Monday, May 5, 2014

Fanfest Notes

tl;dr most of the recorded EVE sessions are worth watching, as is the EVE keynote though most of the information released there has already been disseminated through the eve community.

Watching fanfest is one of the highlights of my gaming year. I make many of my summer plans based on what is announced at fanfest. Many of the sessions this year seemed significantly better than in previous years—better run, more content, more graphs, etc.--and the EVE keynote was packed with concrete plans. Themitanni has good coverage of the announcements at fanfest, and Jester's Trek is covering many of the roundtables not streamed. While I am still digesting a lot of the information, here's my run-down of the highlights for me and what I'm looking forward to:

Game Design Panel was decent, with the main news being the upcoming module rebalance, similar in structure to the ship rebalancing work. Meta modules will have specific roles, opening up a massive new range of ship fitting possibilities since currently there are only a handful of occasions when meta modules make sense to fit. Fozzie hinted that a long-term goal is to make meta modules craftable.
This panel, though, felt like every reply to the questions consisted of “wait until the keynote.” I think the EVE keynote would be better placed on the first day of fanfest.

Economy: Into the Second Decade was, as usual, full of pretty fascinating economic information, especially this year since I've gotten so involved in market trading. I think for the first time ever, CCP released numbers on Titan production as well as destruction, which you can find here.

Gridlock Talks Performance I love the technical side of EVE server performance. CCP Veritas and the rest of team Gridlock are absolute superstars in EVE, incredibly innovative. The session had a lot of info covered in past dev blogs, as well as new-ish tools the team is using to monitor TQ, but the real news from this talk (briefly covered in the keynote as well—an indication of how important it is) is that the brain in a box project is in Q&A, though still beyond summer expansion. When released, it means actions from docking and undocking to jumping and exploding will see reduced load times.

From Evidence to Bans was one of the better ran sessions, and probably had the most graphs, which I commend, but they also released a decent amount of unreleased data. For instance, a geographical breakdown of where botting occurs in EVE indicated that it is fairly evenly distributed in Null, and congregates particularly in The Forge. I am looking forward to their upcoming dev blog to revisit these numbers.

New Player Experience Vision run by CCP Rise was maybe my favorite session, covered in detail here. I was really impressed with Rise's general knowledge of trends in gaming tutorials and design—he seemed to have done his homework in the process of rethinking the new player experience, referencing a lot of good examples in recent (largely indy) examples in game design. The applications to EVE were concrete and super exciting, such as more tool tips and less text in the tutorial (even to the point of removing it altogether in favor of a more interactive and response progression). One of his main worries is that the tutorial sets people up—like most other MMOs—to have the game direct player goals, rather than teaching players how to find their own goals in a sandbox type of game.
He also released some numbers on how many people leave EVE based on which activities they engage in after the tutorials—those who try a range of gameplay and get involved with other players (e.g., PVP) stay longer than those who “follow the tracks” and transition from the tutorial into solo missioning. I am probably more exited to see the work on the NPE in the upcoming release than I am to see any other team's work.

Probing the Future of the EVE engine was also a great talk, but another one I need to re-watch for all the information to sink in. The “EVE Probe” project, a sort of app that runs a segment of EVE which players download in order to test performance on their machines, is going to make optimizing performance for EVE a whole lot easier. Easier for the devs, but probably also for players as well (there was some talk in the Q&A about the probe giving players feedback on performance in addition to the devs).

Alliance Panel is a panel I haven't watched in past years, which is a bummer because, not knowing much about some of the alliances featured, it was surprisingly good, at times hilarious. I would have liked it even longer, as there was only time for alliance overviews.

Some other announcements relevant to my gameplay include plans to removing cloaking in FW plexes and implement proper large outposts. The buff to low sec mining, via the new T2 version of the Venture and the improvement of low sec ores, means more people coming into/living in low. It might turn out to be a pretty good expansion for low sec after all.

Of course, most of the big announcements came via the EVE keynote. I've been following the industry blogs with interest, as it is a branch of EVE completely foreign to me but one I would someday like to try.

In the keynote, CCP Rise and Fozzie indicated that the next ships in line for rebalancing are the Orca-Rorq, stealth bombers, recons, and T3s, but didn't specify any timescale. I hope this means stealth bombers get more generous fittins and recons get a little love. 

There was mention that every structure in EVE should be destructible, but I don't know how literally this was meant. Presumably it doesn't include NPC stations—but maybe control of NPC stations is in the very long-distance future?

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