Blog Banter #38

In his recent “That’s just the way it is” post on Jester’s Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE’s design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these “quirks”. In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online’s developers as “relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world”, underlining that he has only four content developers but “a lot” of programmers and engineers.
Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted – expecting the “social engine” to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP’s responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of “emergent gameplay” with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?

Hard to believe how long it’s been since I’ve engaged in a blog banter. Some of it was lack of interest in the topics presented, some of it a bit of being too busy and prioritizing, but at the end of the day I think it comes down to pure and simple laziness. It’s good to be back bantering.

I’ll start by talking about the Council of Stellar Management, or CSM for short. This player elected body is a representative group from players to CCP and back again. Their purpose is to offer feedback, be a testing bed, a litmus test of what they believe will work for our beloved game, and what won’t. While like every other elected body the CSM is primarily a popularity contest, it is the hope of every decent and caring player that the final board will be balanced and concerned with all aspects of gameplay.

The reason I bring up the CSM in this banter is that I’ve run twice for a position on the CSM, failing to secure a position in the elected body both times. One of the platforms I stood on was dynamic landscapes. The TL;DR version is an ever-evolving repository of dynamic NPC content driven by player interactions with each other. In essence, a way for content developers to actually stay ahead of players in terms of content consumption.

To me, that is one of the reasons MMOs fail, more now than ever before. It doesn’t matter how much effort a game developer puts into content creation; most players will simply click their way through dialogue to get to the actionable task, run the task, claim their reward, then move on to the next step in their grind. Couple that with how most MMOs are all about instant gratification, nurturing an atmosphere of spoon fed, maxxed level ePeen swinging kids, and a game like EVE Online is faced with quite the dilemma: do we reduce the level of difficulty, abandon the sandbox for theme parks, and appeal to the kiddies who will simply grind their way through any and all content we could offer then complain anyway? Or do we stay true to the original concepts of the game, to our roots, remembering where we came from, and continue to offer a game with real consequences, real time investment, real risk and reward – a game on a single server where your fame or infamy is a shared experience for all to participate in?

Personally, I hope EVE Online doesn’t evolve in the context of mass appeal. I think having a smaller content team makes sense. Yes, I’d like to see dynamic landscapes become a reality, but the nice thing about that mechanism is that it can be eternally expanded behind the scenes without having to announce major content expansions or blatantly interrupt existing mechanics.

I also like the approach of having more developers than content designers. Reason being is simple – more developers should equate to more bug fixes, more functionality, more interesting things for me to shoot in the face.

The social aspect of Eve Online has great appeal. For many games, chat consists of nothing more than an outlet for spam, a glorified IM chat client, and while that does exist to a certain degree within our universe, it generally tends to be contained to the market hubs. The single shard universe inherently fosters community. How could it not? Everyone knows of the Mittani. Everyone knows of Mynxee. Chribba, Band of Brothers, Goonswarm, Test, Ushra’Khan, CVA, Rooks vs Kings, Eve University, all names that are burned into the hearts of players. Yes, there is a much longer list of players, corps and alliances etched into the annuls of Eve history, and that only reinforces my point – the sandbox works. Don’t fuck with it.

I’ve played other games where players rioted about the smallest changes. Sometimes it was warranted, as in the NGE nerfs of Star Wars Galaxies. That classic screw up shows what happens when game developers dumb down their game to appeal to the masses. SWG was a complex, elegant game with an in-depth and complicated system behind it, but when subscription retention dropped because it was “too complicated” for the kiddies to figure out, they thought dollars instead of sense, and ruined the greatest franchise in the universe. Bioware isn’t doing much better.

Could you imagine logging into an Eve Online where you really had to do nothing and were rewarded for it? Where there was no consequence for your own stupidity? “Don’t worry about cloning, you won’t lose skills.” “Don’t worry about your ship blowing up, we’ll give you back exactly what you had.” Just thinking about such a place makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

Eve Online is a harsh game, on purpose. Will it appeal to most? I certainly hope not. It feeds to my elitist ego that I am part of such a “game mature” community. I have no patience for kiddies, ask Michael Bolton III. I prefer engaging with like-minded gamers, players that want to punish each other in a game that provides creative mechanics to do so.

Does it make CCP lazy? Does it make them complacent to rely on the structure they’ve created to keep us entertained? Yes and no. No in the fact that their original goal was met; they have established a self-sustaining social universe. That’s pretty damn cool. Yes in the sense that historically they have rested on their laurels, been distracted by the newest shiny to come along, and lost sight of the original core ideals of the game. I haven’t seen much of that CCP this last year. Good riddance to them.

I want new players in our game. I want to see our numbers grow. Do I want it at the expense of my primary form of science fiction entertainment? Hell no. As has been said many times, if you don’t like it “Go back to WoW.”

New Eden will not cater to today’s instant gratification gaming generation.

2 responses to “Blog Banter #38

  1. Well said, although Jester’s post was more about stupid/unnecessary things in EvE that should not be and CCP failed to clean up. So having more devs doesn’t really mean that the game will be free of bugs or illogical things. I mean, why would bumping an Orca with a frigate would work in EvE since the difference in mass should never let it happen, unless the devs did not think about this and just let it slide for so many year.

    I have quit EvE again, btw, maybe because of the summer slump, or maybe because the game just was not worth the effort for me anymore. I did try to live in a WH for a bit and it was ok, until the corp theft happened and then it was not fun anymore. Any idea why there is no way to set individual ship access permissions to the ship hanger array? I mean we lock our cars when we go to the market, but a million worth space ship cannot be locked down when docked. That is just retarded and not fun. No I did not rage quit, but some things just not worth it when there is no solution to it because the devs did not think about it or maybe do not care.

    • I think the answer to your questions is sad and simplistic, much like real life politics – limited resources respond to those who cry loudest.

      If CCP wanted to hire enough personnel to cover the man hours needed to sift through legacy code, update it, fix it, get it all done at once, we’d probably be paying $95 US/month for a subscription in the short term, which obviously wouldn’t work. The alternative is to have the CSM vet the issues, or just visit the forums and see what players whine about the most, then expend the minimal energy needed to fix the most critical items before players leave.

      I agree, it’s not ideal. It shouldn’t be an industry standard, which it is.

      For me, I do dismiss some illogical mechanics as ultimately this is a game, and CCP defines what the rules are.

      Yeah, it’s hard to keep everyone happy. Hope you come back again. I enjoy our discussions.

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