Tag Archives: CCP

EVE Online Multiple Character Training Deal

Weren’t we just talking about deals and things for veterans versus things for new players?

Anyway, here is something for both new players and bitter vets, CCP is offering multiple character training with any multi-month subscription. [Offer expires Feb. 8, 2017!]

freemctheadline

While there have been other subscription incentives in the past… price breaks, special SKINs, and the recurring second account deal… this is the first time I think they have offered up a second training queue as part of an offer.

I am a bit surprised it took this long to get that sort of offer (unless I missed one from the past) as multiple character training has been around for a few years now. (It came it with the Odyssey expansion as Dual Character Training in June 2013 and then got its own in-game token and became Multiple Character Training with the Hyperion expansion in August 2014.)

And this offer does appeal to me.  On every account I have ever had for EVE Online, there has always been a “main” character who gets all the training, and then an alt character or two that linger, hoping for the day when that main character has enough skill points.  But as we all know, there is never enough.  Well, I haven’t gotten to “enough” on my main yet, and he’s past 170 million skill points.

Of course, my perception of what this offer was clashed a bit with the details.

You get SOME multiple character training time

You get SOME multiple character training time

This is not CCP’s fault, but my brain jumped from the initial banner/statement straight to thinking one would get multiple character training… MCT… for the duration of the subscription.  But you do not.  You get some MCT time… which is better than no MCT time… but it is equivalent to one third of the subscription length you choose.

Not what my brain wanted, but still better than no incentive at all.

And while we’re on the subject of where my brain leaped relative to the reality of the situation, there are a some additional notes on this offer.

The fine print

The fine print

You don’t, as you might have expected, get the token for MCT, which you could squirrel away for later or sell on the market.  Instead the second queue starts right up the moment you take the offer.  So be ready before you buy.

And, finally, there was some griping about the deal showing up without any preamble, so that people who had just done their subscription were feeling left out.  CCP rolled the offer back so that if you subscribed within three days of the start of the offer, you get the deal. (Though I hope you noticed that you got it!  And what happens with auto-renewals?)

That still left some people grumpy, because you know somebody hit the button four days ahead of the offer and now feels cheated because the people who did so three days got a break and they did not.

But here is the thing.  You can subscribe again and add more time to your account.  That might not seem like a good plan if you like to subscribe for a year at a time to get the best discount, but if you’re in for the every three months offer, kicking in for another three months early to get something that has the value of one PLEX won’t kill you.

My own second account isn’t due to renew until April… there was some deal last year that got me to renew it for a full year… but I am thinking about adding on another three months to get 30 days of MCT.  There is another cyno alt in that.

You can find all of this right now on the Add Game Time page of the EVE Online site.  This is, of course, a limited time offer, so act soon or lose out.  I am not sure when it actually ends.

And since item has ballooned from what was going to be a single entry on a bullet points submission to a full on post of its own… any item that passes 500 words can stand on its own in my book… I am going to ask a general follow on question.

Does any other MMO with a subscription option throw out as many incentive offers as CCP does for EVE Online?  CCP has something running… a special SKIN, a bonus item, a special discount, a two for one deal… about every couple months is seems.  It used to been more frequent, but they now have PLEX and Aurum deals going when they aren’t doing subscription deals.

The one similar event I recall was the World of Warcraft offer that got you a free copy of Diablo III if you subscribed for a full year.  And Daybreak recently had a special “subscribe for a full year” deal that offered a serious price break.  But I don’t remember any others quite like that off hand.

Then again, I don’t subscribe to that many MMOs any more, so I likely missed them if they were out there.  So what compares?

Looking Back at 2016 – Highs and Lows

Lord, what did we do to deserve this year?  I’ll just steer away from politics, the world, and celebrity deaths for this if you don’t mind.  Wow, 2016.

Blog2016

Still, it is time for this post, where I look back at the year gone by and look at some aspects over it, a tradition going back to 2010.  Past entries:

This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head.  No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
  • Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
  • Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
  • the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
  • Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
  • Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
  • WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
  • Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
  • Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
  • Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
  • Diablo III is getting some new stuff
  • Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs

Lows

  • If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
  • If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
  • The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
  • Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
  • BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
  • Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
  • WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
  • Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
  • The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
  • Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
  • Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
  • Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
  • The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
  • Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?

Daybreak Game Company

Highs

  • Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
  • DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
  • H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
  • Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
  • Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new

Lows

  • EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
  • Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
  • Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
  • “Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
  • If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again!  This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
  • Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
  • H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
  • If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
  • Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
  • Good-bye Legends of Norrath
  • No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
  • No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
  • With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
  • Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
  • Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
  • DDO still seems to be in good shape

Lows

  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
  • With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
  • As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
  • LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
  • Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
  • Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
  • Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
  • Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?

CCP

Highs

  • They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
  • Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
  • A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
  • Citadels everywhere!
  • Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
  • We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
  • CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
  • Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
  • The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year

Lows

  • DUST 514 went dark
  • Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
  • Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
  • F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
  • Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
  • After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
  • Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
  • Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
  • Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
  • Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
  • Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
  • Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
  • RIP New Eden solo industrialists
  • Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
  • Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?

