Posted Tue, Sep 20, 2011 by The Mittani
I suspect that we wouldn’t have had nearly the level of rage over Incarna if the Caldari CQ was the first to be released, as it exudes a kind of hypertechnological cool that the Minmatar CQ utterly lacks. Even the austere Amarr CQ avoids the feeling that the player is trapped in a decaying ghetto. Theoretically, Incarna’s primary benefit is an improvement to the New Player Experience, offering more immersion and sensible tutorials, but what of the aspiring Caldari or Gallente pilots who signed up for a grand space adventure, only to be dumped in a dingy pod hotel? Not the most inviting of welcomes to New Eden.
After the Monocle Riots, the details of what went wrong with the Noble Exchange are well known. The prices are too high, there’s no place to show off one’s ‘virtual goods’ - again, a critique that would go away had the deployment been successful - and there weren’t enough lower-end goods in the first place. The most damning thing about the NeX debacle is the fact that the pricing strategy was selected at the last moment before release, rather than part of a coherent, considered plan.
Tin Ears and Groupthink
When a senior official in CCP expresses genuine surprise that players care about ship-spinning, something is desperately wrong. The decision to remove the old hangar view appeared to be part of a plan to force the playerbase to adapt to Incarna; the option to disable Incarna at all was added only through gritted teeth in the face of graphical load. Perhaps if the people making these calls were more in touch with the desires of the players, the bitterness these decisions caused could have been avoided.
CCP’s infamous tin ear for communications caused a host of issues over the course of the Incarna release, from blogs about $1000 designer jeans to attempts to sanitize the minutes of the CSM’s Emergency Summit - now apparently being relabeled as a ‘special’ summit, riots nonwithstanding.
This communications disconnect is a reflection of too much corporate kool-aid. After chanting about Excellence, Delivering and Innovation, some within CCP have lost touch with their core focus - making a game about spaceships for people who love spaceships. The deviation of management’s groupthink from reality reached a point where line employees would leak copies of Hilmar’s internal emails to the press as a cry for help - something rarely seen in the gaming industry.
Defending ‘Defending Incarna’
Yet despite the riots, the leaks, the crippling technical hurdles, and our characters being trapped in a rusted hovel for three months, I stand behind everything I said in Defending Incarna.
My arguments in favor of Incarna didn’t assume CCP’s utter faceplanting in communication and implementation. While some bitter veterans insist that we should expect CCP to only perform at their worst, since 2003 we have seen some truly outstanding expansions and ideas from the company - though it’s been years since the last truly great expansion, Apocrypha.
Though among shallow minds kneejerk pessimism is often mistaken for wisdom, it is foolish to consider an upcoming expansion with the assumption that everything CCP plans will fall afoul of the worst-case scenarios. When I considered Incarna, I made some fairly reasonable assumptions - Four CQs, Establishments, and a functional vanity microtransactions shop. Not even the most cynical bittervet predicted the $70 Monocle. The scope of the disasters of Incarna were the gaming equivalent of a black swan.
My arguments in favor of the expansion remain sound. The core purpose of Incarna is to provide an immersive and superior New Player Experience, and if it ever gets implemented properly it should succeed. The development of the Carbon engine remains a business reality, though in hindsight licensing a tested 3D engine seems like a much wiser course. EVE still desperately needs immersion if it is to attract female players or ascend beyond the niche willing to suffer through its vertical learning curve. And finally, the Noble Exchange might feature much-loathed microtransactions, but not only is the industry headed in that direction regardless of our riots, the NeX is a far safer concept for EVE than gold ammo.