The night that might have killed Eve Echoes

How an update has sundered the sci-fi MMORPG's community

September 20:  NetEase is giving players a say in determining the future of autopilot, and has launched a survey on the Eve Echoes Discord page

Eve Echoes has a problem, and in many ways it’s an issue of identity. The sci-fi MMORPG followed in the footsteps of Eve Online, one of the most popular PC games ever, and much of its marketability was based around the fact that it was simplifying Eve for a mobile audience. We discussed in our own Eve Echoes review how the game’s idle elements, such as AFK autopilot, were so well suited to mobile, and along with the new tutorial system, brought Eve to a fresh audience.

But Eve is still Eve, a game with many complex systems that require significant commitment, and the hardcore gaming element that existed in the original, has in large part, also migrated to Eve Echoes.

In this sense, NetEase now has to please both the players who are willing to devote themselves full-time to New Eden, and those who it attracted by marketing itself as a casual mobile game, and simplified version of Eve. This conflict has been an undercurrent for a while, but really came to a head on September 9, when a new patch was introduced…

The patch made a fair few tweaks to various aspects of the game, but one line in particular, slotted in the bug fixes, had massive ramifications:

1. Fixed the issue where warp disruption didn’t work on ships using autopilot.

For those that don’t know, Eve Echoes involved a significant amount of space travel using autopilot – an AFK travel tool – to calculate a path of system jumps to reach a destination. Autopilot was safe, making Echoes an idle game that was well-suited to mobile, as you could warp through space, while also doing something else.

But this change effectively means autopilot can now be interrupted. Ships that are equipped with warp disruptors, lower your warp stability, preventing you from escaping combat, unless you have an equally powerful warp stabiliser. This means pirates and griefers can now camp outside stations, or jump gates, snapping up AFK players in autopilot.

Find our Eve Echoes guide here

But wait, aren’t there turrets around jump gates to prevent pirates doing that? Well yes, but here’s the other issue with that patch. Players found an exploit where jump gate turrets only target one ship at a time, meaning that if they got targeted, and then moved out of range, the turret would keep targeting them. This essentially meant they could disable jump gate turrets, so there was nothing to stop them camping, and destroying whoever came through. The result was a lot of unsuspecting players losing all of their stuff with next-to-no warning.

Angry players took to Reddit and Discord, decrying the new system, and the patch that had removed autopilot security while such a bug was still in the game. NetEase responded by implementing an unannounced patch, which has received a mixed response in terms of resolving the bug. But this wasn’t the only in-game issue.

Find our Eve Echoes ship list here

Due to an increase in violations, Eve Echoes introduced a seven day ban system late last week, for anyone breaking the rules. However, players discovered that anyone who is reported by ten separate accounts is automatically given the week long ban. This abuse-able feature was, of course, used by players to ban indiscriminately, and how to guides even surfaced on Reddit. But as competitive groups, the game’s corporations in particular began abusing the feature.

There have been reports of corps threatening to ban rival players who enter their territory, with some players even getting banned for just being in the wrong region. No in-game reporting system is perfect, but this has come at a particularly bad time for Eve Echoes.

Find our Eve Echoes mining guide here

With the ban issue still ongoing, some players reporting the turret bug as being fixed, and others finding themselves unable to even leave their home stations, NetEase still hasn’t responded to player concerns, despite the fact it’s been three days. This is a stark contrast to the level of communication and flexibility players came to expect during the Eve Echoes’s beta periods, and that silence has caused many to lose their trust in the game.

But the bugs aren’t even the biggest issue. It comes back to the discussion of identity, and the rift it has created within the community. NetEase framed removing safe autopilot as a ‘bug fix’ which kind of implies one of the game’s idle features that we fell in love with – me included – was never actually how the game was supposed to work. Is Eve Echoes mobile Eve? Or is it Eve on mobile? Is it a mobile game for casual players? Or is it for the hardcore players, many of whom migrated from the original?

The sci-fi MMORPG has some fundamental identity issues, and removing AFK autopilot has only worked to alienate casual players, who don’t want to commit to rigorously staring at their phones during warp travel. By distancing itself from the idea of being a casual mobile game, Echoes doesn’t become stronger, but actually loses what made it unique in the first place – the accessibility for all those players who wanted, but were never able to get into Eve Online.

Considering the conflict it has caused, it’s likely that some form of safe autopilot will return to the game, but for many players it won’t repair their trust. Whether it’s the bugs, their lost ships, the fact NetEase hasn’t taken responsibility, or the people in the Eve community telling players who complain to leave – many won’t return to the game.

Some might see it as a boon, that eliminating casual players makes the game better. But the truth is that it might kill what made Eve Echoes unique and accessible to begin with – that it wasn’t just a clone of Eve Online.