Despite the tendency of the player base to exploit news of these changes for their own nefarious purposes, it’s fascinating and appreciated that CCP is so open about the new updates. Every update that the developers of Eve Online releases brings wrought with player-stoked controversy and resistance. Lately, there’s an extremely vocal and extremely small minority using disproportionately effective social media pressure on developers in efforts to force changes in the upcoming balancing efforts of the game overall. It’s becoming evident now that the meticulous planning of the past has become undermined at present by this willingness to share in real time. Although the transparency is admirable, CCP would likely see more success dealing with the most unpleasant portions of the player base if they just stick to their plans and trust their processes. You can’t please those who can’t be pleased, especially given incentives.
The complaints range from the typical to the extreme, which has become typical in itself in the cycle of developer blog releases and updates. Regardless of the eloquence of the bitching, the main point has emerged. In the grand scheme of things it’s really only a few people, some of which have even acknowledged the obvious balancing issues that they’re currently taking advantage of. Although these tactics have been seen before in other venues, some of the parties involved this time are presumably new to the process. We’ve heard the same complaints all before, if some of the newer devs apparently haven’t:
“CCP is killing the way I play the game, and I spend a lot of (virtual) money with CCP, so as a customer that contributes these vast sums of (virtual) money, I should have a disproportionately loud voice when consideration of balances take place.
“Further, as such a good customer, who contributes so much (virtual) money with this company (or, more accurately, in this game) I demand that CCP elevates my concerns above those of any others in the sandbox.
“In order to do this, I’m going to scream, as loudly as I possibly can, about things that actually barely matter to my actual gameplay in any significant or meaningful way. I hate that CCP is making it harder for me to make lots of ISK while AFK, which is, in my opinion, the best, most pure and most awesome way to play Eve Online, and honestly, the only way that matters.”
Sometimes in a partnership, one side wises up to the realization that the other will perish without it. In Eve Online, the partnership between the players and the developers isn’t much different; some of the players have realized that their complaints and threats to cut ties actually work to force problematic changes to systems in game; systems that likely otherwise would’ve changed in much different ways, at different times, or maybe not at all. Not all of the tantrums and grumbling are unfounded; it’s true that there have been preventable, systemic problems with Eve Online for years. In a sandbox, such issues can result from even the most unexpectedly subtle catalysts, but in this case the main causes were about what you’d think they’d be: inflation of the in game economy due to exploits and a lack of meaningful mitigation by CCP.
As it stands, Eve Online is a functioning virtual economic system that perpetually creates disproportionate wealth for a small minority, the members of which have grown hungrier for greater and greater privilege over the rest. There’s no reason to believe that the loudest voices in any economic or political landscape are the only valid ones, or that they’re more valid than any others, but sometimes, those are the only voices that see the value in raising themselves, and so, are the only voices heeded. There are all kinds of other problems with Eve Online with far greater consequences than the subtle changes in CCP’s Eve Online Winter Updates 2021.
Easy Isk In Eve Online
Pertaining to most things, people would rather do the easy thing than the right thing, especially when the easy thing is expressly allowed. For years in Eve Online throughout multiple targeted, extended advertising campaigns, people chose the cheap, quick and easy option when given the chance. CCP gave the players constant reminders and incentives to recruit their friends to join Eve Online for years; that’s the cheap, quick and easy route for CCP. Since they saw a need for an increase in the number of players, the more sustainable decision might have been to invest in making their game more marketable to new players in the first place. Instead, there was a massively advertised effort to enlist their currently subscribing customers to do their expanding for them. I assume there was at least some lasting success with this tactic, but eventually what the data shows is that most people that try Eve Online end up leaving the game. There are all kinds of reasons for this but today, we’ll focus on the main pillar of infection in the Eve Online economy: easy isk making in Eve Online.
Most new recruits in Eve Online are scooped up into the larger null entities and set to work at mindless tasks they could do passively for massive amounts of isk. The Vexor Navy Issue, for instance, is so common in null security space because players like to deploy their drones and allow their ship’s systems to run autonomously, completely free of intervention or control besides navigation to the actual combat site. At alliance-scale, this practice results in massive ISK in the form of bounty payouts and loot, while the people “controlling” the ships barely put forth any effort at all. As these passive ships’ drones automatically engage targets within range, the human player is then free to do other activities. Since there’s been a global transition to working from home recently, this has been a decent foray into how to make passive ISK in Eve Online while on the clock.
But for the singularly motivated, the Vexor Navy Issue Passive Isk Generator is an opportunity to run another Eve Online account with another Vexor Navy Issue Passive Isk Generator, capable of making just as much isk in the same amount of time as the first. This is way more of a problem than you’d think. It’s not uncommon to find players with more than 5 accounts that they’re capable of logging in and controlling simultaneously. This might seem like unsustainably confusing gameplay at first; if Eve Online is famously one of the most difficult games to learn ever made, how is it that anyone could manage the mental bandwidth to play 7 or more client instances of the game simultaneously?
It’s not as hard as you’d think. Remember, as long as the activities of most of that person’s logged in characters are relatively passive (like Vexor Navy Issue ratting while the game is minimized and you’re at work), this can be manageable; even easy for those with the right connections. There’s a persistent narrative among some Eve Online players that the game is just so complicated, which is why so many people find it so difficult to play. It’s a flattering point of view to veterans, but it’s ultimately a little limited. It’s not so much that Eve Online is so complicated, which makes playing the game too difficult; not enough significance is given to the fact that the major null blocs have systematically implemented afk multiboxed isk mining for years now, which is still having the effect of inflating the prices of essential equipment to the point that, for the individual who started the game on their own, it’s impossible to compete or contribute to the economy or the narrative of Eve Online at all. This part of the game’s not that hard to figure out, because it’s a lot like life; when the wrong people are influencing too much of the overall decision making process, the chances of bad decision making resulting from the process increase.
“But,” you might ask, “what’s the harm to the game in so many new players starting Eve Online with the advantage of such privileges?” I’ve seen that for the privileged, things can get very boring very quickly. Once disillusioned they often stare blankly and ask “What’s the point?”
A certain amusing point is that those privileges in game are often rooted in social connections that existed previously out of game. We’ve seen it all before; you invite a friend to play, you do the friendly thing by helping them get started with isk and ships, and now you’ve unwittingly created a situation in which that new player now has no appreciation for the effort and time that it took for you to get these items. To them, a hundred million isk and a fleet of mining barges on day one might as well be redeemable login incentives. If they quit, all of those freebies go unused; there are no estate sales in Eve Online when a capsuleer removes themselves from the galaxy. Their belongings stay, and continue to sag on the economy. It’s not necessarily the new player’s fault for quitting; without context, new players simply cannot understand the value of the items or events in the game. By consequence, it’s expected that these new players have no context of the significance of the game itself. The game’s developers have less ability than do the players with defining the flawed and unique culture of Eve Online.
The Case Against Multiboxing
Imagine the other side of the spectrum from the new player that is immediately recruited to a mega alliance: other new players that opt out of joining a huge null bloc and opt to be their own brand of space cowboy are subject to the resulting manic fluctuations of the prices of commodities in their local high sec market hubs. That inflation is directly fueled by afk isk mining that has now become the norm in the biggest groups in null security space and beyond. To the players that join Eve Online solo, this passive, afk isk mining happening way out in null security space is inaccessible and has incomprehensible results. They started in high security space, and have access to tiny sums via agent missions. They had no opening stipend of ISK to start their journey through space.
Instead, they were forced into the high sec-ploitation route, which, even in recent years, had a reputation of making the early part of the game just about impossible to navigate for the average gamer. Most new solo players went to solo mining at one point not long ago, which was severely detrimental to their choice of whether they’d keep playing the game. New players seem to naturally have an appropriate understanding of the value of ships in Eve Online, but one gank on a newbro solo mining procurer can make a person reconsider whether it’s worth getting started in Eve Online in 2022 at all. Show me a ganked Eve Online newbro sitting in the wreckage of his first mining barge and I’ll show you a ringer for an Escape From Tarkov recruit.
Multiboxing is a type of gameplay that makes well researched and carefully implemented aspects of Eve Online, the only single shard space mmo to date, redundant and useless. You never need to actually hire or trust a scout, for instance, since you can be in two places at one time. It’d make more sense if you simply couldn’t do this due to the immutable laws of physics, but laws can be muted if you can pay enough. In the case of Eve Online, you can just pay for another account, and log another character in, drop them into a replaceable shuttle, and send them one jump out ahead of you everywhere you go. No suspense, no community involvement, no consequences, but most importantly, no job for the solo scout. Using two of your own subscribed accounts to move the transported goods in game makes sure that the price on those goods stays nice and low because it’s really convenient for an individual to move them. The concept is universally observable in how the economy of Eve Online will continue to weaken and hemorrhage, wounded in this way from the wallets of multiboxers, until this terminal condition is corrected.
Imagine the relationships that would form between multiple players instead of one player multiboxing if that second account had to be a second person instead. The Vexor Navy Issue crew would eventually tire of the constant solo isk mining once forced to actively participate in it, which would likely force more player interactions. The privileged few of today couldn’t each leave their specialized alts generating piles of isk passively while simultaneously complaining on their main account about how broken the game is; you’d probably just have to bitch about it in local to other people who are actually logged in. But people do what they’re allowed to do, and the current state of things is reflective of policies that appeared to encourage the practice of subscribing as many accounts as desired.
The increase in revenue fed by the multiboxing craze led to an obvious and marked decline in the previous exclusivity of Eve Online. This was a game that not everybody played, but then, not everyone could play it. Instead of a bug, that was kind of the feature, but more recently CCP is making strives to make Eve Online a much more accessible game now than it was 10 years ago.
In order to return the galaxy of Eve Online to it’s former glory in the dawn of the current EFT age, CCP has to acknowledge that the mistakes of the past must be corrected in order to ensure the survival of Eve Online’s economic future. The answer is grammatically simple and monumentally complex: multiboxing must be abolished. Rebalancing of exploitative tactics and easy buttons must persist. It would hurt a few noisy individuals, but it would ensure the survival of Eve Online.
The prohibition of multiboxing would restore credibility to the markets of Eve Online, and ultimately redistribute wealth from currently unused stockpiles. It’s still unclear if even this move would make all the angry veterans who threaten every time there’s an update to quit actually quit. But even if they did, it’d only be one of them, which you could then replace with one other player. With so many new people interested in Eve Online these days, the reasons they aren’t becoming new Omega capsuleers have more to do with multiboxing than any other mechanic.
tl:dr All avenues that lead to more accounts don’t necessarily lead to more players, or even to more revenue in the long term; CCP being held hostage by a disproportionate few angry voices is evidence that now is the time to act to save the game we all love before it’s too late. Those noisy individuals would have CCP and all the rest of the Eve Online ecosystem believe that without them, Eve Online would be dead; but if they’re right, Eve Online is already very sick.