Over at Jester’s, there was an interesting post highlighting what I think is a common view in multiplayer games. A commenter posted that Eve doesn’t have smarter players, it has less players doing more with alts, and also that CCP has failed to deliver on the “Dream of Eve”. The poster seems to imply that because players are using alts, and focusing on optimized play-styles, Eve is dead to him. Ripard seems to take that same premise and draw the opposite conclusion, that optimization is good. I think both slightly miss a larger function of Multiplayer gaming in general. The older a game gets, the more people learn the “right” ways to work, and many players will gravitate towards this.
Take WoW as an example. I played a hunter for some time, and during each expansion, there came a point where the optimal gear for each build was known, and if you didn’t use that build and gear, finding a raid spot was tough. This took some creativity and trial to learn, but once it was found, most groups with progression on their minds demanded you work towards the optimal. This holds true across classes.
Look at TF2. Each map has specific characteristics and each class can use those to some degree. If the Engineer guy decides to build teleports to a point that is far from conflict, or puts a sentry in a poor firing location, he will be jeered by teammates. If a sniper runs around meleeing instead of using geometry and range, this will also be called out.
As time goes on in any situation, people figure out the rules and how to push them to the edge, and how to optimize achieving goals. In Eve this usually means killing people or making isk. After 9 years, it is not surprising that many players have maxed skills, min-maxed almost ever ship in the game, and have come up with the best income streams for most of the markets. I would go so far as to say Eve’s market dynamics are so complex that I doubt anyone, even at CCP, truly understands how all the bits fit together, much less the players. And new players willing to look around have a lot of resources telling them how to rat, plex, fit, market, build, scan, mine and scam. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, because someone else already did it for them, and they know it.
This holds true in any game. Few”srsz bsnz” players try non-cookie cutter fits/builds/strategies in most games unless they are looking to “fail” in hilarious fashion, or they are bored. Civ, Sins, any RPG you care to name, all games that have been on the shelf for a while have tomes of knowledge on the interwebs just waiting for people to find. This is the mature phase of any game.
Players also have a new phase and a mature phase. Reading both Ripard’s comments and the poster’s, I draw this conclusion: Once you learn all the rules of a game you care to learn, you have hit the mature phase. At this point, you rapidly learn if you enjoy the game for what it is, or if you are bored. If the gameplay intrigues you after you have learned the ins and outs, you keep playing. You optimize, you screw around, you do these actions to amuse yourself. If you find the game boring after you have learned it, stop playing.
Blaming the devs or other players for your boredom probably means you want to like the game, or you regret the time you spent because the shine is gone, or you are just nostalgic for the new feeling almost every consumptive media gives when you first find it. But failing to consider your own development arc in a game, and blaming others seems to me to be an easy way out. I would rather gracefully say goodbye and hit the unsub button, and move on to the next world.