Thursday, November 18, 2021

CCP Rattati's MMORPG Interview About The End Of The Scarcity Era

Today MMORPG published an interview with CCP Rattati going over player reaction to the latest changes to EVE Online announced in Friday's dev blog, "From Extraction To Production". I think CCP made quite a few communications mistakes along the way. I'll admit I am spoiled by the way Naoki Yoshida, the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV communicates with his players about changes and issues. While CCP isn't World of Warcraft team bad, they do like to leave EVE players guessing. I think that mindset is biting CCP in uncomfortable places now.

First, if anyone thinks that the goals outlined in The EVE Online Ecosystem Outlook back in March 2020 were clear, please explain them to me. I knew that we weren't going back to the situation before Blackout, but that was all I could comfortably conclude. 

When the subject of the player reaction to the announced changes over the weekend came up, I'm not sure if the top developers were really prepared.

“It’s been a long road,” EVE’s Director of Product Snorri “CCP Rattati” Árnason said in response to whether or not the dev team expected this kind of reaction. “I think the expectation for many people was that we’re going back to what it used to be, like literally used to be.”

Árnason continues, stating that the team could feel there would be some pushback, as they were already getting “premonitions” from the Council of Stellar Management, or CSM, which is a player-elected player council that works as a liaison between CCP Games and the community at large. Brand Manager Sæmundur Hermannsson echoed this, stating that there were varying beliefs as well as to what the end of scarcity would actually mean.

“Everybody in the community has a different opinion of what [the] end of scarcity meant. And now it’s the end, and for some people it’s a total anticlimax as they had just a different expectation as far as what it had meant.”

I like the use of the word "premonition", which means, "a strong feeling that something is about to happen, especially something unpleasant." I think that's confirmation the CSM told CCP they were about to do something unpopular, if not downright dumb.

The interview identifies the Rorqual changes as a big sticking point with players. The author pointed to Dunk Dinkle's reaction post as a good explanation:

“Saddling these billion+ ISK ships with the mind-numbing task of sitting on field to compress materials painfully while a command burst cycles endlessly is just no fun at all. If fielded, a huge target for hunters, with no realistic way for the ship to earn its way into profitability.

Players who own Orcas/Rorquals are owners of ships that don’t justify their build costs. Only the safest and wealthiest areas in New Eden will see these fielded, further pushing the player meta to join only the biggest and most powerful groups, reducing diversity in corps and alliances.

So, if a player owns a Rorqual with Excavators, suck it up buttercup, you are SOL. Might not feel like the “new age of prosperity.””

This is a mindset that Hermannsson states the team knows is “perfectly understandable.”

Now for the interesting part of the interview. What did the developers think they were doing? First, we find out their intended vision of the Rorqual.

The goal though isn’t to turn the Rorqual into just a fleet boosting platform, something players are already pushing back against after reading the changes. The team is looking to make the Rorqual something more in-line with the “fantasy” the team had in their minds of this capital ship that works with its fleet to maximize its potential – and theirs.

“We have to find the purpose of Rorquals as an aspirational goal, we can’t just say all of this is worthless. And we have been working a lot on it. We wanted to give them this special compression power than only they would have, which was very coveted, it’s been talked about for a long time to give it actually more strength than that. So [compression of] gas or ice and Moon at site would be pretty awesome. We’ve also hinted at the fleet boosting or fleet jumping capability, which is kind of cool.

“But that was part of the fantasy of the Rorqual, being this kind of mothership like a carrier, bringing their ducklings around system to system, mining, ice mining, compressing for them, getting them up to speed and training and grooming them.”

 Árnason admits too that CCP understands that fans don’t simply want to be relegated to a fleet boosting role, but rather something that can create teamwork and the type of emergent gameplay EVE is famous for.

A lot of negative reaction from the changes is the matter of compression. I think people will find CCP Rattati's response informative.

