Sean Decker Joins CCP

Hilmar, the glorious ginger CEO of CCP, announced today that Sean Decker will be joining the management ranks of CCP.

Decker comes to CCP from game developer and publisher Electronic Arts (EA), where he spent the last 12 years in a variety of key production leadership roles.  Most recently Decker was vice president of EA’s “Play4Free” group, built from the ground up as an integrated organization focused on building, publishing and operating games based on the free-to-play business model.  In that role, Decker ran numerous studios around the world that released games played by tens of millions of registered users.

A casual creeping of Sean’s LinkedIn profile notes that he’s been involved with EA, “Re-imagining great EA brands across a number of platforms using the MTX model”. MTX, for those who don’t know, stands for microtransactions.

“Sean’s extensive experience in the games industry will be extremely valuable for us as we enter the second decade of the EVE Universe,” said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP.

I suppose if one were to speculate, could we be looking at a free to play future for EVE Online?  It makes some sense, I mean CCP has already gone down that path with DUST 514, and the rest of the MMO market has already shifted in that direction.

I’m sure it’s being considered, and it’s quite possible that the addition of someone with proven experience in this will help them find a way to implement a free to play methodology with EVE Online.  As a person who’s been playing the game since its launch, my list of concerns about that would be long as hell, most obviously that this wouldn’t introduce pay to win mechanisms somewhere.

But that’s all just speculation of course. :)  For now feel free to toss a welcoming tweet to Sean at his Twitter account and join me in hoping that he brings some fresh new ideas to the CCP boardrooms.


Odyssey Unleashed

EVE Online’s latest expansion has been successfully deployed today, along with a new 90-second trailer to set the mood…

… and then ruin it, with that terrible voicework right at the end. Bleh. Still, there’s some great showcasing of new exploration content and environments, as well as the hilarious use of a Nemesis stealth bomber throughout.

EVE Online: Odyssey has been deployed. The 19th free expansion for EVE Online brings a new age of discovery to New Eden with new exploration challenges and improved career missions to support and guide pilots through the new changes.

EVE Online: Odyssey also brings a whole host of visual and usability improvements including the new radial navigation tool, an improved soundscape, and dynamic transitions that replace many of the loading bars of old, as well as four new Navy Issue Battlecruisers, a rebalance of Navy Issue ships, improvements to starbases andnull sec outposts, and a new spacescape for New Eden.

The full patch notes for Odyssey are available (link below), and are insanely huge.  So huge in fact that I don’t even want to start discussing them here, since it would turn this post into a book.  Instead, lets peek at a word cloud of the patch notes content:

Odyssey Word Cloud

As I’ve discussed in previous posts here, there’s a LOT of changes coming to facilitate the exploration concept of this expansion. But there’s also a ton of quality-of-life fixes and tweaks, more ship balancing, Navy ships, and just a ridiculous pile of updates and features that will no doubt affect you in some way no matter what you do in game.

The servers are up, the patches are ready, so get out there and get exploring.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s opinion on this patch, so if you have something to say please feel free to toss an opinion or two in the comments.

Update 1:

CCP have released a neat training video showing off some of the archaeology/hacking concepts in Odyssey.  It’s worth of a watch if you’re curious what the new minigame is like.


EVE and DUST Back After Downtime

For a lot of folks, Sunday’s a great day to kick back and relax, to fly some internet spaceships or play internet space army. Unfortunately, the EVE Universe’s servers came under a massive distributed denial-of-service attack and traumatically forced everyone to interact with the real world for hours.

The good news: things are working fine again, CCP has plugged the security hole with space spackle, and reports that no customer data was compromised in the process.


CCP have released the following statement about the downtime experienced by both EVE Online and DUST 514 this weekend:

At 02:05 UTC June 2nd, CCP became aware of a significant and sustained distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) against the Tranquility cluster (which houses EVE Online and DUST 514) and web servers.

Our policy in such cases is to mobilize a taskforce of internal and external experts to evaluate the situation. At 03:07 UTC, that group concluded that our best course of action was to go completely offline while we put in place mitigation plans.

While we initially reopened EVE Online and DUST 514, at 14:51 UTC we became aware of additional information that led us to re-evaluate our decision. With the highest sense of precaution we took the decision to take Tranquility and associated websites back down for further investigation and an exhaustive scan of our entire infrastructure.

