(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


Last Day Revelations from EVE Vegas

The last day of EVE Vegas concluded on Sunday afternoon, after a couple of substantial roundtable discussions and some interesting player presentations. Attendance was light in the morning, as many had reveled long into the previous night at the party at the Paris Chateau nightclub. As a result, the atmosphere was definitely very low-key on Sunday morning. But by the afternoon, the energy picked up to a satisfying conclusion.

Once again, I live tweeted bits of news from the events that I attended, as did other dedicated attendees. Here is a summary of the most pertinent tweets from the day

  • CCP Ghost described the updated new player experience (NPE), called Inception. It consists of five components. 
Christina Cole - the voice of Aura

Christina Cole - the voice of Aura

  • The old Aura is gone - hello, Aura 2.0 - focuses on how to do things, while the faction mentor tells you what to do.
  • The new voice actress for Aura 2.0 is Christina Cole, best known for the TV show Suits.
  • Drifters are the bad guys in Inception NPE story. CCP Ghost suggested more Drifter ships are coming to the game.
  • CCP Ghost says story is important in NPE to help memory with context. Memories attached to strong emotions easiest to retrieve says CCP Ghost, so NPE story helps make emotional reactions.
  • Inception NPE includes five new types of sites as the setting for the story - this is the "mystery site", where pilots look for SoE facility:
  • New Inception NPE, teaching how to hack:
  • Multiple narrative and visual cues in NPE designed to reinforce emotional connection.
  • The Inception NPE gives a taste of awesome scale in a battle around a Drifter Hive - capital ship arrives in scenario.
  • CCP Ghost says NPE feedback has been very positive so far.
  • CCP Ghost asks current EVE Online players for help with NPE:
  • Plans for next steps for NPE development:
  • Planned next for NPE: Operations Center to offer choices of actions by type: e.g. Combat, Mining, Trade, etc. CCP Ghost hoping for phase 2 of inception by Fanfest - but not set in stone.
  • Ganking in the NPE is viewed as illegal. 
  • Eve Vegas SKINS presentation from the Art Panel - TONS OF PICS
  • Billboards will be outside your citadel or industrial complex soon.
Twitch streamer Manic Velocity shares how EVE Online helped him overcome social anxiety.

Twitch streamer Manic Velocity shares how EVE Online helped him overcome social anxiety.

  •  Twitch streamer Manic Velocity confesses that he suffers from social anxiety, but EVE helps him overcome it. He says EVE not only has a steep "learning cliff", it also has a significant "social cliff" as well.
  •  Manic Velocity's advice for scaling the social cliff: Experiment with different types of in-game social interaction, take risks by doing things that aren't necessarily comfortable, find your niche, know your audience, and above all: be genuine.
  • CCP Falcon hosted a roundtable discussion on EVE Online lore, to a packed room.
  • He noted that there are no real conditions to what gets in the ticker in the Scope news videos. If he sees something he likes, he'll run with it.
  • He would like severe consequences for players for stupid decisions, like changes to access in NPC stations. He'd love to limit docking rights in NPC corp stations if you have low standings with them. But game design considerations may make that difficult, if not impossible.
  • "It's a good thing I'm not a game designer, or EVE would be a much darker and more horrible place."
  • Falcon says "There are a lot of misconceptions about the Sisters of Eve... they're not very nice people."
  • He would like to write a chronicle explaining Drifter conflict in the Inception NPE.
  • On further story development about the Drifters, Caroline's Star, Sansha - Falcon responded with "Not yet".
CCP Falcon leads the lore roundtable discussion

CCP Falcon leads the lore roundtable discussion

  • He is working on a Gunjack chronicle, but no release date yet.
  • A new official lore portal is online but not released. It will be a massive backstory repository. Falcon is HOPING to go live with the new portal in December or Q1 next year. No promises though. Mercury has a lot to do.
  • He really loves the idea of incorporating Scope videos into the portal as well.
  • There is so much lore in EVE Online that there is no one person at CCP Games who knows it all, says CCP Falcon.
  • Are there triggers on EVE Online landmarks we haven't found yet? "I'm not going to tell you that!" says CCP Falcon.
  • CCP Falcon idea: a monument "Tomb of the Unknown Capsuleers" to recognize players who have passed in Real Life.
  • Mentas Blaque is the most fun character ever, says CCP Falcon - would like to see him in a visible position of power.
  • Q: any plans to bring back more classic live events? A: can't really reuse the tools from the Sansha live events, unfortunately.
  • Independent capsuleers are a very small minority - most are in faction navies. We are a rare but powerful oddity. 
  • COSMOS constellation content is considered canon, of course. Not sure how they'll intro it to new players though.
  • How dead are the Talocan? "I take the fifth", says CCP Falcon.
  • We will see more about Upwell. Some corporations may leave the consortium and new ones join.
  • Falcon would like to add a moderation option in local for live events, but that would be a lot of dev time.
Elise Randolph speaks about varying EVE Online playstyles

Elise Randolph speaks about varying EVE Online playstyles

  • Elise Randolph says EVE Online pushes us to specialize, leading to a trap of sameness and burnout. To thrive, players must vary their playstyle.
Some ideas for creating more variety in playing EVE Online

Some ideas for creating more variety in playing EVE Online

Max Singularity, a.k.a. the Space Pope (in Real Life: Charles White of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) dons his shawl for his talk on the Solar System.

Max Singularity, a.k.a. the Space Pope (in Real Life: Charles White of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) dons his shawl for his talk on the Solar System.

  • It's official - New Eden is not in our local galactic group. 
  • "EVE Online players know what AU means."
  •  Carl Sagan has been officially canonized as a saint by the Space Pope Max Singularity.

EVE Vegas 2016 culminated with an upbeat farewell from CCP Guard and CCP Falcon, and an invitation to Fanfest 2017, to be held April 6-8 in Reykjavik.

  • 2017 will be CCP Games' 20th anniversary as a company, so they promise that Fanfest will be a big celebration.
  • Apparently, EVE Online players like pink ship skins for charity, buying $44,840 of then.
  • Altogether, EVE Online players have raised more than $500,000 for charity, so far.
  • Fanfest 2017 attendees will get some CONCORD ships. One of these, the Marshal, will be given to players who attend both Fanfest and EVE Vegas.
CONCORD ships for Fanfest 2017 attendees!

CONCORD ships for Fanfest 2017 attendees!

Thus ended EVE Vegas.  I will definitely be going back next year!

If I missed any news, please leave it in a comment.

Fly safe! o7


More Tidbits from EVE Vegas

Yesterday was the opening keynote for the EVE Vegas player convention, which I covered in my previous post. Today, the second day of the event, included a series of roundtable discussions and player presentations.

I live tweeted key points of news from the events that I attended, as did EVE lore god Mark726 and a few other dedicated EVE Online fans. (Thanks, Mark726 - I hope you don't mind that I stole a few of your tweets in this report.)

If you use Twitter, and you aren't following me, you can do so at @NevilleSmit.

I am recapping the key tweets here, for the record. I'll comment on some of these bits of news in future posts. I did not attend every session, but I tried to capture all the items that were broadcast throughout the day.

  • CCP Larrikin explained new NPC mining ops using new AI: they fly ORE ships and actually mine ore in belts.
  • New NPCs drop strongboxes for sweet loot - you can sell the strongboxes in the market, or you can try to open them and take what's inside:
  • Haulers will show up to take the ore away. They will be doing something with the ore, but Larrikin won't say what yet.
  • Attacking NPCs in belts cause support ships to appear and defend. Act like players act with very similar fits.
  • Attacking the ops will drop standings. If you attack or have low standings, the ops ships will try to call for help and run away.
  • NPC fleets will be very close to player fleets. Will have an FC that they anchor on and will have ECM and logistics.
  • New NPCs have a little diamond after their name in the overview.
  • There will be pirate mining ops as well.
  • Larrikin emphasized that they want PvE skills to translate to PvP skills.
  • New NPC AI won't jump gates now, but "very soon" says CCP Larrikin. There are plans for NPCs to react to players on a "global scale". Plan is for NPCs to react to players' fleet compositions.
  • Will Thukkers get mining ops? Hopefully. There are things CCP wants to do in Great Wildlands.
  • No new AI NPCs in drone regions, but there are plans for them later.
  • New NPC AI mining ops will not be in wormhole space. The NPCs don't know how to probe, and will only go to static belts.
  • There are new Defender missiles, designed to take out bombs - acronym is DICKS - only one launcher per Destroyer-class ship:
  • New defender missile stats:
  • Re: new Defender missiles - their hit probability is completely random. Staggering firing helps to optimize effect.
  • DICKS can be fitted on all destroyers, including Tech II varieties.
  • Medium-term structures development roadmap:
  • Drop boxes will be way to get stuff into citadels without docking. Will let you complete courier contracts without docking rights.
  • Also looking at tethering changes to reduce bumping.
  • Will Engineering Complexes show super caps being built? CCP Fozzie says alliance logos on ships are a higher priority, but yes, eventually.
  • Any job that is active in an EC have a chance of dropping loot and will show in killmails. You will NOT see anything going into asset safety.
  • Ships can now undock from Citadel and self-destruct while tethered - CCP will stop this at some point in the future.
  • Balance priorities:
  • Proposed changes to recharge rates:
  • Possible idea under consideration - community fittings:
  • CCP Fozzie says alliance fittings are "maybe, someday".
  • Any plans to bring back mines? No. They're not fun and create system performance issues.
  • There is a possibility of a hardcore clone state with permadeath added in the future. No firm plans to do this yet, but it would be extremely easy to implement now.
  • CCP Rise says they will keep tinkering with dailies rewards to help give Alphas a bit of a leg up for training/gaining skillpoints.
  • The Council of Stellar Management noted that there is an in-game chat channel called "CSM" where members hang out to answer questions - players are invited to join.
  • All the CSM members agree that the CSM institution isn't going anywhere, as CCP Seagull, Executive Producer of EVE Online, strongly believes in it.
  • Jayne Fillon, leader of Spectre Fleet, talked about being an EVE Online content creator.
  • J Mcclain talked about social support networks in EVE Online, and shared his own personal story of how EVE players helped him in his time of need.
  • J Mcclain and Mom Bellicose reminded everyone that all of EVE Online is one big social network.
  • Mynxee and Johnny Splunk, co-founders of the Signal Cartel, talked about creating a counter-culture in EVE Online.
  • Rahne led a panel of EVE Online live streamers:

Tomorrow is the last day of EVE Vegas, with sessions on the "Inception" new player experience, lore roundtable, more interesting player presentations, and the closing ceremony. I will try to capture the key points and report them here.

Fly safe! o7