Greedy Goblin

Friday, June 13, 2014

The graph that DIDN'T shrink

We know for sure that EVE Online is losing subscribtions. Not players, that is probably shrinking long ago, but multiple accounts could counter that. After all, money is money. But now the 10-years "we've grown" march ended and no new subscriber record has been announced of Fanfest after the 500K last year. Shortly after 10% of the workers were laid off who worked on "publishing". Which means CCP more or less gave up selling EVE, they focus on maintaining the current playerbase for as long as it's possible.

While CCP was publishing subscription data, MMOdata could plot a graph:
That's about an 50K/year growth until the 2010 and then slow growth with noise. The Tranquility subscriber data ended 2 years ago, since then CCP only published global data. We know it's shrinking anyway.

However I'd rather talk about the graph that didn't shrink:
This is the concurrent login graph, data taken from Chribba, mined with the method of Noisy. I split it into two parts, with the criteria of maximizing R2 of the first part. That part is a steady growth. The second is a noisy, trendless mess, with no increase or decrease, around 30K. Tranqulity flatlined around 350K subscribers. It means that an average account is online 30K/350K*24 = 2 hours a day. That's a lot, considering how many subscribers log in just to update skill queues. So we have lot of online hours which isn't affected by subscriber losses. What happened?

Nolifers and bots simply outcompeted real players. You can't just log now and then and do something meaningful. A few hours a week of missioning or mining is nothing compared to the income of a botfarm. The kills of a roam per week is nothing compared to a no-life camping some gate. Of course it's true for every game: you won't get server firsts in WoW by playing 10 hours a week. But you can "progress", get rewards. In EVE there are no such things. EVE is special in a way that you must play with others to enjoy the game, you can't just play with NPCs like in WoW. You are also in competition with others and just to be average, you have to play 2 hours a day, with 2 accounts (as CCP told somewhere that 2 is the average account number). I'd repeat: with that effort, you aren't competing for hardcore achievements, you are just average.

So casual players leave, but no one cares as they never mattered. Their activity didn't contribute to the mineral or LP production or to the kill count anyway. They were invisible, they die invisible. The concurrent login graph can't tell that they are gone. They never mattered to the sandbox.

The problem is that they did matter for the bottom line of CCP. If this trend goes on, along with the huge renting empires which are hives of AFK/bot farming, the concurrent login count can even increase and we can keep telling that everything is fine, until one day CCP announces that the remaining 100K subscriptions can't pay for their continued operation. Doubt it? 100K accounts can keep 30K logins, they just need to "play" 7 hours a day. Come on! Put in some effort people!

"Putting some effort" sounds sarcastic, but it's true. No matter what your "group" does, it doesn't need players, especially casuals, it needs accounts. If you want an enemy constellation hunted for ratters, which way would you go? Hire 24 average (not "casual") players from different time zones and motivate them to spend half their playtime scouting for ratters in the enemy space? Or just start an alt and leave it online all day AFK cloaked in a cyno-fit ship? Would you hire average players to get taxed income for your corp or just leave your alt in a Retriever in a belt and look on it once an hour? There is no reason to recruit players into your corp, alts are better, they are completely selfless, they never betray you, they never quit and they never make drama.

The result is that new and casual players linger on without anyone wanting to play with them (besides griefers) and then they quit.

I wrote how I'd limit farming hours. I was way too conservative. To make real players usable for corps, we need much stronger restraints on alts. I'd now propose to put a 2 hours/day logged on limit for an account (with a 14 hours pool). You can of course buy 2 more hours for a PLEX. This way the time of the casual player would be useful for other players. Then you'd rather recruit newbs in Rifters to tackle a ratter and light the cyno than parking your alts all around in cloaky ships. Tax from players would be a lucrative option compared to paying for 5 extra PLEX-es to be able to keep mining 10 hours a day. Remember, if you "play" every day, 2 hours a day means 60 hours a month. 740/60 = 12.3M ISK cost of operation with current PLEX price, and I guarantee that with the "players" buying PLEX-es for extra hours, PLEX will be over 2B in a month.

