Monday, July 18, 2011

Drunk Blogging The May CSM Summit Minutes, Part II

This is the second half of my look at the CSM6 minutes from the May Summit held in Iceland.  As I did last week, I will finish up my reading of the minutes while attempting to achieve a pleasant level of intoxication.  I ran out of rakia last week and am hoping I do not suffer the same fate while drinking Jim Beam.  Hopefully I can keep the pain for those who are sober to a minimum.

As I did last week, I will make my comments in the order of the document and as I read them.

Team Gridlock: The War on Lag - Team Gridlock is turning into one of the more popular dev teams at CCP due to their efforts to make bigger fights more playable.  Some recent wins are:
* General load; CPU per user is down 50%.
* Missiles (Drakes suck less). Fixing missiles involved optimizing inventory operations, which also accidentally fixed Jita. Jita has not been at 100% since this fix deployed.
* The recent fix to Monikers reduced overall CPU load by 8%.
* Telemetry! Gridlock has implemented a new node monitoring system that lets them trace the execution of everything and zoom in down to the procedure call level. This has made finding new optimization targets much easier. Steps will be taken to elaborate on this further in public.
* In response to a question about the 30 second session timer, it was explained that this is a consequence of needing to allow enough time for various nodes in the cluster to settle on a consistent state (everyone agreeing on where you are and what ship you are in). When 30 seconds is not enough time, the infamous "black screen" is likely, so it is not anticipated that this can be reduced anytime soon.
A major cause of black screens when loading a lagged out system turned out to be the fetching of character names for chat channels, which was being done in an inefficient way. This has now been fixed.
* The Drone engage command was not doing what it was supposed to be doing, and other drone commands were doing things they didn't need to be doing. The drones have been given a stern talking-to. (p. 20)

But Team Gridlock's work is never done and they will be working on things like time-dilation, hot-remapping of systems to a reinforced node during fleet fights, implementing "Brain in a box", an improved skill-management system, and optimizing current resource hogs, such as Area of Effect weapons, Drones and Ship deaths.

ISD and Community Matters - Let's just say that things got a little testy as the CSM thought that the original subject was a waste of time.  Then some of the CSM were a little upset with the idea of direct democracy in game decision making by putting a voting method on the forums.  Yep, giving people on the forums a direct voice would probably be a bad idea.  Then I remember what happened a month after the summit with Monoclegate.  I'm still against the idea.

EVE User Interface Issues - This section actually goes 4 pages (pp. 23-26) and I haven't had enough to drink yet.  However, I expect many irate people to storm the barracades when the find out that UI changes in the spaceship game were delayed to work on the Walking in Stations game.  What's that?  The barracades have been stormed?  Well, then it is a good thing the minutes came out so late.

Here is the TL;DR version of this section.
"The basic design principles of the UI team are that the UI be; Recognizable (UI elements and their functions should be obvious), Layered (complexity is there, but hidden), Minimal (shows you what you need to see, and no more), User-centric (focused on what user wants to do, not what the interface can do), Human (fits itself to user's mental models), Discoverable (easy to explore), Consistent, provide Feedback, be Dynamic (giving relevant information), Real (support immersion), and Visual (death to numbers)." (p. 23)
If you really want to know about the issues (and there were a lot), read the minutes.  I need a refill after trying to digest this section.

POS Misery
- This section apparently was requested by the CSM.  One big holdup is that art assets are tied up until next year.  It wasn't said, but I'm pretty sure that is due to Incarna and making items for the Noble Exchange (NeX).  Once again "Space Barbie" is affecting the development of the spaceship game.  In my personal opinion, it is all one game, but a lot a bitter vets will disagree.

Somehow jump bridges were discussed in this slot.  I got a kick out of this one.
"CSM pointed out that jump bridge passwords were stupid and a CSM with espionage experience showed CCP his list of every alliance's jump bridge passwords. Removing the need for these passwords was discussed, but no promises were made." [emphasis mine] (p. 27)
In other words, all your passwords belong to Goonswarm.

In one other matter, I have heard that it was the CSM that suggested the removal of null sec minerals from wormholes.  I'm not sure that this passage supports that claim.
"CCP talked about removing ABC (Arkonor, Bistot and Crokite) mining sites from wormhole space at some point in the future. This may be from all wormholes, or possibly from lower class wormholes only. It was claimed by some members of the CSM that a large fraction of the high end ore supply is produced through these sites, however the CSMs who were active in wormholes would not accept this claim without hard data to back it up." (p. 27)
However, I do believe the passage signals CSM support for such a move.

