Friday, 9 March 2012

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.

9 comments:

  1. truer words were never spoken. i hope that someday the ui will actually look like the one in those fancy ads.

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  2. You are right, the gameplay isn't that sleek as in the video. Still you can turn ui off for screenshots and you can zoom onto enemy ships.

    Fights are mostly about selecting targets and such, so this isn't like an arcade game. But with bigger monitor you can at least see your ship too if you keep it zoomed to normal size. Or you could keep looking at the enemy.

    The fact is still that in space distances are huge. But the whole game play is not looking at the overview. Between fights you see the planets, stations, gates, suns, background nebulae, and such. And there are close bys too, at least with friends' ships.

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  3. Granted quite a few EVE trailers do involve in game footage. However, quite some time ago there was the admission from the art department that they use the ship models and create the movies to look better. In that respect I think the trailers to EVE are a heck of a lot more honest than the vast majority of other mmos and just games in general in showing or describing the game or in game events. Yes it would be very nice to have some of the UI features that come in the video but another aspect is how much more expensive of a gaming rig would be necessary to run something with graphics moving that quick and looking that nice? Currently I can triple box on a 4 year old laptop with things dialed down and the quarters turned off with no lag. Add a UI like that and where does that leave people like me? Yes I am aware of the "Get a better computer or gtfo" mentality. But RL isn't that easy for those of us who work for a living, pay child support, bills, mortgages and whatnot and aren't bankrolled by parental credit cards. We like the game and enjoy playing it too. To think that a flashy UI would make it necessary for me to upgrade a machine just to play the game that I love... Well I'd much rather just leave it the way it is. The trailer might be a lie, but aren't everyones?

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  4. I appreciate what you're saying and I agree that the system demands shouldn't change to accommodate an unnecessarily flashy UI, but there's no getting away from how horribly clunky and dated the existing (decade old) UI is. However a newer, more integrated and visually appealing and user-friendly UI doesn't need to be a system hog.

    Also, the point I am making is about attracting new players. Whilst I appreciate your concerns as a multi-boxer, no rookie is going to play EVE with multiple accounts, so the multi-box argument is a moot point. That is not to dismiss your point - EVE should be as inclusive as possible. Perhaps the old UI (or an equivalent "thin-client UI") could be retained for that purpose in much the same way the hangar/CQ is toggleable.

    There's no getting away from the fact that the existing UI is unappealing to the point of being a deterrent to possible subscribers. I accept that marketing is allowed some creative licence, but in my opinion CCP should avoid marketing that draws attention to the weakest aspects of EVE Online.

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  5. Here's an idea I had for a simple yet huge improvement for the overview: loadable profiles. Take the best of the overview settings the vets use for different types of activities (maybe set up a site where people can vote on them to determine winners), then bake them into the client so that people just starting out have some good overview settings ready to go with a simple drop down menu.

    You can also do this with corp overview profiles, the corp leaders can set up overview settings they think will be used the most, then FC's can simply tell you to switch to a certain corp overview profile when starting a fleet, or even have it broadcast when you join the fleet. These profiles should be a complete setting of the overview, not the half settings we get through exports/imports right now: tabs, colortags and backgrounds, order of appearance, all of it.

    Just this simple thing can go a long way to making the overview not suck the soul out of newbies (and even vets).

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  6. That is a great idea, and so painfully obvious it's amazing it hasn't already been done. If we can have standardised corp ship loadouts, why not shared overviews.

    Although even better would be something more accessible that would replace it entirely.

    I can dream.

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  7. Great post and I agree wholeheartedly. That video almost made me excited about running missions.

    I think some of the biggest issues stem from the fact their videos set you up for stunning visuals and create the illusion that what you do within PVE content actually matters to some degree.

    Then, you actually start doing it and realize that its nothing more than red shapes on your overview and isk/hr optimization.

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  8. Watching some of the old Combat Marketing Vids you would think PVP was slow and all sci-fi movie like when it's not even close to that.

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    ReplyDelete

Lay it on me.