Squinting for science

Crowdsourced science projects (aka human-directed computing) relying on gaming communities are nothing new. One of the first projects I can remember is from 2010 when a group developed a game in order to predict protein structures.

PD2
The willingness of strangers to help out with these kind of tasks is a huge thing for scientists. Very often we are faced with tasks which are important but so time consuming that it is difficult to catch up while still having to do experiments. This usually results in huge backlogs of unanalyzed data. Add this to the lack of fund needed to hire help and the immense publication pressure scientists are under and you can see that this system is not sustainable. Ironically, analyzing the data would often help identifying necessary experiments and exclude those which are not worth performing.

In the past labs used to hire undergrads for these tasks. They get the precious experience for their CV and the lab gets free labor. I heard of a scientist who went a step further and started a company in China which does nothing but trace shapes on electron microscopy images. The demand is there, though I doubt that the average lab would be able to afford this service. Not sure about companies though.

Anyway, when CCP announced Project Discovery, a collaboration with the Human Protein Atlas, people got excited. Eve players would participate in identifying the localization of cellular structures which in turn helps with the characterization of the protein. Scientists would finally be able to comb through stacks of data within a relatively short amount of time. Simply put: Eve players would try to figure out where certain proteins can be found within a cell. Knowing the location of a protein you a lot about its role. For those who prefer to know the real world application: Knowing where to find a protein and what it does will help understand diseases and how to address them. If you know that tires belong under a car you will understand why a car is not moving when you find the tires on top of the car.

I was very excited when Project Discovery (PD) started and I believe that the implementation was fairly well done, considering that this was Terra Nova for both sides. What I found very discouraging is the fact how badly PD communicated with the player base. While they had set up a subreddit, a forum post and a Twitter, they were kind of weak in motivating and encouraging their participants.

From my experience people are much more involved when they actually understand what they are doing and what comes out of it. PD chose to go the path of least resistance and released rather uninspiring updates about the latest findings, most of them which got ignored because many players didn’t know that there was a dedicated subreddit. I would have hoped for more interactions, AMA with participating scientists, reports about where this data actually came from, anything which would make the player feel as part of a team instead of feeling like another F1 monkey. There wasn’t even a final goodbye post when the project ended. At least none I was aware of. No summary of what has been achieved, no future outlook, nada. What kind of collaboration is that?

PD1

Now CCP is starting another round of PD, this time providing support for the search of exoplanets. Players get to decide whether a drop in signal intensity might indicate the transition of a planet past a sun. So far, I like it. It is still the first week, so there are lots of bugs which need to be addressed but I can see myself playing the game once in a while. What I really hope is that CCP will add a magnification feature to the window. So far it can be quite a pain for me to properly place a marker (bad eye sight) and I often find myself squinting at the monitor trying to make sure that I am doing it right.

I really hope that the communication with the players will be better this time. CCP has recently shown again that they have lost their ability to properly talk with us and I hope that PD is not picking this bad habit up.

Storylines

I mentioned it before: I don’t consider Willow my main character. I chose to writer under her name because it is just more interesting to write about wormhole shenanigans. My main is an explorer, part of Signal Cartel. In fact I think he is one of the oldest members still with them, a fact which makes me very proud.

Whenever a new player asks for good income sources, inevitably exploration is one of the suggestions. For good reason: While it might not be a consistent income it is very profitable with a very low entrance barrier. All you have to do is learn basic scanning and the hacking game, then you are good to go. But these are just the skills. An explorer also has be willing to leave High-Sec as soon as possible since the valuable loot is where there is no law.

However, I feel that CCP is neglecting the other facets of exploration, namely the sites New Eden has to offer. Pretty graphics are nothing without context and for a while now not much context has been added. I am in no way a role player and only familiar with the very basics of the Eve Lore. But even I noticed that CCP rarely followed through with the lore elements it introduced at one point.

We haven’t really learned anything new about the Jove or the Drifters. There are sites all over the place but they don’t really DO anything. They are just decorative items and as such are easily being ignored. Same with all the beacons we see over the place. What is the incentive to see them? They don’t contribute to the gameplay and as a result nobody cares about them.

