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What Game Devs Should Learn From EVE 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the watch-out-for-volcanoes dept.
An anonymous reader passes along this excerpt from Gamesradar about EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management (CSM), a group of elected player representatives that serve to facilitate communications between the developers and the community: "On the last day, the devs announced that after the earlier discussions about improving the CSM’s ability to effect change, the CSM was being raised to the status of its own department within CCP. This is revolutionary; in one swift move, the CSM went from what could be considered a glorified focus group to what CCP considers to be a 'stakeholder' in the company, given equal consideration with every other department in requesting development time for a project. That means the CSM — and the entire playerbase it represents — has as much influence on development projects as Marketing, Accounting, Publicity and all the other teams outside of the development team. This is, of course, the stated intention. But has any developer gone to such lengths for its fans?"
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What Game Devs Should Learn From EVE

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  • Their thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:32AM (#32276618)

    Maybe if we ask people what they want and then give it to them, they will tell their friends, blog positively, continue to subscribe to our subscription-based service instead of wandering off in boredom.

    The Internet makes a lot of things possible when it comes to unprecedented communication between suppliers and consumers. Of course, this only works if you believe your users know what they want.

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:39AM (#32276656)

    You've failed to note one thing: The 6% of the playerbase they are elected by are the 6% that CARE. If the others cared, they could vote, too. They CHOSE not to.

  • Shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:45AM (#32276690)
    Shame that good MMORPGs don't make financial sense and MMORPGs that make financial sense aren't good.
  • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:51AM (#32276708)

    But quite often the CSM as a group has a far better view of the consequences of certain changes.

    A large majority of the players focus on a single aspect of gameplay and what that part improved in some way, without realizing what the consequences are to the rest. Especially in a game like EVE where pretty much the entire economy is ran by players, a small change here could have massive impact over there.

    Personally I can't wait to see what happens when meta 0 stuff stops dropping, should make things interesting ;-)

  • by theolein (316044) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:52AM (#32276710) Journal

    Eve is a very hard game to play. There are almost no other games with a learning curve as steep as Eve's, and certainly no MMOs. This has as a consequence that Eve has a relatively small player base. A further consequence of the small player base is that CCP, the company that makes Eve, needs to make sure that they can retain as many players as possible and not run the risk of making the player base so angry with any mistake so as to lose a significant amount of players. In a bigger MMO, this would perhaps be less consequential, but in Eve it would seriously damage the game.

    The CSM (player voted representatives) came about as a consequence of the discovery by an Eve player that Eve devs were seriously cheating in game, aiding their own side with expensive items. The player reaction to that one, in a game which is already very hard, threatened to torpedo the game. So CCP created the CSM to represent player issues to CCP.

    However, CCP never took the CSM seriously, resulting in the current lack of trust in CCP's willingness to take its customers seriously (CCP actually told the last CSM that they were not actually interested in the majority of the players but only in a subsection that lived in a specific "elite" part of Eve space). The resulting lack of belief in CCP and the CSM has led to widespread protests against voting for the CSM and CCP has once again relented by now making the CSM a "stakeholder" in the game.

    This is, however, cosmetic, as there have been no commitments by CCP to actually take the player wishes any more seriously than they currently do. I personally would not hold my breath to see if anything positive comes of this. CCP has downgraded the CSM before (from its original oversight function to a merely representative one) and will very likely do so again once the current bad PR dies down again.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:56AM (#32276736) Journal

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. Winston Churchill

    There is a reason democracy works with majority rule, because if you had to listen to every single individual, every stakeholder in the country, you would never get anything done and run a real risk of ending up listening to the loudest party.

    In MMO land, the loudest party is often the Player Killer. PK ala Ultima Online, so beloved it was ripped from that game and every western game released after it that didn't have it did better. Yes UO fans, UO might have been first, it might have done things no other game has done BUT it also didn't manage to get a large number of subscribers. According to wikipedia it PEAKED at 250.000. Eve claims to have reached 300.000 and that game is considered to be niche. So a small game by a no-name developer working with its own IP has reached more subscribers then a triple A title working with a well known IP. That should tell you something.

    Of course, UO did launch before broadband connections were common and was exploring newer ground, and of course popularity says nothing about quality, but read posts about MMO discussions sometime. Just how can it be that so many claim UO is the best when so few played it? More people have played EVE. A SHIT load more played Everquest. Even Star Wars Galaxies reached more people.

    If the PK in UO was the thing to have, then UO would have reached more people. In fact, if PvP was so popular, then pure PvP games would do better. But Darkfall, Age of Conan and indeed EVE aren't doing all that well compared to PvE heavier titles like Lord of the Rings Online and of course World of Warcraft. So do you as a developer listen to the countless forum posts demanding unrestricted player killing and full body loot? They are certainly vocal, so surely that is what the players want? Well yes, on the forums, not when it comes to actually playing and PAYING for the game.