Feature Abandonment - Another section that received a lot of attention, wormholes once again received a call for a mineral nerf from the CSM.
"Based on comments by CCP Greyscale in a previous session, the subject of removing 'ABC' minerals from wormholes was raised by nullsec-resident CSMs, who were surprised to learn that WH space was nullsec and that ABC minerals were available in them. They favored entirely removing ABC from WH space -- or limiting them to C5 and C6 holes -- but the two wormhole-resident CSMs objected strongly, pointing out that exporting minerals from deep wormhole space was difficult, and much of it was likely consumed locally.

"An argument was made by some CSMs that the prices of ABC ores and refined products were being crashed by "daytrippers" mining in easily-accessible wormhole space; other CSMs stated that no nerfing of ABC minerals should take place without first obtaining detailed statistics about the balance of trade for each mineral and class of wormhole." (p. 29)
I was told that if I voted for Mike Azariah for CSM6 that the CSM would pressure CCP to take high-end minerals out of areas of null sec, and they were right!  The incredible thing is that so many people didn't realize that w-space was null sec.  I'm a carebear and I know that!

Reading the forums I have read a lot of paranoid people state that the cash shop will go to develop other games.  Well, here is some backing for that train of thought.
"In response to a question about how incremental virtual goods store income might be used to benefit EVE, Zulu replied that he is currently arguing for the addition of a full feature team, and that extra virtual goods income will give CCP more options; some of it will go to EVE, but other projects will benefit as well." (p. 30)
Now, before everyone pulls out the pitchforks again, some of those other games will contribute to Eve as well.
"It was also noted (again) that each CCP game provides elements that can be re-used in other games; examples given included:

* the WoD combat system being reused in Incarna.
* WoD has higher requirements in terms of number of Avatars in scene that EVE, so substantial work is being done by WoD teams to improve performance, all of which will help Incarna.
* Seamless transition between world-spaces (scenes in Incarna).
* The basic body models for Incarna came from WoD, with "certain features" edited out." (p. 30)
Okay, if the final scene in A Future Vision trailer could come true, would that be worth having the cash shop?

There is a lot more in the section that may interest you (pp 28-30), but I am trying to keep this short.  And too much typing interferes with the alcohol consumption.

Nullsec Industrialization and Risk/Reward - This is an area that might actually get me to actively try to find a way into null sec.  I like the idea of forming areas of industrialization in null sec.  And this idea would definitely get me to spend more time in low-sec.
"The CSM believes that nullsec needs to be more self-sufficient from hisec, at the industrial level. The CSM suggested that nullsec should be able to produce T2 goods at higher margins than in hisec. Many ideas were thrown around, such as making T2 production superior in nullsec compared to hisec as well as adding many more factory and research slots in nullsec outposts. The CSM suggested that high technology products come from nullsec - they can be done in hisec, but with better margins in null. The CSM was intrigued by the idea of allowing meta-level item production in lowsec, creating a continuum of t1 - meta - t2 across hi/low/null. Most of the CSM favored the idea of increasing invention chances in 0.0 compared to hisec." [emphasis mine] (p. 32)

 And with all the new blueprints available, a new isk sink is formed.

I'm sorry, but what is it with the null sec CSM members and wanting to nerf wormholes?
"The CSM, with the exception of two members, is irked at the idea of high value ores being mined in low-end wormholes distorting the market. CCP Zulu mentioned that he considers this ‘retarded’ and that this will be looked into. In Class 5 or 6 wormholes the position is more nuanced, and the CSM acknowledged that these minerals could be used for local production, and that they are too far from the market to distort it." (p. 31)
So the CSM wants null sec to be more independent economically from Empire, but wants to take such independence away from wormhole residents?  I'm a high-sec carebear, but I call BS on the CSM.

