Monday, April 29, 2013

Fanfest 2013 - some thoughts

I'm sorry to say I wasn't in Iceland last week, but I watched livestreams and replays, read the blogs.. time to write down a few points that stick out for me.

Eve Online + Dust = ...
One of the driving forces behind Walking in Stations, was the vision of New Eden as the complete, immersive scifi simulator. Not just a 'Flying in space' game but much more than that. After this years' fanfest, I'm tempted to say that CCP is still working on that grand vision.. they are just approaching it from another angle. A New Eden that is populated by Dusties, Capsuleers, mobile device users and - who knows, one day - Evr pilots and whatnot. Seen in that light it's no wonder that Dust got the amount of attention it did: it's just another piece of the New Eden puzzle. A very important piece I might add: CCP hinted that in terms of concurrent users, Dust 514 is rapidly growing to around the same size as Eve Online. If this trend continues, pod pilots may soon find themselves a minority in New Eden!

If World of Darkness would have gotten the airtime that was given to Dust, then I would surely have been annoyed. World of Darkness does not add to New Eden, and any energy spent on WoD, does not directly benefit us capsuleers. That said, a company with just one successful product is (almost by definition) a vulnerable company, and as such there is an indirect benefit for Eve Online and Dust players if WoD becomes a profitable game. A more diversified CCP, with income from several sources, is more likely to survive and thrive long term.

And this is also, I think, part of the reasons why CCP is expanding the Eve IP into other territories such as comic books and TV shows. Broadening the audience and potential customer base is a sound strategy, if they do it right.

The Oculus3D EVR game was praised for its' immersive qualities and immersion is also a key driver behind CCP Soundwave's 'war on loading bars' and the system scanner revamp. Immersion is very important in a virtual world and I am happy to see very concrete improvements in this area. This, too, fits a 'complete scifi simulator' vision.

Odyssey style jump gate about to fire
The new, immersion improving jump gate effects and system scanner, the hacking minigames, Navy battlecruisers, the restructuring of ice and R64 moons, possibly even new life blood for nullsec industry, and more: I'm looking forward to it. Bring it on!

The CSM election turned out nicely, most of the people I voted for made it into CSM8. It's certainly not the CSM some of the nullsec blocs wanted to see.. and this too is a good thing. I'm pleasantly surprised by the huge response to Ripard Teg and the fact that a guy like Mike Azariah actually got elected.

I can't help but admire CCP. They are certainly able to host a significant event and throw a tremendous party, and seeing it from a distance certainly makes me more than a little envious :-) Especially via Twitter you get the feeling that Fanfest pumps a huge shot of energy and sense of togetherness the Eve community. The devs certainly play a positive part in this. Kudos to all involved.
Obviously there is a lot going on in the company, with John Lander moving to a new position and no replacement yet announced. Pressure will remain on CCP to get Dust 514 off the ground, both short and long term, WoD still in slomo development and a mobile strategy that has to be developed as well. Lots to do, but CCP has shown they are able to adjust and overcome, and I expect them to be able to continue doing so well into Eve Online's second decade.
The only thing that worried me, was that - until recently - if you searched for Eve Online on, it would list 'Sony' somewhere on the Eve Online page. It seems to be gone now, and I'm happy about that :-)

And if you want to see it all again, is the place to go. It has all the broadcasts!

In my RL job, I am a product owner in an agile/scrum team, working on creating and improving virtual channels for a financial services company. We have only begun to use scrum a little while ago, so I'm still learning.
In my role as 'PO' I'm especially focused on the backlog and how to deal with it. I've been taught that a product backlog contains user stories in different stages of development. The user stories scheduled for 'somewhere in the future' tend to be large, not well defined. They are more like general ideas, not yet ready for implementation. In due time (when the user story progresses through the backlog) the idea will be thought through, elaborated on, be specified, quite possibly broken into smaller, more concrete user stories which can, finally, be built during a sprint. So, as their implementation date nears, user stories will progressively grow more concrete and better specified.
Via Twitter I learned that CCP Seagull is product owner for Odyssey, and I just asked her if she is also the owner of the product backlog for the rest of Eve Online - if such a backlog exists, and my guess is it does. If so, it's not surprising that CCP is vague about the long term plans as detailed in the Seagulls' statements in the Eve Online keynote, which were repeated later in the CCP Presents keynote. These future visions are just the vague ideas and big chunks of unspecified work at the end of the backlog :-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fanfest 2013 Eve keynote: a short recap

Ok, this is a 'stream of consciousness' writeup of the Eve keynote that just finished on the main stage of the Harpa center. More thoughts later; this is just to recap the main news points.

