Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Minutes

INB4 blogosphere gets swallowed whole by Inferno 1.2 discussions...

Holy Mother of Mercy. The CSM and CCP have finally agreed upon and published the minutes from the CSM summit held months ago, and after a full read and some re-reads of specific sections, here are my thoughts.

  • We have finally returned to the state of things as they existed pre-Incarna. Players are more or less satisfied with changes coming down the pipe; no major new content this winter but a rework of some things players have been griping about for a long time. There is some grumbling; there's ALWAYS going to be grumbling. But at the very least there is no "OHGODOHGODWE'REALLGONNADIE!!!" making the rounds. None that is being taken seriously, anyways.
  • That said, the current development cycle as outlined by the devs is a bit troubling. Disclaimer: pure speculation to follow...As it stands, we're currently on a trajectory in which resources that were supposed to be dedicated to EVE may end up re-purposed towards DUST514 in order to help get it off the ground when it launches. If that happens and EVE gets the 'temporary' backseat treatment it will mean we'll have successfully gone 18 months with little to no new content. With the focus mentioned on the Incarna prototyping being done at the moment it could be a full TWO YEARS before anything resembling a "true" content expansion is released. How's THAT for soon(TM)?
  • It was mentioned at one point that there is no "Jesus Feature" planned for release until at least 2013. Ring mining at this point seems the most likely candidate. I don't necessarily have a problem with the one new content item being an industry one. If anything needs re-balancing, it's the allocation of New Eden's strategic resources. But being primarily a combat pilot. I want combat stuff. Admittedly, this is more me being petulant than anything else.
  • It seems that EVE has settled into an expansion pattern of content in the summer, iteration in the winter. This summer's expansion would actually be an exception to that rule, but generally it holds. It makes sense given that EVE sees its largest drop-off in activity during the summer, when students are home from uni and families go away on holidays. Conversely, EVE sees its biggest surge of activity following expansions. Why not do everything you can to prop up those summer numbers?
  • MASSIVE props to everyone who worked on preparing and editing the minutes. It was no doubt a tremendous undertaking. However the format of the minutes needs work. I truly DO appreciate the level of detail provided, as accountability is becoming an increasingly important issue with the CSM and will only become more important as time goes on. So the inclusion of a transcript will be a necessary evil, even if it does make the final document a bit unwieldy. However, a meaty outline at the head of each section would go a long way towards making the document more readable.
  • I find it disturbing that CCP is still iterating and developing with an eye on the NEX store and RMT possibilities. I really just want this to go away completely. I understand that's not my decision to make, but all the same. The whole thing hangs over EVE like an ugly black cloud that just won't quite move on to the next town.
  • There are some seriously pro-active members on the CSM, there are some grievously inactive members. I'm not here to name names or point fingers, but the document was extremely helpful in terms of figuring out who is who. 
  • Personal bias: there is a LOT more spitballing that takes place at these things than I previously realized. I think it's a great thing that people representing the players get to participate in this process, but it does highlight the importance of having a diverse delegation, as you need to be able to consider each individual area of the game from the proper perspective. I still hate reading the "Wouldn't it be awesome if..." stuff. I'd rather focus on what's in the game than what COULD be in the game.
  • CCP Unifex seems to have a firm handle on balancing the game of EVE versus the business of EVE, and how to make use of the tools the CSM provides him. The more I read about what he has to say, the more I appreciate his approach.
  • It was a little disturbing to see the CSM solicit CCP for guidance on how best to run the CSM. Not only do we now have delegates who have served multiple terms, but they are delegates serving on a PLAYER-RUN and PLAYER-APPOINTED council. I'd feel better if they were taking more initiative in setting up their own rules and regulations. I understand that CCP Xhagen has to approve everything, but this should be more of a rubber-stamp process than asking him to puppy-dog them through the process. You open the council up to SERIOUS abuse by CCP otherwise.
As I said, just some loose thoughts based on my interpretations. If I've grossly miscalculated or misunderstood something, I'm not terribly worried. I'm sure you'll let me know. You're EVE players, after all. ;)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Blog Banter 37: The Review

With Blog Banter 38 now up and running, it is time to call to close Blog Banter 37. After seeing A Scientist's Life in EVE do such a great wrap up of BB36, and in a bid to protect Seismic Stan's sanity for at least one more month, I thought I would heed the to call to review the 31(!) responses to this month's burning question!

