In my last post, I’ve spoken about a hierarchy of interactions, arguing for an Eve worldview that places direct player interactions at the top. That’s an intentionally provocative stance, and as a direct result, it decreases the priority on other interactions.
After all, while certain marketing campaigns or simplified business objectives may require CCP to single out a highest priority, these concepts don’t generally make it out of the C-suite. But identifying what matters “most” is a great way to understand ourselves, our priorities, and our objectives. The harder the question is, the more insightful the answer.
But they certainly don’t encapsulate how players actually engage with Eve Online. So now I’d like to support what may appear to be a contrary position, but one that deserves attention too.
Eve needs to open as many gateways to player engagement as possible.
And we’re seeing that with a simplified new player experience emphasizing rewards and call-outs for a variety of aspects of the game. Long-term engagement depends on satisfying as many of a player’s urges and interests as possible to overcome the “boredom hurdle”.
Let me share my experience prior to starting Eve. The first game I ever played online was Federation, a text-based spaceship market trading game that used automated price fluctuations to let you earn profits, but which wasn’t otherwise mathematical. I then moved on to The Eternal City, a text-based roleplaying game that incorporated a D&D-style combat system, had permadeath, and required you to remain in-character at all times. It was highly situational and story-driven. I played it for eight years.
I dabbled in graphical games like Lineage II on a mirror server, but that was pretty much a button masher that lacked long-term goals. I kept rolling new characters to try different classes, but the game was very much a “get the best gear, smash people with it” situation and wasn’t mathematical, complex, or emergent.
So, when I started playing Eve, I was first drawn to the market. Oh, and the spaceships. I knew nothing else about it. I wanted to trade. I spent most of my time mining and running high-sec missions.
Eve was fundamentally different than any other game. I remember panicking because I used up 45% of my capacitor during my warp off and didn’t realize it recharged with time: “I can’t do anything now, I need 45% capacitor to get back!” I was afraid that my ship would burn up if I landed at the sun. I succumbed to the “get the biggest ship with the biggest weapons” philosophy and thought the game was a crappy, broken game when a frigate stole jet-canned my mission loot in high sec, I attacked, and I couldn’t hit the thing with my cruise missiles. “They’re the biggest weapon, why can’t I hit anything?”
When I tried Eve first in 2009, I had no real way of knowing what resources were out there, and the in-game experience was terrible at presenting the options available to me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was a typical “bad” Eve player… I didn’t even think to seek out player-created commentary about the game… that had never been part of the games I played in the past, and it didn’t occur to me to do it now.
I quit within two months.
Quite simply, the Eve of 2009 wasn’t suited to draw in players and engage them. Nor was the Talvorian Dex of 2009 predisposed to naturally fit into the Eve universe. We were on two sides of a river with no bridge. I wasn’t the ideal Eve player, and I wasn’t pulled in the direction I needed to go to really enjoy the game.
CCP has made a lot of strides since then to improve the new player experience to present a lot more of the possibilities for players. And a lot of players are reading about Eve before they start playing. New player corporations like Brave Newbies and Eve University offer huge advantages. And bloggers are writing copiously, and enjoying an increased profile towards new players.
All of this helps. And it’s absolutely critical that there are resources to engage players regardless of where they sit on the spectrum. Eve is a difficult enough game for players to understand – years in, I’m still learning things – without excluding players who enjoy aspects you don’t personally enjoy.
Every gateway that brings players into the game is a good, valuable one because of the instrumental benefit of generating “leads”. Maybe you stick to one aspect for a while (ex. mining, mission running). That’s okay. Just know that the game and your fellow players will try to cross-sell you on other aspects. We want you to stick around for a long while, and the best way to achieve that goal is to convince you to find multiple parts of the game valuable to overcome “the Boredom Hurdle”. No one wants you to stop mission running (well, except other mission runners who want THEIR loot to be more valuable!), but we want to help cultivate you into enjoying different touchpoints of the game as well.
The ultimate goal is for you to become one of those players who has two accounts with a mission runner, miner, trader, PvP character, capital pilot, and WH pilot on them, and who can enjoy a range of features for years to come. Having a hierarchy of desired player habits and behavior doesn’t mean those who don’t conform to it; player engagement isn’t a yes/no dichotomy, but a scale from less-to-more engaged. Every aspect of the game is valuable to retain, because every aspect can draw players deeper in.
Before I returned to Eve in 2011, I did a lot of reading. I saw it as a challenge that I hadn’t “gotten” the game, and wanted to understand it. And when I decided to subscribe, what appealed to me wasn’t the singular value of PvP, but rather the whole range of activities. There was so much to explore that I thought to myself, “This game will be worth the investment of learning it.”
As many have commented, the variety drew me in again, now that I knew the variety existed. I stayed for the inter-connectivity between myself and the other players. I wanted to dive into null-sec – the most dangerous space available at the time – and joined a corp. They PvPed regularly (and poorly!), and I was pulled into that community. But the first time I was really engaged and passionate about Eve was when Get Off My Lawn attempted to invade our patch of renter’s space (under Solar Fleet). I was offended, I was incensed. I was livid that they would dare try to take our stuff! And from that moment on, I was hooked.
That engagement depended on so many factors not involving sov warfare, though. I had to be aware of the game and have enough knowledge of what I could do in it to be interested and willing to spend my time learning it. I had to have interest in another area of the game beyond my first one: mining. And I had to feel that the transition from one focus to another was easy enough that I was willing to do it again by moving to null-sec. So many experiences unrelated to PvP were critical to my discovering and loving PvP.
Finding a love of one kind of direct player interaction depended on a wide range of non-interactive (to my eyes) activities first. Like a rose, it doesn’t spontaneously generate only from itself; it needs water, soil, sunlight, and nutrients to come into being. But even a hardcore PvPer should recognize the intrinsic value of all other behaviors and activities in Eve. What satisfies us today doesn’t satisfy us tomorrow.
We need to capture and engage the player they are as we develop them into the player we want to be: a long-term player who interacts with several touch-points of the game at the same time.
Sell to your audience first, then cultivate your customer’s tastes in a direction that benefits you.