Tag Archives: CCP

Quote of the Day – But We Did It Anyway

We definitely don’t want to sell skill points

-CCP Rattati, EVE Online Director of Product, OZ_eve interview

I don’t even have the energy to care about the actual selling of skill points now.  That ship sailed last year. I’ve accepted it as the new reality.  I just wish CCP would get their messaging in line with that reality.

On Monday CCP Rattati who, among other things, has been driving the economic starvation plan in EVE Online, did this interview on Twitch, which was then posted up on YouTube for your watching pleasure. (And now there is a transcript.)

He talks about the New Eden economy for about the first ~40 minutes, then the discussion moves to monetization.  You can find that quote at the top of the post at the 49 minute mark.

The interview happened on Monday, the video went up on YouTube on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday CCP literally started straight up selling skill points.

Personal Offer!

This is the sort of self-defeating corporate bullshit that just drives me crazy.  He is the Director of Product, did he not know that this was happening the same week he was saying that?  The usual paths are that the person is lying, stupid, or believes their audience is stupid, and I can’t really pin down which this is.

Now, you’ll want to talk about context, and you can justifiably point out that this was part of a discussion about the Expert Systems feature, the “rent a skill” plan announced last week.  As part of that he said that CCP had ruled out the idea of selling skill points to new players, preferring to rent them temporary skill increases… because new players won’t understand things like skill injectors or something.  Somehow giving them skills then taking them away will be more clear.

I remain unconvinced that this will somehow be better or make EVE Online more comprehensible to new players, but the details are still vague, so final judgement has yet to land.

But, even in that context, his statement not once but twice that they do not want to sell skill points seems pretty strong, as though it would apply outside the justification for renting skills.

He was also very firm a few minutes earlier that Pearl Abyss was in no way pushing CCP to sell skill points.  In fact, he was quite adamant that PA has taken a very hands off approach to EVE Online and that they have given no direction or advice on monetization, which seems to torpedo the idea earlier in the week that the whole Expert Systems thing was handed down by them, and based on their experience as a way to monetize the Asian market.  CCP Rattati said that this was all very much a home grown, Icelandic idea.

Then again, he also said CCP doesn’t want to sell skill points in the same week that the company did just that, so one might be tempted to point out that he has a credibility problem.

Anyway, if you want to hear how everything is totally going to plan with the economic starvation and resource redistribution plan and the rationalization of the rent a skill idea, this video will help you along.  I will say that the host does push back, gently at times, on some of the statements, so it isn’t a free run statement by the company, but CCP Rattati remained firm on his own positions.

I hope this will be my last post related to selling skill points for a while, but CCP will be CCP.

Related:

CCP Now Just Baby Steps from Selling EVE Online Skill Points Directly

I woke up this morning to find an email from CCP offering to sell me 1,620,000 skill points for the low, low price of $43.99.

Personal Offer!

The body of the email said:

Greetings Wilhelm Arcturus,

Rise like a phoenix and make a triumphant return to New Eden with the Skill Point Resurgence offer! Until 17. May, you can get 1,620,000 Skill Points for $43.99 to catch up with all the training time you have missed. Claim your offer today in the EVE Store.

And it assured me that this offer was ONLY FOR ME.

After taking a peek over at Reddit… and confirming that it appeared to be available on all of my accounts… I might be led to suggest that this offer was not that personal at all.  It seems to throw itself at you if you just log into the EVE Online web store.

Of course, this new turn will no doubt set off a fire storm in some quarters of the fan base, especially in light of the Expert Systems announcement from last week, which already has them stirred up.  Long time EVE Online fan/player Manic Velocity went so far as to make this video about milking the player base at the expense of the game’s integrity last week.

I wonder how he feels today?

I am less concerned.  Or maybe “concerned” isn’t even the right word any more.

As I wrote in a previous post, I’ve already made my peace with the idea that CCP is going to straight up sell skill points in their online store at some point.  Past statements from the company promising not to generate skill points out of thin air to sell are distant memories.  Corporations are not people, they are not… and cannot… be your friends, and their promises are meaningless.

So I am writing this just to take note of how far along they have come.  It is just another step in the journey.  We went from skill injectors to skill point give aways for compensation to alpha clone skill injectors to skill points in starter packs to skill points in packs in general and now to skill points sold directly under the guise of a special, personal offer… that is available to anybody who logs in… in just five years.

We are almost there now, just millimeters from skill point packs being a regular item in the web store.  If I were making predictions, I would guess that we’ll see these skill point packs before the end of Q2 2021.  That the “personal” offer expires on May 17th might be a tell as to when the pretense will be removed and it will be generally available.

And that will be it, case closed.  Skill points for sale in the store all the time.

Of course, there are still things about this offer that rankle or raise questions.

  • Why 1,620,000 skill points?

I suspect that if I looked I would find that specific number of skill points adds up to exactly some specific skill or set of skills in game.  I just can’t be bothered.

  • Why the alleged marked down price in the offer?

That seems dumb unless, of course, the direct sale of skill points is closer than I predicted above.  Maybe this is the “special” intro price for something that will now be in the store.  There certainly seemed to be some legal questions about how you can have a marked down price for something that is otherwise not available for sale.  Of course, if the plan was to make it generally available all along, then no problem.

  • What does this mean for Expert Systems?

I wrote about Expert Systems just yesterday, CCP’s plan to rent you skills, which seemed silly to me… even in light of Asian market practices… in a game where you can buy PLEX to buy ISK to buy skill injectors to get the skill points for keeps.  And now you can just buy skill points.  Seems odd.

  • Is there a timing aspect to this offer?

