Thursday, November 6, 2008

ETC — in game trading (and other, less important stuff).

One word: wicked.

Listed on the Quantum Rise expansion features page is a little gem, right at the bottom, that probably will have more impact on the EVE universe than any of the other over-hyped stuff in this expansion (bar the underway server yaardware improvements): in-game ETC trade.

The same feature is covered at length in Oveur's latest devblog (a devblog is CCP's 21st century idea of a .plan entry, as copy-proofed by the Ministry of Truth).

Those with a memory better than a fruit fly's will remember the hot issue of ETC/GTCs and their relation to RMT and CCP customer retention discussed in this article, followed by a proposed fix for the Ghost Training feature (nice work of NewSpeak on retro-naming this feature, which I forgot to mention at the time, btw.).

Sadly Ghost Training isn't rezzed, and that's a shame, but IG ETC trade is just brilliant and I hate myself for not having brought it up.

The general idea of a better integration with the in-game trade is sort of obvious, and I sniffed this could plug in nicely as a new category of in-game contract (with the upcoming improvements in that area), but the idea to turn time into an actual tradeable token, as in Item is freakin' genius: it talks directly to the Oh shiney ! part of the brain that has people jump like poodles through every cool marketing hoop, and I salute this with the topical humility of one who lacks that kind of vision.

I'd go into detail on other stuff in Quantum Rise, but sadly there isn't much to say about this expansion: the fact every "feature" has to be re-hashed three times, and still needs screenshots thumbnails as filler to barely make up one screen page says enough about the anemic nature of this release, which reeks of "We don't have shit to show guys… — Well, it's this time of the year, we gotta slap that WinterXpansion! sticker on something: gimme whatever's planned for next hotfix, that'll do."

On second thought, there's so little content in there that I can cover it in a few lines:
  • Weapon grouping: Cool stuff usability-wise, and the servers will certainly love the drastic cut on transactions and to-hit virtual dice rolls.

    Oh, also movable HUD (that's the blinky thing in the bottom center of the screen), and cycle timers on weapons/mods. Well, no, it wasn't there yet.

  • Certificates: I haven't looked into those in depth, but they look promising from a usability standpoint, could help people find their way more easily in the mazelike skill tree, and may be a nice recruitment/HR management tool for corps if integrated in the job advertising system.

  • Medals: OK, I'm not the target audience for eye-candy, so I'm not overly excited about this, but I suspect the people who fancy pixel trinkets won't get an orgasm over this either, because from the screenies, those medals are 1996 cheap-ass, butt-ugly, and about as exotic and exciting as a forced vacation in a Swiss Postal Services retirement home.

  • New Stargates: Seriously, that's it ? I'm at a loss for words. They look cute, but c'mon: last time an EVE expansion was about eyecandy it was this.

  • Alchemy: Short version, crappy moons can now yield a crappy amount of yummy stuff (with much waste and effort), whereas high-end moon reactions used to be the exclusive of a happy few top-tier moon owners in select regions. Not a bad change in itself, but the kind of band-aid half-assed fix that I fear will delay a much-needed overhaul of the PvE resource distribution on TQ, so not exactly a win either.

  • Orca: 1 year old semi-smart design finally hits the live server, yelling all the way down: "I swear, I'm not just filler !". Certainly not a game changer, but why not, although it could break further the already gimped Rorqual.

  • Bombs: now cheaper. That's it, move along people.

  • New music tracks: They could be absolutely entrancing, but I wouldn't know. Like 99% of EVE players, the first thing I do on a fresh install is to disable audio. I feel sorry for the poor guy writing tracks nobody ever listens.

  • Improved travel: Already released for what it is: a load balancing fix getting Jita and other traffic jams out of your autopilot, more or less. Welcome to 1998 and onboard GPS in your 33rd century Warship, at last.

  • Assembly Array Upgrades: I've been checking those on SiSi, and I won't comment yet, because they're really a balancing/tweaking type of job, and I want to believe that's still a work in progress (or expect the same entry to make for another glorified Feature ! in the next pseudo-Expansion).

  • Speed rebalanced: See Assembly Arrays above, very much still in the oven, and certainly a controversial one, no matter what CCP comes up with. Tweaking speed, tank or DPS in EVE is like pushing a new fiscal plan in meatspace: half the population will hate your guts no matter what, so I'm not about to shoot the ambulance until this is stamped as Gold.
Although none of those features are inherently bad, and in fact are actually nice and welcome, they file for the most part under cosmetic fixes and/or solid cases of stuff that should have been in the box, and while they would have found their rightful place in an expansion worth its salt, they definitely don't make for one on their lone self.
One has to wonder if CCP has hired people from Microsoft OS/Office division as product line managers.

To be fair, Oveur's devblog (mentioned above) hints at more ongoing changes and additions, and I'm not saying CCP is slacking. More likely I suspect the semestrial expansion model isn't exactly suited to the kind of material they're hammering right now, and — as often with CCP — the dooming part is less in what they bring to the game than in the way they bring it.

Here, new content that would be a very nice bag of cookies if released as a Thanksgiving Bonus Patch only looks pale for being wrapped in the overblown package of a Winter Expansion it simply can't fill.

And yeah, I haven't posted much lately, neither here or anywhere really, but it's not for lack of motivation, just information overload and other stuff to do in meatspace.


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