Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The o\ Show Recap Part II: Clone Costs and Escape Pod... Escapes.

Welcome to part 2 of my blog coverage of last weekend's The o\ Show on Eve Radio. Yesterday I went over the first half of the show discussing Awoxing, wardecs and new Player Retention. Today we'll go over the second half covering clone costs, death penalties, and escape pod mechanics. If you would like to view the entire broadcast for yourself, it can be viewed on twitch HERE.

Now we come to the very thing that inspired The o\ Show, the removal of clone costs. Many people have looked at me askew over this. Why would I be in support of a "death tax"? People with a lot of skill points pay a LOT of money to replace a clone, and it deters older players in nullsec from flying cheap disposable ships that cost a fraction of their pods.

Live polling on the show revealed that, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of our audience was in favor of the removal of clone costs. Charlie, who is a member of Brave Newbies was especially vocal in his support of this change.

As my present main was created in January of 2005, I am keenly aware of these clone costs. Without my FW discount, a replacement clone for me costs around 45 million ISK, but as I fly in lowsec, this is not an issue, much as it isn't an issue for anyone in lowsec that flies around with over a billion ISK of implants in their heads. Even a single 3% implant costs more than the vast majority of pilot's clones that are flying around in space right now.

If the cost of a clone is not a big deal for people flying in lowsec, but is a huge deal for people in nullsec who are by and large hugely in favor of this change, what gives? The answer is likely to be found in the risks involved.

Using my lowsec alliance as an example, of our nearly 55,000 kills, 5,400 of those are escape pods, just a hair under 10%. We've also lost slightly over 18,000 ships, of which just over 2100 of those were escape pods, or around 12%. Just a cursory glance at numbers for large nullsec groups like Goonswarm Federation (29.6% of kills are pods, and 27.6% of losses) and Northern Coalition. (23.8% of kills, 30.9% of losses) reveals the start of the issue here. No one will be shocked to know that pilots are far more likely to lose a pod in nullsec than in Lowsec, but even these numbers are misleading.

Since a 50% ratio of pods killed vs ships would mean basically a 100% chance of pod death on ship destruction, a 30% ratio of pod losses should equate roughly to a 60% chance of losing a pod once your ship goes down. I will freely admit that the math might be a little more complicated than it seems at first glance though, and does not take into account that some losses these groups incur are in lowsec and highsec. With that in mind the actual % chance of pod death while in nullsec is likely much higher than these numbers can account for, I just don't have access to the data.

While the number for my lowsec alliance are a bit more accurate for our area of space (since we hardly ever have cause to leave it) another thing to consider is that people who fly more expensive pods in lowsec are far less likely to lose them than the 10% ratio would suggest. For myself, I lose approximately 1 pod for every 30 ships I lose. Flying with a billion ISK plugged into my head, you can imagine I've gotten quite adept at spamming the warp button once I realize a fight is lost. Sometimes my ship goes down too fast to react, lag happens, or Santo Trafficante (lowsec pirate specializing in escape pod destruction, nearly 60% of his 18,000 kills are pods) sees me warp off and is waiting for me when I land, but aside from that, I have a very good chance of getting my pod back home.

Interestingly, the same people attending the o\ Show that were hugely in support of getting rid of clone costs, also voted in a 2-1 ratio that Escape pods having such a low rate of survival in nullsec is a larger problem than clones costing money. Even Charlie, our most vocal supporter of the change was given pause when asked the same question.

Here's my problem with this change: Clone costs are being lauded as a dumb mechanic, a death tax that serves no purpose than to cost people money. People risk the ship, they lose that, and then they lose their pod as an added bonus. This change, it is said, will encourage more people to risk PVP in nullsec. The fact is that this change doesn't encourage risk, it removes it.

People that wouldn't risk a 30 million ISK pod before the change are not likely to risk taking out a HAC or T3 cruiser after the change any more than they were before it. They may "risk" flying in a t1 frigate or destroyer after the change.

For a 5 million SP pilot in Brave Newbies, losing a clone means a cost of 175 thousand isk, which to my veteran eyes seems awfully paltry. In fact, to exceed a clone cost of even 1 million ISK one must purchase a clone that holds over 25 million SP, and is still less than the cost of the fully T1 fit derptron we throw away by the dozen in lowsec.

For a guy like me with a main that's nearly 10 years old, nullsec would ABSOLUTELY be a pain in the ass. At 45 million ISK a pop, and better than 60% chance of losing it, pods start to add up. Putting that in perspective, and looking at the fact that clone costs are a non consideration in areas of space where escape is more likely, is the issue at hand the fact that clones cost money, or is it that losing your escape pod is nearly a guarantee in nullsec if you lose your ship?

People say that there are no interesting choices when it comes to clones. You must purchase one that will hold all of SP, and this is true. They don't really do much else except hold your implants. In lowsec we have a choice. When I lose my ship, I have to weigh out the cost of my clone versus the convenience of instant travel home via the pod express.

At 45 million ISK, I am very unlikely to prefer taking the pod express over making 10 or 15 jumps back to my home station. If given the choice of making the trip manually or taking it for free however, I'm much more likely to sit back, activate self destruct, and hope that someone comes along to pop me before the timer runs out to save even more time! As a lowsec PVPer, I really don't WANT my victim to sit still in their pod and type in local "Pod pls" just before the self destruct notification goes off. In nullsec there should be some incentive for self preservation as well.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that the present mechanic is not in need of improvement. It is in need of an overhaul. For one, loss of skill points AND money is definitely too harsh. While I've never lost SP because I forgot to upgrade my clone, I know i am in the minority there. Getting rid of the SP penalty is definitely a good idea. For another, something needs to be done to give "escape" pods a chance to actually escape in nullsec.

Bubble immunity is one idea on the table. I've heard the cries that this would make pods "impossible" to catch in nullsec. In lowsec we have no such tools to catch pods and yet we kill plenty. Some folks, like Santo Trafficante, have made careers out of catching and destroying large numbers of very expensive pods. This change alone would be far more likely to encourage people in nullsec to fly with much more expensive pods, than removing clone costs entirely will. Surely pod deaths will go down, but would ISK destroyed from pod deaths go down with it? For my fellow PVPers, would you rather nail 1 pod with a billion in implants plugged in it's head or 30 empties?

For those vehemently opposed to bubble immunity for pods, what about a decent base speed for them that would allow them to burn out of a bubble given a short time if no one in a small ship were there to pick them off? Changing base speed might also affect align time slightly, giving fast lockers more of a chance to catch pods.

These are just two options among many to help increase the chance of a pod escaping conflict in nullsec, and bringing a small choice back into space combat: Is the cost of death worth the convenience of instant travel back to base? Sometimes the negative consequences of an action ARE the incentive not to let it happen, and an instinct for self preservation isn't a bad thing.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The o\ Show Recap Part 1: Awoxing, Wardecs, and New Player Retention

This past Friday night/Saturday morning we had one hell of a show on Eve Radio. Elijah Ghost, Charlie Firpol, Zeratha and I donned some of our best formal attire for the evening and engaged in a dual live broadcast (audio only through ER for those playing games or listening on the go from their phones, and a live webcam feed through twitch for those few with less divided attentions).

For the evening we had 2 main talking points (which lead to several smaller discussions) and had occasional breaks to go over progress in a prize giveaway we were also doing at the time. For an Eve Radio first, we also featured a new live polling system to help give live feedback on the various topics being discussed.

This posting will be the first of 2 covering the main topics of the broadcast. I was originally going to make 1 post, but it got to be quite long, and the topics are different enough to each warrant their own post. Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on the elimination of clone costs and escape pod mechanics.

If you would like to view the original broadcast for yourself, you can view it on twitch HERE.

The AWOX Dilema

We started things off this week on familiar ground, though the discussion took a turn from the previous week and I was able to keep my cool through most of it. Unsurprisingly, through live polling the majority of our listeners were in favor of the removal of highsec awoxing from the game. This is something I understand, even if I don't agree with it. The reason I don't agree with the change is because I also the issue that CCP is attempting to solve with this change, with the further understanding that this change will NOT solve the issue on its own and further changes will be needed to reach the goal.

What is the goal, you ask? Quite simply, the reason for the removal of highsec Awoxing is to make players in high sec feel safer about joining a player corporation. It is designed to make a player corporation more attractive of a destination to new players, and make more veteran carebears feel safer about inviting new players into their group.

Corp infiltration and theft are still going to be an issue, even I would consider it to be a minor concern. I mean, if you don't trust people not to Awox you, you're certainly not going to give them access to anything in your corporation, but at least you'll let them into your chat channel, maybe teach them how to play the game and be afraid of anything risky.

The major issue still in play however is present wardec mechanics. Live polling on the show this week showed that the same people in favor of removing highsec awoxing also agree that the threat of wardecs is a larger deterrent to people gathering in player corporations in highsec. While being in an NPC corp gives someone Concord protection from intra-corp awoxing, it also gives the much larger benefit of making them immune from highsec wardecs.

It's a known issue that a primarily industrial corporation based in highsec does not have the ways or means to defend itself against a larger, more PVP oriented group of players, and these guys are prime targets for groups like the highsec wardec alliance Marmite Collective. Marmite is not the ONLY group that does this, but they are one of the most prominent.

Some of you will remember the story I told on the blog last week (and retold with a bit more detail on The o\ Show this past weekend) where I created a new account and posed as a new player in Eve. Despite fears of awoxing, I managed to get accepted into a highsec industry corp. That corporation then formed an alliance with another corporation and within 24 hours was wardecced by Marmite Collective, who likely saw them on a list of newly formed alliances in Eve.

The alliance leader promptly sent a mail to everyone instructing them to dock up for the duration of the wardec, and everyone followed the advice. For the next 2 weeks, hardly anyone logged in, hardly anyone undocked in anything bigger than a shuttle, no one was talking, and I got bored and decided not to pay the next month's sub for that account. I wasn't the only one that didn't come back either.

Player Retention and Protecting the Newbies: One Possible Solution

It has been toted as fact that players that get engaged socially while playing Eve are far more likely to stick around than those that never leave an NPC corp and don't get involved socially. It is an apparent directive of CCP to make player run corporations a more attractive venue for players to congregate in than NPC corps. If CCP is going to be serious about this, then the removal of highsec awoxing can only be the next step on the yellow brick road to new player retention. Until wardecs and other forms of intra-corp risk outside awoxing can be eliminated, player corporations will continue to be sub-optimal destinations for new and/or defenseless players when considered next to an NPC corporation.

There was a solution to this, but I did not bring up on the show until I was able to be clear whether it was covered under NDA or not. Upon talking with other members of the CSM, the solution in one form or another has been blogged about already by others, so I should be clear to at least drop my version of the solution here for public consumption and consideration. For the record, I am not sure whether this solution, or others like it are being considered by CCP or not. You would need to ask them if something like this is on the table.

The idea is something called Corp Lite. This is a player corporation, but is mechanically different from corporations as we have them now. The idea is to leave corporations in the game as they are now, awoxing and all, and create this new type of corp. Corp Lite has some serious benefits over a regular corporation, but it also has some detractors. I think a bullet point list will illustrate this best:

Corp Lite Benefits:
  • Immune to wardecs
  • Can set standings like any other corporation. Makes forming fleets with other groups easier.
  • No intra-corp aggression without Concord response (in highsec)
  • Has corporate chat channel and any other social tools available to regular corps.
  • Individuals can create contracts that can be completed by any member of the corp lite.
  • Would have a 1 time option to convert to a regular corp. Cannot convert back to lite once conversion has been made.
Corp Lite Disadvantages:
  • Can not rent corporate offices. (Reduces chance of corp theft)
  • Can not own a POS
  • Can not own a POCO
  • Can not join Factional Warfare
  • Can not join an alliance
  • Can not hold Sov.
  • Since there is no corp wallet or tax, should cost something to maintain, TBD.
So there you have it. A step up from an NPC corp, player controlled, would work well for mining and basic industry. As CCP seems to be a big fan lately of doing whatever is easiest, whether something like this would get implemented or not I fear will depend on whether it's easier to nerf the other stuff or code for a new type of corporation. A lot of support from the player base might go a ways to convince CCP as well.

Of course we're left with the dilemma that many people in Eve get a lot of enjoyment out of causing grief to highsec carebears, and there is a strong griefer culture in Eve. This was brought up by a listener on the show, and I was forced to agree that some people who are new to the game are likely turned off by this and don't continue playing as a result of it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

FunkyBacon's o\ Show. 00:00 GMT on Eve Radio

The spate of changes announced in the last week have inspired me to change the name of our weekly broadcast on Eve Radio. Today CCP announced on their second o7 show the introduction of a new "feature" for the next point release named Rhea. The feature is that they're getting rid of all clone grades and the costs associated with them.

On the surface many people are seeing this as a great change. People in nullsec will finally want to fly on frigate roams because they're clones will not dwarf the cost of their ships! Risk averse PvPers will risk ships now where they would not risk empty pods before!

On our next show, tonight at Midnight GMT (That's Friday night for those in North America, and Saturday AM for those in Europe) we'll be launching our first o\ Show** where we'll get to talk about lazy game design that completely misses the mark of solving the actual "unintuitive," "bad," and "arbitrary," game play that is the culprit here. (Hint: It isn't a few million ISK to replace a clone)

You'll be able to tune in live at http://eve-radio.com when we get things fired up at midnight. Should you miss the festivities, we'll make the show available for easy listening later.

For those of you that would like a bit more than another FunkyBacon rant, we'll also be finding some ways to give out some cool prizes, like a couple plex, and a really sweet faction fit Legion I was gifted by one of the high sec Awoxers that is canceling his account due to the impending Awox nerf we talked about last week.

See you at midnight!

** While the o7 is common Eve ASCII slang for a salute, o\ for the unaware would be someone slapping themselves in the face, or otherwise face palming.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Death Knell of Awoxing

Before I go any further, I want to make plain that I am 100% behind the CEO of a corp having the ability to kick someone from their corp immediately, even if they are in space. If immediate is not possible, then "queuing" someone for a kick the moment they dock, or when downtime hits should be made available. I'm all for a good awoxing, but I don't think an awoxer terrorizing a corp for days on end just because they never dock, go offline, and can get back on within seconds of downtime ending is a good idea.

By now people have had a chance to read the recently released CSM minutes, and the cat is out of the bag that the AWOXer community is about to get tossed out the airlock. Judging from the fact that I seem to have been about the only person in that meeting (I think Ali may have had a few words to say against it as well, but I can't recall) that was against the corp aggression change, it's a safe bet that this will get pushed through, possibly as soon as the next release after Pheobe.

For some of you, the 150+ pages of the minutes may have been a TLDR snore fest, so I'll break this one down for you simply: CCP has proposed that aggression against corpmates will now trigger a Concord response in highsec. It is also likely, that with this tied into crime watch, those same aggressive actions taken against corpmates in FW will trigger the requisite factional standings losses and security status hits that come along with shooting a fellow member of militia that is not already a suspect or criminal.

The reasons given for this change vary a bit. If I had my Game Dev Buzzword Bingo card handy, I could check off the "unintuitive gameplay" box for sure. Despite the mechanic being in place for the entirety of Eve's existence, somehow people still have a hard time wrapping their heads around why people within a corporation can shoot at each other. The reality of it is probably some limitation within the old crime watch system made it easier to allow corp members to shoot at one another than the alternative. I doubt anyone is left at the company that was involved in this particular bit of programming that could explain the "why" of it. It has just always been.

It's a "confusing mechanic" for new players gets tossed around a lot as well. The protection of newbies in Eve is a very popular call lately. It's right up there with protecting baby seals and saving whales, which sounds really altruistic and good on the surface, but we also have to remember that this is Eve, and very few veteran players are REALLY interested in saving newbies. When a high ranking member of Goonswarm for example touts that line, I'm always given pause. I have lots of nice things to say about goons. I've been fans of them since their noob days bowling around nullsec in velator blobs. One nice thing I have never been able to say about high ranking members of Goonswarm (until now) is that they are benevolent protectors of anyone that flies outside of their circle of trust we call the CFC.

I don't mean to pick on Goons specifically here, but my point is that the people being protected the most by this change are not new players. New players typically don't fly ships worth Awoxing. I've never heard a soundcloud of a 3 month old player losing his shit after getting his thorax blown up by a corp mate. I HAVE heard some great ones of people losing multi billion ISK missioning bling boats.

Noob Mercs is a corporation that I have been involved with in one capacity or another since it's inception in 2008. It is a training corp for players new to Eve, and also for carebears looking to learn a thing or two about PVP. Noob Mercs has an open recruitment policy. There are no API checks, or background inquiries before pilots are allowed to join. This is, of course, "counter intuitive" to how most corporations handle recruitment. Quite literally anyone can get accepted, and join and leave as they like. I made some inquiries to see how much of an epidemic Awoxing has been for these guys, and in 6 years of operation there has been exactly one incident of Awoxing where one pilot lost a 40 million ISK Comet. Other situations have arisen where people needed to be forcefully ejected from the corporation due to various forms of ass hattery, but of Awoxing, it was just that one time.

Let's break this down:

  • Years of Operation: 6
  • Members: 300+
  • Recruitment: Completely Open. No API or Background Checks
  • Times free form corp agression has been used for training purposes: Too many to count.
  • Awox Incidents: 1
So what gives? Part of the reason for the lack of Awoxing has to due with the PVP focus of the corp. These are not the kind of new players that get too upset about losing a ship, and tear potential is minimal. The other part of the reason is that Awoxers aren't looking to kill newbies in t1 frigs and cruisers. Anyone that takes the profession seriously is out looking for the big score, a blinged out mission ship, a freighter full of loot fairy gold. It takes time and effort to get a suitable mark, infiltrate his corp, and set up the Awox. Sometimes there are great successes, and sometimes there are failures.

CCP has stated that people being able to shoot at each other inside a corporation prevents people from joining corps. A big part of player retention is getting people involved with other players, and playing together, making connections so you pay your sub so you can keep playing with your new friends. It is true that making friends in a game like Eve certainly does keep people around longer. However, since true new players don't know they can be shot by a corp mate until someone tells them, it's unlikely the threat of Awoxing is keeping them from joining a player corporation. The threat of Awoxing MAY keep a veteran player from allowing people to join his corporation for fear of losing his 5 billion ISK missioning raven to a 3 week old awoxer in an atron, those guys are scary as fuck.

We can tell ourselves that these risk averse players will actively seek out newbies to take under their wings now that those newbies won't be able to kill their multi-billion ISK battleships with impunity in their frigates. I think the reality of the situation is that this won't change much. The threat of awoxing is about as real as an afk cloaker in nullsec. Yeah, there's a chance that guy might be hunting you, but by and large, it's your own paranoia at work, while the guy behind that character is actually off at his job, or watching TV, or playing on his main. Annoying? Sure. But 9 times out of 10, it's the threat of what MIGHT happen, not what actually will.

A Newbie's Tale

The fact is, if you're a newbie in Eve looking for social interaction, it's fairly easy to find. If you're a regular reader of the blog, you might recall I made a new account off the humble bundle a few months ago. It took me a bit of time, but I wanted to find a corp full of guys that did high sec industry and weren't completely lame. I spent some time going through the in-game recruitment ads, and settled on 3 or 4 corps. I put the recruiters on watchlist, sent out some mails, and sat back. Some of those guys never seemed to log in during the times they said they were active, but I finally managed to talk with one fellow.

Was he cautious about the potential for Awoxing? You bet he was! I did not get directly invited to the corp. Instead I was given a destination and a bit of help getting set up halfway across highsec. They hooked me up with a new venture and a couple of frigs to try missioning with, gave me some advice on how to fit my ships, and told me to stay out of lowsec because people out there are mean (I had a nice chuckle about that bit). I was invited into a couple mining fleets, got social with the fellas, and after a few days they told me, "You know what? You're pretty cool and we'd like you to join." I can't honestly say that being in the corp was all that different than being out of it, except that we joined a newly formed alliance and were promtply wardecced by The Marmite Collective. The alliance leader told everyone to dock up for a week to deny Marmite any kills. I got bored, and let my account lapse.

A Story About Trust

Elijah Ghost, Doc Nielsen, LarkinAlpha, Zeratha, Charlie Firpol, Pawiie, Bajran Bali, and a few others I've met over the years, have all flown with me at various times, often in the same corp. We met in some way, had a chat, flew together, flew together more, got in corps together, shot people together, and had some good times together. Every one of those guys has had the chance to absolutely fuck me over in Eve. I've taken the chance and turned my back, and the knife never landed. If we'd met playing a game like WoW, they'd never have even had the chance to screw me in even a remotely meaningful way.

I have played a LOT of other MMO's. I do not have 1/10th the connection with anyone in any guild or group I've played with in any other game than I have with my Eve bros. I consider these guys as much friends as anyone I know or actually come face to face with on a regular basis. Why is that? Why do I have that connection with these guys where I couldn't even tell you the first names of 3 people I've played other MMO's with?

I'll tell you why. Because Eve, much like real life, doesn't have a lot of artificial barriers in place to prevent people from using and abusing you. When you land in a tight spot in Eve, you learn real quick who your friends are. The guys that come bail you out of a jam, the guys that swoop in to save your ass or die trying. The guys that when you're in a slump and the corp is falling apart around you, they don't steal everything not nailed down and make a run for it, but help you pick up the pieces and get things going again. The guys that had multiple chances to fuck you over, but never took any of them. When you interact with people under these conditions, the bonds of friendship are a lot stronger than they are when those elements are not present.

And now, back to the Meat and Potatoes

If CCP's real intent is to get players more socially involved in the game, with the realization that many new players probably never make it out of highsec, it might be a good idea to start looking at tools and content that encourage group play in highsec for newbies. Safety in numbers is a huge part of success in most other parts of the game. Sure there are some amazing solo artists in low, and null space, but to see success on a grand scale, you need some friends. On the other hand, almost every PVE activity in highsec is designed for a solo player, and there is no tangible benefit to bringing friends with you.

You might complete missions faster with a group, but then you're splitting the rewards... there's no net gain for your time put in, plus when solo you have no need to hold off for a few minutes while your buddy refills his beer, or runs off to take a shit.

Mining is more efficient with a group to be sure, but while we're on the subject of "unintuitive gameplay bingo" I'm not even sure I can call mining in Eve "gameplay". CCP may want to look into that particular aspect of Eve after 11 years, especially since anyone I've ever heard talk about how mining might be changed at CCP now works for Riot.

There is no room for cooperative group play in market PVP. Being a space trucker arguably works better solo than with a group, since less people know what you're carrying and where you're going. High sec exploration doesn't pay well enough to invite your friends along to share. I will say that high sec scamming DOES work better if you have some help... but I think we're aware that CCP isn't looking to buff that particular form of gameplay, since they chip away at it on a fairly steady basis.

That leaves us with incursions. I think here is where we find the meat of our issue, and who this change is supposed to help. Incursions are the only high sec PVE opportunities that both require group play and are worth doing in a group. Running them in a player corporation is risky right now because who wants to risk a multi billion isk incursion ship to awoxing? Not many of us. Of course, newbies don't do incursions, because it takes time to get the skills and the isk together to get in that pirate battleship, or even to fly a t2 logi ship properly. If we remove the threat of Awoxing, people running incursion groups will be much more free with the invites right? Sure!

Of course there's that second gorilla in the room that's keeping those guys out of player corps as well, and that would be wardecs. Not much point in making that player corp to run incursions with your friends you don't trust to not awox you, only to have some other group of players who love scoring big kills (or just ruining your day) wardeccing you, forcing you to keep those pretty ships docked up and not making you incursion money for a week or more. It's still much easier to stay in an NPC corp.

After all these words and ponderings, I'm still left with the question of how removing Awoxing from the game is really going to help achieve the goals CCP has set out. I've looked at the publicly available PCU graphs, and Eve is in a slow and steady decline, and has been since Incarna. This change won't do anything to stem that tide.

There are many player identities in eve: "miner," "mission runner," "wormholer," "pirate," and "awoxer" to name a few. That last one is about to get struck from the list. A tool for content creation is being struck from a game that hasn't seen any significant content added to it since the Incursion expansion of 2010. 4 years is a long as time to put your game in maintenance mode and expect people to stick around. As more people get to the point where they've done everything they want to do, and have no place left they'd like to go, they will leave. For those players that have settled on Awoxing and infiltration as the thing that keeps them playing, they'll now have to either find something else to do, or find something else to play. I doubt the retention of new players from their departure will do much, if anything to stem the decline we've been seeing.

When it comes right down to it, what keeps Eve interesting isn't its PVE content, how many ships we can fly, or even the gorgeous art. It's player interaction, and that ever present danger just out of the corner of your eye we call risk, which comes from the less than optimal player interactions we might face. The level of risk in Eve is what keeps it apart from other MMO's that pander to the lowest common denominator and make things like loss and death hurt as little as possible. Many of us that have played Eve for a long time can't play those other games for any significant period of time without getting bored out of our pants. No real challenge, no risk of loss, no lasting interest.

Any element of Eve that creates risk also creates content. Eve is a niche game. It will not get to the numbers of players that are seen in larger MMO's, no matter how many baby steps it takes in their direction to minimize chances of loss and risk in the "safer" parts of space. The removal of Awoxing isn't the first step in this direction, it is just the next step in this direction, and with each step that's been taken, there comes another that seems like it is in the way of retaining players and is confusing to newbies that needs a nerf.

And this isn't a slippery slope argument, warning of this being the first step towards some unknown, out of this world, destination. We're already a good way down the mountain of continually making non-consensual PVP more difficult to engage in, while adding structured ways for players to engage in "fair fights" with duel mechanics and dojos. Wardecs have been nerfed to hell with more likely to come in the future, we've changed loot can mechanics from limited engagements to global suspect to discourage stealing from others, added a safety feature to prevent people from accidentally getting concordokkened, contracts have been restructured and color coded so people don't have to look at them nearly as hard to realize they're getting scammed (hint: all contracts in Jita are scams), mining ships have been given battleship level tanks to make afk mining easier and more risk free than it's ever been, and the list goes on!

The more structured and rigid Eve becomes, the less sand in the sandbox.

I'm of the opinion that the only way to truly make highsec safe for "new players" (read: risk averse veterans with shiny toys they don't want to lose) would be to remove all non-consensual PVP from highsec entirely. Get rid of wardecs, and force green safety on all ships once they jump into their first highsec system.

Of course, CCP would never skull fuck the sandbox that badly, but this is becoming a question of how close to that line they're willing to go. Some players, maybe even a lot of players, might think that a safer highsec is a great idea, and at first it would seem so. But after a while, when you get bored of saving the damsel for the thousandth time with no need to make plans against someone trying to ninja salvage your loot, or realize you don't need to have a strip miner running in the background while you watch your favorite porn flicks (or episodes of My Little Pony if you're from Failheap) you're going to be looking for something that's more engaging to do. If you're one of those risk averse people, that something will likely not be out in lowsec, nullsec or WH space, but something outside Eve entirely.

In the end, this is how Eve dies. Not this year, next year, or even 5 years from now. Not in a flaming ball of player rage quits and broken monuments, but slowly, as candles snuffed out one by one, with no fucks left to fan the flames of passion for a game that has seen nothing but minor fixes and tweaks since 2011. In a couple of months it's likely a good portion of Awoxers will be docking up their pods for the last time, their part of the sandbox closed off permanently. Unfortunately, if the trends continue, they won't be alone since that steady PCU decline has been... well, steady.

I have faith that someday CCP will realize the steady decline we are seeing has more to do with a lack of actual new content (and no, a few new ships and mission types don't qualify) than new players getting awoxed, or risk averse veterans crying on the forums. Someday they might figure out that making high sec safer will not necessarily lead to more meaningful player socialization. Hopefully we'll get to see what's on the other side of that star gate we were shown at fanfest before the downward trend forces another round of layoffs. If not, I don't think there's a fiction department left to write the apology.