Tag Archives: CCP

Expecting Too Much from New Eden

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

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

First known occurrence of “EVE is Dying”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is not the way of the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others on the Chaos Era:

Friday Bullet Points NOT About WoW Classic

I have been all about WoW Classic for a stretch now.  The run up to the launch, less than two weeks ago still, probably made that seem even longer.  But other things have been going on, a few of which I want to note in passing, which gets us to another Friday Bullet Points post.

  • Fallen Earth Falling

I had to dig around a bit to find anything here about Fallen Earth.  I have some very vague recollections in the back of my brain and some references in a post to playing in the beta just before the launch.  I also recall it going free to play at some point, but that happened to almost every MMO at some point between 2009 and now, didn’t it?

Since I paid so little attention to it over the years since then, you might have been able to convince me that it had already shut down.  But it hasn’t, though it is planning to.  The CEO put out a message in the forums that the state of the game was such that they plan to bring the game down come October 2, 2019.  There is hope that the downtime will allow the team to repair the game so as to bring it back at an unspecified future date.  We shall see if it returns from the dead or succumbs to the apocalypse.  Hell of a way to celebrate a decade online though.

  • LOTRO Legendary Carries On

Late last year my nostalgia obsession was the LOTRO Legendary, a fresh start experience from Standing Stone Games.  While very low effort when compared to WoW Classic, it too had queues, problems it had to patch, and ended up having to double its server count, though here it meant going from one to two servers.

A legend in its own something or other

I was enamored with it through the original content, but fell off the nostalgia wagon somewhere in the depths of Moria.  Not the first time that has happened to me.  But it carries on without me, having announced this week that the Rise of Isengard expansion has been unlocked on Anor and Ithil servers.

  • Homeworld 3 is Coming

In the pantheon of classic RTS games Homeworld and Homeworld 2 stand out as high points in the space based branch of the genre.  I never played either, but I swear every time half a dozen Naglfar’s undock in EVE Online somebody brings up the game as they look like a ship from it. (Some Nags shooting a Nyx for reference.)

In the everything old is new again way of video games these days, both titles have seen a remastered to bring them up to current standards.  But that isn’t enough.

Gearbox Publishing is working on Homeworld 3, which includes a crowdfunding campaign.  And, as down as I am on video game crowdfunding at this point, this looks to be of the better of the breed, being for a game that is mostly done… and which isn’t an MMO.  They asked for a dollar as a minimum and are now through the $600K mark.  It is basically a pre-order mechanism that lets you buy your way into possibly influencing the game some.  The game will ship and we’ll get a crack at it… and they haven’t announced it is an Epic Store exclusive or anything… this just allows you to get some special things early if you simply cannot contain yourself.  There is also an investment option if you care to drop $500 on the game and think it will do well.

There is also a trailer for the game up now as well.

  • Google Stadia is Coming to Fail

Google Stadia is still coming, being due out at some point in November, no doubt timed for the holiday shopping season.  It still isn’t for me, but the question is starting to become who is it really for?

Over at Gamasutra there is a blog post exploring that very question with the optimistic title Google Stadia Will Fail at Launch – Here is Why.  It brings up some of the initial questions about the service and then piles on a few more.  I suppose we’ll see when it launches.

  • EVE Echoes Alpha

Word is out that the alpha for the CCP/NetEase joint venture mobile game based on EVE Online has begun.  The progress toward alpha was announced early in August and it sounds like it kicked off on the 26th of last month.  Something else in the shade of WoW Classic.

From the sound of things, the functionality is quite limited, with docking and undocking, flying about, and simple combat being the focus of the test.

Image from a Reddit post about the alpha.

You have to create a solid foundation on which to build, so a simple start seems reasonable.  If you are interested in being part of the testing you can still sign up on the EVE Echoes site.

  • Origin Sells Out

Over at the Digital Antiquarian this week there is a post up about the acquisition of Origin Systems, the company founded by Richard “Lord British” Garriott, by Electronic Arts.

