Daily Archives: February 23, 2016

BB72 Roadmaps are Best Written in Pencil

For Blog Banter 72 the topic is the Roadmap for EVE Online. (Roadmap is a single word when used in tech, but two words when referring to a literal map of roads.)  We were pointed at a post that Sugar Kyle did just as the CSM summit was opening up and were asked what we might want as a roadmap for the game.

The thing is, I saw that post when it went up and quickly wrote out a few items that I thought ought to be on the agenda.  My suggestions were:

Keep the old camera around until the new one is rock solid. The new one mostly works, but I’ve had it freak out on me enough that I had to turn it off. There is no need to be in a hurry to ditch the old one unless there is some burden which comes with the legacy code.

More of a practical/tactical item, something to do RIGHT NOW, than a roadmap suggestion.  CCP did actually fix one of my major issues, where if you were looking at something when you warped the camera would pretty much go crazy.  However, I haven’t turned the new camera back on yet.  I suppose that is the roadmap item, how to get people to actually use the new camera and get used to it (and help work out any remaining issues) before they turn off the old one.

Dump the entosis link module and let us just shoot command nodes. We like to blow stuff up. Use the same mechanic for citadels so there is a cap on the amount of DPS to keep a blob from being able to blitz through.

This is a little less tactical, and something borrowed from my pretend CSM platform, which was based on the idea that all CCP projects should, in the end, create things that explode or cause things to explode more.  Here my logic is that a bunch of people shooting something (and getting a kill mail) is more fun that a bunch of people watching somebody shoot a beam at something.  An items for the “revisions to Fozzie Sov” list.

Work on some more interesting PvE content. I know, that is tough, because no matter what CCP introduces players will just optimize to beat it and then it will simply become another ISK faucet.

Vague, and clearly an ongoing item, the idea that CCP can possibly create PvE content in New Eden that is interesting and which doesn’t simply become an optimized ISK faucet like every other bit of PvE content in the game.  Not sure how you get there from here.

Having just watched my daughter, 14 and better at video games than I am, try to get into EVE, I would have to suggest that the NPE still needs some work. It went from a narrow path that didn’t really prepare you for the game to a wide path that an actual new player can get totally lost and frustrated with.

Ah, the new player experience.  The forum hysterian’s favorite bugbear, that goons are ganking new players and driving them away, pales into complete insignificance (if it is even a much of a thing at all) compared to what the NPE does to the game.  As noted, I watched my daughter try to go through it and ended up wondering how we get any new subscribers at all in the game.  As with better PvE, I don’t know what the answer is, but somebody at CCP had best be asking the question.

I could probably come up with more items.  I doubt there is an area of the game that somebody isn’t aching to see updated, improved, or expanded.

Instead though, I want to write a little bit about roadmaps in general when it comes to software projects.  They are a good thing, when used correctly.  And, having worked for companies that could come up with a six month roadmap, I’d have to say they are better than nothing at all even when used poorly.

A roadmap is a plan for where you want to go, which is usually broken up into a few distinct pieces.

The current release – What you are working on now.  It is likely nailed down, the features and goal set out, and most everybody knows what they’re doing.  If you code in short sprints or iterations for regular code drops, the “current release” idea might actually encompass a few updates.

The next release – Unless your product development life cycle is really immature, you have some people at least laying the groundwork for the next release.  That is likely a list of features, most of which will make the cut, but some will fall by the wayside, either pushed off into the future or discarded.  Somebody is likely trying to do design work and maybe some preliminary coding.  This is likely what the CSM should be hearing about.

The future – These are ideas and plans about where the product should go.  It is likely that nobody is writing code related to these items, except maybe to ensure that what they are working on today won’t make them more difficult.  There are often items in this area that are defined by a single sentence, and there are a generally a lot more ideas here than it is possible to code in the given time frame.  It is a field of possibilities, not a contact that needs to be honored.  This is where ideas from the CSM likely drop, unless they are small, self-contained features or incremental improvements.

You usually don’t share future items in detail outside of your organization, because people will assume that any document you share is carved in stone, even if they should know better.  So we get this sort of thing from CCP.

Some sort of release schedule...

Some sort of release schedule…

That isn’t actually a roadmap at all.  That is a train schedule.

A bright future of some sort!

A bright future of some sort!

This isn’t really a roadmap so much as a vague promise that exciting new things are somewhere just beyond the horizon.

Some more detail, with a line even...

Some more detail, with a line even…

That is a better roadmap.  Still very general, as it is for public consumption, and still only very high level features, but it at least gives a sense of what the medium to long term priority is. (In a world where “two years” is long term.)

The thing to remember is that, aside from what we get in dev blogs about the next release, none of this is really set in stone, either as features or when it will get released because the roadmap doesn’t work that way.  That third item was from EVE Vegas in 2014 and we are clearly not through with those middle three items.  We have sov warfare changes, and structures coming, but the former still needs some tuning while the latter will probably take a while before it is settled.

Basically, if we’ve learned anything over the years, it is that until CCP does a dev blog or detailed forum post about an upcoming feature, it hasn’t yet been retrieved from that future bucket.  New Eden is a complicated place and it always takes longer than you think to do anything, whether it is in game or out.

I want new things.  I want the new things, vague as they are, which are on those charts.  But I know some of them are still a ways off and that nothing we’ve been told yet about the future is set in stone.

Others diving into Blog Banter 72: