Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Final Frontier

There is, or rather there was a wall across Scotland. Begun in AD 142 it stretched for 39 miles and took 12 years to complete. Now known as the Antonine Wall, was abandoned 8 years later as the Romans redeployed back south to the previously built and more famous Hadrian's Wall in England. It was a sensible decision. The economics of maintaining it did not justify the security it provided. A point that was proved when there was an attempt to reestablish it a few years later. From that point on it was largely forgotten although you can still see parts of what was an astonishing engineering feat. A historical sidenote and largely irrelevant to the larger story of the Roman Empire apart from one aspect. The Empire reached its largest expanse just prior to its building. Hadrian's wall acknowledged that the future was about consolidation rather than expansion. Antonine's Wall was the frontier too far. While the Roman Empire continued to exist for many years particularly in the East, the story would be one of continual retreat in the West. In retrospect we can say Antonine's Wall was as good as it was going to get in terms of imperial aspiration.

This is of course a very melodramatic way of approaching the question around the imminent demise of Captain's Quarters by CCP. Like the ruins of the Antonine Wall, Captain's Quarters represent the archeological remnants of an earlier developer civilisation that had grand ambition. Walking in Stations. 

There was nothing wrong with that ambition. There was everything wrong with its execution. It was an unhappy time. Captain's Quarters are all that remain of that ambition and like Antonine's Wall you can go no further despite the cries of players to "open the door"

Thus the removal of Captain's Quarters is logical and of course an evidence based decision. It is not used players and it is expensive to maintain. The Art department can be busy making more profitable skins. In a world where there will no longer be capsuleers in Eve, just ships. The player avatar is now essentially pointless. So it is not unreasonable that CCP could apply same economic logic and remove the character builder and avatars from the game in order to focus on exciting new features. 

And here lies the problem. I have whined long and often about the death of the Route Map. It used to be a regular feature at Fanfest and EveVegas. It laid out CCP's aspirations for Eve. In recent years it featured less and less and at the last fanfest it disappeared completely to be replaced with some moody looking space images that told you nothing. Vacuous eye candy to be blunt. The hope was there were some nice surprises coming along that CCP had in their back pocket. But what evidence there is suggests the mood is around consolidation. Features will be extended (like HighSec PVE) but there is no desire to do anything new because the economic metrics don't stack up in a way that pleases investors.

Then there is the timing of the announcement itself. While we have not reached the volume of outrage that was generated by Incarna, a rage that killed Walking in Stations stone dead, we are in a period of diminished trust between players and CCP. While some of this is contrived, falling player activity is is more dramatic than anything that immediately followed after Incarna. There are alarm bells sounding somewhere in CCP. We know this because there have been a couple of announcements from CCP. 

Like Incarna, the problem has been determined as a failure to deal with existing game functionality and balance issues. A dev team is going to be dedicated to fixing these. Ambulation support and development will be stopped. The parallels between now and Incarna in terms of CCP's practical (the politics were very different) response are uncanny. But are they the same problem? To me, Incarna was result of too much hype and appalling delivery. Now? Competent (compared with Incarna) but lacklustre delivery and with no vision beyond maximising revenue and reducing costs of the existing assets. So while balancing the game is good, it might be a solution to the wrong problem. 

Ultimately, it is right that Captain's Quarters become consigned to the past. But it is sad that like the Antonine Wall, it could mark the high watermark of Eve's ambition. The final frontier. This isn't an Eve is dying post. The Roman Empire didn't die until a 1000 years later. But it perhaps it won't be anything more either as the aspirations now recede. Potentially Eve could be something less as other economically awkward features are axed. Alternatively, this could be a springboard for a renaissance.  A route map would be a start

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I really like your blog!