Would such limit be supported by the loud part of the community? Absolutely not. Incarna would look a minor misunderstanding compared to this. But it's necessary. If you think it's not, please tell me, what else could make the veterans play with newbies and casuals. Or that how could the game survive without them. Please don't forget that as soon as they quit, the "average" limit grows until the absurd point of 100K subscribers, still 30K concurrent logins! Sooner or later, your 5 hours/day playtime will be too casual for anyone to bother playing with you.

Yes, sure, there are always idealists trying to include newbies and casuals. Dreddit, Goonwaffe, RvB, BNI, hell my own Lemmings idea was based on that. But the numbers are heartless things: you could ban 85% of the accounts without significant loss of PvP activity. PvP is much harder to do while AFK or with bot than PvE, so I dare to guess that 97% of the players (not accounts) could be banned without the economy graphs changing a bit.

CCP must let real players have something of value for the sandbox, or they'll be rejected by the sandbox. I'm fully aware what would my suggestion mean in the short run: if most of the PvP and PvE is done by a tiny nolifer/bot community and we limit them, both the production and destruction graphs will be cut into half or less. I can't guarantee that EVE survives that. But I can guarantee that EVE won't survive a world where real players serve no other purpose than distraction for griefers.

PS: a Goon minion bought an expensive Mordu's Legion cruiser. What is more fitting end for it than being killed by a Mordus Angels. By the way that thing is an abomination. He fitted rapid light launchers so he expected to fight frigs. Then why on Earth did he also fit a disruptor and a scrambler. To tackle a frig? He should have fit a large extender and one more adaptive to have buffer to survive reload.

The Bastion losing stuff shouldn't surprise anyone. They are bad, even by the standards of CO2. Oh and don't forget RAZOR!


lowrads said...

It would be less risky, comparatively, to embrace F2P.

NoizyGamer said...

Before everyone piles on, I think I should point out that the graph shows the average concurrent user number is slightly below the mark set after Incarna and the Summer of Rage. That drop represented an 8% drop in subscriptions according to the data from MMOData. That drop also led to CCP laying off 20% of its staff.

Using the average concurrent numbers graph as proof that the numbers are steady? Probably not one of your better ideas. You might want to take a closer look at the data.

Provi miner said...

in view of your knock against rapid lights. with disruptors. While not the ship I would use there is a "fleet reason" for such a fit. Take a carcal the rapid lights are to clear off frigs while the tackle is to hold down the heavier ships. Solo its a dumb idea. Rapid lights were ok when they had large "magazines" but when they were knocked back they became a fleet screen weapon and not the one I would choose. So yeah bad fit for that action. I have yet to see a fleet fit that I would be caught dead in solo.

calintor said...

thoughtful contribution on player numbers. I dont think theres any question that long term CCP need a "second string" to the bow to be viable, and have had a couple of stutters on that front with WoD and Dust. Fingers crossed for Valkyrie and Legion

Without getting too "Eve is dying" about it, it seems to have an odd profile of people either never getting going, or hitting a "serious" multi-account profile. The middle ground is somewhere you pass through

Anonymous said...

I think this classic article about MUDs, their different player types and their interactions can actually be used to explain certain problems Eve has:

The author defines four types of players: Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers and Killers. These different groups have a certain way of interacting with each other. As an example:

"Achievers merely tolerate socialisers. Although they are good sources of general hearsay on the comings and goings of competitors, they're nevertheless pretty much a waste of space as far as achievers are concerned. Typically, achievers will regard socialisers with a mixture of contempt, disdain, irritation and pity, and will speak to them in either a sharp or patronising manner. Occasionally, flame wars between different cliques of socialisers and achievers may break out, and these can be among the worst to stop: the achievers don't want to lose the argument, and the socialisers don't want to stop talking!"

Anyone else recognising Gevlon in this?

The author goes on to define four types of stable configurations:

1) Killers and Achievers in equilibrium
2) A game dominated by Socialisers
3) All groups have similar influence
4) A game with no players

I'd argue that Eve doesn't fall in any of these categories right now and thus is unstable.

Being an achiever is hard due to the sandbox nature of the game that has no clear-cut goals. Most achievers probably resort to blinging out their ships or farming mass amounts of money, some might actually build a space empire but that's obviously only possible for a select few. Eventually these people either get bored by the lack of goals are overly annoyed by the sheer mass of killers in the game and leave.

Being an explorer is probably mostly possible in terms of exploring game mechanics but not so much the world itself as the Eve universe is overall pretty uninteresting compared to other games. Wormholes may have been an attempt at actually getting more of this kind of player into the game. The better know examples are probably the people who do the theorycrafting and developing of new doctrines, tactics and creative ways of abusing game mechanics (think RnK).

To me the game seems to be dominated by Killers and Socialisers due to the game design. In addition, the large amount of killers drives the achievers and (to a lesser degree) explorers away. According to these ideas, Eve should try to reach a stable configuration. The two best ways to do this seem to be to either strengthen the Achievers so they can balance out the Killers or to strengthen both Achievers and Explorers to balance all four types of players. However, neither of this would be possible without major changes in the gameplay and it would likely lead to initial pushback from Eve's Killer population. But according to theory this should not lead to any kind of mass exodus by Killers as the additional Achievers should actually attract them.

Anonymous said...

to have several accounts is nothing new for people playing some decades. the husbands account is not really dual account. But whenever you wanted to do something you better have more accounts. So eversince it where at least two accounts whatever game.

old MMOs where a world of hurt in so many ways, we easly forget today.

I wonder what SC and ED will do to EVE.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a bit disingenuous to list worldwide numbers since I doubt the revenue is near equal. People keep comparing Apocrypha numbers with now and that is not comparable.

My rough numbers are 500k * 80% West / 2.1 accounts per person puts us at 200k people subscribe to EVE in the West.

We are no longer getting subscriber numbers but the next financial statement will give us revenue at least.

Anonymous said...

It is more simple than that.
Since EVE is the only MMO that punishes playing cooperatively with others, people who want to get something done efficiently, MUST use multiple accounts.
It is sad and in the long run the death warrant for Eve that game mechanics are plain crappy. The devs always put out the lamest excuse ever! It's sandbox!!! People should create their own content.
Sadly enough, no one can CREATE own content on a constructive way. Corps are threatened by thiefs, spies and other scum.
It would be so simple to implement a security measure, similar to locking up a corp bpo:
tag items as corp-owned, so that only CEO and one Director(or maybe a new role) can unlock such items.
Item can't be sold without "ok" from said persons and if a thief leaves the corp, all the corp owned assets will leave the thiefs possession.

Furthermore, nerf highsec ganking, it is just a nuisance for pvp-adverse players. Or at least put in a fair pvp rating system: a catalyst killing a mining barge or indu or freighter should give a negative result. There should be a dps comparison. attackers dps divided by victims dps. A ratio greater than 1 should result in a penalty and a fine. A ship with 0 dps would give a division by zero error, leading to severe consequences for the ganker.
As the majority of players is more interested in PVE than shooting defenseless ships, tuning and maintaining PVE content should get more into the focus of CCP devs.


Anonymous said...

Another deduction from the poor subscriber / real person pilots.

If there is only <40k people playing it and even less paying it, we do not need to ask anymore why so many things mechanic wise in EVE are in such a poor shape.
CCP simply lacks manpower and funds to get things done properly. And the launch of solar citizen will be the final nail in EVE's coffin.
If CCP were honest, they would publish the raw data unbiased and unprocessed. They really should start working on ways to improve game fun for beginners, instead of buffing beginner ships or making specialized ships more easily attainable.
There is absolutely no correlation between material need/production cost and "efficiency" or survivability of a ship.

Furthermore, the sandbox argument holds no value anymore.
MINECRAFT is a sandbox game too and way more successful... And yes, you suffer losses too in MC...