The last year has been a roller-coaster for Eve developers CCP. The Incarna update added a series of unpopular features like the Captain's Quarters and an item store selling expensive cosmetic items. A series of leaked CCP emails intensified the controversy, leading to an emergency meeting between CCP and the player-run Council of Stellar Management, who called the disaster "a perfect storm of CCP communication failures, poor planning and sheer bad luck."
Since then CCP have been apologetic. A long open letter to the Eve Online playerbase said sorry for CCP's direction, and later CEO Hilmar Petursson told us that the developers would change their tack and become "much more focused on the more classical aspects of Eve Online." This week the winter Crucible update epitomised that strong change in direction, adding new spaceships and making dozens of tweaks requested by fans.
It looks like Eve is getting back on track, but what prompted CCP's decision to build the cutting edge tech required to add the Captain's Quarters in the first place? And what went wrong? We had a chat with Eve senior producer Arnar Hrafn Gylfason to find out.
It seems that Incarna was part of a concerted attempt by CCP to widen Eve Online's appeal. Gylfason suggests that Eve's abstract, complex nature was proving too much of a barrier for new players. "being a spaceship isn't appealing to a lot of people," he told us. "People want to be a person, someone they can identify with and get into character with."
Gylfason said that as a result, CCP became "too focused on introducing the new technologies into EVE in terms of avatar gameplay, introducing massive new expansions with avatars, with new art and things." In hindsight, he admits that these features were additions "that the core community weren't really excited for but had potential new markets."
CCP are keenly aware of Incarna's faults, and Gylfason spoke to us honestly about the why Incarna failed. While the technology behind the new character creator and the captain's quarters was impressive, Gylfason acknowledged that "we didn't really do any gameplay around it, it was just “here are some characters, you can walk around and that's it. That's all you can do, you can walk around inside a small room.”
"Sure it's a good step to being able to be a person and being able to see your person, but it's a more important step for that person to be able to do something rather than just walk around. And I think that's where we ultimately failed."
Now, Crucible is taking the first steps to set that right, adding new spaceships and fixing many elements of the Captain's Quarters that have been frustrating players. The Incarna episode was a thorny setback for CCP, but they're still determined to help Eve grow. "In the months leading up to Incarna, we failed to properly acknowledge the sentiment of the community and I think that's a lesson we've learned extremely hard," said Gylfason, adding that it's "hopefully a mistake we're never going to make again."