“This party sucks”
Long ago, my stomping ground was East Hollywood, best depicted in 1996’s cult classic, “Swingers.” There were a lot of inside jokes in that movie, but the funniest was when the swingers gang would talk-down a party as soon as they cracked open their first beer, “this party sucks, let’s get out of here.” As someone who hosted many parties, that was my personal fear, guests trickling in and out before the party hit critical mass. Twenty years later, I’m still worrying, except it is not for my party, it is for this EVE party.
Name Drop: after “Swingers” came out, my local bars became the “it” places, so they quickly became clogged with new people. The locals decided to avoid the crowds and retreated to home parties, like mine. I worked in the film industry back then and ran into Vince Vaughn, the lead actor in the movie. I sarcastically “thanked” him for killing the scene. I’ll tell you his response at the end of the article, for now think of the parallels: Does EVE need players to stick around in order to hit critical mass and explode into the popular mainstream, or will too many new arrivals change the character of EVE as we know it?
To get through the article you’ll need to shelve your false humility, and embrace that you are cool and this game is cool. No, you are not bad at this game, nor are you a nerd. Many smart people are attracted to EVE for the self-torturous problem-solving and fierce competition to survive. Highly-paid professionals, incredible artists, and even Superman himself, Henry Cavill, have played this game. If there was ever a professional video game this is it: It’s artistic (MoMA), scientific (Citizen Science for Serious Gamers), societal (The Atlantic), and humanitarian. EVE is a cool game, attracting some of the best gamers out there. Remember, “we got these claws!”
The Layers of Players
Today’s playerbase is like a prehistoric soil sample with multiple layers of players from different eras. Dig deep enough and you find EVE-beta players that came over from games like Planetarion or Homeworld, looking for a persistent, realtime version of politics and society in space; Coalition building, betrayal, and diplomacy in the pursuit of wealth was a fact of their life. After them, on a higher level of soil, came the “Murder incorporated” players, drawn by the metagame; Infiltration, subterfuge, and diplomacy. Their desire was to undermine the established powers. The uppermost layer is filled with the action oriented group. They came after the battle of Asakai and B-R, drawn by tales of 800-man battles and hours-long fights.
A close examination of the CCP’s marketing reveals the ad campaigns to attract new players correlates with the type of player arriving in any given era.
Initially in 2004-2005, the trailers showed EVE as an immersive and dystopic landscape where you could explore and conquer. This was a cold and bleak sci-fi dream punctuated by imagery that offers you a place in that world: (Exodus, No Other Destiny, Revelations II).
Then in 2006-2009, the marketing started to show players impact in EVE and the Epic events of the role-played universe: The Empyrean Age Teasers, and Quantum Rise, which introduced us to Scope News. This was the golden age of lore as the universe was expanding. The targeted players in this era were looking for a large, mysterious world to get lost in. They could go long periods without action as they built their homes or planned their heists. In some ways this was the perfected form of the first EVE. Statistics show that retention was great as new players stuck around waiting for the next “Jesus feature.” Apocrypha closed the era by showing the birth of wormholes and moving the lore beyond empire space.
By 2010, the niche game had attracted everyone it could, and the marketing needed to attract new types of players. CCP talked up “ambulation” so pod pilots could finally get out of their ships and build businesses in stations. The marketing started to explain what EVE was as a concept, not a game: The Butterfly Effect, and Causality trailers. EVE was more than a game, it was an experience. At the same time, CCP was still building out the world with new game mechanics like planetary interaction, new sov mechanics, and Incursions. Trailers depicted various types of gameplay to give EVE appeal to a wider audience. Eventually, the core audience grew angry at CCP’s direction and some of the worst trailers were made at this time (EVE is Real and Awakenings), as CCP tried to blur the lines between the game and real life. The marketing didn’t resonate with the players CCP had, and the new players drawn by the marketing arrived to a confusing game.
By 2012, trailers started to portray EVE as more action than sci fi. CCP was pushing the fun and exciting side of EVE. This culminated with the popular “This is EVE” trailer that cemented what EVE players were coming for: fleets and action. The major draw was combat, not the slow boil of building up your character and position in life. The new culture was to get to the big action as soon as possible even if you were not prepared. The careful nursery of EVE University was bypassed for the “7o” newbies that flew into battle with pots on their head for protection. Boredom was intolerable, and many players didn’t have the staying power of the previous generations.
Since then, the marketing moved back to emphasise lore, but has excited only a small section of true believers. The Drifters and wormhole lore is too confusing to enjoy, and CCP is too coy to make it engaging for new players. Veteran lore buffs try to fill in the interpretation gap, but the best lore is still the 2008 stories of Empire that were simple and clear narratives of power and prestige. Even Goonswarm has reached back to an Imperial narrative, looking more and more like the new Amarr.
The cultures of each of these eras overlap, but the dominant one these days has to be the newbies that came for the action. This spring, CCP expects more of those types of players after Valkyrie reaches its audience, and attracts more sci fi enthusiasts to New Eden. This year’s fanfest trailer will be as fast paced as ever, merging the excitement of being a fighter pilot with epic battles of huge ships, like The Prophecy.
I interviewed CCP Fozzie months back, as sov changes were being announced. I asked him if the new direction for EVE was to retire the offline waiting game in favor of the active RTS/MOBA style of gameplay that is popular today. He denied the influence of those types of games, and said they were just trying to make EVE fun to play in every respect. Looking at the new titan doomsdays and drone/fighter changes, there are similarities with Warcraft III, more so than with early EVE. You can already marquee your target locks. Try it. Hold control, and draw a box. Everything in the path gets targeted.
It’s not hard to see that the types of players CCP want to attract differ from the players that came early on. In video game years, which are not unlike dog years, those original players are very aged and retiring. Their real life careers and family duties have probably made gaming incompatible. Anyone with a young child knows you cannot keep your eyes off them long, or they’ll get into trouble. That said, the ones that are still around are a loyal group that have stuck with EVE through thick and thin, and found ways to balance life and gaming. They will likely stay, despite changes.
When CCP celebrated their first decade, it was a funeral of sorts. CCP said goodbye to space spreadsheets, arcane game mechanics, and seniority of the early arrivals. Some say the game has never been better, and maybe technically they are right. But the crude portraits, user interface, cloning penalties, long downtime, and thousands of other rough edges still have a place in the EVE psyche. The original patrons of EVE remember the imperfections, and at times, fondly. It was a time and a place.
So when I think back to the Dresden Room in East Hollywood, circa 1996, and the swing dancers draped in home-sewn clothes sitting on beat-up stools or in beat-up booths, it is something I am glad I saw before it got overrun by clean and trim USC students. “Thanks for wrecking the our scene, Vince,” I said with a mocking smile. He tapped my bottle with his and said “You should be thanking me for all the new honeys.”
As I look around at all these new players that crave those stories of old, crave that rush of throwing themselves into huge battles and turn to help out the newbro behind him, I realise, Vince was right. It’s good to be an EVE player.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Matterall