EVE Online is a game that thrives on war. Players love to clash with each other, attempt to wrest control of territory from one another, and expand their influence in the game’s universe. These wars fuel the spectacle that surrounds EVE, drawing all eyes towards the game when an insane battle occurs. But some wars might be doing lasting harm to EVE by driving new players away.
The Council of Stellar Management, EVE Online’s player-elected focus group, met with the game’s developers last month to discuss all aspects of EVE and work to shepherd the game’s future. The meeting minutes for the summit were later released to the general public, and one passage in particular stood out to a large portion of the playerbase. CCP employee CCP Larrikin, a data scientist working on EVE Online, disclosed a shocking piece of data to the CSM regarding player-run corporations that find themselves as the target of a war. These corporations show a massive decline in player activity almost immediately, that does not regenerate once the war is finished.
When a new player first logs in to EVE, they are placed in the game’s safer high-security, or Hisec space, and they are automatically sorted into an NPC corporation, EVE’s version of guilds. The default corporations let players learn about the game and start meeting other players, but they are mechanically limited. If you want to see what EVE really has to offer, you need to sign up with a player-created corporation.
The problem with that is that player-run corporations can go to war with each other. If a corporation declares war and pays a fee in in-game cash, they can attack other corporations, even in Hisec space. That means that a new player might find themselves getting attacked constantly by powerful veteran players, with no recourse other than to leave the corporation or quit the game entirely—which, according to CCP Larrikin’s data, a great many of them do.
There are groups that exist in EVE Online specifically to prey on small player corporations, declaring war on small groups, or groups which are not interested in PVP. These players view themselves as renegades, pirates, or roleplayers who want to “show PVE players the error of their ways.” Predatory groups like these use every tactic in the book to ensure that their wars remain as one-sided as possible. They abuse the complicated rules of aggression in Hisec space to make engagements as unfair as possible, and they never relent as long as they have victims to prey upon.
Many players have long called for changes to war declarations, and the statements coming from the CSM conference minutes gave them some solid data for their argument. The EVE Online official forums filled up full of threads demanding a change to the War system, with one thread in particular having well over 3,000 replies largely about the topic.
CCP, to its credit, is finally fixing the issue. Last weekend, at the annual EVE Online convention in Las Vegas, CCP shared some of the data surrounding war declarations with the hundreds of players in attendance. It turns out the vast majority of the game’s wars are declared by just five player corporations, seemingly looking to farm easy kills.
CCP has now stated that in EVE’s winter release, corporations that have not built a structure in space will no longer be a valid target for war declarations. This means that players who have formed social groups and have no interest in war nor capability to defend themselves will have a way to opt out of being targeted and hunted into extinction.
Wars need to exist for EVE Online. Even in the relative safety of Hisec, player conflict is the lifeblood of the game. Predatory wars that serve only to punish players for being new to the game, or focusing on the game’s PVE aspects, need to be curbed. Player engagement, especially from new players, is the only thing that has allowed EVE Online to last the 15 years that it has, and will be the only thing that could carry it into the future.