Friday, September 20, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

Eve Online: Art in Motion (courtesy of  Eve Online Pictures)

Who can see the future?

I've been doing a bit of thinking about the future of EVE. About the game itself and my future in it. I wrote a brief reaction to Poetic Stanizel's quitting post and I just read Drackarn's take on Poe's post. I have to say I agree with him for the most part. There are some dissenters to Poe's view and some in agreement. I think James 315 had a well thought out analysis of the Eve Online Terms of Service (TOS) change. We need to think very carefully about the goal here, the desired endgame. And by we, I mostly mean CCP. We as players in general and the CSM in particular can make our opinion known, and attempt to influence CCP, but lets face it, we are not making the design decisions here. We provide the content, for the most part (more correctly, we are the content), but can not control the framework we operate in. We can opt out, we can rattle the bars of our cage a bit, but we can't stroll in to the Executive Producer's office and start giving orders. Who is CCP trying to attract? Theme parkers? Lets face it, there hasn't been much fresh new content added recently to make anyone want to resubscribe. In general, they have been making some good changes that improved our quality of life a bit and introduced some new "metas" (what ships we fly and how they are equipped), but the game is basically the same. The new content isn't really that compelling. Here is a post by a newer player describing his experience with the new exploration mini-game. I agree with almost all of what he wrote. Walking in station is a bust. Why was it so hard? Earth and Beyond did it in 2001.

What is good in EVE?

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women... Oh wait, I'm thinking of something else.

What can I get in Eve Online that I cannot get anywhere else? Single shard MMO. Space combat simulator with consequences. Rich marketplace and economy. Player-driven content. Sandbox. No victory condition other than goals you set for yourself. No "gear treadmill" (the reason I quit World of Warcraft). By the last thing, I mean that there is minimal power creep (I'm not saying there is none, Titans, anyone?). I trained T1 frigates skills in 2009, I can still use a hull I bought back then to shoot stuff with. All of our existing ships are not relegated to the to the same level of usefulness of the rookie ships every six months. 

Basically, the game works because you can do whatever you want (fight, build, trade,etc), but all of your actions have meaning and consequences. If I have an accomplishment today it will be with me in a month or a year. Even if my brand spanking new faction battleship that I earned dies in a gate camp it was still something I had and I can lose it if I am not careful. There is risk in every thing you do. The things you do matters. To me that is what makes me spend the hours on this game instead of another game. It's something I have control of, that I can change.

This is where it falls apart

There has been a movement to dumb down the game, I feel, in recent years. Some of the changes were needed, because there were some really dumb game mechanics that were really confusing. CCPs document on how the old crime watch system worked was over 50 pages, if I recall correctly. So, some things come and some things go. I am just worried that the player base perceives that the atmosphere caters more to the care bear and theme park MMO crowd. Because that will make the veterans quit. EVE used to have much more of a "wild west" atmosphere than it does now. Or at least that is the perception. My fear is that in order to attract new blood, they will drive out the old players. This is not sustainable. This is what happened to WOW (the result, not the cause). To some degree it must happen, because not everyone is going to play your game for 10+ years. So there is always going to be an influx of eager rookies and a retirement of bitter vets. But you should not make that your business plan, to replace your current loyal, paying customers with theoretical people that have not even heard of your game yet, even though it is probably the only MMO that has a stable player base after 10 years.

To survive CCP must add new content, new things to do, without destroying the "flavor" of EVE. There is a reason that McDonalds still sells the Big Mac, even though many other burgers have come and gone since the Big Mac was introduced. Its the special sauce.

Part of that special sauce is CCP's relationship with their customers. Most other developers do not have that kind of relationship with their customer. It has been rocky at times, but it is close. How many other games have an equivalent of the Council for Stellar Management (CSM)? How many other games can get hundreds (if not thousands) of fans to fly to Iceland once a year to meet other players and hear news about the game, ten years after it was released?

They need to keep it fresh and they need to communicate with us to continue being successful  They really need to be honest about Dust 514. I'm really not sure what is going to happen there. I want to like it, but its pretty weak in many ways, compared to its competitors in the AAA console FPS market. Whenever I play Planetside 2, I am wishing that Dust was like that. If it isn't going to make money they need to pull the plug. 

Also, vampires. CCP has been teasing the public with the World of Darkness game that they have been dangling in front of us for a while. I really think that needs to happen. I think there is an audience for it built in, and that it could find a much wider audience if executed correctly. They need to figure out how to make that and get it made. Maybe start with not trying to reinvent the wheel every time they do something. There are plenty of game engines and development tools out there. Use them. With the game market the way it is right now, making your own development tools from scratch is like trying to use Kickstarter to start a car company to make cars that compete with the Toyota Camry or the Ford F-150. Not gonna happen. Just, no.

I hope they can do it, I really do. If they can't I'm going to have a lot more free time in the future. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kelleris, I'm the blogger you linked to re: the exploration game. After some googling I found a better way to explore, with information that the game doesn't tell you (i.e what type of container the treasures are in) and things are better now.

    I wrote a blog post explaining what I thought was lacking in the exploration "game" as it is now, and have posted on the official forums in a "Little Things" thread.

    The short version is that if Eve told me, in the Cargo Scanner results, what type of containers I might find each item (i.e "Decryptor --> Parts", "T2 Salvage --> Parts/Materials) that would be a great help! Also ALL towers in data/relic sites should contain something that appears in cargo scanner results, even if it is cheap crap. The scanner should never return NOTHING. Combining these two ideas means the noobie explorer is being trained properly. They should be given a free cargo scanner or two during the training missions too and taken on a mission or two where they have to use it.