Let’s face facts, YC119 has gone a lot slower than many of us would have liked. Compared to the excitement of last years Citadels and Ascension, this year has felt a bit like it is drifting in comparison. There are of course many reasons for this, and there is great promise brewing for Winter. However, in the meantime we have what we have. As armies clashed in nullsec like they always have, the universe itself has continued to grow. Recently we saw the re-release of the SCOPE News Network task distribution system, now rebranded as The Agency.
While our first look at the new Agency was very lackluster, it did show the first hint as to how this feature may one day look. In spite of this, it was very hard to discuss the event itself for two key reasons. First, people were seemingly overwhelmed by how underwhelming the rewards are. In design it is often important to divorce the task itself, from the reward tied to it, to see if it stands on it’s own. I think it is safe to say that many people who completed the first Agency event didn’t do so because of the two or three PLEX you got (new PLEX, not old), nor were many motivated by a single SKIN.
Now that we have our second event using the Agency system, I think it is clear what CCP is trying to do, and where they are in that development. But before we go deeper into all of that, let’s discuss the current event, and how it has evolved from what we have seen before.
In “Lucky Clash” every character is tasked with four basic tasks:
Compare this to the previous event:
In both events you complete basic tasks for points and these points accumulate to achieve rewards. Unlike last year, both of the events include a timer (roughly 21 hours) until the task refreshes. In the first event you could see every reward you would receive by completing tasks, in the Lucky Clash event, we actually do not know for sure what the reward is, only that it comes in a “IGC Garment Keeper”. While we won’t actually know what is inside until someone completes four consecutive days of these dailies, one can imagine it will be cosmetic clothing items, likely in the IGC colors.
(Information and links provided by Uriel Anteovnuecci
Both events include a booster effect. The EVE community nearly unanimously denounced the login booster of the first Agency event, even though it had no direct in-combat effect. The new boosters, in contrast, is a direct boost to tank that is offered as a reward for collecting sufficient points in the event. The booster comes in three strengths.
One addition to the Lucky Clash is the combination with in space event sites. Lucky Clash sites spawn throughout new eden. Upon entering the site a single battleship arrives within 20km of beacon. Killing the single battleship ends the site and the wreck drops one of the tank event boosters. It seems that the lower powered boosters are more common than the stronger ones, and the rarest prize is a single PLEX. While these prizes are lackluster on the surface, these boosters are very strong, have no drawbacks, and this Agency seems to be a new distribution for both these and the new Agency Speed boosters visible on the market.
These new drugs are not in the same booster slot as any previous drug that I am aware of, and they are likely to be highly demanded. They do not appear to expire after the event so in a way they may be more like Quafe. Introducing such powerful drugs with nearly no drawbacks will allow the market to place a very volatile demand upon those performing these events. With two events scheduled this month, the rarity, and thus value of these drugs is unclear.
The sites themselves seem to contrast previous sites in that they do not appear to be intended to generate PvP content at all. The single battleship can be killed reasonably by a Tristan, and while the one room nature of it does mean everyone is warping in on top of each other, there is not much time for someone to come in and interfere in a half finished room. This may be exactly what they were going for with “Lucky Clash”: you warp to the site and see what’s there.
Peering Into the Agency – By the Numbers
Ultimately, what we have here is a system to deliver tasks to the player (a content delivery system), and an effective replacement for dailies. With the first event we had six tasks worth 48 points total (40 if you were limited to Alpha equipment 44 if you’re willing to use a Gnosis). The Lucky Clash event provided a total of 36 points per day with it’s five tasks with Alphas only getting 30 points, unless they use a Gnosis.
Laid out like this it becomes obvious that this task is designed to require daily interaction with the client. The extra days of each event functions as a buffer. In the first event you had to complete 10 days out of 14 as an Alpha. In a similar vein, an Alpha attempting to complete Lucky Clash can only miss two days out of the week allotted. Omegas have a clear advantage based on the access to tasks that are locked out to Alphas, however Alphas with access to the Gnosis have, so far, been at an advantage over those who don’t.
Defining the Grind
While these do function similar to dailies in that they require you to interact with the client on a daily bases to maximize the rewards, they do differ in that these events are limited in duration. Presumably the rewards given in the Garment bag is unique to this event, and as such they do not just function as a daily, but also provide a reward that marks activity in the game in a moment in time. They are reminiscent of the Seasons systems of Blizzard’s games.
these kinds of time locked cosmetic rewards have been very successful
Each game is a bit different but the basic notion is that if you complete a very low level task that proves activity in that time frame you receive a cosmetic reward related to that time period. These also function as times to reset leaderboards, introduce new content, and switch up the rules. While the Seasons can vary from game to game, and from season to season, they do function as a rhythm for their games, and a collectible lasting reward for participating. How much of this CCP is willing to translate over, and how much will translate over to EVE well remains to be seen. However while many people are complaining that cosmetic rewards lack value, these kinds of time locked cosmetic rewards have been very successful across gaming. Limitedly distributed clothing and SKINS has also proven to not break EVE or it’s economy.
Another thing to keep in mind is much of the design we currently see is clearly limited by technical development. When Shadow of the Serpent showed us the UI that would become the Agency, the tasks did not have a timer at all, but would instantly refresh upon completion. Obviously what we have now is more in line with the dailies approach they are going for. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. When the Agency was first released it was riddled with bugs including tasks failing to refresh at all. CCP was able to get it corrected, and the Lucky Clash event seems to be working much better technically (although I did finish a Lucky Clash site without getting credit).
Additionally, we know that the next event, currently known as “Alpha 3” begins on August 29th and will likely focus on things for Alpha characters. The rewards we have seen on singularity reflect this.
(The rewards aren’t quite the ‘must have’ of the summer)
So, what’s the point?
it is important to separate the desire for reward from the enjoyment or engagement of the task itself
Much like the Drifter wormholes, and mining fleets before, it seems as if the rewards for the event are not designed to be alone enough to do the tasks. As was said near the beginning, it is important to separate the desire for reward from the enjoyment or engagement of the task itself. The Agency as we see it isn’t CCP’s dream, but rather a small step across a large chasm to get to that dream. Lucky Clash is two parts ‘what we got’ and one part divining where to go next, and as CCP continues to develop this feature it will only become more robust. Already we have seen that the A3 event will likely include non combat tasks, showing CCP experimenting with not only what kinds of things players are motivated to do, but what kinds of tasks can be reasonably tracked through this system, all the while not disturbing the carefully laid out task assumptions of the dailies nature of the event. You may not want to make players feel forced to do something they do not want to do, simply because that is the only way to receive the events big reward.
CCP needs to be able to experiment with their features as they are developing it, but testing at scale is an incredible challenge, and while Singularity allows them to test many things, ultimately much of this stuff is just better off tested live. However, that greatly increases the chance of some big problem, so you don’t want to make it a huge deal to miss the reward. As the features flesh out the rewards can and will ramp up (see mining fleets becoming Shipyards).
Some of the changes are more subtle, but may also be pretty big when it comes to the future of how CCP designs their events. These events are the first time in which some areas of space are more able to complete the tasks than others. In the first event you were allowed to kill any kind of k-space pirate races (sans Rogue Drones), but in the new event you only get credit for Guristas, Sansha, and Blood Raiders. This makes the event particularly hard to do in Gallente space for example, as those regions are dominated by Serpentis. While the shift towards making events change the nature of space by changing up the rats required, it is a bit disappointing that the limitation seems arbitrary. This fact is only accentuated by the fact that the tasks name is “Angelic Serpents”, the two races you can’t kill to complete the task. It would be nice if there was something about the task, or the event that explains why some pirates are being targeted.
As it stands, I personally am having fun running the Agency events. This time I have loaded up a Drake and run level 3 missions to get the rats I need. I don’t feel overly pressured, and it doesn’t leave me with some BPC to figure out what to do with. I feel like this is the first time that the Agency has really worked and I think the compressed timeline of one week helped make it more processable for players.
What the Agency is lacking is dedicated commitment from CCP. Much of this may be because of the “beta” nature of the Agency itself, but CCP is doing very little to push the Agency to the player base. No Scope videos, and no explanations from CCP as to the nature of these events and their future. It seems as if the Agency is only part of a larger effort leading into the winter expansion. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to see this a fully realized feature.