EVE Online. If you haven’t played it, you’ve certainly heard about it. The longest-growing MMO out there, as Syncaine never tires of telling us – although hardly the FASTEST growing. A game secure in its niche as the only space mining/trading/combat MMO of any consequence, the last, best hope for those of us who gre up playing Elite and want that same sense of a vast universe full of limitless possibilities.
EVE is also the biggest free-for-all PvP sandbox in the Western MMO market. A game where it’s possible to gank newbies if you’re willing to take the (not too onerous) consequences. A game where the cost of BEING ganked can be quite horrific if you’re not careful. A game where the attitude of the dev team is to tell players to “harden the f*** up”. In short, with apologies to Spinks, this is a game for MEN.
For years, EVE has traded on the second niche. Statistics show the vast majority of players never venture out of high-sec space – they’re all enjoying that Elite-style PvE experience. But all of the publicity has been around the great battles and grand betrayals… and about the vicious behaviour of the scammers and suicide gankers who live to “harvest tears”.
Stabs is of the opinion that EVE may have to ‘Trammelise’ and enforce a hard segregation between the PvP wolfpit and the PvE ‘carebear’ experience. Certainly, the prospect of being unwilling asshole-fodder has cost them players who either quit or never took up the game because the cost of having their gaming time ruined for the amusement of some random jerk outweighed the pleasure they would have got from the PvE side of the game. But EVE has been the only real choice for players in both the niches. If Jumpgate Evolution had made it to launch it could have presented a threat in the PvE niche at least… but that’s NetDevil for you. But while EVE is doing well in terms of number of PvP subscribers, it’s not exactly got premier league PvE numbers. There’s every chance it could have a lot more subscribers playing in high-sec if that became a truly safe zone, even if all the hardcore PvPers (many of whom AREN’T suicide gankers and have no wish or intention to go pick on people who want to be left alone) quit in disgust. Contrariwise, if the rate of gankage picks up the minority of gankers will get their jollies at the expense of driving PvE subscribers away.
Trying to be a game in two niches is like trying to be a servant of two masters. Pleasing one is always going to cause problems with the other. EVE has got away with it so far for lack of competition – but if credible competition shows up, or if the two niches come into sharper conflict, then CCP are going to have to make a choice: the hardcore PvP game that the devs obviously personally prefer, or the carebear experience that on all the evidence is actually paying the bills.