What in the world is going on?

CCP has not been having a particularly good January. There was a little bit of furore over chat bubbles, but the real damage came in two successive blows. Firstly, just four days ago, they released details on their new reinforcement system for citadels, to widespread concern. Then, a day later, the scale of botting in this game was revealed when 8 botting Nyxs were destroyed in Omist.

There has, at least not yet, been any coordinated protest. But the reddit pitchforks are coming out. People have announced that they intend to leave the game, and rage against CCP is common. CCP has not made any comment on the reaction to these changes.

What we will do here is explain why these twin problems are so pressing, and why they have inspired such displeasure among the player base.

Focus on: Botting

Firstly, there is botting. Now, botting is common and has been common for a very long time. However, it has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. Until three days ago, when evidence of mass supercapital botting surfaced in Omist. This is problematic for two reasons.

The first is that if players can catch bots – as they so spectacularly did – then why can’t CCP? Hotline K162 managed to figure it out from in-game information, with no access to server-side logs. This has driven speculation that CCP has an interest in keeping bots around, for financial gain. I’m not sure if this is true. I’d rather attribute it to failures within Team Security. Either way, it’s not a good look for CCP. You know it’s bad when external gaming media are picking up on it.

The second is that the proliferation of bots devalues both the economy and player time. The Omist botter identified here allegedly filled in 2% of the ratting value on the December MER. This is not an isolated incident – there are more bots out there. It’s not implausible to suggest that a significant portion of the game economy is driven by bots. For a game which prides itself on a player-driven free market, this is worrying. Secondly, players are likely to feel cheated. Loroseco wrote on /r/Eve that ‘I feel completely worthless as a customer’. After all, if a cheater can make so much more than them, then it seems pointless to earn ISK fairly.

Focus on: Citadels

The other problem is citadels. Now, these have been the subject of controversy since shortly after release. Critique has typically rested upon the fact that they’re very hard to destroy for limited gain. This stifles the sort of grand wars which a lot of people love about EVE. Moreover, they make taking sovereignty very difficult.

So, when CCP announced that they intended to rework the vulnerability of the citadels, there was jubilation. But as more details came into focus this week, it turned to ash. This is cogently detailed in the link above. But one-point bears mention – that all citadels could conceivably be vulnerable in the same 15 minutes on their final timer. This would make invasions essentially impossible.

Grinding through fifty Astrahauses spread across ten systems is difficult enough when the attacker can hit each one successively. But if all are vulnerable at the same time, then progress slows to an absolute crawl.

No one is quite sure why CCP has done this. Whether it’s out of yet more attempts to place tiny groups on a pedestal, or some nefarious plan, we can’t know. But it spells a serious problem for large scale conflict, and for the health of the game.

I started playing EVE having read about BR-5RB, MO-EE8, Asakai and other great clashes of arms, with real stakes. The world felt vibrant and alive. I, and many others, would be sorely disappointed if this fades away due to poor citadel design. And people are making that disappointment known.

What is to be done?

Doom and gloom is not productive. I’m not a bittervet, and I gain no joy from wallowing in comments of ‘EVE is dying’. There are some solutions to this. Firstly, CCP has to work with the CSM. Not use them as a prop and fail to publish the minutes for months. EVE is special in that it has an elective body of representatives, who can let CCP know when they make a misstep.

And if CCP won’t work with the CSM, then we should, as a community, put pressure on them until they do.

Secondly, and perhaps more controversially, I think CCP employees should play the game again. Not covertly, of course. We don’t want another T20 Scandal. But my suspicion is that some of these choices stem from the fact that devs and management haven’t experienced a structure bash or deadly dull six-hour entosis battle.

Also, um, CCP. Maybe reacquire a Community Team? That might help in this sort of thing.

– Hugh