The Real EVE

CCP Quant's analysis of player characters by type of space

By CCP Quant's figures, three out of every four characters in EVE Online reside in high-sec space. Even if you assume that a substantial portion of this is comprised of alt characters of null-sec residents, that still means that well over half of all players operate almost exclusively in Empire space.

This is a tragedy, and is horrible for EVE Online.

The EVE Pretenders

No high-sec resident is actually playing EVE Online. Only players who operate in null-sec space (the elite 12 percent of all characters, according to CCP Quant's statistics) can legitimately claim that title. The Real EVE is a PvP game, and only a PvP game - no other activity in EVE Online has any significant impact or value. Null-sec residents only do ratting and mission-running and moon mining and complexes and other ISK-generating activities simply to cover costs of The Real EVE: PvP and fighting for sovereignty.

It is true that wormhole and low-sec residents engage in something that resembles PvP, but they do so without the ability to plant a flag and publicly declare their space. As a result, their kind of PvP isn't really EVE either. In fact, they are cowards for hiding in unclaimable space. This is probably because they suffer from a universal character flaw: they are unwilling to commit themselves to a larger purpose, and therefore, are just amateur null-sec wannabes, at best. Fortunately, so few people play in low-sec and wormhole space (a combined 10 percent of all characters) that we can discount them all as insignificant.

High-sec PvP is a laughable idea. Ganking, wardecs or dueling are not really PvP, as there is no lasting impact beyond asset losses. Just because two or more players are involved does not mean that combat in high-sec is meaningful. High-sec fights are just the strong preying on the weak - nothing of enduring importance is at stake, and therefore, there is no honor in it.

How to Fix EVE

CCP owes null-sec players everything. Null-sec battles and wars generate all the publicity for EVE Online, and are truly the only reason that anyone ever joins the game. Virtually all new subscriptions are generated by null-sec activity alone. Without the public relations engine of 0.0 politics, new entrants into EVE Online would dwindle to nothing, and CCP Games would cease to exist as a business. CCP's plan to lure new people in with a free-to-play option will fail if null-sec alliances don't create newsworthy wars to attract Alpha clone players into the game.

It is right and just, therefore, that CCP devote all their time and attention to the needs and wants of null-sec players, before any other player constituency. In fact, allocating valuable CCP development and customer support resources to cater to any group other than null-sec players is a poor use of time and money. In The Real EVE, the only things that matter are fighting and holding sov. Everything else is simply a wasteful distraction, and should be eliminated.

For example, EVE Online's science fiction theme, lore and backstory are unimportant. No one who plays The Real EVE cares about lore - it has no impact on PvP or on sovereignty. Imagine if CCP Games were to redirect the funds spent on pointless lore writing, video production, website development and artwork to improving the vitality of The Real EVE in null-sec space. No one would miss this extraneous misappropriation to meaningless atmosphere in the game.

There are far too many useless features in EVE Online. Attributes, factions, standings, skill training, ISK - all are unnecessary for playing The Real EVE.

In fact, if CCP stripped out all mechanics for resource gathering and building things from the game, EVE Online would be the better for it. Ships, modules and ammo should be readily available for free, so that players can focus on real EVE play, and not be distracted by mining, invention, manufacturing, hauling, market trading, exploration or anything else that takes away from the only important parts of the game: fighting and holding sov. The only reason for preserving player-owned structures in the game is that they provide interesting explosion fodder for combat operations.

Null-sec sovereignty - everything else is irrelevant.

The Only Space that Matters

The huge cancerous mass of high-sec, low-sec and wormhole-based characters is distracting CCP Games from focusing development resources on making The Real EVE better. In fact, the best thing that CCP Games could do is expunge the cancer and convert all systems to null-sec security levels, immediately. Eliminate Empire space completely. Get rid of the weird netherworld of low-sec space. Drop the lore-laden disaster of faction warfare altogether. Make every system claimable, even in wormhole space. Instead of starting them in meaningless NPC corps, place all new players (including all free-to-play Alpha clone players) automatically in null-sec alliance corps, where they will be taught to play The Real EVE.

Drop all PvE, industry and market mechanics from the game. In return, make ships, modules and ammo freely available from NPC stations. Let all players start with maximum skills, so they can fly anything. Discard any aspect of the game that isn't The Real EVE. Make New Eden great again, by converting it into a PvP and sov-holding paradise, everywhere.

Only then can EVE Online be saved. The carebear attitude fostered by the safety of high-sec will be eliminated, and all new players will be forced immediately into The Real EVE. The pretend PvP of low-sec and w-space will disappear, and those players will see the light and convert to honorable, sov-holding alliances. Sov warfare on a scale never seen before will break out, and the publicity generated will cause hundreds of thousands of new players to flood into the game. CCP's coffers will overflow with newfound wealth.

It will be a glorious Golden Age for EVE Online.

Note: the entirety of the preceding post is composed of statements I have read in EVE-related blogs, forums, and social media, or have heard in EVE-focused videocasts, podcasts, or at player gatherings.

In case you thought this wasn't satire, I would like to make you familiar with Poe's law.

My sincere thanks to a couple of fellow EVE media friends for the valuable input on this post. You know who you are.

Fly safe! o7

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

EVE Online's Biggest Challenge

I've been listening to the consistently well-executed and highly informative interviews of candidates for the upcoming tenth Council of Stellar Management (CSM), conducted by the CapStable podcast crew, with great interest. Even better, they have also assembled a knowledgeable panel of noted EVE-O-philes and pundits who are conducting a complementary series of roundtable discussions about the candidates - these are even more interesting than the candidate interviews themselves.

