Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Perpetuum temptation

Time and time over I've had to justify to others (and occasionally to myself) my lasting involvement with EVE online, considering how frequently it may seem I scorn EVE, its parent company CCP and even the EVE player community, parts or whole. 

I could write walls of text about the many things that make it all interesting to me (and I have the walls of text to prove it), but it can be boiled down to a simple choice of nothing vs something, however unsatisfying:
CCP may be a greedy, unfriendly, obnoxious shopkeeper with a bad temper and a family of inbreds for staff, and sure, they tend to drop cigar ash and the occasional gravel-for-capers on the pizza, and sure, you have to suffer redneck patrons chanting klu-klox anthems and puking in the dining dining room during happy hour, but New Eden's the only pizza place in this sad town, where you can't import a wood oven for under 60 million bucks.


Once upon a time, CCP bottled lightning by creating a game that was going precisely against everything the MMO industry of then deemed sound business for anything bigger and costlier than a hobbyist-ran MU*.

Not only did they consistently show the industry 'common wisdom' for what it's worth by not going under, they endured for about 8 years while growing their user base and paying subs every single quarter.
What is better is they managed to do so for a good long while without paying any significant tribute to the highway robbers of the online games industry (no-value-added retail chain and PR/ad noisemakers), instead relying on their players to promote, educate and support newcomers, thus creating the perfect soil for a niche game: a proselyte, self-selecting community of rabid fans, willing to cope with anything for the cause. 


At some point in the last 3-5 years, CCP apparently lost sight of the fact most of the things that went right until then, they owed to their players handling for CCP most of everything not directly code-related (PR, advertising, CS, QA, community building), on top of paying the rent.

Increasingly, both in community management, marketing and game design, CCP came to shit on their fans' heads, betraying their trust too often and in too many ways to list here, thus squandering the biggest asset they'd built until then (and seemingly failed to fully grasp the value of): customer goodwill.
As it went on, players naturally started looking for a plan B: another game to pour their time, love and money in, rather than EVE, and they found there was none.

Seeing that, CCP throughly missed the point, and figured everything was peachy since the numbers were looking good, and the subs kept rising.
Sure, the suckers were making weird noises once in a  while, but apparently they were willing and able to take anything thrown at them, and presumably liked it rough.

What CCP failed to see is how their main accomplishment to date had been to raise the bar of expectations for their player niche, while consistently falling short of the goals they'd set for themselves (CCP, not the players).
As a result, CCP now reigned over a quasi-captive market of people who certainly wouldn't settle for anything less than EVE in terms of core features (PvP, sandbox, territorial warfare, freeform competition, no power-leveling grind, etc.), but who found increasingly hard to cope with EVE and CCP's shortcomings.

Flash forward to now, when CCP has managed to botch things so severely on so many fronts it's not certain they can come back from the edge of the cliff they're sliding toward — CCP legendary smooth handling on slippery grounds being in full play…

For the first time in EVE history, because things are worse than ever in EVE and because there is now a tentative alternative offer on the market, spacenerds are fleeing New Eden in droves.
Not just rage-quitting (or claiming to), but migrating en-masse to another game that boasts most of EVE's core features, minus the suck. Also it's a new game, from a debuting company (thus no bad history), so hope is permitted.

Perpetuum, the soon-to-be-imploded game that coulda.

I believe this will end in tears, due to the gap between what players coming from 6-year-old EVE (dismissing all the terribad design decisions of the last couple years) expect to be the bare minimum, and what a just-outta-beta game, presumably developed on the MMO equivalent a shoestring as a labour of love can realistically deliver.
Also because just 10% of the EVE population moving into Perpetuum on short notice would out-demographic the pants off its existing player community, and that's never easy to deal with.

Is there something for the EVE player in Perpetuum ? Presumably yes, since it's essentially a reformulation of EVE, with mechas in place of spaceships, which retains most of the defining elements and a good chunk of the familiar UI/content features, and makes generally about as much (or as little) sense as its inspiration.

Of course they hate it over there when you say EVE with Mechas, but it really is, in many ways, and I don't see a problem with that: I have the utmost respect for the work Blizzard has done with WoW, which design-wise is nothing but a better version of all PvE-centric pointy-eared theme park MMORPGs that came before it, all rolled into one and with better make-up and 'do.

Will I take the plunge ? Probably not, because I don't play much (anymore) already due to RL reasons, and because Perpetuum design elements include a few personal deal-breakers that I couldn't get past from a pure gameplay perspective. 
…but I digress.

My point was/is: people who will stick with EVE in the next weeks and months won't do it out of love, they'll do it because of lack of alternative.
If Perpetuum somehow survives the first mass invasion of EVEtards (which I hope they will, but doubt), I predict they'll make a killing, as long as they don't pull a CCP and expose their soft parts with blunders such as the T20 excursion, Titan Doomsdays, Dominion sovereignty, or FearlessGate.


To address that, CCP will probably adjust their platinum monocle, plug their ears with their fingers and chant:

"We're awesome ! Fearless ! United ! Nobody can touch us !" 

…until the repo men start pulling hardware from TQ… but just in case they want to salvage their relationship with the suckers who pay the rent, they should take stock of that.

This girl isn't just being moody, the only reason she's still here is because she's chained to a cinderblock, in your hut, on a glacier.
Also, the chain is getting rusty, and if climate change is not 'just a theory' she may be able to hike it out of here by the end of summer, and you'll have to learn to cook for yourself.

[Come to think of it, since I'm nice that way, I may give Perpetuum another try (it's been a while) if only to tell you what I think of the game in its present state.]

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