One or the other

I regularly remark to my son that he is whinging. He retorts that his comments are not whinges, but observations. His favourite observations are that he is tired or hungry. Or tired and hungry.

I have been contemplating this as I’ve been reading lots and lots of commentary on EVE and the Chaos era. What are whinges, what are observations? Where do my related posts fall?

I’ve done little in EVE since the end of the Skill Point related events. Hilmar warned of weekly chaotic changes, but that hasn’t really come to pass. Instead it feels like I am on hold – waiting for – something, anything to occur which will define what EVE is meant to become.

The notable changes that have gone in, the Null Sec Blackout, the recent Cyno updates, have had fundamental impacts on many players. So much so that I’ve been thinking CCP probably can’t reverse them. They will not be able to pretend it never happened or undo all the damage done. I suspect finessing is the best we can hope for.

I am waiting with interest for the minutes from the latest CSM summit. CCP seemed to be a bit gushy about how positive the whole thing had been, but I hope to get a sense of how the CSM and CCP really interacted and if there is positivity towards any coming changes they discussed.

I have read a lot of blogs and articles about the apparent initial impact of the Chaos Era. As with I, a lot of authors have been guarded in making any definitive calls, but there seems to be a feeling of disquiet. I remember Hilmar exclaiming about how exciting the initial statistics were from the first days of the Null Sec Blackout. I thought at the time he was premature to say that, and I am not aware of him repeating this more recently.

There is a risk that all the negative conjecture could fuel a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve idly wondered if CCP might work to cut off some of the statistics we are using to evaluate their changes. They could stop the feed eve-offline.net uses for its online user counts. They could stop or dramatically modify the Monthly Economic Reports. It might give them some breathing space, although at what cost.

The latest EVE Pulse is out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQyNkyq3zlw

They discussed how normal Cyno’s can now only be used on Force Combat Recon cruisers or Black Ops battleships. In an irritating understatement, CCP Falcon said that lighting a Cyno will now be “a little bit more expensive”.

I wonder if this post is a whinge or an observation.

I almost forgot, I did do – or tried to do something a bit different in the game recently.

While moving around BPO I noticed some of those pesky roaming Triglavians hanging around my Abzel. I quickly docked up and took control of it.

When I attacked the Triglavians, they shot back. They didn’t do enough damage to overcome the shield regen and the Azbel never got below 100%. I got log messages that the Standup Neutralizers worked, and once in a while I’d land an ECM Success (even though it would have had no impact), bu the Standup Missile Launchers did not seem to do any damage and never appeared in the combat log.

I then launched fighters – but I could not see them outside the station, no matter what I did or tried with the overview or bracket settings. In the end I could not tell them to attack the Triglavians. I even watched some YouTube videos to try and work out if I was doing anything wrong.

When I stopped attacking the Triglavians they stopped attacking me. In the end I warped another character in to find the Triglavians had warped off, even though I could still see them from within the Abzel.  That didn’t work out as expected.

Bounties

The EVE August Economic Report is out.

https://www.eveonline.com/article/pxf0wt/monthly-economic-report-august-2019

There are plenty of interesting things you could delve into, but I thought I would just concentrate on one – Bounties.

Traditionally, the biggest source of direct new ISK into the game has come from NPC Bounties.

Since February 2018, players have collected a total of 1,138 Trillion ISK in bounties.  Between February 2018 and June 2019 (17 months), this was at an average rate of 63.8 Trillion ISK every month.

In mid-July, 2019, CCP introduced the Null Sec Blackout.  The Null Sec Local Chat channel went into delayed mode like Wormhole space – so that pilots no longer appear in Local unless they type something.  This makes Null Sec a more dangerous place for many pilots.

By the end of July, after two weeks of Null Sec Blackout in effect, the amount of Bounties collected dropped by more than 50%, to 29.1 Trillion ISK.

In August, with Blackout in effect for the entire month, the amount of Bounties collected dropped further to 23.8 Trillion ISK.  It had dropped so much that Commodities moved into the top source of direct ISK coming into the game.  That is ISK income from various sources, such as selling Overseer Personal Effects or Tags to NPC buy orders.