A Quick Tutorial on the CSM

If you are new to EVE Online, and you don't yet know what the CSM is, you only need to understand this: the CSM is a group of EVE Online enthusiasts elected each year by subscribers to represent player interests in CCP Games' plans for ongoing development of the game. Since the founding of the CSM nearly ten years ago, it has become an useful stakeholder in most, but not all, of CCP's development decisions. The CSM is unique among MMO games - no other game community has a similarly representative body.

While some CSM'ers and players complain that the Council has issues with uneven communications with CCP Games, there is little argument that the CSM has become a valuable sounding board and focus group for many devs. Thus, the CSM's level of influence has grown, especially over the last three years. This is why voting for the CSM is important for everyone who plays EVE Online.

Concerns about 0.0

Each of the CapStable CSM interviews follows a consistent series of questions, with some variations depending on the positions and interests of each candidate. One of the standard questions asked of every candidate is: "What do you believe is EVE Online's biggest challenge over the next year?"

It's a good question, and helps us to understand the priorities of each candidate. So far, the nearly universal response has been some variant of "Improving the sovereignty system in null-sec space."

Anyone who plays EVE Online regularly anticipates that 2015-2016 will be the Era of the Great Null-Sec Fix. CCP devs have been quite open about long-term plans to update how null-sec space works. There is an established team of developers, the Nullsec Working Group, focusing on this: CCP Scarpia, CCP Fozzie, CCP Ytterbium, CCP Rise, CCP Bettik, CCP Delegate Zero, CCP Masterplan and CCP Nullarbor, among others. EVE Online's Executive Producer, CCP Seagull, indicated that null-sec sovereignty mechanics are a development priority in an interview conducted by the Hydrostatic Podcast team just last week. In the latest CSM winter summit minutes, an entire session was focused on these prospective changes - and blocked from publication under non-disclosure agreement limitations.

And so, null-sec residents are collectively holding their breath, waiting for the pending changes to appear, with both dread and anticipation. The large null-sec political blocs have been promoting an "occupancy based" approach to sovereignty, a concept with many merits worth careful consideration. Regardless, CCP Games has not revealed their full intentions yet - at least, not publicly.

It's little wonder, then, that almost all of the people running for a position on CSM X would be primarily concerned about the importance of changes to null-sec space.

And it is indeed very important that CCP Games get the changes to sov mechanics right, or else they will disenchant a large segment of players who enjoy living and fighting in the outer regions of New Eden. That is indisputable. There is great pressure on CCP Games to make adjustments to 0.0 only in ways that enhance and uplift the quality of the gaming experience there - and they really only have one shot to do it well, lest they risk losing hordes of subscribers forever.

Nevertheless, the CSM candidates are wrong. Fixing null-sec is not EVE Online's biggest challenge. It's not even close.

EVE Online's Biggest Challenge

At last year's Fanfest, I attended a session presented by CCP Rise about the new player experience. It was refreshingly frank and revealing. He acknowledged that the initiation of new players into the harsh environment of New Eden was sub-optimal, without a doubt, and the result was that over half of new players were dropping out of the game after about a month.

No matter how you look at it, losing a majority of new players who try the game is an ugly statistic. It bodes very poorly for the future of EVE Online.

CCP Games' move last year from a bi-annual release schedule to more frequent releases, one about every six weeks, has had some positive effect on the average daily log-in numbers, but not so much that the game's subscription base is yet growing at an impressive rate. In fact, the average number of players logging in each day has hovered around the 30,000 figure for several years.

Now, imagine if CCP Rise and his team are successful at guiding new players towards richer experiences in their early days in New Eden, and they are able to cut the awful drop-out rate by half - from about 50 percent leaving after a month to around 25 percent. Further, for the 40 percent of new players who opt to play primarily solo or independent activities, many of whom get bored and leave after a while, imagine that half of this number are also successfully introduced to more engaging and rewarding experiences, encouraging them to stay subscribed as well. These two changes combined would produce an increased retention rate of 45 percent of new players joining EVE Online, and propel the average daily log-in numbers into sustained, double-digit growth rates.

With such an increase in new player retention, EVE Online could withstand even a massive departure of players from null-sec, who may very well feel disenfranchised and choose to leave no matter what kinds of changes CCP Games ultimately unveils. In fact, I sadly predict that no matter what CCP chooses to do in null-sec, a significant number of residents in 0.0 will not choose to adapt, and simply drop out of the game. Change is hard for most people - even if that change is good for them - and the most typical response to imposed change is to evade it, if possible.

But if a constant, vibrant stream of new players are joining us in New Eden, then any vacuum left in 0.0 would be filled quickly by players eager to try their luck with the new sov mechanics. The rapidly rising tide of new entrants into EVE Online would sustain the ongoing success of the game.

The new player experience affects everyone who plays EVE Online - a strong and healthy influx of new blood enriches every kind of space: high-sec, low-sec, wormholes, and null-sec. This is acknowledged by nearly everyone who served on CSM 9, including null-sec representatives.

Hug a Noob Today (So You Can Kill Them Later)

Many new players were encouraged to try EVE Online after the fantastic "This is EVE" video was released. According to some of the CapStable interviews with incumbents running again for CSM X, the initial indications show that the retention rate on this surge of new players has been good, although it's too early to tell if they will yet follow the typical trends and leave. I'm encouraged, however, by what I see from the player community to support and engage these new entrants in a welcoming and friendly way - and to collectively overcome the limits of the current, highly ineffective new player experience.

Imagine what kind of growth we might see in EVE Online if we were to combine these player-driven retention efforts with an improved and more engaging new player experience.

Taking good care of null-sec is important, to be sure, but it is not EVE Online's biggest challenge. Taking good care of our noobs, in whatever kinds of space they choose to fly in, is far more critical to the future success - and perhaps even the survival - of EVE Online.

Fly safe! o7