In his recent “That’s just the way it is” post on Jester’s Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE’s design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these “quirks”. In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online’s developers as “relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world”, underlining that he has only four content developers but “a lot” of programmers and engineers.
Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted – expecting the “social engine” to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP’s responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of “emergent gameplay” with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?
To be honest, I’ve held back from answering this banter for a few days. It’s made me think a lot about what I saw and heard at Fanfest, the reasons I play Eve (not the reason I started), and how I’ve seen Eve develop over the past couple of years while playing it.
We all tend to make so much noise about the sandbox that is Eve, and we generally point and laugh at the theme part MMO’s like WoW and those who play it. I’ve seen enough smack talk in local telling people to “go back to WoW” etc.
But do we really appreciate and understand what we have here with Eve? We’re certainly a vocal bunch, quick to make comments and lots of noise about things that we don’t like or that are “broken”. We also have unprecedented access to CCP employees through the forums. Much credit to the Devs for reading through the huge volumes of detritus that is generally found on the Eve forums for the odd useful comment. I was particularly encouraged that new Dev CCP Fozzie read and responded to the comments following his most recent Dev blog about moon goo and developments with Alchemy.
We, the players, have an impact. But we still live in a sandbox.
CCP has given us the box and the sand and various buckets, spades and shells to play with to make pretty sandcastles, and also other things to shape, destroy and remodel. CCP do constrain what we can do to a degree, but it’s still up to us what to do with the sand.
The real question is, then, how much do we want CCP to tell us what to do with the sand, or even stronger – how much do we want CCP to make us do certain things with the sand? If I’m honest, for me it’s probably pretty limited – I don’t want CCP to force me to have to do too many things. OK, I do missions and complexes to make ISK sometimes or grind standings, that’s about as far as it goes.
Is it CCP’s responsibility? Are they taking me for granted? Probably they are, but then if I give my children a sandbox to play in and some buckets and spades, I do take if for granted that they’ll play themselves using their own imagination. Yes, I’ll show them how to use the bucket and spades, and some tricks and tips on how to do certain things, but it’s their play time and their imagination.
Where I think CCP can do better is getting a bit more involved sometimes. Pushing the sandbox with my children idea even further than it should, sometimes they want me to play with them. I don’t control the game, but I do play with them and sometimes guide them a little.
CCP could do this more.
Recently, Drackarn over at Sand, Cider and Spaceships produced a very excellent (and at times very disturbing) storyline following “the Jita Ripper”. This culminated in a live player event which was ably won by another blogger, Kirith Darkblade.
Now I’m not saying that CCP should have gotten themselves involved with this, but for me it points the way forward. Some of the most excellent things in Eve are the live events, including the CCP roams. What I’d love to see is maybe one or two people assigned to Community Relations who actively get involved in the sandbox. For example, imagine if Drackarn wrote another storyline, but also imagine if a CCP Community Rep got involved in this and added some in-game assistance to this. Realistically one or two CCP reps could maybe be working on several storylines at a time, some in development and some in execution. This kind of immersion, linked to the very rich Eve lore that we enjoy, would be another great way to sell the game to new players. Butterfly effect on boosters.
Sure, it’s a resource that would either need to be funded or reassigned, but with the number of talented writers and Eve players in the game already, even somebody doing this part time would have a significant impact on the game.
That was a bit of a tangent to the main question, but to conclude, yes I think that CCP has started to take player effort granted, but then I think that this shows the game is maturing nicely and that they don’t have to keep getting involved. What I would like to see now is them getting more involved to work with talented players like Drackarn to produce more live events and enrich and progress the lore.