August 14, 2016

Reflections on Eve from No Man's Sky

“Are you cheating on No Man’s Sky with Eve?”, asks my wife as she sees glances over to the computer as I jump a gate.  It’s a reasonable question.  My son and I got through the PC launch problems Friday night and took turns putting a decent number of hours in.  No 24/7 marathons here, and my son is equally interested in catching up on episodes of “One Piece” as playing.  No Man’s Sky is definitely the new hotness though.  So why am I logging into Eve?

The answer isn’t quite comfortable for me - it feels as much like obligation as entertainment.  I have market orders that need updating, PI that needs to be moved about, and manufacturing jobs that have completed and replaced by new ones.  That’s not exactly the same as “let’s see what’s on that next planet” that No Man’s Sky offers.  The Eve activities have the feeling of obligation because they are means to an end - an end that isn’t here quite yet.  In some of those cases, there are people expecting me to run those manufacturing jobs, so I don’t want to let them down.  The market orders and PI are to make ISK that I can use in the future for ships.  All that sounds like great training for some simulation that means to teach kids about responsibility and planning for the future.  But is it fun?

Yes, it’s an argument that the Eve community has had many times.  Other games come along and Eve players give them a try, but in the trope we all know the players come back to Eve.  There’s a novelty to the new game. To carry my wife’s joking analogy along, it’s the flirting fun of that new relationship that puts the sparkle in the eye.  That novelty wears away and then it’s back to the tried and true, the more deeply engaging, where the longevity sits.  (Note: don’t carry this too far - Eve is far less likely than your spouse to throw you out for straying.)

No Man’s Sky fits this well with its theme of discovery and exploration.  The game teased the audience pre-release with a sense of wonder.  While we have an activity we call “exploration” in Eve, it’s hard to get that sense of wonder.  It’s hard for CCP to generate wonder when their cool new thing is visible on Sisi weeks ahead of launch, if not leaked of the Chaos server before that.  By the time it gets the Tranquility anyone who is clued in knows all the tricks.  Ghost sites?  Sleeper redoubts?  Mapped with optimal strategy from the get-go, which means that CCP has to balance it for perfect player knowledge, so if you intentionally keep yourself ignorant you’re probably going to get nuked.

The community has been talking about procedurally generated PVE sites for years - since I started playing at least.  I’ve opined before about the idea of the “new space” on the other side of player-build jumpgates being procedurally generated, with a new batch of NPCs driven by the latest AI routines.  We’re seeing serious discussion amongst CSMs and even hard-core PVPers that a reboot of Eve PVE is needed.  CCP has seen many possible rival internet spaceship games come and go, so I’m not saying they should be threatened by No Man’s Sky, but there is something to learn from it.

I expect my next log-in of real duration to Eve will be in response to a fleet ping (most recent ones in my corp seem to be for the EU TZ or out-of-school US types.)  When I look back, I hope it won’t be because of a feeling of obligation rather than excitement.