BB78 – Can The Slate Ever Be Made Clean Again?

After something of a vacation, it is time for another EVE Online Blog Banter entry.  This is number 78 in the series and it asks the following question:

Just for a moment engage your “willing suspension of disbelief”. Imagine that CCP, at downtime today, reset everything in Eve Online. Everything! When you logged in you were in a starter system with your character… but now with less than a million skill points, a mere 5000 ISK and a noob ship (now with civilian afterburner!). Markets are pretty empty other than a few seeded items. All Sov is gone. All player structures are gone. All PI infrastructure is gone. No corps or alliances exist. Nothing remains. New Eden is suddenly a completely level playing field and the next great gold-rush is on? Or is it? What happens now?

The great player wipe question.  I went directly there only a few months into the life of the blog, trying to split the difference between death and rebirth.  And I have been back there many times since.  It is a thorny question and not one easily dismissed, for each tired “obvious” response has its own set of counter arguments that you have to ignore in order to believe there is but one true path.

The pro-player wipe, or pwipe, side of things draws on a desire to relive the past.  Nostalgia is a more powerful force of nature… at least human nature… than people often believe.  Quoting Thomas Wolfe and declaring the very idea of being able to relive the past an impossibility ignores the flexibility of the human brain and memories.

I say this as one who has been on successful trips into the past.

TorilMUD, the Forgotten Realms based MUD I played for many years went through three distinct periods with pwipes in between and probably the best time I ever had in the game was after the third pwipe.  That was in early 2002 if I recall right, nearly a decade after I made my first character, so the game was not new to me.  There were no more feelings of first discovery to be had, no sense of wonder and anxiety in exploring the low level areas of the game.

But there was a huge rush of fun as everybody started out again at level one.  Many old players returned and there were lots of familiar names as we set out with our basic newbie equipment to slay orcs and kobolds and those buffalo outside of Waterdeep.  TorilMUD is very much a game that requires grouping and having ample low level groups to join is something that only happens at pwipe.  After enough time passes the usual thing happens and the regulars are all at the top of the level curve and those few lowbies you see online are often alts, twinked with good gear so they can solo.  If you start new then, low level zones tend to be dead and groups difficult to find.

The game had changed quite a bit since I started playing just after the 1993 pwipe.  But the mechanics do not matter as much as you might imagine.  There is a lot of fun/nostalgia to be had just being on a fresh server where everybody is starting over again.

As a follow on to that, I will point to the progression servers in EverQuest.  Back in the Fippy Darkpaw server era, Skronk and I had a great time running through old Norrath.  Granted, it helped that we started in Qeynos, the side of the world long in disfavor with SOE and so which still has old school graphics.  But even our runs to redone Freeport and The Commonlands were not spoiled by revamped visuals.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

And we were not bothered by the how much the mechanics of the game had changed over the years.  A few people were nit picking about how such and such a thing wasn’t like that back in 1999, but on the whole players seemed happy to just jump onto a fresh server with new players and old content in order pretend we were all young(er) again.

In the case of EverQuest, this is born out by the fact that of the three most popular servers running, two of them are nostalgia/progression servers, with the third being a community heavy role play server.

Not so many servers as the old days

Not so many servers as the old days

And, yes, the call of nostalgia is an emotional one, not a logical one.  But we are not logical beings.  I think the past election is proof of that.  I’ve certainly seen enough in life to support the assertion that people general make their decisions immediately and then find and weight facts to support that decision after the fact.  And I know I do it too.

So I can see the emotional appeal of just wiping that database and restarting Tranquility afresh.  Imagine New Eden with 40K rookie ships… erm, corvettes now… undocking.  A New Eden with now loyalty points yet banked, no faction yet earned, no huge piles of ISK socked away in wallets, no markets piled high with equipment, no sovereignty claimed, and not a tech II module or BPO to be found anywhere.  Everybody equal; the same starting equipment, the same amount of ISK, the same number of skill points.  A bright new universe of choices and second chances.  Alliances to be rebuilt, empires to be forged anew, fortunes to be sought once again.

