Saturday, 2 November 2013

Mobile Tractor Unit

The pre-sales support engineer (that's the title his business card gave him) bumped into me while I was handing over a salvaging contract. “Mara,” he chimed (oblivious to the fact that I call myself Rinn), “I've got just the thing to help your salvaging work!”

I corrected him about my name (it's a long story, my name is Rinn, I'm from Mara) and started listening as best I could. There was time, and he was buying.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Some surprises aren't nice

The steady hum of the tractor beams and buzz of the salvagers was lulling her into a soporific state. Out here, one could easily fall into comfortable meditation. The beautiful nebulas reminded her of life in the caravan with her parents. Mara was remembering the attack, the walls exploding as the boarding parties bypassed the airlocks and just punched straight through the ship's hull. The slaver hounds, drool hanging from their gaping, razor-toothed maws. The growling.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Cliffs Notes: Background material for discussion of Odyssey Hacking

Hacking Minigame

Officially, the design influence was games like Rogue and Munchkin. During FanFest a few of us had a brief conversation on Twitter about the hacking game: during that conversation a couple of different games were mentioned, being Deus Ex and the old Amiga game Paradroids.
What follows are my "Cliffs Notes" on these four games: Deus Ex hacking, Paradroids hacking, Munchkin and Rogue.

Odyssey Exploration Hacking Is Broken By Design

Here's the official feedback thread for exploration hacking. This is a rare case where the players are actually better at game design than the CCP devs.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

On The Forums Today

On The Forums Today

Here are some galnet postings I stumbled across today.

Features and Ideas Discussion

Discussion about changing lasers to allow a capsuleer to bias towards EM or Thermal damage. The basic idea is that all crystals currently focus on EM damage which most armour is more resistant to, while other weapon systems are able to select for explosive or thermal damage, which typically isn't as highly resisted in shields or armour as other damage types.

Some people need help learning how to manage new players in PvP corporations.

There is still more to be done with revamping EVE's PVE. A long time ago I was keen to have all missions tuned to be flyable with PVP style fittings, and to have NPCs behave a little smarter. We now have the Level One AI, it would be nice to have NPCs flying more player-like ships rather than wimpy things that can only beat you by throwing superior numbers and spamming DPS. CCP still need to follow up on providing more storyline missions so that people flying Distribution missions can get a Distribution storyline instead of Shipyard Theft or Materials for War Preparation.

There is (another) thread discussing the removal of attributes.

Tora Bushido would like alliance-level player notes. That is, alliance-wide versions of the "notes" tab on a character's info window.

No feedback on IRC-style chat highlighting since CCP Sisyphus responded at the end of February. I did raise the idea of having alliance, corp and player-created chat channels available as an IRC service during the Web round table with CCP Alice at FanFest 2013. We also raised the idea of mail available as an IMAP service (and potentially as an SSMTP service) and calendars available as a WebDAV iCal service. No doubt CCP will decide to follow the NIH route to awesomeness though :(

The Escort Carrier proposal is still bumping around in the darkness of F&I. The ability to fly 10 drones would allow an escort carrier pilot to "assist" two rookies with firepower and reppers during PVE, and I believe would fill the hole between Logistics cruisers and Carriers.

People still don't like space camouflage.

That foolish notion of separating all empire space with lowsec borders is still bumbling around.

Someone thinks the Mining Foreman Mindlink is too expensive.

The idea of scaling damage as fleet size increases has reared its head again.

It would be nice to have an agent finder for locator agents. Locator agent locator maybe?

CCP needs to sort out their thinking on the issue of logging in to change skills. I am convinced that what will encourage players to stick around in the game longer is remote chat: if there is someone to talk to you are less likely to log out. If there is someone in game chatting to you you are more likely to log in to start with. Exposing the skill queue to the web (or mobile applications) can come after remote chat, but it must be delivered. Yes, I wrote an essay in response to that thread.

