Hilmar and the Chaos Era of EVE Online

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

-Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight

Talking in Stations released a show on Friday focused on the null sec blackout featuring CCP Hilmar Veigar Petursson, along with EVE Community Manager CCP Falcon and EVE Online Brand Manager CCP Goodfella, and it is a show people will be talking about for quite a while.

Local is now delayed in null sec

It is also a bit of a frustrating show to which to listen as the TiS staff basically failed to challenge their guests on anything in even the most mild fashion.  The tone is set in the first few minutes when, after Matterall asks about the effect of the blackout of local in null sec, Hilmar says that activity is up in the game, saying that the MAU and DAU numbers for July are at their highest point in the last five years.

Here is where, in the back of my head, I am yelling, “Ask if that is because of the Season of Skills event, which required people to login daily to get free skill points!”  What we got instead was Carnaeros basically holding Hilmar’s coat, nicely explaining that those terms meant “Monthly Active Users” and “Daily Active Users” and then letting Hilmar carry on as though the blackout was all that went on in July.

I get that this is sort of the style of TiS.  Matterall is a nice guy and likes to create a space where everybody on the show gets their turn to speak without being interrupted.  (Imagine the same interview on the Open Comms Show, where Dirk and Rahne would be shouting over each other to try to respond.)  This is, perhaps, how you get guests like Hilmar, by having a reputation of encouraging your guests to speak by giving them easy questions and letting them go their own way.  But given what was said by Hilmar and Falcon, it made for an unsatisfying listening experience as my brain kept coming up with follow up questions to expand or clarify or nail down what was really being said.

And a lot was said on the show, which I am sure people will be digesting and examining and writing or speaking about for weeks to come.   I have things I want to pick apart from the show and, as I noted on Twitter, I could make a months worth of “Quote of the Day” posts out of it.  This could be a watershed moment for the game, the announcement of some drastic changes coming to EVE Online.

Or it might have been the online equivalent of a late night drunken dorm room discussion in college, a metaphorical circle jerk of “wouldn’t it be great…” sort of ideas.

So my first question out of the gate is how seriously should we take this interview?

I don’t even know who CCP Goodfella is, and that he is the brand manager makes it likely we can discount pretty much any ideas he espouses… not that I can recall anything he said.  Sorry man.

CCP Falcon is the Community Manager, which puts him in the thick of things with the players. But, by his own admission, he is not part of the design and development loop.  I had a post with a quote from him on Friday around a reply he put on Reddit about what he would do about capital ships.  He made it clear down the way that he has his own opinions about the game, which he can freely express, but which are not necessarily the official line of CCP.

So when Falcon is on about his dystopian hellscape vision of EVE Online, he often prefaces it with “If it were up to me,” a solid indication that it is not.  The problem is that this tends to blur the line between when he is speaking for the company and when he is speaking for himself, as most people will only remember what he said and not how he prefaced it.  Is it his opinion or CCP’s that people who don’t like risk when they mine should go back to high sec?

And then there is Hilmar.  He was involved in the development of the game, wrote code and was part of the design team and has been CEO at CCP since 2004.  While Pearl Abyss now owns CCP, he is still the boss on the ground in Iceland, so when he says something it gets some weight.

But how much weight does it get… or should it even get?

He had been absent from the game for quite a stretch, making a big deal about returning and trying out Planetary Interaction and finding the UI for it abysmal.  The CEO complains, a dev blog appears, and changes go in.

He has said that he had been playing in wormhole space lately and now we have the local chat blackout in null sec.  This is a change that has been talked about for years, but the CEO goes and plays in WH space and suddenly it happens.

Now he says he is playing faction warfare, so I guess that is good news for somebody I hope.  Maybe FW will get some love… or maybe some FW mechanic will get stuffed into null sec.

Of course, he was also the voice of CCP during the Incarna fiasco where he manifested some J. Allen Brack level arrogance in telling the players that the company knew better what they wanted when it came to the cash shop while dismissing people who wanted the hangar view of their ship back rather than the resource hungry captain’s quarter or the metaphorically disastrous locked door, continuing to denigrate it as “ship spinning” even as they said they would return the feature in some form.

After that Hilmar declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over and CCP started updating and iterating on features they had launched then neglected.

I am also a bit skeptical of Hilmar’s relationship with how things have worked out in the past.  One of his big talking points during the show was making the game easier for new players but harder for veterans.  Malcanis says that anything you do for new players tends to benefit vets even more so, while we have clearly seen that making things difficult for veterans tends to just lock them into their position, with the changes essentially turning into barriers that keep newer players out.

If he is talking about a better NPE… a topic about which I have another post brewing… that is one thing.  But beyond that how do you help new players?  And does the planned Chaos Era help the new player retention issue that CCP went on about at EVE North?

So, does Hilmar saying something mean it is going to happen?  Not that what he is saying is good or bad, but is he the final word?  Does this represent consensus in the development team or just voicing his own opinions?  Is the Chaos Era about to begin in New Eden?  Will there be a dev blog?  Hilmar said that there are a lot of destabilizing things that will show up in the coming weeks.  So maybe it is already a done deal?

I don’t know.  We’ll probably have to wait and see and evaluate what we get.

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6 thoughts on “Hilmar and the Chaos Era of EVE Online

  1. anypo8

    > But beyond that how do you help new players?

    You improve the horrific UI. But you’ve already heard me rant about that.

    Is there a transcript or summary of this episode somewhere? I’m afraid I don’t have the time or patience for the two-hour chat.

    My favorite Hilmar quote from the net: “…in nature when you strip mine you destroy the environment, we should have offensive mining where you destroy your opponents environments like in real life wars.”

    … WAT?

    Yeah, I remember the Mining Wars. The sappers from each side destroying the other side’s coal and iron reserves was what real warfare used to be about. Not like ridiculous modern warfare where you only try to destroy the other side’s troops and military equipment.

    Seriously, I think this is the single dumbest thing I’ve ever heard Hilmar say.


  2. anypo8

    Although Hilmar’s “we should make you have to trust players more so you get stabbed in the back more” is also pretty good.


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – Yeah, the UI. Sixteen years in the making, has been slowly improved over time, but still in the way of anything you want to do as often as not. If they started design work today, they might be able to get a revamp out in five years. But I don’t think internally they have the discipline for that nor the ability to leave aside the usual routine of short-term fire fighting to do it. They are stuck in their own trap.

    Hillmar and Falcon seem to be just rambling on a times with ideas that just sprang into their own minds as opposed to working from any sort of design document. I get the desire to drive conflict in null sec. Big battles are their best marketing tool if nothing else. But after introducing so many things make conflict unnecessary it comes off a bit rich to complain about people being too comfortable. A couple of times Falcon mentions the ease of travel in null, but who didn’t think that would happen with the Ansiblex jump bridges they introduced? Even I wrote a whole post about how that basically undid all of the Phoebe jump fatigue stuff that was supposed to make travel harder.

    Oddly, I suspect that if they go about make living in null sec a lot more work… what Olmeca Gold called the “time tax” on living out there… it will end up driving less conflict not more. We can go deploy to other regions or form up a war now and again, all of which are a lot of work in and of themselves, in part because of the free time. We’ll see if any of this comes to pass and if it achieves what they want or ends up in the usual routine of unforeseen (by CCP at least) outcomes.

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  5. Thorolfur Beck

    The conclusions are encapsulated in the last 6 words of this comment.


    Perhaps order is a better tool than chaos – to create the chaotic world desired in this case?

    In fact – I know it is! :)

    Once in a blue moon, a divine wind will sink an entire enemy fleet – and decide the outcome of a war. Such monumental events, however, are so few and far between, that they become the stuff of legends – for centuries, even millennia. More frequently, yet still rare, are random events, such as unusually heavy rain in the fall – turning roads to mud and seriously hampering a military campaign.

    The general rule, none the less, is that random environmental effects tend to be inconsequential or minor, such as fog delaying an invasion for a day or two. Those kind of events certainly add to the unpredictability of combat and the fog of war, and thus the suspense – but within themselves, their impact won’t be the decisive element in the vast majority of cases. As a matter of fact, those kind of minor unforeseen variables, can be viewed as being among the elements a good strategist should take into account; as opposed to an external event.

