16 May 2014

Pee Vee EVE

I'm typing this post from a much warmer location than normal. Right now I am on vacation with my family, but as they sleep (and I take a break from Hearthstone) my mind turns to EVE. Before I left the UK there was an ongoing topic thread regarding the state of PvE in EVE. At first I paid little heed to the topic expecting the usual "this is a PvP game so PvE-ers are in the wrong place" hyperbole. When I saw my good friend, splatus, over at A journey through the mind had written a post on the topic I decided there was no point to even weigh in on the subject as he'd almost certainly be wrong1 so I put it to the back of my mind. Then that very same splatus showed me an actual response from CCP Seagull to an open question from TurAmarth ElRandir and I started thinking again. So, here I am with beer, peace and quiet. Let's see where my mind runs with this...

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 addicted engaged.

1 Splatus and I so infrequenly agree it has become something of an in-joke.
2 I am also guilty of doing this.

7 comments:

  1. I think you're on to something here. Obviously, "20 epic arcs by Kronos" is over the top, since that comes out to approximately one a day. (... and 30-50 missions is a lot more than the pirate arcs, tbh.) However, the pirate arcs are cool, especially because they encourage (okay, require) use of a small, relatively disposable ship. Doing something like that for low-sec, especially doing 20 of them all over the place, would be great for taking out the fear of low-sec. (Call it 5 per empire, which kinda sounds like one per region?) I mean, the first time I went to low-sec I was in a shitfit ratting Caracal (back when they sucked, too...), got soloed by a rocket Crow, and lost my pod because I was too stunned by the loss of my ship to think about warping out. (He tried to ransom me... unfortunately, 10M was more than the value of the implants in my head.) However, the thing that it taught, and that these things should teach, is that low-sec mostly *isn't* gatecamps, and that it isn't so scary. (Although, to be fair, I went back to hisec missioning for a good two months of leveling my Raven after that.)

    I think the really clever part of this is making it a bunch of, say, level 1-2 missions in low-sec. Maybe make the routes randomized, too, so you can't just camp somewhere on the route with an instaloki quite as easily. It needs to be something so people are encouraged to see that, while death may be sudden and inevitable in low-sec, it's not around every corner. Then you'll just need to work on the image problem it has.

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    1. I keep forgetting Kronos is so close. You are right that 20 is unrealistic by then. Maybe a better idea would be one per week for each of the new updates after Kronos. I also didn't realise the epic arcs weren't all as long as the SoE arc. The important thing is to draw people into rambling threads of a story which tell a tale of New Eden and make the people who come looking for PvE stick around longer.

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  2. Hm. Reading this, it looks like we are agreeing. That can't be right.

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    1. Maybe, but I'm fairly sure the way you said it was wrong :-p

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    2. I disagree, we agreed.

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  3. Orea - Great post as always.

    I completely agree that the PVE aspect of EVE must be looked at. I like the idea of adding the story arcs and what that would do for PVE. The 'Expeditions' that can drop from some complex missions help, but they are not near enough.

    My specific problem with these arcs/complexes/combat sites is more on the lines of intel. There is no real intuitive in-game information for people wanting to warp to these sites that will tell them if they have a possible chance of running the sites. I remember having my Raven thinking that I could take that 'Rescue from Prison' or whatever it was called. Then getting scrammed (because I didn't know of a such website as EVE Survival) and getting popped.

    My point is that there should be something in game that says...."hold on there before you warp in....you don't have the dps to take out the battleship that will warp scramble you" The PVE people use EVE Survival as a bible to basically have exact intel on every site. Either EVE needs something like that in game.....OR all missions/sleeper sites get a complete scramble and are all random all the time. The fact that there is a middle ground on this causes confusion...and....pushes the PVE folk out of EVE.

    Another need for the PVE side is to have some type of notification of the significance of every site. Maybe bring up and EVElopedia that shows the mission tree behind that scanned down Angel Graveyard. I mean...once it is scanned down....It looks just like all the other Combat Sites on my scanner window. How many sites have we passed up in High and Low sec because we didn't know what it was about...or what we would face...or what it would take to beat such a thing? I know for me......It has been many.

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