Monday, October 24, 2011

Gamers & coders

     Eve is an interesting MMO.  I've played a lot of them, and been in a number of alphas and betas.  Even for "small"ish MMOs, especially in beta stages, where the players have a pretty tight connection with the developers, the connection that the Eve players have with the game, is pretty unique.  Maybe it's because the game is as old as it is.  Maybe it's because of the more wide open nature of the game architecture.  Maybe it's because I'm getting older and pay more attention (for whatever reason) to the people mechanics behind the game mechanics.

     Either way, with the recent lay-offs, Eve's meta-sphere lit up about it.  As angry as capsuleers may have been, I never saw anyone say that it served CCP right, and they deserved it, for screwing up Eve developement like they have.  People seemed genuinely concerned and wished the best for the people that were laid off.  Maybe people would be like that about most businesses, whether they liked the business or not.  Interestingly, some of the players actually hinted at blaming other players as being partially to blame for the financial problems and the layoffs.  That's funny, and incredibly naive.

     A number of astute bloggers/players have been pointing out CCP's financial woes for a while now.  A number of the players also seem to be in positions of corporate leadership, personnel, development and/or financing, and seem to be fairly prescient when it comes to guesses about CCP's mindset and future.  When CCP's corporate operations are available to players who know how to read it, and know what they're reading, it's no surprise people like Jester can be as accurate as they are.  CCP borrows some cash to try to expand into other projects so they aren't a one trick pony with Eve.  In this day and age, diversification isn't a cool corporate catch-phrase, it's a necessity.  I see it daily in my business dealings at work.  CCP hoped it could get not one, but two projects (Dust and WOD) off the ground in the time line they had (~2 years) to get more money coming in, and they tried to do it without gimping Eve too badly, their main cash cow, in the process.  Emphasis drifted away from Eve (aka flying in space) as they tried to get more money-earning projects online.  The NEX store backfired on them, Incarna and its walking-in-stations was a big "meh", and World of Darkness is a definite no show yet and there's no doubt a lot of pressure to make sure Dust hits its timeline with the console crowd.  Incarna didn't bring in the extra players that CCP hoped and needed, in fact, it seemed to piss people off and likely COST them subscriptions, not get them more.  So, as the NEX was pretty tightly pinned to Incarna, and you can't really show off your fancy new clothes if you can't walk around in stations, and CCP can't afford their current business model with Eve floundering, and WOD being a no-show, and Dust not being ready to come out of the oven yet, well, CCP has problems.  No other options than to try to trim off some money pits, and try to renew the faith of their current source of income, aka Eve players.  So, along come a big chunk of lay-offs, and the CCP people that are left get shuffled around a bit.  Shuffling that is hopefully more cost effective.

     Obviously, with all the announcements, Eve is now getting a fair bit of loving, but it's not like Eve players haven't been complaining about a lot of this stuff for years now.  So, were these fixes and additions already in the works?  Were some of these Eve updates ready and sitting on the shelf pretty much done, as sort of electronic hail-Mary passes just in case they were needed while CCP tried to pour everything into Dust, WOD and walking in stations?  Not knowing how much work it would actually take to code and implement some of these fixes from scratch, it's just speculation on my part.  How many people have been moved around in CCP from one project to another?  What is the personnel and work force percentage counts before the downsizing, and what are those numbers now?  I don't know, but I think it would be interesting to see the Eve (flying), NEX/Incarna (walking in stations), Dust and WOD numbers.

     Interesting and confusing too, are the terms that people use about this whole thing.  "FIS" seems mostly to refer to "flying in space", aka actual game updates to Eve itself with regards to the game play and mechanics and spaceships and other such pew pew things.  I've also heard it refer to an update that would allow actual "flying in space" where you are controlling the ships with a joystick like Wing Commander and the awesome X-Wing vs Tie Fighter series, that my sons and I spent untold hours on in the 90s.  That would be pretty cool to pvp with a joystick instead of mouse clicks.  "WIS" has been tied to both "walking in space" and "walking in stations".  Obviously, you can't walk in "space" but I think it's not much of a stretch for anyone older than about 5 years old to understand that it refers to stations.  The whole WIS thing is tied to the captain's quarters and also to all the eye candy (and raw CCP income) that the NEX store would provide, as well as supposedly making all the capsuleers the unwilling alpha testers of the WOD character engine.  I've also heard where the walking in station is also referred to as "establishments".  The whole thing is interesting on a corporate level, but can be confusing on a player level.  The bottom line is, is there going to be more shit to blow up and fly, or not?  Apparently, the answer is yes.

     The final thing I wonder about, is what the nature of this increased Eve-love really is.  CCP tried to expand their business model.  Apparently they bit off more than they could chew, and had to downsize and supposedly refocus their efforts and money.  They're still no doubt working hard on Dust, probably/hopefully not so hard on WOD, not so hard on NEX, not so hard on WIS, and probalby/hopefully harder on Eve, which is actually making a profit for them, or at least used to.  Is this spike in Eve effort just that, a spike, which CCP hopes will distract the player base for long enough to make another hard charge at WIS/WOD/Dust after the winter update, or will a higher level of focus on Eve be maintained after the update to re-win the trust of the current Eve players and hopefully bring old players back along with some new subscriptions?

     WIS will bring in new Eve players because people like to see their avatars walking around, and people like my dear wifey LOVE to see different outfits and LOVE to be able to change their clothes.  She enjoys grinding, mercilessly, in LOTRO as she collects every kind and version of outfits, and ensembles, and then goes and gets all the horses to match on top of that.  And she's not the only one.  World of Darkness will bring in a whole new crowd of players just because of the werewolves.  How many people start playing a game because they can be a werewolf, and how many older players are re-interested (at least for a while) because they can make a new dog toon?  Then there's the console kiddies and all the people CCP could open up with Dust.  I fear any one of these income streams is going to be more lucrative than just maintaining focus on improving Eve.  Can't be easy working up near the top in CCP, especially after Incarna.

     I just hope Eve stays around long enough for me to train up a carrier so I can go use it to mine in nullsec :D

The Point?  In this day of insta-credit, "I win" buttons and immediate demand for gratification, being tied to the fickle gaming industry can easily leave oneself on the shore of the Island of Unemployment.  Coconuts, anyone?

PS - Let me change the graphics on my ships with my own maps, and I'd be happy with that.  ;)

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