Recently, on The Mind Clash Podcast I had a slight rant regarding content generation in EVE Online where I threw shade on the idea that CCP requires its customers to be responsible for the fidelity of its product. Essentially I grumbled about the idea that if I wanted to have content in the game that “I had to find it” and that it wasn’t “my job” to make the game enjoyable when the developer should be providing me with the content. The conversation of course then led to talk regarding it being hard to FC and that sometimes other people had to take the reins and try their hand at taking a fleet out, yet that wasn’t really where I was going with the question.
I also read a comment thread on the EVE subreddit asking “What have YOU done lately to find content“, which I thought might give me some pause to that train of thought and give me a chance to reflect on my comment. Getting past the title of the thread I was able to quickly assess this was not the case. My feelings on the matter did not falter and I would like to take a few minutes to explain why.
Make Your Own Dang Fun!
Imagine, if you will, a once in a lifetime trip to an amazing beach resort that you had been saving up for years to go to. Setting money aside for it every month, training and getting your body in shape to impress a potential mate, watching all kinds of YouTube videos about the place to learn everything you could about what people do there, and then the day finally comes. You step off the plane and enter the Villa to find the desk person playing on his phone and completely ignoring you as you ask for some help checking in. Once he finally realizes that you and a dozen other guests are standing in line yelling “Hey can I get some help here?!?!” you finally get checked in.
Once in your room, you see that you have to make your own bed and more than likely have to wash the linen from the previous guest. Once you’ve created your guests quarters you head down to the beach hoping to catch some of the fun action you have been reading about and watching videos on, like concerts with fun and sexy people dancing all over the place, bars filled to the brim with cheap and boozy drinks, and people every where trying to have fun. All this while the resort staff fires swag from t-shirt cannons and keeps the stage filled with all the latest artists and performers. Yet you walk onto the sand to find a bunch of fat old dudes sizzling in the sun and drunk in their fancy hammocks, not letting you have a single drop of the brew they made themselves. Groups of misfits are fighting each other over the ownership of a sand castle that was once built by someone long forgotten.
Seeing that this is not the place you thought it was, you decide to head back inside when you are abruptly jumped by five guys in armored suits and tossed through the doors naked, afraid, and alone. Crawling back to your quarters you find that the room has been traded to a new owner and you don’t have access to any of it. Now you must head back out into the wildness of the resort to hunt and gather to create your own clothes, the kitchens are unmanned by staff so you have to hunt and cook your own food, and you now have to spend months or even years learning the skills you need just to survive.
Like Click Bait, But Worse
This likely doesn’t sound like a situation that you would want to find yourself in, yet this is exactly what EVE Online is. A resort where the owners created an awesome destination, made some really cool publicity videos and photos with guests who had a really good time for the first few years, then they just left only to return once and in a while to put some fresh paint on the walls and restock the pantry. To be fair, the owners go to the resort a few times a year to install new equipment and features, but with no instructions and ignore customer complaints for years about things being broken and unusable.
At this point, I am certain that I have ruffled enough feathers to create a feather soft bed fit for The Space Pope himself. I know and understand that EVE Online is meant to be a sandbox/playground style game where users are free to do as they please, creating castles and knocking down others or really any activity in between. In fact, I would never dream of taking any of that away from the game. What I am suggesting though is that CCP takes a good look at the continued sustainability of the model it currently operates under, evaluates whether this is a system that could continue to be enjoyable for the next decade, and then implement changes that would continue to entertain current and future gamers for many years. As it stands right now, I don’t think they are doing that.
A few years ago we were introduced to the Drifters, a story line that I was personally excited about to the point that I was telling any friend I thought might be interested. I really thought this was CCP making a push to have the environment and AI more interactive with the player and give groups a something that they could use as a new content generator. More than several NPSI communities began taking fleets into these unknown wormholes to take on the Drifter threat and the idea that there was going to be incursions from these invaders was exciting. Where are these Drifters now, besides a few drones and battleships hanging around New Eden to act as a placeholder to a story line that is all but a forgotten nightmare? Even the attempt that the “New Player Experience” brought to try to integrate the Drifter saga does nothing but confuse new players into thinking that this enemy is one that they would encounter on a regular basis. Wrong!
Now we have the new advanced AI being used for pirate mining fleets and the Blood Raider Shipyard that brought the idea back that the universe would feel more alive and interactive. From what we have seen in the EVE news media realm, this concept is relegated to the enjoyment of one particular group of players and we have no real warm and fuzzy when/if the rest of the player base will reap the rewards that this PvE content gives. For that matter, the content has already been gamed and min/maxed by capsuleers much like we would Level V’s and burner missions.
Big deal right? I still know that some are sitting here saying “That’s not what EVE is about.” Okay maybe for you, but your idea of what this game could/should be is certainly different than mine. And mine is different from this guy or that girl over there. It’s a “sandbox” remember?
Most other MMO games have shard or instanced system where you are placed on a server (typically) based on geographical location or interest (PvP/PvE/WvW etc.), while EVE Online offers one single server that all of its players will share at all times. This is something I would never ask CCP to change about the game. All of those other games, however, have content that keeps their players wanting to log in to play. Not just because they know they can figure out some way to maximize their gold income or to be a troll and make sure no other guild or clan doesn’t have access to their content. These players continue to log in because of new story lines, quests, and CONTENT that is fresh and exciting. This is what EVE Online needs. A reason to log in and get with friends to do something new.
I don’t have the perfect answer for this. I really don’t, and all I can tell you is what I feel I would like to see happen in EVE. Simply stated I would love to see a more interactive and immersive universe that feels alive, and seeing that my interaction with it has lasting effects. Much like the systems in Faction Warfare change with the tides as groups of players fight for their people, players should have to fight for systems from big bad scary Drifters. Pilots in Jita or Hek shouldn’t think for a minute that an AI enemy faction can’t come in to cause havoc. And most importantly, story lines and “lore” needs to be finished. Drifters, Caroline’s Star, and now The Agency need to have a completion event that everyone wants to take part in. If not, all we are doing is seeing who can build the biggest space castle and doing what we can to piss in everyone else’s cornflakes. That type of game will only last for so much longer until the only people left in the game are the ones who made all the others hate playing.
I welcome any and all feedback on to this topic. For those that listen to The Mind Clash or have read my articles before, you know that I am very passionate about this game and love talking about it. Let’s get creative here and spit out some ideas. There is no way I would ever believe that I’m the only one who thinks we need some changes in the game. So please leave a comment on what you think, send me hate mail and tell me I’m wrong, tweet to me, or whatever you want. I’m open for discussion.