~or “Who Should Play EVE?”
Over on Lowsec Lifstyle, CSM Sugar Kyle has posed a question regarding NPC gameplay and PvE in general in EVE, Non Player Characters… It’s an interesting read. It talks about a suggestion made by Wex and Dire to have NPC escorts for freighters.
This kinda ties in with some suggestions floated by CCP in the ongoing comments discussion surrounding the New Player Structures where it was said;
[link] We have been discussing the idea of a module that recruits pirate spawns to defend against people entosis linking your structure, but ultimately how customizable the timezone mechanics are will be the key here.
[link] You would not rely in NPC defense at all, it would be a mild deterrent against a lone ship at best, the point is to show up for your timers and defend.
And I feel this also ties in with the latest changes and new NPC activity in EVE. The Seekers and Drifters and the new vastly improved NPC gameplay that CCP has brought us. NPCs that actually chase you down through a system and even through gates, NPCs that station camp you, though not as dedicatedly or as long as players will, NPCs that actively engage and while not ‘creative’ like live players, they are an immeasurable improvement over the dull-lackluster-rote-mechanic gameplay that is standard EVE NPC fare. I have greatly enjoyed the last few weeks chasing down Seekers and running from Drifters… in Hisec FFS! For me to ‘enjoy’ gameplay in hisuc means CCP has upped the NPC game immensely.
That all said I am as much on-the-fence on us 'hiring' NPCs as Sugar is, but my concerns are all about balance and player exploitation. But as in all things EVE, these are the preeminent concerns when CCP goes to ‘messing ‘bout with the game… so it’s either accept the potential negative issues from player exploits or never make any changes at all, and I guess we know the answer to that one…
You know, there are times I love the EVE playerbase… and then there’s the rest of the time. =P
Anyway… what I took away from this rather interesting post and idea is this. Why is solo gameplay in EVE such a Horribad Thing ™? Seriously, why? I mean look at the chart at the top of the post again… That is from the EVE PLAYING BEHAVIOUR entry on Evelopedia from an online survey taken on 10.05.12.
55% of the playerbase played a solo game. 16% exclusively solo and 39% primarily solo. More than half of the playerbase played a primarily solo game in 2012 and I would bet every ISK I have that this is basically still true today. So WHY is solo play so maligned?
I know the argument is that players who are engaged in social gameplay have better long term retention. This appeared to be ‘proven’ by CCP Rise back during Fanfest 2014 with the “New Player Experience Vision” presentation. To sum it up it seems that at best EVE retains about 10% of the new players who actually subscribe.
That’s right only 10%...
I was… I was floored by this and responded with a post, For Once, a Simple Sales Problem…. in which I posited the following…
If 80 to 90% of the people who try out your game leave, and they seem to be looking for good solo PvE gameplay, GIVE IT TO THEM! Why is this so gods damned hard to understand??
The vast majority of MMO players out there have played themeparks for YEARS and therefore only know themepark gameplay... OK, so give them what they want... really top notch PvE... then once they are here, you have a shot at them 'discovering' sandbox social gameplay… IE a chance for us to show them what real sandbox social gameplay is and how it can be soooo much MORE than Themepark solo PvE gameplay... But we can’t do that if they leave.
Why is this hard to understand? If 80 to90% of your potential customers are walking in, looking around for 15 minutes and leaving... the only possible reason is that you are not selling something they want… IE, they are not the problem... YOU are.
What CCP Rise ended up with anyway was that we have to push new players into social and interactive gameplay. Then we will see better long term player retention in EVE and this is how to best grow the games playerbase.
I called bullshit then and I still call Bullshit.
I say only those players who WANT social gameplay are better retained by social gameplay. And we are limiting ourselves and the game by denying that solo players and solo gameplay has real merit in EVE Online.
EVE is such an immense verse, with a truly amazing variety of gameplay and NO end game. We can, and should, accommodate ALL possible playstyles. I have and will never stop arguing that we (and CCP) should always be looking for New Gameplay that can be brought to EVE. I still think WiS was the greatest lost opportunity in EVE’s history.
Walking in Stations as it was being worked on would have opened up the game to the hundreds of thousands of FPS gamers worldwide besides bring a whole new way to play EVE for the rest of us. And while I believe Dust 415 is a good game and it does connect to EVE, it is not really ‘in’ EVE, not on the PC in the same client. The potential of flying your ship to an abandoned Sleeper Station, or now an abandoned Jove Observatory hmm?, and hacking your way in to explore and fight ON FOOT… well, we and CCP lost out massively when CCP caved to the whiners and FiStards during the Summer of Rage.
