Saturday, 9 November 2013

'We want ponies in our dropships'

So the word around the campfire is that the marketing team is finally getting round to having its first real meeting with the CPM.....

Skipping past the fact that its taken a full six months to get to this point and leaving that to others to explain as to the reasons for it, this is an excellent oppotunity to get some SERIOUS monetisation into Dust. 

The simple fact that the current offerings from the store are to be blunt.... piss poor.

With the removal of the BPO's there is nothing of value to a player. Burning through an earned in game currency with a system that costs when you die is no problem. As long as you earn the SP and actually learn to play the game well, you can comfortably budget for your drop suits and should you wish to use Aurum items till you're skilled enough in SP to purchase the ISK equilivant then there is no problem and still a market for them. 

That need for those type of items is going to around for as long as the game is. But burning through real money once your skilled enough to fund your needs in game is kinda dumb.

The stampede to purchase the militia BPO's and the Veteran and Elite Packs before they 'retired' should make it obvious to even the most jaded marketing suit, what it is that the Dust players want....


Seriously, since the packs were announced as being phased out, how many Drens, Covenant and Blood Raider LAV's have you seen? A hell of a lot is the answer. 

Now, without going into all the economic reasons for this, trust me when I say that keeping the BPO's as sale items was going to scupper CCP's plans for the player market in Dust. They had to go and they're going to cause some problems till CCP decide what to do about them. For the record, I'm in favour of them being used for manufacturing in Dust and Eve but that is some way away. 

But what of permanence? The beauty and value of the BPO was that you could create a free fitting that, with the correct use of Skill Points you could make it as good as an advanced level suit. How it looked was irrelevant.

But the Dren suits do look rather drab don't they.... 

If only there was some way to add a bit of colour to your suits. Suits that relected the NPC corps and factions of New Eden. Suits that reflected the player corp you are in. A Mercenary quarters that better reflects your tastes. Art on the walls perhaps? Spoils of war, kept on a shelf...

And what if thet were permanent and you had some way to show them off to other mercenaries? Not only in your corp but others as well as you fight on the planets of New Eden. How much would you pay to have the latest designs to chose from? 

How much would you pay for a Golden Gun?

How much would a CEO pay to have a corp Uniform in game? An MCC decorated with the flag of his corp on the walls. How much is a Limited edition camo pattern for your troops worth? Corp insignia on your Vehicles? Patches and ranks on the suits of your officers?

They wouldn't have to just be purchased with real money. Perhaps a discounted price in the store for the cost of some ISK (another handy possible ISK sink to control inflation in game). 

This kind of vanity item market has proved very successful for other Fremium titles in the past and continues to be so. The only mystery is why haven't CCP pursued this before now ans an Extra income source..

And how annoyed would the Eggers be if the Bunnnies got Ponies before them?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

From a drip to drinking from a fire hose.

For those that are unaware there has been some movement on the CPM's role and how it works with CCP. The main problem is that a lot of the playerbase are currently saying 'CP...What?'. 

Now this is not the fault of the members of the CPM and indeed CPP Dolan posted a sit-rep on the  status of the CPM here.

In it he makes clear that the CPM have been working hard but that CCP have dropped the ball, so to speak, as to how they integrate an advocacy group such as the CPM into the daily working practices of the development team's. As I've said before, this was likely the result of the change over to a monthly iteration pattern, to quickly address the problems that were evident in the release of Uprising in May.

But how should the working relationship between the CPM and CCP progress in the future now that the Dev's have acknowledged the problems of the past and spoken about rectifying them?

Before that however, we must first reveiw the reasons as to why there is a need for the CPM in the first place. In the above discussion thread there has been some heated debate as to the legitimacy of the CPM and some calling for its removel. Some of the reasons given on both sides of the arguement have a good deal of merit and some has been tin foil millinery of the finest quality. But ultimately I think the pro's of such a group, far outweigh the cons and that the playerbase should really have no fear of embracing it. 

The main need for a small advocacy group is one of speed and turnaround. There are many ways feedback can be gained from the playerbase in a detailed way. Forums, questionares, mailshots and such like. But the main problem with them is one of time. It takes time to organise, distribute and analyse the data this sort of data collection returns, which is so much better used in terms of long to medium term goals and objectives. In the case of day to day development when a problem may crop up, such methods are useless. Feedback may be needed in a very short time and a fresh set of eyes may spot a potential problem that hadn't been envisioned.

