(Editor’s Note: The opinions and speculations in this piece are entirely those of the author, and do not represent the position of INN.)
Why? Why would someone want a game to fail that they have played for almost two decades? That is the same question I asked a good friend of mine as we enjoyed a few beverages while basking in the sun on the beach a few weeks ago. He had mentioned he thought it was time the game just went away.
I sat there looking at the person who made me try this game in January of 2006 in amazement. He is the guy who dragged me into wormholes and from there into Null Sec. He said it was time for EVE Online to fade away and make way for the next better game like it. A game that EVE Online should have become had CCP Games given it the attention and planning it deserved. The sun climbed in the sky and waves crashed on the beach, and I sat there transfixed on the thought of EVE going away. Would I care? Would anyone care about it after a few weeks?
I took another drink and began to ponder the conundrum my good friend had placed in my brain. It wasn’t a pleasant thought in the least. I was conflicted. To those who watch Push to Talk the fact that I am critical of CCP Games is no surprise, but I have never wanted them to fail despite their repeated and spectacular failures over the years. I decided I needed several more beers and maybe even a few shots to fully allow it to percolate. I did my best over the next few days to do just that.
Some Things CCP Has Done That I Can’t Seem to Shake
I look back on the last 13 years I have played this game, and there are just some things I cannot shake. I’ve played other online games. It all started with Asheron’s Call. I look back on those years of wonder with a fond memory. I am not so sure I will once I quit EVE Online. It almost seems like a good riddance feeling will prevail. The only thing I will miss will be any friends I lose.
Friendship is the Last Reason
The more people I talk to and the more time goes on I see a clear trend in answers as to why they play EVE Online. It’s not the game. It’s the friends we have made. Granted it’s an unscientific conclusion, but if only 10% of active players think that way CCP is in deep trouble. Meanwhile, I’d say about 60% of the people I talk to give me that answer. If they found a game with similar sandbox mechanics and their friends would go, they would leave. Sure there are some fun things to do in EVE Online. But there are more unfun things you have to do so you can do the fun things. Unless you just flat out buy PLEX. I am going to table the conversation on PLEX until later in the article.
CCP’s Apparent Dislike of Players
Watching CCP over the years, it appears they relish making customers mad. A recent response to an upset customer was to “Enjoy the changes! :)”. That’s right folks, a representative of CCP Games thought that to taunt a customer was the right course of action, rather than show them that CCP had indeed let people know those changes were coming. As if the complete bumbling of the Brisc thing was not bad enough for the community team. You would think they would learn. I believe Brisc let them off far too easy. Someone’s head should have rolled on that one.
CCP’s Repeated Poor Communication
CCP employees seem to have no internal corporate governor when using CCP corporate accounts to respond to anything or post anything. The blending of personal commentary with official corporate accounts presents a unique challenge to customers when trying to decipher the direction of the business. CCP has never done this well. We see repeated instances where CCP employees say things in public under corporate accounts that would get most of us fired in a few hours. It seems CCP’ers have a long history of being as aggressive as they can with CCP Twitter and Reddit accounts. One only has to go back a look at posts and tweets such as CCP Quant’s epic meltdown on Reddit about ratting and CCP Zulu’s meltdown in a Dev Blog to name a few. I did that off the top of my head without digging too deep. I didn’t even reference some CCP’er playing favorites with BOB.
How could we forget the “Summer of Rage”? That little spat of craziness hit game participation. You can see the analysis in Matterall’s article on it HERE, which appears to be the precursor to EVE’s player loss. The Monocle-Gate apology is said by some former CCP’ers not to be from the CEO but written by the fiction department. Seeing how he and his staff respond to players on social media, it doesn’t seem like that is much of a stretch.
Several CCP employees act this way and comingle personal comments on corporate looking accounts so often one has to assume CCP, and by association Pearl Abyss, both condone it. If you are of the mind that that sort of behavior is ok because this is the gaming world so be it. Maybe I’d agree if the game was played only by with crazy 12-year-olds but EVE Online has a much older player base.
Nerf a Little; Boost More
This goes back to something I have mentioned many times. CCP seems to nerf things in EVE Online more than any other game nerfs things and does so far more drastically than other companies. I understand changes need to made to items over time. We all should. You need to balance things over time with a game this old. I am not referring to the standard balancing of items. I am referring to things like the Rorqual. CCP was told not to make it uber-powerful by the CSM. The response from CCP was they would nerf Rorquals later if they needed to. They knew it was too overpowering, but they wanted an expensive target in space that they felt would lure players to go hunting. Once players spent real money, time and isk to skill into and buy these whales, optimize the BPO’s and get production lines running CCP nerfs the hell out of them over and over.
Forget that they were told not to encourage this level or type of play. CCP did it. CCP knew they were going to have to nerf them. Nothing irks a player more than having something taken away they worked to achieve. Or should I say, the customer purchased. The bottom line of every transaction in EVE Online is a series of customers paying for things. When you substantially nerf something to this degree, you are a company that sold a product to a customer then downgraded what was delivered. No one does that in any other industry and survives long.
Everything costs something. Time is ISK. People spend real money to get these things. Realize that. Do things that make them want to spend more. Eventually, the people you lose is because you make the investment not worth the effort.
Don’t let Citadels be Anchored Anywhere!!!!!!
That brings me to citadels. CCP, DON’T DO THAT! People will put so many in space; it will be worse than the space litter orbiting the earth! But no…we got citadels with no limitation. They had no natural limiter to keep anyone from littering a region with them. So, we did.
When the very thing you were warned about by the CSM and players happens, try not to act like it suddenly needs to be fixed because players used them. It isn’t our fault; it’s yours.
Players React to Your Mechanics, Surprise!
The craziest thing of all is that almost all the explosive comments are a result of something CCP generally enabled. It was funny listening to CCP Falcon try to correct Matterall on his show. Matterall commented to the effect that CCP had made players no longer use excavators. CCP Falcon jumped on it by saying that players are choosing not to use them. Thus inferring CCP had no hand in forcing players to do anything. The lack of awareness that exemplified is impressive.
Every mechanic or balancing pass CCP adds to changes forces players to adapt. It’s the whole point of adapt or die, or should I say, “Enjoy the changes.” It’s like CCP thinks it is making it easier to kill all these Rorqs and excavs and they think people are just dumb and will risk them. No, they won’t. They will mothball them, and the hunters will get tired and stop hunting because there is nothing to kill. Some dumb people will lose some at first, but eventually the stupid and weak will be weeded out.
The list goes on and on. I mean there is so much wrong here that CCP has done in the last few years, it’s crazy. It’s not that changes did not need to occur. But the medicine is killing the patient here. Here are a few more that come to mind.
It was a disaster because CCP did what CCP should never do. They forced a play style and pushed an insane level of activity by a relatively small number of players. Ten people could defend three regions from substantial Drifter activity. Granted you needed ten people for over 24 hours solid at one point, but you still only required ten of them. The gameplay was utterly inane, pointless and poorly coded. I recorded 2 Drifters sitting too far away from a structure to hit it or be hit by it for over 2 hours as one warped away and came back over and over and over. If CCP paid a dev for an hour of coding to make that event, they got robbed.
Hideous implementation. There isn’t anything right about it. Harry Pottering [aka SOV Wanding] nodes to win the SOV mini-game is pathetic. The last time I Harry Pottered is when I was in EXE when we showed how terrible the gameplay was in Provi. Thank God entosising stations never got off the ground.
CCP never did the math with the original implementation to understand how horrible it was and had to roll jump freighters back to a 90% resistance or make large parts of the universe un-reachable. It’s still a terrible mechanic inhibiting Null Sec wars. Here is a tip. Just make the timer read 0 instead of 10 minutes when you can jump again without impact. Bad implementation. We tossed better ideas for managing force projection around in last week’s Push to Talk.
Resource Balancing and Moon Mining
God, this was stupid. The apparent lack of planning related to resources or should I say CCP’s schizophrenic planning method takes the cake. Maybe they do spin a wheel or throw darts at ideas in the office. With all the hideous SOV changes, they promised the real ability to setup SOV and live there. Make things. Build your markets. Everything you need will be there. Once people do it, CCP acts all pissed like players are taking advantage of them. Earth to Hilmar: I know it’s been a long time since that gateway to New Eden collapsed but guess what? We play by your rules. Even when we tell you they are stupid, and you still make them.
I made a nice income from moon mining in low sec. I did it with two buddies, and we shared the load and the profits. Now we don’t.
Moving resources into every region was the wrong move. POSes were the last thing to fight over.
Bad idea. Bad implementation. Bad communication. Anything you needed to nerf that many times isn’t a win for anyone. CCP thinks like small-gang pirates, and a whale in the water is some great kills for them. Guess what. People figure out how to protect them. Then CCP and ten people on Reddit decry the Super Umbrella. Another Note to Hilmar: The whole point of SOV is to have your own place. It’s one you police and keep as safe as you can for your people to do things that are harder elsewhere. As an aside, the guys in the Super Umbrella are itching to blow up some arrogant small gangs who think they can invade and do whatever they want. It’s called player-driven gameplay or, ummm, the Sandbox. You may have heard of it.
See Roquals above. They like to drop on arrogant small gangs and make them go boom. It’s fun to prey on them. Sort of like those gangs who think it is fun preying on the lone VNI or Rorqual. There’s always a bigger fish. Oh, and counterplay is to bait the super umbrella and drop them. Everyone is too scared because they did not adapt. Not our fault.
