Deep Dive: The EVE Ecosystem Outlook

Calyle Morrison 2020-04-03

Art by Major Sniper **Author's note - This article will be covering the same topic as CCP’S VISION: THE EVE ECOSYSTEM OUTLOOK but at a greater length. To those that have read the aforementioned, there will be overlapping information throughout this article.

In an effort to maintain a constant stream of updates and open monitoring between the player base and the developers, CCP dove into their perspective, goals, and progress in their latest dev-blog The Eve Online Ecosystem Outlook. The blog opens with a short set of mantras that, between the dev-blog and a recent interview with CCP Rattati and CCP Muppethunter on Talking In Stations, clearly sets their mission from a broad perspective: 

  • Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
  • Predictable Inputs lead to stagnant Outputs
  • Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

The blog is broken down into four major segments: The Ecosystem Segment, The Eve Ecosystem Health and Prognosis, Resource Distribution, and Anti-Cheating. We’ll break them down similarly here as we dissect the blog and compare it to an interview done with CCP Rattati and CCP Muppethunter earlier this month.

The Ecosystem Segment: Outline for the future

In the first segment of the blog, CCP lays out the primary goals of the macro and micro adjustments thus far implemented, as well as changes yet to be seen.

  1. Increase veteran engagement through nurturing conflict
  2. Improve economic health and opportunity through updates to resource and risk distribution
  3. Severely impact cheating through prevention, detection and enforcement.

These goals followed the mission statement and vision of a world where “cheating” (defined by CCP as botting, fraud, or hacking) would be severely reduced in order to foster, essentially, a virtual second life for EVE’s player base. 

CCP Rattati and CCP Muppethunter appeared on Talking in Stations on March 1. Early on in the interview, Muppethunter broke down the marching orders for the developers after a question a guest asked about a hashtag that had been making the rounds of the Eve community for years – #eveforever. The guest said that the hashtag “lacked definition,” and that this lack of definition was likely due to CCP not being very open about what they have planned to do with Eve Online’s future.

In the absence of a plan to achieve #eveforever, many players have defined what their #eveforever would look like for themselves. However, late last year CCP officially joined their player base with “EVE Forever.” CCP Muppethunter dove into this question by giving this new direction’s credit to the source: CCP Hilmar. What stuck out most in Muppethunter’s explanation of CCP’s “dreams” was what Hilmar laid out before the staff. “He (Hilmar) wants to grow what we have and make the game live forever, not at the cost of itself.” This is echoed not only by Rittati later in the interview but also in the latest dev-blog’s mission and vision. Both Rattati and Muppethunter made clear that CCP wants not only to keep the current player base deeply involved in the game, but, according to Muppethunter, to push the game to “grow forever, it should be bigger next year then it is this year and continue on forever.”

But dreams as large as this absolutely require both great amounts of time and guidance, which Rattati explains is the reason most of last year was focused on enticing new players to join and stay. According to Rattati, the emphasis on new players spawns from a one sentence goal that has been set forth for the teams: “Our mission is to continuously regulate the unique ecosystem of Eve Online in order to provide a fair and vibrant playground full of diverse and rewarding opportunities for all players”. This was then put to paper in the latest dev-blog.

In addition, the blog also discusses a new Quarterly Player Survey that is rolling out in order to help CCP maintain a solid bearing on what they need to adjust to balance the ecosystem as intended. Between the most recent pulse updates as well as the aforementioned interview, this survey will certainly play a critical part at both getting a macro “pulse” of the community and game as a wh0le as well as setting potential parameters on which to continue developing more engaging content.  

Prognosis and Prediction

The second section pushes into what all CCP has done up to this point and what they generally want to do for the game. The kingpin for the stagnation of the game, which is echoed by Rattati, is mining. In the blog, CCP breaks down their strategy into 3 macro-categories: Balance and Progression, Economy and Industry, Cheating and Abuse. These categories are then assessed and given a letter grade, as seen in the diagram published by CCP below.

Based on the diagram, CCP continues to claim that “Cheating and Abuse” are the hardest hit topics. More specifically, the war against botting which is covered at length in the fourth section. These improvements, despite the high security around how these bots were burned out of their holes, are what have ranked the Cheating category at a “B”. CCP notes the top 3 points that were improved: Drifter AI, Broker Relations, and New detection tools. The latter is referring to botting detection and will be discussed below. Drifter AI have had several changes over the last few years, first being that they changed targets erratically roughly about 2 years ago on the reddit forums. This was initially thought to be a glitch, but CCP was quick to affirm that it was intentional. But the most notable change actually was more recently during the 2020 CSM summit. Thanks to wormhole based CSM members, abuse against the Drifter AI via astrahus citadels. The “exploit” consists of simply shooting drifters with an Astrahus station. It’s unknown if this was able to be done in K-space, however due to drifters roaming in J-space, it was most common there. With that method of drifter farming fixed, many wormholers that made their profit off of this farming method took a huge loss. Alongside this change, frigate wormholes were reworked so that they could not be rolled with excessive massed frigates using microwarps like before. The change to Broker Relations also drastically changed how market trading worked.

Advanced Broker Relations

The rework to Margin Trading into Advanced Broker Relations removed a massive ISK scamming path from the game entirely. How the scam would work is that someone would list a fairly rare, usually a faction module, at an insanely high price in a trade hub. Then, a buy order would be listed at a different trade hub at a significantly higher price then the sell order. The key to this scam is two fold: 1) the buy order must be high enough to warrant the multiple jumps required for delivery and 2) the buy order wallet cannot be the wallet that the ISK from the sell order goes into. The result is that, when the delivery of the item is attempted, the order cannot be filled since the required wallet does not have enough ISK and thus the order is cancelled. With the rework, this isn’t possible anymore. You cannot list high ISK buy orders with only a fraction of the required ISK.

Balance and Progression

The next major category is Balance and Progression at a firm “C” with no change in grade from CCP’s perspective. This is despite having massive changes sweep across the capitals category as well as some boosts to subcaps. These changes were first announced in the March 13th 2019 dev blog SPRING BALANCE UPDATE INCOMING! Most notably for capitals, as seen in the above diagram, is the changes to HAWs (high angle weapons) and support fighters. According to the 2019 devblog, Titan dps was cut in half compared to dreads, making HAW Titans extremely less effective in fights. In addition to this, carriers saw some interesting changes to how fighters work. “Change: Increase explosion radius for all fighter attacks by 15%. Reduce explosion velocity for all fighter attacks by 30%.” The 2019 devblog notes that carriers could bring more tackle to better apply damage, but just raw application on smaller targets would take a hit. In addition to this, carriers can no longer “ship warp while the NSA (Networked Sensor Array) is active” which would “add another layer of risk to using it” in PVE or PVP.

The subcap buffs on the other hand gave a little more power to a few ship hulls and weapon systems. Medium lasers got a 10% optimal range increase, and several ships had CPU, Power grid, drone related, and weapons related buffs as well. However, the Ferox took a small nerf to several of its stats, making it more difficult to maneuver and easier to hit. The VNI (Vexor Navy Issue) also had nerfs to it’s drone capabilities and a larger sig radius. The Gila had it’s drone boost slashed by 50% from 500% HP role bonus to 250%. These three ships are wildly popular for subcap PVP and PVE respectively and are commonplace throughout EVE in these fields.

Rebalancing

However, as seen in the diagram below, these are only the start of the changes. Rattati expands on this a little on the “rebalancing” when he brought up CCP Rise’s leak of the hull changes as discussed above. Rattati referred to these changes and future changes as a “macro equilibrium” where there is a “rock-paper-scissors between capital, super caps, and sub caps”. The desire is to have a “hard counter system” where different fleet compositions can be fielded to respond to specific threats. This balance already has roots in the game via debuffs, specific ship classes, specific weapon systems and ammo types, however Rattati expressed that CCP wants to expand on these areas instead of directly nerfing capitals and thus “cripple the whales”. In doing the latter and to summarize the general viewpoint, Rattati argues this would not bring forth the desired equilibrium since it does not directly boost other playstyles and thus allow more pilots to join for content. In addition to this, Rattati also used a real world example that he says he uses quite often: “Germany in World War II had a lot of tanks but they didn’t have oil.” To what Rattati is alluding to in regards to EVE exactly is yet to be seen, but the comparison of caps and supercap mega fleets to that of the German war machine is quite interesting. Muppethunter expanded on this by saying that both new players and veteran players should have a role they can fill, no matter the ships they can fly. Whatever CCP has coming down the pipe is sure to shake up EVE online at every single level.

Ore Scarcity

The ore scarcity, however, took the headlines by storm when it was initially announced and has been on the forefront of discussions amongst industry and mining players. Rattati notes in the TIS interview that the changes to minerals would “affect the ecosystem for years to come,” which is why CCP has been playing their cards very close to the chest. Information around the changes are extremely limited or at minimum kept in a wide viewed and vague. CCP also dedicated the Resource Distribution section of the 2020 devblog to this topic at greater length.

Following the brief breakdown of the implemented changes, CCP also put out a roadmap of what they plan to do for the future.

Resource Distribution 

Like his crusade against botting, Rattati has taken an extreme vested interest in the overall economic improvement of EVE online by driving straight to the heart: resource acquisition. Rattati stated that there is a “lack of negative feedback loop”, specifically in mining where he noted that “the more you mine, the more you get” which has brought EVE to it’s over abundance of minerals, which is simplified into the line graph below.

According to Rattati, the current strategy for breathing new life into the EVE Economy, and the ecosystem by proxy, is to reduce current mineral output from mining and shift around ores in order to rebalance mining as a whole. The desired result is to make ship losses more impactful to players. The theory is that if it costs more to lose and replace your ship, you will be more careful about how you field it, fit it, etc. More specifically, many in the community have speculated that these ore changes are meant to primarily affect capital and super capital production. Rattati noted that fixing individual or widespread issues with things like ship hull bonuses or resource extraction values could be mitigated fairly easily. “A lot of those things can be fixed with vertical scaling. You just have 20 Rorques instead of 10 or a hundred instead of 50.” He also alluded to more changes are coming down the pipe, which is echoed in the Prognosis section of the 2020 devblog, however the main focus for now is mining. The plan of attack that CCP has laid out is as follows.

Mineral Stockpiles

The other issue that was brought up in the interview as well as by many throughout the community is the issue of mineral stockpiles. When asked “is there an objective to deplete stockpiles”, Muppethunter immediately shot this concern down. He said “We’re implementing solutions that only affect a tiny percentage of our players and thinking of that as a win”. Muppethunter continued by saying that the goal is “to make the ecosystem healthy for all of the players, not just 20 corporation owners that happen to have stockpiles.” (Important side note: the reference to “20 corporations” was not to anyone specific. This was meant as a general example to better emphasise Muppethunter’s previous statement.) Rattati also supported Muppethunter’s statement by saying that “there is no specific targeting”. Rattati continued by saying “we expect the prices to go up because the supply has gone down, then we’ll see if people have inventories and want to start seeding them in or do they not trust that this is the end of the change and sit on the stockpiles.” Both Muppethunter’s and Rattati’s responses fall directly in line with EVE’s sandbox legacy and famously advertised player driven economy. How this will pan out is yet to be seen, but CCP is counting on their player base to help from in game to fuel the economy forward to a more stable and healthy ecosystem. This is not to say that pushing stockpiles out is the secret goal but rather that it is another avenue for growth that has been opened up for the players to choose from, which Rattati stated in a short manner when he said “we’ll let the players decide for themselves”.

