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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Playing in Small Increments

For the past six years, work and family have absorbed most of my time, and relaxation activities fell into the gaps. More often than not, I’d either have to drop them or cut into sleep to enjoy them. Physically, it’s amazing how much getting the proper amount of sleep can change you. I’m a lot more clear-headed, am yawning a lot less, and am generally a lot more pleasant to be around. It’s amazing how easy it is to miss gradual changes.

The past month has been a busy one, preparing for Christmas with two kids, finishing out the year at work, and enjoying some time gaming, albeit much less than before. Whereas previously I’d spend a little time before bed each night playing, for the past month and a half, I’ve only snatched an hour here and there.

That said, I’ve quite rarely been playing Eve. Oh, sure, I’ve been playing the heck out of Skyrim, and after the Steam sale, I’ve been enjoying Total War: Attila and Stellaris. The reasons for that shift really speak to some of the long-term challenges Eve has faced.

On paper, the launch of alpha clones should have generated a lot of excitement for me. More people in space needing to learn about the game? For a site like mine, it’d be ideal. I should have been reposting old articles, creating new guides, and addressing some of the emergent problems alpha clones were facing. That would have likely meant lots of time reading through the Eve-O forums and reddit, scouring them for insights.

Only, that’s exactly the kind of time sink I just can’t manage anymore. A month ago I shared that I wasn’t leaving Eve, only reducing my level of engagement. That meant a lot less reddit reading. I tool my hands off the tiller, as it were, and decided to try to just enjoy the game and talk about my experiences.

In so doing, I discovered the truth of something I’d really only considered in passing. Eve is not a game for casuals. By that, I don’t mean that casuals don’t belong. The game would undoubtedly be better without them, and it desperately needs its new blood.

No, what I mean, perhaps put a little more clearly, is that Eve is not suited to a causal playstyle. Is that really a surprising comment to make about a game that promotes itself on saying, “We don’t provide content; players are the content”?

Many bloggers are casting about for an explanation as to why new players leave the game in such high numbers. Some point to the fact that so many of the game’s institutions – corporations, alliances, and communities – tend to push you to play more and more often. Pap links, kill requirements, external chat servers like Discord… they all deepen the engagement to get you to be able to respond and log in immediately. You end up playing the game even when you aren’t playing the game.

The natural state of playing Eve is to become more and more involved naturally over time. By limiting your time, you limit your deepest possible level of engagement. Simply put, you miss everything worth participating in on a community level. Supercap kill about to go down? Well, you missed it because you weren’t on Discord. Find an interesting PvE site that someone needed help with? Too bad, they couldn’t contact you.

And, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only reasonable that before people can work together, they need to communicate. Being an active part of a community should result in better and more enjoyable content.

The real problem comes from the nature of that content. Try to play Eve for an entire month in half-hour sessions at a time. Just try it. I suspect you’ll find the same thing I did; the first half hour, even the first hour, of most types of gameplay are set-up, with nothing interesting happening until will after that. The vast majority of fleets take a couple hours, and most of them don’t even leave until half an hour in.

Even PvE content takes the better part of an hour to do most things, with the exception of some missions (which may take half an hour round-trip) or and an optimized cosmic anomaly. Eve simply isn’t a game that includes options for quick fun.

Contrast that, if you will, with many other games out there. Think of your favorite one. For me, I’ll consider space games (Stellaris), multiplayer games (Counter-Strike), or strategic games (Total War). Sure, Eve as a whole is different from them. But people don’t choose to play a game based on an entirety of what they can do; they choose based on what they will do with that session. What can you really accomplish with half an hour that compares to half an hour with any of those other games in your library? In many cases, Eve requires a critical mass of time before it’s worthwhile to even log in.

That’s the challenge really facing Eve. I hold to my original belief that casuals are outside of the core demographic of CCP and Eve Online as whole. They can certainly enjoy themselves and should be welcomed, but Eve just isn’t built for casuals.

If you have a lot of time, Eve can be immensely rewarding and rich game that reveals much about human behavior and the variety of emergent gameplay. But if you don’t, it will often come in second when considering which of the games in your library should fill some spare moments.

Ultimately, it’s not comprehension that limits the breadth of Eve players, but the time commitment required to really accomplish anything with a play session. That’s the real trick, though. How can you create that popcorn content that’s engaging and worth doing, without unbalancing it for the core demographic? Is it even possible, or is the attempt to capture both the casual and hardcore markets impossible for one game to do effectively?

9 comments:

  1. Catching up on blogs and I'm surprised I'm the first comment. Perhaps there's just a lot of silently nodding heads, or the timing after Christmas. I'm pretty much in the same place as you, though my time is perhaps on a mild upswing over the long run as yours is declining. Finding the right Eve playstyle that fits more limited time is a challenge, but the good news is that the sandbox provides lots of options I suppose.

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    1. That's the key, "I suppose". Perhaps my perspective might be different if I was a newer player slowly stepping up my play. As a veteran who's used to a certain level of immersion, stepping back has a hollow feel to it. Eve isn't made to leave you satisfied taking a back seat, which is both a strength and a weakness.

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  2. I agree 100% with you. I am through exact the same stages as you are at the moment. Finally i left eve even if i miss it often and know playing guild wars 2. because its also has a great pvp / wvw and is more suited for casauals!. I will continue to read your blog just to see where you end :) Cheers!

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  3. Looks like you just stopped :(?

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    1. I went from playing a couple hours every day to playing perhaps a couple hours a week as a result of the shift in my time. That really took me below the threshold for Eve providing what I enjoyed. Eve really isn't set up to enjoy a la carte, fifteen minutes here or there, a couple days a week. So, I stopped really engaging with the game, and without the engagement, I didn't have a lot to blog about.

      Essentially, I pulled myself out of the hardcore demographic into the casual, and Casual Eve isn't really that compelling compared to the alternatives.

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    2. Yeah I've had the exact same problems a year or more ago. Do you play now other games? Or what do you do as a casual in eve? I've tried out to do pvp but I don't find a possibility :/

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  4. Same here. These are the ways I've tried to engage, all with varying levels of success:

    * Exploration (hacking / archae)
    * WH stealth (a la Wingspan)
    * Ninja salvaging
    * Faction warfare
    * Just flying through nullsec until I hit a bubble, then trying to engage my soon-to-be killers in conversation

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  5. I had to change my playstyle completely, due to health and work reasons. I can rarely play more than a few hours per week, if at all. My chars a all subscribed for a while but at one point I will have to decide whether it is worth keeping them, since I can't use them.

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