EVE Evolved: What pushes EVE Online players to breaking point?

    
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How many times have you read the comments on an EVE Online article and found someone talking about an experience they had that turned them off the game? They were suicide ganked and lost a month’s worth of progress in 30 seconds, scammed out of all their ISK, or their corporation fell apart after a war declaration. Even former players who look back fondly on their time in EVE Online will relate some event or trend that ultimately pushed them away from the game, whether it’s a gameplay change that ruined the way they liked to play, their alliance suddenly losing all of its territory, a valued friend quitting the game, or a social structure they relied on breaking down.

These natural breaking points happen to all players eventually, and some will invariably take the opportunity to quit the game when they occur. EVE is more of a long-term hobby than a game, so it’s only natural that some players will leave the game if something catastrophically upsets the way they’ve learned to enjoy that hobby. Lately I’ve been thinking about these moments in which a player can lose something they’ve invested heavily into, and wondering whether there’s something more that could be done to minimise these failure states. Should CCP provide safety nets for players against catastrophic failure, or is this just part of the player-directed nature of the sandbox?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I consider some of the things that can push a player to breaking point, and whether additional safety nets would make a difference.

The pure meritocracy

As player Jin’taan recently remarked in an article for EVE fansite Crossing Zebras, EVE Online is a pure meritocracy at its core — As Jin’taan puts it, “EVE doesn’t care about what you say. It cares about what you do.” A big part of EVE‘s battle-hardened culture is that you’re personally responsible for your success  in everything from PvP to market trading, and that your failures are the results of mistakes you made. Even in the case of suicide ganks or scams, players will always point out that there’s something that the player could have done to avoid their fate.

This idea is burned into EVE‘s core identity, but it’s not exactly a universal truth. There are still plenty of ways that a player can suffer a critical loss or failure through no real fault of their own. You could be part of a small roaming PvP gang that gets hotdropped by a dozen bored titan pilots, or you could be one of the freighter pilots regularly suicide ganked in Jita with nothing valuable in their cargo hold. You could even be one of thousands of players who put their trust in an alliance’s leadership and are then unexpectedly betrayed, as happened with Circle of Two’s spectacular betrayal last year. Unless you play EVE solo and in the most hyper-paranoid way possible, you will inevitably need to trust other players and expose yourself to risk.

Catastrophic failure states

The vast majority of losses and failures an EVE pilot will make throughout their career are minor, it’s all part of the sandbox experience and the possibility of failure keeps us on our toes. Practically everyone has been suicide ganked at one point, run head-first into a pirate gatecamp, or had some scheme fall apart unexpectedly, and we take those losses in our stride. The problem is those rare times when things go so catastrophically wrong that you can lose everything that keeps you interested in the game.

It’s the miner who grinds for months to buy his first Rorqual and loses it to pirates the next day, or the industrialist who loses all of his original blueprints in a gank or heist. It’s the corp leader who sees his organisation fall apart because they can’t handle a war declaration, or the alliance grunt who has just been evicted from the home he’s spent months building. There are moments when people can completely lose the thing that keeps them interested in the game, so should CCP should be striving to eliminate as many of those catastrophic failure possibilities as possible?

Safety nets and community collapse

As much as we like to think of EVE as a cold and harsh universe where you could lose everything in one attack and a single player could topple an empire, the truth is that EVE has always had safety nets to protect against catastrophic failures. Ship insurance reduces the financial cost of losing a ship, skill points are no longer lost on death, and blueprints can be locked down in a station to prevent theft. Reinforcement timers on structures give you time to evacuate assets if your home comes under attack, and the asset safety system now makes it impossible to lose items stored in a citadel even if it’s blown up.

So could any additional safety nets help prevent other cases where players are driven to breaking point? Certainly the war declaration system that has driven countless small highsec corps from the game is in dire need of an overhaul, and a clearer corporation role system would help prevent players accidentally exposing their corps to theft. But in cases of social breakdowns such as alliances collapsing and corps falling apart, the best safety net will probably always be the EVE community and the corps that actively recruit players and help give them a place in the game.

