Category Archives: CCP

EVE Online and the Return to Expansions

There is a joke about business consultants that says if they go to a company that has a diversified portfolio of products that they will say the company should focus on its core competencies, but if they go to a company that is focused on their core competencies they will say the company should diversify their portfolio.

Distilled down, consultants often get paid to tell you that the grass is measurable greener, complete with supporting data, case studies, and customer interviews, on the other side of the fence.

But some times we don’t need a consultant to make us change course.  Sometimes we run off in pursuit of that greener grass all on our own.

Which brings me, in a round about way, to CCP’s decision to return to the idea of expansions, which was something that CCP announced at Fanfest.  Expansions are back.

Those who have been around for a long time remember that twice annual expansions used to be part of the EVE Online experience, and many of us remember those expansion names with a mixture of fondness and dread. (I have a bunch of those splash screens here if you want a ride down memory lane.)

Incarna – June 2011 – That guy looks more skeptical every time I see him

But back in 2014 CCP decided that expansions were not the thing anymore.  The era of the Jesus feature was over. Instead they attempted to go to a ten release a year cadence.  Incredibly, in hindsight, they tried to give each of those ten update a name… and theme music.

A new musical theme used to be a feature of every expansion or update for a long stretch.  those were the days.  It was a time of many things.

That proved to be too much work… names fell away and music stopped being a thing… but at least we were getting timely updates.  One of the downsides of the expansion era was often large gaps between any fixes as the company preferred the expansion to be the release vehicle.  And once the expansion hit, updates were often focused on fixing things broken in the expansion as opposed to other areas of the game.  And not every expansion was a big splash feature event.  I think we ended up with Revelations II because it was mostly fixing what was shipped with Revelations.

Revelations II – June 2007

CCP eventually opted for the quadrants idea, where each quarter of the year would have a theme and would feature updates based on that theme.  That was a bit more reasonable, better suited a modern development cadence, and still delivered fixes and updates on a regular basis.

And it wasn’t like we didn’t have some expansion-like releases.  I called the Invasion update an expansion, as it introduced the Triglavians to New Eden.  Kind of a big deal.

The Invasion was May 2019

So, in my way, I get why CCP wants to go back to the twice annual big expansion format.  It hearkens back to the peak years of the game, when growth was continuing and it seemed like CCP had the potential to conquer the world.

And believe me, some part of me wants to relive that era.  Amazing things were happening.  Huge wars, new features, crazy new ships, new areas of space, it seemed an endless bounty if you just squint hard enough through those rose tinted lenses.

But there was a lot going wrong, a lot of dropping features and moving on, a lot of broken things left unfixed, and not a lot of focus on quality of life.  The end of the expansion era saw a team show up dedicated to just fixing things, and we liked that a lot too.

Finally, while I haven’t gone and done a study of the time between announcements and launches like I have done with WoW, even years later I am left with the distinct impression that the time frames there were short, that we got 6-8 weeks build up before an expansion.  That is almost nothing compared to a WoW expansion or a new Pokemon game release, which we might be fed tidbits and updates about for a year of more.

Which is pretty similar to the build up for big features we’ve had since the end of the expansion era, so I fail to see much of a difference… unless they plan to announce things much earlier.

Anyway, I don’t have a hard point to drive home here.  It is more of a question as to whether or not CCP can recapture player enthusiasm with expansions again.  If nothing else, an expansion implies the company is bringing something big to the game.  You can get away with tuning and adjustments with quadrants, but for an expansion to land it needs to bring something new.

We shall see.  It was another of the things at Fanfest about the future rather than the present.

The TL;DR

  • The expansion era had its own set of issues.
  • CCP has been able to deliver expansion-like content with full fanfare since that era.
  • So what are we solving for by going back?

Is EVE Anywhere Anything to Care About?

I like the idea of being able to just play any game in a browser rather than having a dedicated client, but are the limitations worth the effort of building such a client?

This, of course, is related to CCP’s EVE Anywhere implementation, which was announced quite a while back and has been out in a limited beta version since March of 2021.

EVE Anywhere as long as you accept the limitations

I bring this up again because CCP released a dev blog yesterday announcing that EVE Anywhere was now available for Alpha accounts, which are those who haven’t opted for the monthly subscription plan.  The free players.

(As an aside, to whoever wrote the headline for that dev blog, it sounds like EVE Anywhere is ready for alpha testing, though it has been in beta for over a year.  I can’t tell if that was poor phrasing or a warning about the state of the implementation… though why not both?)

I tried it out when it was first available and I tried it out again this past week and… almost everything I complained about back then is still true now.

  • Fixed resolution (1920×1080)

Not the worst sin possible in and of itself, but if your monitor is not that resolution things may not look right.

  • Can only be run in full screen

This, on the other hand, is a pain in the ass, and all the more so as the app makes you think you can run it in a window or some mode besides full screen.

The lies the client tells me

But no, as soon as you get out of full screen the window is obscured by the banner that required you to click to get back to full screen.

No, you must play full screen

Oh well.

  • Doesn’t remember any settings client settings

I could probably live with the first two and find some utility in being able to log in with a web client, but then there is this.  This is the deal breaker.

Basically, any setting that the standard client stores locally… which is pretty much all of your UI choices and your overviews and such… are not picked up by the web client.

You might expect that.  The real problem is that it doesn’t remember any changes you make in the web client either.  Every time you log in it is the new unconfigured client experience.  I don’t like fiddling with my overview on the best of days, so I certainly don’t want to do it every time I log in and undock.

I will say that at least it does run in Firefox now.  It wouldn’t work for me last time, though I will admit I have my copy of Firefox locked down pretty tight.  Now it will run… it just doesn’t work very well.  Keyboard short cuts don’t work so you need to mouse and click on everything, including quitting the client.

I know, you’re going to tell me it is in beta.  It says so right there on the launch button, so it is a work in progress, and I should be charitable.  And, even a year in, I can buy into that idea.  It still isn’t very useful to me, but nobody is forcing me to use it, so its problems do not have my problems.

