Tag Archives: CCP

CCP and the Elephant in the Room

I’m feeling a bit wrung out on the video game front this week, and it is only Thursday.  We had Daybreak slip in a great subscription deal I had to seriously consider.  There has been the World of Warcraft Legion expansion launch and all the attendant excitement and new things.  And then there has been CCP, which has seemed determined this week to occupy every last free neuron in my brain with its announcements.

First CCP hit us with the dev blog about how fleet boost would be changing with the coming November release.  The boring, old “park your boosting alt in a safe” method is being replaced with an area effect method that will put boosters on grid and in harms way.  This made a lot of people very angry, and you could certainly tell who was invested in the status quo.

Then, yesterday, CCP announced that EVE Online was going free to play.  Sort of.  Certainly, free to play made the headlines, though the plan itself is a lot closer to WoW’s unlimited trial than, say, Rift’s up-until-now, you’re not in Azeroth, everything is free method.  (Trion decided they needed to charge for expansions, which sounds fine for me.)

The free accounts announcement, the Alpha and Omega clone system, seemed to get a favorable response.  The implications of this proposal on the game are huge, and most people seemed to accept that CCP’s first problem was going to be containing the current player base to keep it from abusing the system for their own ends without locking Alpha clones down so much that nobody would want to play them.  It is going to be a balancing act, and only the naive think it will be easy.

This Alpha clone plan will have two big bonuses right away.  First, it will attract lapsed players back to the game, and lapsed players with friends and such in game are likely to resubscribe from time to time if they are allowed constant access.  Second, unless PCU remains stagnent or drops even further, it will have been effectively removed as the favored “EVE is dying” metric… for a while at least.  I expect that the PCU will go up significantly for months after Alpha clones become a thing.

But the real goal of the plan has to be to bring new players, fresh blood and/or meat, to New Eden.  And, on the surface, this seems very likely.  Free is the best price point at which to get people to try your product, and we have seen spikes in the PCU when CCP has free weekends on Steam. (See the weekends of May 6 and August 19 on the EVE Offline new character creation chart.)

Unfortunately, here is what you do not see after those free weekends: Any significant change in the PCU.

This is the elephant in the room,  the long time problem for the game, the failure to convert trial players into paying customers.   Some of you likely remember this chart from the New Player Experience panel at Fanfest 2014. (video here, chart comes up at about the 16 minute mark.)

New Player Trajectory

New Player Trajectory

That chart is actually more grim than it seems.  Half of the players who get through the new player experience and subscribe, cancel and leave the game before their first subscription cycle is up.  40% solo mission for a bit, then leave.  And maybe 10%… that seemed to be the optimum number… found some experience they really liked in the game and stuck around to become a bitter vet.

The thing is, that chart, as noted in the presentation, only talks about people who made it through the trial and the new player experience and decided to subscribe.  I would have to imagine that, were the chart to run from the start of a trial account, the percentages at the end would dwindle to insignificance.

During the previous Steam free weekend, approximately 20,000 new characters were created in the game.  Did the PCU shift by much?  The next weekend was a little better.  It broke the 30K mark, which is back to being the benchmark for a “good” day, literally the same situation the game was in back when I started in 2006.  But there wasn’t anything dramatic after the free weekend, neither in August nor in May.

So it would be tough to call that free weekend a rousing success, at least when looking at the longer term.  CCP threw 20,000 new characters onto the ramparts of the current new player experience in August (and 26,000 back in May), and the NPE held them off.  Solid is the bulwark of the NPE, and it will deflect all but the most determined capsuleer.

Basically, on top of the learning cliff that is EVE Online… or maybe it is at the base of the cliff… damn metaphors… there is a new player experience which is indifferent at best.  As I wrote in the past, it is a toss up as to which kills the game harder for new players.  I lean towards the NPE being more critical.  If you could get people engaged and enthusiastic, they might ask in the help channel or go out of game to figure out the more obscure bits.

I am sympathetic to CCP on the NPE front.  It is easy to sit and yell at them that they need a better one.  But actually creating one, a fun and engaging experience that will draw players into the game, but which isn’t too rigid, and which moves at just the right pace… the right pace for everybody… is a very tall order indeed.

