Monday, December 20, 2010

December Summit Quick Report

Here are my quick observations of the summit meetings; we are currently hard at work editing up the minutes and hope to have them out by then end of the year.

To toughen us up, CCP put us in a hotel twice as far away from their offices; this wasn't a big issue until the day when we had to walk there and back in sub-freezing weather with the added bonus of a 50 mph+ wind; several of the lighter CSMs were in danger of being blown into the ocean.

Carbonation and Core - a useful session that shed some more light on what this team of devs do; well received devblogs will no doubt continue to emanate from this group.

Incarna - After having done a lot of framework development work, CCP is now finally able to turn to the task of implementing this aspect of their Ultimate Sci-Fi Simulator. But what this means is that any player who expects something epic this summer will likely be disappointed.

With respect to this initial release, my personal opinion is that they should ensure that the initial entry area is polished until it glows, as opposed to a more extensive release. After all, this will be the first time that all the new framework stuff is truly battle-tested, so some caution might be warranted.

CSM was united in insisting that no current gameplay be shifted into Incarna (to force interaction with Incarna, for example), and that players should have the option of entering Incarna when docking in a manner that is functionally equivalent to the current docking hangar display (such as, for example, looking out a window at your ship, or being on a balcony looking up at it). Furthermore, it was considered essential that there be no performance hit when doing a fast dock/ship change/undock as compared to the present day.

CCP seemed to be very receptive to these suggestions.

CCP's tentative plans for some additional gameplay that spans both Incarna and in-space EVE could be quite interesting IMHO, but it is too soon to make a solid judgement on them.

We further urged CCP to communicate to the players as much information about Incarna and their roadmap as soon as possible. However, one concern I have is that as this roadmap develops, ideas will be adopted just because they are "awesome". I am of the view that :awesome: is not a reason for doing something; it is the emergent result of hard work and careful thought.

As urged by the CSM in October, microtransactions will only be used for vanity items. Some of the vanity goods that were discussed will most likely be well-received.

The discussions on the EVE economy and RMT were quite detailed and also spawned additional discussions over food and drink. I look forward to seeing what develops from these.

Forums - the Next Generation look very nice, and have some features that I personally like a lot. I plan to lobby for additional features that will be of use to everyone but can also be adapted to assist CSM functions (ie: having cake and eating it too)

We had an unannounced, and productive session with Hilmar. However, one thing he said -- that CCP likes to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks -- gave me some pause. That kind of approach is fine for a small company where the costs of failure are low. However, with over 600 employees, throwing stuff against the wall is not enough; you have to check and make sure that what is sticking to it isn't crap.

With respect to the new NEOCON feature, it seems very nice, and bears close inspection.

I was particularly impressed, once again, with the UI team, who came to our session incredibly well prepared. No doubt Bara and Katrin will in the near future not be the only members of the team to belong to the Order of the Spork, and they can expect some serious :csmlove: in the minutes.

The 3-hour nullsec meeting with Arnar and Matt (Greyscale) was a really intense and productive one.

I'm not going to spill much about that meeting, except to say that the minutes of it will be extremely interesting, and that I now have a metric for a productive CSM meeting -- it's one where we try and convince the devs to do things that will render them unemployable, and they try and convince us to agree to things that will render us unelectable. I heard things in that meeting that I didn't expect to hear. Epic stuff, trust me.

The meeting with QA was also quite enlightening; Mynxee managed to skype in from a Starbucks, and was represented at the table by a small red pod-shaped sugar-substitute dispenser that acted as a non-maskable interrupt.

In the CSM issues meeting we played a really interesting development resources allocation game that will feed back into resource planning. I have some quibbles about the game-design of this game-design game, but it might have some broader applications if they ITERATE on it.

We finished the summit with the Fanfest meeting; we advised them that the players are coming for face-time with the rock-stars (devs) and not the roadies (us). Some interesting new possibilities for fanfest activities were discussed.

In small ceremonies, CCP PrismX and CCP Fallout were inducted into the Order of the Spork, PrismX for doing the hard work on removing learning skills, and Fallout for general long-term awesomeness. I hope they use their Sporkholder status for good and not evil.

I must however end on a disquieting note: at dinner on Wednesday, CCP Explorer and I found ourselves actually agreeing on some issues. This was extremely disturbing to both of us at the time, but I can report that by the next day, the improbability field collapsed to 1:1 and normality resumed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Department of Difficult and Embarrassing Questions

In just a few days, the CSM will be off to Iceland once again to do battle for Truth, Justice, and (in my case) the Gallentean Way. So it occurred to us that it might be useful to ask the players what questions they'd like us to ask CCP.

To that end, we have posted on EVE-O and Scrapheap Challenge the current meeting schedule, and you are invited to give us insights, lists of hard questions to ask, and so on.  Enjoy!