You and a few friends are in deep space, mining ice to power a few structures you own.
There’s nobody on scan. You’re alone and comparatively safe.
Until a ship pops up right next to you, drops a warp disruption bubble to keep you from getting away, and four cruisers decloak and proceed to kill you and your friends.
You had no idea they were there, because they didn’t show up in local chat.
And they didn’t show up in local because you and your friends were in a wormhole.
Things like this happen all the time in EVE Online’s wormhole space. It’s expected and comes with the territory, literally. It’s a feature that keeps PvE pilots on their toes and PvP pilots constantly on the hunt, and it’s one of the defining features of living in a wormhole.
But only for 48 more hours.
Starting Friday, CCP Games will be temporarily blacking out local chat across the entirety of EVE’s null security systems.
They call it “delayed mode,” “with pilots only appearing in the local population listing should they choose to post messages.” So technically local chat isn’t being removed entirely, but it is becoming a voluntary system.
For the uninitiated, EVE’s local chat is an easy way of telling who is in a star system with you. There are even third-party tools and websites that let you look up a pilot’s name to see what kind of ships they fly and what kind of player they are.
If you’re a PvP pilot and you see one other person in local, you could look up that player, see that they often fly this one particular ship and fit it in this particular way, and adjust your combat tactics accordingly.
If you’re a miner and see a few pilots’ names pop up that belong to an alliance that often ganks miners, you could dock up before they became a threat.
CCP’s latest move will eliminate that particular method of gaining intel, forcing players in nullsec space to rely on continually “dscanning” to see what ships are in space around them.
The change, of course, has gotten mixed responses, ranging from professions of love and adoration to rage-quits. Ultimately, the question of whether the change is good or bad depends on who you ask, and even then, emotions are mixed.
Several think the temporary blackout is a good idea. Gobbins, the leader of the in-game alliance Pandemic Horde, said in a town hall meeting that “the blackout thing that’s coming I think is a really interesting and important thing that CCP has to do at some point .... I’m happy that CCP is doing it, and I hope they have very good tools to collect the data accurately and then make decisions based on that. Afterwards, you know, it’s not like they have to choose between old local or no local. There’s a lot of in-betweens as well that could be very interesting gameplay-wise.”
Some hunters are excited, while others foresee a drop in activity and victims. Pirate corps are already scheduling trips into null security space in stealthy black ops ships in hopes of finding some juicy kills. The changes will make it easier to not be spotted, but they also will make it harder to find targets without using out-of-game third-party tools.
PvE players generally stand to lose from the blackout, but those in the game’s largest alliances most likely won’t see a huge difference. Flying tankier ships and being able to have backup in case they’re attacked softens the danger somewhat. There is a hope that the blackout will partially disable bots, accounts that participate in money-making activities automatically without any player input and rely on being able to see names pop up in local to know when to dock up and get safe.
The most vulnerable and who will likely be hurt most are the small groups in the game, tiny corporations with just a few or even a few dozen pilots. These are the ones who don’t have a “cap umbrella” who can warp directly to them in case of emergency. Removal of local chat in nullsec does push players to join one of the larger blocs that can better protect them, but time will tell to what extent and whether that is a good thing or not.
Of course, there are many who disagree on principle. People who want no local chat go to live in wormholes, not null. These pilots feel that this is something being forced on them against their will. They’re right, of course.
Overall, reactions have varied, but the most noticeable is a dip in the in-game market in anticipation of a drop in nullsec money-making activity. PLEX, the “market indicator” item, has dropped 7% over the past few days. Many on the forums and social media have (or have threatened to) unsub from the game, some wanting a refund for their multiple subbed accounts, since they feel like it’s such a game-altering change.
As far as actual consequences to gameplay ... it’s impossible to tell. EVE Online is such a complex game that there’s no real way to tell how a change like this will actually alter the game.
The overall consensus, though, seems to be a tentative welcome.
“It will bring a whole new dynamic to this game, honestly, and I think that’s a good thing,” said Aegaeonos, a Horde director speaking in the same townhall meeting.
Testament81, a nullsec Planetary Production broker, said, “I think it’s an important experiment for CCP to test in phases to determine what works.”
Ultimately, that’s exactly what this is: a test by CCP Games to see what happens to their sandbox world of New Eden when they poke it with a stick.
In 48 hours, we’ll know.