Greedy Goblin

Thursday, September 26, 2013

EVE needs players, not accounts

I have 11 EVE accounts. I also “pay” for the account of my girlfriend. I placed apostrophes, because CCP saw $60 from me all together, making EVE my cheapest game. I subscribed for the game with my main account and then used a “pay for 3 months, get 6 months on a second account” feature. After these payments I could earn enough ISK in game to PLEX my accounts. I currently sit on 220B cash and another 100B is invested into capital BPOs (my first batch of Naglfar BPOs sold in a week). 5 of my accounts are also investments: supercapital pilots for sale. As my current activity (ganking) pays for itself, I have no ISK needs, I can run the accounts for 8 years. All 6+1 of them. It seems I’m not the ideal customer for CCP.

Actually – as I pay nothing – I am not a customer at all. “But someone paid for your PLEX-es” – you might say, and you are right. However if someone else pays for my in-game actions, I’m – by definition – a content creator. Let’s not argue over the question if the content I create worth $15*7*12 = $1260/year for other people or not, if they pay that much, it worth that much. Let’s also not argue if CCP could create the same content itself for less than I cost them (not $1260, I don’t get that money, only the traffic cost I generate).

The problem I want to discuss today is having content creators who enhance your game for connection costs is nice, but you need to have customers too. Also, the game must cater to your customers and not to your volunteer content creators. Let’s ignore PvP here, because that doesn’t create ISK that you could use to PLEX your account. Quite the opposite.

While most vocal players claim EVE PvE is horrible, vocal players are just a minority. Ganking miners gave me a great overview on mining and the results are the very opposite of what you’d expect: most miners I see are not in a multiboxing or bot-mining operation. Most miners aren’t even in a solo AFK ship with a 1M SP pilot earning ISK while the player is doing his laundry. Brace yourself: most miners are actively piloting their mining ship. They try to warp out when they are attacked (it doesn’t help as I have scram), many warps out when my scout enters the grid (it doesn’t help as I can scan them while they align out, note their EHP and next time I just enter grid cloaked) and many of them has comments on local or convo to me – hopefully only after they upgraded their clones. These are real players of EVE Online who have to like mining otherwise they wouldn’t do it actively. On the other hand, the Orca + 4 Hulks + Obelisk combos never move and never chat. They either don’t warp out at all and keep mining while one of their members blow up or they warp out exactly in the second my ganker pilots enter local. I also see another minority, the solo Mackinaw with tank modules in lows. He is clearly AFK, left his ship running while he is sleeping or in school.

What is the point? Inefficient, solo PvE players are probably customers who are paying for their account and spend their game time with an activity they find fun: PvE. However fun cannot be multiboxed. If you like warping around and getting rocks, you won’t have more fun because you have another ship doing the same in the background. You have more income though. A solo PvE account can be used for fun, but multiple PvE accounts are good for one thing: earning ISK to PLEX your account or fund your PvP (instead of funding it from PLEX). Having multiple PvE accounts that cannot even pay for themselves is plain stupid: you get no extra fun for your $.

My point is that having multiple PvE accounts is probably the best sign of someone not being a paying customer. So changes that close down PvE alt accounts aren’t cutting into the budget of CCP. Of course closing them down has no point in itself (connection costs are low), however if a change would get more customers, it’s not a problem if it would also mean bittervets close down some accounts.

Could the economy turn upside down if enough multibox or bot accounts would be closed? No. They farmed ISK and then sold the ISK to the real customers. Sure, these customers wanted to pay for the ISK, but the ISK injection could be coming from CCP directly in some form of game mechanic change (like the halved ice harvester cycles) or even an item shop. The buyer doesn’t care who sells him ISK for his PLEX. The sellers do care, but they aren’t customers. Before you’d comment, please think about what is the difference between these scenarios:
  • you run a ratter account who gets ISK bounties and uses it to buy a PLEX to fund the account.
  • the same amount of ISK is sold for 1 PLEX worth of Aurum in the item shop.
To increase revenues, CCP has to embrace the philosophy “we want more players, not more accounts”. 2 accounts played by two players worth more than 2 accounts played by the same player – because he is less likely to pay a dime to CCP.

