I Like Tweakage

CCP Games released a development update video by the EVE Online Executive Producer, CCP Seagull, about upcoming improvements over the next couple of months, as well as some other newsworthy tidbits:

It's a short update at less than four minutes, but for those who can't be bothered to listen, here is the full transcript:

Hello EVE Online. Last time we spoke was before the holidays and now 2017 is in full gear. We've just had the Council of Stellar Management here for a super productive summit. I want to say a huge thank you to the council members for coming all the way to Iceland to help improve EVE Online.
I'm also looking forward to the upcoming CSM elections and to getting a new great council in place for the upcoming year. If you ever thought about running just go for it. Vote to make sure that your play style is represented, or that those you trust to influence the game in a good direction end up on the council.
We are busy working on lots and lots of exciting stuff so let's talk about a few things that are coming up. We release changes to EVE Online almost every month. The changes we have already released and that are coming out in February and March show some of our commitment to continuously improving EVE Online. Especially after big expansions like Citadel or Ascension, we take the time to follow up with changes that we see are needed, and to get features out that make a ton of sense but didn't make it into the original release for various reasons.
Next week, for example, we're adding personal insurance to citadels and engineering complexes, more follow up changes to the new player experience, and we're fixing tons of defects, and making performance optimizations, too. Our engineers have also been hard at work chasing down some nasty issue with rubber-banding and that should now be resolved. While all of this improvement work goes on, we're also putting work into bigger things coming up. We're getting ready to share more of them.
Fanfest, which is now real, real soon, will bring a solid update to a roadmap for EVE with all the latest news. We also have several Dev blogs in the making that will publish way sooner than that. We have things to tell you about drilling platforms, about new fleet PvE and more, so keep an eye out.
Fanfest this year will be really special. You can still get tickets, of course. You will also be able to follow from home as we will be live streaming from the event. This year the event will take place at a specific location in EVE Online that you'll also be able to visit in-game while Fanfest is going on.
If you are on location at Fanfest in Iceland, you'll have a new and unique opportunity to take part in directly shaping the storyline of the EVE universe. There will be more news on both of these things as we come closer to Fanfest. We've also put out the call for player speakers at Fanfest, so check the community newsfeed if you think you could be a speaker.
Next week with our February release there is some action kicking off in New Eden. As CONCORD is asking capsuleers for help with shutting down rally points across space where the Angel Cartel and the Serpentis are conducting some shadowy business. You'll see these sites on your overview. Take a look,  but remember other capsuleers may be doing the same.
Enjoy space and I'll see you soon again in my next update.

Though brief, the update contains many interesting points, worth further commentary.

CSM Kudos and Ennui

Seagull thanked the eleventh Council of Stellar Management (CSM), and encouraged interested candidates to throw their names in for possible election to CSM 12 in March.

I must admit that when they were elected last year, I was skeptical that CSM 11 would be effective in representing the interests of all of EVE Online's different player constituencies, as virtually the entire group hailed from null-sec power blocs (except good Steve Ronuken).

But I was wrong - CSM 11 did a good job. And they did so with an absolute minimum of strife. Compared to some Councils in the past, CSM 11 was a model of harmonious teamwork. Most importantly, they engaged actively with CCP and advised them on some very significant new features which positively affected every type of space in New Eden.

So, CSM 11 earned some well-deserved kudos - and hearty thanks for good service. I'm glad they proved my worries to be unwarranted.

Regardless, my level of interest in the next CSM election is at an absolute nadir - and I must blame CSM 11 for that. They demonstrated that well-organized null-sec power blocs will continue to dominate the election, and will undoubtedly win virtually every seat on the Council once again.

In past years, I spent quite a bit of time listening to CSM nominee interviews and reading their platforms on the forums, and I published my evaluations and recommendations on this blog. I've decided to give up doing this for CSM 12, as it has become a pointless exercise.

It's quaint that CCP Seagull encouraged people to nominate themselves for CSM 12. Alas, the only ones who shall emerge victorious are the candidates who need to campaign the least, as they can confidently rely on the backing of their sizable alliances to ensure their election, regardless of their actual interest or qualifications. The null-sec blocs will win as many seats as they desire. I can only hope that they put forward candidates who understand and appreciate the diversity of EVE Online player constituencies, and that they can advise CCP Games in a somewhat balanced fashion.

I urge everyone on CSM 11 to run for re-election. That way, we'll at least get a known quantity of Council effectiveness, and a minimum of drama, once again.

A Tweak Here, Another Tweak There

Seagull says we can expect some minor changes over the next few weeks, such as the addition of ship insurance availability in Citadels and Engineering Complexes, and some performance improvements.

For the last few years, CCP has done an admirable job in providing a nearly continuous stream of tweaks and fixes. As a result, EVE Online players today have come to expect minor enhancements to the game on an ongoing basis, but it wasn't always this way.

When I started in 2009, CCP's developer team was locked into a cycle of two major releases per year, each of which focused mostly on game additions. All too often, if an old feature was broken, it might stay that way for a long, long time before it got CCP's attention - much to the fury and frustration of many players.

But with a change to more frequent development update cycles, the game's overall quality has been greatly improved. Today, there are very few features in EVE Online that remain truly "broken" for long.

Alas, few players recognize this today - it's become the new normal. This persistent commitment to quality is something for which CCP's development team does not get enough credit.

Fanfest Beckons

Seagull mentioned Fanfest, scheduled for April 6-8, where details will be forthcoming about some more substantial new features. I have been to five Fanfests, and I encourage any passionate EVE Online player to attend, but I won't be making the trip to Reykjavik again this year. Instead, I'll be watching on the live stream, which Seagull confirmed will be available.

She said a number of potentially important items related to Fanfest that are worth further comment:

  • "A solid update to a roadmap for EVE" - Well, it's about damn time. I was hoping to see an updated roadmap for development of EVE Online at last year's Fanfest, and was sorely disappointed. Then I hoped to catch a glimpse of a roadmap at EVE Vegas, but again was let down. Now, finally, CCP Seagull explicitly promises an updated peek at where EVE Online may be going next. It's been long overdue, and I can't wait to see it.
  • "Drilling platforms" - Two little words that could change everything, especially for how alliances earn ISK in null-sec space. Will CCP finally upset the passive-income moon goo mining monopolies of the power blocs in 0.0 space? Will drilling platforms be a catalyst for requiring more interaction to maintain income streams? Or will they just be revamped versions of the same sedentary mechanics we currently have in the game? I, for one, hope to see some radical changes. The potential riots by spoiled players who feel entitled to constant streams of income for relatively little effort should be amusing to watch.
  • "New fleet PvE" - Incursions and Level 5 missions have been EVE Online's long-standing staples for those looking to earn income through small gang multi-player activity. There are other options for earning ISK with groups of players, such as mining operations, but they have always been rather limited. Further, players have long figured out how to optimize these activities, and they have grown quite stale. I'm delighted to hear that new fleet-based PvE options are in development, and I'm both eager and anxious to learn more.
  • Mixing in-game story development with Fanfest - now this is an interesting idea! CCP Seagull mentioned that the gathering of capsuleers in Real Life at Fanfest will be incorporated into an event happening in New Eden, simultaneously. So, if you attend Fanfest, you will automatically become a role-player, regardless of whether you want to be one or not! In addition, as a delegate attending the capsuleer meeting, you'll be able to affect the in-game storyline in some way. I love this idea, and can't wait to see how it is actually executed.

Tweaks aren't enough

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not actively logging into the EVE Online client these days. I needed to step back away from the game for a while, and let it continue to develop. My intention is to jump back in when enough has changed to make EVE feel new again. I've been monitoring the EVE media closely, watching the latest developments, in hopes that this will inspire me to re-engage.

Does CCP Seagull's latest development update provide enough change to rekindle my interest in EVE Online?  Frankly, no - not yet. She describes a lot of good tweaks and fixes to the game, and I'm pleased to hear them - I like tweakage. But in general, they are still just tweaks. To stir my passion for flying in New Eden, I need something more - a new project that I can sink my teeth into, deeply. So far, I haven't heard anything that provides that to the degree I desire.

But I remain optimistic, and I will be monitoring Fanfest closely with great interest. It's only a question of time before enough has changed to provide sufficient impetus for me to leap back into the game on a regular basis again.

Until then, fly safe! o7

Please Pass the Popcorn

One of my all-time favorite things to do is sit in a nice movie theater, watch a fun flick, and munch popcorn. I don't know how they make popcorn in movie theaters, but it's always the best, most delicious and satisfying popcorn, by far. That stuff is like the crack cocaine of snack foods.

I have no doubt that it is horrible for my health, and is probably shaving a few days off my expected life span every time I eat it, but I still love it. I can't help it.

The last few days in EVE Online have felt like an amazing popcorn movie is just beginning, with the opening scenes jumping straight into the action. The momentum of the plot is building, and it promises to be an exciting story to watch.

What is this epic drama I speak of? It is the potential systematic dismantling of the most enduring and successful null-sec coalition in the game, the Imperium, formerly known as the CFC, led by the infamous space king, The Mittani of the Goons.

