Thursday, May 28, 2015

Paradigm Shift: A PeP Game

Every blog post, every comment, and every hour spent reading and writing about Eve is dedicated to the pursuit of an idea, of a single moment when all that fodder caramelizes into a breathtaking insight.  It’s a slow process, but when it finally appears, the absolute satisfaction and delight of a true paradigm shift strikes you like a thunderbolt of awareness.  At no point do you feel more aware that all is perception and representation as you do in that moment.

For several weeks, I’ve posted about “what Eve is”.  I argued that CCP wants – and the gameworld needs – players who are highly engaged and passionate about what happens in-game, that we needed people who argue.  I’ve argued that players who do solo PvE aren’t as desirable to the game as players who interact with lots of people.  I’ve argued that direct player interactions are preferable to indirect or non-interactive actions.  I’ve posited the belief that while all activities are intensely satisfying to someone, we need to keep a hierarchy of value in our minds based on whether those activities create content for others, improve the vibrancy of the gameworld, and retain players long-term.   I’ve still said that Eve is a complex game and should use every tool at its disposal to gain that initial player interest, then quickly draw them into other areas to guard against boredom.  I’ve argued that the passionate player-created content is Eve’s major competitive advantage, and that CCP should not try to complete based on its poor PvE offerings (which is a losing long-term prospect in even the best cases; look at WoW’s subscription yo-yo).

Through it all, I’ve been sniffing around a larger point I couldn’t quite articulate.  I’ve been intentionally provocative with the deliberate goal of triggering discussion that could lead to that thunderbolt.  Other bloggers have chimed in, both in favor of and against things I’ve written.  Other commenters have argued with me.  Some made good points, and some expressed their own biases and the flaws in their thinking.  And all of it paid off.

A paradigm shift is a radical, yet sometimes subtle, change in the way one views the world that has massive ramifications.  I’ve said before that we create our own perceptions of the world.  This can lead to a lot of doubt and confusion when we reject an idea of absolute truth, but it can also lead to delight and awe when we replace an old world-view with a new, better one.  For me, that happened last night at about 11:45 pm.

You see, Eve certainly isn’t a PvE game, but nor is it a PvP game.  It’s a PeP game: Players Engaging Players.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Share Your Ideas: How do we make null-sec “Worth It”?

I’ve covered my thoughts on the FozzieSov changes in a few recent posts.  Overall, I’m very pleased with the direction CCP is taking the game.  The mechanic changes suggest a heavy emphasis on coordinated combat among small fleets, rather than blob warfare, as well as a fusion of PvE and PvP components, which should help draw people into the PvP game a bit more.

But let’s say you’re a small alliance looking to cash in on FozzieSov mechanics to re/claim a bit of space for yourself.  The best space in the game will go to established entities. The second-best – areas near Empire on travel routes – will likely go to well-oiled pirate groups and PvP-centered entities.  So that leaves small alliances with the worst of the null-sec space.  Your logistics will be a nightmare involving multiple jumps, you’ll be prone to constant disruption (meaning your primary game activity will have to be cultivating your space) and your systems will have a minimum of the really lucrative sigs, anoms, moons, and belts.

Put simply, a lot of null-sec may not be worth the hassle of holding it.  What should CCP do to make it “worth it” for alliances to own and defend their sov from the significant threats FozzieSov will impose.

I’m going to limit my personal comments to, “That’s a great idea,” at a maximum, and turn this one over to you folks entirely.  Please share your suggestions for specific new/changed mechanics/features.

Please note: If you reach this page from another source (EN24, reddit, Eve forums), by all means post there, but consider duplicating your comments here as well so everyone can read your ideas.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Managing Boredom

As a student of history, I’ve often heard the phrase, “The Wheel of Fortune turns.”  Fortune is cyclical, like a wheel rolling along the ground.  We ride the wheel to its peak, then are carried back down to the ground again.  Nowhere is this truer than in Eve.