People can become myopic when laser focused on a particular problem and concerns for the 'bigger picture' often not come into the equation. Games developers are not immune to such problems and need the occasional reality check from an outsider to slap them back onto course.

Another reason for the need of a CPM is the sheer scope of a game such as Dust 514. Changes in design don't just effect individual players, but large groups of players, each with a different way of operating, that because of the sandbox nature of the game, the Dev's aren't even aware of. A small group of players, picked/elected from the whole playbase can identify problems that CCP didn't even take into consideration. And thats before we even take into account that we are being integrated into an established gameing universe..

Now, I've been chipping away at this blog for a few weeks now and its seems that in the time since Dolan's above post there has been a substantial upsurge in the CCP/CPM relationship. Indeed from his own weekly reports thread in The Councils Chamber CPM member, Heinrich Jagerblitzen, has stated that they have have gone from a drip to drinking from a fire hose.

This all very encouraging and for those planning to stand for CPM, knowing that CCP are now actively involving them in the future development of the game, after so many stop and starts, and that the CPM is now having an impact. The main problem however is that, short of the for lack of a better term, politically motivated hard core of players, the general community is unaware of the turnaround of the CPM fortunes. 

And this is of huge concern to me. As someone who is going to stand for the CPM the very fact that the majority of my potential electorate are oblivious to this is deeply troubling. It plays to to fears of those against the concept of the CPM because they're worried that it will become an Elitist group, serving only themselves and those that voted for them. We've all seen the lack of faith in our real life elected officials grow more with each suscessive election after all. Why should internet politicians be any different?

With this growing involvement of the CPM in design changes to the game, its now time for CCP to start really pushing the CPM as a way to work with the community. They already have several ways to do this that I've mentioned before. Mailshots, questionares, forums and such like. But these are a scattershot business, reliant on the recipiants taking part.

But a more direct approach is needed for the electorate of Dust 514, to ensure they are made aware of the CPM and they job they do. We now have the Daily Update when we first log into Dust. This should be used more often for items of interest to the community, Extended Downtimes, hotfixes, reminders to read the forums for the up to date news from CCP and New Eden. For the December Events, special contracts have been coming up to fight the Dev's. Why cant this be extended to members of the CPM or those standing for election for it? Emails, direct to each Mercs mailbox (a hint from me that mailing lists in Dust would be a good idea), direct from CCP would be a huge help as well.

We now have a dedicated community Manger with CCP SabreWing, who has been making great inroads in his time at CCP already. CCP Logibro, a respected former member of the community, is now acting as the CPM liaison. And with the regular tweets and forum trolling of CCP Foxfour and CCP Nullabor, those that take the time to find out, know what is coming up.

But its important that CCP now play their part in this exercise, to promote the CPM becuse its members have a handicap of CCP's making. The NDA.

I'm not going to debate the merits of the NDA here. I perfectly understand the reasons for it being there but with a community, as hungry for infomation as the citizens of New Eden, it causes real friction between the CPM and the community they represent. 

For many, the explanation 'It's covered by the NDA', is one so infuriating that it's makes them question the need of the CPM in the first place and resent those that are on it. This is counter productive for CCP as the CPM is an important tool and to have the player base resent them is not at all helpful.

Now I'm not saying the wall of the NDA should come crashing down but CCP should learn from the mistakes of the past and be more a Reed in a breeze and less Oak in a tempest. It would be enough for CCP to say that something is being worked on and the CPM are involved. Nothing given away but acknowledgment that work is being done and the concerns of the community are being addressed. 

For too long we have had an eduring attitude of secrecy from CCP and its work on Dust. I understand why. We've had so many promises that are yet to bare fruit, CCP are now afraid to say anything at all. I personally now dont believe for a minute, that the mythical MTAC's and Fighters will make an appearence in Dust, till it makes it debut on a more powerful system. The fable of attacking the ships of Eve from within, will remain just that for at least 3 years at the current rate of development. We still just have the one racial knife after all...

Ultimately, the success of the CPM is up to CCP themselves and how they promote its real value to those that doubt its need. It's not up to the CPM to do that job and until CCP make the effort to educate the community as to its value, the real life attitude to 'politicians' is the likely winner in any election.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

'I want to praise you like I should'

So the song goes.

