Tag Archives: CCP

Tales from New Eden – The Ghost Training GDC Presentation

Back at GDC 2018 up in San Francisco, CCP gave a presentation about the “ghost training” exploit that was introduced into EVE Online with free to play.  At the time this got some coverage, including over at Massively OP.  But to actually see the talk you had to be there or pay for access to the GDC recorded archives.

However, the GDC organizers post older presentations to their YouTube channel on a regular basis, and this session was posted in December so we are all free to watch it.

 

The presentation is just under an hour and opens with a few minutes of describing EVE Online before getting to the exploit.  It then unfolds with what the problem was and how CCP went to address it.

Interesting, and relatable to anybody in enterprise software, is how critical accurate and detailed steps to reproduce are, how unexpected results can come from interactions in complex and often aging systems, how the simple “just do this!” fix may not actually fix the issue (in this case it made things worse), and how assumptions about players/customers need to be validated.  That latter was especially important as the mood was “ban them all” both inside and outside of CCP because it was assumed this was primarily and deliberately being exploited by skill farm operators.

Some people were still banned, but the lighter approach the company chose to take meant that a range quite a few people remained customers after having their ghost training gains pointed out to them and given options to correct the situation.  In a game… in a genre… in an industry… where customer retention is vital for ongoing success, this seems like a wise approach.

My Year in EVE Online

CCP did a cool end of year thing in that they produced videos for players that summed up their activities in 2019 in EVE Online.  This ended up with them rendering 214,713 videos for players, links to which they sent out via email.  I had such an email show up right away.

The video opening

The videos follow a set template, as one would expect, only diverging towards the end depending on whether you spent your time mostly doing PvP, PvE, or industry.  You can see my video here.

They allow you to download an .mp4 of your video, so I did that and then uploaded it to YouTube as the server hosting the videos for CCP appeared to be under a lot of stress.  Also, who knows how long they will keep it around.

My stats from the video:

  • 2,381 Jumps
  • 7,771 Warps
  • 812 Systems Visited
  • 245 Market Transactions
  • Most sold item: Scordite
  • 38,266,092 Skill Points Gained
  • On 258 Kill Mails
  • Most Killed Pilot: Logistician4
  • Most Killed by: Kilo181
  • Podded 8 Times

That doesn’t mark me as a stand out in any way, unless you consider that I mostly fly logi.  Getting on 258 kill mails means I am a bad logi pilot, with combat rather than repair drones in my hold.

Some of this is amusing.  My most sold item was Scrodite, which considering I did very little mining in 2019, and none on my main, is odd.

That isn’t even all that much Scordite really

I suspect I found some stashed away in a high sec station and sold it as we were flying by.  I do that on ops that go through high sec, check local stations to see if I have anything sitting then and then try to sell it quickly, before we move out of the region or my order range.

The most killed pilot looks to be an alt that somebody used to drop warp disruption bubbles in Delve.  I was there to help clean that up I guess.

The pilot who was on the more of my kill mails than any other is in Elitist Ops, which was in PanFam when we were mucking around in Geminate and then in Snuffed Out when Liberty Squad when up to play with them.  I only lost 18 ships/pods/deployables in 2019, so he was on four of my kill mails tops.

I was trying to figure out exactly which 9 alts were being counted with Wilhelm.  I certainly have more than 9 characters across multiple accounts.

This being a CCP venture, there was, of course, a dev blog to explain how videos were compiled.  The base criteria to get a video was:

  • Active Omega subscription at some point in 2019.
  • Omega time per email had to be greater than or equal to 30 days, for all users belonging to an email combined. Active playing time per email had to be greater than or equal to 25 hours, for all users and characters belonging to an email combined. That is log on, non-AFK hours.
  • Only valid emails were included, for instance, several Steam users had not verified their emails through our Account Management Site, and these were removed as no emails are associated with their accounts.
  • Stats were not collected for characters deleted this year.
  • Banned users were excluded.
  • Unsubscribed emails were excluded.
  • Players that did not have adequate activity to be categorized were excluded.

That email address seemed to be the key made me go dig through a few other accounts.  Back in the day I used to keep different accounts as isolated as possible, with different email addresses and payment methods.  And, sure enough, my main alt got his own video.

That video is clearly just for the one account.  Sel also had a PvP year.

Then I found another video for an account that I had kept active for cynos.