There is a suggestion that the undocking animation should involve the ship leaving the pad and slowly moving down the tunnel.

Aquila Sagitta would like audible prompts to warn of fleet broadcasts.

The idea of hacking abandoned POSes raises its head again.

Allow players to build, probe down and destroy star gates.

No word from CCP yet on the topic of off grid boosting.

As for the rest of the threads in Features & Ideas discussion today? The forum continues to demonstrate that many players make really bad game designers.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Account Consolidation: Mara's Way

CCP has announced that they will allow players to pay a PLEX to allow training a second character on the same account for 30 days. I'd like to go further than this, with the ability to consolidate accounts and pay for specific services as they are needed.

Friday, 26 April 2013

FanFest 2013: World of Darkness

Note: We were asked to not record video of this presentation because CCP do not want people commenting on stuff presented through an in-house video being used as an art target for the World of Darkness art department. This is part of CCP learning to do thing "expectation management" thing. I have no experience with any of the franchise so I don't know the background to what is happening. I'm just reporting what I remember thinking I saw.


We are in a dark alley. It is raining. Sparse fat drops splash into rippling puddles on the ground. A woman is feigning interest in her mobile phone while observing a man leaning against a wall under a street light, cigarette smoke highlighting the dun cone of light. The woman approaches the man and makes a romantic advance, which the man accepts willingly as he pulls her towards him. She snaps his neck and sucks his blood.

In the distance there are ghostly figures running over rain-drenched rooftops, leaping over alleyways and climbing walls. The woman considers them for a moment, then strides down this alley towards a brightly lit café. Inside the cafe we see innocents pursuing their mundane mortal lives, resorting to alcohol and romance to drive away the boredom of stable civilisation. The woman wanders through the cafe to the balcony on the other side, watching the ghostly figures in the distance while maintaining a nonchalant attitude. She leans against the glass balustrade.

The figures in the distance split up, one is proceeding alone to a nearby rooftop. The woman waits for an opportune moment then dives across the alley way, clinging to the parapet of the building next door. As she raises herself onto the roof the woman fades into the shadows, becoming a ghostly figure herself. The woman darts through the rooftop machinery, emerging into an open area where a man in a trenchcoat appears to be waiting for something.

As the man starts casting some kind of spell, the woman loses her shadowy cover and runs at him, landing a sidekick which launches the man off the building. The assault over in moments, the woman dives after him, landing next to the man's broken corpse. The woman slices open the man's throat and starts to feed.

Ghostly figures materialise around the woman, solidifying into a man and another woman who do not appear happy to see this woman here.


The video we were shown is an internal "goal setting" exercise: this is a video depicting a few moments of what the art team wants World of Darkness to look like when we are actually playing it. Thus there are no dramatic scene changes, cuts, or camera changes. This is all third-person perspective like you would experience in World of Warcraft or EVE Online's Captains Shoebox. The level of detail is the same as or better than Captains Shoebox, and all very convincingly real.

It is now some time after watching the footage, so my memory is fading (or falsely enhancing the imagery) so I'm not certain of the details such as reflections, ripples, smokey atmosphere in stark downlights, but the footage we were shown was perfectly suited to setting the mood of the piece. I may be more impressionable and gullible than you.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

FanFest 2013: Design Principles

CCP Soundwave provided us with a selection of 6 from the claimed 9 principles that govern EVE Online (and presumably DUST 514) game design.

  1. No game should be more complex than it absolutely needs to be to meet its goals.
  2. A good feature can be based on positive or negative player interaction.
  3. Other players will always be more interesting, for longer, than designed experiences.
  4. Every system should affect, and be affected by, the wider world of the game.
  5. Here are the tools, do something cool with them.
  6. The social experience is more important than practical system balance; the interaction between winners and losers is more interesting than mechanical equality.
  7. Interactions should be about reaching and touching, more than reading numbers.
  8. Things in the world need to make sense.
  9. Players are not entitled to success. There should be an achievement mountain, with players able to find their level and strive to be better.

