EVE Online can be a divisive game. People tend to love it or hate it, with the latter being the larger group if comment threads on gaming sites are any indication, though the largest group of all seems to be those who watch it from afar to be entertained. And all three groups probably add up to fewer people that the active subscribed WoW population right now, though I suspect those numbers might have gotten a bit closer since the Shadowlands expansion.
And in such an environment, there are a wide range of ideas as to what the game should be, and everybody seems to have a plan that would improve the game and, naturally, boost player numbers because we all seem to believe that the majority of the universe shares our exact likes and dislikes and are shocked that these few outlier weirdos who see things differently from us seem to run all these games. It is like some sort of conspiracy.
But there are a few ideas that seem to persist. They pop back up again with a regularity that begins to grate if you’ve been around the community for a while. Here are the ones I see that just won’t die the death they deserve.
1 – Walking in Stations
At the top of the list because CCP dabbled in this with Incarna. The company, after neglecting the core of EVE Online for a few years and plundering the efforts of the teams working on Dust 514 and World of Darkness, proudly launched what I heard one wag call “walking in a closet.”
I will admit that I was among those who thought the game needed avatar play when I started playing. EVE Online has the curse of many vehicle games in that everybody is alone in the spaceship and you can’t wave or jump ceaselessly or dance on the mailbox in your underwear, which can give the game a sterile, impersonal feel. Forza Horizon 5 has the same impersonal feel out in its shared world too. Every car focused title does. Are there people demanding “walking in Forza” as loudly as the walking in stations crowd does for EVE? (Seriously, are there?)
The problem here is that nothing in the core of the game is improved by having to walk around and I have yet to hear a suggestion from anybody that didn’t either make current functionality more awkward (e.g. you should have to walk to your agent in a station and speak to them face to face) or required CCP to essentially build a new game within EVE Online to accommodate avatar play. That adds up to making things worse or development time spent away from the core of the game.
It has been made clear over the years that CCP struggles at times to keep up with the “flying in space” aspect of the game that is its core, so having them ignore that again for a multi-year stretch in order to build a feature of dubious value seems like a really bad business plan.
But people ask for this feature a couple of times a month on Reddit, though the request seems to rotate through the same small group of people. And then there is Hilmar, who said they might bring it back at some point, which just cemented in my mind the fact that he might be head of the studio, but he has no clue about the game and just likes to say things that get attention.
Walking in stations is bad for EVE Online. I will die on this hill.
2 – Dogfighter
This is the almost prototypical response from somebody who came to play EVE Online and happens to own a flight stick. They go away disappointed that combat isn’t maneuver based, that they cannot used the tricks they developed playing X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter or whatever, often dropping by Reddit to announce their displeasure. The reaction range between “this sucks” to long design documents about how the game should be rebuilt into a space flight sim.
But the core is always the same, that the combat is too simple, that you just press F1 and you’re done.
The first issue here is the idea that every game must be built to meet their personal preferences. If you want a space flight sim, I get that EVE Online isn’t for you. But there are a lot of other options, so coming in and declaring that the game should be rewritten to meet your personal needs is a bit over the top don’t you think? And that leaves aside the herculean effort that it would take to remake the game. Get over yourself.
Second is that if you think combat in EVE Online is simple it is because you haven’t spent enough time with it. Yes, you don’t have to get on somebody’s tail or calculate deflection in your head, but range and engagement envelopes and transversal and tracking and damage types and reload times and a host of other small details enter into each engagement. That you are not thinking about this when you press F1 doesn’t mean it isn’t all in play, it is just likely to explain why your ship is a wreck and the other person has a fresh kill mark on his hull.
3 – Safe Space
There are a lot of flavors to this one, ranging from the idea that high sec should be completely safe (and sometimes that low sec should be like high sec is now) to being able to flag PvP on and off like you do in World of Warcraft to make yourself immune from all player attacks.
This seems to stem from people wanting to just be left alone to tinker with whatever space project they have going on. And I get that. It is a sandbox and some people want to play in their own corner where kicking over sand castles isn’t allowed.
