Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Why CCP Continues To Push FPS Play In The EVE Universe

Back during Fanfest this year, CCP announced a new, first person shooter module for EVE Online. Instead of pulling up footage from the keynote address, I'll pull up the press release instead.

In a surprise announcement, CCP Games also presented a first look at EVE Vanguard, an upcoming multiplayer FPS module for EVE Online being developed using Unreal Engine 5. In this dynamic and evolving shooter, players will take on the role of the Vanguard, a new generation of war clones fighting for their survival and to free their consciousness as they undertake hazardous contracts on the planets of New Eden.

In squads or solo, players will deploy onto the surface of planets wracked with turmoil and littered with opportunity. To advance their clone, suit and equipment, players will need to complete missions, acquire resources and engage in tactical combat with rival Vanguard squads as well as hostile forces, each with their own agenda. EVE Vanguard will be connected to EVE Online from day one, starting with Vanguard players being able to impact EVE Online through Frontline Corruption. Over time, new gameplay, content and interoperability with EVE Online will be added, deepening the immersion for players and the living universe of New Eden.

If the websites I visit are any indication, people are puzzled as to why CCP continues to not only push another FPS game onto the market but link the game to the EVE Universe as well. Hasn't CCP tried before and always failed? Isn't the definition of insanity, “...doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”?

As a semi-retired practitioner of Texas Space Law, I don't have the time to play psychologist. But I have paid for at least two EVE Online subscriptions for over 14 years. I've also written about EVE for over 14 years, posting slightly over 1700 blog posts with the EVE tag during that time. In addition, I have attended 13 major EVE conventions, including 7 in Reykjavik, Iceland, in which EVE game devs and CCP community staff attended. So let me try to explain why I think plans to attach EVE: Vanguard directly to EVE Online.

1. EVE Forever. When I first heard the phrase "EVE Forever" at Fanfest in 2013, I thought, "Oh great, another lame marketing campaign." But a funny thing happened. CCP's Chief Marketing Director at the time, David Reid, left the company with the closing of the San Francisco office in 2014, I thought the phrase would leave with him. But a funny thing happened. The phrase is brought up at least once in every keynote address. At this point, a skeptical observer has to admit the concept has some deeper meaning than a marketing tagline. And if the EVE intellectual property is to last for decades, then some sort of growth needs to come to the franchise and its flagship game.

2. Redemption for DUST 514. I'm not sure redemption is quite the correct term, but I get the feeling the staff at CCP believes adding FPS play to gameplay on the global Tranquility shard is a reasonable proposition. In September Director of Product Snorri  "CCP Rattati" Árnason gave an interview to PC Gamer:

But Dust had problems, and not the least among them was CCP's unusual decision to make it a PlayStation 3 exclusive (Sony co-published the game and doubtless provided a financial incentive for doing so). That always felt so odd to me because, of all the PC-ass PC games, surely EVE Online is one of the most singular: You cannot imagine it being possible on any other platform, yet this linked experience was never on PC itself. I ask Árnason how he felt about that exclusivity and the decision to close the game in 2016.

"I was a part of making that decision," says Árnason. "So it was hard but needed to happen, because we simply couldn't continue on the platform. Then I personally went through all of the motions of trying to evolve it: so moving from PS3 to PC, updating, I went through all of these internal phases, we had Legion [a successor announced at EVE Fanfest 2014], various internal codenames etcetera. So it was hard but at that time I really thought we would do it, and it kind of felt that if we would come back to it we would be able to deliver and put it back on PC where it kind of belongs. Looking at, like, Warframe was big at the time. And I always wanted it to work and I think if we had been on PC the whole time the game would literally be alive. Like, it would just be growing and still be a part of EVE."

3. Redemption for The Summer of Rage. Back in June 2011 CCP launched the Incarna expansion. The events surrounding that expansion, from ridiculously priced items in the new cash shop to players experiencing their video cards melting, is a low point in the history of EVE Online.  One of the most egregious was the state "Walking in Stations" content came out. Initially labeled "The Minmatar closet", players not only experienced hardware issues but the removal of UI elements making the game harder to play. All in order to introduce avatars to New Eden.

Fast forward to today. By adding an FPS module to Tranquility, CCP will add fully functioning avatar gameplay to the game world. Better yet, by using Unreal Engine 5 instead of the internally developed Carbon engine designed for World of Darkness, players shouldn't have to worry about system performance or the software damaging computers. I eventually see all avatar related content in EVE switched over to Unreal Engine 5 to simplify maintaining the software. When that happens, CCP will finally deliver on the Ambulation promise first made back at Fanfest in November 2007.

4. Increased cash shop sales. Now we get into the more business related reasons. EVE Online and the EVE IP does well for a 20-year old game and franchise. But I believe when Pearl Abyss purchased CCP Games in 2018 they expected a little more than level sales. Our overlords in Anyang also operate Black Desert Online, a game rather notorious for its monetization model.

Personally, I believe the beancounters are a little disappointed in sales. Having played BDO, I can say I spent a lot more on items for my character in a couple of months playing BDO than I have in 14 years playing EVE.  But do you know which game I've probably spent $200-$300 over four years making my character look good? Final Fantasy XIV. As I mentioned before, I am not a psychologist, but my experience tells me video game players, on average, will spend more on their avatars than on their equipment (Forza players excepted).

5. Competition with Plan 8. With the long delay in the release of Crimson Desert, development of two other games, DokeV and Plan 8, were put on hold. Regular readers of my coverage of Pearl Abyss' quarterly earnings calls probably recognize the name DokeV, but what about Plan 8?

Plan 8 was originally introduced to investors as Project K back in August 2019. Pearl Abyss hired Counterstrike co-creator Minh Le as the technical director for the new project. With Plan 8 in the development queue, Pearl Abyss probably did not want CCP to compete with a new property, especially given the development problems involving Crimson Desert. Those problems are neatly skirted by adding the FPS gameplay of Vanguard directly into EVE. After all, no one will ever confuse EVE for an FPS game. 

6. Star Citizen. Some will think the idea of Star Citizen and EVE competing for the same audience is preposterous and I need to undergo drug testing. But please hear me out. For each of the last two years Cloud Imperium Games has brought in twice the revenue as the EVE IP. That's right. A game still in pre-alpha is handily brushing CCP to the side financially. Just as Elite Dangerous did with its Odyssey expansion, I believe CCP sees having some sort of avatar play in its game as a requirement to compete with Star Citizen when it finally reaches a point the developers announce the final server wipe. CCP still has a few years before that happens. 

7. Project Awakening. Until CCP finally releases more information on its play-to-earn/blockchain game, I will link developments in EVE to Project Awakening. The information released at the announcement of the $40 million funding round definitely makes Project Awakening sound like EVE 3.0

Tacking on an FPS module to a 20-year old game sounds crazy. Taking on FPS play to a brand new game sounds like Star Citizen or Starfield. I can see CCP using Tranquility as the model for Project Awakening. After all, developing two games with the same updates is an efficient use of money. As long at EVE looks as pretty as Project Awakening with lots of new ships and improved game systems, I don't really mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment