Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blog Banter Resurrection: the Future of EVE

After a long hiatus, it looks like the Blog Banter is back. The Banter is now being run by Seismic Stan over at Freebooted. Here is this month's topic:
In recent months, the relationship between CCP and it's customers has been the subject of some controversy. The player-elected Council of Stellar Management has played a key role in these events, but not for the first time they are finding CCP difficult to deal with. What effect will CCP's recent strategies have on the future of EVE Online and it's player-base? What part can and should the CSM play in shaping that future? How best can EVE Online's continued health and growth be assured?
This topic comes at an interesting time, as I've been recently thinking about the future of EVE, and I have to tell you, my opinions have changed a bit. I know I promised to be a positive voice in a sea of negativity, but I also have to face reality.  

I think there are serious problems in the EVE community and game right now. To be honest, I haven't been playing a whole lot of EVE lately. Summer has been a busy time for me with real life, and also the "Summer of Rage" left a bad taste in my mouth.  

People leave MMO's every day. It's a fact of life. New players are very important to any MMO. You have to wonder, though, what is a new player's experience in EVE these days? Whatever you want to say about CCP (and I'll even agree with some of it), we're all responsible for our own actions. That means we, the players, are as accountable as anyone else. If I were a new player thinking about getting into EVE, I think I would find the negativity in the community right now a real turn-off. Hell, I've been playing the game for over a year now, and I find it a turn-off. Between all the negativity on forums and elsewhere on the net and in the Local channel in the game, who in their right mind would ever want to be part of this community? Who would want to play a game that the most dedicated of players seem to hate? Whatever CCP does or doesn't do, we the players are doing a pretty good job ourselves of killing EVE. When I got to Failheap Challenge or the EVE forums, I don't see a community I especially would want to join.  

I don't really know what the future of EVE is. I used to have very rose-tinted ideas. I've discussed some of them in previous blog posts. I was very excited about the prospects of Incarna and Dust 514 and whatever else might be on the horizon in EVE. Now, that excitement has waned. It seems to me that CCP needs to learn some hard lessons about player relations for this game to grow at all beyond what it already is. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any sign that CCP has any serious interest in learning those lessons. To be honest, I think the CSM is a joke (and I always have)--it's just a bunch of smoke and mirrors to give the players the illusion they have some say in what happens with this game when they really don't.

Things have been slow in the wormhole over the summer, and I haven't had much play time anyway, so what little time I've had I've spent in High Sec. I've found myself wondering: Where the hell is the content in this game? I get that EVE is a "sandbox," and that's a great idea.  I think we'll see more games like that from now on.  But you've still gotta have content. The player-generated content should be augmenting content generated by CCP, not replacing. Having a sandbox game doesn't get you off the hook for putting your own evolving stories in the game.

However, the PVE in EVE is a joke. You do the same missions over and over and over. The same EXACT missions. This kind of makes suspension of disbelief impossible. Any fiction writer can tell you that's a death sentence. If people can't suspend their disbelief, then they don't really get into your story (or game), which means they don't really give a shit. Eventually they will put that book or game down and find something more engaging, something they can really connect with.  Fighting against sleepers is a little better (because  they're more challenging), but not much. There's still no story advancement. It doesn't take long at all to memorize all the sleeper sites and know exactly what to expect. Part of the fun of playing an MMO is participating in a story. EVE is sadly lacking in that department.  

I used to play World of Warcraft (who hasn't?). I played that game a lot, and while I enjoyed the game, there was a LOT I didn't like about it. There were a many things in WoW that were, frankly, fucking annoying. Recently, a game company called Trion came out with a new fantasy MMO. It's called RIFT. You may have heard of it. Playing RIFT, I see that all the annoying broken things in WoW have been FIXED. Even things I would have never thought to fix were fixed. What's more, Rift has an interesting storyline. Your quests actually go somewhere. There are also constantly new world events that further advance the plot. I never read the quests in WoW. I sure as hell never read the missions in EVE (at least, not after the first few once I realized they just repeat forever).  

Something the Mittani said during the CSM elections has really stuck in my mind. I don't remember which interview it was, but I believe he was talking about the metagame in EVE. The part I remember is when he said that the actual game play in EVE isn't really that much fun. You're just watching three grey bars turn into three red bars. I realized when he said it that he was right. I spend more time reading blogs and forums and working on my own blog than I do playing the game. Even when I am "playing the game", as often as not I'm tabbed out and reading a web page or something. This is very common in this game. I've never played a game where so many people who are "in game" aren't actually paying attention to the game. People AFK mine and mission all the time. If I worked at CCP, this would be a HUGE red flag for me. It seems like you spend more time WAITING in this game as you do doing anything else. This is broken.

The future of EVE is ultimately up to CCP and the players. However, the current trajectory doesn't look good. Something needs to change, and it needs to change now. Star Wars the Old Republic is coming out soon. Although I don't see SWtOR taking away many EVE subscribers, I do think it will be a very successful game. If it is, it may just show people that a sci-fi(/fantasy) MMO can be a successful money maker. Once it's determined the audience is out there for such a game, it's only a matter of time before an innovative, brilliant company comes along and puts out a game that fixes all that is broken in EVE, while keeping intact all that makes it great, just as Trion did with WoW. When that game comes out, I'll be in the beta!

EVE has a lot of issues, but they're issues that can be fixed. CCP needs to take their players more seriously. They need to listen to the community and back off the throttle on Incarna "iterations". Instead, they need to fix what's already in the game. I've never played a game with so many bugs. My warp tunnels have been borked since the first Incarna expansion. Yes, I've cleared my cache. I never notice any bugs in RIFT, yet I can't play EVE for ten minutes without being annoyed by multiple bugs. The UI is a mess and out-dated. Unfortunately, there's little hope in the community that CCP will fix any of this. Even Incarna was a let down. I maybe could have gotten on board if there was anything to it, but it's really just a new station interface. That's not an expansion in my book.

There was (supposedly) a large player exodus from EVE this summer. At the time I thought it was just a bunch of over-stated emo-rage from people who should really find some more important things in their lives to get passionate about. Now I think it may also have been rats fleeing a sinking ship. Only time will tell. In the end, EVE is just one game. There will be more, and they will only improve as time goes by. Check out my first post in this blog to see just how far science fiction video games have come already. EVE has changed the game industry forever. CCP's great experiment with their sandbox game was overall a success. They've shown it can be done.  Now they (or someone else) just needs to do it better. Hopefully the next sandbox spaceship game will have more content and will not rely solely on the players for that content.  

I believe that sci-fi MMO's will only become more popular in the coming years. You can already see an increase in interest in this genre in the movies and on television. What EVE really needs most of all is some good old-fashioned healthy competition. That may get the folks at CCP to finally pull their heads out. I don't think we'll have to wait for long.

You can read the rest of the Blog Banter posts here.

Fly smart.


  1. Been waiting for this to go Beta:

    Looks like recent Dev Posts from August 2011. :D

  2. Wow, thanks for the link! That game looks really cool. I especially am excited that it uses Newtonian physics and respects the laws of astrophysics. I'm tired of feeling like I'm in a submarine. I'm really hoping that ships will move like a ship in space would move in this game! Very very cool.