It kicked off with a look at the history of Eve Online and CCP. Amusing and embarrassing pictures of very young developers, early builds, the first sketches of what were to become familiar ships: nice to see and hilarious to boot. Hilmar recounted how he lost a ship he loaned from someone, and how that moment brought home for him what Eve really was.. he got it, right then and there. A powerful story.

John Lander got to tell the story of Eve 2012-2013, the Retribution expansion, Dust beta etcetera. He also got to say goodbye, resigning from his current position, to chief of CCP's mobile division. He got a well deserved round of applause and seemed to be tearing up a bit, even.

On to Oddyssey, presented by Soundwave and Seagull. The latter explains how the theme for Retribution was taken from the very first Eve Online website. So what will be in Odyssey? Lots of improvements to exploration and scanning: the system scanner now scans space around you, you see it sweep across the screen and the results are visible directly in space. Immersive and looking good to boot. When Soundwave sent his ship through a stargate, the room erupted with applause: the new jump animation is simply gorgeous. It looks a bit like you warp through a planet: it's dark, but you're obviously moving and you really end in space on the other side! Immersive and looking good..? Definitely!
Soundwave then scanned down an exploration site (which will, by the way, no longer feature npc rats) where he had to hack his way into a wreck. Upon breaking into the computer he had to hack, it spawned several containers which drifted away in space. The message: do this together, you won't be able to recoup those containers all by yourself.
Other Odyssey points: CCP will 'look into R64 moons and T2 production bottlenecks'.. meaning the OTEC is about to be dissolved shortly after Odyssey is released.
Ice belts will be moved into new types of anomalies, which will only spawn in the systems that currently already have ice belts.

Then Seagull, who was tense, at times gasping for air, detailed some principles for future Eve expansions. They will be theme based, with stuff in them for several player groups: solo players, group players, instigators and enablers.
And then she asked the room to 'dream with me..' about new empires to build, space to explore.. and finally she said 'Now imagine you could build the right kind of stargate..' She was obviously hinting about acquiring access to new space! She also said something about '2014'. Those expansions might be interesting, too :)

By this time the room (and the commenters on were quite thrilled already, but they were about to be completely blown away: Hilmar demo'd a short clip of an Eve Online client for the Oculus Rift: 'EVR' built on Unity3D. Think of it as a first person dogfighting experience in Eve! You see yourself being launched into space (again, no black screen, a real exit from station a supercarrier), you look through your window, there's a fight.. you join it! Very, very exiting stuff. The demo was barely done when Themittani already had an article up. Go give it a read! Guys in Iceland get to try the Oculus demo tomorrow morning. My envy knows no bounds.. UPDATE: this too is a good writeup of the EVR demo: Eve becomes virtual with Oculus Rift.

Viewer numbers on the stream topped a little over 13.000, which is very impressive too.

All in all.. I'm very impressed and thrilled. Reading the comments on the twitch stream and on twitter, I can tell I'm definitely not alone. The next ten years should be good ;-)

Update: the first relevant devblogs are already published: check them out!

(edited 23.20 CEST for clarity and spelling)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The official "This is not my month" month

Eight losses this month, and April isn’t even over yet. I’m just hesitant to undock at this point!

So how did I lose eight ships?

Less harmful damage
The first loss is from a corp death roam in the MTO2-2 area. We were bringing in a new corp member, which was a funny story in itself. We were moving from MTO in his direction, and he’s supposedly moving towards us. At some point we notice he’s not getting any closer, as a matter of fact he’s burning away! Turns out he was on his way to our PVE system in the southeast, not our PVP deployment area in the northeast. Oops. Twenty minutes and lots of jumps through deserted nullsec later we join up and move back in the direction of MTO. Via intel channels we hear of a hostile RAZOR fleet near MTO along our way, and we try to catch up with our guys chasing said fleet. That doesn’t work - we never find them - but we manage to get stuck in a bubble at a gate, together with the escaping hostile fleet. Most of our ships explode, including my Talwar; I get podded, too. Deathroam mission: goal accomplished.

About a week later, I’m in station in MTO2-2, bored and waiting for action. A hostile fleet is bouncing around the area, and a fleet is formed to do something about it. We undock and there’s some brawling at gates and such. We lose some, we kill some; I manage to survive but fail to score any kills (although I suspect some kills weren’t posted..)  after which our still sizeable fleet follows the FC deeper into Venal, in hot pursuit of the hostiles. Finally, at a gate we catch them, and the fight is on. I deploy drones and assign them to the FC, but pretty soon (well, immediately really) after that, the entire hostile fleet yellowboxes and subsequently redboxes me. Boom goes my Prophecy, and I’m podded as well.
The fight is, however, escalating: the enemy brings carriers on the field, and of course I want to get on those juicy capital killmails. I quickly reship to a Caracal, determined to lob missiles at said carriers from a bit of a distance, i.e. not within 5000 meters of our FC. As soon as I land.. here we go again: yellowboxed, redboxed, boom. I don’t think I successfully fired one missile! Ffs! As I float around the battlefield in my pod, cursing the hostile FC who apparently has it in for me,  I realise I forgot to upgrade my clone after the first podding. Crap. I am now suddenly trembling behind the PC.. please don’t pod me please don’t pod me please.. With a sigh of relief I make it out alive and return to MTO2-2 to upgrade the clone. Phew, lucky escape there.

