This should be (may be, we’ll see…) the last in what has become my “EvE Content Trilogy”. I have spent a lot of time since ‘The Summer of Rage’ thinking about the whys, after effects, possibilities and missed opportunities of the “Incarna” Expansion.
I joined EvE at the very end of “Tyrannis”. I joined Nov. 23rd 2010. “Incursion” was released on the 30th of that month. I created Tur and my first alt, Angel (well, TBH my dottir Boo created Angel…) in the old Character creator and spent the next seven months plus a week or so into “Incarna” with him (and her) appearing thus…
Then on June 21st 2011 like so many, I downloaded “Incarna” and immediately found I could not run the new Character Creator… period. Like so many I thought, “Damn laggy, effin slow, video card smoking crapware…” then I finally was able to use a much faster system and Tur (Angel and my 3rd alt Hiril) took on their current appearances…
I have to say that after everything, the video issues, and the rage and whining from so many… I was very impressed and pleased with the results. This to me is more and better immersion in a virtually reality matrix. ‘Toons’ these aren’t. By this I mean they are not ‘toons’ in the normal meaning, an appellation that comes from contracting the word Cartoon… these are not the standard MMO WoW-like cartoon looking characters which I really don’t like.
Take a look at the pre-Incarna Tur and Angel… a step up from the standard terribad WoW-like cartoon characters, but definitely not lifelike or anywhere close to photo-realistic characters either… now look at the three of me post “Incarna”… much more realistic and lifelike representations of ‘people’.
Anyone who has followed me may know that until EvE I was not an MMO player. I had actually pretty much stopped gaming altogether really. One of my biggest issues with all the MMO’s I tried was the cartoonish nature of the characters. I am not a cartoon and I was not happy with that representation. In FPSs like Doom and Quake, etc. you don’t have to constantly look at yourself all the time… you see your hands and your weapons for the vast majority of your gameplay AND when you did ‘see’ your character well… it was by no means photorealistic, but it was not a silly fairy toon either… It was a least a man, and in those early says the heavy pixilation actually helped... it sorta blurred the representation which was OK… it was all so NEW way back then. =]
With the advent of Splinter Cell and Halo I was, for the first time, ok with constantly seeing ‘myself’ on screen… the level of pseudo-realism inherent in the Master Chief and Agent Sam Fisher was fully acceptable and was easier to achieve due to not having to create a highly detailed human ‘face’ for the characters... the Master Chief of course wears a full coverage helmet he never takes off and Agent Fisher spends the vast majority of his time in the dark and often has night vision goggles covering his face. The ‘faceless’ Master Chief and the shadowy Agent Fisher could be anyone… even you. The importance of face perception to human beings has been a major stumbling block to virtual avatar creation.
Infants are born with the beginnings of facial recognition, babies as young as 2 days old can mimic the expressions of the adults they are in constant contact with. We can also recognize faces in extremely low resolution images… the greater the familiarity with a subject the greater the tolerance for image degradation. (Refs: here and here.) A really interesting cross over I found during my research was this paper, “Face Recognition in the Virtual World: Recognizing Avatar Faces” which discusses virtual face recognition, criminal activity and it’s tie in to both real and virtual worlds.
So, the cartoonish nature of the characters available to represent ‘me’ was one of my main issues with all the fantasy MMO’s which seems to me to be the majority genre of MMO’s. I did check out a few SciFi games but nothing really grabbed me until EvE. In EvE, when I joined, your avatar was not nearly as important. You didn’t have to spend all your time watching some toon ass run all over the place… we instead got to watch very well designed and thought out, and in some cases really beautiful, spaceships fly all over the place! Now this was more like it!! My ‘toon’ was a very small inset down in the chat screen and a slightly larger inset at the top left so I knew who I was playing... but not the focus of my view and my time ingame. THIS I could live with.
Then came “Incarna” and suddenly my toon ass was someone I would not mind looking at daily. Especially my alts which, I will admit, were designed as Tur’s female companions in EvE and I definitely wouldn’t mind following them all over the place.. (and yes you can take that any way you want… ya dirty minded so-in-so…) =]
So here we are, with characters that were so far from the ‘toon’ norm that aside from their virtual nature, it almost feels wrong to call them ‘toons’. They are much more true ‘avatars’… and I mean this in the original meaning of the word.
I wonder how many know the roots of that word. It is from Sanskrit one of the historical Indo-Aryan languages. Sanskrit has been a living language since around the 4th century BCE. Avatar in its original meaning was a deity that has descended to earth, the material manifestation of a Supreme Being in the normal world. We, as immortals with the greatly enhanced abilities our training and implants give us, are close to god like beings in New Eden… demigods in point of fact. Of course the current modern use of Avatar in gaming is a graphical representation of a user or a user’s alter ego or character. (In the above link for gaming, EVE Online is specifically mentioned… YEA US!)
Now, for those of you who have stuck with me from the top of this post (I am sure a goodly number got bored and/or did the “OH damn, he’s talking about those damn Barbie and Ken dolls again!” and clicked away into the Inter-ether… and good riddance) you are of course wondering where I am going with this and when in hell will I get there? I just wanted to give some perspective on what we had with “Incarna”. Does anyone know of any video game, MMO, FPS or other that has as detailed an Avatar as EvE does? I don’t and it’s a damn cryin shame to waste it. To waste the work Team Avatar put in on it… to waste the efforts and time those 20 people who lost their jobs over the rage the new Avatar and Micro-Transactions created… rage that I now feel, was not truly warranted.
As I see it the main thing CCP did wrong as regards the Avatars was to roll them out with no way to USE them… without any content ready to go with them.
As regards Micro-Transactions, that was handled badly in two ways…
(1) not giving the playerbase an up front and iron clad understanding that Aurum and the Noble Exchange would NEVER, under ANY circumstances be used for PTW (Pay To Win)… that there would NEVER be any ‘Gold Ammo’ or anything that can affect or impact gameplay in EvE and…
(B) not working out a reasonable pricing schema for Aurum and the Noble Exchange items, the whole Monocle-gate thing was really shortsighted.
These three oversights, mistakes or outright fail, no matter what you call it, were the genesis of everything that followed. All the negative issues, words, and crap that came after were (A) the highly emotional responses by a very vocal segment of the playerbase and (2) some poor management choices made by CCP (to which they later did a decent job of owning up to) to try and ‘handle’ that overreaction to these three main mistakes. In the course of the events that followed we, the players of EvE, lost a really great opportunity for a whole new playstyle, a whole new ‘arena’ of gameplay, one that had almost unlimited possibilities for growth. I detailed a just a few bare few idea’s in my last post… the opportunities that WiS could have brought us are truly amazing.
We have one of, if not the most detailed Avatar in the MMO world… and nowhere to use them… and it is partly our fault. Why do I say that you may ask? Lemme tell ya a story… Back when HBHI was a new corp and had joined our first Alliance, we experienced a few War Decs. We didn’t do real well and some people got quite upset over it all… me among them. At one point I found myself spending more time making and working on a spreadsheet (go figure huh?) to track our fights, kills and losses and pointing out how much ISK we were losing etc., etc. than I was flying around doing anything ingame… whatta waste of time…
I came to a realization then… an epiphany if you will… we had lost sight of having FUN in the game. We had gotten too serious about it all. This is the same as what happened with Incarna… the real problem here was one of perception. No one was willing to wait and see what CCP was going to bring us next. No one had any FAITH in CCP. Now Jester will tell you, from “Comment of the Week: Bitter-vet?” and I quote: “…all one needs to declare one-self a bitter-vet is to be willing and ready to believe that whatever choice CCP makes about something, it's going to be in their own interests instead of that of EVE players.”
Are you, bittervets, bitter because the decisions CCP made are not the ones you want them to? Interestingly enough I read about this thing called a CSM which is a group of players who are (granted supposed to) represent the playerbase and bring our concerns to CCP’s attention… what other game publisher does that? What other game publisher would seriously consider it?? None I know of… I would like to know why it is a bad thing for the company that imagined and spent the time and RW ISK to create and market and support and continue to think up and create and work to improve their product “EVE Online”, a for profit online venture remember… why is it a bad thing for them to look out for themselves?
I can guarantee you Jester’s RL self does. I do. I can guarantee the company Jester’s RL self works for does too. So why does this make someone who pays (no matter if it is with time and effort ingame to make ISK for PLEX or a CC automated withdrawal, either way somehow we all pay) to PLAY EvE, pays so CCP can pay their bills and pay their employees continue to create and maintain and support this game, and maybe bank some profit too… why in the world does that make you ‘bitter’? Why is this bad?
Simple… it isn’t. It is ‘perceived’ as bad because of the ‘expectations’ of a vocal segment of the playerbase not being met by the decisions CCP makes. But I do truly believe they are doing the best they can and that they do not make decisions just to piss people off or ‘mess with them’. If they did EvE would not exist. The fact that they fired 20 people and all but totally shut down all work on WiS and “World of Darkness” and refocused on FiS and have since worked on a huge amount of rebalancing, new ships, mods and fixes for things that had long been ignored says they ‘are’ listening… and they are making decisions based on player input (read whining, moaning and crying).
We, the players of EvE blew it with ‘The Summer of Rage’. We forced a good company to change directions away from what I sincerely believe would have been some truly amazing new content and a fascinating new playstyle because we listened to a vocal minority and put aside our faith in the company that created and supports this wondrous game we all love so much… We need to take a good hard look at ourselves then next time we line up to blast away at some monument because CCP sux at life… it may not be CCP who is sucking. How hard and how long are YOU going to work for someone who pisses and moans about everything you do?
I just hope they will give us another chance…