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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hearts in the Right Place

Assuredly, CCP has been putting effort in to improving the immersion and experience of Eve, and I have to appreciate that fact. Yet, despite this obvious work, I find myself less engaged with the game.

I understand what they're trying to do, of course: remind us of all the complex activity happening just beneath the surface. For instance, when we dock, the screen goes black, then it fires back up with us safely in our private berth, it's easy to lose track of the fact that we're just one ship within a massive structure, that so much is happening around us. The docking animation reminds us of this, and is a neat part of immersion.

Or, rather, it might be, if not for the jerky camera action that actually gives me vertigo. When I dock, I'm immediately looking to either a) repair my ship, b) move items between my ship cargo and hangar bay, or c) swap ships, all of which require my eyes to focus on the static cargo screen. But the docking animation being a side-angle pan really plays havoc with my equilibrium and makes me feel like I'm trying to throw a baseball onto a moving train.

It's an example of a great idea done just slightly wrong. Now, CCP's responding to this with an option to toggle off the effect, but to me, that falls in the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach. Why not just default the camera angle to face squarely at your oncoming ship, so you see it grow slightly bigger while the background behind it stays the same? The vertigo effect would be drastically minimized for those who want to get to station business, while players who do want to enjoy the effect can simply shift their camera angle. You're 90% of the way there, but that 10% means the difference between a sick stomach and a great change implementation.

For me, this sums up my recent experience with Eve... almost, but not quite.

Let me give you another example: the Shadow of the Serpent event. This is, by far, the most expansive event CCP has attempted, including both combat and mining challenges that can appeal to both new and experienced players. It suggests good things about the future of in-game immersive events. It was well-supported by lore activities and fits in neatly with the addition of the new Serpentis faction capitals.

I sincerely hope CCP continues developing events like this. You're on the right track. And the way you're sharing details about these challenges - integrated directly into the login screen and next to the system information - is a great template to follow in the future. It's not too cumbersome and can be easily hidden for those who aren't interested in it. Well done, and well-constructed challenges.

Unfortunately, it's being eviscerated by the playerbase. The sites are long and unlocking the challenges feels like a grind for relatively small rewards. Players of Eve are heavily cost/value driven, and the event lacks the "big idea" drop that made the Crimson Harvest event so successful (the skill accelerators). So far, sure, people can get some drops, but not the "Oh, God, I Must Have It!" drop that really drives player frenzy.

That's really a matter of perception. I highly suspect that the reward canisters players can unlock from the Shadow of the Serpent event will include BPCs for the various Serpentis faction capitals, which will be in high demand. CCP seems to be deliberately silent on some of the higher-end rewards, and that sounds like a very big gamble... unless they're intentionally being understated in an attempt to reward those who stick with it regardless, and to serve as a driver for participation in future events.

And I can't think of a better way to get people to participate in the next event than to give away a faction titan BPC to the most-engaged player of this event.

But, leaving aside speculation, the simple fact is that scoring in the top ten for this event would take a lot of time. I can run null cosmic signatures casually (read: 1-2 sites a day) and earn a billion per week. Comparatively, the event rewards just don't seem that compelling. and we all know how players are with risk/reward.

That said, those who are running these sites for the event seem to be enjoying themselves. And that's an important factor. Nothing can satisfy everyone, and an event that makes some people very happy and displeases only results-oriented min/maxers has a place in Eve too.

It's a great event, and well thought-out, but I'm just not personally that interested in it.

Looking at changes like this, I started to wonder... am I starting to become a bittervet? I admit I've never really understood what leads to that status, or even a definition of it really, although you can't really deny that it exists.

Ripard Teg commented on reddit that being a bittervet comes from finding a part of the game you absolutely love, then watching CCP make changes that run it into the ground. I get why he'd say this, but I honestly believe that truly enjoying Eve means enjoying several parts of the game at once. In essence, Eve is more than just one activity, but greater than the sum of it's parts. Then again, he's speaking as a bittervet, on the other side of the divide. It's probably as hard for bittervets to get enthusiastic about gameplay elements as it is for newbies to understand the hostility of bittervets.

I think I'm on the cusp, though. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm not as innocent or well-believing as I once was. I'm straddling the fence between the two. And I can see both sides.

And from where I sit, I wonder if being a bittervet is really just the result of exhaustion. I've seen so many changes, so many patches and rebalances, that it's hard to really get worked up about any of them anymore. I can't scream about Svipuls, citadel camps, or carriers tracking frigates because I remember Drakes, Maelstroms, and Archon blobs. I've seen each weapon system become - then cease being - overpowered. I've watched fleet sizes and tactics morph a hundred different ways. I've seen the UI change multiple times, new features and effects come and go.

The one thing I can say for certain is that the gameplay itself never really improves; it just changes. The missile blobs of the days of the Drake became the sentry blobs of the Ishtar fleet, which became slippery petes, which became Machariel fleets. Is the meta of today really any better than the meta of some time in the past?

And with each rebalance comes a need to remember new bonuses, discover new overpowered tactics, and fall victim to more "cheap tactics", which are really just adaptations to the new mechanics. The same patterns repeat, the same complaints resurface, and the same rivalries re-emerge. They just wear different tickers, involve blobs of different ships, and come from new speakers.

"All this has happened before, all this will happen again." It's the mantra of the bittervet. And, honestly, I get it.

