EVE Online’s latest slate of updates, “New Dawn”, promised to bring with it a return to an age of prosperity to the game’s universe. Alongside the first patch of the new quadrant came a Nov. 12th Developer Blog detailing how CCP, the developer behind the game, planned on delivering that new age. However, rather than the rejoicing of the beleaguered community, the initial reaction from players was one of anger and pent-up frustration being unleashed in the form of in-game riots. Thousands of player characters swarmed the game’s primary trade hub, the Jita star-system and spent hours shooting an invulnerable monument with lasers, bullets, and fireworks, causing the system to be locked in simulated lag called time dilation, or tidi, all throughout that weekend as players vented their rage.
Shooting the monument in Jita is something of a tradition at this point to EVE players, and the invulnerable structure has taken the brunt of player anger for years since its creation. Originally, the monument was added to the game to memorialise the players who completed a riddle contest posed by the game’s development team. The riddles were steeped in obscure EVE lore, but the game’s fanatical fans managed to solve them all in a mere twelve hours. For their efforts, they were rewarded with their names being immortalised in space next to the game’s primary trade hub, Jita 4-4. In the aftermath of player outrage surrounding the Incarna update and the monetisation practices it contained, thousands of players travelled to Jita to send a message, “We’d rather burn our money on shooting an indestructible statue than participate in a real money economy.”
This incident, along with others surrounding it, were eventually dubbed “The Summer of Rage” by fans. In its aftermath, CCP changed the path the game was taking, addressed player concerns, and updated the monument to reflect player actions. It was replaced with a broken, smouldering version of itself, enshrining the riot in EVE history and serving as a reminder to the community and developers alike.
It would seem that all things are cyclical, as the monument once again became the focal point of player rage in the wake of the New Dawn developer blog. Once again, thousands of players made their way to Jita and launched an all out assault on the ruined structure. Players reported seeing drastically different numbers in the system, with some seeing upwards of six thousand individual characters logged into the system, engaging in the protests, either shooting the monument or sitting in the station firing words instead of ammunition into the chat channels. Others reported lower numbers in the three to four thousand range. Sæmundur Hermannsson, Brand Director for EVE Online told Kotaku during an interview that the numbers players saw were likely attributed to a bug in the games chat function. The Jita system is so important to the player experience, that it is hard capped at four thousand people to prevent lag from stalling out the market hub and crippling the games economy.
Hermannsson confirmed to Kotaku that the player cap in Jita was enabled, and limited characters in the system to 4,005. Those extra five players he explained, were from game master actions force moving players into the system which bypasses the player cap.
Hermannsson went on to stress to Kotaku that he does not want to downplay the player activity over the weekend saying, “We don’t want to diminish that people were protesting. We just want to make sure that the numbers are correct. I’m a huge proponent of free speech, and that includes the right to protest, I just want the numbers to reflect the reality of the situation.”
Why would players be upset by prosperity though? Surely this is a good thing for the game world, especially coming at the end of what is known as the “Age of Scarcity.” The start of the Age of Scarcity was marked by a surprise change to the resource distribution in EVE Online, drastically reducing the availability of materials and resources in the game, about two years ago. The goal of scarcity was to reduce the massive stockpiles of ore and minerals players had collected over the years, and bring the economy to a healthier place. The implementation was as you can expect, not very popular. Logically, they would not, but players inspecting the dev blog closely seem to think that the promised fixes are just further extensions of resource scarcity, disguised by promises of wealth.
Player reactions to the blog can be roughly summed up to a feeling that they have been led on or even betrayed. Over the weekend, they felt the only logical recourse was to take to the skies of Jita, and pummel the monument into oblivion once again. Well, maybe not their only recourse.
Forums associated with the game, official and unofficial, were also rife with chaos and complaints since the launch of the blog post. The unofficial EVE subreddit was filled with complaining voices, some launching with pages and pages of well thought out complaints, and others with personal attacks to the games developers.
