This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

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: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

14 Nov 2012

OOC Entry 58 - The Winter of our Discontent

The following will be the depressing first part of a two part feature. Here I will basically be stating the problem. I will take the whole second part to speculate on solutions and to offer perspectives, so bear with me.

More than a year has passed now for the gaming community of EVE online since the famous Summer of Rage that followed the failed Incarna expansion. CCP has changed their release philosophy drastically since then - actually in a way that was completely unprecedented in their history: They focused on ironing out the glitches, freshening up the visuals, balancing ships, tweaking mechanics and rebuilding neglected features like faction warfare. New content was shelved in favour of making the old work better.

Initially it was a change welcomed by many, and rightly so. Even now as the changes continue there is lot to be happy about, but something seems to be missing.

This new way of redesigning the game, rather than expanding it, comes at a price if it is going on for too long. The price you pay for it is stagnation. A few bloggers have written about that danger recently. Now we are looking at two expansions that have been almost entirely about redesign. That is almost a year during which nothing fundamentally new has been added to the game.

While EVE can heavily rely on the players themselves to provide their famous ''Emergent Gameplay" content, that is not the only thing which keeps the game alive and interesting. Actually, by now even that side of the game begins to show serious signs of grinding to a slow halt.

The two main forces which once shook up things and dared to challenge the established order, have become superpowers. Together they and their allies now control more than half of the conquerable territory of nullsec, and can project their force easily into almost all the rest.

What once was a force for change, has become a well organized system of more of the same. 

In the north, there was a short flare of hope when NC. actually defended against Goonswarm and the CFC, but now that coalition's potential opponents just offer their space for sale and everything is back to normal. Nobody cares about fighting against the CFC anymore, it has just become a repetitive tedium with a predetermined outcome to do so. Even the cheerfully destructive highsec shenanigans of miniluv have turned from an exciting event into a systematic grind where everyone just goes through the motions and collects freighter kills.

In the south, AAA have long decided to not actually fight against HBC openly, much to everyone's disappointment. Surprisingly enough, though, weeks upon weeks have passed without TEST - or the HBC as a collective - even making any serious effort to take over the largely evacuated space left behind by their opponents. These days it seems they even have to force members to go there and do the sov grinding. There is movement, yes, but it is a far cry from the blitzkrieg that removed White Noise from Branch, or the incredibly fast campaign that yielded the HBC three new regions last summer.

On the PVE side, things are not looking any better. Highsec mission running and Incursions have become seriously reduced in their payouts and loot. PI in highsec has been reduced to virtual pointlessness.  Where there is little individual profit, large networks of incursion farmers, multi-account miners and resource gatherers prevail, because they can reap the economies of scale. The wishful thinking behind it might have been that by creating a disincentive to staying in highsec, more people would go out earlier into lowsec or nullsec.

The exact opposite was what actually happened. Large nullsec alliances with superiour numbers and organisation have migrated masses of alts into highsec to drain it of it's resources in comparative safety.

The ones hit most by that are the small time mission runners, miners and other starting players who rely on this highsec content for their first income and as a way to learn the game.

Faction war is no different. Once a neglected and laughed-at hobby of a few roleplayers and people who didn't seem to know better, it has now been flooded by savvy players who know all the tricks to gain the highest amount of rewards from it. What inevitably follows is a reaction by CCP ''nerfing the ISK faucet", the consequence being that the money-maker alts migrate elsewhere, leaving beginning players deprived of a feature that could offer income and an entry into lowsec PVP.

Speaking of lowsec. How about pirating? Well, there once might have been a time where you could go there and fight for your life (or your ISK, depending on which side you are on) but now most systems are either empty or occupied by highly professional high-skilled gangs that manage to get almost everything that passes through. The budding criminal of New Eden will hardly find any inexperienced victims. More experienced and organized pirates have long killed them.

The new players who come in are inevitably ground to dust between those massive millstones made up of ISK, metagaming skills and established organizational principles.

This makes new players not only feel challenged by the difficulty and vast scope of the game, but also makes them feel powerless and incapable of achieving anything on their own or together with a group of equally new in-game friends. Since there is no added content that actually opens up a new playing field which has not been completely taken over by those who already have everything in place, many of those new players will leave again after a short time. After all, what is there to aspire to? The only logical progression that remains, is to become part of the ever smaller number of mass movements that run things in a certain way, and thereby adding to the stagnation of the game world.

Of course, the HBC and CFC core alliances are new-player-friendly and they keep bringing new people in, but they are not adding to the diversity of the playerbase. They are simply expanding their playstyle, their model of organization and their own community. What this means is the creation of a monoculture, and that carries it''s own inherent danger: Despite all the brash and youthful image these alliances like to give themselves, their core and leadership are actually pretty old in game terms (and RL terms too mind you). What if those people grow tired of EVE and abandon it? How many of those masses of new players will follow them to the next best thing? After all many of them are not in EVE because of the game, they are in EVE because of their community.

