Saturday, September 22, 2012


From the nothingness that I delved into this summer resulting in a complete lack of posts, I bring you thoughts on identities in Eve.  Spurred on by the recent tragedy of Vile Rat, I came to think about how who we are in Eve can reflect who we are in the real world and how a sandbox game allows us to pursue goals and ambitions that we might not have the opportunity to pursue in our lives.  What also struck me is the challenges of making a sandbox game like Eve open ended allowing people to accomplish said things and yet continue to be a fulfilling gaming experience.

In a way not unlike VR, I have real world roots in politics which carry over into Eve.  From discussions about which kind of cheese is superior to more important thoughts of country shaping, my RL character reflects the kind of player I am in Eve.  While I certainly don't ONLY play for political intrigue, Eve would not maintain a sense of continual fulfillment if I was unable to pursue my political ambitions.  I've played many games that were enjoyable but none that lasted.  Why?  Because in most games I am forced to play the role of someone I am not, someone who it may be exceedingly difficult to relate with.  In Eve, my character can be who I am, me, myself, shaped by events both within Eve and without.

This presents an interesting challenge to CCP:  How can Eve succeed in the long run from a gameplay perspective (i.e. having tangible goals, entertaining content, etc.) while still making room for the player-driven experience without failing miserably like Star Wars the Old Republic?  I believe there are a number of factors that CCP is missing the mark on as of writing this that, should they be corrected, would not only increase the number of players but enable them to retain the existing player base.

The first is the KIND of players you get.  Eve has a unique player base, from Russian aluminum magnate's  to people who's sole purpose in Eve is to grief others (not unlike this clip from the Big Bang Theory) the player base is wide and varied.  When we boil these personalities down though I believe we get three fundamental, though not unconnected, types of players.

The first is the typical gamer, those that like to play for fun's sake.  They don't like to spend hours and hours playing a game so they can play a game a little better.

Eve makes it difficult for casual gamers to in it's inherent design.  Why would I want to casually play a game I have to spend time making in game currency while waiting a year to fly the ships I want too?  This area of players are getting attention from Dust 514.  From the looks of it, casual gamers will be able to interact with Eve and a sandbox mentality without the time requirements that Eve has.  Log in, play a couple rounds, log off.  Honestly, some of Eve could use a jolt of this as well.

The second kind of player is the Roleplayer.  They enjoy playing games for the story as much as the gameplay.  Games like Mass Effect and Skyrim have achieved success by making roleplaying part of the core game while still have entertaining gameplay.

This is an area sorely lacking in Eve.  While I don't do a lot of RP myself, I remember starting out with Eve articles and stories galore.  Of late there has been very little material and while yes, technically player-driven content could be considered "roleplaying" it's not what RP'rs are looking for.  

The third kind is the hardcore gamer.  Hardcore gamers abound in Eve.  These are the folks that run the alliances, go missioning for hours so they can buy two spare carriers or dreads for an upcoming op, and generally spend more time playing Eve than they do cleaning their house or making food.  Eve becomes more like a hobby than a game.

Once CCP figures out the kind of player base they have and why they have them, they can then move on to creating game design for said players.  I think where CCP is stuck right now is that they don't really have a clear picture of where the players take their identities and plug in.
Lowsec, for example, desperately needs attention.  As it stands, piracy is in a way one of the more casual ways to play Eve.  I can go sit on a gate an smartbomb random people, steal their things, and then dock up and go do laundry while I wait out my 15 minutes of GCC.  Gank the right people and it pays for itself.  But how do hardcore gamers get excited about this?  "I have to wait 15 minutes to gank the next person without taking gate guns right away?  Screw that, I'm joining FW or a group like RvB."  By reworking lowsec to allow people of different play styles to have an engaging experience (have more isk making opportunities, fewer penalties for piracy, etc.) lowsec could become a far more attractive place to live, therein bringing more people and more opportunity for roleplaying.
The same goes for other professions. Mining for instance is getting a lot of attention in this upcoming expansion.  Between new ships, reworking old ones, fixing tech, etc.  it will be far better than just where most of the botting occurs as it is right now.  These changes might bring the needed goals of having people mine and not just bots or people looking to corner a market on fuel.  Maybe if I take up mining I can provide enough ore to build X number of ships which I could help fly into battle against another alliance.
Reworking nullsec could start entertaining the masses that live there, giving an alternative for the mass blobs looking for ganks to have to go to lowsec to find something.

Making meaningful gameplay can only occur by taking into account who you are trying to make it meaningful for.  As such, I believe CCP should take a look into the identities people have brought into the game more than what those identities do.  Yes, null sec blobs happen in lowsec but is that because lowsec is better and people want to start living there or is it because nullsec is even worse and the blobs are bored?

As it is, CCP has made some great progress in that direction in it's emphasis on reworking old areas instead of having shiny new features (something that should still ALWAYS be worked on), but I think the approach that has been used is one of "where are people shouting the loudest" instead of "what are the most badly broken mechanics in the game".  Look for the identities, not just the voices that come from them, and Eve can easily become a dominant MMO(RPG) again.