The last couple months of 2021 have seen a lot of anger and energy in EVE Online from players over the direction of the game.
It is easy for frustration to turn into rants, which rarely help the situation, and tend to cloud the discussion. Also, players who support and defend CCP’s decisions often attempt to isolate changes and glaze over the big picture trends.
I will go over the lead up the recent anger briefly and try to identify the key issues. Covering the last two years can lead to a long article so…
CCP is no longer the “janitor of New Eden” and is now the angry coach telling players they aren’t “doing it right” and making them run extra laps
Players have lost trust in CCP to create interesting new paths in the game
Let’s look back at when this all started, summer of 2019.
The game meta at this time was about Rorquals and Capitals/Supercapitals operating under a “supercap umbrella” that allowed fast response to any attack on these resource/revenue generating ships.
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this by some players who wanted a change that allowed more of these ships to die.
CCP had similar thoughts about changing the game meta and embarked on what is now known as the “Chaos Era”, starting with Blackout, which was switching null sec space to delayed local chat.
While a small group of players found this change fun and exciting, many players reacted negatively and the player counts dropped precipitously. CCP reverted the change in under two months, but the idea of changing the game meta stuck and they decided to create an Ecosystem Team to focus on the goal.
The Ecosystem Team began changing resources quickly, reducing availability without any warning. Not even the CSM was informed of this major directional change.
The Ecosystem Team felt that the New Eden economy had too much ISK and too many resources and that this was the source of the problems in New Eden.
And so began the “Shortage Phase”, which was described in this initial manifesto post.
I will not go deep on the post itself, but it was full of generics and hand waving about making the economy “healthy”. No specifics or targets or anything a player can look at to see progress was mentioned. In CCP livestreams, concerns about the high numbers of capitals and supercapitals was mentioned, and it became clear that the Dev Team wanted the loss of these ships to matter more and also wanted many, many of them destroyed. They also mentioned “stockpiles” that needed to be used up.
Over the next year, the Ecosystem Team repeatedly changed resource gathering to attempt to make players engage in different behaviors, like living working in low sec space and putting more capital ships at risk.
Changes to the market systems and tax rates are also implemented to try to pull more ISK out of New Eden and punish behavior that CCP did not like, like 0.01 ISKing.
A key change was changing ore distribution to prevent the gathering of all the minerals needed to build capital and supercapital ships in null sec alone. The Dev Team was warned that players could simply import anything they needed, as they did for other industry materials.
Many players were frustrated with these continued changes as their time in the game putting in effort was rewarded with less reward. Their playing time was being devalued by the developers. This was tremendously discouraging, as there was no end or goal in sight.
World War Bee/Beeitnam began in July 2020 and industry went into overdrive to prepare with enormous amounts of capital and sub-captial ships being built, along with all the needed modules to fit them out. Despite the ecosystem changes, every group had what they needed by simply hauling in resources from Jita or Amarr.
With individual battles soaring into the trillions of ISK lost for even single day fights, like an attempted Keepstar anchoring, the industrial groups on both sides continued to easily produce capitals, HACs, and other needed war material.
During the war, CCP continued to try to drive player behavior with many significant changes like Quantum Cores and repeated changes to player structures making them more time and ISK intensive to deploy and manage.
October of 2020 sees the introduction of ESS and Dynamic Bounty System which again attempts to get players to use and engage in space the way that CCP intends. Again, many players see this change as yet another attempt to get them to spend more time and get lower payback for their effort.
Around New Year’s of 2021, the two battles of M2-XFE killed the greatest number of supercapitals the game had ever seen. Yet, after half a year of hellwar, the industrial groups continued to simply replace destroyed ships with even more building, replenishing the war capability within weeks.
It was clear at this point the changes in ore and minerals alone had not stopped capital and supercapital building. This key design change has failed utterly after a year of Shortage to meet the goals. As a result, the Ecosystem Team decided to implement a significant change to industry.
In short, the building of larger ships became much more complex in every sense. A wide new variety of components were needed, skills required were significantly increased, and the overall cost of the larger ships doubled or tripled easily.
Industrial players were given a month before these changes were implemented and began a furious effort to build even more capital and supercapital ships than ever.
Once the industry changes went live, basically all capital and supercapital production stopped. These ships were available everywhere and the build costs of the ships far exceeded the market value of the ships. This entire part of the industrial chain simply stopped. The demand for the new special components was weak.
Meanwhile, the War continues to keep most players focused, yet the drumbeat of “more carrots, less stick continues to increase. Frustration of players about items like the cost of battleships and some faction ships is repeatedly mentioned.
By July 2021 the frustration is palpable, and the Dev Team rushes out a promise that the “Shortage Phase (or Scarcity)” will end by the end of 2021. This is done to calm the player base, and pause the growing outrage.
At this point we are about 18 months into the Shortage Phase and there is no evidence of change in things like capital and supercapital use. If anything, the amount of these ships available for use is at peak levels never before seen in New Eden. Hundreds of titans are available on a moment’s notice. Dreadnaughts are basically throwaway weapons.
After 18 months of Shortage, we have the exact opposite of what CCP was attempting to do with the ecosystem changes. That, and a frustrated playerbase.
