Over the last 12 to 13 months CCP Games has made a series of changes intended to break multiple stereotypes associated with Eve Online and bring more players to the wonders of New Eden.

EVE’s major obstacles, historically, were subscription costs, a heavy learning curve, and the extreme amount of time you needed to invest before you start having “actual” fun in the game. CCP recognized one part of the solution to these obstacles was adopting some form of a “Free-to-Play” (F2P) model and thus we got the ‘Alpha’ clone. Lots of games have switched to a F2P model after their initial release, while others have been F2P from the beginning, so this evolution for Eve isn’t shocking. The main sources of income for F2P games are microtransactions, buying items or services for very little cost that have mostly cosmetic effects, such as skins, avatar clothing etc., while games that follow the traditional subscription model rely on recurring subscriptions which are usually a higher price. F2P income is many transactions of small amounts on an as-wanted basis while the traditional subscription model is fewer transactions of higher amounts on a recurring basis. We have seen the quality and inventory or these types of cosmetic items grow over last two years thus creating another significant and stable income stream for CCP. Then of course skill injectors and granularity (ability to buy smaller portions) in PLEX have created both a way for some players to decrease some of the time it takes to ‘have fun’ and able to afford some PLEX they can sell on the market for quick isk without having to spend a minimum of $19.99. Finally, CCP has done some serious re-design to game functions (Citadels, graphics, balance, fatigue, capitals, ect.) that have significantly changed mechanics and the meta of the game in ways that are still in flux.

The first entities to feel the real ‘in-game’ effect of these changes were new-player-friendly alliances. I talked to the CEOs of the 2 most recognizable alliances in New Eden when it comes to helping new players find their way and asked them about their opinion on these changes and how it affected them. The two I spoke to were Laura Karpinski from EVE University [E-UNI] and Cagali Cagali from Brave Collective [BRAVE]. (The interview will be in Part II of this article to be posted tomorrow.) But before we get to that I would like to dive a little deeper into the actual changes and some of their mechanics.

As I mentioned above CCP decided to change and clear obstacles with 3 major expansions, each focused on tackling specific issue:

  1. In February 2016, Skill Extractors were introduced, which could be used to siphon skillpoints from an existing character, converting it to a Skill Injector, which can then be used to “inject” unallocated skill points into a different character, reducing the time needed to train skills to go out there and pew-pew as soon as possible.
  2. Second expansion was Citadel. Citadel was (and still is) a part of a complete overhaul of the structures in New Eden. “Endgame” should be more more interesting now for current veteran players and should bring back some of those who left EVE. But the main reason for this expansion is the fact that there were no real changes in sovereignty system or structures have been made since Dominion expansion in 2009. We will not be dealing with Citadel expansion in this article as it will be addressed more in the coming weeks.
  3. Final expansion was Ascension. In November, with the release of Ascension, EVE became a F2P game, although a more accurate term would be partial F2P. It was a significant step forward for both CCP and EVE Online in general.
  4. You said three things, so why is there a number 4? Well, as I was finishing this article the changes to PLEX went live and as such should be mentioned as they are part of CCP’s move towards making the game more accessible to other gamers. The granularity in PLEX now allows newer players to get a quick injection of what is a significant amount (to a new player that is) of ISK for as little as $4.99. The previous price point of $19.99 may have been a little cost prohibitive for a player who already may struggle to make a $14.99 a month recurring ‘Omega” subscription and now they have a option that is much more affordable to fatten their wallets in-game.

But, first things first.

Skill injectors and extractors

Skill Extractors and their opposite (Skill Injectors) became a reality in February 9th, 2016. According to the o7 show ep.14 (broadcast on 26th of February which you can watch here) more than 15,000 players used skill trading to extract or inject skill points in the first week alone. Some players used skill trading to boost their characters with low skill points, while other players used extractors and injectors to switch SP to where they really needed them, and to make some cash in the process. Mining related skills were most extracted skills of all, and most injected were advanced weapon upgrades (29 days from lv.4 to lv.5) and drone interfacing (24 days from lv.4 to lv.5).

This shows that time needed to upgrade skills was one of the larger barriers not just for existing players, but had been a morale crusher for newbros. Players were putting off their skill training in some cases because, let’s face it, who has time today to wait more than a month to use some T2 module… not in today’s world. We need things to be faster, less time consuming and more efficient.

