Friday, March 25, 2011

Watching Fanfest 2011 - Friday's Coverage

Watching EVE TV's coverage today was pretty interesting.  I didn't try to live blog because I just wanted to sit back and enjoy the day off.  But I just couldn't resist taking some notes.

General - They like drinking and porn.  Tech porn, graph porn, etc.  Also, strong language is used, just in case you want to view some of the videos later.

Design Democracy - The artist didn't want to draw Gallente ships.  That was an interesting dynamic that ran throughout the panel.  Just watching the interaction between the host, the artist, and the audience was good.  And the ship wound up looking pretty cool.  There was some epic fail involved when the CCP folks didn't know what a "top thingy bit" was.

API - Just a few minutes about the API team, but Wollari got some well deserved face time to discuss Dotlan's Eve Maps.

Content - CCP is interesting in that they acknowledge that the game can be made better.  Or perhaps more accurately that mistakes were made.  Most of the content team was on stage answering questions.  One admission is that the story articles that have been written over the last few years just haven't been integrated into the game and that is what the Immersion Project is about.  Other news is that another live event is planned for this year, but is delayed because the two devs who ran the Sansha live events are tasked out for Incarna-related tasks.  And the Sleepers?  Expect more story near the end of the year.

QA - Eve Online does have a reputation of being a bit geeky.  You know that CCP knows that about its player base when the QA staff not only gets their own panels, but when one of the panel is televised as well.  But given some of the problems in the game, players not only want to know what CCP is doing to fix and prevent problems, but CCP wants to tell the player base how they can help.  And a quote just struck me: "Errors are tasty."

And if you see a frigate that looks like a cockroach, its not a bug.  It's just QA doing some work.

Keynote - I'll be interested to hear players' reaction to claim that servers are doing better with lag than ever before but still are trying to make the cluster better.  The introduction of the forum whine index is something I hope to see as a regular feature.  Also, the devs acknowledged they will never catch up as more players will pile on as capacity increases.  But think they can raise the capacity level of Jita to 2,500 and might be able to get lag-free fights up to 1,200.  Announced that they just spent $50,000 on a server and will be the first company to use a new undisclosed processor from Intel and a never before used server from IBM.  In the technology field CCP is leading all companies, not just the gaming industry.

On the UI improvement front, a new fonts for the UI being used and will appear on Singularity soon.

CCP Soundwave gave a talk on Incursions and his team's efforts to reduce some of the annoying little quality of life issues in the game.  He first talked about the reasons for expansions like Incursions.  Not only does CCP feel the need to improve and expand the Eve universe, but also to expand the game experience and increase the number of activities to stay ahead of the competition.  CCP Soundwave threw out Star Trek Online as an example of the competition and how that gave already has avatars.

Some of the small issues that Team BFF is going to roll out in the near future (hopefully) are changing the mission agents to only giving out one type of mission (kill, courier, mining, etc.) and only have 1 agent in a station that can give out all four levels of missions where appropriate.  Other nice quality of life issues are a scanning revamp, the ability to visually tell BPOs and BPCs apart and not having to stop your skills queue in order to insert an implant into a clone.  And did I mention adding some additional default settings to the overview?  As CCP Soundwave said, the current overview system basically says to new players, "Welcome to Eve Online.  Here's a Rubik's Cube.  Go fuck yourself." 

On the graphics front, the lead art developer mentioned that CCP is working on allowing players to have custom paint jobs and corporation logos on our ships.  He also showed some work on Captain's Quarters, which led into a general discussion of the upcoming feature in Incarna.

CCP has posted dev blogs about Captain's Quarters, but the lastest pictures and even the short film clip blew me away.  I'm still not sure about being forced to use the 3D interface instead of the 2D ship UI, but I know that if I wasn't in a hurry I would definitely want to lounge around in the new housing.  I really want to see things like market tickers and news feeds of events in low and null sec. 

War on Lag - I was called by work during this event so I didn't get to catch everything.  But I did hear that CCP was concentrating on server lag and won't really look at the client lag until the server-side issues are under control.  I write "really", because although the client isn't the focus of attention, brackets are getting looked at now.

Apparently at another session, an IBM rep said that lag is not caused by the server hardware, but by the software, and the CCP dev had to agree, which is why a team is going through and optimizing the code.  Even though Python does not multi-thread, the CCP devs are getting such improvements in optimizing the code that they are not going to port the code into another language like C.

Security - I'm not sure the CCP name of the lead presenter for the security discussion because I took one look and yelled, "OMG, that's Darius JOHNSON!"  That's right, the former head Goon is now leading the efforts on security.  Some of his presentation covering phishing was already presented as a dev blog, but the CCP security task force also covers botting and hacking.  The current system to petition botters is inadequate so a new system inspired by ReportBots.com that involves just clicking on a menu option to submit a bot report.  CCP is also going to introduce authenticators to aid in account security and passed out the first of them to the attendees of Fanfest.  The authenticators will not be mandatory and I think I heard those choosing not to use authenticators will have another method of authentication.

In addition, the authentication servers will capture the IP addresses for each login session and save them for 30 days.  So if players ever wonders about their account activity, they can go back and see if an unauthorized machine accessed their accouts.

Other security measures are shrouded in secrecy to not tip off the botters and hackers.  One thing Darius did say was that there would be no massive repeat of Unholy Rage.  Instead, CCP would continually ban players found violating the EULA every day.  He called it conducting a "slow burn."  I thought of it as conducting a war of attrition instead of a "shock and awe" campaign.  The only "shock and awe" he plans on conducting might be targeting all the types of bots sold by a particular website so that the bot seller's user forums light up and catch on fire.

I think the one message CCP wants players to take away was stated on one of the slides:

"If you are botting, it is the perfect time to stop." 

Economy - A lot of the content of CCP Dr.EyjoG's lecture will show up in the next quarterly economic newsletter so I won't go over everything, but he did give out some interesting information about the future.

First, the money supply in the game is growing faster than he'd like.  Currently the money supply is growing 2-3% per month and he would like to see that cut back to 1-2%.  That means we should expect to see new money sinks entering the game.

The second remarkable item is that market activity is an indication of unhappiness in the player base.  During the unhappiness last summer the market cooled down while the forums lit on fire.  Apparently there are other economic ways of showing displeasure with matters than just canceling accounts.  Or were lots of accounts being canceled during this time?  Hmmm.

The third is that for the first time, Dr.EyjoG may be ready to intervene directly in the economy for the first time due to the major role PLEX currently plays in the market.  According to a slide,
"EVE Central Bank may, or may not, take actions to intervene with the PLEX market if its stability is severely threatened.  Important to note that it does not mean that there is a specific target for PLEX prixes or money supply in the future."

And finally, Dr.EyjoG would like to see more economic data provided to players so we could see more player economic analysis.

Pain vs Brain - What a spectacle!  And believe it or not, I was on the seat of my couch watching the end.  The commentary was basically from boxers but the match was won on the chess board.  I really hope the entire event makes it to YouTube! because people started jumping on the live stream and I missed some of the introductions.

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