EVE Online Video Marketing: Promises or Lies?

You can't always believe your eyes. This is real street art.
For the past few weeks, much of the EVE community has been discussing the New Player experience, both in the thread started by CCP Legion of the newly formed Player Experience team and as part of the recent Blog Banter.

Many fantastic suggestions and concepts have been put forward by the community and the Player Experience team are hopefully now armed with a well-realised and broad view of the community perspective to compliment their own goals and ideas.

It is those very goals that I ponder and the methods CCP intends to employ to achieve them.

Where to Now, Guv?

For many years EVE Online's developers were labouring toward the goal of creating a complete sci-fi experience, as CEO Hilmar Petursson described it at last year's Fanfest, "the ultimate science-fiction simulator". However, with the grand strategy to introduce immersive avatar enviroments in last Summer's Incarna expansion being poorly received by existing subscribers, the subsequent subscription cancellations led to staff lay-offs and significant restructuring.

With CCP now a leaner, more focused organisation once again ascendant following the release of the critically acclaimed Crucible expansion, their resources are almost entirely focused on the core spaceship gameplay. With the CEO's declaration that there will be no more "Jesus features" and a big gamble upcoming in the form of the PS3-based FPS DUST514, has EVE Online's future been re-purposed as "the safe bet" with much more modest design goals?

I would love to know the new strategy moving forward and what demographic the Player Experience team will be looking to entice to play EVE. Will they be looking to fortify their position as the king-of-the-hill in the player-driven mass-PvP arena? Or will they be aiming to leverage other aspects of EVE's sandbox, capitalising on the rich variety of gameplay options New Eden promises? Personally, I hope the net will be cast wide, for fear of EVE Online inexorably becoming a playground solely for e-sports combat teams.

The Disappointment Factory

I do have some concerns regarding the promises being made by the existing video marketing. The most recent video, CDIA Files: Agent Missions, is slick and informative, providing a beautifully presented impression of the game that we wish EVE was.

The audio element is fine, with some relevant and useful advice that interestingly encourages PvE activities (which gives me hope that CCP's target market is broader than the PvP evangelists would like). I think this is smart - the PvE element is certainly more familiar to most MMO players and can act as a gateway whilst the new player "learns how to pilot his ship".

My issue is with the visual portion of the video, which is framed by a sophisticated HUD overlay that repeatedly brings up context-sensitive information and elegantly arranged menus. The main view is continually crammed with ships fighting at close quarters, with breathtaking flyby shots and menacing close-ups. Only briefly (@ 1m 28s) do we see a single window from the real UI and at no point do we see the rookie torture device we call the overview. Visually this video is almost pure fiction.

The true face of EVE.
A potential subscriber convinced to try EVE Online after seeing this video is going to be bitterly disappointed to find the truth is an ugly and archaic windows-driven interface and a combat environment that requires them to ignore all the graphics and watch some coloured boxes and text.

The terrible truth is that for all its slick presentation, this CDIA Files video is a lie. I so wish it were true, but it is not. EVE Online has many strengths on which it could be promoted, but I fear that this marketing angle is flawed.

Of course, if this is actually a visual proof-of-concept for an imminent UI overhaul and intelligent cinematic camera tools, I would be rabidly happy to eat my words. But if that is not the case, CCP should not be surprised if the majority of rookies do not stick around for long. This won't be the first time CCP have been tripped over by expectation management.

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