Inspired by a series of events transpiring outside of the game, Stan posed the following question:

"EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"

Here's what New Eden had to say:

BB37: Do Unto Others!
Rixx Javix, proprietor of EVEOGANDA and leader of the Thukk You, Frill Me movement is first in line and opens his response with a bang. Invoking the Golden Rule and clarifying CCP's role in interpreting the application of that rule, Rixx's response is a brusque reminder that society, virtual or otherwise will tolerate only so much before turning you over to people who will make violating the EULA the least of your problems. 

This Far, No Further...
Eve is Real. And in this reality, Confessions of a Closet Carebear paints a picture of a world that has both a light, positive side and a dark, negative one. He then applies the two to a concept termed the 'Eve Bubble' to create a loose framework for determining how far is too far, and for determining whether Eve is Real or Eve is Too Real.

Faking It
Nikolaj Vincent at Eve Stratics begins his entry with a consideration on the utility of EVE by discussing both the outlet for unhealthy behavior it provides and the social training ground it can be. By examining the juxtaposition of EVE against the backdrop of real life he creates a playfully interesting argument for why breaching the sandbox might not be such a terrible idea after all. 

Grit in Your Guts
That faithful Kiwi at Aggressive Logistics raises the possibility that the line in question is in fact a moral one; a question of someone's character and belief system in equal measure. The futility of using this as a barometer for determining how much of what we do in-game is acceptable is discussed, before drawing a line of his own. Only this line isn't drawn in sand, but in flesh and blood.

The Line in the Sand
Kuan Yida at Random Posts from Auga also suggests that the line in question is moral in nature. He briefly describes his own personal code of ethics in our "troll's paradise" before outlining some specific examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Again we see the "in-game good, out of game" bad framework discussed in some detail.

Eve Is Full of Idiots
In what might be my favorite post title, Notes from New Eden sums up their sentiment perfectly while leaving the door open for exploration. They discuss how we're all idiots in EVE and how we're all equally wrong in some way or another. NNE also notes the uniqueness of Eve's tendency to blur the edges between it and real life and concludes that ultimately it is up to the the law of whatever land you live in to help you mitigate any threats the idiots may wish to inflict.

Drifting out of Touch
Aurelie at Emergent Patroller uses a deeply personal experience to teach us that meta-gaming and line crossing are nothing new in the world of Eve Online. She talks about her emotional reactions to those events to explore how irrational people justify irrational actions, as well as the precautions one can take to avoid becoming a victim. I'm trying hard to remain impartial here, but this has to rank among the most powerful responses to this crucial question.   

It's All About Consequences
From Orakkus at 2nd Anomaly from the Left comes a thought-provoking piece on the "fictional" distinction between our in-game and out-of-game selves. He approaches the question from the angle of consequences, and how it is these consequences rather than the actions preceding them that define the line, as well as whether or not we've crossed it.

Lines in the Sand
Mara Rinn of Rinn's Rants begins her response by categorizing the pilots of New Eden as either "polite gamers" or "boundary-pushers", and uses this distinction to illustrate who really decides where the line is. She also considers CCP's perspective on the matter and imagines their response would be truly polarizing.

When Did it Get So Fuzzy in Here?
In his debut post, Morg Braktar discusses the moving target that is the "line" on his blog Quiet as a Morg. Morg reduces the line to its most basic existence inside each one of us before expanding his view outward towards the EVE community at large. Ultimately, he concludes the line exists only where we as a community commit to upholding it. E Pluribus, Unum, friends.

Where's the Line?
Anshu Zephyran of Structure Damage offers a concise yet insightful post regarding the definition of the line and the difference between in-game violence and out of game violence. For Anshu, it just so happens this magical persistence we adore in game is the very element that defines how far is too far.

The Line in the Mind
TurAmarth ElRandir of A CARBON Based Life takes a step back from the game and uses an instructive example from an overwhelmingly popular US television show to teach us that even though the line is vague and can be morally subjective, it is as internalized in us as our own conscience, and that Jiminy Cricket might have been on to something.

