Right, what's all this, then?

I took a short break from EVE Online over the last couple of weeks, due to family and business matters. I picked a bad time to turn my attention away from the game, as a lot has happened in the interim. So much, in fact, that I've not yet fully absorbed it all. But I've been remiss in posting in this blog lately, so I thought I'd share some general impressions - I'll go deeper on a few of these topics later in future posts.

Behold, #CCPizza!

A quick follow-up to an earlier post - the #CCPizza campaign, organized by players to buy pizzas for CCP developers as a gesture of thanks for their good work, came to fruition. The results were reported in this grateful dev blog.

Clearly, this meant a lot to the staff at CCP Games. I was happy to see that they captured the supportive comments from the GoFundMe page for all to read - including one from me.

Grateful comments from EVE Online players who pitched in to buy CCP Games developers some well-deserved pizza - including one from me (green note, in the middle, second row).

Silly Mercs, Goofy Wars

Knowing I wasn't going to be be able to log in regularly for a while, I took down my POS. This turned out to be fortuitous, since my alliance was wardec'd the next day by yet another high-sec "mercenary" outfit - i.e., people who loiter in trade hubs looking to one-shot industrial ships with Tornados. All the more power to them, if that's what they enjoy doing, though I don't really understand the appeal.

As usual, there were no ship kills in that war. The pilots in our group are experienced enough to know to avoid trade hubs during wartime, so there were no losses.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens in most high-sec wardecs. *sigh*

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens in most high-sec wardecs. *sigh*

CCP Games really needs to take a critical look at high-sec war declarations. The current mechanics are just silly. I don't want high-sec to become a carebear paradise, but I'd really like to see wardecs actually entail some risk for the declarer other than an ISK payment. And there should be equal incentive for the high-sec wardec receiver to actually fight. As it currently stands, whenever there's a wardec, I just use out-of-corp alts for a week. And nine times out of ten, the wardec'ers don't bother to show up anyway. It's completely goofy.

Maybe this will change with the release of citadels, as that would give high-sec corps something tangible to fight over - especially if those citadels replaced NPC stations. I know this sounds crazy, at first - but imagine if the Caldari Navy station at Jita 4-4 was replaced with a citadel owned by a large player alliance. Do you think that alliance would defend its expensive extra-large citadel, an ultra-profitable trade hub, in wartime? You bet they would. Would this invigorate high-sec space and create meaningful content galore? Absolutely.

One of my favorite wars was between EVE University and Red vs. Blue over the defense of the E-UNI POS. The POS itself was inconsequential, but it became a symbol for winning or losing the war, and that was what made it fun for both sides. The RvB assaults against the E-UNI lines were epic - to this day, that battle in Aldrat remains the largest high-sec conflict in EVE Online. Ultimately, RvB prevailed, but only after several successful stands by E-UNI - and everyone agreed afterwards that it had been a blast for all.

So, c'mon, CCP - fix high-sec wardecs. Give us something worthwhile to fight over, and to fight for, other than a few lazy sniping kills in trade hubs.

Me Likey the New Launcher

I've been playing with the new launcher, now available in a beta test version. It's definitely worth installing. I have found it to be a significant improvement over the old model. In particular, it makes it much easier to launch multiple client instances. I sometimes run as many as three accounts simultaneously, and it was a bit of a pain to do this using the old launcher, as you had to log in, start a client session, then alt-tab out, log-in to the next account, start a second session, and so forth. With the new launcher, you simply launch multiple instances at the same time - very convenient.

The new launcher, now in beta test, is a significant improvement over the old one. I like it.

The new launcher also makes it much easier to log into the test servers. Before, you had to set up a separate folder and starting executable, but now it is all seamlessly handled from one launcher - you just pull down the desired server from a drop-down menu. That should make it a lot easier for more players to try new features before release, and to participate in the mass testing trials occasionally called for by CCP. 

The Dark Side of "Skillpoints for Sale"

CCP Rise dropped a bombshell of a dev blog about doing away with the character bazaar, where players can purchase in-game characters in a way sanctioned by CCP, in favor of introducing the option to sell a character's skill points to others. As he says in the post:

"Rather than requiring that characters be sold whole, we could allow them to be broken up and sold in chunks. This means that buyers get to retain all the individuality associated with their characters and sellers can make some money off their training mistakes or unused skills without having to part ways with an entire character."

Based on what I've seen in the forums and on Twitter, this idea appears to have bisected the player base into two distinct camps, with many favoring the idea but more disliking it. Personally, I am in the latter group, though my level of distaste for the suggested change isn't nearly as vitriolic as others who see it as the harbinger of doom to EVE Online.

The essential argument of those in favor of selling skill points is that it is happening already, with the sale of characters. This new suggested approach only breaks the sale down into more flexible sets of skill points, sold in the market.

My objection to the proposed scheme is not that it is an outright "pay to win" system, though it does allow new players to rapidly beef up their characters for advantage, in exchange for cash. As any experienced EVE Online player knows, skill points do not necessarily equal success - the player behind the character needs knowledge and experience to succeed, in addition to SP. Rather, my concern is that this is one more sign of a "dark side" creeping into the new player experience.

