If you want to read the sources this article, the meeting minutes are located here and they are 113 pages long. If you don't care to read it all, stick around, because I have. Lastly, the devblogs are located here and here.
If you want to follow along, the meeting minutes are up first. I'll be jumping around a bit, so keep up!
For those interested in Incarna, you will be disappointed, it was mentioned in the minutes a grand total of four times. None of them seem to relate to walking in stations... or do they? If you look at page 112, you will see something interesting - three redacted sessions covered by the NDA. The last of which reads as:
Prototype Feedback Session
Present: CCP Veritas, CCP Bayesian
The CSM was given the opportunity to test several early prototypes of a possible revision of existing gameplay mechanics. The contents of this session are covered under NDA.
Of course, nobody except those involved will really know, but what I find interesting is that a) it's under NDA, and b) one of the developers involved was in fact prototyping possible expansions/revisions to how Incarna/Walking In Stations can be used. There is even video of the very early prototype. Note that the video was filmed in May of 2012, and the prototype officially ended in October. It was five months of work on their part at least, very likely a lot more.
There were devblogs around the time of Incarna that showed how assets were being created with a focus on being able to re-use art many times over for different interiors, a bit like putting together together a LEGO set. CCP Veritas, on the other hand, is most known for his work on reducing lag. This makes it even more interesting because one of the main problems CCP encountered with expanding Walking In Stations with multiple avatars was... LAG. That's all I have to say on that, as my tinfoil hat might be on a bit tight today. You will see later on exactly why that is.
Customer Loyalty programme
Let's go back up to page 108/109 to the section on the Customer Loyalty program CCP is working on, and bear in mind the fact that EVE Online is entering its second decade of operation.
Present: CCP Gargant, CCP Alice, CCP Navigator
The CSM was then given an overview of the CCP Subscriber Reward Program, which is currently under development. It is important to remember that nothing is set in stone at this point.
The goal of the program is, of course, increased revenue, and the plan is to achieve this through four main opportunities; loyalty rewards, marketing chances, player engagement and continuous excitement. This is intended to be a continuous process.
Gargant noted that programs such as this involve many competing interests, such as new vs. old players, players with single accounts vs. multiple accounts, and so on. One of the most significant of these is the tension between providing exciting rewards and not introducing items that are overpowered.
Examples of fixed milestones might be special badges or clothing items (hats!), whereas the tokens might be used to purchase special ships or ship variants. While milestones will be locked to specific accounts, the tokens, and the items they can buy, will be tradable in-game items.
This is actually very interesting, as there has been much recent talk about high end veterans having very little to aspire to except to accrue more skillpoints (EVE's Version of experience, for those that don't play it) and ISK (Money). As someone who has long since arrived in the fabled 'Bitter Vet' club, I would love to see access to factional variants of most Tech 1 ship hulls, like those recently given out as Christmas gifts, the Suukuvestaa Heron and the Sarum Magnate are a good start, and much of this art already exists ingame.
The other thing I would like to see are new ship skins I can apply to ships I already own, for example factional skins for my carrier or battleship would be nice. I'd love to own a personal version of those extremely creepy battleship rogue drones. Maybe they could allow us to buy versions of pirate battleships that only NPCs fly for now, such as the Serpentis Dominix that you can find and kill out in nullsec. They don't necessarily have to have superior stats or different configurations, but having one with the Serpentis camo skin on it would be a nice addition to my hangar full of shinies. I have high hopes for this, and I think it's a good thing they're finally going to start rewarding people for sticking around. The rest of that session is certainly worth reading on its own merit, if nothing else.
Mercenaries, War and Crimewatch
Next, let's take a look at page 63/64 for the Mercenaries, War and Crimewatch session. If you read my last article from around the time Retribution launched, you'll know that I lthought that in making these changes CCP risked going down a bad path where EVE essentially becomes a themepark rather than a sandbox.
Mercenaries, Wars and Crimewatch
Present: CCP Solomon, CCP Masterplan, CCP Greyscale, CCP Tallest, CCP SoniClover, CCP Punkturis
Solomon opened by explaining that the session would be split into two components, a presentation on upcoming crimewatch changes, followed by a review of the state of the wardec system.
Masterplan began discussing the crimewatch iterations first, explaining some tweaks currently under testing: AI behavior against player drones, and the safety setting persistence. Also under development is a Dueling mechanic, which would replace can-flipping: players would be able to challenge another to a duel, which would create a Limited Engagement between the two players; existing Crimewatch mechanics would then handle everything else. Masterplan added that duel invitations would be blockable to avoid spam, and that this mechanic would only be available in highsec and low-sec.
More on the dueling mechanic in specific is covered by one of the blogs I linked. In short: not bad by itself, but its starting down what is in my opinion a risky path. There are legitimate uses for people who want to fight each other outside stations in a controlled manner, and tournaments created by the community and people at EVE-Radio. It is signaling that some in CCP want to cater to the truly risk averse.
The rest of the first portion dealing with sec status isn't bad either, and some generally good improvements such as new methods to raise your sec status if its in a bad state without ratting endlessly for perhaps weeks.
What really concerns me happened during the wardec portion of this session. I do hope you brought those tinfoil hats.
