Last week I wrote a couple of post about EVE Online, one about the cycle of the last year with CCP and the game and another about why players stick with the game even when CCP is doing things we don’t like.
In that latter post, one of my points was that there really is not a title out that that delivers the same, or even vaguely similar, experiences as EVE Online. I ran through some examples of things that you can only find in New Eden in order to support my case.
And then Bhagpuss showed up in the comments to ask why nobody had made something like EVE Online once the title had shown it was a success. He made the parallel between EverQuest, which achieved what seemed like huge success back in the day, surpassing 550K subscribers, only to be eclipsed by World of Warcraft, which took the EverQuest idea and enhanced it such that it hit 12 million subscribers at its peak.
My response to his comment, to sum it up, was that the business plan for EVE Online was pants on head level crazy, even back in the day.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t completely crazy back in the day, because when it was conceived the genre was still young and people were not sure what would work. But still, by the time it had become a success… which took a few years, 2006 being something of the breakthrough year… the industry had decided that some things were just not as popular as they thought. Also, World of Warcraft.
For example, PvP. I think that here, in 2022, we can all pretty much agree that an open world ‘PvP everywhere’ title, and EVE Online is very much that, has a limited potential audience. That was the lesson of Ultima Online nearly 25 years back. There is always somebody declaring it a must-have feature, but PvP is not good for long term player retention in a persistent world MMO. EVE Online is surprising in its longevity given that alone. How many attempts to go there have flamed out and died in the last 20 years… or, like UO, made a hard turn into PvE focus?
As with PvP, being a skill based game is one of those things a vocal minority of players is always asking for, but which has its problems. You end up with the fighter/wizard min/max issue. I will admit that CCP went its own way on this by making skill training completely time based rather than use based. And EVE Online doesn’t have the same sort of skill min/max issues that fantasy titles end up with, the time base training can be a mixed bag, both a hook to get people to stay around and a frustration a you wait for skills to train to do what you want.
Then there are attributes which, unlike any other title you’ve probably experienced, have zero impact on the actual performance of your character in the game. Maxing out charisma doesn’t make anything even 1 ISK cheaper nor does maxing out perception make my probes scan even 1 second faster.
Attributes only impact the speed at which you train those time gated skills I mentioned, which means what you pick had better line up with your training plan because you can only reset your attributes on a one year cycle. Why CCP doesn’t see an attribute reset token for PLEX in the game remains a mystery. (Except they keep saying maybe they’ll do something with them, but then they never do.)
Oh, and then there is gear. I always let out a little sigh when somebody says they won’t play EVE Online because it is “full loot” PvP and they don’t want to lose their epic gear. Gear, which is ships and modules and consumables and implants and whatever, is all completely replaceable in-game with ISK. Nobody is going to take the raid gear you spent months farming for because there is almost no such gear. If you lose your ship, and if you never lost your ship then you’ve never really experienced the game, you get your insurance payout and you go back to Jita or another trade hub and you buy a new ship and modules that will be exactly the same setup as you had before.
Pretty much everything you need is a commodity you can buy in bulk on the market. All you need is ISK, which is why ISK faucets are so important to many players. ISK enables you to do what you want in the game. And even the rare exceptions, like Alliance Tournament ships, can be had if you have enough ISK. But if you undock and lose one, there will be no replacing it. (But nobody will loot it, because the hull is always destroyed.)
That is all great and makes EVE Online what it is today, but how do you sell a game where gear is generic and replaceable? How can you tell who is ‘leet if there are no rare drop world unique raid rewards that the creme de la creme can lord over the peons by standing around in the public square. Even if the game had something like that, if you sat on the undock in Jita with it somebody would gank you just to have the shiny kill mail.
This talk of gear brings me around to the economy, which is both the most important aspect of the game in my opinion… I don’t write about the MER and complain about CCP messing with the economy because I feel it is trivia… and the one that CCP should thank players and whatever favorable omens they were born under in that it actually worked out, because that wasn’t a given.
It is easy to talk about wanting a player run economy, but how do you create one? How do you make that happen without creating a bunch of false incentives and crutches and NPC work-arounds to ensure that there is an economy without making the economy dependent on them?
Add in the fact that there is really no central story line to take you through the game… there is lore, but lore isn’t game play it is just framing… and that there is no avatar play… something people moan about incessantly but which defines EVE Online… and wrap that all up in a business plan and tell me how you think that would fare.
Seriously, even putting the modest amount of thought I have towards what CCP pulled off given their starting point… which was also a lot rougher, more obscure, and less forgiving than it is today… and pondering all the ways it could have gone wrong and you start to appreciate how unlikely a game EVE Online really is.
So you have that business plan, all those features laid out, most of which I think are likely essential to creating something that would give you the feel of EVE Online (you could change skills and attributes and work in some more story, but PvP, the economy, and the replaceability of gear are non-negotiable to my mind) and you’re looking for somebody to give you the ~$100 million it would take to turn that plan into a live game. Who is going to invest?
There isn’t a serious investor today that would look at EVE Online and say, “I want to make more of that, only bigger and better.” No gaming company with the resources to make it happen, no investment company with the capital to burn, no angel investor still taking their meds is going to put money into that.
Short of somebody with a Chris Roberts level of influence over a a dedicated audience willing to throw money at their collective screens to make another EVE Online happen… and are there any big enough names in video games that haven’t squandered whatever good will they had going down that path already… I can’t see this being a viable business proposition, unless you decide to load it up with blockchain, crypto, pay to earn nonsense, and then you know what kind of shady investor you would end up with.
CCP in 2022 – Here is my business plan for an internet spaceship MMO!
Every sane investor: LOL, wut?