It doesn’t have to be technically 2003 again… or 2006 for me… to feel at least some excitement at the prospect of a pwipe.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant docking back in the day

Of course, there is the flip side to all of that, wherein a pwipe would be very, very bad for CCP.

As human beings, we often get very attached to our “stuff,” and the distinction between real and virtual stuff is no distinction at all for some, regardless of what the EULA might say.  In fact, one of the draws of MMORPGs, the thing that keeps them going for beyond a decade, is often tied into our virtual inventories and accomplishments.

Stuff… be it bank tabs full of cosmetic gear and outdated crafting supplies or hangars full of ships and modules… is part of the link the tethers us to these games.  The sunk cost fallacy is alive and well as people will continue to play a game, even after it goes stale for them, simply because they have accumulated so much stuff.  And levels, experience, or skill points further cement that bond.

I don’t play EVE Online merely because I have 160 million skill points, but all those skill points and what they enable within the game do make me much more likely to log in.

And somewhere in between… at a different spot for everybody… is a balance, a spot where loss of stuff would break the tie between them and the game.  A good portion of people don’t want to start over again, and I am sure that some who do would find that wish challenged in the face of a rookie ship reality.

Of course, CCP knows this.  Every decent MMORPG company knows this.  This is the reason they don’t clean out the character database regularly, why you should worry too much about what it says in the EULA about when they CAN delete your account, because when they actually WILL delete it is a different story.

For CCP to do a pwipe, especially one as described, would be insanity given the current state of the game.  It would be throwing out a known situation in hopes that an unknown situation might be “better,” for whatever definition of the word you wish to choose.  “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens!” is not a viable business plan.

So it ain’t gonna happen in New Eden.  Or not any time soon.

And neither is a fresh server.  Leaving aside the cost of setting up and maintaining another live server, one of the lessons from the EverQuest and EverQuest II is that, while some people will come back for a fresh/retro/nostalgia server, a large part of those who will play them are already subscribers.  One of the forum complaints about the Stormhold server in EQII was that it stole enough players from live servers as to make forming groups for raids a much more difficult task.

Opening a fresh server would steal more players from Tranquility than it would bring in new players, and then we would end up with two servers with less players than the current one.

For a game that thrives on having a certain critical mass of players… any why else would you bring in Alpha clones than to try to keep the game above that level… a second live server (outside of China, which doesn’t count) looks like a non-starter as well.

So we shall plow on through space as before, all of us together aboard the SS Tranquility, for the foreseeable future.

Still, though, it is fun to imagine what we all might do if after some future downtime the whole thing came up fresh.  The reactions would range between sheer joy and utter rage I am sure.  I’d give it a shot.

Alternate titles I considered for this post:

  • You can sort of go home again
  • Playing with your old toys as an adult
  • Roll on rose colored glasses
  • Nostalgia is a can of worms
  • The clean slate
  • How to kill New Eden
  • Nostalgia is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell bad

Meanwhile, other bloggers tackling this month’s topic include:

13 thoughts on “BB78 – Can The Slate Ever Be Made Clean Again?

  1. bhagpuss

    I’m of the very firm opinion that you CAN go home again. You just have to accept that home, like you, will have changed some while you were away.

    It seems to me, though, that the older MMOs which used a multiple server set-up are likely to find it a lot easier to play the “start over” and/or “nostalgia” card than the newer ones that use flashy tech to put all players on the same “Multiserver”. As a player I’d far rather play a game with many servers for that, among several other, reasons. I don’t feel as secure in a game that puts all its eggs in one basket and nor do I feel there are as many possibilities down the road .

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Bhagpuss – Oh yeah, I am with you. Plus I find that rose colored glasses hide a lot of the blemishes of age.

    That “flashy” tech? You mean the stuff from 2003?

    I’m also pretty sure that other games, divided into various worlds or realms, are not running each of them individually on a single, self-contained box. The database for all the worlds in a single data center likely run on the same cluster. However, there is redundancy, but then there is for EVE as well. So I am not sure I would put “server architecture” on my top thousand items to be concerned about when it comes to an MMORPG.

