Semi-Active

I'm in a strange place regarding EVE Online these days. I log into my industry alt characters a couple times a week, to restart planetary interaction runs or to adjust orders in the markets, but that's about it. It's not that my interest in EVE has waned - I just don't have any clear goals at the moment.

I keep searching for something new to grab my attention and stir my enthusiasm. I eagerly scan the #tweetfleet thread on Twitter a couple times a day. I regularly check Total EVE for new postings. I read my favorite EVE-related blogs. I check out the latest dev posts on the forums. I watch the newest EVE videos on YouTube. I download EVE podcasts and binge-listen during my business travels. So far, all this effort has produced nothing but a persistent feeling of ennui. It's disappointing, and frustrating.

Sadly, this summarizes my feelings about EVE Online lately.

Sadly, this summarizes my feelings about EVE Online lately.

I became acutely aware of my recent lack of active involvement in game when Mynxee, CEO of my current corp, the Signal Cartel, sent me a message asking if I was still playing EVE. Until she mentioned it, I did not realize that I haven't signed on as Neville in over three months. What little time I've spent in game has been entirely on my alt characters. "Wow - has it really been that long?", I asked myself, incredulous.

They say time flies when you're having fun. I guess it also flies when you're not having much fun, too.

I asked Mynxee to keep me in the corp (and I promptly logged in, if only to update the timestamp on her corporate member report). I am not ready to give up on EVE Online yet. I'm simply waiting for the "next big thing" to revive my passion for the game. But I'm not yet sure what that may be - the thing that sparks my interest and gets me back into the game with gusto, once again.

Fiddling About

Certainly, it won't be mining, alas. I read CCP Fozzie's post about upcoming changes to mining ships, and was underwhelmed. The prospective changes to mining craft are insubstantial, and not really consequential.

Generally, it looks like mining fittings will get a little tighter. Some ship production bonuses will get removed, but will then be given back with adjusted module stats. The ultra-hardcore miners are spinning their spreadsheets to see how to milk out maximum tank and/or productivity to the tenth decimal place of precision, of course. But for me, a quick review tells me that CCP is simply fiddling about with slots and stats, only to arrive at about the same levels of potential production.

We'll get some shiny new ship designs for mining barges and exhumers soon, as this excerpt from the recent o7 show indicates.

These adjustments mask the real issue with mining: the essential mechanics remain the same. 'Roid mining is still boring. Gas mining is still boring. Ice mining is still boring. Fly to your belt or anomaly, target something, activate modules, collect resources, rinse, repeat - over and over. Nothing about mining is new - nothing has changed.

Want to get people like me excited about resource harvesting, CCP? Keep the old mechanics for the casual miners, if you wish. But introduce some new team mining mechanics - perhaps in some exotic new locations like planetary rings, or in distant Kuiper belts to harvest comets. Let me earn higher production by introducing a mining optimization mini-game, requiring more of my constant attention. Make asteroid belts enormous, using the now much larger grids. Bring back the harder-to-find but potentially lucrative mining anomalies that require probe scanning to discover. Do something - anything - to shake up the dull routine of mining. Give us more variety - please.

The latest mining ship adjustments won't be enough to stimulate my active involvement in EVE Online, unfortunately. I'll play with fittings a bit in EFT, but that will be as far as it goes. I'll continue to wait until CCP decides to actually do something interesting with this essential aspect of the game.

Hopeful for Industry

I am more enthusiastic about the pending arrival of the new industrial array structures, scheduled for release in the fall. But I am becoming increasingly worried that we still know relatively little about them.

Will they be defensible? Will they be suitable replacements for POS towers? Can I operate them successfully as a solo industrialist in high-sec space? The lack of specifications and stats on their prospective performance concerns me. Autumn is almost here, and it's not even certain what date we will see the new industry structures introduced in game.

I will definitely log in to give the new industry platform a try. My hope is that it will stimulate my interest in manufacturing again. But without any specifics, it is only that for now - a hope.

The Big PvE Tease

At the beginning of the recent o7 show, CCP Seagull said, "We're ... working on some exciting developments when it comes to PvE content in EVE that I hope to share with you soon."

If there is anything that might revitalize my interest in EVE Online immediately, it is the introduction of some meaningful new PvE mechanics and content. I've written often and at great length in this blog about the importance of PvE to the future success of EVE Online, and I won't revisit those arguments here. Suffice it to say that I think changing PvE will do more to improve player engagement and retention than any other possible development investment.