The wonderful EVE economy had set the price around 650 million ISK per Skill Injector and roughly 350 million for Skill Extractors. The game economy wasn’t broken as some feared, but I agree with people saying you can no longer judge the skill of a player by looking at how much time he spent playing EVE, and by extension, his skill points. To those of you thinking that way, I say don’t worry, you can buy skill points but not skills.

Skill Injectors are most beneficial to those players who are low on skill points. The mechanics of skill injectors clearly indicate what CCP’s goals were in this area. Players with up to 5 million SP (skill points), new players, get 500,000 unallocated SP which they can use upon injector activation, while players with 80+ million only receive 150,000 SP per injector. For new players, things were made much easier in terms of skill training. At 660 million ISK for a Skill Injector, sub-5 million SP players receive 1 SP for every 1,320 ISK while players with 80+ million SP receive that same single SP for 4,400 ISK. At 660 million ISK, Skill Injectors are quite expensive. If you cannot buy them with ISK you earned by selling PLEX you bought with real world money, new players shouldn’t grind ISK to buy one, nor should they grind ISK to buy PLEX so early in the game.

In the last few weeks CCP Developers have announced some changes in the form of “skill injector flexibility” These changes will bring granularity to skill injectors in the form of a”Large Skill Injector”,which is a skill injector currently in use and introduced and a “Small Skill Injector”.These “small” injectors will allocate (depending on your character Skill Points) between 30k – 100k Skill Points to use them however you see fit. Also,one neat little thing is the fact you can break  a “Large Skill Injector” into a 5 smaller ones. CCP did this due to the high price of the usual skill injectors.

Eve-central.com – Todays nuPLEX Price

As mentioned above CCP also recently introduced fundamental changes regarding the PLEX system and AUR. What you to be one PLEX for $19.99 is now 500 nuPLEX for the same price. However, what is significant is the granulation of nuPLEX which allows it to be sold in smaller quantities, meaning you will be able to buy as much PLEX you see fit either through CCP or authorized sellers starting as low as $4.99 for 110 or in-game on the market for a median price of 2.8 million ISK per individual nuPlex. This allows players alot of freedom on purchasing nuPlex in the amount they need for a variety of uses (resell for ISK, speculation, SKINs, apparel, training, game time, etc.) This update also removed AUR altogether because according to CCP in their dev blog, AUR was confusing to both new players as well as veterans, mostly when it came to converting PLEX into AUR(um). In their intent to make best purchases, players often had to do some math to decide whether the offer they take is really the best for them. This was bad news, especially for people who suck at math. With AUR out of the picture in the New Eden Store (NES), things should be less complicated. On the launch day, all accounts with more than 1000 AUR saw their AUR converted to PLEX at a ratio of 7 AUR for 1 PLEX item. Accounts under 1000 AUR will still get PLEX at the same rate as other players, but it will be released after the original AUR conversion happens. The idea is to not destabilize the market with huge amount of AUR on players accounts. All remaining PLEX mechanics will remain the same with the exception of a new PLEX vault in which to store your precious PLEX, allowing you to move PLEX across the galaxy without risk.

The Omega Clone – CCP

Ascension

Ascension was released on November 15th 2016 and was designed to remove one major obstacle that burdened EVE for quite a while: subscriptions. Given the fact that the subscription was the main reason players kept quitting EVE and comprised a huge obstacle for potential new players, CCP had to change something.

They went for a F2P model which, despite creating a lot of controversy, has in hindsight been a good decision. Player numbers went up drastically, breaching more than 50,000 online players, with 51,082 on November 20 to be exact according to EVE Online status monitor here at one point. We will explore the impact of the ‘alpha clone’ more in depth in my interview with Laura and Cagali in tomorrow’s segment but in general the change in the Ascension release resulted in the birth of a new kind of clone state called the ‘alpha clone’. Instead of a player’s account going dormant when it runs out of game time (unsub’s) it becomes an ‘alpha clone’ (A subscribed player is a ‘Omega’ clone) and has some significant reduction in training as well as a limited set of trainable skills, usable ships, and abilities available to it in game. This places a clear difference between both the paid and F2P player giving new players a chance to really explore the game without worrying about the deadline of an expiring subscription still ensures the supremacy of the paid (Omega) clone.

 

Please join me tomorrow for my conclusion and interview.