The End of Entitlement

This week, CCP Games published a couple of development blogs on the current state and future direction of structures in EVE Online. Since the introduction of Citadels almost a year ago, players have embraced the new structures with enthusiasm, erecting many thousands of them throughout all of New Eden. CCP now intends to focus more developer energy towards bug fixes and current feature improvements on existing structure designs, and less on the introduction of new structures to the game.

One exception to this shift in developmental direction remains, however: CCP described the general mechanics of the new refinery structures, which will be the optimal platforms for resource gathering and reprocessing, to be introduced sometime Soon™, in classic CCP fashion:

I’ll start out by addressing the question of release date. Refineries are firmly scheduled for “when they’re done” and we are not planning on rushing them out before they are ready.

No doubt refineries will be a principal topic at Fanfest in a couple of weeks, and perhaps the mechanics as described may change between now and whenever they are eventually released. Nevertheless, the announced functionality of refineries indicates one clear intention by CCP - the era of entitlement to passive income is drawing to a close.

The Passivity Purge

Last summer, I speculated about the rising trend of eliminating rewards for inactive gameplay in EVE Online. I recall at Fanfest 2012 when CCP Soundwave described his strong desire to remove all passive income sources, including those mechanics which reward "away from keyboard" (i.e., AFK) gameplay. So it should come as no surprise when CCP finally suggests new moon mining mechanics that eliminate nearly all of the passive income-generating aspects that players enjoy today.

While most players are embracing this shift to active mechanics, others are less enthusiastic. Those who have become used to mostly automatic income streams from harvesting "moon goo", required for lucrative T2 and T3 item manufacturing, are predicting cataclysmic price rises, among other dire consequences, as a result of the proposed mechanics. Others suggest that these changes will make low-sec space even more unattractive.

Regardless, it's clear that CCP has faith in the strength of EVE's economy to absorb any effects of the proposed active resource gathering mechanics. More likely, they simply believe, in general, that rewarding active gameplay will make EVE Online a better game in the long run, regardless of short-term consequences in the player-driven economy. If the prices of Tech II items skyrocket as a result, so be it - that will only provide more incentive to try the new mechanics as the reward-to-risk ratio rises.

Still, CCP is hedging their bets by not extending the new moon mining mechanics to wormholes or high-sec space - as they say in the dev blog: "We want to be careful not to dilute the regional value of tech two resource collection too much."

Another Nail in Entrepreneurs' Coffins

Overall, I like CCP's commitment to replacing passive game mechanics with greater rewards for active interaction, and the proposed shift in resource gathering as described in the dev blog is a healthy direction. But I'm disappointed that these new mechanics will be limited to null-sec and low-sec space.

Further, the proposed moon mining changes are, quite candidly, a gift to null-sec alliances, who will be the only groups large enough to coordinate the required numbers to take full advantage of the generated mining operations. It appears that the proposed active mechanics do not scale to smaller sizes, and instead emphasize the coordination of bigger groups.

Once again, CCP is continuing to squeeze out solo and small groups from industry options in EVE Online. There will be no small (and more affordable) refinery option - only medium and large sizes. Using the current moon mining mechanics, small groups in low-sec can generate some income to finance PvP activity using small POS towers. With the new refinery mechanics, that will no longer be a viable option. And moon mining will continue to be unavailable in w-space and high-sec. The message is clear: if you want to reap any rewards from moon goo, join a big null-sec alliance - period.

As a player who once enjoyed mastering small-scale invention and Tech II manufacturing in high-sec, this trend saddens me. I was hoping to see a more scalable option that would make use of small refineries available for solo players or small corporations.

Come on, CCP. If you won't let us earn a decent income from manufacturing items outside of null-sec, at least give us a small-scale option to reap some meager rewards from active resource gathering and reprocessing, in any kind of space.

Alas, while I support CCP's move towards more active gameplay rewards, it's clear that I won't be using the new refinery structures, unless things change significantly. As someone who plays mostly in wormholes and high-sec space, the proposed new structures have nothing to offer.

Fly safe! o7

What's Old is New Again

My iPhone pinged nonchalantly, and I glanced over at the screen. The EVE Portal app alerted me that one of my character's skill training queue had ended.

I was a bit surprised. I had set an extra-long skill training regimen in motion for that character months ago, when I realized my passion for EVE Online was fading. He was a utility mining and industry alt that I hadn't used in ages. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I had logged in on that account.

Prompted by EVE Portal's gentle nudge, I fired up the launcher on my PC, and logged in.

Faithful readers of this blog know that my activity in the game has waned over the last few months, due to Real Life distractions. I have been taking a break from logging in regularly, in hope that one day my enthusiasm would return after CCP Games had added enough new features to make flying Internet spaceships in New Eden feel fresh again.

Once I figured out how to navigate it, the Character Sheet led me to all sorts of interesting new discoveries in EVE Online.

My character was sitting in a Retriever in station. I clicked on the character sheet icon.

"What's all this now?," I blurted to myself. While I remembered that CCP had changed the character sheet interface some time ago, I realized that I had never really used it. Now I was confronted with something new, and I had to spend a few moments studying the screen, figuring out how to inject skills and refresh the training queue.

Sometimes, little things can make a big difference. I played around with the tabs in the character sheet interface, and experimented with a few actions to see how they worked. Once satisfied that I understood it well enough to accomplish my task, I set about deciding which skills I should set to continue my character's development.

An hour later, I was still fiddling about, reviewing various skills and what they were required for, which led me to investigate new items that I'd not yet discovered that had been recently introduced to the game.

Suddenly, I realized I had fallen once again into the rabbit hole of EVE Online's depth and complexity - the same depth that had captivated me over seven years ago. I found new things to learn and master, and enough change in semi-familiar features to make me question my assumptions about how they worked.

And I was having fun.

I smiled at myself. I realized I was back playing EVE Online once again, and enjoying it.

Kudos to EVE Portal, despite flaws

While my enthusiasm for EVE Online had declined somewhat, my interest in the game never died. I knew I'd be back eventually. I just needed a break for a while.

Apparently, EVE Portal really, really wants me to know that completion of Bomb Deployment 5 is super-duper important.

Perhaps CCP did not intend this, but my decision to back away from the game was actually made easier by the introduction of EVE Portal, a handy app for reviewing character status, e-mail, skill training and notifications. The app allowed me to periodically check on my dormant characters and scan relevant news bulletins, without having to log into the client. With EVE Portal, I could monitor my characters from a distance, knowing I could intercede should anything happen that required my direct attention.

The app still has a few bugs. Sometimes I can't get access to my mail. Or it tells me that I have an infinite number of unread messages. And sometimes it repeats the same notifications over and over in an endless loop. I find that cancelling the app and restarting it usually fixes these glitches, but not always.

Nevertheless, I find EVE Portal to be a handy application, and I became dependent upon it during my hiatus to maintain a virtual tether to my characters in New Eden. If for nothing else, the alerts for critical notifications, such as war declarations, or as I described previously, training queue completion, make it invaluable.

I have tried other EVE-related apps in the past, such as Neocom, and found them useful, but I prefer EVE Portal's interface, which is very clean and easy to navigate.

When the app works - and it usually does - it works well. I've tolerated the intermittent bugs, hopeful that CCP Games will eventually squash them. I'm beginning to worry, however, as the app has been available for a few months. If we don't see any fixes and enhancements soon, I'll start to rethink my allegiance to EVE Portal.

But for now, CCP can rest assured that EVE Portal enabled me to maintain a connection to the game, and also is a major reason why I've now become re-engaged in EVE Online.

Hello, old friends

After I fixed my utility alt's training queue, I decided to do the same for my other characters as well. I logged into Neville, and once again found myself floating in a comfortable safe spot in Thera. I checked the Signal Cartel chat, and found our corp CEO, Mynxee, and other familiar Signaleers there. I waved hello.

wavepic.png

"A wild Neville suddenly appears!", one of my corpmates replied.

"Welcome back!", Mynxee added with enthusiasm.

Returning home is always a good feeling. I could almost feel the virtual hugs emanating from my screen.

I spent the next half-hour catching up in chat, while updating my skill queue and checking on my in-game assets. I regretted having to shut down, in order to update my other characters.

"I'll be back very soon," I typed in chat. And I meant it.

What's old is new again

I undocked one of my alts in a mining barge, just to shake off the cobwebs and get familiar with flying in space again.

Wow, NPC stations look different. The landing lights, the spinning sections, the little dots of traffic flying from tower to tower - it felt... alive. I spent ten minutes just gawking at it, remembering how the old stations looked like lifeless derelicts. Now they feel as animated and populated as citadels.

Cool. Nice work, CCP.

I headed for a nearby belt, admiring the new skin of my barge. CCP did a nice job with these, too. It felt dirty and mechanical - like mining equipment should look. The animated flames and moving gearworks are a nice touch, too.

After gathering some ore, I docked up. Then I tried some ghost fitting. I had played with this when it first came out, but not in any serious fashion. Now I set about learning how to use this tool in earnest.

After getting deeply absorbed in testing various fittings, I realized that an hour had passed. I decided I like the ghost fitting feature - a lot.

Sometimes, little things can make a big difference. A ping from an app, a greeting from some old friends, a refreshed look, a new feature - individually, they don't seem like much. But altogether, they can alter our perception and make what was old and familiar seem like new. And that can be enough to draw us in and hold our fascination once again.

It's good to be back.

Fly safe! o7

A High-Sec Coalition

Last night, Dirk MacGirk, reknowned EVE media impresario, invited me once again to join the OpenComms podcast crew. He had invited several candidates for CSM12 who have joined together in a "high-sec ticket" - a group representing interests of players who reside mostly in high security space. Knowing of my proclivity for the high-sec playstyle in EVE Online, he asked me to help query the candidates.

