Greedy Goblin

Friday, September 25, 2015

EVE Community vs EVE players

Today I present even more heretical ideas than yesterday, where based on CCP data I claimed that most players are loners, introverts who cannot be reached by the "into the face" communication style of CCP. Today I explain why can't CCP keep subscribers, despite by all accounts they are the most connected gaming company to their community and do the best among all to work with and listen to their community. The explanation is simple: CCP can't keep players subscribed, because they are connected to, listen to and work with the community. What is this nonsense? The players are the community!

Wrong! While the community is diverse and often forms cliques, it is completely unified in one thing: the CSM election. Every single opinion leader urged their followers to vote. While we obviously disagreed who to vote for, there wasn't a single voice that said "boycott". On top of that, voting is objectively right, CCP does consult with CSM and often listens to them, even in important things. Still, only 37K accounts voted for CSM 10. If we assume 300K accounts, that's mere 12%. Even if EVE is down to 200K accounts, it's 18%. As invested players have more accounts than casuals, it's very likely 37K voter accounts had less players behind them than 37K non-voter accounts. So we can come to the conclusion that the EVE community is a 10-15% minority within the EVE playerbase. The rest of 85-90% players either don't know about the community or keep away from it in disgust (if you don't vote because "it does nothing" or "they are all the same", you keep away from it in disgust).

All the problems of CCP that can't be explained by lack of money can be explained by their intimate attachment to the EVE community, a loud, often toxic, "let's get drunk and shoot shit" minority who do not represent the EVE playerbase at all. What represents the playerbase? Hell if I know, I'm in the community, for better or worse. What we know about them we know from numbers, mostly that they play solo:

Other source of knowledge is generic video game knowledge. While the community insists that EVE is special, I'm pretty sure that the playerbase isn't much different from the playerbase of WoW or WoT. Finally we can do things that gather or spread information, that can't do harm. Based on these, I'd make the following suggestions to CCP:
  • Create a new team whose task is to gather information, try to understand and try to communicate with the players who are not members of the community (using the rudimentary definition "not voted last CSM election despite was eligible"). Divide resources between this team and the community team according to the ratio of players under their scope (it won't mean 90-10, because newbies are counted nowhere). A new team is necessary. The community team can't be fixed, because they are not broken, they do a good job in engaging the community (Falcon comments on me are not exceptions, look at the upvotes next to them!).
  • Greatly increase the amount of game information within the client. As majority of players are not in the community, the data available on third party sites is likely non-existent to them.
  • Accept MMO industry good practices that do not mean in-game rule changes. For example achievements popping up or after-battle scoreboards do not make any ship stronger.
  • Divide solo and diverse/group content development resources according to the number of players playing that way. Content doesn't mean reward, I'm not advocating more profitable missions, I'm advocating more fun missions. CCP must realize that while the whole community is at arms about Sov mechanics, they will adapt and keep whining. On the other hand no one whines over mining is boring, they just get bored and leave. Frigate/destroyer PvP should be the model for solo PvE activities: while it has miniscule rewards (loot or ISK damage done to enemy), it's widely considered fun due to the extreme amount of care and developer resources poured into their constant rebalancing and new ship design.
CCP sits on the horse backwards. They say "players who aren't engaged with the community will quit anyway so let's focus on the community", while the truth is "players who aren't engaged with the community will quit because they get no focus". I urge CCP to realize that the average EVE player is very far from the community member, he is a lone or very small group miner, missioner or roaming PvP-er. I also urge CCP to embrace this group, provide content for them and don't try to "fix" them into community members or one day we'll be looking at 37K subscriptions and that wouldn't be fun. Especially since all 37K want to subscribe via PLEX purchased for ISK.


Anonymous said...

On EVE being like other MMOs, yes. Even if it isn't necessarily true, it is that that probably represents most new players expectations. I come in. I play and "level up". I learn the game. I maybe make some friends. Then my activities slowly transition to more PVP than PVE.

EVE is of course different, leveling is based on in game and activity. That's the first hurdle to overcome. Next is that the PVE experience isn't a good stepping stone to PVP. But in most MMOs, it's not anyway, but people do learn to "play their class" in PVE then, maybe learn some finer points in how they spec gear for PVP. Eve is just different I this regard. That difference means the experience you get in PVE is less transferable to PVP. IN other games older players will PVE to help younger ones. Its a recruitment activity. Its a training ground. Its a place to make friends. A pace to move out of the solo game play experience. Eve, as you point out, has a greater jump discontinuity here. Its causes Many people to leave or continue to just fly spaceships solo but never make the transition to what is a more fun and compelling experience (Eve PVP).

