Monday, October 7, 2013

A (Not So) Surprising Comparison

The Eveosphere seems obsessed with a topic about whether CCP should give out ships to community site, and what sites deserve them.  I think I'll stay out of this conversation for at least two more days if I write about the drama at all.  Instead I want to address something that CCP Fozzie said on Wiggles' show on EVE Radio last Wednesday.  DJ BigCountry asked how scared is CCP of Star Citizen.

CCP Fozzie:  Star Citizen is a very different game. 

BC:  What?!

CCP Fozzie:  I look forward to giving it a try when it comes out.  I think it may be very decent.  I think it's good to see more sci-fi games because those are a lot of fun.

BC:  Can you tell me how it's different, exactly?  I must have missed that.

CCP Fozzie:  It's not a sandbox MMO.  It's an entirely different genre; it's an entirely different type of game.  It's similar thematically.  It's got the same type of setting.  But the actual game content is extremely different.  It's not a sandbox MMO the way EVE is.  A more direct competitor actually to us in that way is EverQuest.
I'll admit that since I heard that Star Citizen is the game that will kill EVE that I started visiting the Star Citizen forums and poked around a bit.  From what I can tell, Fozzie is correct and Star Citizen is not an MMO, or at least and MMORPG.  Private servers?  No character development aside from collecting ships and gear?  A slider bar to determine the chances of running into other players?  I got the impression that the game will be heavily instanced, with the same area in-game having several instances set to the slider levels.  Oh, and in a very non-EVE type of thing, no player-controlled regions of space.  Not having player-controlled space doesn't mean it's not an MMO, but it means that not all EVE players will want to migrate to Star Citizen.

Of course, all of the above doesn't mean that CCP doesn't have to worry about Star Citizen luring players away.  If a game is good enough, players will go.  Does anyone remember the impact Skyrim had not just on EVE but all other games?  Of course, I probably shouldn't compare a game not even in alpha to Skyrim, but who knows?  Well, except that I won't play Star Citizen, that is.  A game where people are spending hundreds of dollars on ships and lifetime insurance so they never permanently lose those ships just doesn't interest me.

The EverQuest comparison for the next games in the franchise, EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark, I think is more apt.  Both are MMORPGs, with EverQuest Next Landmark promising to make its mark as a true sandbox in the tradition of Minecraft.  But SOE is also advertising EQNext as a sandbox MMORPG.  A sandbox MMO?  Not too many of those, are there?  The biggest, most successful one I can think of is ... EVE Online.

We'll see how much of Eve University and the CFC (and possibly TEST) rubbed off on Sony Online Entertainment CEO John Smedley and then is transferred to EQNext.  But the early indications are that EQNext will have a feature that CCP is apparently implementing beginning with Rubicon.  I don't know how many people are picking up on it, but CCP is slowly releasing features as part of CCP Seagull's vision of breaking free and expanding beyond our known area of space.  Not only does this prevent having a game-breaking Jesus feature dropped on us, but the slow pace also allows the lore to develop around the effort also.  EQNext is also doing something similar, parceling out the content and letting the players build things instead of just plopping new things down into the world.  I got that from the presentation in which talk was made of players building Halas.  Does SOE plan on tearing down the lore and letting the players relive it, making their own marks on the story?  That I have to see.

A player-driven story where players see their efforts affect the game world.  Not done in quite the same fashion as in EVE but a player-driven story nonetheless.  That definitely beats the Star Citizen game model.  I'd even hazard to say that model would draw more people away from EVE than Star Citizen.


  1. Star Citizen is a kickstarter scam man, enjoy that hanger suckers. Yeah CCP has nothing to fear fozzie is right on. EQnext is more likely an eve killer. Most ppl dont seem to remember that eve was born because UO got to nice. It seems to reason that EQ could be the closest thing we have seen to UO in 20 years and could be an eve killer. All that said its made by chances that it will stay good even if it launches good are slim to none

  2. I do think that Star Citizen isn't quite aiming for the same audience that revels in EVE's large-scale gameplay; what they're doing is starting at a more ... intimate level, I suppose would be the best way to put it, with players as more ordinary people, instead of the demigod capsuleers of EVE.

    And as for the "spending money to get ships you can't lose" thing ... the closest parallel, I think, would be to people supporting PBS or the Metropolitan Opera, with the ship and insurance being basically the tote bag you get as a token. You're not paying for the tote bag; you're paying money to support the project. "Masterpiece Theater is made possibly by support from viewers like you." That sort of thing.

    And while lifetime insurance is restricted to backers, the developers are planning on offering term insurance for in-game cash, which basically gets you the same benefits as lifetime insurance. And even people with lifetime insurance may not get replacement ships immediately; there may be delays in production, you may be five systems away from where your ship's delivered, that sort of thing, and the insurance mechanism doesn't even take into account the possibility that your character could get killed, in a mechanism that's somewhat different from EVE's medical clone system.

    A lot of Star Citizen's audience, I suspect, will be people who tried EVE and lost interest because it didn't offer them the sort of experience they'd had in games like the X-Wing or Wing Commander or Freespace series. Their audience isn't the sort of people who want to be warlords, or to command thousand-ship fleets, or to personally direct superpower-level conflicts. But the more small-time EVE players ... the ones who get blapped, griefed, belittled as scrubs or pubbies, told to harden the fbeep up or biomass themselves ... the ones who get bored with the PVE experience ... they just might be drawn away.

    (There may also be something visceral about it; given the choice between commanding a ship from its tactical center, or flying a ship from its helm, which would you choose? I'd choose the latter; many would choose the former, I'm sure.)

    Star Citizen's over a year from full release, though. At the moment, they're still designing ships and preparing the dogfighting module; there may actually be more abilities for players to affect the course of the in-game universe than they're talking about at the moment.