Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Year of the Horse

As the Shanghai office of CCP winds down for a few days, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, I thought I'd use the animal of this new year, the horse, as a ridiculously tenuous link to my real life occupation.

For I am a purveyor in false hope and dreams....

I manage a betting shop.

I also know something about odds and percentages and now a good long term bet when I see one. Just over two years ago I paid off the flight tickets for my first trip to Fanfest. Back then I was an enthusiastic but still limited in experience pilot in EVE University and Eve Online. It was to be honest the only game that I played a lot on the PC. I'd dabbled a bit in Civilisation V on the format, a couple of bargains on Steam but the format I'm most comfortable with is consoles. 

At the time specifically the Xbox 360. I didn't own the PS3, not because I'm xbox fanboy, though I admit choosing the Xbox One over PS4 for reasons I'll came back to later. No, I chose the Xbox 360 for two reasons. First of all it was cheaper and secondly for Xbox Live.

I'm a proud owner of the number 10 on my Gamertag tenure, shortly to be 11. In fact I was one of the UK beta testers for Live before it was launched. It was easy to be in that beta if I'm honest. Fast and stable broadband a decade ago in the UK was the heady speeds of 120kb a second. Ooooooo. And the cabling of the UK was still going on, so it was fairly rare to have broadband, almost by default I was in the beta. 

Halo had already fired up a love for FPS games which had started in the seedy seaside Arcades o my youth, so when Halo 2 (still the best in the series) arrived with the Live option it's predecessor lacked, I was hooked. I swear that disc didn't leave my Xbox for 9 months. 

So you've noticed that so far I've owned all three Xbox consoles and claim to not be a fanboy. How does that compute. Well, put simply there were no games on the PS2 or PS3 that I wanted to play that  there wasn't an Xbox version of. Don't get me wrong, there's been some great games on the format but nothing that floated my boat so to speak. 

So back to the Fanfest of 2012. I'm a console gamer, in a place full of PC players. Who'd just learned that the FPS that CCP had been working on wasn't coming to PC but was going to be a console exclusive. And not only that, on the most consolely of consoles, the PS3. 

They weren't happy. Not happy at all.

Seriously, the day they opened to door in Harpa main hall, to show the hastily gathered PS3 demo units and allow us to have a go, you could feel the contempt, heavy in the air. It condensed on the walls and you'd think you could hear it drip. As someone who was a console gamer at heart, that happened to love playing Eve, it was a very uncomfortable feeling. I dared not tell anyone. 

It was like getting a cheap ticket for an FA Cup match and finding you're the only Leeds fan in a crowd of Man Utd seating. 

The problem was for me however was that I liked the game. Don't get me wrong, it was a festering pile of kak in terms of the problems that build had. The controls, the UI, map design, the lack of variation in the them. It was using an inferior controller... It was bloody awful. 

But I still liked it for no good reason I could identify. Part of the package for those that attended Fanfest that year was a beta key. Well I'd had some experiance of beta's, the last one prior to that was the Open beta for Halo 3 (I flipped when that email arrived), I couldn't play the game on the 360 and I'd heard rumour of some survival game featuring a middle aged man and a young girl coming onto the PS3 that was promising. The price had dropped since launch, so I took the chance and got a PS3 slim. And waited.

The closed beta started. Some improvement since Fanfest. An active forum for testers. Chromosome came. It was going good. And I'm still playing the game now. Like I said, I know a good long term bet when I see one. It's survived its first year despite the hurdles it's had to jump and a poor launch build.

It's as playable and as enjoyable as it's ever been. The last couple of point builds (other than the over enthusiastic AV nerf of 1.7) have been really good and the promise of 1.8 and its full racial suits has me giddy.

So back to the choice between Xbox One and PS4. I'm a home cinema nut. Pretty much everything is routed via a really nice Sony Reciever and a fabulous Panasonic LED TV. My music is streamed to it all and I needed a console to fit in with all that with little fuss. The Xbox One.

Also, the PS4 is again not offering me something that I can't get on the Xbox One. Nothing floating my boat in Sony's immediate road map.

Unless CCP change that of course. Let's be honest I didn't get a PS4 because I can't play Dust 514 on it. But I think I'll be getting one this year...

I know a good long term bet when I see one.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

CPM Election Fever.

So election fever is upon us in New Eden thanks to CCP Saberwing firing the starting pistol a little early perhaps...

The Council Chamber is now full of candidate threads from the full spectrum of players in Dust. From the established big hitters to the smaller guys whose opinions are just as valid. I look forward to the inaugural CPM elections for many reasons.

First of all, because all the rumours are saying that it will be STV, single transferable vote. For a community as varied as Dust's but limited in number, its essential that such a system is in place to avoid the bigger Corps and Alliances filling the positions on the council. Secondly because there has been a perception, incorrect in my view, that the current CPM have no mandate purely because CCP chose them.

While its true that the players had no real say in the matter, the fact that they had benefited from the work and meta content that the CPM members had and still produce for the game, did give them a mandate by implied consensus. 

And part of the work of CPM0 was to create the white paper and processes that the future CPM's would need to do their job in the future. With the gun being fired we can safely assume that they've succeeded in that role and the community team, headed by Saberwing can proceed with the elections proper.

And it's important that this CPM do have a direct mandate from the players. Current CPM member Jenza posted an open letter, stating that CPM1 would have a much harder time than they did. Completly understandable considering.

It's beginning to come clearer now as to to the direction that the new EP CCP Rouge is wanting to take Dust and he's not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to do it. The frankly over the top reactions to the equipment and suit changes is indicative of the job that the new CPM members will have on their hands.

For the record, I have little sympathy for those that specced into FOTM in pursuit of KDR, a measure of excellence that for me is on par with middle aged men buying Ferrari to compensate for inadequacies elsewhere.

1.8 it would seem to me is the where the game that should've launched on May 14 last will finally be available for us to play. With a quick hotfix for problems found in 1.9, I'm confident that Fanfest 2014 will be the introduction of 2.0, a build of the game that demonstrates Rouge's vision of the game and how it grow from there. 

Whatever format it's on...

As to my CPM candidacy. I still intent to stand but I feel it rather jumping the gun to post a manifesto or announcement thread till finalised details are released by CCP. I'm old fashioned like that. Plus I don't want to bore people with a protracted campaign. That allows cynicism to creep in with the electorate and I want the community to be as engaged as possible without that. 

But I think with what I've spoken about before in the threads and with the Dev's themselves over the last two Fanfest's should give you some clues as to what I'd hope to promote within the CPM. 

An expansion of the New Player Experience to make it easier and more enjoyable for the new player to get to terms with the complexities of the game.

Helping to promote the growth of the games playerbase using the expanded NPE, an enhanced and valid Eve/Dust link and introduction of a form of PvE.

Working to ensure the continued expansion of the game onto new formats and the value that can be goined from that.

Engaging with the CSM and Eve playerbase to show them the potential value to them of the Eve/Dust link.

Pushing toward the ultimate goal of making the UI for Dust more robust and better suited for the running and expansion of Corps and Aliiances on the Dust side of New Eden, free from the requirement to use the Eve client.

There are a few other details that I want to speak on but for now that should give you some clue as to how I stand on various issues. 

So hopefully you agree with me on a lot of that and think my current work in DUST University have contributed to the community and its growth. 

Thanks for reading.