I was angry that I didn’t score any kills, but suddenly two Megathron kills appear on our killboard, with my name on them. I can’t remember them at all. Of course these are from my sentry drones, they were assigned to the FC who shot at stuff while I was being exploded, so that’s what netted me two kills. I don’t feel good about it, at all. I didn’t see them or target them, I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the damage overpower the ships’ reps until it exploded. It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. But at least my kb efficiency is saved.. for what it’s worth.

Again a few days later, and the R3 hellcamp is in full swing. There’s talk of pvp and I want some real kills after those Megathron 'semi kills', so I hop into the coalition approved Prophecy, and make it to the Titan just in time to make the jump from MTO to R3.. but that’s not where I land. I didn’t know it was two Titan jumps, but here I am, 19 jumps out of R3, burning towards the second Titan whose bridge will bring me to R3 proper! It’s just that I really, really need a bio break now! So I warp to a celestial and go afk. When I come back a minute later (yes, I am that fast and that close to the sanitary stuff here) the second Titan pilot says ‘afk, back in 2 hours’ and is gone. Crap. Alone and 19 jumps out of where the action is I decide to go by myself; I am positively not going to hang around here for two hours. So I carefully make my way to R3, until - three jumps out of my destination - I land in a gate camp. Boom. At least I am able to get my pod out!
But you know what's really stupid? While I land in the gate camp, I notice something in the local channel: the lone blue in local said "watch out, gate camp at the out gate". Either I missed it, or I could have used the heads up a wee bit earlier :-)

Anyway, a few days later I log my main back on and make for R3. The final jumps are uneventful. In R3 however, I notice I can't get into the POS, and I can't dock I the heavily bubbled station either. So what to do? I warp from celestial to celestial, making bookmarks along the way. Warping between those bookmarks, I create a couple of safespots; when I'm done, I warp to one of them. Not contended with being in a safespot, I align to one of the other bookmarks I created and, with the pod moving, I begin reading mail and chatting with corp mates. Until all over sudden a Manticore appears on screen! Did he warp in? I have no directional scanners and can't detect probes, but who'd make the effort to scan down a pod? To be honest, I believe I accidentally uncloaked him in his own safe spot.. what are the odds of that! Anyway, he points me and begins shooting at me, but his torpedos aren't really suitable for hitting a pod at 3000 meters. I barely get any damage, but am afraid to call in help; it might be a trap, who knows. So after an unusually long period of being shot at with Scourge Rage torpedos, my pod dies and my R3 adventure is over.

Sick and tired of all the coalition deployment losses, I decide to jc back to our PVE area for some peaceful anomming. Barely halfway into my first Angel Hub, I notice intel reports of a neutral Arazu coming in, and a small fleet is arranged to try and kill him. We are aware that he might be a hotdropper; what Arazu would venture out so far into hostile territory, all by himself? I bring a Drake I happen to have there and set out for the Arazu, after being warned to remain outside of 30 km which, I am told, is probably his point range. That information proved to be incorrect. I am pointed well out of 30 km, and pretty soon I'm webbed too, and pretty soon after that, there's a dozen or so hotdroppers on my Drake. Kaboom. Drake dead due to misinformation and (perhaps) carelessness on my part. The guys who told me '30 km' feel bad about their wrong intel, and I receive generous gifts, enough ISK to buy two fitted Drakes back. Thanks guys.

And here I am, month not over yet.. I wonder if I'll make it to May without further losses!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Drums in the deep

Perhaps you know that scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie, the Fellowship of the Ring. While travelling through the mines of Moria, one of the Hobbits (that 'fool of a Took!') accidentally drops a bucket in a deep, dry well. It rattles down, chains and all, lots of noise ensues.. and then it gets silent. Nothing happens.. But just as the travellers are about to breathe a sigh in relief, a single low drum beat vibrates through the dark mines. And another one answers, and another.. Drums in the deep. The Orcs are coming! Battle is here!

Something like this happens in nullsec life too, every now and then. Rumors of a war begin to spread, tell tale signs of impending battle appear. And then, sometimes, for a while it just gets silent. Nothing happens. But just when you are about to breathe a sigh in relief (or boredom), hostile fleets are unleashed at your space, stations are reinforced, systems SBU'd. Hostiles are coming, battle is here!

What follows can be epic, just like the fight in the movie 'the Fellowship of the Rings' was. Unexpected victories or losses, strange turns of fortune, exciting events: it is all possible, and you can be there to watch it. Better yet, you can participate.. or even cause it to happen. It's your choice!

The first time sov warfare happened to me, our corporation No Fixed Abode (NOFAD) was in Querious, in an alliance that rented some very nice space from IT Alliance. I've told that story before and won't go into the details again, but I remember strongly how lonely it got in our space, as soon as we heard the 'drums in the deep'. The guys running Sanctums in carriers all day long - gone. Our prolific belt ratters - gone. Our miners in the hidden belts - gone. Familiar voices vanished from TeamSpeak, and in some corporations, membership numbers started to fall pretty drastically. As it turns out, many alliance members were there for the ISK, grazing, earning fortunes in our perfect dead end ratting system; but they didn't care for the alliance itself. They never even undocked one single PVP ship when the alliance needed them badly. What a disappointment! How utterly cynical those guys were! And what cowards, too.

The second time sov warfare happened to me, NOFAD was part of LEGIO ASTARTES ARCANUM, living in Catch. The Drone Russian Forces wanted to get rid of -A- once and for all, and LEGIO was obviously also in the DRF's way. We fought, we lost our space, we retreated to LGK-VP with -A-. And we kept fighting! Guerilla style ambushes, reinforcing stuff left and right, deploying SBU after SBU.. and slowly but surely we won everything back we once had, and then some. This time around, most pilots hung in there, and those who did still pride themselves in what they accomplished. And rightly so! It was a struggle to remember and a memory to cherish. Not to mention it was a whole lot of fun, too..

Next time when you hear the 'drums in the deep', make sure to prepare for war. Don't bug out and leave, silently. Allow yourself the chance to be part of something potentially epic, something you'll remember for a long time, whether you win or lose. It's definitely worth it, and you'll be a better Eve pilot afterwards.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blog Banter 46: Eve's many choices

Blog Banter 46: the main event

"EVE Online is a unique piece of science fiction that is ‘participatory’." - CCP Seagull, December 2012

EVE Online is heading into its Second Decade with renewed vigour and a new development strategy. At the CSM Summit in December, Executive Producer CCP Unifex and Development Director CCP Seagull explained how future development and expansions will be broader in scope than recent "collections of features" stating that CCP "want to create something more inspirational, that players aspire to play."

With the return of Live Events such as the Battle for Caldari Prime, clearly the prime fiction of EVE
is back in favor as part of this new thematic approach to expansions. However, EVE's story is very much a tale of two play styles, with an entirely player-driven narrative unfolding daily in parallel to the reinvigorated backstory. Often, they do not mix well. How can these two disparate elements be united or at least comfortably co-exist in a single sandbox universe?"


One of the main draws of Eve Online - at least in my experience - is that it is not ‘just’ a game, but a persistent virtual world. Its’ inhabitants may have begun their careers with a carefully planned development path in mind or they may have meandered through Eve, tasting a bit of this, doing a bit of that, sampling what’s on offer: the variations are legio.
Intertwined with all these career related developments, are a multitude of player interactions. These happen in countless corporation and alliance channels, open channels, TeamSpeak conversations but also out there in space, where player made choices pit pilot against pilot in pvp or in a struggle for resources (..ok, I mean guys mining together).

The combination of so many variables means that there are no identical Eve players. There is not really such a thing as a ‘level 45 paladin’ or ‘level 25 wizard’ in Eve; every pilot is unique, and so is his or her story.

Eve lore has always been part of these unique and different stories. Wormholes came, and some players adapted, ignoring them as much as they could, continuing with their own path through Eve. Others, however, profited from these new found sources of fun and profit. Factional warfare came, and the general population adapted while others jumped in, joining an FW corp. Incursions came, and the same happens: some pilots ignore them as much as possible, adapting to their occurrence every now and then; but others jumped on the Incursion running bandwagon (and made obscene amounts of ISK in the process).

These are clear examples of lore driven additions to game play have been beneficial for Eve Online, expanding the options and opportunities available; but some players dive right in while others don't.

And that's perfectly fine in a virtual world, a scifi simulator such as Eve Online. In a sandbox, you should be free to pursue your own path. Forcing lore based events on unwilling pilots runs contrary to that, and might be bad for business. And so far I think CCP has done a good job in this area.


Other entries here: