Daily Duty

I am fortunate that when I'm not traveling somewhere to meet a client, I work in my home office. I love the days I work at home, because my commute time is about 30 seconds and the gourmet coffee is always excellent.

Working at home does have a downside, however. I am ashamed to admit that I rarely wash up and shave on those days, as it is just too easy to roll out of bed with hair askew, start the coffee machine, fire up the work laptop, and get productive. It's not like anyone other than my charming bride is going to see me that day - and believe me, she's seen me at my worst.

But if I have three or four such days in a row, it's not a good thing. When you start to offend yourself due to lack of personal hygiene, and the wife starts fussing at you, it's time to pull together some self respect and hop into the shower. And each time, I say to myself, "I really should do this every day."

EVE Daily Hygiene

When CCP Rise announced that 10,000 skill points (SP) will be awarded to each character that undocks and kills at least one non-player character (NPC) ship, once every 22 hours, my first reaction was: "Well, that's probably something I should take advantage of."

I'm not sure I really will, though. It's like working-at-home days - I know I need to have a regular morning grooming routine, but I always seem to be distracted by the siren song of the coffee machine and the lure of the laptop. When daily SP rewards start, I will likely tell myself that I should take a couple of minutes each day to get it, but I doubt I'll actually do it regularly.

I'm sure I'll feel guilty about it, though. Gee, thanks, CCP Games - I certainly need more guilt in my life.

Great for the Newbros

CCP Rise provided more context about the intent of this daily reward opportunity. He says, "This is not a new player targeted feature. We hope it's good for new players as well but for the feature to be successful it needs to be relevant to everyone."

I don't think CCP Rise has thought this through. As Drackarn correctly points out on his blog, 10K SP is equivalent to about four hours of training, so by pursuing this reward, you basically are getting 26 hours of training for 22 hours of elapsed time. For a new player with 5M SP, that works out to be an extra 1 percent of SP generated every five days, more or less, so it's worth the very minor extra effort. But for a character like Neville, who has over 125M SP, that only means about a 0.04 percent incremental bonus. Clearly, the math favors the newbros.

And I think that is just fine, even if CCP Rise is wrong about it. Encouraging new players to log in and undock each day is a good thing. It will help them develop engagement in EVE Online as a regular habit, and that can only help to increase the subscription rates over time.

SP Inflation vs. Longer Engagement

I am a bit concerned about the continued devaluation of skill points in EVE Online, however. First, we got skill injectors, which allow new players to instantly create highly skilled characters for real money (that is, by purchasing and then selling PLEX in game). My initial worries about this have abated somewhat, as I've also seen the positive aspects of this in practice - specifically, the opportunity to give new players more options to fly different ship doctrines faster, and thus engage in more fleet operations. The number of extreme abuses of skill injectors have been much lower than I thought they would be - this is a good thing.

But now, we will have a daily SP reward for what essentially is doing almost nothing at all. If you live in a quiet high-sec system, you really only have to undock, fly to a local anomaly, kill an NPC frigate, and dock back up. The chances of actually interacting with another player and the risks of pursuing the award are both practically nil.

And now, because of skill injectors, we have some players actively "farming" skill points to sell on the market. I've little doubt that SP farmers will set their alarms to run their characters out to kill an NPC each and every 22 hours, so they can earn their nearly free SP bonuses.

When you give something away for free, with little to no risk or cost, the value of that something always goes down.

If we are going to have daily rewards, I would rather have one that requires longer engagement and is more scalable - easy to get at the low end, but incrementally more difficult at the higher end, with a daily cap. For example, pay 1,000 SP for each NPC frigate or destroyer, 2,000 for each NPC cruiser or battlecruiser, and 3,000 for an NPC battleship, up to a maximum of 10K SP per day. Then the newbros would have to stay out a bit longer - at least in a level 2 mission or two. Meanwhile, the oldbros can pop a few ratting battleships, and get a commensurate SP reward.

Even so, such a modest daily reward probably won't make veterans undock as often as a novice player, but every little incentive helps.

Bring on the Tribute!

CCP Rise also mentioned that "This feature has no relationship with the 'Tribute' system that was described last year at EVE Vegas. That feature has actually gone down a path more focused on goal setting and long term engagement than daily activity and so the daily part was broken off."

This is good news, I think - it sounds like the Tribute system will reward players for deeper involvement in the game. Personally, I hope it means interacting with smarter and more interesting NPC characters who assign more challenging series of missions and tasks. I wrote about the value of more evolved NPC interactions recently on Crossing Zebras - perhaps the Tribute system will be a step in this direction. If so, I welcome it enthusiastically.

Some people object to daily SP bonuses, saying they are too much like similar rewards in other MMO games, like "World of Warcraft" (WoW). They say that this "isn't EVE".

CCP RIse reacted to these concerns, saying "It's pretty absurd to think that any feature that can be found in a traditional MMO appearing in EVE means we are headed down the road to battlegrounds and dragon killing. If you look at [the] Citadel feature list, you should not have any concerns about our commitment to the EVE sandbox and the hardcore nature of our game."

If we discover that the Tribute system involves NPC-dispensed special missions and tasks, I guarantee that some players will dislike it, too, because it will remind them of some quests found in other MMOs like WoW.

But if daily rewards and Tributes encourage more players to undock and engage in space for longer periods of time, that will almost certainly be good for EVE Online, as a whole.

Making Daily Duty a Habit

I honestly have not made up my mind about daily rewards in EVE Online. I think they could be a good idea, but I think they need some tweaking to have the desired effect that CCP Rise intends.

I'm hopefully optimistic about the Tribute system, though. If that means more interesting interactions with NPCs in the game, I can't wait to try it.

For now, I will just stick a yellow Post-It note on my monitor, with two reminders:

  1. Kill an NPC.
  2. Take a shower.

My wife will the thrilled, I am sure.

Fly safe! o7

Bits and Pieces: April 2015

I've been traveling in Real Life again, though I've been playing quite a bit of EVE Online regardless. Connecting to the EVE Online server via hotel wi-fi is always a tricky proposition, but the Internet gods have looked favorably upon me, and granted me fairly reliable access for a change. I paid tribute to their generosity by awarding several grants to new players, giving away a few hundred million ISK over the last couple of weeks.

Have you hugged a noob today?

I have a habit of maintaining contact with an ever-changing small group of new players. Sometimes I'll see a pilot in my home system whom I don't recognize, and I'll check out their employment history. If they appear to be a novice pilot, I'll open a convo, welcome them to New Eden, and send a little ISK their way. Afterwards, they usually chat with me from time to time, to ask questions or share their latest adventures.

It's always gratifying to see a new player react to an unexpected grant of 25-50 million ISK, which must feel like a vast sum when they have practically nothing. I always reply to their enthusiastic expressions of thanks that they must give me a piece of their capsuleer soul in exchange - as if we really had one. And thus starts yet another informal mentor relationship.

If you have some ISK and a little time to spare, reach out to a new player or two, and send a little cash their way. Offer to answer questions, or to give them a hand, if they need it. I find that most new players are extremely grateful for the welcome and the assistance. I find that offering the occasional tip or bit of advice, to help them avoid some of the obstacles that baffled me when I was starting out, to be personally rewarding. I also enjoy collecting pieces of capsuleer souls, too.  (Insert evil snickering here.)

God bless you, Team Five 0

I have often grumbled about the user interface for corporation management in EVE Online. Setting proper roles for corp members, without leaving massive holes in security and leaving all your assets vulnerable, is difficult and confusing enough if you are running a small corp, but it can be brain-bending torture if you are trying to manage a large organization. When I was a director at EVE University, I did everything in my power to avoid the corporate management UI, as I found myself twitching uncontrollably every time I tried to figure it out. To call it "arcane" would be an understatement of the highest order. This is why most of the larger alliances have their own information technology service teams.

At Fanfest 2014, I asked some CCP developers if they could look into improving the corporate management functions. They all responded in the same way - with utter and complete terror at the prospect of unraveling that circuitous and convoluted code. "It's a nightmare," one dev told me then. "We will have to fix it eventually, but I feel sorry for whoever gets that job."

Role definition for corporations is now so much easier, I feel myself tearing up a bit. Seriously, it's a beautiful thing.

So, all hail the intrepid Team Five 0, who have finally battled the complexity of corporate management, and brought it down to something much easier to use. They've reduced the number of screens to just a quarter of the original set, without losing functionality. It's a dramatic improvement, though they are quick to point out that they have more plans for further enhancements down the road, especially as the new structures become available.

I, for one, am delighted with the changes thus far. Kudos, Team Five 0!

Give me some SKIN, man!

I like the new ship SKIN system very much, especially because they are now a function of a character, rather than of a specific, customized ship. The ability to change ship appearance on the fly, so to speak, is super-convenient.

Being a fan of EVE lore, I worried a little about how CCP was going to explain how this new mechanic worked. Could they find a way to describe how this makes sense in the EVE Online universe?

Never underestimate the creativity of CCP's clever developer and community teams...

I've said before that there are two reasons why people pay good money for luxury items (and ship SKINs definitely qualify): for prestige and for affiliation. This new system certainly aligns well with those players who want to show off their enhanced ability to fly decorated versions of their ships. I know I will certainly take advantage of this, as I'm a natural hoarder and love to display my collections.

Time to redeem some SKINs!

Time to redeem some SKINs!

I only wish that CCP Games would figure out a way to provide us with limited licenses for approved corporate- or alliance-only SKINs. People would pay good money for a ship color scheme that is available only to a particular group. Even better, if we could also display our corp and/or alliance logos on our hulls, I'd bet that players would pay staggering sums for the privilege. Demonstrating one's pride of affiliation is a strong motivator for a lot of people, in both Real Life and in New Eden.