Suspicious minds will note that we’re now in the final month of Q1 2021, so seeing CCP make this final move into direct sales of skill points feels like it could be something to juice sales a bit… because we know people will buy these skill points… in order to make their quarterly sales goals.  If that were true… and we do not know that it is… it would imply that subscribers, sales, or player retention is not going as well as Hilmar’s rosy statements about 1.3 million brand new players trying the game in 2020 might lead you to suspect.

Anyway, the writing was already on the wall, we’re just finally arriving at our predetermined destination.

So it goes.

Expert Systems in the Face of Failure

As I noted yesterday, if there is one thing you can count on from CCP, it is an overly grandiose and technically incorrect name for something mundane.

Last week CCP announced a new feature called “Expert Systems,” which I immediately summed up as “rent a skill,” as you’d be hard pressed to convince me it was anything else. (It was certainly nothing like an expert system.)

No expert that I know

It has been billed as a way for new players to try out skills they have not yet trained, which doesn’t sound awful on the surface.  The announcement, lacking in details though it was, did specifically mention the “magic 14” skills as part of the plan along with some industry stuff, but nothing about it was crystal clear.

The thing that got a lot of people riled up was the implication that this would be a paid service.  The gut reaction was “pay to win,” though “rent to be mediocre” might be more accurate, but the deeper issue on that front for me was the company having its hand out looking to make money from helping new players figure out the game.  That isn’t a good look.

Well, that and the whole thing seeming to add up a tepid and ineffectual compromise that won’t change anything, which got me back to the bigger problem of the new player experience and how it drives away pretty much everybody who tries the game.

We saw this chart back at EVE North in 2019, which was when CCP said they were making the new player experience a priority.

How many new players log back in as time passes

But we’ve seen charts like that in the past like this one from FanFest 2014.

New Player Trajectory – 2014 edition

CCP has been focused on the new player experience, the NPE, for a year and a half now, tweaking and making modest updates and generally trying to fix the issue without really doing anything too radical.

And it seems to have largely been a wasted effort so far.  CCP was given a golden opportunity during the pandemic to increase its user base.  Every month of the pandemic I have posted the revenue chart from SuperData which has indicated that revenues across the board have been up 15% for video games.  Even CCP has seen a bit of that surge, with the peak concurrent player count finally cresting above the 40K mark back in April as people sought indoor activities during the lockdown.

Hilmar himself was on a Venture Beat panel in late January where he said that EVE Online added 1.3 million new players in 2020. (This number gets mentioned again in the Expert Systems post.)  That was more that the previous few years combined, a gift to the company from the pandemic.

The question is, where did they go?  If CCP was running at the 4.4% long term retention rate their EVE North numbers suggested (which also didn’t seem bad compared to numbers I could find from comparable titles), that ought to have dumped another 57K players into New Eden.  That would be about a 20% boost over the approximate 300K monthly active users that Hilmar has mentioned in the past.

With that big of an influx of new players… so I am assuming they are not counting returning vets joining the war or looking for something to do during lockdown… the peak concurrent players online ought to be up enough for that surge to stand out.

But is it?  Looking at EVE Offline, it doesn’t seem to be.  After the great valley of the null sec blackout and Chaos Era, when CCP seemed keen to actively drive players away, the PCU climbs, sees a surge around April and May, then settles back down to about where it was pre-blackout.  Congratulations to CCP for flattening the curve?

Further evidence for CCP failing to capitalize on the jackpot scenario include the 2020 financial results from Pearl Abyss.  On the surface it looks like the EVE Online IP is growing.  But in we cannot forget that in Q2 2020 CCP was able to re-open the Serenity server in China and in Q3 EVE Echoes launched and attracted a couple million players on its own.  If you were to subtract those two items I suspect the EVE Online IP bit of the chart would be closer to flat.

And then there is the bottom line for the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP, which ended up with PA paying just $225 million of the potential $425 million price tag due to CCP missing performance goals, which I am sure included some revenue requirements.  Hilmar and some other big investors missed a payday there.

Fun times.

I don’t want to go all “EVE is dying” meme now.  But in the face of all of this, which stinks heavily of failure, the idea that CCP spent dev time to design and implement this new Expert Systems feature which allows new player to rent skills for some amount of currency in a game where skill injectors exist seems like a wasted effort.  It doesn’t feel like something that will move the needle at all on new player retention, in large part because it doesn’t feel like something that will impact a new player’s experience before they get frustrated or bored and log off.

I have bemoaned the fact that EVE Online is old and cranky and and has issues that will never be fixed because, after nearly 18 years, there just isn’t the time, money, or wherewithal to do it.  And I myself have been cranky about CCP in the past about things like selling skill points and the fact that when they say they won’t do something, that statement has a hidden expiration date of about a year.

But I try not to get too worked up about monetization.  This is a business and, frankly, the price we pay to play hasn’t changes in almost 18 years.  It was fifteen dollars a month in 2003, it remains fifteen dollars a month in 2021.  But I am going to bet somebody has gotten a pay raise or the rent has gone up or costs have otherwise risen in that time.  To balance that out you either have to make more money or have less staff.

So I am not irate like some about the real money aspect of this so much as being unable to see how this will make a lick of difference.  Software development is a zero sum game.  You only have so much time and resources, and if you waste them on things that don’t make the product better you cannot get that time back.

Now, maybe I am just not seeing the big picture here.  Maybe CCP has all the right data to hand and they know that this is a winning idea.  I’d like to be wrong in my assumptions and the announcement was vague enough for a lot of wiggle room as to how this will turn out.  Unfortunately, I have been party to way too many half assed, badly calculated products and features in my career to have a lot of confidence.

The real problem with software is that is written and designed by people who all have their own special collections of bad ideas.