But like the new industry structures, we know little of what CCP is thinking or planning specifically for PvE. I have many questions:

  • Does this include a revamp of standings with non-player character organizations in the game? Will this new PvE make relationships with in-game entities more or less important?
  • Will this new PvE content include linked goal-driven missions and tasks (dare I say "quest" style campaigns) - something more robust than the static epic arc mission threads today?
  • Will this PvE content be dynamically generated, which would forever eliminate the current unchanging predictability of missions?
  • Will this PvE content change how players interact in mining, exploration or anomalies?
  • Will the PvE be connected to EVE's rich in-game lore? Or will it have little impact on the ever emerging storylines in the game?

I enjoyed the "Shadow of the Serpent" event last month, but let's be honest: that was a clever reconfiguration of the current PvE mechanics. I'd love to see entirely new PvE features introduced to the game - things that requires time and effort to learn and master.

I could not be more delighted to hear CCP Seagull mention PvE is getting significant development attention. I am trying hard to control my speculations, but I have high hopes - perhaps unrealistically - for something truly innovative.

Viva, Las Vegas!

Perhaps we will learn more about new structures and PvE at EVE Vegas at the end of October. My experience at Fanfest in April was disappointing, but I hope Vegas will be different. I want to give CCP one more chance to thrill me with some exciting announcements and plans for the future of EVE Online.

So, I hope that my experience in Vegas lives up to my expectations. If it does, then I am sure I will dive back into active play in New Eden with aplomb, in order to pursue new opportunities, or at least to prepare for the new capabilities that are forthcoming. But in order to keep my hopes alive, I need some visibility on what CCP is planning. More than anything else, I hope that we see a revised, updated vision for the future of EVE Online. It doesn't have to be highly detailed, but I hope it will be more specific than the vague timeline we've seen in the past.

I'm looking forward to meeting Mynxee and my fellow Signal Cartel corpmates in Vegas, too. Perhaps this, and some exciting announcements from CCP about new kinds of gameplay in EVE Online, will reinvigorate my interest in the game. Or so I hope.

Fly safe! o7

I Owe You Nothing

My industrial alt's corp received a random war declaration by another so-called "leet" high-sec "mercenary" corporation, so I packed up my manufacturing arrays and stored them in station. In a way, it was kind of nice, as it gave me a convenient excuse to take a break from my EVE Online maintenance routines for a week.

Today, I checked in to see if the war was being renewed. As expected, it isn't - and as expected, after checking the war report, I saw there were no kills on either side. Typical.

There were certainly targets available for our allegedly "leet mercenary" foes to bash. I'd left my POS tower hanging in space, albeit stripped of anything valuable, and there were a couple of POCOs nearby that could have been fun to pop. But apparently they couldn't be bothered.

After looking at their rather garishly colored killboard, they were obviously too busy lurking around trade hubs in Tornados, one-shotting ignorant haulers at long range - something our corp knows all too well to avoid in wartime. The result: another wardec passing with no blood shed on either side.

Thus ends another impressive show of PvP mastery from one more super-elite high-sec mercenary corporation, eh?

For those immune to sarcasm, allow me to be more explicit and point out the blatantly obvious, yet again: EVE Online's wardec mechanics are seriously broken.

And, I must admit, mercenary corps who exploit the currently bizarre war rules owe me nothing. They are under no obligation to demonstrate their supposed combat prowess. They can pay their wardec fees and hover outside of trade hub stations, waiting for easy kills, all they want. (Gosh, that sounds like fun, doesn't it?)

Surely, CCP and our current Council of Null-Sec Management (plus good Steve Ronuken) have talked about our long-suffering wardec mechanics at length, and are close to announcing some exciting ways to improve them. Surely, yes?

CSM Radio Silence

It's hard to know if our virtually all 0.0-based Council of Stellar Management cares, because they have been amazingly quiet since they took office three months ago. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed that there hasn't been any crazy drama from the CSM, so far.

I was looking forward to entertaining reports of leaks, in-fighting, backstabbing, public posturing and political intrigue that characterized the last few months of our previous CSM's term. It's a tribute to CCP Guard's supervision that he's kept such a tight lid clamped down on CSM internal discussions. If there are any shenanigans going on, nothing has seeped out to the EVE media yet.

All we've heard from Guard is that the CSM is "working hard", and that everything is super hunky-dory - although it's interesting to see who really is showing up for the meetings (only good Steve Ronuken and The Judge have a perfect attendance record, so far). 