The little red beta flag is there to deflect criticism

And I wouldn’t have bothered with this post at all save for one detail in the dev blog.

They did, indeed, make it available to Alpha clone players, but those Alphas have to pay to use it.

Every 24 hour period required you to pay 30 PLEX which, assuming you buy the 3,000 PLEX package, means you have to pony up $1.25 a day to play.  And that just blows be away.

There are, in my world view, only two reasons you would bother making a web client version of EVE Online.

The first is that CCP is concerned that some portion of their player base, real or potential, don’t have machines that can run the client in a way that makes the game look good.  A cloud based thin client, something about which I wrote about previously, puts all the processing and rendering on the server side of the equation and the end user can just look at the pretty space pictures on their Chromebook or whatever.

And maybe that is the aim of the feature.

But the other reason you would do all of this work on a thin client so that players could run your game in a web browser is to reduce the friction that keeps new players from trying your game.  Remember that chart CCP showed us back in 2019?

How many new players log back in as time passes

CCP has been focused on the 10K or so players who log into the game to keep them logging in.  But you could argue that the stand-out number on that chart is the gap between the number of accounts registered versus how many actually log into the game.  Half of the potential players don’t even make it to the point where the game is confusing and the UI is indecipherable.  They fail somewhere between making their account and clicking “play” on the client, and I would guess that most of those fall off somewhere around download and install of the client.

Downloading and installing and configuring, those all represent friction that can keep players from getting into your game.

Ideally you could find a way… like a web based client… that would remove that friction and allow a player to just create an account and then click a button to start playing.  So the web client should at least push more new players into the game so they can hate it for what it is rather than for making them download and run an installer.

Except, of course, that new player cannot do that with EVE Online because in order to use the web client you need to spend some money to get some PLEX, and if you think downloading and installing a client is friction, getting people to pull out their wallet will dwarf that.

Back when MMORPGs were making the transition to free to play en masse, one of the primary arguments was that not forcing people to pay up front would get more players to try the game and that some percentage of those who wouldn’t pay up front would pony up once they experienced the game.

And, just because I feel like piling on a bit more, I am also very much of the opinion that if you charge for something, “it’s in beta” is not a defense.  If I’m paying you can call it whatever you want, but I am going to treat it like a finished product because what else is it at that point?

But wait… what if it isn’t actually still in beta?

CCP also ran a press release on their corporate site that said that EVE Anywhere launched yesterday.  That was enough to get some gaming sites who did more than copy and paste what they had been emailed to point out that the service is live.  Game Developer (formerly Gamesutra) took that to mean that it was out of beta.  They should have tried logging I guess.

Or maybe CCP should just be clear in their freaking press communications, because the dev blog headline sounds like it is in alpha, the dev blog itself doesn’t say it has left beta, and the corporate press release says it has launched.

I am this close to making unfavorable comparisons to Daybreak when it comes to communications here.

So what are you going to do?  As I said, it something that doesn’t affect me really, so I can safely ignore it, but it still managed to irk me and serves as an example of a poor product being handled badly.  And I can’t even start in on the fact that EVE Anywhere is not available everywhere, but still in a limited number of countries. You can’t make this up.

All of which makes the answer to my question in the headline a pretty definite “No!”

Related:

The EVE Online April Economic Report and the Time before Fanfest

We got the EVE Online Monthly Economic Report for April 2022 last week and it was once again a reminder that sometimes seeing the previous month’s report when you’re halfway into the next month can be… odd.  You have to remember the state of things as they were, as opposed to what has happened since the cut off date which, in this case, means before EVE Fanfest.

EVE Online nerds harder

Not that Fanfest dramatically changed the economy, but it did give us a glimpse, however fleeting, into CCP’s plans, which always has some sort of impact.

Meanwhile, back in April we were getting all sorts of news, like the announcement of the Siege Green update, which went live last week, and the price increases, which are live today.  News and updates have their impacts.

Production

I might as well start with production again, since that has a nice graph that shows that news can change trajectories.  Basically, the Siege Green update promised to make capitals and faction ships more affordable to produce.  I commented last month that I expected production to dip with that announcement.  Did the big graph bear out my prediction?

Apr 2022 – Production vs Destruction vs Mined

Kinda sorta yes.  April production did dip down, the data for that chart shows April had 76.07 trillion ISK in production, down from 80 trillion ISK.   That isn’t a huge number, in large part because I believe there wasn’t a lot of capital production going on in any case.  They were too damn expensive to build.

Now the question will be whether or not we see a jump in production come the May MER.  Did CCP move the needle enough to revive capital and faction ship production?

Meanwhile, the regional stats show the following places produced the most output.

  1. The Forge – 18.04 trillion (High Sec)
  2. Delve – 12.79 trillion (Imperium)
  3. Vale of the Silent – 9.99 trillion (Fraternity)
  4. Lonetrek – 6.35 trillion (High Sec)
  5. The Citadel – 4.66 trillion (High Sec)
  6. Tribute – 4.06 trillion (Fraternity)
  7. Fade – 3.07 trillion (WE FORM BL0B)
  8. Sinq Laison – 2.84 trillion (High Sec)
  9. Heimatar – 2.83 trillion (High Sec)
  10. Malpais – 2.65 trillion (PanFam)

That is pretty much the usual suspects these days.

Overall the regional stats showed a total of 101.56 trillion ISK in production, down from 113 trillion ISK in March.  That is a bigger gap and a bigger percentage that the chart above, but tracks with the expectation I suppose.

Destruction

That chart above also tracks destruction, and the data that feeds it says that 29.59 trillion ISK in value was blown up in April, up slightly from the 28.4 trillion ISK reported in March.

That actually aligns closely with the regional destruction stats, which rang in at 29.78 trillion ISK in value destroyed, up from the 28.91 trillion ISK blown up in March.  That doesn’t leave a lot of room for wormhole space in the gap between those numbers, but so it goes.

