Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Care About PvE Even If You Don't Care about PvE

You should all stop what you’re doing right now and read Neville Smit’s latest post about the silent half of Eve players who may never make it to Fanfest or speak too loudly in the community but who still play the game just like we do.  This is a post about giving a little love to the non-PvPers.  Pay attention to what he says; his point is a critical one.

Seriously.  I’ll wait.

“But Tal, are you seriously suggesting CCP should focus some attention on PvE?”

Yes, yes, I am.  And it’s absolutely critical for the PvP game you play that we not forget about these players.

For those of you who are either in love with the cadence of my prose or too lazy to click over (the latter of which is, I’m sure, MUCH higher than the former), Neville argues – rightly – that developing new content that appeals to entrepreneurs and solo players will hopefully encourage them to log in more, spend more time in space, and become victims (euphemistically referred to as “content”) for PvPers as a way to get the latter group on board with CCP spending time developing PvE content.  That’s really only a small piece of his post, of course, but it’s one that touches on a good topic: a healthy PvE environment is good for PvPers.

There’s another obvious advantage I should get out of the way, as well; every PvPer needs to fund his/her PvP habit somehow, and that usually involves PvE.  Myself, I run cosmic signatures in NPC null (and occasionally sov null when no one’s looking!) with both Talvorian and Valeria during down times.  Without PvE, I wouldn’t be able to PvP.

But, both of those arguments have been mentioned so frequently that they no longer persuade PvPers to care about PvE.  Frankly, we like repeatable, boring PvE.  It provides a safe, predictable experience we can do on one character while alt-tabbed to the interesting PvP content.  In our minds, we want PvE to be so boring that we need only look at it at predictable intervals when we need to re-cycle our missiles.

But we’d be wrong to want that for the whole game.

I can hear Turamarth and DireNecessity cheering from here at my slow descent into madness.  But I assure you, I am quite sane.

After all… where do you think PvPers come from?

Sure, some players start off their careers as PvPers, but a greater number start off in Eve just like they would any other MMO – starting with the scripted, NPC content and working their way up the ladder.  They’d start with missions, maybe, or mining, and slowly unpeel the layers of Eve.  Maybe they’d start their own corporation of like-minded young players.  Or maybe they’d find themselves drawn to logistics roles and be interested in managing capital production or POS management.  Many will try PvP.  Some few will find they have an aptitude at FCing.

Take a look at Dotlan today.  Gentleman’s Club and RvB are closing.  In the past couple months, Black Legion has fallen, as well.  How many alliances and corporations have gone inactive or wallowed without a plan or purpose?  These organizations aren’t collapsing because of leadership burnout.  Leaders losing interest and leaving the game are momentary events, easily endured if you have players in the group who can take over.  No, these organizations are failing because new leaders aren’t rising to the surface.

And, interestingly, many leaders of PvP corporations and alliances don’t do much PvP themselves.  The Mittani famously doesn’t log into the game often at all.  Yet through his actions, he enables PvP for literally thousands of players.  SRP programs are probably one of the single most successful ways of encouraging PvP, yet they’re managed by organizers (to process the claims) and entrepeneurs and logisticians (to mine moons and move the goods).  They may PvP once a month.

The history of Eve is marked by leaders, enablers, and organizers coming and going.  The individuals change, but the functions remain.

Only, recently, those advanced roles aren’t being filled by new players, because new players aren’t being cultivated by starting with baby steps and increasing their engagement and involvement in the game.  So, you get alliances and corporations failing left and right, as we’ve had.

Casuals evolve into vested players.  Vested players become engaged players.  Engaged players become enablers.  Enablers become leaders.  Leaders become legends.  But you don’t get legends if those casuals never become vested in the game.

Consider the reality Eve has been operating under for the past several years.  Player retention is less than 10%.  PvE is formulaic and of extremely poor quality compared to the industry standard.  From an “entry level” perspective, Eve is not engaging.  It’s not approachable.  Three years ago, the leaders of today left the game frustrated and unfulfilled.

That’s the real reason our player count is as low as it is.  It’s not a matter of this change affecting capitals or that change affecting sov mechanics.  Eve’s attrition is minimal compared to other games.  It’s the replenishment that’s suffering.

And a dynamic PvE experience is the best way to encourage players to engage with the game long enough to evolve within the game.  Leaders in Eve aren’t born, they’re grown.  And most of them start as miners, mission runners, and haulers.

Your PvP game depends on the work of all those enablers, most of whom started their careers as PvErs.  Yes, remaining “just” a PvE player may seem to miss the point to all of us PvPers.  But let’s not discount the importance of the first step in the journey of a player who ends up influencing thousands.  It’s the first link of a chain that, when broken, denies us of our generals and reasons for fighting.


  1. The elephant in the PvE room is wardecs. You can run incursions or haul billions all day in an NPC corp having to fear only of suicide gankers, but a handful of newbies in Ventures can be massacred if they form a corp.

    The result is that PvE players play alone, until they get bored.

    1. Uh...no, the issue is that Eve has a PvE experience from over 10 years ago and hasn't really evolved. The danger from potential gankers is one of the few things that actually keeps you from nodding off.

      Fighting back against war deccers is something future leaders would jump at the chance for. It's really not hard to get a dozen newbies in to catalysts to take out a war dec targets ship. You don't need lots of people or isk to effectively fight against a wardec corp.

    2. "Fighting back against war deccers is something future leaders would jump at the chance for." you really don't remember being a noob do ya? Cause I do and that statement is as much crap as anything Gevlon has ever said. We were Wardecced in my early days and we HATED it... and no, our CEO did not jump a the chance...

      And I LOVE this... "It's really not hard to get a dozen newbies in to catalysts to take out a war dec targets ship. You don't need lots of people or isk to effectively fight against a wardec corp."

      Oh dear god what crap... you really did start playing EVE as a 4 year Vet didn't you? No it really isn't hard to get your corpmates together and in T1 fitted Cats... The Defending corp is not the problem or the solution...

      ALL Wardeccers are Master of Dock Games. NONE of them EVER undocked when we were inna fleet sitting insystem or on their porch... they undocked in alts and trolled in local about how silly and sad we were then they either clone jumped to another system or logged on alts in nullsec and went ratting.

      The part, "...effectively fight..." is bullshit and shows you
      (1) either know nothing at all of what you are talking about or, you
      (2) are one of them and want to spew out as much disinformation as possible... My vote is on #2.

      That's the broken part of War Decs... The Deccers are almost exclusively vets who are good at EVE and they prefer deccing noobs and casual PVE focused players. They are not looking for actual fights good or bad, they just want easy low risk waffle stomp kills.

    3. The content of this last post was good, and I didn't want to lose it, but let's keep the conversation civil, folks. Let's argue with ideas.

    4. Yeah... sorry... I just get so riled up at BS rhetoric and misinformation... my apologies Tal.
      (anon 12:40 can go... well, you know.)

    5. But Turamarth is totally right. Wardecs can be the most damaging to hisec corps and just telling players to HTFU doesn't work...and wow did this strike a cord.

  2. I must be dreaming, or is it miracle? someone like you is promoting PvE? I don't agree with you in on many of your stances but your comment and logic surrounding PvE are very close to mine. Yes not every PvEer will become an PvPer but most explore the game form the environment perspective first before the find the battlegrounds and fight other players.

    Looking at the statistics of CCP Quant, Eve PvP is niche inside the Eve niche. It still is an important part of the game and it should never get lost. But first and foremost the eve niche needs to attract players to explore this dark corner of MMO game play. Two years to dynamic content is a long time but I am sure CCP has some smaller bits and pieces to throw in before that happens. CCP needs to fight the decreasing player numbers not by any cost but with serious effort. Only with players sticking around and having fun they may end up at a point they decide to look at the “fighting other players” stuff.

  3. As always, good points! One thing I fear is that EVE is just not made to have interesting PVE. Sure you can have many variables, but in the end, you still will be shooting same npc under different names. The biggest killer of engagement for me is various popups of information or some random rumble in local. NPC pirate appears and says "Arrgggh" in local. You get a mission to save damsel and you have a wall of text to read an objective. I hate to say it, but design is all 2003. They need to rework from ground up, write addon for the old game where you have videos and voice over for storyline missions. Perhaps solution could be something like X3 series has, Have CGI face present you randomly generated mission. It's not ideal, but sure as hell beats wall of text.

  4. Mr. Smit may have wrote a treatise explaining on why CCP should focus on PvE, but both of you missed or glossed over the key points coming out of that PvE roundtable.

    Though the changes they discussed may make PvE play more "interesting", the null sec cartel controlled dev's are also making it far far more difficult for high sec (Burner AI class NPC's dropping into a mission??) and wormhole players (NPC Drifters chasing after players dropping off blue loot??) to generate ISK. And don't even get me started on what they plan on doing to Incursions. If you think that the cartels will simply stop with raising the rewards for null sec and low sec Incursions, guess again.

    This is just another phase in the slow meta war against any income source the cartel leadership cannot control directly. The higher the percentage of the overall Eve income stream they control, the higher the RMT returns on the part they skim off the top.

    And you should really explore what has caused all this boredom in null sec. Bottom line, it is self-inflicted. goons won Eve a couple years ago, and everybody who plays the game for any period of time knows it.

    Gone are the days of a group forming, growing, and ultimately carving out a slice of territory. goons and the remaining cartels will either crush them, or demand tribute to allow that group to live, or simply absorb them into their RMT machine.

    Knowing that you will never have really autonomy creates a malaise that has set into the bones of all older players, and hence the exodus we have witnessed the last 6-12 months.

    The only path to real resurrection for Eve and CCP is the radical one: the complete destruction of the game mechanics that allow the cartels to be maintained. And that is actually very easy: go after their income sources.

    1.Eliminate moon production.
    2.Replace it with moon goo found in asteroid belts.
    3.Then randomize the appearance of those belts across all of null, wormholes, and deep low sec (0.2 or lower)
    4. Finally, make all system sec status dynamic. The more activity in a system (industry, ratting, R&D, trading), the higher the sec status of a system rises. Conversely, systems of low activity slowly fall in sec status.

    These are the changes that should be discussed, as well as more interesting PvE. But we all know the cartels will simply not allow CCP to cut off their stable income sources, so Eve will trundle along at the levels we have today. I do note that post Eve Vegas there has been an uptick in the PCU, but nowhere close to levels from a year ago.

    1. I love all of these four ideas you point out. Let's implement them immediately.

      Nonetheless, I do believe it's critical for profit to be found most in WH space, next in null, and finally in low-sec. I'd put level 4's in low-sec as well, exclusively. If you want a fun time with no stress but little to show for it, go to high-sec. If you want to see results from your action, progressively descend into hell. ;)

      However, I disagree with "the cartels" in your analysis. Why? because there is only one cartel anymore. All the others died. And even that cartel is suffering from a lack of bottom-up interest. Yes, the problem is self-inflicted. But can be remedied by disrupting the top-down isk supply that fuels the Imperium's SRP program. It's fixable.

      The bigger problem is the lack of talent developing "on the bench", or cutting its teeth in high and transitioning to low and null. That's not happening because players aren't finding anything fun in high-sec.

      So, make high-sec purely fun; make the rest fun and profitable.

    2. I disagree with this, talent doesn't happen anymore because it's strangled in it's crib.

      In the bad old days the map was littered with "big" alliances, but there were also pocket sized alliances all over the place. Alliances that only held a backwater system or two that they'd taken over while everyone was busy fighting wars with other alliances. Anyone who really wanted to, and had a talent for getting people motivated could own space. Now most of those pocket alliances got crushed once the wars were over, but some of them grew to be big alliances and gained experience as they went naturally. There was "On the bench" talent everywhere.

      That's all gone now. You can't just go off, get some people together, and take a crack at null. There's no low hanging aspirational component to null anymore. Instead you have to join and work your way up the ranks in an established player.

      And I don't know if anything will fix it. What's the high end meta now? Machariel fleets? How exactly is anyone supposed to touch that who's just starting out? Of course, that isn't even the real problem to fix. The coalitions have become very adept at managing a staggering amount of people. Take that away, and it'd all fall apart. But you can't. Instead they just get better and better as they gain experience at it. Which makes them better at reacting to anything within their spheres of influence.

  5. So you no longer claim PVEers could be replaced with a machine and Eve's 'distinguishing feature' would be no worse for it? How inconsistent of you.

    "Without PvE, CCP can seed the market to enable PvP. Without PvP, Eve is a sh*tty game without a distinguishing feature. Which do you think is more important? You [PvE] can be replaced with a machine."

    1. I still believe that, from a "value to the gameworld" perspective, the effects of PvE can be seeded. Nothing can replace the experience of a player fighting another player in PvP; machine logic cannot and never will be able to compete.

      The quote you cited came from my post about the types of player activity that lead to the deepest player engagement (long-term subscription and significant amounts of ripples affecting other players). I still firmly believe a PvP player generally rates much higher on the "Index of Engagement" than a PvE player playing solo, and CCP's data agrees.

      But, as I said in the article, most players aren't used to as intense of an experience as Eve is; they're used to bubblegum and candy canes and hand-holding as you cross the street. No one's born a Nietzschean. We have to develop into it. PvE is a means of keeping players "tackled" by Eve, if you will, long enough for them to explore the real content that hits right at Eve's value proposition: player-generated content. So, it is important as an intermediate step.

      Two separate arguments; one is about an end-state and coming up with a single, "top dog" activity to keep players engage long-term. The other is about a transitional activity.

      Everyone believes college is an essential educational step, but only an idiot would trust an academic to come up with solutions to real-world problems.

      To clarify, though, I don't believe I said, "We could lose PvE without being any worse off." I said that the effects of PvE - modules, mindeals, components, and ships - could be seeded, whereas there is no replacement for a human mind fighting against another human mind. That's not the same thing as saying, "We wouldn't be worse off." Taking ANYTHING away from the game diminishes it, and that includes PvE. Only... taking PvP away from the game would be a fatal blow.

    2. (1) You believe removing PVE would not be a death blow for EVE.
      Then you really need to read up on the history of Ultima Online, especially what happened after "Trammel"... (seriously, do the research).

      (2) You believe removing PVP would be a death blow for EVE.
      Again look at UO and then please explain how and why WoW has been able to lose MILLIONS of players and still have millions left active and EVE has never had more than a few hundred thousand...

      I'll tell you how and why for all the above... PVE.

    3. WoW is a fundamentally different game than Eve, not only in it's mechanics and setting, but also in the kind of players it attracts. Eve is a crucible. WoW is a reach-around. To make Eve as popular as WoW would necessarily destroy what is unique and special about EVe.

  6. drifters could provide meaningful content in Eve. Have them be more versatile, allow them to roam with increasing hostility if different drifter roams merge together, and allow them to hunt/attack player assets in low/null sec (including stations or citadels when those come out).

    Rewards for highsec kills would be LP, lowsec and null will be better drops.

    This method should help with the player's involvement and growth manifest more quickly due to the increasing difficulty and better AI. Only thing CCP needs to do is make it worth the risk. If killing the drifter does nothing for the player, then it isn't worth engaging.

    1. You're absolutely right; the rewards players get will directly affect how meaningful content is. Look at the Blood Raider sites... that was a direct result of the skill bonus.

  7. Many thanks for the linked reference to my post, and more so for the thoughtful analysis. You identified even more reasons for devoting developer time and effort on PvE in EVE Online - it's good for every type of player and preferred play style. I sincerely hope that CCP makes it a priority, once Citadel is delivered.

    1. Me too. The third-order consequences of very poor newbie retention are killing organizations through a lack of leaders (first two being 1) players leaving, 2) fewer targets)).

  8. We've talked about that quite a bit in the past, so I'll leave that be. But I will challenge you on one point... the gauntlets were not purely a solo experience; I ran about 20 of them, and in 15 I had to fight someone off to take the loot. In one case, I did a highsec one and was beaten to the punch by someone horning in on my loot... I admit, I was caught off-guard since I couldn't shoot him... not used to that.

    It's not solo gameplay if you're interacting with other players.

  9. Want to break the cartels? Limit the people on grid (the limit can be variable depending on space). If 250 goons form for battle and only 50 are allowed to fight, the other 200 will understand the price of blue donut.

    Also, slash the prices of ships significantly. As it is it takes hours to farm up a HAC, so why would anybody risk it (as if, taking a fight they might lose, and not ganking much smaller fleet) without srp the cartels provide?

    Oh, I am a goon btw, but not very active atm.

  10. Agree completely it's not IF you are interacting with others. But you were where? Lowsec? Null? I was in hisec and I ran something like 20ish of them also... and when interaction happened, it did do in std Hisec fashion, IE we raced for the BC kill and loot, in I think 4 of them. ALL the rest I ran solo and uncontested in any way.

    So we both saw different sides of this PV P&E paradigm. And I'm not saying I don't like that they were considered (1) interesting enough and (2) [outside of hisec] valuable enough to actually contest... that was amazing and all for the good of the game.

    I hope and pray for more of EXACTLY this type of thinking on CCPs part. PVE that can potentially fill the bill for both dedicated PVE'ers and PVP'ers... THIS is EVEs niche.

  11. Yet I ran a similar amount and only encountered another player once... Seems no one went to w-space to run them. It's not so clear cut I think. The gauntlets were solo in so far as you only needed yourself to run them, but competitive as you could be easily disrupted if someone came to do so.

    1. This is what I meant when I said they were 'solo' also. They were 'designed' to be able to be run by one player. Any "player interaction" was solely caused by emergent player behavior.

    2. It's interesting that we've hit on a difference in how we use the word solo. For me, "solo play" by itself means, "engaging in actions that don't put you in contact with other players"; effectively playing Eve as if it was on single-player campaign mode. I contrast it with "players as content". That seems to be a different definition than you're using, and perhaps that's cause for some of the disagreements.

      I, for instance, would deem a single pilot ninja-relicing and data mining in hostile space to be engaging with other players; the threat to their success is human, not programming.

  12. I think you have an error in this sentence: "But, both of those arguments have been mentioned so frequently that they no longer persuade PvPers to care about PvP." Shouldn't that last word be "PvE"?