Monday, April 25, 2016

BB74: The big thing at Fanfest

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 74th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.
So when this Blog Banter goes live, Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a “nerd-boner”. What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?
Not being able to go to Iceland and partake of the festivities myself, my Fanfest experience was much like the rest of the player base as I crowded around either my work computer or phone in order to keep up with the steady stream of information while constantly checking over my shoulder to make sure that I wasn't caught paying more attention to internet spaceships than whatever it is I do for real world money. I couldn't really help it though, because the stream of information was a good one and really easy to get wrapped up in. This didn't feel like the past two times I had kept up with Fanfest, where everything felt like more promise than probability. The content of this year's Fanfest just seemed so much more tangible than I had experienced before. The update to Valkyrie, Projects Arena and Nova, all the new content coming in Citadel, planned changes coming beyond that, and a host of other things on display just seemed to really nail home the idea that CCP is alive and kicking and ready to kick some ass.

Which is good to see. The company has had some major set backs in the last few years. The failure of World of Darkness, the coming death of Dust 514, and the general stagnation of Eve itself have just made it feel like CCP is struggling to find itself in the current landscape of digital existence. Add in the fact that the company has taken some pretty big risks with its flagship product over the past year, with things like jump fatigue and skill point trading, and its safe to say that the foundation was looking shaky at best. But, the gamble on virtual reality seems to be paying off with Gunjack and Valkyrie being legitimate hits for the new technology. Eve itself is getting a massive update this week, complete with a killer new Permaband song, and coupled with the hype surrounding the current war, enthusiasm for the game is at a significant high point. 

While it's good to see CCP growing as a company and Eve growing as a game, the biggest point I took away from Fanfest is the need for the player base to be growing as a whole. CCP Ghost's presentation on the new player experience presented one jaw dropping stat that I think everyone needs to take to heart: in the past year, 1.5 million new people tried Eve and most of them didn't even last a few hours. Imagine that for a few seconds. Eve with one and a half million extra people flying in space. I know we're pretty married to the idea of "the learning cliff" and take pride in the fact that we play THE hard game, but that's just stunning to me. I've heard many stories of people starting and giving up on the game multiple times (sometimes something as simple as "I gave up with the character editor") and I can't help but wonder what the game would be like if more people who started it stuck with it. It should be said that there's no way that entire 1.5 million would stay, and we wouldn't want them to anyway. Eve exists as it is because its played by people who "get" the game, whiners aside. Not everyone who tries it is going to get it, but if we can get to a point where even a tenth of that number is able to get through the new player struggle and latch on to the game, per year, then we would wind up with a vastly different experience in our day to day gaming lives.

As a part of Signal Cartel, I encounter plenty of people new to the game. Exploration is considered to be a fairly newbie friendly career to pick up, and we've worked hard to be the name people think of when it comes to that career path. And I've found it interesting that as people move on from being "Signaleers" they still retain a certain kind of enthusiasm for the game at large. I think a major aspect of enjoying this game is finding a group to enjoy it with, and Signal has done a lot to grow this sensibility in our ranks. And I think that is a sentiment that can carry over to CCP's growing arsenal of titles. Think of it, four individual games united under one universe (five if Arena gets an Eve tie in). There is massive potential there, but only if we can make the flagship as accessible as possible. We don't need to do away with the learning cliff, we just need to give more people grappling hooks to scale it.

The potential growth of the Eve universe, and growth that is being missed, is the biggest thing I took away from Fanfest 2016. Much as it was a celebration of where New Eden stands today, it was also a glimpse at where it could be even a year from now. There's work to be done in making that happen, sure, but there was an incredible amount of work involved in getting to where we are now. At the end of the day, I'm more optimistic about the game now than I have ever been, and its fun to play in the only universe where this kind of thing would even be possible. But those possibilities are tied to numbers, and not just warm bodies. There's clear evidence that Eve can draw outsiders in. We just need to find better ways of keeping them in without losing the identity of what makes Eve EVE. This includes bringing in folks who check out Eve because they tried one of the other titles in the universe, such as Valkyrie or Gunjack. I don't have the answer on how to do that, but I'm confident it can be done and CCP Ghost has made me hopeful that he's the guy to do it.

We'll see what happens over the year though. The Citadel expansion is another big gamble by CCP, Valkyrie and Gunjack are still riding high on "novelty" aspects, and Nova and Arena may very well go the way of WoD. But after this weekend, I see no reason to not be hopeful about the game itself, and as such I see no reason to not be hopeful about the appeal to new players. A good game will simply draw people in.

Also, faction capitals look cool as shit.

No comments:

Post a Comment