The EVE Online Fanfest 2016 Keynote opened with a new Scope video about the Amarr Succession Trials.
The final rounds of that championship were fought the on day two of Fanfest. The winners were from House Tash Murkon, claiming a 3-2 victory over second place finisher House Kor-Azor. In Succession Trials, the winner literally does take all. Other prospective heirs must destroy themselves to eliminate any viable rivals to the new emperor. The last time the trials were held, in YC 106 (2004), Kor-Azor won but the heir died shortly after and was replaced by Jamyl Sarum, the heroine of Amarr during the Faction Wars. You can still see planets named after the player character who won the first Succession Trials in Kor Azor Prime.
CCP Seagull, Executive Producer for EVE Online, then took to the stage. Seagull has come a long way from the seemingly shy and nervous public speaker she was when she first appeared at Fanfest years ago. Bolstered by a wave of player support, she speaks with confidence, humor, and a clear love of EVE Online. She began her presentation with a review of the past year’s accomplishments, like the Fleet Academy videos, burner missions, overview icons, new technology, new ships, and player events.
Next, CCP Quant presented statistics in his usual, magical way. The overall wealth of players in EVE was explored and calculated. The total stored wealth (assets) in the game was 3,070 Trillion ISK, while the total ISK of active players was 978 Trillion. The resulting relationship was a ratio of 3.14 (Pi).
CCP Seagull then talked about CSM 11 and introduced the new council. The elected members were mostly affiliated with Pandemic Legion and the Imperium.
Creative Director CCP t0rfifrans then took the stage. His job is to promote and develop EVE Online as an intellectual property. He presented a round-up of past books and then showed drawings from a new book on frigates planned for release next summer. A scientific book on propulsion is also in the works, to be penned by well-known roleplayer Max Singularity.
CCP Seagull then returned to the stage and announced that CCP is developing their first official EVE Online mobile app. Features will include calendaring tied to the in-game calendar – which is good for (among other things) keeping up with POS fuel timers. EVE mail will also be connected. Over time, more features will be added.
Seagull moved on to chart progress on the five-year roadmap and marked where things stand currently. The evolution of the plan over the past three years is shown in the image below.
CCP Fozzie and CCP Larrikin then took the stage and provided a recap of features that are to be released this month…focused on a features tour for the Citadels expansion. That was followed by an introduction of the next structure being prepared in the future releases line-up: Industrial Arrays.
Larrikin and Fozzie then introduced new ships and ship changes. One of these was an interesting new Rorqual super-defense feature that allows the protection of a mining fleet for a period of time. The Rorqual will also get mining fighters called excavator super drones with which it can mine. New versions of mining barges are also in the works.
Fozzie delivered the final remarks in roleplaying fashion with a message from Outer Ring Excavations (ORE) before being “interrupted” by a video made to look like the Serpentis Corporation (a pirate NPC organization) was breaking through the transmission. The effort was well-done – sort of a real-life version of similar “interruptions” that have been used in Scope videos – but the crowed seemed confused by it. The interruption was intended to segue into information about the new faction titans and dreadnoughts coming to the game, the first of which will come from Serpentis. The modified hulls on these ships exhibit characteristics of their Faction origins. In the case of Serpentis versions, webbing capabilities and damage are the bonused attributes. Mordus Angels capitals will arrive later in the year, with those from other factions coming in the months following those. In contrast to their rather dry presentation about Industrial Arrays, CCP Larrikin and CCP Fozzie were clearly excited about these new ships, and it showed in their presentation.
CCP Seagull then returned to the stage and reviewed the previous announcements, before moving on to say a few words about upcoming features. She focused on new players and recruiting mechanics intended to address the “all or nothing” security that corps must deal with currently. She remarked that this is a critical area that CCP needs to focus to enable and encourage players to work together to accomplish major tasks, like building citadels and other major structures.
Next came a presentation about the New Player Experience (NPE) with new producer CCP Ghost. The Icelandic native talked slowly and deliberately about his unusual brain, keen interest in human behavior, and how that led him to a role at CCP. This was one of the most interesting parts of the keynote as he accurately outlined the shortcomings of the NPE. Many players don’t last more than 2 hours in EVE. My conversations with those I refer to EVE backs this up.. The game is simply overwhelming to a new player. The NPE has improved by moving from a text-based system to a more visual system, but still missed the mark in many ways. As pointed out by Ghost, new players need a compelling reason to go through the pain of learning EVE. The hook that keeps EVE players in the game past the learning curve is investment. Investment comes through immersion, which is created by story. A new player should feel as if they are part of a story, so that they immerse themselves in the game long enough to make an investment. Emotions override difficulty and drive investment of time and effort. Once the investment is made, a player is more likely to continue to build it up either alone or with new friends.
