Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cause and Effects

Before I begin I would like to clear something up.

While a major focus on this blog is for my new corporation, I still don't know how far that will go. In the mean time, I am going to use this blog to post other thoughts/experiences with EVE, and maybe start documenting my own personal journey in this universe. What better way to start this project then a giant ball of tinfoil?

That said, Cause and Effect:

Let me begin by asking a question:
If I asked you two weeks ago "What would be the effects of banning ISBoxer on the EVE market?", would "PLEX would go down, tritanium go up" be a reasonable answer?

I think the clear answer is “yes”. ISBoxer users are obviously a big buyer of PLEX, and are at least perceived to be a major contributor of tritanium and other minerals in the game. The impact of its removal would be obvious to anyone who thought it through enough.

So why would they pull the trigger on this now? Why not have it be in line with a release, or make the announcement closer to the actual effective date to limit speculation?

Unless the speculation is what you wanted.

A bit of background: ISBoxer is a tool used to send the same keyboard inputs to multiple clients, this is referred to as command multiplexing, or broadcasting. People use ISBoxer for two major functions: Bomber fleets, and isk generation usually though mining fleets. For several months this tool has been a hot topic, and previous attempts to fix its impact have had poor reactions and had to be reconsidered. Recently CCP has announced that use of ISBoxer, or other such tools, is a bannable offense effective January first.

About a week before the announcement banning ISBoxer, CCP released the “This is EVE” trailer. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. If you have, go watch it again. This trailer sparked one of the largest influxes of new players in recent memory, going up against the media coverage of Asakai and B-R in numbers of new players it brought in. However, this videos impact was different then those other two events in one way: that it was predicable. CCP could control when it happened. The holiday season sounds like a good time for such an event.

The impact of the trailer is striking

Now, for whatever reason, loads of new players begin by mining. And a huge majority of them dream of PLEXing their accounts. Also, it’s pretty clear that the majority of people impacted by ISBoxer are not going to be new players.

So, lets say we have this diamond of a marketing hook, who will likely have the effect of injecting a very large amount of new and returning blood, and on the other hand we have this policy we have been itching to pull the trigger on, that will have a market impact that directly buffs new player experience?


The results speak for themselves

In case you may think this is a bit crazy, I also don’t believe this is the first time changes and things have been done in the game to indirectly buff newbros without impacting older players much.

See, one of the fundamental problems with EVE newbro experience is that it is very hard to balance for. In the past, attempts to buff newer players have been met either with disdain by the veterans as “dumbing down” EVE, or exploited by those veterans to terrible ends, or worse both. So CCP had to get crafty, and the “new CCP” is a crafty lot. Especially with former players on their payroll. So how do we buff newbros without buffing veterans, and without the EVE player-base denouncing the change?

Newbie players require low end content, and needs that low end content to be reasonable, valuable, and give a good feeling to doing them. We have already covered increasing the value of Tritanium, but what about something else? Maybe… wormholes? Arguably they are one of the really interesting things in EVE, and certainly very important to current events. So how do you buff it for newbros?

C1s and C2s are the lowest end wormholes and are pretty accessible to new players. However, they are not very lucrative for much. Much of the isk that comes out of wormholes come from what is known as “blue loot” which is effectively tickets you redeem for ISK. Low end wormhole loot was not very valuable, in comparison to the loot you could receive in the higher end wormholes. In fact, other systems of ISK generation in wormholes were so good, even a significant buff to low end loot would not make it more valuable for the effort. There was wiggle room.

However, there was quite a bit of this stuff kicking around in peoples hangers. It was built up, as likely many people just haven’t been bothered to take it to market or sell it. So it would be bad if they just overnight doubled their worth. To make such a change it would be best to have a purge the existing loot. Thus the research race was born.

So, you remove a significant amount of the low end wormhole loot from circulation, just to buff the value of it for people who want to still go after it for ISK, which is likely newer players. As a side note, you also bring massive attention to this relatively newbro friendly activity, and get lots of people new to EVE, or new to wormholes a chance to try them out. To follow that up you use policy change to manipulate the market to make it more newbro friendly right after launching a trailer to bring newbros in like crazy. Well played.

Ultimately, EVE online is a game about cause and effect. One does not have to dig too far to find examples of this biting CCP in the butt. However, with the new direction of CCP, a more calculating, long game oriented plan seems to be emerging. An additional change that has come about from the expansion release cycle restructure is the ability to make finer adjustments over a longer period of time. CCP has gained increased experience and increased ability to “boil the frog” as it were. And most importantly, they seem to be using it in a very positive direction. Maybe they are getting lucky, maybe they are getting wiley, maybe it is all coincidence, but the cause and effects of recent changes are definitely changing the game for the better, for newbros, and vets alike.

And sure, I could be wrong, but you know what? After four years, this vet would like to be optimistic about CCP for a change ;-)

Image sources:
Newborn players:
Plex and Tritanium prices thanks to Lockefox:

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