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A Silence So Loud: Chaos Era Postmortem (?)

October 15, 2019

By Twilight Winter

State of the Chaos Era

The Drifters are gone, the blackout has been reversed, and the much-rumored asset safety changes seemingly never bore fruit. The Chaos Era has not been officially pronounced dead, but it feels like CCP is reluctant — or afraid — to make more changes to shake up the stale state of nullsec. Indeed, the October patch notes make no mention of chaos changes whatsoever, and the CSM summit minutes make little reference to further chaos effects. So far, the raised market taxes and cyno changes have been left intact, and I’d expect these to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Press F for the Blackout

The blackout received a lot of coverage on EN24; from Seraph IX Basarab’s unashamedly supportive open letter, to my cautiously optimistic opinion, to Kyle Saltz’ strong opposition (don’t ever let it be said that we don’t try to cover all opinions), so it’s unsurprising that the editorial team isn’t entirely agreed on whether its reversal is a positive change or not.

Personally, I got to see both sides of the blackout. I am, first and foremost, a PvP-oriented player who likes to blow things up, and the blackout gave me fights and unexpected encounters due to the lack of perfect intel. On the other hand, I’m the executor of an alliance with a fair number of newer and less PvP-focused players, and I was powerless to protect my members from rampant black ops fleets and capital hotdrops. There just isn’t enough time to respond, even with a pre-formed fleet sitting on a titan, to a tackled barge fleet or even a Carrier ratter.

Realistically though, the reversal boils down to a simple mathematical equation: a PvP-focused player will typically run 1-2 accounts at a time when hunting, whereas a PvE-focused player will often run far more accounts. That means it takes a lot more wolves to fill CCP’s coffers than it does sheep, so when the sheep start threatening to find some greener pastures, it’s incredibly difficult for CCP to hold out and hope that more PvPers take their place.

CCP now faces a really serious issue. What do you do when your entire business model is beholden to those practicing multibox PvE, but multibox PvE is a mortal threat to the game itself? Even if a silver bullet were found to fix Rorquals, supercapital umbrellas, and multibox ratting without the sheep abandoning the pasture; the unassailable wealth which has already been created by these activities would serve as a significant economic advantage for the alliances which made use of them for years to come.

The Cyno Equation

The cyno changes have been a really positive change on the whole, though adding the module back to Heavy Interdictor hulls would both add a more affordable ‘hard’ cyno and create more risk for supercapital pilots. Having the Cyno on HICs as opposed to Dictors wouldn’t significantly impact subcapitals, who aren’t typically hunted in slow-moving Devoters, but would give more options to fishing fleets not wanting to run three boxes and a cyno which is overly susceptible to HAW guns and heavy fighters.

The ability to know which of your opponents’ ships is likely to be a Cyno has also served to improve the capital/supercapital balance which has been discussed to death on Reddit and in many coalitions’ internal communications. Subcaps feel useful again, and getting caps on grid has become a game of maneuvering and skill instead of flying a nullified interceptor onto grid uncontested, jumping an Apostle through, and getting a near-unkillable hard cyno. The ability to chain a Recon cyno through a Covert cyno is still, in my opinion, too strong and could easily be solved by not allowing ships with a Conventional cyno to jump to Covert Cynos.

On the other hand, the Industrial Cyno is a real pain for people doing logistics runs. You now have to dedicate significant amounts of space in your Jump Freighter to replacing lost haulers and spend more on Liquid Ozone. Allowing the Industrial Cyno to be fitted on all ship hulls, and reducing the LO requirement to 500, seems like a no-brainer to me.

Death & Taxes

The increased market taxes, in my opinion, have only served to strengthen the Tranquility Trading Tower, and thereby to increase funding to alliances which already control the lion’s share of the game’s wealth. Highsec citadels are something I’ve written about at length in the past, and in general if a game mechanic prompts the largest alliances in the game — with a long history of war — to create a cartel, it’s not hard to see that something is wrong with the mechanic.

I’d prefer to see CCP move the entirety of the increased cost onto the CONCORD tax, which alliances don’t control, and have the broker fee at NPC stations returned to how it was before the changes.

Conclusion

If this is all that’s to come from the Chaos Era, I’m a little disappointed. We were promised a grand shake-up on Talking in Stations, and CCP seemed committed to actually trying to solve the issues in nullsec which are only growing worse by the day.

The mechanics of EVE Online promote a supercarrier ratting & Rorqual mining setup under a supercapital umbrella, which is an option only available to very large alliances, and an option which provides very little content for PvP-focused players. High-profile PvPers like Chessur, Doomchinchilla, Grath Telkin, and many others have left the game citing the direction of travel, and whether you like those people or not, it’s hard to see how driving away the people who create content in the game can possibly be good for EVE’s long term sustainability.

New player retention is the main focus of CCP, but a good New Player Experience followed by being useless unless the player is willing to spend a year training a Nyx and an Apostle alt/Rorqual and a Minokawa alt can’t be great for retention either. It’s all well and good focusing on the NPE, but unless new players have things to do and a clear route of progression which makes them feel empowered at every upgrade, they’re going to be unsatisfied by what EVE has to offer.

My hope is that EVE Vegas will bring about some announcements, and naturally, I have a wishlist:

  1. Return the Rorqual to a fleet booster role and make Excavators usable by Exhumers;
  2. Introduce a local delay for as long as a new entrant to Local retains their gate cloak;
  3. Polarize HAWs, drastically reduce their application to any hull smaller than a Battlecruiser, and remove them from titans;
  4. Replace Warp Disruptors and Webs on Sirens and Dromis with Damps and Paints;
  5. Remove reinforcement timers from low power citadels;
  6. Resource depletion mechanics to force PvE groups to spread out and fight over space;
  7. Address high-sec market citadels — TTT has become the new OTEC and it’s not healthy for the game.

These changes won’t solve all of EVE’s problems, that’s a task for the long term, but they will serve as a bandaid to mitigate further damage until CCP can move development resources into seriously looking to improve nullsec.

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