Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bringing the Sisters to EVE

A response to: EVE Blog Banter

My name in EVE is Brutus B! It's been a few years since I've written an essay/article on any topic—but I have played EVE for two or three years now and I love it, expect I will keep playing it long into the future, and found the topic of this EVE blog banter issued by worthy of address. But, I read all the dev-blogs and believe I can frame my thoughts in a similar style. Plus, I consider this a written gamer-consultation with some potential for profit, and so the mercenary instincts I've cultivated in the EVE Universe say go for it.

Even though the male to female ratio in eve is insanely unbalanced--I have been one of the few males in eve to actually have interacted with some of the females who play eve. Still I have often wondered why there are not more of them lurking about. Females do play computer games. Females do like Science fiction as a genre (female trekkers and star wars girls do exist) and EVE is a fantastic science fiction universe in which to play—but as great as EVE is I think there are clearly some issues that keep females from getting involved in this game—some of which are already being addressed by CCP for future release, some of which may have been overlooked. But, my aim is to be comprehensive, so as to not miss anything—but I will also try to be radical to so that my ideas can add something new to your marker boards and power point presentations—but not so radical, hopefully, that it breaks the game.

The first problem EVE has is that is it already full of things that will turn off the casual gamer. These things are not things you can take away from the game because they are all the player controlled group interactions that make EVE an awesome playground for guys that like hunting and blowing shit up. Some women are into that to, and that's why at least some girls do play eve. But of course, a fair fight is very rare in EVE and it's more than possible that laying in wait for a few hours at some gate camp and getting the occasional gank, or roaming from system to system and eventually finding instant death is probably not going to have the same level of satisfaction that it seems to have for the masses of guys who play eve everyday. If girls avoid guys who are either too quick, or too slow in real life, it makes since that they will avoid games that replicate those experiences! So, from a game makers perspective, you've got to define how long or how frequently the typical female gamer is going to log in at any given time, and then try to design engaging game experiences around that time frame.

Also, if you're not a quick study, and pretty careful, it can take months or a couple of years before you can pilot and PVP well, and you're part of a group that has a chance of winning fights consistently and not loosing isk just as quickly as you can make it. Basically, Player VS Player can rob casual players of any sense of achievement, and the majority of female players even if they are equally in ratio with men are going to be casual players. PVP is the end-game for most guys in EVE. It's why we mine, trade, or mission. But, I imagine PVP isn't ever going to be that for most women. Currently, Co-Op PVE play, and corp administration, and recruiting have been the EVE past-times (and therefore) the ultimate end-game for women (at least those I've known). Even the ones who play now and who are willing to PVP-- I haven't personally run across any who have made PVP there end-game. Then again, maybe I've got solo ganked by one and just didn't realize it was a girl for realz! Still, the exception if its there wouldn't disprove the rule.

That said, you can't take ANY of this stuff away because this is what the current core subscriber base has grown up with, and lives for—up to the point that ROLE PLAY is completely secondary, and often times completely abandoned by most corps working together to win their next war, or get their next gank, or assist their alliance in its next campaign. When has laying waste to one's foes been unappealing to guys, or you know, just breaking stuff to break stuff. So, yeah, taking that stuff out is unthinkable—but there is plenty that can be added that will appeal to a great more females than EVE currently does.

One: Creation way beyond EVE Crafting.

I can sum up crafting in eve in one sentence. It SUCKS! But, it sucks so bad that it misses a potential opportunity to engage female gamers and less pvp-centric male players in a critical part of EVE. Many women like to express themselves creatively; and they like to organize and design. Currently crafting requires a certain amount of time and skill book points, and no real skill or personal touch. Take a quick lesson from what women do play in large numbers sometimes beating out men in ratio. A lot of women play the Sims, and/or Spore because the creation tools are incredibly suited for a woman's desire to order and make stuff. More women even play guild or wow because female elves are sexier than pods In eve, it' crafting is spreadsheets, and science job windows, and Industry job windows, with no real interaction beyond the acquisition of materials and the lining up of “jobs”. Possible ways of making this a game aspect in EVE is mini-games and/or tools that actually have an impact on the material cost of or the amount of goods produced by a “job” or a physical design impact on the hull of a ship, or clothing when Incarna is released. (Paint-jobs, attributes, etc.) Once incarna comes along, mini-games involving gambling and/or sports (Zero-G sports anyone?) might also draw female audiences to the game and be an entertaining diversion for everyone—but mini-games that impact the production of things for the players outside stations would have more impact and importance and could be designed to be just as appealing as any potential diversions would be. I imagine the fallout from people who generate a lot income passively from crafting would be pretty big if CCP restructured it, but I think making it less passive, and more interactive—maybe as a pod pilot operating in station assembly lines or machines would make for a more interesting game, and it would create a niche that maybe potential female gamers would be happy to fill.

This would also make care bears whether male or female have higher value especially if they are really good at what they do. Currently, if a eve player is not a pvp type person either because they can't put the time into long game sessions in which a fight may or may not happen, they have little or absolutely no value to player corps and alliances—and are often reminded of this fact by corp mails or alliance mails, etc, because a pvp player can eventually do all the passive things a pve/passive player can do, and still command a ship in the fight. They can't understand that some types of people just find that aspect of the game as unsatisfying as they find crushing rocks with laser beams, and transporting entire fortunes between a multitude of systems. In fact, having both been the hunter and the hunted at various times in my experience, I wouldn't be surprised if some people find being chased more exciting. Between all the industrial type ships already in eve, the transport aspects of the game are pretty much taken care of, but manufacturing is an area in which much growth and game design can occur—and not just by letting us control planetary colonies—although I'm definitely looking forward to it! But, I doubt it will draw in a bunch of females in its current form. When it looks a lot less like PINS and lines, and more like an ant-farm full of colonists, who you can spy on, and change conditions that effect morale and production, than I think women might be more interested in it.

TWO: Being more than a Ship, or a POD. SECRET ANGENT WOMAN!

From the info that CCP has been leaking for years, I already imagine Incarna is going to have a huge impact on whether or not females are drawn to EVE. I know men who have lost interest in eve simply because Incarna kept being pushed back to later dates because there is a desire to see and immerse one's self in a more RPG environment with human elements. Currently, these interactions are limited to local or corp chat or private chats, and while I strongly believe CCP has the best COM-system period—between eve voice and all the channel options, and being able to manage windows. But the set-up lacks the total immersion necessary to encourage role play. Some people still do it, and some groups have banded together and gotten good at it. Aside from that, as great as the ship designs are
An important part of RPG's is often a game-master and I think this is a role females would be great at. If somehow, CCP could provide tools to people “in stations” that provide certain incentives for corps and alliances to have small groups of people in stations I think it may create another niche for women to fill. I recently came out of a corp in which we kept people near locator agents in order to track down other people we were at war with. While this a pretty ho-hum role to fill in its current form in which players of the corp took turns in fulfilling, I see the possibility for an Incarna expansion that would allow for corp-based player agents who have skills specific to station based services and who then can relay that information to those on the front line. For instance, lets say I have hacking level 5, and neocomm analysis lvl5 and I'm in a station; it would be pretty cool if I could use those skills in station to find out who is where, instead of using a locator agent, or if I was working for an alliance, it allowed me to break down statistics across standings, so I could see where the concentrations of blues and reds were, and not just “pilots”. Or if I had research V and hacking V I could use a station console to download the member list of a corp to my peoples folder directly from their logs. Basically creating in-game mechanics to replace or parallel meta-gaming tactics would be a good way to create a new niche females and other non-pvp intensive players may find more appealing.
As well as improving the crafting aspects of the game already mentioned improving the abilities for corps to gather intel on each other across vast distances would probably be a great way to go—because I think women would make great “Game Masters” propelling corp and alliance stories forward, and making fights happen more quickly, and often by providing critical data from a distance. And though I've sort of limited that function here to spying, I think the collective bright-lights at CCP can come up with additional ways human-station agents could be useful, if they fill all that “in station” space with consoles, and tools, and services that players with specific skill-sets can use to rely info to players in space. Tools and services that take way too much power and CPU to fit on a spaceship, so that the stations can work like Houston does for the Space Shuttle.

THREE: Does size matter? Not as much as how you use it.

EVE is a HUGE universe for any game. There is plenty of under utilized space both in empire, and in 00. Plenty of room left for 300,000 more women-unless that would meltdown all the servers at CCP! But, it doesn't matter how big it is; in fact, if it's too big and it can be intimidating. As I've stated before, most female gamers are casual players. That isn't to say they are bad at playing games, it just means that they need games that reward casual play. Small-portions. Quick achievable goals, with clear rewards—either in personal achievement (mini-games), or through the entertainment of an engrossing RPG style story actually unfolding itself—not in textual format, but in audible and cinematic dynamic way. Most girls (not all) are never going to play longer than an hour at a time—so rock mining, gate camping, and long level four missions all of which are textually transmitted aren't really going to hold appeal for them; of course they might find mission running appealing for a while but reading them becomes tiresome, especially when you've done them way more than once. So, epic arcs are probably the way to go, but there needs to be arcs at every level of play, and other agents need to refer them to you, or maybe arc-agents should invite you to come to them like storyline agents do after you've achieved the proper standings for that agent—because EVE really is a big place, and none of the casual players (females included) are actually going to sift through forum results or Google for directions.

Overall, by adding mini-games to EVE which are either diversionary (bar-games), or have the potential to impact eve (manufacturing & research games), giving tools to players to order and design aspects of the environment and make it their own, and by replacing several known meta-game tactics with in game mechanics (the creation of ground controls); and by focusing on making npcs more alive, and missions more meaningful and less repetitive, and expanding planetary interaction so that civilian/colonist can be influenced from orbit (even if they are just ant-farms, and not simulated to the complexity that “The Sims” manages to do) you will increase the parts of the game that women would more likely engage in the EVE-verse.

Also, SIDE NOTE: if you create colonist population mechanics, you can create new missions order-types for dust combatants. “Kill all the Civilians” or “Check your Fire” in which dust corps/players could be penalized or rewarded for collateral damage! We know from modern warfare that civilians are not often removed from the battlefield anymore, but rather caught in the middle; and the EVE literature discussing planetary combat also supports a civilian role potentially filled by NPC's. This would be yet another distinction in which Dust would be different from other FPS's, and would allow for EVE colony controllers to act as the Dust game masters.

Disagree with what I've said, here's five other oppinions:

1.The Female of the Species
2.The Ladies of New Eden
3.EVE and the X by X Genetic Succession Unit
4.Sociability V
5.What women want (in Eve)