Incarna and the new NPE - To me, the presentation about the New Player Experience (NPE) is another indication (along with the partnership with Nexon) that CCP is looking at growing subscriptions instead of at the cash shop as the major area of future income growth in the near to mid term future.  I'm just going to post this following section because I think it is highly informative.
"CCP Flying Scotsman presented a dizzying array of statistics showing where the current NPE was lacking and where its strengths are. CCP analyzed the tutorial at each step to see at which points trial players would abandon the trial, and this was used to identify flaws. CCP considers a 10% boost to the current conversion rate, from trial accounts to paying accounts, will be the success threshold for the improved NPE.

"CCP emphasized that refactoring of the NPE won’t be a one-time thing, but a continual process to improve retention of new players.

"It was noted that players who get to the Career Agents in the tutorial have vastly increased conversion rates. CSM was very positive about Career Agents and wants the NPE to do a better job of guiding players to them; presently they are hidden away in the Neocom. In the future, Career Agents might be physically met by players in Establishments in Incarna, to allow new players to bump into each other and make friends at the location. The CSM thought this was cool." (p. 33)
EVE Art - After reading this, I now know why the art team is seen as a bottleneck.  Here is the timing to upgrade each ship in Eve to modern standards like the Maller or Scorpion.
"The CSM inquired about the ‘V3’ process, which is required to upgrade each ship to the new graphics system. It would take an entire release to do all of the ships; each individual ship takes 2-3 weeks of work to bring up to V3. The conversion process allows CCP to improve the aesthetics. It will take years to update each ship not merely to V3, but to modern aesthetic standards, like those on the new Scorpion and Maller. This requires further clarification: Moving a single ship over to the V3 shaders, with minimal texture work takes 2-3 days per ship. V3 with extensive fixing and texture rework takes 2-3 weeks per ship. Full renovation, which is to say brand new model and textures takes 5-7 weeks. The current V3 project would be the first option. Reason: 185 unique models, with their associated textures, which are then used to produce the over 300 ship variations in game." (p. 35)
The discussion (pp. 35-37) was fascinating to me and I didn't even notice my glass was empty.  Then I saw the next topic and figured I needed a refill.

Meeting with Hilmar - Given the events of the past month or so, I thought this section was short but informative.
"...When questioned about the CCP business model, Hilmar presented a view of Eve not only as a game but also a hobby – a hobby that doesn’t necessitate further investment but allows that means to exist.

"The jovial camaraderie between the CSM and the CCP staff seemed to relieve Hilmar, resulting in a roundtable discussion about spaceships. The primary focus was Incarna and micro- transactions, where Hilmar reassured the CSM that their continued feedback was valuable." (p. 38)
Some of the rage last month might have been averted if CCP had remembered this statement.  Judging from the reactions of the CSM, our player representatives did.

EVE Economics - I am going to take the opportunity to state that I was correct about CCP regarding Incarna as a major expansion that will draw in a lot of new players and increase accounts.  I now have proof.
"...It was noted that Tyrannis was, in CCP's eyes, a failed expansion in terms of expansion of the player base. There was a small bump in accounts which quickly leveled off. The pattern more recently has been steady growth, and the usually post-expansion "hangover" has been greatly delayed. They are also seeing the start of the expected jump in subscribers because of the upcoming Incarna expansion. The CSM felt that CCP’s subscription forecast was achievable. CCP Zulu believes that there is a lot of pent up demand for Incarna which will result in higher than normal post-expansion subscriber growth." [emphasis mine] (p. 40)
Another area I have received criticism for is looking at the PLEX market and expecting to see changes in the market too soon after the launch of the Noble Exchange.  If I read this right, CCP doesn't expect as big of an impact as the CSM does.
"There was a lot of discussion about Aurum's influence on the PLEX market as well as how previous programs that used PLEXes (such as PLEX for character transfer) influenced the PLEX market. CSM pointed out that those programs were much more limited consumers of PLEX than Aurum." (p. 40)
Ship Balancing - The final section!  I'm not all that concerned with ship balance, but then again, I'm a carebear.  If I become a more serious industrial carebear, then I should be concerned as ship balance will determine what is popular and what is not on the market.  The long and the short of it is that balancing ships in Eve Online is as difficult as balancing classes in MMOs like World of Warcraft and Rift.  The fact that CCP Tallest actually wants to do the task might say something about his sanity.  Either that or the ship balance dev gets to drink at his desk.  Given CCP's reputation, that is not out of the realm of possibility.

That concludes this look at the May 2011 CSM Summit.  If you made it this far without the fortification of distilled spirits, I salute you.

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