In an in-character Scope dispatch earlier today, CCP has signaled the likely end of local chat in nullsec space. Citing a shortage of the resources needed to maintain the “Fluid Router FTL” communications network, CCP announced a “reduction in bandwidth in nullsec space.” CCP stated, in character, that capsuleers would have to deal with the developing Drifter situation “without the intelligence of automatic registry,” likely indicating the introduction of wormhole-styled local chat to nullsec. Pilots will likely still be able to use local chat if they want, but their names will not show on the local system pilot list unless they type in local.
The Scope dispatch also discussed a “change in Drifter tactics” explaining that Drifters are now targeting individual ships in space in addition to structures, meaning ratting activity and mining face threat now from both hostile players and Drifter NPCs. The removal of local, which the Scope dispatch indicated will happen within the week, means that hostile players will be able to enter systems and attack without any indication. While player ships can be detected via d-scan, Drifters cannot. This creates considerable threat to any ratting or mining ships that can be tackled.
Wormhole-styled local chat in nullsec has long been requested by players who engage in the PvP hunting of ratters and miners, but has not been something CCP has signaled as likely to occur. It dramatically increases the danger of ratting, as players will have to be constantly monitoring the directional scanner for contacts. While it does increase complexity in hunting as well, the burden is largely shouldered by ratters, who often AFK or rely on monitoring local to know when to dock because of roaming gangs. With the Drifter threat, d-scan alone is not sufficient to ensure safety, as Drifter ships do not register on the d-scanner. For now, the only safe ratting will need to be done in supercarriers or above which cannot be easily tackled, and under an umbrella.
This change also comes at a time when nullsec blocs are already disenchanted with CCP, as the Drifter invasion has stoked sentiments of unnecessary hardship and interference with bloc sandboxes. The Imperium recently was forced to withdraw from an invasion of Tribute in order to protect structures from NPC threats. Adding to this trouble, defending a structure from Drifters does not yield any significant reward for the blocs. It is necessary to defend structures, but there is no reward, making the Drifter invasions burdensome to null pilots. This is to say nothing of the affect it has had on PvE activity, with pilots under a new threat from powerful and aggressive NPCs that cannot be defended against by most ships.
On the other hand, the removal of local chat in nullsec is likely to contribute considerably to CCP’s ongoing struggle against botting. It is likely that most bots rely on local chat to determine when to align or dock. Without local, these bots will not be able to safely continue their activity, making them vulnerable to both player and NPC threats. Players engaging in PvE will have to be savvy and understand that there are considerable risks.
Player-run intelligence networks relying on local will also no longer work. Players will no longer be able to passively observe the local chat and report in a central chat to track the movement of roaming fleets, but instead will have to visually observe gates in order to monitor traffic. Scouting will necessarily become a legitimate gameplay style, even in home systems; and the undetected long-range deployment of large fleets is now much more feasible as cyno networks and the use of less-efficient routes demands players actively monitor fleet movements.
A change like this has not happened in Eve for some time, and it’s impossible to predict how players as a whole will respond to this change. While roaming krab-hunters and PvPers have been asking for this change for years, many players are staunchly opposed to it. Such a dramatic change will undoubtedly suppress economic activity throughout nullsec as players adjust to a new tactical landscape, ending an era of unprecedented production and likely leading to a period of scarcity.
Some of the likely response was seen last year, when CCP’s deployment of a new chat system led to a period of local chat disruptions throughout the game. In that period, many players didn’t bother with PvE content, while roaming fleets feasted on the killmails of unaware or unsuspecting ratters. Unlike last year’s local chat disruptions, however, this year the changes have been announced and will apparently stick around, with the Scope video indicating these changes would last as long as the Drifter invasion continued. With no evident timeline on CCP’s invasion storyline, it’s entirely possible local will remain gone from null indefinitely.
Whether you’re for or against the change, one thing is certain: Eve will not be the same without local in null. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
UPDATE: CCP have now released a Devblog with more details of the changes.