EVE University graduate. Drama Llama. Covert operations pilot. Poetic Stanziel has been very active in the blogging community bringing views from seasoned high-sec pilots, we please to share his stories and views on current Eve Online events and invite you to read more stories from his Poetic Discourse blog.
Poetic Discourse: Expansions. Are They Outdated?
The latest video devblog has CCP Unifex explaining that integration between DUST and EVE will happen in baby steps. This is the correct way to integrate changes into a games as complex and diverse as EVE Online and DUST 514. You can’t very well judge the effects of a single new (or iterated upon) mechanic addition if you’re introducing them in bunches of eight (or more) at a time.
Yet, with the current EVE Online expansion cycle, this is exactly what happens. Entire systems are inundated with multiple changes all at once, and the effects of any single change within the system cannot be accurately judged.
This happened when CCP nerfed incursions. This happened when they updated the war declaration mechanics. This happened when they rewrote the faction warfare system. Player behaviour changed remarkably in all three of those systems, and with each of those new systems, multiple changes were implemented all at once. The degree to which any one change altered player behaviour was lost.
Incursions were eventually rolled back to their original state, but that might not have been necessary, were it possible to pinpoint the individual changes that were problematic. Perhaps only a couple of the changes actually required reversion, but it was impossible to tell which individual mechanics those might be.
We face the same problem again this winter, as faction warfare faces another set of major iterations. These eight to ten changes will be introduced in one fell swoop, and once implemented, it will be difficult to tell which of the individual changes had the greatest impact on player behaviour.
Predicting player behaviour is exceptionally difficult. Some people point to SiSi (the EVE Online test server*) as an appropriate testbed. As I pointed out in a previous post, SiSi is unsuitable for testing player behaviour. Players do not make the same time investments on SiSi as they do on Tranquility (the live server.)
Rather than have these specific dates when a mass of changes hit the live servers all at once, why not have expansion cycles. An expansion will run for a specific period of time, and in that time frame, fairly regular updates will occur, as they are ready. The Summer Expansion cycle can run from April to September. The Winter Expansion cycle can run from October to March.
Within a cycle, introduce changes to large systems gradually, see how they affect player behaviour over a time period of a few weeks, before introducing more additions and iterations. These changes can also be iterated on more quickly if they produce undesirable results. Changes might also prove that other planned updates are unnecessary.
Take faction warfare as an example. Perhaps the change of moving the complex structure closer to the warp-in point for the room, that could be made available as soon as it is ready (it seems like an easy enough change to make.) See what sort of effect that has on AFK/PvE plexing behaviour, before introducing any other changes. That change in itself might have enough of an effect on player behaviour that coding new NPC AI could be unnecessary (thus development resources can be spent elsewhere.) New NPC AI will probably still be necessary, but hard to tell unless changes are introduced in isolation from each other.
Isn’t this one of the principles of agile development? Being able to introduce new features quickly and then be able to respond to the results of those changes as quickly?
* Yes, I know we now have a new test server called Buckingham, but that seems temporary for the time being. I will continue to refer to the test server as SiSi, since it’s still what we’re all familiar with.