Related:

CCP Offers Up Broken Monthly Economic Report for December

We got the EVE Online Monthly Economic Report for December last week and I waited a while to write about it because what they put out was simply and obviously wrong in places.  At least more so than usual, so I thought they might go back and fix the most egregious bit.  I am ever the optimist.

EVE Online nerds harder

But, since no update appears to be forthcoming, lets look at what they gave us and hope for better next time.

Destruction

The flaw in the December MER is the destruction numbers.  If you pull out the regional data for destruction, the top ten regions are:

  1. Delve – 3.23 trillion
  2. The Forge – 2.1 trillion
  3. The Citadel – 1.77 trillion
  4. Lonetrek – 1.68 trillion
  5. Catch – 1.47 trillion
  6. Metropolis – 1.38 trillion
  7. Sinq Laison – 1.26 trillion
  8. Domain – 1.04 trillion
  9. Genesis – 832 billion
  10. Black Rise – 753 billion

The total destruction according to the regional data was 35 trillion ISK.  That put Delve down by more than a trillion from November, with overall destruction down by trillion.

The problem is that the number for Delve… and thus the total number for all regions… was very far from the actual mark.

With the war on and the huge battle at M2-XFE that started on December 30th and ran until downtime at 11:00 UTC on December 31st, many of us were expecting to see a huge jump in the destruction numbers for the Delve regional data.  The battle report showed more than 20 trillion ISK destroyed in that first fight.

Battle Report Header

That seems like a big miss.

I sometimes get a bit pissy about CCP and the MER because the numbers from one chart and data set do not line up with numbers from another chart and data set.  It seems like a summer intern project to write a little unit test to validate the data being pulled.  And this month is no different, but at least this time around another data set shows that the regional data is bad, at least for Delve.  So I will bring up the Produced, Destroyed, Mined chart.

Dec 2020 – Produced vs Destroyed vs Mined

This tracks the daily data game wide, with the thick line being the 30 day moving average and the light lines being the actual daily totals.  You can see there, at the end of December, the daily number jumps up off the chart, which has a top range of 6 trillion ISK.  Likewise, the 30 day average for destruction is pulled up, exceeding production.

CCP provides the raw data for that chart in a .csv file, so anybody can see what the actual amounts are.  The total destruction in the data for December is 74.83 trillion ISK, and the value for just December 31st, which covers the primary portion of the battle before downtime, is 23.26 trillion ISK.  (The second battle is in the data already, as it leaks out into the current date when they pull the report, and that totals up to 15, 4 trillion ISK destroyed on January 3rd.)

Of course, the data for that chart isn’t wholly accurate as well as there are three days missing, December 3, 4, and 26.  Still, they reflect the reality of the situation more than the alternative.

So the regional stats are off by a good 40 trillion ISK total, and at least the amount of that battle report for just Delve.  So a more likely ranking is:

  1. Delve – 26 trillion (estimated)
  2. The Forge – 2.1 trillion
  3. The Citadel – 1.77 trillion
  4. Lonetrek – 1.68 trillion
  5. Catch – 1.47 trillion
  6. Metropolis – 1.38 trillion
  7. Sinq Laison – 1.26 trillion
  8. Domain – 1.04 trillion
  9. Genesis – 832 billion
  10. Black Rise – 753 billion

Anyway, here is to hoping they’ll set things right next month.

NPC Bounties

Moving on to NPC bounties, which were the big story last month, we see they are still way down.

Dec – and Faucets Over Time

The numbers began to crash when the ESS and the Dynamic Bounty System were introduced to the game in November.

Total bounties collect in November were 39.3 trillion, which was down from 55.9 trillion in October, the last full month without the new systems.  December, the first full month with the ESS and DBS changes saw that number tumble to 22.8 trillion ISK.

Even with the ESS payments, which amounted to 6.5 trillion ISK, that leaves the total at a little more than half of the value paid out in October.  This is a big hit to income.  The top regions for December were:

  1. Oasa – 1.62 trillion (PandaFam)
  2. Vale of the Silent – 1.19 trillion (mixed small groups)
  3. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.02 trillion (PandaFam)
  4. Perrigen Falls – 996 billion (PandaFam)
  5. Insmother – 918 billion (Legacy)
  6. Cobalt Edge – 753 billion (PandaFam)
  7. Tenal – 739 billion (PandaFam)
  8. Metropolis – 737 billion (High Sec)
  9. Branch – 711 billion (PandaFam)
  10. Fountain – 699 billion (Imperium)

Of note is that a high sec region has entered the top ten, meaning that NPC bounties collected by mission runners are now likely a significant portion of the remaining bounty total.  There are no Forsaken Hubs in Metropolis.

Outside of NPC bounties, the sinks and faucets for December looked like this:

Dec 2020 – Sinks and Faucets

Commodities, which are drops from NPCs in wormhole space, Abyssal Deadspace, and the December holiday event (and maybe the bonds from robbing an ESS in null sec) and sold back to NPCs, continue be the largest ISK faucet into the game, ringing in at 40.59 trillion ISK.

After that there is NPC bounties, which are now in close competition with incursion payouts.  And then there is insurance, which if you look at the first sinks and faucets chart, saw a spike at the end of December, no doubt related to the battle at M2-XFE.

Production

Turning to production, the regional data shows the following regions as the top of the list:

  1. The Forge – 21 trillion (High Sec)
  2. Delve – 7 trillion (Imperium)
  3. Lonetrek – 6.94 trillion (High Sec)
  4. Sinq Laison – 6.25 trillion (High Sec)
  5. The Citadel – 5.73 trillion (High Sec)
  6. Domain – 4.51 trillion (High Sec)
  7. Tribute – 4.22 trillion (mixed small groups)
  8. Esoteria – 3.73 trillion (Legacy)
  9. Vale of the Silent – 3.64 trillion (mixed small groups)
  10. Heimatar – 3.07 trillion (High Sec)

The Forge, and the high sec regions around it, which support the Jita market, remain strong.  Delve, home of the Imperium, led the production outside of high sec.  The war has kept production going.  Legacy production remained ongoing in Esoteria despite claims that they were set to abandon the region.  Oddly, two regions of small holders, Tribute and Vale of the Silent, made the top ten, but PandaFam in Oasa fell to 11th and off the list.

