Saturday, 25 May 2013

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.

I'll express my opinion here: the idea that spewing containers into space in different directions somehow encourages multiplayer cooperation is insulting and degrading. My friends are not loot-collecting devices. They are smart players just like me. I want friends who I drag along on an exploration dig to get just as much entertainment value from the activity as I do.

Abrazzar raised an interesting idea: allow cooperative & competitive hacking. Other additions include digging "deeper" into the system that you are hacking with the difficulty increasing each time, with positive consequences being better loot and easier to gather containers, along with negative consequences such as stronger retaliation from the site e.g.: you get warp scrambled until you complete the hack or destroy the site, the site explodes dealing AOE damage like the pleasure gardens in "Damsel in Distress".

But that's my venom spat out to the world for the moment.

Let's take a look at the design goals espoused by CCP Soundwave at FanFest. I'll take number two first: a good feature can be based on positive or negative player interaction.

Ideally the hacking component of relic/data sites would allow player interaction. I do not consider scooping up loot cans to be player interaction: sure, you can coordinate a team to pick up more cans than a single player could manage on their own, but this is a menial task and my friends will find it insulting that I just want them along to be loot vacuuming robots. In stark contrast to this, a cooperative hacking attempt where each participant starts at a different node in a hacking game, and the team gets to choose whether to dump loot or proceed to a harder level (where we could choose two options: better loot, or fewer containers) encourages teamwork. I will want to bring friends who are good hackers, and my friends who are good hackers will want to join me because the activity will be fun.

Now design principle three and six: Other players will be more interesting, for longer, than any designed experience. The social experience is more important than practical system balance; the interaction between winners and losers is more interesting than mechanical equality

The interaction between my team and someone else's team who arrives on top of our hacking attempt could be anything from them blowing us up all the way through to joining up and coordinating two teams and making new friends. Pirates might decide to hang about and scoop loot. We might be able to bribe the pilots to not shoot us in return for getting to scoop loot that we've produced (not that many pirates would value a dread guristas large tower BPC over an exploding buzzard, but I can dream, right?). 

What about design principle eight? Things in the world need to make sense. Read the forums: noone thinks the solo hacking, multiple stream loot spewing, magic tractor beam design makes any sense at all. Some of these opinions are just people cranky at having their cheese moved. Some are people getting frustrated about not being able to pick up all the cans. Some are people like me who find the activity of clicking on cans in space to be bizarrely un-EVE-like (or in my particular case, find clicking on moving dots in space to be a distressingly twitch-based activity which only leads to frustration).

My apologies to the designer responsible for this feature. You've shown that you can think outside the box, and that is great. I love the basic concept of hacking, and I do honestly find the intention of the loot spew to be worthwhile: that intention being to encourage multiplayer cooperation. I hope you can take this criticism in the spirit that it is intended.

I'll be massaging this post over the course of today to take the venom out and work it into a more constructive criticism. For now we're off to the Museé d'Orsay to look at relics which we can't hack or scoop.


  1. I've been trying to reserve judgement as I haven't tried the new hacking/exploration on the test server yet. However, from reading the dev blogs and the feedback forums, your appraisal of the game design seems dead on. It's hard to get past what seems to be a number of poor decisions. CCP really isn't good at designing PVE content or fun collaborative gameplay.

    One of the biggest problems with EVE PVE is that you don't really interact with the environment. If you're exploring you probably want to see different things that have different meaning. Playing the same mini game while orbiting an object and alternating the name between hacking/archeology is a shallow interaction. Why are these things there? What's inside the ship? Is there any danger involved? The current game design only makes a superficial pass at making you think about these questions, or it ignores them altogether. Instead it settles for "how much ISK am I going to make?"

    Hopefully what is actually implemented in Odyssey will be a pleasant surprise, but at the moment it just looks like more repetitive CCP PVE.

    1. I'll be keeping my hopes high that even if the current version of hacking & loot spew makes it to Tranquility that a cooperative/competitive hacking game is released soon after Odyssey.

      That the two systems are so similar is a little disappointing, I'd love to see relic sites played out as a Myst-styled object discovery game in the absence of meaningful avatar based gameplay. I'm not sure what the genre is actually called, but object discovery is where you look at pictures to pick out objects of interest. This would be an awesome avenue for the artists at CCP to start working on the look & feel of internal environments for talocan, serpentis, guristas, etc facilities, stations and derelict space ships. They could feed us concept art in the form of object games, providing more fuel for the RP folks and stimulating discussion about what could be done if only we could enter the ruins ourselves.