How to grow Eve Online

Posted: 21st March 2021 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
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I regard Eve Online as one of the most beautiful and most sincere SF games out there. It’s the mishmash of realpolitics and Sandbox world, and a richness of features that deftly interlock. I started playing in 2006 and I was always mostly a spectactor. I am not a very dedicated player, and I am probably one of the least ambitious one.  In my everyday life I am prone to not being very competetive, at least not in most matters. In Eve I actually don’t like inflicting nuisance on others, which seems a bizarre attitude for Eve Online – a game that literally defines itself as a game of Everyone Versus Eveyone. But my gaming background is more as a spectactor, a voyeur, a tourist. I like exploring, looking at the curtain and sometimes glimpsing behind the curtian to see how things work. And I like to speculate a lot about “what ifs”. Eve has this seductive quality on me, and that’s why I so much love it – the game doesn’t me make feel competetive, the game has this intense effect on me that I absolutely love to speculate about it’s design. 

I will most likely never work for a company like CCP. It seems like a high octane company where omly very competent people work.  I don’t have ambitions to work there, or even to lecture them on how they should go about the business of how to design a game. But what compells me in Eve is to daydream and speculate and often ask “what if”. 

In 2008-2009 I actually did study Game Design at the Dutch HKU. I was a very different person back then, and I shall not try compare the situation back then and right now, but I wrote an absurdly long PDF where I gathered all the ideas that bubbled up in my mind. I still have that PDF, and I recently read it. To my utter surprise I noticed that 12 years CP has implemented a substantial portion of my suggestions, one way or another.  The PDF was haphazzardly written and I feel no urgency to make a point here. 

12 years later I still feel somewhat disappointed at player concurrency levels though.  Eve apparently has peaks of 40.000 people online at the same time.  The estimate for how much revenue Eve Online generates, sans PLEX transactions is estimated between 3 and 4 million per month.  I read some estimates online at how many people actually do play Eve, and pay for it monthly, and that seems to be between 150.000 and 250.000 people., whereas CCP claims its 200.000 to 300.000 folks.

I understand well that managing Eve is for CCP a lot like keeping a lot of porcelain twirling on very high metal spokes. Alienate any of the regulars even slightly, and they’ll ragequit for a few months. Lose too many regulars for a few months of anry walkouts, and you have to dip in the strategical reserve coffers. In essence, for CCP the game has been about maintaining an arguably somewhat unhealthy and predatory degree of addictiveness in the game, just so much as to not cause long term burnout, but enough that enough people stay to stay ahead to demographic player attrition – yanno, people dying in RL military misadventures, players marrying and getting kids and careers, players losing interest, players moving on to other (and arguably more sophisticated) space games.  Eve Online is clearly showing it’s age, and it might very well be approaching a poiint that no amount of code duct tape, fixes and bughunts can stay ahead of the mountains and mountains of accumulated spaghetti bloatcode.  I am not a database expert or a game programmer but I shudder as I contemplate what a giant architectural mess Eve Online must be after 15 years. Maybe the game code is so convoluted, and just enough key people people may have left the game over the years that there are sections that are so riddled with outdated structures that no one in the company has any idea what’s happening at those deserted lower floors.

Is it humanly possible to endlessly grow Eve, and not “iteratively” alienate the existing player base that keeps it afloat, introduce amazing new features, keep the game backwards compatible with PC’s that run on pretty archaic operating systems,  etc. etc. etc. ?  I am no longer anything reasonably appriximating a game designer, less a programmer. I am maths blind. I may be a fairly sophisticated storyteller and narrator, but I am out of my depths here.

How can Eve Online safely grow?

The old timer players of eve exert al almost tyrannical stranglehold control over CCP.  The players comprizing the bulk of established alliances, the greybeard cynical realpoliter types that are part of those sweeping capital fleets, those guys have in my belief a brutally firm grip over the respective scrotii of CCP. I have this inituitive pangs of pain when I visualise the degree on which CCP game design has over the years developed this almost ninja-like sophistication of not ruffling dinosaur feathers.  Try posting a “fairly good idea” on the player suggestion forums, and good chances the old timers will viciously scream at you. Quite often the argument is that these status quo stakeholders DEMAND, at the top of their lungs, that CCP bloody now starts dealing with all these damn bugs first. The idea I constantly get is a rampant, weaponized hatred of anything CCP might do that rocks the boat of established player entitlements. Whereas a small degree of player base attrittion is acceptable, for the head honcho’s at CCP, there may very well be a palefaced sweaty terror at narrative management at the very idea of antagonizing the Whales of the game. 

My intuition is worth jack shit, but I dare bet a nice bottle of chianti that CCP has over the years developed a pathological distaste for losing the old crowd, to the point that they have an unhealthy caution for evolving the game anywhere out of this stalemate. That is to say, I have immeasurable respect for the recent changes, in specific the Triglavian invasion, but that still feels a whole bunch of changes to the narrative that’s finetuned to service old-timer gargantuan alliance structures in Nulsec, play divide-and-rule between the various factional gantt charts, and maintain an exceptionally cautious, surgical sense of forward motion to the game. It’s visionary game design, even in 2021 for a game some 18 years old, but anyone who reads between the lines see it’s servicing the big cad sharks who have bene returning to the big casino’s for years. Players who over and over succeed in paying several subscriptions every month, and somehow directly or indirectly funnel plex money into the CCP bank account. 

How can CCP escape that stalemate?

