Balance is not Optional

 

The first thing I want to do in this article is make it very clear that the criticism I am about to delve into is not aimed at the developers who are often the front face of balance changes. Regardless of what you might think about the changes they make, I think we can all agree on one thing. The major problem with balance in EVE right now is not the balance changes that are happening, but that balance changes aren’t happening. Or at least not at a pace many people are satisfied with.

And this lies with how CCP as a company tends to roadmap and ‘understand’ the idea of balance. From CCP’s point of view, balance is looked at as a feature that one can add to a patch. This sounds like a reasonable assessment of what balance is, until you think about what this puts balance in competition with for dev time. As someone making the decision as to where to put dev time, are you going to put it into developing changes that you can’t advertise, that don’t affect new player retention, that often incite anger (and lost subs) from the people using the things you’re changing? Or are you going to put it into a PvE feature that’s going to look great on a banner ad?

if you’re not using X ship, you’re probably making the wrong decision

Once you see it from this perspective, it becomes super easy to see how the can gets kicked down the road and suddenly you end up with 18 months of the small gang meta revolving around Svipuls and ways to deal with Svipuls. And that kind of calcification, where the meta revolves around one obscenely powerful ship, is utterly disheartening to play in because it feels as though there is no room to explore after a certain point. The cerebral nature of designing doctrines and trying to figure out counters to what your opponents are doing gets lost in the simple fact that if you’re not using X ship, you’re probably making the wrong decision.

Compare that to the absolute firestorm of doctrines and testing we tend to see around balance heavy patches, where people are in space, trying to figure out how these new ships work against each other, figuring out the matchups and the meta. Where the ship you fly next week might be completely different, and your opponents are doing the same. For me, those moments of flux are some of the most fun times in EVE, and judging by the way my fleet numbers shoot up whenever we’re testing new things, I’m not alone in that.

It’s because of this reason that the CSM in general has tried multiple times to interface with CCP and let them know that whilst balancing might not create the direct impacts that they want to see, it is a massive part of making sure that the gameplay of EVE for veteran players stays fun and engaging. Beyond even that, it’s an important avenue  CCP has to stimulate players to create their own content, by giving them new tools to use and attempt to best their opponents with.

We thought we’d really made a breakthrough

We thought we’d really made a breakthrough when the outpouring of frustration around a great many topics this summer led to us getting a direct meeting with Seagull where we were able to really push these points. This in turn lead to the creation of a dedicated balance team headed up as a part of Team Size Matters, which did some amazing work – The Alpha ships rebalance being the primary thing I can point to.

However, at this latest summit we found that the dedicated balance team was operating on an incredibly small time budget. And that makes some sense when you consider that the people who work on balance are the same people trying to fix things like sov, jump fatigue & citadels. However, currently it looks like after that, there are no plans to improve the standing and importance of balance within the future roadmap. If you are not happy about that, I advise you to share your feelings about why you think balancing is important for EVE on whatever social media you prefer to use.

The current course being set by CCP is setting the community up for another outpouring of anger somewhere along the line, as the core lessons that we tried to imprint on CCP have not been followed. And as such, I’d like to refer to the title of this piece. Balance is not optional. It is a critical part of maintaining user engagement with the product you sell us.

Do not forget that, or we will remind you.

 

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Tags: balance, ccp, csm, CSM summit, development, Jin'taan

About the author

Jin'taan

Jin'taan has had a long and somewhat varied career in EvE, starting just after the release of Tyrannis and pretty much never stopping. Currently he resides within CVA and the Providence region, having considerable experience with both FCing and (poorly) solo PvPing under their banner.


  • Jin’taan

    I will note that I could have called this article “Iteration is not Optional” and talked about a myriad of other things (Jump Fatigue, Faction Warfare, War Decs, etc.) that CCP knows are problems but can’t find the time to actively deal with. However this specific change, the creation of a dedicated balance team, was something the CSM managed to do thanks to you guys in the angry months of last year’s summer. I see CCP walking some of this back, and I feel it’s important you guys are aware of it, and get a chance to speak your mind on what’s happening.

    • DireNecessity

      At EVE Vegas I asked CCP Rise to explain how they there were implementing CCP Seagull’s dedicated balance team directive and couldn’t make heads or tails of his answer. I don’t wish to imply that he was being evasive but rather to note that my understanding of “dedicated balance team” meant a dedicated team that did only (or mostly) balance while his description seemed nothing near that. Perhaps selling it as an Iteration Team would work better since “iteration” sounds like delivering something new and exciting compared to “balance”. Given the huge impact very slight tweaks can produce in a game like EVE (whether ship tweaks or war dec tweaks or what have you), “iteration” strikes me an extraordinarily cheap way to keep the game fresh and exciting.

