Greedy Goblin

Friday, May 30, 2014


I never thought I'll be writing a post from a Lucas Kell comment, but here it is: "Welfare gives you what other people get, but for free. In real life, you get money and housing and food, etc. In WoW, you get weapons which make it easier for you to join random epic groups and make it though. In WoT you get put in to positions where you can win against your opponent. What you are suggesting is not welfare, it's a distraction. It's basically saying 'we don't really want you playing with the rest of us, so here's some crayons, go play over there by yourself'."

I believe Lucas stumbled upon some holy grail of MMO making. If you make a game, some people like it, others don't. Those who like it will become your core playerbase. Those who don't like it may try it out, like some features, but eventually quit. If you change the game to cater to these players, you necessarily turn your original playerbase away.

Once upon a time, World of Warcraft was a raiding and item collecting game. It grew fast in subscriptions, since its core audience was large enough. After all it allowed to play together with others and increase your in-game wealth when succeed. But Blizzard wanted even more players and looked not at those who liked their game but at those who tried it out and left. These players described themselves as "casuals" or "have a life" and found the game too hard. So Blizzard nerfed WoW again and again, giving out welfare to make these players able to progress. Of course it drove away their current playerbase. Unfortunately for Blizzard, their new core playerbase was larger than the previous, but with much shorter attention span. Their old players subscribed for years, the new ones only for a few months before they "finished" the content (on the easiest difficulty) and left for the new shiny game for a month. The result was a serious drop in subscription numbers.

CCP refused to nerf EVE or surrender the most obvious demands of leaving players: "stop PvP in highsec". This saved CCP from subscriber loss, but also stopped EVE from growing.

So if you change your game you lose your old players, if you don't change it, you get no new players. Is there a third way? Yes! Give them crayons! Crayons are game features that are isolated from the rest of the game. Someone playing it is irrelevant for the big game, exactly like a kid drawing in the corner with some crayons is irrelevant for the kids who play football on the field. Since the main playerbase is unaffected, they have no reason to hate the change. So by introducing crayons, you can keep your old players and grab some who do not like your real game, but enjoy its setting and play alone or by themselves for some time.

My suggestion to give mining titans and missioning supercarriers to highsec which are locked to a solar system and not ECM immune is a perfect example for crayons: the player farming for it, or the player having it is completely isolated from the rest of the playerbase, so they have no reason to care for this feature. He is not really playing EVE, he is playing a single-player farming game using the EVE engine and server. Yet, he is a subscriber, providing income to CCP.

Maybe other means (flashy achievements, collecting rare items to the captains quarters, ship paints...) are better than my highsec supercapital idea. But the point is crayons allow another playerbase to be EVE subscribers without interacting with the "real EVE". They could enjoy their minigames without messing with us and without us messing with them.


Anonymous said...

Yeah i think this is valid. But there needs to be a balance. If the crayons are risk free you tick off your core. If the core can steal the crayons and grind them into the carpet you annoy the crayon holders.

Like everything there are shades of grey, and balance that needs to be struck. Striking that balance is the holy grail, but I don't think anyone has ever gotten it right.

Also you need to be careful of how much developer resource you devote to crayons. Crayons are not simple to manufacture, they take time and need to be thought out so they can't be abused by veterans. Taking away developer resources has ticked off and bugged vets for a long time.

And if crayon players become your largest revenue raisers, they become the core.... which was the wow problem

Anonymous said...

I miss the point about why CCP shareholders would mind if they lost a lot of the original playerbase as long as they were replaced by an even larger number of M&S?

It would be nice to retain as many as possible. But I don't think keeping them has to be a requirement of a successful strategy.

Gevlon said...

The point is that the crayons are risk free and easy, so perfect for the non-EVE players, but also irrelevant, so the EVE players have no reason to care. Did you see any crying over the Genolution pod? It's trivial to get and you can't lose it. But no one is affected, so no one cares.

@Other anonymous: WoW tried it and failed. The problem with the M&S is that they don't stay long as there is always a new "cool stuff".

Anonymous said...

The point is that the crayons are risk free and easy, so perfect for the non-EVE players, but also irrelevant, so the EVE players have no reason to care. Did you see any crying over the Genolution pod? It's trivial to get and you can't lose it. But no one is affected, so no one cares.

Dude, I totally agree. And that's how it should be.
BUT it still takes dev resources and the "hardcore" element butthurt over loss of dev resources can't be underestimated.

You need to balance keeping the masses happy with crayons and not making it seem like you're not writing all the new features for the vets.

Gavin said...

@anom 6:47

Yes, it takes dev resources, but it also brings in subs from the M&S who eagerly accumulate crayons.

