Art by Cryo Huren
Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade
These are the opening words of the latest dev blog released by CCP, and they are a mantra which has been repeated several times since they were first published on March 30 of this year. They’re also complete poppycock.
Synonyms for poppycock include: balderdash, blather, hogwash, tripe, drivel, bilge, claptrap, rubbish, and nonsense.
I will cover in this article the primary ways the dev blog seeks to distract you from the point that the changes that CCP has made to the economy have enormously added to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
(Editor’s notes: Strap-in, it’s a long read. There is a separate post coming which specifically looks at the problems with CCP’s opening faux-haiku. Also, stated opinions are those of the author.)
Now is the winter of our discontent
Let me be clear: They do not believe their own hype, they are not drinking the Kool-Aid they they offered us in their opening statement. First, this is abundantly clear when they finally get to owning up to the negative impact they do so 513 words into the dev blog; it took them 3,168 characters to get to this statement:
It is clearly understood and acknowledged that many players are faced with reduced income and some radical changes to what they have become accustomed to in New Eden. To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.CCP Devs
Translation: “We went too far. Our bad. We’ll fix it.”
Second, it is made clear that they sandwiched this statement between a bunch of other tangents and non-sequiturs unrelated to the economy. This is the kind of dissembling that normally falls to the territory of Shakespeare’s Richard III and abusive partners trying to find excuses for you to stay while admitting the smallest degree of wrong.
Their admission of the elephant in the room should have been the very first thing in the article, not their flawed faux-haiku. Instead, they opted to talk about their ‘successes’ and then to follow up the bad pill with more empty calories.
“And thus I clothe my naked villainyWilliam Shakespeare, King Richard III. Act 1. Sc. 3
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”
Determined to prove a villain
CCP knew going into the austerity moves that they would not be received well. They as said as much by excluding the CSM from their plans:
At the beginning of the Scarcity Phase, the strategic decision was made not to involve the CSM before the rest of the community.CCP Devs
They followed this up by claiming that it was to protect the integrity of the CSM, and to prevent them being put in a position where other players could claim they had forewarning of the major economic changes. This is more dissembling. Players don’t cry wolf about a corrupt or advantaged CSM when things are blowing up, they do it when CCP makes a change that advantages some in the market disproportionately.
The problem with claiming the high ground is that no one would believe the CSM would be onboard with the changes that have been coming through 2020, because it has disadvantaged everyone equally. CCP has been nerfing one income stream after another like they’re playing the development equivalent of whack-a-mole.
This, more than for senior players, has disproportionately hurt new players. During an interview with Imperium FC Mike Flood, this actually came up in conversation.
For new EVE players, money is getting harder and harder to get. Which worries me …. I come from a player group that is in essence a new player organization; Karma Fleet. And… I see the guys are like, “Okay, they nerfed this way of making ISK” so now they’re looking at a new one, and they’re constantly having to do this while the people who have all this ISK are just chilling. Which is definitely a worry for me.Mike Flood, Imperium FC
… I think a lot of the changes CCP have done are going to continue to impact new players getting into battleships, getting into HACs; not the skills, necessarily, but getting the ISK to continuously do it. I don’t see this as a huge problem for Imperium per se, I see this as a wider game problem. We do have a good SRP program, we can SRP our guys. It doesn’t cost that much after SRP to re-ship, but for… say someone who is in Brave Newbies or Pandemic Horde or one of those organizations, they’re not getting as much SRP and – with the way the game is going currently – it’s just going to keep getting worse and worse.
In one breath CCP is extolling the Chaos Era and then calling it closed because they ‘got the data they wanted.’ In the next breath they are determinedly blazing a trail forward to a massive shake-up and then apologizing for taking it too far; be it drone mechanics or the economics of scarcity. To some it may appear that CCP has been of two minds with these changes, and the inconsistency reminds, again, of the dissembling within this whole affair.
On one hand they promise a sandwich and in the other a knife, and ask which you’d prefer to receive ‘for the good of EVE.’ When you lament the lack of choice, they hand you a sandwich while they cut your pocket with the knife and take your wallet. The choice is an illusion, you were always going to get mugged.
As iteration took place at a much faster pace this year, not everything has been perfect from the moment it went live on Tranquility. This is another area where the CSM has been extremely helpful. When combined with data and feedback that is regularly collected from the entire EVE Online community, it’s been possible to follow up quickly on key changes such as the reverting of the “Aggressive” setting on drone behavior.CCP Devs
“We apologize for the inconvenience. We appreciate your cooperation.”
