As has been well reported, Pirates of the Burning Sea is cutting down on servers, going from 11 to 4. While PR would like you to believe otherwise, it’s fairly clear that the game is underperforming, and the reduction in servers confirms this.
What’s most surprising to me about the news is people’s general take on the game, stating that it’s most similar to EVE Online, and that perhaps it could see an EVE-like growth rate in the future. The major problem with that growth prediction is that PoTBS is basically EVE-lite, attempting to keep the ‘fun’ aspects of EVE while removing some of the tedium. The recent server news confirms at least one thing; EVE-lite is not the game people want, nor does EVE-lite actually work as a game. The reason EVE itself works is because it’s amazingly balanced in all aspects of design. Crafting is balanced in regards to PvP, PvE is balanced in regards to the economy, character growth is well defined and a factor; it just all works. The problem for PoTBS is that it has 50% of the formula, removing the perceived ‘unfun’ 50% in an effort to improve the overall experience, and ultimately it fails. What the average game fan has trouble accepting is that while gate jumping 20 times itself is not fun, it’s necessary to ensure that the PvP remains balanced, and hence fun. When you mess with one side of the equation, you end up screwing both sides.
PoTBS is a great example of the overall complexity of an MMO, and why simply focusing on one or two aspects without consideration for others is a mistake. Sure zooming around the map almost instantly instead of having to travel for 30+ minutes sounds like a good idea, but how does that instant travel effect the economy, PvP, or PvE? Instancing everything does help with lag and leads to more controlled and balanced encounters, but what are its downfalls? How does instanced combat effect merchants, griefers, PvE players? Removing the tedium of sitting in an asteroid field and watching your mining laser go ‘voom, voom, voom’ for hours sounds like a huge plus, right? By removing the boring parts and letting players focus on the fun of buying/selling/trading sure sounds like a win/win on paper, does it not? Those are just a few of the perceived ‘advantages’ PoTBS implemented in order to make it a more friendly version of EVE, and yet each one is a cause for an overall broken formula with serious issues. The fact that PoTBS shipped with a primitive and somewhat broken avatar combat model did not help, but to think that is the major issue is incorrect. Players would deal with that system, flaws and all, if the overall game worked like it should. The major issues; a borked economy, completely broken PvP, a PvP game with an overemphasis on bland PvE, those are the issues that drive players away, and those are the issues that will take the greatest effort to fix.