With Apologies to CCP Oracle

The hardest thing to do in the world is to apologize

I’ve been putting off this article for a couple of weeks. In fact I already wrote a couple of drafts just a day after the incident but I kept putting it off. No one wants to face their own shortcomings, and other things like CCP Games introducing gambling to EVE Online and igniting my rage happened, which felt like they needed addressing first.

That is a lie of course, I simply used the new controversy as a way to further delay the inevitable but its finally here. CCP Oracle, if you are reading this, (and I hope you do as I will tag you on twitter) I am genuinely sorry. I was rude and out of line and I shouldn’t have written that tweet. It was disrespectful, period.

Of course that is not enough. Its not enough to just say sorry. By itself the word is meaningless. What is important, the reason behind writing this entire article that seems little more than an act of public self flagellation, is to find out the reason why the incident happened in the first place and address that cause. Without it there is no in point apologizing so bear with me as we deep dive into my twisted psyche.

The innocent tweet about seeing more Korean players, including female streamers, flock to EVE Online following the launch of Korean localization, shouldn’t have elicited such a visceral response from me. That said I had mistaken CCP Oracle for a male developer and considering the current atmosphere in gaming and streaming services such as Twitch, made the wrong inference. That is all on me. When one assumes things without checking them first, one gets being made an ass. Its just logical. However like an ogre, lets peel the layers and dig deeper. Why would I even care about what a CCP Games developers had to say in the first place?

Lets start with the issue of Korean localization. A few years back CCP Games killed all localization efforts in the game, including the Korean language one. Being bought by Pearl Abyss, a Korean gaming giant, suddenly Korean language localization was back on the menu and done in quite a short time all considering. Yet at the same time, other, more established communities, must continue and play EVE Online in English rather than their native tongue. It feels both unequal and a tad hypocritical of CCP Games to praise the surge of Korean players after years of dismissing localization which is a barrier of entry for many people and not addressing the needs of other communities.

Then there is the part of the tweet that was the highlighting female streamers. I am all for more female representation in games, gaming and whatnot. Having more streamers covering EVE Online would be good for the game though I don’t think EVE Online translates that well into streaming. Its not a very fast paced game after all but that is not the point. The point is, CCP Games have a terrible track record with female players. The toxicity of some of the player base had worked to drive away many a female gamer, and I heard enough horror stories from female players to make me ashamed of having a penis. Its tough, its bad, and the fact is, CCP Games had done so little to protect its female players that promoting female streamers can almost be seen as throwing meat into the water. You know a shark is just gonna bite into it.

Okay, not great optics, but nothing worthy of lashing out. Obviously I was frustrated with what I saw as hypocrisy and irresponsibility but still nothing to send a mean tweet about. Time to delve greedily and deep to unleash the Balrog.

This tweet came only a few days after CCP Falcon resigned. A few weeks before that, Snuffed Out, my last home in EVE Online, shuttered as the content drought in the game continues. Friends keep quitting EVE Online one by one or reducing their activity and selling their super capitals. In this atmosphere of hopelessness its not hard to get frustrated, especially at CCP Games that helped create this situation. After all, its up to the game developers to, well, develop the game and outsmart the playerbase in order to promote conflict and engagement.

A lot of us waited with eagerness for some sign that CCP Games had a plan, that there was a solution to the horrible stagnation the game had fallen into in the last few years. The Las Vegas convention was seen as the place where CCP Games would unveil real solutions. We held out collective breath for the presentations and we got… Nothing. Absolutely nothing constructive was said in EVE Vegas. The entire event might as well have been cancelled. Instead of a roadmap or some acknowledgement of the rot EVE Online is in, we got a roadmap to a roadmap. Yes, we got a presentation about how CCP Games will implement short term roadmaps. I wish I were kidding.

That was it – the moment something broke inside me. The moment when I knew the game was well and truly gone because its developers have abandoned it. CCP Falcon’s resignation afterwards only cemented this feeling. CCP Falcon was the face of EVE Online and one of the main points of contact with the company for the community. Hate him or love him, he at least engaged with the playerbase. His departure pretty much created a gap between the community and the company. That void could not be easily filled especially after other community managers had either left or were let go in the last couple of years. With the last bridge burned, there was not even the pretense that the company was listening to us.

Which leads us here, to that moment where a frustrated, tired player gets sent a tweet of a CCP Games employee. All that anger, all that frustration with the state of the game, with the lack of an outlet, with that feeling of abandonment just comes out in one ugly tweet. An unnecessary tweet which demeaned an innocent employee and saw malice where there was none. A tweet that sought to hurt people that really had nothing to do with the situation the game is in.