Rightly called Origin Sells Out, it is another in the line of tales I put under the heading of “The Madness of Lord British.”  He tried to work with EA, pulled out of that agreement, vilified EA for years, then sold the company to them for a boat load of cash.  The story covers the immediate impact of the sale, which wasn’t all bad, but which saw the Origin change and sets up for follow on posts about some titles that came out later.  Worth a read as a piece of video games history.

Top Five MMORPG Stories I am still Waiting for in 2019

We are here in the final third of 2019, just four months left to go in the year and it has been a blur so far.  Everything has gone by too fast… except for those last two weeks before WoW Classic, which seemed painfully slow.

But there are still some new stories I am waiting for to pop up, things I feel certain we’ll hear about between now and the end of the year.

So I put together a list of five such news stories that I will be watching for between now and New Years Eve, and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get them all.  These are, of course, steered by my own interests.  Your mileage may vary.

1 – Blizzard – WoW Classic Plans

Less than a week ago Blizzard let WoW Classic out into the wild and suddenly the retro sound track of life started playing Oops!… I Did It Again as the WoW team once again unleashed an uncontrollable juggernaut into the MMO scene.  2004 all over again, and Blizz will be some time getting it under control.

But with that much positive feedback on WoW Classic, including the stock price getting a bump, they cannot possibly leave things as they are.  They have to announce a plan for future retro operations.  They have hinted at various things, but the board of directors will want the ongoing stock boost that will come with an announced path forward.  It can be more fresh WoW Classic servers in a year.  It can be plans for The Burning Crusade.  It can be a tech breakthrough to eliminate queues.  But they have to announce something.  If there isn’t a whole session about this at BlizzCon 2019 I will be disappointed.

2 – Daybreak – The Breakup

Part of my New Year’s Predictions for 2019, we have been getting hints about Daybreak becoming multiple studios with Darkpaw Games and Twitter accounts for a while now.  Somebody has to be buying some or all of the place.  At some point… probably on a Friday afternoon after 3pm Pacific Time if I know Daybreak… they are going to have to spill some news on this and give us something in a press release.  Waiting for that Friday afternoon.  My vested interest here is to end up with a company that is focused on the EverQuest property that won’t be distracted by, or need to bear the burden of, fruitless attempts to make battle royale a thing again at Daybreak.

My current tinfoil hat theory is that CCP moving EVE Vegas to San Diego for 2020 along with the EverQuest team putting out a questionnaire about a possible player event in 2020 adds up to Pearl Abyss buying some, if not all, of Daybreak.  Maybe they want PlanetSide Arena as well, or maybe the don’t.  We’ll see.  The odd part about this crackpot theory of mine… other people have written more about it than I have.

3 – CCP – New Player Experience

CCP has been fretting about new player retention… again.  Despite the fact that their numbers seem to land pretty solidly within the industry norms, they want to do better.  An admirable goal, for sure, and they have declared that they are pulling resources from other projects to work on this.

The problem is… well… have you played EVE Online?  Nothing short of a complete revamp of the UI is going to make it more comprehensible.  And it is still an 16 year old MMO, a market position where a 2% new user retention rate is considered viable.  So I am waiting patiently for CCP to announce their plan to tackle this issue mostly so I can either be amazed or point and laugh.  I expect to do the latter.

4 – CCP – The Golden Parachute Escape

It was a little less than a year ago that the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP closed.  That included a series of performance goal to meet in order for CCP and its investors to get the full $425 million.  I expect that once the first anniversary of the acquisition hits in October we will see a quick exit by some of the vested CCP honchos, with Hilmar leading the pack.  I would buy into his statements about how he loves to interact with EVE Online players a lot more if he didn’t already have a foot out the door on his way to a new venture.

So the news I am waiting for concerns the disingenuous rats deserting the ship.  After that maybe somebody will have a better plan than chaos and pitting various player groups against each other in order to improve EVE Online.

5 – Blizzard – New Games

I had a bunch of possible items for fifth spot, all of them Blizzard related.  For example, what ever became of Diablo Immortal?  NetEase says it is done.

If nothing else, I have the core of a BlizzCon projection post already set.

But on that list, the easy first item was to hear about new games that Blizz has been hinting about.  And not an old new game.  Not Diablo IV.  But a new new game.  Blizz has found success in the past making new versions of the games the main developers have enjoyed.  This has been somewhat diluted by the growth of the company.  It is no longer a bunch of people who enjoyed raiding in EQ so they decided to make WoW, but I still want to see what they have going.

EVE Aether Wars Round Two Event

Back in March we had the first EVE Aether Wars tech demo when CCP and Hadean got together during GDC to try and get a bunch of players into one big space battle and maybe set a world record.

Things learned from that went into round two, which went off yesterday.

For the second run the event grew somewhat in sophistication.  Previously players just logged in, were given a ship, and spent their time spewing missiles at each other.  This time there was an objective beyond explosions.

The setup

We were also given a selection of ship types this time around as well.  There was the Worm frigate:

The Worm

The Gila cruiser:

Gila Description

And the Rattlesnake battleship:

Rattlesnake description

In EVE Online all three of these hulls are focused on drone combat, but in the tech demo things were more simple.  As the control scheme shows, the combat was much more dogfight oriented than the EVE Online “lock and shoot” method.

The control scheme for the event

One thing missing from the controls was the fire button.  Unlike last time, where much time was spent pounding a button to spew missiles.  I only noticed that once had locked some people up that there was no way to shoot.

Early in the fight

I quickly figured out that the your ship fired automatically, launching missiles at a fixed rate.  They appears on screen marked with red triangles.

It took me longer to figure out where to find the zero point condensate, or ZPC, which was the scoring focus of the event.  I flew around for quite a bit before spotting a black cloud in space.  That a bunch of people were flying around it was the give-away.

Go to the cloud to harvest

I flew into the melee to collect some ZPC.  As it turned out, despite what the ship descriptions said, if you were blown up you lost your whole cargo load, so when I went boom I came back empty.

I tried the different ships.  The Rattlesnake was a popular hull, I saw a lot of them.  However, despite having a lot of hit points it was also slow and something of a missile magnet, being easy to spot and close in on with smaller ships.

Out with the Rattle

The Gila was better, and probably the best compromise.  But I ended up favoring the Worm just to be able to zip in and out of places and to chase down targets.  At one point I spotted a Gila glowing with a golden aura.  Figuring that was a sign, I went after it and, after a long chance blew it up.  The golden highlight was a sign that they were carrying a bunch of ZPC, so I went from zero to 31K pretty quickly.

Suddenly rich in ZPC

I did figure out that you could exit the game and come back in a fresh ship if you were in need of repairs without losing your ZPC.  However, I wasn’t going to play it safe and hide with my little stash and went looking for more golden tinted ships.  Unfortunately I was also likely highlighted with a golden tone, though it did not show at my end, so quickly became a target as well, losing all my ZPC.  Easy come, easy go.

One of the goals, as with the last event, was to try and set a Guinness Books world record, which would have required them to get somewhere around 10K people into the battle.  Mid way through the test they announced that there were over 3,000 of us battling.

Over 3K battling they said

At that point they were going to load up some AI ships in order to push the load levels.

Send in the clones

Once again, they fell far short of a record.

The summary from Hadean at the end put the total just under 3K players involved.  Still, with us and the AI they said they got new data to evaluate from the test, which was the point of it all.

Unlike last time, it wasn’t obvious to me when they added AI pilots to the event.  People were able to spread out in the dark Abyssal Deadspace environment chosen for the battle.

That dead Leviathan was just scenery

The event wrapped rather promptly an hour after the announced start.  At the client end this wasn’t immediately apparent as the server going down didn’t kick people out.  You just ended up flying around in space by yourself.

The final scores showed some people managed to scoop up a lot more ZPC than I ever managed.

Who got the ZPC?

As for how the whole thing ran, it did not seem to tax my system very much.  But the whole thing seemed designed to keep from doing so.  Unlike the missile spam of the last attempt, which dragged down the frame rate on my system, there were never more than a couple dozen ships or missiles on my screen at any time.  Maybe we were all too spread out or maybe the client was set to only draw so many objects before stopping.

Communication was also spotty.  You had to be on the Discord for the event to know what was going on, and even then there were times when they should have mentioned things in the Announcements channel rather than dumping info into the public channel where it often scrolled off quickly.

Overall, from my side, it was a Sunday morning distraction.  There wasn’t a lot to it, though it was built as a test not a game, so that is to be expected.

CCP promised us prizes, but I haven’t seen any follow up on that.  Everybody who joined in is supposed to get some SKINs for the effort and somebody is supposed to win a paid trip to this year’s EVE Vegas.  I’m sure we’ll hear about that soon, as EVE Vegas is just over two months away.

Other post event reports:

Addendum:  Hadean released an infographic for the event.

Aether Wars Phase Two Reults

 

EVE Echoes Alpha Announced

It has been a while since we heard about anything besides EVE Online out of CCP, but they appear to be still working on other titles.  Today CCP announced the sign up for the EVE Echoes alpha.

EVE Echoes Alpha

First show to us somewhat by accident as part of the Apple ARKkit 2 at WWDC as EVE: Project Galaxy, the game was  formally unveiled last year as EVE Echoes.

EVE Echoes is the latest iteration of CCP’s attempt to create a mobile game based on the EVE Online universe and is being created in conjunction with NetEase, the company also working with Blizzard on the missing-since-BlizzCon title Diablo Immortal.

CCP previously demoed an EVE Online based mobile game made in conjunction with PlayRaven (now a subsidiary of Rovio of Angry Birds fame) at EVE Vegas a couple of years back under the name Project Aurora.  This was alleged to have become EVE: War of Ascension, but we haven’t heard much about it since. (Googling the title seems to suggest it was released for iOS and Andriod in some regions, but I couldn’t say for sure.  It does not appear on the CCP site anywhere.  Maybe the Rovio acquisition complicated things.)

Anyway, if a mobile version of the EVE Online experience appeals to you, you can sign up for the Alpha at the EVE Echoes site.

Being invited to the Alpha will mean keeping things quiet according to the sign up.

How hard core is hardcore?

So if you’re doing this for a blog post or stream event, you might have to sit on your hands for a bit.  CCP will want to let the gaming news sites have first bite at the publicity before the plebes can start gushing and/or complaining about the new game.

Other coverage:

 

Planned VNI Nerf Hits By Surprise

Back in June at EVE North one of the things that CCP announced that they had in the works was a planned nerf of the Vexor Navy Issue, the ubiquitous ratting ride across all of null sec.  Nosy Gamer has a summary of CCP’s EVE North statements.

The Glacial Drift SKIN on a VNI

A dev blog followed that up up last week with more details as to how the VNI problem would be addressed.

The problem itself is that a single hull had become generally accepted as the right answer for null sec anomaly ratting to the point that it is rare to see anything else.  The hull was also usable by Alpha clones, meaning that disposable accounts could be used to snuffle up ratting ISK, and if the account was run by a bot, caught and banned, the perpetrator could just roll up a new account and start over.

The approach to taking on the VNI scourge was two-fold.

First, to change the VNI to make it more of a railgun platform by adding in bonuses for that while reducing the drone control bandwidth so it couldn’t field the full flight of heavy drones it had before.

Second, to reduce drone skills available to Alpha clones so that it is more difficult to AFK rat with drones.  Those changes were:

  • Reducing Heavy Drone Operation from level IV to level III
  • Reducing Medium Drone Operation from level V to level IV
  • Reducing Drone Interfacing from level IV to level III

The VNI would remain a decent ship, just not for unattended ratting, and especially not for Alpha clones.

That was what was under discussion per the dev blog, which came out last week.  However, people logged in today to find that the VNI and Alpha clone changes had been applied without much in the way of notice.  The update was appended to the June release patch notes.

This move was unexpected for two reasons.