Every new player learns the golden rule of “never fly anything you can’t afford to lose,” but what about the greater risks we can’t choose for ourselves? EVE may be a pure meritocracy on the scale of everyday gameplay, but there are still plenty of ways that a competent player can lose the thing that keeps them interested in the game through no fault of their own. To quote a certain wise old starship captain, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”

Every EVE player will inevitably experience an event that could push him to breaking point, whether it’s losing months of progress to an unexpected gank or losing your corporation to an untimely war declaration. Is there anything CCP or players can do to make these events less catastrophic for players, any safety net that would prevent players from quitting when the worst occurs? Perhaps we as a community must simply learn to embrace these events as the engines of change that they are, as opportunities to try something new in EVE Online rather than giving up.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!

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kgptzac

Not everybody has to leave this game bitterly. For example, I left Eve because, well, Guild Wars 2 happened. Time is limited and I was more into GW2 than Eve.

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Sleepy

Goonswarm, pretty much.

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BalsBigBrother

I didn’t get pushed away from EVE Online even being ganked a couple of times didn’t push me away as I had already accepted that was going to happen so played accordingly but I did kind of drift away from it.

I only ever found that I enjoyed the scanning down of relic and data sites and wormhole exploring. Non of the other stuff really hit the right spots for me personally. It was either too constraining or so way out of my league that it was beyond my means to reasonably reach or just not of interest full stop.

In the end it came down to be having to do things that I didn’t find fun to get to the things that seemed like they might be fun at some point or I could go play something else that I knew I would have fun with right away (guess which I picked).

I have no ill feelings for EVE Online and I may well return at some point to pick up on the scanning as I had just put together a decent Stratios build. However, for now other games are hitting more of the fun buttons for me personally.

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Sally Bowls

I think a fundamental problem is that the best interests of the CPP shareholders and the vocal EVE players (and the devs) are not aligned. I could see if you poured a lot of money into EVE you could get a million subscribers (a lot of money – far more than would be profitable.) But I can’t conceive of how to come close to that and retain more than 20% of the vocal players. Can a few tweaks really impact much? Does significant growth require an expensive and risky “NGE” that will devastate the existing player retention? I can’t see how “listening to the players” isn’t going to preclude a huge % of the potential addressable market.

A related problem is, “What does CCP want to be when it grows up?” If EVE were part of a NCSoft or EA, then it could be one of the cash cows to fund some other games, growth games. CCP shareholders have repeatedly given money to a management team that is more aggressive than wise or competent for them to aim big – WoD, WiS, DUST, VR, … None of that has paid off. How much longer will they keep spending like that? Is the (reading between the lines) new strategy of mobile, perhaps Asian mobile, going to get funded? If non-EVE diversification does not work and, for the reasons in this article and others, EVE is a mature business without a lot of growth prospects, then what is the strategy going forward? Keep a tight grip on expenses and cut costs faster than revenue declines? What do the VCs who own CCP want/expect out of CCP???

Perhaps we as a community must simply learn to embrace these events as the engines of change that they are, as opportunities to try something new in EVE Online rather than giving up.

” try something new rather than giving up” is sound advice for your jobs, relationships, exercise plans and diets. But it seems quite dubious for an aging, declining videogame hobby. Ignore the sunk costs and move on might be wiser. Perhaps even noticing the “breaking points” of others around you and not having to wait until they hit you.

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Pandalulz

Unless you play EVE solo and in the most hyper-paranoid way possible, you will inevitably need to trust other players and expose yourself to risk.

This is how I played and eh, at the end, it was just boredom that did me in. You can play entirely in Hi-Sec by your self with very little risk of players messing with you, but it’s not very much fun. Running missions and complexes endlessly got really old. Not to mention that the last skill I learned before I quit took over a month of real time. Eventually, you set your queue, log out, and then just never log back in.
I’m not saying the whole game is boring, but the part of it that fits my play style is, and I came to terms with that.

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Sally Bowls

QFT

Eventually, you set your queue, log out, and then just never log back in.

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Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

Having played from the beta to various points on and off, it really might be the childish tantrums that turns off players but mostly it is usually, that no one wants to admit if you stop playing for six months you have to spend actual currency to catch up just the level of game play you were at and you have to grind low level missions to build rep with the npc mission givers to get better gear and missions.

The only way you lost skills in early game was if you did not have a back up copy of the data by training the clone skill and what you lost if you got pod killed was what was not trained on the clone. Most people back then did not pod kill unless they were after parts from your ship and many times the only people pod killing were posers since the more experience players would simply farm the series of wrecks for salvage and better weapons as if they were fighting an npc complex. then 2008 rolled around and the game became really popular with the griefer crowd and every time the game gets better the longer the tread mill to level up older characters to the point the game is fun again gets. It really faction decay that causes the most issues. That seems designed to both keep people playing and deter players from coming back to the game. pretty it was not designed that way but most mmo companies need money coming in every month to keep the lights on not a six month glut of money then six moneys of no money. if they could budget for those times when some player go try out the newest game out they might better balance some of those systems but they tend to encourage a feeling of inclusiveness in the players that stay so who knows. there is not a single mmo game that is not basically a death match game that stands still and really you have to wonder if that is even possible without it becoming boring for the people playing constantly? but basically eve’s down fall is that if you stop playing your main toon for six months you are in a worse position than a player just starting the game with potentially less skill points unless you have simply less the characters training while gone.

no one rage quits a game, that is just a meme that is funny because most people know that the people who quit in anger are being attacked by other players who want what ever feats of strength that player has. They can always come back to the game after the players find other keeps to attack, but some times the developers fall into the thinking griefers are a target audience. they are not simply because one of the targets they are griefing is the developers pay check.

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Richard Blade

I cancelled 25 accounts and quit eve when they banned broadcast multiboxing, played all 25 subbed w plex for 2 years before that. If they don’t want my $6,000 in sub payments per year, their loss. I know others with 25-100 accounts also who took that opportunity to quit.

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Sleepy

Er…good?

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kgptzac

I don’t like games that force me to play alts, or even multi boxing, so I’m glad CCP got rid of the most extreme actors. Maybe one day bots will see their numbers severely dwindled, and the gameplay is changed so capital ship pilots no longer requires a second account for cyno and scouting.

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Sally Bowls

I think a big problem is Eve’s time and timeframes are out of sync with 2018. If a grunt can play two Overwatch , a Wot, a WoWs and a LoL match in the time it takes for something to happen in EVE, then EVE is never going to be close to mainstream. This is exacerbated by EVE deliberately marketing to the most impatient. You might find some industrialists or explorers who wouldn’t mind a slow pace but the pew-pew xxXBeeXxx “i want to blow someone up” pilot is not as tolerant over the long term.

My pet peeve is autopilot. Even if you are not wardecced and in hisec, people tell you not to autopilot. But spending a couple of hours to relocate slow ships from some pleasantly uncrowded edge of one hisec empire to another is something I find absurd.

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Sally Bowls

Re “WHAT PUSHES EVE ONLINE PLAYERS TO BREAKING POINT?” I think a lot of times the “what pushes them” and the breaking point are two different things. It hadn’t been fun for a while; logging in was a chore to be dreaded not looked-forward-to entertainment. So the gank, the theft, the corp disintegration are not the reason just the trigger that enables the player to give themselves permission to walk away (in vet speak, “to win EVE”)

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Resivan

I took a break from Eve because I started a new job and didn’t have the time and energy for the solo industrial operation I’d been running. By the time I was ready to come back, CCP had committed to making hisec industry far less viable. I made a couple of attempts to find another play style that appealed to me, usually when I resubbed to vote for CSM, but never found anything that made me want to stay subscribed.