Expecting Too Much from New Eden

Last Tuesday afternoon, just after I got home from work, I brought up the launcher for EVE Online.  I did so by accident, as I meant to bring up the Blizzard launched to play WoW Classic.  But I let it patch and run up just to keep it current.

Then I looked at the online player count and was a bit surprised to find it below the 15K mark, and you know what came to my mind right away.

First known occurrence of “EVE is Dying”

I realize that a weekday afternoon, and one after a three day weekend in the US, isn’t necessarily a peak time, but 15K seemed pretty low.

For the past year or so I have come home in the afternoon to find the count between 20-22K most weekdays and, as I have written in the past, I generally consider low ebb later in the evenings, when the Euros have gone to bed and it is safer to move things around, to be about 18K players online.

I had heard The Mittani talking about diminishing peak numbers on consecutive Sundays since the start of the Chaos Era, but that seemed premature to me.  That was two weeks ago.  You could chart small declines, but I thought you really needed to get past the login bonuses and free SP event before the numbers would start to really be telling.

Well, here we are, Chaos Era in full swing, more nerfs on the way with the September update, and no promotions or events in progress.  So Goons are working on gloomy charts (with some add on charts in the comments), Nosy Gamer is having a look at NPC and player destruction that doesn’t bode well, the MER has NPC commodities as the new biggest ISK faucet, and my own anecdotal evidence all seem to add up to something being amiss, manifested in the concurrent player count numbers, which you can see over at EVE Offline.

I realize that CCP doesn’t mention concurrent player count anymore, preferring the trend towards daily and monthly active users, the darling metrics of the mobile domain where ads are often part of the revenue stream. (Have you seen Candy Crush Saga lately? There has been a pretty big swing towards “watch an ad video, get a booster!” in their model.)  But the concurrent player count feels more like the reality we play in, so a dip is not good news.

This has, naturally enough, led to a cottage industry over on /r/eve and in the forums and wherever else about what CCP needs to do to fix this.

What I find interesting is how many people can move straight from the stance that CCP is both slow and incompetent to a grand master plan for fixing EVE Online that pretty much demands that the company be both quick and excellent at their craft.

My poster child right now is this post, which is a master class in glossing over reality.  The premise is that CCP should add back walking in stations, shove whatever Project: Nova is right now into the mix, and try to turn the game into what Star Citizen aspires to be some day.

Leaving aside my myriad objections to avatar play in EVE Online (summed up as: You have to build a whole different game to support it), the very easy jokes to be made at the expense of Chris Roberts, and the completely half-assed, evidence free, changing horses mid-stream vision being espoused, what in the last sixteen years could lead anybody to believe that CCP has the capability of doing this in any time frame that doesn’t include the heat death of the universe as a benchmark measurement?

I remain convinced that people outside software development think that just because it is easy to describe something it must therefore be easy to develop.

That is not the way of the world.

Just last week I suggested that CCP wasn’t going to be able to fix the new player experience in any meaningful way that would have even the slightest impact on new player retention.  I mean, I wrote “point and laugh” as my possible response to whatever they come up with, but that was what I meant.  And I say that because of CCP’s history.

It is like when people say that CCP should make things like level 4 missions more fun… something else I have seen come up as part of this… and I again wonder what people think has been going on since 2003.  Do you think that CCP has not tried?  Also, your idea on how to do this is badly considered garbage that won’t work.  Just accept it.

The game is what it is, having grown and developed almost spasmodically over the last decade and a half.  It hangs together on social bonds, vengeance fantasies, pretty screen shots, angry memes, and the sunk cost fallacy, and anything that CCP could do to “fix” the game has a pretty good chance of upsetting that balance.  I swear the corporate motto ought to be, “We did not see that coming!”

Which isn’t to say that I don’t think CCP can do things to help the game along, and even make the NPE better.  There are lots of ways the game could be made better.  But what CCP needs to do is way down in the fundamentals, blocking and tackling level stuff.  There is no room for Jesus features any more as there are too many balls for CCP to keep in the air as it is.  That one labelled “faction warfare” rolled under the couch a couple of years ago.

But what you don’t do is mask things with uncertainty.  Chaos is not a viable business strategy unless you’re selling safety from it.  Rational people, when faced with chaos, tend to try and find a safe place to weather the storm.

Anyway, we’ll see what comes to pass.  I fear that the Chaos Era may have officially pushed me into the bitter vet status, so i’ll probably just go play some more WoW Classic.

Others on the Chaos Era:

9 thoughts on “Expecting Too Much from New Eden

  1. anypo8

    The sad part is that CCP *has* a Jesus Feature close to ready to roll out. The EVE Echoes UI isn’t done yet, but it really does look nice compared to the standard one. It would be great to see the impact on new user retention of rolling it out as an option on the PC side.

    The biggest thing CCP needs to do, though, is stop the bleeding. End the “Chaos Era” before it ends them. Roll back the cyno change: it is stupid and ill-conceived. Get feedback on delayed local.

    Then CCP is going to have to hire a couple more staff. (1) Bring back the professional economist and listen to what they say. The economy of EVE is too complex and too important to be entrusted to random members of the CCP staff. (2) Hire a real game designer with experience outside the video game industry and a serious portfolio. Give them full authority to suggest and veto changes. Get Hilmar out of the game design loop altogether. Get Fozzie out of the game design loop altogether. Neither of them have demonstrated that they have a good handle on how to manage EVE’s gameplay.

