Showing posts with label Blog Banter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blog Banter. Show all posts

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Blog Banter 77: If Eve was a Horse...

Blog Banter 77 - The Malaise


Is there a malaise affecting Eve currently? Blogs and podcasts are going dark and space just feels that little bit emptier. One suggestion is that there may be a general problem with the vets, especially those pre-Incarna and older, leaving and being replaced by newer players who are not as invested in the game. The colonists versus immigrants? Is this a problem? Are there others? Or is everything just fine and it's just another bout of summer "ZOMG EVE IZ DYING!"

Banter on.....


Its summer. Player activity dips so let's cue the "Eve is dying!" mantra along with similar tidings of doom. Situation normal then. Every year is the same. Except it isn't. CCP is approaching a fourth year of refreshing selected parts of Eve. The result? Active player count is the same or less than this time last year. Oh and last year was bad. Whoops. Neville Smit provides a decent analysis on his blog using the data from Eve Offline (see below).



The first thing to take away from this is that wars do not have a long term impact on player activity. The heightened activity caused by World War Bee has now vanished. They came, they pressed F1 and they left. We can now confidently say that the myth that Eve needs big wars to attract players is busted. While big wars don't harm the stats, those players will bugger off as soon as they have had their adrenaline fix or got over their mid life crisis.

And that is a bit awkward, because for the last three years CCP have focused their development almost exclusively on these players and there is at least another year of this to come. A year that will be wasted in my opinion. It is not as if industrial structures are going more defensible than citadels. Great for the wrecking machine posse but why ever build one in the first place? Then there is null. Null is as empty as it ever was despite the introduction of magic wands and rejigged super capitals. Even World War Bee was largely based from lowsec. The changes have failed.

So remove the War boom and what are you left with? A continuing underlying decline in player activity.

And this takes us into the realm of unintended consequences. While the game changes have been targeted to (unsuccessfully) benefit a few, their wider impact has been make the neglected state of the rest of the game worse. The ramifications of the citadel markets are a case in point. The markets are now a shambles and trade is down 40% on last month. Crest endpoints are broken and have rendered sites like Eve Central as largely useless. Player attempts to mitigate the regressive tax that purposely punishes the financially weakest players most has lead to offshoring and ghost orders (until recently) which has in turn turned Jita into a husk filled largely with remote orders. It is dev sponsored vandalism without doubt, but it benefits nobody apart from a very few Fortizar owners.

The effects go beyond Jita. I logged into Hek a couple of times last week. There were between 60 to 80 people in the system. In the recent past you would have expected double or even triple that. From what remains of the market it is clear its days as a viable trading hub are numbered. Even the scammers seem to have given up and rats do know when to leave a sinking ship. I've heard its the same for Rens too. It follows that the networks and activities that have built up around these hubs will join the fall into irrelevance as a result of the new economic order. 

All this is to satisfy CCP's myopic neoliberal design dogma that insists High Sec must be outsourced to a few absentee landlords. The alternative being punitively taxed if failing to comply with the ideology. It is a strategy that has failed in the real world and it is a strategy that is failing in Eve. The big irony being that Iceland was one of the first countries to realise it after they got badly burnt. This is just the Citadel fiasco. 

There are plenty of other examples to choose from but lets move on because I am sure you don't want me droning on about Skill Points, the CSM, Null Sec statics, etc, etc ad infinitum. 

So this is the malaise. Eve has a long term dedicated player-base that CCP largely ignores. It also has a short term fly by night vocal player base that CCP are keen to overindulge regardless of the impact on the rest. Consequently the long term player base continues to haemorrhage away and new players find it hard to gain a strong enough foothold to cut through the cliquishness. Try forming a corp in highsec as a new player. 

This isn't news. It is how any number of generic games have died and will die in the future. CCP seem determined to follow that script, or more likely as the vacuous Fanfest Keynote demonstrated, they no longer have the gumption when it comes to either the vision, awareness, capability or capacity needed to do anything about it. So Eve is dying. The debate is really about whether it will be a gentle descent or if numbers will fall off the side of a cliff at some point. CCP's future decisions or lack of them will determine the rate of decline. So if Eve was a horse... well go figure. 



Monday, 28 March 2016

Blog Banter 73 - The Other Eve Game?

“So soon(tm) we will have Eve Online, Valkyrie, Gunjack and the as yet untitled FPS to replace DUST514/Project Legion. Are we missing anything else? Are then any other games CCP should be looking into? Colony building simulators in the style of Sim City or Rimworld. Should it be on a grander scale link Civilisation or Stronghold Kingdoms. How about RTS games ala Command and Conquer. Survival games such as Rust? Planet based combat like World of Tanks? Would you like to see other game types expanding the Eve Universe or should CCP stick to what it knows?

This is the gig I signed up to when I thought Blog Banter would be save me the effort of thinking of something to write about. And then the above crashed through my inbox. What should be the other Eve Game? Eek!

OK, let’s dive in. There a couple of ways we could approach this. One way would be to take the blue sky, anything is possible and the money no object approach. Who know’s, I might even come up with a half decent idea but in all likelihood it would be undeliverable. So perhaps we need to reflect on where CCP is currently before we get ahead if ourselves. A bit if a reality check is needed.

Context


The really interesting aspect about this question is it is probably not the sort of thing you would ask of your typical AAA game company. They will already know what to produce next and that will depend on how their current titles have performed or whatever the opposition are having success or failure with. Alternatively, a small Independent company would have a very firm and passionate idea of the dream they are trying to bring to fruition as CCP did when they started out. CCP is not in either camp now. Often classified as “boutique” it has an organisational maturity of a long established company but has yet achieve an established money drenched hit beyond Eve Online. Until this year of course.

After some painful false starts with World of Darkness and to a lesser extent DUST514, CCP is back in the news again for the right reasons. Gunjack and Valkyrie as games could probably be regarded as a success already and you can sense the confidence returning to CCP. It is good to see. However, their ultimate success will depend on the wider adoption of VR by the public and that is harder to determine beyond the current  hype. It has the potential to be defining moment for CCP but it also has the potential to be a damp squib. 

Although blindingly obvious, the other thing to bear in mind (and it often gets lost in the enthusiasm) is that games cost money to make. Who knew? CCP have received external investment for VR projects. But this money will likely be assigned to the Project Arena (and here) work along with Valkyrie and Gunjack until they are in a position to be profitable in their own right. CCP have also already stated they are working on a PC FPS to build on what they learnt the hard way with DUST514. I believe there will be an announcement in Fanfest in regards to that. The development for this will presumably come from the profits of Eve Online. When you add the ongoing costs of Eve Online itself (TQ and Serenity) then it is likely there won’t be gazillions of dollars lying around to invest in a new game. Depending upon how exposed CCP feel to a slow take up on the VR products, this might be further squeezed pot might be further because they would want to keep something in reserve.

In this context “The Other Eve Game” (OEG) has to be cheap and chips and probably not VR based (at least initially)  in order to hedge bets and keep costs down. Despite these constraints, we are not necessarily left with Eve Tetris being the only option. CCP has a lot of assets that can be reused or can be elaborated on (as they have done with Valkyrie and Gunjack). If the OEG is set in an Sci Fi context, a lot of the creative work has already been done or is available on tap. CCP also has the monetization platforms in place that can be now be extended to any new titles they choose to produce. An alternative possibility is that the OEG could be a part of the development of an existing game or project. A project that has sufficient functionality to be game in its own right but also enriches - or at least shares code with a bigger project.

The Other Eve Game


With the caveats in place, what should the Other Eve Game be? For me it boils down to two things. One is practical, the other is more a personal wish and probably less viable. 

Practical Suggestion - Android/IOS PVP arena (1v1 at the Sun)

Other game developers think this is viable and CCP should really get in before someone steals their thunder. Gunjack has shown that CCP can develop an excellent mobile product. Eve players complain they have to roam for ages to find some PvP. This game would offer existing players instant  gratification plus and more importantly cater for the wider handheld/mobile audience who don’t care about Eve Online but do want to shoot stuff while they are on the bus. This could be linked to Eve Online for those that have a subbed/plexed account and potentially played within Eve too at some point. If CCP don’t do this, they will be kicking themselves in years to come.

Impractical Suggestion

At this point I have to admit to my second most favorite game of all time. A game I would play now if they still made it. It was not a popular game by most standards but it was recognised as a classic and more importantly was the only other game that set my heart racing and made me break out in a cold sweat in the way that Eve can do.

The genre of the game - survival horror is likely to put it out of the running straight away. CCP were badly bitten by World of Darkness. But on the other hand, the best way of dealing with falling off a bicycle is to get straight back on it. Anyway, I believe putting my second favourite game in a Sci Fi context like Eve would be extraordinary - and at least I would be able to play it again in some way. The game? Depending on where you are located it has one of two names. In Europe it was know as Project Zero but more widely it was called Fatal Frame. Now, change the setting from a decaying haunted japanese mansion to let’s say, a deserted Blood Raider complex or Jovian outpost or even a ‘haunted’ wing of an NPC station (open the door!)  and use an Empyrean equivalent of the Camera Obscura and I think you are onto something. Marinate it in lashings of lore and it becomes the Other Eve Game. Some thought would be needed on the multiplayer aspect but that could actually enhance the game. While I doubt it would be an AAA blockbuster, it would beat ship spinning and would certainly be boutique. And that is CCP we know.

And by the way...


And by the way, if CCP were to ever consider integrating its portfolio of games together in some way, maybe just maybe Walking in Stations has come of age? Imagine you drop off some loot at a station, go to Captain's Quarters, go through the door and head to a station community area. While looking through the brawling crowd you see some doors. Words like Eve Online, Valkyrie and MindClash are written on them perhaps. But we might be more interested in the activities going on in the room rather than going through the doors. Nah, CCP wouldn’t want to do that. Would they?