A bit over a year ago, in a post titled 'House of Dreams' I wrote about game designer CCP Greyscale's design goals for Eve Online. At the time I wrote that the goals were ambitious and mostly laudable. However, I noted at the time that the gulf between generalized goals drawn out on a white board and the execution needed to achieve said goals is exceedingly wide and with fraught with unfriendly practicalities.
Probably the most unfriendly practicality of all is how quickly the dunes in the Eve sandbox shift as the players therein push and jostle and remake the landscape. CCP designers like Greyscale seem to be at a complete loss when attempting to anticipate how the player community will leverage the game's digital mechanics. Indeed, 'game design', which normally assumes some degree of control over game-play and its impact the players' experience is something of a misnomer in Eve. CCP designers have shown exceedingly limited insight into how altering, introducing or eliminating game mechanics will impact game-play. Indeed, where game design is normally a proactive occupation, the CCP designers have become largely a reactive force; introducing changes that have no hope of incenting the desired player behaviors, and then behaving as though the resulting in-game mishigas was their intent all along.
At this point the designers seem to have given up altogether and turned away from improving the capsuleer experience in a manner that expands the player base. After all, monthly fees are the old revenue model. The new revenue model is micro-transactions. Why fuss over whether or not the kiddies in the sandbox are throwing cat feces at one another? After all, what's really important is that they remain in the sandbox.
Then it's a simple matter of raising the cost of cat feces.
And, if you look around, you'll note that the cost of cat feces is, indeed, going up. The trick, though, is to keep the players in the sand box despite the rising cost. Those are the players CCP wants most; the ones who stay through thick and thin. They want players whose social lives revolve around the game, who are in large 'winner' alliances and coalitions, or plucky underdog alliances. For players who closely identify with their corporation, alliance or coalition, leaving is not an option. Alliances and coalitions that failscade are bad business for CCP. Players in such alliances are much more likely to leave New Eden than their more secure counterparts.
Now, capsuleers won't pay real money for golden ammunition. But dust bunnies will. And if dust bunny muscle becomes as essential to nullsec sov, as it soon will be to FW, then holding nullsec is going to take an application of real money micro-transactions. Lots and lots of real money micro-transactions. And who better to fund the needed micro-transactions than massive nullsec coalitions. Let's face it: The leadership of a ten-thousand player coalition could easily maintain a sizable bunny army if sov (or messing with someone they don't like) were the reward. I mean, just holding a Test Alliance Please Ignore bake sale would likely fund a couple of well supplied dusty armored divisions for months.
So, if big coalitions represent both player retention and a large pools of potential micro-transaction, why in space would CCP want to make them to go away? And the answer is, I believe, that they don't. Rather than wasting money continuing the fight and spending CCP assets on fruitless design changes meant to eliminate the elephants in the Eve living room, CCP appears to have decided to milk the elephants. I mean, have you checked the price of elephant milk on the commodities markets?
As Ripard Teg commented recently, "Greyscale's dreams
aren't distant. They're dead, dead, dead". Small nullsec territories?
Small fleet PvP? Fields and Farms? Nice ideas, I suppose. Hard work, though. And there are easier
ways for CCP to turn a Kroner.