Building Better Worlds for Whom?

I’ve been at Norwescon 37 all weekend, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read the dev blog Building Better Worlds before I left. It doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it constantly since last Monday. It doesn’t mean I haven’t read Jester’s initial post on the subject here, or Eve Hermits post on the subject here, or much more importantly, K162’s posts on it, herehere and here. As I see it, Jester means well and is a very knowledgeable EVE Online player with the inside track on these changes, though he can’t talk about it. But he’s a PvP player first and foremost. He himself has admitted he uses industry and PvE to pay for his PvP habit like so many multi-account players. EVE Hermit is also a knowledgeable player who actually concentrates on industrial matters first and doesn’t just pursue it in an Alt capacity to support his PvP. But when it comes to things industrial, my personal go-to blog is K162. That’s what corporation industry is all about. They do it right in my opinion, so I pay close attention to anything written there.

What K162 tells me is to pay attention to Douglas Adams: don’t panic. This industrial revamp is nothing to go all Yosemite Sam over. In fact, it really shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise to anyone who’s been following CCP’s dev blogs and interviews over the past several expansions. For those who need it spelled out, they put it right at the very start of the Building Better Worlds post. The summer industrial revamp (it really isn’t an expansion unless you count it as foundation for a later expansion) adhere to policies CCP has been following for quite some time.

  1. Any industry feature must have an actual gameplay attached to it in order to exist
  2. Any industry feature must be balanced around our risk versus reward philosophy
  3. Any industry feature must be easily understandable and visible to our player base

These are not things they invented just for the industrial revamp. There was never any doubt in my mind they would apply to such a redesign, if such a redesign were to ever happen. Now the cat’s out of the bag, I’m not shocked by it. From and EVE Online industrialist perspective, there’s nothing wrong and there is actually quite a bit right about it.

But it is wrong nonetheless. It’s all about that first item above. Who determines what “actual gameplay” is? CCP is probably the only game company who takes it upon themselves to make that decision. I don’t mean that they allow certain gameplay and disallow other gameplay. They are not so blatant about. They do, however, favor certain gameplay over others and that is writ large on this revamp.

That said, it’s obvious I’m concerned with the direction CCP seems to be going overall. I prefer one of the gameplay styles CCP does not favor. You see, I evidently have committed the horrible sin of not generating player content. The same goes for EVE Hermit. He too will suffer for this revamp along with every other casual industrialist in EVE Online. This revamp isn’t about making industry better for us. It sends an ultimatum. Play our way and don’t expect any sympathy from us when you can’t make any ISK to continue playing this game. This is our game and we say what is a good gameplay and what is not.

A couple of weeks ago I received an in-game message from one of my readers. He had a very specific question for me. I want to share that question and my response because it outlines my overarching concerns about EVE Online. Here’s the question.

A while back you had a post about how Eve was not able to keep the new subs that came from the huge super cap battle. I was a bit confused because a short time later CCP released a dev blog indicating a large number of people had continued past their trial. Then I read Jester’s post indicating the same. Jester wrote that his numbers could be off simply because an insufficient amount of time had passed since the event. I look at the numbers now and it appears there was a peak, but now it’s gone.

What’s your take on this? Did CCP gain a bunch of new subs, then lose them or do you think there was a net gain for CCP?

I’d also love to hear any thoughts you have on the future of Eve. I always considered Jester an optimist, but recently he’s had some negative blogs about the future of Eve. What’s your take here as well. Oh, and today we get a survey that focuses on PVP? That has to mean something.

These questions are precisely what I’ve been asking myself for well over a year. I’ve thought a lot about EVE Online not from a gameplay perspective, but from a gamer perspective. My concerns for EVE Online are not about the gameplay as my answer to the questions asked above illustrates.

I play a lot of different games. I’ve played EVE Online longer than any of them. That speaks to its allure even to people like me who don’t particularly enjoy PvP. That said, I know I am not the average gamer in this world. The average gamer will not devote hours and hours a session to get somewhere – to unlock achievements if you would. That’s where I believe EVE Online is weak. There is not much you can do in the game in a 30 minute stretch. I can go through an entire League of Legends game in 30 minutes. The same goes with Starcraft II. In The Elder Scrolls Online, my latest addiction, I can do something worthwhile in 30 minutes any day of the week.

When large events like B-R happen, people read about it and think, “Wow, I want to be a part of that!” So they subscribe. They may even understand that EVE is hard, that it has a very steep learning curve. Most gamers aren’t afraid of steep learning curves. It’s what we do after all. But when these new player find out it can take three hours just to reach a very small goal, they often realize they can’t devote that sort of time to the game.

The other thing they want is to keep those achievements they’ve earned. In most MMOs, that’s a foregone fact. You earn special armor in TESO, you keep it. No one can take it from you. In EVE Online, that’s certainly not true. You can’t dare undock in a pimped out ship because there is always a suicide ganker lurking nearby who feels that since they can’t have it you can’t have it. Instead, the only achievement system we have is the killmail system and that is too easily gamed. It makes no distinction between noobs and veterans on the killmail, so most PvPers would rather go after a noob. In fact, that may be the only PvP that lasts less than 30 minutes. Even PvPers can’t spent hour after hour trying to get the “good fight.”

That in a nutshell is what I meant about B-R not being able to give CCP a permanent increase in subscribers. There is no long-term reward in the game for those with only 30 minutes every other day to commit. And people with those time constraints are a vast majority of all the potential gamers who might want to try EVE Online. I think CCP already has those of us who can and will spend hours upon hours trying to “get somewhere.”

And that is why EVE Online is not dying. It could probably go on like this for years. But EVE Online is also not growing. That is my biggest concern. In our world, companies who don’t show year after year growth do not get the investments they need to expand. Lack of expansion means even less business interest in the company. It is not EVE Online I fear will die, it’s the company that writes it. If CCP goes under, our game ends – period.

I believe CCP understands this. That is why we have DUST 514 and now EVE Valkyrie. That’s expansion of the company. That brings interest and investment. But DUST 514 didn’t pan out as much as CCP likely needed. EVE Valkyrie was absolutely (IMO) a god send. It likely really saved their bacon. I believed that even more strongly after their writeoffs of last year. The only reason you keep something on the books like obsoleted code is to pad them. Padding the books means nothing good in the business world, nothing at all.

This was obviously written before the World of Darkness announcement. That announcement only heightens my concern. The last paragraph is billed as something positive, but is it really?

Although this was a tough decision that affects our friends and family, uniting the company behind the EVE Universe will put us in a stronger position moving forward, and we are more committed than ever to solidify EVE as the biggest gaming universe in the world.

Here’s another view of that statement: all their eggs are in one basket now. With this revamp and its bent toward group play, you can surmise they only like white eggs. That is horrendously frightening from my gamer point of view.

Still, it is not necessarily wrong for CCP to feel this way. At the con Saturday I was talking to a friend, Tanaku Green, about EVE Online and more specifically DUST 514. He is not an EVE Online player. He is, in fact, a Blizzard Boy – no offense intended. But he is absolutely fascinated by the idea of being able to affect the EVE Online universe from the first person shooter console game that is DUST 514. And guess what: you can do that in a 30 minute gaming session. You can help make a difference even if you have limited play time – like the 99.9% of gamers who don’t play EVE Online.

Of course, there is risk in tieing your company to one product and then narrowing supported gameplay to large-scale operations. We’d like to think of EVE Online, DUST 514, and EVE: Valkyrie as separate products. That is not entirely true. One universe means one core development process. They are all tentacles on the same octopus. Shoot the Octopus between the eyes with a spear gun and all the tentacles curl up lifeless. Octopi have a highly efficient body plan, but it’s not the most redundant ever evolved.

But hey, what do you expect from a company whose #2 guiding principle on an industrial revamp is all about risk versus reward? They’re putting your money where their mouth is. Just don’t forget game developers are not immortal like capsuleers. The only game developers who look to be immortal at this point in history are Sid Meier and Chris Roberts. I think many EVE Online players are already familiar with Star Citizen. As a go it alone sort of gamer I know I am. How many of you know the next Civilization, due out this fall, is called Civilization Beyond Earth? Follow the link for Sid Meier above and watch the trailer folks – O M G. It’s not MMO, but it supports up to 8-player games and it’s C I V I L I Z A T I O N  I N  S P A C E. You know, I don’t know any EVE Online PvPers who see this as competition, but believe this gamer when he says… this is competition. It’s competition for my time and my money. Never forget there are far more of my type of gamer out there than those who are die-hard PvPers. Knowledgeable individuals like Doctor Nick Yee have shown this.

To all those PvPers who may have just read that and thought to themselves (or yelled at the monitor,) “Then go play another game you pubbie!” …that’s my point. There are folks who will do just that. They will walk away from EVE Online over this. They are in love with the space aspect of the game, not the PvP aspect of the game. They want blinged out ships, not questionable killmail lists. Sooner or later they tire of being suicide ganked undocking from Jita, and they go play elsewhere. That hurts EVE Online because in a game with only 500,000 subscriptions every real person counts. And this PvP or DIAF attitude eliminates real players, not just accounts.

There is one thing CCP could throw into this revamp that would make me not care about the nerfing done to high-sec time-limited gameplay. Just make it impossible to blow another ship up in high-sec unless it’s an agreed upon duel or a war dec. That’s it. Make it impossible to suicide gank anyone who chooses to stay in an NPC corporation and pay for bling with real money. If they pay for it, they should be allowed to keep it. That’s what gamers of that ilk expect.

As for suicide gankers, if they want to shoot other players, force them to go to low-sec or null-sec too do it. If CCP is truly serious about their risk philosophy, then they must stop suicide ganking – and that means Burn Jita too. There is no risk in it for those that do it. I know. I was a member of an alliance with a suicide-gank wing for nearly a year. I remember well their laughs about blowing up stupid carebears in high-sec. If you don’t do this CCP, then you’ll only confirm your bias. So how about it? Do you have the guts to end suicide ganking in high-sec once and for all? Will you prove you are as willing to take your low-risk no-reward philosophy and apply it to so-called PvPers as readily as you apply it to players who prefer to live and work in high-sec for legitimate time constraint reasons?

12 comments on “Building Better Worlds for Whom?

  1. Pingback: You Still Have My Attention CCP… and a Prize Pool! | Mabrick's Mumblings

  2. Back in 2005 I read Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/Synthetic-Worlds-Business-Culture-Online/dp/0226096270
    The book describes Richard Bartle’s four different types of MMO inhabitants:
    -explorers: pretty self explanatory
    -achievers: they like to build stuff, accumulate wealth or social capital
    -socializers: they are online to be with others, shared challenges, achieving shared objectives
    -controllers: they are online to dominate, defeat others.
    CCP is specifically tailoring its virtual world to the controllers, with a large dash of ‘socializers’ added. It is my feeling that there are many players in Eve from the other categories as well, many of them ..’ in love with the space aspect of the game, not the PvP aspect of the game.’ Yet they are all being forced in socializers/controller types of gameplay that doesn’t suit their personality. And yes, at a certain moment there will not be enough love with the space aspect to keep those gamers tied to Eve.

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  3. Well, if you’re going to massively, massively nerf the risks in high-sec, you’ll need to equally nerf the rewards. L1/2 missions only, maybe? No industry past frigates and T1s? Also, nerfing ships that can be flown under NPC banners. Low cargo, low speed, low firepower. Can’t have free risk-free shipment floating around, after all, since shipping is demonstrably rewarding and, as you said, risk and reward.

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    • I do not object to this. It makes sense, does it not? That would also force the markets for high-end goods outward as well. Doing that just “feels” right.

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    • This proposal makes more sense melded with Lyra’s proposal above, imo. You don’t need to nerf shipment in that case, just make the new super-sec zones dead ends so they can’t be used to ship between hubs.

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  4. “There is no risk in it for those that do it. I know. I was a member of an alliance with a suicide-gank wing for nearly a year.”

    Everyone has been a member of an alliance with a suicide-gank wing, and yet everyone doesn’t agree that suicide-ganking is risk-free; so this argument doesn’t work. I will agree that Suicide-ganking is relatively low-risk, and combined with the fact that the average profit over time isn’t that amazing; it fits with the philosophy just fine.

    Speaking of risk, there is indeed a risk that these new games coming out will send EVE to the wastebin. There’s also a risk that implementing your proposal will send EVE to the wastebin. There is no sure path to MMO longterm survival–that’s why most MMO’s don’t last very long. If you are pretending that you have the secret formula to guaranteed success, then I challenge you to start your own MMO and make billion. If you’re not, then it’s dishonesty by omission to mention one path to failure and not the millions of other paths.

    the majority of my income comes from highsec manufacturing, I also have some pilots in a c4 wh. This patch has the potential to end some of my current activities, but until we see what it provides in their place, it’s a bit soon to start the sky is falling cry. I’m not philosophically opposed to moving some pilots to nullsec, anyway–and the refrain that “nullsec empires won’t let indy’s move to nullsec” is either true or it isn’t.

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  5. Like many players, I have a PvP toon and industrial alts to generate isk. Didn’t start that way, but have morphed into it. In many ways, I don’t consider those toons “alts”. They are every bit as much “me” as my main toon. I am concerned about the changes and how they will affect my hi-sec industrial base – I have a large complex operation involving PI, research, mining, manufacturing, invention, and so forth that I have tailored over time to make isk. Some of the changes are going to affect that in ways I cannot yet comprehend or realize until I see them. I can read the dev blogs but they don’t give the complete picture, I think. Based upon previous “upgrades”, I would say that whatever is done will be a NERF to hi-sec industry. I suspect CCP will not do anything to help industrialists or anyone living in hi-sec. It seems that all hte recent “upgrades” for the last couple of years have been geared toward more PvP and more Ganking and more disruptive psychotic, sociopathic behavior in the game, rather than orderly, law-abiding, just have fun kind of game play. I recently visited what used to be a good hi-sec mining system and what I saw reminded me of Stephen R. Donaldson’s “The Wounded Land”. The ice belt shows up and people Flock to it, kill it quickly and then scatter to sit an d wait for the next spawning. To Mabrick’s point, that is not how most gamers play normal games, and if one only has 30 minutes during a time when no ice belt is spawned, then one has lost an entire facet of the game.
    I think this will ultimately drive people to games like CIV beyond Earth. David Braben is revamping his old “Elite” game from the 80s. The trailers and screen shots so far rival EVE with their graphics. IF he does this well, many of us who loved the original game will likely spend some time exploring THAT universe again. How about you, Mabrick? Ready for Elite again? After all, it was you who introduced me to the original many years ago. Players may stay in EVE and return to it, but they may split their time among other games as well, and ultimately that may not be beneficial to EVE or CCP. I currently maintain 5 accounts, and if things get ugly, I will likely rearrange toons and accounts and close several to save money. That is NOT what CCP wants to hear, I am sure. Their choice – mine too. We’ll see if it becomes necessary.
    I think CCP has decided on a course of action. I’m not certain I agree with it. I’m not certain how it will play out. I’m not certain how the individual player will fare. I suppose only time will tell. I will play the game until I decide it’s not fun anymore, then I’ll go do something else. Play with my dog more, exercise more, find a girlfriend, maybe? 🙂

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  6. I was with you up to the last bit. I agree that suicide ganks are not great. But if you use risk/reward and then make the risk part zero, you have to severely cut the reward. I would support making suicide ganks prohibitively expensive, but not impossible. Or make freighters so tough that it negates high sec ganking through requiring so much isk in lost ships that it feels worthless.
    I am in the midst of writing an article that plays with these same ideas, and i’ll link it when posted. I am interested in your take on my take on the industry changes.

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    • There are two things that I would think need special consideration given on any anti-gank proposal:
      1/. The already sizable gulf between PvP and PvE fits. Do we ever want people to migrate to low/null?
      2/. The inability for corporations or alliances to negate the alts belonging to hostiles who never leave NPC corps
      Essentially, if you can’t touch the ammo and ship makers underpinning a war engine, then you cannot pull an enemies teeth. For as long as they have the pilots to fly them at least.
      I don’t particularly like ganking and gankers, but to make EvE totally safe takes away some of the danger that makes it so unique. And potentially creates even more of a situation of two (ahem, three) separate games.

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    • The risk-to-reward ratio need not be universal. As it stands right now, EVE already puts training wheels on new accounts with the tutorials and n00b ships of lesser interest to gankers (not to mention the biggest crutch of all: clone resurrection). That principle could be extended to a 1+ space, areas where PvP is flat impossible or in which lost ships are reimbursed and scammers get bans.
      Nothing says that rewards in such zones would have to be minuscule, either, unless it’s the screams of “sandbox” we would hear from would-be game-ruiners. Devs and pretend-hard pilots of pretend spaceships who ever mention the phrase “risk versus reward” ought to take a look at the new player who can only afford one ship being swarmed by gangs of zeta-clone gankers in throwaway hulls. *Then* we can have a talk about risk.

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      • I’ve seen this floated many times before as a “new player only” area, but it really makes more sense as an area balanced for anyone who wants/needs a safer area for a while. You’d have to be careful to balance it so rich vets didn’t move there for the advantage, but that is obviously doable–if a loophole is missed, close it.

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