Over the weekend, EVE Online’s largest trade hub, also known as Jita 4-4, erupted into a flurry of activity. Players congregated around the monument behind the Navy Assembly yard orbiting the fourth planet in the Jita system, shooting the monument with everything from their standard ship weapons to fireworks. Local chat was abuzz more than normal, as player counts in the area skyrocketed.
A protest had started, with players expressing their displeasure at a recently released devblog by CCP Games, the makers of EVE Online, centered on proposed changes to mining and industry in the wake of the latest quadrant drop, New Dawn.
The last two years have been rough on many EVE players. A time of scarcity brought on by the developers in an attempt to balance the economy and state of the MMO from what was perceived to be an unhealthy state into one that is sustainable into the next decade. In that time pilots in New Eden have seen resource stockpiles diminish, ISK levels drop and war ravage the universe.
The light at the end of the tunnel was the return to a level of prosperity, which to many players meant a return to what we saw before the Blackout, before the Invasions and before the Scarcity Era. Unfortunately, the expectations didn’t exactly match up with the vision that CCP had laid out, something that the developers also admit when talking with MMORPG in an interview about the reaction to the blog post.
“It’s been a long road,” EVE’s Director of Product Snorri “CCP Rattati” Árnason said in response to whether or not the dev team expected this kind of reaction. “I think the expectation for many people was that we’re going back to what it used to be, like literally used to be.”
Árnason continues, stating that the team could feel there would be some pushback, as they were already getting “premonitions” from the Council of Stellar Management, or CSM, which is a player-elected player council that works as a liaison between CCP Games and the community at large. Brand Manager Sæmundur Hermannsson echoed this, stating that there were varying beliefs as well as to what the end of scarcity would actually mean.
“Everybody in the community has a different opinion of what [the] end of scarcity meant. And now it’s the end, and for some people it’s a total anticlimax as they had just a different expectation as far as what it had meant.”
Much of the discussion in the community in response to last week’s devblog titled “From Extraction to Production” centers on changes to one of the most used – and powerful – mining ships in the MMO: the Rorqual. This capital industrial ship has been one of the mainstays of miners for years now, and for many it has been used as a great solo miner – especially for moon mining.
One of the greatest resources (if not the greatest resource) we all have is our time. Time spent reading a book, learning a new trade or having fun with friends in our favorite game world is all a valuable resource we spend, in addition to any money we throw at something. Players, especially those have spent time and money getting into the Rorqual specifically are showing displeasure as it is being transitioned from a mining ship to a purely support platform – something that might not justify its value to the pilot for the risk involved with undocking with one.
Dunk Dinkle, the CEO of the BRAVE Collective summed it up quite well in his blog post on the update:
“Saddling these billion+ ISK ships with the mind-numbing task of sitting on field to compress materials painfully while a command burst cycles endlessly is just no fun at all. If fielded, a huge target for hunters, with no realistic way for the ship to earn its way into profitability.
Players who own Orcas/Rorquals are owners of ships that don’t justify their build costs. Only the safest and wealthiest areas in New Eden will see these fielded, further pushing the player meta to join only the biggest and most powerful groups, reducing diversity in corps and alliances.
So, if a player owns a Rorqual with Excavators, suck it up buttercup, you are SOL. Might not feel like the “new age of prosperity.””
This is a mindset that Hermannsson states the team knows is “perfectly understandable.”
“We’re for setting EVE up for [the] third decade, and then hopefully it outliving us. And this journey has meant tighter belts for players that were used to a lot more luxury. It has meant also a complete institutional shake up of how to make ISK and how to do things in EVE. And it being an 18 year old game, I’m sure a lot of players have the feeling of the rug being pulled under them now that they have become accustomed to or used to. So their feelings are totally understandable.”
In the end, though, the Rorqual likely needed to be nerfed. Many players agree on with this Reddit as well as the official forums. According to CCP Rattati, the capital ship was doing more harm to EVE than many players might realize in its current state.
“A lot of playstyles have had their time the sun. For sure. Like, Carriers, Super Carriers, Titans – we’ve gone from Doomsdays killing everyone in the system to anything inbetween. And this is accepted in an MMO that your playstyle is going to get changed if it’s overpowered. I would say in regards to Rorquals, I wrote something on Reddit that Rorqual oppression was basically against everyone because it changed the whole economy. Them turbo-mining, with basically pricing almost all other miners out of the game, etc. But it’s hidden in a way.
Like, ‘Cool. I’m just getting cheaper Battleships.’ But there’s a lot of victims, there’s a lot of people out of a job and are not getting paid properly for their time. Like, ‘How do I progress in my mining career when I can’t afford a Rorqual, because the Rorqaul was undermining everything I do?’ It’s like a factory moving into a small town and just killing all the jobs. That’s oppressive and you don’t see it. It’s kind of hidden behind the scenes. A Titan blasting everyone out of space in a single system? Like that’s so clear. […] So I think what we’re seeing here is that hidden power.”
Árnason goes on to talk about what they are doing to ensure that the Rorqual is still an aspirational goal, and that the ship itself still serves a purpose. However, it being the best miner was never the goal at all, hence the changes made on that front. The goal though isn’t to turn the Rorqual into just a fleet boosting platform, something players are already pushing back against after reading the changes. The team is looking to make the Rorqual something more in-line with the “fantasy” the team had in their minds of this capital ship that works with its fleet to maximize its potential – and theirs.
“We have to find the purpose of Rorquals as an aspirational goal, we can’t just say all of this is worthless. And we have been working a lot on it. We wanted to give them this special compression power than only they would have, which was very coveted, it’s been talked about for a long time to give it actually more strength than that. So [compression of] gas or ice and Moon at site would be pretty awesome. We’ve also hinted at the fleet boosting or fleet jumping capability, which is kind of cool.
“But that was part of the fantasy of the Rorqual, being this kind of mothership like a carrier, bringing their ducklings around system to system, mining, ice mining, compressing for them, getting them up to speed and training and grooming them.”
Árnason admits too that CCP understands that fans don’t simply want to be relegated to a fleet boosting role, but rather something that can create teamwork and the type of emergent gameplay EVE is famous for.
Admittedly, though, the new compression system doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark, and CCP is already looking into this. In a response to the devblog, the team laid out a few things it’s already looking at based on the feedback from players across the myriad sites and forums, as well as from Singularity itself. One constant refrain from players, especially on Reddit is the idea that the new compression changes add tedium, not necessarily compelling gameplay.
Before compression was instant, you’d compress and boom: done. Now compression gameplay is so complex, especially as it stands on Singularity in its current form, it adds tedium in the form of repetitive clicking and constant management versus being able to simply compress and move onto the next task. Imperium News, an EVE Online player-run news site helmed by the Imperium (hence the name) broke it down a bit in a video, with their numbers showing forty to fifty hours spent compressing 28 days of R64 Moon yield. Even if the numbers themselves don’t exactly check out (and as someone who is not so great at maths, as Shank will attest, I can only take these with a grain of salt), that is a ton of time for something that should be “fun.” Instead, it just ends up feeling oppressive, something Snorri states wasn’t the intention.
Video via Imperium News
“Compression was intended to be one of the most interesting [additions,]” Snorri stated. “It definitely wasn’t meant to be an oppressive thing. I think the balance here that we’re trying to strike at the time was that it was hard to…we didn’t have all the tech we needed. So it’s kind of awkward. So that added to the UX issues like dragging into the ammo, it felt interesting at the time. And they built this paradigm around it. But I think there were just issues that we ran into that hadn’t been foreseen. Like people docking in Rorquals and dragging into them was an issue that was just discovered on [Singularity], you couldn’t drag into the hold. Either we missed it in testing or we assumed that it would work. But that was an oversight.
“The timing [of compression] was meant to simply be a counterweight to going back to the station and dumping it there. So you’re gauging is it logistically sound to jump home, or do I stay here and compress? That kind of a choice in that sense. And then you factor your compression ratio to my compression ratio, do some math in your head and if you’re savvy you’re doing it better than other people. So now you’ve a competitive advantage. You’re better at running this system. It was never meant to be oppressive. It was meant to be interesting. So with compression, we’re definitely hearing all that stuff, and we’re pulling it back to improve it. Like, no question about it. We’re not going to go with this unchanged.”
Another mechanic that is seen as a point of contention from the update is the new mining waste mechanic, especially for mining corporations that are looking at how this would effect new players looking to get into the profession. The idea of waste when mining, especially when we’re talking about getting out of the age of scarcity specifically didn’t set well with some, and others were concerned that new players who hadn’t trained yet into higher quality mining modules would be ostracized for creating more waste than yield. The team hears this too, and Rattati admits that the team may have just missed the negative impact this might have on a new player.
“We really wanted players to be able to progress with this, and also diverge a specialization. So the point with waste was to be able to sacrifice a yield, but spend the asteroid. So you could theoretically tinker with it, do it slower and raise the yield in the sale way you have your one guy in the Klondike with a pickaxe and he’s like ‘Oh, I have the vein.’ And then the excavator that can just eat mountains of ore quickly, but you’re throwing away a lot of gold. If you do that because you just sift through it and it just gets thrown out with the trash. That is the kind of fantasy we wanted to do.
“And so everyone could find their niche and go deep into that specialization. But it is true, waste being perceived this way, even if everyone has the same kind of waste in the beginning. So all new players are the same. So if you’re recruiting as a corporation, you forgive them for wasting because everyone is wasting as a new player. It’s kind of like, ‘Okay, we get them up to speed and start training.’ There is also this negative aspect that I think we missed was just like, it sucks to be a new player and see 100% waste. They’re like, ‘Is that my fault? What am I doing wrong? Should I be doing something else?’ And I think that is absolutely relevant feedback. I think systems won over player centricity and we’re happy to rework it into a different schematic, reverse it in a way that new players don’t see it. And the choice becomes a better choice, whether or waste or not waste.”
At the end of the day, the devblog was, according to CCP, one part of the journey, where the team is laying out their plans and their ideas as one step in the overall direction. But after two years, multiple conflicts whether they be NPC driven or player driven ones, and scarcity that has been felt across EVE’s thousands of systems, especially players who aren’t part of large nullsec alliances and can’t fall back on alliance coffers and stockpiles, the idea of moving into an age of prosperity was most welcome indeed. However, as CCP also admits, it’s a bit hard to manage expectations for everyone. History with the player base and the dev team too plays a role, as many fans have felt burned by what are perceived to be failed promises, and therefore aren’t necessarily in the most forgiving mood when these issues arise.
“I’ll happily admit, the package isn’t explained well enough. It’s more like, call it a code diff: this is what it was, this is what it is now, without the purpose or the intent,” Árnason said. “And I think we could have done much better with what the purpose of these [changes] were and how they would all fit together. And what the idea here was. So some of it was just like, badly explained or it lacked a compelling story.”
“I think when the frame isn’t painted clearly, players don’t know where to put their mind on this feedback,” Hermannsson added. “What are the common themes? What are we trying to achieve?”
That last question asked by Hermannsson has been echoed throughout the discourse, whether or Reddit, the forums, or even in my Twitter DMs. The idea of what the end goal, the long term vision of EVE is something that has come up alot in the Scarcity Era. And it's something that CCP themselves will need to do a better job of laying out to players in the future. I'll fully admit too, having the ability to speak to the developers on a pretty regular basis in my job, even I was a little naive in thinking that the end of scarcity meant a return to the status quo in the Before Times.
While the protests themselves caught the attention of CCP Games over the weekend, the feedback is what is winning the day – though some of it has been downright harsh and at times crossing the line. Árnason admits as well that the feedback feels “harsher” than it ever has been. However, the team is all about getting as much feedback as possible. Because at the end of the day, the constructive feedback helps to make EVE into what is everyone’s goal at CCP: last forever.
“I see no reason to be ashamed or hide – this is all part of the process,” Snorri stated when talking about navigating the feedback being received since Friday. “The only thing that I regret in all of this is the hostility. It feels like the toxicity in the feedback is very harsh. If I hadn’t been doing this for many years, I’d probably be at home right now. But you need thick skin to wake up to, you know, ‘resign because you’re ruining everything’ messaging. And it’s fine you have passionate people, but I think it’s mirroring what’s happening in the real world. Like, everything is becoming yelled louder, becoming more toxic on forums and this whole sentiment feels like it’s going into this direction.
“Then it just becomes impossible to interact. I started on day one to kind of chime in and have conversations. The day after, like, everything I’ve said is taken out of context. And I’m like, ‘Okay, this isn’t cool. I’m going to try again.’ And I go in and try to have a normal conversation. And at the end of it, I’m like, ‘Okay, I don’t think I’m making any progress at all.’ And I think that’s kind of regretful, because for example I spent a lot of time on the forums. I enjoyed it [very] much just to be there. But it feels that it’s a lot harsher now for sure. And it definitely doesn’t make normal developers [want] to go into that at all.
“So the tone of the conversation could’ve been better and I’m happy to work on that with everyone. But we’re all here for EVE Online, and I think when that’s called into question – our integrity and why we’re doing this – it’s all about EVE Online Forever. It always has been.”
“But I will say also that okay, there’s been temperatures running high in the community,” Saemi followed up. “But there’s also been a lot of great discussions and there are also a lot of people that enjoy it. There are people that say, ‘You’re on the right path.’ This isn’t doom and gloom at all. And I’m not trying to downplay the protests or whatever – full on freedom of speech and everybody is allowed to say their opinions. But there are lots of people also happy with these changes. And there’s a lot that can be used and that we will continue to build upon.”
At the end of the day, it feels like a fundamental inability to completely manage expectations (my own included) has left EVE feeling like the community and the dev team are precariously perched on the edge of a knife. While the protests themselves have died down since reaching record numbers of people in Jita 4-4 over the weekend, the discourse has not, and likely won’t for some time to come. One thing is certain, though, CCP is determined to leave the Scarcity Era behind for good, whatever it ends up looking like in the aftermath.