The problem is that any safety will be exploited. Any source of income that is unassailable will be overrun. ISK per hour is a primary motivator for many, but the safety factor comes into it as well.
And you may ask who would even bother tracking down high sec alts, and I have an answer; all of us. EVE Online has a rich history of wars in low or null sec finding their way into high sec. In World War Bee there was a whole shadow war fought in and around Jita and Amarr with both sides trying to track down alts in NPC corps that were being used to ship supplies into the war zone.
So, leaving aside the usual argument about safety breaking the theme of the game, there are some more immediate ways in which it would break actual game play and the economy, and we don’t want to give CCP any more reason to go in and manipulate the in-game economy. They are hamfisted enough going after imaginary problems, lets not make some real ones.
EVE Online is just a PvP game. It has been since 2003 and that is the way it is going to be. End of story, time to move on.
As an aside, I am always interested in how angry people get when another player blows up their ship, which glows white hot compare to the response to dying to an NPC. I dream of an experiment where CCP mocks up a slightly different UI and tells an experimental audience that EVE is a single player game with advanced AI based on real world behavior in order to see if the anger is the same when your hauler gets blown up by a gang of suicide Catalysts if you believe them to be NPCs.
4 – Another Server
There are a few flavors of this one as well. There are, of course, the people who just want a PvE server. See above, plus I am not sure how sovereign null sec or faction warfare even work in the minds of those suggesting this, but there it is.
Others want EVE Classic. They want to go back to the good old days, which correspond to the point in time when they were most enthusiastic about the game, or when some change in mechanics didn’t ruin things. (I still occasionally hear somebody angry about CCP adding in “warp to 0” as the thing that killed PvP, which was a change that happened in 2006 not long after I started playing.) And, as somebody who is a big fan of the whole retro server idea, it is hard for me to not pine as well for some past fun.
The usual problems apply. When would you set such a server? What patch level? What bug fixes do you retain and which are part of the flavor of the time?
But the enterprise will never get that far because CCP knows that two servers are not twice as good as one. EVE Online needs a critical mass of players willing to take on the different roles in the ecosystem for it to function smoothly. I am a bit sad I didn’t play at launch mostly because I wonder what the game was like with no established player market. EVE can seem annoying because it feels like as soon as you decide what you want to do, you need to do six other things first to get ready. But at least you don’t have to buy the blueprints for a hull, mine the ore, and build the ship. The economy is the core lubricant that makes the game manageable. Splitting the game into two servers threatens that. The main fear for EVE is that someday the population will fall below a critical mass and the economy will fall into chaos.
So no second server will ever compete with Tranquility.
(And yes, I know there is a second server in mainland China. But even now many players who used to play on that server are able to VPN into Tranquility to play with the rest of us. In fact, one of the reason that the game turns in the concurrency numbers it still manages these days is because it has managed to attract many of the core players who fled the bad days of the Serenity server.)
5 – Better PvE
I am going to have to qualify this one because I don’t think any player, new or old, would have a real problem with something that led to a better PvE game in New Eden. Better PvE isn’t a bad idea at its core. But it is almost always expressed badly… and by badly, I mean people generally just demand better PvE and stop there, leaving what that even means to the interpretation of those hearing the demand. Or, if they provide details, it generally describes much worse PvE.
Basically, it easy to say “better PvE,” but it is tough even describe it, much less make it happen. What is better anyway?
Making it harder isn’t better. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that players want PvE that is just difficult enough to give them a sense of accomplishment without any real risk of them failing.
You can make things like missions interesting for the first run. But they don’t stay interesting after a few passes. You can then make more missions… I think CCP has more than six thousand missions of various types in the game… but they tend to fall into a few simple categories. In the end, PvE quickly becomes a solved problem. Even if you add more missions, is that really better PvE?
CCP has had some luck with randomizing PvE in Abyssal pockets. The mechanic requires you to commit your ship before you know the foes and puts a 20 minute timer on the mission. If you don’t make it in time you lose your ship and your pod. But even with randomness, if it is still a 90% solved problem (fly a Gila) and they have had to make the rewards worthwhile to keep people running them. All those muliplasmids to modify ship modules keep a lot of players going back to get the one that will give them the right MWD or stasis webifier or hardener for a fit they have in mind.