An interesting topic came up during the interview regarding an alternative and aggressive way to force out stockpiles. This method would be natural item decay. In real life, everything has a lifespan, however in EVE this is not the case. While comparing a virtual world to an online one is a bit unrealistic, the functionality of EVE along with Hilmar’s new dream for EVE puts the game as an almost mirror image of how real life works. From the economy to politics, a lot that goes on in EVE is a reflection on a micro scale of what is seen between countries in the real world. In response to the question regarding item decay from non-usage, Rittati stated that the topic had been discussed, but that it was “not an end-all fix-all” solution. Rittati did agree that the idea would be an “interesting dynamic” but “not something that we want to have apply against everything.” Muppethunter expanded on Rittati’s point by explaining that “certain play styles take a lot of time and there are certain times in your life when that’s just not cool.” He continued by saying, “If everything just decayed all of the time,” without proper planning and preparation prior to leaving, “then you would have the situation where you come back to EVE… you would find yourself destitute.” Muppethunter agreed that the mechanic was “a good idea” but was still under discussion given the potential ramifications surrounding it.

Anti-Cheating: War on Botting

The trifecta of Cheating and Abuse that Rattai and CCP have lined out is account hacking, fraud and, the most heavily addressed, botting. According to Rattati in the March 13th EVE Pulse update, he describes CCP’s success in reducing botting at an 80% reduction. This statistic is based a graph titled “Isk Faucet and Botting” in the video that shows a massive drop in July with very little recovery.

INN spoke to Nosy Gamer, who provided data about the “black market” of EVE online.

This first image is of the transactions from Player Auctions. It’s broken down monthly, with ISK and USD being the median values.

This is the second half of the year from the previous chart. As you can see, following the blackout, the transaction amounts took a steep dive.

This next chart is from this year and is a continuation of the previous two. As it stands, transactions have not recovered at all compared to pre-blackout and the median ISK gain has dropped significantly as well. The USD prices also took a hit.

While these charts clearly show a hit from the blackout period, these next graphs show that CCP’s efforts really hit the market hard.

It’s clear that CCP’s annual ban wave hit the traders hard, followed up by another gut punch from the blackout period that was never fully recovered from. As a result, EVE has fallen from a solid 13th-16th place as the top traded games on this particular market to barely the 20th during last year.

From top left to bottom right 1st-20th

But taking a look specifically at in game numbers, we get a much clearer picture of just how much CCP has affected botting.

While the massive drops are around the period that the blackout took place, the numbers were already on a sharp decline. These results, according to CCP, are due in large part to Task Force Security and player reporting. While the specifics on CCP’s methods cannot be revealed, however the botters are being rooted out it’s clearly doing some damage to them. This means that the recovery of EVE from the blackout period can be primarily attributed to both the robustness of it’s player base as well as renewed interes,t thanks to CCP’s recruitment campaigns and new content.

In terms of player reporting, CCP regularly emails successful reports to players when a botter has been banned. This “positive feedback loop” is credited for a good portion of the surge in bot suppression. These numbers are critical for players to see, as botting is irrefutably the most visible aspect of cheating to players. It’s because of this fact that CCP has been very open about both their war on botting and their victories.

Wrapping it Up

The sweeping changes CCP is slowly phasing in has many veteran players optimistic and skittish at the same time. How will this affect their income? Their PvP? Other content? Will this be another blackout-like catastrophe? Only time will tell, but Rattati assured viewers that the current plan is set for “12 to 24 months,” which would naturally be coupled with lots of data gathering and analysis.

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Comments

  • BrigadeCommander

    this survey will certainly play a critical part at both getting a macro “pulse” of the community and game as a while as well as setting potential parameters on which to continue developing more engaging content.
    i think “while” was meant to be “whole”

    April 3, 2020 at 8:17 PM
  • Ldaniel

    Nice article, those actions will be good for the game health

    April 3, 2020 at 10:38 PM