Blog Banter 35: The Public Perception of EVE OnlineJeg Elsker
Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community.
Is this perception deserved? Should “The Nation of EVE” be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?
[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]
At least Stan didn’t pick too tricky a topic for my first foray into the world of Blog Bantering /sarcasm.
There is a key, unspoken question here that must be considered before we go any further – what are CCPs ambitions specifically for EVE Online in the long term? For many years now, EVE has grown a small percentage year-on-year up to the current figure of around 350-400k subscribers. In MMO terms these are not huge numbers (World of Warcraft had over 12m at its peak) but the fact that EVE has managed to achieve sustained growth for such a long time is significant.
EVE is a hard game and this is true in many different respects. Not only is it hard in terms of the mechanics of gameplay but the people that play it too. With an incredibly steep learning curve, New Eden is a very aggressive environment to game in. Casual gamers need not apply and while this may seem a black mark against EVE, it clearly has proven positive for CCP. EVE players are devoted and love the complexity of the universe and game the developers have made for us. This undoubtedly attracts that small percentage of gamers out there who have had their fill of theme-park MMOs and are looking for the sandbox will that will provide the true second life they crave.
There will undoubtedly be a greater number of egos and idiots in a small gaming clique that considers themselves several steps above those out there hunting orcs or throwing fireballs. When you set out to make a sandbox so complex you can do virtually anything, you are asking for a group of players who are intelligent, ruthless and do not suffer fools gladly. The aura of elitism is always going to be an unavoidable side-effect and is unlikely to garner favour with the vast majority of those outside the inner-circle. There will always be a few though that see that aura as something they want to be a part of.
And so by keeping EVE a difficult and hostile (but ultimately, incredibly rewarding) playground for those out there who consider themselves gaming elite, they ensure a small but continuous population growth in New Eden.
CCPs long-term intentions with Dust514 are as yet unclear. If they are using Dust as an exercise in stretching their collective skillbase and expanding their portfolio then the impact on the EVE population itself is unlikely to be too significant. I game extensively both on consoles and on my Mac but I am not normal in that regard. Most gamers tend to stick with consoles or computers and the overlap is much less than may be assumed. In the same way, there may be some overlap between the populations of Dust and EVE but it will be less significant than I suspect CCP hopes it will be.
Unfortunately, I think it’s more likely that CCP sees Dust as some form of grandiose advertising hoarding for EVE Online and if that is the case, they are misguided. Hardcore FPSers are a very different breed to the average capsuleer – console FPSers even more so. Even if we did see a significant body of players emigrate from the world of Battlefield or Call of Duty into Jita and Rens, it won’t bring some shining new sword of gaming ettiquette to local. As someone who plays his fair share of Call of Duty on a PS3, let me tell you something with confidence – the average console FPSer is an infinitely bigger dick than the average EVE toon.
In the long term, I think CCP should keep EVE moving in the direction it is currently going and ignore worrying glances from the gaming population at large. Those troubling looks are ultimately a result of a close-knit and tight community of intelligent gamers who take part in a universe infinitely more vast and complex than anything they have experienced. And anyway, eventually some of them will see the light and change jealous mutterings to admiring stares before joining us in the biggest and best sandbox there is.
Is the perception deserved? Yes. Is it something we should be worried about? No. It’s a symptom of what makes EVE great and attempting to remove it from New Eden would have the side-effect of diluting something very special indeed.
[Bonus question: Auto-post ‘You are a muppet’ to the last person who spoke in channel.]
Other Blog Banter posts:
Corelin – Mad Haberdashers
Drackarn – Space, Cider and Spaceships
Ninveah – Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
Harri – Gun Turret Diplomacy
Lukas Rox – Torchwood Archives
Uzriel – Uzriel’s Eve Chronicles
Emergent Patroller – Stories From Beyond New Eden
Grimmash – Warp To 0
Nashh – Nashh Kadavr’s EVE Blog
H – Aggressive Logistics