Sending Messages to CCP in Jita

If you give players a way to use something to send a message, they will use it.

Bubble arrangement fun

Since you can’t have warp disruption bubbles outside of null sec and WH space, you get mobile depots around Jita, the main trade hub of New Eden.

A mobile depot is a small deployable structure that lets you change fittings on your ship, put fresh drones in your drone bay when you’ve lost your current ones, and hide your excavator drones when your Rorqual is getting dropped.  More about them over at EVE University.

They also sit in space, visible if you have your overview set to show them and, unlike warp disruption bubbles, they do not expire.  So people will patiently deploy them one after another in order to spell out things in space.  This is what was in space around Jita 4-4 earlier today.

Words with Friends in Jita

Those are just dozens of deployed mobile depots.

A view of Jita 4-4 from one of the mobile depots

There are a couple of words in Cyrillic and a line of mobile depots at the top with descriptions in Chinese.  But there is also a sentence in English.  In case it isn’t clear, and it might not be, it says “CCP MAKE NEW UI.”

Everybody is a critic.  Not that I necessarily disagree.  The UI was in my Top Five Problems with EVE Online post a couple years back, and I haven’t changed my mind on any of it.   But after fifteen years we’re all sort of invested in this IU.  To change it radically would be to change the game.  But to leave it as it is means the game remains as opaque as it ever was.

Of course, this is laid out in 3D space, so I warped out to one of the mobile depots and one end of the message and selected one a the other end to see how big the whole message was.

View from the end

Edge on you cannot read the message, but you can see that the mobile depot at the far end is almost 580km from me.  That distance, about 360 miles, is quite a ways.  The internet tells me that is about the distance from Boston to Baltimore, if you’re on the east coast, or about the distance from San Jose to Los Angeles if you’re out here on the left coast.

Probably a little bigger than that actually

I would have done the Boston to Baltimore map, but California is easier since there is nothing between San Jose and LA really.  At least not according to Google.

That is quite a distance.  I happened to be in a ship fitted with festival launchers and fireworks, so shot a few at the mobile depot I was near.  But a firework’s blast extends maybe a kilometer max, so they were completely invisible if you zoomed out far enough to see the message.  Scale will do that to you.

You can also see that the mobile depot I have highlighted is named “check bio.”  You can get info about the mobile depot and see who deployed it.  They, of course, have their manifesto in their player bio.

What do we want?

I hate to start an argument, but if this person knew what the a 2002 game actually looked like… well, they would probably be shocked.  Let me show you.  Here is a Megathron battleship in 2007.

What the Megathron looked like back then

And here is a more recent screen shot of a Megathron.

Quafe… so refreshing

Same shape, but better graphical fidelity.  And you can’t even see the turrets, which track targets as they shoot.

But graphical quality is a very subjective topic.  Somebody will always say whatever you have is not good enough, so I think devoting space in their bio, which has a character limit, was a wasted effort.  The graphical quality of the game is actually something that CCP has evolved throughout the years.

As for the rest of the UI… well, the overview can be a dumpster fire.  It is your prime source of information as to what is in space with you and it can be a pain in the ass to deal with and is one of the first major hurdles new players face.

On the other hand, I don’t have a better idea as to how to represent what is going on around you in three dimensions.  You could add more information to the brackets for ships in space, as suggested, but that has the obvious downside of adding more clutter to what can already be a very cluttered display.

Anyway, I could pick apart every suggestion given with adverse consequences and still not like the UI myself.  All design is a compromise.  And players being mad at CCP because the game isn’t exactly what they want it to be is nothing new.  This person, for example, seems to want to turn the game into more of a tactical spaceship shooter.  But EVE Online isn’t that and won’t ever be that.

Still, I have to give this person credit.  They did get CCP’s attention.

I assume Hilmar is still around because his retention contract has yet to mature.  I expect he will be gone by the end of the year.  Damn, I should have put that in my predictions for 2019.  But still, somebody at CCP clearly saw it.

Of course, the best response to that tweet was:

That’s particularly impressive given how crappy the object placement UI is ;)

I am not even sure there is a UI for that.  At least not for mobile depots, which you just deploy from your cargo hold.  But I gather this person may have used the module placement UI for POSes.

All in all, just another day in Jita.

8 thoughts on “Sending Messages to CCP in Jita

  1. bhagpuss

    Reminds me of the corpse art we used to get in EverQuest. It was a real art form for a while – until someone worked out how to automate it and the gold sellers used it to spell out their website addresses in dead bodies. SOE changed something after that so you couldn’t do it any more.

    You used to be able to drop siege blueprints in GW2, which appeared as wooden boxes on the ground. People used to drop them by the hundred but I never saw anyone try to write with them although it was presumably possible. That got changed by ArenaNet after a while, so maybe someone was sending rude messages.

    Most developers probably wouldn’t put up with it for long. Maybe CCP wil be different.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – I probably should have emphasized that there is a long New Eden tradition of spelling things out in space with various objects. Some of my earliest screen shots feature containers dropped near jump gates renamed with recruiting messages for various corps. So CCP has probably been putting up with this sort of thing since beta and shows no sign of changing… though there is a line they don’t like you to cross. If you write obscene or offensive things or layout your POS modules in the shape of a swastika you will get called out on it and may get a temp ban for first offense.

    And, on a similar topic, there is a whole post to be written (by somebody besides myself) about people putting things in their cargo holds to send a message or an attitude when it shows up on a kill mail. Drugs. Exotic dancers. Cows. There are a lot of options. The low point for that was the corp Psychotic Tendencies putting two stacks of gas containers, quantities 14 and 88, in their cargo holds during the alliance tournament.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – Since I cannot comment there I will here.

    Yeah, a giant overhaul isn’t going to happen, and not just because of Pearl Abyss. You would have to rip the current dev team away from maintaining the game to do that. Without WoW sized player numbers they cannot engage in WoW sized projects. It would be a gamble with no guaranteed upside because, in the end, it would still be an open world game with non-consensual PvP and most gamers don’t want to play that. I think EVE might be the most successful such MMO.

    I view “make it fun” as a bit of a cheat. How many times have people asked CCP to make mission running fun? Do you think CCP didn’t try already?

    Also, CCP used to support Linux and still supports MacOS. They dropped Linux because it had very low usage and was a pain to maintain. I suspect that despite being in Python that CCP makes liberal use of the Windows libraries. On the MacOS side they switched to using WINE to cover themselves on that front. They could do that with Linux as well, but it still won’t be free… nothing is ever free, never ever ever… and would likely have to be limited to specific versions of specific distros.

    I have been complaining about the in-game map since 2007. It is hella impressive to show your friends. And it has gotten better over the years. But it still is pretty useless. You cannot live without DOTLAN once you know it exists. Even Goons threw together a useful map tool in GARPA. You’d think CCP could manage that, but they have two versions of the in-game map and both are very pretty and not very useful.

    CCP has been talking about adding better default overview options, suggested fits for ships in the fitting UI, and a few other items like that. But there are always flaws. The players do it better that the devs, but you cannot trust the players. And for ship fits the updates and balance passes mean keeping that up to date, and CCP couldn’t even keep its wiki up to date.

    They have also been making a lot of small changes. The game is arguably better than it was in the past. But I think the time for anything big has gone.

    Basically it is a 15 year old live product that needs input and improvements and security updates and bug fixes and updates to libraries and tools and third party utilities and it goes on and on. Every time they add a feature everything gets more complicated. And the whole thing has to pay its own way as well as funding anything new CCP wants to do. It is very easy to run out of cycles in that sort of environment. And then people freak out when they drop a feature, because every feature is somebody’s favorite thing in the game, no matter how bad or useless.

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  4. anypo8

    Wilhelm:

    Yeah, I’m not talking about something CCP could do instead of what they’re doing now. I’m talking about adding a whole new team, perhaps a whole new dev site, to do a new UI. Yes, it would be a perhaps $100M gamble with no guaranteed upside: that’s sort of the definition of what a gamble is. It would likely faceplant, like most games, and like most new projects CCP has tried. If it worked, though, it would make CCP a ton of money in new players and it would make Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen and the many other new space MMOs springing up a lot less of a threat to the future of EVE. They’re mostly competing on UI right now, given that it’s relatively easy to do better than EVE and most of the other things they might compete with EVE at are harder.

    Moving the existing client to native is a huge project that’s definitely not worth the payoff given that Wine works OK on Linux and Mac. (They should still officially support Wine on Linux, though: it wouldn’t be that much more than what they already do now, just a goodwill gesture. As a Linux guy, I can tell you that if they provided a Debian package most people on most distros would be able to handle that fine.) The existing client is written entirely around DirectX and that’s a huge codebase to move. The new client would presumably be written for Vulkan (or maybe OpenGL if being super-conservative) and thus cross-platform would be relatively cheap.

