Friday, April 26, 2013

Fanfest 2013: Day 1

The first day of Fanfest 2013 is in the books and I managed to somehow attend all the sessions I originally planned.  I think I'll have plenty to discuss for weeks to come, but for now I'll just record my day and what I took away from the presentations.

First, getting to the registration desk took a little more suffering than last year as the desk was moved from the first floor to the second.  That led to the line extending quite a bit outside.  Even though today was the first day of summer, the wind coming off the water cut to the bone.

Braving the elements to check in

Of course, conventions usually mean a goody bag.  This year we received a Quafe t-shirt (yes, the same one you get in game), a coupon for a free EVE Online mouse pad, a 10% off coupon for the Fan Fest store and a 30% off code for the SteelSeries booth.

Oh, and I noticed a new item on the Fanfest menu: fermented shark!  That's right, the convention menu has fermented shark served with a shot of Black Death for only 1,400 kr.

Now for the panels...

Retribution Roundup:   Apparently CCP is using a points system to figure out whether the dev teams have the resources to get features finished in time for inclusion into an expansion.  To give an idea of how that works out, here is a list of the top 5 features of Retribution as figured by effort to develop.

Crimewatch re-write: 264 points
Ship balancing (40 ships):  154 points
Bounty hunting:  134 points
Creating new ships (4 destroyers and the Venture): 118 points
Revamps of the UI:  95 points

After listening to the presentation I realized that except for losing a high slot on my Hurricane and the changes to the Bellicose that led me to fit a cruiser for use in low sec that Retribution really didn't impact me very much.

And by request, I got a picture of Ripard Teg when he asked the panel a question.

Jester having a good time
Ship Balancing:  I was a little amazed that some people who are so clearly interested in ship balancing and so into the game they travel to Iceland appeared to not follow the ship balancing threads on the forums.  I won't rehash the past but will focus on what the ship balancing team will do after battleships are finished.  In the order of presentation, those ship classes are:

Command ships - All the command ships will have bonuses for gank links as well as weapon bonuses.  Some ship specific comments were that the Eos would resemble the Navy Myrmidon and the Claymore would become a missile boat.

Electronic Attack Ships - Given that the ship balancing make the tech 1 version of these ships so good these ships are scheduled for an upgrade.

Heavy Assault Cruisers - One interesting tidbit is that HACs will receive the same MWD bonuses as assault frigates.

Black Ops - These ships will receive an upgrade to allow them to fight as well as serve as a jumping point for black ops gangs.

Make Eve Real -Bringing FTL to IRL:  Dr. Richard Obousy, President and Co-Founder of Icarus Interstellar gave an hour talk on the future on faster-than-light travel and why he thinks humanity can achieve this goal by the year 2100.  I won't try to explain the theories, just wait for the YouTube video to appear on the CCP Games channel.

Game Design - Balancing Tears and Laughter:  CCP Soundwave gave a talk about 9 game design principles that ideally guide CCP's development process.  In order of presentation...

1.  "No game should be more complex than it absolutely needs to be to meet its goals."  Soundwave admitted that CCP has often not followed that piece of advice.  But, using the new bounty system as an example, he said, "I don't consider it dumbing down EVE if it makes 1500 people a day die."

2.  "A good feature can be based on positive or negative interaction, neither is inherently more valuable."  In response to a question after his presentation, Soundwave said "We shouldn't be meddling in how people play the game," and that the only bad player actions are those that violate the EULA and ToS.

3.  "Other players will always be more interesting, for longer, than designed experiences.  Give players tools to maximize the variety and impact of their decisions."

4.  "Every system should affect, and be affected by, the wider world."  Based on that principle, the original implementation of faction warfare was admittedly poor.  The latest series of changes were an attempt to make FW part of the wider Eve universe.

5.  "Here are the tools, do something cool with them."  Sometimes CCP gives players tools that make life easier, like formalizing alliances.  Sometimes, CCP has "Wait, he just did what?" moments.  The example Soundwave gave was players webbing freighters to make them jump faster.

6.  "The social experience is more important than the practical system balance; the interaction between winners and losers is more interesting than mechanical equality."

7.  "Interactions should be reaching out and touching, more than reading numbers."

8.  "Things in the world need to make sense."

9.  "Players are not entitled to success.  The most aspirational goals are coveted by many but reached by few."

Low Sec PvP/Crimewatch:  If I thought that Retribution barely affected me, then CCP Masterplan announced that I will have to change the way I play EVE once Odyssey launches on 4 June.  But before I get into that, I should note the statistics he gave on the use of the safety.  In high sec, the safety is left fully on 72% of the time, partially on 11% and totally off 17%.  That is almost reversed in low sec, with the safety fully on 19% of the time, partially on 15% and totally off 66%.  He was a bit surprised by that because for those worried about sec status, leaving the safety partially on would prevent people from accidentally killing pods.  Either players don't fully understand the feature or people in low sec don't want that status anyway.

Speaking of status, CCP is going to split off security status from CONCORD standings.  That's right, you're security status can now reach -10 and a pilot can have positive standings with CONCORD.  In other words, CONCORD has gotten off its high horse and is now using shady informants.  When Odyssey hits, CCP will set every players standings with CONCORD to 0.

How will players regain sec status in this new world of Odyssey?  First, regaining status by ratting has changed.  Instead of status being tied to a system and based on the biggest rat killed in a 15 minute period, the status goes up by the value of the biggest rat killed anyway every 5 minutes.  That is calculated to be time neutral, but we'll need to see what happens on Tranquility.

The other way is the feature called "Tags4Sec".

CCP Masterplan explains Tags4Sec
For the small, small cost of 20 pirate tags a pilot can raise his standings from -10 to 0.  Before all the high sec carebears start crying, the system isn't quite that easy.  First, pilots need four different types of tags and the tags only grant sec status gains depending on the sec status of the pilot.  The break down is...
  • Trainer Tag (-8 to -10)
  • Recruiter Tag (-5 to -8)
  • Transport Tag (-2 to -5)
  • Negotiation Tag (0 to -2)
And guess what?  Each pirate faction is getting four new NPCs that will drop these tags 100% of the time.  But the catch is that these tags are only available in low sec asteroid belts.  This makes me wonder about the other changes coming in Odyssey because without more changes no risk adverse high sec carebear is going to want to mine in a low sec belt.

Now, for those thinking that ganking in Jita was just made easier, think again.  The only place to turn in your tags are in the new security offices located in CONCORD and DED stations.  And guess where those are located.  That's right, only in low sec.

This change definitely addresses the low sec complaint that it makes no sense to have to go to null in order to repair security status.

(e)Merging Economies - If the presentation is anything to judge by, EVE Online's economist CCP EyjoG and DUST's economist Eino Joas get along fairly well.  That's good because merging the developed economy of EVE Online with the developing economy of DUST 514 is a tricky proposition.  In addition to getting player production set up in DUST (which will make Eino Joas' job easier), the pair have a three phase process in mind for creating the EVE Monetary Union:
Phase 1 - Allow ISK transfers between the games but implement a Tobin tax on money moving from the stronger economy (currently EVE) to the weaker one.

Phase 2 - Allow players to trade some items between games.  I can see some protectionism occurring in this phase as the EMU tries to encourage the growth of industry in DUST.  Also open up a secondary market in DUST.  I can also see in this phase players beginning to do ISK/Aurum conversions.  Aurum is basically dead in EVE but is a staple currency in DUST.

Phase 3 - Drop all restrictions.
Expect this process to take years as in a large part the process depends on the development cycles of the two games.  One interesting fact is that DUST players have purchased 650 trillion ISK in goods so far.  EVE players currently have 653 trillion ISK on hand.  During the presentation Iceland was often brought up as an example of what not to do economically.  The real world equivalent hopefully is not Iceland but the large developed economy of the U.S. (EVE) and the emerging, larger economy of China (DUST).  Then again, that's not going so well right now either.

DUST 514 Keynote:  I would wager this was a better presentation for those who actually play DUST but I still got some information interesting to me from attending.

First, all voice communications in the game are now free.  I don't know how it worked before, but I'm glad to hear that DUST players will not have to pay real life cash to talk to EVE players.  Next the loading time for the game, currently 4 1/2 minutes, will only be 90 seconds once Uprising deploys on 6 May.  Along with a graphics upgrade that noticeably improves the way the game looks that should cut down on some of the complaints about the game.

For those interested, I suggest watching either the stream on replay or wait until the video comes out.  CCP Praetorian's section of the presentation was very good and David Reid's presentation on the marketing of the game was interesting.  I'm sure we will hear a lot more "Enter the Vicious Cycle" in the future.

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