And it isn’t as though CCP hasn’t tried.  The NPE has changed drastically a couple of times since I started the game.  My first experience was guided but flawed back in 2006.  That was replaced by a much more closely guided and mission orientated experience.  And lately, we have the much more free form opportunities, which I watched my daughter struggle through, and during which she asked me the magic question, “How do I warp to something?”  NPE fail.

CCP has even tried to hold classes to educate users directly.

As I said, they have been trying.  We’re just not there yet.

However, at Fanfest earlier this year, as part of the keynote, there was a passionate talk by a new member of the team, CCP Ghost, who gave us a vision of a better NPE. (Video here, CCP Seagull introduces him at about the 52 minute mark.)

My hope is that we are not done with announcements about the it-so-needs-a-good-name November release.  My hope is that CCP has at least one more thing to share with us, something about a vision for an engaging NPE that will retain new players better than the attempts that have gone before.

Because without that, I don’t think the Alpha clone idea will make a big enough of a difference.

I know I will be logging in any unsubscribed accounts I have laying around to start training up alts to their five million skill point cap come the November release.  What would be the downside of that?  I fully expect the Imperium to have an Alpha clone doctrine.  I expect that a lot of current players will take advantage of the Alpha clone idea and that, far from any sort of “filthy casual” response to 5 million SP pilots, they will quickly be accepted as part of the ecosystem and the game will adapt to them.

But unless Alpha clones attract new players, players who become invested in the game and end up subscribing, there won’t be a whole lot of upside for CCP as a business.  And to get there, I think we need the NPE vision that CCP Ghost was trying to describe to us.

Addendum: CCP says that the NPE has not been forgotten as part of their summary of concerns.

CCP Has a Plan for EVE Online Free to Play

Welcome Back Poors!

-Tweety Bird, EVE Online F2P forum thread

I was going to push this off to see how it plays out for a bit, but then I realized tomorrow was a new month and I like to mark events during the month they happen, so here it goes.

My initial reaction

My initial reaction

CCP announced today, via a dev blog, that November’s release, which is clearly going to need some sort of epic name that we can curse at some future date, will include a free to play option for the residents of New Eden.

The basic upshot is that, come the release, there will be two flavors of capsuleers, those with Alpha clones, who are non-subscribers, and Omega clones, who are subscribers.

Nothing will change for Omega clones.  We won’t even get the usual “please subscribe!” in-game cash shop currency bribe.  Instead, focus will be all on the Alpha clones.

Alpha clones will be severely restricted.  There will be a 5 million skill point cap on them and they will only be allowed to train from a specific set of allowed skills, which will be based on the race of the character in question.  So an Alpha clone Amarr will get lasers, a Caldari will get missiles, and a Minmatar will get a roll of tech I duct tape and the usual kick in the ass.

They also won’t be able to extract skill points.  Glad somebody thought of that hole immediately.  Also, no cynos, no cloaking.

This seems to be following the early SOE F2P, which aimed to make free play so limited that anybody who really wanted to play would subscribe just to be done with the rat’s nest of “velvet rope” restrictions.

The thing is, EVE Online is different that a lot of other MMORPGs who have gone the free to play route.  And EVE Online is very much a game where having multiple accounts is a force multiplier.  And the real question of the hour isn’t so much how many new players this will attract to New Eden, but how the current player base will exploit this new method that will effectively allow them to have as many crappy, low skill alts as they want.

The first, and most obvious hole, which even CCP brought up in the dev blog, is suicide ganking.  This will allow players to go nuts on that front.  But even if CCP decides it needs to close that loophole, what else will players do with all those crappy, low skill alts?  Will a couple players being able to put eyes in every system in a region change the game?

I suspect that a lot of this, like simultaneous Alpha clone logins, will be locked down fairly quickly.  But still, having an alt hanging out in any system where you need eyes on only a login away will have some impact.

On the plus side, if/when your subscription runs out, your characters will become Alpha clones, only able to used the set range of skills, but you will still be able to log into the game a and chat with people.  More people in local is always better, right?  And when you try to do something you used to be able to do, the game will remind you that you need to subscribe.

Can't touch that!

Can’t touch that!

Anyway, this is a fresh item, CCP is still bouncing it around, and there are still a couple months to go before November.  We shall see where this heads.  I am sure I will return to the topic again, once things have settled down.