The total for production in the regional data was 107.84 trillion ISK, though since I’m double checking things this month, the production/destruction data only shows it at 74.83 trillion ISK.  However, that is missing three days.  I am not sure those three days would make up the gap, so it shows once again that the data can be questioned.

Trade

Then there is trade value, where the top regions were:

  1. The Forge – 429 trillion (Jita)
  2. Domain – 51 trillion (Amarr)
  3. Sinq Laison – 20.6 trillion (Dodixie)
  4. Lonetrek – 16.25 trillion (Caldari High Sec)
  5. Delve – 16.21 trillion (War Zone)
  6. Metropolis – 10.9 trillion (Hek)
  7. Heimatar – 10.1 trillion (Rens)
  8. Essence – 5.55 trillion (Gallente High Sec))
  9. The Citadel – 5.34 trillion (Caldari High Sec)
  10. Tash-Murkon – 3.65 trillion (Amarr High Sec)

Everything was about in the same zone as November, save for Delve, which was down about 6 trillion ISK.  That is odd because with both sides now based in Delve there ought to be more buying rather than less.

Mining

Finally, there is mining.  After seeming to plateau in November, mineral prices continued their climb skyward as CCP’s keeps the starvation economy plan in place.

Dec 2020 – Economic Indices

The October peak was an all time high point for mineral prices and now the spike continues.

Mining remained largely a high sec occupation, though Oasa in PandaFam territory climbed to the top of the list in December.

  1. Oasa – 1.27 trillion
  2. The Forge – 1.17 trillion
  3. Metropolis – 1.04 trillion
  4. Domain – 990 billion
  5. Sinq Laison – 824 billion
  6. Lonetrek – 751 billion
  7. The Citadel – 617 billion
  8. Tash-Murkon – 575 billion
  9. Perrigen Falls – 568 billion
  10. Everyshore – 559 billion

Aside from Oasa, which is up slightly, numbers are down in every region on that list.  Since the value of ore mined depends on the price, that appears to mean that a lot less mining went on in December, even in Oasa.  The total mined from the region data was 19.9 trillion in value, down from 23.7 trillion in November.

Since we’re skeptical of the regional data this month, I double checked it against the Produced/Destroyed/Mined data which, despite missing the three days indicated above, shows 19.8 trillion ISK value mined, down from 24.9 in November.  That is within the usual margin of error between the different data collection methods.

So it goes.

As always, you can find all the standard charts and the raw data used to create them… such that it is… in the MER dev blog.

Related:

United Eden Login Event comes to EVE Online

Following on from the return of support for the Japanese language in the EVE Online client with the December update, CCP has announced the United Eden login event.

United Eden for Alpha and Omega

The event features some more Zakura SKINs of similar color schemes to the battleship SKINs currently available in the New Eden Store.  The even SKINs are for the Slasher, Tormentor, Kestrel, and Tristan hulls, as well as a capsule SKIN.

In addition there are fireworks, facial augmentations, and some skill points.

As usual, Omega pilots get all the goodies, while Alpha clones are limited to just the frigate SKINs.

Omega selection

The login campaign requires that you log in on four separate days over the course of the week long campaign, which ends at downtime on January 26th.

My Year in EVE Online 2020

As CCP did last year, they setup a way that you can generate a video summarizing what you did in EVE Online.  You may have recieved a promotional email about it.  Otherwise, there is a dev blog post.  There are a couple of changes since last time though.

Me in New Eden in 2020

In 2019 they grouped up your characters and made the video four you.  My video for Wilhelm Arcturus included data for him and 9 alts.  That probably explains why the “skill points earned” value was so high.

This time around it is only for Omega accounts and you can pick the character you want to be featured in the video.  It does appear that you can only make one video per account, so do your main first.  My secondary account has two characters active in different spheres and I could only make a video for one of them.

You can also choose what aspects of the game you wish the video to feature.

Select which categories interest you

I was at a bit of a loss after picking PVP Kills and Most Valuable Kill Mail.  Since you need to pick five, I added in Market, Wealth Generation, and Planetary Production.

As with last year, they allow you to download your video, as it will disappear in a month or so.  I grabbed mine and uploaded it to YouTube.

For those who don’t want to watch it, or if it goes away some day, I took screen shots of some of the key metrics it reports.

Skill points

Everybody gets the skill points screen.  I gained 14,746,215 skill points.  I think I spent some time training an alt on my main account, so that is probably not completely optimal, but still pretty good.

Travel Stats

Everybody also gets the travel stats.  Those numbers are down considerably from last year.  On the other hand, they aren’t the sum total of nine different characters, so it is hard to tell if I traveled more or less in 2020.

Favorite somethings…

There is also a favorites listing.  I don’t spend as much time just sitting in station as some I suppose, though that still seems like a high percentage of my time online.  That I play in null sec makes the security area no surprise.  The Guardian is the logi ship I flew a lot in the first half of the year.

Pee vee pee

For the PvP category… well, I got on a lot of kill mails.  That is ~80% of what zKillboard claims I did for 2020, but most everybody seems to be finding issues with these stats.  I guess if we’re all being measured using the same flawed system then the rankings are okay.

