Tuesday, 15 October 2013

'What we have here is failure to communicate...'

As some of you know, I'm not much of a forum warrior. I prefer to read them, take ideas on board and make my point if I feel I have something to add or contribute. 

What makes it more difficult as well, is that the forums are in something of a toxic state at the moment. There are a number of 'Open Letters', usually the same QQ'ing as normaly happens but writen in a semi polite manner that tricks you to read the full post before you realise that what they really want is the pony that their Dad always promised them. There's the more upfront 'CCP are morons' types that mistake abuse for the language of diplomats and the weekend warriors that provide mathematical 'proof' that every weapon, save one is OP in the hope that CCP will not notice and leave the one they've skilled into alone.

All this is of course symptomatic of an underlying concern of mine which I'm sure you can guess from the title of this blog. Communication between CCP and its Dust player base is in a considerably bad place right now.

Now this would normally not concern me as much as it does now but things are becoming apparent to me, that I feel it would be remiss of me to not speak of my concerns. I say this not only as a long term player myself but as the leader of the largest Corporation in the game.

One of the forums I do read regularly is the Council Chamber, the forums where the players can post questions and concerns direct to the CPM. It's one of the few places where a certain level of civility and decorum is still practiced in the Dust forums. Its also where CPM Member Heinrich Jagerblitzen posts the excellent CPM weekly reports. 

It's always been something of a concern of mine however that there has never really been the equivalent of these reports from a member of CCP. It isn't the job of anyone member of the CPM to do that. Their side of the story in their dealings with the CPM is always as important and does get reported with the Eve version, the CSM.

But I've been trying to remember a Dev Blog or meaningful post by CCP regarding their interactions with the CPM since Fanfest. If anyone could point me to the drection of one, please do. But does this not worry anyone? Seven months since Fanfest and even I dont know with absolute certainty which of the Shanghai team is responsible for the daily interaction with the CPM. I can reel off a list of the Dev's that communicate all the time with the player base via the forums and Tweets but not the one that has the full responsibity of liaising with the CPM?

And Heinrichs weekly reports are long past being weekly. And indeed the other members of the CPM don't post as often as they once did. Now, those unfamilar with the members of the CPM might say, well CCP chose the wrong people clearly. But they didn't. They couldn't have picked a more passionate group of players to work with. I'm not going to dismiss the chance that real life issues may have impinged on the time they may have to dedicate to CPM duties for a couple of them but all of them? Statistically unlikely and as a bookie I know all about whats unlikely. 

So two options remain as the logical explanation for this slowing down of information from the CPM. Either the NDA is tighter than a ducks arse and they're unable to tell us anything, in which case why have a CPM in the first place? Or the second, more likely option in my opinion is that the CPM aren't being told anything of consequence or even worse, not being utilised by CCP at all.

Now, I'm not on the CPM and nor do I claim to have some inner window on whats going on behind the firewall of the NDA but I do have the experiance of playing Eve for over four years and Dust for over a year and I know that CCP have a really lousy record for this sort of thing. They are not good at it and it could be reasonably argued that CSM8 was the first that CCP actually figured out how to use effectively after eight years of trying.

But CCP have an excellent chance to remedy this for Dust. A new EP is now in place and a number of key roles in the Shanghai office have been filled (keep an eye on the job postings for CCP if you really want advance knowledge of what they're planning). The monthly development plan is likely to revert to a more managable 3 month release cycle when the vehicle balancing is in place. Once the more hectic monthly cycle is done, CCP can have more time to bring in the CPM earlier on design decisions so they can truely be the sounding board we want them to be and stop issues such as the Flaylock happening again BEFORE they get to Tranquility.

Using the Squad Finder, they can now have Dev created Squads. We can now see them playing the game from time to time, asking questions and getting feedback direct from the players while in the game. Use Twitch TV. Have matches with Dev's streamed or recorded so we can then give time references when we see the problems that they might miss.

But the single greatest thing that CCP could do is give us a figurehead for Dust. Someone who is responsible for dealing with the concerns of the CPM, pointing them to the right developers in the team and engaging directly with the player base via twitter, forums and Video blogs. And that's all they would do. Dust 514 NEEDS its own CCP Guard.