The top regions for destruction were:

  1. The Forge – 1.69 trillion (High Sec)
  2. Pochven – 1.48 trillion (Triglavian)
  3. The Citadel – 1.41 trillion (High Sec)
  4. Lonetrek – 1.37 trillion (High Sec)
  5. Vale of the Silent – 1.30 trillion (Fraternity)
  6. Sinq Laison – 1.27 trillion (High Sec)
  7. Pure Blind – 1.21 trillion (Brave/V0LTA)
  8. Delve – 1.08 trillion (Imperium)
  9. Genesis – 1.00 trillion (High Sec)
  10. Metropolis – 935 billion (High Sec)

Pochven continues to light things up, while the area around Jita remains the peak of destruction.  Meanwhile, the campaign going on in the south, with Imperium SIGs going after FI.RE and their PAPI allies, didn’t break into the top ten, with Feythabolis only making it into 13th position in the regional stats.

Maybe the May numbers will see that heat up a bit.

Trade

Trade, at least according to the regional stats data, was up, with April seeing a total of 572.52 ISK in value traded, up from 548 trillion ISK in March.

The top regions were, once again, the usual suspects, a mix of trade hubs and coalition home regions.

  1. The Forge – 422.28 trillion (Jita)
  2. Domain – 39.69 trillion (Amarr)
  3. Lonetrek – 15.57 trillion (Caldari High Sec)
  4. Sinq Laison – 14.46 trillion (Dodixie)
  5. Delve – 13.16 trillion (Imperium)
  6. Metropolis – 9.01 trillion (Hek)
  7. Heimatar – 7.28 trillion (Rens)
  8. Perrigen Falls – 7.22 trillion (PanFam)
  9. Vale of the Silent – 5.40 trillion (Fraternity)
  10. The Citadel – 4.11 trillion (Caldari High Sec)

ISK Faucets

And now into the more complicated areas of the MER, and made all the more so by new charts this month.  CCP Estimate has taken over the MER from CCP Larrikin and has given us some more data to chew on.  But we’ll start as I usually do with the faucets end of the big big sinks and faucets chart.

Apr 2022 – Faucet end of the chart big chart

For those who cannot read the chart, which includes me, the top items listed are:

  • Commodity – 41.4 trillion
  • Bounty Prizes – 25.5 trillion
  • ESS Bounty Payouts – 11.2 trillion
  • Incursion Payouts – 11.2 trillion
  • Trig Invasion Payouts – 11.1 trillion
  • Agent Mission Rewards 3.5 trillion

Commodities and bounty payouts were up for April, while incursions were down slightly, and agent mission rewards stayed in exactly the same spot.

We can see how those top faucets have performed over time here.

Apr 2022 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

While bounty payouts were up overall for the month, they follow a dip for a stretch and lead into another fall off which represents CCP “fixing” the ESS bounty percentages so that they all went down dramatically.  Meanwhile, the top regions for bounties… were pretty much the same crowd one would expect.

  1. Vale of the Silent – 2.85 trillion (Fraternity)
  2. Delve – 1.61 trillion (Imperium)
  3. Perrigen Falls – 1.61 trillion (PanFam)
  4. Fountain – 1.32 trillion (Imperium)
  5. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.19 trillion (PanFam)
  6. Tribute – 1.09 trillion (Fraternity)
  7. Querious – 985 billion (Imperium)
  8. Venal – 917 billion (BOSS and others)
  9. Pure Blind – 854 billion (Brave/V0LTA)
  10. Malpais – 751 billion (PanFam)

But this month we also got a look at ESS bank thefts, with three new charts!

Apr 2022 – ESS Regional Stats

That is three columns of tiny data about where ESS main bank and reserve bank thefts are happening, as well as a summary of the total amounts sitting in reserve banks.

The reserve bank is a special ISK pool that accumulates and needs a special key to access.  CCP opened up the mechanic to get at that ISK last July and… it hasn’t been much of a big deal.  They keys are annoying to get and the amount they allow you to get away with is not all that much in the grand scheme of things.  So a lot of ISK has just been piling up there… almost 52 trillion ISK worth if my hand tally of that chart is correct, with the top three regions being:

  1. Vale of the Silent – 4.735 trillion ISK (Fraternity)
  2. The Kalevala Expanse – 4.092 trillion ISK (PanFam)
  3. Delve – 3.929 trillion ISK (Imperium)

Those are, of course, three of the strongest coalitions in null sec, so no surprise there.  But how about reserve bank thefts?  Where are those happening?

Apr 2022 – Reserve Bank Thefts

It looks like the northeast of null sec is the hot spot for that… though who knows if those are nationalized reserve banks that the owners are pulling out.  Those thefts, which don’t add up to much against the trillions socked away, might not be thefts at all.

As for main bank thefts, those you can pull off by just showing up at the right place at the right time.

Apr 2022 – Main Bank Thefts

Again, the biggest thefts are not all that big in the grand scheme of things.  But the main bank gets paid out at regular intervals, so there is never as much ISK up for grabs as there are in the reserve banks.  And you can see from the first of the three charts, the main banks are in play a lot more often than the reserve banks.

Meanwhile, on the commodity front however you can see sleeper components on the rise.  Wormholers win again.

Apr 2022 – Top Commodity Items Over Time

Anyway, all of that saw the money supply go up, after having it go down… a rare thing most months… last month.

Apr 2022 – Money Supply

That also saw the velocity of ISK go up.

Apr 2022 – Velocity of ISK

Again, I tend to be dubious of the velocity chart, if only because it is subject to so many things CCP could manipulate if they so desired… and because it often seems to live a life independent of other indicators.  Technically, all other things being equal, a the money supply going up (as with this month) or going down (as with last month) the velocity should move in the opposite direction.  But all other things are not equal and the velocity goes where it will.

Mining

And finally, mining and mining like things.  Again, no data bearing .csv files make this an annoying section to deal with as if I want any totals I need to go tally them up by hand.

The Produced/Destroyed/Mined chart up at the top of the post indicates that there was 17.85 trillion ISK mined, though the data from that chart is dubious when it comes to mining.

Meanwhile, the regional mining value data gives the total as closer to 12.7 trillion ISK in value, though that it my tallying on with the calculator by hand, so is subject to error.  Though, given that the largest region on the list was Vale of the Silent, which had 847 billion ISK in value mined, I doubt I made a 5 trillion ISK typo.

