Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mid-Life Crisis…

~or "Chasing Sweet Young Things in Fun Natty Sportscars…”

You know how I’ve said in the past that I like that CCP keeps changing things up, keeping the game fresh, and keeping us learning and striving…?? yeah, well… not always. You see CCP is now going to let us rip out and sell… knowledge.

I have been trying to write about this for some time now. I am highly torn… (1) I want EVE to grow, (2) I want CCP to be profitable, but (3) I don’t want it at the expense of the Core of the Game. (4) I don’t want WoW inSpace… and I am very very afraid that in order to get (1) & (2) CCP will have to give up (3) and we will end up with (4).

Why? Because EVE is a niche game, a very niche game. The guys who started CCP and created EVE wanted a game similar to Ultima Online… with the same gritty, real, harsh, open world, in-your-face almost completely unrestricted PVP gameplay… just set in Space and as cutting edge as possible.

And it is all that and more… it really really is. And that’s the rub. Because of the gritty, real, harsh, open world, in-your-face almost completely unrestricted spying, lying, scamming, ganking, blobbing PVP gameplay, EVE is quite simply limited in the number of gamers who are going to want to play in such an environment. It’s just the way people are.

Statistically speaking (300k EVE to 8mil WoW) very few gamers are also going to spend money to play the game described above especially when you add in EVE’s form of Levelling, IE Book Skills plus Human Skills. Book Skilling takes ‘real’ time and can cost huge amounts of ISK and unlike other MMOs, the live player must also learn some seriously in-depth skills that are NOT at all your std WASD, ‘twitch based’, move and shoot mechanics… He needs these new skills in order to understand and use what Book Skills give his toon and they take real effort to learn…

Both Book and Human Skills are absolutely necessary for a player to be able to “Level Up” in EVE and effectively Fly and Fight better ships and fits and Gather and Create to increase and improve ISK generation so he can afford those better ships and fits … And in a game where after all that Skilling and Learning and Gathering and Creating and Investing ‘in’ the game… the Risk and Loss are Real aspect combined with the almost completely Unrestricted PVP aspect… can obliterate months, even YEARS of effort… very real effort, in a matter of seconds.

You have to admit… EVE players are a weird bunch even for gamers so as such there are even fewer of us. Hence EVE (and CCP) has a sort of ‘cap’ on its potential total playerbase (IE profitability) built into the game’s very core mechanics.

And this sucks. Because those of us invested in the game are invested BECAUSE it is a niche game that fits our mentality… our desire for an open world, our desire for real freedom and for something of real value in a game… ‘real value’ you ask? Yes… because Risk and Loss are Real and because in order to have anything in EVE one has to work and fight for it… fight other players, learn and work the games mechanics, and claw and fight your way up the vaunted skill cliff… so what you make and do in EVE has VALUE to you. And because it all can be permanently lost, stolen or destroyed… that gives greater value to creation and ownership.

***Chart Porn Warning***

And now CCP wants to Tear Down the Cliff… or mebbe just undermine it…

And we have all seen the PCU charts… the one that got me most was the one below from MMOData, which went dark in June ’14 cause it was getting increasingly difficult to get any useful numbers from the various game companies. And in a very sad note it was stated, “As for the only growing subscription based MMORPG left, EVE Online, I no longer receive subscription numbers. CCP no longer responds to my requests.” Rather telling in and of itself.


But at that time we had this. Just look at that red curve… if this was a true bell curve then we were at the apex at the end of 2014 and that boded very well for at least the next 4 years and it would mean EVE would not “die” until sometime near 2025…

I wrote at the time that I felt EVE was maturing, reaching the plateau of its “middle years”. What others saw was “If it aint growing… It’s dying!” but I disagreed… I felt we had potentially reached a state of maturity for our very niche game.

That CCP may have already signed up basically all the players (at least in this generation) who are willing to pay to play this very different kind of MMO was a bit of a worry TBH, but I felt that was OK as we are a VERY dedicated playerbase… and the slow losses to this and that would be balanced by those like us coming up in the gaming world… those who wanted something more, something different... that was my hope anyway.

But again, if we look at the following chart from I snagged today from EVE Offline for the Tranquility server, we see a roughly similar curve… with what looks like approx. 2012 as the apex of the bell.


The sad part of both of these is this though… the extrapolation going forward…


Sigh…. doesn’t look good huh? Yeah… me neither. (Vince is gonna be ALL over this one I bet.)

Anyway, CCP shutting up about subs and shutting down the numbers they used to so proudly publish, and the… well, graphic, evidence that things are not ‘growing’ anymore… and the push to “lighten up” EVE… to make it more noob friendly and easier… I fear CCP is having a bit of a Mid Life Crisis and chasing sweet young things and fun natty sportscars... oh, and yeah, they also wanna keep the lights on and pay the bills and staff n stuff like that too...

So while all these changes 'sound' good, just don’t sit well with me when the level CCP seems to be willing to go to are, well… draconian at best.

The Right Honorable CSM Sugar Kyle, in her post Conflicted said…

When this [Skill Trading] was proposed at the CSM summit, I swiveled my chair and asked if they realized that they were undoing the basic structure that characters and game progression worked under. They said that they did.”

They understand they are changing one of the CORE aspects of the game. Now this aint a new POS or a change in how far you can jump… this is a change in the core of how we are WE in the game.

CCP Seagull said change was necessary and it was time to stop being afraid of the fallout from Incarna… and I have backed her every step of the way. I even stopped myself from going full retard after the Discovery Scanner stupidity… Oh I spoke out against it, but I held my real rage in check and I worked hard to see the why and any potential upside. For the most part I held my tongue and I thought to myself, “You gotta take the bad with the good”… “Medicine, while good for you, dunt always leave a pleasant aftertaste.” and shit like that.

But this… personally, I really fear it’s a step too far. I guess we’ll see, I’m not leaving… yet.


Fly it like you actually know how… and I’ll see you in the Black  =/|)=

6 comments:

  1. The proposed selling of SP is indeed a change to the core philosophy. As a veteran, I don't see that this is hurting me, I hardly need any SP more than I currently have. But whom this change is targeted at? At those who buy characters at the bazaar maybe, I never did that. Should it help new players? With the proposed reductions for higher SP chars I would say it is or at least for new characters. I'm not in those markets, maybe this would help to get new players and that's something I like to see. Assuming this change helps to grow the game again (even a bit), how much “core philosophy” will be sacrificed to it?

    For me, the core philosophy is that things in eve need time, like building a ship, earning ISK, hunting a player who is messing up with your part of space. There for I think an “instant level up” with unallocated SP isn't the right thing for Eve. Sure you can skip the ship building by buying it of the market, and those SP you buy have been trained by someone else. But in the case of SP your character gets knowledge about something the player hasn't, like flying a battleship. The path of progression should be maintained, even if speeded up with buying SP. A player needs time to learn that large weapons have bad tracking to kill frigates.

    My concern is that instant SP spoils new players, not learning to need patience to be successful. They may feel entitled to instant success and that should never happen in eve. In order to keep that mindset out of eve sold SP shouldn't be transferred instantaneously. Providing a multiplier to increase SP generation so the players with more ISK can speed up training as they are faster progressing would be OK. Maybe combined with an SP pool you fill from which this faster SP trickle in. Speeding things up with ISK isn't “not eve”. Take a look at industry, if you place a POS and do production there you get faster production. If you throw even more ISK (and risk) on it you build an Amarr Outpost with full upgrades, making things faster and little bit cheaper.

    Thinking about a character that gets from 0 to 20m SP in a few seconds, I get an image of a very violently exploding head burning from the inside out. It just doesn't feel real. Not even “eve is real” real.

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  2. From your article I don't really get the problem. A core mechanic of EVE is changing and this is bad because...
    change is bad?

    How will this affect your personal game experience? Since you don't like this feature I assume you will not use it. So how does it affect you in a negative way that other players might have more or less SP as you expected?

