No Going Back

Yesterday Jester asked if anyone else had caught some fairly specific language in CCP Masterplan’s blog on the new Crime Watch (CW2) system. The tl;dr is yes, I did. Thank you for the lead in Jester.

So what precisely does “no going back” mean in practical terms? If it is in the CCP playbook, what particular meaning does it have for them? Is this a sign of backsliding or the mantra of a newly refocused and rededicated CCP? What does it mean for us, the players? How will this new philosophy (if you will allow that broad a label) change the game itself? These are questions I’ve been mumbling to myself since the CW2 post. Here’s what I’ve parsed so far.

As I said last post, I believe CCP when they say they’ve learned from last year’s turmoil. If nothing else, the last two updates have shown a renewed dedication to the nuts and bolts of Eve Online. First with Crucible and then with Inferno, CCP revamped long neglected parts of Eve Online. CCP addressed many long standing player concerns. I think practically anyone can agree with this summation.

The reasons they have done so may not be what we think. There is at least half of me that says these changes were always on the drawing board. That half says they were there because of Dust 514 and the level of integration that CCP has to pull off to make it work. That’s just business though and, as I said, only half of me thinks this way. The other half, the half that loves Internet spaceships, will gladly take any improvement and to hell with reasons.

Thus, I believe the meaning to CCP is two fold. One, Dust 514 is coming and there is no stopping it now. They can’t go back. New Eden must be ready for this transformation; for the influx of new characters. What is it that the beginning of the original Battlestar Galactica said, “There are those who believe life here began out there?” We are the ‘out there.’ Dust does not exist unless Eve Online exists. CCP must take care of Eve Online to ensure Dust 514 is not stilborn.

I also think everyone in CCP never wants a repeat of last summer. No one likes to feel as if they’ve failed. CCP employees are no different than you or I in that respect.They want to win. And I believe they have realized delusions of invincibility are the fastest way to assure that doesn’t happen. There is no going back for them on that score – at least for those employees who lived through the summer of rage. It remains to be seen if they can pass that feeling on to new employees. They will have to sooner rather than later. CCP has been doing some hiring lately. The latest opening is for a Studio Manager in Newcastle, U.K. just in case anyone reading this qualifies.

As for us players, I think we will soon learn in detail what “no going back” encompasses about the game we love. We can already see some of the ramifications in CW2 and the revamped, as yet to be revealed, Bounty System. It isn’t just the mechanics I’m talking about either. It is the UI – that thing I know all Eve Players love to bash. I once compared the sophistication of the Eve UI with fighter cockpits. I think the analogy still applies as is my sentiment about it. But the UI is something players have clamored for CCP to simplify for years.

I believe we saw the first of the new UI paradigm in Inferno. In Inferno, we saw a reduction in Windows with the new Inventory System. One way to reduce clutter, which has always been a key complaint about the current UI, is to reduce the number of clutter enabling objects. Multiple inventory windows was the obvious place to start. CCP went to the X-Tree vision of the file structure tree. It’s isn’t original but it is efficient. That design continues with every major OS available today in one form or another because it works.

There are more window reduction efforts afoot. I believe at  its heart, the change in how we view War Declarations starting with Inferno 1.1 as well as how we will see the new Bounty System interface are an attempt to completely remove the need for some windows on the main screen. Players now call them up when needed and put them back on the taskbar… oops, I mean Neocon… when not needed. With a customizable and hide enabled Neocon, this keeps information conveniently a click away removing the need to have even a stub of a window to display it.

The second paradigm shift is more noticeable in Retribution. It is the colorful icon with information pop-up.

Part of this actually slipped into Inferno with the Effects Bar. The action-enabled pop-up on who’s targeting you is frankly brilliant. In fact, pop-ups in general are the meat of the change in UI strategy rather than the icons themselves. By this means, only applicable information is shown and only when the player determines it is necessary. The result is an off loading of indicators currently resting in the Overview and shifting them to just-in-time display and on-demand viewing.

I’ll go so far as to say that once all these types of information are shifted out of the Overview and onto the HUD, the Overview will become moribund. Don’t yell, it’ll still be a window you can open, just like you can still clutter your UI with inventory windows if you like. But why would you when the Tactical Display and applicable indicators will do the same thing? Add some vector arrows in different colors (speed and transversal for example) to the tactical display for each ship and that’ll cover everything currently in my combat overview. Wouldn’t it yours?

But there is a price for this change. The UI as it exists is a deep rooted morasse of old code. CCP Masterplan said they had to rip out the old CW code and write new code. Previously, CCP Arrow described the old Inventory code as having “serious code rot” and said they “refactored” it. Translation: they wrote new code. The same will be true of the rest of the UI. They will have to rip it out and re-write it for the most part – and it will be dramatically different. As Confederate Railroad sang, “When you go that way you can never come back.” Love it or hate it, you will have to live with it. What’s that old adage? Oh yeah, be careful what you wish for…

EDIT 10OCT12 00:25 EVE TIME: Stay on target! is the new dev blog by CCP karkur concerning UI changes in Retribution. Looks like I was.

Fly Careful

2 comments on “No Going Back

  1. “because almost every new game mechanic they add SOMEONE will dislike it and demand a rollback”

    I agree with all you said and I especially think you hammered the nail in a single stroke with the statement quoted above.

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  2. Well as a programmer myself the term 'no going back' usually applies to a change that you've made to the system that is so significant that the old system cannot or will not function.

    You could in theory 'roll back' to the older version but then you'll also undo all of your hard work on the new system too.

    Its also signifantly easier to adjust an existing system than have the two running side by side as you'll have to write in the mechanisms that use the existing system to say “If old then use this code, if new then use this code” where its actually far easier (and quicker) to just replace the code (or the program that is called) to the newer way of working and the rest of the system just 'flows through' – its standard programming centralisation where modules are centralised and any changes made only have to be done once and anywhere those modules are used will simply 'work' (or only need minor changes).

    I also imagine that it works for them as a bit of a push to the player base to say “Well if you don't like it – tough as we can't go back” because almost every new game mechanic they add SOMEONE will dislike it and demand a rollback and having the stance of “We've gone past the point of no return” gives them a fairly valid excuse to keep the new changes and just living with the problems that arise.

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