This piece is going to be something of a philosophical discussion and counter argument to Kael’s Lord of the Space Flies article. In particular, I want to explore the idea that the majority of the reason for why EVE continues to survive in its little niche is due almost entirely to the hands off approach by CCP. Then, I am going to wax eloquently for a while on a proposition myself and several other members of the writing staff here at INN have kicked around about a potential story driven end game.
Stories Must End
My first, and likely most provocative, statement is that in order for CCP to take an active hand in driving content it is going to force EVE to inject conclusions into things. Now,when we are talking about writing a story there are ends, and then there are THE ENDs. This is an important distinction. EVE has a number of small ends in it. The frequent little peripheral Scope and Upwell events are a good example. However, they must never be allowed to really touch on player stories. To do so, they pushed EVE inexorably towards starting to add THE ENDs to things. I offer that by adding big ends, the game then inevitably must have one final THE END; regardless of adding small ends or big one. By having those ends, you are, by definition, putting your game in brackets, which will limit and define your game.
I feel that, in no small part, the longevity of EVE is directly related to the fact that there is absolutely no meaningful game play being driven by CCP and the developers. Kael’s example is very compelling. It is true that very few people would be interested in going to his resort once word gets out that it is a brutal wasteland devoid of fun. Thus, very few people come to Eve and choose to stay.
This is easy to see from how many people see the PR videos, join the game, and then quit within a month.
However, within this reality of Eve, we see that there are many thousands of people who have learned to love and thrive at the resort. We had 2600 nerds slugging it out in 10% tidi for hours just a couple nights ago. Who then turned right back around and did the exact same thing on another Fortizar in massive TiDi. A very not fun time and experience, but one that is critical to the writing of the specific story that is EVE.
The Classic Example
To showcase this idea, let’s put it in terms of World of Warcraft (WoW) instead of EVE. WoW is a game where the story has been, by and large, provided by the authors. There are little side goals and achievements to chase and complete, and there is the greater story arc of each major expansion to pursue. Though the course of the story content is provided and players, both individuals and organizations, work their way through at their own pace to get to whatever ends they wish.
This is a natural side effect of having instanced game play. It removes the politics that older games (Everquest) saw when competing for raid bosses, and by and large reduces the ability of one group of players to bother or block the game play of another.Some recent game authors have recognized that by removing all competition the game becomes stagnant more quickly and have put many competition mechanics back into the game at higher levels.
WoW tells great stories, but it really is just a theme park. You can absolutely have people passionate about theme parks, but at the end of the day, the Griswold’s had to pack up the station wagon and head back home. CCP and EVE do not tell these kinds of great stories. Instead, the majority of EVE’s stories suck. They are written by amateurs and like anything done as a hobby, the quality will vary greatly. Many of the stories rise in prominence and look promising and then wither away to obscurity and decay. Players and organizations rise and fall, some with great fanfare and others in the quiet of the night, without any coverage at all.
The Story is Important
There is also the question of the news coverage. With WoW, there is no real need for there to be media companies and groups to tell the news. Not only isn’t there any, but generally the news is being published by WoW selling the expansion. EVE on the other hand, has to have INN, EN24, and Talking in Stations, to only name a few. Despite the cries of propaganda that get thrown around, it really is up to us to shape and craft the narratives. Without the reporters and story tellers, how would the wormhole dweller know that the Casino War, or WWB if you prefer, has rekindled and why. Those narratives are CRITICAL to Eve being what it is.
End of Act 1
To recap my thoughts, I believe that CCP, likely accidentally, hit on a very successful niche of gameplay. By not giving any story or structure to their game, they have forced their players to do so or leave. As a result, the players that have remained to tell each other stories don’t face the same longevity problems that many other theme park style games face. I feel this has directly lead to EVE’s survival both in terms of not reaching a THE END, and in the practical terms of its cheaper when the writers of the content are the players and not on the payroll. Overall, there is a lot of room for a healthy discussion on the balance between feeding content-driven play, and letting players control the entirety of their make believe destiny.
THE END of EVE
Now, I am going to get into my dive off the deep end of what ifs. If you don’t wish to know about a proposed End of EVE story and scenario then you should hop of the train now. For those who stay, this is a summary of the wool gathering of several of the INN writers (Mostly myself and PorkButte) on a slow news day several months back when the rogue drone event was winding down to little interest and fanfare.
What About Skynet
What if the drones cared about sov? A simple enough question. What if the drone event, and the sleepers on the whole, decided to really start playing EVE? Instead of sitting about and waiting for players to come farm them for ISK, let’s pretend that the drones, or really any faction, wanted their space back. So, they start swarming things, like citadels and Ihubs. Suddenly, things are being reinforced by drones all over the Drone Regions.
Okay, wow, that is kinda cool, but players could learn to overcome that. Maybe you’re right, but let’s take it a step further and say CCP had another plan in mind. What if drones, like the super adaptive learning computers that they are, take each setback and then did something to overcome it. When they run into heavy drones or fighters they start smart bombing. When they experience frigates, they fit webs, and so on.
Okay, so the drones now are a serious threat and are pushing players out of space. The drone lands fall; but they keep going. Incursions all around space and the worm holes begin to purge players and the seekers and their adaptive and endless armies are encroaching all through null.
Jeez, things are getting serious. Now player organizations are going to have to start looking at the growing drone menace and deciding if the North fighting the South is more important than the growing drone space.
Null is Burning, what about Hisec?
Meanwhile, while the nullsec empires are starting to take notice, the Sisters of EVE are putting into motion plans that have been secretly in the works for a long time to try to save the day. They partner with Concord and try to mount an offensive against the swarm; the attempt fails. So now that Concord has fallen, no really I mean it concord is effectively wiped out, hisec is turned over to their regional empires. And now, security status is a lot like ADM. If a lot of ganks happen, the sec status starts to fall. If a lot of commerce happens the ADM rises and so on. Edge systems start to fall into being lowsec (fac war systems) Core systems keep their hisec status but its with faction police. With a bone thrown in that there is still concorduuken (factionduuken?) but only if the ADM is kept above a specific level say 0.7.
Next cool addition in those Faction War systems, player organizations can now take and hold them. With resources stretched so thin, players from different factions are now pushing into and either aligning with or choosing to overcome the faction police. Where the faction is destroyed they become 0.0 sec status and nullsec sov mechanics role into play. If a fac war aligned entity takes a 0.0 system, they can push it up to 0.1 and hisec sov mechanics come online (more commerce the sec rating rises and so on) for their designated faction.
Where is this all going?
The obvious outcome to what I have proposed so far is that space is going to be seriously shrunken. This will force players together. They will fight and struggle, and in large part they will lose. It’s intended. Either by announcement or unbeknownst to the players, EVE is actually really dying this time, for real. That’s the whole point.
Those that can work together will do so and push back against the drones, those who can’t are going to be wiped out and eventually forced from the game. However, I think that as the fight gets more desperate, more players are going to be coming back to EVE than those who are leaving.
Remember this is an end game. The swarm is supposed to win. As the fleets get larger to combat the drones, have CCP devs step in to help guide and maybe not ensure victory, but ensure that the drones are really doing a good job of pressing players. Make it a grind. Make it a slog that every step back is being hard fought as supplies and safe places to build ships dwindle. And then, push us all back to a single last stand scenario and make us fight to the last man in the last station in the last system. Then make us pass through the EVE gate again.
In short, MAKE IT HURT.
EVE is Dead, Long Live EVE
I can hear you asking now, “Why would CCP want to do this?”
The answer is really quite simple. Those of us who love this game will come back in droves. Assuming CCP announces that they are putting a 1-year ticking clock in play, less if players don’t step up, there are a number of serious benefits.
Players are going to resub in droves to be part of it.
Assets long hoarded are going to be put into play and blown up. Game commerce will skyrocket in proportion.
Every video game news site in the world will turn rapt eyes to EVE as it plays out this THE END of all THE ENDS.
Once the fields have been cleared, CCP can either unleash EVE2, a fresh start, or others can take over the physical and intellectual property to reopen a rebirth server. Either way, CCP can get out from under EVE and focus on their VR or other pet projects safe in the knowledge that they both cashed out in the most epic way possible, and they did so with their player base being fully committed to helping them do it.