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  3. Chanina and Raziel,
    I did say I had been trying to write about this for some time… and that I am highly torn… and to answer you directly Raziel…

    (1) I want EVE to grow,
    (2) I want CCP to be profitable, but
    (3) I don’t want it at the expense of the Core of the Game.
    (4) I don’t want WoW-in-Space…

    I am very very afraid that in order to get (1) & (2) CCP will have to give up (3) and we will end up with (4).

    Every ‘little’ change that nerfs our game takes us one step closer to something more a themepark and less EVE. My kids are 12 and 13… and both LOVE that I play EVE. They love my blogging and being a gamer like them but… neither of them has any interest in playing EVE themselves because it is NOT an Immediate Gratification type of game.

    They are amazed at the graphics, the ships the detail level of the toons… but the gameplay leaves them cold and bored... GOOD. Then we adults, or at least those gamers who have a mature appreciation of the Long Game… who see the value in Investing Long Term in the game… players in it BECAUSE there is no end game… we have the game to ourselves… for now.

    But nerf it down far enough and one day we will pass that critical line in the ether and teenagers and preteens will figure out how to get the ISK and SP (if all it takes is ISK, my kids could afford to buy PLEX possibly more often than I can) to get into a Blinged out Raven on day 3… Chanina said it really well, “…instant SP spoils new players, not learning to need patience to be successful. They may feel entitled to instant success and that should never happen in eve.” And the players who want just exactly that are my kids and their gaming friends… Oh, and if you don’t like local now… just you wait.

    And there are Halo servers my son is not allowed to play on… and not because of any 20 or 30somethings… but because the teens and preteens are far far worse than any Jita Local ISK Spammer or noob griefer… There are Youtube channels my kids are not allowed to follow for the same reason.

    Do YOU want teens and children playing EVE? Do YOU want EVE to slowly devolve into some form of WoW-in-Space?? I don’t… but I am worried we are heading that way a ‘little’ harmless change ‘here’ and just this ‘small’ harmless nerf ‘there’ at a time… that is what I fear. Not this change by itself… but the whole of the direction all these changes are taking us all… that is my fear.

    I have NO issue with changes that moves the game forward while leaving the Basic Core of the game as is… as long as they have a good reason. A Skill Point Market creates a potentially new source of revenue for CCP… ok, good… but it changes ‘Investment’ in the game… I know you can buy a skilled toon on the bazaar… never have liked that but I see the logic behind it and it was here before I joined… but overall that and an SP Market lessens the Investment those of us have put into the game and our toons over the last 13 years… and yeah… I don’t like that.

    But, I could be wrong, been wrong before… and like I said… I guess we’ll see, I’m not leaving yet… but if I EVER see my kids out in the Black… I am outta here!

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    Replies
    1. One worry I share is that new players might feel less sense of accomplishment for buying skills as they do for learning skills the traditional way. So they might be less likely to stick around.
      On the other hand, the willingness to spend real money might be because they already made up their mind and are commited to sticking around.

      But who will really use this feature?
      New players looking for instant gratification (and a red killboard because they lack knowledge and experience)
      Or veterans that want to speed up alt training and alliances that want to reimburse T3 SP loss or use it as a reward?

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    2. Like I told Kirith, I'm primarily concerned with what new players WILL DO… New players ALWAYS want bigger, faster, etc., etc., ships because they don’t know better… IE they have not played long enough to have LEARNED that ‘bigger is not always better’ in EVE.

      The old skill queue gave you so much to look forward to. Each skill line you cross brought Aura’s sultry “Skill training complete.” And that was like audible sex… with presents! And we had TIME… time to learn how to fly, how to fight, how each class of ship was important and had its role to play.

      When I was a noob I had no idea how try and to manage engagements based on any understanding of my ships abilities + modules and how they affected my ship etc., etc., much less any understanding of my opponents abilities based on his ship & possible fit.
      That took YEARS to learn. I was far better off losing cheaper ships and mods AS I skilled up my toon AND I learned RL skills than being tricked into feeling like I could BUY skill in EVE… ‘cause you CAN’T… ever.

      That’s right… I said tricked. Buying SP will ‘look’ like P2W… but we know it’s really not… The problem is the noobs don’t know that.

      (1) Buying SP looks like an easy way to avoid the Learning Cliff… but it’s not.

      The Learning Cliff is not about SP… it’s always been about Player Skill in the game. By buying SP noobs will think (IE be tricked) that they can get around the need for patience and the investment in time and effort that, SP notwithstanding , will still be required to actually be successful in EVE.

      (2) Buying SP runs the risk of attracting gamers who want Pay to Win, those who want Instant Gratification… to their ultimate disappointment.

      Buying SP in EVE does not and never will make anyone ‘competitive’ or even ‘competent’ with the ships, fits and tactics in EVE’s very not-yo-daddys-WASD-Themepark gameplay. Imagine a noob with 200m SP and ask yourself how that would really work out for him…

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  4. Not being playing for a long time but the whole issue caught my attention and I've got to say - fascinating. Tur, you get to host my rambling thoughts while I try and remember how to write a blog post.

    There is the initial resistance to change. The skill over time nature of EVE is unique, part of its dark glamour. A game for the tough. A game for the long haul. A game for, let's face it, people with a mildly masochistic nature. I bet loads of EVE players who hate the idea of saleable skill points are actually revelling in the torment it cause them.

    That said, if there was ever a thing that stopped my RL friends playing EVE then it was the time element of the skill system. Yes, there were other reasons. Not everyone is a space fan. I still have friends looking for a hardcore, unforgiving MMO and won't choose EVE because of the real time penalty on the flexibility of new characters.

    EVE won't get any easier because of this, it'll just get less frustrating at the start. It might vastly improve new player influx, especially of those with friends already in EVE. You might get some kids in at the start but EVE will still be just as difficult.

    EVE retains all it's other elements. Danger is still danger.

    EVE retains it's time based nature. The skill point purchase efficiency looks to tail off rather dramatically and industry still takes real time. It's not a one shot solution to being instantly powerful. A 3 day old character in a Raven? That's a dead Raven as far as I recall from my playing days.

    It's far superior to the Character Bazaar as the dev blog states. I'd would never have bought a character for the reasons set out there. There is more characterisation, people can get more attached to something they take into EVE. They might have bought skills for it but they did't buy it's face and name.

    EVE needs to market itself to get the next generation of gamers. Look - there's even a theme park halloween event going on right now. Is it pumpkin flavoured theme parky nonsense? No, it's dark Blood Raider based stuff! EVE flavoured theme park event. Look at all the lore and story stuff going on these days. It's great EVE based stuff but it's a hook. Believe me that no one in 21st century business will alter a brand without a gun to their head. Not even then. Player participation stats aren't a gun. They're a mild warning that modernisation is required to grab the attention of the next generation.

    Think of the flexibility : purpose based new characters in a corp? Ever needed a disposable alt that could look after anchoring or hi-sec bulk auto pilot supply runs? A WH PI collector alt? Ever needed a corp holding CEO? Corporations having emergency skill points reverves for events and plans. It could even become part of the tales. Corp skills up their PI alt on one of it's members alt slots. Member promptly leaves the corp with a freshly skilled up alt in addition to other loot. If you can buy it, you can steal it. At least they've added the scheme to the sandbox. It could have been so much worse.

    In short it's a sad thing to say goodbye to, really though it was always the final inevitable step of improving the New Player Experience and it isn't bad. The point values might need tweaking and some of the plan but it sounds good.

    I've still got characters in game. I could easly get a couple of friends involved and, instead of just paying for ships and skill books, I can elevate them to the point where the experience is enjoyable for all of us instead of waiting three months until it is.

    Anyway - I'm off to annoy a couple of people with old tales of EVE because i reckon I could get them playing with a couple of million skill points boost and I want them ready.

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