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

Something's Missing

I've been playing EVE Online since the summer of 2009 - almost seven years now. I've tried much of what the game has to offer, and have enjoyed myself immensely throughout.Though I've had periods of lower activity in the game from time to time, I always find myself returning to New Eden. And each time, it feels very comfortable, like coming home.

Still, I've had this growing feeling of ennui about EVE Online over the last year. My enthusiasm has waned. I still read the dev blogs and news about each new enhancement and addition to the game with interest, and I enjoy following and speculating about the in-game lore. But still, I can't seem to shake this gnawing feeling of listlessness - as if EVE Online has simply become... routine.

I have had a hard time pinpointing why this may be. Certainly, a lot has been going on in Real Life for me lately, and that has rightfully diverted my attention from the game. Thankfully, those events have now passed. But now that I'm logging into the EVE client with more regularity once again, I find myself just staring at my ship in station and asking myself, "Well, now what?" Each time, I fiddle with my market orders and make sure my planetary interaction chains are running properly, and perhaps chat briefly with a few corpmates, and then I log off. And so it has gone for the last few weeks.

I've considered changing corps - the Signal Cartel looks like a fun group, for example. But I'm not sure that will satisfy me or renew my enthusiasm for long. Something is missing.

A Builder's Lament

EVE Online supports many different playstyles, and I fall neatly into the category that CCP Quant calls the "entrepreneur" - mostly industrialists and market-makers. Entrepreneurs represent one-quarter of all EVE Online players, and we evaluate success by how much production we control, how much we trade, and how much ISK and asset value we possess. In essence, I am chiefly a builder and a collector - I get most of my jollies by making and owning things in the game.

This is a decidedly different playstyle from more aggressive types who relish player-versus-player (PvP) combat, I admit. It's not that I don't enjoy a good tangle in space from time to time - it is simply not my primary source of enjoyment in EVE Online.

This difference is hard for some players to accept. I often hear forceful declarations that "EVE is a PvP game", which generally dismiss any alternative perspective about having fun in the sandbox we call New Eden, even though statistics prove otherwise. Using CCP Quant's archetypes from his analysis of preferred playstyles, the "Professionals" and "Aggressors", who represent a little over one-third of all EVE Online players, urge CCP Games to focus most, if not all, of their efforts on making the PvP experience awesome.

Certainly, PvP is a critical part of EVE Online's gather-build-destroy cycle, which is really the heart of the game, and I do not begrudge those who focus primarily, if not exclusively, on the "destroy" part of that equation. Especially since the fall of 2014, CCP has tried to cater to the desires of players motivated by "good fights", with numerous ship and module re-balances, revamps to force projection and null-sec sovereignty mechanics, changes to grid size, kill marks, improved ship graphics, and the introduction of new combat craft like the tactical and command destroyers, among many other PvP-enhancing features.

However, since the massive revamp of industry in the Crius release in July 2014, CCP has provided just a few tweaks and additions for industrial and production oriented players like myself - a new ice mining frigate, multi-buy, and minor adjustments to mining, as examples. The amount and weight of new capabilities for players more interested in gathering and building, compared to those produced for players focused on destroying, have been relatively paltry. Over the last 18 months, CCP's developer elves have not released many new toys for EVE Online entrepreneurs, like me, to play with - the workshop in Reykjavik has been mostly cranking out goodies for the PvP crowd.

Citadels: What Hath CCP Wrought?

Of course, my grousing may be premature, as the imminent advent of citadels may change everything, and rekindle my entrepreneurial enthusiasm. I certainly hope so.

Having mastered the use of Player-Owned Starbases (POS) long ago, I am eager for the new structures to become generally available. A POS is a pain to set up, and they require a lot of care and feeding to use properly. The new citadels promise to provide more utility, with less hassle to operate.

Most importantly, they appear to be defensible, and useful even to small corps based in high-sec space. As it stands now, it's generally easier to simply take down a high-sec POS during wartime than to leave it hanging out in space as an attractive target. The fitting capabilities of the new structures should make even the medium-sized Astrahaus a potentially formidable target, if properly outfitted and manned.

I have been devouring every scrap of information I can find about the new citadel structures, and so far, I like what I see. I can envision a time when player-operated citadels may even replace many of the NPC stations we see in New Eden. Someday, perhaps sooner than we think, there may be no such thing as an indestructible refuge anywhere in the cluster, even in empire space.

