Monday, October 20, 2014

When CCP Seagull Talks, People Listen

"In the Phoebe release, we're making some of the biggest changes we've made to EVE in years. And those changes are just the start.  In November, December, and the whole of 2015, we're going to bring some pretty drastic changes to EVE Online.  All of them with the ambition to strengthen everything that is unique and amazing about EVE and to make your experience with EVE better."

- CCP Seagull, EVE Vegas 2014

Andie Nordgren (aka CCP Seagull), the executive producer for EVE Online, is not a flamboyant speaker like Sony Online Entertainment's Dave Georgenson.  But that's okay.  Georgenson, the director of development for the EverQuest franchise, is trying to make and popularize two new games, EverQuest Next and Landmark.  Nordgren's task is far more difficult.  She is attempting to modernize an 11-year-old game so that new players are not immediately turned off while at the same time reinvigorating the passions of veteran players with improved features and new gameplay.  Given CCP's history of unfinished and uniterated upon features, a voice of authority who doesn't overpromise is what EVE needs at this point in time.

Having seen Nordgren speak in person at the last two Fanfests held in Reykjavik, I think she gave her best presentation yet at EVE Vegas this weekend.  I'm not sure if the reason is she was more comfortable in a smaller setting than the main stage in the HARPA center, the fact that she just has more experience with speaking before large crowds, or she has more confidence in CCP's ability to carry out her plans.  I suspect the truth is a combination of the three, although Nordgren strikes me as the type that really hates to not deliver on a promise.  The universe beyond the player-built stargates she's repeatedly mentioned since that Fanfest 2013 presentation, what I call S-space (or Seagull-space), is a pretty big promise.

In her EVE Vegas keynote presentation on Saturday, Nordgren expounded on the upcoming features coming in Phoebe on 4 November as well as giving an update to the roadmap she laid out at Fanfest 2014 in May.  Knowing how the person guiding the direction of the game thinks is pretty useful information.  After the introductory section of the presentation, Nordgren expounded on her vision of the sandbox:
"First, our changes to force projection are a first significant step towards our plan to really evolve the sandbox gameplay in EVE Online.  And this involves spending a lot of time next year directly addressing game systems and gameplay in null sec, but the EVE sandbox encompasses the whole game.  And the changes we're planning are aimed at creating new opportunities and new gameplay across every part of EVE Online.  We're not focusing on single pieces of the game.  We're treating EVE as one great sandbox that we are going to make even better.

"And part of that is making changes where we have more unpredictable outcomes.  Now, we've made a lot of changes to EVE Online in the last year.  Some of them big, some of them small.  But I would say for most of them the outcomes have been fairly predictable.  Maybe not on the small scale but on the big scale.  And we believe that if we are going to take sandbox gameplay in EVE Online to the next level, we need to make more changes where we can't predict what's going to happen because if we can predict it, so can you, and probably better.

"So, I will say though, that we are not just going to make changes just to see what happens.  Because even if we make very big changes, if you can easily predict what's going to happen, then there's no point, right?  And so we are going to challenge a lot of old truths and a lot of old ideas about how things have to be in EVE and we will do that with the community.

"But, we kind of have a new test on changes.  We shouldn't know what's going to happen, and you shouldn't know exactly what's going to happen, because EVE should really be a game about playing and outplaying people.  So we have to make systems that have room for players to take initiative and do unexpected things.  And this, to also be clear again, is something you can do solo and in a group.  If you're playing the market, you're thinking about how to outplay other people.  

"So this is not a singular focus on a particular part of the game.  This again is looking at the entirety of EVE as a sandbox where you should be able to do this.  If you are smart about figuring out how EVE works and how the systems in EVE work, then you should be able to outplay other people who are trying to do the same.  Because this kind of open ended gameplay is really what EVE is about and what we will go full force with for EVE in the future."
Next, she continued on to talk about the very popular change to the skill queue to allow for unlimited length of the queue.  Nordgren, however, doesn't want players to view the skill queue change as an isolated change.  She explained:
"So, the other symbolic change is the unlimited skill queue.  And this is one change in a line of other similar changes we have done recently such as scalable overviews, PLEX game time donations, EFT format fitting imports, bookmarks in space, configurable notifications.  They are all part of the same direction.

