Something's Missing

I've been playing EVE Online since the summer of 2009 - almost seven years now. I've tried much of what the game has to offer, and have enjoyed myself immensely throughout.Though I've had periods of lower activity in the game from time to time, I always find myself returning to New Eden. And each time, it feels very comfortable, like coming home.

Still, I've had this growing feeling of ennui about EVE Online over the last year. My enthusiasm has waned. I still read the dev blogs and news about each new enhancement and addition to the game with interest, and I enjoy following and speculating about the in-game lore. But still, I can't seem to shake this gnawing feeling of listlessness - as if EVE Online has simply become... routine.

I have had a hard time pinpointing why this may be. Certainly, a lot has been going on in Real Life for me lately, and that has rightfully diverted my attention from the game. Thankfully, those events have now passed. But now that I'm logging into the EVE client with more regularity once again, I find myself just staring at my ship in station and asking myself, "Well, now what?" Each time, I fiddle with my market orders and make sure my planetary interaction chains are running properly, and perhaps chat briefly with a few corpmates, and then I log off. And so it has gone for the last few weeks.

I've considered changing corps - the Signal Cartel looks like a fun group, for example. But I'm not sure that will satisfy me or renew my enthusiasm for long. Something is missing.

A Builder's Lament

EVE Online supports many different playstyles, and I fall neatly into the category that CCP Quant calls the "entrepreneur" - mostly industrialists and market-makers. Entrepreneurs represent one-quarter of all EVE Online players, and we evaluate success by how much production we control, how much we trade, and how much ISK and asset value we possess. In essence, I am chiefly a builder and a collector - I get most of my jollies by making and owning things in the game.

This is a decidedly different playstyle from more aggressive types who relish player-versus-player (PvP) combat, I admit. It's not that I don't enjoy a good tangle in space from time to time - it is simply not my primary source of enjoyment in EVE Online.

This difference is hard for some players to accept. I often hear forceful declarations that "EVE is a PvP game", which generally dismiss any alternative perspective about having fun in the sandbox we call New Eden, even though statistics prove otherwise. Using CCP Quant's archetypes from his analysis of preferred playstyles, the "Professionals" and "Aggressors", who represent a little over one-third of all EVE Online players, urge CCP Games to focus most, if not all, of their efforts on making the PvP experience awesome.

Certainly, PvP is a critical part of EVE Online's gather-build-destroy cycle, which is really the heart of the game, and I do not begrudge those who focus primarily, if not exclusively, on the "destroy" part of that equation. Especially since the fall of 2014, CCP has tried to cater to the desires of players motivated by "good fights", with numerous ship and module re-balances, revamps to force projection and null-sec sovereignty mechanics, changes to grid size, kill marks, improved ship graphics, and the introduction of new combat craft like the tactical and command destroyers, among many other PvP-enhancing features.

However, since the massive revamp of industry in the Crius release in July 2014, CCP has provided just a few tweaks and additions for industrial and production oriented players like myself - a new ice mining frigate, multi-buy, and minor adjustments to mining, as examples. The amount and weight of new capabilities for players more interested in gathering and building, compared to those produced for players focused on destroying, have been relatively paltry. Over the last 18 months, CCP's developer elves have not released many new toys for EVE Online entrepreneurs, like me, to play with - the workshop in Reykjavik has been mostly cranking out goodies for the PvP crowd.

Citadels: What Hath CCP Wrought?

Of course, my grousing may be premature, as the imminent advent of citadels may change everything, and rekindle my entrepreneurial enthusiasm. I certainly hope so.

Having mastered the use of Player-Owned Starbases (POS) long ago, I am eager for the new structures to become generally available. A POS is a pain to set up, and they require a lot of care and feeding to use properly. The new citadels promise to provide more utility, with less hassle to operate.

Most importantly, they appear to be defensible, and useful even to small corps based in high-sec space. As it stands now, it's generally easier to simply take down a high-sec POS during wartime than to leave it hanging out in space as an attractive target. The fitting capabilities of the new structures should make even the medium-sized Astrahaus a potentially formidable target, if properly outfitted and manned.

I have been devouring every scrap of information I can find about the new citadel structures, and so far, I like what I see. I can envision a time when player-operated citadels may even replace many of the NPC stations we see in New Eden. Someday, perhaps sooner than we think, there may be no such thing as an indestructible refuge anywhere in the cluster, even in empire space.

However, there is one thing about citadels that is plainly obvious, which stifles my eagerness a bit: to install and manage them successfully, they will require a coordinated team of players. It appears to me that solo-operated citadel structures will be too challenging to defend and maintain. In this regard, I will miss the old POS structures, when they are phased out, as I can easily operate small or medium towers without help. Most likely, this practical requirement for cooperation is CCP's intent, to encourage players to organize, so they can operate citadels effectively. We will have to see how it all plays out after the Citadel update is released in the spring - and after whatever new structure-related plans CCP shares at Fanfest in April

People, Planets and Power

Citadels may indeed re-invigorate my passion for EVE Online, but I worry that this may only be temporary, or even worse, that they fail to meet expectations and simply feel like bigger POSes in actual practice. I've no doubt that CCP Games will iterate on citadels sufficiently to get them into a workable state eventually, regardless of their initial reception. The question is: will this be enough to make me excited about playing EVE Online once again?

As I ponder wistfully about what I as an aspiring space entrepreneur really want to do in New Eden, I come to the following conclusion: I want to be an infamous robber-baron of interstellar commerce. What I really desire is the opportunity to not only amass wealth in the game - something I have already accomplished, to a degree - but also carve out a role as a powerful controller of resources, and a potential driver of the evolving history of New Eden itself - not just in null security space, but throughout the cluster.

This is possible to some extent today, as part of the player-driven metagame, and indeed there are some players who can lay claim to achieving this status, at least partially. But what I desire is some way to accomplish this within the game itself, not just as an agent in a player-run alliance or coalition.

I look at the thousands of planets throughout New Eden, and I wonder: what wealth of resources - in both people and raw materials - await exploitation by capsuleers on their surfaces? Other than being able to pluck a few resources from them in limited planetary interaction (PI), why are capsuleers unable to exert any control and influence directly over these vast untapped worlds - by conquest, commercial enterprise, or both?

What I really want to do is have the opportunity, not only for limited planetary interaction, but for wholesale planetary management - that is, control over populations and resources of entire worlds.

CCP Affinity and other devs have spoken about improving player-versus-environment (PvE) options in EVE Online, and there are some efforts now underway to accomplish this goal. This is indeed a good thing, and much needed for the majority of players who grind missions, rat and explore to earn income and advance their position. But I wonder if CCP has considered introducing PvE options in New Eden anywhere else but in space? Could not the planets themselves, and their untapped populations and resources, also provide an entirely new level of play within the EVE universe?

In empire space, I envision earning a commission from an NPC mission agent as a regent of a habitable planet, working on behalf of their corporation, to establish and develop control over a designated region on a planet. The quest to develop sufficient standing with an NPC corp and agent, in order to earn a regency commission, could be an engaging direction of play, in itself.

In null security space, this could work by simply establishing a base with in-game population on a habitable planet, and building from there - no commission required.

As a regent, one would hire and care for indigenous workers, set up infrastructure (perhaps even space elevators to orbit?), and build industrial and offensive/defensive capabilities. This would be more than just PI - it would be an entirely new game-within-a-game. Players would compete with each other on each habitable world, economically and through direct action. In accordance with game lore, this would be impossible for NPC corporations to do, of course, but as neutral capsuleers, fighting for planetary dominance would be expected - and provide significant advantage to those NPC corporations who recruit capsuleers to fight on their behalf.

PI could still operate on non-habitable worlds, as it does today. Or perhaps planetary management would supersede PI and replace it.

I can imagine each populated world representing a separate struggle for player dominance, as they develop and expand their bases of operations. I think further about how this might also incorporate support from space.

Does anyone remember how cool planetary bombardment looked, with EVE Online players supporting DUST 514 soldiers on the ground?

Perhaps whenever the PC-based version of DUST is released (a.k.a., Project Legion), this could also be incorporated into new planetary management mechanics. But I digress. Still, it's fun to think of the possibilities. As an entrepreneur player, the idea of developing and fighting for resources and dominance over a world excites me. I'd love to see something like this as an available choice to me as a player in EVE Online.

Looking to the Future

Despite my current listlessness, I remain optimistic about the future of EVE Online, which is one of the reasons that I continue to think about the game, and to log in. There is as yet so much potential to be realized in the game, and I'm eager to see how CCP continues to develop it.

I'm planning to attend Fanfest in April - which will my fourth one - because I am eager to hear more about where CCP Seagull and the entire development team plans to go next. I expect that they will show me how they will fill this void that I've been feeling lately. I expect to feel re-energized and excited afterwards.

I only hope that I am not disappointed.

Fly safe! o7