Apr 2022 – Mining Value by Region

And the value of the ore mined should be going up rather than down given the current mineral price trend.

Apr 2022 – Economic Indices

That adds up, if the data is correct, to a 10 trillion ISK value drop off in mining, more than a 40% fall.

But I suspect that there is a problem with the data, there being a couple of empty cells in the .csv data source for the first chart in the post.  While we don’t have the data for the regional chart, I suspect it suffers from the same issue, or more so.  It would be, if nothing else, out of character for there to be no regions to exceed one trillion ISK in value mined, something usually accomplished in Vale of the Silent and Delve.

Meanwhile, the four core mining types now tracked each have their own chart.

Asteroid mining, which are from belts and anomalies and is primarily a high sec activity, with null second second but well behind.

Apr 2022 – Asteroid mining over the last 12 months by volume mined

That does appear to be trending down a bit… but, again, data issues?

Gas mining is dominated by wormhole space, though low and null sec got a boost from the industry changes of April 2021.  The big spike from that has now rolled off the chart.

Apr 2022 – Gas mining over the last 12 months by volume mined

Again, I think these charts need a trend line.

Ice mining is like asteroid mining, largely a high sec and null sec activity.

Apr 2022 – Ice mining over the last 12 months by volume mined

And finally there is moon mining, which theoretically should be strong in low sec, but which also seems to mostly be a null sec and high sec venture.

Apr 2022 – Moon mining over the last 12 months by volume mined

The spikes are likely due to coincident timing in some regions. Moon mining has a regular schedule where a chunks are drawn. There is some low sec activity, but I remain surprised at how little there is.

And another month goes by.  The May numbers will be mostly interesting to see how the game responds to the industry changes, EVE Fanfest, and the subscription price increase that went into effect today.  As always, all this data and more is available for download in the MER dev blog post.

Last Day Before the EVE Online Price Increase

As announced about a month back, tomorrow the base EVE Online subscription price will jump by 33%.

Where “update” means “increase”

This will be the pricing on Tuesday.

New Prices as of May 17, 2022

One month is going from $14.95 to $19.99, with other currencies getting price bumps to keep them in line with the US dollar and Euro.

Gone are these old prices

Likewise, PLEX will be getting its own price increase, it being inherently tied to the cost of a subscription.  Tomorrow’s prices will be.

PLEX Pricing as of May 17, 2022

CCP has laid out various reasons as to why they feel they need to increase the price.  The question is whether or not players will pay the price.

Subscription prices have remained locked at about $15 a month since the early 2000s while the price of most everything else in our daily lives has gone up… and all the more so since the pandemic messed up the supply chain.

Almost exactly a year ago I was asking how long the $15 subscription price could hold out.  It has felt like a hard line to cross, as difficult of a line as the $60 box price on AAA video games.

Most companies have avoided doing that, crossing those lines, by finding different sources of revenue.  Monetization has become very much a discussion topic in the last decade or so.

Still, I felt that eventually somebody was going to ask for more when it came to subscriptions, and EVE Online was the game to do it.

That said, going all out for a 33% price bump came as a surprise.  I expected something somewhere in the middle, maybe $17.  But perhaps CCP feels they’ll have to go another 18 years before they ask for another one.  I don’t know.

And that 33% bump has been a hard pill to swallow for some, especially in a game where many players operate multiple accounts.  Even I had four accounts running in parallel back at the peak of World War Bee.  And I have two accounts active for the deployment to the southeast of null sec, just to help moving ships.

CCP was wise enough to offer some discounted subscription deals during Fanfest.  I took advantage of that with my main, which is now set to run out until October.

My alt account however, I cancelled his next renewal and he will run out and become Alpha by mid-June.  For the little I have used him during the current campaign I could barely justify keeping him Omega at the current pricing.  The price bump made that untenable.  I’ll get by without him.

So it goes.  Tomorrow is the big day when the price goes up.  We’ll see how it plays out.

Also, today is the last day to submit your application to run for CSM17.  But if you were serious about doing that, you’d have done it already I suspect.

Reflecting on EVE Fanfest 2022

EVE Fanfest has come and gone and now it is Monday and most of us are still digesting the news of EVE Online and its path forward into its third decade.

20 years and beyond

And one of the immediate question is probably, “Was it a good Fanfest?”

I think if 2022 had been a normal year, if the things announced by CCP had come in 2018, then people would have been fine with the what was announced and what CCP brought to the table, or at least no more annoyed than we players, as a group, tend to be.  You cannot please everybody.

It might not have been a Fanfest of legend, an inflection point where the game changed dramatically, a Fanfest where a new vision was announced that would guide the game for the next half a decade.

It might have even been a good Fanfest.  After all, CCP did go after Faction Warfare, which has had problems for years and which has had to limp along with tweaks and minor fixes while sweeping mechanics changes elsewhere… things like Upwell structures… changed the scenery of the game dramatically.

However, as you no doubt know, 2022 was not a normal year for CCP or EVE Online.  We went into Fanfest some things looming over the festivities.

Leaving aside that this was the first Fanfest in Iceland since 2018, the first real Fanfest since CCP was acquired by Pearl Abyss, and the first official event since COVID hit, CCP had three burdens it needed to compensate for.

The first was the handling… or mishandling… of the in-game economy, driven as it has been by something like a college freshman level philosophy spelled out back in 2020.  CCP had been trying to reign in the economy for a while as they had made ISK faucets and resource harvesting (the Rorqual problem, which they caused despite the CSM telling them exactly what would happen) too generous, but it had been more of a “tune through modest nerfs” affair. People complained, but got over those changes pretty well.

Then CCP changed things up and decided to redo the economy, causing an era of economic starvation where, as an example, asteroid mineral output was dialed back by 90%.  When they relaxed that to 80% and unilaterally declared an era or prosperity, many players were unimpressed.  Everything was more expensive, earning ISK was harder, and capital ships were so dear that few dared undock them as their cost to replace was prohibitive.  People remain angry about this and even CCP may have finally figured out that they’re still standing a little too hard on the throat of the economy.  So quite a few of us, and I include myself, are still salty and distrustful after that.

