Tuesday, 31 October 2017

CCP Layoffs. Reality hits Virtual Reality.

Grim news from CCP indeed. Its venture into VR has come to an end with the announcement of the closure of Atlanta (Sparc), the 'sale' of Newcastle (Eve Valkyrie) and the refocus of Shanghai (Gunjack). It is always easy to point fingers after the event. But this venture was a decent attempt to address a problem. Eve Valkyrie was a standout title when the Oculus was released. But it was not to be and the point problem remains. CCP has now returned to being a one trick pony with Eve Online being their primary source of income.

With a nearly a third of the workforce impacted our thoughts must go out to those facing uncertain times. Let's hope they find new opportunities as soon as possible. The scope of the layoffs suggest the changes go beyond closing down the VR portfolio. There is a broader cost cutting element to this exercise.

Perhaps this is to be expected. The VR investors will still want a return and to labour the point, the problem still remains. CCP needs to diversify away from Eve Online. The Eve player base isn't growing despite going F2P and its getting older. The current situation isn't sustainable in the long term.

The positive spin pitched by CCP is this will benefit Eve Online with more resources and focus being available. I hope this is true but it is not unreasonable to doubt this will happen. CCP's ability to disprove the "Mythical Man Month" - where adding manpower to a late software project makes it later, is not something many of us would recognise. 

Additionally, the ongoing projects - (Nova and Mobile Eve plus whatever they are now cooking up in Shanghai) have an added importance now and will need resourcing. The need for the revenues that Eve produces to underwrite those developments is now more acute. Consequently, taking risks with Eve would be ill advised. At best I think Eve players can expect more of the same. Features that retain the existing player base will continue to be maintained, rebalanced or refreshed. Features that don't will get retired (such as Captains Quarters). At worst, deeper monetisation will be further explored. 

So one way or another the organisational changes will have a profound effect on Eve Online. Seeing how quickly these events have unfolded so soon after the rosy view that was painted at EveVegas there is more a sense of crisis management rather than planned restructure about this right now. What CCP's senior management need to demonstrate somehow is they have a strategy for the future of the game beyond the immediate need to cut costs and the future need to maximise revenue. More details are needed and presumably we'll find out more as time progresses. Hopefully those details will include a strategy for Eve beyond simply milking it.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Post EveVegas

EveVegas needed a good news story. And it had one. CCP Seagull popped up on screen and announced she wasn't going to be there. This is isn't the good news. Fanfest and EveVegas are richer for her attendance. No, she has produced a son and has far more productive things to to than listen to a bunch of drunken 50 year old men whine about spaceships. Congratulations go to her and her family. 

Reality also prodded EveVegas in other ways. It was the location of the latest slaughter that America feels obliged to submit itself to. This plus CCP Seagull's Alt - CCP Falcon meant the keynote felt more of a briefing from the municipal sanitation department rather than a celebration of pixel space. Interesting if sewers are your thing, but you are not really going to get your average punter salivating over a code of practice on odour nuisance. It was notable that the slide remote also held this view and struggled with performing its only role in life.

There are two aspects to events like Fanfest and EveVegas. There is the audience that attends and gets to meet each other. That's the fun bit. Probably. Then there is the information that gets broadcast by various means to the wider public. The perceptions will be different. Twitch was hard going.

Anyway what did we learn. Where is Eve, where is it going? In short, there is less of Eve than there was. Captains Quarters have evaporated. There are sound economic reasons for that but it it reminds me of when Concorde was taken out of service. Commercial aviation had gone as far as it was prepared to go. Flying is now a pain (literally if you are bumped off a flight unwillingly) instead of an engaging experience.

What we will get are iterations of what is already there. The Shipyard PVE is moving to High Sec. Empire/Resource wars and events are to feature. This is no bad thing. But they might not be that great either because of some existing game mechanics that don't seem like they a going to be reviewed. But for all the potential pitfalls it is an acknowledgement that other areas of space need attention.

Structures on the other hand remain a disaster. When Citadels were announced the Devs declared they had no idea what would happen but would intercede if things went pear shaped. They didn't and it has. So now we are told there with be a Structures 2.0. to make structures great again. This would be fine if they didn't appear to be repeating the same problem. 

Discussions around structures revolves around the < 1% of the time when they are involved int a conflict. And treated as static ships (when your only tool is a hammer etc...). If there was the same amount of consideration given to the remaining 99% of the time when the structure is serving its purpose, then they might come up with a better answer

But that was really it from EveVegas unless you were there. Reiterate, rebalance but don't add. It is a holding pattern.

CCP Hilmar implied as much when he described the broader CCP vision and game portfolio. Nothing experimental to come to Eve. Other games such as Project Nova (DUST replacement sort of maybe) and Project Aurora (pocket Eve) may develop features that could at some point be incorporated into Eve. Maybe. 

The big takeaway was the upgrade coming to Alpha clones. What you can deduce is that Alpha clones weren't successful (because we would be talking about Beta clones now if that were the case) but were not disastrous enough to abandon. The discussion still revolves around what you fly (when your only tool is a hammer etc...) rather than what you do. But it does give the player the potential to do more if you are prepared to avoid the groupthink so it will be interesting to see if this latest iteration is more successful.

Next year Eve is going to be 15 years old next. In 15 years time CCP Seagull's son is going to be an awkward teenager. Assuming he is not playing football for Iceland and defeating England in the world cup for the third time, what CCP game do you think he might play? Eve Online or whatever Project Aurora develops into?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Awox Or Con?



This will be a short one. If you wanting the standard narrative of the Circle of Two mugging then go to either:
  • EN24
  • CZ
  • or from INN where I took the following:
(11:07:38 PM) directorbot: I want to smug. You are going to love this. I am the best CSM in history
~~~ This was a broadcast from aryth to all at 2017-09-12 03:07:48.478333 EVE ~~~(11:07:55 PM) directorbot: The next 24 hours are going to be glorious
~~~ This was a broadcast from aryth to all at 2017-09-12 03:08:05.526120 EVE ~~~(11:10:17 PM) directorbot: Flipped Judge at Summit. CCP watched me do it live. Keep is in his hands he has robbed them blind
And that is it. It is the story. Everything you need to know is in those three pings. Let's be blunt.

CCP facilitates a face to face meeting in Iceland that results in the loss of the assets for a section of its player base. So this isn't one of the great Eve heists. Like Gigx's ill considered threats, the conspiracy to defraud was in real life and out of game. And that would be fine if it had stayed there. But it didn't. CSM members, who lets remind ourselves are there to "represent the player community" while effectively in the employ of CCP  conspired to do the opposite. Consequently, the ingame collateral cost for the Circle of Two line members is substantial. Even the execution of the plan was done publicly and streamed into your basement with CCP's oversight judging by the swiftness of their actions.

CCP has a case to answer because they are complicit. The CSM, which I have often said should be disbanded has shown it cannot serve in the players' interests. A great Eve story? Sure, The Judge will make the history books although in my mind Aryth deserves the plaudits as it was he who swung the deal. But no, in reality it seems like a tawdry, well executed but ultimately pathetic real life con and it should be remembered as such. It should be condemned as such. Oh and here is the Judge conveniently talking to another CSM member. Go boost his views and take a look. Spoiler alert. At the end interview the Judge advises players to keep it in game. Priceless.


P.S. For reference, I have no connection with any Nullsec entity.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Final Frontier

There is, or rather there was a wall across Scotland. Begun in AD 142 it stretched for 39 miles and took 12 years to complete. Now known as the Antonine Wall, was abandoned 8 years later as the Romans redeployed back south to the previously built and more famous Hadrian's Wall in England. It was a sensible decision. The economics of maintaining it did not justify the security it provided. A point that was proved when there was an attempt to reestablish it a few years later. From that point on it was largely forgotten although you can still see parts of what was an astonishing engineering feat. A historical sidenote and largely irrelevant to the larger story of the Roman Empire apart from one aspect. The Empire reached its largest expanse just prior to its building. Hadrian's wall acknowledged that the future was about consolidation rather than expansion. Antonine's Wall was the frontier too far. While the Roman Empire continued to exist for many years particularly in the East, the story would be one of continual retreat in the West. In retrospect we can say Antonine's Wall was as good as it was going to get in terms of imperial aspiration.

This is of course a very melodramatic way of approaching the question around the imminent demise of Captain's Quarters by CCP. Like the ruins of the Antonine Wall, Captain's Quarters represent the archeological remnants of an earlier developer civilisation that had grand ambition. Walking in Stations. 


There was nothing wrong with that ambition. There was everything wrong with its execution. It was an unhappy time. Captain's Quarters are all that remain of that ambition and like Antonine's Wall you can go no further despite the cries of players to "open the door"

Thus the removal of Captain's Quarters is logical and of course an evidence based decision. It is not used players and it is expensive to maintain. The Art department can be busy making more profitable skins. In a world where there will no longer be capsuleers in Eve, just ships. The player avatar is now essentially pointless. So it is not unreasonable that CCP could apply same economic logic and remove the character builder and avatars from the game in order to focus on exciting new features. 

And here lies the problem. I have whined long and often about the death of the Route Map. It used to be a regular feature at Fanfest and EveVegas. It laid out CCP's aspirations for Eve. In recent years it featured less and less and at the last fanfest it disappeared completely to be replaced with some moody looking space images that told you nothing. Vacuous eye candy to be blunt. The hope was there were some nice surprises coming along that CCP had in their back pocket. But what evidence there is suggests the mood is around consolidation. Features will be extended (like HighSec PVE) but there is no desire to do anything new because the economic metrics don't stack up in a way that pleases investors.

Then there is the timing of the announcement itself. While we have not reached the volume of outrage that was generated by Incarna, a rage that killed Walking in Stations stone dead, we are in a period of diminished trust between players and CCP. While some of this is contrived, falling player activity is is more dramatic than anything that immediately followed after Incarna. There are alarm bells sounding somewhere in CCP. We know this because there have been a couple of announcements from CCP. 



Like Incarna, the problem has been determined as a failure to deal with existing game functionality and balance issues. A dev team is going to be dedicated to fixing these. Ambulation support and development will be stopped. The parallels between now and Incarna in terms of CCP's practical (the politics were very different) response are uncanny. But are they the same problem? To me, Incarna was result of too much hype and appalling delivery. Now? Competent (compared with Incarna) but lacklustre delivery and with no vision beyond maximising revenue and reducing costs of the existing assets. So while balancing the game is good, it might be a solution to the wrong problem. 

Ultimately, it is right that Captain's Quarters become consigned to the past. But it is sad that like the Antonine Wall, it could mark the high watermark of Eve's ambition. The final frontier. This isn't an Eve is dying post. The Roman Empire didn't die until a 1000 years later. But it perhaps it won't be anything more either as the aspirations now recede. Potentially Eve could be something less as other economically awkward features are axed. Alternatively, this could be a springboard for a renaissance.  A route map would be a start

Friday, 23 June 2017

Ready Steady Stop

So while the politics and weather are hot, it ought to be a pleasant distraction to hang out in the cold certainty of New Eden. OK, that might be a bit of a stretch but it is something to do while sweat drips out of every pore on your body. 

If you recall, I was rubbing my hands at the prospect of war. My small POCO holding corp had been wardecced by a chancing Corp hoping I would capitulate and fire sale these mundane assets tour de suite. I didn't. I hired a Mercenary group instead and I was ready for action which is where we left off. 

I know, anyone who knows anything about wardecs would tell you that the most likely outcome would be that nothing would happen. Well something did happen. Almost immediately the aggressor offered to surrender. Alright, that is actually a big nothing. I didn't accept the offer but the wardec has now run its course and no spaceships (or POCO's) were harmed in the making of this war. This is all rather underwhelming. I don't blame the participants for this. Wardecs are just a bad mechanic.

I've discussed this before as have many others. But in this instance what has the mechanic achieved? A few emails, a bit of ISK exchanged and a good reason for not undocking in Hisec. Nobody (including the Mercenaries) wins. I am not going to suggest solutions. That has been done to death and CCP have consistently said they are not going to look at it because it is hard.  There is no point.

But from this example it is clear wardecs don't solve the problem they were supposed to address - specifically, every player owned thing should be destructible and this mechanism allows that to happen in Hisec. My POCO's remain intact. It would be interesting to see the percentage of wardecs that result in no ship losses whatsoever. In any case, the consequences of having this mechanism are a barrier to entry the game. The sort of groups that could form and steal my assets just aren't generally viable with the wardec mechanism. A situation CCP might collide with when they introduce the new PVE feature to Hisec the in winter. Perhaps then they might reconsider.
   

Friday, 16 June 2017

War! Huh?

It's been a while hasn't it? In truth, there hasn't been a whole lot to say since Fanfest. Yes there has been a Reddit drama. Something to do with the 1% of the 15% percent that CCP always caters for. If I have read it right, then CCP finally realised they had overindulged them to the extent that they were on the brink of tanking the economy. The resulting nerf was hasty and clumsy and is probably doesn't tackle the problem which is rather more systemic. But CCP have buckled under the mob pressure regardless so no real change there and nothing to report other than to say the disastrous Citadel expansion continues to pollute the game as predicted.

With everything else going on in my neck of the woods, this has become incidental. I had made my peace with Eve and moved on. Or rather I thought I had. But then I got an in-game mail from someone asking to buy my POCO's. I really should have got rid of them some time ago so I wasn't hostile to the idea. The grand scheme that was meant to define my presence in Eve long since died after various changes have made the prospect of casual solo playing a marginal activity. The glorious "journey" became irrelevant with the commodification of SP. Not got the skills? Just pump them in your head rather than innovate around the constraint.

Anyway, I had acquired some HISEC POCO's to understand the whole PI to product cycle before moving the operation to a Wormhole. But that never came to pass and the POCO's and an Orca are all that remain of that rash dream. So selling them was not a bad idea. I have them on a low tax rate and they don't earn a great deal so they really wouldn't have been missed.

However, while mulling over my bargaining position an apologetic Wardec then arrived in my inbox. The potential purchaser now turned aggressor claimed he/she thought I was away from the game - which to an extent I was, and wanted to get on with getting his/her grubby hands on my assets. So be it.

To be fair, I was always expecting something like this to happen and in many ways I am surprised it hasn't happened earlier. It was always going to be problematic because I don't do PvP. But having my arm twisted into doing a deal is not the way I want to part with my POCO's. Where is the dignity in that? Fortunately, unlike most other games, Eve gives you alternative options. It is one of the truly great things about the game. So since I have plenty of ISK sloshing about, I have employed some Mercs to defend my honour. So far they have been very reasonable and professional unlike my attempts to grapple with the Wardec aspect of the UI. We will see how that goes when the fur starts to fly (assuming the rude purchaser turns up) but at least I get to explore an aspect of the game that would normally pass me by. And it is content or at least ISK for someone. Let battle commence.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

EVE Fanfest 2017 Keynote: A Flock of Seagulls

You sort of know when a TV show has passed its best when it kludges together an episode using clips from previous episodes. The producers know the writing's on the wall so reusing old content avoids the need to invest in new scripts and develop new plotlines.A cheap way to leverage the brand which gives the networks something to fill their schedule with and to hold on to advertisers.

Fake Plague

This was one of my idle thoughts as I headed home after my brief re-engagement with Eve. I had been in the Postouvin system orbiting the fake Keepstar and fake asteroid mining colony. This as it transpired was the peak of CCP's in-game involvement with the Kyonoke Plague event at Fanfest. More has been promised but nothing happened for the 70 or so people hanging around the system. Just a little bit of in-character dialogue in local would have been sufficient but it was not to be. 

The really frustrating aspect was lack of acknowledgement of the players who had dutifully turned up. It wasn't as if this was a low profile event. CCP Seagull's opening Fanfest Keynote topic started with the Kyonoke Plague and she insisted "Parts of this story will unfold inside the game as well and your help maybe needed" It wasn't. 

My grumpy knee jerk view was to take it as a lesson learned. It turns out Eve lore is a parasitical activity. It feeds off the game but gives nothing in return. When you think about it, that is pretty Eve like behaviour but like a Jita scam I won't be seduced by that again. Give me time and my view might mellow.

The keynote itself appeared to echo the Kyonoke Plague. Lots of noise, good presentation but fundamentally little in the way of in-game substance and a nagging doubt that there were things CCP didn't want to tell us. I say "appeared". It actually did look like that but it seems there is more to the story beyond the keynote itself. Let's start by picking over the bones of what was said.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

So after the Kyonoke Plague (non)event topic, Seagull moves on to the achievements of the preceding year. Cue a video that gives us the following highlights:
  • Force Auxiliaries
  • Fighters
  • New Doomsday Weapons
  • Citadels
  • Serpentis Capital Ships
  • Multift
  • Billboards
  • Purity of the Throne
  • Coronation of Empress Catiz
  • Crimson Harvest
  • New Explosions
  • Command Bursts
  • Fitting Simulation
  • Alpha Clones
  • Porpoise
  • Engineering Complexes
  • Guardians Gala
  • New Skins
  • NPC Mining Operations

"What a year huh?" enquires Seagull. Well since she asked...  


Obviously, much of this was announced at last year's Fanfest. For many, including myself it didn't go down well and there was an obvious reason for that response. That list only ticks the boxes of a very narrow (but important to CCP) Eve demographic. 

What are you (and do you matter)?

Most people frame Eve players in terms of the space they reside in (LS, HS, WH or NS). You can use that generalisation to an extent but it misses the point. Players reside in a particular area(s) because it suits their playstyle. To use a mad  example, a person who likes playing electric guitars loudly is not going to feel comfortable playing in a symphony orchestra or a gospel choir. But they would more likely be comfortable in a punk band, rock band, or (insert noisy guitar music genre here). Telling the guy or girl to HTFU and get gud at playing the oboe isn't going work. They will just move on. But that was what the Wrecking machine trope was doing. 

Interestingly CCP themselves classify players using 5 "personas". CCP Quant in a PCGamer article explained it this way:

“From our research, there are five key personas,” he says. “There’s the professional, who’s the most elite player, involved in almost everything in EVE. Manufacturing, PVP, mining, and social activity. Then there’s entrepreneur, who’s similar, but more focused on industry.”
“Aggressors are what most people would consider pirates. They’re highly engaged with the game and more focused on PVP than the other personas. And social players spend most of their time interacting with their friends, and they aren’t really that active on top of that.”
“And then there’s the biggest chunk of the playerbase, which are the traditional players. They’re not really seeking out  group activities. They just want to mind their own business, either in small groups or alone. They only play EVE for an hour at a time, without having to rely on the social side of things.”
"And traditional players are the kind most likely to have periods of high activity in EVE, then long periods of low activity. “It could be their personal life gets in the way, or they just get bored. And these players don’t really leave, they just go dormant for a while. Then they’ll come back a few months later.”

So in CCP's own terms, last year's keynote was pitched at the "professionals", "entrepreneurs" and possibly the "aggressors but excluded and to a degree adversely impacted the majority "traditional" players. 

From a financial perspective this isn't the worst idea as "professionals", "entrepreneurs" are big spenders. So we had the conflicting indicators of CCP's increasing profitability yet player activity crashing after the Citadel release. Cue the mandatory player activity graphs:


Eve player on Tranquility since last Fanfest

The introduction of Alpha clones was well executed and mitigated the activity crash but it hasn't addressed the cause. More on that later. Anyway, the impression possibly taken away from this review of the year is not necessarily positive one. In my case it reminded me why I had stopped playing.

Eve player activity on Steam since las Fanfest

Alpha Clones

CCP Seagull then talks about Alpha Clones. She is rightfully proud of their introduction and declares it a great success. But is it? Really? It has not been a failure certainly and has been implemented seamlessly into the game and she and the team deserve credit for that. It could have gone badly wrong. But they haven't been a runaway success either. If you have the "professional" mindset you can probably make them work but other than that they are a bit meh. Alpha's are barely discussed now.


Book

Next up is the new book. Well presented and looks a quality product. Great for the lore parasites but does nothing in game so let's move on.

LARP

aka CSM. CCP's plan to make it a solely Nullsec body was largely successful. The odd streamer still gets in so they will have to try harder next year. Reducing to members down to 10 from 14 clearly wasn't enough. Personally, I think the less CSM members the better so 4 down, 10 to go.

Project Discovery. 

For science with planets! This is amazing but it is an iteration rather than something new. A different episode of the same show so the novelty is not as striking.


Eye Candy

The same could be said of the next Topic. The look and feel of Eve. New graphics and rendering demonstrated by the model of the Vexor over time. This is all good and who doesn't vote for goodness? But a bit of a reality check is needed. Apart from the new suns, this investment in eye candy is to sell skins primarily. Eve's look and feel to the average player is a visual car crash of the Overview, HUD, Market, Local, Scanning, tripwire and multiple blinky flashy things. On a laptop there is no screen estate left to look at the magnificence of Eve. You could really be in real space and not know it. Maybe we are, but more importantly, what is that Sabre on the overview about to do.... File this under beautiful but useless.


The Big Reveal - for NullSec

This this point we nearly halfway through the keynote. A keynote is supposed to set the future tone or direction of the subject of discussion but nothing substantively new or different has been shared. This changes when CCP Larrikin waltzes onto the stage. He announces something genuinely new. PVE. My ears prick up, New smarter PVE. It really sounds interesting. But then you realise it is for Alliances or large corps and for Nullsec. Panic over, the majority of players can dismiss this because they will probably never see one of these sites. This is one for the "professionals" only and therefore just a continuation of CCP's existing policy. 

And besides, CCP Larrikin is... well how can I put it? Well he is an Australian. Nothing wrong with that. Someone has to be. But when an Australian says it is "Part of our push for immersive, reactive, dynamic, playerverse environment content that contextually fits with your location!" you have to pinch yourself. It would be like Trump reciting Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment in the original Russian through the medium of Twitter. It is just wrong. Fortunately, this section only lasted 6 minutes. Existential crisis averted.


Structures

Next topic was a look back at structures and the new moon mining platform. Again a lot of time being burned for a small demographic. It is all good and clever but for most irrelevant and for some a disincentive. Another addition for the "professionals" and "Entrepreneur's" playpen though. Again this is not anything substantively new in any case, just a previously announced creative iteration of what has gone on before.


New Ghost Experience

Time for CCP Ghost to talk about the New Player Experience. But CCP Ghost decided to talk about CCP Ghost again instead. He does it engagingly and I guess his new found understanding of gravitational forces is a good thing but it takes while to get to the point. "Players need a purpose!" he declares.  Actually players want CCP to stop nerfing their purpose into the realms of impossibility but it amounts to the same thing. Or at least it might do. We will never know because it turns out that what looked like a profound insight was actually just a cheesy segway to the next video. The video was quite good which is unfortunate because we have now forgotten what CCP Ghost was talking about (Players need hands? Squirrel!).

Eve Aurum is Dying

CCP Seagull returns to the stage to snap us back into reality. Aurum is dying she tells us. We know but we don't tell her. She probably suspects though. People are looking at their watches. It has been one hour and 6 minutes of a non keynote keynote speech. This could be a record. Finally she caves in and boots into keynote mode.


Finally the Keynote

Phrases like "Empower capsuleers to take over more of the universe" start pouring out her mouth. Now if there is one thing we have learned over the course of CCP Seagull's tenure (apart from her being extremely good at her job), it is that when she says "capsuleers" she really means alliances and large corporations. The more she says "capsuleer" the more the average player should worry. 

She also says moar structures and moar ships in case there was any doubt. We already know who they are for. It looks bad. It then looks doubly bad because the route map has vanished to be replaced some banal illustrations of moody Eve spacescapes. Capsuleer (Alliance) stargates? "Not now dear" Seagull scolded, "When the time comes". Frankly, for a keynote - all 8 minutes out of 82 of it,  it was vacuous. And that is triply bad because you just know that CCP will be introducing features that they don't want to talk about. Skillpoint extraction, Alpha Clones, and the death of Aurum are all examples of non-trivial game changes that haven't been announced at either Fanfest or Eve Vegas.

Almost as a side note CCP Seagull mentioned there will be an expansion in Winter that will be PVE in empyrean space. That could mean anything or nothing and I took it as the latter. And that was it.


Conclusion Part 1

So as you might have grasped, my very partial view was the coming year will be a rinse and repeat of the previous year with a new PvE opportunity for Nullsec thrown in.because PvP is so hard in Nullsec. And the previous year hadn't been a good one. What would happen next is predictable. CCP continues to make money as player activity continues to decline. The worry being they have already played the free to play card to bump up the stats. So like the tired old TV series you make the mental note to not by the next boxed set....


Conclusion Part 2

But then something odd happened.  At some point after the "Keynote" CCP Seagull had an interview with one of the gaming press - MassivelyOP. You really should read it. It is not that it contradicts what she said but it does shed a completely different light on the new PVE functionality and the Winter expansion in particular. Her cagey and cryptic keynote performance is replaced with narrative that is far more engaging and forthcoming. But most importantly there is a coherent vision that actually ties it all together.

For example, when asked:

MassivelyOP: "We’ve heard about the Blood Raider shipyard, this alliance-scale PvE that mimics PvP. So obviously the next stage for this is to scale this down and roll out more of this type of PvE. Is there any kind of time scale for that?" 
CCP Seagull said: "That’s going to be, in some form or another, a big part of the winter expansion. We want to bring this type of content to highsec in a distinct way where we want to make something for highsec first, which is something we haven’t done in a long time. We have a bit of a history now of many developers’ hearts kind of living in nullsec or lowsec, and of course we get a lot of community feedback from there, and I think it’s time for us to make something for highsec first. Of course that’s also a way for us to engage with all those new players out there, by bringing the content to them rather than waiting for them to find their way to the content on the fringes.".

She then goes on to say a lot more but like I said, you really need to read the article for yourself. There you have it. A high sec expansion coming this Winter. Of course, there are a multitude of questions this raises. Alliances and large corps in Hisec are a rare commodity if only because wardecs don't make them viable for example. But the fundamental question has to be why on earth couldn't she have said that during the 1 hour and 22 minutes of not-a-keynote speech we had endure? Worth buying the boxed set do you think?


