Once upon a time Eve Online players were fairly contented.

Yes many of them complained about various things such as ship balancing, Player Owned Stations (POS), various bugs, some exploits, Lag, more Lag, even more Lag and so on.

But overall they kept on playing and the subscriber count kept on growing. Players accepted the issues because the core game was fun and the real time skill training kept them subscribed (we’ll ignore ghost training for the moment ;)). CCP kept adding updates and fixes and the players supported Eve by continuing to subscribe as well as bringing in fresh blood (or at the least encouraging new players to join corps and thus have more fun). Players supported Eve and CCP themselves.

So when CCP asked players to vote for Eve Online: Tyrannis in the best online game category of the European Games Awards they probably didn’t expect quite the reaction in the thread. Yes there is a fair bit of trolling going on in that thread right now, but something has fundamentally changed in the last month. Since the release of the CSM minutes and the devblog CCP released in response many players have been more willing to openly criticize CCP. There has always been a vocal minority on forums and in recent years players have become bitter vets, however now people who haven’t really been active on the forums are posting messages questioning CCP’s direction.

What is going wrong?
CCP have been very honest with their development priorities and allocations. This openness is to be applauded however it highlighted what some players had feared, the actual number of developers working on the “flying in space” feature of Eve Online is low compared to the total number of Devs working on Eve Online as a whole. Now those numbers lack some important context. We don’t know how many devs were working on “flying in space” for dominion, the only numbers we have for comparison are Apocrypha which apparently had 300 Devs working on it, pulled in from other projects.

So player rage is mostly concentrated on the apparent lack of progress on Eve’s flying in space feature and the “borrowed” Devs from other projects returning to them after the release of Apocrypha. In addition there are many players such as myself who feel slightly let down by the inclusion of Incarna Devs in the count of people working on Eve Online.

CCP class Incarna as part of Eve Online. I don’t – yet…
The crux of the matter for me is that Incarna is vapourware, it doesn’t exist anywhere outside of CCP and we still don’t have any clue how it links into the Eve universe other than taking place inside the stations we dock our ships into. Will I as a “flying in space” player be forced to session change into another game to go and speak to my mission agent or to place things on the market? I hope not…

So far there has been no word of what you’ll be able to do other than the vague promises of “opening a bar”, outfits, “player housing” and various minigames. There have been some videos at Fanfests showing some of this stuff, but in general CCP remain tight lipped over the actual gameplay part of Incarna. One thing we have been told is that there isn’t any concord in stations and that there won’t be any combat. You could argue that currently there isn’t any combat whilst docked so no combat when walking in stations is the same.

But do CCP really think a significant number of new players will subscribe to Eve once Incarna is released? What will those players do when they are “forced” to undock to change stations? How can Eve, which has thousands of stations, attract enough people out of their ships to avoid stations looking like ghost towns devoid of other players? Doesn’t the whole thing sound like a terrible clone of Second Life?

I can certainly understand why the players of “flying in space” feel they are being short changed by the expansion development schedule which basically consists of Incarna and minor “flying in space” fixes where time allows. Do CCP see this yet? Is it purely a vocal minority or is there a significant disconnect building in the relationship with the players?

Hilmar’s presentation at CGDC had better be full of epic win because on current form players haven’t run out of rage but some have run out of patience. Only CCP have the numbers on how many accounts have been cancelled in the last month, and I’m sure it isn’t a hugely significant number in the grand scheme of things. But if long term Eve supporters are now openly saying no more then somebody at CCP had better take notice and do something quickly.