A question that comes up fairly regularly in various forums and comment threads is why so many EVE Online players are mad at CCP, though when you dig into it the question often turns into… more correctly in my opinion… why players angry at CCP continue to play EVE Online.
And it is an absolutely legitimate question. Nothing speaks louder than taking your wallet and spending your money elsewhere. If we’re unhappy with the state of EVE Online, if we think CCP is going down the wrong path, if they’re raising the prices, wrecking the economy, and won’t give us much beyond vague, hand-waving promises for the future, why are we still subscribed?
What keeps us going? Sunk cost fallacy? A victory of hope over experience? Some form of digital masochism?
I guess we start with the fact that the player base is hardly unified on the state of the game. The other day I saw a graph on Twitter representing the various segments of Star Citizen players, which ranged from those who fully believe everything the company announces and will fight all criticism to those who believe it is a complete scam and who will go out of their way to denounce any company statement, with several layers in between. I wish I could find it again as it is applicable to most online titles.
It certainly applies to EVE Online though, after 20 years any accurate representation would be a multi-dimensional continuum of factions and beliefs. You can find people willing to die on some of the most bizarrely specific hills. But I suppose that comes with the sandbox nature of the game, which gives us some bizarrely specific play styles.
So somebody is always saying, “EVE is dying” because of this or that.
We know people get mad at CCP and we know some people walk away, but many longer term players stick around, paying the subscription and logging in, even as we complain over and over about the state of the game, the direction the company is taking it, and whatever they have done lately to wreck someone’s play style. So why don’t we all just fuck off already?
I believe there are two aspects to that.
First is community. EVE Online as a game tends to be harsh, complex, and unforgiving. This drives a lot of people away from the game. Those that stay tend to be people who not only find their niche in the game, but find others to share it with. So you join that corporation or that faction or that alliance and work together and get to know each other and bonds are formed.
It isn’t for everybody, but if you’ve been to EVE Online events, you will see groups showing up and partying together, all wearing a corp or alliance shirt or hat or other item that marks them a part of a particular club within the game.
We also, in person, tend to get along with our in-game foes. There is a natural camaraderie that comes from fighting not just each other, but the game itself as we go to war, that brings us together to tell war stories and compare notes from opposites of the battle lines.
That, I believe, is a significant element to people sticking around. But that isn’t all of it. You can, after all, pack up your group and take it to another game. Over the nearly 16 years of this blog the instance group has played quite a few titles. We started in WoW and we’re back in WoW, but we’ve been to many lands in between.
Another aspect enters into this, and that is the game itself.
The problem with leaving EVE Online is that there is no direct substitute. There is no other game, much less internet spaceship game, that delivers a similar experience.
Seriously. Nothing comes close.
If our group leaves WoW, there are a few dozen options that are kind of the same, fantasy themed sword and magic, online, multiplayer games. The online gaming genre is thick with them. And when we tire of WoW we’ll probably go find a new one to add to our list. Maybe it will be Elder Scrolls Online next time, or maybe Project: Gorgon. We’ll find something.
There is no such easy replacement for EVE Online.
Yes the game is harsh, complex, and unforgiving as noted above, and the UI is a mess, and CCP seems to take on various initiatives to “fix” the game like they were a bet to see how long they could fool us before we quit. And yes, you can go on about Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen all you like, but let me ask you this…
How many thousand plus player battles have you been in? I’ve been in quite a few in New Eden. B-R5RB was notable enough to get its own Wikipedia article. So was Asakai, though I didn’t get there in time for that one.
How many Guinness Book World Records have you been around to set? I’ve been part of four records set, two at FWST-8 and two more at M2-XFE. And it would have been more, but I arrived late for the Million Dollar Battle and couldn’t get in the system.
How many books have been written about your game?
The scope and scale of EVE Online, ranging from one on one duels to thousands of players on grid blazing away, simply isn’t a possibility anywhere else.
I marvel at Asher Elias, sky marshal of the Imperium during World War Bee, who had the arms, economy, and ISK behind him to engage in huge battles, as did Vily who led the forces who came to dislodge us from our home.
And what other game has such a massive an interconnected economy? PAPI and the Imperium both came to Jita to buy the wares of groups large and small to feed their war machines. Those items were mined or harvested or built by a wide range of players, and transported by even more. They had to get past pirates and suicide gankers and those looking to scam them, deal with the UI of the game, to get their items listed on the market. And those who purchased those items, which included everybody from null sec alliances to wormholers to the very low sec pirates and suicide gankers who harried their travels to market, end up hauling or flying those good off to locations around New Eden, where much of it gets blown up… which is what keeps the economy going.
When I get worked up about CCP messing with the New Eden economy, trying to undo mudflation or put the toothpaste of past mistakes back in the tube, it is because the economy is the one thing that ties all of the players in New Eden together and makes most of our play styles possible.
When it is working… and we’re fortunate that the player base is as resilient as it is… it is a marvel to behold. I don’t think CCP gets, nearly 20 years down the road, what a miracle they have created.
So, for all of its flaws and bizarre UI and the inability of the company to create a useful in-game map, it is a unique experience. I’m not saying you have to like it, but don’t tell me your multi-player space sim of choice comes anywhere close to the scope of EVE Online.
It is special, which is part of why players get worked up and part of why we don’t just walk away. Amazing events don’t happen to you every day in New Eden. Hell, I’m happy when something really fun happens even once a month. But the potential for something unprecedented and crazy is always there.
I’ve thought about leaving the game any number of times over the last decade. But every time I feel like I’m just bored with it all, something comes up and I stick around to see how it plays out… and inevitably I am sucked back in and playing as often as I can manage as we go to war or defend our space or go into wormhole space to blow up somebody’s Keepstar and haul off all the loot that drops.
That uniqueness is a bit of a double edged sword though.
While I sometimes wonder if CCP knows how lucky they have been to end up with a mix of features that somehow jelled into a self-sustaining success, I do get the strong impression that they feel they don’t have to worry about player reactions to their changes, that they’re sure we have no other options so we’ll stick around no matter what they do. I’ve heard CSM members back from summits report as much. What are we going to do, learn how to dock ships in Elite Dangerous or spend hundreds of dollars on fully replacement insured ships in Star Citizen?
And if the old hands are taken for granted… well, the company can push that too far. They haven’t yet, but the outlook isn’t good. As I went on at the start of the week, it has been a year of disappointment, and that was preceded by no small amount of trouble and the number of players logged in has reflected that.
I hope CCP comes back from their summer vacations with some good ideas, because I don’t want to be mad at CCP… and I have now accumulated a substantial body of work here, posts annoyed or exasperated at the actions of the company… I just want to play a game that is unlike any other.