Massively's EVE CSM interview: Incarna and nullsec PvP

In part one of our interview with EVE Online's player-elected Council of Stellar Management, we asked council member Deirdra Vaal about EVE Gate, the upcoming forum revamp, CCP's microtransaction policy and other topics discussed at the December CSM summit. In three meeting sessions, CCP and the CSM tackled some hard-hitting issues, the biggest of which were Incarna and nullsec PvP. Most of the details on Incarna are currently locked under NDA, but that didn't stop us from asking the CSM about it. Nullsec PvP has also been a hot topic recently with the revelation that levels of PvP have actually been declining since the Dominion expansion. Dominion was intended to open up nullsec for smaller entities, but we still see EVE's political landscape dominated by massive coalitions of alliances spanning several regions.

Massively: The CSM expressed significant concerns about the Incarna development plans it had access to. Does the CSM think that CCP is heading in the wrong direction with Incarna?

Deirdra Vaal: We feel that the approach taken to Incarna is the wrong one, and we emphasised this to CCP. However, CCPs general idea to set Incarna as an "off the grid" environment where we go for shady deals is something the CSM is reasonably happy with. It's just that so far we haven't really been shown any compelling gameplay. So we think they might be heading in the wrong direction, if they are lazy about it. They might also be heading in the right direction, but so far we haven't seen compelling gameplay that would support this assumption.

Skip past the cut for the rest of our interview with EVE's CSM on Incarna, nullsec PvP and the future of EVE.

Hilmar referred to Incarna as the first step out of many. This is something we've heard from CCP before with the core components of the Empyrean Age, Dominion, Apocrypha and Tyrannis expansions, but none of them has yet been significantly iterated on. Are you confident that we'll see iteration on Incarna post-release?

Yes, because I think that unlike the previous features, Incarna has a lot of development resources behind it. Also, if CCP does not iterate on it, it really will be severely disappointing, and I'm sure they don't want to waste all the manpower they put into it.

From the minutes, we can gather that there are plans to move current station functions to a new Incarna "Captain's quarters" interface. The CSM didn't respond positively to this idea; can you tell me why?

We were worried that it would make the game slower and more cumbersome. For example, we were worried CCP may want us to to turn around in our captain's quarters, walk a few paces to our computer and click on it once you're close enough just to open an EVEmail. CCP said this would not be the case. We emphasised that we didn't want actions to take more time or effort after Incarna than before Incarna.

CCP Zulu actually committed to dedicating a team to work on small fixes and iterating on existing game features. How much of a positive turnaround is this compared to the previous summit?

I think this is the first time that CCP's ever dedicated a team to do nothing but fix "small issues," where player opinion was weighed heavily to determine priority. I think it's one of the best signs of the change at CCP.

During a lengthy discussion on Dominion and nullsec, the CSM and CCP agreed that the system needs further development. Did CCP commit to addressing any specific points?

CCP didn't agree to make specific changes, but they're clearly willing to re-evaluate everything in 0.0 and not just focus on any one particular problem. It was clear there is a strong awareness at CCP that 0.0 needs significant work.

The ongoing drop in PvP activity across EVE is slightly worrying. What does the CSM think the most likely reasons for this are?

We discussed this quite a bit. Overall we cant give any definitive reasons, but the increasing triviality of supercarrier hotdrops are acting as a deterrent against PvP. Also, with the Dominion SOV upgrades, there is less of a need to conquer "the good areas of space," as you can make all areas into something profitable. People may be more inclined to simply sit in their space and rat rather than try and conquer their neighbour's territory. Both the CSM and CCP feel that we need to reverse this trend, as ship destruction is a big drive in the EVE economy and should be encouraged. Not to mention that explosions are pretty.

The issue of force projection was brought up. Capital fleets are currently able to move much faster using a cynosural field chain than any standard fleet. As a result, they have a greater mobility than sub-capital fleets. What problems does the CSM see this as causing?

Force projection isn't just about speed; its also about range. If you can go 1-2 regions over without much effort, its easy to go and stomp on a small entity with a few supercaps just because you're bored. What we see is that a lot of 0.0 problems are related. The force projection problems combined with the proliferation of supercaps currently means that you run a very high risk of having your sub-capital gang hotdropped by a few bored supercarrier pilots. Unless you have your own counter hotdrop standing by, it can act as a deterrent for PvP. The prevalence of supercap hotdrops is a big source of complaints from 0.0 pilots.

CCP Greyscale discussed his views that logistics in nullsec had been made too easy with jump bridges and titans allowing conflictless and rapid delivery of vast quantities of items. What ideas were discussed to combat this?

One thing we discussed was the radical change of removing jump bridges entirely. This was mainly discussed as a hypothetical; I personally don't believe CCP would ever go quite that far. We also discussed cyno drive spool up times and different sizes of cyno. More important than discussing solutions, however, is discussing the problems. It's something we as CSM had to learn and also something the players sometimes forget. Once CCP fully understands what the problem is, they can come up with a solution to fix it. As players may spend a lot more time focusing on a particular area of the game than the devs, they can give information and help the devs see exactly what problems exist and why.

If the ability to project large fleets across EVE in a matter of minutes is essentially removed, CCP Greyscale believes this will cause a fracturing of the major alliance coalitions into smaller, more self-reliant groups. Does the CSM agree with this assessment and would this be a good thing for nullsec?

Simply reducing mobility alone probably won't do it, but Greyscale and most of the CSM are in favour of a more fractured 0.0 where people are more worried about the guy next door than the guy three regions away. There is a sentiment within the CSM and CCP that the current huge powerblocks encourage a much more stagnant 0.0, which seems to create very boring gameplay.

Did the CSM get a sense that CCP was on the right track with regards small fleet objectives in nullsec?

We got a sense that they're aware the current design isn't working and is not encouraging small gang warfare at all. However, they did not reveal any concrete ideas to us about how to fix the problem.

Finally, is there anything else the CSM would like to say about the summit that hasn't already been covered?

The summit has left us with some pretty mixed feelings. On the one hand, we've seen great progress at CCP and an important attitude change. On the other, despite our requests and warnings about Incarna's lack of gameplay versus the hype around it, CCP seems to prefer to cover their ears and pretend there are no problems.

Thanks for your time, Dierdra!

This article was originally published on Massively.