My own experience was starting this game alone. Back then (2008), the first part of the tutorial had Aura helping me through the tutorial topics. It was very immersive. That kept me around long enough to get my footing, but once Aura’s voice was gone, EVE was much less interesting because it felt less personal. I thought of quitting. Luckily, I knew how to mine and so began to accomplish minor goals. Those turned into major goals and thus my investment in the game grew. Around that time, I applied to an Australian corp and suddenly found myself embarking on an EVE career. Without the immersive guidance of Aura, I would have passed EVE by – like thousands (or millions) before and after me had done.Without the “journey of mastery and purpose,” EVE just doesn’t stick.
Last year 1.5 million players tried EVE online, many inspired to do so from having heard the stories of huge fights and devious capers, or from having seen streaming players. If Ghost can bring about changes to the NPE that increase new player retention by 5%, it will make a major difference to the game’s subscriber base and overall health in the long run.
Seagull then returned to the stage to review the the keynote and said the next expansion will be announced at a later date. About that expansion, she said:
“This expansion is a statement about what kind of game EVE is. It’s a game where players build and destroy to create their own destiny.”
— CCP Seagull
Analysis and Conclusion
Judging by audience reception, the overall messages in this Fanfest keynote were somewhat underwhelming. Although the presentation quality and organization was among the best ever, the content didn’t galvanize the crowd as keynotes from previous years have done. Perhaps the attendees were too familiar with the material to experience the delight of surprise, or maybe they were still recovering from partying the night before.
Few new features were discussed, and what was mentioned seems small in comparison with what is coming later this month. The Citadels expansion is truly massive, bringing major changes to the game. Everything on the horizon seems small and iterative next to it. Most of this Fanfest’s new and exciting announcements involved other games CCP is developing.
As for EVE, current developers cleary want EVE to be exciting, to live up to the big, newsworthy stories from its past. However, too much focus on intensively action-oriented experiences could very well sacrifice an essential component of the game: immersion and emotional connection through effort over time. A focus on combat and action does not serve all play styles either. It is, in my opinion, a mistake to relegate all other in-game activities to a supporting role while making combat the shining star. Exploration, industry, and harvesting all seem to exist to serve the military economy, and not much else. There is little active gameplay besides harvesting, but even that is mini-games or sit and wait. Why can’t they be engaging activities that have other equally interesting objectives besides funneling all their outcomes into a vast war machine? If it’s a true sci-fi simulator, then ALL aspects of society – not just conflict or supporting conflict – should offer opportunities for players. Exploration, for example, could be buffed so much just by offering more wonders to find, even if they don’t make a single ISK for the explorer.
Some criticised CCP Ghost’s presentation as not fitting in and too slow, but they missed the point. CCP finally has someone to advocate for what fuels EVE: immersion and not just explosions. He was one of the highlights and rays of hope that the game isn’t going to be designed to be a mindless shooter experience. CCP has to build stories too, they can’t offload all of that to players because players very much tend to get caught up in their own self-image as an action heroes. The rise of streaming has magnified that trend of “watch me.” Some players arrange their stories to be told through real world press, to memorialize their accomplishments, while others complain they are not getting enough coverage on the EVE news sites. While their stories may be interesting, exciting, and fun to watch or be part of, world-building involves more than just player stories, even if the whole point of that world-building is to serve as a Petri dish in which player stories can flourish.
The final trailer presented during the keynote is the crescendo of this path. A beautiful and immersive world-building game, getting shattered by the wrecking “rock and roll.” Lots of light, lots of flashes, but where is the soul? CCP is doubling down on large scale-warfare and once again misrepresenting the reality of the game, but unlike previous trailers that had some semblance of a story, this trailer had no nook. Having watched it once, I found I wasn’t compelled to watch it again.
Maybe it’s up to CCP Ghost to help bring the game back to being a world we inhabit and help to bring to life on many fronts, not just for new players but for veterans, too.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Matterall.