Tarnishing the Legacy: Does EVE Online's History Matter to CCP Games?
CCP Games is rightly proud of EVE Online, it stands as a unique achievement in gaming history. Hundreds of thousands of players have contributed to the rich history of the single, persistent universe of New Eden for over a decade.
However, the recent decision to reintroduce historically significant ships back into the EVE Universe via a player-run lottery has caused ripples of concern amongst a segment of EVE players.
Yesterday, Community Manager Pete “CCP Navigator” McKay released this news in a devblog:
“After the success of the 1 Quadrillion Bonk at SOMER Blink and to celebrate EVE Vegas 2013, we wanted to do something extra special that would allow players to participate in a lottery for some exceptionally rare ships and items. Starting today, an ‘EVE Vegas Blink Blast Party’ event will be running in which players can win currently unreleased items from the NEX store, Collectors Editions, Ishukone Scorpions, Guardian Vexors and Gold Magnates.”
The announcement triggered some outcry amongst community members who see value in the stories behind these rare ships and see this move as a dilution of player legacy.
Of particular note is the Gold Magnate, a single prize ship from the Amarr Championship in 2003 which was subsequently destroyed whilst in the possession of EVE player, Tyrrax Thorrk. Also highly coveted and valuable are the Guardian Vexors, unique for their ability to field 10 drones (5 is the usual limit), of which there are believed to be less than 20 of the original 50 surviving, mostly in the possession of renowned rare ship collectors.
To address community concerns, CCP Navigator subsequently took to the forums with a lengthy explanation, which included:
“The Gold Magnate was handed out back when most players playing today did not know that EVE existed. As a single one was handed out and then destroyed it actually removes content from the game and that is not always a good thing. We thought hard about how we could reintroduce the model back in, still in a super limited basis, and a lottery seemed the fairest way to do this.”
“Tournament ships will not be handed out in this fashion ever. These ships require full alliances to work hard over a long period of time so handing them out for free would absolutely cheapen the achievements of teams...”
“Other hyper rare items like Imperial Apocs and Federate Megathrons should stay hyper rare so there are absolutely no plans to touch these at all. The only time we would look to reintroduce a model is when it ceases to exist in any form. After all, players should be having fun with these ships and not worrying that a line of ships just dies when the last one is popped.”
EVE Veterans Speak Out
Even Chribba, one of EVE's most beloved and well-known players, whose calm and diplomatic influence has been a notable counterpoint in many angry mob threadnaughts of the past, has felt the need to speak out against this initiative.
“Please don't reintroduce ships like this. There was one, it was blown up, let it stay that way. That's what makes EVE so great, it becomes a huge part of the lore and history!... (and I know you can change your mind at any time and reintroduce things - as you just sorta did - but that doesn't make it a smart move).”
Tyrrax Thorrk, the pilot who lost the original Gold Magnate, replied to Chribba:
“I'd call it breaking promises/guarantees, not "changing their minds"... I'm not a collector, just an interested party since I owned and lost the original gold magnate, and was active back when CCP guaranteed there wouldn't be any more of them. That's all I'm upset about, CCP making yet another huge mistake...”
However, some players feel that the views held by these veteran players excludes newer EVE players and that allowing rare ships to be won in a lottery “levels the playing field” and breathes new life into old content.
Once again, the EVE community is divided on a controversial topic.
This Correspondent's View
CCP Games clearly see the value in the depth of EVE's history and the stories to be told. After all, they have commissioned a graphic novel based on players' stories and have engaged Hollywood director Baltasar Kormákur to create a TV series based around this same rich legacy.
The existence (or lack thereof) of these ships are interwoven into this history and a decision that appears to disregard or dismiss that seems like an unhealthy decision in terms of preserving EVE's valued legacy and maintaining the faith of the players.
What is unique about EVE is the persistence, the permanency and the loss. CCP are the custodians and the protectors of that unique selling point of EVE. To upset the status quo in this manner is a risky strategy.
There is no reason to reintroduce items or ships identical to ones of historical value when it would be almost as simple to produce a new variation simply by changing a couple of details. The new items would still have unique value and the legacy of the originals would be preserved.
Nothing is gained by trampling on the history valued by some besides generating some controversy, ergo publicity. New players will not care either way and the credibility and sanctity of EVE's legacy is damaged.
It does seem like a poorly thought-out decision by CCP Games, in which they seem comfortable to sacrifice valued history for the sake of short-term "engagement."
The Other Problem...
To address the idea that this is a fair process which levels the playing field, this doesn't add up to me. I think CCP needs to be very careful about "partnering" with in-game entities like the lottery provider SOMER Blink. Especially considering that in 2007 there was a lot of negativity surrounding CCP favouritism and provision of rare in-game items in what is now known as the "T20" scandal. Whilst the SOMER Blink lottery circumstances differ from T20, there are still parallels to be seen.
I can't help but wonder if it was as a litmus test in advance of making certain ships available on the NeX microtransaction store. CCP Navigator's initial announcement did include the phrase “currently unreleased items from the NEX store” after all.
CCP Games are often damned if they do and damned if they don't, which has made them equal parts attentive and belligerent when it comes to dealing with their vociferous customer base. It will be interesting to see how they respond on this occasion.
Perhaps CCP's livestreamed announcement of the Winter expansion (26 Sep 2013, 2000 UTC/GMT) will shed more light on the matter.
UPDATE (26/09/13 20:50 UTC): Following vociferous opinion from many quarters, CCP Navigator has published a forum post in which some of the issues have been addressed. The prizes have been revised, moving the legacy ships and replacing them with an as yet unannounced ship or an all expenses paid trip to Fanfest 2014. He also tries to explain the justification for distributing the prizes through a player organisation.