Roedyn, Toxic Yaken and Commander Aze gave a good accounting of their points of view, and how they'd like to see more representation of high-sec based players on the Council of Stellar Management. Incumbent CSM'er Steve Ronuken did not join the show, though we all agreed he is widely acknowledged as a high-sec candidate, as are others such as Lorelei Ierendi .

Dirk ardently urged players who live mostly in high-sec space to develop a coalition and assert themselves more aggressively for representation on the CSM. Despite his enthusiasm, I believe this would be very difficult to accomplish, if not virtually impossible. As I explained in my previous post, the established null-sec alliance power blocs are too well-organized, and as a result, dominate the CSM vote. In fact, I think it's highly likely that at least eight of the ten CSM12 seats will be occupied by null-sec alliance candidates - and there is a very good chance that they could take all ten.

Given the current CSM election process, is trying to organize a coalition to represent the interests of high-sec players folly? Or is my cynicism about such an idea misplaced?

What is a High-Sec Player, Anyway?

Even though more than half of EVE Online players operate almost exclusively in high-sec space, according to figures provided by CCP Quant, there is little consistency in what a "high-sec player" means. Mike Azariah, who also joined us for the show, and who was a recognized high-sec advocate on CSM8, CSM9 and CSM10, pointed out that there is a lot of diversity in how players operate in high-sec. It includes market traders, industrialists, mission-runners, explorers, miners, wardec groups, gankers, role-players, scammers and many other hybrids and mixes of available activities. There really is no one universal definition of a "high-sec player".

This diversity is what makes building a coalition of players who reside in high-sec space very difficult. Take the issue of war declarations, for example. As Dirk said on the show, "Wardecs are the abortion issue of EVE Online." Every high-sec resident has a passionate point of view on the subject - some against, some in favor, and too many with a nearly infinite number of ideas on how to change it for the better. Trying to build some sort of consensus on this one provocative issue alone is a daunting challenge.

The High-Sec People's Party

Dirk's idea of a "High-Sec People's Party", mentioned in half-jest, sounds attractive on the face of it, but I think high-sec players are simply too fragmented in their interests to consolidate under one banner. Under the current CSM voting mechanics, smaller constituencies have little chance of securing a seat, as they will be squeezed out by the relatively large null-sec alliance voting blocs.

The rare non-null candidate who can pull together votes from a variety of sources are currently high-sec's only hope of representation. Mike Azariah did it by appealing to mission-runners and small gang PvPers across all types of space, including high-sec - and he had to run repeatedly, year-after-year, to build enough recognition to secure a seat on the CSM. Steve Ronuken did it by appealing to industrialists and miners, and to developers and users of third-party tools, operating in different types of space across New Eden, and not just to high-sec players.

Alas, with the reduction of the number of CSM representatives from 14 to just ten, even a strong candidate with an excellent track record like good Steve Ronuken may be squeezed out of CSM12. When I look at what Roedyn, Toxic Yaken and Commander Aze are trying to do by coming together as a group, in hopes that at least one of them will secure enough votes to represent the interests of high-sec based players, I can't help but applaud their efforts. But I'm not optimistic that any of them will be able to get a seat on CSM12.

Nevertheless, as they all said themselves on the OpenComms show, by campaigning continuously and consistently, they are hopeful that they will raise enough visibility and support over time - but I suspect this may take several years to accomplish, as the examples of Mike Azariah and Steve Ronuken show.

I'm happy to help organize such a movement, though I've no illusions about how quickly we might see results. I hereby announce my support for the High-Sec People's Party, and am willing to lend my voice for better representation of this large and important group of players in EVE Online. I suspect we are in for a long march to reach this goal, but I think it's worth pursuing, even if it takes an extended time to achieve.

It's all about the numbers

One thing that all of us who play in high-sec can agree on, I think, is urging CCP to do more to drive a higher turnout for the CSM election. More votes mean a higher likelihood of a more diverse set of winning candidates. A low voter turnout means a higher proportion of bloc vote candidates from null-sec alliances, giving them a much higher chance of winning.

I had suggested a semi-crazy idea in my last post to force people to vote during the CSM election period, which I doubt CCP would ever embrace. But Dirk had a couple of good ideas for making the CSM election far more visible, which could drive up interest and voting tallies. For example, CCP could put a large panel on the launcher promoting the CSM election, with links to useful resources for learning more about the voting process and the candidates. CCP already proved they could do this with PvE events - why not do the same for the CSM election?

I hope they will surprise me with a far more aggressive CSM promotional campaign than we've seen in the past, since voting starts this week.

Sadly, I'm not sure that CCP really wants more diversity on the CSM. They seem quite content with a Council consisting of mostly null-sec alliance players. Perhaps they think that this makes the CSM more manageable, or they actually believe that null-sec players are the most active and knowledgeable in the game.

If my speculations are accurate, then we'll see very little promotion of the CSM election over the next month, voting turnout will be as low as previous years, and we'll get yet another nearly-all-null slate of CSM representatives.

But with persistence, perhaps we might see one or more high-sec candidates build support, and perhaps earn some seats on future Councils.

I'm willing to try to make this happen. What do we have to lose?

Fly safe! o7