Category Archives: CCP Hijinx
So CCP has decided to point the finger at drones for HED. Maybe not the whole finger, but a big part of, shall we say… a central one?
Seriously, drones have been a problem for a while, and it’s not news to most EvE grognards. Drones have become the new missiles. The system that stands out as a huge problem. I’m pretty sure I know what the solution will be. Drones will be launched and operate as a single element. Ships will only be able to carry full drone groups. These drones will do, and take damage as single elements, and have capabilities based on what are now full groups.
This would have a lot of ramifications. An absolute ton. The 75m3 mixed group would be… interesting to say the least. Drone cycling, where you swap out singlets that are taking damage for ones that are undamaged, would go away completely. Ships with multiple drone groups could consider it, but as is, the somewhat irritating. In cap fights the wings of fighters and bombers can cause staggering amounts of lag. Compressing these huge groups from dozens per ship, quickly scaling to thousands in the large null battles, to 1 per ship would be a huge boon to the poor, long-suffering hamsters trying frantically to keep up with the fleets of New Eden.
This will change a lot of things. It will dumb down the game. It will change how a lot of modules work. Especially on carriers and supercarriers. Smartbombing drones will have to be done very differently. The drones skill itself will change a lot, as you will either be able to launch a full flight, or no drones.
I don’t actually have too many problems with this, in some ways it’s dumbing down the game, but I suspect that it can be used to bring new players into drone combat faster, letting them launch flights of T1 light drones pretty quickly, where I see the most trouble is figuring out a way to keep DCUs useful. Brute force could be used, just adding a damage bonus that gets the stacking penalty for other DCUs, but not for DDAs. I do like the simplification that this change would represent, not only would it clean up the overview, (and formations of drones/fighters flying around could offer a really neat visual should CCP try that) but it would dramatically simplify the back end of large battles. Rather than calculating the position of thousands and thousands of drones you just calculate a max of one drone flight / ship on the field. This would cut the contribution to lag by a huge amount for each drone boat, and even more for carriers and supers.
This isn’t a panacea. This will not fix every issue currently plaguing large battles in EvE. It does remove some gameplay elements; but I, personally, don’t think that those elements are hugely important to the game, and their removal in the name of streamlining what has become partly responsible for the catastrophic lag in large battles, with thousands of players involved.
I suspect that this is getting a long look in Iceland, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find the CSM had been consulted on this idea. Even as a complete off-the-cuff issue.
Sorry for being out. Work is picking up and it’s likely this whole quarter will be like this. Still and all I need to post MOAR. Especially when I’m up to about 20 drafts.
BUT ENOUGH OF THIS. Let’s talk about spaceships. Specifically, how fast they warp. Battleships went from 30ish seconds in warp (not counting align time) to 50+ not including your align time. That means that we’re talking around 2 minutes a system at an average of 20 AU. Longer warps take longer of course, and this is gonna change some things. I’m gonna talk about travel first.
Travelling is going to take longer. This is going to have a couple big effects. First: Taxi Titans are even more important. It’s hard to make a change that doesn’t help Goons but this one… it helps goons a lot. They can move heavier fleets faster than anyone especially on their home turf because they can ferry people with titans easily. That makes this a supercap buff in my book. They are that much more essential and the people that have them will profit more for it.
Fleet comps will have to be more diverse. Tackle will be essential as BS simply won’t arrive on the field with enough time to tackle anything. Just throwing in some dictors and logis probably won’t cut it. FCs and doctrine bunnies will have to look hard and how much they need. Also having squadrons that can go out and pin an enemy on the field, mix it up with them, while you get your hammer out is going to be important.
The nightmare in all this is coordination. Presumably fleets will still warp at the speed of the slowest ship. That part is easy, but getting your tackle out there moving at one speed, some heavier tackle out there at another, your battleships out there at yet another and god HELP you if you have to move caps within a system. Although as slow as they align that’s hardly new.
Planning and preparation is going to be huge. HUGE. The kind of operational planning that Goonswarm has long excelled in will be even more important once we cross the Rubicon. Alliances are going to find moving fleets to attack far more complicated, and even defending with a heavy fleet will likely cause far more issues than today. Oh and forget catching up in a BS. Not gonna happen. Unless you want to bring an inty, be on time. Inty pilots feel free to show up three hours late and buy your ship whenever because apparently you are a combination of fast as shit and unstoppable. Seriously.
There will be more consequences, intended and unintended. These are my first glance reactions.
And yes I do know there’s current CCP Financials. If you are really lucky I’ll hit that Thursday.
Thanks to yesterday’s ANON posting the link to some more current financials.
Ok so CCP’s cash situation is a little weird. Quite a bit weird actually. CCP took about 40 million in loans and bond issues (the bonds at a 7% for a 5 year note) 8 million of which they haven’t touched. At the end of the year they were down 18 million from where they started in cash. That’s not fun.
I understand why they are at where they are. They are spending a bunch on R&D for existing products, and a bunch MORE on development for other products, (in 2012 this would have been Dust and WoD) and they have a lot overhead on their admin expenses, but they aren’t out of line for the number of employees they have. The problem is they are trying to become a bigger company, and borrowing money to get there.
The problem is I still don’t like their cash situation. Last year Dec 31 they had 3.6 million. This year they borrowed 32 million, had an operating profit of 2.8 million, and ended up with 20 million in cash. A lot of the other 18.4 million probably went into Dust. That amount *should* be dropping off some, and will be tempered somewhat by the 5 people now paying for Dust. The problem is CCP is putting themselves in a bind. The note rate is hardly friendly, and they will have to have 20 million on hand when they come due to pay them off, not to mention the 7% per annum. That hit will come in 2017. In 2016 they have to pay back the rather friendlier 20 million (of which they haven’t touched 8 mill) which they should be current on in interest.
So where they stand right now is problematic. They have to cut costs quite a bit, mostly in R&D, which limits future growth, in Admin expenses, which just seem high when laid against the revenue they are generating, and in development costs, which ran them another $24 million this year. At the bottom line they lost 1.5 million dollars a month in 2012. If they hadn’t borrowed money in 2012 they’d have been out of money before the end of March. I’m guessing they actually spent a lot less in the first half of the year, and put up some big bills towards the end of the year after figuring out their financing, but still, averaging at a loss of 1.5 million a month before figuring in the money you borrowed isn’t a good way to pay your bills. Especially when gross profit for the YEAR came up only $800,000.
CCP has to begin operating at a profit without relying on financing. And they have to do it soon. They need to come up with a way to increase cash on hand quite a bit in the next 4 years, they also have to operate, and decide how they will operate in the future, and frankly it looks like they stink at it. They have to either get Dust working at a profit or put it out of its misery. They have to take a serious look at WoD and decide if they can do it without killing what they have right now. I’ll say again what I said a couple years ago. EvE makes money. It doesn’t make a lot, it isn’t terribly sexy, but it makes money. It would make more even on paper with a reduced staff (I imagine a lot of the overhead goes away without the teams working on Dust and WoD) and while I don’t doubt that these are good people doing their best, the company doesn’t look like it can afford them. Not unless they can get Dust making money NOW and/or get WoD out the door and making money before 2016.
NOPE NOPE NOPE. INFO FROM CCP’S FINANCIALS HAS CHANGED
MY OUTLOOK ON THIS. BLOG POST TOMORROW WILL COVER
HOW AND WHY THE BLOG BELOW IS MORE OR LESS COMPLETELY
So we all missed it. I didn’t see any commentary on it, I didn’t see anyone talking it up much on twitter, even TMC missed the implications on their article about the big plex sale on Amazon. And I can’t say it’s really THAT surprising, but I’m surprised nonetheless.
First let’s go back to the first blog I wrote that was linked by outside sites. Here. The short, short version is: CCP operates off large cash loan that run October – October. In June 2011 they had gotten so far behind the curve that they didn’t have the money to pay back the loans, and they were losing $500k a month developing Dust 514. If you look around on my site, or consult your memory, you will find that CCP ended up selling a ton of plex at a discount, and then firing 25% of their staff.
So last week, Amazon put plex on sale. Big time. There was even a much smaller discount on CCP’s site. People cashed in. The price cratered from 600 Million on 9-24 to 550 million on the 29th. Currently it has slid back up to 574 million, but a lot of people probably built quite a tidy stockpile of gametime or Plex at a discount.
More importantly, however, this is a big red flag for CCP’s health as a company. It says that once again, for the second time (at least) in the last three years, CCP has run into a major cash flow problem that prevents them from paying back their loan on time, which would burn their credit rating, and make the next loan much more difficult to acquire.
This one wasn’t as big a shortfall, it didn’t seem to require quite as many drastic measures, but that does not make it less disturbing. Back in 2011 CCP could have cut off Dust and/or WoD, or severely curtailed them to limit the damage going forward, and they did, as well as cutting down on staff and other drastic measures. In 2013 Dust is open for business and shuttering it would look just awful, and likely cut off a lot of potential for investments should CCP’s owners want to go that route. WoD isn’t exactly getting so much money that there’s anything meaningful to cut at this point, and CCP has seen so many devs leave this year that they probably don’t have a lot of fat to trim on that end of the budget.
I may be overstating things, and this year, unlike in 2011, I don’t have CCP’s financials sitting on my desktop letting me look through for the details. However a sale like this is a bad sign. A discount that deep means CCP is getting a lot less money in return for getting cash now. Instead of getting whatever their take is on $50 bucks from amazon, they get their take of $37.50. A 25% hit, and they still owe 30 days / plex. Sure not all plex are redeemed for game time, but I bet a lot more are when the isk price drops. This means CCP knows that rather than getting an average of $16.66 per player plexing, they are going to get $12.50 (minus Amazon’s take) and that they are ok with that as long as it fixes their cash flow problems. That’s fine, that’s a business decision, but to have to make that decision at the end of September, with loan repayments to make, and in a situation where there’s no really good choices to raise money… No bueno. No Bueno.
And that’s what we missed. We missed that CCP is, if not struggling financially, than at least staggering a bit, at a time when their resources to cure that stagger are extremely limited.
So EvE Online is a game where the overwhelming majority of content is generated by the players. There just isn’t a lot that CCP has added to change the way the game is played that hasn’t been dwarfed by what players already did dating back to the addition of Incursions. There’s been adjustments, but for the most part players have been in the drivers seat. For two and a half years. With the same fundamental toolbox, and the same fundamental map until earlier this year. Now things are shifting. And CCP is kicking this boulder down the hill hard.
Ripard’s footnote about moons not being conflict drivers is interesting but I think he’s too close in. I think moons are meant to be a different kind of conflict driver. Renting space is how the big boys play, and will for a while, Moons will sit in between them and pure PvE moneymaking done in other arenas. CCP wants to create fights that aren’t CTAs, they want fleets that aren’t hundreds strong battling it out, and they see these mobile structures as a way to create a new type of combat. This gives the small fry a way to poke, harass and set traps for the big boys, and especially for their renters. I imagine the likes of Noir, R&K and Rote Kapelle are already looking at new and interesting ways to ruin unsuspecting folks weekends.
This patch seems aimed at finding a way for people to punch above their weight. Rather than continuing the rich get richer until their own weight/malaise/incompetence crushes them CCP wants to give the middleweights a tool that lets them set the table their way, and fight their way. Maybe they can’t topple the big boys, but they can apply pressure their own way, and in a meaningful way, not just killing afk ratters during CTAs. Stealing resources that go to the alliance. Even if moons aren’t the biggest income, they are important. Temporary bases in ratter space dropping property values faster than a KKK rally during an open house. Making small war on big people possible. Will it work? Probably not at first. And that’s why I’m not terribly sanguine about this. This patch will need constant updating. CCP will need to iterate and build on it. And that’s not what they do. I hope CCP will do it. I hope they will break with what they have done in the past. I hope they will take a good idea and keep working on it, keep building on it, and make it so the promise and the delivery match up.