The War ends in early August 2021 and many of the combatants face the task of rebuilding and rearming. Without the constant fleets and fights, the player attention turns to the Ecosystem Teams’s work and frustration grows.
After so many months of Shortage and so many “sticks”, many players are counting on a major change that in some ways feels like a carrot after almost two years of sticks.
This brings us to the New Dawn Dev Blog, referred to as a “new age of prosperity” by CCP, which rather than being greeted by rejoicing of the players, was met with angry protests and vehement opinions on the entire rationale behind the Shortage phase.
In the first days, CCP’s response is almost antagonistic to the complainers, further infuriating people and polarizing opinions.
After much sturm und drang, the release is quickly reworked to remove the worst problems, a few values are tweaked on ships/modules, and it’s pushed into production. Thus the New Dawn has begun.
After two years of Shortage, sticks, nerfs, and frustration, what do players see as the result?
- Tanky Exhumers?
- The capital and super-capital numbers are at maximum.
- The space rich got richer over the last two years.
- Joining a mega-coalition is the optimal path to wealth
- Their time playing the game is worth less.
It’s reasonable to ask what was solved after all this change.
Why did we go through all this pain?
A long awaited Winter Dev Blog arrives, and is more of a retrospective than anything forward looking or offering any new vision for EVE. Basically it told players that the same meandering path of “trust us” game design will continue and resumed trying to blame the Rorqual for all of New Eden’s problems.
Offering new PVE experiences isn’t a new direction, it’s more of the same.
Despite Dev forum posts to backtrack a bit, many in the playerbase are still angry and CCP attempts to calm the waters with a livestream Q&A session.
The livestream is a formal Q&A and has real non-softball questions.
The Ecosystem Team is directly asked about KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics they use in measuring the the ecosystem changes. The answer is a meandering dodge that gives no direct answer and avoids being specific at all. Further it includes some strange permutation about supply and demand so far unknown to economic theory.
“So we had to kind of have that run its course, and now its done, kind- uh pretty much on time, uhh, compared to the original plan, so that's the the big thing, we have ship stockpiles, but they will, you know, as manufacturers start to kind of see their ship prices, er manufacturing ship prices get closer to the prices that the owners of the stockpiles hold we'll start to see them come together at some point... these stockpilers will have to give in and start selling at the same price as the manufacturers so...”
To many it seems like a word salad rather than a cohesive plan to manage the economy.
The Dev Team then tries to put some kind of data on the screen to answer the KPI question.
At some point this mining graph is shown:
This graphic shows the amazing data that the “Rorqual Issue” was solved by the changes at the initial announcement of the ecosystem changes. After more than 18 months of Rorquals being the boogeyman of the economy and the New Dawn nerf, CCP is showing publicly that Rorquals have not been the driver of mining as they were in the past for over a year and a half.
Absolutely infuriating to see this after the entire Shortage Phase. The entire justification for the Rorqual nerf is basically tossed out the window in one slide. Literally unbelievable to many that the Dev Team felt that this graphic helped their explanations.
The stream goes on to try to describe the “stockpile” situation with more graphs:
Again, this image does nothing to help their case.
EVE players are nothing if not detailed oriented and this graphic has been striped of anything helpful to understanding it. EVE players debate the subtle changes in 5% versus 7.5% and 20 m/s speed increases. Everything is in the details.
Yet CCP puts up this graphic which leads to another torrent of questions?
What is it actually measuring? Minerals? Raw Ore? Gases? PI? Ships?
Does it include items in Asset Safety? Hangars of players that don’t log in? Corp hangars?
Again, no clear answers, and that makes the concerned players even more concerned that there are no real metrics and that the Ecosystem Team is flying by the seat of their pants.
CCP has the resources and know-how to give compelling presentations and deliver clear narrative. They have done so many times in the past. However, the latest livestream appeared to be a depressing, poorly planned afterthought, given after being forced to answer.
They have done much better. They can do much better. They all love EVE and the players, which makes the recent communication failures all the more surprising and disappointing.
As the year ends, CCP faces a declining player base that is frustrated with both communication and execution of ideas that appear to be a push away from the sandbox and toward making players play EVE the “right way”.
After almost two years of making player effort less valuable, many have lost faith in CCP and their ability to create new and interesting paths to follow and achievements to reach for after years of playing.
Even if you take out all the issues surrounding Rorquals from the discussion, it’s easy see the last two years as spinning wheels in mud, making a big mess, but going nowhere. Leaving the game with the same power dynamics from 2019 and overall lack of direction and inspiration.
Players love playing EVE, the communities they participate in, and creating fun and havoc in the sandbox. CCP has lost sight of their role as janitor and appear to be crudely throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks, hoping it solves something, anything.
As a result, we have a lot of angry players that feel that the last two years were a worthless pursuit of an unmet goal, wasting a lot of time, and losing many friends who stopped playing.
I have been in the room with the developers and seen how the sausage is made. CCP is full of smart, engaged people who can do amazing things. I know there are great ideas lurking, waiting for the opportunity to see the light of day. It’s time for CCP to stop wandering off into the tall grass and get back to the workshop and hammer our some great, mind-blowing stuff.
Personally, I am hopeful for the future, but I continue to push the Dev Team is to remember that players want to enjoy EVE and feel rewarded for their effort. If that gets lost, nothing else really matters.