Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Friday, September 23, 2011

The optimist's view

If we pull way back on this phrase from the most recent CCP devblog...
CCP has been doing extensive and intense introspection and revitalization. The result of this is a refocusing and reprioritization on a scale unheard of within our company.
then there are two ways to look at that statement: from the point of view of the optimist, or the point of view of the alarmist.  This is the optimist's view.

The optimist view states that having seen the mess they've gotten themselves into with the overly-ambitious plan they laid down for Incarna, CCP has learned from their past mistakes.  They are ready to embrace a new vision of much more frequent, less massive expansions focusing on improvement of EVE's core game-play.

Let's start with the good news: EVE has no competition in the space they've created, at all.  The Star Trek MMO is a flop and will soon be going F2P.  I can't see this doing anything except greatly, greatly slowing down that game's development.  TOR will not be entering this space, and every other attempt to create a solid EVE competitor has died or is dying on the launch pad.  Perpetuum Online seems to be doing fine, but it's robots, not spaceships and at the end of the day, the audiences for the two games are different.

So that's the good news: CCP can take their time and now that they've decided to focus on flying-in-space, they have every reason to polish it to a high mirror shine. 

I chatted with two friends of mine about EVE this morning.  Both are lapsed EVE players.

I'm paraphrasing a bit, but one of them said "I'm in love with the idea of EVE, but not the implementation."  As I've said a couple of times, CCP's own studies should show them the same thing: that lots of people have tried EVE but very few of those who try it actually stick with it.  EVE's existing game-play is not that good and its NPE is worse, to the point where both of them are memes.  CCP has hard data in front of them telling them this.  All they need to do is look at the data and believe it... and that leads them naturally to the conclusion that it's the implementation of EVE's features that are the problem, not the features themselves.

So, a logical, rational approach to their own data should lead CCP's management by the hand to the conclusion that iteration of EVE's existing features will take them in the direction they need to go.

What about the curse of ambition?  Trebor's blog post mentions that a feature war might well be underway in Reykjavik, but the optimist can disagree.  Remember, the devblog directly states that CCP recognizes that its reach exceeded its grasp with Incarna.  This is a very positive step in CCP's development, and growth as a company.  They recognize that their plans tend to be overly-ambitious.  Granted, they might again make the mistake of over-reaching in a year or two, but in the immediate future?  No.  I don't see it.

The feature whores will immediately start to yell that "polishing the sneaker" isn't going to bring in new players, but I completely disagree.  EVE has always been at its most successful when they focus their marketing on two things:
  • what the players are doing; and,
  • boasting about what's already there.
As far as I'm aware (and the PCU data backs me up on this), the two most successful marketing efforts CCP's launched to date centered on in-game events.  In one hand, massive in-game theft and fraud, particularly in 2009 when the Great War was at its height, brought in thousands and thousands of new players.  I can't tell you the number of players I've talked to that were brought into the game after reading about some massive corp theft or reading about the ability to grief hundreds of Band of Brothers members by disbanding their alliance.

On the other hand, direct advertising of in-game events -- including an actual TV commercial built by CCP's video team in 2008 was also hugely successful in bringing in new players.  Whodathunkit?  When you advertise your game in front of gamers, people might actually show up and play?  CCP has dozens and dozens of hours of video footage that could easily be repurposed into TV or Internet advertising.

And in both cases, this would make the EVE game the news in the gaming journalism websites, instead of EVE's troubles.  Good EVE press has always done a great job of bringing in new players.  Starting a feature war will just piss us off again and cause us to create yet more bad press for EVE... the last thing CCP needs.  I'm sure many in CCP are saying this flat-out right now to those that want to start a new wave of :awesome:.  And I'm confident that view is being heard.

So, to summarize, CCP recognizes their collective faults and has vowed to change.  The players have given them the first part of a road-map to guide this change, and the CSM will be fully supportive of efforts in this direction.  So overall, the optimist has very good reason to remain optimistic.

The alarmist's view is down there somewhere.  ::points down::


  1. I think one of the main reasons for the lack of continued player presence in Eve is due to ignoring the popularity of high sec. We've seen graphs showing the population distribution (80% high sec) yet no one seems to be able to connect the dots that a lot of players prefer a "safe" pve environment. Sure null is where CCP wants players to go, but players seem to want to stay in Empire.

    Making some areas of the game completely safe and offering more PVE type content with low risk would probably appeal to the huge section of the player base that doesn't seem to want have much to do with PVP.

