The Community IS EVE: Actions Speak Louder

Dirk Stetille 2019-05-23

Art by Redline XIII

When it comes to EVE Online, it’s often said that the community aspect of the game is the best part about it. Obviously, this is a statement that can be made about any MMO – interacting with others to achieve goals is more effective than trying to accomplish them individually, and more engaging too. But EVE is always considered to be different.

This is certainly due to the single-shard nature of EVE Online. When almost every player from around the world interacts in the same game space and can impact others, creating communities to achieve goals and protect against hostile actions is imperative. This type of community-led gameplay is what led to the first nullsec empires, gave rise to the likes of CODE. and the Anti-Ganking movement, and has produced some of the most complex political and diplomatic gameplay in video-gaming history.

Beyond the Friendship Machine

The ability for communities to create their own content both within the game and through outside-of-game discussions and agreement has also consistently been praised by members of CCP, gaming media, and even players. Indeed, it’s hard to find an individual who doesn’t think that our communities are noticeably different to any other gaming communities. Most major nullsec alliances run significant leadership structures, maintain their own IT departments to keep their communication networks online and secure, have finance departments making sure that incomes and expenditures are in check and healthy. These groups are effectively small-to-medium business equivalents, and really – where else in gaming could you find that sort of experience?

One man who could reasonably be called the most public proponent of EVE Online’s community bona fides is CCP Hellmar, also known as CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. Hilmar takes every opportunity he can to rave about the community and our achievements. In fairness, we have done some incredible things, consistently breaking world records for players involved in the same event and raising money for charities, as well as doing our best to support members in our communities through groups like Broadcast4Reps.

In fact, Hilmar will be attending EVE Down Under this weekend, in his first public appearance at the ongoing Invasion World Tour events. He will be giving another talk on the wonders of the EVE community, titled Beyond The Friendship Machine. According to the EDU MegaBlog, Hilmar will be talking about how the EVE community build friendships, and what makes us tick. This sounds promising, and if this session is even half as good as CCP Ghost’s EVEsterdam session on the psychology of players, this will likely be a really interesting presentation.

Approaching the Breaking Point

Unfortunately for Hilmar, much of the celebrated community action is done in spite of CCP, rather than because of CCP. The Siege of 9-4RP2 in January 2018 broke the world record for the most concurrent players involved in a single multiplayer videogame fight, but that engagement was an hours-long slog through massive Time Dilation, server instability and unresponsiveness, and client crashes. This is not new to EVE, of course. Every fight that involves ~1000 characters or more will be subject to some level of Time Dilation and the associated issues, and we push through these because this experience exists nowhere else in video gaming. CCP have recently been looking towards the future of server technologies through their association with Hadean Supercomputing Ltd., as well as their continued use of Amazon Web Services to host in-game chat servers, the ESI interface, and more. In addition, Hilmar addressed this directly at the ReBoot Develop conference in April 2019.

However, it is not just server technology that is straining under the load of CCP’s plans for the future. Over the past almost two years, CCP has been struggling under the burden of a significantly decreased Community Development Team, following layoffs in October 2017 that included well-known individuals such as PR manager CCP Manifest and CSM organiser and Tournament stalwart CCP Logibro among others. The following Fanfest, CCP Falcon spoke to MassivelyOP and stated that while the layoff had hurt the team, they had been finding new solutions to the problems of running community events.

These solutions mostly involved the use of contractors and the community organisations with experience in various areas. Two of the most obvious examples of the community stepping up are the use of the Plus10 Gaming team to run Alliance Tournament XVI last summer, and the current endeavours of StreamFleet, who have been putting in some heroic work managing livestreaming and recording of the Invasion World Tour events. Despite this, there are still reports of strains within CCP to provide adequate support to these contracting groups, and we have been seeing what appears to be a decision to move CCP’s limited community support assets away from community-run projects and towards their potentially issue-laden World Tour events.

Actions Speak Louder: Tournaments

Starting off with one aspect of community interaction that has taken a nose-dive into the ground ever since the departure of CCP Logibro, every EVE Online tournament going has been affected by CCP’s lack of bandwidth. Player participation in the August 2017 Alliance Tournament was at the highest ever level, due to the newly-introduced Feeder Rounds that took place on the dedicated Thunderdome tournament server. This innovation came directly from the mind of Logibro, and to heap even more praise on Logibro, he was directly responsible for the creation of what is known as the “Tournament Tool” on that server. ‘The Tool’ is a player-usable version of GM tools used to run practices and tournaments under the rules specified in that tool.

Following the removal of Logibro and his management of Thunderdome, CCP had no idea how to support Thunderdome and the player tournament community, a situation that has persisted and become even more terrible as time has gone on. The first casualty was the Anger Games 3rd iteration, set to run in November 2017. AG3 could not be run because nobody at CCP had any idea how to alter the ruleset of the Tournament Tool in such a way as to allow the rules to be properly implemented.

Then came 2018’s Alliance Tournament, an event that had the lowest participation in years.  That drop came largely due to the lack of hype CCP was able to generate and a feeling of everything being last-minute and without significant planning.  Prizes for this event were not finalised and announced until mere weeks before the tournament officially began, long after signups had closed. Following this performance, CCP announced in February this year that the Alliance Tournament XVII was to be postponed ahead of a revamp, with it set to return in 2020, but they would provide support assets to ensure that certain hand-picked player tournaments could be run while CCP would directly be responsible for a series of 2v2 competitions at each World Tour event.

It didn’t turn out that way though. Just three months after claiming they would provide support for players to run tournaments, CCP showed that they had no idea what was actually required to achieve that goal during the StreamFleet Showdown Invitational 2, which almost had to be cancelled following massive technical issues with the Thunderdome server. These issues, coupled with a major problem involving arena boundaries during the final of Russia’s live tournament, resulted in a document being emailed out to all tournament organisers. This document detailed the full lengths of support for player-run events on Thunderdome, and suffice to say, the available support is so minimal as to effectively kill off all player-run tournaments for the foreseeable future. Expect to see a more detailed review of just why this happened in the coming week.

Actions Speak Louder: Team Security And Community Interactions

In recent months, problems and rumours of problems have come to light, raising questions about the ability of CCP to respond to security issues. In the biggest issue of the year so far, one of the most community-engaged CSMs around was banned in a reactionary move from CCP following what now appears to be an attempt to meta-game the CSM. Brisc Rubal, alongside Pandoralica and Dark Shines, spent more than two weeks of this year banned from playing EVE Online following a report that Brisc had broken NDA to provide confidential information, resulting in the three players profiting from an unfair advantage. The speed and public nature of CCP’s actions caused an uproar, and further internal investigations revealed that none of these players had done anything to break the EULA or any other agreements. The sheer speed of the initial banning left many players wondering if Team Security were involved in the initial investigation at all, and if they were, what level of investigation was undertaken that meant the evidence collected was not sufficient to satisfy CCP’s policies when reviewed?

Additionally, CCP appears to be moving towards new policies surrounding a massive community problem—botting. In recent weeks, CCP Peligro has been tweeting about bans made by Team Security for botting offences, even going so far as to list the top-25 most banned alliances historically. This was followed by articles from CSM members Jin’taan and Suitonia discussing the botting problem and potential solutions to this issue, which included the alteration of space to provide NPC staging areas in some of the most bot-prolific areas of nullsec and potential thoughts of a serious revamp to the rewards for ratting anomalies with the intention of hurting bots. However, one of the biggest hints of a new policy regarding this at CCP was the effective destruction of a corporation in Tactical Narcotics Team. This corporation saw the vast majority of its players permabanned for breaches of EULA, with some newer players moved to NPC corps. This was a first for CCP, and appears to target not just the players breaking the Terms of Service, but also the corporation that they belonged to—CCP directly hit that small community.

Combining this with comments from CCP about how player alliances need to be doing more to combat botting, and that if players don’t step up, their alliances could be impacted directly, leads us into the region of that likely policy shift. If CCP start negwalleting alliances, they could very adversely affect the abilities of those alliances to pay sovereignty bills, run Ship Replacement Programs, provide infrastructures for their communities, and participate in EVE conflicts at scale. Taking these points together, it appears that Team Security is finding itself struggling to keep up for some reason, and is feeling the need to lean on the community instead of finding a more robust and reliable solution.

The Pearl Abyss Question

The most peculiar aspect to the apparent issues CCP have been facing in the last couple of years is that in October of 2018, CCP were publicly acquired by Pearl Abyss, the Korean developer of Black Desert Online. The price, a cool $425 million USD, was supposed to provide CCP with the room to grow and push the game forward into what is being referred to as the ‘Third Decade’, and in his announcement DevBlog, Hilmar made sure to stress that the community was still central to EVE Online development, and that any decisions with the potential to affect EVE Online would be made with us all, the player community, at the heart of those decisions.

So then, where is this being demonstrated? It isn’t being seen by the players looking to run events on Thunderdome and create content for hundreds of players at a time. Nor is it seen in the live events, where players in Russia did not receive the T-Shirts promised as part of their entrance fees. And it isn’t being seen in the way CCP are seeming to address major community issues, with Team Security set to make player organisations more paranoid and untrusting to new members, just in case that player is an undiscoverable bot. Finally, it definitely isn’t being demonstrated by CCP’s inability to replace CCP Guard, an incredible communicator who tendered his resignation over four months ago now.

At present, it is nearly impossible to say whether these various problems are individual issues with relatively simple fixes, or if the spate of community problems are indicative of a larger issue at CCP Games. Regardless of the answer to that, it is clear that players are not receiving the consideration that is deserved by a community of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of paying customers who are, if Hilmar is to be believed, the very lifeblood of EVE Online’s incredible experience.

Update: The original version of this article indicated that players in a TNT corp were banned for botting. While it is suspected that these players were banned over a small number of bots in their midst, CCP has told them only ‘Breach of EULA’. The players affected are still trying to get more information.

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Comments

  • Menaiya

    CCP in general can be summed up as lost opportunities.

    May 23, 2019 at 10:38 pm
    • Can you mention some of the opportunities they’ve missed?

      May 24, 2019 at 12:30 pm
      • Considering a good portion of the player base are hi sec mission runners I’d say a missed opportunity was creating more and varied missions to run. Entirely too much focus has been in null sec catering to those who live there. As such attracting new player may have been stymied.

        May 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm
        • Garreth Vlox Lrrp

          As much as I hate highsec its pretty clear missions have needed an overhaul for at least a decade.

          May 24, 2019 at 9:00 pm
      • Moomin Amatin Antonis Farangitakis

        I would say one of the biggest ones was not addressing war-dec mechanics in a timely manner.

        May 24, 2019 at 7:13 pm
      • Garreth Vlox Antonis Farangitakis

        Well we could start with their list of failed games due to horrific mismanagement.

        May 24, 2019 at 8:59 pm
      • Missed opportunities at CCP Games:
        In 2006, CCP acquired White Wolf. 2004’s V:tM: Bloodlines was an immense hit. Not only did CCP fail to keep Microsoft and Troika involved to do Bloodlines 2, they began work on a VtM MMO, and screwed the pooch, **killing** a game company that started with 2 guys (as Lion Rampant) and rose to legitimately compete with D&D for the pen & paper market, as well as putting out multiple (Redemption and Bloodlines) very popular PC titles.

        Ambulation. As much as it’s become a joke and a dirty word, at one point WiS really *did* offer serious potential for a wider audience that would have brought more people into EVE. One of the reasons EVE remains so niche is that there’s really no personal attachment of player to character. So people who try EVE, and might stick with a PvP-oriented game with direct emotional connection to their avatar… don’t have that connection, and leave before they hit the fun bits.

        Aegis Sov: Replacing Dominion Sov with a sov system based on ADMs had the potential to be really amazing. All player activities were supposed to get tied into the ADMs. CCP dropped the ball there, and left us with the shittiest parts of a half-built system that co-ops LS Faction Warfare mechanics. They had the chance to really make an organic, useful system of sov that would use player activity as the benchmark for ‘who owns this shit?’ and fucked it up. That’s a missed opportunity.

        Making the Story Matter. CCP’s story team does a lot of good work building the story of the empires and the cosmopolitical interplay, but their efforts are largely wasted, because the actual gameplay of empire space is even more stagnant than it is out in null. Nothing that happens to the empires actually matters, even to the players living in highsec. That leaves players less engaged, and more ready to just walk away. They have the potential for compelling engagement there, and that would improve retention. That’s a missed opportunity, too.

        DUST514. They chained it to a platform everyone *knew* was going to expire, without even having it set to go to the PS4 when that console came out, let alone getting a clause that said ‘when the PS3 is retired, DUST can be released to other platforms’. The game was actually pretty good and consistently improving and drawing in new players when the PS3 left production. If it had endured, it could have been pretty damned impressive.

        There’s more, but you said ‘some’.

        May 25, 2019 at 7:12 pm
  • Moomin Amatin

    CCP Peligro stated on Reddit that the Security Team had nothing to do with the banning of the Fountain Three.

    May 24, 2019 at 3:11 am
    • Rammel Kas Moomin Amatin

      Wait so… they weren’t involved in checking the information who was?

      May 24, 2019 at 6:13 am
      • Moomin Amatin Rammel Kas

        That is part of the mystery.

        May 24, 2019 at 11:18 am
        • Garreth Vlox Moomin Amatin

          And here I was thinking that clusterfuck couldn’t make the people involved on CCP’s side look any worse then they already did.

          May 24, 2019 at 8:58 pm
  • Erick Asmock

    Who is really in charge at CCP Games?

    May 24, 2019 at 11:06 am
    • A good question. The owner of Eve is PA and thus has the ultimate responsibility for the game. However, I suspect a budget is given to the Eve dept. and Eve corp. mgt. uses that money to run things with a mandate to increase profits…or else.
      As is par for the course, mgt.will try to cut corners and save money all to make their bottom line look better. With me so far? CCP mgt is taking the easy fiscal road instead of “Gasp”, trying to increase revenues. This will work only to a point. I have to suspect the bean counters at PA are no slouches, and will after awhile, see that revenues are not going up and wonder why. Remember, there is a old adage in business,”If you are not growing…you are dying”. I’ll let you decide what is happening here.
      Another good question is, where did the 450 mil. go? Into the owners pocket? Were there conditions like a percentage to be used for game improvement? This is of no import at this stage as the bottom line is still PA owns the game and thus how the game fairs is their ultimate responsibility.

      May 24, 2019 at 12:37 pm