Occupy New Eden

Matterall, the host of the "Talking in Stations" podcast, invited me to join the panel on last week's show. He had read my posts about Fanfest 2016, and it seems we have a similar point of view on the event's content: essentially, we were both underwhelmed.

During our conversation, I reiterated my complaint that the bulk of Fanfest's content catered mostly to the interests of players who operate in null security space. For those of us who dwell mostly in high-sec, low-sec and w-space, there was not much news.

Certainly, Citadels will have an impact on all types of space, and there were a few other things that will have utility outside of 0.0 (e.g., the new mobile app, redesign of mining ships, limits on bumping), but it is clear that CCP's attention for the rest of 2016 will be on tweaking capital ship combat, enhancing Citadels, and releasing industry and drilling structures - all vitally important to players in 0.0. Other initiatives of interest primarily to high-sec, low-sec and w-space dwellers, such as renewed PvE content, changes to faction warfare and enhanced new player experience are all ongoing, but nothing definite was announced at Fanfest.

It was my hope that CCP was going to turn more of their attention to enhancing game play options outside of null-sec - or at least give us a more defined vision of development plans in that regard - but I left Fanfest disappointed on both counts. Perhaps this is indeed their intention, but based on what was shown at Fanfest, the focus of CCP's scrutiny appears to remain on null-sec, at least for the next year.

We are the 85 Percent

While I understand the value of revitalizing null security space, CCP's continued catering to the cares of 0.0 constituencies seems disproportionate to the numbers of most EVE Online players. According to CCP Quant's analysis, less than 15 percent of players operate primarily in 0.0. The vast majority - more than 85 percent of EVE Online players - play outside of null security space.

CCP Quant's analysis of players by type of space - more than 85 percent operate outside of null security space.

Make no mistake: the game mechanics for sovereignty and capital ship combat absolutely needed to be reviewed and refreshed. Further, the introduction of Citadels and related structures is required to give 0.0 empires something meaningful to fight for. And the changes that CCP has wrought so far has restored a vitality to life in 0.0, as demonstrated most recently by the war in the north. This is a good thing for EVE Online, in general.

But the specific interests of the 85 percent of EVE players have been neglected for too long. Those of us who dwell in wormholes, in low security space and in Empire are growing weary of being treated as second-class citizens of New Eden. For many of us, we looked to Fanfest 2016 as a possible turning point, where CCP Seagull and the EVE Online developer team could have begun to turn more attention towards the needs of the majority of the player community. Alas, this was not to be.

If anything, the focus on the interests of null-sec became even more pronounced at Fanfest, not only in the keynote addresses, but even more in the results of the elections for the eleventh Council of Stellar Management (CSM XI).

Behold, your Council of Null-Sec Management

The number of voters for CSM XI was the lowest in seven years, and as a result, every slot on the CSM went to null-sec bloc endorsed candidates, except for one - Steve Ronuken, who was re-elected from the last council. In past years, the majority of positions on the CSM have always been filled with null-sec candidates, because the 0.0 alliances are more monolithic and better organized than the highly fragmented player organizations in w-space, low-sec and Empire. But this is the first time that almost every position on the CSM has been filled by 0.0 candidates.

Of course, the reasons for this outcome fall mainly on the majority of players who chose not to vote. But blame can also be shared by CCP and the last CSM, as well. CCP once again did little to promote voting for the CSM to the player base. Though they distributed messages in the launcher and in-game mail, these mostly passive measures were clearly ineffective. In addition, the shenanigans within CSM X, including dismissals, negative public statements and boycotts, did little to boost confidence in the CSM within the player community.

As a result, CSM XI is the most unrepresentative body yet elected, relative to the actual player community distribution. Their collective experience shall likely over-emphasize the interests of null-sec organizations, to the detriment of all players in other types of space. This does not bode well for restoring the faith of the majority of the player community in the CSM.

Some players and pundits have proposed ways to reform the CSM, in order to restore a more representative distribution of elected candidates, but no method suggested so far is immune to gaming by the well-organized null-sec political blocs. Unless CCP is willing to very aggressively promote voting for the CSM, and provide stronger incentives for participation, existing monolithic power groups will continue to have significant advantage. 

Rather, I propose that we must simply accept that the CSM shall forever be dominated by null-sec candidates, and rename this body to "The Council of Null Security Management". Let the 0.0 groups have their elected body to advise CCP, as it seems hopelessly inescapable anyway.

To balance this, CCP should also appoint advisory focus groups to represent the interests of other types of space, and for specific mechanics under review. The CSM could recommend potential candidates to these focus groups, including themselves, but the final selection of participants should be made by CCP to serve their needs. This is the only reasonable way to ensure that CCP is getting a broad range of input from all types of players, and avoid the tunnel-vision perspective that the CSM cannot help but provide.

The dream of the CSM as a representative body of advisers to CCP is dead. Long live the CNSM - and broader input from experts appointed by CCP to specific focus groups.

The "Occupy New Eden" Manifesto

It is easy to complain about the current state of affairs, but that serves no purpose without a clear vision of how to improve upon the status quo. Those of us who play mostly outside of null-sec space are feeling increasingly ignored and disenfranchised. What would a better EVE Online look like for us in the 85 percent?

Here is my draft of a manifesto. I welcome further suggestions for addition or improvement - please log your ideas in the comments.

  • We want a new player experience (NPE) that welcomes novices and gives them a safe environment in which to learn the basics of the game. More importantly, the NPE should draw players into a narrative, cast against the rich backdrop of EVE's lore, to provide context about why capsuleers do things as they do - and to create an emotional bond between player and character. The NPE should lead players to interact with other social groups in the game, and thus improve new player retention.
  • We want Player vs. Environment (PvE) options that are dynamic, variable, engaging and meaningful in the context of the lore of New Eden. We want non-player character (NPC) agents who interact with us in a realistic way, and are more than just dispensers of missions and tasks. We want a standings system that is more dynamic and which requires more well-considered choices by players. We want NPCs in space to behave like players would, interacting with and reacting to player actions, and even with other NPCs. We want PvE options for solo, small gang and large group engagement, and which pay fairly by balancing risk and reward.
  • We want more variety in exploration, with options for finding the unknown in deep space, and not just running standardized data and relic sites. We want new space to explore, with commensurate dangers and rewards - and the potential for unprecedented discoveries.
  • We want more variety in harvesting operations, which provide greater rewards for group interaction and for operating in riskier environments, and which offer viable options for execution by solo players, small gangs and large groups.
  • We want industry, market trading and hauling options that scale rewards relative to risk, and which are viable for solo, small gang, and large group players in every type of space.
  • We want war declarations to mean something in every type of space, with equivalent risk and commensurate reward for both the declarers and defenders, beyond just an expenditure of ISK, and which also encourage active engagement by all parties involved.
  • We want a broader factional warfare front, with better ways for both new and veteran players to become involved and engage in lore-driven player-vs-player (PvP) combat.
  • We want piracy and mercenary careers to be viable and entertaining professions.
  • We want in-game support for player social groups, such as NPSI fleets and incursion teams, and not just for formal corporations, alliances and coalitions.
  • We want both formally game supported and informal PvP options for 1-on-1, small gang and large player groups in every type of space.
  • We want more opportunities to interact realistically with the lore of New Eden, and to affect it in meaningful ways.
  • We want wormholes to remain dangerous and mysterious space, with more options for discovery of new routes to uncharted systems and space.

Some of this vision may apply equally well to null-sec space, but most of it is specific to options outside of 0.0. These are the kinds of things that the majority of players in EVE Online want to see developed and incorporated into the game.

I invite anyone who wants to see more attention and development allocated to the interests of those of us who do not principally play in null-sec to join me in this campaign. Perhaps it is time we finally get together, and start an "Occupy New Eden" movement. Perhaps then CCP might sit up and take notice of their largest subscriber constituency, and give us our due.

I am the 85 percent. Who's with me?

Fly safe! o7