Second was the subscription price increase.  CCP announced that subscription prices would go from a base of $15 a month to $20 a month, a 33% jump.  The price had not changed since 2004, but as I noted a year back, people have been trained by tech in general to expect prices to either go down or for capability to go up for the same price.; welcome to the world of Moore’s Law.

That doesn’t really apply to software development, which depends on people who don’t double in productivity every 18 months and who want to get a pay raise every once in a while to compensate for inflation.  But fans don’t, or won’t, see that and the subscription hike immediately led to demands that CCP give players something for the extra money they were asking for.  That’s not the way this works, but it set fans against the company.

Third, there was how expectations were set for Fanfest.  This was a completely unforced error caused when CCP threw CCP Paragon in front of the angry mob after the price increase announcement, which caused him to almost immediately say the following:

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

Again, I would hate to have been in CCP Paragon’s shoes, but there it was, spoken out and recorded in front of a live audience, copied down and quoted over and over again.  Everything would be made better by what was being announced at Fanfest.

That was never going to come to pass.  Any serious reflection on the game, the company, and the combined history of the two, would lead you to that conclusion.  I am pretty sure most within CCP knew that this was going to be an impossible bar to clear.  You can see it in the padding of the daily Fanfest summaries that CCP published, where they tossed in already announced things, like the Siege Green update slated to go live tomorrow, as well as any vague mention of maybe something being looked into at a future date.

That practice is essentially piling shit high enough in the hopes that the sheer volume will be impressive.

So, given those three factors, a lot seemed to be riding on the EVE Fanfest Keynote.  The keynote speech is where the high level big announcements are supposed to land.  You can go into depth in later sessions, but this is the build up to get everybody excited, the moment that sets the tone for the whole event.  We have seen that with EVE Fanfest and like events.  Blizzard, for example, knows how to roll a good keynote to make the most of what they have to offer.

However, CCP fell somewhat flat on the Keynote.  And when it failed to come close to meeting the already impossible expectations, CCP Rattati got on Twitter and doubled down on setting expectations badly, promising “more tomorrow.”  This is metaphor for how CCP is mishandling things.  There was not, in fact, “more tomorrow,” save for some additional details, so there was both a misunderstanding of what a keynote should be and an attempt to string players along, compounding disappointment.

So it goes.

Which isn’t to say that the opening remarks and keynote were bad.  There was a lot there, and a lot to unpack.  In addition to the things I brought up on Friday… and Faction Warfare still tops that list… there were some other tidbits that are probably of interest.

For example, there is now an official EVE Online Discord server, which you can join by clicking this link or using the QR code below.

EVE Online Discord server QR Code

The Discord server has SIX news channels, so I have five of those now piped into the TAGN Discord server so I will get all the news popping up without all of the other stuff. (I skipped the social media alerts, since I assume those will be news items that will appear elsewhere.)

Hilmar got up and spoke about how many people had played a game that was part of the EVE Online IP.

50 million people

While EVE Echoes accounts for something like 14 million of those players, that still leaves a lot of people who have been to EVE Online.

There was also some more specifics about EVE Online in general.

Players and Devs since 2018 Fanfest

CCP has been ramping up the EVE Online development team since the last time there was a Fanfest, with a target of having 150 people working on the game.

EVE Online development team growth

That is a pretty significant increase and, as Hilmar pointed out, adding people does not automatically increase productivity.  And it wasn’t clear if that included the expanded Shanghai dev team, which handles the Serenity server in China.  But that is still a lot of people working on the game, which might lead one to expect bigger things going forward.

But a lot of what came out of the whole thing was vague, unfinished, forward looking, or held back because CCP says they don’t want to spoil a surprise, leaving us with a road map to the game’s 20th birthday that looks like this.

The road to EVE Online at 20

But those are fairly general things, and there is still a lot of details to come on many of them, not to mention the analysis and speculation that the players will do on the bits and pieces that have been revealed.

So there isn’t much concrete here, mostly because not a lot concrete was delivered.  We’ll have to wait for the eventual dev blogs to see the details as to what is really coming.  But I am sure there will be more opinions coming from various sources.  The drama will continue until morale improves.

Related:

EVE Fanfest 2022 Keynote Hot Take – Meh

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

I am not going to pick on CCP Paragon beyond hauling out that quote, but the largest content update for EVE Online remains the Apocrypha expansion, which introduced wormhole space, T3 ships, and the skill queue.  There is no doubt in my mind on that front, and I could probably pick out a few more updates that would handily eclipse what was announced at the EVE Fanfest Keynote earlier today.

Return to Iceland

I had my speculation post about what they might announce and I think we landed squarely on my pick of “A Batch of Minor Things.”

Not that minor things are bad.  They are not.  And there were some good items on the list.

  • A Spanish language client is good, if they do it right.
  • Microsoft Excel integration for game data will please about 2% of the player base that actually care about such things. (Though, could have a trickle down effect for players who use the output of that 2%.)
  • Graphics updates are always good, but players were not complaining about them for the last two years. Nebulae will be prettier and we’ll have new hangars.
  • Faction Warfare has needed some attention for a decade, though the devil will be in the details on this front.
  • The new UI is interesting, but we’ve had access to that for a while now, and it definitely needs some work.
  • Removal of attributes and rework of skill training is probably long overdue, but not all that exciting.
  • We’re getting some sort of alliance logos on our ships, though we have to PvE to earn them I guess.  I would have thought a couple years of people asking for CCP to just sell us something like that would have been a clue as how to approach the idea, but I guess not.
  • And then there was more new player experience stuff, which doesn’t really apply to the installed fan base there in Iceland, but which is still needed.

All of those have a place in the game.

And that probably isn’t all…  I only caught the back half of the keynote and am working from CCP’s Twitter feed and some summaries elsewhere… but that seemed to be the highlights.  I will have to go watch the whole thing again as well as some of the follow on presentations that are coming to form a real opinion.  There is the whole “living universe” thing that was teased but not explained that still has a presentation coming… though I remain skeptical.