Two step asked the team if they felt they’d accomplished all that they had set out to accomplish in overhauling the wardec system, as it appeared to him there appeared to be just as much random wardeccing and grief wardeccing as there was before the overhaul. Solomon joked that it would be so much easier to just remove the wardec system completely, to much laughter of the CSM. Then, more seriously, Solomon explained that the designers had been back and forth discussing this question, and that the general idea has always been to develop a toolset where two entities could participate in mutual combat even in highsec space.
Trebor: There is the important word you just said – mutual conflict. Just as you can have a mutual engagement between two players, you should be able to have a mutual engagement between two groups. But the current system, it’s a cursed mechanic, because most of the people who get involved want absolutely nothing to do with it.
Solomon noted that they were looking specifically into cases where one corp wardecced another corp, and no losses occurred. Usually this means that a larger more powerful entity has wardecced a smaller entity that wants nothing to do with the conflict and therefore does everything in its power to avoid being caught or killed. Solomon wagered that this was the case in 70-80% of wars.
Solomon: The strong prey on the weak, but the weak aren’t responding, and nobody’s getting particularly fun or nourishing gameplay out of this. Is that a failure?
Alek countered that this more often happened in the reverse – a smaller, say 5-man corp, will wardec a larger 50-man entity, who will just dock up and refuse to fight. Alek pointed out this has little to do with strength or capability, but simply willingness to engage in PvP.
Alek: As Stoffer [Soundwave] said earlier, you should not be able to play EVE in your own little world and not be affected by other players.
Thank you Soundwave for having icy blood in your veins like any good EVE player does.
Solomon: Should it be limited to each party's ability to engage and fight, though? I mean that's what we're trying to zero in on: that consensual, high-sec engagement where its mutual, and both sides have the ability to participate and cause losses and cause damage, that's the kind of thing we want to be moving towards and encouraging.
Seleene: Wait a minute. Something just went off in my head here. You're literally advocating that the days of ‘I am pissed off at these people and I don't care if they agree that I'm pissed off at them, I'm going to wardec them and rip their shit apart’. Is that what you're trying to get away from?
Bad Solomon, Bad! More importantly, if my war targets are docked up, they're not getting anything done. They are losing money and are doing exactly what I want them to do: playing other games. It is punishment enough if they have picked a fight with someone who is more dangerous than they can handle, and summarily have their logistics and other normal operations shut down or seriously hindered until they meet the peace requirements set out by their aggressor. Sorry, that's how EVE is. If you can't handle it, maybe you'd like what Blizzard is doing more. Or, Seleene put it better:
Seleene: Well then maybe they need to get more friends and they need to learn to defend themselves better in a PvP game.
Now for the drama
I did promise some, didn't I? A long long long time ago in EVE history there was a forum thread that collectively became known as the Dead Horse. It delt with Starbase redesign because starbases needed to be redesigned, everyone involved agrees with this. Even CCP themselves agree. The code underneath the POS system itself is old and outdated. Apparently, the person who wrote them doesn't even work at CCP any more, and there is no documentation for how any of it works. In 2012, at fanfest, CCP had said that there was no sense in improving the current system because it merited such a huge reworking. People were content with this, they said they were working on a new one then, back in April or May.
The problem? They're not working on it any more. Apparently, CCP believe that such a huge reworking would only touch "a small portion of the playerbase". CSM member Two Step was rightfully infuriated by this. Since he explains it quite a lot better than I can, this is a link to his personal blog where he made a post about it. The offending quotes are below, and if you agree with him (as I do) that starbases need that level of attention, and CCP are wrong about the small portion of the playerbase, you should go and sign this thread saying so.
Unifex stated that what CCP did was spend effort and prototype what would make a good POS system. It would, however, only affect the group of people who manage POSes. Focusing that amount of time and effort on some small singular aspect of the game and delivering only that “is what will kill the business”. (page 37)
Taking the opportunity to talk about POSes, Alek queried why the CSM were so late in learning that POSes were hard to do now. Further, he disagreed that POSes would only touch a small subset of the players and asked how did CCP feel able to accomplish the feat of balancing null-sec, which Alek viewed as comparatively more difficult than POSes. Soundwave was the first to respond and told Alek that he felt some of the assertions he made were incorrect and, from a game design perspective, implementing changes to null-sec and the sov system in general would be easier than revamping the POS system. On top of that, Soundwave added, the POS system by itself would only affect a small portion of the community. (page 38)
People who should be concerned and offended at this are numerous, including (but by no means limited to): anyone who has ever lived inside Wormhole space, anyone who ever wants to live in w-space, anyone who has ever managed the logistics for an industrial corporation of any worth, anyone who has ever done invention, any CEO, director or senior staff of any medium or large corporation, any capital pilot, any supercapital pilot along with pretty much everyone who lives in nullsec, and lowsec space or who wants to live in nullsec or lowsec space. In other words, the benefits are not for a small portion of the community at all.
Author's edit regarding the POS Drama: Shortly after publication, CCP Seagull posted a response to the above thread that clarified many of the above concerns may have been due to a misconception with how the minutes were worded, and you can read it here.
All in all, 2013 is set to be a very interesting year for the game. I'm not personally confident CCP can tackle what they're trying to tackle, but we will see, and it will be very fun to watch.