So CCP made their announcement today. Rubicon sure looks like a sexy patch. I’m gonna run down the list here:
In a little less than a month we will see
We all love new ships. New designs and SEXY designs.
That’s a ship I’d fly even if it WASN’T armor and drone bonuses. And yes that’s what it seems to be. This not only fills a MUCH needed gap in the basic racial combination grid as far as faction ships (calling Sisters “Pirates” seems a bit odd) but also brings a completely new flavor to the basic designs. I can’t wait to see what they do with Calmatar ships now.
Marauders is old news, but fun. Inties and Dictors are neat, and the Inty changes to being more mobile in every sense of the word seem awesome. EAFs aren’t mentioned on the website but I do hope they make it in as TM.com has said. Dictors should pose an interesting challenge. These are already essential ships, but at times they seem ridiculously defenseless and at others they seem incredibly powerful. Maybe it’s the mark of them already being decently balanced as a class, but some of them REALLY need a balance pass to be useful for something other than planting a bubble.
Oh, we get to take over highsec POCOs now. Maybe NOW we’ll see some action in highsec wardecs. Come to think of it… we may have a new career out there for people that want to do that. I like less NPC action, and I like more pew pew. That means I have to give this two thumbs up even if it means a crap ton of structure shoots right?
Mini structures we can haul around to do things for us. Other than bubbles I mean. This is NOT a new idea. In fact it probably pre-dates virtually the entire CCP dev team at this point. I bet they think they came up with it all on their own. I really like the “Yurt” and there’s gonna be a lot of tactical shifts based on the cyno stuffer. Hot dropping people just got tougher, that’s for sure. Also you can make a profitable raid just knowing where the good moons are. This will give small gangs a lot more utility, and provide some bonuses to larger gangs, although not as much as they tend to have all those resources with them already if they want. I do like the concept though. We shall have to see how it plays out.
My main account is currently unsubbed. This isn’t news to those that know me I’m guessing. I’m not done with EvE. I probably won’t be done until the servers shut down. I am burnt out a bit and enjoying other games and activities too much to play though. I’ll certainly burn a plex around patch day. Whether it will keep me for more time than that remains to be seen. CCP has been all over the place recently, and there seems to be a lack of understanding between the players and the staffers on the culture of the game. I want the players to win but they don’t hold the levers of power so we shall see where that goes and whether I dive back into the game with my cutlass in my teeth or remain an observer looking in.
So CCP had an interesting interview regarding the battle of 6V. Especially with regards to the technical side and TiDi. As many people (myself included) have said; the bottom line is we’ve passed the point where the EvE game client + the current technology can handle loads players are putting on it. The inability to take advantage of multithreaded cores and the way that technology has developed away from CCP’s needs has brought us to the point where nearly any coalition can bring more ships than any server can handle.
I’ve already talked about how CCP needs to develop the technology and the programming to handle this, but it looks like it’s very basic architecture level. That’s a lot of work to fix. A ridiculous lot. The bottom line is they really don’t have the ability to fix things at that level in any kind of timely fashion. Especially as CCP Veritas said (cribbing in the whole interview bit)
TMC: With this battle, do you think that EVE has reached a limit of what TiDi can do for it? Is it time to look for new hardware or new ideas?
CCP Veritas: I’m going to say an answer, and you’re not going to like it. Then I’m going to say some more words, and you’re going to like it. Ready? The answer to your question is no. That’s because the answer for it was nine months ago, and that’s when I started looking at performance again.
So I’m guessing CCP has made progress, and has gotten themselves to where they at least have the project going. The problem is they are chasing a community that has passed them. This is not a good strategy, this was a forseeable problem, and there should be a nearly constant team working on it to bring solutions about before they are needed, not 9 months after the fact. Fleets will expand to fill the infrastructure that the game contains, and then go +1. That’s the EvE way.
So there’s two kinds of infrastructure, the nuts and bolts of the actual game, that is, the code and hardware that runs the code which we’ve clearly overrun and then there’s the actual gameplay mechanics that bring fleets together.
Fleets can jump using Titan Bridges to Cynos skipping intervening gates, arriving rapidly straight onto the battlefield. The most powerful ships in the game are frequently relegated to the role of Taxis. The Erebus should be in interbus colors for all the ferrying it does. I’m all for the Titan having it’s bridge sharply limited. Have an upper mass limit of what can go through, then a cooldown equivalent to the old Titan Doomsday cooldown. Sure they can use more titans to get fleets moving, but how many Titans do you want sitting crippled even in the safety of a POS? This would make it harder to move numerous fleets around. It’s a brute-force solution, but it’s better than watching 4k people struggle with the client for 6 hours.
The other big thing is looking at the objectives and strategy. Right now there’s huge timers for big structures that attract massive fleets. There’s no incentive to split your fleet as it A) runs counter to strategy by splitting your offensive and defensive power, and B) slows down your actual attack and completion of the objectives. But what if we could change B? What if there were smaller objectives in every constellation, rather like FW bunkers, that gave the controller an advantage in fights elsewhere? Having secondary objectives for every battle would be fantastic. Perhaps a nerf or buff to structure hitpoints, added or subtracted range to capital jumps/bridges. Make each battle a series of interconnected parts, rather than dueling steamrollers.
Anything other than “+1”
So the battle of 6V had another subplot. Would the system hold up? The answer is an absolute and completely unqualified “sorta” and I really mean that. First I want to talk a bit about pre-Tidi EvE. Before TiDi battles were crazy. Things worked well up to a point, then as they got worse things cascaded, and generally if your alliance got two full fleets into a system first the battle was over. Period. The other side wouldn’t even be able to load grid. There were some hardware changes that basically modified the numbers needed to swamp a system, but not what actually happened to the system once it got swapped.
TiDi changed things. By slowing the whole process for everyone by a roughly equal amount the misery gets spread. People jumping in get a chance to load grid as the server doesn’t overload as badly. In theory at least. This creates a very elastic band-aid for the problem. The basic causes are still there, eventually the system can’t handle the load, now it stretches time out to give itself time to deal with the inputs. As long as the load isn’t exceeded the battle progresses. Slowly.
6V exceeded the load. TiDi hit 10% in a system that was as fully reinforced as CCP could make it. Then things got weird. Old Skool weird. Modules not activating. Targets not locking despite showing as locked. Not being able to swap ammo types/scripts. Basically all of a sudden it was like TiDi didn’t exist. All we’d done was move a decimal point to where things broke down. There were reports of people having issues entering the system. Even at a crawl the game wasn’t working right.
So this is it. At 6V the line was reached on what we can expect as far as battle size. The old problems showed back up and over the next year I expect we will meet them more and more often.
So first I want to make the problem worse. Let’s double the number of squads in a wing, and wings in a fleet. That will increase fleets to over 1000 members. This will make forming fleets easier. It will even make it easier for alliances that can’t get 1000 members as they don’t need to find a guy with FC five to get past 200. Now nearly any schlub can do it. This will get big coalition battles happening more often, which is frankly good for EvE.
Second, CCP needs to seriously look at tearing down their infrastructure and starting over. CCP needs to spend resources to acquire servers and develop the software to run on them to allow themselves to sit 10,000 men in a system and not rely on TiDi to paper over the holes. Yes I know that’s a tall order. It might even require developing completely new hardware. I also know that if CCP wants EvE to be more than a 500k-750k person game it needs to happen.
So for those of us living insulated lives in Empire, or even the less interested parts of Nullsec, there’s a lot of Schadenfreude regarding Z9PP. There’s lots of facts, there’s lots of conjecture, and there’s lots of butthurt. I want to talk about what this means for the war. Moreover I want to talk about what it COULD have meant.