First, CCP generally saves these sorts of changes for monthly updates.  They get announced, mulled over in the forums for a couple of weeks, get a final dev blog, and become part of the release.  They generally don’t just show up randomly on a Thursday unannounced.

Second, there was a feeling that that CCP wouldn’t bother with the VNI nerf until the local channel blackout in null sec had run for a while.  Part of the appeal of the blackout to many in null sec was going out and blowing up VNIs.  Why make them even more scarce when they are such appealing targets?

But there we go.  The nerf hit today and people were surprised.  CCP moves in mysterious was.  I heard that earlier today CCP Falcon blew off a scheduled meeting with CSM9.

CCP Clarifies the Skill Point Killing Spree Event

Last week, when CCP announced the Season of Skills event, I lifted their copy directly and trimmed it some for brevity and clarity, which are often the same thing.  I also changed “skill points” from being capitalized, because the world doesn’t need that.  But what they said at the time about phase two of the event, the Killing Spree, was:

Answer CONCORD’s call to arms and fight the Triglavians by gaining as many Skill Points as you can during Skilling Spree between 24 July and 21 August for destroying NPCs! Get rewards ranging from 10,000 Skill Points for one kill, to the rarer 50,000 Skill Points for more kills per challenge. Then, use those Skill Points to train essential skills for piloting bigger, better ships with advanced weaponry.

That strongly implied, to my mind, that players would be required to get out and shoot Triglavians in the invasion sites that have been popping up around high sec.  That has since been clarified on the event page to read (emphasis mine):

Answer CONCORD’s call to arms by fighting the Triglavians and various other foes. Gain as many Skill Points as you can during the Skilling Spree between 24 July and 21 August for destroying any NPC in New Eden! Get rewards ranging from 10,000 Skill Points for one kill, to the rarer 50,000 Skill Points for more kills per challenge. Then, use those Skill Points to train essential skills for piloting bigger, better ships with advanced weaponry.

This hearkens back to a past experiment where CCP gave us skill points if only we would login, undock, and shoot an NPC.  That was the “recurring opportunities” thing that they introduced a little over three years back.  It lasted for about a month, after which they decided that the “thrill of the hunt” was not thrilling enough and pulled it.

So now this event will give us skill points if only we will login… and undock… and shoot an NPC.   Or some NPCs.  Everything old is new again.

… to kill some NPCs once a day for about a month

Only this time there is random factor involved, as your daily task will reward 10K, 25K, or 50K skill points.  Depending on how much the random number generator likes you, you could earn between 280K and 1,400K skill points.  It also lines up to how many NPCs you need to blow up, 1, 5 or 10.

Who said gambling was dead in New Eden?

Only 10K for my alpha clone

On the plus side, this isn’t a big hurdle to clear for some skill points.  And the skill point totals are about the right size to be worthwhile to a newer player.  If I were starting out… or was an Alpha clone already at the 5 million skill point cap… I would be logging in every day to shoot something.

On the down side… well… the forum thread about this event doesn’t seemed thrilled about the random nature of rewards and there is definitely a vibe in there about the value of skill points to players when CCP seems intent on handing them out regularly. (Bonus points for the new player who suggests revamping the skill point system so players upgrade skills by using them.  I think every new player goes through that phase.  I know I did.  I am pretty sure I did a post about it as well back in 2008 or so.)

Also, it doesn’t really tie into the Triglavian event.  I guess it doesn’t have to, but when you open up with something about “fighting the Triglavians” in your first sentence, some might consider it a bit of an out to basically add “or any other NPC you happen to run across.”

For example, he’ll do

Not that I am a fan of the Triglavian invasion event.  I logged in a high sec alt to give it a try, went where The Agency told me, and… nothing.  I don’t know if that system was cleared already, if I needed to do something, or even if I was setup correctly to see the Triglavians.  I am willing to bet they are off in your overview by default.  And The Agency was mute on anything beyond location, so I flew back home and did something else.

Anyway, people will complain about anything and everything if given the chance, myself included, but some will appreciate the extra skill points in whatever quantity they arrive.

The kick-off announcement for this part of the Season of Skill Points can be found here.