But I still find Abyssal pockets boring. In the end it is the same thing over and over and some variation in foes barely qualifies as interesting unless I get a bad draw and die. And then it is annoyingly expensive.
I have yet to hear a viable idea from anybody that would make PvE more interesting in New Eden. But I think that says more about the nature of PvE in general than anything about us or CCP. There might be an idea out there, and maybe it will find the right ear some day. But for now, just saying “better PvE” isn’t very helpful and the suggestions that come with it generally involve making it harder or making people go through more hoops, neither of which really meet the “better” bar.
Those are my five. But those are not the only ones that rattle around, so I have a few honorable mentions that I want to tack onto the end of this post.
Things Were Better When…
This is the person who doesn’t want a new server, they just want CCP to roll back to some past feature state that was “more fun” for very specific definitions of the term. They want it in the current game, and it can be anything from removing “warp to 0” to going back to Dominion sovereignty to giving titans AOE doomsday weapons that can blow up a whole subcap fleet in another system through a cyno… again.
The problem is that, for the most part, much of what has changed over the years has been changed for a reason. We bitch about Aegis sovereignty, but we bitched about Dominion sovereignty before that, and people certainly bitched about the tower/moon sovereignty system that came before Dominion.
In the end, even if CCP went back and changed the sov system back or removed warp to 0, it wouldn’t recreate the game and the fun times you were having back when they were a thing. Dunk Dinkle likes to say “nostalgia is a trap.” As somebody who likes to remember the good times, I take umbrage with that at times. We can’t ignore the past because all we are is what the past has made us up until this very moment. But when we gaze too far abroad with our rose colored glasses or think that doing something we did ten or fifteen years ago will do more than just rekindle some fond memories, then I have to agree with Dunk. I want to be young again too, but removing “warp to 0” won’t get me there.
This is a specific subset of the “Things were better when…” crowd who would like to roll back skill injectors, PLEX, and free to play. All of these are viewed as bad to various degrees… though we have had PLEX in the game for well over half the life of the game at this point. The first big PLEX loss was back in late 2010.
This just isn’t going to happen. It probably can’t happen and keep the game being developed at its current pace. I have been down this path before, but to put it simply, the price of a subscription remains locked in 2003 while the price of everything else has gone up over the last 19 years.
Also, people playing EVE Online… that peaked in 2013, before either free to play or skill injectors showed up, so there is scant chance that going subscription only will end up in any scenario besides “EVE Online now makes much less money.”
Yes, I hate the cash shop mentality of MMOs. I just want to pay my flat fee and play the game. But the reality is most everything now has some sort of free option, so demanding cash up front just limits your options as a game. That is just the reality of the market now.
Breaking up corps and alliances
This is the go to solution for people who don’t like null sec or who are trying to solve the “n+1” problem of sovereignty warfare. Are null sec battles growing too large for the servers? Are big null sec alliances keeping you and you five friends from holding space? Then just put a cap on corp or alliance sizes! That will put everybody on an even playing field!
The suggestion rarely include a number at which organizations should be capped, just that 30K Goons is too many Goons and we need to put a stop to that right now. But that doesn’t really matter as there is no correct answer.
Let us say that CCP picks 1,000 as the cap for an alliance or corp or combination thereof. What happens next? Two things.
First, we go back to the bad old days when null sec groups were very selective of members. I know there are some who long for those days, the era of the small, elite PvP groups holding vast areas of space. But organizations like Brave, Pandemic Horde, or KarmaFleet, which have been highways into null sec for new players, they dry up and die. Everything goes back to needing to justify why you get a spot in an alliance rather than one of the CEO’s alts.
Second, we find out it doesn’t change much. Unless CCP also disallows standings, EVE Online players have shown that they can create meta organizations that exist outside of the structure of the game. There is no in-game mechanism specifically for coalitions, yet they exist and have existed for as long as null sec has been a thing.
