Ebb & Flow

Two things struck me this week.

One was the news that two EVE players I know had turned to the dark side and were (brace yourselves..) playing that ‘other game’.  The one often abbreviated as a sound of exclamation and amazement.  You know the one, it’s got ‘elves’ in it.


The second thing that struck me was Crazy Kinux’s blog post on The Science of MMOs.  CK includes a very interesting series of articles on ‘Engagement Economies’, within which one specific article focuses on why we play MMOs – in other words what motivates us to do so, and expend our “brain bandwith” on that activity.  Here’s a short excerpt:

PARC researcher and MMO expert Nick Yee recently published the results of a large-scale, ethnographic study of the motivations for play in online games…Yee discovered three primary motivations for MMO participation: achievement, the desire to advance in the game’s hierarchy, master its mechanics, and compete against other participants; social, the desire to have positive interactions with other people and work toward a common goal together; and immersion, the desire to exercise imagination, consume compelling content, and think about something other than ordinary, everyday work“.
The article goes on to talk about psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow, first introduced in 1972 and how this translates into games and game design:
“Flow, also a positive emotional state, is defined as the happiness we experience when we are fully engaged in something, when we are marshalling our resources and receiving feedback that we are making progress toward a goal”.
The natural progression of this line of thinking is of course ‘levels’ which rather neatly leads me back to the start of my post.  Why did my friends leave EVE for ‘that game’?
Now of course you could quickly imply that these ex-capsuleers couldn’t hack EVE. That they were weak carebears who would rather skip hand in hand through the daisies of a fantasy land full of elves and pixies singing ‘tra la la la la’.  But the fact remains that they still left EVE which suggests that at some stage the following occurred:
If flow is the ultimate fun mechanic, then any crowdsourcing or mass collab platform that fails to provide the ingredients of flow—immediate feedback, clear objectives, visible failure states, and a staged series of challenges—will fail to achieve maximum possible engagement“.
In terms of objectives EVE is wide open.  No one tells you what your ‘objective’ is – the choices are entirely yours and this I believe is one of EVE’s great strengths to a degree. Where EVE is less successful is providing any objectives for the individual.  Yes as a corp or alliance you can secure military objectives – capture a region  for example.  But in other respects much of EVEs objectives are completed only passively – by waiting for a skill timer to tick by.
In fact the driving element that defines or provides ‘feedback that we are making progress toward a goal’ is just ISK.
For example let’s say you’re a new player and you set your sights on flying a Brutix.  You need time to pass (skills) to achieve that, and you need ISK to purchase one.  Your player ‘feedback’ therefore is your wallet.
In fact, by and large, its the only in game feedback we receive. The only other feedback mechanism are killboards – again another measure of how your are progressing and overcoming those challenges.  Notice how these two feedback flows (ISK / Kills) are precisely equivalent of the most hotly disputed and divergent elements of the playing community: the PVE’er and PVP’er.  Both groups measure achievement using different scales.  The PVPer is happy when he gets kills – his feedback flow increases, the PVEer when he makes ISK.
Having reviewed what we can see of Planetary Interaction I do think CCP has missed an opportunity of sorts here.  As it stands PI is simply another resource faucet.  Think about this for a moment: how does PI provide feedback to you?
Answer: simply by how much ISK you could make from the process.
But it could have been so much more.  What if PI had the ability to manage your own community / colony? What if that process had stages of success? What if, and this is important, you could measure your progress not by how much ISK you had, or how many players you had blown up – but by how many hapless NPCs you ruled over?
Cailais: 35mil isk in the bank, no pod kills this month but Tyrant of Fensi X.  Triumvir of Plant IV U-78T system.
I read somewhere that most players leave EVE when they reach 6 months in game.  Assuming that most will spend the majority of that time climbing the learning curve, mastering the basic game mechanics we can assume I think that for the majority of these players they hit a ‘so what now?’ point.  Not all will have or be given corporate goals at this stage, their personal objectives are so widely dispersed and unfocused that most I believe just drift away.  They are no longer engaged by EVE but are just passive observers.
PI provides an chance to change that – a system that could allow a staged series of ‘objectives’ whilst that player matures into the universe of EVE and becomes aware of the collaborative goals he, or she, could pursue.  Of course you may not agree with me here, and argue that any sort of ‘level up’ mechanic has no place in EVE, and you might be right there.  The thing is, if I contact those ex-capsuleers and tell them to come back to EVE’s latest new expansion with:
“A chance to rule your own world, tyrannize the masses and build your own mini empire!’
“A chance to move some dots around and mine some planets for stuff to make nanite paste!’
Which would YOU go for?

8 Responses to “Ebb & Flow”

  1. Interesting.
    What I’ve found has kept me in EVE over the years has been the backstory. I tend to set IC Goals that are very, very long-term, and it seems to help.
    That being said, some time ago, I bought a PLEX, got enough ISK to buy what I wanted, and nearly ended up quitting the game because I didn’t know what to do with myself.

  2. […] I read a very interesting article that I absolutely loved over at The Hydrostatic Capsule that I think most of you will enjoy. I won’t give you a synopsis, though. You can go read it […]

  3. I loved this post, and I couldn’t agree more. Being an active player of both games, I completely understand why we have 300,000 and they have… 11 million. *cough…

    I think it’s about time CCP started making the game a little more immediate. I can’t see it doing anything but making the game more fun.

  4. lamthara Says:

    In the other mmo the path is clear, you level up, then you go to the end content, you do instances or raids or whatever… all the guilds are the same. some are better than others but in the end they all play the same (actually i’ve never seen a wow guild where ppl only wants to mine, or trade or craft stuff and sell them in the auction house…).
    And the same for the pvp, yeah they can play battlegrounds more than the others but that’s not their only activity. The guild has a goal given by the devolopers.. go and kill that boss. end of the story. If you’re good you’ll get the gear and you’ll be pat on your shoulders.

    But in EVE… what happens if you join a corp where the things you find funny aren’t allowed?
    With four or five months of playing you can’t accomplish anything, the objective you put to yourself seem quite unreachable and you’re surrounded by ppl that does things you don’t find funny.
    The permanent log off is an easier choice than leave the corp and try find out how to live in new eden and get fun from it.

    Maybe adding some “pats on the shoulders” here and there could be a good idea 🙂 after all people plays to get fun, but just a few of them are ready to spend months before they’ll be able to “plan how to get fun” 🙂

    • I think you could be right – a bit of gentle encouragement could go along way. But isn’t it one of EVE’s great strengths that it doesn’t lead you by the hand like ‘other’ MMOs?

      • lamthara Says:

        The biggest strength of Eve is that – being a sandbox – you can do more or less whatever you want.

        The biggest weakness of Eve is that, nevertheless, in the beginning you can’t do anything (0 useful skills) and you don’t even know what you’d be able to do… the game shows its cards only when a year has passed.

        I’m not saying that CCP should take your hands while you play… but i’m saying that CCP should “mark your path” here and there giving you the idea you’re doing the right thing. You want to be good at mining… let’s say that once you’re able to fly a retriever you get a message from Agent X that ask you to mine that belt because yadda yadda bla bla… and after you finish the mission you get a medal (or a certificate.. or a special module to fit into your ship).

        Let’s say that once your status falls below -5.0 or you reach -10.00 you’re called by a npc of Sansha Nation, Angel or whatever… and you open a special epic arc only for you where you’re called to kill some special guys (no rats.. i mean that maybe they ask you to clean their sky from amarr people or minmatar… or kill 4 omens and stuff like this) and once you’ve finished you get a new faction cruiser.

        Let’s say you’re an explorer, you find a radar… you open the container and whooo.. a secret documents that sends you on the other side of the universe and you’ll discover the most magnificent hidden site where you get a special bpc to built 5 special probes… then you’ll be mailed by Sister Alitura that will tell how good you are and tra la la 🙂

        I mean… put some triggers in the game, let the game tells you’re doing right…. you’re still free to do what you want but if you keep on walking the same path (piracy, mining, trading, missioning… ) the game tells you’re doing the right stuff… and here your cookie 🙂

        …otherwise it’s just like going to work for a company that doesn’t care you… you can be good… you can be bad… but in the end it doesn’t matter too much

      • Some excellent suggestions. Along with ‘well done for doing x’ awards I’d suggest ‘have you tried doing y?’ awards to demonstrate that EVE is not one singular path.


  5. […] The busiest day of the year was May 3rd with 733 views. The most popular post that day was Ebb & Flow. […]

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