    Adding many, many more exploration sites to high sec, increasing incursions from 3 to 5 in high sec, adding random high level anomaly sites, and removing insurance payout for criminal activities in Empire space are all possibilities to make Eve safer while still leaving null sec the mainstay for risk/reward.

  2. I have to agree with you Ruar; maybe not remove the PvP risk but at least improve the PvE elements of EVE.

    I think a lot of people see EVE as a game for real hardcore PvP players and the PvE players get the scraps off the dinner plate and while the EVE drama sounds really cool I think some people just want to have a good time shooting things in space and not get caught up in all the politics.

    Improving the PvE elements of the game works again to improve the New player experiance as its the first real part of the game that they see and if they have a good time in PvE they are much more likely to want to participate in PvP.

    Also a lot of MMOs (ie, WoW) are moving towards improving accessability as players will want to do what they want when they want so having better PvE content will keep those players happy and more likely to stick around and again get involved in Null sec or PvP etc.

    I think that some of the problem as well with EVE is that where some people see depth other see unnessesary complication; things like optimal ranges, tracking speeds, NPC resistances all need to be understood in some form or another to really make progress in PvE and almost all of that information is either hidden (ie, not easily available) or difficult to understand. I mean I'm flying a highly technical spaceship that can travel faster than light yet it can't tell ME when my guns are at their optimial range!?

    To be honest I think that this is all too little too late; I think that the damage has already been done and with TOR on the horizon winter will be very cold for CCP when a lot of EVE players who are also star wars fans jump ship.

  3. My accounts were cancelled with the incarna fail and will stay that way after 5 years of play. In my opinion, ccp is stuck between a commitment to sony with dust that have monetary penalties if not met, and a weak eve dev pipeline because of those commitments. They cannot reallocate devs from dust to eve and meet the milestones of beta Q4 2011 and release Q1 2012 of dust. Incarna is just re-purposed work from the stalled wod, ccp thought it would hold the tide...It didn't work.

    So, the only thing that explains ccp's recent actions to me is that their stuck in a race against the cascade fail of a eve and the lawyers of sony. Stalling eve backlash is their only option.

  4. I agree with the other posts, if CCP wants to see significant growth in EVE, they need to focus on hi-sec. I understand that null sec is the darling, it is where all the blood and glory stories happen, nevertheless, most players prefer hi sec. Humans are naturally risk adverse, it is what helps keeps us alive. This includes the CCP staff. I am sure every developer there has an idea for the next great video game, but it is a big risk to quit your job and start your own game company. If the game flops you could lose everything, car, house, family. All the developers at CCP have opted for the safety of a steady paycheck, so they know that the bills get paid every month. Sure, there are intrepid souls who risk everything and are rewarded greatly, but that is less that 10 percent of the population.

    While the stakes are not that high in null sec, you could easily lose everything you worked for in the last month, in a few minutes of PVP. This is very scary to a lot of people. Yes, you can PVP in a rifter, but its the big, powerful ships with faction mods that players generally want to fly. If CCP were to work with human nature and build a care-bear heaven in hi sec, then subscriptions would increase greatly.

    Incarna was no doubt built with this in mind, but it has undelivered to such a great extent that even the care bears have the CQ switched off. The exorbitant prices in the NEX certainly did not improve the reception players gave the expansion. What EVE needs is better hi sec, “flying in space” content. Notice I said better, not more, shooting brackets is not particularly immersive. Also, if I were a developer god, I would reduce the griefing factor in hi sec, by eliminating insurance for Concord kills and removing war decs. I don't want my gameplay decided for me, by some random group of people, that I have never met, for a couple of weeks, because they are bored. CCP should make sure they are not bored and have better things to do in hi sec.

    1. this sooo much as of right now i can't do anything with my corp due to a high sec war dec by a 261 or so member alliance

  5. @lee: TOR is not a threat to EVE in any way. It is as generic a hack and slash MMO as they come. It is WoW with a reskin. No doubt some may take a break to check it out, but after they do a few playthroughs and run out of storyline, well, the depth of TOR could be measured in micrometers.

  6. Something ironic I noticed about the New Player Experience (having recently started a new account and run through it) it seems to offer more to a returning or semi-experienced player than to a new one. It works quite well as a quick refresher of how things work, so you can come back to the game, run through it and go "Oh yeah, now I remember how to do this." For an actual new player though? Well it's no longer a case of "This is your ship, this is space, see ya." But that's only because you don't even start in a ship any more.


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