Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gradient or Cliff?

Let me dip my toe into the topic of player retention. I had a question posed to me on twitter.

This particular question interested me because I had proposed such a thing a while ago. I wanted to be super blogger and post the old post. I couldn't find it. However, Jean-Mira is better at digging through my words than I am and found it for me. Thank you!

Disclaimer: This is just an idea. It may be bad. It is not something I am actively promoting. Sometimes this CSM thing makes me paranoid.

I proposed a bridge system that would be not low and not high but somewhere in between. It would involve similar mechanics but new space. I'll outline the basics below.

The Idea: Revisit the Past

For those who do not know, Concord was once tankable. At first there was no Concord only the gate and station guns. Later, CCP added them after the faction police and slowly they tweaked up their power until Concord became inescapable death for offenders. So know that the current state of high sec was not its original state but one created to give some security to high sec.

I'm not a huge fan of nerfing areas of space. For one, it just causes rage and most of my ideas are just thoughts. If people are busy raging the entire thought part tends to get drowned out. For another changing mechanics of space in Eve will seriously, negatively effect some pilots. As much as I dislike the fact that some people do not tune into anything about Eve, they still have to be considered. Doing something like changing the security of a system or the method that security works that would place that person in a greater state of risk is a tricky maneuver.

 My idea had 'new' edge space that was controlled by NPC corporations but not the empires. The idea was that the NPC corporation police would be tankable. If one were to attack they'd come after you.  It wouldn't stop ganks but it would provide a backup to players who wished to be more aggressive.

It could harbor those outlaws who hover between kicked out of empire and not outlaw yet. If one so chose. Some protection but not protected. As high sec stands it is war decs, ganks, or get out.

Maybe we need more than that. Not more protection but more types of gradients. But even in that the question is where? I'd fiercely protect any part of low sec from being made safer. At the same time I'm not going to push to nuke parts of high sec. The middle ground is adding space and the idea was creating NPC mid sec that was not owned by the empires but instead owned by NPC corporations. Regions like Molden Heath are perfect for that. With only a small amount of high sec connecting to empire it is a natural buffer.

What I don't like about this idea - It is a bit to themepark feeling for me. Yet, if we need something what is that something to be? We know as a player base, because we verbalize it quite regularly, that there is something needed to help people ease into the more violent areas of Eve.

Why? Why not? The question of what lays in our future is an enormous one. Player retention matters. If we do not want to nerf what we have or buff what we do not wish to become we must think of alternatives. We have to be creative in this period where creation is possible because once the train starts to move we can only guide its path. CCP is going to develop possibilities. We need to do the same, as players, so that we can join in the path of Eve's future and not just react to it.

The idea is just an idea. I thought of it before the current theme of 'empire losing control'. It may or may not fit within that.

I also, frankly, do not think that any more dangerous space will ever be graded enough for someone not to fall face first off of a cliff.

P.S. - If the 'what about changing the world this way' thought posts irritate you and you feel its too CSM focused for regular blog posts let me know cuz I have a stack of them brewing. I'll post them on Sundays if so.


  1. I cringe whenever I see the term "theme park" used pejoratively as you have just done. Two identical, nondescript ships shooting at each other is not themeparky but anything and everything else is themeparky.

    So, yes, the game obviously needs more space. And it should be absolutely dripping in Eve's wonderfully elaborate and intricately refined sci-fi themeparky storyline ... it is Eve's most valuable marketing asset.

    There is plenty of room in Eve for everyone including the non-themepark types.

  2. I am interested in your ideas.

    I don't think this one is necessary. New player flying in space. Ignores warning pop up. Dies horrible. Maybe reads popup next time, doesn't jump. I'm not sure a gradient would help. Education and guidance would be better in this case not sure how to point the new player to the best information.

  3. Out of curiosity I searched for the post you referred to. Did you mean ?

  4. I don't particularly think a gradient would help, it could possibly hinder new player retention. Eve is a complex game, and some people slam straight into that then run away. I think adding to the already known gradient(high, low, null), is going to be needlessly complex in wrapping your head around. We already have a couple places in Eve where 3 jumps can drop you in 3 completely different rulesets to keep straight.

    Instead, I think a sideways step like Wormholes is a better option. We can wall off a section of new space away from the larger cluster map that meets the goals you're trying to push without adding to an already mature system. We just have to make it easily accessible and readily apparent that an option is there which sits outside of the High, Low, Null hierarchy.

    A lot of that is very vague and full of words I don't particularly like. They sound like buzzwords. But I'm not sure how to best put it into words the feeling I have that the high/low/null classification is kinda broken, and not just from the NPE. So for right now, my best guess is to just leave it alone. There are people who like all the lifestyles the current system allows, but if we wanna build new ones, do it outside that system, not add to it.