I think his usage was largely theoretical, given the stats.  I did, however, roll him out for the events where you killed some NPCs to get skill points.  I put him in a Venture and would stick him in a belt on some Veldspar with combat drones out until he zapped enough belt rats.  That explains why he got the industry path for his year.  I’m a surprised he made the minimum level to be counted, but I guess that bar was pretty low.

That totaled up to 15 total mains and alt, which seems about right to me.

As silly as bits of those are… I am a poor representative for these stats… it was pretty neat for CCP to go do this.

If you want to see more such videos, a lot of them were linked on Twitter using the hash tag.

The December Update Brings Gambling and Structure Changes to EVE Online

The December update for EVE Online has gone live after an extended downtime and brings with it an array of changes for New Eden.

Called the “Free Market” release, the headline item for the update is the HyperNet Relay gambling interface that will allow player to pay CCP to allow them to run raffles in the game.

The New Face of Gambling in New Eden

I covered this return to gambling in New Eden in a previous post.  CCP received a lot of feedback on this feature, responded to none of it, and shipped it as announced.  We shall see how it plays out.

There is also a new wallet UI being added with the update.

The New Wallet UI

My enthusiasm for this is fairly small as well.  As usual, being used to one awkward UI makes the next one seem difficult.  I suppose they are trying to get rid of yet another rows and columns grid that helps keep the “spreadsheets in space” theme alive, but I still think they need to fill that senior UX designer position sooner rather than later.

There are also some changes to the player trading interface that is supposed to make what is being traded more obvious by, for example, displaying the type of ship being traded rather than the name the other player has given the item, closing a loophole for some scams.

Also coming with today’s update is another of the Team Talos projects, Kicking over Castles.

Team Talos strikes again

This project has its own dev blog, but in short it is an attempt to address some of the ways that people have been using the mechanics of Upwell Structures to the detriment of the game.  The changes are:

  • Defenders can no longer choose a day of the week for exiting the hull reinforcement cycle. Structures will exit reinforcement at the next available hour of the defenders choosing (+/- 3 hours) after the following durations:
    • Wormhole space: 1.5 days
    • Low and Null security space: 2.5 days
    • High security space: 4.5 days
  • Updated vulnerability windows now takes 30 days to take effect (instead of 7).
  • In a solar system where the Activity Defense Multiplier is above 4.0 and where an Infrastructure Hub is held by an alliance, pilots that are NOT members of that alliance will be unable to deploy medium Upwell structures (Astrahus, Athanor and Raitaru).
  • The random jitter range on reinforcement exit times is increased from +/- 2 hours to +/- 3 hours.

These changes will give attackers a chance to get a timer that isn’t both mid-week and 180 degrees off their own on time zone as well as keeping down the ability for hostiles to drop staging structures in your home system.

But the biggest change coming as part of this, to my mind at least, is related to Faction Warfare, where the ability to ignore the NPC stations by bringing your own structures has been somewhat game breaking.

New FW Tethering Rules

Basically, if you’re in FW space held by the other faction, you can no longer happily tether up and feel safe on any old structure you come across.

While that falls short of simply not allowing Upwell structures in FW space, which probably should have been the default mode back when they were introduced, it at least makes attackers in FW a little less safe.

Also, the time limit is up on Ansiblex Jump Gate and Tenebrex Cyno Jammer structures that are anchored within 500km of a structure.  Any that have not been moved out of that range will now be offline until they are moved.

Finally, in another blow to fans of Player Owned Starbases, blueprints for many POS modules have been converted to be blueprints for Upwell structure modules.  They are not gone yet, but there isn’t much left of the once mighty POS.

There are also the usual array of minor fixes and adjustments.  These are covered in the patch notes for the December update.  The release has been reported as successfully deployed, so all the changes are there waiting for people to log in.

Gambling Returns to New Eden

I was sitting in bed this morning looking at Twitter on my iPad and saw that CCP had announced something called the HyperNet Relay.  I read through the post, but I was pretty sure I didn’t understand what it was or why anybody would want this, because it sure seemed like gambling, something CCP banned from the game in all forms back in 2016.

The New Face of Gambling in New Eden

Fortunately Twitter was there to help me out as not one but two CSM members responded to my sleep addled inquiries making clear that this was, in fact, a gambling scheme being introduced into EVE Online by CCP.

The CSM had clearly been briefed about the HyperNet Relay by CCP and had given it their approval, because a few of them were out fronting the feature for CCP on a variety of channels.

When explaining HyperNet Relay, the humble raffle seems to be the preferred metaphor.

