Sins of a Solar Spymaster #72 - Summit in the Sunless Land
There is a manic biological imperative that takes hold when you are denied direct sunlight - beyond an unsatisfying gray and oppressive haze - for a week, and then at last exposed to the full brilliant sunlight that we who live below the Arctic Circle take for granted. I am perched - oddly, judging from the table selections of my fellow travelers - in the brightest ray of burning morning sun available at a cafe in O'Hare, have rolled my sleeves up to expose more skin to the sun, and find myself glancing back at it - staring at it - as if to remind myself that yes, that is the sun, and yes, it is still there.
I'd been in Iceland for a week of blackest December. Spaceships happened. More accurately, over three days, I spent approximately 25 hours sharing a cramped meeting room with twelve or more spaceship nerds discussing the minutiae of an internet spaceship MMO while on a stormy volcanic rock in the North Atlantic, surrounded by fart-water and almost completely devoid of sunlight. In the northern Alaska, residents compensate for the lack of sun with full spectrum lighting, which has had a dramatic impact on the local suicide rate. In Iceland, they quaff shark oil and drink. Drinking seems to be the catch-all solution to Icelandic problems; in summer they drink for joy, in winter to stave off despair.
At CSM summits, every important discussion is held after work in bars. UAxDeath, CSM rep and leader of Legion of Death, which is now embroiled in a massive cross-Russian bloc civil war, came prepared; he had made some sort of Russian moonshine and smuggled it through Iceland's nonexistent customs in a pair of innocent-seeming Finlandia vodka bottles. This stuff left a trail of devastation across the livers of the CSM and CCP mandarins foolish enough to accept Death's polite invitations to drink with him. I managed to delay imbibing it until Saturday after the meetings were over, and poured half of my shot into the glass of one of my companions, leaving me free to wheel and deal during the summit without the minor impediments of alcohol poisoning - just the standard CSM dose of 5-8 beers a night, every night, from Tuesday until Saturday.
It was probably some combination of the moonshine, lack of sun, and the chronic lack of sleep that led to the decision to drive an hour outside of Reykjavik at night in a snowstorm, take off my clothes, and get into a volcanic hot spring. The Blue Lagoon is one of those brochure-featured tourist destinations that Iceland constantly advertises to entice the gullible to visit; Death insisted that Tyrrax Thorrk of the Guiding Hand and myself go. We asked Tyrrax, an Icelander, to drive. I had forgotten that Tyrrax had relayed a tale earlier that day of how he once took Istvaan Shogaatsu on a tour of the island and managed to get so lost that they had to call Search and Rescue to bail them out - in the summer. That wasn't in the midst of a horizontal December snowstorm which annihilated any visibility of the road more than a foot in front of our car. Tyrrax, unfazed, noted that this type of blizzard is 'very prettyÂ and has its own special word to describe it in Icelandic - and then we got lost.
If you ever find yourself mostly naked in a hot spring mid-blizzard, the trick is to turn your hair towards the wind, or the constant blast of snow and ice will abrade your face. With your now-iced over hair forming something of a shield against the onslaught, it can be a quite pleasant experience. But that may be the testosterone poisoning talking.
Spaceships? This CSM summit was the first post-Crucible. The CCP staff seemed happy and relieved, unlike after Incarna where there was hunched shoulders and a fortress mentality. As one does not move to a volcanic, sunless rock to make virtual pants, the average dev was delighted to at last be working on spaceship content.
I expect that this enthusiasm will translate into not just more content for EVE, but content of a higher quality; spaceships are what the staff actually /want/ to work on, rather than what Hilmar now calls 'Jesus Features'. Why Hilmar felt that badly copying Farmville in Tyrannis or selling microtransaction pants in Incarna has much to do with walking on water is beyond me, but the more salient point is that he seems to have finally acknowledged the past two years as ones of hubris-fueled error.
The CSM enjoyed a few pleasant surprises. In May, before all the riots and chaos, I had hammered on one of my pet issues - the fact that the Rookie Ships in EVE look like piles of low-poly excrement. Welcome to New Eden, kiddo! Here's your Ibis! And they wonder why it's so hard to get people to stick around after the free trial. After years of seeing no relation between CSM requests and CCP action, I was encouraged to see the Art team proudly displaying concepts for new rookie ships. Crucible itself is a laundry list of CSM and player demands. Until this CSM term - and, hell, until the riots, unsubs and media backlash - almost all the players had to show for the CSM project was a skill queue and a backlog. My cup runneth over.
To get the actual details of what happened at the summit out, we have to jump through the hurdles of the CSM/CCP Minutes process. That should proceed rapidly now that CCP has learned the hard way that trying to spin the minutes of the Emergency Summit would blow up in their faces. However, I can say - purely from unspoken nuances that arenÂt covered by NDAs - that CCP seems to have backed away from the NeX store concept. Aurum seems to be a dirty word - or a bitter joke - around the office. This isn't to say that CCP will never implement some form of microtransactions, but the devs now contemplate the idea with a degree of care bordering on the terror - Microtransaction PTSD, as it were.
Another novelty: the CCP Polaris Fleets. In the last few days CCP has begun running regular 'Polaris Fleets' of devs, a concept the CSM approved of unanimously. CCP employees do not have much experience with fleet PvP, and in some cases have never PvP'd at all. Were it not for the devhax implants, even Intrepid Crossing could wipe the floor with a CCP fleet. Suddenly devs are seeing firsthand the problems that nullsec veterans have suffered through for years - the overview being awful and slow to update, the difficulties of FCing without a dualboxed covops, the rapidity of probes negating sniping tactics, et cetera. The devs are actively trying to learn how to play EVE and not get cut down like dogs, and that's great news for everyone. That said, I do wish theyÂd stop hiding in cynojammed Incursion systems so that they too can experience the special joy of having their fleet annihilated by a ÂbalancedÂ supercapital blob.
The trends to look for from CCP: More understanding of the core mechanics of the game from the line developers, more new spaceships, less emphasis on 'virtual goods', more Crucibles and less Incarnas. I can't think of a single thing I learned or heard discussed at the Summit that made me unhappy, and given how emotionally unstable I felt due to lack of sun and all the alcohol - not to mention being trapped in a room with spaceship nerds having Serious Meetings for 25 hours - that's impressive.