Sovereign DecisionsTarek Raimo
Looking Into The FutureAnother significant change from the past policy is the timing of the conceptual release. While CCP is no longer doing its old biannual release cycle, this change will, nevertheless, come at a point when the summer release would traditionally arrive. The fact that we are already getting a rather detailed preview of what is to come constitutes a big step away from how this would have happened in the past. With the old release cycle we would now be a few months after the winter expansion. Imagine hearing what the summer expansion will bring so far ahead of time. In the past, CCP would maybe hint at things during Fanfest but in the end they would just drop a catalogue of mechanics and changes on players and see how that works out. This time it is a process developing over the course of a year with small steps and different aspects fitting together like a puzzle where the whole picture slowly emerges. Players can settle into new mechanics and develop strategies for adaptation gradually and now they can even do so with foresight. That indicates a certain level of respect that CCP has developed for the player base. With that, I do not specifically mean that they simply respect the wishes of paying customers and cater to player entitlement. Much more than that, CCP appear to grasp the complex dynamic formed by its product and the players. Throwing a rock onto the anthill and watching them scramble to deal with it is not only an immature way of online-game development, it also increases the risk of mass player exodus or at the very least, a severe disruption of the game and CCP now treat their game with more consideration. On the other hand, this new sov system wants to create a disruption. Conflict drivers have been a central design staple of EVE for a long time, and avoiding stagnation is optimal, but at this point in time though, the “revolution” of the game world needs to be more gradual and well-developed. It is important to avoid a simple race where the inevitable winners would be the players who can grab the most territory because they come from a position of already established power. Neither should those who have worked hard to collectively build up something significant lose it in one stroke of the pen (or rather the keyboard). In the most recent Crossing Zebras debate on the subject, it was mentioned how Pandemic Legion found out that weeks of grinding and logistical operations had suddenly become worthless overnight with the Dominion expansion. They are still a large player in EVE today, but I have no doubt that quite a few of their players back then felt frustration and became bitter. Other than such an experience, the transition to a new sov-system has to be comprehensible and at the same time challenging, while avoiding such unnecessary frustrations. This current trajectory of change looks like a serious effort to fulfil those conditions.
Crowd ParticipationIn a way, the developments as they play out now bring EVE closer to the real world where change also comes gradually and adaptation happens at different paces and in different ways across the world. Of course, that is only a superficial comparison. Specifically, timely notifications as we receive them today create an opportunity for feedback from the players, which will influence the laws and mechanics that we will be dealing with in the foreseeable future. That modern social media-driven crowd-participation method also has its drawbacks though. As I have said earlier, there is the potential pitfall of taking vocal minorities too seriously or becoming manipulated by lobbyists. When applied with the necessary common-sense, however, this participatory model can also be a very powerful tool.
Image credit: Neville SmitCCP already has the CSM as a focus group, and I gather that the concepts for the new sov-system have already passed that level of scrutiny. Going even one step further, CCP has now decided to submit their new concept for public consideration in a way that is unprecedented. I do not envy Fozzie and his team the work of wading through all the commentary and separate the useful feedback from the tantrums of those who simply do not want change. On the other hand, if CCP properly weighs the issues raised and the points made, they can fine tune the system to a point where even the detractors will eventually be thankful that change has indeed come, even if it was forced upon them. In the past the players would get much less of a chance to make themselves heard; CCP is doing something truly innovative in their development process by consulting so closely with their playerbase today.