The people who did mismanage the game, the people who are deserving of a good tongue lashing have been deaf to the community’s plight from the start. They already sold off the game and are moving on to make a new game which they’d either ruin later on or fail from the start as they done so many times in the past. They are the ones hiding behind people like CCP Falcon and CCP Oracle, using them as disposable human shields while they count the money they make from stock options and bonuses. They have shown a complete lack of care for the community that sprung around their game and attribute the success of the game to their genius instead of the hard work of both developers and players in keeping the game going all those years in spite of the lack of leadership shown above.

It is those people I should, and am, angry at but its exactly those kind of people that won’t listen to my rage at the continued decline of the game and community I’ve come to cherish. You can certainly see why and how its frustrating. That said, none of this is an excuse to lash at total strangers who probably have nothing to do with it all.

Once again I am sorry CCP Oracle for the tweet. I am sure that much like other developers in CCP Games, you were a player yourself who dreamt of working in the company developing the game and finally achieved this dream only to be hurled abuse by anonymous idiots on the net. I hope my apology will go some way into alleviating this.

The House Always Wins

Looks like gambling is back on the menu!

Recently, CCP Games posted a new developer blog introducing the HyperNet thus resurrecting gambling in EVE Online. I wrote resurrecting because EVE Online already had a robust gambling scene in the past. Third party sites set up and managed by players offered a variety of gambling options from playing poker, taking part in lotteries and raffles, to betting on sporting events; real and in-game ones. All of this was done without developer intervention and using what few tools there were in-game for it.

The boom of EVE Online casinos would come to influence the game’s politics, the massive profits sparking a long and arduous war that by its end would see the Imperium, one of the biggest player coalitions ever, defeated and driven out of its north eastern strongholds. Defeated, but not destroyed. That said, in 2016 the party came to a close when out of game events forced CCP Games to ban the entire operation, shuttering many sites.

The event, for those interested, was a scandal involving the Counter Strike: Global Offensive skin gambling sites and several prominent video creators in the community. The skins for the game could be traded between players using real currency, leading to a robust market. It wouldn’t take long for sites to set up to allow people to gamble for said skins. Several video creators with large audiences promoted said sites and made videos showing them winning big prizes, neglecting to mention that they either owned or were partnered with said sites. Not only was there an issue about disclosure, but many suspected that the lotteries could, and were, possibly rigged for the purpose of the videos in order to dupe impressionable viewers, many of whom were teenagers.

This scandal got wide media attention, and later government one as legislators began eyeing the unregulated videogame market with its loot boxes and microtransactions aimed at exploiting the poor impulse control of teenagers and gambling addiction of adults. Though it would take a few years for countries to begin actual legislation in the field, the added scrutiny would be a welcomed change to an industry that was (and lets face it, still is) consumed by greed.

CCP Games got ahead of the curve by rightfully banning gambling in the game and thus escaping embarrassing headlines and possible fines or age restrictions added in many countries around the world where it operates. For a while, things seemed okay, well, in the standard that a slowly burning trash fire might seem okay. However on the 27th of November, CCP Games made its announcement and all hell broke loose. Well I write all hell, in reality just a heavily commented thread on the new feature as well as a few reddit posts. Who says EVE Online isn’t dead.

The scheme works like this: HyperNet will be a fun place where players can set up and buy tickets for raffles. The raffles will be player made of in-game items. In order to set up a raffle, players have to purchase the number of HyperNet Cores corresponding to the item’s value. Cores can only be bought from the New Eden Store (NES, formerly NEX) via PLEX (Player License EXtension, never said CCP Games were clever with their acronyms) or from market resellers. Once the raffle is up, players buy HyperNet Nodes, i.e. tickets, with in-game currency. When all the tickets, I mean nodes, are sold, the raffle occurs and a randomly generated number decides which ticket, I mean node, was the lucky winner. The winner then gets the item in their hangar (though in the station where the raffle was created to eliminate item teleportation).

I have to give it to CCP Games, it really managed to make one hell of a scummy, poorly thought of, system. PLEX is an in-game resource that can only be generated via paying real money then re-sold on the market. The HyperNet cores require PLEX to be purchased and the costlier the item, the more cores needed, meaning more PLEX is required to set up the raffle. Not only as a friend commented is that an unfair tax levied on the person setting up the raffle, it also devalues the in-game economy, not to mention re-introduce gambling into EVE Online. This of course is meant to fuel demand for PLEX (which may be dropping with decrease in player activity) which will tempt people to generate more PLEX by, of course, buying it from CCP Games and offsetting subscription loses. Truly genius.

Players of course, have begun defending the practice because many fans are dumb, and the dumbest sycophants really tie their identity and human worth to an aging, broken videogame that is past its prime. The excuses made in the name of an immoral feature are really mind boggling but I think I’ll tackle a few of the prominent ones. That said I’ll be doing this without harping too much about the immorality of gambling or the actual psychological damage it does too much. I know this is akin to writing “I don’t want to criticize the moral aspects of cannibalism as much as its hygienic practices” but it is sort of.

Its not gambling – It is. Full stop. Period. Exclamation mark! Raffles and lotteries are gambling. Here is a simple test: Does it cost money to take part in and do you win something out of it? If the answer is yes, then it is gambling. I know this a hard concept to wrap the head around but gambling is pretty much any game where winning is largely dictated by chance and involves money. You might say that in EVE Online it shouldn’t be counted as gambling since money in the game is all made up but I counter this with the next argument:

EVE Online money isn’t real – The next goalpost is to simply say that the Interstellar Kredit (or ISK for short) isn’t real and thus has no real life value. That is not even remotely true and anyone holding this notion should probably be completely ignored and/or shunned from polite society. ISK has a real life value because CCP Games has made an exchange rate between PLEX and real money. Since PLEX is sold on EVE Online markets for ISK, we have a direct translation of worth. At time of writing 1 PLEX was sold around 3,500,000.00 ISK. Since the smallest batch of PLEX sold at the cash shop is 500 for 19.99$ dollars, 1$ can be converted to 87,500,000.00 ISK. Fact is, CCP Games often advertised many of the big fights in EVE Online as having real money equivalency, bragging about losses mounting to thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars in assets. It can’t just now run away from it when its inconvenient. That is not how life works.

Its a closed economy – Demolish the first two defenses and the defenders quickly retreat behind the idea that EVE Online is a closed economy, or more correctly, semi closed since real money comes in but value can’t be taken out. Again, this is erroneous to such a degree that it makes me think that the defenders of this feature are either children or have child like intellect. In the legal definition they are right, but legal definitions are like expiration dates, followed by most people but ignored by some. The fact is there exists a whole grey market in EVE Online that enables converting ISK back into real money. Sure its illegal, sure its risky and those caught are often banned, yet the illegal activity in EVE Online hasn’t decreased and in fact certain sectors of it have seen a marked increase in recent years that not accounting for them is pure stupid.

Its legal – When all previous arguments fail, cry “Its legal” in a nonsensical defiance of criticism. Of course gambling is legal IN SOME STATES. That means that in other countries its illegal. What more, many countries have recently moved to ban or legislate gambling in videogames and bringing back gambling to a game that already banned it once in such a stormy climate is truly stupid. Not to mention that in some countries gambling is heavily regulated in order to protect minors. Considering EVE Online doesn’t have a uniform rating around the globe with some countries allowing minors to play the game and you can almost see the negative headlines and future lawsuits coming. It only takes one case of a minor using the HyperNet and sinking their parents’ credit card to start a riot, and justifiably so.

It will fund more development – Stop. Stop right there. Moving from questions of legality, we arrive at the fanciful idea that the money generated from gambling will fund more developers for the game, thus tackling many of the major problems plaguing EVE Online. This is a fantasy, full stop. Let’s forget for a moment that CCP Games had been bought by Pearl Abyss, a Korean gaming giant with deep pockets that can easily fund more development for the game, the idea that this extra revenue will be funneled into game development and not investor pockets is laughable. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver already showed what happened to state controlled lotteries aiming to increase public revenue for education only to squander those funds, but you are telling me a for profit entity that doesn’t have the pretense of serving the public is going to invest those funds better!? At this point you aren’t deluded, you are disingenuous and possibly a lobbyist for CCP Games.

Case in point, how state lotteries work to harm communities

At this point there is nothing left to argue. There are no further excuses that can be made in defense of this feature. If anything, there are only things to argue against it, like the fact its immoral. Yes, I wrote that I wouldn’t harp on it and I haven’t. I mostly addressed the arguments head on without moralizing but the reality is, gambling is immoral. There is a reason why many countries legislate it and restrict it. Gambling is a real issue for people with addiction issues. Teenagers exposed to it are more susceptible to it and the way the videogame industry had implemented it was done purposefully to target vulnerable populations in order to squeeze as much cash as possible from them. You’ve all heard terms such as “whales” and “dolphins” dehumanizing problem gamblers. If you watch Jim Sterling’s video on the issue you’d see both the ways the industry sees us, the consumers, through such mechanics and the real human cost it incurs.

Jim Sterling exposing both the predatory practices of the gaming industry and the real damage it causes

We banned gambling from EVE Online once when we saw the dangers of it. Letting it back now, when the legal field surrounding it is even choppier is a signal from CCP Games to us, the players. Its a signal telling us that the company won’t tackle the important issues that plague the game but is instead investing resources in harmful mechanics, both to the players and the health of the game, to further monetize said player base. Its basically an admission that the company is either unable or unwilling to face the desolation that is the current state of affairs but it wants to keep increasing its profits. Now can I interest you in some HyperNet nodes?