Don't Cross the Line
"Eve is real, they say. But how real can we allow it to be?" Virto Nex of Cannon Fodder begins. Virto narrows his gaze on the reality of EVE, in that it is merely an escape from the persistent reality we live and breathe every day. In pondering the interaction of the outlet EVE provides and the players that plug in,  he considers the relationship between a player's actions and the consequences of those actions as well. Play nice, kids. We're all here for the same toys.

What Happens in New Eden Stays in New Eden
Lukas Rox of Torchwood Archives opens his response up with a brief thought on internet anonymity and how that skews behavior in the absence of perceived social consequences. As have other entries in this banter, Lukas acknowledges that CCP has their strict definition of where the line is, and uses a personal example to illustrate the fact that the players and CCP differ in their willingness to accept anomalous social behavior so long as the consequences for doing so aren't severe.

The Line in the Sand
When he tells you that the "line" as we've discussed it doesn't exist, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Splatus of A Journey Through the Mind was about to fall in line with many of the other banterers and tell you that the line was subjective. The trick up his sleeve is obvious when he explains why the line doesn't exist: we don't exist either. The rest is best explained by Splatus in this engaging and provocative response.

Cracked Rear View
Breaking with tradition, Ripard Teg of Jester's Trek weighs in on this particular blog banter with a glimpse into the DNA of EVE Online and MMOs at large. And just like any 'gudfite' in EVE Online, he's brought friends, most notably Aristotle. I'm assuming we're going to forgive him for naming his piece after a 'Hootie and the Blowfish' album, since he's Jester and he gets away with these sorts of things. ;-)

The Line
Kirith Kodachi of Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah briefly weighs in by eschewing the Golden Rule. Thinking he's drawn his line in the sand, he's shocked to discover it to be quicksand, and that he has himself fallen in...

A Line Removed
In this piece by Winterblink of Warp Drive Active we discover that the line has actually been stolen. A little bit of creative sleuthing reveals the true culprits, and why this game that is such a clever mix of "holyshits and whatthefucks" has driven us all to become such bloodthirsty bastards.

Shredding the Fabric
Corelin from Mad Haberdashers drops by to put in his two cents, citing the "John Gabriel Internet Dickwad theory" before pointing out that the line isn't as nebulous as people make it out to be. Good news, asshats; you're still in. 

What Happens in New Eden Stays in New Eden
Morphisat, author of the aptly named Morphisat's Blog steps in and offers a brief summary of BB37 to that point. Suggesting a hard line, with a soft, chewy "spy" center, he summons the ghosts of Machiavelli before taking his leave. 

A play in three acts, by Blastradius1 of Blastrad Tales. Act One: A sandbox, two players, and a disagreement. Act Two: John Q. Law, shades of white and black writ gray. Act Three: A penny turned, it's second side considered. The whole of EVE in perspective, windowlickers be damned. 

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy
Drackarn of Sand, Cider, and Spaceships starts his way in Jita and winds his way throughout the rest of New Eden to show us that this game truly celebrates line-crossing in any number of forms we might personally find distasteful but that are accepted in aggregate. He also considers the notion that any line we had has been trampled to death by those fighting to get across it first. 

The Matrix Has You
Eve is real. A Scientist's Life in Eve was there. In game and out, Eve is real. He considers the ramifications of that and defines where his own line stands in the process. And while you may run afoul of him in-game (I wouldn't, he'll blow you up), running afoul of the law is another matter entirely, in-game or out. 

The Double-Edged Sword
Tommy Rollins of Rollin's Ride in Eve invites us to consider the duplicitous nature of Eve players as well as the line itself. Citing both soft and hard examples of that line, what truly fascinates Tommy is to what degree we players appreciate having two sides to choose from.

Human After All
Hans Jagerblitzen, current CSM delegate and author of Hans Shot First, calls into focus the grand social and psychological experiment that is EVE Online. In doing so he reminds us gently at first, then more directly that despite the environment that the game has created, it will never absolve the players who participate of accountability for their actions or the responsibility that comes with the very human ability to choose.

I, Firstly, writing at Flying Silent, am the man behind this particular entry. In it, I attempt to devise a philosophical framework for defining the line, what falls within the boundaries of it, and what lay beyond. By examining what constitutes the game, the meta-game and the exo-game, Marvel as I confound and confuse before ultimately clarifying my position.