Should it matter? Maybe not. Nobody is forcing us to visit a museum yet people go there. But if CCP is coming up with all those story elements it would be nice if they could at least follow through. Exploration should be not only about hacking can, it should also be about discovering new sites and bringing back valuable information; something which would encourage people to dig deeper and get familiar with the topic. CCP Fozzie mentioned that there are still things which haven’t been discovered by Eve players but why should we care if we don’t know how it fits into a story?

I know that the majority of the players won’t really care about this part of Eve. Right now there are more important game elements which need attention: FW mechanisms, Citadels (and the ridiculous level of security they provide), skill injector farming, decreasing Isk sinks…the list goes on. Yet I feel that story elements are things which add substance to Eve and it would be sad if CCP decides to neglect this facet for good.

CCPlease: Your Merch section

CCP’s business behavior is a big mystery to me. On one hand they introduce Alpha clones and nuPlex in order to increase player numbers and purchases. On the they are being accused of ignoring the opportunity to merchandise their material. And with good reason. Right now there is not much in the store which would tempt me to pull out my wallet, not only because of the content but also because of the prices.

And it doesn’t even look like they were trying: Their shop is a Shopify site, which doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to set up. To add insult to injury the shipping costs are often so high that one has to ask what they have been thinking.

The store’s contact page refers the visitor to a company called dpipromo. On their horrifcly designed webpage they write this: “We specialize in Custom Design & Manufacturing creating unique items that bring your product launch to greater levels of success. Development Plus, Inc. has extensive experience in the Video Game and Entertainment industries. Unlike other agencies, we manage the entire process from concept to delivery, so you can spend more time focused on exceeding your product to excellence. Explore our Product Showcase, Collector’s Editions, and Unboxing Theater that highlights some of our highly accomplished projects.” For me this reads as if they have no clue what the Eve player base wants and just threw a bunch of generic stuff together they anyway have in their portfolio.

CCP could grab so many low hanging fruit to make their Western playerbase happy: ship models, lore specific items, exciting skins etc. Personally, what disappoints me the most is the bland selection of t-shirts. I like shirts, I buy many and I know three things: for 23 bucks per shirt I should have more color options, considering the amount of beautiful artwork they have at hand just printing some generic player quotes is kind of underwhelming and because of that I would be very hesitant to spend that amount of money.

obviousbait_180x180I make t-shirts once in a while and sell them on various platforms. So I decided to make a few Eve specific ones. They might be not great but should mainly serve as suggestions for what CCP could add to their store. And once I manage to reliably work with Eve ship models I believe I could make some really nice stuff. I have asked Eve support whether it would be ok to offer my files for free to the players and of course haven’t heard back from them. So until CCP tells me to fucking stop I am going to put them on this blog.

combatshakes_180x180On the Eve stuff I make page you will find a bunch of things I came up with over the months. I will add more once in a while. You can download the png files (for free) in print quality (300dpi) and use any print on demand service to make one. There are some designs which don’t contain any CCP material; here you can either download the file or go to the linked shop to buy one. I don’t care what option you choose. If possible please menation me as the creator, also I am asking to not use those files for your personal profit. Of course I can’t control this but should I notice something in that direction I will just stop making this stuff. Should there be something wrong or if you want me to modify something, contact me and I’ll see what I can do.

Again: Dear CCP, if you feel that offering these files for free somehow violates the EULA I will take them down instantly. But please at least consider improving your merchandising approach.

 

 

Split-Depth Gif, first try

Split-depth(ing?) is a very interesting technique, allowing you to generate a 3D effect without specialized hardware. I am still going through the details but I believe that I have the basics down. Luckily there is a plethora of HQ Eve videos online, so I should have enough test material.

The example below is from CCP’s “Birth of a Capusleer” trailer. Next time I should make the bars wider, I suspect that the effect then would be more obvious. And I still can’t figure out how people manage these high quality gifs.

giphy