Eve’s Problem

I’m almost done with the trial, and came within a hair’s breadth of quitting again. In fact with a couple days left it’s still a possibility. This time, however, a serendipitous occurrence brought light to what I think is Eve’s problem – the reason I keep quitting. And ironically, the reason I may finally scrounge up the coins to pay for membership.

Let me start with the problem. Eve is a good sandbox MMO. A really, really good sandbox MMO. The vast majority of ‘things that happen’ are player driven. The fights, the events, the economy, pretty much everything is the result of player actions.

The thing is, making these player actions happen require involvement. If you’re not involved everything just sort of passes you by.

If you’re going to play Eve you sort of have to immerse yourself. It’s necessary to spend hours moving and fighting, even if you do not follow the recommendation of joining a corporation (guild for the non-eve players. A group of other players who more-or-less help you and do things with you.)

You cannot be a casual EVE player – a player who just logs in a couple of hours a week. Or at least it’s very, very difficult. And that’s the problem, I think, that Eve has with retaining new players.

On the other hand it’s extremely immersive IF you give it the time and effort. Even if you’re the other type of casual player – the player who doesn’t really have major objectives, who just wants to play some shoot-em-up in space and maybe visit with a few friends, but who does this a couple of hours a night every couple of days, or spends most of one day out of the weekend, or some other version that winds up doing eight or more hours a week.

The reason I’m chasing this particular dog is not just my perennial addiction to the EVE trial. I’m also interested in what makes games work. And since CCP’s in another ‘how do we keep all these new players playing’ kick, it’s worth looking again.

I said I serendipitously found a reason to stay. And speaking as one of the casual-meaning-once in a while players, I thought I’d share. Knowing that the reasons are almost anathema to long-term players.

For me, it’s “let’s go see the sights.” I wandered to Eve Gate, and it was surprisingly moving.

Eve Gate is, in the context of the Eve Online universe, the starting point. It’s where mankind arrived from Earth, the route of constant traffic until /something/ happened and the gate closed. There’s still this massive, unstable, and unusable wormhole there, a god’s blind eye staring at this morass of humanity. And there are dozens of little monuments, anchored cargo boxes labeled to provide epitaphs inane and profound. At which point I went, “Hey, I wonder what else is there?” No, not really – I already know /of/ several things. I just never before had the itch to go looking.

And that gives me my suggestion for CCP of how to get people like me. Give us a hint of goals that do NOT require hours of investment. Something that lets us get something even with only a small handful of hours a week. I’m going to suggest that probably most of us will expand once we’re in. It’s the cliff of commitment that is daunting.

Does it need an ‘achievement’ – a label that says “I did this”? Me, I suggest yes. It can sit with all the other certificates and job histories. It doesn’t have to be public, though the option might be a hook for some.

But the majority of those EVE loses are, I suspect, the people who like the idea of flying through space but don’t want to invest themselves in a part-time second job to do so. So if CCP wants to keep them it’s going to have to think about those rewards, at least for the ‘young’ pilots of the game.

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~ by Kirk on May 26, 2014.

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