    I agree that the desire of most MMO players to have some kind of safety from PVP is a big barrier for EVE. Highsec was originally supposed to provide some version of this. I think it’s a symptom of a fundamental game design flaw when players routinely report that “I find null safer than HS.” See the recent discussion of HS wardecs and how they are quantifiably driving large numbers players away from the game: a wardec was at the heart of my reason to leave. Strengthening HS protections while simultaneously reducing HS rewards and making LS a worthwhile place to live seems to me to be the way forward here. Presumably at least some of the gankers would be willing to move out to LS rather than quit the game, and the new player’s first venture out of HS would be more like what it should be: a scary but exciting risk-reward tradeoff. As it stands, most players try hard to be in LS as little as possible: outside of FW there’s nothing there for them but explosions.

    Maybe “fun” is a cheat. Maybe not. I have never played a game in my entire life where more players persist in playing while explicitly saying that this game is “not fun”. I have never seen a game where more veteran, long-term players advise prospectives not to try it. I agree that “fixing missioning” isn’t the way forward: it’s too small. A skilled game designer (with all due respect to Fozzie) with years of experience designing successful games including outside the videogame space would be a huge asset in figuring this out. At the end of the day fun is what good game designers do. Give Jesse Schell a few million dollars a year to leave CMU and few tens of millions a year in implementation budget: if he’d take it (doubtful) I think it might be the best investment CCP ever made.

    Discussion of the game itself, interesting though it is, is tangential though. The existing UI is in itself an almost-insuperable barrier to new players and frustrating enough to existing players to make them periodically rethink their life choices. In several attempts to coach prospectives into the game, I’ve never gotten much farther than “I can’t even do anything this is dumb.” If you want EVE to grow, you’re gonna have to fix that.

    I think EVE could still grow even at this ripe old age. Look at how many new players jumped on at free-to-play, only to slowly jump off again as they found what they were playing. It’s going to take investments even bigger than the Alpha Clone experiment to grab “massive” numbers of new players and keep them. “Massive” investments.

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – I think my main problem is that I do not believe that any MMORPG ever returns to growth once it passes its peak and enters a period of decline. A game can ebb and flow, as we have seen with WoW, but once past its peak, it heads inevitably downwards. I do not have any evidence that contradicts that.

    Nor do big investments or radical changes seem to help much. Updating to a 3D engine didn’t do much for the fortunes of Meridian 59, the NGE only hurt SWG, and I don’t really know if Origin/EA/Broadsword tinkering with new clients has ever boosted UO even a bit. So it becomes a matter of catering to the installed base. Keeping them happy keeps the bills paid.

    Basically, if there was a success story out there I’d be less fatalistic. But watching the industry roll on by since I bought a copy of EverQuest nearly 20 years ago, I haven’t seen much to change my mind. In part, despite the protestations of Mark Jacobs, I think MMORPGs are a niche market, that the various aspects of the genre… online play, other players, cash shops and/or subscriptions, and the time commitment required… form natural limits to the potential players.

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  6. anypo8

    Wilhelm: You have a lot more knowledge and experience than I do, and the history looks like it’s on your side. So maybe you’re right. Maybe EVE in 10 years looks like Everquest today, regardless of what you do: slowly dwindling playerbase, few new players.

    I don’t think the limit is money, subscription or otherwise. The amount folks spend on Candy Crush shows that there are a lot of folks with plenty of disposable cash out there. Same with playtime: there’s plenty of people whose whole days revolve around Candy Crush and Farmville. In the Age of the Internet it can’t be about online play.

    That leaves some things EVE does differently than most folks. It’s probably the least dumbed-down game with a significant following out there. Ditto for most-social game. Super sandboxy. These kind of things form a niche, as you say. The question is the market size of that niche, and what share of it EVE could capture. It’s a hard question, and the answer is probably grim.

    A virtual world in which everyone participates is a staple of SF. Maybe it’s just not a thing in the real world. That’s the problem with being outside the curve: the unknown unknowns are so unknown.

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – Don’t get me wrong. I think the genre is special, and EVE an extra special part of it. This blog is a testament to it. I love the stories… the stories that come from playing with other people in a big mixed up world. The main point of this post was less about fixing EVE, which I only mentioned to give one person their due, and more about what people can do in the game, like spell out things in letters so big they would stretch from San Jose to LA. But it is in my nature to try and find the flaws and see if I can spot the patterns and to be, as I said, somewhat fatalistic about things. 30 years of startups and mergers and bad product decisions in Silicon Valley can do that to you.

    As for what people spend on Candy Crush Saga… tomorrow’s post will be illuminating… and possibly depressing… when it comes to that.

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