Tag Archives: EVE Fanfest

Friday Bullet Points while Twitter Burns

It has been a good couple of weeks to drop bad news while Elon Musk’s gross mishandling of Twitter has been grabbing all the attention on the tech front.  You might not have noticed Facebook or Amazon or some other tech firms laying off thousands.

Going around the Twitterverse

And this week’s Twitter fiasco was Elon’s great loyalty oath campaign.  The remaining employees had to sign the oath or, if the refused, be laid off.  Some huge percentage of the survivors are said to have not signed, leaving critical systems unattended.  This caused Elon to panic about sabotage or something and he had the offices closed and the employees locked out like the unhinged oligarch he aspires to be.

Twitter isn’t down, and there is no plan to shut it down, but if some technical hiccup brings it offline, getting it back up and running might not be easy.

Last night on Twitter was like the end of high school, with everybody signing each other’s yearbooks and promising to keep in touch.    It is still up today, but the threat looms.

But there are other things going on in the world, and not even all of it is bad.  Most of these items I learned about on Twitter, but I am reluctant to link there now.  I don’t need any more dead links on the site.

  • Blizzard and NetEase Part Ways

This was telegraphed in the Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financials, but it feels like there should have been more emphasis on it if the collapse of the relationship was going to be announced a week later.  But the other shoe dropped this week with a press release.

NetEase is Blizzard’s partner in China, which means more than you might think.  Doing business in China means working with a company there as a joint venture (a term which always reminds me of late Soviet perestroika) where the local partner holds a controlling interest.

NetEase controls the business that runs games like World of Warcraft and OverWatch in China.  If you fall out with your partner you have to find a new one, which can be a convoluted mess in any circumstances, but much more so if it needs the approval of a totalitarian government.

Blizzard has been through this before, so if they want to keep doing business in China they need to find somebody new to work with.  Meanwhile, the deal with NetEase expires on January 23, 2023, after which point most Blizzard games will be turned off in China.  Diablo Immortal, which was made under a different agreement is the exception in this.  The horrible cash grab Diablo mobile game will remain active.

As for why this has come about, NetEase, following the example of its governments diplomatic policy, is aggressively blaming Blizzard and one individual in particular for the parting.  I don’t doubt Bobby Kotick is a jerk, but I don’t see any evidence that NetEase is somehow the victim in all of this.

  • EVE Online FanFest 2023 Announced

CCP has staked out the dates for EVE FanFest 2023, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of EVE Online.  And it is going to be… in September?

Yes, the dates are September 21-23 in Iceland, which will put Fanfest a good four months past the games 20th birthday, but when you’re booking an event big enough to show a blip on the countries MER I suppose you have to work with multiple factors in order to find a viable time slot.

Early bird tickets are already on sale and should be much easier to obtain that Taylor Swift tickets.

  • CCP Embraces a Bullshit Metric

When is a bullshit metric even more bullshit?  When you use only at its peak without giving any context.  I have criticized Blizzard for moving from subscriber numbers to MAUs as a transparent attempt to hide the actual state of WoW from investors, but at least they give us a number every quarter so you have some context.

So when CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson came out and said that EVE Online had hits its second highest DAU count since 2016, there were layers of BS to unpack.  To start with, CCP never tells us MAU or DAU numbers, so how do we know?  Was the day a lot better, a little better, not really better at all?

The game is clearly seeing more players.  The daily concurrent user graph over at EVE Offline shows that.  The expansion has sparked fresh interest.  But those graphs also show the peak concurrent for 2022 landed in January during the Doctor Who event.  So what is going on?

Well, as I noted, CCP had a login event with the expansion and gave away 7 days of Omega time to all players, which is a double incentive to login, because you need to do so in order to claim your prizes.  So last Sunday may have been a good day, but was it really a “best in the last six years” sort of day?  I suspect not.

Anyway, glad the game is doing good, but talking about numbers you won’t share in front of a crowd armed with spreadsheets is always a risky move.

  • Enad Global 7 Q3 2022 Financials

Things continue to look good for EG7.  Daybreak continues to dominate revenues on the video game side of the house.  Daybreak executives continue to run the show.  Things are going well.

However, the presentation itself was somewhat terse compared to previous ones.  Few insights and no future statements or handy graphs about upcoming titles.  Just the bare minimum to get by this time around.  Which is fine.  But that doesn’t give me much to build a post around.

  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet Launch

Hey, it is also a Pokemon launch day, as Pokemon Violet and Pokemon Scarlet go on sale today!

New Pokemon to catch, a new land to explore, and a new adventure to complete!

Nintendo very much has a cycle nailed down for these launches, landing just before Thanksgiving in the US which heralds the start of the holiday shopping season here.  Plenty of time for parents and grandparents to buy copies for the kids that haven’t gone out and bought it on day one already.  And, of course, lots of holiday free time during which to play.

This time around I am not joining in.  My daughter and I played the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes last year, and they were a lot of fun.  But I am not feeling it for another new title.

  • Valheim Mistlands Preview

Finally, the dev team working on Valheim have a game play preview video for the Mistlands biome that we have all been so (im)patiently waiting for.  But we’re going to have to wait for it too, because the video doesn’t unlock until November 22nd.  Dammit!

I hope there is a launch date in there, but I guess we won’t know until next week.

Anyway, that is what I had piled up for Friday.  Bring on the weekend.

EVE Online and the Return to Expansions

There is a joke about business consultants that says if they go to a company that has a diversified portfolio of products that they will say the company should focus on its core competencies, but if they go to a company that is focused on their core competencies they will say the company should diversify their portfolio.

Distilled down, consultants often get paid to tell you that the grass is measurable greener, complete with supporting data, case studies, and customer interviews, on the other side of the fence.

But some times we don’t need a consultant to make us change course.  Sometimes we run off in pursuit of that greener grass all on our own.

Which brings me, in a round about way, to CCP’s decision to return to the idea of expansions, which was something that CCP announced at Fanfest.  Expansions are back.

Those who have been around for a long time remember that twice annual expansions used to be part of the EVE Online experience, and many of us remember those expansion names with a mixture of fondness and dread. (I have a bunch of those splash screens here if you want a ride down memory lane.)

Incarna – June 2011 – That guy looks more skeptical every time I see him

But back in 2014 CCP decided that expansions were not the thing anymore.  The era of the Jesus feature was over. Instead they attempted to go to a ten release a year cadence.  Incredibly, in hindsight, they tried to give each of those ten update a name… and theme music.

A new musical theme used to be a feature of every expansion or update for a long stretch.  those were the days.  It was a time of many things.

That proved to be too much work… names fell away and music stopped being a thing… but at least we were getting timely updates.  One of the downsides of the expansion era was often large gaps between any fixes as the company preferred the expansion to be the release vehicle.  And once the expansion hit, updates were often focused on fixing things broken in the expansion as opposed to other areas of the game.  And not every expansion was a big splash feature event.  I think we ended up with Revelations II because it was mostly fixing what was shipped with Revelations.

Revelations II – June 2007

CCP eventually opted for the quadrants idea, where each quarter of the year would have a theme and would feature updates based on that theme.  That was a bit more reasonable, better suited a modern development cadence, and still delivered fixes and updates on a regular basis.

And it wasn’t like we didn’t have some expansion-like releases.  I called the Invasion update an expansion, as it introduced the Triglavians to New Eden.  Kind of a big deal.

The Invasion was May 2019

So, in my way, I get why CCP wants to go back to the twice annual big expansion format.  It hearkens back to the peak years of the game, when growth was continuing and it seemed like CCP had the potential to conquer the world.

And believe me, some part of me wants to relive that era.  Amazing things were happening.  Huge wars, new features, crazy new ships, new areas of space, it seemed an endless bounty if you just squint hard enough through those rose tinted lenses.

But there was a lot going wrong, a lot of dropping features and moving on, a lot of broken things left unfixed, and not a lot of focus on quality of life.  The end of the expansion era saw a team show up dedicated to just fixing things, and we liked that a lot too.

Finally, while I haven’t gone and done a study of the time between announcements and launches like I have done with WoW, even years later I am left with the distinct impression that the time frames there were short, that we got 6-8 weeks build up before an expansion.  That is almost nothing compared to a WoW expansion or a new Pokemon game release, which we might be fed tidbits and updates about for a year of more.

Which is pretty similar to the build up for big features we’ve had since the end of the expansion era, so I fail to see much of a difference… unless they plan to announce things much earlier.

Anyway, I don’t have a hard point to drive home here.  It is more of a question as to whether or not CCP can recapture player enthusiasm with expansions again.  If nothing else, an expansion implies the company is bringing something big to the game.  You can get away with tuning and adjustments with quadrants, but for an expansion to land it needs to bring something new.

We shall see.  It was another of the things at Fanfest about the future rather than the present.

The TL;DR

  • The expansion era had its own set of issues.
  • CCP has been able to deliver expansion-like content with full fanfare since that era.
  • So what are we solving for by going back?

Reflecting on EVE Fanfest 2022

EVE Fanfest has come and gone and now it is Monday and most of us are still digesting the news of EVE Online and its path forward into its third decade.

20 years and beyond

And one of the immediate question is probably, “Was it a good Fanfest?”

I think if 2022 had been a normal year, if the things announced by CCP had come in 2018, then people would have been fine with the what was announced and what CCP brought to the table, or at least no more annoyed than we players, as a group, tend to be.  You cannot please everybody.

It might not have been a Fanfest of legend, an inflection point where the game changed dramatically, a Fanfest where a new vision was announced that would guide the game for the next half a decade.

It might have even been a good Fanfest.  After all, CCP did go after Faction Warfare, which has had problems for years and which has had to limp along with tweaks and minor fixes while sweeping mechanics changes elsewhere… things like Upwell structures… changed the scenery of the game dramatically.

However, as you no doubt know, 2022 was not a normal year for CCP or EVE Online.  We went into Fanfest some things looming over the festivities.

Leaving aside that this was the first Fanfest in Iceland since 2018, the first real Fanfest since CCP was acquired by Pearl Abyss, and the first official event since COVID hit, CCP had three burdens it needed to compensate for.

The first was the handling… or mishandling… of the in-game economy, driven as it has been by something like a college freshman level philosophy spelled out back in 2020.  CCP had been trying to reign in the economy for a while as they had made ISK faucets and resource harvesting (the Rorqual problem, which they caused despite the CSM telling them exactly what would happen) too generous, but it had been more of a “tune through modest nerfs” affair. People complained, but got over those changes pretty well.

Then CCP changed things up and decided to redo the economy, causing an era of economic starvation where, as an example, asteroid mineral output was dialed back by 90%.  When they relaxed that to 80% and unilaterally declared an era or prosperity, many players were unimpressed.  Everything was more expensive, earning ISK was harder, and capital ships were so dear that few dared undock them as their cost to replace was prohibitive.  People remain angry about this and even CCP may have finally figured out that they’re still standing a little too hard on the throat of the economy.  So quite a few of us, and I include myself, are still salty and distrustful after that.

Second was the subscription price increase.  CCP announced that subscription prices would go from a base of $15 a month to $20 a month, a 33% jump.  The price had not changed since 2004, but as I noted a year back, people have been trained by tech in general to expect prices to either go down or for capability to go up for the same price.; welcome to the world of Moore’s Law.

That doesn’t really apply to software development, which depends on people who don’t double in productivity every 18 months and who want to get a pay raise every once in a while to compensate for inflation.  But fans don’t, or won’t, see that and the subscription hike immediately led to demands that CCP give players something for the extra money they were asking for.  That’s not the way this works, but it set fans against the company.

Third, there was how expectations were set for Fanfest.  This was a completely unforced error caused when CCP threw CCP Paragon in front of the angry mob after the price increase announcement, which caused him to almost immediately say the following:

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

Again, I would hate to have been in CCP Paragon’s shoes, but there it was, spoken out and recorded in front of a live audience, copied down and quoted over and over again.  Everything would be made better by what was being announced at Fanfest.

That was never going to come to pass.  Any serious reflection on the game, the company, and the combined history of the two, would lead you to that conclusion.  I am pretty sure most within CCP knew that this was going to be an impossible bar to clear.  You can see it in the padding of the daily Fanfest summaries that CCP published, where they tossed in already announced things, like the Siege Green update slated to go live tomorrow, as well as any vague mention of maybe something being looked into at a future date.

That practice is essentially piling shit high enough in the hopes that the sheer volume will be impressive.

So, given those three factors, a lot seemed to be riding on the EVE Fanfest Keynote.  The keynote speech is where the high level big announcements are supposed to land.  You can go into depth in later sessions, but this is the build up to get everybody excited, the moment that sets the tone for the whole event.  We have seen that with EVE Fanfest and like events.  Blizzard, for example, knows how to roll a good keynote to make the most of what they have to offer.

However, CCP fell somewhat flat on the Keynote.  And when it failed to come close to meeting the already impossible expectations, CCP Rattati got on Twitter and doubled down on setting expectations badly, promising “more tomorrow.”  This is metaphor for how CCP is mishandling things.  There was not, in fact, “more tomorrow,” save for some additional details, so there was both a misunderstanding of what a keynote should be and an attempt to string players along, compounding disappointment.

So it goes.

Which isn’t to say that the opening remarks and keynote were bad.  There was a lot there, and a lot to unpack.  In addition to the things I brought up on Friday… and Faction Warfare still tops that list… there were some other tidbits that are probably of interest.

For example, there is now an official EVE Online Discord server, which you can join by clicking this link or using the QR code below.

EVE Online Discord server QR Code

The Discord server has SIX news channels, so I have five of those now piped into the TAGN Discord server so I will get all the news popping up without all of the other stuff. (I skipped the social media alerts, since I assume those will be news items that will appear elsewhere.)

Hilmar got up and spoke about how many people had played a game that was part of the EVE Online IP.

50 million people

While EVE Echoes accounts for something like 14 million of those players, that still leaves a lot of people who have been to EVE Online.

There was also some more specifics about EVE Online in general.

Players and Devs since 2018 Fanfest

CCP has been ramping up the EVE Online development team since the last time there was a Fanfest, with a target of having 150 people working on the game.

EVE Online development team growth

That is a pretty significant increase and, as Hilmar pointed out, adding people does not automatically increase productivity.  And it wasn’t clear if that included the expanded Shanghai dev team, which handles the Serenity server in China.  But that is still a lot of people working on the game, which might lead one to expect bigger things going forward.

But a lot of what came out of the whole thing was vague, unfinished, forward looking, or held back because CCP says they don’t want to spoil a surprise, leaving us with a road map to the game’s 20th birthday that looks like this.

The road to EVE Online at 20

But those are fairly general things, and there is still a lot of details to come on many of them, not to mention the analysis and speculation that the players will do on the bits and pieces that have been revealed.

So there isn’t much concrete here, mostly because not a lot concrete was delivered.  We’ll have to wait for the eventual dev blogs to see the details as to what is really coming.  But I am sure there will be more opinions coming from various sources.  The drama will continue until morale improves.

Related:

EVE Fanfest 2022 Keynote Hot Take – Meh

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

I am not going to pick on CCP Paragon beyond hauling out that quote, but the largest content update for EVE Online remains the Apocrypha expansion, which introduced wormhole space, T3 ships, and the skill queue.  There is no doubt in my mind on that front, and I could probably pick out a few more updates that would handily eclipse what was announced at the EVE Fanfest Keynote earlier today.

Return to Iceland

I had my speculation post about what they might announce and I think we landed squarely on my pick of “A Batch of Minor Things.”

Not that minor things are bad.  They are not.  And there were some good items on the list.

  • A Spanish language client is good, if they do it right.
  • Microsoft Excel integration for game data will please about 2% of the player base that actually care about such things. (Though, could have a trickle down effect for players who use the output of that 2%.)
  • Graphics updates are always good, but players were not complaining about them for the last two years. Nebulae will be prettier and we’ll have new hangars.
  • Faction Warfare has needed some attention for a decade, though the devil will be in the details on this front.
  • The new UI is interesting, but we’ve had access to that for a while now, and it definitely needs some work.
  • Removal of attributes and rework of skill training is probably long overdue, but not all that exciting.
  • We’re getting some sort of alliance logos on our ships, though we have to PvE to earn them I guess.  I would have thought a couple years of people asking for CCP to just sell us something like that would have been a clue as how to approach the idea, but I guess not.
  • And then there was more new player experience stuff, which doesn’t really apply to the installed fan base there in Iceland, but which is still needed.

All of those have a place in the game.

And that probably isn’t all…  I only caught the back half of the keynote and am working from CCP’s Twitter feed and some summaries elsewhere… but that seemed to be the highlights.  I will have to go watch the whole thing again as well as some of the follow on presentations that are coming to form a real opinion.  There is the whole “living universe” thing that was teased but not explained that still has a presentation coming… though I remain skeptical.

But overall the keynoted seemed to be a mix of things that probably should have been done already, things that we probably could have expected in the normal course of updates, and a bunch of things we already knew.

Overall, if this was supposed to rally the fan base and make the 33% price hike more palatable, I am going to say that CCP failed on that goal.

Anyway, this is a hot take… or a lukewarm take at best really… but there is (I hope) a lot more information to come, which will probably get summed up with a post on Monday.

Related:

On The EVE of Fanfest

Tomorrow is the big day.  Everything is in place.  The fans have all arrived in Iceland.  The schedule has been published.  Things will start happening soon enough.

EVE Fanfest 2022 Schedule

There are a lot of things going on at Fanfest, presentations from both CCP and players, roundtables, the crazy CCP Games Games, and the big party at the end of the event.

But the make or break is likely to come at 12:00 UTC, when the 90 minute EVE Online Keynote address is slated to begin.  There is pressure on CCP right now.  They are raising the cost to play the game and, in return, as a reward or justification, we have been led to believe that we will be witnessing what might be the biggest content update CCP has ever announced for EVE Online.

I have speculated as to some possibilities, but those of us looking in from the outside won’t really know until Hilmar or CCP Burger or whoever gets up to speak for the game tells us what it is about.

And it is making me a bit nervous for the game.  I have been hard on CCP over the last year or more, though not without justification to my mind.  They grabbed on to an economic philosophy back at the end of 2020 that seemed to seek to punish the player base and make everything more difficult and expensive, all in the name of some distant future vision for the game.  But the reality of business is that tomorrow doesn’t matter if you screw up too much today.

So the pressure is on.  I hope they have something big to announce, because I am afraid of the backlash if they don’t.  Overall I want the game to succeed.

This week also sees the 19th anniversary of the launch of the game, with is celebrated with Capsuleer Day, and event with login rewards, in-game content, and the usual round of other activities.

Celebrating 19 years

The event was also covered in the latest video from The Scope, the in-game news service that reports from within New Eden.

Also mentioned in the video are rising tensions between the Caldari State and the Gallente Federation over the disputed Intaki system.

Now I wonder if this is the lead-in to some new story line content in the game.  Could this pertain to the big announcement?  We shall see tomorrow at 12:00 UTC I suppose.

Or maybe you will see.  That will be at about 5am local time for me, so I am pretty sure I will still be asleep.

EVE Online Fanfest Announcement Speculation

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

Fanfest is just a week away.  Read all about it.

Last week we got the announcement from CCP that they will be bumping up the price of a subscription for EVE Online from $15 to $20 per month. (Yes, I will keep rounding up to full dollar amounts, though that actually makes CCP looks ever so slightly better because the price went from $14.95 to $19.99, so I am cutting them some slack on the extra four cents.)

At least they had the guts to put the price hike on the launcher, even if they call it an “update”

They chose to make the announcement at the end of their business day on Friday, which is the traditional weaseling hour for public relations and marketing.  You want to announce late enough in the day that it misses the main news drops and hope that nobody notices or that something else shows up over the weekend to push your bad news down the list of topics on Monday.

Anyway, CCP dragged out CCP Paragon to stand up in front of the angry virtual crowd and speak about the price increase.  I don’t know what sin he was accused of, but this surely had to be penance for something.

Several things were mentioned by him… only one of which was in the official announcement… as reasons for why CCP needs to raise the price of a subscription, along with a statement of mitigation, which is the quote at the top of the page.

To lay that out, CCP is going to announce some big things at EVE Fanfest next week that they think will soften player outrage about the 33% price jump.

That, leaving aside all the general ugliness around the price bump, gives us something to speculate about.

I usually don’t speculate about CCP announcements because they tend to be a surprise and often unfathomable before they become public.  But now we have a blank slate and a promise that something huge will be coming.  It is time to throw some bad guesses at the wall and see what ends up sticking.

If I am correct with any of this I will be shocked or dismayed… or possibly both.  I certainly have no special insight into this.  As I understand it, even the CSM is completely in the dark.  But CCP Paragon’s words about the scale of the update makes me wonder what it could be.  What would be bigger than, say, adding wormhole space or super capitals or magic sovereignty entosis wands or Upwell structures?  Those were all kind of big updates to contend with.

So here are a few things that come to my mind, with what I think are the likely player reactions at EVE Fanfest, where the much of the very vocal core of the player base will be.

I will also put my impression of what non-EVE players will say, if anything, largely because CCP has been working on attracting new players for the last couple of years to little obvious success.

  • A Vision Quest

My initial, go-to, most likely scenario when I started thinking about this was that we’re not going to get anything at all at Fanfest aside from a vision of something they hope they will be able to implement in the coming years.  “EVE Forever” once more.

And then I realized that this was going to be true no matter what they announced.  So this is really a stand alone guess.  We’ll get nothing, no features ready to go, just a plan for a plan

It will sound neat and impressive, or it had better, but will be vague enough both in scope and timeline that we’ll all be left projecting our own biases upon it.  This has worked on us before.  Dedicated EVE Online players have a history of buying into these sorts of visions.  We want to believe.

However, the current reality with the mishandling of the New Eden economy, the flirting with crypto, the recent price increases, and the disdain for users that the current production team has shown, there is a significant hazard here.  We might not fall in line and cheer for the vision.

Expected EVE player reaction: The more optimistic will buy in, but disdain and resentment will be a much more common reaction.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: At best, somebody might ask when it will be a thing.  There won’t be an answer for that.

So, given that general prediction, what do I think the actual content will be?

  • Upwell FPS Game – Don’t Call it DUST

The title formerly known as Project Nova will loom back into our range of vision.  The last time we really heard about it was back at EVE Vegas 2018 and they were talking about it being an FPS title within EVE Online, possibly with fighting on structures, being able to disable services with your squad, and having influence on New Eden.  It wouldn’t be “in” EVE, but connected to EVE.  There was much enthusiasm by CCP on this and it sounded like a done deal, something coming soon.

And then shortly after EVE Vegas the whole Project Nova thing got postponed, renamed, and CCP vowed not to speak of it again until it was closer to being ready for prime time.  It has been almost 3.5 years since that happened.  Is it ready yet?

Expected EVE player reaction:  Poor.  There is probably a way they could make this magic work, but the ghost of DUST 514 sits there and reminds us where this madness may lead.  Also, this is a game for somebody else, not a content update for EVE Online.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Is it a good shooter?  No?   Fuck off.

  • Walking in Stations 2.0 – This Time for Sure!

This is my number one persistent bad idea for the game.  It has failed once already, yet I fear CCP has not learned.  Hilmar said something about this a while back on Twitter, but he has said a lot of regrettable things over the years.  Still, it could happen.  Maybe they have turned all of that Project Nova work into a space station barbies project.

There is a theoretical magical mix of features that could make this work.  Even a bitter old vet of the game like me thinks it could be made to work somehow.  The problem is that the history and reputation of CCP.  It is a small company that struggles to keep the ships in space part EVE Online going and viable, so can it handle a feature as huge as this would have to be in order to be viable?  I say no.  Somebody could make this feature work, just not CCP.

And unless this is suffused with magical unicorn farts from top to bottom, it will neither attract new players nor retain old one.

Expected EVE player reaction: Something between a minor riot and the full bore sacking of Reykjavík.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: I love housing in games. This is what the game really needs. But I won’t be playing it because $20 a month is too much and I hate PvP games.

  • Triglavians 2.0

This is the easy guess, one of the most likely big announcement options in my opinion.  Another empire… Jovians, Whovians, whatever… shows up.  New space dynamics, new ships, new weapon types, cool new logos to make, another story line they can drag out for 12 to 24 months, some special new materials for ship manufacturing, fresh PvE challenges, the options here are pretty generous.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Mixed.  The problem is that EVE Online is an amalgam of so many different play styles that it is hard to please everybody.  Pissing off almost everybody to some degree is easy, as we saw last week.  But pleasing them all?  Impossible.  Still, it will please some people, and could please a lot of people if the ships are interesting enough.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: Meh.

  • Play to Earn without NFTs

Yes, CCP said that “NFT” stands for “Not For Tranquility” for the foreseeable future, and I trust that when they said that they could see at least as far ahead as EVE Fanfest.

But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do a play to earn scheme without NFTs or crypto.  In fact, one of the primary objections to crypto being injected into schemes is that it adds nothing and is just rent seeking by outsiders pushing buzzwords.  It can all be done cheaper, faster, and better without crypto.

And we still have that statement from CCP from the post-Prospector Pack blowback that they want to source any future packs from industry players rather than just summoning hulls out of thin air.  So, as I noted at the time, that could be the basis for a new Play to Earn scheme.

Or maybe there will be something that will let players offset the subscription hike.

These seems less likely than it did before, but it could happen still, within certain parameters.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Dangerous, depending on the details.  If could range from “meh” to another few weeks of rage.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Can I earn money at anywhere close to minimum wage in my location?  No?  Buh-bye.

  • Major Change to Game Mechanics

Maybe there will be something game changing in the announcement, but I hesitate to speculate as to what they might do after a couple of years of wrecking the economy only to start undoing that.

It isn’t so much that I can’t pick something that isn’t broken enough to think it might be due for an overhaul as I have a problem figuring out what CCP isn’t so invested in that they’ll actually consider changing.

Completely new faction warfare?  Redoing skill training and attributes?  A fresh new way to create and administer corporations and alliances?  Security and standings revamp?  There are a lot of things in the game that could be improved by some focus.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Would really have to push the right button for a good response

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Yawn

  • A Batch of Minor Things Dressed Up as a Big Effing Deal

I started with two ideas for this post, the first one about vision, and this one, which I would categorize as “things they should have done already.”

Add your favorite small feature here like Alliance SKINs, Upwell structure SKINs, cat ears, attribute remaps for PLEX, name changes for PLEX, or whatever else you can come up with and bundle them together and pretend it is the biggest content update ever or something… though having written that, I do have to say if it is all monetzation features after the price hike, it will not go down well.

Expected EVE player reaction: Very poor.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Non-existent.

  • Something Actually as Good as Promised

It could happen.  Maybe it will.  Maybe CCP will hit it out of the park this time, painting both a vision and delivering on at least some of it right away.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Rejoicing and throwing money at CCP.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Maybe I should try this game after all.

Anyway, those are my guesses a week ahead of EVE Fanfest.  I give myself an extremely low likelihood of being right on any of them, but we’ll know the answer soon enough.

This is the part of the post where I might consider adding a poll just to see what people think but, as I mentioned some time back, WP.com completely broke polls in the classic editor and the block editor is cancer.

Still, if you have another idea about what they might announce, drop a comment.

The Bored Ape Victorieux Luxury Yacht Club of New Eden

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

-Maya Angelou

I’ve written a bit about how Pearl Abyss has been talking about embracing blockchain and pay to earn in their quarterly earnings calls.  I have even made a rash prediction that we’ll be getting some sort of pay to earn scheme announcement for EVE Online at Fanfest in early May.

A voice in the wilderness, I know.

But CCP has already toyed with the crypto idea, making NFTs part of the Alliance Tournament back in November.  They were not IN the game, but they were OF the game, and CCP’s slow pace of work means they often look like they have cleverly boiled the frog in hindsight.  This was likely the first step towards crypto in New Eden.

So my eyes have been on EVE Fanfest and what we might expect to see from CCP there.

But then GDC happened up in San Francisco last week, and it was full on “Crypto is the next big thing, jump on board fast!” panels and pronouncements.

The Blockchain Game Alliance – GDC 2022

I am borrowing that image from Jason Scott, who posted it to Twitter.  I hope somebody will put together a score card to see how many of those company’s still exist in five years.

Of course, the Atari logo is in there.  There is no bad idea that the owners of that name won’t jump on.  Likewise UbiSoft, though at least they create games that are popular, making them a stand out on the list.

A bit surprised to see AMD at the top center of that image, but I guess they make good money selling video cards to crypto miners rather than gamers.

Anyway, I am willing to let the market decide winners and losers on this one, as it did when MMOs, Facebook games, and VR were the next big things at GDC in past years.  Just because some new idea is hailed at the conference doesn’t mean it is a good one, and it certainly doesn’t mean everybody who jumps on board with some half baked idea is going to win big.

Out of GDC came a tweet from the account of Eden Holdings about a meeting with CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar being a favorite moment of the conference. 

Hilmar in the middle of the crypto suite

Of course, Eden Holdings is all about crytpo and the metaverse and has a bored ape avatar. (Have you not heard about the Bored Ape Yacht Club?  Lucky you, though that probably makes the title of this post doubly confusing, as it references that and a specific ship in EVE Online that I am almost certain you’ve never heard of.)

Eden Holdings Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

Also mentioned in that tweet as being a part of the meeting was Yield Guild Games, whose profile says the are about Play to Earn, NFTs, and the metaverse.

Yield Guild Games Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

There was also Delphi Digital, an investment firm into advancing the understanding and development of digital assets, that last being shorthand for crypto and NFTs.

Delphi Digital Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

And, finally, there was also BITKRAFT Ventures, another investment firm into Web3, which is another way of saying crypto and the metaverse these days.

BITKRAFT Ventures Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

Quite the little get together, Hilmar and various crypto proponents all huddled in a suite talking about their favorite digital asset fantasies… and how much money it will earn them.

So why am I bringing this up?  Am I stalking Hilmar and his crypto pals?  Am I that obsessed with crypto?

Not really.  The GDC stuff just came through all of the usual gaming media I have been following for years.  I don’t follow any of these accounts on Twitter, except for Hilmar, and he barely tweets anything.  He certainly didn’t have any comments on GDC.

No, this came to my attention because the official CCP EVE Online account retweeted this particular item.  Not the CCP Games corporate account, but the account dedicated to the game EVE Online.

And why do you boost a message about a meeting between the CEO and some crypto investors on that account?  Because crypto is coming to EVE Online maybe? (Edit: The EVE Online twitter account has since undone this retweet.)

Am I reading too much into one retweet?  Probably.  Somebody on the community might just be instructed to retweet anything that mentions Hilmar.  He likes the attention.

But there is that CCP history to deal with, their ongoing experiments with boiling various frogs, and that quote up at the top of the post.  Are they showing us who they are?

The best outcome I can imagine from this is that they might announce another title that is focused on crypto at Fanfest, leaving EVE Online alone to suffer from resource depletion as their new venture follows the path of every new title they have released since 2003.  It will still hurt the company, which will be bad for EVE Online, but at least it might not ruin the game.

The other route, in which they try to bolt crypto and/or play to earn onto EVE Online, ends less well.

EVE Fanfest may be interesting for some of the wrong reasons this year.

Related:

An EVE Online Play to Earn Announcement is Coming at Fanfest

This is a prediction, not a statement of fact.  But it is a prediction based on evidence provided directly by CCP and Pearl Abyss.  That doesn’t mean it is a sure thing, but it seems likely.  Very likely.  And I like to make predictions, so I’ll revisit this post after EVE Fanfest to see how it played out.

To start with, where is this prediction even coming from?

Yes yes, we’ll get to this soon enough…

Well, Pearl Abyss has been talking about blockchain and pay to earn (which I guess is sometimes pay2earn or P2E… so I’ll go with P2E to shorten it) for a while now.  One need only go back to their Q4 2021 earnings call to find them directly saying that blockchain and pay to earn are in their future, with direct reference to CCP and how smart both companies are about running economies in video games.

Given that CCP has exactly ONE video game, EVE Online (NetEase runs EVE Echoes, CCP only gets to advise there and the bigger worry is that CCP will take bad ideas from it), it isn’t exactly hard to guess where CCP’s economic reputation will come into play.

But maybe that was just all for the market.  I mean, EA was out there talking about blockchain and NFTs one quarter, then went somewhat quiet on the whole thing the next.  Gamers have been pushing back on the whole idea.

That is where we get into something a little more concrete.

Back on March 9th CCP introduced a new for cash pack in the web store that would sell players a fully fitted Retriever mining barge.  This made some of the player base angry, and the CSM put out an open letter that very same day asking CCP to remove the pack from the store and to not create any packs like that in the future.

On the evening of March 18th, nine days after the introduction of the pack and the publishing of the letter from the CSM, CCP responded with a reply to the CSM open letter thread and said they were listening to the community and had removed the pack from the web store.

This made me wonder if things like the open letter, the complaints on Reddit, or the Twitch Blackout protest might have swayed CCP.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it did not, or at least it did not have sufficient impact.

First, there is the timing of the post, which not only came after business hours in the US… and coming up to midnight in Iceland… on a Friday, which is when you publish things you hope people won’t read, but it was preceded by nine days of silence on the topic.

And, as it happens, nine days was how long the login event promoting the mining changes ran.  So it is not outside the realm of possibility that the pack was supposed to come down once the event ended in any case.  CCP had a timer on it when they were presenting the pack offer to players after they ran the new mining career agent missions.  So it sure seems like the pack was going away already.

Finally, the response came in the form of a reply to a post, many message into the thread, on the forums, which is also a good way to post something to say you have responded while ensuring few people will ever see it on accident.  Important things get dev blogs.  Even Incarna got dev blogs about the situation.  The forum is reserved for things that are not important to the company.

The evidence suggests that CCP was not listening and did not do anything in response to player outrage or polite CSM requests.  They carried on with the plan and ignored any input, which is a familiar theme for CCP.  Redline XIII probably lost his partner program membership for nothing… well, he kept his self respect, which is not “nothing,” but the influence on CCP seems minimal at best.

CCP wasn’t necessarily lying when they wrote, “We hear your concerns about the Prospector Pack,” but that doesn’t mean that they changed their plan one iota.

I know, cool story bro, but what about this P2E prediction, where did that come from?

It comes straight from the statement that CCP buried in the forums.

One of the topics for Fanfest is a new project that we’re in the middle of developing, that will transform these and any future packs – a paradigm where packs of this type will be supplied by players, ensuring that any ship we offer to new players through sales, will have origins from actual player work in New Eden: Made for new players, by veterans. This feature will also not only supply each ship from the player base but allow the community to influence which ships will be put in these packs.

That isn’t exactly a “Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick” level of admission, but it does set some parameters.

There will be an announcement at Fanfest.  At least that is an easy read.

There will also be more packs.  Again, evidence that CCP was not listening at all, they refer to future packs.  Now, they soften that with the word “any,” as if to put some doubt behind the idea that there will absolutely be future packs, but the whole paragraph is a non-sequitor if there is no plan for future packs, so you can safely cross out “any.”  There will be more such packs.

But these new packs will have the contents supplied by players.  And you know what players aren’t going to do?  They aren’t going to build and fit ships for free.  CCP will need some way to incentivize players to build ships and modules and whatever, or it simply isn’t going to happen.

The best way would be to put up buy contracts for specific hulls and modules so that the ships in the packs would come from the player economy and not be created out of thin air.

Even if the contracts reward just ISK, that still completes the loop for a pay to earn scheme.

But I hear you ask, “Isn’t that how the EVE economy works anyway?  What makes this different?”

To start with, rather than producing hulls and modules out of thing air, it will be for ISK, which is how it works in the game already.  But CCP will be opening up their own special ISK faucet to make the program go.  That is new.

And, of course, CCP will turn around and sell the hulls and modules, along with some skill points and PLEX added in of course, for real world money.  So even if you aren’t earning real world money, you do get a sense that this hull or that module has a cash value.

Now, that is the simplest version of their proposal I can imagine, and as a P2E scheme it only rises above mining ore and selling it on the market because CCP is going to then sell it to other players for cash.  It becomes an RMT transaction, which sort of gets it in the ballpark.  And it has an impact on the player economy.  If, as an example, CCP decides that it is going to make another Retriever pack from player stocks, so sets a buy price of 50 million ISK, that is the new price for that hull.  Why would you sell one for less if CCP might pay you that much.  And CCP’s price always has to be higher than the market price, or why would you sell to them?

The thing is, that is just my guess, and my most simple, straight path, easiest to implement one at that.  CCP may not do that, probably won’t do that.

CCP may not pay out in ISK, but in PLEX, which has closer to real world value.  You can buy PLEX for cash in-game or via the web store, and it can be turned into game time or a second training queue or buy things from the in-game store such as skill extractors or hypercores.

I think if CCP pays out in PLEX, then we’re safely into P2E territory.

But what if the plan is for something beyond ISK or PLEX?

As I stated before, I have no idea what the plan really is, but we still have the Pearl Abyss statements I linked to above where they seem all in on blockchain and P2E.

I certainly don’t think CCP is going to pay out in real world cash.  The first rule of business is to never give the customer their money back except as a last resort.  But letting players earn some sort of cryto currency, which they could roll up on their own, that has a theoretical real world value, they could go there.

It might even work… for a while.

The key problem with P2E with crypto is that supply eventually outstrips demand.  As we have seen with Axie, if the money seems at all reasonable, people will swarm in to make some and the market eventually crashes because there are not enough customers to absorb the boost in production.

With some sort of buy order mechanism acting as a limiter on supply, it can be metered out to fit the existing demand.

Of course, solving that one problem… and I won’t claim it actually solves the problem, it merely mitigates it somewhat… will still lead to the whole thing modifying player behavior elsewhere.  Humans get really weird when money comes into play.  I’ve lost a billion ISK ship before, and it stung, but I still undocked it and put it in harms way knowing the possible outcome.  But if I had put down $20 of real world cash for it, would I be so cavalier?  How about if I could trade that hull for some crypto?  It would change my perception of the risk.

Anyway, that is all speculation.  I am not making any sort of prediction down to that level of detail.  But it certainly sounds like we will be getting some sort of P2E announcement at EVE Fanfest… in Iceland… in front of a hall filled with the games most ardent fans.

I do hope they will stream it live, because I want to tune in and watch that in real time.  I expect it to be a real, “No sir… they’re saying Boo-urns” sort of moment.

Related:

Pearl Abyss Promises a Blockchain Economy while CCP Prepares for EVE Fanfest

A couple of things dropped for EVE Online yesterday.

First up was the Pearl Abyss Q4 2021 earnings call.  The company recorded a bump in overall revenue, though that bump had little to do with video games.  Revenue on the gaming front was down some in Q4, which is never a good sign, that generally being a high point for many titles with people having time to play and most titles running holiday events.

This is all covered in greater detail over at The Nosy Gamer, but I do want to pick a quote from the end of his post, in reference to the “play to earn” idea that the crypto bros have been pushing so hard.  Pearl Abyss has bought into that and foresees greater profits with crypto, finishing up that thought with:

We will shortly communicate with you in different stages about what we are currently preparing for. Our company and CCP Games both have operated MMOs for a long time and we do have the knowhow to maintain and manage a sustainable economic system. So we are confident we can create a stable blockchain ecosystem.

Leaving aside skepticism about CCP’s hamfisted, war ending manipulation of the New Eden economy and the myriad of issues that rightfully hound the flawed to the bone blockchain concepts (a presentation given at Stanford on that if you’re interested in more on that), it is readily apparent to anybody paying attention that even blockchain focused companies can’t create a stable blockchain ecosystem.

Bitcoin, which doesn’t suffer from the rampant theft, rug pulls, and scams of Ethereum and its smart contract brethren, isn’t a viable financial instrument due to wild fluctuations in price and service costs and slow transaction times, unless you really need to secrecy it provides and are willing to pay the premium required.  Everything else is worse than Bitcoin when it comes to stability, so how to you build an stable in-game blockchain ecosystem on top of that?

Hint:  You don’t.

Talk about not being able to read the room.  Have they not seen how badly this has gone for Ubisoft or how even EA is backing away from the crypto idea?

Now, I’ll grant that PA hasn’t actually done much on the crytpo front, so it isn’t like I expect it to be in EVE Online next week.  But they do keep talking about it, as does Hilmar, they keep bringing up CCP when they are talking about it, there was that NFT “experiment” during the Alliance Tournament, and it isn’t like CCP has some other game besides EVE Online right now that has any value, much less an actual economy.  There is still time to walk away from this very dumb idea, so maybe cooler heads will prevail.

We shall see.

Then, as part of the run up to EVE Fanfest, CCP did a live stream to announce things the are working on between now and then, followed by a dev blog to sum up/clarify what was mumbled or misstated on the stream.  Seriously, former CCP Dev Carneros pitched them softballs from a list of obviously prepared points and the CCP team seemed quite unprepared to speak coherently to about half of what was brought up.  CCP Swifts enthusiasm can only carry you so far.  It was not their finest hour.

We’re on a road to somewhere…

The highlights were:

  • Mystery Mining Adventure

Now that they have re-created a long career climb to mining perfection again via mechanics like waste, they’re going to introduce a new player experience to put people on that path.  One career agent made redundant, only five more to go?

  • Orbital Warzone

CCP is going to make player owned customs offices (POCOs) harder to defend in order to try and spark some conflict on that front.

  • Another Graphical Update

Literally their words, copied from the dev blog, and not me being snarky.  We’re moving closer to being able to create reflecto-porn on spaceships.  Not quite there yet, but you’ll be able to see structures and explosions reflected in that shiny Amarr gold trim.

  • Together We Compress

They are trying really hard to make it seem like you need to play the Guardians Gala event in order for them to unlock compression, but they are putting it on the test server tomorrow, so that seems like an empty threat.  This version of compression is not supposed to be as bad as mindbogglingly awful first run they put on the test server back in December, but we won’t really know until it lands there.  Some details:

  • Compression becomes a more social ability. The Industrial Command Ships (Rorqual, Orca and Porpoise) are getting new modules, which will enable all nearby fleet-mates to instantly compress their own materials.
    • This remote compression will be available at long ranges – over 200 km is possible.
  • As frequently requested, Gas and Moon Ore resources will become compressible, using these new modules.
  • The Porpoise will be able to compress Gas and Asteroid Ore, and both the Orca and Rorqual will be able to compress all resources – Gas, Ice, Asteroid Ore, and Moon Ore.
  • Compression will continue to be loss-less.
  • The capacity of Jet-cans will be doubled to make it easier for high-volume miners and haulers to work together more efficiently.

We’ll see how it looks soon I guess.

  • The Glorious Battleship

Having pushed the price of even basic battleship hulls past the 300 million ISK mark with last April’s industry changes (and don’t get me started on the price of faction battleships), CCP has decided to run with that and try to make them worth the extra ISK.  To get there they plan a role bonus that will make armor plates 50% more effective, shield extenders 100% more effective, as well as making it easier to fit an MJD when you fly one.  We’ll see if this has any impact on the PvP combat meta, but I bet it makes mission running in battleships a lot easier.  The joys of balancing PvP and PvE.

  • Crab Season Approaches

They want more capital ships to undock, but won’t make them cheaper, so they are making the CRAB beacons, introduced back in October, cost less.  You need to undock a capital ship to use one, so there you go, more capitals undocking.

  • Bolstered Bulkheads

CCP is going to roll back the nerf to capital resistance modules that landed with the Surgical Strike update in April of 2020 by half.  That and the industry updates of April of 2021 made people dock up their capital ships.  Never mind carrots, we’re now just happy that CCP is hitting us with 50% less stick.

  • Rorqual Hotdrop

Rorquals are getting a conduit jump ability akin to what blackops battleships got last June, allowing them to jump a small fleet.  CCP envisions people taking a very expensive capital mining platform on “mining adventures” with this change.  I nominate this as a candidate for and “unexpected outcomes” award when players get their hands on it.

  • Blueprint Changes

CCP would like people to use dreadnoughts and are thinking about maybe changing the blueprints so they don’t cast 8 billion ISK to build and fit, but they haven’t actually committed to that.  Still, after many months of players going on about this problem, it is nice to hear CCP at least acknowledge that the issue won’t go away by insisting producers will eventually step into line with their grand economic plan.

  • Structure Changes

We have complained about Upwell structures enough that CCP feels obliged to do something.  They haven’t said what, just that it is on the list.

  • No More Quadrants

They couldn’t keep that theme going, so they’re giving up the idea.  The New Dawn age of permanent scarcity quadrant was the last one of those.  They’ll get into their new plan at Fanfest.  As the banner says, a new era approaches.

And then there was a push for Fanfest.  I am wondering how that is shaping up, as early bird tickets, which used to be limited in supply and generally disappeared quickly, were still being mentioned right up to the last day they were available.

Anyway, that is my roundup.  No doubt you can detect some cynicism on my part, though I will say that I think CCP’s two years of “all stick, no carrot” handling of the game warrants a bit of that.  Add in Pearl Abyss and Hilmar talking crypto and CCP removing that presentation about World War Bee I mentioned last week from the press site, and I feel like cynicism is still on the mark right now.

Related items:

EVE Online Fanfest Returns to Iceland for 2022

There won’t be a BlizzCon or a BlizzCononline for the foreseeable future and the annual events that SOE used to hold are but a distant memory at this point, but CCP carries on with its tradition of EVE Fanfest at the top of the world by announcing the event will return for 2022.  With the pandemic at least somewhat under control in many places and vaccinations readily available CCP felt it was time to get the band back together in Iceland after having skipped 2019 to do the FanFest World Tour instead and having had to cancel in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.

Return to Iceland

Attendees will have to comply with the Icelandic government’s regulations… which as of today is asking people to avoid non-essential travel, but who knows what tomorrow will bring… and provide proof of vaccination.

But tickets are now available for purchase, with early bird tickets as a discounted price likely to be gone quickly.

So get ready for the triumphant return of EVE Fanfest in 2022.  Details are available at the EVE Fanfest 2022 site.  There is even a quick announcement video.

Now what about EVE Vegas?

Related: