Now, I feel pretty strongly about this subject because I count myself among the champions for breaking EVE out of the Death Star trench-sized niche it's dug for itself. I've written about this topic many times on the blog before, most obsessively in another pair of linked posts back in September, Triumph of the Will and Conspiracy of Silence. In those posts, while I celebrated the "return of spaceships" in what would eventually become the Crucible expansion, I also raised a caution flag:
CCP has hard data on this: the majority of people who try EVE Online unsub and move on to other games. They say it's too hard, or they say you can't identify with your in-game avatar as a ship, or they say they aren't interested in the basic concepts underlying the game, or they say the player base is newbie-unfriendly, or they say the game-play isn't very good. Guys, it's time to wake up and face reality: an MMO based primarily around spaceships is probably always and forever going to be a niche product. Star Trek couldn't sell this product to a mass audience. Star Wars couldn't sell this product to a mass audience. EVE Online as it is today has no chance of doing it.It's six months later and it's becoming increasingly clear that CCP has reached the same conclusion... and they're fighting against it.
EVE is a complex, deep game, and I love that about it. But EVE is sometimes too complex... needlessly complex. I've made my feelings about that equally clear. And CCP is obviously coming around to thinking the same way.
A couple of weeks ago, a dev-blog written by CCP Gnauton outlines the first step: simplifying the very names of the items in the game. This is an advantage that Perpetuum Online has over EVE: their item names are, for the most part, quite straight-forward. EVE is now going down the same route. If a hardener hardens against EM, it will have EM in the name. If a missile launcher fires torpedoes, it will have torpedo in the name. If an implant goes in slot 7, it will have a 7 in the name.
Now, the point to this is pretty obvious: EVE's developers are trying to dial back the inconsistencies and needless complication of all of the item names in EVE. For most items, you're only going to have to remember four item prefixes to know which module is the "best" among the low-meta modules. As Gnauton (who, I note with amusement is a writer, not a developer) says himself:
It's no secret that EVE's complexity holds great appeal to the dedicated gamer (or indeed anyone who appreciates a living breathing interactive system, even if they don't participate in every aspect of it), but it's nonetheless true that there are certain things that add to this complexity in a meaningful way and other things that simply befuddle and obfuscate for no real reason.Guys, this is about one thing and one thing only: making EVE's naming conventions a little simpler so that new players don't go insane trying to learn them. And maybe in doing so, some of those people that currently unsub from EVE because it's over-complex will maybe remain subscribed and keep trying to learn it. That's all. They're not trying to hurt your feelings.
And yet dear God, it's hard to over-estimate the amount of bitching these simple changes are causing. The comments thread is up to 30 pages, and doesn't seem to be dying down appreciably. Hell, the bitching might be accelerating. It's certainly getting more whiny and self-entitled.
The general sense of the comments is "Don't dumb down EVE! Don't make EVE less science-fictiony!" One of the more verbose comments even tries to argue it this way (sic throughout):
I am generally in the boat with the rest of the "omg dont dumb down my module names" group but for a completely different reason. First off, I am good with updating some names and changing things but I also think that what you have chosen is a bit too simplistic. Lets look at the modern brand names of very popular items of which we have a large variety to choose from; in this case, cell phones. Currently i am using an HTC android device running version 2.3.4. Many people have just signed up to buy the Apple iPhone 4s. Then we have the Nokia Lumia running windows platform.The point that I am trying to make here is that we have a wide variety of phones (and knockoffs) and we are generally able to figure out who has what and what kind of stuffs we got running under the hood.I don't think I can face-palm quite hard enough to reply to this without doing myself damage. The added layer of bad grammar and worse spelling just adds a layer of irony and pathos. If you've seen and appreciate the movie Idiocracy, you know what I mean when I say this. The argument basically goes "EVE players is smart 'cause we knows a Droid Bionic roxx0rs over a DroidX. So we's can figger out that an N-Type EANM roxx0rs over a Voltaic."
Let me lay this out in the simplest possible language, and I'm going to have Zoe and Wash from Firefly help me:
Wash: Telepathy? Sounds like science fiction.Guys, you're playing a game about space-ships. In space. In the future. Soon to be firing Caldari Navy Scourge missiles from Assault Missile Launchers that will impact against an Adaptive Invulnerability Field mounted to a Tengu class Strategic Cruiser running under an Experimental Micro Warp Drive, which is running faster than normal because the pilot has a 'Rogue' NN-603 implant chip in his brain.
Zoe: You live on a spaceship, dear.
I think you'll still be able to figure out that it's science-fictiony, OK? Really. I promise.
And yet the bitching and whining goes on that EVE is being dumbed down and will somehow lose its geek cred. If you still think this, then I challenge you to run that sentence about firing Scourge missiles at a Tengu by your next date without him or her looking at you like you've lost your mind.
Don't worry: you're still a geek. So am I. Geek and proud.
In the meantime, though, just maybe the needless difficulty factor of the game will be dialed back from its current setting of 14 on a scale of one to ten.