Others jumping right into the fray:

Bonus Assignment: Compare and contrast CCP’s play for EVE Online with Blizzard’s unlimited trial program for World of Warcraft.  Be sure to discuss what makes something free to play versus just being a trial account.

The Battle at SH1-6P and Null Sec Ongoing

I wasn’t sure I was going to do a post about the fight at SH1-6P, seeing as I wasn’t there for it and I try to keep the blog to things I’ve seen and done.  That is the major premise of the whole effort here at TAGN.

On the flip side, over time one of the minor but valuable sub-notes in the disharmonious chord that is this blog has been the noting of events and milestones, such as game launches (and closures), expansion releases, and major events of note… like battles in EVE Online where titans get blown up.

A picture CCP used, maybe even from the battle...

A picture CCP used, maybe even from the battle…

So, there was a battle at SH1-6P, a system where CO2 had a POS with a capital ship assembly array, which PL and NCDot had previously put into a reinforced state.  When the reinforcement timer ended, the battle erupted between CO2 and its allies battled PL/NCDot and their allies.  Capitals, and then super capitals were dropped into the time dilated maelstrom around the POS.

Included in the battle were a large number of third parties (battle report), including a fleet from GSF that flew across New Eden for a chance to kick CO2 in the nuts.

CO2 escalated the battle to a super cap conflict and came out the worse for the effort, with it and its allied losing around 1.2 trillion ISK, including six CO2 titans down, while inflicting less than 200 billion in damage on its foes.  That is a one trillion ISK damage deficit.

There are battle reports up at the usual competing sources.

I think TMC wins out on details and insight.

In addition, The Asher Hour podcast episode 23 followed up the battle with a show featuring Asher talking with Ron Mexxico, Killah Bee, and Doomchinchilla to get sense of how things went from the PL side of the battle.

The event itself now takes second place on the list of battles that involved titans being blown up.  The list, so far as I recall it:

  • B-R5RB, January 2014 – 75 titans destroyed
  • SH1-6P, August 2016 – 6 titans destroyed
  • Okagaiken, July 2016 – 4 titans destroyed
  • Asakai, January 2014 – 3 titans destroyed

As things settle down the usual post-fight posturing is taking place.  You can catch that in the comment threads of both articles linked above.

And then a blog post, styled as An Open Letter to CCP, by the pilot Capri Sun Kraftfoods (yes, that is his in-game name) started its own waves as it took CCP to task for generally going down a path away from such large scale fights with Fozzie sov.  This led to a threadnought on Reddit with over a thousand comments, a surprising amount of which were not complete shit, along with a post over at Crossing Zebras trying to sum things up.

Unfortunately, none of what came up was really new.  I couldn’t begin to count how many times people who have actually had to go out and take or defend sovereignty have called out the entosis mechanic as a bad idea.  The fact that citadels didn’t go with entosis seems to indicate that even CCP isn’t sold on the idea.  Better to just shoot things, give kill mails, produce explosions, and have some sort of damage cap to extend events if you want to keep things from being blapped too quickly.

Likewise, jump fatigue has been moaned about for ages.  We’re coming up on Phoebe’s second anniversary and some people are still angry about it.

ADMs seem to be the only widely approved of mechanic from Fozzie Sov, as they reward groups that live in their space.  Of course, “living” in null sec means mining and ratting, which the PvP purists tend to despise, but at least it gives them some targets I suppose.

Being, as I noted recently, something of a fatalist when it comes to game mechanics, I take what I am given and try to work with them.  And I do not see any indication that CCP is going to change any of the current sovereignty mechanics.  Despite complaints about CCP being focused on null sec, Fozzie Sov seems to be clearly in the rear view mirror when it comes to development.  Maybe we’ll get another pass in a few years.

But the whole thing, Fozzie Sov, citadels, big fights, and how CCP responds to things does seem worth note.  One certainly couldn’t look at the bigger picture and come away thinking CCP is unified in their vision for New Eden.

The duality of man. The Jungian thing.

The duality of man. The Jungian thing.

On the one hand there is Fozzie Sov which, among its stated goals, sought to disperse fights across a constellation.  This seems like an attempt to reduce the size of sovereignty battles.  There have been some big battles over Fozzie Sov objectives.

The war that started LONG before Easter...

Excuse me, that is the “Casino War” TYVM

But in my experience, sovereignty, when it is contested, tends to turn into a long slog with both sides chasing each other around in a constellation-wide game of competitive whack-a-mole.  Less big fights when you disperse targets.  Working as designed.

However, this contrasts with how readily CCP jumps on any big event to drive press coverage.  CCP loves big battles and grand events, from Burn Jita to B-R5RB to anything else that gets a huge number of players in close proximity and destroys a lot of ships.  CCP threw together (another) screen shot contest immediately after SH1-6P. (The first Keepstar citadel getting blown up drew little water from the company though.)

And well they might jump on such events, as they do get wider press coverage and represent some of the “exciting” bits of the game in a world where coverage of the game can often stray into how boring the game can seem to those on the outside.  Of course, the press coverage of the exciting bits also brings in new players, though with the state of the new player experience, that often seems like a wasted opportunity.  Even letting people have a go at New Eden for free on Steam generates a spike in new character creation, but no noticeable effect on PCU.

Basically, another day in New Eden, where the highs can be incredibly high, while the everyday operations can wear you down if you don’t see a payoff somewhere down the road.

DUST 514 Goes Offline Tomorrow

And so it goes.

As CCP announced back in February, tomorrow their FPS link to the EVE Online universe goes dark.

Dust514Trans

Normally I would make a point of posting something like this on the actual date, but tomorrow is Memorial Day in the US and I wouldn’t want anybody to think I am using that day to memorialize a freakin’ video game.  Memorial Day is for more important things, like remembering those who have fallen in service to the nation, mattress sales, and pissing off living veterans by wishing them a happy Memorial Day.

Anyway, the game will soon be gone, with Tuesday’s patch to EVE Online removing the last bits and pieces from New Eden.

Miscellaneous:
DUST514 items will no longer appear in the market.

And that will be that.

I know some will mourn the game’s passing, but not many.  It was an odd game on what remains a foreign platform for a lot of EVE players.  Its spiritual successor, Project Nova, carries on, and what it needs to do to succeed was the topic of the most recent Blog Banter.

There is no 85%

In which I had a simple point, then buried it somewhere in a wall of words.

Last week… or so… Neville Smit put up a post under the heading of Occupy New Eden wherein he made the claim that CCP was spending too much time focused on null sec.

The root of his claim is that only 15% of population of New Eden operates in null security space and that they are getting a lions share of features which are dedicated solely to their benefit. This is followed on by what feels to me like a rather spurious assessment as to what counts as a null sec feature.  Citadels are grudgingly admitted to affect more than null sec, though he attempts to shove them back in the “null only” in the same sentence along with capital ships, and industry and drilling structures.

Left off of his list is… well… everything of interest beyond null sec.  If you read his post, CCP has literally done nothing for anybody besides null sec in however long.  Yes, it would be too much to ask him to list out everything ever, but this sort of “we got nuttin'” approach is belied by the patch notes over the last year, when CCP was alleged to be focused solely on null sec.

He then goes on to conflate the CSM 11 election results with CCP neglecting the 85%, with an extra helping of “the sky is falling” because of all those null sec players on the galactic student council.  That manages, in a single blow, to sell CCP short, misinterpret the power (or lack there of) of the CSM, and misunderstand the election results.

For the first two, if you believe CCP’s course is somehow charted by the CSM, you might as well give up right now and start weaving conspiracy theories.  On the third, the election results are the ongoing reflection of who is most engaged with the game… engaged and concerned with their well being.  Null sec, as noted, just went through a whole series of changes, some of which are not universally loved by some of the residents, and some of which were not well thought through by CCP before being thrust upon us, despite the fact that the CSM and players in the forums pointed out, in advance, the very flaws that CCP had to go back and correct.  Null sec players are rightly concerned, and concern (plus organization) turns into votes.  Meanwhile, the rest of New Eden didn’t seem exactly worked up about the election.  What burning issue did the rest of New Eden have that stacked up again, “CCP has completely changed our part of the game?”

This all gets pulled together in the false dichotomy that is “I am the 85%!”

CCP can apparently only work on null sec or everything else.  They can make null sec happy, or they can make the 85% happy.  Null sec has had their turn, it is time to leave them alone for another five years and concentrate on what is important.

The whole thing has me a bit irked, an emotion that might have come through up to this point.

There is no 85%

Almost every facet of WoW is an activity that caters to a minority of the playerbase … [WoW] is not a narrow game, but rather one that can be enjoyed in numerous different ways, by people with hugely diverse playstyles … We are [listening] – just to many, many different voices. And it may be that a given change, feature, or reward is simply aimed at a different portion of the playerbase. Or we could be wrong and we haven’t realized it yet.

Ion Hazzikostas, WoW lead designer, in a Forum Post

The fallacy of the whole concept of there even being an 85% was the first thing that sprang to mind when I read Neville’s article, and I immediately put up a placeholder post with that as the title… and then let it sit for a week.

I think we might all agree that EVE Online, with its sandbox nature, is a more complex game than World of Warcraft.  Yet there is a WoW designer holding forth about how nearly every feature in Azeroth is for a minority of their player base.  So how do you think that translates into New Eden?

I could go on for ages about the various groups that make up the alleged 85% and how they can actually be divided up into their own little minorities factions.  Instead, I’ll just whip out this chart again.

What to do in EVE Online - A Chart

What to do in EVE Online – A Chart

Have you seen this chart?  I put it up as part of a post about four years ago, and the chart itself is about five years old at this point, so is probably incomplete.  And yet it conveys the complexity that is our New Eden sandbox.

Edit: There is actually a spiritual successor to that chart available if you are interested.

So go ahead and put an X through any of the boxes that are exclusively null sec features.  If you have knocked out more than five boxes on that chart I would be very much surprised.  Remember, if it is wormhole space AND 0.0, it doesn’t count.

That leaves a lot of boxes.

And you can jump straight to “Well, that’s the point, look at all those neglected features!” but you’re going to have to leave off any of those boxes that got some attention over the last year.  Did your favorite box get a new feature or two?  Does that box represent a small minority of players as well?  Because where this line of reasoning leads is down a path to exclude other small, and thus undeserving, groups.

You know who gets less regular players than null sec according to the year old chart used to prop up this argument?  Low sec.  How do you justify working on something that has less players than null?

And what about wormhole space?  That has less players than low sec!  How do you even justify working on such a small sub-section of the game?  How can you think about that when 75% of the game is in high sec?

Oh, right… Neville Smit is in Signal Cartel and lives in wormhole space.  Funny how that 3% of players got their agenda mixed in with the majority.  I’m going to guess if CCP spent many months dedicated to his part of space, which represents one fifth of the player base of null sec, we would not see a “We are the 97%” campaign spring up on his site.

EVE Online is large and complex and the various parts of the game are interconnected.  Making a demand that CCP focus on this alleged 85% is a hollow shell, because there is no such group as a single, unified entity.  CCP literally cannot focus on 85% of the player.

If we were going to go for truth in advertising on this campaign, it should simply be renamed “Screw Null Sec,” because it comes across as thinly disguised petulance about somebody else getting the attention.

There is Common Ground

There are a whole range of features that I would say crosses groups.  Particularly bothersome for me was Neville putting the new player experience on his list of demands for the 85%, as though null sec doesn’t care about new players.

And, to double down on my annoyance, CCP had just dedicated a chunk of the keynote at Fanfest to talking about how they want to improve the new player experience.  That seemed to me to be a pretty strong indicator that this is clearly marked with double underlines on the CCP development agenda.

But CCP didn’t have a solution, a new proposal, right then and there, so out come the pitchforks and demands.

We know the new player experience is bad.  CCP, which is on its fourth iteration since I showed up in New Eden, has given us depressing numbers to illustrate this.  A failure here is literally money out of their pockets and I am pretty sure if they had an answer as to HOW to introduce people to New Eden that made them stick with the game, that would have been front and center.  But they didn’t.  EVE Online is a busy yet subtle experience and they are still searching for the mix that will get the depth of the game across..

Null sec alliances are keenly aware of this.  For years Goonswarm has had their own introduction and training program to bring new players from Something Awful into the game.  I have seen day one Goons in fleets in null on many occasions.  Then along came Brave Newbies, which showed the power of harnessing new players, an idea which was stolen by the other groups.  So today somebody with no null sec experience can get into a corp like KarmaFleet and get the help they need to get going.

But that is all for naught if CCP consistently drives people away in the tutorial, or whatever passes for a tutorial these day.  This is a 100% issue, not an 85% issue.

Okay, that might have been an overly specific item.  But one of the magic things about EVE Online is its interconnectivity.  You cannot draw a circle around a group of players and say that they don’t matter to you.

Jita is probably the best example of the confluence between the various parts of New Eden.  For as long as I have been in a null sec alliance the one thing you could depend on was a jump freighter service that would deliver things to and from Jita.  We buy our stuff from the main high sec trade hub.  When we have a fleet doctrine and are losing ships, manufacturers benefit.  The economy is the web that binds us all together in New Eden, and when null sec is neglected and stagnates, it is reflected in the market, because we blow up more shit than anybody else and ships exploding drives the economy.

Maybe Null Sec IS a Bit Special

This isn’t my first time reading this sort of divisive demand on a developer in which a player claims that the devs are focusing on something that doesn’t represent the majority of their customer base.  I think I have seen that in literally every fantasy MMORPG ever that has had raiding or dedicated PvP or arena combat.

And EVE Online has all three!  Holy balls!  Incursions are raids, PvP is pretty much everywhere, and then there is the alliance cheating tournament for your arena fix.  And I haven’t even put null sec specifically in the picture yet.

These sorts of features, what I would call “aspirational content,” has been a pretty solid part of the MMORPG landscape in the 21st century, and I have long been on the other side of the fence.  No raider I.  And yet I have seen the point of having such features and have come to their defense on the very rare occasions when companies have decided to trim such features.

I think it is important that MMORPGs have options that may seem narrowly focused when viewed against the whole of the game’s population.  In the last 17 years of what I will call the “post-EverQuest age” of MMORPGs most of my time has been spent in solo or small group content, but I have generally not begrudged a disproportionate amount of resources going to such content, because it gives people something to aim for, a goal to achieve, and something special for those willing to put in the effort.

And this has especially been the case in EVE Online.  From 2006 through to the end of 2011 I spent my time in high sec pursuing various careers.  During that time titans, wormhole space, factional warfare, and Dominion sovereignty all showed up and were all hugely interesting to me despite them not really touching my play time directly.  But they were all there and made the game a more interesting and complex place.  Tales from other play styles are fun to read.

But null sec has a special place in that regard.  There have been some headline grabbing events in EVE Online that haven’t been about null sec… the great bank scam and tales of the Guiding Hand Social Club spring to mind… but for bringing attention to New Eden and driving people to try the game, nothing beats null sec alliances blowing each other up.  How many articles on gaming sites that don’t focus on just EVE Online (or even just MMOs, like Massively OP) has the game gotten this year?  And how many of those were about something other than null sec wars or a certain book written about a null sec war?

Like it or not, you have to admit that null sec grabs attention, making it a marketing engine for the game.  So to spin this whole thing on its head, the 15% is doing most of the work to get people to come try the game.  Maybe that has earned null sec a bit more developer attention.

So What?

Okay, I have probably been riding Neville a bit hard in this post.  He is a good person and an asset to the game and the community and probably doesn’t deserve as much push back as I have given.  And I get that part of his whole shtick is to get people to simply consider whether or not there is an issue here to be resolved by being provocative.  But when you go that route, you have to expect return fire in kind, as I have done above.  Consider this counter-provocation I suppose.

That said, I tend to agree with the actual list of things he has on his site.  CCP does have a large garden to tend in New Eden and barely enough resources to even keep the weeds in check.  I just don’t think we need to call for the company to ignore one part or another.

In the end, I think what primarily sticks in my craw… though I’ve been all over the map here, so I don’t blame you if you are confused at this point, because I certainly am… is this public and unnecessary divisiveness.  It is a call for the community to war with itself.

EVE Online already has a bad reputation.  Go read the comments on just about any related post over at Massively OP.  You will read about how it is a horrible game, maybe the most boring game ever, spreadsheets in space, populated by horrible people who do horrible things and you had better not bother playing because you will be scammed, ganked, and podded within five minutes of staring the practically non-existent tutorial.

We are already under siege.  And we, as a community, already fight amongst ourselves pretty viciously.  We hardly need a movement to encourage it.