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  3. Rohan

    Is it really a pwipe if all the guilds and alliances and “social” structures still exist? Are those more important than the actual data that CCP has?

    I’m reminded of the time one of the top PvE guilds in WoW rerolled on a PvP server. Within 3 weeks they were back to where they were before their “wipe”.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Rohan – Skill point training would hobble any immediate return to the previous state of affairs. There is no plan that gets Goons back to owning Delve in three weeks.

    Knowledge will let people optimize their efforts, but the power leveling option of skill injectors won’t be in there for a while because you can’t even pull from a clone that isn’t an Omega with at least 5 million skill points. And you can’t even get the +5 attribute implants on day one because they are purchased with loyalty points which requires people to go out and run missions or other like activities. With a concerted effort, I bet somebody could pull their first skill injector in no less than two months. And to do so, they have to be paying for a second account.

    PLEX prices would be fun as well. No more 1.2 billion ISK listings, nobody would have that kind of ISK.

    So many things come out of the player economy in the game that it is interesting to just sit there and list out what you won’t be able to buy until somebody goes out and earns it or makes it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Raziel Walker

    With around 250m SP and a 100 billion in assets I would settle for two lifetime free accounts with 10m unallocated SP each, increased training speed so that in 5-10 years I’d be back on my previous skill level and 1 billion isk plus a selection of blueprints to get a decent start.

    Unfortunately I basically quit EVE for World of warships so not sure even a reset would change enough for me to return.

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  6. gevlon

    Easy to answer: dev favoritism wouldn’t be reset, so the “right people” would get “lucky” with storyline and officer drops and in no time would own the Sov map. Give it a few months and everything would be like now.

    Now the interesting reset would be taking Tranqulity as it is and handling it to a trustable company that treats players equally. THEN EVE would be turned upside down and the old names would go down in flames.

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  7. Krumm

    Nostalgia is a interesting thing. In even the most perfect conditions its often a question of population. The old Emerald Dream wow server that you once spoke about had a phenomenal nostalgic experience….but the population is just not as big as the games population back when it was real. Other than population and knowing much more then you did back then it is a good fun experience. I think that it works better in some examples then in others but population is a primary factor as well as is the time element once a playing experience hits that upper limit for to long then everyone is left playing the same old raids and it is no long nostalgic but the same old grind.

    That’s why a nostalgic server in wow would work because you would have the population that would shift in and out. With regard to EVE that population is not the same and it has way more offline structures to anchor things.

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  8. SynCaine

    Unlike almost any other MMO, EVE has never ‘reset’ its game, while every expansion for WoW does pretty much that (short of physically deleting your character). So it’s much easier in those games, but would be far harder in EVE.

    Plus the barrier to entry in EVE is now lower thanks to the players. Goon’s wouldn’t be able to do their free frig or skill books program after a wipe, nor would all the doctrine ships be up on contracts, nor would there be an established area for players to rat or do industry. All of those things make joining the game easier, and without them, true new players would be even more lost than they normally are in EVE.

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  9. Armagon

    I think it would be worse in EVE than in other games – because of realtime skill training.

    Forgot to cancel your WoW sub? Ah well, you can still login and play. Some people also just don’t cancel it despite not using it. Fine, whatever.

    I have heard from people (and also done it myself) to see it a bit differently in EVE – deliberately not cancelling and letting the skill queue run can be a sensible thing to do. So yes, it’s not so much and you could also get it via ingame ISK etc.pp – but people have paid to not play and just let their character advance over time. By resetting that is destroyed. And I think some people would be very pissed. I’d be annoyed as well – primarily because in other games every “character evolution” I do is active gameplay. So maybe it’s debatable if grinding that one shiny thing is fun at the time, I chose to do it via playing the game as intended. With offline training I’ve chosen to pay – I can play at the same time or not, but if am not playing, I can still pay for my character advencement – and that is a key difference.

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  10. Pingback: Blog Banter 78 – The Big Reset | Yadot

  11. Pingback: Blog Banter #78–The Big Reset | Morphisat's Blog

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