The limit just ends up turning the null sec clock back to 2011 or so when small groups ran big rental empires and formed coalitions to defend their holdings. As we have seen elsewhere in the game, when CCP enforces scarcity, players change their behavior in predictable ways. Well, predictable to most people besides CCP.
Banning people you don’t like
This seems to be the knee jerk reaction to many issues in EVE Online, that CCP just needs to ban more people. Botters (which is anybody who repeats a game play loop in a game with a lot of repetitive game play loops), gankers, cheaters, scammers, exploiters, bumpers, whales, ratters, miners, Alpha clones, people with more than n accounts, scary wormhole people, under cutters, specific nationalities, play styles you don’t like, Goons… there was practically a “Ban Goons” subculture at one point in the game… and mean people in general. Basically, whatever is annoying you, CCP should just ban them.
Here’s the thing… somebody probably wants to ban you and whatever you are doing as well. Also, CCP would like to stay in business and have a viable video game that pays the salaries and keeps the servers running and up to date. While the EULA and terms of service give CCP the right to ban your ass for anything they want, becoming the game that bans people is a good way to become a game mentioned in the history of MMOs rather than in the current stable of running MMOs.
Player made SKINs
This comes up every time somebody posts a pretty JPEG of a ship they colored up themselves. Somebody will see this and declare that CCP should allow players to make ship SKINs. And, superficially, this seems like a good idea. More SKINs in the store, the better, right? And many of us like pretty SKINs… or at least SKINs with obnoxiously bright colors. And CCP at least strongly implied that we would be able to make SKINs back in 2016.
This falls apart on a couple fronts.
For openers, being able to make what looks like a nice SKIN on you PC isn’t likely to be at all comparable to what it takes to make one usable in the game. There are probably a dozen players out there with the skill, knowledge, and motivation to make decent SKINs, but they still don’t have the tools that the CCP art team has in order to make something usable by the game. Those are, no doubt, in-house developed tools and not suitable for distribution outside of their environment.
Second, dealing with user made content is a lot more work than you think. There is a reason that companies that try to leverage user made content either shut it down eventually (Cryptic, Daybreak) or just give up any attempts at moderation (Roblox).
The thought that comes up a lot is that CCP could just let the community vote on SKINs. But have you met us? Enough people would upvote penis SKINs to make this completely unviable. Also, it assumes that SKINs are like mods, and that the whole thing could be treated like Steam’s Workshop, with little or no supervision. This is completely wrong.
That brings me to the next issue, which is that SKINs are part of the game. They are in the build, part of the client, and nothing at all like a player mod. That means CCP would need to spend a lot of time vetting every submission, testing it thoroughly and examining it for hidden images, words, and penises, because once it is in the game it gets pushed out and placed on every system that has the game installed.
Which brings me to the final point on this, which is whether or not all the work would be worth it. I don’t think it would. The hubris in this is that players would automatically make cooler, more popular, better selling SKINs than the CCP art team. The reality of user created content is that 99% of it is garbage. Game mods and things like Steam Workshop let people experiment and get better, but that allows players to opt-in. But putting something in the game that everybody will see, that is a step well beyond.
And, in the end, I am not sure more SKINs are better anyway. The in-game store is already a pain to use… something it shares with online storefronts every where, which pretty much require you to know what you want because simply browsing is an awful experience… so fewer, high quality SKINs seems to be the reasonable plan that CCP is trying to follow. It is probably no coincidence that the best SKINs are the ones on a few hulls while the ones that try to cover a whole faction or every ship in the game tend to be a bit “meh.” (The Biosecurity Responder SKINs are the exception there.)
Anyway, that is a lot of words. I guess this could have been “Ten Bad EVE Online Ideas” rather than five, since I just kept on going with the honorable mentions. But the first five are really “never go there” ideas that CCP might consider, while the latter five I think we’re pretty safe from.
And I didn’t even get into blockchain, crypto, and NFTs. Those are bad ideas as well, but I am waiting for Pearl Abyss to tell CCP to do them before I jump back on that thread.