    If adding features, start by bringing back some of the discarded ones. Bring back the jukebox: it’s not that hard and was quite popular. Bring back built-in voice chat: it’s not that hard and was quite useful — make it peer-to-peer if group chat is too hard. Then start down the “little things” list really seriously. Some of the patches I’ve been most excited about recently were little tiny things that had been broken since forever that finally were fixed — for example, the announcement this round that Analyzers won’t auto-cycle anymore. Dumb newb trap that also affects veterans once in a while, trivial to close, done.

    Not a big enough vision for you? End the Alpha clone program and skill injectors and general skillpoint buffs. This has had a chance to solve CCP’s playercount problem, and it has pretty obviously failed. Go back to the model where if you want skillpoints you wait for them, and if you want to play you pay every month, or someone else does on your behalf. It was a good model in my opinion, and a serious differentiator of EVE from those other MMOs. I wonder, honestly, how big the cash differential for CCP of ending this stuff would be? I know they sell a lot of skill injectors, but they used to sell a lot of subscriptions…

    If EVE dies it won’t be because of anything fundamentally wrong with it. It will die because of a lack of love and attention by smart, experienced people. The game design and economy has been poorly managed for half a decade — wandsov and beyond, I think — and it really is starting to show.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bhagpuss

    I was thinking that to, Shintar. I mean, given the age of the two games, their approximate sharing of a genre, WoW’s massive market penetration and the storied history of PvP in both games, it doesn’t seem all that unlikely that a large number of current EVE players once played WoW and may have fond memories of it.

    Given that some of them may well feel CCP is pushing them out the door with the Chaos event, that nice, open door on the other side of the hall, with the cheery, warm light and the happy sound of people having fun might just start to look like their happy place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mailvaltar

    I’m usually not one to make empty quitting-threats like we’ve seen so many times over the years (not only regarding EVE, but MMOs in general), but if the cyno changes go through as planned – which they will, considering that tomorrow is patch-day – and stay that way I’m heavily inclined to not bother anymore sooner rather than later.

    I just finished training a jump freighter alt a couple of weeks ago. I might as well extract those skills because, well, what am I gonna do with them?
    Should I leave NC. for whatever reason, how am I going to get my stuff out of nullsec without losing a couple of very expensive recon ships in the process?

    I’m absolutely not surprised that numbers seem to have gone down, and if they go on with their chaos nonsense I’m convinced that this is just the beginning.


  4. yadot

    Too many balls for CCP to keep in the air !! exactly. CCP is like the old lady who swallowed a fly. Might be time for them to stop implementing change for the sake of change and start gathering the balls before they drop, if it isn’t too late.


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – The problem with the EVE Echoes UI is that it is easy to navigate when numbers are small, but when you have more that 6 hostiles on grid or more than a dozen things in your hangar it all falls apart for me.

    On the more devs front, CCP is hiring… just not for EVE Online.

    As for the other items, Alpha clones inflate the MAU/DAU numbers (and the player count at EVE Offline) while skill injectors make too much damn money for CCP to cast them away idly. And the damage is done on that front. Everybody who really wanted a titan probably has three already, and with the cyno changes coming tomorrow the desires for more caps is going to drop off.

    @Bhagpuss – The Imperium is oddly mixed on WoW Classic, so I guess they are the same as WoW core players. Leadership is very much of the mind that old WoW is grindy crap and we’ve all grown up. On the other hand, there is an Imperium guild on one of the PvP servers that seems to be popping.

    @Mailvaltar – I let two alt accounts, mostly used for cynos and support, lapse. I’m not rage quitting, but I no longer have a reason to keep them around.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Archey

    I’ve been neutral to positive till now on the chaos changes.. things did need a shakeup and the blackout seems to have been well received by at least some.

    And while cynos on rookie ships is, though well entrenched gameplay, a little silly, I think the changes are too draconian. And that calls out a problem with the direction, namely, that any pull back could be considered against the CHAOS AT ALL COSTS!! mantra. They may have painted themselves into a corner with that.

    I can think of some pretty impactful changes they could make to move the game in a good direction without going full on chaos. But, now that you mentioned he’s one foot out the door, I can’t help but see “Hilmar’s parting shot” written all over this. If true, the sooner he moves on, the better.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. pkudude99

    Wow, that does seem low. Back when I stopped playing (shortly after Monocle-gate, though not due to that) I’d typically see 28-32K concurrent pretty much all the time. That was about 8 years ago now. After I left, I seem to recall concurrent numbers climbing for a while and hitting records above the 50K mark, but I guess that’s long past now.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @pkudude99 – Online numbers have been sloping down for five years or so at this point, revived slightly by the introduction of Alpha clones. But what I will call the “Chaos dip” seems to have accelerated that in a way unprecedented since Incarna.

    There have been a lot of excuses for the drop off; WoW Classic launched, it’s summer, it’s back to school, it is bots or other undesirables the game is better off without, and the ever present go-to, that it is null sec’s fault because they won’t have a huge war. (Though we were having a war which got stopped when chaos started, so whatever.)

    And over in /r/eve and in the forums there has been a lot of support for CCP sticking with these changes. There is a pretty solid block of people who truly believe that anything that hurts null sec is good for the game, and the team at CCP is only human, so every message of support is probably worth a dozen against, so I suspect they will continue to ride the chaos idea for some time.

    And, as a side point, I spotted this post from somebody who believes null sec is going to move into WH space en masse because of these changes. Everybody has a point of view. (Also, that post rambles so much that it makes me look concise and to the point.)


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