CCP’s monthly Economic reports shows the percentage of bounties collected across Null Sec, Low Sec and High Sec.

Between February 2018 and June 2019, bounties were collected each month on average:

  • 93.7% in Null Sec (59.8T ISK)
  • 5.7% in High Sec (3.6T ISK)
  • 0.6% in Low Sec (0.4T ISK)

It appears taking the Risk to live in Null Sec is very Rewarding.

For the last two full months of July and August 2019, bounties were collected each month on average:

  • 85.2% in Null Sec (22.6T ISK)
  • 12.8% in High Sec (3.3T ISK)
  • 2.0% in Low Sec (0.5T ISK)

As I have said before, that is a big reduction.

Interestingly while High and Low Sec have taken more Bounties as a percentage, the value of those bounties hasn’t dramatically changed.  In fact, the moderate uptick in values could be explained in part by the Skill Points for Kills event.  It also suggests people who spent less time doing PVE in Null Sec did not particularly move their PVE to Low or High Secs.

The first graph below plots the monthly Bounty Payments over the last 19 months for Null, High and Low Secs.

 

The second graph plots the monthly Bounty Payments over the last 19 months for just High and Low Secs, to better see their changes.

There is an apparent uptick over the last 2 months, but as I said, this would have been influenced by the Skills for Kills event.

What else might be influencing this?

At the end of July, soon after the Null Sec Blackout, CCP introduced changes to the Vexor Navy Issue and the skills an Alpha Clone can use to reduce their ability to farm Null Sec NPC’s.  From reports and comments that should have had an noteworthy impact.  We don’t have any statistics to see just what that did however.

CCP continues their war against RMT and Bots.

https://www.eveonline.com/article/pxf0x3/monthly-security-report-august-2019

Maybe they hit some particularly profitable pilots over the last couple months?

If I go back to eve-offline.net again:

https://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility

The average daily online user counts for the:

  • Last 12 months has been 31,000
  • Last 6 months has been 27,000
  • Last 3 months has been 22,000
  • Last 1 month has been 19,000

The average numbers of users online for the last month have been 39% lower than compared to the average over the last 12 months.

The value of bounties collected for the last month have been 60% lower than compared to the average collected over the last 12 months.

The graphs suggests it hasn’t been a linear relationship, but having almost 40% less players online would account for some of the reduction in bounties being collected.

The graphs also suggest that these people now not logging in were probably not doing much PVE in High or Low Sec.

So while the Null Sec Black out would be having a large impact on the value of NPC Bounties being collected, it won’t have been the only thing.

Cracking an Egg

Rixx Javix wrote a blog post about the reasons for and changes to his decision making about when to Pod another pilot and when not too.

http://eveoganda.blogspot.com/2019/08/why-do-we-pod.html

He has had a couple early comments on his blog from people who tend not to pod in Low Sec because of the extra security status hit, and the impact it has on their need to access High Sec.

Aside a skin, you can not fit anything to a pod. It has no weapons, no extra propulsion, no extra tank. There are still a surprisingly number of factors in play however if your pod gets warp scrambled. You might escape based on your distance from gates or docking, external intervention, your ability to fast or sweet talk, or the distraction level, ammunition level, rules of engagement or whim of the aggressor.

Jixx covered many reasons for his decision making on when to crack open an egg or not – tactical, economic, even a touch of OCD for the accumulation of statistics on his killboard.

There was one area I would have liked to have heard about that is of interest to me. The battle is done, the target no real threat. When Jixx talks about making decisions based on his judgement of the performance or behaviour of the other pilot, or his own bushido code, he is talking about power. The power he has over another player in that moment.

I find that aspect of EVE interesting. What is the meaning behind the exercise of that power, what reward does the player gain from it?

For some it is just a game so the decision might be a purely unemotional, intellectual one.

Some might feel satisfaction or pleasure from doling out revenge or karma.

Some might feel good about being magnanimous and sparing the other pilot.

For each pilot it could change day to day, moment to moment, but power is one of the factors to podding. You only have to look at the number of references to tear harvesting.

For me it is almost a moot point. The handful of times I’ve been in a position to make such a decision I’ve mostly just done what the FC has instructed. I have pointedly destroyed Pods to stop them being a source of Intel. I have also pointedly removed Pods when the pilots have clearly been AFK. Regardless the situation, I have generally just felt a bit bad about doing it.

EVE Portal 2019

The latest iteration of the EVE Mobile companion App is now available:

https://www.eveonline.com/article/pww4x0/introducing-eve-portal-2019-edition

I installed it on my iPad and am mightily .. unimpressed.  It is in a fixed orientation (portrait) and a fixed (small) size, taking up only a fraction of the screen.  The interface is crowded with headings and field contents overlapping. It is just unpleasant to look at or use.

I installed it on my Samsung S8 phone.  While it is again stuck in Portrait, the resolution is far better and the app is usable.

It shows basic information about your character, SP Total, ISK and PLEX balance, current location and boarded ship, jump clone locations and availability and current implants.  You can see, add and remove or re-sort your skill training queue.  You can see and respond to EVE Mails.  You can buy stuff from the New Eden Store.

Not terribly important for a solo player, but I might leave it installed on my phone.

 

Eyeballing Online User Counts

We are 5 or 6 weeks into the chaos era and have just finished the Skill Point Event. The later should have seen more people log in than usual.

I thought I would do an unscientific eyeballing of the Eve-offline Tranquility – Peak Online Player Count graphs to see if there is any sort of discernible impact yet.  I thought this would just be a quick 5 minute blog post.  I didn’t really think it through.

All data from:

http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansions_of_Eve_Online

 

First some disclaimers.  I am really only eyeballing this – the statistics are rough.  I am not sure if Dust players were included in the counts or not.  I am not sure what impact various antibotting initiatives have had on the game or when.  I am also aware of a fatal flaw in using these graphs.  It is possible for the online player count to reduce while the number of active players increase.  This is because I don’t know how long on average each player session lasts for each time period. The shorter the average play session, the less players it will look like.

So, lets start some likely pointless conjecture.

 

 

The first graph covers the average peak player counts from 2003 to now, some 16 years. The daily average across these years has been 37K.

I started playing EVE back in September 2006, just before the Revelations release. That brought the earlier version of Exploration, Rigs, Invention and extra Null Sec regions.

2009-2010 were probably glory years, with the hard to pronounce Apocrypha (T3 ships and Wormholes), Dominion (Sovereignty changes), Tyrannis (Planetary Interaction) and Incursion (funny enough, Incursions plus the new character creation process) releases. These came with a steady climb in average players online.

This period also saw the start of notable variations in player counts, with quick differences of +/- 5K, usually triggered by new content that soon petered away. That makes it harder to really get a gist for what is going on with player counts without seeing many months of data.

The mid-2011 Incarna release saw the (I think we can mostly agree) poorly managed implementation of walking in stations. This cost CCP momentum, players, and a level of goodwill that I am not sure they have ever fully regained.

Activity had a resurgence however at the end of 2012 through 2013 with Retribution (new ships), Odyssey (Exploration revamp and more new ships), and Rubicon (Player Owned Customs Offices and the early steps of CCP Seagull’s roadmap for the game).

Between 2009 and 2013 the average peak online player count was 49K.

Since then the average peak online player count has been around 38K, a seeming steady decline aside a big but temporary jump with the introduction of free Alpha accounts with the Ascension release.

Looking at the averages per year, there has been an obvious pattern.

2004 – 8K
2005 – 12K
2006 – 23K
2007 – 30K
2008 – 35K
2009 – 44K
2010 – 47K
2011 – 43K
2012 – 43K
2013 – 48K
2014 – 41K
2015 – 34K
2016 – 34K
2017 – 35K
2018 – 33K
2019 – 29K

Growth from 2004-9, 5 years of stability before a big drop in 2014-15, stability in 2016-2018, before another bigger drop in 2019.

