Boy, I can sure pick the times to be away from the game, can’t I? Or rather, my laptop can (status update: still waiting on Best Buy, whereas Amazon got me my components in two days. No wonder why BB is dying).
First, we had jump fatigue. While we had some change aversion, it also brought very real frustration from logistics and industry pilots, as well as the penalty to subcap movement when one wasn't needed. And yet, it did accomplish the Balkanization of supercaps, which was a very good – and necessary – thing for the game. Lowsec entities, in particular, cheered the changes.
Then, we had FozzieSov. At first, the system was very bad, then it improved as CCP released revisions, and then it launched and sapped the soul right out of every defender. The process as structured isn’t working as intended. One of CCP’s stated goals – a noble one – was to make the results of sov battles more accurately reflect control of the grid. CCP envisioned small gangs holding the line and killing cross-entosis ships, with ECM battles and a delicate interplay of various factors as forces jockeyed for control. In reality, we got lone trolls and piles of nodes attackers never intended on contesting.
And then, apparently the developers went on vacation right after releasing FozzieSov.
Now, I recognize the allure of a vacation after a long project, but I submit that it’s probably not wise to do so when you’re irrevocably changing one of your core offerings. Please keep this in mind for the new AI methodology, or PvE players are going to throw a fit.
FozzieSov completely misread the situation on the ground. Many of the alliances who had been pushed out of sov came back as members of the remaining coalitions. Others moved on, spreading beyond the obligations of the sov game. Many players also simply just left the game. They tried it, and they were bludgeoned by those who could commit more time, were better organized, or more motivated. There was no middle ground – either you’re the best, or you’re dead. And when you fail utterly at something (or appear to), it tends to sour you to the prospect of it in the future. The assumption that Eve had dozens of groups just yearning to commit themselves 24/7 to sov seems to have proven… well, let’s be polite and say, “optimistic”. It’s all fine to compress empires, but you need bodies to step into the void, bodies willing to put themselves between those empires as punching bags. Anyone? Anyone?
These were miscalculations. FozzieSov flopped from a few key product perspectives. It decreased satisfaction among existing users (null players). Poor word-of-mouth discouraged new users from adopting it. Those who were engaged with the system were excited for engagement-negative reasons: they wanted to burn down someone else’s holdings out of passion, but had no intention of replacing those holdings with something of their own. FozzieSov became an exposed weakness unique to those who had the courage to give the system a try, a punishment to those who gave it a shot.
But all of that can be fixed. It’s certainly not too late, and I was happily seeing player counts increase again until my computer died last week. CCP still has people’s attention, and that’s all that’s required to successfully introduce fixes. Frustration represents passion thwarted. So, just un-thwart it.
And then, the round table happened… and about a million posts on reddit expressing frustration about it. Over on his blog, Endie nobly places blame on the CSM, of which he’s a part, for failing to set expectations properly. I’m not sure that’s the issue. I respect what the CSM tried to do by facilitating a conversation directly between the players and the developers. That’s their role, and I’m not going to slam them for trying to fulfill it. Good on you for giving it a shot. Sure, they could have limited the comments about FozzieSov more, but that’s not really the point, is it?
The fault lies with having this conversation about a frustrating but manageable mechanic (it’s colloquially called “space AIDS”) a month after a colossally soul-sucking sov system was announced that has infuriated current null owners. “Hey, guys, now that our team absolutely fell flat in the playoffs and several members gave the finger to the fans who dared to boo them, we’d like to have a round table fan discussion about this past year’s trade deadline strategy.” I wonder how that conversation will go.
Why couldn’t this conversation happen two months ago? From a Marketing perspective, it SHOULD have happened before Fozziesov to separate feelings about the two topics and prevent any spoiling of the well. For it to happen now suggests – suggests, as I don’t believe it’s true! – that CCP is deaf to the frustration of sov players.
The Summer of Rage happened because CCP wasn’t making improvements to the players’ game, was adding new features that fell short of expectations, and was launching outrageously expensive glamour objects. People flipped out even though their playing experience was exactly the same.
And now we have FozzieSov and fatigue degrading the quality of the most organized group of players’ daily game experience, new features which serve to actually create more headaches for sov and asset owners (destructible stations), and dozens of new skins coming out to suck up more isk/aurum. This time, the daily, individual experience of players is declining.
And that’s why you get reactions like you saw this week. It’s not the CSM’s fault for failing to set expectations. There’s a gulf between CCP’s perception that player frustration is ephemeral and null players’ increasing realization that the sov game isn’t worth participating in anymore.
Based on the number of comments I’ve seen – and continue to see – about how “FozzieSov is unfun”, I think it’s safe to say player frustration isn’t ephemeral, but endemic of the new sov system as it’s currently structured. The only way it’s going to go away is by driving out players who would complain. And that’s no real solution.
It can be tweaked. Like a cyno, making the entosising ship immobile, yet able to still get reps. Make it require a fleet to defend it as it does its work. Give defenders the obligation to respond in force, yet also the promise of content once they engage. Eliminate the incentives to be a troll and increase the incentives for roaming gangs to move together and actually “control the grid”. Players want to know that they their response fleet arrives, it’ll see some action. Give it to them. Eliminate the soul-sucking.
Because without changing something, neither will the results.