Friday, August 19, 2011

The House of Dreams

I've been looking at the recent Nullsec Development: Design Goals devblogs by CCP Greyscale. I read it as a vision statement for nullsec; a statement of how nullsec would work if the kids at CCP could have it all.

The response from the player community has been reasonably positive. Unfettered by reality, CCP can offer up a nullsec vision that is quite appealing to a broad cross section of capsuleers.

Goals are like that.

My personal design goals are to trade off twenty pounds of fat for ten pounds of muscle, get a PhD in string theory done in two years, run a marathon in under two and a half hours, write the Great American Novel, have wild sex with Anne Hathaway, end world hunger, and live a robust life until they come up with a cure for death.   

Like CCP's design goals for nullsec, all of these goals are laudable. Most of them are achievable. However some are less than realistic (sorry Anne). Some are mutually exclusive. Those goals that ignore my own limitations, are dependent on an improbable series of events, or ignore the likely behaviors of myself and others based on historical precedent are, shall we say, long shots.

Once we have laid out our design goals, the next step is to hold the vision up and look at it in the cold light of reality and decide which parts of it to pursue. That is CCP Greyscale's next task. He's given us the vision. That's the easy part. What part of that vision is he going to actively attempt to design and implement? 

Visions are nice, but they are a house made of dream, where anything is possible. Before Greyscale gets out the lumber, hammer and nails, he'll have to pare the dream back to something that can actually be built, and hold together under actual conditions of use. 


  1. Exactly what I was thinking, I found my blog post spotlight for the next episode.

  2. Hillarious, I like. I'm on and off again EVE player but find this dev blog fascinating. I read the whole thing, twice. If they could accomplish even half of the goals, I'd never cancel and resub again - ever. Here's to hoping.

  3. I almost wrote this, but felt like I've been being too negative about CCP lately. Then, I almost wrote "this is a time when we look at what our developers do and not what they say" and rejected that for the same reason.

    So now I'm just waiting for the next null-sec development blog instead. ;-)

  4. "Before Greyscale gets out the lumber, hammer and nails, he'll have to pare the dream back to something that can actually be built, and hold together under actual conditions of use."

    CCP... Start building randomly with no plan then use a generous amount of duct tape to patch it all up.

    Maybe i'm wrong, but why would they magically start "doing it right"?

  5. @Jester - I don't think of it as being negative so much as cautionary. It's an interesting list of goals. I'm glad to see them looking at the big picture as opposed to individual cogs in the Eve machine.

    However, I don't think they can practically implement their entire vision. A number of the goals are by definition mutually exclusive. Others appear to depend on assumptions about player and organizational behavior (in game and out) that are not reasonable.

    There are a lot of inter dependencies in the design goals. There are many individual design components that are unlikely to deliver if other components fail. One misstep and you can end up with a failure cascade. Sort of a "house of cards" scenario.

    It's an ambitious set of goals. Turning them into design and implementing them over time will be the interesting bit. The only constant in Eve online design and development are unanticipated macro level outcomes (see my February post of the same name).

    The degree of success Greyscale has with his design goals will be very dependent on the degree to which his design can tolerate unanticipated macro level outcomes without the whole mess rattling off the rails.

  6. @Anxiir - One thing in CCP's favor, in this case, is that they're looking at the big picture as opposed to hyper-focusing on individual design mechanics without a sense of how changes might impact the overall game. See "Unanticipated Macro Level Outcomes" back in February for a discussion of that.

    Mind, looking at the big picture isn't a cure all. In Eve, if you assume players will use the game mechanics according to your plan (i.e., play the game the way you think they should), you're in for a series of unpleasant surprises. There's a lot of "off label" use of Eve mechanics.

    Then too, the designer has to consider out of game technology and behaviors that could impact in game behaviors.

    For example, let's say CCP makes big fleets very slow and small fleets are very fast.

    If I develop an out of game software package that allows FCs to combine multiple small fleets into one big fleet, two things happen:

    First, I get a pile of money selling the software. Second, FCs using my software will command large fleets that appear in game as 20 to 30 independent small fleets. They will outperform large fleets of similar size and match the performance of small fleets. All without breaking the EULA.

    Never underestimate the lengths nullsec players will go for a win.