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Walking in Stations: A Farewell to Captain’s Quarters

August 15, 2017

It doesn’t come as much of a shock to learn that CCP Games has decided to retire EVE Online’s ‘Captain’s Quarters’ feature, quietly putting it out to pasture with the August update.

After maintenance ends on the 15th, players will no longer be able to stop their station spinning and relax in their own private room. No more lonely nights in the cabin, staring at news feeds and holographic displays, perhaps tweaking your ship fit. No more admiring your ship from the outer balcony. Walking in Stations, or at least the single chunk of the grand design that made it into the game, is dead. At least for now…

The First Faltering Steps

‘Walking in Stations,’ or the ability for EVE players to leave their ship and pod and walk around as a human avatar, has been planned since 2006. However, it proved difficult to actually make it a reality. So much so that it wasn’t until 2011 that the concept made it into the game in any form. The long-awaited, highly anticipated Incarna expansion introduced the Captain’s Quarters, and with it, the Noble Exchange. Capsuleers would finally be able to create the avatar they really wanted, and augment it with clothes and other cosmetic items purchased on the NeX.

This did not go well. Riots erupted over the addition of micro-transactions to the game. A Downfall video was created. CCP’s CEO had an internal memo leaked dismissing the riots as “noise.” The fiasco culminated in a public “mea culpa” from CCP Hellmar, and a promise to re-focus on the things that players really wanted.

Jita Riot

Jita on Fire, June 2011 (Image Credit: Ibe Van Geel)

It’s safe to say that Captain’s Quarters, and Walking in Stations, did not get a good start in life.

Stuck in the Middle(ware) With You

So, given it’s inauspicious start, and CCP’s decision to re-focus their development efforts in the face of unprecedented player fury, the end of 2011 saw ‘Captain’s Quarters,’ effectively hamstrung within 6 months of its deployment into the game. While there have been some additions – more cosmetic items, different faction-specific interiors – the Quarters remain almost identical to their 2011 versions.

Flash forward to 2017, and it’s finally time to do something about it. CCP ran the numbers, and discovered that just 3% of active players are currently making use of the feature. Also, importantly, since a substantial amount of middle-ware is used to make ‘Captain’s Quarters’ possible, and with CCP having to devote a substantial amount of development time to keep obsolete middleware working, the numbers just don’t add up.

The game has grown past the feature. Usage has fallen even further with the rise of Citadels – which do not offer Captain’s Quarters to docked pilots. The metrics all point to the fact that it’s just not worth the development hours anymore.

Push has come to shove, and the Quarters have got to go.

A Lament

The decision makes sense. CCP shouldn’t devote considerable working hours to an under-used, awkward, middleware-ridden feature just to keep it alive. To do so would come at the cost of more impactful projects. However, I can’t help but feel a little mournful. Sure, I don’t use it very much myself, certainly a lot less now than I did back in 2011 – but it was there, it was a taste of a future that never had a chance. A future where EVE wasn’t just internet-spaceships, but internet-spaceships and internet-people.

Incarna Concept Art. Credit: CCP Games

The grand vision of EVE as the space-sim to end all space-sims is mostly a faded dream. A game where players could fly their internet-spaceships, land their spaceships, walk around a station, bomb a planet from orbit, fight down on the ground of that planet, and claim it for their own. It was an idea born of great intentions, from developers who dared to dream, and who  ultimately moved too quickly and dreamed beyond their reach. CCP flew too close to the sun, and the cost of that hubris was Walking in Stations.

The failure of Incarna, and the reckoning it brought, ensured that CCP worked to build on all of the systems which made EVE great to begin with. It ushered in a more responsive, transparent age and reconnected the developers with their players. These are great things, and I am glad that they happened. But, part of me will always long for the ability to dock up, walk out of my ship, admire the view from the window of my corporate office, and have my character take a long sip of an ice-cold Quafe before indulging in some…I don’t know…some /dance shenanigans with corp mates, or something. Or poker. I’d love to lose some ISK in a more immersive fashion!

It could be argued that “Walking in Stations” isn’t truly dead. CCP could certainly begin to re-design it, especially to compete in a supposed future where Star Citizen actually reaches a v1.0 retail release. Though, given the failure of CCP to implement this kind of design, who knows how long it will take Cloud Imperium to realize their ambitions.

So, for now at least, we must bid farewell to our Captain’s Quarters. We’re sorry buddy, you never really had a chance.