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Friday, November 9, 2012

Keeping EVE Online Relevant in the Coming Decade

The holidays are rapidly approaching. This is traditionally the season for gift exchanges. We already know what we are getting this year from CCP. Retribution is the name of the game. And it is true that some of what is in Retribution I have wanted for some time. But it isn't even close to enough to keep most player's interest long term. That's kind of the way it's been for a year now.

It seems to have caused a general malaise within the EVE community. I made comment on it with my last post. A lively discussion kicked up on that post on whether interest in EVE Online was declining. EN24 picked it up on syndication and the discussion continues there unabated  One thing is certain, the numbers are inconclusive but my gut tells me the decline is real. One fact folks bantered about was the reality EVE is 10 years old next May. It is a bit long in the tooth and wears its age poorly in this new decade.

New games like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen will soon start development. What can CCP do to rejuvenate EVE Online and meet these upstarts head on with overheated blasters? Reading through the descriptions on Kickstart for both new projects, they look good but lack the breadth of possibility that is in EVE Online. In this post, I want to touch on some of those possibilities. These are the ones I think CCP needs to shore up/enhance/create in order to fend off the coming competition.

Walking in Stations

Stop, just stop; get over your Incarna prejudice you bitter old vet. That rebellion was more about CCP not listening to players on what was broken in EVE than it ever was about full body avatars. But I do not mention this because I want to lounge around some virtual bar in high-sec. I want CCP to combine Dust 514 tech with EVE Online tech and create fighting in stations! That's right, dock your ship and fight the bastards hand to hand. Every corridor becomes a battlefield. Every hatch becomes a portcullis. They have taken the first step with this concept in Dust. When Dust goes into null-sec, planets will no longer automatically switch loyalties with sovereignty. Mercenaries will have to conquer them. The same needs to happen with stations and outposts. CCP cannot port this to another demographic of players. This needs to be capsuleer stuff in order to keep people interested in EVE. Without EVE, the rest fails.


There's that Incarna prejudice rearing its ugly head again. And again, that rebellion was more about the (mistaken?) assumption that EVE was going pay-to-win rather than simply pay-to-shine. Anyone who follows the gaming industry knows microtransaction business models trump subscription based business models hands down when done properly. Many of you have already proven this. How's that you ask? What's your cyno alt for? What's your scout alt for? They allow your main character to be more successful. You already participate in pay-to-win you ninny. Let's stop the posturing and the fear mongering and get down to business. Having zero barrier to game entry is the best way to get new players. Free trials are still too much effort and 21 days are not enough time to grok EVE Online. Custom ship skins will help CCP make the lost revenue back IMO. There is demand for that aplenty. I know I'd buy them. The only question would be whether they were expensive and permanent or inexpensive and blown up with the ship. I'd lean toward that second one myself. Not because greed IS good, but it provides a more constant cash flow and that is good for business. It also broadens the demographic of those that can afford them. Lastly, the upstarts are going to be using the free-to-play model. If CCP doesn't - EVE is dead. Given a choice of free-to-play or buying a subscription for a new game, which would you choose?

Eliminate Time Dilation

More accurately, this should be "eliminate the need for time dilation." I just wanted to get some blobber blood hot with a sensationalistic title. This is a tall order. The capital investment in hardware alone may be out of CCP's reach. However, if they could create a playing experience for giant fleet fights as quick paced and action packed as a first person shooter, they would have a real winner IMO. Currently they are at an unhappy compromise. No one really likes the system but it is better than crashing the node or worse, stalling it out so some get their actions carried out and others wake in clone vats. If you think about all the epic EVE videos you love to watch, you know the ones, the movie trailer like videos that have been heavily edited to remove the lag - that is what CCP is selling. That is not what they are delivering. That fact adds tarnish to EVE like fingertips on silver. For those that aspire to this...
...time dilation has to go.

Right of Refusal

This is my pet desire and doesn't hold the promise of the others but I have to mention it. I'm an industrialist after all. Let's say I am in a single person corporation. Let's say my big mouth tends to get me in trouble. Let's say the largest corporation in the game declares war against me. I am not a PvPer. I will never win that sort of war. But I have friends. Why can't we boycott this corporation? I don't mean stop buying stuff from them, though that would be shiny. I mean stop selling stuff to them. Far fetched? Okay, forget the war stuff. Let's say they simply start ganking ice miners while simultaneously buying all the isotopes on the market. They are going to corner it. How do you stop that? You reverse embargo them! Some ice will still get to the station. To stop the market play you need to restrict who can buy your isotopes; exclude the manipulators. They can gank all they want, but it will lose them ISK because the market now has teeth of its own. When it comes to market manipulation you can certainly fight fire with fire, but halon is much more effective.