These are design principles that I can very strongly agree with. I have posted them here so I can refer to them when I come up with my next bizarre idea for tweaking the EVE universe.

Update: a longer article about these principles over here:

FanFest 2013: PVE In EVE Round Table

I attended the PVE Round Table hosted by CCP Affinity and CCP Bettik. My recollection of the topics discussed is roughly as follows.

Throughout these notes it is important to know that CCP Bettik's philosophy is that EVE is a living universe, and the traffic of mission runners and haulers are part of the life of this universe. I thoroughly agree with his opinion. IMHO, where any other MMO might have NPCs doing stuff (kodo wandering the plains of Mulgore, for example), EVE should strive to fill that role with players doing stuff (miners in belts, explorers in space, etc).


CCP Affinity made the scandalous statement that perhaps the "Damsel in Distress" mission has seen enough air time and should be canned. I vehemently disagreed!

One of the audience asked about being able to accept and complete all non-handin missions remotely.
IMHO, Damsel in Distress deserves a sequel, depicting the life of said Damsel after she realises that running back to her drug dealing casino-running boyfriend is a bad idea. Maybe she starts her own drug ring and becomes an agent for the Serpentis.

As far as remote completion and handin of missions, I disagree. Although we do have FTL communications and funds transfer the idea of having mission runners never set foot in station except to pick up or drop off items removes too much content for tourists and gankers. In addition allowing remote acceptance and completion of missions will boost mission-runner incomes far too much. Without the extra travel time you can shave 2-3 minutes off every mission, in some cases (esp. Cargo Delivery) this will double the mission runner's income, before any clever tactics are applied to maximise ISK/hr.


The discussion about mining mainly centred around the desire to remove the current mechanic of respawning asteroids once per day. There was no mention of my awesome ideas suggested in "Mining is Boring". I'll forgive them for now and simply ensure that Ripard Teg and his soon-to-be-CSM-minions get the right message.

CCP Bettik suggested that in keeping with his desire for a living, organic universe it might be worth compressing many of the existing belts into one or two: thus rather than a half-dozen miners doing their own thing you would have a half-dozen miners in the one belt giving the feeling that stuff is happening.

I dislike CCP Bettik's idea of condensing asteroid belts into mega-belts. Currently there is a rule of thumb: if there are more people than belts, move on. One pilot is able to clear out a belt in a manner of hours. If all the miners had to share a belt there might be more "social" interaction in the form of "get your grubby mitts off my rock", but there would also be easier ganks to be had (because all the miners are in one spot), less relaxing and chilling out available due to the requirement to pay attention for the purpose of negotiating rights with other miners, before you even consider the attention that will be required for avoiding the now-more-prolific gankers.

Moving all mining to bigger asteroid belts also removes content for explorers, as opposed to moving mining to grav sites.


The discussion of exploration mainly revolved around hacking: the idea proposed by CCP Affinity was that only one player at a time would be able to hack a crate, but once hacked anyone could loot it. This further led to discussion about whether looting crates hacked by other players should trigger suspect and/or limited engagement status.

CCP Affinity expressed an interest for introducing a Guild Wars 2 style questing system to EVE: for example you wander around and see a "shiny thing" which you investigate which then leads to a mission, perhaps with an agent contacting you for follow-on missions. There was a leak about the new discovery system involving a system-wide "ping" which would highlight probable signatures in your view of space, enticing you to stop and smell the roses even if you are just flying through a particular system.

My opinion about hacking is that all pilots in range of the crate should be able to hack it (just like all miners in range of an asteroid can start mining): the one with the better skills gets to unlock the crate first. Then everyone gets to dogpile on each other until someone is left with an intact ship and the remains of whatever was looted.

The new discovery system sounds awesome.


If I missed something, please remind me. During FanFest 2013 I will be most easily contactable via Twitter on @Mara_Rinn.