As for getting on that many kill mails, I am going to credit a few ECM burst ops for a lot of that, since I am otherwise in a logi ship most of the time.  ECM bursts are a quick way to pad your kill board.  The pod kills are most certainly victims of ECM bursts.  When it comes to value destroyed I have been shorted some due to the fact that none of the four Keepstars in NPC Delve that we blew up generated kill mails.  I should have been on two of them for sure, while would have been at least a couple hundred billion more ISK.  Oh well.

Most valuable kill mail

My most valuable kill was a Nyx we shot in Tenal back in February of 2020.  I think we were up there to help Guardians of the Galaxy/Dead Coalition when PandaFam was rolling over them.  We were almost all in bombers, so it was likely a hot drop.

Market stats

On the market I had 513 transactions.  I sold 3.3 billion ISK worth of something, but I cannot remember what.  That balanced out the 2.6 billion in ISK I spent I suppose.

Where the money comes and goes

I ended up spending a billion more ISK than I made.  That isn’t a big enough deficit for me to go into government work or run a Silicon Valley start up, but I’m still losing money.  Aside from the 3.3 billion ISK I made on market sales I don’t remember, the rest is probably from Alliance SRP payments and some ISK transfers from my high sec PvE alts.

Planetary Inaction

My Planetary Interaction stats are poor.  This is because I haven’t bothered to get more than three planets running and I constantly forget to restart extractions.  Somebody suggested putting them on a four day timer when I started back doing PI, but I had to move that out to a seven day timer… and can still go for a couple of weeks before I remember to check.  Oh well.

So that is my year in EVE Online I guess.

I also uploaded the video for my primary alt, who did some ratting at one point this year.

Given how little of that he did, he still ranks okay.

You can check out videos from others as CCP is encouraging people to post them with the #MyEVE2020 hash tag on Twitter.  And if you click on the video links that go to the CCP site, you will see that this is also being used as a marketing scheme to get people to try the game.  If you sign up from the video page you will get a bonus 1 million skill points for your new character.

Addendum: CCP posted a dev blog about the video data.  One key item is that the data collected is from Dec. 1, 2019 through to Dec. 1, 2020.

Grousing about the EVE Online 2020 Ecosystem Outlook

Blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought!

Dennis Moore

I mentioned in a cynical aside yesterday that CCP had posted a Dev Blog about the state of the economy/ecosystem after spending most of the year nerfing resource harvesting and wealth generation as hard as they dared.

They say ecosystem, but the focus on the economy

You can certainly accuse me of getting my EVE Online news from all the wrong places… for heaven’s sake, I still check out the official forums and visit r/eve regularly… but my impression has been that any player enthusiasm for CCP’s changes so far has come from outsiders with no skin in the game and via the schadenfreude of players happy to see somebody else getting screwed over.  Granted, the latter accompanies any game change, but this seems a bit more pronounced as usual.

CCP has even put their philosophy into three somewhat nonsensical maxims.

  • Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War

The idea here is to make people fight over resources.  The goal of CCP is always to make ships explode.  Unfortunately there are a few problems with this philosophy, and I’m not just referring to the previous “farms and fields” idea to make people live in the space they conquer.

First, scarcity implies that some people won’t be able to do what they want to do without actively fighting for resources.  People struggle for resources in the real world because they have no choice.  You find a way or you die.  In a video game we have a choice.  Somebody will always put in the effort… people put in crazy amounts of work on things in the game… but others will look at the hill they need to climb in order to do what they set out to do and walk away.

In a year where CCP has said that more people have tried the game than in the last three years combined, but the online player count on the launcher isn’t really reflecting that, some care needs to be take with the scarcity regime.  Or maybe “stop the bleeding” was just a 2019 thing and has been forgotten already.  One guy riding around in an old school bus distributing spaceships should not be the basis of a new player retention policy.

Meanwhile, we live in the New Eden that has developed under the rules and mechanics CCP has imposed in the past.  We have what we have now and unless CCP is going to go for much more active approach to the redistribution of wealth, and those who have accumulated wealth will aim to keep it.  One of the long standing truisms of the game has been, “Don’t undock in something you cannot afford to lose.”  And everybody with a super or a titan right now is going to be aware of how expensive those ships will be to replace now.  Hell, with the price of tritanium, battleships are going to be pricey.

The ironic twist of CCP introducing scarcity to promote war might very well be people docking up their big toys because they’re too expensive to replace and playing with cheaper ships.  Scarcity may prevent war.

  • Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs

This one makes my head hurt even though I sort of know what they’re getting at.  It is one of those things that sounds meaningful if you say it quickly and don’t think about it, but falls apart quickly if you stare too hard.  Was this what Hilmar was going on about in wanting resources to not be predictable?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  The statement doesn’t make any logical sense on its own, so it is difficult to take seriously as an economic philosophy.

So let me say this about predictability; it is a basic expectation of many players.

What is one of the first things somebody will ask in any forum post about a new activity in EVE Online?  What is the ISK per hour?  People will gravitate towards the highest RELIABLE payout. Things that are a gamble will tend to be avoided in favor of the predictable.

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

Edward Castronova

That goes for capsuleers as well.  NPC bounties were the king of ISK faucets not because the content was at all interesting, but because it was steady and reliable.  That was what people wanted, a known quantity.  A   Every NPC has a value amount attached to it.  And, as soon as CCP changed the reliability aspect by allowing somebody to blow through your system and steal all your bounties, NPC bounties tanked hard according to the November MER.

Nov 2020 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

I wish they broke out NPC bounties by high/low/null sec in a form easily read.  I suppose I could estimate it from the MER regional data.  But I suspect that the floor gets you down to level 4 high sec missions being a significant part of that total.  In missions against pirates the bounties are often a much bigger part of the payout than the mission rewards.

