I Like Tweakage

CCP Games released a development update video by the EVE Online Executive Producer, CCP Seagull, about upcoming improvements over the next couple of months, as well as some other newsworthy tidbits:

It's a short update at less than four minutes, but for those who can't be bothered to listen, here is the full transcript:

Hello EVE Online. Last time we spoke was before the holidays and now 2017 is in full gear. We've just had the Council of Stellar Management here for a super productive summit. I want to say a huge thank you to the council members for coming all the way to Iceland to help improve EVE Online.
I'm also looking forward to the upcoming CSM elections and to getting a new great council in place for the upcoming year. If you ever thought about running just go for it. Vote to make sure that your play style is represented, or that those you trust to influence the game in a good direction end up on the council.
We are busy working on lots and lots of exciting stuff so let's talk about a few things that are coming up. We release changes to EVE Online almost every month. The changes we have already released and that are coming out in February and March show some of our commitment to continuously improving EVE Online. Especially after big expansions like Citadel or Ascension, we take the time to follow up with changes that we see are needed, and to get features out that make a ton of sense but didn't make it into the original release for various reasons.
Next week, for example, we're adding personal insurance to citadels and engineering complexes, more follow up changes to the new player experience, and we're fixing tons of defects, and making performance optimizations, too. Our engineers have also been hard at work chasing down some nasty issue with rubber-banding and that should now be resolved. While all of this improvement work goes on, we're also putting work into bigger things coming up. We're getting ready to share more of them.
Fanfest, which is now real, real soon, will bring a solid update to a roadmap for EVE with all the latest news. We also have several Dev blogs in the making that will publish way sooner than that. We have things to tell you about drilling platforms, about new fleet PvE and more, so keep an eye out.
Fanfest this year will be really special. You can still get tickets, of course. You will also be able to follow from home as we will be live streaming from the event. This year the event will take place at a specific location in EVE Online that you'll also be able to visit in-game while Fanfest is going on.
If you are on location at Fanfest in Iceland, you'll have a new and unique opportunity to take part in directly shaping the storyline of the EVE universe. There will be more news on both of these things as we come closer to Fanfest. We've also put out the call for player speakers at Fanfest, so check the community newsfeed if you think you could be a speaker.
Next week with our February release there is some action kicking off in New Eden. As CONCORD is asking capsuleers for help with shutting down rally points across space where the Angel Cartel and the Serpentis are conducting some shadowy business. You'll see these sites on your overview. Take a look,  but remember other capsuleers may be doing the same.
Enjoy space and I'll see you soon again in my next update.

Though brief, the update contains many interesting points, worth further commentary.

CSM Kudos and Ennui

Seagull thanked the eleventh Council of Stellar Management (CSM), and encouraged interested candidates to throw their names in for possible election to CSM 12 in March.

I must admit that when they were elected last year, I was skeptical that CSM 11 would be effective in representing the interests of all of EVE Online's different player constituencies, as virtually the entire group hailed from null-sec power blocs (except good Steve Ronuken).

But I was wrong - CSM 11 did a good job. And they did so with an absolute minimum of strife. Compared to some Councils in the past, CSM 11 was a model of harmonious teamwork. Most importantly, they engaged actively with CCP and advised them on some very significant new features which positively affected every type of space in New Eden.

So, CSM 11 earned some well-deserved kudos - and hearty thanks for good service. I'm glad they proved my worries to be unwarranted.

Regardless, my level of interest in the next CSM election is at an absolute nadir - and I must blame CSM 11 for that. They demonstrated that well-organized null-sec power blocs will continue to dominate the election, and will undoubtedly win virtually every seat on the Council once again.

In past years, I spent quite a bit of time listening to CSM nominee interviews and reading their platforms on the forums, and I published my evaluations and recommendations on this blog. I've decided to give up doing this for CSM 12, as it has become a pointless exercise.

It's quaint that CCP Seagull encouraged people to nominate themselves for CSM 12. Alas, the only ones who shall emerge victorious are the candidates who need to campaign the least, as they can confidently rely on the backing of their sizable alliances to ensure their election, regardless of their actual interest or qualifications. The null-sec blocs will win as many seats as they desire. I can only hope that they put forward candidates who understand and appreciate the diversity of EVE Online player constituencies, and that they can advise CCP Games in a somewhat balanced fashion.

I urge everyone on CSM 11 to run for re-election. That way, we'll at least get a known quantity of Council effectiveness, and a minimum of drama, once again.

A Tweak Here, Another Tweak There

Seagull says we can expect some minor changes over the next few weeks, such as the addition of ship insurance availability in Citadels and Engineering Complexes, and some performance improvements.

For the last few years, CCP has done an admirable job in providing a nearly continuous stream of tweaks and fixes. As a result, EVE Online players today have come to expect minor enhancements to the game on an ongoing basis, but it wasn't always this way.

When I started in 2009, CCP's developer team was locked into a cycle of two major releases per year, each of which focused mostly on game additions. All too often, if an old feature was broken, it might stay that way for a long, long time before it got CCP's attention - much to the fury and frustration of many players.

But with a change to more frequent development update cycles, the game's overall quality has been greatly improved. Today, there are very few features in EVE Online that remain truly "broken" for long.

Alas, few players recognize this today - it's become the new normal. This persistent commitment to quality is something for which CCP's development team does not get enough credit.

Fanfest Beckons

Seagull mentioned Fanfest, scheduled for April 6-8, where details will be forthcoming about some more substantial new features. I have been to five Fanfests, and I encourage any passionate EVE Online player to attend, but I won't be making the trip to Reykjavik again this year. Instead, I'll be watching on the live stream, which Seagull confirmed will be available.

She said a number of potentially important items related to Fanfest that are worth further comment:

  • "A solid update to a roadmap for EVE" - Well, it's about damn time. I was hoping to see an updated roadmap for development of EVE Online at last year's Fanfest, and was sorely disappointed. Then I hoped to catch a glimpse of a roadmap at EVE Vegas, but again was let down. Now, finally, CCP Seagull explicitly promises an updated peek at where EVE Online may be going next. It's been long overdue, and I can't wait to see it.
  • "Drilling platforms" - Two little words that could change everything, especially for how alliances earn ISK in null-sec space. Will CCP finally upset the passive-income moon goo mining monopolies of the power blocs in 0.0 space? Will drilling platforms be a catalyst for requiring more interaction to maintain income streams? Or will they just be revamped versions of the same sedentary mechanics we currently have in the game? I, for one, hope to see some radical changes. The potential riots by spoiled players who feel entitled to constant streams of income for relatively little effort should be amusing to watch.
  • "New fleet PvE" - Incursions and Level 5 missions have been EVE Online's long-standing staples for those looking to earn income through small gang multi-player activity. There are other options for earning ISK with groups of players, such as mining operations, but they have always been rather limited. Further, players have long figured out how to optimize these activities, and they have grown quite stale. I'm delighted to hear that new fleet-based PvE options are in development, and I'm both eager and anxious to learn more.
  • Mixing in-game story development with Fanfest - now this is an interesting idea! CCP Seagull mentioned that the gathering of capsuleers in Real Life at Fanfest will be incorporated into an event happening in New Eden, simultaneously. So, if you attend Fanfest, you will automatically become a role-player, regardless of whether you want to be one or not! In addition, as a delegate attending the capsuleer meeting, you'll be able to affect the in-game storyline in some way. I love this idea, and can't wait to see how it is actually executed.

Tweaks aren't enough

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not actively logging into the EVE Online client these days. I needed to step back away from the game for a while, and let it continue to develop. My intention is to jump back in when enough has changed to make EVE feel new again. I've been monitoring the EVE media closely, watching the latest developments, in hopes that this will inspire me to re-engage.

Does CCP Seagull's latest development update provide enough change to rekindle my interest in EVE Online?  Frankly, no - not yet. She describes a lot of good tweaks and fixes to the game, and I'm pleased to hear them - I like tweakage. But in general, they are still just tweaks. To stir my passion for flying in New Eden, I need something more - a new project that I can sink my teeth into, deeply. So far, I haven't heard anything that provides that to the degree I desire.

But I remain optimistic, and I will be monitoring Fanfest closely with great interest. It's only a question of time before enough has changed to provide sufficient impetus for me to leap back into the game on a regular basis again.

Until then, fly safe! o7

Don't worry - everything's fine.

So, you may have noticed that I've not posted with my typical frequency to this blog over the last couple of months. Nor have I posted much to my Twitter account lately. This is because I've taken a break from EVE Online, and have not had anything really interesting to say.

I did not plan to take a hiatus from my beloved space game indulgence, but Real Life intervened, and it just sort of worked out that way. I had some surgery on my nose about three months ago, which took longer to recover than I anticipated. I had some work-related projects pop up, which required me to travel more than usual. And most recently, I got some wonderful news: my youngest daughter and her husband are expecting a child - so, I'm going to be a grandfather this summer.

When events like these happen, one tends to take another look at how to spend your time, and re-prioritize.

I'm sure it's just a temporary phase, and I'll log back into the game with some regularity eventually. I'm still maintaining my three Omega subscriptions, with the intent of taking full advantage of them at some point. But I'm not exactly sure when that might occur. I'm definitely not ready to walk away from EVE Online completely, and I'm certain I shall return one day with aplomb, eager to master all the new features that CCP released during my absence.

If I'm truly honest with myself, that is the real reason I've stepped back from EVE Online for a while. When you understand a game so well that it starts to feel too familiar - too comfortable and easy - it's time to take a break, and let things change and develop for a while without you. Then, when you eventually return, enough has changed that it feels like a novel experience again.

How long will that take? I've no definite idea, really. I'm still scanning the EVE media from time to time, watching the o7 shows as they come out, and checking out the tweetfleet messages on Twitter every once in a while. After a few more game releases, I'll likely decide it's time to jump back in, shake off the cobwebs, and see how Internet spaceships in New Eden feel once again.

I was flattered and touched that a few of you prodded me with messages, asking about my absence and lack of posts recently. It's nice to be missed - thank you for asking.

I'm fine, really. I'm just taking a break for a while. I'll be back - probably sooner than later.

Meanwhile, I shall continue to maintain this blog. My first order of business when I return will be to update the guides, of course - no doubt enough things will change that they will be out of date by then. Or at least, I hope so.

Until then - fly safe! o7

 

(Almost) One BILLION Dollars!

So, dear readers, I've been away from this blog since the end of EVE Vegas. In fact, I've been offline from EVE Online for a month. The reason: I had surgery immediately following that great event, and I took a break from my usual pastimes to recover.

For those curious about the personal details, I had developed a case of rhinophyma, common with people like me who are afflicted with rosacea. The only cure for this is to cauterize all the skin off one's nose and let it re-grow. As you might imagine, playing EVE Online and writing about it were not high on my priority list after getting a bloody wound burned into the middle of my face. However, in retrospect, I probably should have tried to write something, as I'm sure whatever I produced while under the effect of powerful narcotics would have made for some hysterical and entertaining reading.

I now have a slightly smaller nose after this re-sculpting, and the skin has grown back quite well, though it will be at least a couple more weeks until I'm fully fit for human observation again. For now, I have to keep it slathered in antibiotic ointment, which makes my snout look shiny and wet, like a dog. This amuses my ever-charming bride to no end.

But enough about my personal travails. A lot has happened to EVE Online in the last month. So much, in fact, that I've been perplexed about selecting a specific topic to comment upon. That is, until today.

CCP Games up for sale?

Today, Bloomberg reported that CCP is "exploring strategic options, including a sale of the business after receiving interest from potential bidders". The company's management team and outside investors are now actively evaluating whether or not to proceed with a transaction.

This news does not surprise me. Over the last couple of years, CCP's management team, led by Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, have made several decisive decisions to clean up the financial structure of the company, including writing off the entire $21.4 million World of Darkness project, improving operational efficiency (including, sadly, laying off some employees) and securing new outside funding. The result as been a much stronger balance sheet and earnings picture, which has been further enhanced by the success of new virtual reality (VR) games, EVE: Valkyrie and Gunjack.

In addition, the successful introduction of a "free to play" Alpha clone option in EVE Online has shown that CCP's flagship product still has a lot of life in it, and remains a solid base for company operations going forward.

In summary, CCP's business performance has never been better, which means there will never be a better time to cash in. And having worked with capital investment firms in my own career, I know the kind of pressure they can exert to move forward with transactions, so they can reap the desired rewards. CCP has at least three such firms, so poor Hilmar must be getting pushed hard on all sides to move forward with a sale.

Let's talk numbers

Don't feel too badly for Hilmar. The Bloomberg post also says "A sale of CCP could value the business at as much as 900 million euros ($955 million)".

That warrants repeating for emphasis: $955 million - almost a billion dollars.

As Captain John Rourke says in Clear Skies, "HOW much?"

With that kind of valuation, deciding not to sell would only make sense if Hilmar and his outside investors believed that they could earn significantly more in the future. But that is extremely speculative, and I don't think they will take the risk. Most likely, the company will be sold, and very, very soon.

If I were them, I'd take the money and run. And who can blame them?

Welcoming our new masters

Who might actually pay this kind of money for CCP Games? The Bloomberg article does not speculate on this point, and rightly so. Certainly the usual suspects come to mind: Sony, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, among others - but there could be a number of other players who might see snatching up CCP as a strategic move, especially if they place a premium value on the potential of VR entertainment, in which CCP has demonstrated leadership.

Honorable EVE Online player Chribba assures everyone that he is the likely purchaser of CCP Games - if only this were true!

Honorable EVE Online player Chribba assures everyone that he is the likely purchaser of CCP Games - if only this were true!

What new ownership might mean for EVE Online will depend entirely on the culture of the acquiring company. In my professional career, I've been involved in a couple dozen merger and acquisition integration projects, and I can tell you that about half of them go well - and the other half go badly wrong.

In my limited experience, how well an acquired firm performs after their company is purchased depends a lot on the degree of alignment of organizational cultures, as defined by how the respective firms make decisions. If one firm is a top-down, command and control culture, and the other is an individualistic, entrepreneurial culture, there is going to be a clash, which usually results in a lot of good people leaving, by choice or by force.

It's too early to predict how this will affect EVE Online, certainly. But given the size of the numbers that are at stake here, big changes for CCP - and potentially for our beloved game - are coming very soon indeed.

Fly safe! o7