Friday, March 1, 2013
Solo and PvE Play Are Not Sustainable
I understand what the sandbox is all about. People get to choose what they want to do in EVE Online. They get to build their own little sand castle in the sandbox.
The sandbox is a metaphor for real life. Nobody gets to go through life in a bubble. We are interacting with people everyday, in some form or another, whether we want to or not. Interactions are inescapable. Like life, like EVE, in a sense.
So, what gets my goat are the people (and these people are a very small subset of the entire EVE population) who feel that they deserve their own little sandbox, and that they should be allowed to dictate all of their interactions with the rest of the playerbase. They want to play EVE as though it were a solo game. These are anti-sandbox people, people who have no clue whatsoever the definition of a sandbox game. When asked why they should have their way? Invariably the response is that EVE will die; non-consensual PvP is ruining the game; EVE will become unprofitable if this behaviour is allowed to continue.
And yet (and this is what bothers me the most), you see CCP and the CSM starting to buy into this argument. Hell, you even have Trebor suggesting that maybe there is an argument to be made for having some PvP-free zones in the game. Trebor argues for consensual wardecs only.
There's no evidence that non-consensual interactions are destroying EVE. EVE has been a harsh and unrelenting game for ten years. If that particular style of interaction were killing EVE Online, it would have died long ago. Certainly, it causes some cancelling of subscriptions. But is that number particularly high? And is it worth catering to those people?
I don't even believe the anti-sandbox player is (or would be) a long-term player, no matter the amount of development CCP threw at them. Why? The anti-sandbox player is anti-social, and the entirety of their gameplay is to engage EVE's PvE mechanics. PvE and anti-social play are not sustainable.
Let's be honest. The PvE in EVE is terrible. It's lacks any sort of challenge. It's repetitive. It's not immersive. It's boring as hell. People that want to play PvE and nothing else, who want no interaction with other people unless it is on their terms, these people are not long for this game. You could turn highsec into a completely PvP-free zone and these people would still not be long for this game. There's only so many times you can do Damsel in Distress before you start looking for a game with a little something more to offer. There are many PvE oriented MMOs that do PvE three-orders of magnitude better than EVE Online.
I need to differentiate between your normal EVE carebear and the anti-sandbox player. There are players who do spend the majority of their time in PvE pursuits, who tend to avoid PvP, and who are long-term players. What makes these players different from the anti-sanbox crowd is that they understand and accept that EVE is a game of interaction. They understand that other players may come along at any time to knock down some section of their sandcastle. Their acceptance is why they remain. They relish the extra danger, the unknown, the unpredictability of the players around them. The PvE is still boring as hell, but it's spiced up with the unknown variable that is the rest of the playerbase. I'm am totally cool with these people. These are carebears I respect. These are dudes who get involved with the game, who interact with other players, who are involved in the social fabric of the game.
The anti-sandbox players? They're about as anti-social as they come. EVE is a social game. It's the social game that even makes EVE work. Without the social aspect, what are you left with? A bunch of spreadsheets and some really shitty PvE mechanics. Players that want to be left alone, that don't want to interact, these are not CCP's core audience. These are short-term players at best. Very little effort should be put into accommodating the demands of these people. No effort at all, actually.
CCP should be figuring out what type of player stays with the game for three, four, five or more years. That's where the development dollars should be headed. Pleasing those people. Don't waste time and energy trying to please a subscriber who's only going to be subscribed for six months, a year, a year and half at most. No matter what CCP does to try to please them, they'll move on to something else before too long. The only thing that will get those players to stay is the PvE, and EVE is never going to have PvE that can challenge the World of Warcrafts, or the Guild War 2s, the Lord of the Rings Onlines, or the Teras. Where EVE thrives is in the player content, the stories and narratives we create for ourselves. These anti-sandbox people, they create nothing, they give nothing to the game, nobody even knows they exist, except for their complaining.
EVE Online has slowly grown its playerbase over ten years because it's been focusing development on a particular type of player. EVE has been retaining those players. Don't start believing that you've been focusing on the wrong player type all these years. You've been focusing on the exact right type of player. Some of us are PvPers. Some of us are carebears. Some of us a mix of in-between. The long-term player is not anti-sandbox.