And now… now people are moving on to other things with reliable payouts.  Abyssal pockets.  Planetary Interaction.  Burner Missions.  I even dialed up an alt to do some level 4 security missions now and again just to get some LP store items that sell well.  There are plenty of other predictable “solved” and PvE activities out there that people will move to in order to pay the bills.  Predictable is not a dirty word.  But it is something players will gravitate towards.

  • Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

“Autarky” is a Byzantine sounding word that means “self-sufficiency.” And no, it is not “anathema” to free trade, at least not by any definition of free trade I can find.  I suspect that is because CCP doesn’t really mean “free trade.”  Jita 4-4 is the pinnacle of free trade in the MMORPG genre.  We’re already there.

Instead, this is their vision of a future of economic interdependence, the rejection of the past “farms and fields” policy, the idea that if they scatter resources into specific areas people will fight over them.  They don’t want free trade, they want more resources being schlepped to Jita.  Sure.  Whatever.  I’m not sure “all your tritanium belong to high sec” is breaking new ground, but there is a whole school of economic thought when it comes to raw materials versus finished goods when it comes to trade.

We shall see.

After giving themselves a pat on the back and pointing out how responsive they have been because… *checks notes*…. they rolled back that one drone nerf that broke drones in PVP, CCP laid out some future plans as to where their economic ideas might take them.  They are:

  • Improve customization of player-owned space through iHub upgrades, allowing meaningful choices and trade-offs.

From CCP “meaningful choices and trade offs” means nerfs.  Null sec income remains in their crosshairs.

  • Introduce Reserve Bank keys for the ESS as players start planning heists and/or fortifying their bank defenses as billions of ISK become accessible across all of Nullsec.

The reserve bank thing still needs to be explained in detail.  If there isn’t a way for the locals to access it then there seems little need to defend it.  Right now the main bank is your money if it pays out, but the reserve bank might as well belong to somebody else unless there is some benefit from it.

  • Add more dynamic systems – the DBS has allowed for geographical resource balancing and the plan is to extend and expand on that with dynamic systems for resource distribution and industry. The DBS allows for quick iterations, and there have already been two updates since its release (raising the baseline bounty multipliers in Null and Lowsec).

CCP is going to nerf mining yields in systems where people mine too much next.  Scarcity will get worse before it gets better… and that assumes that it will get better.

  • Continue to balance risk and reward for income with attention as an additional pillar within the risk/reward framework. EVE has low-attention style gameplay and that is perfectly acceptable. However, care must be taken to ensure that the rewards of that gameplay balance attention and risk, and so, the intention is to revisit high-risk income platforms like Carriers and Marauders, and revisit lower-attention options in more precise ways.

Making carriers and marauders more viable could be interesting.  I just worry about the usual unintended consequences rule that always seems to bite CCP in the ass.  The collective mind of the community is like water when it comes to finding the most efficient path through something in New Eden.

  • Address one of the most debated subjects in EVE, AFK cloaky camping, with improved systems to get rid of the frustration of AFK cloaking and its total lack of counterplay without removing the ability for hunters to catch lazy prey, or for spies to be able to scout and monitor systems with strategic value.

I don’t know why this was included in what is primarily an economic outlook dev blog.  Yes, they say “ecosystem,” but it is really ISK and the economy they’re on about.  Cloaky camping has been a thing for so long that its presence or absence has little effect on the big picture.  The sinks and faucets chart above has gone up and down, but cloaking has not been part of the equation.  It is just something people perennially bitch about when it is being done to them and dismiss when they’re doing it to somebody else.  This feels more like a sop to people whose income stream has been choked off.  “But at least we got rid of cloaky campers!” CCP can declare.

  • Further define the differences between the five categories of space and foster geographical variety. The semi-lawless frontier of Lowsec has the potential to become much more than it is now as the Empires’ patience with intrusive Capsuleers in Highsec is wearing thin while wormhole resources will see increased demand.

High sec, low sec, null sec, wormhole space, and… what is the fifth space category?  Faction warfare space?  NPC null sec?  Triglavian space?  Anyway, this looks like another attempt to make low sec a thing.  I will believe it when I see it.

  • Establish a sustainable role for Rorquals and Orcas and do a general balance pass on mining ships to ensure that they each have a unique role and they are balanced in terms of wealth generation and survivability.

Sounds nice.  Probably means nerfs… especially for the Orca, which is now the AFK resource harvester of choice in high sec.

  • Add new personal deployables, both to allow more control of your immediate surroundings, and to unlock brand new meta opportunities.

I like the sound of this, but only because I enjoy shooting deployables.  There are not enough MTUs around now, so more targets are good.  How this applies to the game at large is left unexplained.

Anyway, CCP say that things will get better, even acknowledging that things are not great for a lot of us right now when it comes to ISK; income is down, prices are up, resources are scarce.

It is clearly understood and acknowledged that many players are faced with reduced income and some radical changes to what they have become accustomed to in New Eden. To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.

The problem I have, the thing that is making me cranky about all of this, is the obvious (to me) conflict between CCP’s vision of how they want New Eden to work and my experience with players in online games since 1986.  As I said above, the mass of the player base is like water and will flow down the most efficient path.

In EVE Online especially, many see earning ISK as a necessity only to enable them to do the things they want.  CCP reaps the benefit of that in PLEX sales for those don’t want to spend the time earning ISK and can afford to bypass that aspect of the game.  But for the rest of us, we grind to play, and CCP seems set on making that more difficult.

And there is a bit of what I think of as the Jimmy Neutron effect in play here as well.  Those familiar with the show back in the day will recall how many an episode ended with Jimmy solving the crisis and expecting to be lauded for it, only to have it pointed out that he caused the crisis in the first place.  Likewise, we’re in a state where CCP seems to be looking for praise for fixing things they implemented.

