About a week ago Gamasutra published an article featuring information from a talk CCP senior game designer Matthew Woodward gave at GDC Online. In the talk, he cited three pillars to making a compelling sandbox game that will keep players subscribed and drive revenue. The last is my phrase, not his, but it’s what he really means IMO when he states, “If you do this well, people will play your game forever. People will pay for it forever.” (emphasis mine)
The three pillars he gives are social, goal-driven and emergent gameplay. We have all heard these words used to describe Eve Online for years now. CCP stepped up using them after the Incarna debacle. It seems to be part and parcel to their realignment after that harsh summer. What does this really mean for us?
And before I continue, I’d like to address a misconception some of the commenters have about the concept of socializing. The lack of socializing is not being antisocial. Being antisocial is still a valid form of socialization. It’s just the negative of social in the way black is the inverse of white. The lack of socialization is unsocial. Please keep that in mind as you read on.
Social (or equally antisocial)
This is the most important one for us the player. The reason is, it will drive the other two. In a departure from my perceived dislike of all things Goonswarm, I have to say that they seem to get this pillar in ways a lot of corporations and alliances don’t. It’s easy to hate Goonswarm because of the havoc they create, but what enables them to do it time and again is their highly social approach to the game. By their own recruitment policies, you do not become a member of Goonswarm without qualifying out of game first. This is clearly stated in their wiki. To quote for those who want the tl;dr,
“GoonWaffe is NOT a publicly recruiting corporation. We are all members of the Something Awful forums, or well-known friends of someone who is a member. To join GoonWaffe you MUST either be a member of the Something Awful forums and have been an active member for at least 3 months, or you must have a sponsor who is a GoonWaffe member of good standing who is willing to vouch for you, meets the above requirement, and has been a member of GoonWaffe for 30 days. If you do not meet the above requirements then you can not join.”
Now, there are some really good security reasons to have such a policy I’m sure – but where the rubber meets the road it means their members are already socialized. It becomes part of their attitude toward the game. Instead of asking themselves, “what can I do” they are more inclined to ask “what will we do.”
And this isn’t just restricted to Goonswarm. Since anyone reading this no doubt reads Jester’s Trek, you know Ripard Teg is a member of Rote Kapelle. Those folks definitely “hang.” And let’s not forget Rixx Javix and the Tuskers, another group that “hangs.” And then there is Eve University and Red versus Blue. They are the other side of the social circle in Eve Online – not as selective perhaps but certainly just as socially oriented.
“So what’s your point?” you ask. Well, as much as it pains me to say it, because I did it for four years and liked it, don’t be a damn unsocial carebear. You can be a carebear, but join an industrial corp. If you are dead set (pun intended) on a personal corporation, join an industrial alliance. Either way, talk with people. Mine with people. Do things with PEOPLE. You’d be surprised what will eventually happen.
Look at what Rote Kapelle is doing in Syndicate. Agree or disagree, they are making Eve Online more fun even for the folks they are attacking. I already see some Faction Warfare pilots starting to go after LP farmers because the LP farmers just don’t have the “right stuff.” Will the Tuskers decide to do something coordinated about them before the coming nerf? It’d certainly be interesting if they tried. And that leads directly to the other two pillars.
Goals and Emergent Gameplay
As I understand it, Rote Kapelle’s goal is to make Syndicate into a roaming paradise again. Or perhaps to simply get more GF. Regardless, this is not a CCP provided goal though I am certain the devs in Iceland are very, very happy. They didn’t have to create any content whatsoever for this event. All they needed is for a group of well trained and highly social pilots to decide they would take things into their own gun sights.
Can you say the same thing was not true of Burn Jita? What about the Jita Riots last summer? Or better yet, go read Poetic Stanziel’s latest on the ice interdictions. Guess what, the goons are back. It didn’t take long for those highly social goons to figure out they weren’t nerfed out of the game after all (though I am a bit disappointed it took them this long. *wink* )
These are all examples of player set goals and emergent gameplay completely driven by player socialization. That is our responsibility folks. If we want Eve Online to be forever, it is completely up to us. CCP can provide the hardware, they can provide the client and they can provide the framework. It is up to us to keep it alive and that won’t happen if we are unsocial.
Over the last month, I have been slowly changing my opinion of what CCP is trying to accomplish with their talk of nerfing high-sec. It isn’t that they want to drive players out of high-sec. I now believe their true goal is to drive the single player corporation out of the game – or more generally discourage the lone wolf playstyle. And you know what, I’m not upset about it. As Mr. Woodward says,
“Mining is boring; mining with friends and beer is fun because you can sit there and do nothing and have fun.”
Can anyone disagree with this statement? And when CCP does begin to make high-sec more costly for highly trained lone wolf industrialists, will they not band together and take to fleet mining ops for both safety’s sake and, more importantly, profit’s sake? I do hope so. And like the Goonswarm ice interdictors, they will discover they aren’t nerfed out of the game afterall.