Morality Is a Social Contract
Adhar Khorin of Margin Call examines the line in the context of social contracts that exist both in-game and outside of it. They are indeed two separate contracts, with key differences between them that help us determine "good" from "bad."

Pandora's Sandbox
Host of the Blog Banter and author of Freebooted and Tech4News, Seismic Stan weighs in with his thoughts on the topic he originally proposed. Comparing the rabid fan-bases of both European football clubs and EVE Online, he demonstrates how passion and enthusiasm can turn ugly, regardless of the arena. He also considers the responses of those who have posted before him, seeing a reason to hope the EVE community might be able to transcend EVE's brutish reality. 

Lines Don't Look That Great When Drawn in Sand
Evehermit, sole proprietor of Evehermit's Blog posits the existence of not just one line, but hundreds all equally valid. Taken together, they require a "flexible moral compass" on the part of the intrepid navigator. Failing that, he invokes the "Golden Rule" to help navigate the murky, sandy waters.

Bullying the Sandbox
In a living example of the very issue we set out to discuss, Sindel Pellion of Sindel's Universe posted a foul-mouthed, insightful essay on the topic, received some harsh feedback for her point of view, and took down her post within the span of about 24 hours. Whether this was a legitimate withdrawal, or an attempt to prove the point is open for debate. But if it was intended as an example; well done, Sin.

A long answer and a short one
Bringing Blog Banter 37 to a close is Jace Errata/Cobalt Snake of Year of the Snake. After spelling out the location of the line in terms of real-world consequences and declaring his position, he describes the EVE Universe as being populated by (to paraphrase) "raging douchebags inflicting raging douchebaggery on non-douchebags and douchebags alike." And with one final comment on the sandbox metaphor, he is off.  And with that, so am I.

My many thanks to all of the participants of Blog Banter 37 and to Seismic Stan for giving me the opportunity to write and host its review. It is a large undertaking, but a truly rewarding one as I get to know each blogger and their point of view more intimately and reflect on their influence on my own.  See you in BB38!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back to Basics

Logging on last night found me completing a host of administrative duties for our new alliance, followed by some indulgent scanning for something to do/shoot and later a strat op on behalf of the coalition. During the form-up for the fleet, an alliance mate convo'd me and asked if I'd keep an eye on him during the op as he was new and didn't have a firm handle on everything we'd be doing.  I cheerfully agreed, and kept a vigilant eye on our chat window in case he had any questions.

Ultimately, he arrived a little late for the party, with the fleet standing down right as he got into position. I wasn't about to chastise him as he's a newer player and just now getting situated in our new area of operations. I was thrilled he took the time to make sure he got a ship set up that would be consistent with our objectives and that he was enthusiastic about supporting the alliance and coalition at large.

He was a little disheartened about not having the chance to do so, however, and asked instead if anyone wanted to 1v1 for fun-sies. I asked what kind of ships he had available and after figuring out what I had that would be a relatively even match, undocked and warped to a safe. After teaching him how to add fleet members to the watch list, he warped to me as did one other corp-mate interested in a bit of sparring and stress-testing.

As he was in warp, our budding young combat pilot asked me if I wouldn't mind sharing some of my PvP knowledge with him, as this is the area of the game he is most interested in. I was happy to oblige and we began the discussion by talking about the importance of dictating ranges, tackling, and speed. My corp-mate continued the discussion by discussing some common tactics to be used around gates and the like. Having gone well past my bedtime I logged off for the evening, feeling a little dissatisfied with my advice.

It wasn't that I felt the topics covered weren't important or that the advice given wasn't useful, but I felt fairly sure that I could have done a much better job with the time we had. I've just never been in the instructional role beyond answering one-off questions in corp or fleet chat.

Experience is the single biggest factor in a PvP pilot's skill progression, and I made sure to emphasize that. But in those rare moments of down time, I'd like to be able to offer more effective assistance to those taking the initiative to learn. So I'm asking all of you for help.

If you have any advice to offer in terms of effective "learning plans," I would truly appreciate your assistance. I've never been a member of Eve University or Agony Unleashed, so I don't have any experiences to draw on in that regard. Anyone who does, by all means, is welcome to share any teaching insights they may have gained.

I will thank you in advance for your time and advice. As will all of the new pilots I have the great fortune to work with going forward.

Thanks again, New Eden.