What else do you think CCP could do to move EVE Online into the next decade?

Fly Careful


  1. " Anyone who follows the gaming industry knows microtransaction business models trump subscription based business models hands down when done properly. Many of you have already proven this. How's that you ask? What's your cyno alt for? What's your scout alt for? They allow your main character to be more successful. You already participate in pay-to-win you ninny."

    By done properly, you mean 'in a game which is not an MMO, is high-quality, and accessible'? No? You have an example of a massively profitable relatively inaccessible MMO using F2P model? Let's hear it... games which make money using F2P aren't mmorpgs. WoT, LoL...not mmorpgs. More like SMORTS's

    "To stop the market play you need to restrict who can buy your isotopes; exclude the manipulators."

    You want CCP to spend a huge amount of dev time on a feature that will merely result in the null alliances using npc corp alts to do their logistics, a step which they've ALREADY TAKEN ANYWAY? Ummm, no thanks.

    1. Okay Kurt, how would YOU like to see EVE Online reinvented for the next decade?

      MMORPGs that have gone FTP? Here you go:

      For the total list (well, as total as it gets:)

      And yes, I'd love to be able to exclude certain people from buying the stuff I make. It's petty vindictiveness that drives me and, as I said, I already know it's not the caliber of change the other three are. As for the null-sec alliances, I don't care if they are using the pay-to-win model of market manipulation. Thanks for proving my point on that BTW.

    2. I disagree with all on that list. DDO and LOTR are ok, but I dislike being nickle and dimed. Alot of the games on that list are popular ASIAN games that you do nothing but grind and grind and grind. Thats what f2p does to games. Even ones that have a subscription, theres alot of things in DDO you have to buy with microtransactions if you have a sub still; many of which I feel should be included in the 15 bucks a month, but its not.

      The reason subscriptions seem to do less than f2p is because f2p can claim however many accounts they have because they never cease to "active". People see the huge amount of money initially spent on f2p games and ignore the long term gains you get from a regular, *loyal* gamer.

      I prefer paying subscription fees for MMOs like EvE, DarkFall, and even EQ2 when it wasnt shitty (prior to TSO, even some of Kunark) and would not mind paying even up to 20-25 bucks per month per account for a quality one.

      Its just that quality of MMOs has declined in the last decade, gameplay wise.

    3. From your first link: "Because of all the fierce competition, free games are no longer guaranteed to develop large fanbases just because they’re free[...]". The second link includes City of Heroes, which is about to close down.
      My point being the business model is not directly linked to the financial success of a game. The crux of the matter seems to be how the design of your game fits with your business model. And CCP has done quite well with EvE:
      - the need for more accounts is almost build in the game (it's easy to multibox, you can train several characters att the same time, etc.),
      - plex is a mix of micro-transaction and free-to-play (want that Machariel, cash in a plex; want to play for free, grind PvE to buy that plex).
      So I don't see how Eve going FTP would bring more money to CCP.

    4. "MMORPGs that have gone FTP? Here you go:"

      No, you said "microtransaction business models trump subscription based business models hands down when done properly.", so I need a list of MMORPG's that have gone FTP and make MORE MONEY than subscription MMORPGS. Your list contains a bunch of horrible games that don't make very much money, which is the opposite of what I asked for, and only proves my point.

      "Okay Kurt, how would YOU like to see EVE Online reinvented for the next decade?"

      EVE is currently my favorite MMORPG, so the most important thing to me is that it doesn't get ruined by trying to copy a bunch of other games that I find way less fun, such as all 10 of the games on that list. Incremental small improvements will be welcomed, huge overhauls simply for the sake of change not.

      "As for the null-sec alliances, I don't care if they are using the pay-to-win model of market manipulation. Thanks for proving my point on that BTW."

      I'm a fairly new player in a very small WH corp, and I don't even know what the 'pay-to-win model of market manipulation' is, so I can't really 'prove your point' about nullsec alliances, unless pointing out what things I know about them simply by virtue of them being common knowledge to nearly all EVE players can prove your point...but you're welcome anyway.

    5. Thank you for elaborating. I understand your point of view now. If I have it right, EVE is already the MMORPG you want even if it is 10 years old. Changing it to be like the other's you've already rejected would in fact drive you from the game. I wish you were the majority view here but I don't think you are.

      As for pay-to-win, there was a controversy just before the Incarna expansion last year that CCP would use Aurum to allow player to buy better than faction ammo, etc. Those with more money could therefor afford to buy the best stuff. The other players thought that an unfair advantage. They labeled it pay-to-win as it would allow less experienced but RL richer players to beat more experienced pilots who didn't have real money to waste - that's the argument at least.

      It was a somewhat vacuous argument. Players with more RL money already pay for multiple subscriptions to give them a leg up in the game. Even Jester admits he has four accounts (used to be five.) All those accounts worked to support his main character by his own admission. So in reality he is already paying-to-win. He does not have to take time out from roams with Rote Kapelle to rat for ISK because another subscription is paying for his ship losses. He probably also has a deeper inventory of available ships and access to more faction modules than a single account subscriber.

      Does that help to clarify the term? Thanks for participating!

    6. Yes, I'm not too hung up on the age of games, I had more fun playing BBS games like trade wars and operation overlord with literally ASCII graphics than I do playing those F2P games you listed above. I don't expect to be in the majority, but as long as one MMO is a decent complex sandbox, I don't care if the other 99 MMORPGS out are crap.

      "Does that help to clarify the term? Thanks for participating!"

      Yes...I wish you would come up with a new term for it, I see how it is technically 'pay2win', but pay2win already has an established meaning and overloading the term with another meaning creates confusion when the new meaning is too similar to the old meaning. You could easily distinguish it by calling it multi-account fixed-installment amount pay2win, but that's more than a mouthful. If only there were a memorable acronym for the above ;) Although personally I'd just go with subs2win.

      Anyways, whether or not you think the distinction between p2w and s2w is vacuous doesn't really seem to matter. EVE players have demonstrated that they are OK with one and not the other, we could discuss how and why this is, but at the end of the day, what will we have gained?

  2. Micro-transaction doesn't mean Free-to-play: Eve already has micro-transactions with the Next store, but someone still has to pay for the subscription.
    On the other hand free-to-play does mean micro-transactions (MT from now on) =) Since an FTP title still need to get some money in.
    So more things being available in Eve through MT sounds like a given to me (skins for ship, stuff for the captain corner, etc.). But Eve transitioning to the FTP model is a whole different question. Would you still have subscription? If so, what would be the benefits of subscribing? What would be the impact on the infrastructure (which links into the TiDi conundrum)? What would need to be added to the Next store to get some revenue from the free players without game balance spinning out of control? I guess this could be a post of its own =)

    1. Good point on MT <> FTP - very good in fact. We could get MT and still pay a subscription.

      Your questions are also worth exploring but you are correct, that could be an entire post by itself.

    2. To elaborate on MT, CCP should try to mesh this into new gameplay. PI revamp could be one: you could buy a little helper that would automatically restart all the diggers once their cycle is completed. So players have the choice to manually click them or buy the little helper in the Next store.
      That could be done in the industry revamp (a kind of foreman maybe?), in the POS revamp (a station manager?). You could even include more cosmetic stuff: different colours for your exhaust, etc.

  3. Free to play but you got to stay in a T1 frigate! 1 per IP. This would cause absolute mania, but I wonder how many people would come over subscribe just to get into destroyers and up? Could even make it so they only could save half skill points on being podded.

    I am uncertain why people are leaving the game. Most games do surveys of those people leaving the game to find out why. It could be the game just goes stale and a change of venue is needed. This is MMO turn-over I have had to leave Eve for a great many reasons since i first sub'd right after launch - off and on again sometimes a year - other times 3-4 months. Why? Life changes. Game changes. Other games come out - the soundtrack gets dull (except Seven Clans that thing is dope(do people still say dope?)).

    I recall rolling with the Northern Alliance a couple years ago and playing the fleet music from return of the Jedi as we roamed or battled. These are events that NO OTHER GAME CAN REPLICATE. For that reason I think Eve will survive a decade. Sure it will morph and change some - but as time marches on more and more peoples get broadband interwebs and wi fi becomes more and more standard. I fully expect people to be playing Eve on cell phones in a few years. Maybe mining or watching the market in Jita. Probably not roaming, you would at least need a tablet for that.

    Also I would love to see them expand the market in Jita to a web based trading site. So that in or out of the game you could log in and place buy and sell orders. We have corporations, but I have not heard about shares so much. Maybe Corps do not sell shares, but if some did then you can earn dividends on those. Buy the shares, sell, and even place options on those same shares.

    As far as walking in stations go - that is a good place to start, but we should be able to live somewhere. A home, a house, an apartment, an estate, a garden - all of that jazz. All bought with isk or aura or both.

    People in MMOs love dolling up the house. They spend hours just getting it all situated just so. Then invite people over to mess with all the gadgets and show off the stuff. This happened in EQ2 religiously and in Ultima as restock points.

    1. "People in MMOs love dolling up the house."

      Guilty as charged. :p

    2. Player housing is one of the things proven to aid in player retention. I remember in EQ2 people even had decorating businesses. And think of the possible ISK sink renting a place in Jita could be.

  4. Buying better hardware won't end the need for TiDi, in the same way that building more roads doesn't ease traffic congestion. In both cases you just get more cars (ships) filling up the extra capacity because they can.

    Most exciting change CCP to bring would be allowing direct control of the ships rather than point-and-click piloting. Seeing Elite: Dangerous going into funding mode almost had me wet myself at the thought of that.

    1. What you describe I believe is called fly-by-wire. If not, it is now. *grin* How do you envision fly-by-wire working with EVE Online?

    2. Just jumpin in here but... I am working on making my programmable joystick run continuous double-clicks (on a button push) so I can manually fly my ships... and program 'F1' etc. into the remaining buttons... I'll let you know if it works. =]

  5. "You reverse embargo them! Some ice will still get to the station. To stop the market play you need to restrict who can buy your isotopes; exclude the manipulators. They can gank all they want, but it will lose them ISK because the market now has teeth of its own. When it comes to market manipulation you can certainly fight fire with fire, but halon is much more effective."

    EMBARGO ON!!! Oh, but wait....even Master rode on Blaster, and when ol Mad Max "popped" Blaster, he was just a pathetic lil dwarf to whom no one listened anymore.

    Also, Halon in an enclosed space is great. Provided there aren't any people in there too without SCBAs on... dying of asphyxiation because Halon displaces oxygen, would truly suck. And given gas dispersion in an open environment, Halon wouldn't be the preferred method for fighting fires in the wildland. In that scenario you still need a hand crew and some drip torches. ;-)
    Right tool for right job. ;-) And ... always read the warning labels on your fire extinguishing products, preferably before having to use them on a real fire.

    But you ARE right in that the carebear populace should have a means of fighting back _economically_, rather than just undocking a string of derp and feeding kills to deccers, or trying to "hire" mercs who magically can't seem to find the WTs...
    I think standings-based exclusion on contracts is a good start and should be fairly easy to implement, followed by standings-based exclusion on buy/sell orders in the market.
    That way, guys you don't like can't buy ships/weapons/ammo with which to turn around and blow you up ... and likewise you don't buy stuff from them, thus feeding them ISK to buy ships/weapons/ammo and ... blow you up even more.

  6. I think that CCP needs to add tools to allow players to create content, rather than attempting to create all of the content in-house at CCP. Nothing complicated, just a few things like:

    Arena support - to allow players to more easily create their own versions of AT or the Open tourney.

    This could be a deployable, like bubbles, which lasts for a short period of time (say, 15 minutes), during which time ships cannot enter/exit the arena (destroyed or just bounce, like POS shields) and Concord will not interfere with anything that goes on inside of the arena (effectively, creating a temporary null sec or WH pocket). The arena deployables could come in different sizes, allowing for different sized arenas.

    The arena would only be accessible via single-use, keyed acceleration gates, set up by the same player who setup the arena.

    The arena could also support features like a stasis field (which disables all ships entering the arena until the match start is triggered), and a countdown timer (also triggered by match start). An end of match trigger might also be used to disable all ships again, temporarily, at the end of the match. It might also be nice to be able to optionally make pods impervious to damage, within the arena, if podding is not desirable.

    It would be really interesting if this stuff was just released as modules, deployables, etc. - ie. components with which players can design/construct their own tournaments - rather than strictly implemented in a CCP-designed arena/tournament feature.

    The arena modules, deployables and stuff could then be used (or abused) for other purposes in regular gameplay, such as enveloping a high sec NPC station with a temporary null sec pocket... heh, heh.

  7. Another idea would be tools to allow players to create dungeons (aka missions).

    The player would be able to designate a deadspace area, and setup acceleration gates to get there. The player should be able to buy various "stuff" from market to put in the dungeon, such as towers, wrecks, asteroids, NPCs, etc.

    Bounties on NPCs would be set/paid for by the dungeon creator.

    The dungeons could be designed to respawn automatically, with any associated costs being paid for by the dungeon creator by automatic wallet deduction.

    The dungeon creator should be able to put up the mission as public, or private - to an individual or corp. Like agent missions, the player mission would have ISK rewards for successful completion (but no LP). Unlike agent missions, the player missions should also have the option to require a fee to run the mission - thus providing a means for the dungeon creator to recoup costs, or perhaps even make a profit on more challenging dungeons.


Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.