 

As we drill down, since mid-2015, we can see an average count of 35K.  There was a steady decline after the Citadel release, a temporary surge with Ascension, before a slow but steady decline since – well before Chaos entered our vocabulary.

 

Now for 2019. The dip shown on the full graph has been smoothed out. Aside a temporary increase with the May Invasion release, again we have a slow but steady decline in peak online user counts. The average is 29K for the year so far.

 

Finally, we have the graph for approximately the last month. A 23K average.

So, what have I learnt from this?

Taken year by year across the life of the game, peak online user counts in 2019 are concerning.  They are the worst they have been for a decade.

However – this sort of variation has been repeated since 2009, and we might just be at a bottom of a cycle which could see a big upturn.

The increase in users with the May Invasion Release did not seem as noteworthy or as long lasting as many earlier releases. I am not sure if that reflects part of a malaise or just that the Triglavian invasion PVE did not appeal to that many players.

While the average peak user counts did drop since June / the start of the Chaos era, it did not appear to be exceptional, but a continuation of a decline that started back in February and even earlier.

So, this has been a lot of words and graphs to say nothing definitive.  I don’t feel I can say anything about the last month or two, but I do not like the trend over the last year.

 

Based on the history above – if CCP wants an upturn in online users they need to add content.  Not just any content, but that with wide appeal, accessibility and longevity.

CCP has however recently said they felt adding new content wasn’t getting results – players were just not using it in mass.  They said they would be looking more at revising current systems and for chaotic upheavals, particularly low hanging fruit.

In my opinion much of the new content CCP has added in recent years has had a limited in game audience.  It is aimed at skilled min/max players and veterans, with the cost to step up well outside the range of what most newer players can afford.  The problem is CCP is not adding content that appeals and is available to a large enough range of players.

Alternatively they need to somehow cause a big improvement in new player retention.

Entirely anecdotally however, I’ve noticed comments on Blogs, on Discord, on the Forums, on Reddit, and in the various NPC Corporation chats from plenty of young players who have lost multiple ships to the new Roaming / Raznabord Damavik’s in Hi-Sec belts. They have expressed dismay at how unavoidable it seems – with ships zapped even if they are alert and initiate warp as soon as the Damavik’s drop into the belt.  They turn up so frequently that they can not recover from what they are losing.  None appear to have been excited by this new game play – most suggest they will quit. It seems a misstep by CCP.  It doesn’t seem like a confident start from CCP.

 

So I have come away from this without answering my initial question, more concerned for the trend than expected, and once again questioning how well CCP knows its player base and if they have the plan and capability to get more players into the game.  So far making the game hard core and deadly is their solution.  Lets return to this in a few months time.

 

*Edit – forgot to add I am talking about peak figures.

Bump Off

Something we should be seeing in September:

https://forums.eveonline.com/t/september-fitting-warnings-and-other-qol-changes/184553

. Ships will now automatically enter warp after three minutes of attempting to align and reach the required speed. This will now put a maximum cap on how long a ship can be bumped or stuck on geometry.

As you would expect there are threats of Carebear accounts being unsubscribed and – oh, sorry, I meant, Ganker’s accounts.  The irony.

The details are going to be important with this one.

Forum comments suggest testing shows the timer is reset if an offensive module is used on the target.  This means there will be no real change to bumping outside of Hi-Sec.

In Hi-Sec, most Gank to kill encounters are over within 3 minutes.  If a gang of Gankers needs a little more time to get coordinated, they would have to suicide a rookie ship on the target before each 3 minutes is up.  Organised groups would already have such resources in place to deal with the logoff timer.

One type of play it does likely kill are ransom bumpers.

It also makes bumping bots in Hi-Sec less effective.

The positives are it helps people stuck in objects in missions, and it helps people who are being griefed for long periods of time in game by bumping for no other purpose but to annoy.

Overall I don’t mind the change.