Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hell Is Other People

I do a lot of philosophical thinking when I’m driving.  Recently, I was desperately trying to get to work on time (that’s a common theme, now that I think about it… too many late nights with Eve) and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get past the drivers who think the left lane is meant for cruising.  I’m not sure if it’s the same outside of the U.S., but here, it’s not.  The left lane is meant for passing and bursts of speed; if someone’s on your tail in the left lane, you’re doing it wrong.

I’d get behind one inconsiderate driver, then switch lanes and be stuck behind another.  This happened for 20 minutes.  Hell is other people, sometimes.

But in Eve, it’s exactly the opposite.

Could you imagine an Eve Online without interactions among the players?  Imagine that all you could do all day long was rat, run anomalies, signatures, and missions.  You could mine by yourself.  You could never buy or sell anything for a profit, since the market orders would be fixed and stable, never suffering the fluctuations of dynamic demand and changes in fleet doctrine strategy.

You wouldn’t ever face the challenge of running into a gate camp.  You’d never be blobbed.  You’d interact with anything outside of the red crosses in space and the little pictures of agents in station.  You’d slowly accrue your isk and grow ever-wealthier, along with a bunch of other players who you never interact with, since there’s no need. 

The idea of having to log in specifically to set skill queues annoys you, as does the 4-hours you need to wait when you decline missions from the same agent.  It’s annoying that you can’t immediately transport your ships to whatever system you want, and you think CCP should set up a separate shard with GM buffer NPCs to make a “storyline” version of the game, like other MMOs do.  It frustrates you that you need to play for a few months before you can fly that ship as well as you’d like.  Why can’t you skill up faster if you play all day long?

You can play your game exactly as you want, stop and start any time you want.  Nothing ever really surprises you unless you choose not to read the online wikis, but if you avoided those, you’d waste so much time experimenting and you might die.

Sound boring and frightening?  Here’s the really scary part.  That’s what Eve already is for a majority of players.

We have the famous statistic about how only 10% of players join an in-game community, and that this is the best way to ensure the longevity of an account.  Ultimately, Eve is probably the only MMO that lives up to the definition.  The primary content it provides is player interaction.  CCP is literally like the man/men who invented the rules of football; you never see them in the game and you never play against them.  Players are the content.

Or so the marketing, the wishes of CCP, and the attitudes of those players who DO choose to join a community and become integrated into the game believe.  But for the other 90%, Eve is no different from a very, very long SimCity session.  They might pick it back up and play it every few months, if they didn’t have to pay more money each month they want to play.  But they simply don’t “get” the true value of Eve.

And that’s a scary thought.  In the real world, sometimes hell is other people.  In Eve, hell is isolation.


  1. Seeing as they're a business, 10% long term customer retention is CCP's version of hell. If everybody played this game the way you want them to play it, then only the 10% would still be logging in at all and CCP would be going belly up in no time.

    1. If everyone played this MMO the way MMOs are played, that 10% would be a lot higher.

    2. Seeing as MMOs are by and large not played this way, wouldn't the 10% be a lot lower? Even LFR in WoW now falls in this category of non-interaction.

    3. The more CCP can do to engage new players with the player-driven content, the more players who will be doing exactly the sort of behavior that tends to result in long-term subscriptions: group play. I don't care where it happens, either. That's engagement. And increased engagement will see that 10% creep up.

      Don't bring up WoW. It's a sucky, boring game. By all rights, you might as well be playing Skyrim by yourself. It doesn't compare to Eve in the experience, the values desired, or the parts of human nature engaged by the game. Eve is about tossing a pile of guns up in the air above a group of school children and watching the politics, negotation, and violence begin.

  2. that's because most of eve punishes you for interacting with other players. pretty much all PVE does it, and in pvp it's just "he with most wins", which is no surprise that people avoid it.

    if it were more worth while for people to interact; more than 10% of people would do it.

  3. Eve without players sounds the same as X3:TerranConflict

  4. I'll tell you an interesting story from when I started playing Eve and maybe it should show as an example of what CCP needs to actively push.

    When I joined Eve back in early 2011 i really didn't know much about the game and was quite literally lost wandering high sec in a noob ship. I was still on my 2 week trial and pretty sure I wasn't going to pay for this game I couldn't really figure out. I had done some of the terrible new player missions and had ventured out to try some level one missions (or maybe it was level 2) and of course lost whatever shit fit ship it was that I had and reverted back to using noob ships as I was flat broke.

    As I was hopelessly sitting on a gate somewhere in Empire, a window announcung a request for a player conversation unexpectedly opened. Until this point I had not really interacted with anyone else in game, so with a sense of curiosity I eagerly accepted the chat request. Turns out the request was from an ISD member who quite literally noticed a lost noob and wanted to see if they could help. The ISD member inquired as to how I was doing and if I needed help/advice. I answered honestly that I was so far unhappy with the game, had not enjoyed the game content (meaning missions), and was thinking of quitting. To this, the ISD member responded "You really need to join a player run corporation to enjoy this game!"

    I was intrigued but still felt a little overwhelmed, so i asked him if he could recommend a corporation to join. "Unfortuantely" he said, "I can't name any corporations as I have to remain impartial, but do yourself a favor and google seach new player friendly Eve Online corporations/alliance.(I am paraphrasing here)" I did the search and Eve University was the first link that appeared. I joined Eve-Uni shortly after and am now still playing Eve more than 3 years later. This one 5 minute conversation by an unpaid volunteer (ISD) succeeded in bringing in a long term customer and hundreds of dollars in revenue to CCP.

    So what's the lesson here? If CCP wants to increase that 10% customer success rate, it really needs to promote the hell out of the idea of joining a ew player friendly organization (Eve-Uni, RVB, BNI, etc) to all of its new players. To hell with maintaining a sense of impartiality among player organizations as CCP is a business and the bottom-line is they want this game (and their business) to succeed. CCP should feature these types of organizations on the log on screen of a new player, it should send out Eve mails promoting them, add them to the MOTD of the help chat rooms, or hire an army of ISD members to go have a personal chats with new members. In other words, actually make a real attempt at customer retention.

  5. A couple of comments. The first is that I believe that some players confuse the openess of the sandbox with a degree of self-entitlement. "Find your own game within the shared sandbox" seems often misunderstood as "each player is entitled to their own personal sandbox within the game" -- I believe the latter sentiment is what causes many new (and also old) players to feel aggrieved when their "personal sandbox" is interefered with by others. And that this misunderstanding is a problem for EVE because of the negativity that arises on forums/blogs etc. can put off new players coming in or taint their preconceptions during the trial period. Better understanding of what EVE actually is (and is not) will do a lot to help attract and retain new players. It is a difficult chicken-egg problem that many players that are not enjoying the EVE experience due to playing in isolation -- but cannot be helped by others becase they have chosen to be isolation (and thus their only interactions with others tend to be negative non-consensual ones, further reinforcing their isolation...)

    The second is that while EVE would certainly be better if more players understood that direct and indirect player-player interaction is the heart of the game (not spaceships), I believe EVE would also be better if the game could more meaningfully integrate those players who prefer the more "indirect" side of this equation. For example, in the idea of "residency sov" that is floating around, PvE activities could perhaps contribute to maintaining sov or various bonuses etc that would impact on the PvP side of the gameplay in important ways. The main point would be to find a design that encourages alliances to recruit players that enjoy such PvE gameplay in itself (i.e. they want to log in to do this specifically), rather than forcing players to go out of their way to do this stuff when they'd pefer to be doing something else instead.


  6. EVE very much is about the interaction with other players. I've spent some time alone, but you get nowhere. It is only through the interaction with others that EVE's deeper meaning reveals itself.