Anyway, maybe CCP has a realistic plan that will solve the dichotomy of the situation where ISK earning is a barrier to play.  Maybe 17 years of running this game has finally given them insight into what will work and what will not.  But there is a long history of ideas that just made the player base shift slightly and carry on as before.  We shall see in 2021.

Related:

The Idea of an EVE Online Shooter Just Won’t Die

An Eve Online first-person shooter is CCP’s greatest folly

-Jeremy Peel, VG24/7

Massively OP posted earlier about a press release from one Sperasoft about how they and CCP are working together on a first person shooter based on the EVE Online IP.

Together for a purpose

The idea of an EVE Online FPS is one that just will not die, and I am honestly confused at this point as to why this is the brass ring that CCP wants to grab so very badly.

We had DUST 514 and the promise of integration with EVE Online back in the day.  That was not a success for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the decision to make it a PlayStation 3 title, and shut down back in 2016, though CCP spent time after that closing off the integration points.

Even before the corpse of DUST 514 had cooled there was talk of something called Project Legion, the next FPS CCP planned to deliver.

That, or some elements of it, later became Project Nova, which CCP showed an early version of at EVE Vegas back in 2018.  It was hinted that the whole thing was closer to being done than we might think.

Then, about a month later, CCP announced that Project Nova had been postponed.  This corresponded with the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP for $425 million.  (EVE Online was worth more in 2018 than Daybreak was in 2020 I guess.)

We coasted along for another year or so until, in February of this year… which feels like it was a forever ago now… that, whatever Project Nova was, it was becoming something else, though we were not going to get a new name and CCP was going to try and stop talking about shooters until they had something more concrete to present.

That being difficult to parse as a headline, the gaming media mostly went with “Project Nova Cancelled.”

Which brings us to today and a company called Sperasoft and the following announcement:

USA, San-Jose – December 15, 2020 – Sperasoft, a Keywords studio specializing in co-development is proud to announce its partnership with CCP Games, the creators of the world’s largest living work of science fiction, EVE Online.

CCP is a leading video game developer, founded in 1997 in Reykjavik, Iceland. CCP’s mission is to create virtual worlds that are more meaningful than real life. CCP pioneers technology and design that facilitates emergent behavior, empowering people with compelling means of self-expression. With the launch of EVE Online in May 2003, CCP established itself as one of the most innovative companies in the interactive entertainment industry, winning numerous awards and receiving critical acclaim worldwide.

EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) science-fiction game of galactic proportions, in which space flight is the path to all commerce, communication, and conflict. Set in the star cluster of New Eden tens of thousands of years in the future, in EVE Online every pilot’s greatest asset is their starship, designed to accommodate their specific needs, skills, and ambitions. Featuring a vast player-run economy, EVE Online offers an immersive, community-driven experience filled with adventure, riches, danger, and glory. EVE Online is renowned for its scale, complexity, and its gigantic, world record-breaking in-game battles where thousands of players come head to head in a single star system.

“We are excited to be a partner of CCP Games and share in their mission to create immersive virtual worlds” – comments Denis Larkin, Chief Commercial Officer at Sperasoft – “Our experienced team of developers is focused on delivering cutting edge solutions for our client and gameplay innovations for their fans.“

“We’re delighted to be working with Sperasoft on our unannounced online shooter set in the EVE IP,” said Allen Edwards, Game Director at CCP Games’ London studio. “Together, we’re looking forward to delivering a rock-solid, action-oriented gameplay experience with stunningly beautiful worlds.”

The first details about this currently unannounced title will be revealed via www.ccpgames.com/news in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, follow @CCPGames on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Those are some fine words, with a promise to get some more information in the “not-too-distant” future, and not much else.  I am going to guess that puts it in a time frame beyond “soon,” which itself is an unknowable and possibly quite long unit of time.

Sperasoft’s page shows quite a bit of collaboration with some big name studios and titles.  But the services they offer appear to be geared towards outsource coding and platform porting, with some live game ops thrown in.  So while they have had a hand in on titles from Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed to DC Universe Online and Free Realms… seriously, they have the old Sony Online Entertainment logo on their brag page, a couple spots over from Trion Worlds… it isn’t clear what they specifically did for any of them or if they have ever stood up a game on their own.

Still, they clearly have success, undefined though it may be, under their belt.  So they could potentially be a big help to CCP’s shooter ambitions on the technical front.

What they probably cannot help with is finding a compelling reason for an EVE Online shooter to exist.  New Eden can be a deep, dark IP, full of lore.  But the reach of that lore is pretty small.  EVE Online is a successful beyond niche status game in the MMORPG genre, but the MMORPG market is very much niche in the grand scheme of things.

We will have to wait and see if CCP and Sperasoft can come up with some way for a New Eden shooter to stand out in the crowd of shooters that currently clutter the market.

EVE Online Blazes a New Trail with UI Only Mode

Proving once again that EVE Online is different from most MMORPG’s, CCP announced on the forums on Friday that they had put a new “UI Only” mode option on the test server.

Just to be clear, what this option does is allow players to turn off the 3D rendered EVE Online universe and operate with just the UI elements.  This is the opposite of the “hide UI” option that any game worth its salt has.

You get the overview and chat channels and inventory and controls and brackets and pretty much everything except the pretty view of space and all the ships that occupy it.  You get to be under the hood, go instruments only, fly the overview.

Instead of this:

Space and structures in the view

You get this:

Keep your pretty pictures, I just want the data

I cannot think of another MMORPG where this would not only be a viable feature, but kind of a big deal.  I know people who are stoked for this feature to come into the game.

Because, when you’re in one of those grinding null sec battles with thousands of objects on grid with you and you turn on the in-game system monitor and see how much RAM the client is gobbling up and how hard you are pushing your GPU, having the option to let go of a significant amount of processing the client need to do can be a big win, especially if you’re in with multiple clients.