The next CSM summit is scheduled for mid-September, and CCP has announced that all 14 representatives will be invited to attend. Clearly, the developers at CCP are looking for a wide diversity of opinions about the EVE Online player experience. Oh, wait - they're all null-sec guys (except good Steve Ronuken). Well, at least they can talk about critically important issues like the drag range of bubbles. I'm sure the entire EVE community is sitting on the edge of their chair waiting to see how that finally gets addressed.

To be fair, I admit I am extremely cynical about the CSM (can you tell?), and have personally written them off as almost completely unrepresentative of my preferred play styles in EVE Online. As a result, I have no expectations whatsoever from them. Like the high-sec mercenaries, they also owe me nothing.

I'm certain that the CSM is focused on improving the game that they and their peers play in 0.0 space. If they do anything that also just happens to help the game in high-sec, low-sec or w-space, that will be a serendipitous by-product, and I'll be delighted to benefit from it. But frankly, I have little hope this will happen.

Perhaps my cynicism is misplaced - I certainly would be thrilled to discover that it is. I'll read the minutes from the September summit, and we'll see how much the CSM even considers issues in the game that I care about - like wardec mechanics, for example. Then we can confirm whether we have a broadly-thinking CSM in office, or just a narrow focus group catering primarily to null-sec concerns.

Waiting for Upwell

I took a quick inventory of Tech II items I've manufactured over the last couple of months, and discovered I have nearly 10 billion ISK in value waiting to be sold in the market. Not bad for 15 minutes a day, grinding out boring routine tasks. Invention and manufacturing in a POS has become very repetitive and dull, and I'm eager to embark on a new project in EVE Online, and hopefully re-invigorate my level of engagement once again. 

And so, I eagerly wait for the new industry array structures to be released by the Upwell Consortium in the fall. The wait feels interminable, and there is still quite a lot of mystery about exactly what kind of specifications and mechanics they will entail. If they simply operate like a POS, with new paint and snazzy graphics, I'll be disappointed. The general assumptions are that they will use the same asset safety mechanisms that citadels use, but will be weaker with less defensive capabilities and a longer vulnerability period, but none of this has been validated for certain yet.

If the new industry structure just turns out to be an easy-to-pop loot pinata, designed for "leet mercenaries" to plunder, it will be the final death knell of high-sec manufacturing. I doubt that is CCP's intention. I've been hearing dire predictions of the end of high-sec industry ever since the Crius update, but have found ways to make a decent profit regardless. But perhaps I'm wrong, and these new structures are indeed designed to finally drive all profitable manufacturing into null-sec, once and for all.

If that turns out to be true, then I will shrug my shoulders resignedly, and recognize that my high-sec manufacturing days are over. After all, CCP is not obligated to give me any guarantee of profitability for my preferred method of earning ISK - they owe me nothing.

We'll just have to see what the new industry structure specs look like when they are finally released. And so, I wait.

With thanks to @TheNeocom

With thanks to @TheNeocom

Walking the Walk

I read with interest the recent article by my friend and editor at Crossing Zebras, Niden, about "walking the walk" in EVE Online. Niden criticized EVE media pundits who do not actively play the game, but who eagerly spout increasingly uninformed opinions in every forum they can find. In his editorial, Niden describes these self-appointed commentators:

On podcasts, reddit, Twitter, forums, and streams they appear. Their bread and butter is fame; their currency, visibility. They are the politicians and cheesy salesmen of EVE. Making noise and having an opinion is what matters, not the substance of what they're saying, or actually having a perspective anchored in reality, or some kind of real need within the player community.

I think Niden makes good points, but as I was reading his harsh indictment, I wondered: "Am I one of these people?"

After all, my activity in EVE Online has subsided ever since Fanfest in April, as I've since documented several times in this blog. I've become disenchanted with the game, and have not actively pursued new avenues of play. Instead, I've simply reduced my level of involvement to a trickle, and settled in to wait for the "next big thing" to revive my interest.

And yet, despite my currently low level of activity, I have been eager to post some aggressively critical opinions in this blog, without reservation. This sounds like I may indeed qualify for Niden's definition of "unrealistic motherf***ers" - those who have no real business issuing public opinions about EVE Online.

Perhaps he's right. Perhaps I should wait until I'm more engaged in the game to post any opinions about EVE Online or our community. Perhaps I am out of line, until I am logging dozens of hours in the game each week, once again.

But I remember why I started this blog in the first place. Before I ever posted my first post here, I wrote a mission statement of sorts, which you can find in the "About this blog" link:

What is this blog all about?
Good question - glad you asked. This blog is a learning tool for me. That's it.  
With the depth and complexity of EVE Online, I have found that one of the best ways to learn the nuances of the game is to write and dialogue about it. Therefore, I decided to start this blog, to give myself the opportunity to discover insights that might be useful.
Since the sole intent of this blog is to help myself become more enlightened about EVE Online, the primary audience shall forever be me - and only me. If you are entertained by reading this blog, that is well and good, and you are welcome to it.

