After 66 days in darkness, EVE Online is turning the lights back on: The infamous Nullsec blackout came to an end on Monday, enabling players to once again use the “local” chat channel to see other nearby players. The blackout was one of the first changes implemented in the game’s so-called “Chaos Era,” a time when its creators have promised to bring extensive change and turmoil to the aging MMORPG.
In a conversation with several fans on Twitter, Hilmar Veigar, the CEO of EVE developer CCP, revealed that “[the blackout] was always planned as a temporary event.” Veigar has been very vocal lately about feeling that EVE is stagnating, with its sandbox playstyle solidifying, into something rigid and non-reactive.
“Operating on the current stagnation that has set in over the years will require different tools and approaches than what created them in the first place,” Veigar commented on Twitter, offering a reason behind the blackout. “It’s [the blackout] a bit of a crude instrument and now we clearly know and understand what the value of a more sophisticated one is.”
Player reaction to the removal of blackout conditions has been as varied. Some players welcomed and quickly became accustomed to the challenge of not being given the exact number and name of the people inhabiting their star system. These changes made sneaking up on players to attempt to destroy their ships easier, since targets couldn’t use the local chat channels to warn each other. Prior to the blackout, organized groups of players would be able to see enemy ships moving through their territory and relay that information into intelligence-sharing chat channels, providing a sort of herd immunity to roving gangs of pirates.
The intended victims of these pirate gangs, however, did not seem to enjoy the blackout nearly as much and have applauded its repeal on Reddit and social media. Over the 66-day blackout period, many of them seemed to stop logging into the game at all, rather than adapt to the changes. The website EVE-Offline.net tracks the status of the EVE Online servers, polling them every few minutes to gather vital server information, including the count of players currently connected to the game server. According to this website, the 66 days of blackout coincide with some of the game’s lowest activity levels since 2006.
Time will tell if these player counts were truly an effect of the blackout or if they were just the natural “summer slump” that EVE Online seems to go through. Many of the game’s more statistics-minded players have put a lot of thought and effort into analyzing the complete effects of the blackout on EVE. Twitter user Noizygamer published a blog post where he analyzed at length many points of data surrounding the event, mainly focusing on player count and the game’s economy. According to his data, the overall economy of the game shrunk in a noticeably larger way than in previous years during the same time period.
Right now, it’s hard to tell what the lasting effect of the blackout, if any, will be. In addition to massive changes to EVE Online during a time when the game traditionally sees a downturn in activity, other factors could have contributed to the player and economic downturn. It may be especially telling that the decline dramatically increased in September, when the juggernaut of the MMORPG world launched its latest salvo, World of Warcraft Classic. EVE players and CCP will be watching the monthly economic reports and the concurrent player count closely over the next few months, hoping to see them recover to previous levels.