This started as a reply to Trebor’s blog post but I expanded it a little (for some reason I can’t post a comment there ;)). Please read his post for context, though I’ve gone a bit off topic in places 😉 Consider it a stream of conciousness piece.
Also please note that one of the main issues I had with incarna was a feature that still hasn’t (as far as I know) been mentioned by CCP in public and thus might no longer be planned and yes I am aware that after telling CSM5 a number of times that it wouldn’t be an option that CCP talked about letting people opt out of CQ. Hold them to it 😉
Trebor, CCP were at this crossroads at least 18 months ago. At that time they decided to ignore any negative assessment of Incarna, 18 months and the general focus of Eve (Don’t worry guys it will be AWESOME! Trust Us”.
This isn’t a slight at those hard working people at CCP who have no control over the big decisions, however there are clear signs that even some of the staff are not happy with this current direction. Yes it is wise for CCP to branch out and get a second revenue stream, this is expected and required. However the point I kept on making and was probably laughed at for was this:
CCP have 600 staff many supporting families that are being supported mostly by the income from a single product and any venture capital they raised for additional projects. This is not the time to dick around with the cash cow, this is the time to take care of it whilst the other projects are prepared for release.
But CCP are fearless (some might say clueless :P) and instead decided that they could continue the stagnation of the core game (other than some quick fixes), add enforced bolt ons such as Incarna (sit alone or get shown the door) and remove the face from every character in the game without providing enough flexibility in the system to allow people to create something similar. There is no evidence that they considered the jarring effect this would have (an aside here, look at the thought Blizzard have been putting into protecting the way people’s characters look while they discuss updating the models, they have spoken about the issue a few times recently – did you notice that CCP? I know many of your staff are wow players).
Yes enforced avatar removal might seem like a petty complaint to some people (especially given my stance on incarna), but it was utterly unnecessary and as the infrastructure in place is just serving out static images it could have been preloaded had CCP actually cared about existing player immersion. The fact is it was done for two reasons. 1) somebody in art direction hated the old faces so didn’t want to see them anymore and 2) CCP wanted to claim they had the best character creator in the industry when clearly APB was far more advanced ;)) It was a case of CCP know best and players can deal with it or quit.
Speaking of ABP, we come to another problem. CCP are now actively discouraging or scared of letting players use the sandbox. The “time to penis” excuses are just CCP derping. They have the ability to set the rules on the creation of content (even restricting the publication of new items to accounts over a certain age to stop alt account spamming), but it would put the players at odds with CCP’s double dipping if players were able to create and sell clothes etc to each other.
Look at second life for the concept of player driven content done well and making money from it. Players create the items, they pay a small fee to upload them (A service which CCP could have handled as a one off charge with microplex) and can then sell copies to other players – wow, player driven market, how scary. CCP could have taken this concept further and made the upload into a type of clothing BPC which needed PI materials to create (for example). A BPC means that you can charge for another upload in future which would be worthwhile to the creator if the item is popular etc. See CCP, it is possible to think up content for players in stations that builds on the old flying in space features (though describing PI as part of FIS is a stretch ;)) without enforcing use of one or the other. A player market would develop for these clothing items and expanding the amount of things that can be provided from PI whilst keeping the number of structures a single person can manage adds more choice to the production. I wouldn’t care if such a system was developed because I had no interest in playing avatar dress up – but I know some people do. It is possible to cater to both sets of people without pissing them off if you provide choice not enforcement. You might think it is a terrible idea, that’s cool I’m not a game designer and never claimed to be. Point is there was never any discussion with the CSM about how player produced content could be handled. We just get “time to penis” as the reason behind it.
Anyway, Virt level WOT aside 😉 the take home point here is that both Wow and Eve have recently been focusing more on attracting newer players (wow by redoing all the low level content (plus making level 1-20 free) and Eve by trying to cater to the sitting in stations market) and both have seen a significant drop of paid subscriptions (if Eve PCU is an indication though apparently wow is picking up a good number of trial accounts). Both companies assumed the limited high end content would keep their long term players happy but it is clearly not the case and long term players are burning out at a faster rate than newer players are signing up.
As people wondered a while ago – 18 months started when?