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blankseplocked Letter to CCP: A plea regarding your plans for EVE
 
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Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.07 19:14:00 - [1]
 

Republished here:

CCP,

EVE Online has been through 8 (or more) successful years. It has endured well through a changing market due in no small part to its gameplay and dedicated subscribers and developers. It is under threat.

EVE’s appeal relies on more or less one aspect of its gameplay: It’s cutthroat PvP sandbox, which we refer to as null and low sec. It’s at the forefront of every story, article, marketing campaign, etc. It’s what EVE is known for, even legendary for.

EVE’s problem is that this gameplay only appeals to a relative few. Throughout the years, you have tried hard to open these areas to more of the game’s playerbase, yet the distribution of players remains more or less the same. The vast majority still reside in high sec, while a relative few engage in the high profile battles of 0.0. Yet it’s these engagements and the circumstances surrounding them that are expected to provide the basis of EVE’s engaging content, at least if the commercials are to be believed.

There’s a number of reasons for why these are either inaccessible or undesirable to most. EVE is a game of risk management and cost vs. reward. Players are surprisingly good assessors of these. As a former 0.0 player myself, I know well the time commitment, costs, rewards, and not to mention overall feeling that EVE’s endgame requires. Simply put, while the PvP sandbox is exciting and without parallel, it is also steep in its toll, and therefor only enjoyed by few. The rest, as we know, reside elsewhere.

It’s here that despite the cries of pandering to “carebears” and the lamentations of the “hardcore”, that EVE’s health and wellbeing resides. It goes without saying that if the majority of its players reside in high-sec, then the majority of its subscriptions come from there as well. And yet this is the most stale, unappealing, and one might say neglected area of the game.

It is true that these areas have been the focus of many features over the past few years: exploration, epic arcs, expeditions, incursions, planetary interaction, etc. There have been a slew of fantastic tools created to paint the world. And yet most of these go untouched, lost, forgotten, or in some cases, even broken. (COSMOS)

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.07 19:16:00 - [2]
 

A new player coming into EVE and fresh out of their tutorial has no reason or motivation to become immersed in the world because there simply isn’t one. His interaction with the universe beyond that of his fellow pilots will be a simple agent offering the same 2-3 missions, over, and over, and over again.
The tools exist, the demand exists, but not much is done. CCP has boxed themselves into a corner with the 6 month release cycle, and there’s little time for polish. Features that cannot be completed in time are scaled back and then forgotten as a new gimmick or feature needs to be pushed for the next expansion. The previous tool sits unbroken, unused, and the flurry of new subscriptions it prompted fade away as its unfinished state is realized.

CCP needs to break this cycle. If EVE is to compete for a larger subscriber base and have broader appeal, then it needs to take lessons from other games not just in what doesn’t work, but also in what does. The game needs content. Stories, missions, campaigns, All of the challenges and engagements that provide fulfillment and a sense of immersion for all pilots, and not just ones in an established alliance. And far from the cries of “WoW is over there!”, this can be done using the existing tools and framework. The core game mechanics need not change. EVE can have both, if the attention is given.

The recent expansions and “Features” have disillusioned me and many others regarding EVE’s seemly lack of direction. Development seems to want to go in every direction at once, appeal to as many people at once, and yet, it has never been communicated as to what that long term strategy is. The recient introduction of micro transactions I feel did not detract from the game, but rather created more questions as to what the purpose of it all is. Incarna was, again, a half-finished expansion, scaled back in its scope and size.

I recognize that CCP is a business, first and foremost. They exist to make a profit and keep their staff employed. I see no problem with this. For that to continue to occur, EVE needs not just to continue to be successful, but also to grow. To do this, I believe the following needs to occur:

• Develop and then communicate a long term plan for the development path of EVE. This should be firmly grounded on features and structures that will augment the enjoyment of the game to the majority of its players and potential ones.
• Abandon the 6 month release schedule in favor of a longer term expansion schedule. Completion should be decided based on the finishing of the intended feature or content. This will ensure those who were anticipating the release will be lured in to stay.
• Re-focus on adding to and refreshing the game’s core content. Missions, arcs, expeditions, etc. Be they multiple linear paths or branching ones, these should fill dozens of hours of gametime. Rewards can be based on the receipt of vanity items (Incarna, badges/awards, hanger items and loot, unlocked aesthetic options, etc.) in-game loot or weapons, and last but not least, unlocking and reveal of plot points, information, and addition to the overall world build and progressing story.

This last point I believe is absolutely key to expanding EVE’s appeal beyond its current player base. Far from being another mission-grinding MMO, EVE’s tools allow for missions and story to be presented in a much more dynamic and interactive sense, all while taking place within the current sandbox. Instead of EVE’s missions being compared to other MMO’s, other MMO mission progression and immersion should compare unfavorably to EVE’s.

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.07 19:19:00 - [3]
 

I hope you’ll take the time to read and consider the points I have raised. Over 6 years I have watched EVE grow and expand. There is no doubt something special here. But it’s time both the developers and the players started thinking beyond what we’ve been coasting on and start really addressing the long neglected but traditional-MMO area of gameplay and it’s Achilles heel. I think only then will we see the huge influx of subscribers we’ve been waiting for, the grand universe we’ve been hoping for. Then we’ll truly be the envy of the rest of the gaming world.

Solomunio Kzenig
Amarr
Indicium Technologies
Hephaestus Forge Alliance
Posted - 2011.07.07 19:54:00 - [4]
 

Edited by: Solomunio Kzenig on 07/07/2011 19:54:24
tl:dr €€P are crap and don't have a consistent vision for their cash cow.

Erh, EVE hs been like this for a long time.

That said €€P now have a new sense of purpose and vision, and that vision and purpose will change EVE. Unfortunately their new vision and purpose is to get as much outta MT as possible, so the old 2 expansions a year model will have to be discarded, gotta get that new shiney into the NeX store on a regulr basis afterall.

Khamelean
Posted - 2011.07.07 20:00:00 - [5]
 

Originally by: Solomunio Kzenig
Edited by: Solomunio Kzenig on 07/07/2011 19:54:24
tl:dr €€P are crap and don't have a consistent vision for their cash cow.

Erh, EVE hs been like this for a long time.

That said €€P now have a new sense of purpose and vision, and that vision and purpose will change EVE. Unfortunately their new vision and purpose is to get as much outta MT as possible, so the old 2 expansions a year model will have to be discarded, gotta get that new shiney into the NeX store on a regulr basis afterall.


Idiot

Iancasnim
Posted - 2011.07.07 20:01:00 - [6]
 

Kalestia,

I agree with you. The game development does lack a coherent focus.

I work in software development so I know first hand how priorities change over the course of a project. I've also seen how a lack of focus can completely splinter a project.

I don't see that splinter effect happening with CCP yet, but they're certainly moving toward it. I personally look forward to the low-sec and null-sec changes they have planned for the next expansion. I think that effort will put a little more focus on "old" game mechanics.

Rumple Fourskin
Posted - 2011.07.07 20:06:00 - [7]
 

Originally by: Iancasnim

I don't see that splinter effect happening with CCP yet, but they're certainly moving toward it. I personally look forward to the low-sec and null-sec changes they have planned for the next expansion. I think that effort will put a little more focus on "old" game mechanics.


^ sounds interesting. I'll take a look at the game again in 6 months or so. Until then I'm unsubbing 2 accounts.

Keen Fallsword
Posted - 2011.07.07 20:17:00 - [8]
 

Ask your's drug dealer about crack prices and then say that they are too high :) LOL Same here ...

Naradius
DEATHFUNK
Posted - 2011.07.07 20:30:00 - [9]
 

Originally by: Iancasnim
Kalestia,

I don't see that splinter effect happening with CCP yet, but they're certainly moving toward it. I personally look forward to the low-sec and null-sec changes they have planned for the next expansion. I think that effort will put a little more focus on "old" game mechanics.


I hope you're correct...but CCP have made me cynical about what to expect from them: FW was meant to improve PVP and low-sec interest - it failed in varying amounts.
Null-Sec Sov changes were meant to improve 0.0 warfare - it failed in varying amounts.

I'm really hoping CCP can turn a corner and get on track again and release an awesome expansion. Have they got it in them to do that? "Hope" is all we have.

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.07 20:42:00 - [10]
 

Originally by: Naradius

I hope you're correct...but CCP have made me cynical about what to expect from them: FW was meant to improve PVP and low-sec interest - it failed in varying amounts.
Null-Sec Sov changes were meant to improve 0.0 warfare - it failed in varying amounts.



While most my my letter's focus I placed on high-sec content (or rather, the lack there of) things like FW I think highlighted some of the other problems on how CCP approaches gameplay. FW was another push to get more and more people out in the low and null sec and to serve as a bridge. While I didn't think that was a bad idea in and of itself, I didn't get the impression that there was much demand there beyond some talk from the RP alliances, and in that case they were exempted from play due to it's mechanics.

To me, FW was a good case of a disconnect between how CCP either wanted to envisioned people playing the game, and how they actually do. For as much talk as there is of EVE being "hardcore", the surprising fact is that most players are not. They hug high-sec, and they play a very safe, conservative game.

That's not to say that the existing "death-or-dishonor" mechanics need to disappear, far from it. But I think it's a lack of focus on this large group that keeps EVE to it's relativally small size and is responsible for it's slow bleed of subscribers. For once people are burned out on alliance warfare (And it happens, there's even been an E-ON article on it) they find that the relative safe area of high-sec is dull and flavorless. The sandbox breaks down.

More importantly, and this is key in my opinion, is that high-sec is extremely important in that it's the first thing a new players sees, and yet, it's the most dull. It's not engaging or captivating, and if you're a new player without the benefit of established friends, then you're limited to blasting rats or rocks, take your pick. Captivating, ongoing story arc? Mission chains and campaigns? There is one. The empires may as well not exist, because there is no compelling reason to interact with them.

That is EVE's great weakness and why it remains to the rest of the gaming community the province of the "hardcore". It's why its teased as "spreadsheets in space". And rather than adopt some of the aspects that make other games relaxing and fun, we bristle at any notion that we would resemble "WoW'. To me, that does the game a great disservice and sells the world build far short of what it could be.

Cregg Neir
Posted - 2011.07.07 21:18:00 - [11]
 

The so-called natural progression of players from high sec to null sec is not working all that well for my corp. We have been in null for a few months but find that the time we have to play to achieve goals out there is much longer. The game wants too much of my life if I'm to play it well in null sec. This was not true in high sec, and I could play more casually there.

The people who can play the hours reap huge rewards and therefore are able to consolidate their power over the richest territories, and over time this effect becomes more and more pronounced. If bigger fleets are always better fleets, then the dynamic in null might become increasingly vertical, with a few alliances controlling nearly everything. We might be there already; I don't know that much about null politics, but I know that the news is increasingly full of aggression by DRF, NC, AAA, and not much of anybody else.

Renting systems from the big guys entails paying their huge fees for system use and then realizing that you're on your own with the risk, since the big guys swap systems back and forth constantly. The landlord may not be there when you go to pay the rent and the next owner might have a different tenant in mind.

None of this is bad, and a lot of it is fun, but the design of the game is such that I can't stop playing the game any more, ever. I have to log on to check poses for fuel, or to see if the systems are secure, or to read for attack messages. Much as I love the game, I love other things too, including other games that I have not played while I spend too much time in Eve.

daddys helper
Posted - 2011.07.07 21:22:00 - [12]
 

Edited by: daddys helper on 07/07/2011 21:22:54
hi CCP,

let me waste time teaching you the history of EVE (you know... the game you built) and how it operates on a day to day basis for the last 8 years...

did you know it was 8 years CCP?
didja?

well anyhow, you are doing it wrong.

ktksbye

Henry Haphorn
Gallente
Posted - 2011.07.07 21:34:00 - [13]
 

Originally by: Solomunio Kzenig
Edited by: Solomunio Kzenig on 07/07/2011 19:54:24
tl:dr €€P are crap and don't have a consistent vision for their cash cow.