    I have made the mistake of following the forums of several games in the past before I grew up and you can see a certain trend, the people who are playing and PAYING are to busy to be on the forum. EVE might be an exception here, because it is by its nature far more of a game where you organize outside the game world, it is a business sim to many and so the forums might actually be useful for other things then ranting. But this is not the case on many game forums. If you go to the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic site you can find half the posts demanding it to be free-to-play or else the poster won't play it without paying for it (the horror!) and the other half trying to come up with someway to make it seem attractive for other players to be their content (bounty hunters wanting PK but having wised up that they need to wrap it up in a pretty package). Real players have got better things to do, the game won't be out for a year, and really, Bioware probably already made their mind up about the game. Even if they wanted to listen to the forum posters (who are unlikely to be their full audience), where would you find the resources to implement everything? What do you pick?

    Oh, the thingy that the forum posters wanted and you already wanted to do? Listening to your users, you run the severe risk of listening to yes-men. Just see the actions by people on this site. Don't like what someone says? mod them down. As a developer, if you are told by one person that you are doing the best job ever and another comes out with a detailed plan of how the game could be far far better but everything the developer believes and stands for is wrong, who does he listen to?

    EVE might be in a luxury position in that it grew slowly and might have attracted an audience that wants to play the game that it is. But many titles, especially big budget ones attract all kinds, including people that should just play a different game. You probably won't find many EVE players demanding the game to be more solo friendly and that everyone should be able to afford the biggest ship after soloing for a month and then be able to do everything in the game. But that is EXACTLY what people demand in every other MMO.

    Read some MMO forums, then tell me that listening to your audience is a good idea.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:57AM (#32276746)
    I played EVE for a few years. This is the first I've heard of the CSM.

    Note to CSM members: Improve public image of CSM, improve awareness.
  • by harl (84412) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:16AM (#32276834)

    Or maybe they trust the game developers more than some fanboys.

    What about the original point of the CSM? To act as auditors of CCP to prevent corruption. Remember the T2 BPOs given out by a DEV? CSM was in direct response to that.

    What was the latest corruption. Oh yeah a CSM trying to play the market with inside information he got from being on the council.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quickgold192 (1014925) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:29AM (#32276916)

    continue to subscribe to our subscription-based service instead of wandering off in boredom.

    When it comes to EVE, I have to wonder if there's a difference.

  • They don’t know how to make it fun. They are no experts in it. You know: Those who can’t design, play. ;)

    They don’t know about the balance between too hard and too easy. About how changing something that people will think is stupid, will make gameplay more fun. After all it’s still supposed to be a game right, not just a simulation.

    You obviously still have to listen to your players. But you have to interpret it trough experienced game designers, to find out what they really want and how to really make that happen. (As it will often be counterintuitive to the players.)

    But oh well... as I said, I’m not really sure EvE still is a game, or rather an alternate reality, complete with everything. (Not that that is a bad thing. Let alone an uninteresting one.)

  • Re:Shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:03AM (#32277136)
    That's because it's a grindy, boring piece of shit like every other MMO. Just with more pretentious fans.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:05AM (#32277154)
    The fact that EVE is "hard" is exactly it's appeal. Eve and Wurn are probably the only MMO's on the market right now that provide any challenge what-so-ever. It's like the Arcade owner swapped out all the games for whack-a-mole because it was his most profitable game and now he's wondering why no-one comes around anymore. Perhaps if he made whack-a-mole free to play but made the hammer to small to hit the moles... then he could charge for a bigger hammer? Brilliant!!
  • by N1AK (864906) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:35AM (#32277362) Homepage

    You've failed to note one thing: The 6% of the playerbase they are elected by are the 6% that CARE. If the others cared, they could vote, too. They CHOSE not to.

    The other 94% will care if they don't like changes that are made. When it comes to RL elections, if I don't vote in the election and don't like the resulting government I need to emigrate (major PitA). If I don't vote for my representative in an online game and don't like the changes they choose it's nowhere near as much trouble to leave.
    If I made a game where 94% of players views were effectively being ignored I'd be worried about making changes that they didn't want without realising it.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:47AM (#32277450)
    The first thing that came to my mind when I read this was "And how many people on this council are going to use their new power to further their own personal interests in the game?" Eve is such a cutthroat environment that *anything* that blurs the line between player and developer will only cause problems and bring into question the developers' objectivity. There have already been several scandals [escapistmagazine.com] involving CCP employees caught playing the game. This will only cause more problems.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:56AM (#32277534)
    Basically, once the devs themselves were caught cheating and stealing REAL money, there was no way to ever really recover. Whatever they do from now on, it will ALWAYS be viewed by suspicion and distrust from the players. Once a casino is caught rigging the machines, the only way to ever fully recover is to fire *everyone* from the top on down and bring in entirely new management. Since CCP isn't going to do that, players will always have to wonder which CCP employees are rigging the game in their favor. This just adds some token players to the mix (who will also now be viewed with suspicion by the other players).
  • by KnownIssues (1612961) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:58AM (#32278486)

    You've failed to note one thing: The 6% of the playerbase they are elected by are the 6% that CARE. If the others cared, they could vote, too. They CHOSE not to.

