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EVE Online – Patching Backward, not Forward

posted on March 23rd, 2009 by golden jew
Now Playing: EVE Online

In the dawn of a new Era of Eve, as the Apocrypha Expansion delivers what can only be described as a fantastic experience, those of us grizzled Eve veterans can’t help but wonder: what about the old stuff? CCP, Eve’s developer, has long trumpeted their free expansions as one of the strongest points of Eve. And they should.

Despite Eve’s incredible learning curve, the game’s population has grown substantially over the past two years. When I first started playing Eve, the server typically had a population peak of around 30,000 concurrent users; this weekend, it was over 52,000. Eve, unlike other MMOs, is a single server, a single universe, which makes this all the more relevant: it’s clear that Eve is continues to control a niche in the MMO market.

Having played for so long I’ve noticed, as has CCP, that the biggest membership growths come on the heels of a new expansion. A new expansion is new features, new public relations, and new users.

But what gets forgotten routinely are the old features. Like most MMO developers, CCP does not produce a perfect product. That’s not to say it’s a bad product, but there is a certain level of QA we expect in PC games, and if you halve that you get what we expect from MMOs. As a result, while Eve is a universe filled with wonders and features galore, it’s also filled with ancient bugs, ancient “known issues,” and forgotten features that are so skewed on the risk/reward chart they are ignored by the players for greener pastures.

What’s somewhat surprising about this is that while CCP, like any MMO developer, needs to attract new subscribers to their game, they also need to keep their existing player base happy. More than other games, this player base is needed to draw in new players – Eve is not something most people fall into, download, and suddenly fall in love. They need people, whether known friends or new internet friends, to guide them in the mysterious ways that are Eve. And if there’s one thing that irritates the hell out of the existing player base, its broken shit that CCP is too lazy to fix.

For the next patch (be it an official expansion or a lower key patch) I’d like to see CCP go back and fix all of the broken shit. Scrub through and fix the bugs, balance the features, remove things that they meant to do but couldn’t, finish things they forgot about, whatever. There’s plenty of stuff that fits the description of said content, the Eve boards are littered with complaints about it. Although CCP needs to constantly drive forward with their game, every once in a while they need to take a look at what they’ve done right and also what they’ve done wrong.

Although a good part of me is the angry consumer revolutionary that takes offense at sloppiness, another part of me is just sad to see wasted potential. There are so many half built features in Eve that could be so much more, it’s a shame. One example is Factional Warfare. To promote the PvP aspect of the game, but direct it in a way that’s easy to get in on, CCP created a mechanic where one can join the “Militia” of your faction and war with other militias. Joining and dropping out is easy, and you get ranks associated with accomplishments. It’s a wonderful blend of casual gaming and PvP, something Eve does not often do well.

Unfortunately, you don’t get much else in the way of rewards, so once people got their ranks and had some fun, they stopped using the feature. Every other activity in Eve has some sort of financial incentive, except Factional Warfare. This has been out for half a year, and CCP has barely acknowledged the issue, while participation numbers in the militias drops. The news is in, and the feature needs to be balanced against other activities in the Eve Universe. But it hasn’t been.

Eve is a great game, but it has developed a light coat of rust from the negligence of the designers, and it’s time to make this baby shine again. Unfortunately, without a direct financial incentive to do so, I fear the game will continue being built with a glossy facade supported by a shaky core by short sighted developers who are so close – yet so far – to making an amazing virtual universe.

5 Comments

  1. Tyson said on March 24, 2009:

    Hey GJ, I am seriously thinking about giving EVE another shot. I played it once two or so years ago but didn’t get past the trial period because I didn’t really have anyone to show me the ropes or tell me what stuff I should really be focusing on. I was wondering if I could get some pointers from you as far as what it is I really should be doing in the beginning of the game.

    If you have the time, shoot me an email. Thanks!

  2. Stefan said on March 27, 2009:

    If only they hadn’t cut support for older graphics cards as well as linux clients in this release. At one fell swoop, they totally removed my ability to play EVE, either on my old windows box or my shiny new linux one. :-(

  3. GJ said on March 27, 2009:

    I thought that Eve works on linux. And they only cut Shader 1.0, you only need 2.0 to play– how old is your graphics card?

  4. Stefan said on March 30, 2009:

    It used to work on linux, then I got a nice email explaining that it was costing them too much maintenance/support time for the number of players, so it was being dropped. Theoretically I can still mess around with WINE and try to get it running, but there’s no official support so that’s suddenly much more effort.

    As far as my only Windows box, it’s an old laptop, so no Shader 2.0. I’ve heard of software hacks to emulate a better shader, but once again that starts requiring a lot of effort, which is all going into classwork and research projects at this point. I know I have no one but myself to blame for switching all my decent machines to Linux, but I was enjoying EVE, and it’s a shame to lose it.

  5. GJ said on March 30, 2009:

    I know that we have some guys in my corp running WINE to play Eve– it may not be as hard as you think, but I do get the extra effort concern.

    But you’re a linux nerd… DIE!

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