Thoughts on #incarna: necessity for #eveonline? Fun toy? Waste of time? Why? #tweetfleet #qotd
Heh. Try answering that in 140 characters or less! With Tyrannis deployed players thoughts are inevitably going to turn to the “what next?” question. Some players have been vocal in their demands for a feature freeze – or at the very least a mop up by CCP to “fix” all the “broken stuff” in EVE today.
I’m wary of such a agenda, as what’s “broken” to you may not be “broken” to me. One man’s nectar and all that. With that in mind I still feel that CCP can, and should, forge a path that expands upon EVE. As soon as we turn inwards we will find ourselves in an never ending spiral of balance and counter balancing.
Incarna is however a controversial topic not least because (from what we have seen to date) it sits very firmly on the side of fluff, and very obviously not on the side of function. Do we really, and I mean really need to be able to walk around a station? For now let’s assume that Incarna will just deliver a slightly more polished version of what we have seen so far, no more and no less. On that basis you’ll be able to walk around a station environment, change your avatars looks, run a bar and move some furniture around.
Purists will say that on this basis Incarna is not needed, and most definitely not a necessity. They will point out (perhaps rightfully) that EVE has done very well thank you for years without ambulation and therefore CCP should focus on what matters: spaceships, in space. To an extent I can sympathise with that, although I cant shake the feeling that these purists might be at the extreme end of social ineptitude living in their Moms basement and are therefore terrified of being exposed as such through the medium of Incarna.
I can certainly see how many feel that (again from what we know) Incarna is a waste of time – after all if you work down a logical path it rather seems that way: undock, leave pod, walk about, enter bar, play chess….ummm….and that’s it? Shouldn’t we be following a rather more exciting route of: undock, warp to gate, unleash totalhelldeathpewpewlazors on some unfortunate victim?
It could be a ‘fun toy’ of course, and I can equally picture many players actively enjoying owning their own station bar, buying pot plants and moving the furniture around: it’s not ‘my thing’ but then neither is The Sims and that’s one of the highest grossing games in history. Equally many MMOs do have quite detailed, and popular, avatar creators with players spending significant effort in getting their avatar to look just ‘so’. Character ‘realisation’ is not purely the domain of the role player and its not something all that easy to do with a starship that looks, well identical, to the same ship of another players.
But is that a necessity? Taken only from a MMO competition perspective we could argue that yes it is – the competition out there all have avatars that can be customised and who exist in their own environs. CCP is missing a % of the MMO market place to whom such things are important. Now I dont have CCPs marketing data, but if I did I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if it said that EVE had reached a plateau in terms of subscriptions and that market research was suggesting that ‘Incarna’ would result in an increased subscriber base.
So from CCPs point of view it quite possibly is a necessity – even if the current player base isn’t too fond of the idea of sharing their internets spaceships game with a bunch of Sci Fi Sims fans.
What about though from the current player base? Well we could continue to add a few ships here and there, tweak a few FW mechanics and moan and whine from here until eternity that blasters are unbalanced but to my mind that route leads to stagnation. Enabling Incarna opens up a range of possibilities that turns EVE Online from a game of internet spaceships into a fully fledged Science Fiction Universe. Now to be clear I’m not just talking about immersion (although that is important) but also whole aspects of potential emergent game play. Let me try and provide just a small example:
Within Incarna a character is banned from a bar for running up a huge tab, cheating at poker and being abusive (or whatever). He leaves and retaliates by hitting the bar owners POS a few systems out. The bar owner calls in some DUST514 Mercs who in turn hit the planetary infrastructure of our miscreant….and so forth.
Now that example only includes what we know is planned. The point being that the more opportunities for social interaction and co-operation that exist so, in turn, do the opportunities for conflict and totalhelldeathpewpewlazors. Not there’s anything wrong with flaming each other of COAD and fighting over Querious it’s just that we’ve been doing that for a rather long time and maybe it would be good to have a bit of a change?
With those points in mind I think Incarna tips over the balancing point of ‘useless fluff’ to ‘needed’ – but only just. What worries me is that any feature you have had in development for the past 2 years (yes, it really has been that long since our first glimpse at FF08!) really needs to do a bit more than “only just” tip the scales. Incarna needs to be, and deserves to be, a really radical addition to EVE – a pillar alongside that of DUST514, planetary interaction, EVE Gate and the EVE Online as we know it now. There needs to be game play involved, a reason to interact with EVE’s complex and engrossing universe that’s more, much more than ‘running a bar’.
If CCP can realise a truly cyberpunk styled Incarna, replete with almost Deus Ex style game play then not only will we look on it as a necessity but we’ll wonder how we ever managed to live with out it. Its a big challenge, and we must now wait a long time to see if CCP grasps it or retreats to a comfortable world of fixing things that someone thinks is “broken”.
Will edit in some suitable piccys later 😉