Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Not So Quick Thoughts About the EVE Vegas 2019 Keynote

I started writing this piece Saturday morning, after spending Friday night grabbing screenshots. I just finished writing up my views on the keynote presentation at EVE Vegas. I know the post is late. Sometimes, however, I need to get my thoughts written up on the blog. Hopefully, I still came up with something relevant.

Stupid fixed
I'd heard the mantra that CCP is concentrating on four areas in Toronto:

  • Stop the bleeding
  • Fix the stupid
  • Engage and teach
  • Incentivize return

Seeing the list of stupid kind of confirmed what I thought for a long time. The game had a lot to overcome.
More stupid fixed
While EVE is known as a spaceship game, improving the activities surrounding putting spaceships in space is also important.

One stop wallet

One of the changes I'm pretty sure CCP put in for new players is an improved wallet. I think having all my currency in one place (yes, PLEX and loyalty points are currencies) will help veteran players as well.

When I was reviewing the keynote last night, I didn't take a screenshot of Aura. Yes, our old standby artificial intelligence is going to receive another upgrade. Hopefully, Aura will morph into something like the co-pilot for Signal Cartel members, Allison. If a player-group can develop an engaging co-pilot, why can't CCP?

An improved companion AI, along with a revamped tutorial and career agent system that fixes the stupid, should help retention. CCP Burger bragged on how a user experience program running in Akureyri, Iceland has already helped improve the completion rate of the initial tutorial from 22% up to 30%.

On the subject of retention, expect to see the introduction of a daily login rewards system. Initially for new players, CCP plans to expand the feature for veterans as well. I know that such a system worked well when I played Elder Scrolls Online, and that Pearl Abyss' Black Desert Online has a system for new players. I'm interested to see what CCP comes up with for EVE.

The Korean localization effort, coming to Tranquility on 14 November, also received a mention. My back of the napkin math indicates that an influx of just 20,000 new Korean accounts could make the average daily concurrent user figure jump by 2,000 - 3,000. Such an influx of players into the AUTZ could have a huge impact on the face of null security space. Plus, time zone tanking becomes a lot less appealing.

I have to admit, I am not a big fan of EVE Portal. I became even more wary when CCP Burger disclosed that after the wallet changes are complete, CCP plans to allow PLEX trading in Jita using the mobile app. I don't care if using the app will incur a convenience tax. Seriously, don't do it! I'll need to see if there is a way to lock all of my accounts from using it.

Survey says ... botting is the biggest problem in New Eden
CCP Burger's segment of the presentation ended with a discussion about problems in EVE. CCP sees stagnation among veteran players as a huge issue and has undertaken a research effort to try to figure out why. The above slide explains why we have heard more about botting and RMT from CCP this year than we have in the past 3-4 years, especially at events like EVE Vegas.

CCP Larrikin came up next to discuss anti-cheating issues. I'm pretty sure he was expecting to talk economics. Well, the black market is economics too.

CCP has a new group, Team Law & Order, designated to go after such things as botting, input broadcasting, credit card fraud, and hacking to name a few things. Membership in the organization is secret. With the possibility of stopping activities such as money laundering, not broadcasting the identities of the members of the new team is probably a good idea.

New detection system
CCP has developed a new system, called Sentinel, which combines the scanning of logs with player reports in an effort to crack down on cheating. The system apparently is all server-side, which should make CCP's process GDRP compliant. The fact that all bans issued are manually reviewed might result in a slower ban rate, but hopefully will also help eliminate false positives.

ISK and assets seized
A slower rate doesn't mean nothing is happening. Team Law & Order went on a seizing spree beginning in September. For those wondering why seized ISK makes up less than 10% of the amount seized, I can inform people that ISK sellers will frequently give ISK buyers items to sell on the market instead of conducting a straight-up ISK transfer. Looks like CCP might have figured out better ways to detect such transactions.

Finally, before I forget, CCP Larrikin ended his presentation with a message directed to input broadcasters. "You are cheating and we are coming for you."

CCP Burger came back on stage to act as a bridge between CCP Larrikin and CCP Rise. He talked a little about the so-called "Chaos Era". EVE's creative director said a lot of healthy debate occurred over the summer. One thing he said left me scratching my head. He said that the blackout did not affect PvP. What? Maybe CCP Burger was referring to overall PvP numbers. Perhaps the per capita amount of kills didn't change. Whatever the case, the statement didn't sound right.

New framework for the roadmap
An important lesson I hope CCP learned from the "Chaos Era" is that EVE players do not like being treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed fertilizer). The new framework for the roadmap seems a concession for players' desire for knowledge. Starting at the beginning of 2020, players will receive the names and theme's for the upcoming three months, and the name of the theme for the following quarter. However, we did learn a little about what's coming up for the rest of 2019 and a hint at Q1 of 2020.

A tease on what's coming up in 2020
CCP Rise then came on stage and began discussing some of the lessons learned over the summer and actions taken in response. First, the studio discovered it needed to act with more speed and flexibility. CCP's data analytic tools are better and give the developers the ability to recognize problems faster. In something players probably didn't want to hear, CCP also learned they learn more by taking bigger risks. Personally, if the developers want to treat me like a lab rat, I ask they don't make the experiment so obvious. I don't call that "chaos".

In response to the lessons learned, CCP created a new development group, Team Talos. The team's purpose in life is to "challenge the core" and act as a quick reaction balance team. This is the team that will create the quick two week releases CCP Burger mentioned. The first of the Team Talos content was the Warp Drive Active changes to cruiser, battlecruiser, and battleship speed. The next content, Howling Interceptors, will buff combat interceptors with a 5% per level damage boost and nerf assault frigate speed by 10%.

Trick Or Treat, the content that should have dropped onto Tranquility today, is a new type of event. Instead of a big production like the Crimson Harvest, Trick Or Treat will eliminate the loot fairy. In other words, everything will drop from a player ship when it explodes.

Upcoming events in November will include Beat Around The Boosh, which will address micro warp field generators and titan bosuns in mid-November, and the Minmatar-based Rapid Fire. We were given very little information, but I assume autocannons will see a balance pass.

Near the end, CCP Burger took the stage and started talking about nerdy, tech things. In other words, some of the most fascinating content to many EVE players. He started off with the move to a 64-bit client and the 95% adoption rate the new client has with players. CCP is also working on implementing DirectX 12, which would allow the depreciation of DirectX 9. Apparently, working on DirectX 12 has also improved the performance of DirectX 11 inside the upcoming client.

CCP is also advancing it's collaboration with Hadean on the Aether Wars tech demos. Seen as a possible solution to time dilation and server overload on Tranquility, CCP has picked up three additional partners in the venture: Microsoft Azure, PlayFar, and Steam. That's right, for the next test on 23 November, people can register and download a client from Steam.

The final technological feature CCP Burger mentioned was an expansion of the bookmark system. Players for years have asked for alliance bookmarks that players can share with everyone in their alliance. Theoretically, CCP came up with something better. Players can create a set of bookmarks and use an access control list to share bookmarks. And, something I've wanted for bookmarks I make that I don't really want to keep, expiry dates.

The final, major bit of news was CCP burying the lede once again. Sure, we knew that CCP planned to introduce a Triglavian dreadnought. But about 50 minutes into the presentation, we find out the next expansion, Invasion Chapter 2, launches at the end of November. Doing the math, I figured the date of the expansion was 26 November. But, as far as I can tell, CCP didn't announce the date until the closing ceremony.

Overall, I'm still wary of the presentation. Yes, CCP is going to open up a little more about what players will see in the future. But we still don't know much about the upcoming expansion. Or will Team Talos' efforts need to suffice until Fanfest at the beginning of April? I'm not sure exactly what to think.

Instead of trying to come up with a muddled mess, I'll end with the first six paragraphs of CCP's press release published Friday. I keep thinking CCP is underselling the content coming to Tranquility in four weeks. The press release is another reason I have that feeling.

25 October 2019 - Reykjavík, Iceland – CCP Games today announced the second chapter of the EVE Online: Invasion expansion, the next step in the Triglavian story that has thrown New Eden deep into conflict with this unrelenting and mysterious enemy. EVE Online: Invasion Chapter 2 will be released on Tuesday 26 November and will be free to download for all players of EVE Online, the deep and uniquely player-driven spaceship MMO game.

This new chapter in the ‘Invasion’ expansion brings with it new features, including Shareable Bookmarks, which the EVE community has been eagerly anticipating. This new addition will allow pilots to share specific locations in New Eden with alliance members and anyone else they choose, with control over access and duration.

EVE Online: Invasion Ch. 2 will introduce another fearsome Triglavian vessel, the striking “Zirnitra” dreadnought. Equipped with the now-signature Entropic Disintegrator weapon, this new ship will prove a challenging adversary for Capsuleers, but also a desirable prize for all those who can pilot it.

There are also improvements to the experience of new players and how their first hours in EVE Online are spent, making every new entrant to the game that much more prepared for life in New Eden. In addition, there are dedicated initiatives to challenge and engage EVE’s core playerbase with more frequent content additions and adjustments going forwards to ensure New Eden remains an exciting place for both novice and veteran players alike.

“EVE has always been about actions having lasting and meaningful consequences, and with EVE Online: Invasion our goal has been to provide a universe-changing event for our community to experience in familiar space,” said Bergur Finnbogason, EVE Online’s Creative Director. “Chapter 2 will double down on that promise, with some really exciting and impactful features!”

“EVE Online has always had the goal of providing life-changing experiences and a living universe like no other,” said Hilmar V. Pétursson, CCP’s Chief Executive Officer. “By stepping up the frequency of updates to EVE’s meta, the second chapter in the ‘Invasion’ story continues to deliver on that ambition.”

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