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It’s the economy, stupid!
– James Carville, 1992 US Presidential Campaign
I have said over the years more times than I can probably remember that the miracle that is the game EVE Online… miracle because it is a non-consensual PvP MMORGP that has lasted for almost 19 years at this point in a world where every other attempt at that PvP paradigm has either gone out of business, had to make a non-PvP variant, or has become so niche as to not matter in the market… is based on the bedrock of its economy.
The flip side of the PvP core of the game is that it is also one of the rare MMORPGs where you can focus on crafting without having to run out and play through all the adventure levels just to have access to the right skill and recipes and materials to do that.
The economy is there. The economy provides. The economy enables everything in the game. PvP is viable because you don’t go out in space with a pile of bind on equip purple gear that you raided for six months to get and then lose when you die. You go out in a ship with modules and ammunition that are all immediately replaceable in Jita or another major trade hub.
Crafting is viable because ships and modules and ammunition are completely replaceable (except for those alliance tournament ships) and are consumed by PvP at a steady rate.
And for two years now CCP has basically been at war with the economy. There is a video clip up on Reddit of Merkelchen, the CEO of KarmaFleet, from a year back on the MetaShow where he is asking CCP to please let up on the economy and let us get back to our care free ways of blowing up ships. We were in the middle of a major war and were soon to engage in the largest, most expensive battle in the game’s history, something that would renew a couple of Guinness Book world records for CCP, and the request was just to let us carry on with unprecedented levels of destruction. It is on YouTube so I will embed it here as well:
Merkelchen is on the CSM and has been for a few terms now, so I have no doubt that he and some other CSM members have been giving that message directly to CCP for a while now. We’re tired of nerfs, we would like something fun please.
CCPs reaction was to ignore feedback and carry on with their economic starvation plan, nerfing mining further, nerfing industry, and making capital ships so expensive that the war, which had been seeing trillion ISK battles on a fairly regular basis for a stretch even in the early economic pinch, essentially died off.
We went from capital ship clashes to cheaper hulls, with battlecruisers, heavy assault cruisers, and T1 logi becoming the backbone of the war. As the screws tightened, the war died down, to the point that the attackers gave up and went home (or went to new homes in the case of most of Legacy, who lost both their old and new homes, becoming the real losers in the war) and that was that.
CCP offered us a glimmer of hope that the era of scarcity would be over come the Q4 quadrant. And then when they announced New Dawn: The Age of Prosperity it quickly became clear that CCP’s intent was to make scarcity a permanent feature of the game. They said they would be doubling resources… doubled from the lowest ebb of scarcity which was 90% off of the per-scarcity levels… but then included enough additional nerfs and oppressive mechanics to make the whole thing a net loss for the player who were being promised prosperity.
It is hard not to just say CCP was straight up lying to our faces unless you allow that they perhaps simply don’t know what they are doing. Not a happy dichotomy that.
Nor have they been keen to take feedback in anything but minor details of the economic plan. And some of the changes, like replacing the word “waste” with the word “residue,” smack of just re-arranging the deck chairs in an attempt to fool us into thinking they changed something.
As a follow on to the first round of the new economic plan being imposed on New Eden CCP promised a follow up blog, which came in the form of the detail free, everything is great, Winter Status Update, a document they were so happy with that they didn’t even bother to link to it when announcing it on Twitter.
A follow on Twitch presentation, billed as a QA event, but which only included questions from a forum thread you probably didn’t see, which wasn’t mentioned in the announcement, ended up being featuring very few questions indeed while the live chat was flooded with them.
Instead it was mostly CCP Rattati telling us all that the plan was excellent and that they have lots of data not available to the players… demonstrating that by showing us several charts that not only didn’t really support his assertions but which seemed to refute some of what he was saying [addendum: Dunk Dinkle has examples] … and that the dials on the “black box” of the economy… and the fact that they used the term “black box” should not instill confidence that they know what they are doing… would be adjusted as they kept an eye on things.
Basically it was a mostly a propaganda exercise where CCP Rattati told us all everything was working and excellent and going exactly to plan for the betterment of the game.
CCP staying the course in 2021
As with the Winter Status Update, it was built on a lot of wishful thinking and the idea that players will step into line and behave as they have predicted if they economic beatings continue.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the player numbers to see how that plays out. Jester, while he no longer blogs, keeps up a site with data about players in the game. He has a handy chart that shows players online using 30 day rolling averages, which smooths out the lines into trends.
EVE Players 2018 to 2021 comparison
2018 is the last “normal” year for purposes of comparison I suppose. From mid-2019 forward CCP is messing with the economy. 2020 is the pandemic surge, a rising tide that lifted many video games, but come 2021 and and an ever worsening New Eden economy, things begin to taper off into what look like it will be the lowest holiday season on the chart.
Adding to that low holiday line for 2021 is the fact that we really have very little to look forward to between now and the spring. The pre-fanfest agenda is to work out how to make compression difficult but not completely oppressive, making Rorquals suck ever so slightly less, trying to figure out a way to make people undock more capital ships without making them economically viable to build, some changes to citadels, and more tinkering with null sec to see if CCP can do something to force wars to occur after they killed off one of the biggest wars in the history of the game.
At least they had the sense not to bring up NFTs, though I suspect we’ll still hear more about that come 2022. (But Hilmar is still out there talking up NFTs, and CCP is clearly laying the groundwork for more NFT stuff, so we’re not done there yet.)
The company will do whatever it is going to do and player feedback will be mostly ignored. My drawing the comparison between Ion Hazzikostas and the WoW team’s complete resistance to feedback… the WoW Community Council forums are quickly turning into blue posts defending the current plan against all comers… and CCP Rattati seems more apt with every announcement from CCP. Both seem to see feedback as something to be deflected or ignored. It is impossible to know if either of them represent the thinking of their respective teams, but they are the leaders and the public faces of the games, and with that position comes the blame when things are not going well.
In the face of all of that I remain my fatalist self. The core of the player base that sticks with the game will adapt. We already have and will continue to do so. We fly cheaper ships and clashes between fleets of titans… something that happened twice just a year ago… are not on anybody’s agenda. CCP’s efforts to force players to play the game the “the right way” and to bend to the company’s economic theories will be futile in the end if there is no incentive for players to do so. Players will play the game in the way that serves their own best interest.
Same as it ever was.
I mostly just hope CCP won’t break the economy out of a sheer bloody minded need to prove a point because, unlike many of their changes and nerfs, the economy is the beating heart of the game. Making core items more expensive and less available… including to those new players that the company covets over their installed base… is not going to make for a better New Eden in the long run.
We’ll see what happens in the new year.