Thursday, December 6, 2012

WoT, EVE and the Theory of Trade of Fun

Tuesday I introduced the Theory of Trade of Fun which says that the value add of the same content being an MMO and not single player game depends only on the freedom of the market of fun between players. EVE Online has a pretty dedicated but small playerbase despite performing perfectly on the freedom of trade of items. You can buy and sell everything in the game and you can buy game currency from other players via selling them game time (PLEX).

Since I said that the freedom of trade is the most important quality of the game it must be explained. The problem with EVE is that you can trade items but having items only relate to fun if you are skilled enough. You can grind or PLEX a purple Tengu but instead of the fun of owning something special, all you'll get is a loss report and some trolling. The average player is mediocre by definition and such person is not able to extract any fun from his items since he either keeps them safe in a station without interacting them or lose them. The problem is that grinding time or paid money has very little correlation to fun in EVE, while skill in the game has large. The trade is meaningless as the items are meaningless in the hands of an average player.

Compare it to the stunning success of World of Tanks. It also has perfect trade (the game items are all buyable or grindable), but went the other way: playing skill has near-zero effect on your results. You can play with extraordinary prowess or intentionally suck, the game will keep your win ratio near 50% and your kill/death below 2 by properly balancing teams (putting useless crap next to good players) and by probably messing with penetration and damage numbers. In WoT everyone, completely regardless playing skill can fully enjoy their items. This of course turns down the competitive ones but the 99% can celebrate his imaginary awesomeness. While I left WoT in disgust, if I were a stockholder in the company, I'd support their choice.

Of course the veterans of EVE would be pretty upset for "dumbing down" the game even a bit. However I'd like to stress that it's the Theory of Trade of Fun and not of win. The "turn EVE to WoW" blame isn't true, especially as WoW top endgame needs lot of dancing skills. WoW devalues every item and achievement fast, but within the same patch the game is pretty hardcore. So no, it would not be necessary to provide extra safety or easy wins to bad players in EVE to be able to extract fun from their items.

The solution is to find ways to attach fun to items without changing the game mechanics. Walking in stations to show off clothing would be a great option, CCP got it right. The problem is that they tried to sell the items to players instead of letting them trade the items between themselves. Sleepers and officers could drop clothing items and those could be sold to bad but grinding or paying players. A score could be introduced that make the safely locked away treasure visible - therefore source of pride - without risking them.

Every faction, T3, T2-BS, rare-prize and capital ship; every faction, deadspace and officer module would have a score value and the sum of the score on the account could be made visible on the character screen by the player. Being in top 20% of the accounts would place a star at the end of the name of the guy visible in the overview and everywhere where the name is displayed, top 5% two stars, top 1% three stars, top 0.1% a diamond. The game would be exactly the same, the guy would still be a "highsec carebear" grinding all day, collecting ships and modules he'll never fly but he'd have fun while doing so and would remain a customer.

I'd like to emphasize the "Trade" part of the theory. The items the busy score-hunter would collect would be created by other players and by buying them up, the score-hunter would give these players ISK. From the ISK these players could skip grinding or get useful ships to have fun. The Theory of Trade of Fun is a win-win idea, exactly because "fun" is different for the different people.

Without this feature only the killboards can inform us if one has more ISK than sense: The Wis, the guy who was mentioned by Mittani on Alliance panel, leading to loss of his CSM seat is back, driving a green-purple 5B battleship into PvP with a 4B pod including mining foreman link
What is more stupid than driving a 5B+ freighter? Driving a 5+ freighter in a wardeccable corp. Can you beat that? How about a 5B+ freighter in a militia?
Finally a hilarious story. Lee Chanka, former lead FC of AAA left AAA with his corp and turned a mercenary. They were hired to kill AAA. And they are killing Makalu, again and again.


maxim said...

I'm a bit confused as to where you think this "trade of fun" concept should stand in a game development cycle.

Do you need to build the game from ground up to support it, or is it something that can be tacked on to a completed project?

Is the intent of this concept to simply keep players playing longer and collect subscription money, or does the developer actually cash in on the trade of fun itself?

It sounds like a nice high level concept, but i wonder about business applications :/

Anonymous said...

I particularly like the idea of adding achievement badges to EVE.

You wrote something similar a long time ago on the idea of introducing badges for obtaining rare armor sets, finding certain places or hoarding a gazillion isk.

They could be easily displayed on the character sheet, similar to certificates.

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