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Massively's EVE CSM interview: EVE Gate, microtransactions and more


Earlier this month, the official minutes of meetings between CCP Games and EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management were published to the general public. EVE's democratically elected council of volunteer players meets with CCP's developers twice per year at the company's headquarters in Iceland. At the meetings, the concerns of EVE's players and details of upcoming expansions are discussed. Response to the December summit's minutes has been largely positive so far, which is a huge turnaround from June's tirade of negativity.

EVE blogs have been considering some of the problems raised in the meetings, and insider Keith Neilson delivered his assessment of how the meetings went right here on Massively. The only people we have yet to hear from are the council members themselves. To make sure the CSM has its say in the public arena, Massively interviewed council member Dierdra Vaal about the summit and asked some critical questions on CCP's plans for EVE's future. In this first of two interviews, we discussed EVE Gate, the growing botting problem, user interface upgrades, CCP's microtransaction policy, how the summit went in general, and how attitudes within CCP have changed toward the CSM.

Skip past the cut to read the first of two illuminating interviews with EVE Online's CSM.

Massively: In the first meeting discussing CCP's web strategy, it was mentioned that gameplay features would be added to EVE Gate. We currently have access to EVEmail through EVE Gate. What other in-game features can we expect?

Dierdra Vaal: CCP is very careful with giving players access to gameplay outside the EVE client. We talked about the possibility of adding more gameplay features to EVE Gate, such as adjusting your market orders. There is currently nothing like that scheduled for release, though. That's not to say it won't happen, but it probably won't happen soon.

The new EVE forums will be a part of EVE Gate, which has had a very poor level of use since its release. Do you think this will convince more people to try out EVE Gate's other features?

I think it definitely might encourage people to use the out-of-game EVEmail and calendar more. I'm not too sure if the "spacebook" part of EVE Gate will ever catch on. From what I've seen, the new forums will be a lot better. They don't seem to be anything special compared to other forum packages, but they don't seem to be any worse either.

Have you had any hands-on experience with the new forum? The developers mentioned that it had a "very, very, very strong search" feature. Does this feature live up to expectations?

I personally wouldn't class it as "very, very strong," because (for example) it's missing semantic search. It works as you can expect a search to function these days, and that's a lot better than the current search. It couldn't replace EVE-Search because EVE-Search saves posts against edits and displays the corp/alliance info at the time of posting rather than at the time of viewing. So EVE-Search contains historical data that the forums won't have.

CCP engaged you in an exercise in which you prioritised features and fixes from a list by buying them with tokens. Can you tell me a little bit more about this exercise and what insights it provided?

Basically, we were given a list with 30 or so features requests and bug fixes on it. Each item also had a certain cost associated with it. You could think of this as the amount of man-hours it would take to implement it. Costs ranged from 13 points to 1 point, and each CSM member was given eight chips to spend on items. With nine CSM members, we had 72 chips, while the list had approximately 150 or so points in total -- obviously we had to make choices.

By going through the list multiple times and discussing the items, we eventually made our choice. CCP then took away 20 of our tokens (to simulate an unexpected problem coming up and messing with our plans) and told us to choose which features to cut from our list. In all, it shows clearly the kind of dilemmas CCP's planners face. Do we spend time evaluating Blackops ships or do we spend time re-balancing hybrid guns? However, by now the members of the CSM are well aware that CCP has to make choices and does not have unlimited developer time.

June's summit was not well received by the CSM, as CCP did not commit to dedicating resources to many issues. The CSM's complaints of poor treatment at the summit and the subsequent fallout from players caused quite a stir. Was this summit improved and did you get a sense of how the June summit has affected CCP?

There is a very big, positive change within CCP. We've heard from several people, including Hilmar, that the June summit and player response to it served as a strong wake-up call for CCP. There is a much stronger focus within CCP now on fixing existing problems and improving/iterating on existing features. They are still spending developer time on new features too, but we have seen and continue to see much more effort being put into existing issues.

The first part of the Incursion release included a number of highly requested fixes/improvements, like rockets and UI improvements. In the coming six months, Team BFF will also basically be doing nothing but going through the backlog of player-requested items to fix stuff. Within CCP, we as CSM seem to be taken more seriously now, and we're getting a lot more two-way communication with developers than we did before the June summit. While I can't speak for everyone at CCP, I've met a lot of developers who feel that interacting with the CSM is a win-win situation.

After the meeting on CCP's future microtransaction policy, does the CSM have any concerns with the direction that's being taken?

The CSM still isn't happy that microtransactions are being considered. We unanimously agree we would prefer a microtransaction-free EVE. That said, this is in large part a business decision, and CCP is committed to seeing what microtransactions can bring them. We have made it crystal clear that any items gained through microtransactions should not give any sort of competitive advantage, and CCP has assured us that this will absolutely be the case.

The last QEN showed NPC bounties as an ISK faucet have become massive. In a discussion with lead economist CCP Dr. EyjoG, the CSM discussed the proportion of those bounties that might come from botting versus the portion that comes from regular gameplay. Were any insights revealed, and how is CCP tackling the issue of botting?

We emphasized to CCP that we fear botting for non-RMT purposes is a bigger problem than RMT botting, and we urged CCP to develop better or more aggressive anti-bot measures both in-game and out of game. CCP agrees that there is too much ISK coming into the game and that bots are at least partially to blame for this. Both the CSM and CCP agree that botting is a real problem. I do think there is still a chance CCP may be underestimating the sheer number of bots, but that is speculation on my part.

The details of discussions on combating RMT and botting are understandably sealed under NDA, but did you get the sense that CCP is going in the right direction in tackling these problems?

I think there is a drive within CCP to tackle the problems, but so far I am not sure if more measures were being taken than six months ago. I do hope that we have encouraged CCP to increase their attention and activity to tackle this problem. I know a lot of people within CCP want to tackle it, but it's a question of priorities. If CCP Dr. EyjoG wants dev time to develop anti-bot measures, he has to compete with everyone else who also wants dev time.

The Carbon UI framework was said to permit holographic UI elements like those seen in CCP's Causality trailer and Kale Ryoko's Future Proof. To what extent can we expect to see this being used in EVE?

The UI and core developers we talked to about this were really enthusiastic about it. I do think there's a strong desire on the UI and an art team to have stuff like that, but as for when we'll see it, so far that's a big unknown. I suspect we'll first see it in Incarna before seeing it in flying in space, but that's pure guesswork on my part. If CCP has the technology and they're developing Incarna anyway, they'd be fools not to use it.

Lastly, is there anything the CSM would like to say about how the summit went in general?

I think it's important to emphasize that there really has been a significant change for the better at CCP. The CSM is in particular really happy with the reasonably new executive producer CCP Zulu. It's easy to focus on the things we see and don't like, but I do think that, by and large, most of CCP and most of the devs look at EVE in much the same way as players and want the same things as players. That shouldn't be forgotten. That said, that is my personal opinion, and I know Mynxee and TeaDaze will be significantly less optimistic.

Stay tuned to Massively's EVE Online coverage this weekend for part two of this interview, in which we ask some important questions on Incarna and nullsec warfare.

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