If it ain't Bloat


Yesterday's post asked a lot of questions, about where Eve has been and where Eve is heading. The core question was relatively simple - is Eve becoming bloated with features, options, and content?  Especially in light of recent indications that subscription numbers may be trending in the wrong direction, this is an important question.

My answer is also simple, I don't believe "bloat" is the issue. While I think that some areas within Eve have not received the proper attention, and some areas have been added that frankly we probably didn't need, in general I don't believe that "bloat" is the issue. Eve is an entire universe, a gargantuan sandbox in which any player (young or old) controls their own destiny and (within reason) can choose their own adventure. As such, it relies heavily on vast and varied options. These options can often seem like bloat, especially to those of us who have explored them and landed on one or two directions for ourselves.

So if it ain't bloat, what is it?

I don't think the answer is simple. In fact I think it is rather complex, historical, and layered within the persona that Eve has built around itself for the past decade. When Eve was born the idea of an open-ended, harsh, unforgiving science-fiction universe was an incredible accomplishment. One worthy of high-praise, attention and trial. Heck, the mere fact that another MMO was available at the time was probably enough to get most interested players to give it a try. Over the years Eve has planted its flag firmly in the HTFU camp of games. A cold, distant, unforgiving place in which a player is left almost entirely on their own. It is the pure definition of "sink or swim". Throw yourself into the water and let's see what happens.

(Man that sounds a lot like Iceland, doesn't it? That is not a coincidence.)

And while there are players (like myself) that love Eve for this, sadly the vast majority of potential players do not. And while I would never suggest that Eve start holding hands and singing warm campfire songs, it does seem likely that some things need to adapt to the world we find ourselves in now. This is no longer the early days. The world is different now and Eve needs to adapt, ever so slightly, to the new world.

The New Player Experience needs a lot of help. My wife recently started playing Eve and I've been living her experience with her. It has been an eye-opening experience to say the least. And while the new "opportunity" system is an improvement, in general the Newbro experience leaves a lot on the table. I've written a lot about ways to fix this issue over the years because it has always been a concern. New players are our life-blood and we need to be doing a better job of helping them. I don't care if it "isn't Eve", new players need help and Eve is not doing a good enough job of helping them.

The New Player Experience, or lack of one, is hurting Eve. Which means it is hurting all of us. That needs to change and change fast.

More reward control needs to be given to leaders. Alliance executors and Corporation CEOs need a better and more comprehensive system of rewards for their players. Right now the only thing we have is an Award System that is frankly kinda dumb. In fact it can even be turned off. And while it would be nice to think that achieving things in Eve should be its own reward, it would be nice to give some actual rewards for actual achievement. People like to feel good about what they are doing and Eve makes it almost impossible to recognize that. A sense of achievement helps everyone. This is an area of Eve that I believe needs a serious looking into, some development, and some significant options made available. I would argue that Eve itself needs to have a way to recognize something that has happened in-game on an individual level. I don't think this is asking for a lot.

Bring belt based NPCs back across New Eden. This is especially helpful for younger players, but it would also increase content across the board for everyone. Asteroid belts, in most of New Eden, are empty wastelands serving very little purpose. Watching my own wife struggle to make a decent living belt ratting has really opened my eyes to this issue and its implications across the entire map. Again, yet another small change that would have tremendous impact across the game. For everyone.

I could go on. The point being that once you take a moment and start thinking about Eve as an incubator for growing dedicated and long-term players, instead of an unforgiving and harsh world that leaves you entirely on your own - the ideas start. One could look at every system in Eve, from Industry to PvP and beyond, and see potential improvements. And the best news is, aside from the New Player Experience, most of these changes are pretty simple and easy to implement.

And then we can talk about other ways to build the player-base. About opening doors and creating public spaces, about colorful ships, customizable content, player controlled development, aliens, exploration, and remaking the image of Eve and building a brand that is welcoming to new players, interesting to old ones, and captivating enough to survive another couple of decades.

And isn't that something worth a little time and effort?

I think so.