If you are new to EVE Online, and you have no idea what that means, imagine something akin to the Berlin Wall about to come down and the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, but in New Eden. For most of the combatants, this war is widespread revenge against the evil empire, writ large. A broad collection of independent forces - which some call the Money Badger Coalition (MBC), and others call The Allies - have organized together to fight a common enemy. And while it is still early in this potential Great War, the allied forces are clearly winning the first battles.

To get an idea of the broad scope of the conflict, this map (with thanks to Tiberius StarGazer) shows the wide diversity of alliances that have come together to attack Imperium-held space:

I will not recap all of the many player entities involved in this conflict here. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of people smelling blood in Imperium waters, and they are all massing to feast on the pods of their enemies. The motivations of the aggressors have been very well summarized in this post on Talvorian Dex's blog - I highly recommend reading it.

I want to be clear about my position on these events. If I appear to be somewhat giddy about these dramatic turns in sov-holding space, I admit that I am. There hasn't been a really good war - one that brings truly meaningful changes to the power blocs of null-sec - in a long time. And suddenly - BANG! - here is is, a full-blown, popcorn-munching war, like an epic new film debut in full technicolor, IMAX, 3-D and Dolby THX surround-sound glory. Is there anything more entertaining? I think not.

I'm also not a big fan of the Goons. I don't despise them, as many others do, but I don't care for their deliberately thuggish culture. They certainly can play EVE Online that way, and I'll defend to the death their right to so so, but I don't have to approve of it.

I've always said that every good movie needs a strong villain, and the Goons have certainly played that role well for many years. In that regard, they've given EVE Online something that is necessary - somebody has to play the big Bad Guys, or else the story just gets boring.

But is there anything more entertaining than watching the Bad Guys get their comeuppance? It appears that the stage is now set for that scene to play out in the northern regions of New Eden.

First, the Imperium abandoned the Vale of the Silent region because they could not defend against massive allied attacks. Soon after, a couple Imperium groups dropped from the coalition. Now, allied forces have begun to press further into Imperium space.

The war is really just beginning, and is at a tenuous point. Can the very diverse (and far from fully unified) group of allied forces remain resolute in ongoing attacks against the Imperium, or will this temporary coalition of mutual convenience fragment and shatter, and cause the war to fizzle out? Will more Imperium alliances and corporations leave the coalition? Can the Imperium make a stand in their home regions, or will they lose everything? And what will the Goons do if they are denied any sovereignty in null-sec? Would they dissolve their once grand coalition and migrate to low-sec, or simply fade away?

I have no personal stake in this war. I am just a simple explorer and harmless carebear - a recently converted space-hippie in the carefree and non-aggressive Signal Cartel - observing with interest from afar.

But I do love watching a great drama unfold. This war promises to be a blockbuster. I hope it delivers on all the initial buzz. Please pass the popcorn!

Fly safe! o7

Who'd a' thunk it?

My friend and fellow EVE Online blogger, Noizy, alerted us to this report on an Icelandic news website: http://vb.is/frettir/hagnadur-ccp-aldrei-meiri/125413/

Roughly translated:

The company yielded US$20.7 million profit last year, equivalent to about 2.7 billion ISK. In 2014 the company generated a loss of 8.7 billion ISK, but this year was a great [return on] investment. Dismissing the game World of Darkness had a significant impact on the income statement. According to CCP, the company's profit, cash balance and financial position has never been stronger.
CCP sales declined by $2.9 million compared to last year - it was $65.7 million last year. Operating profit amounted to $20.6 million and EBITDA was $31 million, compared to $9.7 million in 2014.
The balance sheet was also transformed last year. At the beginning of the year, equity was negative $15.3 million, but this year accounted to a positive $35.5 million. Liabilities decreased by over $4 million and stood at $44.4 million at year-end. Assets amounted to $79.9 million by year-end, of which cash was $56.2 million.
In November of last year, it was reported that the enterprise fund New Enterprise Associates invested new equity in CCP Games in the amount of $30 million, or almost 4 billion ISK in cash.

In a nutshell, revenue went down 4 percent (insert the obligatory "OH MY GOD - EVE IS DYING!" alarmist statement here), but profits tripled, compared to last year.

By taking the burden of the ill-fated World of Darkness project off the back of the company, CCP's financial condition improved dramatically from a very negative to a very positive position. Obviously, this has encouraged outside investment, especially with the potential of EVE: Valkyrie and other virtual reality offerings poised to generate potentially significant revenues next year.

The business condition and outlook for CCP Games has never been brighter. Kudos to the entire management team - you made some tough decisions and they are obviously paying off.

To those negative naysayers who feel strangely compelled to issue a never-ending litany of dire "EVE is dying" and "CCP is doomed" warnings, please put a sock in it. CCP is making good money, and won't be going away anytime soon.

Who'd a' thunk it?

Fly safe! o7