EVE Online’s developers have talked a lot recently about bringing some changes to the game. On a recent episode of player-created podcast Talking in Stations, CEO of CCP Games Hilmar Pétursson called for a “chaos era” to be ushered in for EVE Online and warned players to brace for impact. If other changes from this summer are any indication, players are in for a bumpy ride.
At the end of June, unprecedented attacks began to occur on player structures and space ships all over EVE’s galactic map. An army of devastating NPC vessels called Drifters began doing everything in their power to destroy players’ empires. These NPCs caused mass confusion and altered the plans of some of the game’s largest entities, forcing them to retreat from active battle lines to defend their home territory. The Drifter assault seems to have stopped, at least for now, but it’s still caused widespread panic by destroying player-owned space stations and changing EVE Online’s lore.
After the Drifter attacks slowed, CCP games started releasing in-game lore tidbits that hinted at problems with in-game communication networks and suggested they were on the verge of collapse. These lore posts segued into a developer blog stating that the “local” channels, which players have long used to see who else was in space with them, would be altered to no longer give risk-free reconnaissance information on a star system. This update made EVE’s space more dangerous and altered the game for thousands of players.
Over the course of the podcast interview, Pétursson responded to the recent events, saying “the chaos of EVE Online has slowly been drained into order, and everyone is slowly reaching a consensus on exactly how things should be.” This so-called “order” is not something that he or his team wants for EVE Online. Their goal, Pétursson said, is to shake things up with more “experiments” over the coming months.
Over the past three years, EVE’s economy has been radically changing. Monthly economic reports put out by CCP have shown a drastic uptick in the amount of ISK, the in-game currency, generated by players every month, with very little of that ISK being absorbed by the game’s current currency sinks. Currency sinks, more commonly known as gold sinks, are a long-running tradition in MMORPGs that remove excess currency from the game world. They help make sure that all currency has value in a world where it is generated in an effectively infinite amount. EVE’s current currency sinks are proving to not be enough. The amount of ISK being generated by players is a great deal more than the current sinks remove, which has caused the value of ISK to plummet and the price of nearly everything in the game to skyrocket.
Inflation on such a massive scale is not good. A developer blog this week alerted players that a tax hike is coming to EVE. The changes will increase the cost of both listing items for sale and buying things from EVE’s robust marketplace. The changes are more heavily weighted to affect the NPC-controlled space stations, which in theory will drive market traffic away from them and into the player-owned and operated market structures. The hope is that the taxes levied by these changes will provide a stronger baseline currency sink for the economy, removing some ISK from the market permanently and combatting the rampant inflation.
CCP has mentioned other possible changes to come on the official forums, Twitter, and Reddit, such as extending the duration of the Nullsec blackout, curtailing the availability of intelligence data gathered by the game’s robust API integrations—a set of tools provided by CCP to download data from the EVE client and use it in other applications—and eliminating the “asset safety” system associated with player-owned structures. Asset safety guarantees that if a player-owned space station is destroyed, items held inside that structure are bundled together by the game and sent to nearby space stations for their owners to collect. The process takes some time and is not free, but it is much less of a loss to players than seeing their hard-earned belongings destroyed.
There are places in EVE where asset safety doesn’t exist, such as in Wormhole space, where assets are either destroyed or ejected into space as spoils for the victor. This creates a very real risk for players living out of these structures and more of a drive to fight and defend the space station, rather than accept the loss and recover your stuff from asset safety in a few weeks.
CCP Falcon, the game’s lead community developer, has been an outspoken opponent of asset safety for a while now, saying that it is against the spirit of EVE Online and should be removed to bring some risk into the game. The debate around asset safety has raged since the system was instituted in early 2016. Now changes to or the removal of that system could be right around the corner: During the recent podcast interview, Pétursson and CCP Falcon mentioned asset safety as something that could potentially be removed to increase EVE’s chaos and risk.
The “chaos era” may be the next big thing for EVE Online, especially with Pétursson seeming to be passionately in support of it. Player reactions to the changes already in place have been mixed so far, but according to Pétursson, player activity is on the rise. Daily and monthly active user counts are reportedly higher this month than in any July for the last five years. If this pattern continues, it will show that players support the shakeup of the status quo.