My level of activity in EVE Online is indeed lower than it has been in the past, but I still love and care about the game, and about the community of players it brings together. And I hazard to suggest with only a bit of humility that my opinions are more informed than most people playing the game today. Most importantly, I'm still learning things about EVE - and this blog is still helping me learn.

And so, whether or not anyone likes it, I'm not going away anytime soon.

To be blunt, dear reader, I owe you nothing - except honesty and sincerity. It's up to you to decide if my words are useful. Keep reading or discard them as you see fit.

Fly safe! o7

Blog Banter #77 - The EVE Crisis of Confidence

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 77th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

Is there a malaise affecting EVE currently? Blogs and podcasts are going dark and space just feels that little bit emptier. One suggestion is that there may be a general problem with the vets, especially those pre-Incarna and older, leaving and being replaced by newer players who are not as invested in the game. The colonists versus immigrants? Is this a problem? Are there others? Or is everything just fine and it's just another bout of summer "ZOMG EVE IZ DYING!"


Last September, I perceived a growing restlessness in the EVE Online player community. I wrote about this in an article on Crossing Zebras called "Overcoming EVE Malaise":

It happens to many of us. We play EVE Online for months or years with enthusiasm, but then, mysteriously, some of us begin feeling less entranced with the game. Our interest in internet spaceships flags. When this happens, some players drop out for a while, put their character in mothballs, and then rejoin months later to a significantly different game, their interest rekindled by some new feature or development. Others, however, never return to active play – they are lost forever to EVE ennui.
I’ve been playing EVE Online since 2009, and I’m familiar with the symptoms of “EVE malaise”. It is a common affliction of veteran players, especially after they’ve settled into a particular playstyle, becoming so good at it that the game becomes routine. Those vets who fall victim to this disease suddenly lose their motivation to sustain their success. They wonder, “Why am I no longer excited about something that used to make me so passionate?”

I myself have been struggling with EVE malaise ever since Fanfest in April. I had high hopes - perhaps excessively so - that I would see some exciting new developments announced at that event that would once again reinvigorate my interest in the game. But I was disappointed. In fact, I even got a little angry about it. My involvement with EVE Online dropped to the lowest level in five years. Only recently, with the Shadow of the Serpent PvE event, did I log some significant time in the game, but even then, it has been only a relatively slight increase. And once that event is over in the next month, I am sadly confident that my time in game will return to its previous somnambulant state.

Is my experience typical? I am not entirely certain, but I see a lot of signs of a creeping sluggishness in the EVE Online community - especially in the EVE media. I see an increasing number of once vibrant EVE-related blogs posting less frequently, or others shutting down altogether. EVE Radio had to threaten imminent shutdown, in order to collect enough contributions to keep afloat - until September, anyway. Some of my favorite EVE-related podcasts, which used to be prolific fonts of new content, seem to be on informal hiatus.

These trends do not paint a healthy picture of the EVE Online community, full of energy and enthusiasm. Not at all. Rather, it shows an increasing amount of listlessness. EVE Online seems to be somewhat adrift in the doldrums, for the moment.

The End is Nigh?

Does this mean that "EVE is dying" - a phrase so oft repeated that it has now become a meme in our community? I've been hearing this ever since I joined the game in 2009, and yet, EVE keeps chugging along, getting incrementally better with each update, year after year.

More than two years ago, the rumors of CCP Games' imminent implosion were so sonorous, they were impossible to ignore. I took a close look at the data, and came to the conclusion that there was little to worry about - I wrote a post about it, and my conclusions have been borne out by history. In general, EVE players are a cynical bunch, and we tend to exaggerate bits of bad news, while failing to give CCP and EVE Online due credit for being far more resilient than we think.

After World War Bee wound down to a surprisingly swift anticlimax in the spring, there has been little news in New Eden, except for the introduction of Citadels. Some ownership of space has traded hands, as usual, and CCP's summer PvE event has generated some player engagement, but for the most part, not much is really happening right now. For many otherwise ardent capsuleers, there simply isn't much reason to log in regularly at the moment.

In addition, it is summertime - at least, for those of us who reside in the northern hemisphere - and people are enjoying holidays and family and other interests in that strange world known as "outside", which we tend to ignore in the blustery days of autumn and winter. This is when CCP developers go on extended holiday, like most of Europe. Not much happens in EVE Online during June, July and August. We bittervets know it's been that way for ages, and probably always will be.