CCP need to make sure that the increase in subs justifies he dev cost.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

@Anon #2
CCP shareholders are not stupid and do understand the little thing called "competitive advantage".

Eve has only two competitive advantages - its community and its robust trading system. Everything else in it is ... well, subpar.

Giving those away means being left with a product that noone cares about. Whatever subscription numbers are briefly achieved by giving that away will be fleeting.

@dev resources

That is actually a very valid point (and one that constantly surprises me). Apparently once people play some game enough, they start thinking they own it, thinking that all the resources that the developer has should be directed at building the features they like and only features they like.

The notion that some other feature that they don't care about may be profitable enough to justify hiring more people to implement it is kinda lost on them.

Lucas Kell said...

"The point is that the crayons are risk free and easy, so perfect for the non-EVE players, but also irrelevant, so the EVE players have no reason to care."
The problem is finding a balance where the core playerbase doesn't care, but the target group does. I'm not entirely sure that retention would be gained by saying "here's a titan you might eventually own". They will still run into the issue of having to fight with the existing playerbase to try to build their titan. Without effectively giving them a whole crayon playstyle that allows them to take a different path altogether to avoid the core playerbase entirely, I'm not sure retention could be improved. So the risk is ticking off some of the core playerbase, the bread and butter of CCPs income, for people who you still won't retain.

"WoW tried it and failed. The problem with the M&S is that they don't stay long as there is always a new "cool stuff"."
This is pretty much hitting the nail on the head when it come to retention. WoW has a huge amount of crayon like activities, so you can easily run off and play the game solo without having to care about anyone or anything else. But the type of people that make up that group don;t really play with crayons well, they eat the crayons, so if you don;t keep them supplied with a constant stream of new crayons, you'll still lose them, and that's what happened with WoW. These people got bored and left, and sub number sharply dropped.

What CCP have built is much stronger. Sure, the playerbase is considerably stronger, but what they've built is a true niche market, and as long as they stick to their principles, they'll retain that, and keep a steady income stream. It's been demonstrated what happens when they stray from their principles in the form of the 2011 riots.

Having a group as strong and committed as the EVE core group is a dream come true for most game developers. Would it be nice to have extra revenue? Sure it would, but not by risking that core group. Some of the others have suggested solutions which really would help at least hold new players a little longer, and that's a combination of freshening up the NPE, and improving the variety and depth of things like missions. While it might not retain those players forever (which is unlikely no matter what you give them) it could add more game time to them, increasing the chance that they will find what they need to become part of the core group.

Anonymous said...

I like it. The next step would be for the crayon aspect to become "cool" amongst the M&S. This would create its own game within a game and would also be a handy tool for identifying who sits on either divide of the playerbase. Unfortunately however, the original playerbase usually doesn't see the wood for the trees and goes ballistic with rage under the assumption that their game is being dumbed down.

Leeho said...

When you're talking about WoW, you actually present a huge speculation as a fact.

You say that initial WoW playerbase consisted of people who liked the game as it was. You have no way to prove it, and there can be other explanations, some of them even more plausible than yours. How about this one - the initital WoW playerbase consisted of people who tried playing MMO for the first time, and were attracted there simply by the experience of playing RPG with other people?

When WoW launched, how many other MMOs with same quality of graphics, quests and overall gameplay, same world size were available in US and EU regions?

Did people actually left WoW because it was degraded by developers to suite casuals, or did they left because it's not so shiny and unique in today's gaming world?

Anonymous said...

Well back in the day MMOs like for example swg had a "crayon heavy" feature - housing. you could make profit with the limited building space. setup factories or put vendors inside your buildings. But you could also spend hours decorating your house and arrange your loot in creative ways.

When WoW launched, how many other MMOs with same quality of graphics, quests and overall game play, same world size were available in US and EU regions?

pre EVE I played: Ultima Online, Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot and Lineage. WoW wasn't really quality of graphics. It looked good enough. BUT Blizzard had the very strong warcraft franchise. So strong that people from EU proxied their way into WOW us beta, yes, they had that kind of hype. Wow was released late 2004 by that time Sony Online Entertainment was the shit and the king in MMO town.

Also people seem to forget where virtual games come from. people from the arcade and early 8bit era will testify how hard games where. with skill celling today nobody can think of as "fun" anymore .. it was plain torture. with that in mind the first MMOs where simple torture but now you could share with others.

That all changed rapidly within the short history of technology evolution. EVE has watered down like any other game that is older than 6 years. To adapt to the ever changing newage MMO gamer mindset.

Freddo said...