Let’s look at the following known facts

1 – In every solar system inside eve there is the potential to place smaller ‘instantiated‘ areas where meaningfull stuff happens.  This stuff can right now be missions,  wormholes,  mining belts,  player built resources, and other stuff,  

2 – CCP needs places where in-game objects, services and resources are generates, it needs these transported to other places by spaceships and transacted.  The process of these transportations creates opportunities for arned conflict between spaceships. 

3 – Eve Online currently has a player base taken from relatively intelligent, relatively competetive and relaively collaboratevly minded people, and teaches theses people by virtual of gameplay to collaborate in territorially aggresive and gradually smarter and more ingenuous people. 

4 – The Eve Online game model generates a steady stream of in-game subscriptions by having people pay a monthly fee of some 15 euro, or do in-game rote actions and thereby exchange in-gae about one and a half billion in-game money an in-game intertradable token that costs some 20 euro.

5 – Eve Online is designed to be incredibly habit forming by repetition of dopamine-inducing conflict, social or drawn out puzzle events, making players invest effort to attain competetive supremacy.

6 – Eve Online makes long time, game-loyal players use in game as well as out game “political” manipulations to make the game development very conservative – in order to enjoy aforementioned supremacy in the gane, veteran plays exer whatever rhetioric, coercion, threats, seduction on CCP game design to not fundamentally change gameplay, and over the years it has become cear CCP games is terrified of alienating their bulk playerbase. Therefore it can be said CCP prefers its stable money tree of subscriptions over structurally improving the gane abd risk losing any level of established player subscriptions. 

So essentially CCP would love to get in a significant number of new players, but can’t because adding or changing major game features would anger established  players and risk their stable income strean. CCP is imprisoned to be only curating the established alliances in iteratively and very cautiously evolving gameplay.  The moment CCP wants to add gameplay features this investment of time, money, server resources and people is protested byestablished players as it impedes established players from enjoying the game precisely as it was last week, last month, last year,. 

This is a paralyzing stalemate. How can this be resolved?

A – isolate sections of space in current solar systems across New Eden.

B – define a set of scarce in-game resources, goods, services and things that have varying degrees of usefullness and relative complexity of creation. 

C – Allow at least several third party game designers to create games that are visually compatible with rhe rest ofEve Online, that are designed to have different “competetiveness metrics”, as to attract radically more diverse types of players, allow these companies some freedom in selling their own subscriptions,  Make sure that all these metrics fit in seamlessly in Eve Online.

DESCRIBING NESTED GAMES IN EVE ONLINE

A player looks  on,for instance, Steam.  There is a fun new game there called “O’Neil“, and it is an incredibly fun looking game where you get to construct hulking kilometer long industry and settlement structures in space. These are intricate puzzle games where the player is prompted to log in regularly and micromanage large factories, settlements and resource extractions, The game starts in a region of space that’s called “1.0 High Sec Space”, generally near some asteroids. The game simulates the intricate process of establishing a settlement of people, allowing players to finetue a colony and a quite diverse range of structures. The player must produce products, people, services and materials from raw materials, and send them out from his small bit of instanced space. If succesful the layer can generate an in-game income, and then settle new bits of space in the same or other systems. Over time the player playing this ‘spaceville‘ game discovers there is the potential to make The Great Leap – colonize a horribly dangerous region of spae that is unspeakably more dangerous – the legendary 0.9 Security Space, Andsoforth. As the gane progresses the “Colonists” trade with fabled dreadful psychopaths called “capsuleers”, from whom they buy resources, sell colonists, services, pirates, police, science, resources extraction, To do all this they must manage structure defense batteries, refineries, resource extractirs. They can send out an assortment of NPC ships for purposes of trade, resource managment, defense, etc, These ships are unique to this colonist game.  The colonists must trade with the Dreaded Capsuleer Gods, with adjacent colonists (as the orbit the star of the solar systen) and all the time defend from NPC pirates and the all powerful psychopathic capsuleer demigods,

A carefully manager game that is a tangibly differently structures gameplay experience from Eve Online proper will attract a different kind of players. The “renting out” server real estate to such a gane design company will generate an additionak stack of revenues to CCP without taking up precious developer hours from the main body of CCP elite staff.  It’s a win/wib for estabished players – they can try and recruit these new “spaceville” carebears and induct the into the ranks of machiavellan cutthroat space psychopath game “eve onlne”, or they can start attacking the colonist settlements that gradually impede on (make a succession of Great Leaps) to, say, 0.5 security space or even lower!) and loot resources. For established capsuleer demographics, any settements at 0.7 Highsec and higher and very difficult to damage – but the colonial settlers that graduallt graduate to lowsec will over time develop defensive stations, “littoral” defense fleets, pirate entities. On the other hand, these colonists also have access to intricate spacepharning structures that yield critical goods, trained personel, resources and services that can not be obtained anywhere else – such as station services, unique ship modules, unique technologies, unique skillpacks, unique ammunitios, etc. etc. etc.

The goals of all involved parties are (other to have fun in their own sick twisted games

RW Companies that rent a plot of space inside New Eden ad some server real estate from CCP

  • Make a fun game, get subscribers, make money in an allready established gane universe

Players playing the Space Colonist Simulator gane

  • play a fun space colony game in a horrendous cutthroat universe filled with dangers and capsuleer psychopaths

CCP Games

  • rent out a bit of CCP server space at a desirable cost metric and make money
  • Create a pipeline of people that play the space colony carebear game that interact with and can be recruited by Capsuleer psychopaths
  • Make a more comprehesice rich gane world

Capsuleer space Psychopaths

  • Ruthlessly exert their moral superiority, dominance, intellect over these dumbass carebear space colonists,  crush them, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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