Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Junk Mail

A few days ago, CCP began another login campaign. The purpose of a login campaign for a video game is to attract players to log into the developers' game and hopefully spend money. In short, a login campaign is a marketing tool. No more. No less.

Login campaigns are pretty standardized in EVE Online. Give out some skill points, maybe a cerebral accelerator, a few SKINs, and maybe some boosters. In short, all the things EVE players like.

But this month's campaign is different. The bar along the bottom that slowly fills up with skill points is a nice touch. Innovation is sometimes good. But then, sometimes not.

The crate giving out the blueprint copy is a case in point. Getting a BPC for a tech 1 frigate is not bad. Using the icon for a blueprint original so when the item is redeemed the player is disappointed is not good.

Perhaps the two worst items are the boosters and SKINs. Both apply immediately upon redemption. The ship SKINs are only the 7 day variety. So a player has 14 days to redeem the SKIN and then 7 days to use it before disappearing into the aether. And the boosters? Boosters are commonly consumed once action is about to take place. But that's impossible with the current implementation, as players can only redeem the booster in a station. Oops!

Look, I understand why CCP made the decision. They don't want people making tens or even hundreds of accounts in order profit off a login campaign. I'm not sure how popular skill point farms still are, but the farmers have the perfect setup to greatly profit off these types of promotional efforts. So the valuable items are all bind on acquire instead of tradeable, which is the EVE norm. And except for the skill points, the items are all consumable. Maybe in today's world, promotions can't have much value. But sending me something with little to no value feels like receiving junk mail in the real world. Did I mention I don't like junk mail?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The CSM 14 March 14 Summit: CCP Reactions

Yesterday, CCP published the CSM 14 spring summit minutes. I thought the CSM members reactions at the end were worth copying into a blog post. I should do the same thing for CCP's reaction. So what follows is more shameless copying and pasting.

CCP Dopamine, Senior Community Developer: EVE Online is a vast and interconnected universe that can be near impossible to grasp for a single human being. Having a group of experts with extensive knowledge across various areas with years of experience behind their belts helps us better understand all the different aspects of the game along with the needs of a broad segment of our players.

To my mind, the knowledge sharing during this summit was particularly beneficial. We had four presentations delivered by CSM members that provided insight into the areas of expertise of  individual members. I consider this to be one of the biggest impacts we get from the council. These information-packed sessions serve as a great way for anyone at CCP to learn more about a specific topic, which then prove useful when working on upcoming plans. 

I also feel that both parties left with an excellent understanding of each other’s reasons, requirements, and motivations. While we might not always agree on everything, having a candid discussion where everyone can professionally share their thoughts is critical for the CSM program and the future of EVE Online.

CCP Burger, Creative Director: New Eden is massive, both in scale and depth. There are endless ways to interact with the universe, and there is no one right way to achieve the goal at hand. There is no way one single person can grasp the whole and my game is very different from your game. Similar to player events, CSM summits are one of my favorite times of the year, it’s when I get to peek in front of the curtains and see my day-to-day from the eyes of EVE’s players on a way higher level then myself. The main difference between meeting people at events and at the summit is the summit’s structure and professionalism. The sessions are civil - naturally, there is healthy debate, disagreement and hard-hitting questions, but over the years we’ve managed to find a good balance in our conversations to make sure we all get the most out of the eight-hours-a-day-for-fourdays-in-a-row stuck in a room together (and, of course during the afterhours). The CSM has reached a level of professionalism that made the March session one of the most productive summits to date.

We are doing some really important work right now and having a panel of expert capsuleers to vet and validate helps us set up EVE for the forever. The success of the NPE has a lot to do with input from CSM members that interact with new players every day, the set-up of frequent releases and many of the changes we’ve seen in the last 6 months would probably not have happened if it wasn’t for the all the input from the CSM. Moreover, the changes to New Eden’s economy that we are going through right now have sparked very healthy debates resulting in a better EVE Online for the future.

The poetry of EVE Online is unmatched. Every day we work towards understanding this living organism better and making sure it has the ingredients to live (somewhat) healthily. There is no EVE in medium gray, EVE needs conflict; conflict driven from people and emotions. The market, ships, modules, resources, CCP and CSM are the ingredients to allow you to set your adventure, claim your stake and write your story.

CCP Rise, Senior Game Designer: The CSM is a critical resource for us on Team Talos. This session, they worked hard to help us shape changes to wormholes, gather feedback from the front lines in low sec, establish an updated plan for capitals, and above all explore options for the future of structures big and small. Without the CSM, it would been very difficult to roll-out so many veteran-oriented changes at such a fast pace, as we have been doing over the past few months.

I would specifically highlight the recent transition to a more proactive CSM we’ve seen over the last two summits. Exooki set a fantastic precedent with his wormhole presentation during summer and Gobbins, Vily, and Olmeca all stepped up in winter with equally thoughtful and well-researched contributions. These presentations have driven important conversations forward in development and given us a look into the world and motivations surrounding some of EVE’s most important leaders.

The CSM is not our only source of feedback, of course, but having an expert group under NDA and on-call allows for precise conversations on almost any topic at any time of day. I’ve come to rely on them quite a lot and greatly appreciate their hard work.

CCP Goodfella, Brand Director: Overall, the second CSM 14 summit was great and I really enjoy having the opportunity to work closely with the CSM. The main discussions of this summit can be broken into three segments:

  • The great strides that have been made with the focus on new players that resulted in an increased number of players joining the game and sticking around in EVE for a longer time.
  • The continuation of balance updates, events, system changes, etc. that the CSM has both greatly advocated for and helped us shape, frame, and iterate on. I know that having them give us feedback on these things that we are frequently working on enables us to keep up the fast pace.
  • The challenging but vital changes to the economy that have begun and will continue throughout 2020. The EVE ecosystem is incredibly complex, and having discussions (and debates!) on how to set up EVE to outlive us all is an incredibly important topic, and being able to discuss this with the CSM is crucial.

The discussions we had were professional, fun, and fruitful. One new element that I think has been really positive is the presentations that CSM members have started giving on specific topics. These presentations give great insight into specific professions, features, and more in EVE. They are the spark for fantastic discussions and give CCP a lot of ideas to consider. Another topic that we discussed with CSM was communication, and we had good feedback about the opportunities available there that can have a greater impact on EVE.

I thank CSM 14, it has been fantastic working with them and I am already excited for the upcoming CSM 15!

Friday, April 17, 2020

The CSM 14 March Summit: CSM Reactions

While I'm not maintaining a website tracking the CSM candidates this year, I'm not going to entirely ignore the player-elected body. The 14th edition of the Council of Stellar Management held a summit with CCP in Reykjavik from 2-5 March. While reading the summit minutes, I was impressed enough by the post-summit thoughts of the members that I thought I would shamelessly copy and paste their thoughts here. I will add some formatting things (like paragraphs) as needed.

Aryth (Goonwaffe/Goonswarm Federation): Going in there was confusion between CSM and CCP on specific aspects of previously released features and what that meant for future releases. The initial concerns were discussed and addressed and we gained a much clearer idea of what CCPs overall intentions and goals were. 

These goals were high level and didn't necessarily translate into the changes we see that may be the cause of lots of consternation in the playerbase. The high level goals make sense and have mostly objective measurements that are easily defined. What needs to be made a bit more clear is that the tactical changes happening are often things that CCP may not know the ramifications of but are attempting to address much greater issues with a game 17 years of player history. Things will go wrong, adjustments will be made, but the guiding star is to return EVE to a healthy place that can continue for the next decade. 

Hilmar played a large part in clarifying this vision and I would say that the summit didn't truly come together with a cohesive picture until Hilmar's session directly with the CSM. It is very easy to lose sight of the high level objectives when you are only discussing tactical changes. CCP was able to tie these two areas together with Hilmar explaining it all. This was a new structure of engagement with the CSM and was highly successful. That being said, while we don't necessarily agree with every change, we see our job as to educate CCP as best we can on the ramifications of the changes they are doing and make them have the least negative impact as we are able. 

At the end of the day CCP makes the final decision thus the game will change. Change is the constant we can always rely on in EVE. Change is scary, it breaks playstyles, it turns the economy upside down, it has sweeping meta ramifications, but it also ushers in a new age of EVE.

Steve Ronuken (Fuzzwork Enterprises/Vote Steve Ronuken for CSM): The End of an Era. That's what the summit in March was. My last summit after 6 years on the CSM. Not the best, but far from the worst; there were fruitful discussions, which have led to a better understanding of goals, objectives and situations on both sides.

It's going to be challenging for a while, as Eve goes through some significant rebalances, but if we can hit the target numbers, everything should be in a better

Olmeca Gold (Democratic Space Socialism): Had a great summit overall. With NPE improvements kicking in, I'm happy to see growth in the player numbers again. Seems like substantial work will go into veteran gameplay in 2020. It will be a painful transition from some of the unsustainable aspects of Eve, to a long-term sustainable game. I hope it all goes well. 

The three issues I paid specific attention in this summit were the risk/reward balance around PvE and non-consensual PvP, small and large scale conflict drivers, and making on-grid PvP skill matter more in the sandbox

Merkelchen (Karmafleet/Goonswarm Federation): This spring's summit was as good of a summit as I have had in my 2 years as a CSM player representative. CCP has taken heavily to a data driven approach to their resource allocation and game design and based off the information we saw it seems to already be paying off. Focus on the new player experience(not to be confused with the tutorial itself) is bringing great returns that should get every Eve player excited because, even though many of us finished up that aspect of the game a long time ago, it being more effective leads to more people in space. These new additions to the player base become Corp mates of the future, industrialists
supplying the ships we fly, or maybe even the bad guy that just got called primary on a fleet.

The current focus on bringing the ecosystem to a more healthy state is going to require an immense amount of effort and collaboration between CCP, the CSM, and the greater player base. I wish there were easy and pain free solutions to these issues but its likely going to take some time to find the Goldilocks zone where things are in a great state. Having a good working relationship between the CSM and CCP is fundamental to working through these kind of immense challenges and as a player communicating your thoughts on the matter to your CSM representatives is critical to make sure every voice is represented in these discussions. Much like I'm sure many of the CSMs do I get a lot of in game mails, discord conversations, and reddit private messages and I make sure every one gets to the person that would need to hear it in CCP so please continue to speak to the Council! I wish the best of luck to the future CSM XV and I thank CSM XIV and CCP for another great year.

Dunk Dinkle (Brave Newbies Inc./Brave Collective): CCP learned a lot from the Summer of Chaos and has made several major changes. There has been a significant reorganization of how CCP does game design and how teams work together. Overall, the mood of the meetings was open and positive. Very little acrimony. The tone of discussion was much more interactive and convivial that the Summer Summit, which was adversarial at times.

We are seeing more regular deployment of new features and better discussion of the future than we have seen in a few years. There are things coming that some players will love. There are things coming that some players will hate. My advice is to keep doing what you like to do and don’t get stressed about the other changes around you.

Innominate (Karmafleet/Goonswarm Federation): The biggest problem this year on the CSM has been communication from CCP. This summit has led to dramatic improvements in CCP's communication both with the CSM and with players that I hope is a continuing trend back towards the transparency we used to expect. While there are several positive changes both released and upcoming, I am most excited to have seen the most effective npe changes CCP has tried in years, which promise to bring back real growth in the player base.

Gobbins (Pandemic Horde HLD./Pandemic Horde): The main direction of this meeting was the desire from CCP to change deep andcore aspects of the game in order to walk towards a new vision. The core of this vision is the longevity of eve online. CCP plans to achieve this with at least 3 points of action: increased retention of new players, drastic healing of the game economy, and improvement of the veteran experience through small but constant changes.

The improvements to new player retention are driven by solid data and the stats show that the current work has already been bearing fruit. The impact of these improvements on the game population as a whole might not be noticed at first but are projected to make a big difference in a matter of 2-3 years.

The work on the economy is the most delicate work and a vastly ambitious project. The current state of the eve economy is not compatible with longevity and the intent behind this project is well justified. The devs involved in this task are very set in their goals and hesitated to disclose information at first but have since developed a regular dialogue with the CSM at least to receive feedback. However due to the complexity of the topic, there is little consensus in general on how the economy is to be fixed. The speed at which this task can be carried out is also limited by the delay in which economic changes take effect in the game, and the existence of stockpiles; so players are advised to expect tweaks to the economy to continue happening for a long time.

Lastly the improvement of the core experience through small but constant changes has been ongoing now since the formation of team Talos. This team formed shortly after the first CSM14 summit and has been steadily delivering updates. Over half a year later, not a single biweekly update was missed. Without a doubt, these small changes have had an effect in making the game feel more alive and vibrant, as well as addressing crippling imbalances that could be fixed with relatively minor
changes. One issue that is starting to emerge however is that the amount of work might be too much for one small team, as becomes evident when the team must tackle bigger balance issues and more ambitious revamps. The current pace also seems to have little to no room for iteration, although this is a wider issue of the company as a whole at this time.

A greater blind spot that remains is conflict drivers. The topic was discussed during the summit but does not seem to be a priority yet, partly because it is believed the changes to the economy will also drive conflict. That prediction seems flawed at the moment, but hopefully the topic of conflict drivers can become more prominent once some of the urgent issues with the economy are dealt with.

Final comment, the top leadership of CCP was very available to us during this meeting and widely shared their vision and enthusiasm for eve’s future. The atmosphere is one of genuine confidence and optimism, which I share. My personal comment is that there is still a bit of a gap between the top decision making at CCP, and the technical and direct knowledge of the game in its modern state. Hopefully this summit helped narrow that gap through the feedback provided by the CSM as
well as the increased number of CCP employees participating as players in eve online.

Sort Dragon (Resilience./Initiative Mercenaries): My focus for this summit was CCP's communication with the player base. While CCP has always had a long-term vision and short-term and long-term plans, I wasn't sure what those plans were, or how they intended to implement them. In the past, CCP has had issues communicating their plans and vision to players, with the result being that some players had unrealistic expectations on future game changes or expansions while other players became cynical, with low or no expectations at all. My goal was to urge CCP to ramp up their communications efforts, find a way to be transparent while managing expectations, and to encourage them to communicate more with players.

During the summit, I saw CCP's long-term plans for the future and the reasons behind the changes they have made and their reasoning behind future changes. These plans are big, and they're bold. I'm looking forward to seeing how they implement them and how they communicate them with the player base in the future.

ExookiZ (The Dark Space Initiative/Scary Wormhole People): A very positive summit. Compared to our firsts summit in september, It was obvious that a lot of CCP’s reorganization and refocusing has begun to pay off. Many of the sessions were even more contentious than before, in part I think due to the CSM becoming more comfortable with each other and CCP devs. That said I left the summit feeling that we probably helped point Eve in a better direction more than I did the last time.

I left the September summit telling people I was “cautiously optimistic”, in that if CCP kept it up I think we should see some very positive movement. 6 Months later, with talos still achieving its release cadence, and other teams beginning to follow suit I would say that I am not simply optimistic about EVE’s future. I was very impressed with everything we saw at the second summit, from the leadership teams focus on core issues to the teams various plans to make eve better over 2020. While all of that of course still hinges on their execution, with the last 6 months being mostly successful, i am more confident than before that by the end of 2020 EVE will be a very different, and hopefully much better game than it is now.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

EVE Online Sees Highest PCU Since December 2017

Yesterday's PCU was 40,293 accounts -

I had to record the event before I forgot. Yesterday, EVE Online's Tranquility shard had 40,293 accounts logged on at its peak at 18:56:12. A number well down from EVE's heyday when the PCU would regularly reach 50,000 accounts every Sunday. But a number not seen in almost 2 1/2 years.

The last time PCU exceeded 40,000
Looking back on, the last date the PCU reached the 40,000 mark was on 10 December 2017, when the number reached 40,973.

The numbers are probably a bit inflated due to the COVID-19 pandemic keeping everyone inside and at home. Which means that once all the stay-at-home orders are lifted, we'll get to see how well CCP's recent efforts to keep players engaged and active work. Expect lots of charts and graphs from CCP sometime later this year.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Surgical Strike Update: Resistance Is Futile

One would think that a player such as myself wouldn't care about CCP's attempts to change the capital meta in EVE Online. Wrong again! But first, let's look at the changes coming to super carriers in the Surgical Strike update coming on 15 April.

The changes, are mostly designed to change super carrier damage application, along with affecting the tank of both super carriers and titans.

  • Removal of support fighter tubes for Super Carriers with the addition of one extra Heavy Fighter tube
  • Bonuses to XL plates and extenders for Super Carriers reduced to 200% and for Titans reduced to 300%
  • Long Range Heavy Fighter explosion radius increased 50%
  • Short Range Heavy Fighter speed increased 50%
  • Fighter bay size increased for Aeon and Wyvern
  • Capital Capacitor Boosters limited to 1 per ship

But the big change, at least according to CCP, concerns resistance modules.
The biggest change coming in this update is a 20% reduction in the power of all modules that increase shield or armor resistances. That means energized plating, armor coating, armor hardeners, shield hardeners and shield resistance amps. This will lead to a drop across the board in effective hit points, but the more slots a ship has devoted to resists, the more important the change becomes. There is excitement here about this approach because not only does it lower Capital survivability, it also diminishes the overall power of logistics and will make modules focused on speed and damage a more attractive option. The hope is to see bloodier fights, less stalemates, and a huge cross-sectional shift in the fitting meta. This kind of shake up rewards those that adapt quickly, so get to theory crafting!

Alongside this update to resistance module power, tiericide for shield and armor resist modules is also underway, which you may have noticed beginning to appear on the Singularity test server. The tiericide adjustments are very small in scale and much more focused on sensible naming and organization of the modules in these groups, but you can expect the 20% reduction to be applied after the stats currently in place on Singularity for modules are affected by tiericide changes.
I realize I don't usually use more than one resistance module to negate a type of damage, but I'm not sure how well my Vagabond will do running Abyssal sites. Cutting down the effects from the Adaptive Invulnerability Field from 30% down to 24% might be enough for the NPCs to crush my Vagabond when I use a filament.

On the other hand, using battleships to clear out Emerging Conduits might become more attractive. T1 and faction battleships are receiving a 10% increase to base hp and a 30% increase to scan resolution. That means the small Triglavian hulls will become easier to lock up now. I love my Vagabond, but if CCP wants me to swap to battleships, I may not have a choice. Sometimes CCP makes a choice so obvious doing otherwise just isn't smart.

With these changes and the ones I know are coming up, I am really tempted to just mine, manufacture, and do distribution missions for the foreseeable future. The only time to shoot anything is to clear out an Emerging Conduit to mine in. I'll have to keep a close eye out to see if I have to take such extreme measures.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Reaching Heavensward

Over the last week I finished the main scenario quest line for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Once I got to the patch 2.55 content, I decided to update my gear for the end of the patch, mostly because I've never done that in a game before. Normally I just continue playing like the beginning of an expansion was no big deal. But with FFXIV, that didn't seem appropriate. I needed to gear up for the end. I'm glad I did.

I'd done enough dungeons and trials to have enough points to get all the Ironworks healing gear, except for one piece. I decided to not buy the gloves, because I already had a crafted piece from Heavensward. When I completed the upgrade, my gear iLevel was 120.

The Ironworks healing gear (except gloves). Weapon not included
But before getting the new gear at the beginning of patch 2.55, I had a memorable experience running the last required dungeon of AAR, The Keeper of the Lake. The result of facing down Midgardsormr was the beginning of my character's fall from peak power in the story. Plus, I liked the fight and I received a Midgardsormr minion.

The Midgardsormr minion flies around and sits on your shoulder.
The high point of my character's journey was completing the last trial, The Steps of Faith. Saving Ishgard from the wrath of the great wyrm Vishap made me a legend. But then the bottom dropped out of my life. To explain what happened, the quest "The Parting Glass" explains using about 40 minutes of cut scenes. One source states allow 45 minutes to an hour for viewing. At the end, the only Scions who exit ARR with you is the adorable Tataru and my least favorite good guy, Alphinaud. It was bad enough we lost the rest of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. But to have to go into exile with Alphinaud? Yoshi-P, what are you doing to me?

Alphinaud. Not as smart as he thinks.
Am I finished with the original content? No. I still need to complete a few more dungeons. I need to do at least 1 or 2 in order to get the Ironworks Gloves of Healing. I don't know if I really want to do the Palace of the Dead content. The same goes for PvP. I've played the game for over 600 hours now and still have not done any PvP. I also have to do the beast tribe content. I understand beast tribe farming is a thing. But the most important thing I need to do is acquire all of the advanced crafting recipes from the vendors in Mor Dhona.

Once I get to a point in the story where I can safely go back to the original cities in Eorzea and clear my name, I'll go back to harvesting, crafting, and making gil. I have all my crafting classes at level 53 and my harvesting skills up to 56. That's 11 storylines waiting for me to continue exploring. I have a lot of cut scenes ahead of me.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Death March To Heavensward, Leading NPCs, And Perfection

Now that I'm past The Praetorium, I'm steadily working my way down the main scenario quests (MSQ) to get to Heavensward. I guess I shouldn't call the effort a death march, but the six patches between the launch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and the Heavensward expansion introduced 100 quests, five 4-character dungeons, and 6 8-character trials to complete. I finished the Patch 2.3 content Wednesday. I ended yesterday with doing the first six quests of Patch 2.4. That leaves 2 dungeons, 3 trials, and 37 quests to go.

Discussing how to defeat the Ascians
Although the 100 quests are a grind, I think players should go through them at least once to pick up the lore. Square Enix does offer items to skip to a particular expansion, but I would only do so on a second character.

Completing another dungeon with the squad
Over the course of the last 10 days or so the number of NPCs I control has increased from 4 to 12. I have had four retainers for the longest time as part of my money making efforts. Now I've jumped into adventurer squadrons. I've recruited a group of eight NPCs.

The adventurer squadron is really pretty clever. Players receive promotions once reaching the rank of Second Lieutenant by leveling their squadron. We do this in two ways. The first is sending out a group of 4 NPCs on missions similar to retainer ventures. The other is running through dungeons. I'm currently running through a level 32 dungeon. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much more I have to do in order to get promoted to first lieutenant.

A perfect crafting outfit
Finally, I found a perfect crafting outfit. I thought I deserved one as I now have all my crafting classes up to at least level 53. Last week's Fashion Report gave me the excuse to put one together. I've always liked the look of the Amateur's Double-Vest, a level 9 body slot item. Throw in the requirement for New World Hose in the leg slots and a nice selection of dyes and I liked what I saw. Then I used a level 5 Hempen Bandanna to top off the look. The result was a perfect score of 100.

I'm not sure exactly how much I'll play FFXIV because CCP may come up with something that has me playing EVE all night. So for now, I just plan on leveling up my adventurer's squadron and grinding out quests until I get to Heavensward.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Latest Dev Blog On EVE Online's Ecology

"Eve is built on the most robust economic and financial simulation in gaming."

- New York Times, 1 April 2020

As I look at the monthly economic report every month, I always wonder what CCP hopes to accomplish with the changes implemented over the past year. On Monday, we received some answers in a dev blog titled "The EVE Online Ecosystem Outlook".