"We take quality of life in EVE seriously.  And while many of these changes are made by individual developers who are responding to player requests, this is a fully supported direction for all of EVE development.  So you can expect more of these kind of changes in the coming year, because we are questioning a lot of old truths and assumptions.

"And for the skill queue overall, it was hostile to an endless list of player scenarios.  And it was blocking things we want to be able to do, such as long term skill planning through the ship identification system, or importing skill plans from other tools, and so on.  So we got rid of it and I hope you like that.

"So we will be taking a similar look at a lot of stuff in EVE in the coming year.  And we will do that with these same goals in mind.  To strengthen what is unique and amazing about EVE and to make your experience with EVE better."
The next part of the presentation is one that interested me as an observer of the MMORPG industry.  With the failure of recent game studios like Carbine to produce regular monthly content for games, a theme has developed in the gaming media that doing so is, if not impossible, then certainly impractical.  Even ArenaNet, who managed to publish updates to Guild Wars 2 at the breakneck pace of once every two weeks utilizing 4 development teams, eventually had to slow down after a year of pumping out content.

At Fanfest this year, Nordgren announced a change in CCP's development cycle, from bi-annual expansions to 10 named releases per year.  But CCP's plan was a bit different than that of other studios.  Instead of coming up with content that had to release on a certain date, CCP decided to go with a model of prioritizing content features and if a feature was not ready, then wait until the next release date.  I wanted to hear Nordgren's experience as CCP readied itself for the launch of the fifth release, Phoebus.
"We, of course, made this change because we believed it would have a lot of benefits.  Be we, of course, didn't really know if it was going to work out, you know?  We had to get used to this too and see if we could turn our development organization around to actually get the benefits we thought we would get.  To be able to ship smaller changes to you faster but also to be able to take on bigger projects.

"And since we made the changes we've shipped four releases: Kronos, Crius, Hyperion, and Oceanus.  And we are really getting our heads around how to roll with this new world.  Now, Hyperion and Oceanus delivered a lot of significant changes, but most of them were kind of the size of one or maybe one-and-a-half development cycles for us.  And in Pheobe, you are seeing a number of features -- and I've just marked them a little bit -- things that have actually been in development for a couple of months and had time to mature before we're releasing them to you.

The Phoebe feature list. Medium size features in green.
"So these can be called kind of medium-sized features, not like the super huge things, but Phoebe is really about those kinds of changes now hitting as well.  So you'll see things like the invention changes following on from the big industry revamp in Crius and you'll see things like notifications that we shipped as an opt-in feature last release to be able to iron things out and let you test it on TQ before we ship it to everyone and it's now going out in a full release.

"And we also then in Phoebe have changes like the jump fatigue introduction that we can make now because we are completely confident that we are going to follow this change up with the next phase of changes very, very soon.  And so this really is an experience of what you can expect in 2015 for EVE.  More of this and the next phases of the things we are starting with: the force projection changes.  And that is something that we will do with you, with the community, with the CSM to bring about that change.

"And we will continue with this release model into 2015.  If anyone was doubting that, here are the planned release dates we'll publish and so on.  We'll keep rolling with this.

The planned release dates for 2015.
"And the names we'll reveal one-at-a-time as we get closer to the releases this time.  We're kind of closing out this titan cycle and we're going to bring in a new thing, but you'll hear about that as it gets closer.

"And really, about this release model, I just want to say that, in all of my time with EVE, I have never been more excited and confident about both the roadmap we have and our ability to actually deliver on it."

The final part of Nordgren's part of the keynote involved reviewing the current state of the roadmap.  Perhaps more than an update on what we would see in Phoebe, I wanted to know CCP's view on their progress.  Nordgren more than delivered.

The real original roadmap (corrected thanks to Neville Smit)

"This is what I showed at Fanfest.  I showed a high-level plan where we want to take on and make significant changes to a number of systems in the game that are absolutely core to the sandbox gameplay of EVE and build up towards being able to do interesting things with that sandbox gameplay.  Eventually take you guys to a place where you can build your way out of the known universe and see some really new content and gameplay in EVE Online.