Snuffed Out

No king rules forever

On the 21st of October 2019, Hy Wanto Destroyer announced on Discord that it was over. Snuffed Out [B B C], the king of low security space, was no more. The alliance wouldn’t outright disband but for all intents and purposes it had.

My first encounter with the alliance was on the battlefield of Villasen, defending WAFFLES. [N0MAD] towers as part of Pandemic Legion [-10.0]. I decided to write up the battle as I was a battle reporter for EVE News 24 at the time, and wanted to expand coverage of news to encompass low security and wormhole space (with partial success).

Interviewing the combatants, I was granted access to the Snuffed Out teamspeak server. It soon became a second home for me. As Snuffed Out continued to generate fights and headlines, I was lucky enough to cover some of it. Major headlines included: Their valiant fights alongside ally Project.Mayhem. [16-13] against the Imperium, and poking at its low security underbelly, and causing no small amount of grief to those in charge. Their resistance to the viceroy program that would help kick off World War Bee (WWB). Their betrayal of Shadow Cartel [SHDWC], their long time arch nemesis, in Vaaralen. This subsequently caused a schism in the alliance resulting in the birth of Escalating Entropy [CHAOS] and the Placid Wars.

This constant contact allowed me to make friends with many Snuffed Out pilots, current and former, as well as fostering a deep appreciation for the alliance, even though I was a member of Pandemic Legion. People like: Tyler Burbon and his soundboard. Conaildo whose consumption of alcohol was second to none. Tau AD, one of the best fleet commanders I flew under whose anger and irritation were almost as famous as his thick Russian accent immortalized in countless dreadnought drops he led. Hy Wanto Destroyer who tolerated me even though I never delivered on the fanfiction he ordered me to write as punishment. Phantomite the snake who still did Harbingers even in 2019. Capitol One and his Harry Potter fanfiction. Emokidwithkantana and his My Little Pony discussions. Smarnca and his antics. PERUNGA, king of Tama and defender of the Nourvukaiken gate. Batschi, Donedy, Tyd Drakken, Meltur, Gugl, Amantus and many many others. So many I can’t list them all.

Snuffed Out, for all its setbacks, seemed to go from strength to strength even as my own fortunes seemed to decline. First was the ignominious death of Reikoku [RKK] due to internal strife, forcing me to join Hoover Inc. [DYS0N]. However, DYS0N itself moved, and morphed alongside Pandemic Legion, in directions I didn’t like leaving me once again homeless. I made one last gamble on House of Serenity. [H0S.], seemingly finding a home but it was not to be. Without a place, without a purpose, I spent most of my time on the Snuffed Out teamspeak server. Finally, as a joke, I applied to Lowlife. [LWLFE], doing what Snuffed Out members asked me to do for years. I was accepted. It turned out the joke was on me.

In Snuffed Out, for a brief moment, I felt that sense of belonging. I was enjoying EVE Online again, deploying, writing battle reports and just enjoying general banter. It felt like the heydays of Reikoku. It felt good. Sadly it was not to last. It wasn’t 2015 anymore. The game had fundamentally changed and the pressure of constant deployments wasn’t something I could keep up with as the alliance searched desperately for content. I burnt out again. What I didn’t know was that most of the alliance burnt out with me.

Perhaps it was inevitable. Low security space was never supposed to be the haunt of medium-sized alliances like Snuffed Out and Shadow Cartel. Maybe we were supposed to go big and settle in null security space and our refusal to do so had led to our content starvation. I still posit that the game itself had also changed for the worse. Citadels made content creation hard, if not downright impossible in the early days of their implementation. Rorquals unleashed untold mineral wealth into the game, allowing established power blocs to further entrench themselves with growing super capital fleets and imposing Keepstars and Fortizars in every system. Skill injectors sealed the deal, allowing individuals to create whole mining fleets and super capital squadrons out of thin air thanks to the application of skill points provided by ever increasing skill farms.

Snuffed Out tried to adapt to these changing times, making alliances where it could, coming up with schemes to better distribute moon goo to fund its operations and allow its members access to riches. It did what it could to eek out content but low security space was too small to sustain it while null security space had just too many people willing to pile in on any conflict. There was no longer a place for independent mid-sized alliances in EVE Online anymore.

Thus Snuffed Out leadership did what was best for the alliance, and frankly for them. Instead of burning out more of its pilots and allowing internal strife to rip it apart, they simply ended it. It was a hard but necessary decision.

Whether or not Snuffed Out will resurge is a question for anybody but I have a feeling that it won’t. Its disbanding is another chapter of EVE Online coming to a close, and I can’t help but feel sad for it. Snuffed Out had been an unofficial family for me for years, and official one for six months. Now it’s gone and I can’t help but grieve for its loss. Good luck to all my friends and comrades in their future endeavors.

So long, and thanks for all the memories.

Salivan Harddin is a member of Lowlife., Snuffed Out, and was an EVE Online battle reporter for the better part of five years.