Nintendo

Highs

  • 20th Anniversary of Pokemon
  • Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
  • Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
  • Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
  • Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch

Lows

  • End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
  • They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
  • Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
  • Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
  • The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.

Other Games

Highs

  • Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
  • Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
  • Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
  • Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
  • Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
  • Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
  • WildStar lives yet!
  • Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
  • No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
  • Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game

Lows

  • The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
  • A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
  • Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
  • ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
  • Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
  • Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
  • Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year?  Camelot Unchained? No!  Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No!  Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet.  Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
  • While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
  • If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
  • Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
  • The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
  • No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
  • Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
  • The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
  • The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
  • Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there

Media

Highs:

  • Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
  • Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
  • Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
  • I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh

Lows:

  • The end of Downton Abbey
  • Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
  • Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
  • Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
  • The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
  • I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
  • So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?

The Blog and Blogging and The Internet

Highs:

  • Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
  • I still enjoy writing
  • I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
  • Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
  • Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
  • Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits

Lows:

  • My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
  • My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
  • I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
  • Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
  • I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
  • Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
  • Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
  • AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
  • Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
  • /r/eve

Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016.  I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.

A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.

Others looking back at 2016:

New Eden For Sale?

The hot rumor of the day, fanned by a post at Bloomberg, is that CCP is looking to sell out, having a couple of potential bidders lined up, with the value of the deal being rumored at near one billion dollars.

CCPlogo

What does CCP have that is worth a billion dollars?  Let’s see…

  • EVE Online, along with all the hardware to run it in a server farm in England.
  • A contract with a Chinese firm to run EVE Online in China
  • EVE Valkyrie and EVE Gunjack, which run on a variety of devices in the fragmented, kiddie-pool sized market that is VR today
  • The source code for Dust 514
  • A monument by the sea in Reykjavik
  • A bunch of copies of Hættuspil
  • Hilmar’s collection of Lazy Town video tapes
  • The largest stash of Quafe in the known universe
  • Something else?
Hat tip to Rhavas...

An untapped resource?

Basically, EVE Online and the VR titles… and word is that there isn’t much money in making VR titles currently, so unless CCP has some real special tech in that regard, New Eden is the biggest asset.

Meanwhile, CCP also has a couple investors in the form of Novator Partners and General Catalyst Partners.  CCP isn’t in the Daybreak situation of being wholly owned and bent over by an investor, but those two companies aren’t in because they like video games.  They are both invested in order to get paid.  And selling CCP is a way to get paid.

While there is nothing concrete so far… the initial report says that a sale isn’t the only option being explored… there is enough out there to make you believe it could be true.  For example, CCP has been moving operations to the UK.  That makes a bit of sense for an Icelandic company due to logistics.  But if you want to sell a company, it makes a lot more sense for it to be in an international market hub like the UK than the economic backwater that is Iceland.

And then there is the rumor itself, which got floated somewhere for some reason.  Is it a trial balloon to see how the Icelandic government reacts?  An attempt to get a few more bidders primed?  Or did somebody leak that to put pressure on CCP to close a deal?

Of course, in all of this, the big question is about the buyer.  Who is going to put out a billion dollars for CCP and its rather slim list of assets?

My money is on China, and specifically Tencent Holdings Limited, the firm that owns Riot Games.  They have the money for it and the stomach to buy a game like EVE Online.  After all, only League of Legends has a reputation for players worse than EVE Online.  Also, Riot has been the destination for a number of former CCP employees, why shouldn’t the company follow them?

I cannot see a US company like EA or Activision-Blizzard having any interest in CCP, if only because of the reputation EVE Online has.  Maybe some European company like CodeMasters might have some interest, but I don’t think they have the cash laying about.

It could be some other Chinese company.  I could see Perfect World Entertainment showing some interest.  But my knowledge of Chinese companies is sparse enough that I cannot come up with another option that clearly has the money and isn’t tied into some other deal that might make the acquisition awkward.

So that is the hot item of the day.  Who do you think wants to buy CCP, if anybody?

Others covering this topic (to be updated as posts show up):

CCP Offers Breast Cancer Awareness Ship Skins

CCP announced today that they are making special pink(-ish) ship skins available via the in-game New Eden Store in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Pink Mining

Pink Mining

According to CCP:

100% of the proceeds from the sale of these SKINs in the New Eden Store will be converted from Aurum to real world cash, and will be donated to Bleika Slaufan (The Pink Ribbon Campaign), which is owned and managed by the National Cancer Association here in Iceland.

Named Rosada Dawn, the skins are currently available in the New Eden store in four different packages.

Pink Skin Sets

Pink Skin Sets

At the low end, there is the skin for the Procurer for 400 Aur

For 1,200 Aur the Small Bundle gets you skins for the Covetor, Procurer, and Retriever

The Medium Bundle is 2,000 Aur and contains the Hulk, Mackinaw, Noctis, Primae, and Skiff

And the Large Bundle runs 4,400 Aur and has the Bowhead, Rorquel, and Orca skins.

With some Aurum on hand I had to get the medium bundle just to finally have something to put on my salvaging Noctis.

Breast Cancer Awareness Salvaging

Breast Cancer Awareness Salvaging

I wish they had turned ALL the orange bits pink, but at least the ship is mostly pink and white.

 

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.