The more vocal EVE players, and also CCP, are decidedly proud that EVE is a PvP game first and foremost. Sure there is crafting and PvE, and yeah the market is probably the most developed in any computer game around just now, but PvP is the most important aspect of the game and it should stay that way. One of the often bandied about problems with EVE is that the logged in player numbers are stagnant. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. From time to time we see Jester posting stats on this and the graphs mostly tell the same story of periodic growth and decline of player numbers as controlled by the season or expansion release. The average of this statistic is essentially a flat line going back several years. The question which most commonly follows is "How come games like World of Warcraft manager to have millions of subscribers when we have only half a million?".
Let's just think about that for a bit. Why does a PvE rich game like WoW manage to attract several million paying customers but a game where PvE is considered a disease which must be eradicated struggles to get past half a million? Hmm, boss, I dunno... In case you missed it, that was sarcasm. I came to EVE from WoW. In fact I played both at the same time. The first twice I came to EVE (2005 and 2007) I didn't last past my trial mainly due to the dire state of PvE in the game. I came from PvE and I wanted to PvE. It wasn't until 2009 when I was largely bored of WoW when I finally dug a niche out in EVE and enjoyed it. I was still just missioning but I was fairly happy. CCP got me as a customer due to my persistence and boredom with their competition. Now I'm not a businessman but from what I know about salesmen it is meant to be their persistence which wins the sale to a reluctant customer. I was far from reluctant but it still took three bites of the cherry before I was able to stick around.
From December 2009 until July 2011 I almost exclusively ran level 3 and level 4 combat missions. I had very little interaction with anyone other than market sales and my interaction with corporations mostly showed me that joining them was a bad idea as I suddenly became vulnerable to wardecs which meant I couldn't play for a week or more. At this point you should jump in and say "wait Orea, this is exactly the game and your corp should have fought in the wardec". Even to this day I would say to you that there is little to no point fighting a hisec wardec. The people who engage in them do so in far safer conditions than most hisec miners expose themselves to. Even so, back then I didn't know that so well and tried to get my fellow corp-mates to join me in a fleet to attack the opposite party yet nobody would. At least one corp I was in totally folded due to a wardec issued for no reason other than lolz.
The entire nature of EVE is such that casual players are driven away. People who come from other online games are driven away almost instantly by the dire state of missions. People who don't necessarily want to interact with others are ridiculed out of the game for not knowing that (e.g.) Jita Burns is on2. People who quietly mine in hisec making bugger all ISK for their time suddenly find themselves without a ship as "mining is bad m'kay". Even those who do join a corp discover their monthly payment to CCP doesn't really guarantee they can play as hisec wardecs generally render that unfeasible.
So what, if anything, should be done about this? Well the "if anything" part is easy to answer. By CCP's own numbers they let 90% of people escape their clutches. Around half of that are people who try the PvE content then realise it is shite and leave. The 10% of us who stick around say "good riddance" but we are wrong. Like me, those 40% may be taking a longer time than some to find their feet and encounter a decent corp to join with. They may still believe that nullsec is a terrifying cacophony of lawlessness and not the carebear haven it truly is.They may even think that all of lowsec is like Rancer with gatecamps behind every jump they make. Who are we to judge them "bad at EVE" for this? They just have to learn. But how do they learn if they don't stick around?
Without adversely changing the nature of EVE there is only one focus CCP have. The quality of PvE content must, must, must be greatly improved. I don't know how many missions there are out there but there can't be that many given how often you have to rescue that damn Damsel from the pleasure hub. This number needs greatly increased. There also needs to be a number of corp-specific missions created. Things you only ever see when doing something for the Caldari Navy, and not just a change to the faction of people you are shooting at. More importantly than this, there should be a massive increase in the Epic Arcs. The way to engage people in the game is to give them a longer storyline to follow. I remember being deeply disappointed when I finished the Sisters of EVE epic arc to discover the other arcs required me to have awesome standings with the relevant empires. At some point along the way I decided these arcs would take me to lowsec at which point I never ever paid them any attention again.
So here is my challenge to CCP and to CCP Seagull in particular who says they "want EVE to have more things to do for small scale groups and solo pilots": Make 20 new Epic arcs in New Eden by the time you release Kronos. They don't have to be called 'Epic Arcs' if that would jar with the existing missions, just make a long storyline which threads through 30-50 missions and actually engages the player. Make these challenging. Encourage players into random lowsec locations in cheap ships to make a rendezvous or a drop-off. Put simply: Engage the casual player to stick around and, like me, become less casual and more
1 Splatus and I so infrequenly agree it has become something of an in-joke.
2 I am also guilty of doing this.