I think I found your problem. Start reading anything that you deem too long to read.

Apollo Gabriel
Mercatoris
Etherium Cartel
Posted - 2011.07.07 21:54:00 - [14]
 

OP,

Awhile back I suggested that the missions have meaning, such as the Industry missions be used to make Newby ships and gear for missions, that the couriers be used to resupply Loyalty Parts stores, and be used to support the ex nihilo goods as is. Is that the sort of think you are referring to?

AG

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.07 22:10:00 - [15]
 

Originally by: Apollo Gabriel
OP,

Awhile back I suggested that the missions have meaning, such as the Industry missions be used to make Newby ships and gear for missions, that the couriers be used to resupply Loyalty Parts stores, and be used to support the ex nihilo goods as is. Is that the sort of think you are referring to?

AG


Not that specifically, but missions, story, immersion, all need to be more robust, numerous, and immersive. Epic Arcs was an excellent step in that direction, but CCP stopped at just 4.

Compare EVE's PvE content to any other game. There's dozens and dozens of hours worth of story-driven content. Not all of it the same quality mind you, but that is somewhere EVE can excel. CCP's already shown a lot of creativity in different types: exploration, expeditions, arcs, missions, etc. There's a lot of variety, and by the way it's structured, much of it very immersive in it's presentation. No hundreds of people standing around one NPC grabbing the same damn mission.

Yet for all of this framework, it is hardly used. And yet it is one of the most used features.

This is one aspect where CCP could do well to heed their words and listen to more of "what the players do and not so much of way they say." If 80% of your player-base likes to sit in high-sec and runs missions, what lessons do you draw from that? Is it more soverignity changes? It is player avatars?

Don't get me wrong, those features as well and good. But there's a disproportionate importance placed on them. Meanwhile we have Incarna, which is supposed to be the front of the new player experience. But once those new players undock, what are they going to do? How many are actually going to end up in 0.0 and stay there? Not terribly many I suspect. Not enough to make a difference.

I'm not suggesting nerf 0.0. Far from it. There is absloutely nothing wrong with the way EVE is, but it does have serious deficiencies, and the most egregious of those was the decision to leave content in the hands of the "players" and leave those tools to collect dust. In the march to push new features every 6 months, what once held promise has become a junk yard. If you're luckly enough to be able to participate in a rare live event (i.e, one of the devs logs on during lunch and shoots at people) or can muster the time and energy to get out into and stay in 0.0, then you'll have all of the content you want. But it's hardly accessible to the rest of EVE, and it's what's kept the rest of the gaming community away for so long.

Opertone
Caldari
Deep Core Mining Inc.
Posted - 2011.07.07 22:54:00 - [16]
 

more words - less lucidity

I am sorry. I feel lost in the flow of the ideas. Give me a TL DR; or thesis form (simple statements)

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.08 00:42:00 - [17]
 

Originally by: Opertone
more words - less lucidity

I am sorry. I feel lost in the flow of the ideas. Give me a TL DR; or thesis form (simple statements)



EVE needs:

  • A public, long-term development plan
  • Fully-finished features across a longer development cycle (no more 6 month "expansion" cycle
  • More traditional MMO content: Missions, arcs, campaigns, story.

Aveneo
SkyNet Technologies Inc.
Posted - 2011.07.08 01:00:00 - [18]
 

Excellent read Kalestia, I truly enjoyed reading this and it brings a smile to my face knowing that some people still know how to write things down properly Smile

For me, the course along EvE online has yet to reach a year and I can concur that I still have no clue as to what this world depicted in the trailers is supposed to hold for me.

I am just a solo player now in a tiny corporation I co-founded (and love) with my only pvp experience seeing my Iteron 3 get shot down by a lowsec gatecamp whilst trying my hand at ferrying some Holoreels for a measly few million (which was still a lot of an investment for me).

So the pirates sent me packing back to hisec where I grind repetitive missions and watch those epic trailers, and I ask myself: "I was where?"

Katrishar
Minmatar
Rayn Enterprises
Test Alliance Please Ignore
Posted - 2011.07.08 01:08:00 - [19]
 

I totally agree with basically all your points Kalestia. Its kind of crazy that after 8 years we have all these new features, bread and butter new player things like high sec missions have never been improved upon. They could do so much more stuff with missions and FW but for whatever reason just let it sit in their extremely basic outdated form. I'm not sure if its a matter of the 6 month expansion cycle or something else, but they need to get serious about empire space gameplay if they want to retain these new players they are so (rightfully) focused on.

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.08 02:21:00 - [20]
 

Thanks. =)

Dark Reignz
Posted - 2011.07.08 03:18:00 - [21]
 

Someone mind giving me the TLDR version of this thread please ?

Jonathan Ferguson
JC Ferguson and Son Ltd
Ferguson Alliance
Posted - 2011.07.08 03:27:00 - [22]
 

Originally by: Dark Reignz
Someone mind giving me the TLDR version of this thread please ?

tl;dr Too many people at CCP are taking a tl;dr view of the game.

Apollo Gabriel
Mercatoris
Etherium Cartel
Posted - 2011.07.08 03:41:00 - [23]
 

OP,

I agree with your assessment of PVE, it is awful, truly wretched stuff in general. The w-space is quite good, but the missions overall are without any value at all. The Incursions are reported better, but I've not even tried them. The main difference I think is the Sandbox vs Amusement Park philosophy of eve. I think the players should drive the non-player interactions somehow, but eve lacks those tools. I suspect the missions will one day vanish quietly in the night.

AG

Ranita Drell
Intaki Liberation Front
Posted - 2011.07.08 06:13:00 - [24]
 

I agree.

The EVE sandbox is a fine thing, but accessibility is an issue. If CCP is serious about giving the game mass appeal and hooking new players, fluff features like CQ and simplifications like agent divisions aren't going to be sufficient.

Hardcore vets may not be happy about the shift in development focus catering to carebears, but if EVE had low/mid SP small fleet content that was as accessible and fun/engaging as instancing is in WoW and provided better rewards than solo mission-running, I think you'd likely see a massive increase in new account retention, and ultimately I think everyone would benefit, fears of the "dumbing down of EVE" notwithstanding.

Another thing EVE needs if it's to have real mass appeal is a modern user interface. Hopefully Carbon will help in this regard, but so far it's only made things worse. Hopefully this is just the awkward beginning stage.

Uearel Atram
Posted - 2011.07.08 06:42:00 - [25]
 

Edited by: Uearel Atram on 08/07/2011 06:47:52
Have you tried incursions and wormholes? They're great fun, for PVE.

edit: though they involve PVP...and aren't really for newbies and just highsec, so nvm

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.08 13:09:00 - [26]
 

Originally by: Uearel Atram
Edited by: Uearel Atram on 08/07/2011 06:47:52
Have you tried incursions and wormholes? They're great fun, for PVE.

edit: though they involve PVP...and aren't really for newbies and just highsec, so nvm


Wormholes were actually pretty decent on the whole, though as you pointed out, unless you're a vet, you need a group to properly run them. I'd like to see more of that lore expanded upon. (that's another)

I haven't tried incursions yet, and I deactivated my accounts after that release. (I have a few months left on this one.) I figured when CCP was going to start offering disincentives in order to get me to run those that it was time to put it up. Also, didn't like the idea that only the first group to complete it got a reward. Had enough of the rat races.

Obviously Confidential
Posted - 2011.07.08 13:52:00 - [27]
 

Originally by: Kalestia Barrak
EVE needs:
  • A public, long-term development plan
  • Fully-finished features across a longer development cycle (no more 6 month "expansion" cycle
  • More traditional MMO content: Missions, arcs, campaigns, story.



The EVE world requires that for each new shiny fotm feature that gets implemented, a team of dedicated devs stays behind to iterate and polish it continuously, or at least for an extended time period. What we currently have is that something gets implemented (Sovereignty, FW, COSMOS, PI, Supercaps, Epic Mission Arcs, Wormholes, etc) but apparently it gets left behind because development shifts into something "new and awesome" that becomes the next major thing.

With 600 employees can't CCP do two things at the same time on EVE? Why have everyone so much focused on a single project that all else is left behind? Not new cosmetics and graphics, but improved gameplay content that must be iterated on and developed in a focused manner. Probably continuously. Sanboxes are like that.

In a sandbox virtual world we should perhaps have parallel post production teams, when an expansion spawns new gameplay additions a team should be left behind to iterate, develop, perfect, etc. What we have now is that something gets thrown into TQ and development seems to quickly forget about it and go do something else. Unless it's so bad that it requires some immediate patching up (read PI).

Our current scrublord team that has the herculean task of patching up ALL unfinished details of content left behind doesn't work. They patch and fix yes, but what is needed is a development brain that is able to refine gameplay, iterating further on each new area of the world that gets added.

EVE should be growing organically, with many different things being developed and iterated on at the same time, each one in a very focused manner.

What we have now is lateral development, more stuff gets added, small fixes are made...but it's mostly a bag of unfinished stuff.

The proof that CCP lacks understanding of the need for focused development lies in observing that they somehow felt so happy about what they were doing and their current course of action, that the idea of shifting resources to TWO other games found traction and was considered admissible.

CCP should really focus on EVE more.

Valarian Blacksun
Posted - 2011.07.08 14:15:00 - [28]
 

Originally by: Solomunio Kzenig
Edited by: Solomunio Kzenig on 07/07/2011 19:54:24
tl:dr €€P are crap and don't have a consistent vision for their cash cow.

Erh, EVE hs been like this for a long time.

That said €€P now have a new sense of purpose and vision, and that vision and purpose will change EVE. Unfortunately their new vision and purpose is to get as much outta MT as possible, so the old 2 expansions a year model will have to be discarded, gotta get that new shiney into the NeX store on a regulr basis afterall.


Everyone should read this.... this is the truth ... sad as it is

Kalestia Barrak
Posted - 2011.07.08 15:54:00 - [29]
 

Originally by: Obviously Confidential
The proof that CCP lacks understanding of the need for focused development lies in observing that they somehow felt so happy about what they were doing and their current course of action, that the idea of shifting resources to TWO other games found traction and was considered admissible.


The allocation of resources is one thing that I consider a slippery slope, as we cannot make assumptions about what they can and cannot work on concurrently, or what people they have to allocate to this or that.

You are correct though in that there's a lot of concurrent work left in the form of various unfinished items, and there's no doubt a lot of prioritizing to be done. In that area, their ongoing efforts at "Core-ification" I thought was an excellent move and ensuring that the underlying framework of the game can continue to adapt and evolve. I can't think of another game on the market that has replaced entire sections of it's technology like EVE has.

With all of that technological focus though, I think they've lost sight of some of the things that really make a game fun, even if those things seem trite or simplistic in comparison. PvE content is almost a dirty word around here, and yet when you look at EVE's own statistics, it's one of the most used.

CCP really wants to expand it's playerbase with EVE and I am totally in support of that. But as I've tried to argue above, I think they can do it with a lot less heartache and at the same time, make it a lot more enjoyable, simply focusing on the tools they have. I don't mean with "bug fixes", becuase that only appeals to existing gamers. Written, designed, in-game Content is what EVE lacks and what keeps everyone else away, and allows existing players to leave. Fortunately they have the tools to fix this. But it will require a shift of focus and patience on their part.

J Kunjeh
Gallente
Posted - 2011.07.08 15:58:00 - [30]
 

Great thread, a lot of good points being made.


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