“Compression was intended to be one of the most interesting [additions,]” Snorri stated. “It definitely wasn’t meant to be an oppressive thing. I think the balance here that we’re trying to strike at the time was that it was hard to…we didn’t have all the tech we needed. So it’s kind of awkward. So that added to the UX issues like dragging into the ammo, it felt interesting at the time. And they built this paradigm around it. But I think there were just issues that we ran into that hadn’t been foreseen. Like people docking in Rorquals and dragging into them was an issue that was just discovered on [Singularity], you couldn’t drag into the hold. Either we missed it in testing or we assumed that it would work. But that was an oversight.

“The timing [of compression] was meant to simply be a counterweight to going back to the station and dumping it there. So you’re gauging is it logistically sound to jump home, or do I stay here and compress? That kind of a choice in that sense. And then you factor your compression ratio to my compression ratio, do some math in your head and if you’re savvy you’re doing it better than other people. So now you’ve a competitive advantage. You’re better at running this system. It was never meant to be oppressive. It was meant to be interesting. So with compression, we’re definitely hearing all that stuff, and we’re pulling it back to improve it. Like, no question about it. We’re not going to go with this unchanged.”

I'm going to add one observation. If I had a choice between actively performing a task, like transporting ore, and sitting motionless for the same amount of time watching Netflix on a second monitor, I want the active gameplay. CCP traditionally also favors active gameplay over passive. The whole mechanic seemed weird once I gave the matter additional thought.

Later on, the issue of communication with the player base came up again. 

History with the player base and the dev team too plays a role, as many fans have felt burned by what are perceived to be failed promises, and therefore aren’t necessarily in the most forgiving mood when these issues arise.

“I’ll happily admit, the package isn’t explained well enough. It’s more like, call it a code diff: this is what it was, this is what it is now, without the purpose or the intent,” Árnason said. “And I think we could have done much better with what the purpose of these [changes] were and how they would all fit together. And what the idea here was. So some of it was just like, badly explained or it lacked a compelling story.”

“I think when the frame isn’t painted clearly, players don’t know where to put their mind on this feedback,” Hermannsson added. “What are the common themes? What are we trying to achieve?”

Common themes? Like say, those that a marketing team would highlight if the changes were rolled into an expansion? But I think that argument has passed its expiration date.

CCP Rattati also commented on the amount of vitriol he's received since the publication of the dev blog Friday.

“I see no reason to be ashamed or hide – this is all part of the process,” Snorri stated when talking about navigating the feedback being received since Friday. “The only thing that I regret in all of this is the hostility. It feels like the toxicity in the feedback is very harsh. If I hadn’t been doing this for many years, I’d probably be at home right now. But you need thick skin to wake up to, you know, ‘resign because you’re ruining everything’ messaging. And it’s fine you have passionate people, but I think it’s mirroring what’s happening in the real world. Like, everything is becoming yelled louder, becoming more toxic on forums and this whole sentiment feels like it’s going into this direction.

“Then it just becomes impossible to interact. I started on day one to kind of chime in and have conversations. The day after, like, everything I’ve said is taken out of context. And I’m like, ‘Okay, this isn’t cool. I’m going to try again.’ And I go in and try to have a normal conversation. And at the end of it, I’m like, ‘Okay, I don’t think I’m making any progress at all.’ And I think that’s kind of regretful, because for example I spent a lot of time on the forums. I enjoyed it [very] much just to be there. But it feels that it’s a lot harsher now for sure. And it definitely doesn’t make normal developers [want] to go into that at all.

“So the tone of the conversation could’ve been better and I’m happy to work on that with everyone. But we’re all here for EVE Online, and I think when that’s called into question – our integrity and why we’re doing this – it’s all about EVE Online Forever. It always has been.”

Personally, I think all CCP devs, not just CCP Rattati, should stay off of the EVE sub-Reddit. The place is just way too toxic at the best of times. For CCP Rattati, I think he should keep his interactions to more controlled environments, be it the official forums, videos, or interviews such as the one he conducted with MMORPG.

I think trying to record CCP's thinking about these matters is important for when we go back and look at what happened during the present time. I have a tendency of looking back at events so having a record I can trust is important to any point I try to make in the future. Everyone else can face palm where they think appropriate.


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