One of the big aspects of EVE Online is that we all play together on one server. The game needs a critical mass of players to keep the complex economy and the things that drive it going. It enables play styles from the solo explorer to coalition level wars with battles that see thousands of people involved.
Except, of course, there isn’t ONE server, there are TWO servers.
There is Tranquility, or TQ, which serves most of the world’s population.
And then there is Serenity, the server in the People’s Republic of China. It was kicked off in 2006 because China doesn’t like its citizens to be subjected to the corrosive influences of outside thought. Words like “freedom” get the government ready to roll out the tanks. As we have seen in Hong Kong over the last few years, political dissent is not allowed.
The two servers ran in parallel, though with very different stories. That players craft the tales of New Eden was never so evident than when comparing the two servers. On both servers, null sec saw titanic battles between factions. While TQ saw wars that never led to total victory, that would just realign the traditional three pole structure of the balance of power where two groups might unite against the third, but they were never quite enough to win a total victory, things played out differently on Serenity.
On Serenity, one faction won. The Pan-Intergalactic Business Community and its vassal alliances defeated their foes and established essentially single party rule over their version of New Eden.
This turned a tide in the game. At one point some groups, like the famous Rooks & Kings, had moved from TQ to Serenity… VPN and all that… because the two servers were not just separated by the Great Firewall of China, but had also diverged when it came to code and mechanics, with Serenity being behind. Those who were not keen on the changes that had come to TQ moved to Serenity to relive the glory of the older mechanics.
But with the end of the war on Serenity, the tide of players flowed towards TQ, where new mechanics might vex, but the balance of the great powers had not devolved into a uni-polar situation.
I wrote about the last (as of this writing) Rooks & Kings video that documented the fall of Serenity and the movement of players to TQ, including Chinese players. Once again, VPN comes to the rescue.
This came about at quite a fortuitous moment for TQ because online numbers were beginning to trend downward. EVE Online reached its peak around 2013 with more than 500K subscribers world wide, including China, and had been trending downward since.
Players from China were not unknown on TQ up to that point. And in late 2017 the sovereignty map for TQ shows Fraternity, an alliance made up of exiles on the losing side of the war for Serenity, already holding space in the southeast of null sec.
There are a lot of old and storied names on that map, scattered around in the configuration that they settled into once the dust from the Casino War died down. If you click on that map to see it full size, you can find Fraternity at about 4:30, a violet patch just to the west of the purple of Triumvirate.
Compare that to a sovereignty map from this week.
On that map Fraternity now has a pretty big slice of the north of null sec and is a serious power. Down in the southwest there is Dracarys, a member of the Imperium, who holds space in Querious and Catch. And in the northeast there is the Pan-Intergalactic Business Community, a name which at least suggests Chinese influence, though its proximity to Fraternity, who should be its bitter enemy, suggest that it is using the name but otherwise is not affiliated with the Serenity version of that alliance. My theory that it might be the remnants of the collapse of The Army of Mango Alliance and Ranger Regiment, two other Chinese null sec alliances, seems unfounded.
Anyway, the point is that Chinese alliances are a pretty big part of null sec, much more so than they were even five years ago, and that their arrival has probably helped forestall an even more drastic decline in the player count in the last few years.
So I felt that CCP announcing the addition of Simplified Chinese to the TQ client was at least a tacit admission as to the importance of our fellow capsuleers from mainland China.
Simplified Chinese went live with today’s update, along with the launch of Lunar New Year celebrations, including the usual round of login rewards. More SKINs and skill points, I won’t say “no” to that. From the Patch Notes.
Patch Notes For 2023-01-19.1
Features & Changes:
- To Celebrate the Lunar New Year, a special set of login rewards are now available to players who login from now until the end of January.
- Rewards include themed SKINs, skillpoints, Wightstorm Boosters and fireworks. 🎇
- Simplified Chinese is now available as a language option on Tranquility.
The odd bit was that the patch notes from the day before were just a single line item:
Patch Notes For 2023-01-18.1
Features & Changes:
- Added access restrictions to Tranquility from mainland China.
On the face of it, that seems like an odd contradiction. On the one hand, adding Simplified Chinese to TQ seems like a welcoming gesture to mainland China, with ~1.4 billion people, and our fellow capsuleers who share the server with us. (Yes, Singapore and Malaysia also use Simplified Chinese, so CCP benefits there as well, but population wise they are a small fraction of mainland China.)
On the other hand, what does “Added access restrictions to Tranquility from mainland China” even mean?
The problem is that patch not is short and cryptic in a way that wants to announce something without really saying what it means.
The automatic assumption by many over in r/eve is that the Chinese government required these additional restrictions, and that would certainly align with the general outlook it has about the west and western video games.
The follow on assumption is that this won’t affect Chinese players who use VPNs to connect to TQ. They already needed to do this, so this shouldn’t have much of an impact, if any.
Those are reasonable assumptions and I certainly don’t have any information that would prove them false. Only CCP and NetEase likely know what is up on that front, which brings me to an alternative theory.
CCP didn’t just put together a Simplified Chinese language update in their offices in Iceland. As with their Japanese translation, they most certainly needed external help with that, and who more appropriate to do that than NetEase, their partner in China who runs the Serenity server.
NetEase has been in the news of late mostly due to their aggressive and confrontational relationship with Blizzard over World of Warcraft in China, a relationship that has very publicly fallen apart, with NetEase heaping both blame and scorn on Blizzard in the news. WoW in China is not currently a thing and WoW players there are likely to have to start fresh if Blizz can find another partner.
Given that context, it wouldn’t surprise me if, as part of the deal to get a Simplified Chinese UI from NetEase, that they might demand that CCP… essentially stop stealing their customers. Certainly the way NetEase has behaved in public lately is also sending a message to beware of crossing them.
Again, whether or not this will have any real impact on mainland Chinese players on TQ is yet to be seen. We will just wait and watch and hope.