But I also can see the other side. I can understand the perspective of the newer player who hasn't gone through fifteen cycles of rebalance and sees the hard work and effort CCP puts into responding to the adaptations of players. I see their efforts to improve the gameplay experience, boost the immersion, and deliver on the promise of Eve.

With each patch includes more to learn and absorb. It suggests new tactics and new opportunities. The release of citadels opened up wide expanses of NPC null space to colonization in the only way that really matters: residency. Each new module and ship bonus reshuffles the deck for industrialists, stimulating markets and fueling speculation. Skill injectors let players customize their characters like never before without having to step outside of their identities... for a price, of course.

There's a lot to be excited about, but those very same elements can feel overused, repetitive, and cause a feeling of dislocation after a while. I can see it. I can feel both simultaneously. It's a strange position to occupy.

That's the funny thing about Eve... it's almost natural to feel two conflicting emotions at the same time. In White Legion, I spent some time in FDZ, right next to my old stomping grounds in Geminate. I fondly recalled our old kitchen sink roams, where we're grab any random ship and charge out into the void looking for a fight. But then I remembered how every fleet would end with a ship loss. In fact, the two were inseparable; in Eve, if you fly recklessly, you die.

Simultaneously, I long for and want to avoid the experience of the past, just as I long for the success but can be annoyed by the regimentation of fleets in the present. Yet, when I go out roaming, rarely do I fly something without thinking through my strategy.

Is this natural price of wisdom the sheet enjoyment of an experience? Once we know all the things that can go wrong or the ways we can fail, are we able to enjoy the moment as much? Can you truly be knowledgeable and "give no fucks" at the same time, or do you have to consciously suspend one to enjoy the other?

Or, maybe the golden path of Eve requires walking the line between the two, both being aware of the patterns and actively appreciating the great, unique elements that make this game so amazing.

Edit: Following the posting, a pilot posted on reddit that he did, indeed, receive a Vehement blueprint through the event.

12 comments:

  1. I think there are multiple versions of bittervet.

    Some are not too bad - they lament what they consider a golden age which is no longer achievable, or resent the impact of change, or are fatigued by all the change. The trick is understanding within themselves why they behave and react the way they do.

    Some are not too good. Those who want to leave the game but can't, so they set out sabotaging their relationship with the game to force the issue. Or those who decide the game is no longer for them - but set about sabotaging the game for everyone else.

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    1. And in both cases, I think it's a situation where we become oaks, not bamboo.

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  2. That last bit. That is the golden line.

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    1. Any time you can throw a Dune reference in is a good bit. ;)

      Side note... I won't be able to attend Steel City Eve, but it's coming up in late August folks... get to Pittsburgh and attend. Last I saw, Kyle Aparthos and Rixx will be there.

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  3. What an amazing read. I have pondered on the cognitive dissonance this game can give you every update it seems now. Bittervet might be inevitable

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    1. Maybe, though I suspect it isn't. If we can remain flexible and play the game before us (not the game in our minds), we'll be okay.

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  4. I've been suffering from EVE fatigue for a couple months now, myself - I recently lamented this in my own blog - and I share many of the same feelings you expressed in this well articulated post. I currently am feeling a strange dichotomy - a love-hate relationship with EVE Online with equal intensity on both sides. I'm bored with what has become routine, and yet I still find the game enjoyable to play. I like what CCP is trying to do, but I don't feel they've got it quite right yet. I feel increasingly cynical about the game, and yet I'm still interested and optimistic about where it is going.

    I suppose this is what being a bittervet means, and yet I'm not sure when I qualified for that designation.

    Regardless, I plan to go to EVE Vegas, where I hope to hear about the "next big thing" which will reinvigorate my passion for flying internet spaceships in New Eden.

    I hope.

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    1. When I feel this way, I've found it's because I see so much potential that my current situation doesn't let me participate in. It's surprisingly difficult to haul, earn isk, PvP, and feel as if you're accomplishing everything you want to on 1.5-2 hrs a day.

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  5. I want more spaceships to fly and deeper pve experience and content. It's that simple and will help the pvpers too

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  6. I am on a hiatus, which I should perhaps announce on my own blog. It is not that I have burned out on EVE, but that I have been captivated by Minecraft. It reminds me of playing music with other people: in constructive endeavors, mistakes are ideas. Miles Davis said that there are no mistakes. A band consisting of good musicians can take nearly anything and weave it into their art. That is where the fun is. Given that, mistakes and failure are merely texture. Minecraft is similar: if you do something that you did not intend to do, it is as likely to be interesting in its own right, or to be an unforeseen opportunity, as it is to be regrettable.

    I love this. I have come to crave it. The highs are higher than anything else has ever offered, and the lows are rare and easily pushed past. The more I enjoy it, the harder it is for me to see the appeal of mere consequence.

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  7. Newbro energy is what I miss. The feeling of invincibility, eagerness and drive to cut a path of their own in Eve. Unfortunately a small group of these people is impotent. And a large of is a good tsrget for harvesting kills.

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  8. I think the key thing about bittervets is that they miss being newbies - all the wonder and excitement, and exploring a new world. And they know they can never return to that place ever again - they are now knowledgable old gaffers who have seen things that cannot be unseen, and seen sights that will be lost in the morass, never to be remembered again. And they can't get it back - they have to deal with the now, and with all the changes, good and bad, that CCP provides. Not to mention the way the core of the game never seems to shift very far.

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