    1. We can always reverse engineer buzzwords to figure out what buzzes about them that we want to use.

  5. I recently started playing Heartstone. When I started I was afraid I didn't have enough knowledge or cards to battle other players, so I kept fighting the practise NPCs to unlock the other heros, more cards and get experience. After I unlocked two heros this way, I got a quest to do one player match. I didn't have to win it, and it would only be one loss for free gold I could use on more cards, so why not? I ended up winning my first match. I never went back to the practise NPCs and I'm now rank 17.

    I think it's the same in highsec. Players are afraid they don't have enough knowledge or skillpoints to enter lowsec, so they keep in highsec until they have "enough" skillpoints (never). New players enter this game to a themepark. You do the themepark tutorial and are then pushed to themepark missions (usually the SOE epic arc) or mining. It's very hard to break out of this (at least it was for me).

    The best way to break this would in my opinion be a lowsec epic arc. Players randomly get it offered now and then when doing l1-4 missions in highsec and there should be no penality for rejecting it. The reward should be similar to missions one level above the one they're doing, and they should be able to finish them in a frigate.

    The first mission should be a normal delivery mission to lowsec, give out a frigate with warp core stabiliziers and tell players in big red letters to use that instead of their officer Golem/Vexor. Once they get to their destination and deliver the objective, the agent there should offer the lowsec epic arc.

    The lowsec epic arc should be a lowsec tutorial in disguise. It would slowly give out T1 modules to fit the frigate they got in the original mission and learn things like offensive and defensive D-scanning (Find those NPCs and kill as many as you can before you see their backup on D-scan and have to bail), tackling (this valuable NPC will warp off if not tackled), gatecamps (there's NPCs on both side of the acceleration gate. You can either try to burn back and "jump" or burn away) and so on. At the end the epic arc agent should thank the player for their help and point them in the direction of the closest available lowsec agent.

    Assuming CCP fixed lowsec so it's actually worth being there for things other than FW and PVP, this would probably be the best way to introduce players to lowsec. Teach them lowsec survival 101 and show them there rarely are gatecamps with ten insta-lockers and a titan like their corpmate said and you don't need more SP.

    1. I'm always interested in more PvE options such as this.

  6. More of a response to replies than the post. I protest the addition of any new space at all. There are so many empty systems, empty wormholes, empty constellations that new space would be silly. Seriously there are areas of low sec where one can mine for 3-4 hours without being chased from a belt. Where I've ratted multiple systems with a non-cloaky pve tengu (before mobile depots) because there are just so few people. Deep null is even more like this and w-space... god the 2 years I spent there were even more solitary 90% of the time.

    1. Then, how about instead of worrying about the gradient.. we create an activity which keeps players moving chasing rewards. Right now all I can think of is Incursions, it stays somewhere for a few days, then sends players elsewhere.

      What if there were a system that instead of targeting individual players specifically to push them around the game, it targeted small corps. Say.. a corp level mission system. Where they setup a home base somewhere and are then given incentives to nomad around the map completing goals held by the entire corp. Stopping at some random place for a week, then pushing them elsewhere.

    2. Each corp would get random different objectives, if I didn't make that clear. So it would encourage better utilization of otherwise dead systems, breathing a bit of life into them.

  7. I don't know if CCP would be willing to share the results of their "Why do people leave?" research, but if a major factor is new-ish players being preyed upon by griefers, there are a few fairly straightforward actions they could take. The simplest ones wouldn't even break the game.

    It remains to be seen whether they'll have the stomach for any changes along those lines, though.

    1. I personally suspect that the 'preyed upon by griefers' deal is less of an issue for 'Why do people leave?' than for 'Why do people never join in the first place'.

      Admittedly, my data is only from my own experience - and therefore both limited and decidedly non-scientific - but I haven't seen any signs that there's a huge problem with new players being harassed. It happens, sure, but I don't think it's really that large a percentage of new players being affected.

      What EVE does have is a reputation as a game for assholes ... and, unfortunately for CCP, bad publicity is just as deadly to new player acquisition as bad experiences and much harder to fix.

    2. What is the simple non breaking idea?

  8. >What EVE does have is a reputation as a game for assholes ... and, unfortunately for CCP, bad publicity is just as deadly to new player acquisition as bad experiences and much harder to fix.

    You've nailed it.

    Just to emphasize the point above .. EvE has a problem with 'griefers' preying upon new players (I invite ppl to hang out on a Sunday in a new player system). However its reputation problem is much much worse and very expensive to fix.

  9. I've criticized the development of PVE content for over a decade now, but perhaps it would be useful to make PVE content have some significance. If CCP beefed up the navies, they could simply leave Concord as is.

    I don't mind the idea of stations and NPCs picking favorites on the battlefield. If someone works hard to become blue to Mordu's Legion, it is reasonable that would be the kind of place to visit with an expectation of getting backup. Station guns, or other new content might well selectively target to their advantage, or even overlook some transgressions.

    If I made a habit of picking on Blood Raiders, it would also make sense that they would beef up their response when I entered their domains. At the very least, I shouldn't be able to dock at their stations.

    PVE content would at least be a little bit more varied if there were friendly NPCs on hand. Another thing we don't see is a diversity of NPCs in the same systems outside of the missioning system. Why are Guristas so prolific in Lonetrek anyway?

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. (deleted to to lack of spell checking...)

    I never have understood why there is such a sharp divide between Hi Low and Null... it should not be a LINE, it should be far more of a gradient... I mean we have the really detailed True Sec system, with far more detail than just .5 to .4 is a line you cross and DIE.

    When I was a noob I jumped a gate to buy a book I got a great deal on pricewise... and got popped and podded. I jumped from a .5 where there was CONCORD to a .4 where the rules changed drastically...

    It was a shock and as far as I was concerned, even at the time, idiotic. If I hadn't had the luck to get popped by a real good crew of guys, who apologized when they saw how noob I was and even bought me a new Rifter... I may have had a much different outlook afterwards... as it was I KNEW from that point on I needed much more skill and experience before considering Lowsec again.

    The line should not be so defined... There should not be a line, the change in risk should be more gradual... CONCORD, NPC Police and Navy responses should taper off as one goes deeper in security... not change drastically at one jump.

    As a noob you should gradually get into more and more risk over jumps spanning at least 2 or much better 3 true sec levels across the .5/.4 divide... 2 to 3 jumps before gates camps can kill you, pod you and just bounce once to clear the gate gun aggro.

    I never have understood why it was considered good to have such a drastic change in just one jump... made no sense to the then still doesn't now.

    Strangely, or mebbe not, the sec change when jumping a hole makes perfect sense to me... you simply aren't in Kansas anymore when you jump a wormhole... and you have to work to find em... well, you used to anyway. Stoopid Discovery Scanner...

  12. The crux of Risk vs Reward it's always been risk. Risk is the key of what and how and when and where and why a player plays in a way or another.

    Chances are that a player will pick a degree of risk and never move away from it, and most players will choose the lowest risk. To some, that means being a Goon in Goonspace, to others that means being a hiseccer. Other feel that the right risk is belonging to RvB, others become wormholers. Each one is balancing different variables in ways that most of the time are unique and individual.

    So, there is nothing wrong nor morally objectable if people choose a low risk. There are too many reasons to do so and too many of them are related to the intimate nature and circumstances of each individual.

    So I say that there is nothing wrong in picking a low risk, and there is something terribly wrong with punishing players who pick a low risk, as that negates another measure of rewards: effort.

    It's not just risk vs reward, but risk vs effort vs reward. EVE punishes low risk players as if they were low effort players, rather than provide low risk, high effort paths to earn high rewards. Low risk always provides low rewards no matter the effort, and that is wrong. It makes EVE double-challenging as, as a game, it requires a nice effort due to irreductible complexity, and once the effort cliff is surpassed, players often find themselves being punished with low rewards as they can't or don't want to afford high risk, and so they quit once their chosen degree of risk no longer rewards them for any additional effort.

  13. I don't think needs more space per say. Hell most of it is empty outside of empire so why not just move it around a little bit? take over a couple of regions of low sec into this 'borderzone' you describe and then take over a couple of regions of null and make them low sec. We need more excuses to utilise the space we do have not more just to become empty again. Speaking from the dead AU TZ here so my view may well be slightly biased.

  14. 0.3 and 0.4 space are nearly the same experience as are 0.6 and 0.5, yet 0.5 and 0.4 could not be more different. I would be much happier if the current contrast were replaced by a smooth gradient. It would be more interesting if the response was more graduated. At 1.0 clearly concord should be everywhere nearly instantly. At a bit less security status sometimes you would get concord and sometimes faction police with concord involvement more common on gates and stations and less common in other places. As we venture into yet less secure areas such as 0.5 we would mostly be protected by faction police l, but sometimes concord would show and sometimes nothing would arrive to defend us, once more with the better enforcement in high profile places like gates and stations with less protection in plexus, belts and other dark alleys. Venturing yet lower concord would be never seen but sometimes the faction police would arrive but in progressively weaker forces and with a randomness that allows interesting things to happen. In such a way each point of security status would have a bit of meaning and the differences would become a gentler gradient.

    Having gotten thus far lets take the step to make security status dynamic and react to players actions. Lawless places like niarja would gradually drop in status while places with a high degree of ratting/law enforcement like teonusude might slowly climb. Hubs would move, agents and preferred systems would change and all in all new eden would be more interesting.