Complexity
Sunrise Aigele

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The blog banter for this month concerns missiles. The only thing I know about missiles is that I can hardly even fire them, let alone comment on their performance! Fortunately, Rixx Javix has come to my rescue with this toothsome post:

When I think back about how Eve was perceived at the time I started playing it is amazing to me that it was considered “complex” back then. This was the age when the infamous “learning curve” graphic was made. I find that surprising considering how simple Eve in 2008 seems compared to Eve 2015. Everything was so much more streamlined back then. Just off the top of my head we’ve added Strategic Cruisers, T3 Destroyers, Dominion Sov, Incursions, FW Systems, Missions, Wormholes, Crime Watch, Exploration ships like the Astero, Stratios, not to mention a slew of additional ships like the Barghest and others. And that is just off the top of my head. And soon we’ll be adding even more to that list. Citadels, player-built Gates, and a whole new Sov system. Not to mention other things that I suddenly remember, like y’know, Drifters and Sleepers and… the list is rather long.

Which begs the question, has Eve become bloated with features and choices? And is that a good or a bad thing?

I am not sure that it has. If anything the universe shrank once I realized that there was no significance to the fact that there were pirates within a few AU of the seat of the Empire, that it was merely an artifact of an archaic PVE system. The variously functioning merchant gates, dens of ill repute, and deadspace colonizations–some containing multiple stations!–were nothing but décor. To this day I believe that CCP lost an opportunity there to add a third dimension to high security space. I believe that if EVE suffers from anything, it is the extent to which its promise is unfulfilled. In many ways it is as much a series of large, mostly featureless rooms as it is a sci-fi virtual universe. Much of my early confusion was due to my not having sorted out which were true villages and which were Potemkin. The first revelation was that there is not much of a game at all, in the way you would normally think of one.

The issue EVE has is that its principle gameplay is preparation. I cannot think of another MMO bold enough to stake its existence on such a thing, but EVE has. Yes, there are people who “log in and pew pew,” but with rare exceptions their play style is made possible by careful and often invisible planning and logistics. If you wish to do much more than lose frigates, EVE requires a long view. To see the world from the top of a mountain, you must spend hours, even days looking at rock and stones. But when you reach the top of the mountain, it is all worth it. If you have guided others to share the view with you when they could not have made it on their own, that is its own thrill. For EVE to remain successful by this light, it must have many mountains.

The difficulties EVE has are the difficulties it has always had. The most immediate is simply that it is unlike any other MMO, so players coming from other MMOs, whether they are PVE or PVP players, are often bringing assumptions to the game that fit awkwardly–for example, the common misconception that missions are instanced content. The skill system is baffling and frustrating. The requirements to join the social part of the game are legendarily high, and the ways into that gameplay are haunted by people seeking to take advantage of those who do not yet know their own way. The game is not well documented. Its own wiki is out of date, and there is a long tail of obsolete third-party documentation. The forums are toxic, which, to be fair, is not unusual. There are worse! There are people who “test” new players to see if they understand the game before they have even had a chance to figure out which end of their ship is up.

The greatest difficulty is that its draw is not easy to market. Do you say “EVE rewards effort?” That is general. Raids in World of Warcraft reward effort. No, EVE is about the long game. It is not cooking a meal, it is designing and then building, staffing and running a restaurant. As EVE players both on the official forums and on Reddit have said, it makes you train your character overnight to access some of the most basic abilities in the game.

I strongly believe that CCP should downplay all of the “dark, war-torn” rhetoric. It is not that it is false, it is that it has been so overused by so many games that are so unlike EVE that it has been rendered meaningless, and so it only acts as a further confusion to new players. It makes EVE sound like games that are nothing like it. The best thing CCP could do to reduce confusion among new players is advertise the game as utterly unlike anything else, that it is less of a game than an investment. The last video using real player comms was a step in that direction, insofar as it showed planning and staging. But it only showed the tip of the iceberg. The Butterfly Effect video also showed this side of EVE well.

As I have said before, EVE is not the battle of B-R5RB. EVE is the months of staging and logistics and diplomacy and feinting and manufacturing and fundraising and fighting that led up to B-R5RB. That is the source of EVE’s legendary complexity.


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