Taking the brunt of these attacks was the games Snorri Árnason, Director of Product for EVE Online also known as CCP Rattai. Reddit posters were not kind to CCP Rattatti over the weekend, some accusing him of being out of touch with the players needs, some accusing him of being unfamiliar with the gameplay loop of EVE, and at least one player demanding he be fired. Árnason spent most of the weekend responding to players, trying to assure them of the changes’ intent, and acknowledge that they were still taking feedback on some of the changes.
The first bullet point of the blog promises that nearly all sources of harvestable resources in space will be doubled, providing a greater wealth of resources available to convert into ammunition, spaceships and equipment modules for ships and structures, on the face of it, a very welcome change to players who have been struggling with increased costs on nearly every item built in the game world. Alone, this would go a long way to solving the problems players have been complaining about throughout the last two years.
However, this new abundance of resources is countered somewhat by the introduction of a new mechanic, “Mining Waste.” Mining waste adds a new statistic to every resource gathering item in the game, a chance to destroy an amount of the resources located in the asteroids and gas clouds strewn about space. The lowest tiers of these items, most often used by newer players, according to the dev blog will destroy an equal amount of resources that they extract from these gatherable items each time they are used. This means that all of the asteroids that have doubled in size will be effectively halved by the players mining them, leaving players experiencing a net zero effect from the changes. As players get more and more experience in the game, and are able to utilise and afford more expensive mining equipment the waste percentage goes down until reaching zero with the incredibly rare and expensive “faction” type modules.
The addition of waste to mining was not well received by the community at large, the mechanic seems to heavily punish new players more than long term veterans. EVE Online players are strangely protective of newbies, considering the game’s reputation. When Kotaku asked Árnason what he thought of the community reaction to Mining Waste, he had some surprising things to say.
“It [Mining Waste] sounds like a shitty free-to-play thing. “ Árnason told Kotaku. “Ultimately, it was meant to create more meaningful choices in mining modules, to show that there was progression over time, and let you choose how fast you want to mine vs how efficient you wanted to be.”
“The team has re-engineered this feature.” Árnason continued, “We’ve reversed it, new players will not see mining waste. To the new players, this would have felt fairly awful. Only players using the higher end modules will experience waste, and they’ll have to choose how they deal with it.”
In another fairly unpopular change, one of the most popular means of mining in the player controlled empires in null security space, the capital-class Rorqual industrial vessel, is slated to receive a hefty round of nerfs, rendering it much less effective than before. The Rorqual’s overall mining capabilities are greatly reduced according to the devblog, and the mining drones it controls will be affected in some way by the above mentioned waste mechanics.
Árnason explained to Kotaku, “I sympathise with one thing about the Rorqual, the aspirational goal. We want to make sure that people want to fly the Rorqual, that they want to have it in space and use their big toy.” When asked about the nerf to the Rorqual’s effectiveness, he was somewhat less sympathetic, saying, “If you were a Rorqual owner, especially before the scarcity changes, you probably had your investment paid back, several times.”
When you’re dealing with mining asteroids to extract raw resources to create the enormous spaceships in EVE Online, you’re dealing with a lot of material. Hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of raw resources can be extracted from just a few asteroids, and hauling that much material around the universe is a bit tricky. The gameplay solution for this is called “compression.” Compression allows a player using either a Rorqual, the capital ship mentioned above, or a space station equipped with the right tools, to drastically reduce the size of materials without losing any of the valuable minerals contained within. Currently, this process is quasi-magical. With a simple right click on the right UI element, resources are shrunk by a factor of one hundred, making them much easier to move, and not costing players anything.
In the developer blog, this would all change. Minerals would be lost during compression, and compression would no longer be instant. In fact, compressing an entire ore field could see you losing 10% of the ore you mined, and cost you upwards of forty real-time hours. Former CSM member and respected industrialist Dunk Dinkle went in-depth on the woes of the new compression system in a blog post of his own after testing the new changes on the games’ test server.
Kotaku brought up Dunk’s feedback, as well as the feedback from several other outspoken players around the subject of compression while speaking with Árnason. They’re pulling it for now, Árnason said.
Árnason went on to explain his reasoning, “Lossless magic compression, it didn’t fit any of the other industrial paradigms in EVE. Here it is now a choice. It’s a choice to compress in space or not, so I can choose to do it or not to do it. It’s now an option, that was the goal anyway.” However, he and the rest of the development team felt that maybe they had missed the mark on this item, so they decided to completely scrap the changes to compression and potentially try them again later after new development could be done.
Also receiving some attention in the New Dawn updates: the full line of mining vessels in the game. Ships are being adjusted to fill new roles and support new styles of gameplay. Some of these changes are overall positive, and some are, according to members of the community, a bit worrisome.
When individual problems with ship changes were discussed during the interview, Árnason admitted that not everything players were seeing on the test server was accurate. “There are a lot of errors on Singularity [EVE’s test server] right now, it’s making it very difficult for players to know what is intended, and what is not.”
One major example is the ship called the Endurance. It is a small mining vessel, specialised in harvesting ice from the massive glacier fields strewn across the EVE galaxy, at least that’s what it’s supposed to do. Currently on the test server, it is also one of the most powerful combat ships of its size, capable of fulfilling multiple roles and frankly, being quite overpowered. Árnason assured Kotaku that this was not an intended change, and would be fixed prior to the content going live.
The gameplay updates as they were originally framed in the Dev Blog, did not lad well with players. Fans feel that their gameplay styles are being attacked or even destroyed, in ways they find unacceptable. The changes to ships that they have spent months of time training the skills to pilot, and billions of in-game credits buying or constructing, are being changed in ways that make them much less useful than before. Reddit user, u/angry-mustache who some would consider a top mind amongst EVE industrialists, feels that the upcoming changes will do very little to combat the skyrocketing cost of ships of all types. Since the industry changes, and the two years of resource scarcity, players have been feeling the pain of trying to purchase or replace ships, especially the capital ships that are used to make the crazy headlines EVE Online is known for.
During the interview with Kotaku, Hermannsson summarized the difficulties the company has had with the path to a healthier EVE over the last few years, and sympathized with players feeling the pain of it. “This has been a crazy two-year journey, since we started scarcity. It’s something that’s probably never been done in a video game before. The concept [resource scarcity] is obviously extremely foreign to everyone in the context of a video game.”
Hermannsson continued,” It’s not something we’d be doing if the plan wasn’t to set up EVE for a third decade, and to lay out a plan for EVE to outlive us all. The ecosystem was not in a healthy place two years ago, and changes were needed to have a sustainable future.”
Hermannsson was not wrong, at least in theory, when stating the ecosystem of EVE was not very healthy pre-scarcity. The game’s largest and most powerful spaceships had gone from being a rare almost mythological sight, to being almost disposable in the span of a few years. When MMORPG’s lose aspirational goals for players to climb to, people generally start getting bored and looking elsewhere.
In response to the dev blog, however, Hermannsson shared his final thoughts with Kotaku, “It’s [scarcity] a controversial topic and has been going for two years, which is a long time, especially when you consider the state of the world at large during those years. I think by the end of it, the community all had different expectations on what the end of scarcity meant. Looking back, I think there was an opportunity to change the branding on the blog, to explain better to players our intentions.”
CCP seems to have heard player concerns and they are actively trying to address them, a forum post stating most of the changes discussed in this article went up late last week, detailing the companies plans, and asking for more feedback. Feedback which players have been providing in a constant stream since the initial posting. Additionally, CCP has reportedly been reaching out to individuals, and meeting with the CSM to try to get the update to a better place with players, while still achieving their own goals. The end result of the New Dawn quadrant is very much still up in the air. Will it lead to an “Age of Prosperity” for EVE Online as promised? Or will the Summer of Rage find itself matched by EVE’s very own Winter of Discontent?