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 is the wearer of a great many hats, being an FC, solo PvPer, dumb suit connoisseur, member of the CSM, political commentator and prolific producer of interviews. Currently, he resides within Test Alliance Please Ignore.