But overall the keynoted seemed to be a mix of things that probably should have been done already, things that we probably could have expected in the normal course of updates, and a bunch of things we already knew.

Overall, if this was supposed to rally the fan base and make the 33% price hike more palatable, I am going to say that CCP failed on that goal.

Anyway, this is a hot take… or a lukewarm take at best really… but there is (I hope) a lot more information to come, which will probably get summed up with a post on Monday.

Related:

On The EVE of Fanfest

Tomorrow is the big day.  Everything is in place.  The fans have all arrived in Iceland.  The schedule has been published.  Things will start happening soon enough.

EVE Fanfest 2022 Schedule

There are a lot of things going on at Fanfest, presentations from both CCP and players, roundtables, the crazy CCP Games Games, and the big party at the end of the event.

But the make or break is likely to come at 12:00 UTC, when the 90 minute EVE Online Keynote address is slated to begin.  There is pressure on CCP right now.  They are raising the cost to play the game and, in return, as a reward or justification, we have been led to believe that we will be witnessing what might be the biggest content update CCP has ever announced for EVE Online.

I have speculated as to some possibilities, but those of us looking in from the outside won’t really know until Hilmar or CCP Burger or whoever gets up to speak for the game tells us what it is about.

And it is making me a bit nervous for the game.  I have been hard on CCP over the last year or more, though not without justification to my mind.  They grabbed on to an economic philosophy back at the end of 2020 that seemed to seek to punish the player base and make everything more difficult and expensive, all in the name of some distant future vision for the game.  But the reality of business is that tomorrow doesn’t matter if you screw up too much today.

So the pressure is on.  I hope they have something big to announce, because I am afraid of the backlash if they don’t.  Overall I want the game to succeed.

This week also sees the 19th anniversary of the launch of the game, with is celebrated with Capsuleer Day, and event with login rewards, in-game content, and the usual round of other activities.

Celebrating 19 years

The event was also covered in the latest video from The Scope, the in-game news service that reports from within New Eden.

Also mentioned in the video are rising tensions between the Caldari State and the Gallente Federation over the disputed Intaki system.

Now I wonder if this is the lead-in to some new story line content in the game.  Could this pertain to the big announcement?  We shall see tomorrow at 12:00 UTC I suppose.

Or maybe you will see.  That will be at about 5am local time for me, so I am pretty sure I will still be asleep.

Five Problems CCP Will Never Fully Solve

Time to just bang on about EVE Online a bit more before Fanfest.

Revelations – November 2006 – This is where I came in on things

Illicit RMT

To be fair to CCP, nobody is ever going to solve this issue short of abolishing all player trade and like interactions.  If one player can accumulate a lot of something somebody is always going to be willing to pay a little real world cash for it.

And I am not saying that CCP should stop trying to fight it.  There is a level of effort beyond which there are diminishing returns, but no effort at all leads to a worse place.  Anybody who has been in a free to play game like Lost Ark or Runes of Magic knows what gold seller proliferation looks like… though I wonder if people would even notice in Jita local chat.

But some gold sellers are just going to live in the margins, selling ISK or whatever, because there is some money to be made.  Of course, by raising the price of PLEX, CCP has made the margins a bit more habitable.  Nothing comes without a cost.

Botting

Like illicit RMT, I am not suggesting that CCP ignore bots.  And it does seem that CCP has made headway over the years, at least against the more egregiously obvious botting practices.

But here, as with RMT, there is always going to be an area in the margins where CCP is not going to be able to catch everybody.

In part, that is because the game itself is full of dull, repetitive processes that are easily automated.  And it isn’t just mining or courier missions.  If you do a little digging you will find bots that do all sorts of things and bot makers have long learned to put some variability in their actions so that you can’t spot them by looking for exact intervals between actions.

And then there is the fact that false positives are a worse than not catching a bot.  In a game where I suspect four out of five people complaining about bots think that anybody who warps to a citadel when somebody shows up in local must be a bot… which is manifestly not true… spotting who is actually a bot is much harder than it thinks.  Again, the game has enough routine actions that are dull and repetitive that spotting a bot is a coin toss at best.

Capital Proliferation

We have spent the last year hearing from team running the game that cheap capitals are bad.  But CCP also made the decision, against the advice of the CSM, to make the Rorqual a mining monster back in 2016, which made minerals so cheap that capital ships… which were all T1 builds so the cost was just minerals… were suddenly everywhere.  A titan in every hangar in Delve was the GSF goal at one point.

Then, last April, CCP made the big blueprint change and made capital ships very expensive to build, thinking that would solve the problem of there being too many.  What it did was make everybody reluctant to commit capital ships because the replacement costs were suddenly outrageous.  But they were all still there, in hangars, and they weren’t doing the game or CCP any good there.  World War Bee didn’t end on a glorious capital ship brawl, but on a half hearted sub-cap raid into 1DQ1-A, after which PAPI went home.

When it comes down to it, capital ships being blown up are better for the game than them sitting in hangars.  Big, expensive battles get game news headlines.  So CCP has begun walking back the capital ship part of their economic starvation plan.

New Player Experience

The new player experience has gotten better over the years.  I will stipulate to that.  But I rather suspect that it hasn’t moved the needle very much at all on the 30 day player retention numbers, because at some point, no matter how deep CCP goes with the NPE, a player has to leave it and join the rest of us in the core of New Eden… and the game is frankly too deep and too complicated for most people to grasp.

Really, the only long term solution to player retention is a strong, existing community that can find places in their myriad groups for new players to join and learn about the madness that is EVE Online.

Being Anything Besides What It Is

This is something that comes from both within and from outside of the game, the idea that it really needs to be something other than it is.  Remaking the game as something else was on my list of persistent bad ideas that won’t seem to die.