Great post. If I were investing CCP'S assets Id definitely have some resources dedicated to just improving the PVE experiencE with the goal of encouraging low level groups to form. Maybe small instanced pockets that only members of the same fleet in. No PVP risk but the players learn to play with each other, rather than solo, and make friends. Then they can come out and PVP together. To those who don't like the safety this idea proposes - its just not Eve enough - I asset that it's like planting seeds. Be patient and this will give you more content ad these new players grow together.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if there was some sort of API export mechanism to track people's accomplishments distinct from killmails. For example, there's no system tracking people's contributions in FW or in defending a timer or obtaining some structure. It's tracked live of course, but it doesn't make up a recorded history that players can point to on demand. If you don't track it, it didn't happen.

People are attached to whatever they consider their identity, and they can't easily rationalize themselves away from an identity.

Anonymous said...

This is where I think I see your standard ability to jump to conclusions based upon data without actually fully analysing the data or looking beyond your personal data set.

In a standard democratic country voter turnout is about 60-70% at best. So when asked to decide on how the country you live in should be run, 30 to 40 % of the people simply cannot be bothered to stand up and vote.
Why would you assume that that behaviour is different when it comes to a computer game?
In fact, this just being a game it's likely that this percentage becomes far greater.

Then you also ignore all the players who consider the game to be fine as it is. The people who play this casually either alone or with small groups of friends. They most likely will not vote, but their retention is not based upon small changes in gameplay but on external factors. If their lives get to busy for EVE they leave.

Most of these players also simply do not read websites, blogs or whatever about EVE and could not care less about communication, though I disagree with you idea that such players would be in some way shocked by direct communication with Devs should that happen. No matter how much you dislike it, social interaction with complete strangers who you've never met before is an essential part of any successful business.

All you've really shown is that a small portion of the playerbase voted for the CSM. All the rest of your conclusions drawn from that just have no base in actual research.

That is not to say that I think improving PVE / solo play is in any way bad, as that could indeed generate more players, some of whom would inevitably end up in the bigger coalitions, benefiting everyone in game.

Provi Miner said...

first off there is no solo, once you undock (and not even then, even the most soloist market trader is still at the mercy of the community). So quick thinking solo and start thinking how to kill. You know the truth shoot a noob with in a month and they are far more likely to stick around. The problem with keeping people isn't solo content its that we have to few people killing noobs. Code does more to keep people in the game than any other group. you have said that yourself. CCP numbers bare this out. I start noobs in on the other side of null and make them run a gauntlet to get to high sec. Some odd reason people will pay to play a game where they are the victims till they become the hunters. Dying to rancer gate camp did more to make me play more than anything else.

Gevlon said...

@The non-voter demographics in real life IS very different from the voter. They are more likely poor and otherwise deprived. Why can the others decide for them, because they are a 30-40% minority and not a 85-90% majority. You wouldn't call a country with 15% voters democracy, right?

Where did I claim that anything else besides "not voted" and "40% solo, 10% group/diverse" is based on research? I said we know nothing about them and knowing the community won't get us closer to knowing them. I suggested starting the research and do some "can't harm" stuff.

Anonymous said...

This is a very old idea, pre-dating you Gevlon. The problem is no one but CCP, and possibly some CSM members, know. Most of the numbers that would tell us something about the type of player you're looking for are either not released or sanitized into relative line graphs without numbers before release. We know they have them because they mention this or that metric in interviews or at Fanfest presentations. But as someone somewhere said, they don't tell you what to do to keep them. They tell you what the players are doing, not what they want to do.

Chances are investing in PVE is the single best thing CCP could do for those players, but which part of PVE? Missions? Mining? Industry? In other games common sense tells me they should focus on 5-10man PVE, that seems to be the fun sweet spot for what people want to do between trivial and complex. But who knows for Eve. Entire systems other genres take for granted and players don't even think about are entirely missing, while other systems are so far outside the norm they may as well be something completely different. Can't really use things from other games as a rule of thumb in that regard.

sorrowofeve said...

Voting is a big responsibility I feel. I think one has to be really informed to make a decent decisions. You have to be able to find the differences in what a party says in its campaign, and what it really intends to do.
I was able to vote in the last two elections in Hungary, and tried to be somewhat informed before elections, but felt that I still don't know much about politics, economy, and media to make a decision which is responsible. But then again, I also felt that we did not have many options, either you voted for morons, or voted for the other party, which werent morons, but was not the one you wanted either.

So in EVE you should be informed too. But then again, who the hell (apart from you) reads all the wall of text from the candidates?
So I use your selection table as a starting point, and from the harmless and passed ones read the ones that interests me the most.
And then, I vote.
But I don't feel this is the way one should vote (not because your viewpoint is wrong, but because I should make my own, but it's too much work).

Cathfaern said...

"On EVE being like other MMOs, yes. Even if it isn't necessarily true, it is that that probably represents most new players expectations. I come in. I play and "level up". I learn the game. I maybe make some friends. Then my activities slowly transition to more PVP than PVE."
It's true, except in World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Final Fantasy XIV (and was not true in Everquest), which are the most popular MMO's in the western world. What you write is true for korean MMO-s (Lineage2, TERA, Aion, Archage, etc.) which are not really popular in Europe / USA. So most players start PvE and don't stop it, and it's the main activity for them (GW2 is the odd one out because it's a bit like EVE: you can start PvP since the beginning, and for many player it's the main activity. But those who mainly PvE don't shift to PvP later).

Anonymous said...

The biggest group of players is seemingly mission runners and solo miners.

This is where CCP should focus the game?
Would you play that game?

Gevlon said...

One: who cares if I'd play that game. Their $15 is just as good as mine.
Two: EVE already have enough features to allow competitive gameplay without any changes for years. What it lacks is players to compete with. So anything that increases playerbase increases the value of the game.

Stabs said...

I think the situation is even worse than you describe.

Personal contact with developers almost certainly has an effect on game design direction. We've seen CCP Seagull addressing audiences, asking "what do you think?" and milking the applause at Fanfest. The Mittani used to set great store by meetings with developers, telling people that most of the real work while he was a CSM got done in the pub after the official meetings.

The amount of players who actually meet and discuss the game with devs is absolutely tiny and there's no reason to suppose they are representative of even their own constituencies. Why would Sion pursue the agenda of an average Imperium line member rather than that of Goon upper management?

There's both stick and carrot effect here. If a dev does what a highly invested power player wants he's praised for "listening to the players." If a dev say were more interested in fixing high sec mining than sov mechanics he'd be derided for being terrible, maybe even calls would be made that he should be fired. He's unlikely to actually be fired but he may decide not to continue working for CCP. A hostile player base could have a real impact on someone's professional career.

Lastly the notion that players should influence design direction has always seemed incredibly hazardous to me. What players really want is to win. In order to win, someone else has to lose. So if loud people get what they want they win and the quiet ones lose. We've seen this in the ore rebalances, we're seeing it now in loud clamouring to "make nullsec rewarding" even though these players very obviously have far more money than players who live in low sec or high sec.

Anonymous said...

sorrowofeve: Voting is a big responsibility I feel. I think one has to be really informed to make a decent decisions.
well, it depends. Are you filthy rich? If so you use lobby and not voting.
[..]if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened. it's about 70% that don't the outcome at all.
(PDF) Gilens M. and Page B.I. 2014 Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
Yeah it's US but an interesting paper. As a german young man some moons ago, I remember the first time I could vote. I had no idea who I should chose. So I read every party election ad and program paper of previous elections. looked into what they made come true and how much compromise and fake accomplishment there was, also what did every opposition really do. It didn't take long to realise that it's fake, it cost a better part of a month to finally draw my conclusion that I better don't vote at all.

Anonymous said...

Add Daoc, Warhammer, Elder Scrolls Online to the PVE to PVP transition group. I think the poster wasn't looking at MMOS that never transition from PVE to PVP. Just that th ose that do offer PVP do have a better glidepath.

sorrowofeve said...

@anon: I am too come to the conclusion, that I should not vote at all, because I cant side with any of the parties. But then I realize, even if you do not have a good option, you can always choose the less harmful. But back to EVE:

But I don't think this is the problem in EVE. I only experience a small segment of EVE gameplay, and I only read a handful of blogs, and some of the news. So I vote for someone, who would like to improve the gameplay I am doing atm.

Most players don't vote, because they dont want to read through a ton of moronic/irrelevant candidate posts to find those he would vote for. I think people don't want to make that effort to vote and by that try to improve the game. Why should they try to improve the game?

I mean, Blizz listened to the whining forums of wow. I loved vanilla and BC, then the game got stupid, but accounts skyrocketed. The only people who cried on the forums were the casuals, who thought they should achieve everything, because they pay the same as HC players. I enjoyed vanilla, I never visited the forums, because why would I, when I can play this awesome game instead. Then game went stupid I visited the forums because I would liked to vouce my opinion, and saw, that people were crying for years to dumb down the game, so blizz did it. I went there to ask to make it like vanilla/BC again. Dumbing was more popular so they went with it.

The problem Gevlon proposes is really interesting. In wow whining casuals were the majority and the most voiced opinion too, so the gameplay went dumb and accounts skyrocketed.
In EVE maybe this is not true. There has been years of Devs listening to the community and accounts are stagnant or declining.

Cathfaern said...

Daoc and Warhammer is already closed. Elder Scrolls Online not, but it's not too popular... western people just don't really like these pve => pvp MMOs.

Blizzard never really listened to the active community.

Anonymous said...

There's a very easy way to get feedback from everyone and that is to email surveys to a random sample of active account holder's email addresses. Simple, fair, straightforward method of collecting customer feedback, and unlike CSM actually represents a true cross section of their customer base and fixes the alt problem (unless they sign up with multiple emails for some reason).

The CSM is a convoluted nonsense. It was invented in response to the t20 scandal, but now instead of one dev helping on alliance, you now have 12 potential t20s feeding NDA information to their 12 respective alliances, and lobbying CCP for changes that benefit them, htf this is any better I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

Is the correct focus on what Western people like? Or, rather, on how the most successful PVP games succeed? If those are non Western games, are we wrong to look at them? Are they not popular in the West because they got this aspect wrong? Or maybe there are other, potentially unrelated, reasons why they aren't as popular here. It *may not* be the PVE -》PVP model that makes them unpopular here.

Also, Eve does offer some PVE. The issue is that experience doesn't encourage group play until you do level 5s or incursions which aren't new character activities. For all its problems, other games do a better job of offering an environment where younger players are encouraged to work together and become friends. IN Eve, by contrast, their first lesson is often "Don't trust anyone." It would be a better experience if learning that lesson was more "Don't trust everyone" but gave them an opportunity to meet and play with people they could trust because the game mechanics actually support their building that trust. People leave MMOS because their friends stop playing. Eve will be more successful if new players could feel that sense of belonging sooner. Too many leave because they don't get that feeling. There is no downside to leaving. For them the emotional switching costs never got high enough to keep them engaged.

Fun conversation.

Anonymous said...

perhps lvl 3s should be 3 man pve and lvl 4s 5 man. perhaps even balance lvl 4s to need tanky ship + logistics and 3 DPS. is the agro mechanics up to this?

then heavily buff belt rats in 0.6 and 0.5 space(and 0.2-0.1) or give bonuses to mining yield if more people target the same asteroid. it depletes faster though so more active mining because of more target swaps.

Vince Snetterton said...

It is simple enough to fix.

CCP should designate a single learning corp run by players (I would suggest Eve UNI), where all new players are dumped into, and where the new player is immediately immersed in other players and a culture of learning. Of course, all the other teaching corps would lose their collective minds, and of course goons would immediately make moves to take out Eve UNI leadership and replace it with their own.

maxim said...

Eve is a different game though.
Much mre emphasis on preparation, exploration and economics than actual action.
So one should be careful with what industry practices get incorporated.

I do agree the devs need to be more in touch with the little guys though.

Anonymous said...

Want to know why a portion of the players do not want to interact in the Real World with other players? Because the Community have, time-and-time-again, proven that they can not be trusted to be adults. They have been given the ability to, and encouraged to (by CCP) police their own, they refuse to do it. They gather into groups and out comes every type of -ism that make the PC crowds angry, and people who are marginalized in the real world afraid to interact. I have played games for many years and continue to play MUDS to this day, want to know why? Because those communities are not toxic like Eve is. The trust is real in those games, not part of the meta like Eve. There is REAL Risk vs Reward, unlike Eve's version, where "He who places the greatest number of corp members in the CSM win". Have I been hellcamped in the games I play ... hell yes and it was fun, unlike in Eve where I have to deal with people who act like abused as children police officers ... badge carrying power trippers, with judge jury and executioner mentalities.

I got out of nullsec because of the -ism crowd, the unrealistic trickle down economics and 'created wars'. I left lowsec because of power projection and the trillionaire nullsec crowd hotdropping anything that didn't run when a neutral hit local. And highsec has to many of both crowds shitting up everything because they are bored with no targets (null-blue donut/low-FW Pendulum) ... guess who voted with their wallet on nullsec dominance of CCP game design time.