It's September which means that we, as EVE Players, are usually returning from summer vacations and have more time to play EVE again... or not? Historically, the summer always sends EVE into a lull of activity and then things get busy again as people come back and want to shoot each other. Anyone that's been paying attention to the daily PCU for EVE or actually playing the game has probably noticed that a lot of folks aren't bothering to log in at the moment. Some people aren't content to just speculate about this sort of thing and go a bit further. Enter a guy named Jester.
Last week, one of EVE's most prolific bloggers published some information that has opened a lot of people's eyes to the fact that all of the 'EVE is dying (again)' hysteria might not be completely off base.
Some Curves Aren't
If you haven't read this, it's well worth your time. Go ahead. If you don't like lots of words, I'll save you some time and post the graphs that has everyone like me saying, "See? I told you so!" These graphs represent the rolling averages of players online:
|This is the 'all time' graph.|
|This is the '2011' graph.|
If CCP's internal numbers look anything like this, it proves that Incarna and other recent expansions have done nothing to spike the interest of the gaming community. EVE is stagnating due to a complete lack of player interest in the state of the game. It is also obvious that whatever perceptions CCP had about what Incarna was supposed to do in terms of raising their subscriber base have not played out. Older players, like myself, are losing their enthusiasm due to the fact that much as CCP wants to work in the fashion industry and make games about vampires, their flagship product is a game about spaceships.
As CSM6 continues to say, "We need new things to do, not new things to wear!"
|Behold all that EVE might be!|
The Reinvention of Null-sec
This brings us to a pair of dev blogs published recently by my former colleague at CCP, Greyscale:
Nullsec Development: Rules and Guidelines
Nullsec Development: Design Goals
I'll let Taylor Swift's awesomely diverse range of facial expressions explain how most EVE Players greeted these blogs:
|The Goddess of Being Surprised.|
However, due to the way things have been going the past couple of years in terms of Flying in Space (FiS) development, the skepticism meter is spiking. The fact is that no matter how much people like Soundwave and Greyscale 'get it', unless they get the resources and manpower needed to implement these ideas we will never see them hit Tranquility.
My personal take on the dev blogs is pretty simple: I've seen a lot of this before. Hell, I've said a lot of this before to players when I was on the other side of the table. It's great to see again but what saddens me is how Greyscale's 0.0 road map reminds me pretty much exactly of stuff that was discussed between Apocrypha and Dominion (about 2.5 years ago). I could go back and pull out old emails and (if I still had access) meeting minutes on the internal CCP 'Trac' pages that had shitloads of similar trains of thought to them. It's all been updated and thought through again, but the core principals and goals are the same: iterate on existing crappy game play and make it more better good fun awesome.
Dominion itself was originally a much larger expansion which everyone acknowledged would be the first in a staged series of expansions that went through the next 2-4 development cycles. Unfortunately, Dominion was never finished properly; it was chopped off at the knees and reinvented into something that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the lofty goals its original design aspired to. Multiple objectives, intel / stargate tools, a proper treaty system, wreckable outposts, real siege / sov warfare, mega alliance-sized industrial projects, wormholes leading to new, completely empty areas of 0.0 that had to be built up from scratch… Basically, a renaissance of industrialization and ISK sinks.
None of these ever made it to Tranquility because somewhere along the way, CCP forgot that what makes their game great is the core game play derived from Flying In Space. Instead, all of the iterative and interactive content was shelved and we got the expansions of Planetville, Sansha Zombies and A Crappy Room To Sit Alone In.
To be honest, the only thing that makes me believe we’ll ever see anything good happen in SPACE is that Soundwave and Greyscale are doing it but that doesn’t mean they will be allowed to follow through on any of it because who knows what butterfly CCP will want to chase next to the detriment of their core product. As I said on last night's special EVE Radio broadcast:
"CCP needs to find the 'romance' of EVE again. CCP needs to fall in love with the game beyond the money it makes for them to work on other projects."
|Take the bad away, CCP!!|
Just imagine what EVE would look like today if the resources of the past two years that have been wasted on all this other stuff would have gone into FiS? Instead of focusing on what made 300,000+ people want to play the game and building THE definitive spaceship MMO for all time CCP decided to branch out in too many directions at once. Instead of proper iteration on the features players really care about, we got new ones completely out of the blue.
Make no mistake about it - without the enthusiasm and drama created by the players of EVE, CCP would never have been as successful as it has become. They laid the groundwork but it was the players actions within the game that made the it interesting to the media and other potential subscribers. Today, those people that helped build EVE to where it is (many of whom are on this CSM) struggle for reasons to even log in. The leaders of EVE are doing the same thing again for the 4th or 5th time and the soldiers following them are desperate for something new that catches their interest. I’ve been playing for eight years now; when I talk to players that are barely two years in and they say they feel like they’ve done it all... something is WRONG with EVE!
The romance of the game is gone. There are no heroes or villains anymore. The old rivalries have faded. The people that used to drive the narrative of EVE are bored and all of the old fires that used to keep things moving have died to embers. Players look around at the space they hold in null sec and wonder why it matters. There is no mystery or wonder left.
My Advice to CCP
There needs to be nothing less than a revolution in how the management of CCP sees EVE Online. I think that the management of EVE has just plain forgotten what 'EVE' is. They have become so distracted by all of the other projects that they are trying to work on (DUST / WoD) that they no longer remember that EVE Online is a game about Spaceships. The Flying in Space part of EVE is the core of CCP's business and they have starved it of resources for too long. Without proper FiS development in EVE, all of CCP's plans for Dust and World of Darkness will not come to fruition.
CCP needs to change course or else the flat-line of player subscriptions and logging in is going to turn into a cliff. Whatever projections they may have had about what Incarna and Tyrannis was supposed to do for their subscriber base is obviously not happening.
EVE Online is still the sole product that CCP produces that supports any other endeavors they pursue. It is their bread and butter. Without an EVE that keeps players excited, CCP are never going to see DUST come to fruition much less see World of Darkness completed. Unfortunately, their core, flagship product is dying right now. It is dying not just because of a lack of game mechanics or this thing or that thing being 'broken' but because the thought processes that are driving the creative direction of the game are broken.
EVE's managers used to actually play their game. They used to understand that what got them the good press was the stuff they didn't have to pay for! I'm talking about the players making videos of their exploits and writing stories about what happened. The greatest stories of EVE are not about going into your room and changing into a new pair of sunglasses; they were about taking down alliances with nothing more than a forum post. They are about epic battles and heists; about trickery and all the other human drama that occurs in game. If EVE cannot provide the proper setting for these things to occur, everyone will stop listening because there is nothing good to hear, to do, or to be.
Newsworthy drama resulting from players doing crazy stuff with spaceships sells subscriptions. Drama caused by dumb clothing prices in your (badly presented) micro-transaction store and reported with a sneer by the gaming media and elsewhere does not.
We can continue to talk about game mechanics and everything that needs to get fixed, and those things do need to happen, but in order for the game to get back to what it once was there needs to be a shift in how CCP views this product. They need to see it as something more than just a money maker. Otherwise we are going to lose the game that so many of us fell in love with a long time ago and so desperately want to fall in love with again.
It is possible to make all our dreams come true: a return to glory for EVE, an increase in revenues for CCP. It just requires CCP's management to turn their heads and put resources into the things that will make those dreams a reality.