Tag Archives: Rambling Detected

What Will it Mean to have a Bunch of 20 Year Old MMORPGS?

I know we already have some MMORPGs that are over 20 years old.  EverQuest turned 23 earlier this year, Lineage hit 24 last week, and Ultima Online has its 25th anniversary celebrations coming up soon.  Even Anarchy Online has managed to shamble past its 21st birthday.

Welcome indeed… we’ve been here a quarter century

But we’re getting past the point where that first generation of financially successful MMORPGs have passed two decades and are rapidly coming up on the next generation, the successors that tried to learn and adapt what was learned from the first titles to cross the 100K player mark.

We are now about a half a year away from EVE Online turning 20.  This coming November World of Warcraft and EverQuest II will hit the 18 year mark.  And after that pair hits 20 we’ll see some long surviving title like Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online hitting 20.

I was just going on yesterday about 16 years being kind of a long time in the life of a person, a significant portion of their lifetime experience.  Hell, part of the reality of this blog is not so much that it has been around for 16 years, but that I have been writing about and playing the same half dozen games for most of the time I have been writing it.

What does 20 years mean in a genre that is only 25-50 years old, depending on where you want to mark the starting point?  If you subscribe to the notion that video games are for kids, what does it mean when you have a set of titles that are old enough to be considered adults?

MMORPGs kind of broke the mold when it came to video game development.  You used to make a game, ship it, maybe do a couple of patches and maybe an expansion if the game was a big freaking deal, then you moved on to the next title.  In the end, selling boxes was the goal.  You might rework the same game… how many annual Madden titles have we had after all, or Call of Duty, or even Wizardry if you want to go back to my youth… but you shipped the game and started on the next one.

MMORPGs though, they just keep going.  Or some of them do.  There are, of course, some bodies along the side of the road to 20.  Some less successful titles were thrown overboard to keep various companies afloat and their senior execs in lemon scented moist towelettes or whatever.

But for a set of titles, if they hit a certain critical mass of core players and establish just the right amount of social bonds, they seem to be able to go on forever.

Yeah, sure, they are past their peak.   There aren’t 250K players in Ultima Online anymore, or 400K in Dark Age of Camelot, or 500K in EVE Online, or 550K in EverQuest, or 12 million in World or Warcraft, or however many in whatever other aging titles you care to mention.  Their prime is in the past.  But they managed to hold onto enough players to remain viable, even profitable.  Very profitable, in some cases.  EG7 is never going to let go of EverQuest if it keeps up, nor will Blizzard ever abandon WoW, which still pays most of the bills even in its decline.  The only thing that will kill them is gross mismanagement… and even WoW seems to be able to handle that.  (EVE Online though, that remains a test case for management that wants a different game.)

Even if new content is out of the question, there are always events and special servers and a host of tricks and enticements to keep people playing and paying.

It used to be Mark Jacob’s gig to go on about how the market for MMORPGs was vast beyond anybody’s measure. (A quote of one of the many times he said something like that.)  But I do wonder what it means to have a market where the old competitors, rich in content, history, and memories, are hanging about as the occasional new entry shows up and tries to compete.

I’ve gone on about the peril of the market for new entries, and the thing isn’t unassailable if you’ve learned the right lessons from the past.  Go see how Lost Ark has been doing, a title that had its act together, versus New World, an entry in the genre that seemed determined to forget every lesson ever learned.

I do not have any deep insight or huge conclusion to wind up this post with.  It is just something that occurred to me as I was tidying up yesterday’s post about my blog turning 16 and how its fortunes have tracked along with some of the games I’ve written about.  I’m past my peak as a blogger as well, but enough of you show up and drop a comment now and then to keep me going… and enough comment spam bots land to load up ads to pay the bills.

Reflections on What Keeps You in New Eden for Sixteen Years

We are here again at the anniversary of my start in New Eden.  16 years ago today I created my account and logged into EVE Online for the very first time.

My New Eden birthday in the old character panel

It has become a tradition for me to write about some aspect of the game… because I can only recount my first day of play so many times.  My frustration helped prompt me to start this blog, its anniversary being less than two weeks distant.

Some of the topics I have covered in the past on my anniversary.

But here, at year sixteen, I am struggling a bit for a topic.

It has been a something of a bad year for the game, as I wrote about previously.  But bad times and bad decisions by the company are hardly unique, and they tend to bring out more opinions from me rather than less.

It isn’t like I couldn’t drag out a topic.  There are a multitude of things that I could potentially run on about related to sixteen years of playing EVE Online.  The problem is that post like this, opinions and remembrances and going on about what a strange and wonderful place New Eden can be, that comes from the emotional part of me.

And my feelings for the game are a little flat right now.

I know, I know, it has been a down year for the game, and that no doubt enters into it.  It is much easier to find some passion for writing when things are happening.  Even when things are not going your way.

Especially when things are not going your way.

I am sure I have said this before, but it bears repeating; being on the losing side isn’t all bad.  Being on the defense in Saranen during the Casino War or backed up into that last constellation in Delve during World War Bee, those were some of the most active times in the game.  It gave things an edge… and it is convenient when the enemy brings content to your front step on a daily basis.

There are a couple of reasons for that.

First, it is a video game, so the stakes aren’t really that high.  Nobody dies, everybody respawns in a fresh clone to undock and fight again another day.  Ships are expendable.  Losing them is what we do every day.  If you haven’t lost a ship, you aren’t really playing the game.

Second, the odds being against you can really heighten the experience.

You don’t want to be completely overwhelmed.  There is no fun in extremely long odds.  But when the chips are down and there seems like there is no way to win and a fleet gets pinged and you and a hundred or more other members of your space tribe log in, ship up, and undock all the same.

That comes as close to a “This is Sparta!” sort of moment as you can get with an internet spaceship simulator.

It is almost as though a certain amount of difficulty or adversity makes the game more interesting.

I am sure I have mentioned this before.  It is certainly more fulfilling to write about heavily contested battles, bloody clashes, and close run defeats than it is to try to spin a tale about an uncontested structure shoot.  Not that I haven’t done the latter, it just isn’t as interesting.

Of course, there is adversity and then there is adversity.  CCP having made it more difficult to earn ISK or harvest resources, putting a strangle hold on the economy of New Eden, that isn’t the good sort of adversity.  Making ships expensive to replace does not drive conflict.

I’d much rather have the assets to throw ships into a desperate defense, like the ones we had at FWST-8 almost two years ago, or betting some assets on a clever trap that goes bad, like the one at YZ9-F6, than to be wondering if my PI yield this month is going to keep me in enough ISK to invest in whatever the latest doctrine is.

But that is sort of the Tao of EVE Online.  The interesting bit can come upon us unexpectedly, and nobody is guaranteed a good time just for logging in.  But if you don’t log in you’ll never get that special high that arrives when things come together and events are suddenly swirling and you are in the moment in a fight and, while you want to win, the whole thing will still be memorable and worth talking about even if you don’t.

So, even in the face of the last year and then some, I am still subscribed.  I still log in.  Something interesting is bound to happen even as another year goes by.

Fruits of the Cultural Revolution

When I went out to null sec back in late 2011, it was not without some trepidation.  I was going to join a friend out there and be part of a small corporation.  In the social structure of New Eden, the corporation is often the most basic unit, a small group that identifies together, very much the guild analog in EVE Online.

But the game takes it beyond that, and above corporations there are alliances, which are groups of corporations that can band together under a unified banner in order to work together.  Alliances are a meta-guild of sorts.

The players, ever ingenious, have managed to create their own social structures beyond what the game provides.  I often speak of the Imperium and PanFam and PAPI and FI.RE.  These are coalitions, alliances of alliances, an idea that has no official structure within the game.  But CCP gave us enough tools through standings and such to make them possible.

And then there are informal groups, at least so far as the game is concerned, what we call SIGs and Squads in the Imperium, but which exist in other alliances and coalitions, which try to group up people with like interests so they can do things together.

This is somewhat relevant to my own tale in null sec, which started with my joining a small corporation, BSC Legion, back in December of 2011 and getting mixed up in the never ending tale of war and drama that is null sec space in New Eden.  It may also relevant to where this post will go, though I won’t really know until I get there.

Back then the organization now known as the Imperium, at the time called the CFC, was a very different place.  This was after the great war between Band of Brothers and Goons, and null sec was a mix of survivors of the war, successor organizations, and some new groups.  It was very much the age of suspicion and spies and getting into a null sec corp required some thorough vetting and a vouch from somebody already in the corp.

And life in null sec was like a lot of other PvP games at the time.  There was a lot of casual racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the usual bad tropes of “gamer” culture, with no real incentive to change and a lot of people set in their ways.  The CEO of my first alliance, TNT, told us quite bluntly at one point that he would ban and blacklist anybody who complained to CCP about people posting porn in fleet chat, which was incredibly common at the time.  An occasional FC would ask people to go make a porn channel to keep fleet chat clear, but that was a rare thing indeed.

It was the price of playing the game… because it wasn’t just null sec that was like that.

Then things changed.  Sometime after the Fountain War Goonswarm and the CFC started to clean itself up.  The cultural revolution was declared.  A huge push was made to normalize better behavior.  The name was change to the Imperium.  We were no longer going to tolerate casual racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, and other toxic behavior within our ranks.

This was not an easy lift.  There had been some efforts before to try to get people to tone down their behavior, at least in coalition level fleets, and it was met by a lot of push back.  There are a lot of fragile young men out there who feel less than whole if they can’t been abusive.  I recall many surly complaints about not being able to link porn in fleet chat or harass any female that showed up on voice chat.

But the cultural revolution, which was most loudly proclaimed by The Mittani, mostly succeeded.  It was directed primarily at Goonswarm and coalition operations, so other alliances in the coalition did what they pleased on their own time.  There had to be a second cultural revolution after the Casino War to stamp out corners of toxic behavior… a task made easier by the fact that the Imperium had shed some of the more toxic groups during the war… and some basic standard of behavior was created and enforced.  I have been on fleets where somebody slips into that old toxic behavior only to have the fleet commander firmly remind them that “we don’t do that here.”  It is always good to hear somebody in authority holding the line.

And I am sure somebody will point out that coalition member X said something toxic somewhere… in local, in the forums, on r/eve… and they are probably right.  There is no way to police this sort of standard outside of coalition sponsored operations.  But at least people could go on coalition operations and not be subject to that sort of thing.  Life was better.

As for why this happened, there are probably a few reasons, not the least of which is that unchecked toxic behavior tends to drive out your best players over time.

But this time frame was also a point of change in null sec.  Brave Newbies had showed up and, while not exactly a power house, demonstrated that an open recruitment policy and an eagerness to help new players could generate interest and put ships on grid.

In a game where “n+1” had long been the formula for victory, this simple method of recruiting people to fill fleets was a too good to pass up.  We were also entering the “farms and fields” era of null sec, where defense of sovereignty would depend on the Activity Defense Multiplier.  You would have to live in and use your space to make it defensible, and having more people made that easier.  Also, there would no longer be “bad” space in null sec, systems whose true security gave them little value.  Upgrades via infrastructure hubs would make any system viable for ratting, mining, and industry.

So the Imperium copied the Brave formula, grabbing some of their leadership along the way, and set about recreating it in the form of KarmaFleet.  Goonswarm already had a fairly strong training and informational program for new players, so this was expanded and evolved to handle new recruits that wanted to go to null sec.

All of this was a large set of changes to the organization, and it is hard to imagine that they could have occurred without somebody as driven and frankly ruthless as The Mittani championing them.  He had been out in front of this declaring that we shouldn’t be shitty to each other.  We were all in this together and should look out for and support each other.

This is the sort of thing that builds the bonds that gets people to hold out for more than a year against three to one odds, as happened in World War Bee.

So there has been a strong belief that, no matter what our foes say, that we’re the good guys, demonstrably better people than those who attack us.

Which isn’t to say that everything was perfect.  Individuals will be jerks of their own accord.

And so it was that somebody in the coalition was stalking and harassing one of their female corp mates.  The corporation diplomats asked the coalition to ban and blacklist that person, but the coalition wanted more information.  The victim of the harassment sent more information, however nothing happened for four months, so she began complaining in the alliance forum about it to get attention.

This got the attention desired and the harasser was banned.

But so was the victim.

That was obviously wrong and the victim was unbanned.

If that were it, and my summation here is grossly simplified, it would have been bad but something to be learned from.  Mistakes get made, but they are only wasted if we fail to use them to improve.  The first I heard about any of this was a ping went out about the coalition needing a harassment policy because part of the excuse was that people handling this were not sure what to do.

But then people who were calling for the victim to be unbanned then got banned.  The victim and their defenders were banned for drama.

And there was The Mittani, in the middle of this, banning people, blaming the victim, and generally being an ass.  Quotes from him, posted all over r/eve, were the first thing I saw that made me feel that something was really wrong.

The Mittani as imagined by CCP in a video from The Scope

As more leaks came out I really began to think it might be time to leave.  This wasn’t what we fought for in the past.  I started calculating in my head what I ought to do to get out… sell my caps, ship smaller stuff to Jita… and be done with it.  This was not where the cultural revolution was supposed to lead us… or rather, it seemed to be pointing out that being better only applied to line members, that those in power could continue to behave badly behind closed doors, something we see all to often in the real world where rules only apply to those down the food chain.

That was on Wednesday evening, and I mulled it over on Thursday as more leaks sprung revealing what was going on at the top.

Then, Friday morning, The Mittani resigned.  He put out a statement that was posted over at INN about his reasons for leaving, highlighting people dragging his personal life into the fray.  And that was no doubt so.  He has made a lot of enemies and there are a host of people on r/eve and Something Awful that will drag him at every opportunity.

But there isn’t anybody outside of the Imperium who can take credit for this, though they are trying to.

The call came from inside the house.

This was an internal revolt.  When leadership chats are leaking, it is because people are not happy inside and they can’t see being able to make any change without going public.

So The Mittani has stepped down, handed over the keys to the alliance, driven there, arguably, by the cultural revolution he championed years back.

What happens next?  That remains to be seen.  Internal dissent won’t be quelled by shuffling the deck chairs.  But there are also people who feel The Mittani did no wrong, some still in leadership positions.  Goon unity is an illusion, except when people bunch us into a collective group to take a swing at us.  Outside attacks bring us together.  But left to our own the Imperium is a large and diverse group and no stereotype fits.

And how does the Imperium and Goonswarm Federation move forward from this?

The Mittani has often openly declared the organization to be an autocracy, and like its real world counterparts, it had a strong and recognizable main leader and then a host of others doing the real work mostly behind the scenes.  That means that there is no immediate and obvious heir to the leadership role.  Some care takers have taken over the main roles, but there isn’t anybody at the top now whose voice I would recognize on coms, much less know what they really do in the Coalition.

All of this has happened not too long after the ten year anniversary of the notorious “wizard hat” incident when The Mittani encouraged people during his alliance panel presentation to harass a player who claimed to be suicidal.  The Mittani apologized the next day and attempted to make good with the player in question, but CCP revoked his election to CSM 7 and banned him from the game for 30 days.

Anyway, that was an unexpected turn at the end of a disappointing week.  And, as often happens with EVE Online, now I feel I have to stick around just to find out what happens next.  I do not expect that there will be much immediate impact.  The wheels of the coalition will continue to grind on, I will still log in and fly with the same people in the same time slots and the same SIGs that I usually do.

But this could lead to a dramatic change over time.  Leaders of Goonswarm have generally left their mark on the organization, and none have led as long as The Mittani, so what happens next remains to be seen.

Related:

Things Like Valheim in a Post MMORPG World

I watched a video the other day about how to save the MMORPG genre.  It was an hour reasonably well spent if the topic interests you.

 

The video brings up a lot of problems and contradictions that the community has long discussed and argued about, such as the importance of community, servers, end game content, and a whole package of other items that will no doubt sound familiar if you’ve been part of the discussion over the last decade and more.

And I will say that there isn’t anything critical that I disagree with when it comes to the discussion.  It is largely a quest to get back to the things that made the genre exciting and fun back in the early days without necessarily throwing out every single “accessibility” feature that has shown up since EverQuest was the booming vanguard of the genre.

The result, which is necessarily a bit vague, can charitably be called a tightrope walk over a pit of knives, suggesting as it does some sort of balance between contradictory goals.

In the end, it seems unlikely that anybody is going to come up with a perfect and sustainable mix of features that will bring back the early joys of the genre, if only because much of what we were willing to put up with nearly a quarter century ago will no longer fly now that we’ve experienced better, easier, or more relaxed versions of virtual worlds.

The novelty of the experience has passed for many of us and, while we want a lot of what virtual worlds bring us, the price we’re willing to pay in what can seem like sheer bloody minded inconvenience is nowhere as high as it used to be.

Yes, you can run a special server now and then catering to the nostalgia of the good old days.  But that is no more sustainable than it was the first time around.  People will clamor for the quality of life changes, only much more quickly as one of the quirks of redoing a game for nostalgia is that the experience runs in fast forward mode because the whole thing is already a solved problem.

I don’t think MMORPGs are dead, but they aren’t going to go back to the dawn of the 21st century in anything but indie niche form.  The mass market voted with their wallets for WoW in droves… and then asked for the rough edges to be smoothed down to the point we have arrived at today and the dichotomy of the whole fun vs effort thing.  In the end we do seem to favor low friction entertainment.

But I also wonder if the edge has been worn of the MMORPG experience by some of the alternatives.

Back in 1999 you couldn’t even run two EverQuest clients on a single machine.  Multi-boxing meant literally having two machines.   So the idea of being able to run your own personal persistent world was out of reach for most people.

That changed.  I think Minecraft gets some serious credit for popularizing running your own world for just you and your friends.  I am sure there are other games titles that pre-date it for that sort of thing, but Minecraft created an industry around hosting worlds, a big enough industry that Microsoft felt it was worthwhile to run part of it.

Minecraft isn’t the ideal replacement for MMORPGs.  It can lack that sense of purpose, which is why I have Valheim in the title of the post.  Sure, you could substitute in something else for it… there are other options… but it is the one that resonates most with me at the moment.

Setting sail

Having your own Valheim server with your friends gives you a lot of what MMORPGs offered back in the day.  A persistent server to share with friends, monsters to find, a major quest to follow in order to win Odin’s favor, a world to explore, bases to build… and you even get that holy grail of online adventures, the ability to change the world and have it persist.

Which leads me to wonder where the future of online gaming in the MMORPG sense ought to be heading.

Valheim is imperfect… and largely so right now because it is incomplete.  It is currently impossible to gain Odin’s favor and win or otherwise finish what you started.

But the promise of it?  Now there is something.  We have twice now spent three months and more going through the content of the game… and in a rapacious manner, throwing many hours into our efforts to explore and move ahead… when it isn’t even half done yet.

What happens when there is a year of content for an industrious group?  What happens when there are multiple titles such as that?

I don’t think the MMORPG is going away.  There is still something to be said for the big game with many people playing in parallel.  But the smaller world, the shared persistent space you and your friends can share… that feels like it has a long ways to go before it seems over populated as a genre.

Of course, that might be why Blizzard is looking into the idea.  Or maybe the devs there just liked Valheim as well.

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?

Is EVE Anywhere Anything to Care About?

I like the idea of being able to just play any game in a browser rather than having a dedicated client, but are the limitations worth the effort of building such a client?

This, of course, is related to CCP’s EVE Anywhere implementation, which was announced quite a while back and has been out in a limited beta version since March of 2021.

EVE Anywhere as long as you accept the limitations

I bring this up again because CCP released a dev blog yesterday announcing that EVE Anywhere was now available for Alpha accounts, which are those who haven’t opted for the monthly subscription plan.  The free players.

(As an aside, to whoever wrote the headline for that dev blog, it sounds like EVE Anywhere is ready for alpha testing, though it has been in beta for over a year.  I can’t tell if that was poor phrasing or a warning about the state of the implementation… though why not both?)

I tried it out when it was first available and I tried it out again this past week and… almost everything I complained about back then is still true now.

  • Fixed resolution (1920×1080)

Not the worst sin possible in and of itself, but if your monitor is not that resolution things may not look right.

  • Can only be run in full screen

This, on the other hand, is a pain in the ass, and all the more so as the app makes you think you can run it in a window or some mode besides full screen.

The lies the client tells me

But no, as soon as you get out of full screen the window is obscured by the banner that required you to click to get back to full screen.

No, you must play full screen

Oh well.

  • Doesn’t remember any settings client settings

I could probably live with the first two and find some utility in being able to log in with a web client, but then there is this.  This is the deal breaker.

Basically, any setting that the standard client stores locally… which is pretty much all of your UI choices and your overviews and such… are not picked up by the web client.

You might expect that.  The real problem is that it doesn’t remember any changes you make in the web client either.  Every time you log in it is the new unconfigured client experience.  I don’t like fiddling with my overview on the best of days, so I certainly don’t want to do it every time I log in and undock.

I will say that at least it does run in Firefox now.  It wouldn’t work for me last time, though I will admit I have my copy of Firefox locked down pretty tight.  Now it will run… it just doesn’t work very well.  Keyboard short cuts don’t work so you need to mouse and click on everything, including quitting the client.

I know, you’re going to tell me it is in beta.  It says so right there on the launch button, so it is a work in progress, and I should be charitable.  And, even a year in, I can buy into that idea.  It still isn’t very useful to me, but nobody is forcing me to use it, so its problems do not have my problems.

The little red beta flag is there to deflect criticism

And I wouldn’t have bothered with this post at all save for one detail in the dev blog.

They did, indeed, make it available to Alpha clone players, but those Alphas have to pay to use it.

Every 24 hour period required you to pay 30 PLEX which, assuming you buy the 3,000 PLEX package, means you have to pony up $1.25 a day to play.  And that just blows be away.

There are, in my world view, only two reasons you would bother making a web client version of EVE Online.

The first is that CCP is concerned that some portion of their player base, real or potential, don’t have machines that can run the client in a way that makes the game look good.  A cloud based thin client, something about which I wrote about previously, puts all the processing and rendering on the server side of the equation and the end user can just look at the pretty space pictures on their Chromebook or whatever.

And maybe that is the aim of the feature.

But the other reason you would do all of this work on a thin client so that players could run your game in a web browser is to reduce the friction that keeps new players from trying your game.  Remember that chart CCP showed us back in 2019?

How many new players log back in as time passes

CCP has been focused on the 10K or so players who log into the game to keep them logging in.  But you could argue that the stand-out number on that chart is the gap between the number of accounts registered versus how many actually log into the game.  Half of the potential players don’t even make it to the point where the game is confusing and the UI is indecipherable.  They fail somewhere between making their account and clicking “play” on the client, and I would guess that most of those fall off somewhere around download and install of the client.

Downloading and installing and configuring, those all represent friction that can keep players from getting into your game.

Ideally you could find a way… like a web based client… that would remove that friction and allow a player to just create an account and then click a button to start playing.  So the web client should at least push more new players into the game so they can hate it for what it is rather than for making them download and run an installer.

Except, of course, that new player cannot do that with EVE Online because in order to use the web client you need to spend some money to get some PLEX, and if you think downloading and installing a client is friction, getting people to pull out their wallet will dwarf that.

Back when MMORPGs were making the transition to free to play en masse, one of the primary arguments was that not forcing people to pay up front would get more players to try the game and that some percentage of those who wouldn’t pay up front would pony up once they experienced the game.

And, just because I feel like piling on a bit more, I am also very much of the opinion that if you charge for something, “it’s in beta” is not a defense.  If I’m paying you can call it whatever you want, but I am going to treat it like a finished product because what else is it at that point?

But wait… what if it isn’t actually still in beta?

CCP also ran a press release on their corporate site that said that EVE Anywhere launched yesterday.  That was enough to get some gaming sites who did more than copy and paste what they had been emailed to point out that the service is live.  Game Developer (formerly Gamesutra) took that to mean that it was out of beta.  They should have tried logging I guess.

Or maybe CCP should just be clear in their freaking press communications, because the dev blog headline sounds like it is in alpha, the dev blog itself doesn’t say it has left beta, and the corporate press release says it has launched.

I am this close to making unfavorable comparisons to Daybreak when it comes to communications here.

So what are you going to do?  As I said, it something that doesn’t affect me really, so I can safely ignore it, but it still managed to irk me and serves as an example of a poor product being handled badly.  And I can’t even start in on the fact that EVE Anywhere is not available everywhere, but still in a limited number of countries. You can’t make this up.

All of which makes the answer to my question in the headline a pretty definite “No!”

Related:

EVE Online and Damage Meters

One of the long time gripes about EVE Online is that CCP does not allow any addons or mods to the game’s UI.

I am not sure I have mentioned this in the past, except briefly in passing, but this is kind of a big hairy deal for a bunch of people because of the notorious nature of the default EVE Online UI.  There are few things EVE players agree on as much as how awkward and often impenetrable the game’s interface can be, especially to new players.

To be fair, it is working in an environment more complicated than a standard fantasy MMORPG, where a player is standing on the ground, sword in hand, and pressing an attack button to smack an orc.  But still, the design philosophy for EVE has mutated over the years and there are times when you can feel the design paradigm shifting under your feet as you attempt to do something out of your usual daily routine.

So the argument is that a mod-able UI that allowed addons and the like would help solve that.  For a game that literally survives on third party tools… for example, the two in-game maps would struggle to be the 4th and 5th best maps of the game, with DOTLAN logical and navigation maps probably being 1st and 2nd… harnessing the proven ingenuity and resourcefulness of the community seems to be a no brainer.

Except, of course, CCP rightfully fears the outcome.  They fear that if they allow modification of the UI that the community will come up with changes that lend distinct advantage to specific users.  They have been smacked around for nearly 20 years by the wisdom of the crowd that flows like water through all of their carefully laid plans to find the optimum solution.

And in a game that is, at its heart, PvP focused, that is death.  Something like HealBot in WoW doesn’t spark much real ire because, in a PvE situation, it only helps fellow players.  A similar addon in New Eden, where an addon would lock up ships in your fleet needing reps and highlight the repair module for you, that could be game breaking.

So we soldier on with the old UI, with the promise of something maybe better in the future in the form of the Proton UI, which they have spoken about in the past.  I remain dubious about the new UI and expect it will be the map situation all over again, where the new map wasn’t much better than the old map, and less useful in some cases, so they ended up with two in-game maps.

We shall see.

So that is almost 500 words about the EVE Online UI and mods.  What does this have to do with damage meters?  Can I get to the point already?

Elsewhere in the genre of late, and in FFXIV and WoW specifically I gather, there has been some community flare up about damage meters yet again. (See Kaylriene and Belghast, they link out further on that.)  The argument is that they turn people into toxic aholes and should not be allowed.  FFXIV specifically does not allow them, though peeling back some of the rhetoric, that seems to be at least in part because they support PC and console and they don’t want console players to be second class citizens.

I generally run damage meters in MMOs if I am going to group up because it is an handy way to analyze what you’re doing in a genre where feedback can be huge numbers flying around without context.  I hit for 20,000, is that a lot or a little?  So I view them as a tool for self-improvement.

But the meta community views of FFXIV and WoW, can be summed up respectively as “you don’t pay my subscription” and “git gud” when it comes dungeon performance with others, both of which I find obnoxious in a grouping context.   There is a lot of emotion in there.

Whatever, I don’t play either currently and find neither community a draw to play their respective games.

But that led me to think about EVE Online, which I am sure both communities would look down upon, if they knew the game existed, as a toxic swamp based on its PvP focus alone.

As it does not allow mods or addons, EVE Online does not, strictly speaking, have damage meters.

Strange days.

There is nothing I can slap onto the game that will put up a UI like Recount, the only damage meter addon I can recall at the moment, to give me immediate feedback on how much damage I am applying against which targets and all the fun data that comes with that.  (I also run damage meters just to see the data.)

But EVE Online does have a pretty healthy relationship with data and allowing users access to it.  But it kind of needs to, just to overcome the amount of options available to players.

I’ll use 425mm railguns as an example, a battleship weapon that happens to be fitted on a Megathron in my hangar, which is the ship I last flew on an operation.

Megathrons out and about

There are ten variations of that particular weapon available in the game, each with some different parameters, and nearly 60 different ammo variations that can be loaded into them, with differences in range, damage, capacitor use, and other modifiers.  That is a lot of combinations to play with.

For fleet ops the choices are generally winnowed down to some specific loads and the weapon is generally the tech II version.  But there has been a graphic going around for ages to illustrate what to do with your Megathron.  (It goes in a fleet doctrine called “Baltec Fleet,” named after Baltec1, who used to fit out Megathrons so they would work with other doctrines and I remember being on cruiser fleets with him in a fast warping Mega.  He moved on to an alliance hostile to us ages ago, but his legend remains.)

The “How To” of Baltec Fleet

And the game gives you your base damage output fairly readily.  For the seven 425mm guns on my Megathron it says:

Damage, range, and such

So the base damage of my volley is about 1,400 points, divided between thermal and kinetic damage type.  That is about 200 points per gun.  With firing rate calculated in, that is a little over 300 points of damage per second output.

I have spike loaded, which is the very long range ammo, and it gains that range by sacrificing some damage output.  There is a correlation between range and damage, with shorter range ammo tending to hit harder.

(Also, as an aside that shows the scale of EVE Online, that can hit out to 160km, or about 100 miles.  That is far enough away that all but the most massive ships or structures become too tiny to discern.  On earth, out at sea, you would have to be 2,000m in the air for the horizon to appear to be that far away.  Distances in space are kind of daunting at times.)

Strictly for comparison, here is the same ship and guns loaded with antimatter, which is a shorter ranged ammo.

Damage and range again

There are, of course, things that can affect the base damage, such as if the target is outside the optimal range or the falloff range, which will see damage reduced and eventually stop landing hits.

And then there are the resistances to damage types that a ship can have.  I’ll use my Megathron as an example again.  From the ship fitting window:

Offense, defense, and targeting

If somebody is shooting me with a kinetic… the damage types are electromagnetic, thermal, kinetic, and explosive (blue, red, grey, gold)… my shields deflects 48% of incoming damage, my armor armor layer deflects 58% of incoming damage, and my hull deflects 60% of incoming damage, fit as I am.

So while my hit points add up to just under 60K total, the effective hit points (EHP) is closer to 130K due to the resistances. (That is an estimate, it could be more or less depending on incoming damage type.)

Some other ships that were around while I was on that op

There are other things that affect damage application, such as implants, signature radius, and drugs, but I will skip past that for now because I am once again wandering far afield from the idea of damage meters.

So, when it comes down to it, do you get to see how much damage you applied to a target?  Of course you do.  It is all there in the kill mail notification that the person who gets in the final blow receives in game as well as the kill report that appears over on zKillboard, if it gets captured there.

So, for example, there is a Claymore that we blew up on an op this past weekend and I was on the kill mail.  You can see the kill report over at zKillboard.

The record of the dead Claymore

And along the side it shows how much damage each of the involved parties applied… net damage, after resists.

I’m #6 on damage

The difference between the list is likely related to lock speed, drugs consumed, being optimally positioned, and just paying attention. (Oh, and skills trained.  I said I was working on Large Railgun Specialization V in my last skill training update.  Every level of that gets me 2% more damage out of the tech II guns I have mounted.)

And here is where we diverge from WoW or other titles where DPS is judged by their damage output.

Nobody cares how much damage you did.

I mean, it is cool if you got top damage.  And I know when we do structure shoots there are people who will show up in bling fit, polarized high DPS ships to compete to see who gets top damage.  There are some bragging rights associated with that.  But I have never been on a fleet where somebody got called out for being down the damage list.

Seriously.  I might live in a rarefied arena of the game, but it just isn’t a thing where I have played.  I am sure it might be in some elite PvP orgs.  Toxicity will find a way.  But it never seems to bubble up in r/eve or the forums, which is often where complaints about that sort of thing find an outlet.

I remember when Gevlon tried to make damage output a thing, his way of rating the value of pilots on a fleet op, because he couldn’t quite let go of the WoW raider mentality.  But it was an absolutely garbage idea.  By his logic logi ship, the space priests that repair damage, had no value at all, nor did tackle or electronic warfare ships.

Now, I will say, life in a null sec coalition means getting recommended fits handed to you, so most everybody in a Megathron on that operation was likely fit the same way I was and firing the same ammo as the fleet commander called for.  Coordination like that is what makes fleet doctrines work as it gets a critical mass of players with the same engagement envelope and damage type to hit targets in a coordinate fashion.  As it says on that chart above, always shoot the primary.

I have seen people get mocked in less organized groups for having a poor fit, and there is a list of fitting sins you can commit as far as the fitting theory crafters are concerned.  But the general result from that is to go back to the drawing board for a better fit.  Ships and equipment are expendable so you just go buy some more.

Meanwhile, the game does record your own damage application in its log files, down in the gamelogs directory.  You can take that and tease out your own damage, or you can use one of the file parsers out there… and of course there are a few, the EVE community loves to make tools… to see what you did.  I went to one called EVE Combat Log Analyzer to see how I did on that op I mentioned above.

My combat record for the May 8th op

There is a gate rat in the mix there, the Angel Warlord, but otherwise all player stuff.  So you can get something of a damage meter after the fact.  But it doesn’t really have  the same impact/influence as something you might get after a dungeon or raid in WoW.

Here, at the end, I will say that this post doesn’t have any sort of dramatic point to make, other than to illustrate how damage and its measurement in EVE Online compare to the more traditional fantasy MMORPG counterparts.  Just something of a Friday text ramble.

Something About Twitter

Elon Musk is buying Twitter because… reasons.  He likes free speech, or he doesn’t like content moderation, or he likes to show off for his fans, or he wants to stroke his ego in front of us all, or he wants to prove that the ultra rich can do whatever they damn well please, pick your poison.

Tweet, tweet motherfuckers

And this has caused a bit of a panic in some.  If you simply don’t like Elon that is certainly a good enough reason to dump the platform.  And if you’re worried that he’s going to turn it into a toxic stew of harassment by entitled assholes… more so… then you might at least be eyeing the exits, looking for alternatives.

The whole state of affairs hasn’t exactly put a spring in my step.

But I am not running for the exits myself.  Not yet at least.

To start with I am not sure where I would even go, except for “away.”

What am I going to do, move to Facebook?  That would be a leap from the frying pan into a toxic waste fueled fire.  Instagram… Facebook lite… is garbage except for cat and old car pictures (Fiat 124 Coupes for the win), Tumblr is garbage in general whether it is mostly porn this week or not, Google+ is long gone (and was garbage), LinkedIn is business Facebook and, unless you’re looking for a job, is a lot of self-promoting garbage.

Frankly, part of what appeals to me about Twitter is that people are limited to 280 characters.  That keeps the amount of noise in one post down to a manageable level.

Of course, there are a bunch of “We’re going to make a better Twitter” alternatives out there, some of which planned to go full free speech relative to Twitter’s rather modest content moderation scheme… who really either planned to moderate even more harshly Twitter or found out the hard way that content moderation isn’t optional and free speech is a dubious proposition on social media for all sorts of legal, moral, and financial reasons.

Also we’re all a bunch of jerks really, and seem to remain so no matter where we go.

I do not subscribe to the “anonymity + audience = raging idiocy” school of thought, if only because I’ve been to Facebook and know full well that anonymity does even enter into it.  People will say the most ignorant, offensive things you can imagine and post it with not only their name but their real life picture on it.  And if there are even the most minor of consequences… which there so rarely are… they’ll be flabbergasted and complain about being censored and bring up the first amendment and what not.  Sometimes I think we deserve all of this.

Anyway, I digress.  I am not going to leave Twitter mostly because I am comfortable there and have, over the last dozen years, honed a list of people to follow who keep me informed on the things that interest me.

I am loathe to give up on that list.  I wouldn’t even know where to find most of those people elsewhere on the internet.  How would I ever get by not knowing how Alikchi’s epic year and a half long so far game of War in the Pacific turns out?  Priorities man.

I am also not in the panic some are in.

Elon Musk can be a chaotic, immature, mercurial, self-absorbed, egotistical twat, but he isn’t a complete idiot.  He was born rich, sure, but he has made himself obscenely rich since then, so he has something going for him.  He hasn’t, like certain ex-presidents of the United States, blown his father’s fortune on bad investments and only pretends to be a billionaire.

As such I don’t think he’ll burn Twitter to the ground by removing all moderation or whatever people think will happen.  Rich people don’t stay rich that way.  They stay rich by getting their good investments, like Tesla, to buy out their bad investments, like Solar City, to stick the bad decisions on the stock holders.

Also, he is financing $25 billion of the deal… again, rich people don’t need to spend their money because banks are sure they’re worth it… so there will be lenders who will be able to pressure him to not make a mess of the whole thing.  The worry should probably be that they’ll insist that he monetize the crap out of Twitter to pay them off sooner, because the deal will leave the company heavily leveraged and one of Twitter’s larger problems has been generating revenue relative to its perceived influence.

And the deal might not even come to pass.  Things could happen.  He might not get the financing lined up.  Tesla or Twitter… or both… might fall in value enough to make the deal non-viable.  Or some new shiny object might grab his attention.

Anyway, I am following my usual course of laziness and sticking around for now.  This post was mostly to remind myself in a year that this was a thing so I can see what happened.

Five Bad EVE Online Ideas that will Never Die

EVE Online can be a divisive game.  People tend to love it or hate it, with the latter being the larger group if comment threads on gaming sites are any indication, though the largest group of all seems to be those who watch it from afar to be entertained.  And all three groups probably add up to fewer people that the active subscribed WoW population right now, though I suspect those numbers might have gotten a bit closer since the Shadowlands expansion.

And in such an environment, there are a wide range of ideas as to what the game should be, and everybody seems to have a plan that would improve the game and, naturally, boost player numbers because we all seem to believe that the majority of the universe shares our exact likes and dislikes and are shocked that these few outlier weirdos who see things differently from us seem to run all these games.  It is like some sort of conspiracy.

But there are a few ideas that seem to persist.  They pop back up again with a regularity that begins to grate if you’ve been around the community for a while.  Here are the ones I see that just won’t die the death they deserve.

1 – Walking in Stations

At the top of the list because CCP dabbled in this with Incarna. The company, after neglecting the core of EVE Online for a few years and plundering the efforts of the teams working on Dust 514 and World of Darkness, proudly launched what I heard one wag call “walking in a closet.”

Captain’s Quarters

I will admit that I was among those who thought the game needed avatar play when I started playing.  EVE Online has the curse of many vehicle games in that everybody is alone in the spaceship and you can’t wave or jump ceaselessly or dance on the mailbox in your underwear, which can give the game a sterile, impersonal feel.  Forza Horizon 5 has the same impersonal feel out in its shared world too.  Every car focused title does.  Are there people demanding “walking in Forza” as loudly as the walking in stations crowd does for EVE? (Seriously, are there?)

The problem here is that nothing in the core of the game is improved by having to walk around and I have yet to hear a suggestion from anybody that didn’t either make current functionality more awkward (e.g. you should have to walk to your agent in a station and speak to them face to face) or required CCP to essentially build a new game within EVE Online to accommodate avatar play.  That adds up to making things worse or development time spent away from the core of the game.

It has been made clear over the years that CCP struggles at times to keep up with the “flying in space” aspect of the game that is its core, so having them ignore that again for a multi-year stretch in order to build a feature of dubious value seems like a really bad business plan.

But people ask for this feature a couple of times a month on Reddit, though the request seems to rotate through the same small group of people.  And then there is Hilmar, who said they might bring it back at some point, which just cemented in my mind the fact that he might be head of the studio, but he has no clue about the game and just likes to say things that get attention.

Walking in stations is bad for EVE Online.  I will die on this hill.

2 – Dogfighter

This is the almost prototypical response from somebody who came to play EVE Online and happens to own a flight stick.  They go away disappointed that combat isn’t maneuver based, that they cannot used the tricks they developed playing X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter or whatever, often dropping by Reddit to announce their displeasure.  The reaction range between “this sucks” to long design documents about how the game should be rebuilt into a space flight sim.

But the core is always the same, that the combat is too simple, that you just press F1 and you’re done.

The first issue here is  the idea that every game must be built to meet their personal preferences.  If you want a space flight sim, I get that EVE Online isn’t for you.  But there are a lot of other options, so coming in and declaring that the game should be rewritten to meet your personal needs is a bit over the top don’t you think?  And that leaves aside the herculean effort that it would take to remake the game.  Get over yourself.

Second is that if you think combat in EVE Online is simple it is because you haven’t spent enough time with it.  Yes, you don’t have to get on somebody’s tail or calculate deflection in your head, but range and engagement envelopes and transversal and tracking and damage types and reload times and a host of other small details enter into each engagement.  That you are not thinking about this when you press F1 doesn’t mean it isn’t all in play, it is just likely to explain why your ship is a wreck and the other person has a fresh kill mark on his hull.

3 – Safe Space

There are a lot of flavors to this one, ranging from the idea that high sec should be completely safe (and sometimes that low sec should be like high sec is now) to being able to flag PvP on and off like you do in World of Warcraft to make yourself immune from all player attacks.

This seems to stem from people wanting to just be left alone to tinker with whatever space project they have going on.  And I get that.  It is a sandbox and some people want to play in their own corner where kicking over sand castles isn’t allowed.

The problem is that any safety will be exploited.  Any source of income that is unassailable will be overrun.  ISK per hour is a primary motivator for many, but the safety factor comes into it as well.

And you may ask who would even bother tracking down high sec alts, and I have an answer; all of us.  EVE Online has a rich history of wars in low or null sec finding their way into high sec.  In World War Bee there was a whole shadow war fought in and around Jita and Amarr with both sides trying to track down alts in NPC corps that were being used to ship supplies into the war zone.

So, leaving aside the usual argument about safety breaking the theme of the game, there are some more immediate ways in which it would break actual game play and the economy, and we don’t want to give CCP any more reason to go in and manipulate the in-game economy.  They are hamfisted enough going after imaginary problems, lets not make some real ones.

EVE Online is just a PvP game.  It has been since 2003 and that is the way it is going to be.  End of story, time to move on.

As an aside, I am always interested in how angry people get when another player blows up their ship, which glows white hot compare to the response to dying to an NPC.  I dream of an experiment where CCP mocks up a slightly different UI and tells an experimental audience that EVE is a single player game with advanced AI based on real world behavior in order to see if the anger is the same when your hauler gets blown up by a gang of suicide Catalysts if you believe them to be NPCs.

4 – Another Server

There are a few flavors of this one as well.  There are, of course, the people who just want a PvE server.  See above, plus I am not sure how sovereign null sec or faction warfare even work in the minds of those suggesting this, but there it is.

Others want EVE Classic.  They want to go back to the good old days, which correspond to the point in time when they were most enthusiastic about the game, or when some change in mechanics didn’t ruin things. (I still occasionally hear somebody angry about CCP adding in “warp to 0” as the thing that killed PvP, which was a change that happened in 2006 not long after I started playing.)  And, as somebody who is a big fan of the whole retro server idea, it is hard for me to not pine as well for some past fun.

The usual problems apply.  When would you set such a server?  What patch level?  What bug fixes do you retain and which are part of the flavor of the time?

But the enterprise will never get that far because CCP knows that two servers are not twice as good as one.  EVE Online needs a critical mass of players willing to take on the different roles in the ecosystem for it to function smoothly.  I am a bit sad I didn’t play at launch mostly because I wonder what the game was like with no established player market.  EVE can seem annoying because it feels like as soon as you decide what you want to do, you need to do six other things first to get ready.  But at least you don’t have to buy the blueprints for a hull, mine the ore, and build the ship.  The economy is the core lubricant that makes the game manageable.  Splitting the game into two servers threatens that.  The main fear for EVE is that someday the population will fall below a critical mass and the economy will fall into chaos.

So no second server will ever compete with Tranquility.

(And yes, I know there is a second server in mainland China.  But even now many players who used to play on that server are able to VPN into Tranquility to play with the rest of us.  In fact, one of the reason that the game turns in the concurrency numbers it still manages these days is because it has managed to attract many of the core players who fled the bad days of the Serenity server.)

5 – Better PvE

I am going to have to qualify this one because I don’t think any player, new or old, would have a real problem with something that led to a better PvE game in New Eden.  Better PvE isn’t a bad idea at its core.  But it is almost always expressed badly… and by badly, I mean people generally just demand better PvE and stop there, leaving what that even means to the interpretation of those hearing the demand.  Or, if they provide details, it generally describes much worse PvE.

Basically, it easy to say “better PvE,” but it is tough even describe it, much less make it happen.  What is better anyway?

Making it harder isn’t better.  If I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that players want PvE that is just difficult enough to give them a sense of accomplishment without any real risk of them failing.

You can make things like missions interesting for the first run.  But they don’t stay interesting after a few passed.  You can then make more missions… I think CCP has more than six thousand missions of various types in the game… but they tend to fall into a few simple categories.  In the end, PvE quickly becomes a solved problem.  You can add more missions, but is that really better PvE?

CCP has seemingly had some luck with randomizing PvE in Abyssal pockets.  The mechanic requires you to commit your ship before you know the foes and puts a 20 minute timer on the mission.  If you don’t make it in time you lose your ship and your pod.  But even with randomness, if it is still a 90% solved problem (fly a Gila) and they have had to make the rewards worthwhile to keep people running them.  All those muliplasmids to modify ship modules keep a lot of players going back to get the one that will give them the right MWD or stasis webifier or hardener for a fit they have in mind.

But I still find Abyssal pockets boring.  In the end it is the same thing over and over and some variation in foes barely qualifies as interesting unless I get a bad draw and die.  And then it is annoyingly expensive.

I have yet to hear a viable idea from anybody that would make PvE more interesting in New Eden.  But I think that says more about the nature of PvE in general than anything about us or CCP.  There might be an idea out there, and maybe it will find the right ear some day.  But for now, just saying “better PvE” isn’t very helpful and the suggestions that come with it generally involve making it harder or making people go through more hoops, neither of which really meet the “better” bar.

Honorable mentions

Those are my five.  But those are not the only ones that rattle around, so I have a few honorable mentions that I want to tack onto the end of this post.

Things Were Better When…

This is the person who doesn’t want a new server, they just want CCP to roll back to some past feature state that was “more fun” for very specific definitions of the term.  They want it in the current game, and it can be anything from removing “warp to 0” to going back to Dominion sovereignty to giving titans AOE doomsday weapons that can blow up a whole subcap fleet in another system through a cyno… again.

The problem is that, for the most part, much of what has changed over the years has been changed for a reason.  We bitch about Aegis sovereignty, but we bitched about Dominion sovereignty before that, and people certainly bitched about the tower/moon sovereignty system that came before Dominion.

In the end, even if CCP went back and changed the sov system back or removed warp to 0, it wouldn’t recreate the game and the fun times you were having back when they were a thing.  Dunk Dinkle likes to say “nostalgia is a trap.”  As somebody who likes to remember the good times, I take umbrage with that at times.  We can’t ignore the past because all we are is what the past has made us up until this very moment.  But when we gaze too far abroad with our rose colored glasses or think that doing something we did ten or fifteen years ago will do more than just rekindle some fond memories, then I have to agree with Dunk.  I want to be young again too, but removing “warp to 0” won’t get me there.

Subscriptions only

This is a specific subset of the “Things were better when…” crowd who would like to roll back skill injectors, PLEX, and free to play.  All of these are viewed as bad to various degrees… though we have had PLEX in the game for well over half the life of the game at this point.  The first big PLEX loss was back in late 2010.

This just isn’t going to happen.  It probably can’t happen and keep the game being developed at its current pace.  I have been down this path before, but to put it simply, the price of a subscription remains locked in 2003 while the price of everything else has gone up over the last 19 years.

Also, people playing EVE Online… that peaked in 2013, before either free to play or skill injectors showed up, so there is scant chance that going subscription only will end up in any scenario besides “EVE Online now makes much less money.”

Yes, I hate the cash shop mentality of MMOs.  I just want to pay my flat fee and play the game.  But the reality is most everything now has some sort of free option, so demanding cash up front just limits your options as a game.  That is just the reality of the market now.

Breaking up corps and alliances

This is the go to solution for people who don’t like null sec or who are trying to solve the “n+1” problem of sovereignty warfare.  Are null sec battles growing too large for the servers?  Are big null sec alliances keeping you and you five friends from holding space?  Then just put a cap on corp or alliance sizes!  That will put everybody on an even playing field!

The suggestion rarely include a number at which organizations should be capped, just that 30K Goons is too many Goons and we need to put a stop to that right now.  But that doesn’t really matter as there is no correct answer.

Let us say that CCP picks 1,000 as the cap for an alliance or corp or combination thereof.  What happens next?  Two things.

First, we go back to the bad old days when null sec groups were very selective of members.  I know there are some who long for those days, the era of the small, elite PvP groups holding vast areas of space.  But organizations like Brave, Pandemic Horde, or KarmaFleet, which have been highways into null sec for new players, they dry up and die.  Everything goes back to needing to justify why you get a spot in an alliance rather than one of the CEO’s alts.

Second, we find out it doesn’t change much.  Unless CCP also disallows standings, EVE Online players have shown that they can create meta organizations that exist outside of the structure of the game.  There is no in-game mechanism specifically for coalitions, yet they exist and have existed for as long as null sec has been a thing.

The limit just ends up turning the null sec clock back to 2011 or so when small groups ran big rental empires and formed coalitions to defend their holdings.  As we have seen elsewhere in the game, when CCP enforces scarcity, players change their behavior in predictable ways.  Well, predictable to most people besides CCP.

Banning people you don’t like

This seems to be the knee jerk reaction to many issues in EVE Online, that CCP just needs to ban more people.  Botters (which is anybody who repeats a game play loop in a game with a lot of repetitive game play loops), gankers, cheaters, scammers, exploiters, bumpers, whales, ratters, miners, Alpha clones, people with more than n accounts, scary wormhole people, under cutters, specific nationalities, play styles you don’t like, Goons… there was practically a “Ban Goons” subculture at one point in the game… and mean people in general. Basically, whatever is annoying you, CCP should just ban them.

Here’s the thing… somebody probably wants to ban you and whatever you are doing as well.  Also, CCP would like to stay in business and have a viable video game that pays the salaries and keeps the servers running and up to date.  While the EULA and terms of service give CCP the right to ban your ass for anything they want, becoming the game that bans people is a good way to become a game mentioned in the history of MMOs rather than in the current stable of running MMOs.

Player made SKINs

This comes up every time somebody posts a pretty JPEG of a ship they colored up themselves.  Somebody will see this and declare that CCP should allow players to make ship SKINs.  And, superficially, this seems like a good idea.  More SKINs in the store, the better, right?  And many of us like pretty SKINs… or at least SKINs with obnoxiously bright colors.  And CCP at least strongly implied that we would be able to make SKINs back in 2016.

This falls apart on a couple fronts.

For openers, being able to make what looks like a nice SKIN on you PC isn’t likely to be at all comparable to what it takes to make one usable in the game.  There are probably a dozen players out there with the skill, knowledge, and motivation to make decent SKINs, but they still don’t have the tools that the CCP art team has in order to make something usable by the game.  Those are, no doubt, in-house developed tools and not suitable for distribution outside of their environment.

Second, dealing with user made content is a lot more work than you think.  There is a reason that companies that try to leverage user made content either shut it down eventually (Cryptic, Daybreak) or just give up any attempts at moderation (Roblox).

The thought that comes up a lot is that CCP could just let the community vote on SKINs.  But have you met us?  Enough people would upvote penis SKINs to make this completely unviable.  Also, it assumes that SKINs are like mods, and that the whole thing could be treated like Steam’s Workshop, with little or no supervision.  This is completely wrong.

That brings me to the next issue, which is that SKINs are part of the game.  They are in the build, part of the client, and nothing at all like a player mod.  That means CCP would need to spend a lot of time vetting every submission, testing it thoroughly and examining it for hidden images, words, and penises, because once it is in the game it gets pushed out and placed on every system that has the game installed.

Which brings me to the final point on this, which is whether or not all the work would be worth it.  I don’t think it would.  The hubris in this is that players would automatically make cooler, more popular, better selling SKINs than the CCP art team.  The reality of user created content is that 99% of it is garbage.  Game mods and things like Steam Workshop let people experiment and get better, but that allows players to opt-in.  But putting something in the game that everybody will see, that is a step well beyond.

And, in the end, I am not sure more SKINs are better anyway.  The in-game store is already a pain to use… something it shares with online storefronts every where, which pretty much require you to know what you want because simply browsing is an awful experience… so fewer, high quality SKINs seems to be the reasonable plan that CCP is trying to follow.  It is probably no coincidence that the best SKINs are the ones on a few hulls while the ones that try to cover a whole faction or every ship in the game tend to be a bit “meh.” (The Biosecurity Responder SKINs are the exception there.)

Anyway, that is a lot of words.  I guess this could have been “Ten Bad EVE Online Ideas” rather than five, since I just kept on going with the honorable mentions.  But the first five are really “never go there” ideas that CCP might consider, while the latter five I think we’re pretty safe from.

And I didn’t even get into blockchain, crypto, and NFTs.  Those are bad ideas as well, but I am waiting for Pearl Abyss to tell CCP to do them before I jump back on that thread.

The Company isn’t bad, it’s just Staffed that Way

I have mentioned in the past that I occasionally have to remind myself that various game companies and studios are not, in fact, my friends. It isn’t that they like me or dislike me, it is that they are not people and are incapable of anything of the sort.

Yet I think that many gamers, myself included, struggle with this because of our emotional investment in the games we play.  I have no problem understanding that the utility company doesn’t care about me… to say it only sees me as an account number probably oversells our relationship… but video game studios, whose decisions have such an impact on my leisure pursuits, the line is harder to draw.

This is all the more a problem because developers and community reps and studio heads are often out there interacting with the community, which helps personify the company.  CCP is the most problematic for me because they, as a team, are out there in the community and they host live fan events, so I interact with the team online regularly and have met many of them, from Hilmar on down, in person.

Other studios get out there as well.  If you’re deep into EQ or EQII you probably know who Holly Longdale was at Daybreak.  If you’re into WoW you probably have opinions about Ion Hazzikostas and how he compares to, say, Greg Street.  There are lots of names out there from various studios that personify the companies and the games.

In the end though, those are individuals.  They may represent the company to you in some way, but they are not the company.  The company is just a name, an idea, a construct of our imagination, a consensual illusion that we all share that binds a select group of people together, and no amount of vision statements or employee handbooks can make it feel for you in any way.

Saying you hate Activision is like saying you hate the color blue if you think too hard about it.

And yet… and yet… even though they are not people and cannot care, a corporation is made up of people, dozens, hundreds, thousands of people, each with their own life, story, likes, fears, motivations, and emotions.  To paraphrase a famous movie quote, “Corporations are people!”

As a collection of people, corporations tend to develop a culture.  I’ve worked at companies with a strong central culture and at companies where every group or team or office has their own distinct flavor.  And culture, once it sets in, can be as difficult as crabgrass to be rid of.

Culture tends to be set by the leadership of the group, and once the group buys in it tends to be self-reinforcing.  Changing it requires constant affirmative effort.  The CEO or some VP saying they want to change the culture of a company is an exercise in futility.  Unless there are policies and rule back it up, and unless those policies and rules are enforced as expected, any statement about changing a company’s culture is just window dressing.  The CEO may aspire to it, but without effort it is nothing more than that.

Which finally, 500 words into this ramble, brings me around to Blizzard.

Lots of problems there, mostly culture related.  If the CEO and senior management say it is okay to harass and discriminate, if they visibly engage in that sort of behavior, that sets the tone for the company, the defines what is acceptable, no matter what HR’s employee handbook says.  HR, in the end, reports to senior management and they either get on board with the culture, as they did at Blizzard, or they get the axe next time a record setting financial report leads to layoffs.

Eventually the State of California showed up due to employee complaints about the culture.  But the state is interested in the corporate entity known as Blizzard.  That is who they will sanction, unless an employee files criminal charges against an individual.  Otherwise they will just make the company pay, and the company isn’t a person, can’t care, doesn’t set or define culture.  Likely the state will also require all employees to take some sort of mandatory training about how to behave in the work place.  But that sort of training has been mandatory in California for more than 20 years for anybody in a supervisory role in a company over a specific size.  I know, I had to take that training when I was in management.  You can see how well it worked at Blizzard.  If the ideas within that sort of training aren’t part of the culture, the training won’t stick.

Blizzard has stated that they are going to fix the culture.  They have, admittedly, fired some people.  Many were fired way too late, but at least they were let go, from J. Allen Brack on down.

Unfortunately, the line seems to be drawn somewhere below executive management.

Bobby Kotick has vowed to fix the company, but he is clearly part of the problem.  He has known about the allegations, helped in covering them up, and has been problematic on his own.

In theory, when you’re the boss, everything is supposed to be your fault.  In practice, at Blizzard… and in a lot of other companies… leadership doesn’t confer responsibility, it shields you from responsibility.  This all happened on Bobby’s watch with Bobby’s full knowledge.

Blizzard is a large company, and part of an even larger organization.  There are without a doubt many good people working there.  But so long as the company has Bobby Kotick as its head the company won’t change.  Making the executive suite immune from any culture change, when culture flows from leadership and the examples it sets, is doomed to fail.