This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the competition and market conditions facing both EVE and CCP now and in the near future.
Welcome back to Part 3 of the ‘You, me & EVE’ series in which I attempt to unload the contents of my head and explore the current health of EVE-Online, its playerbase and whatever else I think is relevant. I’ve been having some PC issues so this instalment has been a bit delayed.
In the last instalment I rambled on about how I used to enjoy null sec and burned out, touched on some thought of why low sec is doing quite well these days actually and topped it off by suggesting that players don’t like change that challenges them so may resent things like Crius and the Industry revamp for making them change the way they have been playing for up to a decade. I consider this sort of challenge and temporary discomfort to be good for EVE’s health. A bit like how Unified Inventory made the game better (once patched/iterated upon!) but players initially loathed it for being different.
Now then. Let’s take a step or two back from EVE-Online and talk about some wider issues facing the EVE Universe and CCP over the next year or so. As you may have gathered from the previous two or three thousand words published in this series of mine, I have been facing down some issues when it comes to EVE for awhile now. Quite serious concerns in all honesty. I have for some time, a long time even, been feeling less engaged than I used to be. It has gotten to the point that when my subscription came up for renewal the other week that I very nearly chose not to renew. Yes, I almost retired from EVE! From someone who has been continually subscribed for over a decade these dark thoughts trouble me.
You are probably now wondering why I didn’t quit. You would definitely be wondering about why I then chose to re-sub for a further six months! I wonder that too, I think it ultimately comes down to (brand?) loyalty and a lingering sense of connection. Plus the fact that part of me really doesn’t want to quit! I still want to be involved with New Eden. And so soon after CCP suffered a round of job cuts I don’t want to stop supporting that great group of people working there, no matter how little difference my single account makes in the grand scheme of things. But let’s focus on my desire to be involved. CCP is not a charity and by no means should be treated as one by its customers, so let’s not go too far down that road of blind fanboyism.
I had hopes for Dust514. I was hoping that CCP could pull off that compelling vision of two games sharing a deep and meaningful connection where I could remain a part of New Eden and explore new interactions with the game world through it. Sadly, that didn’t turn out so well and the ‘Rouge Wedding’ of Fanfest saw the ambitious plans for that game cut short and go back to the drawing board in the form of Project Legion. So my hopes for planet-side adventure have been put on ice for a good while longer. I can still get my EVE-flavoured lobby shooter FPS fix, but it isn’t going to be any more than that any time soon.
My problem with EVE of late is that I’m finding it harder to find those nice long play sessions that the game is best suited to. That, or part of me isn’t prepared to make the time. Something that resonated with me from CCP Presents at Fanfest earlier this year was CCP’s pitch to position their games to target differing lengths of play session. EVE-Online would be there for your longer play sessions, Legion for those wanting a more flexible 30 mins to an hour session and EVE Valkyrie bringing the instant fix and extra accessible high octane bursts of 15-30mins at a time.
I love that vision! It offers flexibility and fresh alternatives to keep me invested without quitting my full time job, cutting off my friends, divorcing my wife and taking the cats back to the sanctuary for re-homing. There is so much that gets between me and my gaming these days, it was must simpler being unemployed, sad and lonely! But hey, at least I had EVE. 😉 Is this getting depressing? Here, have a cat picture.
So as great as that vision of product positioning is, we are still quite some way off it being all that I want it to be. EVE Valkyrie and Project Legion are both likely a full year away from getting into my hands, at the optimistic earliest. The Prophecy trailer is still a long way from being our daily gaming reality.
Until then, we have the grand old ship that is EVE-Online with CCP battling to change its engines and upgrade every core system and the on-board entertainment during flight (mixed metaphors anyone?) and Dust514 receiving those scaled-back updates to hopefully tide us over for awhile until Legion comes to the rescue.
Herein lies the problem. Like many players, I have been waiting a long time for CCP to pull their long term plans together and deliver on the big vision. Be it Incarna, Dust514, Valkyrie or even World of Darkness, I have grown tired of waiting for this stuff to become reality. I have found it kind of depressing to see so much of it fall short in execution or not arrive at all due to long term failings in CCP’s planning. The bottom line, I think, is that CCP wasted years of development time, effort and money poking at multiple projects inefficiently. WoD reached alpha three times before finally being scrapped, the same is probably true of Incarna which we know went through several iterations over the years before the abortive launch of the Captain’s Quarters in 2011. Ultimately CCP lost valuable time and player goodwill over the years, I feel that there is now ever less of it left to draw upon as time passes.
As players become less invested in EVE, they become tempted away by ‘the competition’. For many years EVE enjoyed a market containing limited direct competition for its position as the go-to internet spaceships game. Depending on your own opinions, that might be changing a bit with some upcoming distractions in the form of the magnificently hyped Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous. I have yet to play either, but my own view of SC is that it has been placed upon a gilded pedestal and should be regarded with caution. Frankly I feel like Sc is making every promise that CCP ever made in the past decade, throwing in a bunch more random things and attempting to deliver them all in one shot.
Sc has currently raised an enormous $48.6 million by crowd sourcing but money alone is not the question. Project management is and it is where CCP have faltered in the past and where Sc seems to be going a bit wonky at the moment. The recent announced $50 million stretch goal is to add three alien languages to the game, a decision apparently made in response to a community survey that overwhelmingly indicated that backers wanted to see more focus placed on ‘core gameplay’. I guess my definition of what constitutes core game play differs from theirs…
There is a sense hubris at play here that we saw lead CCP into a hole back in 2011. They are still trying to climb back out of it as they disentangle themselves from aborted or faltered projects and attempt to bring their newer initiatives to market. In short, I am waiting to see if SC actually does deliver on compelling gameplay/features before I spend any money on it.
Elite Dangerous on the other hand has me intrigued. Elite II: Frontier was a defining game for me back in the nineties and a major influence on both EVE’s creation and my interest in playing it. If there is a game that will pull me away from New Eden, Elite Dangerous could well be it. I back it on kickstarter and have been very impressed by its steady and strong pace of development to date. I am also very appreciative of the more reserved planning for their ambitious features. There is little sense of hype around ED, it just feels like there is a solid plan together with a clear vision as each step is tackled in order it needs to be. While both SC and ED are very different games to EVE, I can see them increasingly being contenders for our time.
As we have talked about before, EVE’s player activity/subs have been down and the thought of significant competition just around the corner is a concern. I don’t believe that EVE is going to suddenly die out as a direct result of any one thing, but a combination of factors could see the player base further contract. Even if it does, EVE should be able to withstand a slow bleed of players for years before the game hits real trouble. My concern is over CCP rather than EVE.
If CCP’s failed investments and faltered long term aspirations catch up to them financially then EVE may in turn run into an abrupt crisis or shift in focus as the company may cease trading or be bought out. If they can balance the books and keep the server running then EVE still has years of life left in it, even if it does fail to attract and retain new players.
I am not angry about all this, or very bitter. I’m just feeling fatigued. I have been feeling ‘all played out’ on the EVE I know lately. I have so many great memories of the times I have spent in and around New Eden but I grow tired of waiting for the next great step. I have been very much looking forward to Dust and Valkyrie as a new way for me to stay engaged, only to see the promise of Dust514 is now giving way to development of Project Legion. Both Legion & Valkyrie are still a long time away, it is quite possibly still a year or more before we get to play either of them.
Personally, I need for CCP to deliver more on those big promises. I need to see EVE striding forwards towards CCP Seagull’s vision of Colonisation and an exciting new frontier. I need to see that Valkyrie and Legion are not more WoD/Incarna vapourware but tangible experiences that will come sooner rather than later. Valkyrie may not hit its original 2014 release but we cannot still be waiting for it three years from now. It would simply be too late, as Dust514 was.
And this is my problem. Deep down I still very much desire to remain a part of the EVE universe, but my motivation to keep retreading the very familiar ground of EVE-Online has been at a low ebb. In the end I decided to renew that sub of mine for another six months. I didn’t want to quit just before my alliance competes in AT12. I didn’t want to walk out on EVE just as CCP put their new delivery methods into practice. Six more months will see me through the first five or so planned mini-expansions which should be a good measure of where EVE is going.
Where will we be then? I guess we will just have to wait and see!