The cry goes out, "EVE is dying!" People have been making that false claim since the beginning of the game so many years ago. Those doomsayers, inhabiting the fringe of the EVE community, have been pushed aside whenever they tried to peddle their frantic concerns. Although various decisions by CCP have been rightly criticized over the years, EVE has never died or come close to dying.
These days, the pessimists are more measured--and more mainstream. They see a game whose playerbase has gone into an unprecedented decline. As a result, they say, CCP has a desperate need for new EVE subscribers. Therefore, for the sake of the continued survival of the game, EVE players must make special accommodations for new players to ensure that they feel like giving CCP their money.
Today, we'll consider whether EVE is actually facing extinction, and if so, what special duties an Agent has in enforcing the Code under such conditions.
To begin with, there's no question that EVE's many years of rising player numbers are long past. CCP used to brag that its subscriber count grew each year. When it stopped growing, they stopped releasing information about their subscriber count. Since then, players have used Eve-Offline data on the number of logged-in players as a proxy.
In recent years, the plateau in EVE players came to an end, and a decline set in. In 2016, the decline was temporarily interrupted by the infusion of free-to-play Alpha accounts. The spike in player numbers soon flattened. But from the perspective of CCP's subscription revenues, the masking effect of the Alphas is still present, because now, for the first time, a chunk of the logged-in players are not actually subscribers.
These free Alphas still appear in the logged-in player count. The number of subscribers, one might estimate, is down to 2006 or 2007 levels. Instead of rising, as they were in 2006-2007, the numbers are falling. Moreover, CCP no longer appears very interested in EVE; its efforts (if not revenues) are in its VR projects.
So yes, EVE is in decline. That doesn't mean the servers will shut down in a year or five or ten. No one knows how long EVE can continue to stay active, or how many players are needed to keep the game afloat financially for CCP or a company that buys CCP/EVE.
Suppose that CCP/EVE enters a period of serious financial stress over the next few years. Let's even assume that the very existence of EVE is at stake. What are the special responsibilities of an Agent of the New Order?
In answering such questions, as always, we turn first to the Code. We know from experience that without the Code, highsec is a disaster. One which, if left unchecked, increasingly threatens the rest of the game. We remember well the Faustian bargains offered by Trebor Daehdoow and the theme park crowd, who promised to bring EVE more players and money for the development of new features, if only CCP would sell EVE's soul and make highsec risk-free.
We also know from the Code that it's not our job to bring in new players and increase CCP's profits; that's CCP's job. Nevertheless, scientific studies performed by CCP proved that ganking improves player retention. If you want to retain a player, kill him.
Of course, you can't retain a player who doesn't come to EVE in the first place. What draws people to EVE? Years ago, The Mittani observed that EVE's unique selling point wasn't its graphics or its UI or its PvE; it's the fact that EVE has "PvP with consequences". Later, EVE came to have a second unique selling point: It was the birthing ground of the Code. In no other game can the Code manifest itself so much or so well. MinerBumping is arguably the best recruitment tool this game's ever had.
The theme parker says, "Don't engage in PvP with that new* player. Shelter him from the consequences of EVE's consequential PvP. And don't dare breathe a word to him about the Code."
* May not actually be new.
The surest way to kill EVE is to deny or stifle its EVEness. We know better: To keep the lifeblood of EVE flowing in its veins, give a new player the Code as soon as humanly possible! (Within the rules, of course.)
Then there is the legacy of EVE to consider. What's good about EVE--what's worth remembering and being inspired by after the game is dead--is not the graphics or UI or PvE. It's certainly not the EVE trademarks/IP or its lore (unless you consider the Code to be part of the lore). Rather, it's the spirit of the game, which is best reflected by the Code.
After EVE has reached its conclusion, there will be other games that attempt to capture the essence of what made EVE work--what made EVE work in spite of its UI, PvE, etc. Those game developers of the future will need to be able to hold in their minds the EVE we know and love. Not a safe, watered-down, theme parky EVE that everyone will be eager to forget.
What is the duty of an Agent in a time when CCP is desperately hungry for subscribers? What is the duty of an Agent in a time when the EVE "old guard" is worried sick over losing their collection of titans when the servers' plugs are pulled?
Why, to spread the love of the Code, nothing more. The loyal Agent gives a new player dignity and respect by demanding that he meet our standards and obey our Code. That's the past, present, and future of EVE.