From Crucible to the Star(base)s?

This entry is written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the development of EVE-Online.

So, Crucible is now out.  And I approve of it muchly, many much needed and useful things have been put in and it is I think very much the expansion that the game needed and the community in general wanted to see.  And now, obviously, we ask the inevitable question; what comes next?

CCP are now promising that the next year will be very much in the vein of Crucible in delivering polish and renovation of existing space-related features.  Personally I’m still waiting on the promised ‘the future of Incarna’ blog as I want to hear from CCP just how much, or indeed little, we can expect to see of Incarna in the near future.  What has struck me in the past couple of weeks is the lengths that CCP seem to taking to publicly distance themselves from the train wreck that was Incarna of 2011.  That doesn’t bode well for the fans of walking in stations (the concept, not the botched implementation).

On the other hand, preparation for Dust514 looks to be ramping up with three published dev blogs this month, and I’m getting optimistic that CCP might start talking about solid details on when and in what form the beta will be.  I expect that Dust514 cross-over features are going to form a notable part of the next EVE release cycle, with more changes to PI being likely.  Somehow we are going to need ways to identify and target industrial rivals to send the dust bunnies in after, and maybe more formal territories on each planet to vie for control over.  It’ll be interesting to find out I’m sure.

But, there is one existing area of the game that I think CCP are preparing themselves to finally take on; Starbases.

A three-pronged approach?

In Crucible CCP have taken on one of the more irritating aspects of POS; keeping the damned things fed.  The new fuel blocks system will simplify POS logistics and do away with that irritating scenario of not knowing which damned fuel the starbase wants you to shovel into it or in what quantities without using a calculator and some form of black magic or flying over to the damned thing to look manually.  Now you just need one fuel type and its easy to know much to use as well.  Awesome change, and the easiest piece of the larger problem to tackle.  Well done CCP!

From here I see two remaining problem areas, and they’re both significant.  The first is the more obvious; that control towers and a bunch of other structures drifting in space around it inside a big bubble somehow all adding up to make ‘a starbase’.  Its not very satisfying and the control system is cumbersome to say the least.  Last week I had to talk a corp mate through POS gunning over teamspeak as he had no idea which buttons would result in just making the guns shoot.

“Right click this, press that, go to the tab called something like…. , click there, press this, now do you see a new box thing in the middle of your screen?  Click that then the target in your overview to lock, then press it again to fire.  Is it working? Cool.  You killed something? Really?”

WTF is that about?  The whole system is years overdue for ripping out and starting over with a more user friendly and satisfying design.  There have been proposals for alternatives over the years including the ‘Flogging the Dead Horse’ thread on the old EVE forums in which a modular design was proposed where modules would slot physically together around a central core and create a mini-station in the process.  I came across a post made by CCP Soundwave a few weeks ago where he said something to the tune  of “yes, let’s do just that” in reference to the Dead Horse thread.  So I think it is pretty likely that CCP are about to take on starbases as a major feature of the next expansion cycle and do away with control towers and floating structures as we know them.

And that was all the second prong…

If fueling/maintenance is part 1, and the structures/UI is part 2, what then is part 3?  This last piece is a personal and long held bug bear of mine as someone who has been a corp director/CEO throughout nearly all of my 7+ years in EVE.

Corporation roles and permission suck.  The system is painful to use and convoluted, to the point where few players feel confident in saying that they know how it all works or even what half the options do.  From a corp management perspective, the whole thing is hideous, overcomplicated and gets in the way of the actual game.

I was very pleased to see the CSM’s recent crowd sourcing poll come out with corp/alliance management tools so highly ranked as something the player base wants CCP to work on.  And I was surprised, as most players never even see the interface let alone have to deal with using it!

It made more sense when I learned of the EVE University block voting according to a priority list set out by their CEO.  And it was for that reason the results came to be seen as ‘skewed’, but even when the EVE-Uni votes were removed from the count corp/alliance tools remained high on the list.  The CSM advised CCP to ignore this area in their plans for Crucible and focus on other areas, which I agree was the right call for this release.

However, I think something is being missed in all this.  Yesterday a corp mate asked me, his CEO, to grant him roles to setup his own industrial POS.  We need more industry in our small null sec holdings and we need more stuff built locally to stock the market.  I reluctantly turned him down.

I turned him down because the roles I would have to give him are very powerful indeed.  With them he could conceivably shut off critical things like the cyno jammer or jump bridges, or any SBU’s we have out.  He could unanchor and walk off with every other POS we have.  He could really make a mess of a whole lot of stuff if he wanted to.  I don’t suspect this guy of being a spy, but he has only been in the corp for a short time.

The current implementation of corp and alliance tools is not simply annoying to CEO’s and Directors.  It actually raises barriers to all players in experiencing entire areas of the game for themselves.  The system is complicated and ambiguous enough that many players are not confident in the implications of handing out roles, and lacks the granularity to allow individuals to undertake their own enterprises without compromising the security of whole corporations and their members.

The irony is that POS were originally conceived as a form of player housing in EVE.  The reality is that most players won’t be given the ability to ever use them because the roles system is so open to abuse.  I think its time that changed.

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One Response to From Crucible to the Star(base)s?

  1. Pingback: Our Prototyping shows… | uglebsjournal

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