So, in summary, I think we should give up the 85% idea and simply join together, link arms, and shout down anybody who suggests walking in stations as a feature, because I am not sure we can handle any more boxes on that “what to do” chart.

I look forward to your adoring agreement in the comments below.

Spaceships über alles!

BB74 – Bump and Grind

This month’s blog banter , 74th in the series, asks the following:

So when this Blog Banter goes live Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a “nerd-boner”. What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

The most important item for me, personally?  That is a tough question.

First of all, there was a lot of stuff brought up at Fanfest.  CCP has a summary page of topics posted for each day (day one, day two, and day three) which gives you a nice list to choose from.  And from those posts I could probably justify at least half a dozen as important or interesting or just plain fun.

I particularly liked CCP Quant noting in his presentation during the keynote that the ratio of player assets in the game, 3,070 trillion ISK worth, to liquid ISK in the game, 978 trillion ISK, comes out to just about 3.14, or pi.  (Also, CCP Quant is NOT having your PLEX market manipulation theories, which might be the most amusing post-Fanfest read.)

And there were plenty of things that were important to the game, not the least of which was the new producer, CCP Ghost, giving us a vision of a better new player experience that might actually engage players rather than drive them away. (Also during the keynote, official video of which is now up.)

But given all those choices, I am going to pluck a small item off the list, one that showed up on day two of Fanfest and which did not take up much time.  It was, however, big enough to make it to the day two summary page.

  • Ship bumping – at maximum for 3 minutes
    A small, but important change is coming. A ship will get into warp no later than 3 minutes after the warp was initiated, regardless of any bumping, as long as the warp engines aren’t disabled (warp scrambled, bubble etc.).

When this has been implemented, a ship will enter warp after three minutes even if it is being bumped out of alignment.   Right now a ship, especially a big ship like a freighter that takes some time to align, can be bumped off its alignment indefinitely and without consequence, holding it in place until it can be blown up.

Clearly this is a swipe at suicide ganking in high sec, where somebody bumping a freighter on a gate in Niarja, a prime ganking system between Jita and Amarr, isn’t any sort of news.  Happens every day.

But why pick this particular item?

Yes, I have been on both sides of the coin.  I have lost a ship to gankers, back before I knew that was even a thing, when I blithely auto-piloted my way through Niarja with a valuable cargo.  And, during Burn Amarr, I tried my hand at the ganker side, joining the catalyst swarm to kill three freighters.

A Dead Obelisk

A Dead Obelisk with a bumping Machariel flying past…

Fair to say that suicide ganking isn’t really my thing in New Eden, so what brought me to this upcoming change?

For me, this change illustrates the intersection of a few threads that permeate the game.

First, there is the desire for CCP to not restrict how players play the game.  They want a wild west sandbox where we can create the content rather than trying to force us into some standard roles.  There is no playing EVE Online wrong, though you can still play it badly.

From that point of view, suicide ganking is completely legitimate and CCP is on record as such.  It is emergent game play and they will not do anything that will kill it off completely.   There will be no “safe” high sec.

Second, there is the desire by CCP to keep things in some state of balance.  If something is too easy, if some ship is too strong, if some aspect of the game seems to be killing off others, CCP is motivated to tinker with the game to try and fix that.  They have to, because while there is no “wrong” way to play EVE Online, people will flock to anything that presents itself as an optimal choice.  As Edward Catronova, something of a fan of EVE, once said,

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

Or, in this case, being an immortal space pilot from the future doesn’t turn that off.  When drone assist was the was to win battles, fleets of carriers and Dominixes and Ishtars ruled the space lanes.  When heavy missile spewing battlecruisers were over powered, Drakes were everywhere.  When insta-locking Svipuls are totally too good, guess what is a feature of every half decent gate camp?

So CCP steps in… or, in the case of Svipuls, will hopefully step in soon… and changes things up, nerfs one thing or boosts another.

And, thus, when suicide ganking seems too easy, CCP feels compelled to ratchet up the difficulty, as they have done on a number of occasions over the years.  They don’t want to kill it, they just want to make it more of a challenge.

Of course, how well they have manage that leads me to the third thread, which is are unexpected consequences.  CCP is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to making changes to the game.  There are a couple hundred people at CCP at most looking at game mechanics, and many less on any given change, while there are tens of thousands of players looking for the optimum fit or tactic or whatever.

The mental processing power alone favors the players who will optimize after any change… something that isn’t improved when CCP won’t listen when players, or the CSM, point out the obvious flaws.

So we have, once again, CCP attempting to tweak things against suicide ganking, hoping to tamp it down some.  But we have yet to see how players will respond.  Will this make things more difficult for suicide gankers and cut back on kills, or will things simply settle down on a new optimum path?  Will it be as easy as just having a sacrificial warp scrambler hit the target every two minutes and fifty seconds to keep it in place?

And what else will come from this?  How many capital ships in low or null sec will escape now because somebody is holding them down on a gate by bumping, but the three minute timer lets them go?  What other ripples will come from this particular pebble being tossed into the pond that is New Eden?

I always find this sort of thing interesting or amusing or important because it is, in its way, the essence of the interaction between CCP and its players, the give and take, the friction, the way things develop and progress.  It isn’t anything unique to EVE Online, but these little items feel like they have more impact in New Eden than in places like Azeroth or Norrath.

Anyway, it was is a small thing, but one that jumped out at me.  And the question didn’t demand the biggest reveal or most dramatic new feature, just what was important to me.

That is my response to BB74.  Here are some of the other submissions:

 

Citadels Arrive in New Eden

The long awaited, anticipated, feared, speculated over, and otherwise examined Citadel expansion arrives on the Tranquility server today.  Seriously, we’ve been all over this since EVE Vegas last year.

Coming Spring 2016

Now Available

Citadels, the new structures in New Eden are here and will likely change the game in unexpected ways.  There are four citadel types:

  • Astrahus (Medium)
  • Fortizar (Large)
  • Keepstar (Extra Large)
  • Upwell Palatine Keepstar (Extra Large, Extra Special, one per New Eden)

And there are all sorts of details that players will need to sort out as time goes along.

For me, one of the more interesting items is how players will attack citadels.  In what I can only see as something of a rebuke of Fozzie Sov, players will actually shoot things rather than fly around them in circles running an entosis link module.  To my mind, shooting something is always the best option.  CCP has tried to give us a feel for shooting them in its cinematic trailer.

So a huge change there, with CCP relenting somewhat at the last minute on the whole tax thing meant to drive people to use citadels.  I expect the unexpected and for comedy to ensue.

And, if that were not enough, there are a range of capital ship changes going in today as well.  Starting off there is the introduction of the Force Auxiliary capitals, already commonly called “Fax Machines.”

Fax Machines

Fax Machines are all Vertical

They come in four flavors, one for each major NPC faction, and replace the triage role that carriers used to perform.  They are:

  • Apostle (Amarr)
  • Minokawa (Caldari)
  • Lif (Minmatar)
  • Ninazu (Gallente)

Carriers and super carriers will no longer use drones, but will restricted to fighters.  Fighters themselves will have new functionality and controls.  A lot of things will transform with the expansion drop, triage carriers into fax machines, old fighters into new, and drones into some location you may not have considered.  The transition is covered in a forum post.

I have a carrier that will still be a carrier after the update and which will be pretty empty since all the drones will get dumped out and I never bought any fighters for it.  But, then, I have only ever used it to haul around subcaps.

In addition, dreadnoughts are getting rebalanced in order to turn them into the gun platforms they ought to be.  Titans are getting a rebalance and new doomsday weapons.  Carriers are getting a rebalance too, and so are supercarriers.  There are also pirate faction capital ships and capital level escalations for anomalies and new anti-sub cap weapons for capitals and the removal of ewar immunity for supers.

And then there is the usual round of fixes and updates and changes to various aspects of the game, most of which (but never all) are summed in the patch notes and on the updates page.

There are enough things going on with this expansion that if it were the old days I would have started training a long skill.  Even CCP is running long on just the deployment.

But, since my skill queue already goes out past 500 days right now, I am not so worried about that.  Still, I suspect there will be issues and some patches coming pretty quickly given the scale of things.

Wait, there it is, the announcement… the expansion is live and the server is up… for now.

The official launch announcement, complete with links for feedback, is up on the CCP site.

But even if the server goes down we will at least have a new theme song to listen to.