EVE Online has already carved out a reputation for being the catalyst for some of gaming’s most interesting stories. Those stories are driven by the thousands of dedicated players who make EVE’s New Eden home. Whether it’s backstabbing an alliance someone has infiltrated or exploring every system in New Eden, EVE Online players have proven themselves to create some of gaming's most unique stories to date.
The last two weeks have been no exception, however it feels like the roles have flipped and it’s CCP, EVE’s Icelandic-based developers, who are writing the stories the internet are talking about lately. And while some of it is good, some bad - it has all enthralled many an onlooker as EVE’s storied Nullsec alliances deal with new emergent threats in their pockets of space.
How it all started
On the heels of EVE North in Toronto last month, CCP decided to start selling a $5 starter pack - complete with over 1 million skill points - directly to consumers on their own store. Now this isn’t anything new - CCP’s Paul Elsy states as much in blog post explaining the decision - however at the time these were available via Steam. As many hardcore EVE players have told me throughout the last two weeks via Discord and Twitter DMs, most of your entrenched EVE players don’t play using Steam. So the idea of CCP selling skill points last week was a completely new move in their mind.
The way these skill points were available also felt exploitable. Set up as a way to help newer players get the skills they need quickly in order to move on from the starter corvettes and start exploring New Eden in earnest, capsuleers could purchase a starter pack which gave them over 1 Million skill points for just $5. Now, these packs were limited to just one purchase per account, but like any good video game, there are loopholes in the system.
Skill injectors can be bought or sold on the in-game marketplaces, but those skill injectors are made by players themselves using skill points they themselves accrued over time. Selling skill points like this - no matter how it’s been done before either with Alpha skill injectors or otherwise - to many players feels like it undermines the player-made economy of EVE Online. Many prolific players, most notably streamer Manic Velocity and former CSM 13 member Jin’Taan have spoken out against this.
In their response, CCP stated that the starter pack was intended for new players to get a leg up, especially as CCP still deals with EVE Online's massive retention problems.
“The aim of this DLC pack is to give new pilots a head start in their training without having to commit to the full price of a month of Omega time,” Paul “Falcon” Elsy, CCP’s Community Manager stated in a blogpost. “It’s also intended to give an immediate boost in training with a bunch of Skill Points that new players can use to get into competently piloting their first ship beyond their starter corvette. The pack is an alternative to waiting for several weeks in order to accrue the skillpoints within it, giving a quick route to immediately training initial spaceship command and weapons skills.”
The sale of the pack is going to be restricted to accounts less than 30 days old, but as of the writing of this post (7/5/2019) the packs are still purchasable and redeemable by any account.
NullSec Is On Fire
Around the same time, Nullsec players began noticing drifter attacks as players, structures and even player pods were coming under attack by Drifter NPCs. This has understandably shaken many of Null Security’s major player-run alliances, as the Drifter invasion halted many wars and campaigns players waged against each other in order to combat the unwelcome threat.
While at first the Drifter attacks seemed unmanageable as the scope and scale of these attacks had yet to be fully understood, after a while what seemed as an exciting new wrinkle in the Invasion expansion storyline soon became bothersome. Attacks seemed to halt about a week into the invasion, but were quickly picked back up within a day or so. Player structures have been destroyed by the invasion, including a Citadel according to Jin’Taan, a former member of the Council of Stellar Management, via Twitter.
Leaders of the great player-run corporations are meeting to determine how to respond to the Drifter attacks, specifically how to push back at CCP Games for launching these NPC invasions. Many people in Nullsec feel as though the emergent player gameplay is being compromised by the Drifter invasions. Many alliance leaders are upset that the drifter invasion interrupted player conflicts, many of which were months in the making. Imperium’s leader, The Mittani, summed up what many are feeling when speaking to PCGamer:
“The Imperium was in the midst of prosecuting a war involving tens of thousands of real players. We are annoyed that we have had to stop our player vs player warfare and grind through what amounts to World of Warcraft-style raid content, but we have already broken down how the Drifter AI works and have successfully defended all of our structures thus far. I look forward to going back to real player vs player content, which is why I quit WoW for EVE in the first place.”
As a result, the major alliance leaders are planning revenge which can negatively affect all of New Eden. Embargoes placed on Tier 2 goods - which are harvestable in Nullsec and then shipped to hubs such as Jita - could compromise and starve the PVE economy, something that is felt even more in a game like EVE Online versus a traditional MMO. While more than an embargo has been planned, one thing is for certain: EVE’s great corporations won’t take the disruption of Nullsec space lying down.
According to The Scope, the Drifter invasions have overloaded the communications network in Nullsec. As a result, a blackout of local chat in player-owned space will occur, effectively changing how intelligence is gathered in Nullsec.
Effectively, the local chat system is being set up to work much like it does in Wormhole space: players can opt in to be seen in local chat. Previously when you enter a system you are added to the local chat window. You are able to see who exactly is in space with you and whether or not they are friend or foe.
Via user Wingspantt on Reddit, the issues many capsuleers in Nullsec have with this are laid quite bare. Local chat, the user says, “for years has been used as a tool of war, reconnaissance and intelligence more than it is used for social purposes.”
By allowing players to opt into local chat while in Nullsec, it takes much of the initial intelligence gathering away from players. This greatly benefits cloaked players specifically, as they can essentially become completely invisible as a result. The blackout will essentially make Nullsec incredibly unsafe for the players who call it home.
On one hand many will point out that Nullsec is supposed to be unsafe - it’s player versus player gameplay that acts as the wild west in many respects. Kill or be killed. However, players have spent years building up pockets of player controlled space to function as a home in New Eden, complete with logistics, supply chains and more. Something even as seemingly innocuous as this to the outside viewer can completely change the dynamic of Nullsec gameplay and be incredibly disruptive.
As a result, many players have threatened to quit EVE Online altogether, while others are rejoicing the move as something that is needed to shake up the dynamic in Nullsec. While the blackout is coming soon, CCP will be giving players 48 hours notice to prepare for the dynamic change to Nullsec. With this, as well as the Drifter invasions hitting the Nullsec alliances, it’s going to be interesting to see how EVE’s sandbox adjusts and overcomes the challenges.
EVE Online has certainly had an interesting few weeks, and it doesn’t seem like it will slow down anytime soon. The changes to how Nullsec operates could threaten to flip the player dynamic that’s been the norm for years on end on its head. Meanwhile, while Nullsec players have to deal with changes to Local chat, Drifters continue to pour into their pockets of space, threatening what they’ve spent years building. All while CCP deals with the perception that they are selling skill points to keep newer players while not fixing the issues within the game that causes retention to suffer. Suffice to say, EVE Online continues to prove why it’s one of the most interesting games on the web to date, but while doing so is rubbing many of its most hardcore fans the wrong way.