Goodbye, Captain's Quarters

In a post today on his most excellent blog, Wilhelm Arcturus just pointed out that CCP is dropping Captain's Quarters and built-in Twitch streaming support in an upcoming release. Check out the post, which has a CCP graph justifying the move.

To me, these decisions highlight some of the mistakes that CCP is making with EVE Online.

Of course I never visit the Captain's Quarters. It didn't even work on Linux for the first 2.5 years I played (and would crash the game if you tried it). It's a silly, superfluous feature.

As a software engineer, though, I just can't believe that the "middleware" (whatever that means in this case) that keeps the feature running couldn't have been managed at a very reasonable cost. CCP notionally wants to upgrade the EVE client to 64-bit. (I'll believe it when I see it.) There's nothing very magic about 64-bit code, though: in particular there's plenty of support in Intel's architecture for running 32-bit code segments in 64-bit mode. This is an excuse, not a reason.

As for the built-in Twitch streaming, I'd probably be using it right now except that I had no idea that it actually exists (for a little longer, apparently). I've spent a bunch of hours struggling and failing to get OBS Studio working right with EVE on my weird Linux setup. Thanks, CCP.

CCP has decided to milk EVE into the ground to fund development of their other titles. They are desperate to sell the company, so anything that improves their short-term profitability even a little gets to happen now. That includes big feature cuts for small developer cost savings. It also includes expending no effort on the truly-horrible industry-worst EVE overall UI — in particular, on discoverability. (Let's right click all the things and see what truly terrible menus we can find. Let's try to use those terrible menus in a real-time combat situation. Whoops, jumped instead of bridging again. CCP's solution? Move the terrible menu entries around a bit. If you want to retain new players, get a real UX expert and give them the resources to do their job.)

Having said all this, here's the literally million-dollar question for me: what will removing Captain's Quarters do to apparel sales? Isn't a lot of the point of buying barbie-doll clothing to be able to look at it? I know, I know, CCP has one of their ubiquitous charts, and they were even brave enough to label the axes this time. How much of the in-game apparel is accounted for by customers using Captain's Quarters, though? The chart, as usual, doesn't give much clue, because it shows the wrong thing. Of course Captain's Quarters isn't where the majority of time is spent: every hour spent with the client open, docked up and idle hits the "not in Captain's Quarters" side of the ledger.

The question isn't percent of time spent in Captain's Quarters, it's percent of users who go there reasonably often (say once a week). I'ma guess this is a larger number than 3%, and is strongly correlated with those users who buy monocles for cash.

My guess is that removing Captain's Quarters will backfire. This in turn will further convince CCP that EVE profitability is dying ("even our apparel sales are dropping") and thus lead to another round in the vicious cycle of defund and drive users off that has characterized the game recently.

A pessimist is me today, I guess. It's EVE in <current year>: pessimism and realism are hard to distinguish.