Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Inventory Unified, Players Divided



With the latest EVE Online expansion, Inferno, comes the promise of many things; a revitalised faction warfare dynamic, a refined system for defining wars and allies, the means to hire mercenaries and some spectacular new combat animations (see EVE Online: So Beautiful, I Can't See It for more on this). Unsurprisingly, in many of these cases there have been some teething problems, but this is mostly forgiveable when planting seeds for the future.

However, one particular "seed" seems to have fouled the harvester and tainted the crop: The Unified Inventory. Perversely embracing the spirit of Inferno, the EVE Online forums are afire with vitriol and dissent as many players struggle to get to grips with this new User Interface element. Whilst some are struggling with fixable bugs, others are finding the basic design concept a barrier to their style of play. Contrary to this, some players are speaking out in defence of the new system, citing that it is "fine once you get used to it". A few even prefer it. In any case, the torrents of forum posts indicate that it is having a significant impact on the user experience.

This puzzles me. I can't help wondering how the Unified Inventory can be so divisive. Is its design suited to some playstyles more than others? There has certainly been some negative comments made by capital ship pilots and POS managers, but equally salvagers and casual PvPers. The Inventory interface is clearly something that impacts every EVE player to a degree. Perhaps the rage is the result of an over-entitled player base who are falling into the habit of threatening to unsubscribe every time something is tweaked?

Test Server, Please Ignore

Having wrestled with the developing Unified Inventory on Singularity, I took an early dislike to the concept. I felt I was being forced to interact with the client in a particular way that I found less appealing than the method it replaced. I couldn't help feeling that it was a solution without a problem - there were many more offensive elements of the user interface than the inventory system. However, I accepted that mine was only a single "use case" and that the designers had the majority in mind. I realised I would have to accept this new irritant and hope I'd grow into it if I wished to continue playing EVE.

However, I was not alone in my concerns; on investigating the Test Server forums, individuals far more diligent than I had gone to some length to detail the Unified Inventory's misgivings. Tippis wrote a particularly constructive in-depth analysis of the problems in his blogpost, The Shift-Click, It Does Nothing. He even went to the length of making an explanatory video.


Representing Player Concerns?

Despite the growing feeling amongst the voluntary testers that the Unified Inventory was not fit for purpose in its current state, it was clear that CCP were not intending to deviate from their plan to include it in the initial release of Inferno. There was a notable absence of CSM dialogue in the relevant forum threads. Surely they, or the previous CSM (in many cases the same people) had been made aware of this feature and had been given the opportunity to provide input and feedback? Emails and tweets were sent by myself and other concerned players, but no response was forthcoming until my submitted question was addressed in the live CSM Town Hall meeting held on the weekend preceding Inferno's release. This was my question:

"There is concern from some quarters about how the Inferno release of the Unified Inventory will be received by the playerbase. There are some well-reasoned arguments that the feature is incomplete and reduces functionality.  Have the CSM been consulted on this matter at any point, what are your thoughts and do you think there will be a player backlash after patch day?"

Their response was a unanimously non-committal "it's fine", which suggested to me that they either had no knowledge of the feature in its current state and the associated player concerns or they had been NDA'd to the point of being no use on the subject. Either way, it was a disappointingly brief and dismissive answer and not indicative of effective representation of player concerns.

Controlling the Fire

Inferno was deployed and at little surprise from the SiSi testers, the predicted player backlash began. In an effort to remain positive about the changes, I want to understand what is it that some players are finding appealing about the Unified Inventory. Please let me (and others) know and help convince me that this is a good change.

My main issue is this: I want to choose my tools and how to use them, not be railroaded into someone else's preconception of the correct way.  I have long been content to browse my hangars and containers in multiple windows filled with colourful icons. I enjoy this. Having accrued lots of loot over the years in many stations, it's like having treasure troves or boxes of Lego I can sift through. However, I am receptive to the idea of having better tools with which to sift and to analyse my total assets and their locations. I play casually and am often reclined (back problems), content to just use the mouse, but having to sit up and use a keyboard shortcut every time I need to spawn new windows is irritating. I've only got two buttons on my mouse and until recently that was enough. I have many other issues with it too, but this is not the place to list them.

I feel, given the diversity of tasks performed in our sandbox, more than one size of bucket and spade is required. Is it me who has not given it enough of a chance or is it you who hasn't used it enough to discover its shortcomings?


[Update: since the publishing of this post, CCP Soundwave has released a new Devblog addressing some of the Unified Inventory issues. There are plans to provide a drag-and-drop alternative to the evil shift-click option, which makes me happy. I've also made this suggestion with regard to emulating the old system for those who preferred it. Whether this widely condemned feature can be made universally accepted remains to be seen. I wish this was taking place on Singularity though.]

6 comments:

  1. You can also spawn new windows by right clicking on the line item in the inventory right hand side.

    The stupid inventory system now doesn't remember window placement very well though, so if I want to open a massed amount of windows, it only remembers the placement of a few of them.

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  2. Just to be clear, saying "it's fine" doesn't even begin to describe the CSM's actual work on the inventory subject. We had already been discussing the inventory and linking CCP developers to the forum threads you refer to in our Skype chats running up to the release, and there are forum threads internally where we've documented the common complaints and proposed solutions.

    Granted, we should have done a better job explaining this effort in our townhall, I have no problem admitting that. But as for the noncommittal "it's fine", for me personally it was a matter of having had limited time to play the game on the test server (we all have irons in every forge right now) and just not running into any severe frustrations yet.

    Is there room for iteration? Certainly, and that's the message CCP is hearing from the CSM on all fronts as well.

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  3. It's like incarna. Had they spent a little more time and listened to the user feedback on the test server, then it would have likely turned out much better. In it's current state, it would be useful it was converted to the asset window, however, shift clicking is not a viable long term solution for anyone who uses poses, containers, corp hangars or has a lot of stuff in one place.

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  4. I'm in charge of assembling, fitting (including ammunition, rigs, drones) and contracting hundreds of ships to Red vs Blue members (both sides) each week. My "workflow" relied on having the following windows open and arranged in a specific way in Eve:

    Ship Hangar (filtered for a specific frigate, ex "punisher")
    Item Hangar
    GSC w/ Ammunition/Rigs
    Fitting Window
    Saved Fittings Window

    Before, this was barely doable (not enough screen real estate). In addition, I realise my case may be somewhat unique.

    Now, not only is the unified inventory window "bulkier", I hate how it switches between various things. For example, if I have it set to the ship hangar and filter for Punishers, and then click the cargo hold in the fitting window, the unified inventory window switches to the cargo hold. If I then switch back to ship hangar, I have to filter for Punishers all over again. It's very annoying, but I understand I can shift-click to spawn new windows, so maybe that'll alleviate some problems.

    Second issue is how boarding a ship seems to remove it from the hangar. Good lord, who thought that was a good idea?

    When I'm trying to fit 100 Punishers, for example, having one disappear from the list because it's active in fitting could mean I accidentally contract an unfit Punisher. Yes, it's something I'm going to have to get used to, but it's another annoyance in the (growing) list of them.

    I WANT to like the unified inventory. I really do. However, the problem before was that it wasn't easy to find things, so I don't understand why they didn't just make the search tab in the assets window more robust.

    If CCP could tone down how "bulky" the new window is, possibly make it a little more "friendly", I think it could be a great feature.

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  5. Seeing as you mentioned salvagers, I'll throw out why we/they're annoyed: The new Unified Inventory seems to take a few seconds to populate an opened wreck or container, which didn't exist previously, and when it does populate it doesn't automatically make the contents the UI focus, so whereas before you could just open a wreck, select all and drag to cargo, now you have to open a wreck, wait for it to populate, select something in the wreck, select all and then drag. Repeating over 30+ wrecks per site makes that pretty damn annoying.

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  6. The new system has the unique ability to few corporate hangar divisions independently. As an industrialist with several hundred bpos and a few thousand bpcs it is an great advantage to view the materials section in one window and having access to the blueprints in another window so you can build what you need without switching between divisions.

    It is far from perfect but it is a step in the right direction. With those new things mention in the dev blog it will get better. Warping to you pos and being flooded with all those guns there is a problem in the tree structure and ccp is fixing that.
    It is a hole new system and you will need to get used to it. We are all driven by some habits and this "feature" changes our habits (and we don't like that much).

    Hopefully one shiny day we will be able to move stuff inside the pos without those limiting factors of in range so management of reactions will get more easy. The new inventory system could handle that easily.

    And finally that feature leads to "rename EVERYTHING" on your pos ;-)
    Finally no confusion about which CHA is the right for who, just name it :)

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Lay it on me.