11 comments:

  1. Eve NPE is still shocking, they just tarted up a few bits and pieces, nothing really changed.

    Played Elite: Dangerous a few months and it provided you with an pdf file which covered the basics in a clear fashion. I actually knew wtf was happening. This ain't highend stuff but CCP still don't have it and their wiki site is pathetic. https://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Main_Page

    At the moment they head banner is New Payer FAQ, which is great but it's 404'd and god help you if you want to navigate around the site, The premier resource of Eve info has to be a CCP run site, as they own the game, but they are lazy and are happy to let 3rd parties, such as Eveuni do stuff they really should be handling themselves.

    While reducing the skills time for certain items would be great, the real issue is making sure the players have the tools to understand the rules.

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  2. I think you wrapped that up very nicely :)

    Nothing to add...

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  3. I started to play properly (full sub) back in late January so I've been serious about EVE for just six months. At that time back in January I was enduring a period of unemployment, so that combined with the winter weather/early dark nights meant I had the time to put in 6-8-hour binges which I firmly believe is the very best way to learn the game i.e. total immersion.

    My main point: is there not a case for a strong seasonal influence on player numbers? For example, winter = dark nights, cold, can't go out much so stay in and play games; summer = light nights, stay out, have BBQs, go on holiday, do stuff so don't play video games so much.

    If people are still complaining about reducing subscriber numbers a year from now I'll know my theory is incorrect, but I just wondered...

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    1. It makes sense, but sadly the numbers (from a macro level) don't back up the idea of seasonality especially from a subscription basis. Certainly concurrent on-line user numbers often reflect micro changes in the player base, such as schools, vacations, holidays, etc., but those are minor compared to the other numbers. And again, here I'm only going by what is being reported by other people who follow such things.

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  4. EVE's worst enemies are the players themselves. There is a solid, immovable, and immutable core group of long time players that have frozen the game in time. Between what they feel the game should be and what they've turned it into, there just isn't much room for change. I can't help but wonder how popular a "lite" pvp version of the game would be without all the sov and ISK grind.

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    1. I often wonder that myself to be honest.

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  5. Whilst I'm generally in favour of buffing up belt ratting, if you do it in lowsec it's actually very easy to make money. You need the right ships though. Something with fast warp speeds, and quick align times to bounce around the belts, and enough firepower to take down a clone soldier rat.

    The new T3 destroyers fit the bill perfectly, but I've had the most success with a fairly mundane fit Astero. Takes longer to bring down the tag rats, but you can bring a flight of salvage drones along to clean up after yourself. No trail for gentlemen of questionable character to follow, and salvage takes up a very small amount of cargo space, meaning you can pack more potential ISK into your hold before returning to base.

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    1. I actually have seen more and more Astero's doing this in low sec lately. Which is great, just not sure it has the impact a nice healthy buff overall would have - especially for younger players.

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  6. It goes deeper than that. Little red crosses aren't going to keep people subbed.

    EVE is supposed to be a persistent MMORTS, but it doesn't play like one. The tempo of conflict is slow. The UI is gratuitous.

    CCP made it so that nearly all of the ships are useful, but they aren't getting players to the fight, and they keep putting in reward systems for avoiding other players. Get rid of pods, and attributes and implants. Get rid of local. Port small amounts of the overview into the 3d client, and then get rid of the overview. Heavily nerf d-scan. Get rid of jumpclone limitations. Limit broadcasts to squads, or only up or down one level.

    On the carrot end, focus on the structures. They are the core of RTS. They are the locus of activity between pilots. They are what get people on the field and what should shape player options. Make them the epicenter of economic activity. Make them critical for jumpcloning effectively as well as warehousing those disposable fleets. Make them part of every blueprint, and every stage of industry. Nerf alt logistics into the ground.

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  7. I think that EVE haves a serious issue with old farts, both players and developers. They have their personal views of the game, and they clash with reality.

    EVE is NOT JUST a PvP game. The number 1 thing players do, it's PvE. But "the core" doen't wants to agree that PvE is the favorite activity in EVE. It SHOULD NOT be, right? So it is not worked on. And thus 50% of all new players are left to deal with terrible aged content which places them in the bullseye. It serves them nothing to deal with 12 years PvP veterans (and why should they? Who wants to join a PvP game with 12 years veterans owning the place?). PvE players find themselves up of shit creek without a paddle (rescue the damsel x100), and are publicly scorned for it. "You should do something else! HTFU or go back to WoW!". Such a great way to make feel new players welcome...

    But wait! There is more! Even players who manage to ge the right ideas (find other people who are doing things right, then, gang together and go outnumber some poor fools and kill their stuff) are up to a surprise. Most player corps worth joining have every last reason to not trust unknown players. And so said unknown players are greeted with a degree of hostility and suspicion which, unfortuntely, doesn't translates in a "quality position" once they pass the filter. Oh no, because even bad corporations have requisites. A player who meets such opposition and eventually manages to join a corporation with lor or null requisites, well, either he's been scammed into a reverse safari or he joined a gang of losers who will be outperformed and ahve their stuff shot. If a CEO is welcoming all foreigners, he owns a bad corp and is doing a terrible favor to anyone who trusted him. That also makes for a hell of a welcome for new players.

    And last, as already has been pointed out, there is no single, failsafe way to "learn the game". Players aere expected to learn by trial and OHMYFUCKINGODCOSTLY errors. A player may lose hundreds of millions of ISK and months of skilling the wrong things just to figure what he SHOULD NOT do (let alone finding a way to feel rewarded by his gameplay... which is very unlikely if he just PvEs). And that haves little cure. First, because CCP never gave shit of user manuals, player guides or whatever. Second, because whatever you will teach to newbies, it becomes "what must be done", and that doesn't suits a sandbox. Third, because every last veteran haves an advantage from informational assymmetry (knowing the rules since you read a devblog 8 years ago, whcih is the only and last place they were written). Veterans are unlikely to give away that advantage. And fourth, because EVE is changing each few weeks and probably at this point there is nobody who knows ALL the rules and ALL the mechanics. Which is compounded by bugs and glitches!

    Things would be different if the easier paths (mostly those leading to PvE) had a built in reward -if PvE was as much "EVE" as the rest of content. But the whole point with EVE is that rewards are almost impossible to achieve, and thus most of the players must fail in order that a few ones have the best EVE experience. EVE veteran players are The Fittest in Survival of the Fittest.

    Of course, making a game where most of your customers will be kicked in the teeth and evicted from the game is a bold move... but also depends on a influx of unsuspecting fools.And that influx is just shrinking after 12 years.

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  8. I think that we could have predicted that subs would drop, at least a little, based on some recent changes, and that might be a good thing. The reason I say that is that two changes in particular fixed something that was bad for the game overall and artificially inflated sub numbers, leading to a drop when they were removed.

    One of them is the change to disallow multi-input programs or keystroke cloning. The other is the jump changes. Both of these catered to well-established players. The multi-input issue actually put new players at a disadvantage: if they wanted to mine to make some starter cash, they faced depressed prices due to bot miners keeping the market saturated (at least in theory - I am not sure if anyone has numbers that confirm or reject this). The jump changes were a perk of established players, which didn't directly take anything from new players, but did trivialize movement once you had access to it and made the universe feel smaller. A large and diverse universe is the ultimate goal, so overall it wasn't the best for the game.

    Both of these mean that alts have been unsubbed and hence are not logged on concurrently, reducing the numbers. But while no one can predict the future with certainty, it seems at least likely that a better game overall will lead to increased numbers of actual humans playing, instead of being artificially inflated by large numbers of alts.

    In order to get these humans playing, though, I agree the newbie experience needs work. My own pet idea is for CCP to look into partnering with player corporations to take newbies in and show them the ropes. Player corps have done this already with no official support for a long time: Eve Uni is the most obvious example. There are other relatively famous new player friendly corps, such as Signal Cartel, Brave Newbies and the various feeder corps for the large alliances. If CCP created a program by which these groups could get access to special tools in exchange for adhering to certain codes of conduct, it would make for an organic graduation from newbie tutorials to meeting actual players and starting to experience the best ship in Eve, which is friendship. Examples of tools could be in-game prompts to leave the NPC corp and join them, some kind of screen share so that a vet could visually see something a newbie is having problems with, or others. The conduct would require some level of daily help activity, planned group content, no scams, a system to deal with abusers of the tools, and conduct generally befitting a semi-representative of CCP (like the CSM or ISD codes).

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