July 31, 2015

BB65 - Attribution Needed?

In most RPGs the attributes of your character are a vital part of how you're going to play the game.  I'm sure that's why Eve had them at the very beginning - because all of the other RPGs had them.  But as time has gone on it has become increasingly clear that this artifact of the first concepts of Eve does not add to the current gameplay or the vision of Eve's future.

BB65: Attributes and Skills
"Does Eve need attributes? It's been discussed a lot recently. Unlike other MMO's your characters attributes don't make a difference in day-to-day gameplay. They simply set how fast you train a skill. Is it time to remove attributes from the game or totally revamp their purpose? Do they add a level of complexity to the game that is not needed? If you really need to use a 3rd party application to get the most from it should it be in the game? Should they be repurposed with each attribute adding a modifier to your ship? Are attributes a relic from the past or are they an important part of Eve - You make your decision and deal with the consequences?"
- Sand, Cider, and Spaceships.

What do Attributes Add to the Game?
I'm the kind of guy who read a lot of websites and wikis before I made my first Eve character.  A lot of those sources were out of date (thanks Internets) and still had advice on the learning skills - which fortunately were already gone by the time I started playing.  The optimal way to set up your character was clearly to map for Int/Mem and start on your core skills, then switch to Per/Will when you couldn't stand how bad you were at your ship and weapons anymore.  Clearly that's not really a good way to get a new player into the game: start your subscription, queue up skills, then come back in a month to start playing. (Yeah, yeah, I'm exaggerating).  I downloaded EveMon, mapped out my skills and neural remaps for the first year and out there I went.  For my min-maxing my main maybe has a couple percent more skillpoints than the main of the average player of my same age.  Is that really want we want?  Is that really an "add" for gameplay?  I think the answer is pretty clearly "No."

But it lets me specialize!
Sure, you remap differently for your trading alt and your booster alt and your combat main.  Great.  That's not really much in the way of specialization.  It's not like you are specializing via remap to be a better scout, or logi, or kiting PVPer.  Those things are all in the skills you choose, which are only as a secondary effect impacted by attributes.

One of the suggestions on the Tinfoil Factory episode was for attributes to tie to actual in game activity.  Perception improves your lock range or scan res, Willpower your resistance to damage, Intelligence your cap usage, or whatever.  That would potentially lead to attributes meaning something for specialization.  It would also suggest that clones would have separable remappings.  High level players already would jump into a clone meant for a particular activity based on the fancy implants in the close.  This would just be another layer on that.  I get the appeal there, but I have a concern.

Eve already has balance problems around specialization.  If your average PVPer heads out there and faces an opponent with faction mods, links, drugs, etc that maximize one attributes we seem to quickly get into the OP space.  If you think that an Orthrus is a problem now, wait until you let the pilot also be getting another 5% out of it with the perfect remap.  I get that Eve has long had the maxim that the fight is won before the opponents land on grid, and I'm for encouraging preparation and planning, but it seems weren't more and more getting to the problem that if I know I'm facing someone maxed out then I just won't get on grid with them in the first place.  No fights is no fun, and that hurts Eve.

So Nuke 'em
The other side of the suggestion is back to the design-by-deletion.  They don't add to the game so rip them out.  I understand CCP has considered this but then wonders what to do with implants that increase attributes.  We could preserve the risk-v-reward of faster training time versus risk of losing expensive implants by making those implants simply +X% training time implants.  That's effectively what they are right now anyway.  There's no need to burden them with special new powers that need to be balanced as well.  Then that would be a straight swap made upon release downtime.  No fuss, no muss.

I'm reading some other great articles out there with people's opinions, so if you haven't read the other Blog Banters on the topic then read around.  Thanks to Drackarn for posting this one - I'm only sorry I didn't get this up earlier since I suggested the topic - but that's the way RL goes sometime.

Fly Reckless out there, everyone!

July 24, 2015

CCP's Four Product Problem

Let's say you're a company with four products in your product line.  Let's call those four products Product H, Product L, Product W, and Product N.  The market used to love Product N, but now tastes are shifting and more and more customers are moving to Product L or buying a competitors product.  Overall customers are slightly down.  Do you invest heavily to try to revitalize Product N, do you capitalize on the popularity of Product L, or do you try to boost the overall product line and brand name and hope all four products rise?

That's what CCP is facing now.  I've often written on the success of the Gal/Cal FW zone, even just yesterday.  Today we heard from Nosy Gamer that even EveUni is now moving into the greater Gal/Cal warzone, changing their HQ to Slays in Placid.  That means in additional to the actual FW corps and long-standing pirates, we have the recent additions of RvB, Brave, and EveUni all in systems just outside of the warzone.  But back to our entirely hypothetical four products.

So if you are our product manager, let's look at the lineup:

Product H: A stable product which provides a good entry point to the product line and to the brand.  Almost all customers start with Product H, and many will keep some seats of H even as they move on to other products, but by itself it is not a powerhouse in the market.