  • Caleb Ayrania

    Dammit Jintaan, this day and age its not allowed to make sense. You have to rage at something totally wrong and selfish, or it wont get updooted.. +1

  • asdfasdfd

    do they honestly think rapid launchers and drones are fine

  • Dirk MacGirk

    So you’re saying the balance team only meets on days when sheep face is being served? Though I bet they eat sheep face more often.

    • Freelancer117

      You can do better than this, and left out the rotten shark 🙁

  • “knows are problems but can’t find the time to actively deal with”

    I don’t know man, I don’t think that’s the problem at all. It’s a problem with money. The see things as revenue positive and revenue negative, sometimes there’s something neutral in there, but not very often. The thing with revenue positive, is that they focus on it to get “more” . Be it more new subs, or more skins being sold or whatever generates revenue. The revenue negative stuff, like fixing spaghetti code and making Eve work on more than one core, is that no matter how much money you throw at it, it will never be fixed, no will we ever be happy.
    I don’t think it’s a question of “finding time”. You can’t find it, you make it by putting extra people on it; man hours create time. It’s a how much money can we afford to throw at it? And the answer to that question is almost always “ZERO”

  • Rolfski

    Balance IS crucial, but believe it or not, way more so is PVE. Why? Because while the game’s balance is in a suboptimal but not game-breaking state atm, PVE is still in a completely retarded 90’s MMO state. And it’s PVE what evolves players into more, eventually becoming subscribers that stick to this game.

    So how has this all come so far? Simple actually: The CSM has fucked up right from the very start of its existence. There, I said it. Feel free to flame. This completely block-dominated player board has never been the slightest representation of Eve’s real player base and as such has never really cared for PVE, NPE or the highsec experience. I’ve seen the post-it topics on the recent CSM summit board, which completely confirms this ever-existing issue. It’s a joke really.

    • Jin’taan

      “The CSM has fucked up right from the very start of its existence.”

      You realise the CSM was dominated by Hisec until around CSM 6/7, right?

      • Rolfski

        I didn’t actually but that really doesn’t change the discussion. The point is that it’s the players represented by CSM that should be held as much accountable for the sorry state of PVE and NPE in this game, as CCP.
        For years you would see the forums dominated with cancerous elitism, priding itself that “Eve is not for everybody” and such, any dev effort spend on NPE was considered “hand holding” and a waste of time.

        • Caitlin Viliana

          You do realize that there have often been people within the CSM who have pushed for high-sec related features, things that affect players from high to null and to wormhole. However, the CSM can only push for things. CCP decides what they want to do at the end of the day, and often they don’t listen to players at any level. Saying CSM should be held accountable for the “sorry state of the NPE” would be as silly as saying “Every player in Eve should be held accountable for the sorry state of the NPE”.

          • Rolfski

            Did you see the post-it groupings on the CSM summit board? I did. The lack of focus on PVE, high sec and NPE topics on there was just pathetic, I have no other words for it. There was ZERO mention of issues that make players actually stick to this game, like:
            – Evaluation of the Alpha program
            – Making new players better connect with other players

            – Overhaul of the completely retarded 90’s MMO mission system
            – Etc.

            Whatever the CSM has done over the years to fix these clear issues is obviously not enough. Mind you these are “sexy” features that devs can advertise with, it shouldn’t be hard to push CCP in that direction. But the real problem is that CSM is simply not pushing. They’ve been elected by the blocks to push Fozzie sov, Citadel and balance issues.The real player base representation of CSM is simply non-existent and as such, it’s failing at what it was send out to be.

          • Jin’taan

            The most common problem highlighted was Wardecs. Every single member put that down. But, sure, we don’t care about Hisec.

  • Freelancer117

    WoW so ccp seagull is so far from the game, she can only be reached by the csm once after the summer of discontent.
    This will not bode well when there is no iteration on her famous roadmap for eve and no sign of player build star gates.

    Regards, a Freelancer

    ps: it takes some balls to utter criticism at the Company, after seeing how they “dealt with” FunkyBacon
    source: http://funkybacon.blogspot.com

    • Jin’taan

      TBF Funky was literally hated by everyone in that CSM as he decided that compromising with reality was something he wasn’t willing to do.