However, there is one thing about citadels that is plainly obvious, which stifles my eagerness a bit: to install and manage them successfully, they will require a coordinated team of players. It appears to me that solo-operated citadel structures will be too challenging to defend and maintain. In this regard, I will miss the old POS structures, when they are phased out, as I can easily operate small or medium towers without help. Most likely, this practical requirement for cooperation is CCP's intent, to encourage players to organize, so they can operate citadels effectively. We will have to see how it all plays out after the Citadel update is released in the spring - and after whatever new structure-related plans CCP shares at Fanfest in April

People, Planets and Power

Citadels may indeed re-invigorate my passion for EVE Online, but I worry that this may only be temporary, or even worse, that they fail to meet expectations and simply feel like bigger POSes in actual practice. I've no doubt that CCP Games will iterate on citadels sufficiently to get them into a workable state eventually, regardless of their initial reception. The question is: will this be enough to make me excited about playing EVE Online once again?

As I ponder wistfully about what I as an aspiring space entrepreneur really want to do in New Eden, I come to the following conclusion: I want to be an infamous robber-baron of interstellar commerce. What I really desire is the opportunity to not only amass wealth in the game - something I have already accomplished, to a degree - but also carve out a role as a powerful controller of resources, and a potential driver of the evolving history of New Eden itself - not just in null security space, but throughout the cluster.

This is possible to some extent today, as part of the player-driven metagame, and indeed there are some players who can lay claim to achieving this status, at least partially. But what I desire is some way to accomplish this within the game itself, not just as an agent in a player-run alliance or coalition.

I look at the thousands of planets throughout New Eden, and I wonder: what wealth of resources - in both people and raw materials - await exploitation by capsuleers on their surfaces? Other than being able to pluck a few resources from them in limited planetary interaction (PI), why are capsuleers unable to exert any control and influence directly over these vast untapped worlds - by conquest, commercial enterprise, or both?

What I really want to do is have the opportunity, not only for limited planetary interaction, but for wholesale planetary management - that is, control over populations and resources of entire worlds.

CCP Affinity and other devs have spoken about improving player-versus-environment (PvE) options in EVE Online, and there are some efforts now underway to accomplish this goal. This is indeed a good thing, and much needed for the majority of players who grind missions, rat and explore to earn income and advance their position. But I wonder if CCP has considered introducing PvE options in New Eden anywhere else but in space? Could not the planets themselves, and their untapped populations and resources, also provide an entirely new level of play within the EVE universe?

In empire space, I envision earning a commission from an NPC mission agent as a regent of a habitable planet, working on behalf of their corporation, to establish and develop control over a designated region on a planet. The quest to develop sufficient standing with an NPC corp and agent, in order to earn a regency commission, could be an engaging direction of play, in itself.

In null security space, this could work by simply establishing a base with in-game population on a habitable planet, and building from there - no commission required.

As a regent, one would hire and care for indigenous workers, set up infrastructure (perhaps even space elevators to orbit?), and build industrial and offensive/defensive capabilities. This would be more than just PI - it would be an entirely new game-within-a-game. Players would compete with each other on each habitable world, economically and through direct action. In accordance with game lore, this would be impossible for NPC corporations to do, of course, but as neutral capsuleers, fighting for planetary dominance would be expected - and provide significant advantage to those NPC corporations who recruit capsuleers to fight on their behalf.

PI could still operate on non-habitable worlds, as it does today. Or perhaps planetary management would supersede PI and replace it.

I can imagine each populated world representing a separate struggle for player dominance, as they develop and expand their bases of operations. I think further about how this might also incorporate support from space.

Does anyone remember how cool planetary bombardment looked, with EVE Online players supporting DUST 514 soldiers on the ground?

Perhaps whenever the PC-based version of DUST is released (a.k.a., Project Legion), this could also be incorporated into new planetary management mechanics. But I digress. Still, it's fun to think of the possibilities. As an entrepreneur player, the idea of developing and fighting for resources and dominance over a world excites me. I'd love to see something like this as an available choice to me as a player in EVE Online.

Looking to the Future

Despite my current listlessness, I remain optimistic about the future of EVE Online, which is one of the reasons that I continue to think about the game, and to log in. There is as yet so much potential to be realized in the game, and I'm eager to see how CCP continues to develop it.

I'm planning to attend Fanfest in April - which will my fourth one - because I am eager to hear more about where CCP Seagull and the entire development team plans to go next. I expect that they will show me how they will fill this void that I've been feeling lately. I expect to feel re-energized and excited afterwards.

I only hope that I am not disappointed.

Fly safe! o7