    But, all things being equal, and barring any acts of god – the results of battles should more or less be decided by the quality of the battle plan, skill of the commander and troop strength. Were it not so – military training would be in meteorology or fortune telling – and Advanced Squad Leader would be Yahtzee…

    The canvas for a player driven virtual community – needs, by very definition, to be unobtrusive ; chaos should be the spice – not the main course.

    I’m dumbfounded to hear Hilmar talk about deliberately introducing Chaos into Eve – even to the point of it: “…freak[ing CCP] out as to what is going on”.

    When you can’t decipher the link between your input and the output of a system – it becomes uninteresting; white noise… Humans, on the other hand, like pink noise: predictable brown noise fluctuating in a somewhat predictable curve, interspersed with unpredictable anomalies and random spikes – the larger the spike, the rarer the event. This is the noise we instinctively relate to; and we can see materialise in the butterfly effects of stock market crashes and asteroid impacts. Those kind of events, occur in accordance with the mathematical principles of chaos, which can, and eventually will, spring from complex dynamic systems. It is fractal-esque in nature: the further you “zoom out” on a timeline, the bigger the random spikes: a 10km “dinosaur killer” asteroid, strikes every few hundred million years. A 250km, “earth melting – complete global extinction”, asteroid, every few billion years…

    In game design, pink noise has completely different, even contradictory implications – depending on the nature of the game in question. In board game design, satisfying Pink noise can be quite tricky to generate, and requires elegant design. Perhaps the best pink noise generator I’ve seen in board-game design, is the combat system in Risk; a true game design haiku. In direct contrast, creating “perceived” pink noise in paper and pencil RPGs – is quite easy for any dungeon master worth his salt. He will role the dice behind his screen, and manually adjusts the outcome of the dice to create the desired suspense, whilst retaining (somewhat off a) suspension of disbelieve, since any “divine intervention” is hidden from the players.

    When it comes to computer games, pink noise can be easily simulated in single player games: the narrative is predesigned and the dice are loaded. Conversely – pink noise is incredibly hard to manage and control in a persistent state MMO. Why someone would want to, of their own volition, introduce an additional layer of complexity and chaos – into an already complex and chaotic system – is beyond my understanding.

    You got aaaaall the Chaos you need – it’s called: the human condition. I’m pretty sure that’s why the developer of Eve is called Crowd Control Productions. Is it not apparent that this nomenclature describes the task of controlling the chaos rising from the complex behaviour of humans, and its exacerbation by mindbogglingly complex player interconnectivity – as opposed to deliberate creating it?!


    It is my firm believe, almost to the point of certainty, that all of these attempts at “entertaining” the players, will have and adverse effects on the game, destabilise it and antagonise the power players: the PvPers, and all the movers and shakers. They are, objectively speaking, the most valuable members of the community – as they are the dynamo driving, not only the competitive elements of the game, but also the PVE experience, whether people realise it or not.

    The true power of the MMO concept, won’t be unleashed by the developers entertaining the players – but by providing a sandbox which serves as a stage designed to foster a player driven world; Dungeons and Dragons, without the Dungeon Master. MMO game design in a human run alternate world – is about meta-game design. How to build a world where each player type; from the carebear to the griefer, can not only co-exist, but compliment and enhance each other’s gameplay experience.

    And when I say true power, I’m not talking revenues, but end user experience.

    Which just about brings me to the final point – and the most critical one; one which speaks directly to the very soul and essence of Eve: it’s was always about creating the most powerful end user experience. These recent events, orchestrated by CPP – are inherently flawed and stillborn – because they don’t follow the core mission; they go, irreconcilably, against the very essence of Eve.

    When Bobby Fischer was asked what was the moment of greatest pleasure in playing chess. After a brief pause, he stated with confidence: “When you break [the opponent’s] ego – that’s where it’s at…” and then he smiled an impish little smile…

    And that’s it! …that’s the fundamental flaw:

    …you can’t break an NPC’s ego.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Meanwhile, in the land of Hilmar:


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