November 4, 2007

What EVE Could Do to Bring Back Players

I hold no reservations about EVE Online. It is a very well designed game, albeit owned by an otherwise poorly run company named CCP. EVE is like a good wine, aging well and accruing value with every passing year. If that sounds conflicted, it is. I am still conflicted over the game.

I enjoyed my time playing EVE, but the game is inherently punishing towards it's newer players. Also, I spent more time researching things outside of the game, than I did playing. My first character was completely gimped and without a delete and restart I would have spent months catching up. I stopped playing, but kept paying to advance my skills. Eventually my two cents kicked in and I canceled my subscription. Just in time fortunately, as my corporation's leader decided to dump the corporation in classic EVE form: by stealing all the ISK, kicking all the members, and stealing every last BPO and ship possible.

So, what spurs me to post about EVE today? First off, CCP, invited Richard Bartle to speak at a recent panel for the EVE Fan Faire. Bartle told them that their plan to democratise the player to company interactions would fail.
The panel I was on this morning is now over. As insulting your hosts go, I think I did well (sigh).

Basically, CCP (the EVE Online developers) want to democratise their virtual world because they have so many players that they're being overwhelmed by suggestions for ways to change or improve their virtual world. They want a council of players to put the best ideas to them, with the council-members decided by popular vote. I told them that this wouldn't work because CCP still had the final say (they're gods, not a government), so the players actually had no new powers at all. However, using the word "democracy" would give them the impression they did have power, so it would all end in tears when they discovered that they didn't.
That sums up my opinion on the matter fairly well. Honestly, the whole move smells of marketing to save face for numerous past misgivings. CCP needs to concentrate on improving the experience it provides to the average player, not spin political mumbo jumbo with a few hardcore elite.

The second news item that brings me to EVE: patch notes. No, I'm not going to break down all the notes. I just wanted to point out the inclusion of both a Linux and Mac client for the game. Other than that, nothing of interest for any ex-EVE players looking for a reason to come back.

However, that is the reason I am here. There is a couple changes that would definitely make me reconsider coming back at some point.

1. With an account that is 6-months or older, allow players to set skills to train without paying a monthly subscription. This will allow interested players to return down the line without having to worry that they will be years behind in training. ISK will still be a limiting factor in how much of an impact these players can have by themselves.

For some evidence that this would work, we just need to look back at the five day period where all accounts were reopened. Several of my friends reopened their accounts just to set a long skill to train with the plan of someday playing again.

2. Allow skill training to be automated. When I was playing, nothing sucked worse than losing time because you could not log in to set a new skill to train. EVE needs a skill template system where players can load a template from a website and have their training automatically set itself. I don't believe any current EVE player would argue that this would not be a benefit to the game.

Unfortunately, CCP seems far too wrapped up in political bullshit and graphical updates to care.