Hmm, buying skillpoints, you want not. There lies the path to the dark side.

Hmm, buying skillpoints, you want not. There lies the path to the dark side.

What do I mean by the "dark side"? To paraphrase Luke and Yoda...

LukeIs the dark side [better]?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quickereasier, more seductive.

I've previously written about how much easier it is for new players now, and most of this has been good for the game. But this latest idea, which allows new players to create instantly skilled characters and unlock in-game capabilities faster, is like allowing 10-year-olds to get a driver's license if they just pay higher fees. It's not going to end well.

I understand why veteran players would find this suggested approach to be attractive. They could easily prune off unused skills and develop specialized alts quickly, or "farm" their unneeded SP and earn a little extra ISK. In the forums, I have read more than a few comments by veteran players who are excited about how this new mechanic will create more targets to shoot. Essentially, their reaction is: "Goody! More stupid noobs who think they can fly a blinged-out battleship? I can't wait!" For players like this, all they see is an influx of green, easy targets flying ships too big and over-fitted relative to their novice experience level.

And therein lies my concern: what this mechanic would mean to a new player's early experience in EVE Online. The proposed "skillpoints for sale" system would create an overwhelming incentive for new players to buy SP in the market, making it a virtual requirement in order to be competitive. The value of developing a character over time, commensurate with the knowledge and experience needed to make that character effective, gets completely short-circuited by the skillpoints-as-a-market-item concept.

If you think we have a problem keeping new players now, just wait until they can naively buy their way into battleships in an instant, and then lose everything in a hail of artillery by veteran gankers. The ragequit frequency could go through the roof. This would spell disaster for new player retention.

No worries, I can totally pilot this vehicle - I bought the skillpoints!

No worries, I can totally pilot this vehicle - I bought the skillpoints!

On the other hand, this only makes new player training corps, like EVE University, more important. In fact, I'd say it would make them a critical requirement for new player success. (Alas, we are losing one great new player friendly alliance, Red vs Blue, who is ceasing formal operations.) If you are going to have 10-year-olds driving around in shiny SUVs, then you definitely need to give them extra-special supervision to keep the rate of accidents to something less than catastrophic.

There's no doubt that the skillpoints-for-sale idea will produce more revenue for CCP, which is not an entirely bad thing. I suspect that is what is really motivating the introduction of this possible change. I don't begrudge CCP Games the opportunity to make money - a financially stable CCP is good for the long-term viability of EVE Online. But it feels like we are starting to slide inexorably back towards the edge of "micro-transactions for in-game advantage". We had riots in Jita once before about that. I would prefer that we not go that way again.

What Stays in EVE Vegas

Though I considered doing so, I did not go to EVE Vegas this past weekend. My brilliant plan was to buy the live stream and watch it in the comfort of my office, legs propped up on the desk, with a cold beer in one hand and a bowl of warm popcorn on my lap. This plan was foiled when CCP decided not to stream any of the content, much to my disappointment. 

Lots of interesting panels, presentations and fun things to do happened at EVE Vegas 2015 - perhaps I should plan to go next year.

EVE Vegas is becoming the "US Fanfest", growing larger each year, and CCP has begun to use this event as an opportunity to make some major announcements about coming enhancements to EVE Online. This year did not deviate from that trend, with some significant news coming out of the proceedings. I won't recap all of the news here, as I'm still reviewing it myself, but from what I've seen so far, I'm excited about how citadels are coming together, and the significant changes to capital ships sound like much more well-defined and sensible roles for an entire class of vessels, which are currently languishing with no clear purpose.

I'm sorry I missed EVE Vegas this year. I attended three years ago when it was still relatively nascent, and had a good time. Now that it has expanded and matured, this event now seems just as good as Fanfest as a vehicle for enjoying player camaraderie and hearing all about new developments.

Giving Up on PushX

I've been using the Push Interstellar Network service (a.k.a., PushX) for shipping freight around over the last year, with good results. But for the last three weeks, they have failed to deliver a subcontracted courier job to Jita for me, although I've tried three times to get them to do it. They simply ignored my contracts, even when I added some premium compensation, and they all expired, unaccepted.

I'm not sure what's going on with PushX, but I've given up on them. Red Frog Freight and its sister specialty corps, Blue Frog and Black Frog, though they are all more expensive, have proven to be more reliable, so I've gone back to them for my long-distance shipping needs. It looks like Red Frog et al are the only independent shipping services that can be counted on these days. The public courier contract market is just too inconsistent for critical shipments, and PushX seems to be fading as a viable competitor.

Catching Up on EVE

It seems my break has made me fall a bit behind on the most recent EVE news. I'm now spending my evenings trying to catch up. Perhaps I'll join one of the Crimson Harvest happenings next weekend. Between that and the upcoming Amarr Championships, there seems to be a lot of things happening that are intensely lore-based. I think I like it.

Fly safe! o7