Love the crayon comment. Of course CCP has pissed away so many developer resources on dust en vampire that any hardcore player truly upset has already left EVE.

Still it wouldn't hurt player retention if there was some semi-casual pickup group activity in EVE. In the early days you could do some Incursion Vanguard sites with casual groups, but the regular Incursion channels have become hardcore.

W.T said...

I remember getting myself the dreadstead in WoW on my warlock, in vanilla.

I could strut round with that + the blue pvp set in stormwind and get messages from adoring fans.

Now everybody and their dog has some shiny glowy mount/pet/summonable whatsit. They give away the dreadstead now.

Welfare crayons. That's how bad WoW has gotten.

Dean Stell said...

Honestly, I think Eve already does a decent job of this. They've got a diverse world and the offer a lot of different gameplay to a lot of different players. And they fiddle with it constantly.

The problem with the "level your Raven" players is that those players were always going to quit at some point. I remember clearly the moment I turned on Farmville and said, "Why do I care if I have 4-star blueberries?" Or the moment I turned on Football Manager and wondered, "Why do I care if my team won the Premier League 3 straight years?"

Without that social aspect, Eve is exactly the same. It is WAY more complex than Farmville, so it tricks us into thinking it is more....but it's really the same thing.

I'd rather see better tools to allow high-sec, grinding carebears better join up with each other. Meet, become friends, enjoy hanging out....that's what will keep them in the game for longer.

Nielas said...

"Once upon a time, World of Warcraft was a raiding and item collecting game."

This statement is a matter of opinion. I started playing WoW on day 1 and to me WoW has always been a casual leveling and small dungeon game. It was the raids that were the "crayons" thrown into the game to pacify the more hardcore and militant players.

When Blizzard then tried to make the game to be all about the "crayons", it run into opposition from the casuals who were upset that Blizzard was ignoring the core game in order to cater to the "crayon munchers". The raiders kept getting their epeen purples and the casuals started leaving the game.

Blizzard later tried to rebalance the game but it never got over its obsession with raids. Instead of making meaningful casual content again, it instead opted to start throwing epics at the casuals in order to turn them into raiders.

Anonymous said...

So, crayon content:

1. Something that could attract players interested in the setting but not the gameplay itself

2. Compelling enough to keep people's interest, but easy enough not to drive new players away

3. Has no impact whatsoever on the core game played by established players

I'm not the only one who looks at that and thinks Walking in Stations, right?

Lucas Kell said...

"I remember clearly the moment I turned on Farmville and said, "Why do I care if I have 4-star blueberries?""
Best quote ever. Just sayin'.

Gevlon said...

Incarna was a disaster NOT for walking in stations, but for ONLY walk in the ... one room.

And blatant microtransactions.

sid67 said...

You are almost but not quite there...

Crayons shouldn't just serve as an alternative, they should also prepare the player for the real game. They don't have to join, but if they do decide to make the leap, they should be more prepared by playing with crayons than they would otherwise.

Esteban said...

Lucas Kell: "But the type of people that make up that group don't really play with crayons well, they eat the crayons..."

You guys are pushing this metaphor to hilarious lengths, though mostly accurate.

I agree with sid67. I have a hard time accepting that total isolation of a chunk of the player base (in a sandbox, no less) is the only answer. The isolation ought to be partial and offer periodic off-ramps to the real game.

An example would be to rework PI, which is mostly a boring fire-and-forget part of EVE, into some kind of colony-building minigame, perhaps somewhere down on the Tropico level of complexity. It would be a mostly solitary activity, but it would provide decent (opportunity cost aside, of course) income and at the highest levels of development the output and facilities of the colony could actually be of some modest value to players in the real game.

Most EVE players wouldn't care about it (and deride it as Farmville in space) but the players who have a hard time getting socially invested would have some lines to colour within and something they 'own' in the world.

Gevlon said...

@Esteban: if they start playing the "real EVE", they'll have losses. If they'd be OK with that, they'd be playing EVE already.

nightgerbil said...

@Esteban: if they start playing the "real EVE", they'll have losses. If they'd be OK with that, they'd be playing EVE already.

Not really. Accepting losses is only one small reason why theme parkers aren't playing eve is massive numbers. heck more people are STILL playing swtor then log into eve and that games dead.

Look Im a wow "crayon eater", I like the pet battles and enjoyed flying around azeroth collecting them all. I solo old instances for mounts and pets and Im proud of my 144 mounts some of which WERE hard to get. I also log in sometimes just to fish. Yes I enjoy wow fishing.

You know what I dont enjoy and can't force myself to do? eve pve bar the distribution missions. If even "I" cant stomach mining theres something wrong.

Foo said...

I wonder ... am I currently training to use crayons?

Marauders fit a lot of the 'crayons' criteria.

A lot of the skills I am learning to fly the marauder will flow on to my longer term training goals. They also have a specific use vs dickstars in hostile c2-c4 wh's.

But, Marauders could marketed more; giving casual solo players something to work towards.

If I am training to use crayons, so be it.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

@general sentiment
You all are talking about WoW as though it is dead.
It still has 10x the subs of Eve. If WoW is dead, what is Eve?

Practice shows that games that cater exclusively to their target audience and only to them end up being locked in a sort of stassis and not developing at all.
You can't have Eve change for a better if the devs are scared about experimenting with crayons.

Obviously, you might be fine with Eve as a sandbox just for you, and that's certainly a position one can take.
But if that's the position of CCP, than Eve is going to forever remain both small and irrelevant to gaming at large. Which is kinda sad for a product with this much potential.

Lucas Kell said...

"I have a hard time accepting that total isolation of a chunk of the player base (in a sandbox, no less) is the only answer."
Totally agree. I don't think crayons are the answer at all, they are a distraction and nothing more. The real solution is to beef up content. More missions, better missions, reasons to work in simple groups from time to time, more interesting mechanics around mining, industry, etc. They need to find ways to encourage people into the rest of the game. Missions should have more escalations that send people on adventures, and those should be geared to give more of a taste of what the rest of the game is.

Really though, I'd say it's low priority. The niche market EVE has is strong enough fore them to run the business and roll out new content. If they expand their market too much they could easily end up pushing that market out, then they are at the whims of the mainstream market, who can be fickle.

nightgerbil said...

Eves niche selling point btw isnt being a pure pvp game with item loss as a death penalty; daoc has that. All the features of eve that people say are "niche" are in fact in other mmos all save one: flying spaceships.

I submit that what makes eve unique and will grow/keep it going is its the only game where we get to fly space destroyers and space battleships and go blow things up. If swtor had have had a greater vision and let us all fly around the galaxy in our spaceships and build guild star destroyers to attack the republic with /sigh...

Anonymous said...

It's a pretty good idea.

I would improve it by making the carebears do something that BENEFITS the hardcore players.

For example, a manufacturing minigame that makes improved modules.

Careber time converts to better module stats that sell for a hefty price.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: no, that would give power and the hardcore would rightfully complain that they "are forced" to have module builder alt. The point of crayons is being completely irrelevant for the main game.

Woody said...

This talk about WoW is incorrect.

Even today the "have a life" players massively outnumber those who make any meaningful progress in organised group content.

The problem with WoW is that whilst Blizzard attracted a large casual audience, they still spend the majority of the inter-expansion development budget on content for the hardcore. Putting a mickey mouse casual mode on Raid Dungeons is not the same as making content for casual players. Instead it is making content for a narrow irrelevant niche and then bastardising it to try and get casual players to use it - usually combined with removing what the casual players would prefer to be doing e.g. no new 5 man dungeons in MOP.

A Raid Dungeon still needs a 40 minute queue and then at least an hour in the dungeon itself in many cases. It isn't the same as each patch bringing an entire new quest zone like Molton Front full of pets, attractive gear (unlike the initial MOP dailies) and achievements and three new 5 man's is it......

The hardcore players are the super consumers of content. The casual players play far less frequently and consume their content slower.

The problem is that Blizzard provides far more content suitable for hardcore players (raid dungeons) than it does for the casual players.

When Blizzard completely scrap making Raid Dungeons and instead spend the entire budget on content for the casual player base (the quest zone and three dungeons each patch), then you can make statements as to how quickly casual players consume and get bored.

I think you are ignoring the inconvenient truth to try to prove what you believe/want to be true from your own biased position.

You are making a big mistake if you try to learn lessons from those flawed WoW theories and apply them Eve.

Ephemeron said...

So if we translate this into real life, we get a rather uncomfortable result:

All video games are crayons.

People playing games are irrelevant for the big game of life. Their successes or failures have no impact on the rest of human society and vice versa.

Furthermore, as long as they are focused on their favorite "minigames", they remain subscribed (re: not rioting in the streets) to the "main game" of life, yet are far less likely to demand changes to its balance (laws, taxes, government policies, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Have become a WH zombie after reading this blog, have a trading alt sitting in a station in a trade hub...

Don't care anymore about lv4 missions, incursions, lowsec roams...

Maybe I will get back sometime to exploration as they announced to remove the crappy spew containers...

don't give shit about new ships, they will be either worthless or get nerfed soon...

maybe I will try out null, but can't see no reason...
I get much more fun playing GRP in tactical squads...