The Goblinganks channel gets more and more lively as the newly started gank accounts reach the point where they can actually gank:
(the mentioned kill is here)


Druur Monakh said...

Whatever your actual point is, your either not making it, or making it badly.

In a nutshell: it does matter that somebody has to pay for the PLEX. And frankly I don't see what your issue is - for a market maven, you are surprisingly in favor of developer-controlled central economies.

I wrote a long reply, but you're all over the place, so I try to keep it at an analogy:

You're demanding to shut down all bakeries, because bakers get their money (game time) for free, just by spending their time making and selling bread (PvE to make and sell ISK).

Does that sound in any way logical?

And here's another aspect: it's not just bitter vets and 11-account-nolifers[1] who PLEX their accounts. Many people would have to stop playing if alt-PLEXing were disallowed; ie. no income-increase for CCP, but lots of bad PR.

[1] You insult us, we insult you. Fair is fair.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you claim not to be a paying customer. Everyone in eve has to have his account paid for. It doesn't matter if you do it via your own credit card or use someone's else (using plex). CCP gets the money anyway. If you wouldn't want to play, there would be 11 less plex sold that day = less revenue for CCP. In fact they get more money because of you. The only difference is which credit card it comes from. You are still paying with the time you waste to earn isk for plex. I, personally, pay with my own credit card, despite I can plex about 5 accounts and not worry about my income. But I like to invest that isk to have more fun as my play time is worth more to me than a few silly bucks. Note that buying plex is not equivalent to someone paying you for the content you create as he is only interested in isk earned. Unless that is considered content on its own.

Piter Presley said...

You nicely analysed the one side of this plex mechanics.
On the other hand you also need people with multiple account to keep the plex prices high. Higher prices mean, that the "normal" player will more likely buy a plex and sell it on the market. If he just gets 100 mil isk for his plex he won't buy them which is also bad for CCPs income.
I think in the end it is the balance between "paying" and plexing customers that matters for the volume of plex sales.

Gevlon said...

@Druur and Piter: but CCP could provide whatever I provide in the game. For example they could buy PLEX for ISK (selling for Aurum). CCP can also provide whatever PvE product or service I do.

The baker does something that cannot be done magically. CCP could "mine" 1000000000000 units of veldspar with a click.

Anonymous said...

"...because you have another ship doing the same in the background. You have more income though."

Well, I don't get that point.
If I do mining by cherrypicking only those +10% Pyro, Kernite and maybe Scordite I end up with ~35M ISK/h.
Have to play it active, calculate cycles, start aligning to station 20 seconds before ore hold is full, ...
I would have to pay ~600M ISK for a PLEX right now.
Creating a second account will double my costs to 1.2B ISK for two PLEX.
Lets say the new account starts with Exhumers V, Modulated Strip Miners II and T2 crystals to be as effective as account #1.
Even if my costs doubled, I can't double my income.
That's where limited ressources kick in.
There aren't enough +10% roids to feed both accounts so I have to stop cherrypicking and mine +5% or even standard roids.
That will bring me down to ~30M ISK/h or a total of 60M ISK/h for both accounts.
Account #1 was able to farm his playtime within 17 hours, Account #1 and #2 need 20 hours to farm for their playtime.

I wouldn't call that "more income".

I do agree with your point that more unique players would be a great benefit.
Whenever I log in my 4 accounts and I read "join 45,322 players!" I am like: hm, less then 15,000 unique players online... maybe even below 10,000...

Still CCP did get 45,332 times the monthly fee paid with real currency. It doesn't matter if someone bought 200 PLEX and sold them to buy a Titan enableing 200 players to subscripe with PLEX bougth by ISK or if 200 players made an abo using their credit card.
I don't see CCP anywhere near bankruptcy.

If CCP would limit players to one account to only have "real customers" people would see: "Join 5,000 Players" in the launcher and might think: "That doesn't sound like much fun, no PvP today, lets play sth else..."

Anonymous said...

Fun can totally be multiboxed. Ever played online poker ? Playing on one table is soooo boring whereas playing on multiple tables (4+ usually) is challenging and requires to be active.

I can see the similarity with mining here. If you manage one account that's slow and boring but if you multibox you are a lot more active and thus it's more fun.

Pheredhel said...

Let's start with your Question:
you run a ratter account who gets ISK If CCP would sell ISK for aurum, it would negatively affect the economy.
Right now, the only method to "create" ISK is paying playtime for isk (e.g. ratting)

your case of CCP creating isk by click would essentially be the same as "why does your country have debts? they could just print that much money".
For good reasons noone thinks that's a good idea.

Lot's of players would leave, if ccp would create a way to buy isk directly.
However, PLEX does NOT affect the total ISK. PLEX is just one thing: you buy the working time of someone else for real money.
I pay you one PLEX, you give me the working time it needs to get that much ISK.

If you are able to plex an account, and have more money left (per month) that means, you are more effective than others making ISK (obviously true for Gevlon).

Point is: would everyone make as much isk as Gevlon, then a PLEX would be worth several billion.
would CCP create the ISK "magically" instead "a plex (ingame stuff worth the same)" would cost several billion.
That's inflation for you.

Anonymous said...

Halved Ice Harvester cycles aren't an "ISK injection", as you put it. There is no ISK generated by Ice Harvester cycles as Ice is traded between players (not between NPCs and players).

Anonymous said...

Who is to say that CCP is not just buying half of the plex on the market to keep prices high? The ISK required does not cost CCP anything so it seems like a viable stratagie.

Anonymous said...

my RL work earns me 8.43E/h (41.5h/week 1400E/month). I got the yearly sub plan for my EVE account. so 10.95E/month or 131.40E/year. I got the monthly fee covert in 1h18m. I don't get 5x0m isk for one plex in that time.
It costs less than a yearly magazine sub to me. I understand that EVE tends to multi accounts like swg did. Still somehow to me it makes more sense to go with 10.95 per month (yearly sub) than to go with the 16.07 per month (28 plex 449,99 offer) or 19.95 per month (for one none offer plex).
But with billions of ISK to play around. I can see that plexed accounts don't matter that much.

Anonymous said...

Eve is a player-driven sandbox. If CCP start taking away niches currently filled by players, and replacing them with NPCs, this is a different game. A game that many of us would not play.

Von Keigai said...

Gevlon, it is true that you need both paying customers, and content creators. But you go to far when you suggest getting rid of content creators. EVeryone in EVE, both paying customers and PLEXing players alike, create content. They are out there, in space, and can be interacted with. Even when we wspace types zip up our system and play alone, we are at least theoretically reachable.

This point I go into from a different angle here: EVE's amazing AIs.

There are two interesting questions around how the PLEX system works. One is: is the balance between PLEXers and paying customers "right"? This is easily solved: have a market for PLEX, and let the players figure out who wants to create content and PLEX (you and me), and who wants to buy 13 PLEX per month to pay for us to do so.

The question you are really trying to get here, although not very well IMO, is the quality of content created. Certainly some PLEX-players create more quality than others: The Mittani is worth 100 or 1000 of me. I create content for a few players per night. Mittani creates content for thousands. So there can be a question of: is it worth keeping around players who do very little in terms content creation?

I would argue that the answer to that is Yes. My intuition is that the bandwidth and CPU needed to support a PLEX-player account is quite cheap, whereas content is expensive. And also, there are networking effects that you do not measure in any narrow view. For example: PLEX-players may recruit friends who become paying customers.

Von Keigai said...

I have one more point related to content creation. And that is that even pretty apparently low-value activities (such as mining in highsec) still have significant effect on paying customers. Some PLEX-players may not interact much with other players, but even without much interaction they make the universe feel lived in. What is that worth to CCP? Very hard to put a number on. But I can tell you it has value to me.

Gevlon said...

You overestimate the AI value of the other player. Usually the interaction is very dumb: he jumps in the gate and you pop him. Or he sits on the gate with an instalocking tornado and you pop. He mines and sells to your buy order. He warps in catalysts and gank you.

These could be done by NPCs without anyone noticing the change.

Von Keigai said...

You underestimate it, because you see only highsec. But you also drastically underestimate what it takes to have a believable AI.

Think back on every non-networked game you have ever played, and how you eventually beat the AIs, even on "hard", and many of them, by learning stupid AI tricks. Indeed, you easily "beat" a EVE bot just the other day, did you not? Did interacting with that bot make you just as happy as interacting with your normal human victims?

Do you believe that CCP, who cannot even fix POSes in a timely manner, could program an AI that would be sufficient to replace gankers and miners? And why should they devote man-years and millions to such development when all they need to do to get content is, well, nothing? Especially given that POSes still need work?

Gevlon said...

I figured out that he is a bot only because he couldn't be killed in one run. Normally there is no way for me to tell if my target was a player, an AFK pilot or a bot.

Anonymous said...

PLEX was a good move for CCP. It makes them money I guess. About content creators we will see what ccp seagul will slowly roll out to help them out. She had some words about them on fanfest.

About NPCs and PVE AI. I remember some very good quake 3 bots. Difficulty 1-5 was ID code (they where boring) and 6-100 cpma code. difficulty 100 in 1o1 was very very hard to play against. even on homemap with good aiming, mapcontrol and position prediction they totally could dominate. there where other bots, sure, but the cpma one after some later version release totally rocked and felt like badass AI. I'm sure they did tear apart casuals, at least they totally owned ID nightmare bots. very good bots! Even in custom maps they did very well. deep respect to the authors, out of all AIs I did like those bots the most.

I miss that kind of "not aimbot but very good AI" in all games today not just mmos.

So i guess there is a need for good AI not for "illegal botting" but for raid-fillers or opponents. If bad-bots today had the depth and difficulty of the ones I played against a decade ago. Well you probably will gank those, I'm sure, but still not knowing if that was a bot or player.

Anonymous said...

eve doesn't need an elaborate ai, cause it enables plyers to fit in every role possible.

other games have to emulate an economy, or a pirate, or whatever.

on a sidenote, as an eve content creator, you earn $1260/year.
looking at how much time you must spend to write this blog, research eve, educate miners etc pp, it looks like a verry terrible paid job to me.

Anonymous said...

I pay for 2 accounts. VK makes great content as a multi-boxing PvEr, especially when you consider his compensation. He compares his worth to another. Have you? I would like new players and more paying players in Eve. What if, and I'm sure I'm out of line here, it was easier for strangers to work together, or even, god forbid, make it harder to take advantage of new players?

croda said...

I often wonder if every Plex is indeed $ for CCP or if CCP adds Plex to the market to allow additional players (accounts) in the game to add to player numbers.

If there is no-one to shoot at paying customers will leave.

Also, CCP can move the price of Plex up and down as they want.

In any event, using Plex to fund station traders or alts that have specific purposes but do not add to the PVP environment does though add to the background mechanics of the game (I.e. keeping the station markets provided with liquidity and tight spreads).

Thomas said...

You are right there isn't much difference to a buyer whether CCP sells them PLEX or a player, but there is a big difference to EVE and this is why I think CCP _can't_ directly sell PLEX for ISK as the main source.

It would make EVE feel pay-to-win, more so than it is now. I've experimented with this and told EVErs that the game was pay-to-win and almost all their arguments centred around the idea that it was a player driven market.

I don't know how much the reputation of not being p2w is to CCP, but if you consider World of Tanks, they have been taking steps recently to appear less p2w despite it presumably being lucrative for them.

Is there a flaw in that argument?