Product N: This top-end product historically has been the shining beacon of the brand, allowing customers the most customization and ownership.  However, over the past years the customers have become dissatisfied with its relative performance.  Indeed, customer complaints about Product N are significantly tarnishing the brand now and are turning away prospective customers from the other products.  Customer lobby groups have a huge role in Product N, but these have not been positively contributing to the brand over the past few years.  Some analysts have termed these customer lobby groups as "toxic", and point to how some now promote competing products. Major investments have been made in Product N to try to reboot it, but the established customer base has not had a good initial reaction to the reboot.  Some customers are leaving for Product L.

Product L: This product is a natural next step from Product H for many customers.  It has languished in the past, but investment a few years ago combined with some dynamic customer advocates has caused a high growth curve.  Network effects have been very beneficial, though favoring the GC subproduct more than the AM subproduct despite the fact that these two subproducts are functionally identical.  Product L appears to particularly appeal to customers who cannot dedicate the long hours that were characteristic of Product N customers.

Product W: This is the youngest of the products, appealing to a dedicated niche group of hardcore customers.  However it seems to waver back and forth in success, and is currently on a slight downward swing either because of or despite recent substantial investment in expanded features for this product.

So what do you do as product manager?  How much more investment do you want to make in Product N?  How much case you engage with the lobby groups that are so influential and yet so damaging to your brand?  At some point do you need to "fire the customer" and jettison Product N to focus on your more successful products?  If you do any of these things, how do you plan to sell your proposal to the CEO and the Executive Board?

July 22, 2015

Nullsec Eve: Dying or needing Rebirth?

We're all used to the "Eve is Dying" meme, whether you're one of the pessimists or you just laugh at the meme.  If you live in Gal/Cal FW zone like me, some nights are quiet but other nights there's far more content can you can handle.  Our null cousins don't seem to have the "too much content" problem though.  If you follow the Player Count on eve-offline there really is no question that the average number of players logged in is dropping.  What's harder is disentangle is the effect of the consistent CCP push against bots and multi-boxers.  I don't think I buy that the player count is the same thing as the opportunity to find content, given those factors, but that is indeed what each player has to judge from their area of the game.  So as we look at the game, what's going on here?


So FozzieSov has rolled out and to my ears sounds like a success.  From following along on the eve media it sounds like the results were pretty unsurprising.  The Imperium (nee CFC) had already contracted and was organized and ready, so people hoping to troll them were beaten off without spawning a full control-node event.  Others who are stretched more widely did not fare as well.  You can follow along with the new pages on DOTLAN to see how such campaigns are going (because DOTLAN is awesome and we should all donate to keep Wollari going).  So there is definitely some content generation going on there.

Content Density

But the content density in null-sec isn't where it is in other areas of the world.  I'm looking at stats from Wednesday morning of 7/22 before work (and it may be much later by the time I finish this blog and post it) but here are the regional stats from Dotlan.
So the most violent nullsec region is Providence.  Click on that link to see what the kills look like across that region.  Let's skip down the Empire column a bit to clear the ganking around Jita - we'll see a list of Gal/Cal FW regions.  Take a look at Black Rise.  Now these are live links, so they'll change by the time you read this.  It may be interesting to look at this a month after the blog goes live in fact.

But what we see is that Providence is a big region that has a couple hotspots, mostly in one constellation (but not from a sov event that shows on the Dotlan list).  By hotspot here we mean more than 50 but less than 100 kills of PC ships.

Black Rise is a big different, having more kills in a smaller region.  There's a FW contest going back and forth in Pavanakka with 379 ship kills, with neighboring systems in the 50-100 range.  There's another big hotspot in Kedama of 190 ship kills, again with nearby systems being about as hot or hotter than the big fight in Provi.  There's even another spot over in Nennamaila with 53 ship kills.

Heck, look at the Gal/Cal FW zone - it's all lit up.  The Amarr/Min FW zone isn't quite as consistently hot, but still better than null (which is also why GorskiCar's FW experiment in that side is very different from Gal/Cal).

Why is FW space so much more fun?

So why is FW space so much more content rich?  Why are these FW guys and gals having so much damn fun while null can't get moving?  I've heard complaints about FozzieSov bringing FW mechanics to null-sec, but what the real goal was I suppose was to bring FW fun to null-sec.

1) In Faction War anyone can just move in.  We've recently had Brave return to lowsec, in the lowsec system of Aunsou in Placid just outside of FW.  We have Snuff (who has moved around a bit recently) and Snigg and other pirates, and that even before the actual faction warfare itself (which I've previously written has more action than the top nullsec alliances).  The idea for FozzieSov is to make this possible, to be able to pull down a constellation for yourself with a "small" group, but the entry bar is certainly higher compared to any 10-man corp deciding to move into a lowsec station.  You can't get evicted from a lowsec station as a pirate, though you can as a FW gang - but you at least theoretically have the backing of others in your faction.  The TMC-driven "null contract" pushed the idea of NPC stations in every region that might make that easier (if they aren't all constantly bubbled), and it seems the concept of Freeholds was suppose to support this, but we'll see if it really happens.

2) In Faction War you can contribute with smaller ships.  You will see FW fleets with T2 logi supporting battleships/battlecruisers/HACs, but the majority of the fighting is more destroyers and frigates.  This again makes the entry bar more accessible.  In null-sec you used to have to have caps and supers, pretty much full stop, in order to grind down those massive HP structures even before you get into fighting neighbors.  In FozzieSov that part is gone, but the cultural feel is still there, and you know the escalation can go all the way up to supers, so if you want to hold space you have to consider that.  At least there is a step up in that smaller ships can mount an Entosis link that will get a fight going (example video).

3) In Faction War the attitude is different.  FW pilots are just less risk-averse, in part because of points 1 and 2 above, but also just as a culture.  I see people making YouTube videos of roaming null, but it seems often time those people are not null citizens.  I hear a lot of about policies of docking up when the intel channel light up, instead of going for the fight.  I don't hear about the casual, fun fights in null that happen in FW on gates and in plexes.  This is a bigger, deeper thing - unless the people who are the cultural leaders in null really push a change in attitude I don't think there's much CCP can do with FozzieSov.

So it seems like FozzieSov is moving in the right direction to help bring the fun that FW has to nullsec, but there is a big portion of that which has to come from the players.  Without a Cultural Revolution in null, perhaps it's not so much "Eve is Dying" as "Null is Dying (and needs to be reborn)"

July 2, 2015

Making a Market: Lessons so far

I've been working on getting a market going in our home system of Fliet.  Now I'm no Sugar Kyle, so it's been interesting to get this going with essentially one character with limited capital and trade skills.  Some of the things I thought might be real advantages are actually disadvantages and I've had one possible market sector pop up that's been fun to try out too. So Psst, hey buddy, need some boosters? But let's step back and ask some questions.

What is the local geography?
Fliet is in the southeast of the busy Gallente-Caldari Faction War zone in the Essence region.  Fliet is home to Aideron Robotics as well as some small pirate groups that tend to come and go over the months.  There is a lot of fighting to be found in the area, though much of it crosses over into the neighboring region of The Citadel (and Sugar's old home market of Sujarento).

There's only a bit of Essence that comes into the warzone (8 systems) so that puts a limit on the number of people looking in their market browsers that will see my stuff.  On the plus side, if I was in Placid I'd be competing with a lot more people including the decent-sized markets in Stacmon and Orvolle.  The smaller market area may be a better match for my smaller capital and skills.  The original point was to supply Aideron, so that's not really part of the choice equation anyway.  But I need to keep in mind that there is going to be a natural limit to the size of this market.

What are the limits of my Skills and Capital?
My market alt can run some 53 market slots, and with PLEX/MCT prices back up close to a billion I probably won't be changing that for a while.  I've also only been able to spare around 2B ISK in capital to stock things up, since I'm not particularly space rich, and that pretty much wipes my alt's liquid resources.  This makes me think about how much profit I can make on each of these slots.  If I hope to make 250M a month, I need each of those slots to turn over 4M in profit after all costs.  That means that where the difference between Jita price and the local market prices is narrow I'll have to really consider if I can get enough volume to make it worthwhile.

As an example, I know people need 400mm Rolled Tungsten (old name, I know) plates, but they are cheap.  If I can get them for 120k ISK in Jita and resell them for 180K that looks great on paper at 50% profit - but it's also only a raw profit of 60,000 ISK each.  So I'd need to sell 60-70 of them a month to hit that 4M per slot target.  Similar patterns come in for ammo and T1 rigs as well.

I know I need to expand those market slots, so if things are successful I'll be looking for another Multiple Pilot Training Cert. However prices on PLEX and Certs are very high right now. Amazingly the MPTC is more expensive than a PLEX, which I don't see any reason for, but it has been sustained for several days at least now.

Who are my customers?
Aideron has a great freighter service for members to bring in supplies cheap from Jita.  This is great for me in being able to stock Fliet, since I don't own a Jump Freighter.  However, this also means that any member who is willing to plan ahead and have an alt in The Forge has no need for my services.  We also keep a lot of the doctrine ships up on corp contracts, so it's easy to grab a ship and go when the fleet is forming.  This is not something I considered when I started doing this, and that was a big miss in my thought process.

So what I can provide is a convenience factor for AIDER pilots outside of doctrine fleets - ships that do solo, combat sites, and WH dives.  It also means that I end up selling to local pilots who aren't in AIDER.  If I look through the names of people who have bought from me, I actually seen relatively few AIDER names.  So my real customers range from pirates passing through (or trying to camp us on the undock) to other GalMil folks who aren't in AIDER but might end up reshipping here. That's something else I didn't think about, which encourages me to reach into saleable items that aren't only in the Gallente-focused AIDER doctrine set.

Is there a niche I can provide?
In talking to corpmates I found there was a need for truckloads of drugs. Based on that I've reached out and gotten supplies brought in for Standard Exile, Blue Pill, and Drop. After that was successful I've expanded that to include Strong and Improved versions as well. This was very expensive - most of my market orders by value are now in the combat booster sector - and we'll see how that turns out. If so, I'd love for Fliet to be a place where people in the area come to know they can get some boosters for the edge in that next fight. As things grow, maybe there is another niche I can fill as well.