    Just like real life voting. And just like real life voting, the people who care are not necessarily the people who need the benefits of accurate representation the most.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:59AM (#32278500)
    If I wanted to play real life I wouldn't need a game console.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:24AM (#32278932) Homepage

    This is just the Student President scam. Let the children elect a representative, give them a neat title and even let them sit at the table with the grown ups. Heck, use them as your mouthpiece, and ask them to canvas their constituents if you like. But you don't have to actually listen to them. Why would you? They're just an annoying selfish greedy know-nothing kid, representing a group of annoying selfish greedy know-nothing kids. All they're there for is to act as a buffer to keep the baying and howling at a tolerable distance.

    I've seen this faux consultation happen in other games through the years - Netrek, Navy Field - and here's the skinny: he who controls the server rules the universe.

    Can this EVE council actually modify the server source? Can they even see it? No, of course not, because they're not really grown ups, or worthy of trust.

    Judge them by their access, not their title.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:43AM (#32279272)

    There *are* heroes.

    I just started playing a little over a month ago, but I've still heard legendary stories about the first carrier or dreadnought and the people who piloted them. People who have capitals still up in Empire (before they were restricted to 0.4 or lower space). People who have built nigh-empires single-handed... or destroyed them.

    There's no NPC Thrall or Arthas etc. The players themselves are the legends.

    That's not even to mention the local heroes, be it for fame or hilarious mistakes. You want a legend, I'll give you a legend:

    One of my new corp mates (and an EVE newbie) is tooling around in a Destroyer playing Level 4 missions with some of the guys up in Empire. A logistics Basilisk targets New Guy. Logi Guy is auto-targeted by New Guy, and New Guy fires on Logi Guy (not knowing any better).

    CONCORD, of course, shows up and blows up New Guy. But they also blow up Logi Guy because - get this - he was repping a criminal.

    When I heard about this one over Vent I damn near pissed myself.

  • Re:So popular? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:48AM (#32279380)

    That's a pretty interesting comparison there between EVE and Wyoming. One is a vast, desolate land where only the boldest and bravest dare leave what little pockets of civilization exist, and the other is EVE.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by citizenr (871508) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @11:40AM (#32280226) Homepage

    Proud to say I kicked the EVE habit long ago. You could get places it that game but it felt like a full-time job.

    What finally did it for me is that the missions became too difficult for too little reward. I had my spiffy new battleship and lost it in a mission because the enemy bots

    aaa, so you didnt play EVE, you played WoW like corner of EVE designed for moron grinders. EVE is about plater vs player interactions in a huge sandbox. Basically you failed at EVE.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nschubach (922175) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:14PM (#32280758) Journal

    You're throwing lingo around. "reprisal in Empire" I assume is space controlled by the server (aka. NPCs)?

    What I'm getting at is that in Eve, when I played it, you are just a peon trading goods for corporations and it carries the same politics and statures that real life carries. I didn't see the fun in it. I went out looking for some NPC Pirates to kill to get weapon drops or rewards for keeping the asteroids safe and found none of it. I found that the only way to advance in the game was to join a corporation and ferry goods around space while dodging pirates or keeping to safe space. There was no "solo" track to making it.

    Now you're going to complain that it's an MMO and: "Why would someone play an MMO if they want to solo?" Because Eve struck me as an interesting economy where other people determine the price of goods and I could just chase enemies and loot the rewards to sell on the market. I wouldn't have to set prices on my goods, only chase the rewards for taking out something that is in demand... but finding the enemies that needed taken out were minimal.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ErikZ (55491) * on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:48PM (#32281288)

    Yep. To get everything out of Eve, you have to treat it like a second job. Not like something you can pop on and have some fun for 20 minutes, then leave.

    Which is why I stopped playing Eve and switched to TF2.

  • Re:Their thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by citizenr (871508) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:33PM (#32288132) Homepage

    The thing that bothers me about Eve is that there are no "heroes." Everyone is just another cog in the corporations... it's real life without the retirement "reward."

    unlike some other MMOs where "everyone is special" and "no one is left behind" ...

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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