Monday, October 14, 2013

BB#50 The Harbinger Is Coming

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 50th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

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With the Rubicon expansion being announced and the SOMER Blink scandals (or non-scandals depending on your point of view) that have erupted on the community at the same time, it truly feels like an age of EVE has passed and a new one is dawning.

But which direction is it going? This blog banter can be about several different topics: 
- where do you think EVE is going? Is it a good or bad vision ahead?
- if you were EVE's new Executive Producer, where would you take the game?
- What comes (or should come) after Rubicon in terms of the mechanics and ship balancing we've seen? (CSM8 not allowed to answer this one!)
- Is there anything in EVE's ten year past that should be resurrected? Or buried and forgotten?
- What is the future of the community? What should or should not change?

(Though I like a lot of these questions, and my original plan was to address a few.  While I was writing, it seems I focused heavily on one in particular.  Maybe I'll get around to the others eventually.)

Eve Online is a niche type game, it's not a World of Warcraft in terms of subscribers.  It plays to a unique player base and has a lot of things going for it.  I'd also say it has some of the most dedicated player bases around.  There are tons of people who have been playing for more than a year, some more than five, and some even the ten years Eve has been around.  In that time they have seen drastic mechanic changes, graphic updates and a streamlining of various features.

Eve is also unique in there is no "end-game" goal.  It's whatever you want it to be, and all the power to those who accomplish what they want.  Your objective could be to lead a massive collation of people, to be an elite frigate pilot, or maybe you just enjoy being a simple front lineman.

This sandbox nature is a key driving force in the development over the course of these years.  But recently I have been seeing minor tweaks that bring cause for concern in my mind.  While Eve is a "sandbox" type game and should strive to allow you to accomplish many things, it should not allow you to accomplish anything.  Though the input of the player base is invaluable in making features, or voicing opinions for specific changes; the player base or more importantly the *vocal* part does not always have the best interest of the game at heart.

Because there are so many different play styles and ways to play knowing everything in the game will cause a nigh-on headache of massive proportions.  This is why you see a lot of players who are really good at one aspect and then have a little bit of knowledge about everything else.

My concern with the future of Eve falls into the area of dealing with the non-vocal part of the player base, which from what I understand is a very large chunk.  The non-vocal player is exactly that "non-vocal"; if something happens they don't like, they usually just up and leave without further commitment and find something else.  Does CCP actually consider this chunk of the player base in their design decisions?  Because they won't know if they screwed up until those subscribers up and leave.

I understand this type of thing is hard to gauge because you can't read someone's mind.  But if it isn't broken why fix it?  Now you may draw the conclusion I'm referring to high-sec, but ask yourself how many people actively play Eve?  How many people do you know who have posted on the forums?  From those you know how many are happy/unhappy with upcoming changes?  Now what about your friends who have an opposite play style from you, how do they feel?

There are times when a change is so drastic it actually causes the non-vocal group to participate; I constantly hear of the micro-transaction issue.  Though I wasn't a part of Eve when it happened, I'm a part of Eve now.  But it was such a drastic change in policy that the proverbial frog thrown into a pot of boiling water jumped out.  The issue was spotted "early" on and as such the frog lived.  How many of us take a look at upcoming changes with a bit more concern for other play styles besides our own?

I see some changes though not drastic being the harbinger of slowly turning the temperature up a few degrees; while the frog sits nicely in the pot.  If CCP is not careful they may accidentally boil their frog.


  1. You know the Harbinger is Amarr, whilst boiling frogs is strictly a Gallente culinary activity, right? ;)

    I think you're right on the money with the need for cautionary change. I agree that it really is a matter of balance, but EVE has to adapt to a changing market and evolving gaming habits or it will stagnate.

    I'd really given enough consideration to the behaviour of voiceless majority as an indicator of reaction to any change, but you make a very fine point. I suppose, in that regard it is only CCP who can look at the metrics and monitor that ebb and flow with any accuracy.

    The likelihood of an EVE player sounding off public seems to be directly proportional to the length of service (or is that another bittervet assumption?). I'd love to know more about the behaviour of this silent demographic (beyond monitoring the daily PCU). They are the sleeping lion of the EVE playerbase.

    1. If you look at my KB you'll notice I have yet to lose a non-Amarrian ship ;)

      Change is very important to avoid stagnation, but sometimes change isn't needed. For example take Google's front page of their search engine. All it has is their logo and a text box for searching. It was launched in 1998 (I think) and while they have made slight adjustments and changes it is still mainly their logo and a search box. As far as I can tell Google is still in business. :)

      The employees at CCP are the only ones who have the real metrics on the voiceless. So hopefully they really are considering them during the development cycle. But the problem is they still can't read minds.
      I'm curious to know if CCP has been devising ways to interact with the voiceless. One way I can think of is to have a survey announcement when one logs into the game client (right above news would be ideal imo). They make it noticeable but not overbearingly obnoxious, the survey takes about 2 minutes (or less) to complete and does the normal survey thing of "how would this affect you? moderately, slightly, etc". These surveys are also available to everyone who logs in, not just a random sample. It can still remain anonymus but just acknowledges whether or not said account participated.

      While in a more general sense the older the player may be more likely to voice opinions, without actually knowing how many players older than x-time have posted on the forums I'd assume it's more of a bittervet assumption.