When the avenues of communication are clear to all, without the filtering or excuse of an NDA getting in the way, when a publicly accessible and regularly updated roapmap is visible to us and when we have full confidence that the CPM are being utilsed as they should (And how I'd want to be engaged should I find myself on it) then CCP's job will be so much easier. The toxin in the forums will subside (some will still want ponies) and the player base will be much happier and more willing to engage meaningfully with the makers of this game that we love so much.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

I went to Fanfest and all I got was this patch....

Following the disappointing news that vehicles were not to get their rebalancing in 1.5, it emerged that nearly all my Christmases were coming at once.

Corp Roles were on their way. 

Not only that but the member list was getting a coding revamp, eliminating the need to make a cup of tea while waiting for it to download. A Squad Finder, familiar to those that play Eve Online was making its debut too. Along with several needed nips and tucks and a rendering improvment. And the beginnings of a relevant and considered New Player Experience was being added and will grow based on feedback.

Not exactly the new content that many have been clamouring for... 'where are our new weapons?' was the refrain being wailed in the forums, like the loss of a beloved pet. And yes, in the traditional sense of what is expected in the gaming world, it wasn't new content...

It was far better than that.

This is the begining of a new phase in the development of Dust 514. The beginning of its true integration into New Eden. Dust is maturing. And corporations will pave the way. The creation and development of new corporations in Dust are vital to it's long term growth. It will be where new players can come in meet others with similar goals in the game and create their own Corps. And making these corps easy to run and maintain is essential.

We have seen many corps in the game burn out and blow away in the wind. There are the usual reason given by those who chose to gloat about the demise of an enemy. 'We ran 'em out of Molden Heath.... We beat them every game.... We scared them.....' blah, blah, blah, bblllaaaahhhh.

The truth is far more mundane, dull and really only known to those who run or have run a Corp in Dust 514.

Running a large Corp or Alliance is hard work.

Seriously, once you get past fifty memberrs, the work load leaps up to the point where it's a second job. And then when you have to take several time zones into account.... you start jumping at sudden noises.  Security is the main bug bear for many in New Eden but an essential part of it. The meta game is strong and there are plenty that would stab you in the back for a few million ISK. But for the longest time the only role was Director, other than the CEO. A complete nonsense if all you wanted was someone to process applications while you doing something else important, like sleeping.

Obviously there comes a point where you have to start trusting people. And thankfully I did. I've got a great team of players wanting to do what the Uni does. Help others. Some have moved on to do their own thing in Dust 514 but the work they've done carries on. And I want players to move on. It's how this game will continue to grow.

And grow it will. We will likely have player trading in place by Christmas. In order for that to work its logical to asume that some sort of revised inventory system needs to be in place in the game. Once thats in place, its only a small leap of faith to imagine a corporate inventory to be be needed. All of these steps will and have always needed roles in order for a corp to funtion at its best. 

You still going to say that all this isn't content?

We also have a new Excutive Producer joining the good ship Dust 514, CCP Rouge. The appointment of such a senior figure should speak volumes as to CCP's long term commitment to the game. There are still those with a narrow minded field of vision that believe that CCP should ONLY be concentrating on Eve. That the distraction of Dust, Valkyrie and World of Darkness is taking funding from the parent game and its development. Well, a quick check on the Sisi test server of some of the stuff coming up in Rubicon frankly rips that arguement to shreads. Eve's development is being harmed by CCP's spliting of focus? I'm calling out bullshit on that one. It's just the bittervets bitching as usual.

Its like saying that Blizzard should ring-fence all its profits from WoW, only using them for further development of that game and not on Starcraft. Or that Apples iMac profits shouldn't have been spent on the R&D of the iPod. I think we should be thankful that these folks aren't in charge at CCP.

So welcome CCP Rouge. It'll be a while before we are able to see the direction he wants to take the game. But I'm liking the future as he see's it from the interviews he has done and the attitude he showed, when I tweeted him about the community poking CCP with sharp sticks because we care..

'Bring it on. Thats how great games are made!'