Planning and Understanding
CCP lacks an understanding of their own game that is so astounding it boggles the mind that it is as successful as it is. Listening to the CEO, he seems to be open about not knowing why the game was so successful, how it works or even what to do to fix the present state of the game. These aren’t my words or interpretation; Hilmar himself has said it so often over the years, and especially recently, that you can’t discount them as marketing googly gook any more. The mere fact that CCP has never delivered another game of any real value or adoption isn’t a surprise. After almost two decades of drought, it looks like this may be a one and done for CCP Games.
CCP seems to say they have plans and then change them every few years. It’s as if they get antsy and never let anything fully develop. It’s why they have the label as a group who leaves so many ideas on the table incomplete. If the Drifter Invasion was not unfinished code that accidentally leaked onto the prod servers, it has become an awful place at CCP. An accident I can forgive, but what we got I shake my head at instead of saying what I think. I know. It seems odd, but I am holding back a great deal on all these topics.
New Taxes and PLEX
So here is the really interesting part. CCP thinks there is too much ISK in the game and ISK is devalued. Hilmar has mentioned this. If they need to reduce the money supply, they need ISK sinks to do it. Right now, they are playing the tax game, which is often a government’s only way to decrease the money supply. While Hilmar decried that the value of PLEX has not changed and that is it is the value of ISK that has devalued he turned around a week later and depreciated PLEX in one of the only ways it could be devalued.
I am not sure CCP can even know what is active in the game and what is not to get a complete understanding of the impact here. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. CCP has ignored this for so long that they would have to be insanely draconian with ISK sinks to the point of making players use ISK reserves to deplete the ISK in the game. It isn’t going to happen. They would have to be so aggressive it would drive off new players. EVE will be dead before they can remove the amount of ISK they need to.
PLEX was always a racket for CCP. You got 30 days of play for USD 19.99. If you just paid for your sub, it is USD 14.99 without the multi-month discount. CCP is plus USD 5 right off the bat. Forget the cost of coding PLEX into the game. That was paid for long ago and probably capitalized as standard development anyway. PLEX is a great idea. It makes the company money and players who don’t want to do the massively mundane effort in EVE can still blow things up and be blown up. It is incredible.
Here is the catch that is somewhat disguised. When you sell PLEX on the market, CCP takes another piece of the pie. They tax the in-game transaction. With the increase in market taxes, CCP now takes a more significant portion of the PLEX pie effectively devaluing your PLEX purchase. Even if the buying power of isk increases as the money supply goes down (and this is going to take forever at this point) your purchase of PLEX is now worth less ISK when you convert it in-game because CCP takes more of the transaction.
Just remember when PLEX is on sale for 15% off CCP just dropped that value by the tax increase. It’s just business.
EVE has always been a big supply-side game. It was only a matter of time before too many resources and ISK were in the game. This gets exacerbated when you have a dwindling player base.
CCP Injects Themselves as the Enemy
The Drifter invasion is just the latest example. The open abrasiveness from CCP employees over the years only reinforces the thought in player’s minds. Ask any 10 GSF line members if they think CCP is against them, and you will get a 70% reply of “Absolutely.” We try to convince ourselves it isn’t right, but CCP seems to step in it too often for it not to be.
I have long advocated the CCP should stay away from comments that impact the Meta. Comments that allow the warring factions or opposed parties to point fingers in the Meta. Using company resources to drum up people ganging on another group, for instance, would be a blatant example especially if the end goal is a fail cascade of the said group that CCP employees had spent a good bit of time sparring. This behavior is evident and flat out repulsive. Here are a few examples. I am trying to keep this under 10,000 words, so I have selected only a few examples from the many.
I’ve gone over how bad this was as a mechanic already but let’s talk about it in a different light. The Drifter mechanic brought every war to an absolute halt. CCP had to know it would bring every Null Sec alliance home to defend the homelands. If a mechanic that brings lifetime enemies together to discuss how to form a coalition against the developer isn’t a blazing red flag, I don’t know what is. Null Seccers sort of laugh at the pirates and High Sec folks who scream “Adapt!” but then cry when Null Sec says they are coming for them. One was a response to an enemy you can’t fight against, and the other is all part of the game. Don’t cry when Null Sec burns High Sec or starves the economy. You have recourse against Null. Null doesn’t have any other way to express dissatisfaction with the developer’s lousy code and mechanics.
EVE had been dead with no innovation and nothing to market. Along came casinos with unassailable wealth to use in-game to pay the galaxy to attack Goons. They did. CCP had been told for years allowing casinos was risky, put CCP in potential legal jeopardy, and bad for the game. They ignored it for years. It wasn’t until after the war that CCP finally took action.
Rather than allow players to stoke up opposition to Goons in-game and with the usual tools CCP reached out to the entire player base with Scope videos and reaching out to the press to get the whole player-base on board. Not to mention this was during a time when CCP employees had been repeatedly and openly hostile to Goonswarm players and INN staff. CCP injected themselves into the meta and urged other players to join in destroying a specific group in the game.
CCP Peligro’s Tweet on Botting
Not too long ago, he tweeted how many botting bans CCP enforced. I am all for banning bots. Not just mining or ratting bots but market bots too. Ban them all. But when you point a finger and allow other players to beat down on a group publicly, it’s different. Your job is to remove bots, not enter the Meta. The worse thing was he doubled down and looked dumb in doing it. He was goaded into releasing the actual numbers of bots banned buy organization and the very ones he had just demonized were not even in the top 25.
Why even make the tweet if those groups have not been a problem historically? You already stepped in the Meta quicksand once; why flail around and sink deeper in by releasing the full numbers? One thing that became clear over the incident is CCP zero’s the wallet of alliances that have bots in them banned. They don’t do the math and remove only the amount gathered by bots. They take it all. So, CCP punishes players who pay to play the game and likely do so within the rules because they don’t know they have bots. The message is you do CCP’s job for them with no tools to do so, or CCP will hold you accountable. If that isn’t the company being against players, nothing is. It’s lazy game administration.
The Brisc Fiasco
Brisc’s banning is perhaps one of the most obvious. CCP knew the political climate in the US. They knew Brisc’s political persuasion. When they banned him, they did it in the most significant way they could. They released an announcement in an unprecedented way to generate the most media attention.
It was a direct attack on the players affected, both in-game and one personally. If you were trying to headshot the most critical people in an alliance, this is how you do it.
Was CCP Meta’ed? Was CCP taking vengeance against a group they don’t like? Was it one employee who had a personal dislike for people, getting even?
We don’t know. What we do know is CCP took significant action with far-reaching impact both in and out of game without any documented internal process for doing so. The Imperium had a more sound policy for banning players on an H1Z1 server they owned.
The bottom line is CCP had zero evidence when they took a draconian action against a player. It calls all other internal processes into question. When a fundamental and secure method to document and confirm isn’t processed correctly, it calls the maturity and leadership of an organization into question. The fact that no one’s head rolled over this one boggles the mind.
CCP wants you to move on. Accounts restored, we’re sorry, nothing to see here. Forget the number of caustic and offensive articles it spawned across the Internet. The potential far-reaching impact on Brisc’s career remains. All we get from CCP is “sorry we messed this one up.”
There is no way I buy CCP saying they have this massive influx of people. They don’t. If they have more players, this is the only game where the finite rules of math don’t apply.
What CCP and Pearl Abyss have is a vast number of people who read about the exploits of the players and want to try it. Then they do, and say “Holy crap, this thing sucks,” and leave. CCP has not figured out that EVE Online is at times a virtual Cheers. Players come home to have a few drinks with their friends all around the world. They share stories, share their lives, make fun of each other, and have a blast. Not everything in EVE has to be complicated or hard. I am not suggesting easy or completely safe either. There has to be a place for all play styles. Not just the ones that are the whim of the CEO this month.
The graphs below do not lie.
Ever hear that phrase: “Show me the Money!” Well, now you have “Show me the players!” It is time CCP either shows the metrics, subs, and player-base or shuts up about it.
Lack of Leadership
What everything above boils down to is a lack of leadership. The game has suffered from it for years. It certainly looks like Hilmar is trying to show some form of leadership presently. It may be a case of too little too late, when you’re the guy who went off to do who knows what for years and you come back to save EVE.
That’s what EVE Online and CCP Games at large has suffered from over the last 16 years. When you switch directions, leave roads unbuilt, infrastructure crumbling and all the rest you get what EVE Online has become. Hilmar knows it. What isn’t clear is if he is trying to fix it or just hit the KPIs and revenue targets in the sale agreements earnings clause. Remember? It was a big deal, but a lot of the sale price was dependent on future performance. I think we are witnessing a scramble to the revenue target. I have not seen a genuine conversation that leads me to believe there is any real intent here. Every time one of these guys’ Twitters goes ballistic, bans someone without any evidence and makes a huge deal out of it, or gives an interview with crazy half baked ideas or says they have no idea, I get a stronger feeling we are finally being milked at the end of days.
It may not seem like it, but to write this article pains me. I want to be completely wrong. It’s like watching a person you know, who has excellent potential, waste it all on drugs and bad decisions even as everyone around them tries to help them. Am I overly harsh? Maybe. Let’s call it tough love; because if they don’t get a clue in Iceland or London or wherever they are today, it indeed will be time for EVE to Die.
Then again, maybe it is time for CCP Games and EVE Online to go away and make an opening for someone to make a better EVE Online. It increasingly looks like CCP Games doesn’t know how to get out of the hole they dug for themselves.