But, as I wrote five years back, there is not going back to the launch state, when all things were possible.  We are 19 years down the road and the game has cemented its reputation.  Millions of people have tried the game, most of them moving on, and thousands of posts and articles have been written about it as well.  Even if CCP were to decide to change directions today and turn the game into a huggy, cuddly space teddy bears simulator with no PvP whatsoever, it would still be eyed suspiciously and… well, the UI would still be an untamable monster that still surprises bitter vets with hidden features nearly two decades down the road.

The only way forward is to embrace the game for what it is and make the best… whatever it really is… that it can be.

EVE Online Fanfest Announcement Speculation

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

Fanfest is just a week away.  Read all about it.

Last week we got the announcement from CCP that they will be bumping up the price of a subscription for EVE Online from $15 to $20 per month. (Yes, I will keep rounding up to full dollar amounts, though that actually makes CCP looks ever so slightly better because the price went from $14.95 to $19.99, so I am cutting them some slack on the extra four cents.)

At least they had the guts to put the price hike on the launcher, even if they call it an “update”

They chose to make the announcement at the end of their business day on Friday, which is the traditional weaseling hour for public relations and marketing.  You want to announce late enough in the day that it misses the main news drops and hope that nobody notices or that something else shows up over the weekend to push your bad news down the list of topics on Monday.

Anyway, CCP dragged out CCP Paragon to stand up in front of the angry virtual crowd and speak about the price increase.  I don’t know what sin he was accused of, but this surely had to be penance for something.

Several things were mentioned by him… only one of which was in the official announcement… as reasons for why CCP needs to raise the price of a subscription, along with a statement of mitigation, which is the quote at the top of the page.

To lay that out, CCP is going to announce some big things at EVE Fanfest next week that they think will soften player outrage about the 33% price jump.

That, leaving aside all the general ugliness around the price bump, gives us something to speculate about.

I usually don’t speculate about CCP announcements because they tend to be a surprise and often unfathomable before they become public.  But now we have a blank slate and a promise that something huge will be coming.  It is time to throw some bad guesses at the wall and see what ends up sticking.

If I am correct with any of this I will be shocked or dismayed… or possibly both.  I certainly have no special insight into this.  As I understand it, even the CSM is completely in the dark.  But CCP Paragon’s words about the scale of the update makes me wonder what it could be.  What would be bigger than, say, adding wormhole space or super capitals or magic sovereignty entosis wands or Upwell structures?  Those were all kind of big updates to contend with.

So here are a few things that come to my mind, with what I think are the likely player reactions at EVE Fanfest, where the much of the very vocal core of the player base will be.

I will also put my impression of what non-EVE players will say, if anything, largely because CCP has been working on attracting new players for the last couple of years to little obvious success.

  • A Vision Quest

My initial, go-to, most likely scenario when I started thinking about this was that we’re not going to get anything at all at Fanfest aside from a vision of something they hope they will be able to implement in the coming years.  “EVE Forever” once more.

And then I realized that this was going to be true no matter what they announced.  So this is really a stand alone guess.  We’ll get nothing, no features ready to go, just a plan for a plan

It will sound neat and impressive, or it had better, but will be vague enough both in scope and timeline that we’ll all be left projecting our own biases upon it.  This has worked on us before.  Dedicated EVE Online players have a history of buying into these sorts of visions.  We want to believe.

However, the current reality with the mishandling of the New Eden economy, the flirting with crypto, the recent price increases, and the disdain for users that the current production team has shown, there is a significant hazard here.  We might not fall in line and cheer for the vision.

Expected EVE player reaction: The more optimistic will buy in, but disdain and resentment will be a much more common reaction.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: At best, somebody might ask when it will be a thing.  There won’t be an answer for that.

So, given that general prediction, what do I think the actual content will be?

  • Upwell FPS Game – Don’t Call it DUST

The title formerly known as Project Nova will loom back into our range of vision.  The last time we really heard about it was back at EVE Vegas 2018 and they were talking about it being an FPS title within EVE Online, possibly with fighting on structures, being able to disable services with your squad, and having influence on New Eden.  It wouldn’t be “in” EVE, but connected to EVE.  There was much enthusiasm by CCP on this and it sounded like a done deal, something coming soon.

And then shortly after EVE Vegas the whole Project Nova thing got postponed, renamed, and CCP vowed not to speak of it again until it was closer to being ready for prime time.  It has been almost 3.5 years since that happened.  Is it ready yet?

Expected EVE player reaction:  Poor.  There is probably a way they could make this magic work, but the ghost of DUST 514 sits there and reminds us where this madness may lead.  Also, this is a game for somebody else, not a content update for EVE Online.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Is it a good shooter?  No?   Fuck off.

  • Walking in Stations 2.0 – This Time for Sure!

This is my number one persistent bad idea for the game.  It has failed once already, yet I fear CCP has not learned.  Hilmar said something about this a while back on Twitter, but he has said a lot of regrettable things over the years.  Still, it could happen.  Maybe they have turned all of that Project Nova work into a space station barbies project.

There is a theoretical magical mix of features that could make this work.  Even a bitter old vet of the game like me thinks it could be made to work somehow.  The problem is that the history and reputation of CCP.  It is a small company that struggles to keep the ships in space part EVE Online going and viable, so can it handle a feature as huge as this would have to be in order to be viable?  I say no.  Somebody could make this feature work, just not CCP.

And unless this is suffused with magical unicorn farts from top to bottom, it will neither attract new players nor retain old one.

Expected EVE player reaction: Something between a minor riot and the full bore sacking of Reykjavík.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: I love housing in games. This is what the game really needs. But I won’t be playing it because $20 a month is too much and I hate PvP games.

  • Triglavians 2.0

This is the easy guess, one of the most likely big announcement options in my opinion.  Another empire… Jovians, Whovians, whatever… shows up.  New space dynamics, new ships, new weapon types, cool new logos to make, another story line they can drag out for 12 to 24 months, some special new materials for ship manufacturing, fresh PvE challenges, the options here are pretty generous.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Mixed.  The problem is that EVE Online is an amalgam of so many different play styles that it is hard to please everybody.  Pissing off almost everybody to some degree is easy, as we saw last week.  But pleasing them all?  Impossible.  Still, it will please some people, and could please a lot of people if the ships are interesting enough.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: Meh.