That is a nice word, raffle, because it gets used by charities and other good causes which get an exception to gambling laws in some jurisdictions when using it as a mechanism for raising funds.  But make no mistake, a raffle is straight up gambling by any definition I have ever read.

So, gambling.  To say it is anything else is just a lie.

Basically, it sounds like CCP plans to let players set up their own raffles.  The player running the raffle basically buys the permit and the tickets from CCP through the New Eden Store with PLEX, the cash shop currency, and then lists their item.  Players then buy the tickets with ISK.  When all the tickets have been sold, RNG picks the winner.  Everybody else who bought a ticket is out the ISK they spent.

Checking in on the test server, where HyperNet Relay is now live, the tips for what it is show the usual level of CCP clarity…

How to gamble… I mean raffle… I mean HyperNet!

That gets you to the offers window, which has some sample raffles.

Welcome to wealth creation… not your wealth, but somebody’s

As far as bidding goes, the interface seems similar to a mob numbers racket, where you pick a ticket from an array.

Which one is the luck one?

On the creation side, once you get a HyperCore (this terminology has to be an attempt to stay as far away from gambling terms as possible) you drag an item into the interface and set the parameters of the raffle.

Time to generate wealth!

You can set the number of tickets in your raffle… erm, HyperNodes in your… raffle… which can be between 8 and 512, the price per ticket… node… whatever, or the total amount you want to make, which will set the per ticket price.

Looking at some of the raffles people have created, there is still some fuzziness on the idea.  I saw a Nyx listed with the per ticket price about the same as the price of a brand new, fully fit Nyx… only there were 48 tickets, so somebody wanted to sell for 48x the market price.

And, just looking at this, I can see how it will facilitate RMT ISK sales.

CCP’s justification, aside from the usual claim of gambling being fun and enjoyable, is that this will allow players to obtain otherwise very expensive items like rare officer modules without having to blow their budget.  Again, as always with gambling, the emphasis is put on the benefit of the lone winner and not the losses incurred by the losers.

Leaving aside the high ground CCP claimed when they banned gambling previously, I spent some time at EVE Vegas watching CCP Larrikin do his presentation which dwelt for quite a bit on income inequality in New Eden.  You can watch it here if you like.  As with the real world, no matter what happens, the rich seem to get richer.

And HyperNet Relay will be no different.  Despite claims about ISK velocity and redistribution of assets, this will simply make the rich even more wealthy.  Who has these rare and valuable items in their hangars?  Who has the ISK to buy PLEX in order to get their HyperNet Relay Gambling Kit from the New Eden store without spending any real world cash?  And who will collect the ISK from these raffles, where the combined value of all the tickets will more then compensate for the price of the HyperNet Relay and the value of the item being raffled off?

And, on the flip side, who has to use real world cash to buy PLEX to  get ISK?  And who cannot afford these expensive items?  And who will lose their ISK far more often than not?

Same shit, different day.

But it is already live on the test server, which means CCP is committed and the CSM has been briefed and approved of the plan.  The expected go live date is December 10, 2019.

CCP is still eliciting feedback in a comment thread on the forums.  The tide there is running very much against the idea.  But this is an obvious money maker, so I’ll be interested to see if the usual claim that “your voice matters” will ring hollow yet again.  On Reddit things are even more brutal.

And all of this is being dropped into an environment where legislators in various countries are eyeing gambling in video games ever more closely.  At least lock boxes have the fig leaf of everybody getting some prize out of them as cover.  I thought CCP was being smart back in 2016, covering themselves from possible legal trouble.  Now we have this.  We’ll see if EVE Online has a high enough profile to get called out for this.

No matter what, I suspect that this story will run for a while.

Other reactions:

 

EVE Aether Wars is Returning via Steam

CCP and Hadean are back and eyeing another attempt at a world record as they test technology to enable huge multiplayer spaceships battles beyond the scale of what EVE Online has managed so far.

Aether Wars Tech Demo

I am still not sure about their plan to get to that world record number, surpassing an actual EVE Online in-game battle, the Keepstar battle at 9-4RP2 (the “million dollar battle“), which saw 6,142 players involved and was recognized for a Guinness world record.

The first attempt fell well short and the second run to surpass that number only got about half way to the goal.  But they are giving it another shot and they have some new ideas.

The first idea is to get people involved by doing two preliminary runs before they go for the record.  So the events will be:

  • Public Stress Test 1 Sat 9 Nov 2019 19:00 UTC
  • Public Stress Test 2 Sat 16 Nov 2019 19:00 UTC
  • World Record Attempt Sat 23 Nov 2019 20:00 UTC

That is basically the next three Saturdays.

The second idea is to put the whole thing on Steam.  So if you want to join in there is a page up on Steam for the EVE Aetherwars Tech Demo.

Being on Steam will make it easier for people to grab the client and get it launched and logged in for the events.  However, Steam could also be another barrier as well.  Just try finding it on Steam if you don’t know it is there for example. (I found that searching on “Hadean” was a reliable way to get to it.)

CCP published a blog update on the plans the goes into detail as to what they have in mind.  We shall see if they can hit their goal this time.

CCP Falcon Leaves CCP

Over on Reddit there was a “Where is CCP Falcon?” thread a week or so back.  He seemed to have gone very quiet.  CCP Dopamine had been handling a the web site updates since mid-October and at EVE Vegas he was the community team person speaking while CCP Falcon was nowhere to be seen, an unusual turn of events.

CCP Falcon and I at EVE Vegas 2018

Today on Twitter the new broke when he announced the following from his now no longer “CCP Falcon” account:

After 7 amazing years at CCPGames it’s time for me to dock my Polaris Enigma Frigate and set off in search of a new adventure in the universe. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to serve such an incredible, dedicated and passionate community.

For the last 17 years – 7 of those as a CCPer – EveOnline has defined my life, shaping me as a person and revealing strengths I didn’t know I had. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone I’ve worked with, talked spaceships with, flown with and against.

No idea what’s next, but I’ll always be capsuleer and I’ll always be around for those who wanna chat – although my twitter handle will be changing soon.  I’ll leave you all with the incredibly talented and

Fly safe.

– Falcon, Out.

Community management positions are often volatile and turn over is common.  Any number of seemingly popular community managers have been shed from various MMOs over the years.  And CCP has gutted its own community team in the past.  When it comes time to cut head count people who do not write code can find themselves to be disposable in the eyes of the company.

There were no reasons given for CCP Falcon’s departure.

CCP Falcon will be missed by some, no doubt.  While not as popular as CCP Guard, his pugnacious style did appeal to some even if it put others off.

CCP Falcon and CCP Guard back in the day

Certainly his vision of what EVE Online ought to be like, from that TiS interview earlier this year, did not endear him to many, and having a hand in mis-managing of the CSM, including the “No Sions” rule, which put the whole thing in crisis and led to him and CCP Leeloo being shifted to other duties, no doubt left stains on his record with the company.

On the flip side, you were rarely in doubt as to where you stood with CCP Falcon.  He wasn’t one to sugar coat an answer or be mealy mouthed in a response.  You might have wished he would have softened a blow now and then, but you always had your a direct response.  And he pissed off Gevlon, showing what a thin skinned troll he really was.  You have to give him that.

And so it goes.  Seven years is an enviable duration for a community management position.  The only real question is how he put up with us for so long.

EVE Online Gets a Very Small November Update

With Team Talos working to its own every other week plan, as brought up during EVE Vegas, an expansion likely on the way for December, and other projects being more long term, the November update for EVE Online is about as small as any update for the game I have ever seen.

Velator rookie ships as the patch theme

I will copy and paste the patch notes in their entirety.

Patch Notes For November 2019 – 2019-11-05

Released On Tuesday, November 5th 2019

New Player Experience:

  • A portion of new capsuleers will start experiencing a preliminary version of a login campaign, complete with minor rewards.

More updates to come as the month rolls on.

That is it.

This update covers something that was brought up in Vegas about CCP’s plans for the tutorial and new player experience.  The goal is to throttle new player attrition, as exemplified by this chart, which was shown at EVE North in Toronto back in June.

How many new players log back in as time passes

At Vegas the presentation about new player retention showed some of the things the had already done to make the tutorial better… and there were some serious “fix the stupid” intems fixed… as well as some of their upcoming plans.  One item on the list was a special login reward campaign for new players.  This campaign is set to offer rewards to encourage new players to log in again the next day.  I do not know what the rewards are, and the tentative nature of the patch note entry leads me to believe that the company is going to tinker with those rewards as time go on, but CCP said they would be useful for new players.

So that is apparently what today’s update brings.

And it seems simple enough that it might work.  I mean, if the game and its UI piss off a new player… which I am sure it does often… it won’t help.  But if somebody is on the fence, the promise of something new might get them to log back in, which gives the game another chance to get the new player engaged.

It remains to be seen if that sort of thing can get a new player out to the 30, 60, or 90 day mark, but if might boost the numbers at the 1 to 7 day end of the scale.