What we can now confirm is that a person was able to utilize a vulnerability in one of the back-end services that support the operation of the Tranquility server. This vulnerability has now been secured and thoroughly tested.

We would like to stress that at no time was customer data compromised or accessible in any way.

The effort of returning the complex server structure of the EVE Universe and associated websites to service in a methodical and highly-scrutinized fashion began hours ago and Tranquility has now been brought online (at 10:13 UTC). Our teams will monitor the situation carefully in the coming hours to ensure that our services are accessible and that all customer data remains secure.

We will be looking at ways to compensate players in both EVE and DUST for the outage and expect to announce what that compensation will be very soon.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of our players on EVE Online and DUST 514 for their patience and understanding during this unexpected downtime and the investigation. We are grateful for your support, as always.

Jón Hörðdal Jónasson,
Chief Operating Officer

With the recent attacks against gaming sites resulting in customer and billing data being lost and certificates being stolen for use in the proliferation of malware, I can only applaud CCP for their approach of shutting it all down in order to properly assess the situation.  Sure unplanned downtime like this is annoying, but at least the right steps were taken in time to prevent something more serious.

The Odyssey patch appears to still be on target for release tomorrow on June 4th, however CCP have already stated they have delayed the signups for the next Alliance Tournament by one day due to the downtime.


The Radial Menus of Odyssey

EVE Online’s had radial menus for a long time now, and I’ve personally found them to be terrible. Every so often I’ll be clicking around to do something and suddenly I’m having to confirm if I want to eject from my ship in the middle of a battle. When Odyssey was being previewed on the Fanfest video feed, it was mentioned that attention was being paid to revamp the game’s radial menu system; half of the me cringed, the other half was somewhat intrigued.

It’s no secret that EVE has a considerable reputation as having a user interface that’s more like an office application suite than a game. Over the last year or so, CCP has put a ton of effort into improving the game’s interface and making things a lot more usable, while at the same time keeping the functionality intact. With Odyssey, the first steps towards revitalizing the mouse clicks you make on your most common tasks is coming. I decided to take these new changes for a spin on Singularity.

Clicking and holding the left mouse button on your ship pulls open the new eight-slice radial menu. CCP has previously written that all the radials will contain eight slices, making sure the items on that menu will be the ones that should be there. The overall concept is simple:

  • Primary functions at 12:00
  • Submenu at 3:00
  • Targeting at 6:00
  • Show Info at 9:00
  • Navigation options each of the 45 degree slices

In the case above, the ship is missing a couple of slices since you can’t target yourself, nor can you do something weird  like orbit yourself.

Ship Submenu

Zipping your pointer to the right changes the side three slices to let you reset the camera and bookmark your current location. The action can be performed quickly.

planet1 station1 station2

Other menus are available for items like planets and stations, each with their own tailored set of commands.


Items on the overview will also show the new radials, and this is where the interface kind of accidentally hits itself in the face while reaching for greatness. Two competing visual styles come together like milk and lemon juice, turning the simplicity of the overview into a Mensa test. It’s still functional, but I wonder if the clutter at the wrong time might lead to an undesirable outcome.


The other place receiving radial treatment is the HUD. Specifically, the scanner button now flings out a four slice menu, letting you (clockwise from top) toggle on the new sensor overlay, activate directional scanning, analyze moons, and jump into the probe scanner.

So far I’m interested in the direction they’re going with this. Radial menus normally aren’t the most awesome UI concept, but CCP’s method of implementing them shows a considerable amount of forethought. Using them can be fast and intuitive, and the consistency of where commands are located means that with very little practice you can probably fire off commands faster than the normal right clicking method.

Nice job, Team Pony Express.

Upgrading the Universe

CCP unveiled some pretty profound changes to DUST 514 this year, and the first major step along that road is coming to us today. EVE Online gets patched to Retribution 1.2, and DUST 514 can finally be called released with Uprising 1.0.

On the EVE side of things, we have mostly a set of quality of life  updates. Drones get a graphics overhaul, and some UI issues have been tweaked.  I have a sneaky suspicion that there’s a ton of behind-the-scenes server work going on as well in order to support future client updates with regards to DUST 514.

If you spend a lot of time in station, your experience will be a lot prettier as all the hangars have been upgraded with new visuals.

I hesitate to refer to DUST 514’s update list as “patch notes” since this is basically going to be a totally different game with this and near-future updates.  The entire UI is being revamped (thank god), and the level of detail in matches will be jaw-dropping compared to what it was. That’s not a terribly high bar to shoot for, but if the screenshots are to be believed they’re now at least on par with some of the more impressive console shooters out there.

The amazing new universe map shown at Fanfest this year is also making its appearance in DUST with this patch, and I don’t know many EVE folks who aren’t a bit jealous about some of its features. It was never difficult to find matches in DUST, but the new map lets you see how it all fits in to the big picture of EVE and it does so in a damn pretty way.

I plan on revisiting DUST for a new analysis post soon, similar to my beta impressions from earlier this year.

For now I’d love them to put in a feature in EVE to let me easily find active DUST battles, so I can terrorizesupport them from orbit. I mean, just look at that pristine vista in the image above; doesn’t it just need a few volleys of blaster rounds delivered from space, to compliment a massive ground war taking place there?  I think so.


The Build Up to Battle

I always find it really interesting when mainstream media covers major events in EVE. For the most part, the buzz for fights like the one that happened in Asakai is usually contained to the game’s community itself, but occasionally things spill over into real life. There once was a time when a monstrous battle was just CAOD fodder, or a talking point in a dev blog from CCP’s cluster jockeys.  Nowadays, its coffee break chatter at my office by people who don’t even play games.

No, really. And the simple prompt to shed some light on a morning article they caught on some non-gaming news site has folks looking at me like I go home to a second life as a starship pilot in another galaxy, for real. Sometimes though the background details can be just as interesting than the fight itself.

The statistics of what was blown to smithereens during the Asakai fight were staggering, even to those of us who’ve been playing EVE for a long time. One of the recent dev blogs on the subject tallies up the numbers of losses and costs quite well, but suffice to say it was in the neighborhood of around fifty hojillion ISK. What the media never notices is that while these battles are amazing in scope, so too is the effort to get everyone to that point.

I am, of course, talking about how all the stuff that went kapoof came into being in the first place.  Behind every colossal asskicking in EVE lies an enormous infrastructure designed to convert the game’s natural resources into stuff we can fly, shoot and loot. This infrastructure is simply monstrous in its ability to create things, and it’s all managed by a very interesting type of MMO creature: the builder.

It’s too simple to just say “oh all this stuff is built by others”, because EVE is never that simple. There are certainly simple construction tasks in EVE, for example it’s extremely inexpensive in terms of skill investment to have your character be able to construct tech 1 gear, ships, and ammo. I frequently will take reprocessed mission loot and run off a bunch of hybrid ammo; I guess it provides a personal touch to everything I blow up.

Once you progress up from there, things get really interesting.  Tech 2 production will probably involve the efforts of multiple people in the game, since it’s not very practical for a single person to acquire all the materials themselves without buying something from the market that someone else has put up for sale. Tech 3 production requires a hell of a lot more effort, necessitating exploration into the game’s treacherous wormholes. The resources you find there will augment construction of components that on their own have a construction complexity of Tech 2 gear.

Then you enter the realm of capital ships, where the amount of coordination required between players increases to an incredible level. I dare say, a level far beyond that required to coordinate combat with the ships themselves.

While the smaller capital ships can be constructed in a lowsec station, super capitals must be built at a player-owned starbase orbiting a moon in 0.0 space. These must be constructed by players as well.  In order to kick off production of one of the titans blown to pieces recently, a corporation (or alliance) has to not only collect the raw materials necessary to construct the components of the ship, they’ve had to conquer and hold space in 0.0 in order to build the necessary POS infrastructure. Construction takes effort for all the components as well, meaning that even if we ignore the actual military effort required to secure a place to build it there is a massive effort required on the part of many players to get everything ready for construction.

Assuming all the stars align and construction is started, the job of security is now paramount. Supercapital construction are juicy targets for attackers since blowing up capital construction infrastructure makes all those components go up in smoke. I’m not just talking about in-game security here, there is something to be said for making your capital ship building efforts aren’t leaked to other organizations in EVE that would love to kick your sand castle over.

For those in larger alliances that deal with capital ships of their own, they’re probably going “duh” right now at all of this.  However many EVE players will go their entire in-game careers without ever setting eyes on a capital ship, and people who do not play EVE at all likely do not consider the complexity of player interaction required to construct these things.

The end result of a large battle is quite spectacular, but there is something to be said for the mind bogglingly complex system of player interactions that lead up to firing the first shot. I find that it ends up leading to a more interesting discussion with non-EVE players, and says more for the game as a whole than just the final battle report.

More Frigate Love On the Way

Details are emerging about upcoming changes to more frigates, part of CCP’s ongoing effort to refactor and rebalance ships in the game. There are some interesting changes from the original theme put forward in an older dev blog on the subject, so here’s the proposed updates to the Kestrel, Tristan, and Breacher being debated.


Frigate skill bonuses:
5% Bonus to Missile damage per level
10% Bonus to Missile velocity per level
Slot layout: 4 H, 4 M (+1), 2 L, 4 launchers
Fittings: 45 PWG (+15), 180 CPU (+30)
Defense (shields / armor / hull) : 500(+109) / 350(+37) / 350 (+84)
Capacitor (amount / recharge rate / cap per second): 330 (+80)/ 165s (-22.5s)/ 2 (+0.667)
Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass / align time): 320 (+24) / 3.27(-0.6) / 1163000 / 3.56s (-0.65)
Drones (bandwidth / bay): 0 / 0
Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 50km (+10) / 620 (+155) / 5 (+2)
Sensor strength: 11 Gravimetric
Signature radius: 38 (-9)
Cargo capacity: 160 (-145)

Frigate skill bonuses:
7.5% Bonus to Hybrid Turret tracking speed per level
10% Bonus to Drone tracking speed and hitpoints per level
Slot layout: 3 H (-1), 3 M, 3 L, 2 turrets, 0 launchers (-2)
Fittings: 35 PWG (-3), 130 CPU (+5)
Defense (shields / armor / hull) : 350(-41) / 450(+20) / 550 (+167)
Capacitor (amount / recharge rate / cap per second): 350 / 175s (-59.38s)/ 2 (+0.5)
Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass / align time): 310 (+4) / 3.44 (-0.21) / 1106000 (+100000) / 3.56s (-0.02)
Drones (bandwidth / bay): 25 (+20) / 40 (+35)
Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 40km (+12.5) / 600 (+10) / 5
Sensor strength: 9 Magnetometric
Signature radius: 41 (-1)
Cargo capacity: 140

Frigate skill bonuses:
5% Bonus to Missile damage per level
7.5% Bonus to Shield boost amount per level
Slot layout: 3 H (-1), 4 M (+2), 3 L (+1), 3 launchers, 0 Turrets (-1)
Fittings: 35 PWG (+4), 180 CPU (+45)
Defense (shields / armor / hull) : 500(+149) / 350(+37) / 300 (+50)
Capacitor (amount / recharge rate / cap per second): 300 (+112.5)/ 150s (+9.37s)/ 2 (+0.667)
Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass / align time): 350 (+16) / 3.16 (-0.62) / 1087000 (-100000) / 3.21s (-0.99)
Drones (bandwidth / bay): 10 (+10) / 10 (+10)
Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 35km (+2.5) / 650 (+75) / 4 (+1)
Sensor strength: 8 Ladar
Signature radius: 36 (-5)
Cargo capacity: 175

Perhaps change that stands out the most (possibly due to my Gallente nature) is the bit about the Tristan losing its launchers in favor of drone bonuses and added tank. This seems to be the general philosophy at work here, with the Breacher losing its turret slot and the Kestrel becoming Kestrel+.

Generally each race had a tech 1 frigate that was a bit of an odd duck, able to wield alien weaponry from other races. The intent was to add flexibility, and it generally did so along with a heaping teaspoon of confused self-image. These changes may initially look like ships are becoming more homogenized, however the other subtle tweaks to things like targeting and fitting capabilities speak to a higher purpose for these frigates: flexible fitting options.

A post in the thread about this from CCP Fozzie shines a light on that point:

One of the great features of the design is that you can actually build one setup that can adjust its engagement range very well based on what it is facing. I have very good success in play tests with a AB/Scram/Web buffer tank fit using blasters that could either kite at the edge of scram range against a close range opponent using the tracking blasters to kill opposing drones, or move in for the kill against longer range frigates.

In the end, we could get a tech one frigate per race that gives a cheap-as-fuck option for combat frigates that aren’t tech 2, each providing a flexible canvas for fitting experimentation. If they can pull this off, it would be quite beneficial for new and old players alike since new players can mess around a bit more and learn fundamental fitting mechanics, and older players can have cheap, solid alternatives for support fleets.

It’s definitely getting interesting to see what final tweaks are in store for ships in the winter expansion.

