Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Odyssey Changes, Part 3

Change is a concept that is either liked or disliked, you either like the difference or you wish to maintain the status quo .  Change can be for the good or it can lead to the detriment of the people it affects.  It has the ability to revolutionize the culture, or revert it back to the stone age.  Being affected by change is something we all experience in our lives.  Daily changes gradually affect what we are going to do.  Often times a drastic change is quickly rejected.  Eve online is a game that thrives on change.  It receives two major expansions a year and minor updates to tweak game assets with updates.  CCP has the hard job of trying to change things people don't like and produce something they do like.  They also have to judge if the loss of interest of people who performed an activity before will be an acceptable loss if more people participate in an activity. 

CCP is trying to create a more engaging game something where people want to participate, a game that encourages you to be at the computer.  In some instances you need to force the player to participate, in most cases you want to encourage player participation.  CCP has all the statistics on activities throughout New Eden.  A prime example of this was during the battlecruiser rebalance when they showed the use of the various battlecruisers in eve online.  There seems to be this weird idea that when a discrepancy like this happens you need to nerf the popular choice into the ground to "rebalance" and in some cases a little reduction is necessary.  In my opinion a better approach to look at it is not that the popular choice is overpowered, it's just that everything else sucks.  So why not bring everything else up to a similar level?  This solves three problems, the people who fly the popular ship don't feel like they have had their wings clipped, and the people who want to fly other ships feel like they are viable, and you are encouraging the use of the other ships.  There should be a lot less discontent with this type of approach.

I bring up a quick summary to my thought process of game balance because one of the new Odyssey changes is to hacking/analyzing.  The old system involved targeting a can, activating a module, and then sitting there while it ran it's equation of opening to allow you access to the can.  All in all a very boring process in high sec, a very stressful process everywhere else as you spammed the d-scan button hoping to catch people before they got on top of you and fuming at your module as it failed over and over and over and over.....

CCP probably looked at this and went, "well, that's pretty boring let's make it more engaging".
ENGAGE:  To hold the attention of.

To solve this issue CCP decided to introduce a mini-game.  To this I say "AWESOME!", I think it's a great idea and when I heard that they were going to do this I was pretty excited.  But there are some criteria that should be met for a repetitious activity of opening dozens of cans while exploring:
·         The game needs to be somehow randomized so that you don't do 5 puzzles and then you just go through the motions after that.
·         The game needs to be thought provoking.
·         The game needs some mechanic to allow the player to win through some skill instead of making it a random process.
·         The game needs to reward the player for the increase in time and participation.
I believe this covers the basics for introducing an engaging process for an otherwise boring activity.  The reason being is that you don't want something that repeats what the first mechanic already does.

So let's move on to the new approach that CCP has presented and which is currently available on the test servers.  I was going to go through a play through of the mini-game but decided that needed a separate post in and of itself.

The new mini-game concept looks great, on top of that, the visuals which they have to go with it, look pretty neat.  Now it hasn't been released yet so there will be bugs to iron out such as the loot piñata canisters not showing up on the overview when you have them selected to, and that some of the sites relics/debris/databanks etc... spawn inside large structures

so that you can't even get to them.  Even when playing the mini-game sometimes when you click an empty node your virus takes damage.  So with these being bugs I will try not to let them interfere with my analysis of the new system.

Now this weekend some things worked out in real life and I was able to sit down and put forth a lot of time to testing these features.  I believe I did enough to give me the ability to make an educated analysis.  So let's start with the numbers of what I was able to accomplish.

·         15 hours of moving from system to system, scanning, playing the mini-games, and looting.  (I only did low security systems.)
·         20 sites visited, 3 of which I was unable to access due to structure bug above, so 17 sites total.
·         I earned ~$60.3 mISK which is higher than the $50 mISK that Eve's price estimation gives me.  This gives me a nice $4 mISK an hour ratio.  But what about all the other junk?  Well being generous I will round it up to a million from $750,000 which would give me an ~$4.1 mISK an hour.   \O/ 

To explain the game, you are given a pop up window with a bunch of nodes on it.  You start somewhere among all these nodes.  You may only click on nodes that are next to ones that you have activated, then click on an unrevealed node to gain access to it.  Many things can happen:
·         EMPTY NODE:  Yeah!  It's empty, move along.
·         POWER UP:  There is one of various power ups available, snatch it up.
·         OPPOSITION:  A defensive mechanism appears and blocks your way.
·         DATA CACHE:  You are presented with a highlighted circle, click it for a surprise!  (It will either be a POWER UP or OPPOSITION.)
·         SYSTEM CORE:  Wooo!  You found the end, hopefully you have enough life to kill it. 
This is pretty much what I encountered in one form or another.

So the game seems to be randomized and it doesn't seem to repeat itself frequently enough to catch a quick pattern on how things are set up and where things are located.  This is good because you have solved the problem that this is going to be done hundreds if not millions of times by a player.  Here is where things slide downhill.  

The game isn't thought provoking in anyway, you just need to click stuff till you can't click no more.  The only mechanic that requires skill is being able to compare your virus health and damage against the opposition's or system core's health and damage.  If your virus' health drops to zero you fail and when you are blocked by more than one node of opposition and you have no power ups the end result will be failure.  So really there is no mechanic in place that requires any type of skill, just the ability to click and hope you have enough life.

This type of game isn't engaging because you can't see where you are going, what's in your way, or where you may need to divert your path to grab a power up.  So it's completely random, WOOO....wait....isn't that the same thing we have now?  Why yes it is,  Only this new process requires you to pay attention to the mini-game instead of watching d-scan for approaching enemies.  While it could be a problem, the mini-game is not timed (thank heavens) and so you can click a couple times on the nodes and then switch to click on d-scan for a bit.

When it comes to rewards CCP stated that they have increased the loot table, HOORAY, but wait on a successful hack the loot is packed into little canisters and spewed forth into space with no apparent rhyme or reason to which loot is located in which canisters and if you are alone, you'll need to pray to the loot fairies that you can pick the right one.  Also unless you have one or two friends sitting around doing nothing until the loot explosion, you will not be able to gather all the canisters because they spread out through space quite rapidly.  You need to make sure that you aren't in a big ship that can tank the surprise rat for failing a hack, or you'll get even less loot as stuff slips through your fingers.

Overall I like the concept and think it could be a very engaging and rewarding play style.  But with the way it is implemented, it just makes my head hurt.

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