Jester’s Trek: The Emperor’s New Clothes
In June, I wrote what I thought would be the last post around here about Global Agenda. That post was called “Saturation“, a reference to the saturation of a color palette. EVE is a dark game, blah blah blah yeah. But I do want to cover one more aspect of this, circling from Global Agenda to Incarna and back.
My previous post talked about how dark the ships of EVE are today. Since I wrote that post, we have heard more from the art team about potential ship skins, both in interviews and in the CSM Summit Minutes. I kind of poked fun at CCP about how dark all these ships were, focusing on the Amarr Guardian which was always one of the more brightly-colored and cheerful of EVE’s ships. Elise Randolph joked at the CSM Town Hall that that the previous color palette of the Guardian reminded him of Iron Man.(1) In June, I guessed a little hopefully that the ships of EVE were being darkened with an eye toward developing and releasing more brightly colored ship skins that players could acquire, build, or purchase with Aurum. The basic palette was dark to encourage this personalization, I guessed.
Since that time we’ve learned that that probably isn’t the case, at least for now. The art team and devs supporting them have apparently now done just enough research on this topic to decide that player-customizable ship skins would be a major undertaking. They directly questioned the CSM (and through them, the players) on whether implementing ship skins would be a good use of resources… compared to other things the art team could be doing… like POSs. And sure, put in that context, opinions are going to vary on that. I’ve said that I’d like to see brighter colors in the game. Other people think differently and I respect that.
Still, here’s where Global Agenda comes into it. As I said in the Saturation post, GA has a series of dye levels that you can apply to your character’s armor. Tier 1 dyes are pale and drab, tier 4 dyes are bright and vibrant, and tier 5 dyes are both vibrant and unusual with a lot of different variations in color and pattern. And as the tier level goes up, the cost of those dyes goes up, both in in-game money and RL money. As I said then, some of the most interesting dyes are only available with RL money.
But here’s something important: in Global Agenda, the more colorful and vibrant a dye was the more popular it was and the more characters you saw moving around GA’s cities and PvE areas using it. People really got off on those more outrageous interesting colors. And they didn’t seem to mind having to pay for them. Even if they bought one, if an even more outrageous one came out, sure enough you’d see them making the new purchase to stand out.
You would think that EVE is a different game with a different culture. Me, I’m becoming increasingly not so sure.
I haven’t written about this yet — the Alliance Tournament got in the way — but when Inferno was released, a number of new options in the NeX store were released at the same time. And we’ve been told by CCP Unifex that these new items didn’t take much in the way of developer time. They were clothing designs the work for which had been done previously that simply hadn’t been released yet. A couple of things about these new clothing items interested me.
First, relative to the previous items that existed on the NeX, they’re extraordinarily inexpensive. The first wave of NeX items ranged from 1000 AUR (Men’s ‘Precision’ Boots) all the way up to the 12000 AUR monocle of which so much has been written. The average price of this first wave of items was about 3000 AUR, which equates to about $15 U.S. or so. However, this second wave surprised me with prices that were about one-tenth of the first wave of items. I believe the most expensive item in the second wave is 3500 AUR or so, but the bulk of the second-wave items are 100, 300 or 500 AUR.
The second surprising thing — at least to me — is that the second wave of items are more colorful, attractive, and interesting than the first wave of items. Reds, golds, and camouflage prints are common among the new items, and even a couple of the items that are black advertise themselves as “true black”… which to put it in GA terms means that we’re getting the tier 3 black instead of the more desaturated tier 1 black of, say, the Women’s ‘Structure’ Skirt.
Am I boring you with this stuff? Stick with me just a few more paragraphs.
It’s tempting to say that EVE players don’t care about this sort of thing. It’s tempting to say that they only care about spaceships. It’s tempting… but I’m not sure it’s exactly true. Because flying around space and looking at people’s portraits, I’m seeing an increasing number of these more colorful items in use.
Far and away the most popular is the Men’s ‘Esquire’ Coat, which comes in any color you like as long as that color is red and gold. Sure, it’s sadly layered on that desaturated almost-grey black of the first-wave items, but you can’t have everything. And most players display only the shoulders, neck piece, and throat of that coat in any case which are dominated by these bright colors. Other vibrant items are also popular including the white and grey camo in two items, and if you zoom in on some of the ladies portraits you’ll find the red heels or white boots make a lot of appearances. And of course the four new militia-exclusive shirts are being purchased at LP stores and they are being bought, sold, and worn.
Like I said at the top of the piece, the more outrageous the colors and patterns HiRez introduced for Global Agenda, the more those players wanted them and they didn’t mind paying a few bucks for the privilege.
Would EVE be the same way? I suspect it might…
EVE blogger Ugleb covered a little bit of this about a month ago on his blog, stepping out of character briefly to farm an EVE-O forum thread on the general topic of WiS. Most of the post deals with the WiS prototype that was demonstrated in Russia that I already alluded to earlier this month. But Ugleb also found this gem from CCP t0rfifrans:
We’d like to put out more distinctive stuff, like the full body rubber female suits seen on Singularity, and a full body female leather strap catsuit, both which are important work attire for any serious capsuleer. If the clothes we’re putting out now at lower prices sell well, we are very likely to kick off the manufacturing pipeline again, where we were planning to do more exotic ( cyberpunk, pirate etc ) clothes, than the more plain business and military clothes we have now.
Gotta say, I’m completely in favor of that and I think a lot of other people secretly are too. Anything that CCP can do to further emotionally tie players to the game is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. And even if only 5% of the player base is interested in this stuff, if this keeps them around, the small amount of dev time devoted to it would be worth it in my opinion. And of course as I’ve already said, the WiS Sleeper station thing is quite intriguing.
All in all, I look forward to seeing what Torfi’s team comes up with!