Come on, CCP - make it happen! If you do, I think a lot of pilots won't be able to throw their money at you fast enough - myself included.

Speaking of lore...

While I enjoy reading about EVE lore, I'm not nearly an expert analyst like those players who are very heavily into the backstory, or who can speculate on the tinfoil implications of in-game events with confidence. I just love how CCP Games continues to invest in the emerging story arc as a rationale for all the new enhancements appearing in the game. It's being very well done, and gives EVE Online a flavor that is unlike any other MMO game.

The lore also makes me want to try some new - and possibly very stupid - things. For example, I'm off to hunt Circadian Seeker cruisers today, to see if I can collect some Antikythera Elements without getting zapped by a Drifter Battleship. I'll share how that goes in a future post.

Opportunities abound

I have written a lot about my personal passion for helping new players in the game, and I've been following the excellent work of Team Pirate Unicorns' development of an improved new player experience with great interest. In particular, their new opportunities system, which now replaces the old tutorial system, is a big leap forward in introducing EVE Online to novices. In fact, it has been shown to improve new player retention by at least ten percent already.

With the Mosaic update, released today, every player gets the opportunities system, and I must admit, to my personal surprise, I am really enjoying it, even though I am very much a grizzled veteran player. There is something strangely satisfying about having the new opportunities system ping you when you've completed an assigned task. I started a new manufacturing job, and got a notification saying that I'd fulfilled one of the opportunities, and that made me feel disturbingly good. Now I have this urge to make sure I've filled in all the blanks on every opportunity, even though they are for very elementary game mechanics I'd mastered long ago.

I must fill in all the empty boxes. I MUST! I MUST! I MUST!

Yes, I clearly have an obsessive need for completion. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that I find playing EVE Online so fulfilling. And here is yet another way to get another feeling of accomplishment, however devoid of meaning it may really be. It's like Team Pirate Unicorns is in my head! Argh! Get out of my brain, CCP Rise!

Silly wardecs

One of my manufacturing alts received a war declaration from a small corp the other day. This happens from time to time - a small corp sees a high-sec POS tower, with no defenses but lots of manufacturing and research structures, owned by another small (probably one-man) corp, and they decide they want to loot it. So, they declare war, in hopes that the target is a casual player who isn't paying attention. If they time the wardec right - usually towards the beginning of the work week - they can sometimes take out the POS unopposed, and loot the contents before the weekend-only player returns.

This actually happened to me a couple years ago, when I was traveling in Europe and didn't log into EVE for ten days. A small Russian corp saw my high-sec research POS, declared war, and took it out before I logged in the next week - far too late to do anything about it.

The new POS force field effect, just introduced in the Mosaic update, is definitely more attractive and interesting than the previous version.

The new POS force field effect, just introduced in the Mosaic update, is definitely more attractive and interesting than the previous version.

The loss wasn't that much, all things considered, but I'd learned my lesson, and set up the Neocom app on my iPhone to alert me whenever war was declared. That gives me 24 hours to take down the POS and secure my assets.

And this is precisely what happened this time. I got a notice of a wardec, and then logged in to shut down my POS and store it safely in station until hostilities ceased. I must have disappointed the wardec'ing corp, though, because they soon realized that there was no juicy target to attack. They promptly issued a surrender. One day later, my POS was once again anchored, online, and productive again. (And this time, with a pretty new POS shield effect.)

And so, let me state without equivocation: I'm disappointed in the current war declaration system in EVE Online.

I have no problem with a good war. Some of my fondest memories of EVE involve some intense battles during wartime. But as a player who lives mostly in high-security space, I have to say that the current wardec mechanic is just plain silly, because - in my experience - seldom do the corps who declare war actually show up to fight. Most are simply looking for easy one-sided kills - and where's the fun in that, really?

Not only that, but for my industrialist characters, it is far too easy to avoid war altogether, and that is indeed silly, too. If I get a wardec notice, I simply shut down for a week, and play on alt characters doing something else. It's really just a minor inconvenience, if any trouble at all.

Alas, I must confess that I do not yet have an alternative wardec system to suggest, but this latest experience has me thinking about it a lot. Wardecs should be fun, for both the aggressor and the defendant, with something both to risk and to gain on both sides. As it exists today, it's too easy to risk nothing and secure easy gains in high-sec wars, or even worse, to simply blow it off if there's any kind of potential loss at stake, by either the attacker or defender.

I'm all in favor of war in high-sec, but there's got to be a way to make it actually mean something. Perhaps you, dear reader, have some ideas? If so, please share them in the comments.

I may find some lessons to be learned from factional warfare or the new Fozziesov mechanics, so I'm going to study these and see if I can come up with a better solution than the current, goofy system we have today. That will likely be the subject of a post in the near future.

Until then - fly safe! o7