January 6, 2014

What's on the Other Side?

Blog Banter # 52 - The Other SideWelcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 51st edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.
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Go to the always useful EVE-Offline.net (http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility) and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.
What's on the other side of that plateau? 
Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past. 
Also, what would EVE be like with an order of magnitude fewer or more players?
So why has EVE been unable to continue upwards? You can clearly see the rise and fall of the numbers over the last four and half years, and it's a pretty safe bet that each peak lines up with an expansion. People are hearing about EVE again. They quit for a reason, and while the reasons may be different, they're still intrigued by EVE. They still think about it sometimes. They're the people who say, "I love the thought of EVE. EVE's universe is great, I just can't get into the gameplay." They get an email from CCP as the patch is coming out and they think, Well, maybe it's better now. These pictures look so cool after all!

But of course, they don't stick around. Not for long. Maybe they'll pay for an extra month after they first resubscribe, probably out of guilt that they spent another $15 coupled with the hope of finding it, whatever it is.

And that's the issue, right? That's what was talked about quite extensively in the last CSM8 minutes - what keeps people subscribed. It's not mission, not in its current form, that's for sure. It's engagement. It's getting out there and interacting with people. 

What EVE needs to get on the other side of this plateau is easier access to people. And not just anyone. After all, Just Anyone is in local chat already. Just Anyone is in the Rookie chat. There needs to be something that forces people to engage with one another to actually play the game. 

Look, I hate PVE. I've never liked it in any MMOs I've played, much less EVE's PVE, which I think we can agree is pretty horrid. But why can't there be excitement in the PVE for people who come to EVE expecting something like other MMOs, at least when it comes to PVE. They already know what EVE is about, at least on the surface. They know there is PVP out there, even if they don't know it can reach out and touch them. What they don't know is how boring our PVE is. And it really shouldn't be. Make people work with one another in coordinated ways. I'd hope we'd never have bosses like in World of Warcraft where you can just look up the places to stand so the boss can't hit you with his super attack, but how cool would it be to have some epic battle that requires people to group up and actually work hard to beat something? We don't have anything like that now.

Some of you may be thinking of Incursions, but I wouldn't consider them up to this task. They're inclusive, mind-numbing affairs. I'm talking about something more spontaneous, something that really grabs the attention of people coming into the game. Something that makes them feel like they're progressing as they finally upgrade from their frigate into a destroyer. And more importantly, something that makes them feel connected to the world around them. It doesn't have to be PVE. I just used the example because so many people come into the game with that as their main effort and never realize there's more, so much more. So maybe we need to meet them half way.