From EVE-Offline.net: I started playing EVE in 2009, and there has been a temporary decrease in average player counts online each summer, every year. Of more concern is the generally lower daily log-in counts, which dropped in mid-2014 and again in mid-2015. This level of traffic seems to be the "new normal" for activity in EVE Online - at least for now.

Of more concern is the generally lower level of player engagement, as measured by daily player log-in counts, relative to EVE's heyday in 2011-2013. According to statistics from EVE-Offline.net, EVE Online saw a general drop in player log-ins in mid-2014, and again in mid-2015. World War Bee and Citadels helped spark a higher level of activity through the spring of this year, but it has now returned to the previous lower activity norm.

We Need New Toys

This hardly means that "EVE is dying", of course. It simply means that little of interest is going on at the moment. The Shadow of the Serpent PvE event has been an entertaining diversion, but it hardly qualifies as a major game development.

In my own experience, I am simply bored. After six years, there isn't much left to try in the game that sounds especially appealing. Plus, with my busy lifestyle, it's more difficult to reserve hours for marathon online gaming sessions, like I once enjoyed. For my currently casual, and mostly solo, play style preference, there just isn't much for me to do - or at least it feels that way.

This isn't unusual for EVE Online. Something new is introduced, and we dive in with gusto to master the new mechanic or capability. Then we figure it out, and the once entrancing new toy becomes familiar. I remember learning to solve a Rubik's Cube - I practiced over and over until I could solve the puzzle effortlessly, and then I put it on the shelf, and forgot about it. It's still there, forty years later, untouched for decades. I remember how much I enjoyed playing with it, long ago, but I'm unmotivated to pick it up again.

I'm waiting for some new toys in EVE Online. I'm hoping that industrial platforms prove to be an interesting alternative to POSes, and a tool for successful and profitable invention and manufacturing in high sec. But we don't have enough details yet to know for certain. So, I'm just sitting here, waiting. Meanwhile, my log-in activity averages less than 15 minutes a day, mostly to conduct a routine checklist of maintenance tasks in a perfunctory manner. It's not much fun.

We need some big and exciting new toys to rekindle interest in EVE Online, and we need them badly. We need to see the full realization of the entire vision for new structures, as soon as humanly possible. We need massive revamps and enhancements to wardec mechanics, mission-running, mining, and exploration. We need formal support of non-corporation societies within the game client. We need new space to discover - and compelling reasons to go there. We need to restore a sense of wonder about the potential of flying our ships in New Eden - the feeling that anything is possible.

For me, that sense of wonder has been missing from EVE Online for more than a few months now. 

A Crisis of Confidence

In 1979, US President Jimmy Carter gave his "crisis of confidence" speech, addressing the nation on the effects of the energy shortages at the time. While many criticized Carter for the speech, he made an important point:

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our ... will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose...

There's a lesson to be learned here: when people start to give up hope that things will get better, they start to disengage, and then that disengagement becomes increasingly pervasive and endemic. Thus begins a downward spiral, which is difficult to overcome.

Is EVE Online having a similar crisis of confidence? I submit we are collectively on the brink of one - a crisis created out of a growing perception that not much new is happening, and that the prospects for significant innovations appearing soon are dim, or so far in the future that they are irrelevant.

Jimmy Carter was criticized for describing the problem, but not articulating a vision of a solution. It's well past the time for CCP Seagull to update her vision for the future of EVE Online - not as vague generalizations of intended direction, but with more specificity, starting from today and moving forward. Of all the things I saw at Fanfest in April, her lack of precision in defining the current state of her developmental roadmap was the most disappointing - it was mentioned only in passing during her keynote presentation. I had assumed that as CCP was progressing through the phases of that grand vision, the picture would become ever clearer, as we got closer to the end goals. 

I'm attending EVE Vegas in October. My principal reason for making the trip is to give CCP the opportunity to once again sell me on the future of EVE Online. It is my sincere hope that I will see and hear a fully revised development roadmap - one that takes us from the new structures all the way to stargates and the path to new space, with some general timeframes for when we might see new deliverables.

The EVE Online player community is suffering from a growing feeling of malaise. We need big, shiny new toys to play with in New Eden. And we need a clear, refreshed vision of where we are going and when those new toys will be available. Otherwise, we will fall into a genuine crisis of confidence - and a potentially inescapable death spiral for the game we all enjoy.

Personally, I'm hoping for the best.

Fly safe! o7