What remains will be a game that has been streamlined and balanced in ways that satisfy experienced players, but it will contain nothing which would specifically attract new players and - more importantly - retain them.

Because there is a large number of established players who are very involved in the community, who have thousands of equally established others behind them, CCP seems to be forced to cater to them first and foremost. That playerbase is aging though. They will get children, a fulltime job, approach graduation, burn out, lose interest ... and what then?

Then there comes decline, the fall of empires, the dropping of subscriptions.

Or, there could be a new beginning.

But only if the course is set for it rather sooner than later.

Right now as a matter of fact.

In the next part I will write about what I would envision for the new spring of EVE.

Stay tuned.


  1. This rings very true for me. I've been stuck in an odd holding pattern for months. It feels as though the game itself is pushing me away, but I stay because of loyalty to the community I work within (use of the word "work" is no accident).

    I find it hard not to have some degree of resentment toward CCP's strategy, because it feels as if they are relying on that community draw and loyalty to make up for the shortcomings of their current development cycle.

    There are certainly echoes of the build-up to Incarna in this current cycle, with an 18-month period of focus which pleases some of the people some of the time, but leaves many unsatisfied. I just hope the pay-off is worth it this time.

    I still believe the post-Incarna development pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction. Although I totally appreciate that they are finally tidying up the mess left by the shortcomings of previous development strategies, CCP need to find a better balance in order to please more of the people, more of the time.

  2. I think you're pretty spot on, actually. This is essentially the message that the CSM will be taking into the Winter Summit a month from now - that iteration is great, but 2012 + Crucible combined have been 3 expansions worth of "low-hanging fruit". Its time to devote serious attention to game's core economic and gameplay hurdles that keep people from wanting to take the risks to move to low or nullsec and generate that content that CCP uses to sell the game.

    Whether they finally bite the bullet and tackle POS's, or move on to Ring Mining, or overhaul the 0.0 Sovereignty mechanics - the work has to zoom in on solving the remaining "sucking chest wounds" that were identified during CSM6's term. Reskinning POS's won't be enough if, for instance, there's still no reason to refine and build out of them when compared to using a highsec station. Only by focusing on both form AND function will CCP avoid letting any of these ambitious-and-overdue projects fall back into "Jesus Feature" territory.

    1. Also, I'm very much looking forward to your next post. Keep up the good work!

  3. Seeing the responses of well respected faces humbles me and I am hesitant to speak. If you will hear me, read slowly; so come my thoughts. I resubbed during the Alliance Tournament IX, and invested heavily my time into podcasts, old and new, articles and study. Only now do I chuckle at what Kirith Kodachi has recently said that echoes with me, "I've gotten to the point that I can play more Eve, and read less about it." I have made many friends since then. My eccentric adventure bringing me into wormholes to pirate killing roams and then into the militia. Like a child, I never thought to grumble about POS mechanics or bookmarks. Imbalances of one ship to another - only what to avoid. I just didn't know better. It was just something you dealt with. I saw the frigate rebalances and they affected me directly. I ran in 30 man tech 1 frigate parties that melted fully tanked ASB bc's. I've seen a battleship gang stand-down from a fleet of SFI's and Merlin's. Things, I'm sure, which were unimaginable before. The stakes have changed. The Faction Warfare Farmville alts have moved to defensive plexing, while the highly contested systems see blood and fire all week. The fighting fierce, the much isk they say we make disappearing there. Well spent. If we have remained at a 60.1 percent contested level, it is because we fought to stay there.The cruiser rebalance is being met with much nonchalant, a few unenthused persons failing to see the impact that too could have; to even consider tech 1 hulls for an Alliance Tournament testifies on its behalf. The super 100k plus shield tanks of a Ferox and Cyclone something to reckon with. Bait Hurricanes and Sleipnir's making FC's second guess. Triple guess. An Incursis the sole survivor of a 100mn Tengu attack, to bring the loot of his comrades back home. In a Navy Vexor I saw a faction fit Bhaalgorn burn, before I even had the chance to target it. The changes coming are going to change the face of Eve tactics. I'm very excited. Perhaps the excitement is not shared because you fly the same ships as before? The changes being to the playground you do not frequently visit? The slide is not as sloped as you remember? Your feet drag over the ground as you swing? No more. Come Oh patches! You are welcome here, to save me much isk, by the loot of my tech 2 enemies. All of which will be, indeed, well spent.

    1. I all your usual obscure prose you hit on a few points I wanted to make in my second post. Indeed there are perspectives and beneath the layer of ice new life is stirring. Damn now I begin to sound like you.

      I guess it will be due tomorrow or friday.

      Thanks for the comments Sam and Hans ... I hope I wont disappoint with the next installment.

  4. Good points well made. I think CCP's gun-shy-ness is completely understandable after the summer of rage. I also agree it's time to get back on the horse.

    Essentially the game for the experienced players rests on the implementation of the Null vision. And, if Null were fixed, then new players could have High Sec back and actually make a life there when they started out.

    Looking forward to your follow up piece.