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Inferno 1.2 Patch Notes

Today CCP bequeaths upon us a grand update to EVE Online, Inferno class. With update 1.2 there’s quite a few items of interest in the patch notes, so lets jump in and speak to a few of the items worth additional attention.

Module Mouseovers

Module mouseovers seems like something that should have been in the game from day one, but I’m happy to see them now.  Basically put, all the most interesting information you would probably want to see at a glance now can be seen at a glance rather than playing the Menus Online minigame to get to it.

Knowing right away what your your stuff is going to do when you push that button is a handy thing.

Mission Overlay

We all love doing missions (… right?), but isn’t it annoying to have to hunt down your Journal and find the tab with the information about what you should be doing?  Sure is, but not for long.  How about a nice GUI overlay available to you so you can get relevant mission information at a glance?

Angel Cartel Graphics Updates

Ships sharing lineage with the Angel Cartel will get some cosmetic surgery with updates to their visual assets. While in and of itself this is not earth shattering, it’s part of CCP’s ongoing efforts — and dare I say successful ones at that — to push the game’s visuals to even more impressive levels.

As someone who takes frequent screenshots I’m OK with this, but in general it’s always more fun to blow shit up if it looks awesome to begin with.

Attack Frigates

CCP is waging war on ship tiers, taking stuff like Tech 1 frigates and making them more effective in the game. For this patch, tier 2 frigates such as the Atron and Executioner are getting makeovers. The end result will be tech 1 frigates capable of being very effective at dealing damage and tackling.

This basically turns them into cheap baby interceptors, which is not a bad thing at all unless you see a shitload of them coming at you.

Self Destruct

One of the more interesting changes, and one which is a long time coming, ensures that those who choose to suicide their way out of combat will provide their attackers with delicious loot. Previously this would be used as a mechanism to rob one’s opponent of spoils if you know you’re going to lose, but no longer.

This will especially piss of people who fly big expensive ships, ships with juicy faction modules, or combinations of the two.  But that’s ok, because the change will also make a lot of people very, very happy.

Making Sense of Implants 

Anyone who’s ever looked at the hardwiring implant section of the market has at some point wondered whether the folks responsible were grinding up and snorting the old classic CD-based copies of EVE. This area is a total mess to deal with, and requires far more time out of your day to figure out what the hell you want to buy and why.

The good thing is that’s changing, with that area of the market being overhauled to be more descriptive instead of baffling.

Music Triggering Properly

In what is probably the most important fix in the entire set of patch notes, activating acceleration gates will now trigger music to begin playing properly.

Imagine that moment of utter confusion, wondering why the fuck aggressive techno suddenly started blasting out of your speakers as your ship hurtles on to its next destination. Then, subsequent moments tabbing back to the client after checking other applications for the source of the music, realizing you’re now well under attack by god-knows-what. Surprise!

Actually, now that I think about it, the uneasy silence of it NOT triggering was probably more freaky.

There’s a big giant pile more changes at the link below, so go check it out. CCP has taken a great deal of effort to clean up some of the dumb small oversights throughout the game, as well as providing larger changes to keep things fresh.

Update: Barges!

Ok, so people were wondering why I didn’t put anything about the changes to mining barges, and the main reason was that I felt the discussions elsewhere covered off all the major points worth discussing. But ok, fuck it.

Prior to this update, barges followed the usual ship progression where more training and cost got you a ship which did a generic job better than the previous tiers. Exhumers were specialized with bonuses for particular types of mining (ice, mercoxit, etc.).

With 1.2 this is all different, with the ships being clumped into two tiers consisting of three variations boosting stats in the areas of defense, mining output, and ore hold capacity. If you want to specialize in one area similar to exhumers of the past you can, but you will need rigs to do it.  Throw in considerable changes to the overall cargo capacity, tanking, and mining abilities of the ships and you have a recipe for carebear rage.

Is this good or bad?  Well, it’s certainly different, and has some potential to fuck over people who trained to specialize in one way according to the old rules. It also means if you want to continue to specialize you will be either swapping rigs or buying another ship to fit out for each method of mining. That cuts into profit margins, which you may see significantly reduced anyway since your favorite mining vessel may now be the worst for your needs.

When they first announced they were going to tromp around the yard messing with ship tiers I knew there was going to come a time when CCP would step on a rake. In my opinion, this is the first time of several coming for them, and since it affects the economy of EVE it will be a particularly interesting change to watch post-release.

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