But I cant do it without exception CCP. Oh, don't get me wrong. The work you've been doing since the flawed release of Uprising has been great. I've been loving all the point builds that have fixed the core stuff and if the foundations that 1.6 today will put in place, will allow for the 'content heavy' 1.7 to have just some of what I suspect is in it, then I'll be very happy.

But its the little things. Those features that have fallen through the cracks because they should've been added to make new features work even better. But for some reason, they've been overlooked. Missed and more worrying perhaps, not even been thought of as being required.

Like the Roles of 1.5, many in the community would consider them as merely 'Ease of Life' stuff, not real content in any way. But I assure you, the cumulative effect of them would be a massive boost to the game and to the community. And while not an expert in any way, I can't imagine that it would require a huge ammount of Dev time to add them in a hotfix rather than wait till a point build.

Corp Mail

Now hang on I hear you all cry... we got that in Uprising and you Fleetfoot, was the one that was screaming the loudest for it! What more do you want?

Well, that is all true of course. But it's introduction and how it was implemented necessitated the addition of two support features for it, that inexplicably and for no good reason didn't get added.

Mark all as Read and Delete All. (UPDATED) CCP FoxFour tweeted me shortly after this blog first went up with a picture Hows that for service folks!

Seriously guys, why did these get overlooked? And what makes it so difficult to add them? Now, to a new player these don't mean nothing to them. But to the veteran player base... they would be awesome. Why?

This all starts on the 10th January 2013. The day Dust 514 went live on the Tranquility server. Now, without boring you with the details, the mail system in Eve is quite extensive and when the game was moved to TQ then mails that were in the system, including any corp mails sent the old way, welcome mails, Alliance mails and notifications started to build up in in players mailboxes.

All of them.

So come the day of the Uprising we had a LOT of mail to sort. Hardly the best use of a Merc's time. And if you were a CEO or Director in a Dust corp you got a notification for every application and one for every acceptance of a player that had happened since the 10th of January to the 15th of May.

By the time of Uprising, we'd had around 1500 players go through the Uni at that point. That was a lot of mail to delete. And with no 'Delete all' option.... I shudder at the thought of how bad it would be now it the mail system came in now. We've had closer to 4000 players in the Uni by this time.

The silly thing is however, that the Dust Mail system uses the Eve Mail system and most if not all its functionality. It's why I use the Eve client to send a corp mail. I can increase the font size and colour. Use paragraphs and formatting and when it arrives to the members on the PS3 it's easier to read on a TV screen. The Dust side is just lacking the UI to access it all. But seriously, how hard to add the delete all button.

It's also limiting the use of the corp mail in Dust. There are players who aren't as OCD as me so see the red circle with 900 mails and dont even bother reading them. Sort it out CCP.

Chat Channels

Again, something that is not thought off as content but it is the primary way that Dust players co-ordinate operations both in and out of corp. They, like the mail, share the same system as Eve. So why can't a channel created in Dust have the same admin controls as in Eve? We don't perhaps need much but surely the creator of a Dust Channel in the Dust client could have basic mute and kick powers of those in their channel? I'm sure Drunk Night would love that. 

Inviting to Channel shouldn't mean having to add a player to you contacts first either.

We have a couple of channels in the Uni created Eve side so as to give us more control. We could have passwords Dust side to stop unwanted players joining the channel. But its better to create it Eve side and change the settings so that only members of your own corp can join it. You can also block known trolls as well. Ease of use perhaps but still bloody useful to have in your quiver. So why should only those corps that have access to Eve have that advantage.

Forum Access

Directors and the CEO have access to 'The Board Room' in each Corps forum on the offical Dust Forums. It would've been nice to include the option for Non directoral roles to be able to access The Board Room too. 

Message Of The Day

The average TV screen size is now 40 inch or above. Thats a lot of screen real estate that can be used for informing your members of chat rules, procedure, standing orders, whatever you want in fact, at the top of a chat channel when they log on. It can be added on the Eve side no problem. Why can't it been seen on the Dust side? Why can't it be added Dust side while we're at it?

Theres probably a lot of other things that I could think of as well as others that the player base could mention too but these are the top 4 that annoy me. None are very big in of themselves but combined they would make corp building much easier, prevent burnout and provide much needed polish to a UI that is in need of a newer finish.