2011's been a year of unexpected protests. We've had the Arab Spring reconfiguring the political map of various Muslim governments and the Occupy movements calling for financial reform. This summer, a video-game equivalent happened on the servers of CCP's cult sci-fi MMO EVE Online.
In the words of senior producer Arnar Gylfason, "It wasn't a complete surprise. But, at the time, we were shocked at the magnitude of the backlash and dissatisfaction." What pissed players off? Users felt like they weren't being listened to and were being handed expensive add-on content and gameplay modes that broke their expectations. Gylfason says the way that CCP introduced Incarna — the avatar gameplay mechanic that forced people out of their ships — took players out of the transports that they'd so lovingly crafted. Furthermore, the introduction of virtual goods rankled players as may users felt the in-game accoutrements were too pricey. "it was just pure vanity items that you could buy something to outfit your character. But, when we rolled out the store," Gylfason offers, "it looked like the price range of items was going to be from $US10 to $US20 to $US60, and nothing under it. I think one of the major screw-ups was just not having more fleshed-out pricing tiers before the roll-out. We absolutely intended to have it, but it was just a question of asset production not being complete."
Protests took the form of a massive spaceship sit-in, where thousands of users went outside of one of the game's most popular trade hub stations. "Hundreds and hundreds of players kept showing up and shooting at a monument that's out there," Gylfason "You can easily draw parallels to real world examples." And there was a real-world chilling effect on EVE, too. "It strained the server for sure," the producer admits. "When people share a universe, you can't really do balancing in terms of just saying, ‘Oh, sorry, this group of hundred people go to this server. And this go to this server.' Everybody goes to the exact same location. You have to deal with that."
And deal with that, they did. Canvassing the community for feedback, CCP also admitted that they'd not been as engaged with EVE as they'd previously been. Gyalfson say that the admission was that "we made a mistake. We're sorry for it. And now we're going to improve." Crucible addresses the quality-of-life issues people have had for a while, he offers, balancing some ancient features in some cases, fleshing out production lines, adding new modules and fixing UI issues.
"I think we've now shown with Crucible that we've heard you loud and clear," Gyalfson says. "And we are back on track and doing what has made EVE and CCP great for all these years. Here we are. This is us."