Eve: Challenges of Bloat


I started playing Eve in the Fall/Autumn of 2008. In a few months I'll be celebrating seven years of continuous play on my Main character. That is easily and without question the longest I've ever stuck with a "game", it isn't even close. I can't really explain it. If you had told me on day one that I'd still be playing, writing, drawing and driving content seven years later I would have laughed - right in your face. I mean, c'mon, that ain't normal.

It does offer a certain level of perspective however and that is what I'd like to focus on over the next few days. I've been growing increasingly concerned of late about my favorite hobby. Despite being the best it has ever been, and there can be no argument about the validity of that statement, Eve's subscription numbers have not only stalemated - they may have started to drop. (And I don't care about the details, other bloggers and forum writers deal with those. What I care about is the trends, and no matter what numbers you look at, the trends are not going in the right direction.)

When I think back about how Eve was perceived at the time I started playing it is amazing to me that it was considered "complex" back then. This was the age when the infamous "learning curve" graphic was made. I find that surprising considering how simple Eve in 2008 seems compared to Eve 2015. Everything was so much more streamlined back then. Just off the top of my head we've added Strategic Cruisers, T3 Destroyers, Dominion Sov, Incursions, FW Systems, Missions, Wormholes, Crime Watch, Exploration ships like the Astero, Stratios, not to mention a slew of additional ships like the Barghest and others. And that is just off the top of my head. And soon we'll be adding even more to that list. Citadels, player-built Gates, and a whole new Sov system. Not to mention other things that I suddenly remember, like y'know, Drifters and Sleepers and... the list is rather long.

Which begs the question, has Eve become bloated with features and choices? And is that a good or a bad thing?

During the journey we all cheer and argue and debate each and every change, addition and modification. Endlessly. But it is always seen, no matter how you feel about each detail, as progress. That is the problem with creep and bloat, at the time it all feels like a natural progression. Changes are needed, new features are needed, new content to keep the troops engaged. It is only in hindsight, when you look back, that you start to realize just how far we've come at the service of progress, change and features.

Eve is a magnitude more complex now than it was just seven years ago. And yet we would have to admit the subscription numbers haven't grown at the same magnitude. If anything, in comparison, they may very well be in the negative overall. Once we admit that, are we left with any other conclusion other than bloat?

And while there are many infamous paths upon which Eve has failed to develop, are there any instances where paths have been removed from the game? I can't think of any. Are we at the point where some paths should be removed? If Eve is in its middle age, is it time to trim the fat?

Personally I think the issue is much deeper than that. Eve has always suffered from a general lack of focus, an identity crisis of scale. In service to all play-styles it must develop an entire universe of options across an increasing number of paths in order to properly service a wide and diverse player base. This is both its strength and its weakness. I believe we've probably all be challenged at one time or another to properly describe Eve to a friend or family member. What exactly is it? Is it a combat game, an industry game, a mission running game, or what exactly? And while it is famously an open-ended sandbox, a choose your own adventure on a grand scale, is that still the best thing for it?

Just to be clear, I like Eve complex and challenging and diverse. But I'm not the issue here, I'm a dedicated power user and I'll most likely be one until the bitter end. What I do care about is that vast ocean of potential players that are choosing not to play my favorite game. Without a certain percentage of them, that bitter end only grows closer. And that is something I would certainly prefer not happen.

Those seven years saw a lot of hope for a feature that would finally click everything into place. A "jesus" feature that would define Eve for a wider audience and make everything make sense. That never happened. And it is entirely possible that it didn't happen because of us players. We'll never know the answer to that question, but in hindsight, the Summer of Incarna may very well have been the moment when Eve stopped searching and instead became an endless iteration. Only time will tell.

Now we have an increasingly fast and ever-moving development cycle that moves forward relentlessly. The "bloat", if there is bloat, only grows and grows and grows. There is no longer time to pause, to reflect, heck there is barely time to figure out the new before it changes into something even newer.

Whew.

That was a lot of questioning. Are there any answers? I honestly don't know. As I said earlier, there can be no question that Eve is a much better game now than it was seven years ago. It works better, it looks better, it has so many more awesome things in it. This is, in my opinion, a fact. The new development cycles are better. Changes and revisions happen sooner. CCP is more responsive than ever before. The leadership is superior in every way. Everything seems incredibly positive.

And yet, where are all the players?



8 comments:

  1. This post requires a lot of thought before really responding. It's very dense and full of thought-provoking considerations. I too, am very worried that all these new additions have failed to capture new customer (and revenue) bases. That tells me there's something wrong with what CCP is doing. They aren't opening up new options, they're giving more variations of the same options. I, too, am concerned.

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  2. I think incursions are a big bloat and bigger disappointment. It deserved a much greater storyline, not and endless farming opportunity. I agree with your overall concerns as well. There is so much stuff going on. For industrialists in particular its very difficult to stay focused when you have to be up to speed with resources that are coming from an increasing amount of content. I wish for new ways to actually collaborate with folks that make dealing with the increasing content more manageable. Maybe then I'll actually step back into game with serious interest. As it stands I make prints and spin ships....

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  3. As a noob I find the infinity of possibilities daunting yet intriguing, it’s still an attraction of the game and not really BLOAT in the sense of unneeded content, or even PUS that needs the inflammation to be lanced and sucked away...

    But as the complexity of the game increases those coming into the game and or progressing further into the game need to be able to find quick 'paths' to the content they desire.

    As a sandbox EVE Online is great but just imagine a real sandbox, make it a light-year across and fill it with sandworms (like in Dune!)...now send the kids in to play, without instruction and more importantly no toys, none of the kids will ever be seen again. Hand out the toys, show the kids how to use them and add a few navigators to bend space and time to travel around the huge sand pit and soon the kids will be off having fun and they will keep coming back!

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  4. I never really thought about it the way you describe, interesting since I am about as old as a player as you.

    Indeed so much stuff has been added.

    Then again, I don't feel like it is a bloated game. It rather is a game with many possibilities and that is what I have always liked about EVE. Don't like your playing experience? Try something else.

    Strangely enough, despite all those possibilities you will still get players telling you there are only a few "right ways" to play the game and in many ways the experience of playing the game can be very strictly determined by certain paradigms. As long as this is the case, multiple independent options of playing remain important or else we would all effectively be pigeonholed into less than a handful of playstyles.

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  5. Good comments from everyone. Lots to think about.

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  6. While there are some areas of the EVE storyline and game-play that could benefit from adjustment or refreshment to bring them in line with the current direction of New Eden's development, EVE does not feel bloated to me. As a relatively new player the complexity and choices are what keep me interested. Much like Kamar, I see New Eden as being full of possibilities not full of tedious baggage.

    Ultimately, no amount of new features, balancing or, streamlining of game-play will attract the new players and, consequently, subscribers that EVE needs if almost no one outside of the EVE community is aware of the developments. If CCP and the EVE player community want to increase new player traffic one of the main focal points of their efforts should be dramatically increasing the magnitude and visibility of their marketing and promotion of EVE outside of the normal EVE sphere. Many casual gamers and those whose gaming experience lies mostly in the major console gaming titles either have no idea that EVE, with all it's amazing and incredible complexity, exists or have a vague imagining of EVE game-play as clash of the tiny colored boxes with spreadsheets and a splash of the "learning cliff" graphic. Essentially, everyone who knows about EVE is either already playing, is not interested/can't play now or, thinks EVE will not be fun. In order to gain new players EVE's marketing has to get the attention and interest of those gamers who know nothing of EVE and change the minds of those who think EVE will not be fun.

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  7. I do not believe EVE is bloated on just pure content. But on the quality and extremely hard barrier of entry put up for new players and the repetitive unfunness for old players. Solo content is not fun for 95% of possible players and entering a Corp has a high barrier of entry for many people who have not dealt with video games that have anything like the social structure of EVE Online.

    Mining, Missions, Belt Rats, and all the legacy stuff that hasn't seen a decent pass in half a decade are the things that really need to be looked at. Despite Violent PvP orientated gameplay being the most public, fun and attractive part for many players and myself, the basic PvE strata of the game is the first experience any new player gets and they are neither fun nor engaging in anyway.

    After CCP has shored up its flank (hopefully) with the added activity after the Fozziesov release and has implemented the structure rebalance they REALLY need to take a look at these fundamental pillars of EVE otherwise it doesn't matter how much you upgrade the NPE or how much brand new content you add, once a New Player hits the Solo Content Wall most of them will still stop dead in there tracks.

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  8. "...but in hindsight, the Summer of Incarna may very well have been the moment when Eve stopped searching and instead became an endless iteration. Only time will tell."

    Time is already telling, since CCP Seagull is developing the game as to replay the successful gameplay of the past rather than risk another Incarna. Or another World of Darkness. Or even another DUST.

    EVE is on its way to become like Everquest or Ultima Online; games that are not dead, but also aren't exactly alive nor kicking. The walking dead of MMO genre.

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