  • Play to Earn without NFTs

Yes, CCP said that “NFT” stands for “Not For Tranquility” for the foreseeable future, and I trust that when they said that they could see at least as far ahead as EVE Fanfest.

But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do a play to earn scheme without NFTs or crypto.  In fact, one of the primary objections to crypto being injected into schemes is that it adds nothing and is just rent seeking by outsiders pushing buzzwords.  It can all be done cheaper, faster, and better without crypto.

And we still have that statement from CCP from the post-Prospector Pack blowback that they want to source any future packs from industry players rather than just summoning hulls out of thin air.  So, as I noted at the time, that could be the basis for a new Play to Earn scheme.

Or maybe there will be something that will let players offset the subscription hike.

These seems less likely than it did before, but it could happen still, within certain parameters.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Dangerous, depending on the details.  If could range from “meh” to another few weeks of rage.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Can I earn money at anywhere close to minimum wage in my location?  No?  Buh-bye.

  • Major Change to Game Mechanics

Maybe there will be something game changing in the announcement, but I hesitate to speculate as to what they might do after a couple of years of wrecking the economy only to start undoing that.

It isn’t so much that I can’t pick something that isn’t broken enough to think it might be due for an overhaul as I have a problem figuring out what CCP isn’t so invested in that they’ll actually consider changing.

Completely new faction warfare?  Redoing skill training and attributes?  A fresh new way to create and administer corporations and alliances?  Security and standings revamp?  There are a lot of things in the game that could be improved by some focus.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Would really have to push the right button for a good response

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Yawn

  • A Batch of Minor Things Dressed Up as a Big Effing Deal

I started with two ideas for this post, the first one about vision, and this one, which I would categorize as “things they should have done already.”

Add your favorite small feature here like Alliance SKINs, Upwell structure SKINs, cat ears, attribute remaps for PLEX, name changes for PLEX, or whatever else you can come up with and bundle them together and pretend it is the biggest content update ever or something… though having written that, I do have to say if it is all monetzation features after the price hike, it will not go down well.

Expected EVE player reaction: Very poor.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Non-existent.

  • Something Actually as Good as Promised

It could happen.  Maybe it will.  Maybe CCP will hit it out of the park this time, painting both a vision and delivering on at least some of it right away.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Rejoicing and throwing money at CCP.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Maybe I should try this game after all.

Anyway, those are my guesses a week ahead of EVE Fanfest.  I give myself an extremely low likelihood of being right on any of them, but we’ll know the answer soon enough.

This is the part of the post where I might consider adding a poll just to see what people think but, as I mentioned some time back, WP.com completely broke polls in the classic editor and the block editor is cancer.

Still, if you have another idea about what they might announce, drop a comment.

The Xenuria Monograph

How do I describe Xenuria?  There is a lot there to unpack.  Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

Let’s say Xenuria is space famous in EVE Online for being himself, or some version of himself, rather than for a specific action or event or for leading a famous (or infamous) group.  If you use the search box at the top of the blog and search on his name, you will find that I have mentioned him quite a bit over the life of the blog.  He was once an object of scorn in Goonswarm, somebody specifically banned from joining KarmaFleet when it was formed, then later, after meeting The Mittani, he became a long time member of Goonswarm and a veteran of both the Casino War and World War Bee.

Some old GSF vets have never gotten used him being in Goons, or at least pretend so, but he is often viewed as a very special weapon to be deployed to local chat in order to annoy and dismay our foes.  Even those who dislike him sometimes admit they’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.

He was also a perennial CSM candidate and actually made it on to CSM11.

The 11th Council of Stellar Management

And the NDA that covered his time on the CSM just expired, having run out its five years since being signed, and he has gone to /r/eve on Reddit to share his experiences and answer questions about his time on the council.

This is not the first former CSM member to go to Reddit on the expiration of their NDA.  Jester, or Ripard Teg, who served on CSM8, did his own AMA on r/eve back in 2019.

Xenuria’s thread has some confirmations of things we already knew, heard about, or at least strongly suspected.  I especially enjoyed Xenuria’s comment about Hilmar and his obsession with The Three Body problem:

hilmar was obsessed with The 3 body problem by Liu Cixin and had this elaborate plan to introduce 2 major systems to eve online and build a years long narrative around them. System 1 was called “dark forrest” and it was experimental tech pitched to the CSM. It was a no local, delayed D-scan type of pocket world where the deeper you went the better rocks u could mine, but spooky Trisolari… sorry “Triglavians” would add to the risk of it. The second system was a blackout for nullsec that would act as a 1 2 punch in the events leading up to chapter 3. He basically wanted to copy past the story of the book series into eve. Dark forest would eventually become pochven and as you all know it would become a buggy unfinished mess.

This was brought up by Hilmar in public and seemed to be the inspiration for the Chaos Era in New Eden, which saw the null sec Blackout, which at the time created what seemed like a huge dip in players logging in.

PCU for 2016 through 2019 – The Blackout is in red

Of course, that was before CCP started strangling the economy.  It seemed bad back then, but everything is relative.

That it was even deeper than I suspected… I never made the connection between Triglavians and Trisolarians… was interesting.

So there is a lot there to dig through in the thread, including some third party comments.

Some other former CSM members have chimed in, with Jester doing a detailed comment about what aligns with his experiences on the CSM.

And then there is the CCP response from CCP Swift, which I think was a huge mistake.  Better to let the whole thing just fade away after some initial interest than stir the pot.

The response wasn’t just a bad idea, but the fact that it goes after a few very specific thingS… thus confirming in everybody’s minds that whatever was not denied must have been correct… in somewhat vague and weaselly ways tends to undermine it.  The assertion that if it wasn’t in the CSM meeting minutes then something didn’t happen is absurd beyond belief.  The CSM minutes are what CCP wants them to be as we have seen in the past.

Anyway, it is a bunch of drama with some interesting points mixed into the maelstrom.  Worth going through if you’re into the history of the CSM, official and otherwise.

Related: