July 8, 2013

Blog Banter 47: Communicating Complexity and a Proposal

I've been playing Eve for a bit over a year now, but I still consider myself a noob.  I'm not sure when that will ever leave.  "I'm bad at Eve" is a meme that multiyear veterans repeat, as a point of pride no less.  Part of that is the complexity of Eve and the change in complexity.  So this Blog Banter 47 rang a bell for me - check the site out for other people's thoughts too.

"Is EVE too complex for one person to know everything? Is it, in fact, too complex for one person to know everything about one topic? How do you maintain any knowledge or skills related to EVE over time with breaks and expansions? Does CCP do a sufficient job documenting the features of the game, and if not, what could they do better? How does one determine where the gaps in their knowledge even are?"

I'll tackle that in three parts, but I'm going to work it out of order and make a proposal.

Communication and Learning

I'm the kind of person who read blogs and wikis about Eve for about two weeks before I made my first character last year.  (Yes, those blogs that some people said are a dead medium.)  There is a lot out there and it quickly made me aware how complex the game was.  That was a lot of the appeal to starting the game for me.  But if you ask me to rate CCP on documenting their own game I'd probably give them a "C" on the American grade system.  Just passing, but not going to get a lot of positive attention.

The official Eve wiki is big and does cover everything a brand new player needs to know.  But it does have out of date information.  Painfully out of date.  I believe at least when I was learning about the game there were still official Evelopedia references to Agent Quality, which I gather hasn't been in the game for quite a while.  After Retribution I went to evelopedia and noticed that ships entries hadn't been updated to cover rebalancing.  No problem, it's a wiki, I'll do at least the ships I fly and do my part, right?  Nope, locked down.  Go look at the Navitas right now - it still lists the mining laser bonus.  That should be very embarrassing to CCP.

Proposal: Hire a group of players to keep the wiki up to date with the releases / patches.  Pay them in ISK - I'd do it.  The real cost here will be organization and that's something you could either run through CSM or a volunteer player.  After that you have one person edit and two other people review the edits for approval.  Disagreements escalate to the related CSM person or CCP employee.

Too complex for one person to know everything?

Probably, and that's good.  As someone new to the game it certainly seems like Eve is too complex to know everything.  Having people not be able to know everything allows people to specialize, which means they develop something which can be a positive contribution to your community.  And many Eve people love to talk about how Eve is a game that you're meant to undertake as a group right?  But then then the solo player can do their thing and be an expert at it without knowing "everything."  I have very little idea how supercapitals and titan-bridges work, and I really don't have any need to.  Let that be something mysterious for me to learn later.  Ditto for moon-goo and T3 production.  Someone else can be the master of those.  I feel like I've gone for a wide option (thus the "checklist" aspect) and I still can't cover it all.  Learning lowsec roaming, level 4 missions, T2 production, relic/data "exploration", with occasional jaunts into the jaws of null gate camps is quite enough for me right now.

Now that is different from needless complexity.  Having a bunch of cryptic names for skills and modules doesn't really do much for me.  There isn't much game play added when I have to keep looking up to see if the "Upgraded" or "Experimental" propulsion unit is the better one and if there is one of either in the size I'm looking for now.  Having "Electronic Drone Warfare" skill actually having nothing to do with EW drones but instead increases all drone control range is not a useful form of complexity.

Good complexity are things like the turret and missile damage physics.  Good complexity is interplay such as "you can warp, but people can scramble your warp, but then you can counter that with a stabilizer, but they can have more points than you stablize.  But there is also an infini-point for a specialized ship, and there are bubbles, but a interdiction nullifier subsystem will let you ignore bubbles - but not targeted points."  That's fine with me.  I know there is yet more levels there with supercapitals that I'm only vaguely aware of.

Good complexity is the human-driven market and scams.  Bad complexity is "if you don't click in exactly this way, you'll buy at the wrong price."  That's just bad software interface design.

Good complexity is the eve mining -> industry -> trading interplay.  Bad complexity is not being able to tell if you're at your limit of jobs until you get through the 6-8 clicks that it takes to set up that new job.  I think I'm okay with the "oh, you didn't make a copy at max runs, guess you screwed up that invention process."

But lack of communication of how the interface or system works is bad, period.

Changing complexity

The Eve Universe is in flux.  I like that.  Judging from our own real-life universe, Eve could change even faster.  If Eve was like the real world old modules could constantly be made out of date with new modules of higher Meta-level sliding in above them every six month.  Can you imagine: "Oh, you only have a Meta 4 MWD?  That's so 2012.  An industrialist in Amarr just invented a new Meta 12 MWD that has 150% of the speed of Meta 5 though the fitting is pretty rough.  Of course, he's only producing 50 a month so the price is huge but I'm sure someone else will reverse-engineer it pretty soon."  (you see what I did there?)

New ships, new modules, new places to go (*ahem* exploration) - all good complexity.  Complexity is hard as hell to balance, sure, but that's what Eve is all about right.  Don't shy away from it.

But again, it's the communication that gets ya.

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