Million Dollar PulseNiden
9-4RP2 system, a record-breaking six thousand players, and a million dollar hype train reaching mainstream media across the world. With foundations years in the making at the hands of its players, EVE Online manages yet again to brazenly push a frontier where it is not just a pioneer, not just a 15 year veteran, but unmatched as an interactive media. Whether yesterday’s battle was a shining example of EVE pushing the envelope yet again or a catastrophic demonstration that the ageing beast has bitten off more than it can chew remains a matter of debate, which usually means there is merit to both.
As with all things EVE, the road to today is far from all sunshine and rainbows, it is full of contradictions, strife, successes and failures, great hopes and aspirations, as well as crushed dreams and prospects. From the infancy of POS sov and the hearty days on which Andrew Groen waxes poetic in his book, through the horrors of Dominion and player riots, to the citadel-dominated world of today, the game and its community have seen more than their fair share of ups and downs. Yesterday’s battle was both.
While almost 6000 players made it to the battle for the Keepstar, far fewer managed to properly engage. This is especially significant for the supercarriers and titans that were either on field but too far from the action to engage, tethered to their respective citadel, or sat in jump range but not deployed. Given that jumping them into TiDi levels that laugh at the concept of “game mechanics” and present a very high level of risk with no certainty of them even being able to touch the enemy, that kind of colossal asset committal a shaky proposal at best.
Meanwhile, as TiDi slowed players down to a crawl for the server to even attempt to handle 6000 people interacting, the citadel timer happily counted down in real time, while the Keepstar itself was armed to the teeth, should anyone come close – causing, yet again, no end of debate on citadels amongst players. Pandemic Legion FC and former Crossing Zebras writer Mukk Barovian had this to say on the subject.
What we saw a lot of from the forces deployed was carrier-launched fighters attempting to engage while smaller fleets tried for flanking manoeuvres and tactical field operations but no full-on-to-the-bitter-end-yolo-let’s-drop-all-our-supers battle actually took place – spectacular cyno shenanigans notwithstanding. Whether that’s the result of game mechanics, TiDi, or the infamous “blueballs” depends on who you ask.
Naturally, this being EVE, each side quickly spun up their own versions of what went down, why, and how that makes them the better players, news at 11. We’re going leave that debate to Reddit and take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Setting the successes or failures of EVE and CCP to technically and evolutionarily handle the unique aforementioned frontier aside for now, let’s talk hype. Specifically, let’s talk about the hype avalanche that progodlegend, already a household name amongst EVE players, started yesterday.
Read PGL’s infamous “Million dollar” post here. To put it in PGL’s own words: TFW you shitpost your way on to national television. The post did indeed put him on Canadian national television, and on the screens of curious gamers worldwide as gaming sites scrambled to cover the story. Naturally, CCP were also quick to act after the fight:
Now let’s take a look at what happened on Google, this is an index of the global searches for EVE Online for the past seven days:
this is as close to the pulse of the game as you can get
As you can see, there was an immediate spike to 400% of its normal level, as well as a baseline increase after the spike. After a decade in the marketing business, I can say there is no better way to gauge people’s interest in a subject. The volume is debatable, but you can be sure it translates to new players coming to EVE.
Remember, we’re not talking about how broken some things may be in EVE, we’re not talking about citadel’s impact on warfare, we’re not even in the scope of this article talking about how CCP are using record-breaking events like 9-4R to market EVE Online, we’re talking about hype.
Why are a respectable station like CBC putting a TEST FC on camera to talk about internet spaceships? And why is this so important for the future of EVE? If we instead look at the past five years of Google data, it becomes apparent:
The reason hype around a relatively small game like EVE Online is able to break through into mainstream media is not only its unique qualities and large battles – that wouldn’t be enough. Like it or not, when the outside world – especially media – is concerned, it’s PLEX and it’s quasi-real world money value that draws attention. Say “Six thousand players got together in one place in this online game and had a fight,” and you might raise an eyebrow. Say “Tomorrow, 1,000,000 dollars might be blown up by some crazy people playing an online game,” and you’ll get keyboards rattling and cameras rolling.
From a business perspective, and CCP is after all a business first and foremost, this kind of exposure in an absolute must. The hype is what pumps new blood into the system and stirs things around population-wise. Development and interest in new features can only take it so far, hype is the other vital ingredient, especially for a game as old as EVE.
The dilemma EVE finds itself in is that it’s a – albeit extremely polished – 15 year old game that has organically grown to push boundaries no other games are even close to, through its players. Difficult-to-replace legacy code pushes the node servers to the point where some things simply stop working when the numbers stack as high as they did yesterday in 9-4R.
Meanwhile, you have a large body of veterans with an increasing level of churn due to the shortcomings the game has run into when trying to handle the – albeit conditioned – behaviours of its players. Who could have imagined 6000 players on the same grid when EVE was in its early days? Some people have a hard time believing it even today. In a way, it’s amazing that so many things did work in that fight as they did, given the circumstances.
At the end of the day you can argue this way or that about CCP’s handling of EVE development and marketing, but running a game with this much freedom over such a long time would be a challenge for any company. What would you do if you knew that it was the big numbers that were generating the hype you need to keep the game going, while those same numbers were literally breaking it?
The hard truth is that if you keep running on smoke where the fire runs at 2 FPS – if you manage to load on grid at all – and don’t have a development solution for the problem, the whole thing will eventually fold due to player churn.
How do you condition players to not gather in such high numbers and still keep the hype? Alternatively, how do you replace core legacy code and keep the lights on at the same time? Or do you simply ride on until the wheels fall off? We can only hope CCP have a solid roadmap going forward.
Be that as it may. As things stand today, EVE needs the hype, even if takes a TEST FC to do it.