Over 100 carriers and some Blap Dreads were trapped on the field, apparently more or less doomed “Eventually” to an ugly death. I doubt that even skating to downtime would have saved them depending on when the last bubbles dropped and how fast CFC logged back in.
Reinforcements were apparently almost entirely in CFC’s favor. This is an ugly situation for Test to be in. CFC had the ability to slowly start eliminating Test carriers and once that got started the snowball likely would have been fast. Test was in trouble and they knew it.
At this point the bit of blind screaming luck that can change the course of empires shows up. Namely the hand of a CCP engineer. We’ll call him CCP Johnny
Johnny is in a hurry, and rather than moving other systems off the server in question, he moves the IMPORTANT system. Johnny is probably related to Tuxford but that’s not important now. The result is the system goes down long enough that the carriers get to log off, and stay off long enough to GTFO. Test got out of a major crisis with very little actual harm. Here’s how I see things happening with 4 paths of outcomes.
First off let’s assume that somehow Test manages to get away somehow. Coasting to DT, PL coming up with something amazing even for PL (Yes I can read Kugu, I’ve read the AAR there, it’s good) CFC completely falling apart, whatever. HUGE morale boost for Test. MASSIVE. Getting their balls into the bear trap then pulling them out even remotely intact would give them something to chestbeat about for a while. Seriously, it would be an amazing bit of leadership for them. The odds of this are REALLY low I’d think, but possible.
Second let’s go the other way. Test’s fleet is utterly whelped and the CFC turns out to be completely right, the fleet turns out to be the skyscraper that breaks the camel’s back, neck, legs and spleen. Morale crashes through the floor so fast the floor doesn’t even notice and Test is thrown WAY back in the campaign even as Goons morale soars. Goons get to move the line in Fountain, moons, stations, whatever they want, as far as they can and start to build Sov time towards expanding the all-important jump bridge network. The war isn’t over, but the momentum would be entirely in Goon’s hands.
Next we’ll look at a Test whelp that is mostly handled by the SRP fund. Test manages to handle most of the critical losses, and keeps their fleet in the field. This is rather more likely, even if I think it would be a huge strain on their resources. Goons morale still soars, but without the catastrophic crash to Test morale CFC cannot grab the momentum with both hands and seize control of the warzone.
Now we’ll look at Test getting beaten, but not whelped. This would require Test to lose a significant number of ships, yet still hold together well enough to GTFO even as their losses begin to cascade as fewer and fewer reps are available to land on any remaining ships. Once the carriers started popping the popping was going to keep going. Accelerating and finally outright snowballing. This would have been bad, but far less of a strain than being crushed and even if the SRP fund is marginal it should be able to absorb the loss. This also would have given Test a “Bloody but unbroken” chance to wave the banner.
What we have instead is a thoroughly unsatisfying disaster. CFC has been robbed of the chance to really dig their claws into an utter victory. They most likely would have finished it off, but even if they had failed they’d know for sure what happened. They wouldn’t be left with this frustrating, infuriating sense of being robbed. Test on the other hand has scored a “victory” that they cannot trumpet, that they cannot celebrate, that they can only acknowledge (but probably not humbly) The glass is half full (of carriers actually) but it is ungarnished, simple and stark. They got their carriers, but they also have no answers. They cannot prove their SRP is healthy, they cannot chestbeat about their impossible victory, or even snatching a draw from the teeth of a crushing defeat. They cannot commiserate about a tough loss against long odds. They can only sprint back to safety and marvel at their stunning escape.
Goons will be mad. They will continue to strike. They will attempt to hammer Test again, and try to draw their slowcats into another fight where they can hit them again like they did this time. Test will attempt to come up with a better method of extracting this fleet, and of defending it. Test morale will be down, but more “funky” than depressed. They know their best fleet got beaten, and only the invisible hand of fate saved it. CFC morale will be up, edgy and angry knowing that a deserved victory was snatched from them, and possibly a victory far beyond merely what was on the field.