I had a few days last week where I was able to fly around Low Sec during peak player time. The thing that struck me was the lack of pilots. I flew 100 jumps through Derelik and Devoid and only saw the occasional player. Last time I was in Devoid I was setting up a cyno toon to move a Dreadnought and there was a fair amount of Faction Warfare activity. Not so this time.
I checked the map for players currently active and docked and players active in space in the last 30 minutes. Both views showed a huge black expanse of lifeless systems. The exceptions being Jita, Amarr, Dodixie, Hek and Rens. Of the twenty eight thousand players online these trade hubs accounted for less than three thousand players. So where are the other twenty five thousand players?
There are five thousand two hundred and one systems in K-Space that are accessible. Each one of them was visited by Katia Sae in an epic voyage of exploration. EveNT has a good article on her exploits. There are approximately 2500 W-Space systems. I say approximately because the small amount of research I did was inconclusive and often the number quoted did not include the 75 systems added with Thera.
A very simple view would be that if we placed the 25,000 missing players in the available 7,700 systems then the saturation would be about 3 per system. The in-game star map supports this to some extent. As mentioned earlier, huge tracts of empty space with little if any activity. I see this as a problem.
One of the draw cards to any game is a community that is visible. When you start that first character, and take those initial tentative steps, visible interaction within the game is important. I remember undocking my little Reaper and seeing a Freighter. This enormous ship was right in front of me and I was about to crash into it. The mechanics didn’t allow that to happen but the memory remained. There were dozens of other ships just outside the station, rookie channels full of chat. It was exciting to be part of it.
Same doesn’t seem to apply these days. I have read old players accounts of starting a new character and most make comment that the rookie channel isn’t as vibrant as it was. To check that I would have to re-roll a toon, something I won’t do until November when I bring my third account out of hibernation. So taking the accounts at face value, it appears the new player experience, while polished and positive, seems to lack interaction and a sense of belonging.
As part of my recent travels I visited a few of the new player staging areas and found them surprisingly quiet. A few rookie ships braving space for the first time, but not much else. Nothing in local chat. While new players have exclusive access to school based rookie channels there was always a question or two in local. Travelling from these staging areas to the main trade hubs was uneventful. I remember my first flights marvelling at the ships I saw and the amount of people. From Ryddinjorn to Rens the pipe was packed with little Reapers flying all over the place, lost at gates and drifting off into space. These days it is quiet.
Did everyone go to W-Space?
Possibly, after all the amount of Isk you can make is staggering. I was introduced to W-Space during my involvement with SCALE. The concerted efforts of all members paid for the first two Titans owned by that alliance and ultimately lead to the reformation into Conflagration. I think the Titans were the joining fee. Back then W-Space wasn’t owned. That didn’t start occurring till players got an idea of how the static systems worked and started building towers. CCP didn’t intend for players to permanently occupy W-Space but accepted it as a player driven outcome. An unintended feature that gained massive support.
My recent involvement in W-Space has been limited. I spent a few months ninja mining in the new Venture with my main scouting the sites. It was exciting and somewhat profitable but the thing that struck me was the amount of corp participation in W-Space. Almost every class three system I visited had a multiple towers. Most of the planets were being actively harvested and the POCO’s belonged to the tower builders. One of the drawbacks, or some would say more positive features, of W-Space is that there is no local chat. Without local chat you have no idea how many players are in that system unless you see them on scan, or worse, run into them.
Has Eve become too big?
I think the introduction of the Drone regions, combined with the expansion of W-Space has reduced the amount of players in each of the systems. With the decline in new borne players, space has become a big empty place where the likelihood of interaction is rare. I don’t believe it has always been like this.
If the lack of visible interaction is really an issue, and not just something I perceive, then adding more players might make a difference especially if they are limited to High Sec. I am beginning to wonder if this is what CCP intend with the introduction of Alpha Clones. Free toons with limited abilities suited mainly to High Sec. If this is taken up with real numbers it could bolster the declining visibility of players and reinvigorate the missing new player interaction.
While I wait for November, I will continue to explore the vast expanses of unoccupied space, run few missions and do a bit of trade.
Fly Safe as Always,