You know what an EVE retro server would look like? It would look like the game today, minus seven years of layers added to it. Sounds awesome right? Yea not so much.
I point this out in jest because it highlights a point I’ve often made about MMOs; that they should expand over the years more so than evolve (though some evolution is also required). Replacing older content with newer is not only less sustainable, it often runs the risk of upsetting those who enjoyed the older content, and unless you ALWAYS get more people enjoying the newer content, you run into problems.
It’s this core design flaw that, IMO, keeps themeparks from fully achieving the major goals of an MMO. In many ways themepark expansions are more sequels than additions, as the new content replaces the old, much like a single-player sequel moves you fully from the original game into something new, only connected by key characters or a basic setting/theme. This is not ‘bad’, but it’s not really an expansion to what you currently play, and the more you try to “mix it up” in the sequel/expansion, the higher the player turnover is likely to be.
True expansion however is not the easiest thing to design. For instance, if you expand by adding new races/classes, you have to ensure that they don’t replace existing options. The more combinations, the harder the balancing act to keep everyone viable becomes. Same goes for content; if the new content you add is superior to older content (be it better drops, a higher reward/effort ratio, or simply being more fun to play), you run the risk of changing the options for your players rather than increasing them.
It’s a true reflection of solid design that I’m not only still entertained by running missions in EVE, but that four years later they are still very viable in terms of profit, group content, and overall progression. That my ship from four years ago is also viable (not only in missions, but with minor changes also for incursion (raids)) also reflects this. Hell, the fact that my character is still considered decently advanced (25m SP), rather than completely outdated, says a lot.
At the same time new options are available to him since I last played. Incursions sound very interesting, planetary interaction is out there, I need to learn about worm holes, invention, T3, exploration, and… well I’m sure I’m missing a few others. And that’s just PvE. I have no doubts PvP tactics have changed dramatically as well.
The ultimate bonus here is that all of it will come to me at the pace I set. The server has not “moved on” from missions and the basics I’m doing now, so I’m not alone rushing to catch back up to “the real game” like I would in most other MMOs. I know I’ll get to incursions, but if it’s not this week, or the next, the crowd won’t be on “tier two” incursions, nor will CCP release “tier one” incursion catch-up gear, or reduce current incursions to ‘solo-friendly’ status.
As excited as I am about CCP returning its focus to Flying-in-Space, I’m just as excited that current FiS will still be perfectly viable until I decide to move on.