Friday, 24 March 2017

CCP Aurum backtrack, Postouvin, and further small guy oppression

Good news for common sense this week. CCP's Team Size Matters, the team responsible for phasing out Aurum decided that taxing the majority of accounts 100% to prop up the PLEX price for the few and to wipe off CCP's balance sheet liabilities without honouring them was perhaps a bad idea. So now they are proposing that accounts with less than 1000 Aurum will be refunded in PLEX. Just not straightaway.  This is a massive improvement, but there are problems still with this approach. As I said before, tinkering around with currencies results in plenty of unintended consequences. Precisely what that PLEX will be worth by the time the Aurum poor accounts are reimbursed is an open question.

In other news, CCP's Team Five O released a couple of structure Dev Blog's : THE ADVANCING WORLD OF UPWELL STRUCTURES and INTRODUCING UPWELL REFINERIES. There is quite a lot digest there but Kirith Kodachi does a decent analysis on EN24 here. The takeaway for me is that the solo casuals and small corporations are being stuffed again. Lowsec and Hisec are also being punished by ongoing developer indifference. Eve may be more profitable than it has ever been but the activity slope continues its journey south. Continually mugging independent players is not going to improve matters.


More positively, I was induced to log in for the first time in ages. This was due entirely due to the Kyonoke Plague Outbreak. I am always a sucker for Eve lore so I took a trip to Postouvin where the Society of Conscious Thought are setting up a Keepstar for the purpose of  researching the plague and to hopefully find a cure. CCP are also running an event at Fanfest that will in someway be connected to this site so I am genuinely curious to see how this will develop. Postouvin is an isolated pocket of Hisec so care is needed passing through Low and Nullsec. I took the direct route and used an Ares Interceptor which slipped passed a small and probably drunk gate camp without issue. I came across Marc726 in Postouvin and he as ever describes the scene and background perfectly  He puts my clumsy screenshots to shame:


Spot the Ares competition
Final note before I sign off. I am really surprised how much tax my HiSec POCO's have pulled in while I have been away. The neoliberal economic model of generating income from non productive assets is alive and well in New Eden. But given where the real world now is, it is beginning to look a bit dated don't you think? Probably a post in there somewhere. Another day perhaps.


Friday, 17 March 2017

RIP AURUM (announces CSM to their friends. Two days before CCP Dev Blog)

Well it was almost a well kept secret. Yes, the  PLEX CHANGES ON THE WAY! Dev Blog was announced yesterday along with the accompanying video below:


This was preceded by a spike in PLEX prices so it's not unreasonable to suspect there was a leak. I am sure the very useful CSM (as they keep telling us) will be mounting a full investigation in order to justify your vote. They should have enough ISK by now to afford one. Hell, I will even help them start with this Jita PLEX price history:


OK, with that fantasy out of the way, what is the impact of this change? Firstly AURUM - the currency you buy things from the New Eden Store with is being abolished. Secondly, PLEX is going to be made more granular and will be able to be used in the same way AURUM currently is. So much simpler then and this is the line CCP are pushing. Anyone with 1000+ AURUM will have their balance converted into PLEX. Anyone with less than 1000 AURUM will lose it if they don't spend it.

This of course stinks for those impacted and this might be the majority of accounts. CCP's rationale is they don't want the market flooded with PLEX. Now there are a number of established ways you can avoid this. Just give players game time for example. But no, CCP has decided to tax the poorest accounts by 100% to subsidize the richer accounts by keeping the value of their PLEX stock up. A healthy reminder if I needed it on why I stopped playing Eve.

However, if you put the inequitable transition to one side, the change on a day to day basis is not that disruptive to the game. Like Skill Extractors, this is a stepping stone to some other change. Quite what that might be is unknown at the moment. Well I say that but you could ask the people who bought PLEX off the market a couple of days ago. They might have an idea. My tinfoil would be Beta, Delta clones and Weekly game passes but that is pure speculation but it is not unreasonable to think that Team Size Matters hunt for revenue generation continues unabated.

Longer term I think there is a problem. In the real world, debasing a currency doesn't end well. In this post Bretton Woods era currency is backed by a promise. The ability of a country to deliver on that promise helps determine the strength of the currency. The Venezuelan Bolivar is not strong and the country has an inflation rate of 62%. The Kuwaiti has inflation of 3% and has one of the strongest currencies. So when CCP shy's away from a (in game) currency undertaking or devalues its currencies in some way then at some point the trust in those currencies falls. And tinkering with the currencies is becoming a habit for CCP. 

The intrinsic value of PLEX isn't what it was two years ago. Back then a PLEX (or a sub) provided not only game time but the only way (ignoring the character bazaar) to get Skill Points. While you can still use game time to accrue Skill Points, it is not the only way to get them now. Skill Injectors and Alpha Clones can also do this. So if your need as a player is primarily Skill Points, then game time is not necessary. Consequently PLEX through CCP's actions has less intrinsic worth than it used to have.

Also, the liquidation of AURUM into PLEX is going to unleash a lot of locked up PLEX onto the market. A market is based on scarcity and PLEX is going to be less scarce. It is likely then that the Aurum you bought is going to be worth less in ISK than you thought once it is exchanged for PLEX.

Putting this altogether, the dilution of PLEX and CCP's willingness to cancel a promise of value and you have the prerequisites for  a significant PLEX price fall. Of course, CCP can always intervene in the market but there comes a point as in 2008 and real life quantitative easing where it ceases to work.

That point is determined by the final factor: player confidence in the currency. That is harder to determine. A diamond is just a bit of squished carbon but tell that to Mrs Kong. So I could be wrong. But if I was playing, I wouldn't be hoarding PLEX.  Afterall, can you think of a real life converged currency and which wasn't underwritten by a promise? I'm sure the Greeks can.

P.S. PLEX Vault? Carebear that I am I still fail to see the need for this. Pretty disappointing really.


Friday, 27 January 2017

Schrödinger's CSM


Got that? Great. So now it is empirically obvious that the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), which by the way is neither a council, stellar nor manages anything, is the retirement home for the Eve undead aka bittervets, delusional opportunists and endgamers. Why? OK

Obviously, if Schrödinger was still alive you could imagine him playing Eve. I mean the mentality that considers putting a cat in a steel box (non consensually I might add) with poison, a hammer, a radioactive source and a Geiger counter tells you there is something of New Eden about the man. 

As if this cruelty wasn't enough his "thought" experiment went on. When the radioactive source emits whatever it emits (cats don't care about such things I would imagine) the Geiger counter dutifully picks this up and informs the hammer to smash the poison container, which in turn releases the poison that kills the poor moggy. Artistic but perhaps a tad over engineered.

The point being radioactive decay is random so there is no way of knowing when the cute kitten will meet its grisly end. The cat's existential state is unknown until you open the box and are greeted by the smell. The cat can be thought of as both alive and dead at the same time until it is observed. The act of observing the cat changes its state.

Which brings me to the CSM. What observations can we make. Well none obviously because of the Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they all loyally sign. The NDA is the steel box in CCP's faux democracy thought experiment. Sure, they will tell you that lots of useful things were discussed and concerns raised. But when you ask for real information about important stuff (i.e. not yet another tedious rebalance)  then the fountain of knowledge dries up with the NDA being the cited cause. So no means of observation and the CSM have a valid reason for not being accountable to their voters. Ergo, an undead zombie cat of an organisation

Now there are good reasons why CCP won't tell us stuff. They don't need a CSM to not tell us stuff though. They are quite capable of doing that themselves. That hardly adds value. And actually we don't need the CSM to not tell us stuff either. A point the player base collectively told them last year:


That's right. Only 22345 accounts (less people because of multiple accounts) voted for people to not tell us stuff last year. With the CSM summit coming up it looks like taking it to the next level and will not be telling us LIVE!

Of course, the CSM would say from within their steel box that I am missing the point and they are doing an excellent job helping CCP get things right. But CCP haven't been getting things right. Player activity went off a cliff with the Citadels Expansion (but no changes since so zero impact CSM). Pay to Win Omega, while implemented well, is looking like a dead cat bounce (mixing metaphors I know):


The initial honeymoon in attracting FTP new players is over and those figures are heading south too:


If this is excellent work, I would hate to see bad work. CCP have played the only card they had in their back pocket (FTP) at the expense of broader game development. It hasn't gone terribly but it hasn't worked. Maybe I am wrong (but I can't open to box to know) but something smells not excellent.

Of course, some of the CSM do occasionally reach out for information. They are not bad people. But they are not professionals either and it can go badly wrong when it isn't conducted well as this poor guy found out. CCP should be doing this assuming they are actually interested in this sort of feedback.

Fundamentally, the CSM was only good for the entertainment value it provided with all the backbiting and other tomfoolery.This year it hasn't even provided that and has become about as fun as paying inflated brokers fees. There is no justifiable reason for the CSM to exist now. There is no function that it does that couldn't be done by other established and likely more effective means. The CSM might not be dead but it is not alive either. Don't vote for it. It is time for both CCP and us the players to grow up and stop pissing around with pretend politics if we really want Eve to survive