"And this overall approach still holds, but as we now are really getting our heads around the new release model, we are also changing this up a little bit.  So the approach is the same, but you could say the updated version looks more something like this:

Updated version of the roadmap

"Where we are going to now, based on how the game is doing, and what we think is good changes to pull, we are just going to pick pieces of all of these big areas of the game and put together packages of changes to EVE that will bring to you in these releases we're making.  So if there was this kind of an idea of a sequential order to this in the past, now we're just going to adapt and see what makes sense to do next.

"And we are done with the big industry overhaul, but industry and logistics and so on is going to continue to be an area where we make changes to make the sandbox gameplay better.  And with the force projection changes, we are starting of course earlier than we had maybe planned before to touch sovereignty and so on.  And we will just keep rolling with this in the phases that were outlined in the dev blog about the long-distance travel changes, and I've just recapped them here:

The phases from the dev blog.
"The first phase is the changes we are shipping now in Phoebe.  And the phase after that, which is really starting in 2015 right away, is real changes to null sec space holding and infrastructure.  And as soon as we get to more interesting pieces we have plans for revamping corporations, alliances, structures and so on, we'll also start building towards more ambitious changes to the sandbox gameplay.  More things to do.  More player driven infrastructure.  Just more pieces to play with, with the overall goal to create more things to do for everything from the solo person to small groups, more bigger diversity of small groups as well as the megagroups that you guys organize.  So phase 3 is really about combining all the new stuff we want to do into the next level of sandbox gameplay in EVE Online.

"And on this kind of updated version of the roadmap, at the end of this year I would place us somewhere about here:

Estimated progress on the roadmap.
"And I don't want you to get too into the details and the timing of this picture.  It's not meant really to be a timing exercise.  More like the roadmap approach.  But like I said, we're done with the industry stuff and we are going full force into all of these important pieces of the game."

Perhaps I went just a little overboard transcribing and posting so much of Nordgren's presentation.  But these types of insights into the progress of the game rarely are recorded in words, just voice.  Given the importance of Nordgren's thoughts on the progress made so far, I thought the effort was worth it.


  1. Thanks for this, I was unable to watch her presentation (despite subscribing to the HD feed) but this is a close second !

  2. The most interesting thing in the keynotes to me was her reaction right after she finished her talk about recent and upcoming changes for nullsec. You can literally see a roid of Veldspar dropping off her shoulders... that kind of roid even Chribba couldn't mine using all of his alts.
    I felt she was expecting some kind of "riots" within the audience, but noone cursed or interrupted her. Given the threadnaught of rage some days earlier > I < really expected the audience to protest.
    I can only hope that THIS moment gave her enough strength and encouragement to really push EvE to the next level.

    Safe to say she was close to tears when she continued talking about the unlimited skillqueue and the audience applauded her.
    After all > I < am willing to take nullsec players more serious as they've shown that at least in real life they do have respect of CCP Seagull and her team.

  3. I disagree, I do not think you went overboard at all, as a matter of fact I really wish these occasions such as keynotes or round tables were recorded and transcribed for further dissemination to those of us who were unable to be present.

    Watching the vids of these are good, but it is really worthwhile for dissemination on blogs and for discussion.

    Thank you for taking the time Nosy.

  4. Samsara,
    Over on Sugar Kyle's blog she did a creditable job of giving us the Q&A that took place a the round table with Seagull and Manifest... a telling point was that at one point Seagull was asked...

    Some changes seem made to stop emergent game play which seems against the sandbox. If a group oppressively dominates the sandbox should allow that but you are making changes to stop that.

    Uhh... what? ...If a group oppressively dominates the sandbox should allow that... Really, I mean effin really??? Oh Hell no. I simply cannot believe some people.

    Seagull answered this obvious goon troll thus;

    When we add things into Eve it is a form of behavior shaping. Our responsibility is to make a rule set and a landscape that makes it as good a game as it can be for many people. If the environment is unbalanced it is our responsibility to try to correct the flaws or change them and not be afraid because they have always been broken. It is not a simple system. We have avoided changes for fear that changes are bad. But we want an interesting and viability world for as many people as possible so we have to make things change even if some things won't be liked.

    Good answer.

  5. Thanks for the transcription, Nosy!

    Anyway it made nothing to soothe my growing feeling that CCP Seagull is a loony visionary who's going to kill EVE Online, as she is betting *everything* on player-built gates, and those gates will only be in nullsec.

  6. Excellent post. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  7. "she is betting *everything* on player-built gates"

    Ummm what? Because in the lead up to player built gates, nothing else changes? No other new things are introduced? Nothing is improved? Do you even play EvE?

    "those gates only fit in nullsec"

    Source plz.

  8. Meh.

    At the end of the day, if "CCP Bull-Dyke" doesn't cower and bow down to Lord Gianturco, the he-she-it will be out the door and down the road like so many others.

    This is nothing more than panem et circenses; a distraction for the masses to keep them spending their $14.95 per month.

    The ex-lawyer will, as always, get what he wants, regardless.

    He has a herd of 10k + idiots holding P├ętursson hostage, and the Stockholm syndrome is exhibited in the extreme.

  9. You answered yourself. Nothing NEW is planned other than the stargates and the space behind them, the rest just are changes to existing stuff. And care to guess why we don't have those stargates yet? Because (very literally) nullsec can't build them yet. Kronos was about giving nullsec the industrial muscle necessary to build the stargates -period.

    it all revolves around nullsec."The current lords of null-sec have had the game designed practically to their exact specifications for five years now" (Ripard Teg dixit). And here we are, with CCP Seagull following that "succesful" path, to Seagull Space and beyond.

  10. Your posts = unsubstantiated nonsense.

    Come up with confirmed facts to back up your tear sodden hypothesising or forever be dismissed as an attention seeking drama queen.

  11. lol. You come up with nothing but CCP trolling conjecture and when asked for some provable facts call me a troll. What a drama queen. Goodbye.

  12. I'm not so sure this new direction is working. Unfortunately, the player numbers continue to drop (see And working on null sov certainly isn't going to reverse the trend and attract new players.

    How much more player attrition can CCP handle, before it forces another layoff? That is what I'm afraid of.

  13. Thanks Noizy.
    I am a veteran player who stopped playing since months, and only looks at some important games news. And reading your transcription was way better than all the things I saw on Reddit.
    Her speech was almost enough to make me use a PLEX.
    I stopped because of time limitation, and stagnation in null, and from I saw on the last patchs, and on her speech, is that she want to lessen those two things. And that she has a goal, that she will make her best to realize. And that's important. From what I read here and there, it seems CCP (and Seagull) is really doing what they (she) said months ago. It seems to me than EVE is evolving. Not enough for a bittervet like me for now, but enough for me to think than "soon"... What a bittervet needs are tree things : hope, facts, and results. I see hope on her speech, and I see facts on the last patchs and the next one. Results should come "soon".
    People can say all they want that the player count is still dropping, but bittervet won't come back like that, it's VERY hard to make lots of them come back. They won't come back when change begin to appear. They will come back when change is well installed, others things are done, little things also, and people are talking about it and living it. And some weeks / months passed. Because they have way too much issues to trust now, so they will wait a lot. But if CCP delivers... and it "seems" so.

  14. Frankly, if I was playing the game, I would not invite anyone to it. It has become a gerontocracy and that is likely to worsen up unless CCP grow some balls and bite the bullet about certain Holy ASS-umptions.

    From a business standpoint, EVE is withering from a lack of new blood and the absolute lack of retention for new blood unless they are very lucky and stumble on it before the gerontocrats strangle them in their craddle. New players regularly end up in high security space doing PvE and avoiding PvP against guys who totally out-everything them, and that is a terrible thing to do with appaling retention because CCP never bothered with it. So 80% of new players just come and go in a matter of months.

    CCP's solution has been to ask the old farts what do they want, and then compromise to spend all of 2013, 2014 and 2015 catering to them, and hope that they will not go away (despite some are being evicted from their niches) and others may come back (with any luck).

    You know that a company is in deep shit when they're releasing content each 6 weeks and the adverts say "come back " rather than "join now", and their plans are to stay this course for a year.

  15. Per Sugar Kyle from CCP Seagull at the ”Ship
    and Module Round Table”:

    Q: The reduced need for cyno alts means fewer subscriptions. Is CCP worried about this?

    A: We absolutely expect there to be a reduction due to cyno accounts. We think that the balance this change is bringing will be good and bring other people to the game or back that will compensate.

    I think that bout answers you... they basically are gonna risk the change because it;s the right thing to do. It takes courage to do the right thing... I am well pleased and very grateful CCP is NOT scared of real change.

  16. As one of the old farts, both in EVE and IRL I can tell you we have a 3 month old newbie in corp and living inna C3 wormhole... and we spent a few hours tonight chatting with a new bro and helping him out... So... =P

    Bill, it's simple... if you are that butthurt, go back and suckle on the safe warm WoW teat... and save us your ranting... even DImmy does it better and he's a god awful troll.

  17. I suggest you to ask CCP Seagull about going to the new space and where can be built the stargates leading to it. Someone should do it and clear the question once and forever.

    Because unless a noob can join today and try new space tomorrow (as wormholes are now), EVE will be pretty dead.

    BTW, the WoW reference was a cheap shot and you know it.

  18. Megarom StringscreamOctober 21, 2014 at 5:50 AM

    I suggest you look into the work Rise is doing around NPE.

  19. I don't pre-screen the comments. I really haven't had a need to before. Sorry for not reading the comments for this.

  20. I should add, this wasn't Dinsdale. Say what you want about him, but he wouldn't post crap like I just deleted.

  21. Yea, ok... the WoW ref was cheap.... but it was worth far more than everything you have said here.

    BTW, do you read my blog? Not saying you should, and I care not if you do... but I too had the same fear... that the New Space was a Null only thing.

    Soooo I DID ask, quite directly and CCP Seagull herself herself DID answer... and THAT is worth moar than anything you could ever say... period.

    Bill, either put on your big boy pants and quit running in circles yelling the sky is falling and who is to blame and DO something positive about it... or let the adults talk in peace.

  22. I am aware that you were shocked and thrilled to get an answer from CCP Seagull, but you did not ask for who could use the new space, and certainly she didn't answered it.

    I've been wary of CCP Seagulls' plans since she wrote the "Crossing Rubicon" letter and pictured a future were only uberalliances would be able to access the new space beyond capsuleer stargates.

    We still are walking towards that future. She just told you that she plans to give you some consolation prize for being left behind.

  23. To expand on TurAmarth's comment and to blow his trumpet a bit seeing as he's too modest to do so:

    "I do mean it when I say that the vision is a journey for every capsuleer to be part of. I want EVE to have more things to do for small scale groups and solo pilots - and all over space"

    CCP Seagull, 2014/05/11 (from TurAmarth's blog)

    There are also plenty of other quotes around from other CCP employees that say similar things.

    But yeah Bill, you just keep on throwing your toys out of your pram because you've decided, without evidence, fact, logic or sound reason that CCP's vision is only for the benefit of null-sec coalitions.

    Given how far away from reality you are, it's almost as if you don't play EvE and haven't got the slightest clue as to how the game is changing. Oh wait... you don't play EvE do you.

    P.S. are you Dinsdale's & Poetic Stanziel's love child?

  24. I've heard that refining and reprocessing in high sec as a solo player has become an absolutely fantastic business. Is that what you mean?

  25. Mobile depots, syphons, tags4sec, new missions, belt rats dropping nice blueprints, improved mining ships, many exploration improvements, improved dscan, easier to setup a POS in high-sec, easier travel with more wormhole sigs... and loads more that I can't be bothered to educate you on.

    It's not really a surprise to see you ignoring the blatant evidence against your position yet again. But oh no, there's one change where if you don't adapt, you don't do so well as before.

    That WoW reference looks to be spot on.

  26. I'm not entirely sure your argument holds true. Especially given that we, to a very large extent, are the content creators.

    There is also no point in having a go at CCP about a proposed feature when we know nothing except STARGATES! It is very unlikely they have any idea about its final implementation or functionality at this point in time either. It's something like two(?) years away, with a raft of underpinning changes prior to that.

    Any time CCP runs a balance pass on modules, ships, or say a small change with the jump drive mechanics, this changes the overall sandbox.
    Emergent gameplay ensues, and voila! new content. It may not be to your liking, but there it is.

    Lastly, and going back to the stargates, anyone who tells you they know the exact shape, color, composition and horsepower two years out from delivery is selling something.

    Better that CCP hold their cards close until the prior and necessary changes filter through.