A thing devised by the enemy
Remember way back at the start of this article how I intimated that the entire dev blog was a dodge at the obviousness of their mistakes, only barely stopping short of gaslighting the community? No? I’m saying it now.
That’s basically what CCP’s been saying since they started down this hallway of funhouse mirrors, trying to see what the reflections will tell them about the health of the game. To paraphrase their stance,” Our plan’s going to work, we’re going to make things better. If you’re upset it’s because you had skin in the game and things are going to change ‘for the good of all’.”
All the while they’ve been working from a set of premises making up a faux-haiku that are fundamentally flawed. Then, when they are put into a position where they necessarily must provide some comment about the negative outcomes they couch it in the middle of an article filled with talking points for the year which feel as much focused at stakeholders as it is for the community.
Let’s take a moment to pull those apart. I will try to maintain some objectivity by acknowledging CCP’s merits by each point, but also looking at the negatives. In truth, what they haven’t said or as acknowledged is as important (or more so) than what they’ve said plainly or couched in bizspeak.
“Big strides were made towards reining in capital proliferation with changes to mineral distribution and the power of capital umbrellas.”
Pro: It is true that given the changes to anomalies, the EHP nerf, and other changes we are far less likely to see supercapitals in space. People still have them, they just don’t use them.
Con: Whether or not that’s addressing proliferation is a different issue. It’s also a damned shame. I’d love for CCP to show us the numbers to back this one up and let us assay the actual impact. From every evidence I’ve seen there has been no shortage of titans, supers, and dreads to throw on the fire.
The only thing that has happened is that people are getting choosier with their commitments because replacements are getting more expensive. It hasn’t changed the meta, it’s just slowed it down. People will just stop committing expensive assets to fights, which was a problem before.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Changes made to the capital ecosystem improved diversity, promoted escalation, and increased destruction.”
Pro: The capital ecosystem is definitely healthier than it has been in years past, and approaching a level where the constant iteration is starting to lose obvious and clear places to go without significant changes or wholesale deletions. The meta for capitals is definitely approaching an arguable stability. Nothing immediately stands out to me as being overpowered.
Con: I have to ask myself if CCP is sideways congratulating themselves for World War Bee II. Because the only thing that’s changed the capital ecosystem with respect to destruction is that people are, and have been, fighting in Delve and that had more to do with Vily and his cadre than anything CCP introduced to the game.
Again, this also feels like a dodge because it has completely skipped the impact on the market the changes they’ve introduced have caused.
Commander Aze, a retired Goon and member of Sub Zero (and regular contributor in Talking In Stations), attributes the blackout and successive changes for his leaving the game.
“I ran a business that built titans. I left EVE Online because CCP killed my gameplay with the blackout. It’s hard to build titans when everyone who’s helping you quits playing. Then, the mineral and ship changes and the wars have made it so the guys who helped make it possible can’t and won’t undock their Rorquals because every time they do, they carry excavators that take up to a minute and a half to recall, and anyone in bombers in a blackout can just decloak, bomb, torpedo, and get five billion ISK in kills with very little risk. The effort to make it worth their while isn’t there anymore.”
“Several meaningful updates were made to structures; reduced structure spam, reduced the power and prevalence of time zone tanking, and structures became more rewarding to destroy.”
Translation: “See? It’s working. There’s more fighting. Our theory isn’t just a theory.”
Pro: Getting rid of structure spam = yes, thank you. Please. More. We want this, and the insane sprawl in high sec systems like Perimeter definitely needs cleaning up. Plus, all content is good content.
Con: Problem: Feeding a universe of PVP-hungry murder junkies softer targets isn’t proof you’re doing a good job anymore than throwing chum in the water is doing good things for the ecology of sharks. There’s still an 800 million person demand for shark fin soup, eventually the sharks die.
“The Encounter Surveillance System and Dynamic Bounty System were launched together to dynamically curb excessive system outputs, support PvP income streams, and increase risk to low-attention ratting.”
Pro: Null sec is a big tree that desperately needed a shake-up, and we needed more incentive to make the player base move around in null rather than just over-concentrating in specific constellations because that’s where the rewards there. Dynamism is never bad. This is also an excellent opportunity for player to re-engage with their min-max supremacy.
Con: Curb excessive outputs? Do I need to remind you, CCP, that the aforementioned PVP-hungry murder junkies are also obsessively methodical, calculating, and devious? You handed us a system where we have the capacity to dial up the bounty payouts on space we already control and you expect us not to min-max the shit out of it? Really? This point kind of makes itself.
These changes also do next to nothing to help new players, the majority of whom live in high security space!
RMT ISK Supplies
“Several sources of RMT ISK supplies were addressed, especially loopholes in Incursions and Faction Warfare missions. Payment fraud prevention methods were also significantly improved.”
Pro: RMT is bad for the game, m’kay. I don’t think anyone is actively arguing this point that isn’t themselves benefitting from RMT. Obviously, their efforts in these veins should continue because we’ve seen what happens to games when RMT isn’t hit hard, fast, and repeatedly with the banhammer.
Con: CCP’s own Monthly Economic Report for November 2020 shows Incursions payouts on the rise. Now, it’s entirely possible that this is more a reflection of players rushing to Incursions to replace lost income, and if that’s the case, fine. Go ahead, CCP, give yourselves a pat on the back.
Secondarily, why is this a winning point to bring up for the year, except as a talking point for stakeholders or to acknowledge the efforts of that team?
Rate of Change
“Since October 2019, a rapid pace of balance and meta changes has been established and maintained, enabling faster responses to your feedback.”
I’m uncertain what the purpose of this point has been, except to say, “We’re better than we were.”
Pro: Congratulations, CCP. You’re right. You’ve improved at doing what you do, and you’ve come a hell of a long way from the days of cowboy edits to the production server. I know you’ve limited the number of people who have that access to push to production, and that extra level of QC is a huge improvement. I also love that we’re seeing even more willingness to try risky ideas, enable developer passion projects, and open the door to player feedback and rapid pivots.
Con: I’m not going to congratulate you for doing your jobs. That you are doing your jobs in a more coordinated fashion than you have in the past – read: you’re not half-assing it anymore – isn’t something the players get to celebrate with you. That’s for your internal team meetings and shareholder pat-on-the-backs. The reward for good work is more work.
While the rate of change has been good for the speed at which CCP is able to produce corrections for issues, introduce new content, apply new art assets and make subtle alterations to the code base it also means… that they are able to more rapidly introduce issues, add new content without context, add new art assets (skins), and make subtle alterations to the code base without players being fully aware.
On one hand it’s potentially exciting, and on the other it’s potentially terrible; as seen with the production A/B tests of a new character generator process for new accounts. (Which got clawed-back faster than the curtain around Oz. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!“)
Richard loves Richard
Like Shakespeare’s eponymous villain, hunch-backed and self-interested, CCP has continued forward as though the kingdom is rightly theirs. Sure, they created the game universe, but we live in it. Who then claims right to ownership of the experience, those who support and maintain the cluster, or the players who by their achievements have made it noteworthy?
Is it a shared experience, and if so, what relationship do we truly enjoy with the spectre of a fickle, capricious, narcissistic partner in crime?
Pro: The whole of the dev blog felt like CCP’s attempt at congratulatory self-promotion at the end of a year that has literally been some people’s last. Yes, absolutely CCP is entitled to praise for the good work they’ve done, and I don’t want you to think I’m just here to crap all over that. We’re all people, and CCP deserves credit where credit is due; 2020’s sucked for everyone, and they’ve done better than a lot of game studios during the pandemic.
Con: There is a global pandemic killing people. Many EVE players have lost family members or friends. Many EVE players returned to New Eden or joined new during the pandemic because they finally had the time or the desperate need to engage with something that could give them content.
Some are just stuck at home with family and trying desperately to have something that gets them mental time away from their troubles. Escapism is a valuable treasure, these days. Others are actively seeking community while living alone, or with greatly reduced social contact.
A whole lot of the returning players I mentor ask me, ‘What the hell happened when I was gone?’, aghast at the altered landscape and depleted returns on everything they learned previously.
Nearly every new player I speak with asks me, ‘How do I make money in-game so I can keep doing this?’, while attempting to eke out solvency through multiple streams of income – all the while drinking from EVE’s fire hose just to get their heads around the stuff new players have always had to learn. It’s a complex game, and these changes haven’t introduced simplicity.
So yeah, CCP, you did some stuff. Some of it was maybe even needed, or overdue. I can write a whole other blog post this long picking apart the infographics attached to the dev blog and the roadmap plans for 2021, but I won’t bother. I’ve said what I needed to here.
Yeah, resolving frustration with cloaky camping would be cool, but so would taking care of new players and making the game easier for them.
Happy New Years.