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Why EVE Online needs to get their butt in gear

Today’s blog post will probably only interest about 5% of the people that read my diatribes, if that many. This subject has been eating at me since Dragon*Con. I have been going to Dragon*Con for the last 4 years. Between eating at Trader Vic’s, Chicken ‘n Waffles, paying big bucks for autographs and standing in lines, I do actually attend a few panels. The one I have made sure to attend each year is the EVE Online panel. For those of you ‘not in the know’, EVE Online (EVE) is a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG or MMO) set within a space faring science fiction (SyFy many may say) backdrop. EVE’s biggest difference is that all 30,000+ players participate on one server. Everybody plays in the exact same sandbox. EVE is run by CCP, which has its US offices in Stone Mountain, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, the same city in which Dragon*Con is held. Even though they are just 30 minutes from the venue, CCP has had the inability to send anything more than a ‘talking head’ to the panel. Last year, it was a single story guy that had little to no information. This year, it was 2 marketing guys and a single story guy. You would think with some marketing goobers there we would have some pretty pictures or new ‘smoke and mirrors’ promotional videos…. ANYTHING! Even those losers over at Sony Online (creators of such stinkers as Matrix Online and Star Wars Galaxies) could muster up some videos and graphics, but the CCP locals could only offer talking heads… again.

For those that have not played EVE Online, its number one complaint is the extremely steep learning curve. This graphic was making its way around the EVE forums about a year ago, but it is almost a perfect example of what people have to deal with when trying to play EVE.

This ‘advantage’ of EVE makes its players a very loyal lot, but it makes adding new players extremely hard. You cannot just pick-up the game and go out and begin shooting ‘rats’ in an asteroid belt. EVE itself has very poor documentation and trying to find out information about the game can be very difficult. This question came up many times in this panel and each time the representatives of CCP sitting behind the table, wearing the CCP corporate shirts, pointed to PLAYER GENERATED CONTENT! Yes, the company itself cannot support its own game and has now relied on its own customer base to provide support and documentation. I will repeat, CCP depends solely on unpaid CUSTOMERS to provide the documentation and information to play its own game. I was completely dumbfounded that corporate representatives would admit (though not directly) that they were so lacking in the most basic of customer support. As the panel went on, the CCP Reps continued on about how they are the #3 MMO in the world. I can only assume World of Warcraft is #1 but #2 eludes me. CCP seems to be fine to rest on its laurels and continue on its road of mediocrity because as poor as they may be, EVE is the only viable space based MMO out there… currently. CCP really needs to get its act together and quickly. Their position as the only player in the SciFi genre MMO field is coming to an end with two HUGE powerhouse franchises looming on the horizon.

The first is Cryptic’s Star Trek Online which is expected to launch its closed beta testing (a ‘perk’ in the purchase of Lifetime or 6-month subscriptions to Champions Online) in the next 6 months. With the recent blockbuster movie in theaters this summer, the re-release of the original series and movies on Blu-ray, the Star Trek franchise is at its greatest height in the last 20 years. With Cryptic’s success with City of Heroes and Champions Online, coupled with the marketing power of Atari, Star Trek Online will be a force of contention right out of the gate.

The second is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR) which according to rumor has already begun its closed beta sign-ups. This game should not be confused with the epic failure Star Wars Galaxies that started well but entered a tail spin that caused it to crash into the ground nearly 6 years ago. Where SW:TOR has a leg up is its proven development studio. BioWare, the creators of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II, Balder’s Gate, Jade Empire and Mass Effect, will be taking their RPG creation to the MMO arena. With only a few story videos and other ‘smoke and mirror’ marketing items, SW:TOR has created such buzz in the MMO community, you would have thought it was the cure to cancer.

Unless EVE makes some MAJOR changes in the way it handles its business and customer support its grand ‘sandbox’ will only have a few trolling cats in the next year. Its time to get a swift kick in the ass and projects like DUST 514 may help, but have just as much chance of pulling needed resources away from the important projects. I fear that complacency has infected the CCP team and they will be the dying elephant for the next year.

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