Eve Online, The Doctor, and Telling a Story


Header Art by Major Sniper

Later today (January 13, 2022), CCP Games’ first ever IP crossover event will launch. This is set to be a largely filament-based event, set with new(er) players in mind, and presumably with the hope that many within the ‘Whovian’ fanbase will try out EVE for the first time. The event will run from downtime until February 1.

With that said, please allow me a moment to preface this editorial. I am going to summarize a lot of discussions from Reddit, Discord and other sources. I want to say to those who support this kind of cross over event, “That is perfectly OK.” To paraphrase the sentiments of that side of the argument, “This really is not a big deal. Its a fun little side story and not worth getting worked up over.” This IS a perfectly valid opinion, and worth as much weight as what I am about to deliver. Please don’t read this as an attack on that position. I can see (and even partly agree) that something needs to be done to right the ship.

The other side of the debate largely boils down to three main points. “Where did this come from, we didn’t ask for this?” “Why did CCP invest development time here when there are so many other problems to fix?” And finally, “This sure feels like a blatant pump and dump for cash and player counts.”

Telling a Story

Now with that out of the way, anyone who has followed me here at INN, on Reddit, or on Discord will know I think story telling matters. A lot. I love games with deep stories that make me want to read all the amplifying canon and fanfiction. Those are the stories that make me want to invest my time and money.

What I love about EVE is not the lore and the stories CCP has tried to tell. Generally speaking, their writers aren’t too bad, but when the developers take that lore and attempt to translate that into fun gameplay, it doesn’t go well. We – the players – have written all the best stories of EVE for CCP, and we pay them for the privilege.

To paraphrase myself from last year, I think CCP’s job is to set the stage and provide us with props. We will then take that those settings, those tools, and tell those stories. Sometimes those stories are works of art and make gaming news around the industry. Sometimes those stories are like the spray-painted walls of a 80s movie flop house. I love both of those art forms in the correct context.

All CCP has to really do is turn on the lights and sound, and then get out of the way. Don’t make make it impossible to get to the stage. Don’t make it change so much or so rapidly that there is no time to tell stories. And for frog’s sake, don’t take away all the cool props and sets.

We can argue and debate value, time, and challenge all we want. But ultimately the ability to have ships in space and project power is a big part of what makes those player interactions possible. That, in turn, makes EVE what it is.

Did Someone Call a Doctor?

First off, “Why Doctor Who?” There are so many good sci-fi franchises out there to partner with. Why pick one that seems to make so little sense? And then, by all appearances, have the crossover and story appear so unrelated? Heck, at least pick a franchise that has proper spaceships in it.

Now with my initial soapbox rant out of the way, I want to get into the meat and potatoes of my worry with this event. In a vacuum, I would completely agree with the talkshows and the folks on r/Eve – this event is just a cute crossover, and if you don’t want to participate, then don’t.

But this is not a vacuum. This is coming on the heels of years of changes that have impacted and restricted EVE’s gameplay across the board. This takes place in the context of ever-expanding instanced gameplay that actively prevents players from interacting in space. These events appear filament-based to prevent interference, taking players out of the sandbox space. And let’s not forget that this is happening during the debate on NFTs and other dubious monetization schemes.

Speculation on Fleecing the Whovians

These sites are tuned for T1 cruisers and new players. However, as anyone who has trained the Magic 14 knows, being able to sit in a hull and put guns on it is not enough to make it effective.

If I were running CCP and wanted to cash in on the Whovian daytrippers, I would make PLEX, SP, and Accelerator packs targeted to let folks skip right to the content. Admittedly, we have yet to see evidence of this one, but I am not holding my breath.

This crossover event is also happening at a time when player counts are in significant decline. This is the part that I find most concerning. Players have been voting with their wallets more and more since this time last year. Since the flop that was the Q4 end of prosperity announcement, the attrition has ramped up.

What better way to hide a drop in players than to bring in a swarm of short-term daytrip enthusiasts from another fandom. If you happen to retain them that is great, but just them signing up and logging in for the couple weeks of the event is enough. Then just roll out the same gimmick with another crossover next quarter. Every daytripper that signs up for a month of Omega and a PLEX pack is pure gravy.

To the Whovians

The game you are being shown is not EVE. It’s a carefully curated theme park version of the EVE IP, set for the sole purpose of distracting those upset players who were already here. Or so it appears to me.

Looking at the youtube comments from the release, we can see plenty of astroturf hype. But let’s ignore that as a common internet artifact. Instead lets focus on what we see from those more meaty comments. The ones trying to describe EVE as “WoW with spaceships”.

I’m annoyed by that description, but it may be more accurate than we like. The event is intended to shelter those participants from the rest of EVE. The instanced filaments ensure it. The story events are scripted and appear to have frequent hat tips to the theme of the crossover. There are skins, clothes, and other themed paraphernalia to keep folks interested so long as the content lasts.

I’ve seen this before. This is how repetetive crossovers have worked in titles like Genshin and Honkai Impact. Launch, run event, end event – next crossover in a month or three. Repeat as needed.

This is EVE

With permission, I wish to put a fellow writer on the spot to highlight that EVE is not like WoW:

Ah, to capture such internet gold. In thisEVEMail, we see some familiar points that most of us can relate to. The new player, Gwailar, reaching out to the head of Goonswarm to report players that interfered with his gameplay. And by gosh, that kind of behavior just isn’t acceptable in MMOs! (That was sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell…)

Mittani, of course, then broadcasts this out to the entire alliance, as proof of their good works. Thankfully, this prompted some good worker bees to reach out to Gwailar. They put him in touch with folks who could teach him how to embrace EVE, and its’ player-driven stories.

Thank goodness for that. And thank goodness for Gwailar, providing this evemail for all of us to enjoy.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t think this event is all that big of a deal. I will likely run an alt or two through it, because that NYX skin looks very cool. However, I think there is a lot in this to find troubling, and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become too distracted.

Injecting artificial player counts, and (presumably) fleecing them for cash injections ahead of your Q4 earnings call is not ok, and does not show success of your product.

Creating walled gardens and theme parks is contrary to the spirit and meaning of EVE up to this point. Doubling down on that is not acceptable. Not for the daytrip players, and not for the game at large.

Trying to tell stories has not worked out for you, CCP. If this was a game of “WoW with spaceships”, it would not be looking towards its 20th year. Frankly, the game is not good at it. Whenever CCP in general, and CCP “The Closer” Rattati in particular, have tried to take control and force the story where they want it, it has resulted in the collapse of that IP.

Please, just stop.

You don’t have to do anything, either. Just get out of the players way.

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  • Obviously some instanced dumbfuckery that lasts two weeks is not going to be the death-knell of EVE Online, but it’s not about this content: it’s about what it represents. I don’t give a single solitary fuck about the EVE lore– you will never see me buying up lore-y books or any of those things. But this is a betrayal of EVE’s aesthetic: it’s like logging in to Planetside II and seeing in-game billboards for real life brands. It breaks immersion and it’s just a degrading experience for all involved.

    This crossover thing is just emblematic of CCP’s problems. Yeah, it’s not going to have a direct, negative impact on people who don’t want to participate (they can simply decline), and yeah– preparing the event probably didn’t consume an astronomical amount of dev hours. But it does speak to CCP’s priorities. Clearly stupid cash-grab gimmicks are more important and more worthy of dev hours than fixing the game’s numerous systemic problems.

    It’s funny that you mention WoW so many times in this article: I just spent a couple of hours the other day watching a fan-made Youtube documentary about the history and decline of World of Warcraft, and you can see so many parallels between the ways Blizzard killed their game and the choices CCP are making right now (increased dumbing-down of gameplay to suit average intellects and attention spans, the introduction of pay-to-win / pay-for-convenience mechanics, heavy focus on microtransactions and “free-to-play business model”, and destroying the game’s sense of community through the sacrifice of open-world player interactions for increased “instant action” via instanced content– just to name a few). In fact, with the exception of a sexual harassment scandal, CCP seem intent on repeating just about every Bad Decision(TM) Blizzard made over the years.

    Maybe this is just an unavoidable final outcome that will affect all games: games are usually devised by passionate, creative people. But at the end of the day, they’re just a business: those creative people can’t be expected to hang around forever. They will move on to new exciting projects, and as they do, management will continuously strive to make sure their replacements are less focused on Making a Good Game(TM) and more focused on following orders and making a game that’s profitable. In the end, almost all the original superstar developers who created Blizzard’s iconic titles packed up and left the company– some relatively publicly, some quietly in the night– while management continued to milk the remaining disillusioned, depressed, anxiety-fraught remainder to create as much new cash-shop content as possible. Every aspect of the game that originally made it so successful was sacrificed at the altar of microtransactions, and the game today continues on as a hollow shell of its former self.

    Someone should put together a list of developers who’ve left EVE in the “second decade.” Just saying.

    January 15, 2022 at 6:51 AM
  • https://youtu.be/BazitK-ZgDk

    January 17, 2022 at 8:46 AM