This will be a boon when it gets pushed to the live client.

Of course, it won’t do anything to help with the underlying problem of the servers struggling to handle those big fights with thousands of objects on grid.  Time dilation will still suck and the server will eventually get way behind, stop responding, or just fall over if too many people land on it.  But your GPU won’t be melting as well, and your system will have resources to keep streaming Netflix or play the other game you have going while you wait for your doomsday to cycle.

Control-shift-F9 will be your new friend.

(Unless you’re like me and out there to take screen shots.)

New Eden Bot Bash in Yulai

It is currently GM Week in EVE Online, where some of the staff come out and mix with the players and run special events.  There is a list of things going on this week.

GM Week 2020 – Times are in UTC… and should be 17:00 if we’re going to be EVE Online

The best item on the list… my opinion… is the whack-a-bot.  It takes place in Yulai at the graveyard beacon… you can read about the Yulai Graveyard here… where CCP teleports in ships of people they have confirmed are botting, flag them as suspects, and lets everybody shoot them.

This has become a popular event since it started, so when I took a break from work to slip over in an interceptor to take a peek, I wasn’t surprised to find a crowd in system and time dilation kicking in.

Ships hanging out waiting

In the middle of all of that were several Praxis battleships… there is one in the top middle of the screen shot above… and they started using smart bombs… area of effect weapons… in the crowd.  Smaller ships started blowing up right away.

The scene now lit by explosions

I was in the midst of this and was taking a bunch of damage.  Looking at what I had fit, I decided to set off the burst jammer just to hit back and maybe get on their kill mails.

Being in high sec space, this was a bad idea.  I was now a suspect as well.  And, while one of the Praxis pilots got the kill mail, 40% of the damage to me was done by CONCORD.

Somehow I managed to get my pod out of the scrum and docked up in the nearest station.  I clicked the “Board my Corvette” button… I still don’t like it, but I know what it does… and undocked, ignoring the warning… the warning that I still had a timer and would be shot if I undocked… which promptly happened.

I had that and a bunch of kill rights on my character.  It was time to log them off and try somebody else.

I grabbed an Alpha Clone character I had in Jita who happened to be in a Tristan.  That seemed good enough, so I took the direct route to Yulai, eleven jumps including a few through low sec, and made it to my destination.

Along the way I set up an overview for just capital ships.  Being in high sec meant that my usual settings, which show everybody not blue, meant that the overview was pages long since most everybody on grid was neutral.  People from null sec often get a little freaked out when they wind up in high sec space again.

Being a little more wary on my arrival, I warped to the graveyard beacon at 30km.

I had missed the early bots, the carriers and the rorquals, but I was there in time for a pair of super carriers, a Nyx and a Hel.  The Nyx was the closer of the two, those still outside of my 48km lock range, so I started to motor in that direction to join in on the kill.

Nyx under fire

Fortunately my Tristan has an eclectic fit.  Generally a drone boat, I had fit guns and a target painter to it at some point.  The target painter was key.  The guns were short range and drones can be slow and vulnerable to smart bombs… you can see a Praxis still in the Nyx screen shot… but a target painter can reach out as far as you can lock a target and counts and ewar, so gets you on the kill mail.

So I happily painted the Nyx as I turned to get in range of the Hel.  The Nyx was not long for this world.

The Nyx begins to brew up

I got within range of the Hel and put my target painted on it, then decided I could spare a drone, so sent one of mine out to do some damage as well.

The Hel getting Hell

The Hel was not long for this world either, but even as it started to come apart, the grand finale appeared on grid with us, to Avatar titans.

Hel in the center, flanked by Avatars

This was what everybody wanted, to be on a titan kill.  After nearly nine years in null sec I have only been on 11 titan kills, seven of them at B-R5RB and another four at Asher’s trap in Okegaiken during the Casino War.  That is just two opportunities over all that time.  So everybody was keen to get on these two.

A sky full of beams

And the show go even better.  They may have both been botters, but one of the Avatar pilots was at least close by his keyboard and realized what was going on.  If he was going to lose his Avatar, he was at least going to get on a titan kill mail while he was there, so he unleashed his doomsday on his fellow victim.

The doomsday hits!

You have to give them points for style and putting on a show as everybody got to see the new Avatar doomsday effect.  (I got to see it on the test server back in April, but it is still pretty cool.)

But the masses were wearing them both down.  First one Avatar exploded. (The doomsday got the other one top damage.)

End of a titan

Then the other one gave up and started to explode as well.

My Tristan flies by as somebody shoots fireworks

And that was the end of the show.  It was some fun, and I am sure some people got to see a few ships they hadn’t run into before… on the field as well as among the botters.

While I had the UI off for a lot of the time, I spotted local getting into the 1,800 player range, which meant that time dilation was in effect for much of the event.  The game slowing down drew a lot of complaints in local chat, which I found pretty amusing.  CCP even posted the CPU usage chart for the event.

A lot of load there

For a big null sec battle, like the fleet fight we had on Sunday or any of the contested Keepstar timers in Fountain, this was nothing.  A mere slow down of the game.  The UI was still responsive and I didn’t feel the need to open up the command queue to see how long it was taking for things to get through.  So my own reaction to local was:

Time dilation is around our necks in every fight in null sec

But if you’ve never been in a null sec fight, I guess this might have seemed pretty bad.

So now I have an Alpha Clone character that I almost never use with two titan kills under their belt.  Oh, and my first alt, the one who got smart bombed and then set off the ECM burst, they will have to stay docked up for a while.  That burst jammer lit up enough people that my alt earned a page full of kill rights against them.  I’ll just have to wait the 30 days for those to expire.

Others at the event: