Monday, October 8, 2012
How to Boil a Frog
Every time he does this, I'd like to smack him upside the head. Because it's an empty statement. If this is really his vision, he should discuss in some broad terms how he sees this happening. Under what conditions could this be made possible? He never goes beyond the platitude, though.
Why? Because it is never going to happen. Never. Never. Never. Ever. Not unless highsec is effectively turned into a gank-free zone.
But first, frogs.
Toss a frog into some boiling water, it's going to freak the hell out and immediately try to escape. But, put a frog in some cool water, very slowly increase the temperature of the water over time and the frog will not perceive the danger, eventually boiling to death. Or so the hypothesis goes. Turns out it is complete bunk, the frog will hop out of the water when it becomes uncomfortably warm. As a metaphor, though, the boiling frog anecdote is instructive.
Before Incarna, CCP had the mentality that they could do no wrong. Players would accept and be happy with anything released. Subscriptions would continue to slowly grow. CCP was the company that hubris built. And then the summer of 2011 came, the shit hit the fan, the players were unhappy, subscriptions were cancelled. CCP was faced with the realization that what they did might not be appreciated. The goose might not lay golden eggs in perpetuity. CCP discovered fear. CCP was the company that EVE built, and all future CCP plans were dependent upon EVE's continuing success. There would have been no DUST without EVE. There will be no vampires without EVE. Fear had CCP paying close attention to the tears of their players.
Historically, the most whining, the most threats of ending subscriptions, have come from the carebear segment of the playerbase. Those players that spend the majority of their time in highsec, refusing to understand the game they signed up for, refusing to understand the concept of the sandbox. Carebears want to play their game, without inconvenience, and hell-or-high-water the game should cater to them, or else.
For the past year, since Crucible, CCP has been paying attention to their superbears. They do happen to be a significant portion of the playerbase. Fear of the threat of losing subscribers. You cannot blame CCP, they are a business, they need their subscribers. But the fear comes from many directions. How to satisfy the superbears, without pissing off the people who understand and accept the harsh realities of EVE Online? It's a slender tightrope to walk.
So CCP learned how to boil a frog.
CCP feels they need to cater to the carebears, mollify their threats, but all the while they cannot do so in a way that will anger the PvPers. You can't toss in a tonne of changes that protect carebears all at once. That's tossing the frog into a boiling pot of water. CCP has to raise the temperature slowly.
So, we've been seeing incremental changes to highsec. A little here. A little there. All the while, hoping nobody will notice the overall temperature change in the game.
Increasing the costs of wardecs. Buffing mining ships to an obscene, nearly ungankable level. Removing insurance if killed by CONCORD. The so-called idiot switch to protect players from their own stupidity. The removal of can-flipping. Buffing CONCORD response. A change here, a change there. Control the message of those changes ("this behaviour was never intended," even when those behaviours have existed for years and never classified as exploits.)
The mining barge buff. It sounded all good in the soundbites leading up to the changes. "We wish to create mining roles. A different ship for different situations." Yet, in all their wisdom, CCP created a single ship that outstripped every other in utility. A massive tank, a massive ore hold, and an almost top-end mining yield. Did CCP honestly expect that every miner was not going to gravitate straight to the Mackinaw? CCP could remove every other mining barge/exhumer from the game tomorrow, and nobody would notice.
And then the rumoured idiot switch to be introduced with Crimewatch. Three levels. Green, yellow and red. Set to green by default. And when set to green, the game does not allow a player to do anything that might present a danger to their well-being. No dialogue windows that ask "Are you sure?" The game will silently fail on any action that will lead to a suspect or criminal flag. The sandbox now protects you from your own stupidity. There's no need to understand how the game works, the switch protects you from the game. The sandbox now comes equipped with some chainlink fencing. Fence your carebear gameplay off from the rest of the game. Sure, chainlink can be breached with some effort, but most players won't bother.
I would not be surprised to see some change(s) in 2013 that greatly limits the effectiveness of freighter ganking.
If certain segments of the player population begin to notice that the water is warming, then redirect the hell out of these potentially damaging conversations with "one day we'd like players to take over for CONCORD." And the rising complaints are mollified as those players forget about the temperature of the water and begin fantasizing themselves in the role of space police. They'll say "CCP understands where to take this game. These new features change the nature of the sandbox, but it's meant to move us to the promised land. So we'll wait and see."
But what is this promised land? Under what conditions could CCP remove CONCORD and not break the game? As it stands now, to turn off CONCORD would be to turn all of highsec into lowsec. And that's definitely not going to happen. Never. Ever. So the promised land has to be a place where space has become so safe, so regimented, so rules restricted, that CONCORD is an entity that is rarely required. Suspect and criminal flags such a rare occurence, that players can become the police, because the need for a super-police is now moot. And this might be the situation that CCP Soundwave envisions. The only real instance in which CONCORD can be safely removed from the game is one where they are no longer needed. Players can then call themselves the space police, except that there's nothing left to police.