Bad thinking compounds loss after loss, making you feel awful at this game.  The next moment, you start a string of successful kills and unlikely escapes.  Recently, I’ve been having a very good run; I haven’t suffered any losses for quite a while and have even avoided hot drops and gate camps.  But as they say in hockey, “You’re never playing as well or as badly as you think you are.”  My luck will turn again.

The trick with fortune is to make decisions only when you’re on the way up or on the way down.  Changing course at the bottom can cause you to replace good habits with bad, and changing at the top can cause you to over-step your skill and abilities, to ruinous financial effect.

But if there is such a thing as the “Wheel of Boredom”, it’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Many Gateways

In my last post, I’ve spoken about a hierarchy of interactions, arguing for an Eve worldview that places direct player interactions at the top.  That’s an intentionally provocative stance, and as a direct result, it decreases the priority on other interactions.

After all, while certain marketing campaigns or simplified business objectives may require CCP to single out a highest priority, these concepts don’t generally make it out of the C-suite.  But identifying what matters “most” is a great way to understand ourselves, our priorities, and our objectives.  The harder the question is, the more insightful the answer.

But they certainly don’t encapsulate how players actually engage with Eve Online.  So now I’d like to support what may appear to be a contrary position, but one that deserves attention too.

Eve needs to open as many gateways to player engagement as possible.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


As humans, we naturally divide the world by dichotomies.  Good and evil.  Right and wrong.  Left and right.  True and false.  More often than not, these end up being laughably simplistic and utterly wrong, but we keep doing it anyways.

These generalities allow us to make conclusions about the world… there’s simply too much information to assess each piece independently.  Dichotomies are shortcuts.  And they allow us to cast ourselves in the mold of The Standard… the measure by which the world is gauged.  Is this person more or less moral than me?  We position ourselves at the center of the universe.  And that kind of makes sense… no one else’s perspective and experience matters as much to us as our own does; we’re stuck with it… it had better.

So, naturally, we always cast ourselves in the role of The Hero.  We are righteous.  We are just.  Our actions are the norm by which everyone else should seek to emulate.  Pair that tendency with the deceptive believe in universal truths (for instance, morality, justice, etc.), and you get a dangerous combination.

But this isn’t an article about The Hero.  This is an article about the importance of The Villain, and specifically the essential role villains play in Eve.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Player Interactions

The topic of “player interactions” comes up quite a bit on this blog and in the game as whole.  Most people agree that Eve is about fostering player interactions, but no one – myself included – takes the time to sit down and define the term we throw about so often.  The definition we use is all the more important following Fozzie's comment that CCP wants to "put players in contact with each other," in the devblog announcing the revised changes to null-sec sovereignty.

But before we can do that, we need to understand the necessary components of a good definition.  The purpose of a definition is to bundle up a set of ideas into a single “thing” that people can easily conceive of and apply in future thinking.  The definition of a “meeting”, for instance, is necessary because it sets certain expectations about how the “thing” you’re about to attend is supposed to go, and sets some baselines for the standards of behavior.  Specific instances have different applications of the expectations incorporated within the definition “meeting”, but the essential nature of it is the same.

So, definitions have to be vague enough to account for some variation in specific instances.  But they cannot be so vague that they cease to have meaning.  This is particularly noticeable in the trend over the past fifty years.  In the desire to be inclusive of all things, words are becoming less precise.  Consider the fact that people will make many claims about what “freedom”, “right”, and “truth” mean, to the point that it seems they can mean anything.  This is intentional, and its purpose is to undercut the value of those terms in argument.  Yet, the fact that most of us can feel a sense of awkwardness when people invoke one of those terms for something that we know, in our hearts, it clearly does not mean.

So, definitions cannot be inclusive of every fringe case, but they must not be so precise that they provide no value to us on a daily basis.

That said, what is the definition of a “player interaction” in Eve?  (Ed. Note: tl;dr at the bottom.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

200: A Milestone Deserving Notice

I’m typically not a numbers guy, but while numbers don’t tell the whole story, they can serve as a valuable indicator of how we’re doing.  I want to take a minute from regular articles (three of which I should have for you shortly) to call out a milestone I've passed today.

200 posts, 673 comments, 1.9 million views.  I feel I’ve come by them honestly.  In all but a handful, I’ve kept my focus on ensuring that my readers take something of value away from them.

This blog has become more satisfying to me than I could have ever imagined.  And I’m realistic enough to understand that the reason has only a part to do with myself.  A lot of the time, I share my experiences, or my opinions about things happening in the game world.  And both of those are at least equally influenced by others.  Without combatants fighting me, I can’t write about the lessons I learn.  Without CCP and players developing and adapting the gameworld, I can’t write about the effects I foresee and observe.

But, most importantly, without you, Target Caller has no value.  Your comments and arguments keep me sharp, honest, and engaged with writing.  They provide the passion that fills the pages.  Agree or disagree, I’m thankful for the time you spend each day reading and commenting.

So I wanted to take a moment to share that milestone.  It’s a milestone that belongs to everyone who ever posted a comment here, on reddit threads, or on EN24 posts.  I read them all, and I appreciate them all.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Data and Lore

One of my favorite Eve-related images is the “Two Kinds of Eve Players” picture that adorned the Rote Kapelle killboard of the two kids playing on the beach – one building a sandcastle and one inbound with a shovel to smash it apart.  It captures the two spirits that sit in balance in Eve: creation and destruction.  In Eve, it’s undeniable that players are able to engage in whichever kind of wish fulfillment they desire; do you have a repressed urge to create without the RL means, or do you want to destroy, either as catharsis or to find a purity in combat?  In Eve, you get to decide.

But there’s another dichotomy that seems particularly appropriate: data and lore.  Some players live for “spreadsheets in space” and quantify everything – profit per hour; optimal tactics for specific goals; perfect fits based on dps, tank, tracking, cap usage; value of their time, and “win” conditions.  The others, well they thrive on narrative, the experience, emotional satisfaction, and the dopamine rush of an engaging moment.  Put another way, you have people who love the data of Eve, and others who love the lore of Eve.

And my friends, I am totally a lore guy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Being Proven Right

Yes, this is going to be a smug post.  I tend to use a lot of words to try to make myself clear.  I I’ve been pretty harsh on players who engage in aspects of the game in ways that actively, passionately, and exclusively eliminate the possibilities of interacting with other players in non-consensual ways.  The whole warp core stabilizer thing is just one example.

In other words, all the people who want to play the game without interacting with other players.

I’ve said before that Eve is an MMO and solo play is contrary to the purpose of an MMO.  Now, not every element of gameplay MUST be multiplayer, and players aren’t wrong for engaging in solo activities.  Rather, I’m referring to an error of intention, not action.  You’re playing Eve wrong if you log in with the explicit, overt desire to not interact with anyone and you view other players as ruining your game.

Folks have complained that this attitude is exclusionary.  Not at all.  My goal is to condition players towards enjoying emergent, sandbox activity.  To view player interactions as challenges, not ruinations.  To accept player-induced losses as the cost of doing business, not as a reason to rage.  To view interactions with other players as challenges that serve to help you grow, improve, and become educated, not as interruptions or distractions.

This approach to the game makes players less inclined to rage-quit when they suffer a setback and more inclined to become more passionately engaged with the game.  CCP’s data on player retention confirms this.  My goal, then, is player engagement, retention, and interaction by setting expectations correctly and modifying player attitudes to accept and adapt to what Eve offers, not resist and condemn it.  And this is good for everyone.

And today I won.  I quote from CCP Fozzie’s summer null-sec sov announcement:
“Playing with and outplaying other human beings is the core of Eve, and putting players in contact with each other is a big part of that. If people can fight over an asset without ever coming into contact with each other, we’ve lost something very valuable.” -CCP Fozzie
Smug looks good when you're right.

*drops the mic*

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Killed In Its Cradle

RIP Trollceptor… we never knew you.  We will not mourn your passing.

Today, Fozzie released the details on the changes to the original null-sec sov revamp plan.  And boy, do I like what I see.

The major issues with the original plan, as identified by players, were the following:
  • Time zone control effectively locking ownership of systems into certain time zones (ie. if you can’t log in during EU prime, you’ll never be able to take an EU system) and disincentivizing alliances from spreading across more than one time zone.
  • Alliances regularly using their systems should have an even easier time when defending them.
  • The initial wave of proposed changes would make it difficult to maintain control over your capital.  Typically, it attracts a lot of enemy attention and has hotdroppers regularly, making ratting and mining extremely hazardous.  With indexes, ironically your staging system would be MORE vulnerable to conquest.
  • The ability of players to use entosis links on ships that are uncatchable and unkillable, particularly those that can bypass gatecamps.  The community was concerned that this could create a means of players to reinforce dozens of systems they had no intention of contesting with minimal risk.
Time zone vulnerability that scales based on the combined index of the systems… designated capital systems providing a bonus to indexes… increase in maximum modified from 4x to 6x… each of these provides a good solution to these issues.  While Fozzie repeatedly states that CCP would prefer to use the simplest solution to a problem and I’m not sure these qualify in all cases, I can live with them.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lessons: All Kinds of Crazy

Last night didn’t produce any killmails, but it did produce two great stories through engagements with a group of Gentlemen’s Club pilots.  While the lessons I learned were fairly mundane, the telling of them merits repeating.

The First: Svipul vs. Phantasm

There are a few experiences in Eve that happen so infrequently that they fall into the realm of Eve lore.  People whisper and talk about them without ever having experienced them themselves.  And that’s okay.  The fact that they don’t happen all the time makes them mysterious.  Things like jumping your Titan instead of bridging.  Of successfully pipebombing someone.  Of pulling off that 100 billion isk scam.

And I had the pleasure of experiencing one of them yesterday.

I started the night my usual way when I don’t log into a find an active fleet, by scanning down all the signatures in Tamo and the surrounding systems.  Last night, we had only one wormhole, a dangerous unknown, but that one had a couple of connections in it, including one to Immensea.  Putting away my probing ship, I took out one of my two Svipuls and decided to explore a little.

Now, I tend to fly ships fitted with probe launchers when traveling through wormholes, just in case someone comes by and closes my connection home. Svipuls are excellent at this.  The night before, I had a great deal of success playing the tackle role with this very same ship, and had no problem taking on the targets I came across.

And this included a Caracal last night running down rats at asteroid belts.  While I didn’t solo him, I was out-pacing his damage/tank state and could have finished him off while still in armor if my fleet had been delayed.

Granted, the Svipul is a lot more expensive, but the Caracal was still a cruiser, and I was able to take it down very nicely.

Thus enters the pride.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Another Look

With the launch of all the new ship skins, CCP has shown what appears to be a circling back around to the customization efforts they began with Incarna.  Now, a lot of folks flipped their lid about Incarna for a variety of reasons, but the general advantage of trying to make the assets we acquire in Eve a little more personal was, in general, a good one.

Things are quite different between when Incarna launched and now.  Players have demonstrated, with their wallets, that they’re willing to pay for customization, and CCP is inching its way along.  Now, while I like the idea of ship skins, I have no personal interest in them.  That could change.  A long while back, I said I’d never buy the glitzy avatar gear CCP offered when they launched aurum.  My opinions have softened on that (as the price fell, coincidentally).

I say “softened” because I really like the way Talvorian looks, and given the way the character customizer works, if I change anything, I don’t have the option of going back.  And that really holds me back.