I’ll be no exception, doggone it.

He may still be thinking too small.  He’s careful only to propose setting aside a chunk of that mysterious new space, and to bar any but new players from it, so that CCP would do all the hand-holding there (and so that naysayers can’t accuse him of wanting to make hisec safer).  Such economy is to be admired, as would be any clever EVE propagandists who stood waiting just outside the zone to recruit the new and presumably more skilled and confident class of capsuleers.  If Jove-space is furthermore only going to connect to low (rumored), Mittani’s proposal makes even more sense for CFC.

Can CCP unbend, though, and scrape together the resources to make something like this happen?  Even the coldest, harshest heart on staff ought to be warming to the thought right about now.  Why not design a universe where fewer players quit in frustration in the first month?  Why not prep those same players a little more thoroughly for corporate play and the sort of social experience CCP says it wants?

A Mittani as a player of the larger game necessarily sees new capsuleers as a crop to be harvested.  It’s not surprising that he would advocate for carefully-tended fields surrounded by the tallest of fences, watered by the gentlest of killmails and fertilized with ISK or ship replacements, all paid for by CCP.  What megacorp doesn’t dream of subsidies, and won’t lobby for them?  In retrospect, we should be surprised only that it’s taken this long.

Me, I’ll still advocate for perfect-sec systems in existing 1.0 and perhaps elsewhere, connected to minor trade hubs.  There’s no need to tie up the new space when the game begins here in high…unless CCP really does want to nudge everyone toward low and null.  If that’s the case, I would happily share.  Let n00b-space connect to all five other types (holla at my w-space peeps), so that the adventurous player fresh out of the tutorials can easily move in any of those directions when the training wheels come off.  Mittani has spoken, and I agree.

Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Principles of Industry in EVE Online
Duncan Ringill

CCP Greyscale outlines the philosophy of industry and where it’s headed:

EVE industry generally treads a different path to comparable professions in other games. You’re not crafting that one perfect weapon, trying to work out the perfect ratios of rare ingredients, because you’re not a master craftsman, you’re a master industrialist, and you work at /scale/. And in the new system, that’s where your challenges will be: how to scale up, how to spread out, where to settle and when to move.

Your sums will drift over time, as the activities of other players around you affect your costs and your outputs, and you’ll have to figure out who to team up with and who to compete against. Maybe you’ll find a quiet backwater system and hire mercenaries to keep others out and your costs down. Maybe you’ll cut a deal with some fledgling nullsec group, trading arms for facility access. Or maybe you’ll pick a high-value system and form a local industrial cartel to control the system and outbid those heathens in Jita for the best manufacturing teams. And you’ll always be asking “am I working in the right place?”, but the answer will only rarely be “no, I should move” – because industry works on a slower cycle, and because in teams and player interactions you have the tools to change the answer if you don’t like it.

Duncan Explains It All: The Prophecy Trailer
Duncan Ringill

eveonline09

A few thoughts crystallized today on the heels of Kirith Kodachi’s excellent tea-leaf analysis (go read it now) of everyone’s favorite new trailer, and I am ready to tell you what it all means.

I’d been looking at the trailer in the wrong light, so to speak.  No doubt it is a vision of the future; how could it be anything else, with EVE, DUST and Valkyrie toons working together?  That’s the usual rah-rah, as Kirith notes, and its realization is coming Real Soon Now, along with WiS.

What it isn’t is a story waiting to be told.  This isn’t a picture of those new stargates everyone’s going to be constructing next year.  Oh, no–commence primary illumination!  This is an event which has already happened.  That new space we as players know we’re going to get access to?  What we see in the trailer was the first large-scale attempt to access that space, over a year ago.  The action tells us that that first gate experiment was a failure.  Or, as the engineering world has it, a qualified success.

The professional robe-wearer and utterer of gnomic prophecies wasn’t just repeating sonorous nonsense.  Let’s posit that the prophecy is more or less on the money, in that vague way that the best foretellings have of being.  What is “more primordial than the elements themselves” that could also be described as a storm?  The Primordial Soup, that’s what.  The ultimate chaos in which everything and nothing existed.

The Theology Council and the old Empire were manifestations of order, and this superduperprimordial chaos is exactly the sort of thing that mature, bearded and robed men who utter prophecies professionally would despise and fear.  It would be the ultimate heresy, and the immortal people who tried to activate this gate were therefore the ultimate heretics.  The Amarrian fleet didn’t hot-drop in to seize control of the gate, but to destroy it.  A key to new worlds, and therefore riches?  Power blocs everywhere would want to own it…except for those tied to dogma forbidding it.

Fast-forward one year.  Records have been analyzed.  Survivors of the gate fiasco, or its architects, have determined what went wrong.  This new space can be accessed safely if the theories hold up, but new tech is needed to do it, tech capable of withstanding the most powerful force ever thought to exist.  That means new research conducted in secret.  That’s right; I’m talking about the ghost sites.  Not only are they training us in how to crack relics and explore space.  They are our means of getting there, or will be when those scientific and engineering projects conclude.  By then, the knowledge will be too widespread for any one fleet of Amarrian fundamentalists to stop.  No wonder we capsuleers were warned away.

Other capsuleers have opined or implied that the new space is a way back to Terra.  I don’t know about that, but if other prophecy can be believed, the journey will be costly (“the appetite of nothing expands over the world”).  Perhaps this Prophecy trailer showed us that fourth event.  If Terra is in our future, we won’t like what we find (“the little brother makes the final sorrowful steps home; he is not welcome”).

The possibility of Terra interests me less, I think, than the space we would traverse to get there.  I like to think that CCP will take the opportunity to introduce a multi-shard architecture that doesn’t require the Band-Aid of Tidi.  A mass player emigration (or Diaspora, maybe, if the new gates are as ultimately destructive as prophesied) would be the time to rebuild the game.

The “entity” of the prophecy?  I think it’s the Soup, but I also think that it’s only a barrier to our entering the space, and one which we are going to breach next year.  You veterans of Odyssey who took seriously that expansion’s call to learn the art of exploration are almost ready.  You will map the new space that the battle-fleets, diplomats and industrialists will tame.