So, here is my point.
We need to look at every potential addition to EVE’s gameplay from the standpoint of its potential to add to the playerbase. We and CCP should never limit the potential to add to the playerbase by limiting gameplay options.
Solo, causal, small gang, large gang and meta-gang (for want of a better term)… social, solo and even anti-social players should all be welcome and ALL should find an amazing ‘verse of experience out there in the black…
With this caveat: Never change the Open World Sandbox Open PvP gameplay in EVE. The ONLY thing CCP should be actively limiting is any movement away from Sandbox gameplay to Themepark gameplay.
Or, to put it more succinctly, The ONLY thing CCP should be actively limiting is any movement away from No Safety to Safety. IE EVE must never lose the Risk and Loss Are Real aspects… that would kill EVE as we know it.
So let’s look at hiring NPC Mercs from this standpoint.
To all those who will whine and gnash their teeth that we are robbing from the real Mercs in EVE and ruining their gameplay, to them I say this… If the people who need Merc services the most (IE noobs) can’t afford you, then cater to your customers or screw your whining.
OK so let’s say you are an OMC solo Industry player who simply does not have the time or ability to play effectively in a group or even yes, a player who does not have the desire to play with others... you prefer the Lone Wolf game, and you always have. You have a freighter op to run, say 10 hops total with 3 lowsec hops so you go to the Market and open the NPC Merc Hiring 'board' and look over the available contracts. You hire an NPC 5-ship freelance pirate gang for Transport Defense Escort... the support you bought in this case is 2 Rep Cruisers and 3 Ewar Cruisers.
The gangs ships, fits and compositions are based on the available contracts and prices, Want armed ships capable of potentially destroying an attacker? Want Battlecruiser escort? Battleship escort? Each of these comes at a significantly higher cost, scaling upwards by ship/class/fit and gang comp.
If you are attacked en route they start repping you and the Ewar ships damp (or jam/neut/etc.) either reactively or based on the targets you call. What this does is add, at a cost, to your defenses as a solo player... that's all. The support NPCs can be attacked and destroyed, probably have to be, so you can be attacked and destroyed... this just adds gameplay on a Risk vs Reward basis. Your have increased your costs for better defenses and the attackers have to factor in dealing with them.
Now most will say "get more friends" or “join a corp, EVE is a social game” Dire’s concern was that this type of gameplay might "increase isolation and disengagement" for solo players. I disagree. If a player has, due to work schedules, travel, etc. no workable option but to play solo or if a player simply has no desire to play socially, I’m ok with that. If that same player finds fulfilling game play even through he/she has to or wants to play solo, then the option to hire NPC’s to help with this or that may actually ADD to their gameplay, and increase their retention.
The argument that hiring NPCs might "increase isolation and disengagement"` smacks a little too close to the old “Internet friends are not REAL friends” and “the internet is isolating you from real contact with others” again, bullshit. Think on that a bit…
No one should ever have to do anything in EVE other than cope with the environment and mechanics in order to do whatever they want to do. I consider coping with the open PvP and non-consensual player interactions, IE gankers, scammers, war dec’ers, et al as part of the whole ‘environment and mechanics’ thing. If you fly in EVE, you accept that it is a dangerous verse and even if you fly solo, you will never really be alone. I just don’t feel you HAVE to play in a group to really enjoy or be a part of EVE.
CCP Rise said upwards of 40% of new players were just, you know Leveling up Their Raven... So? Who cares? Seriously... why do we care?? As long as ALL the players are enjoying the game and paying for their time (IE CCP making more money so we ALL get a better game) then who cares if there are players who prefer solo?? I mean seriously, how is it a BAD thing for the game as a whole?
Oh I realize it may not be a good thing for YOU, or HIM or HER or THEM… it may not make Rixx Javix or Talvorian Dex very happy… (not a dis to either Rixx or Tal, just an ongoing difference of opinion…) So what? Are we here to ‘provide content’ for each other? To improve each other’s gameplay? Or are we each here for our own game? I don’t know about you tovarishch, but I am here to play my game, my way, period. If you get something outta that, cool, if not, that’s cool by me too. I care not either way as I am here to enjoy myself.
So what is it then that makes the socialbears so loudly proclaim that all players must be actively engaged in a group? Are they not out there in space like the rest of us? Do they not also explode? Do they not also scan down sites? Run plexes? Run missions? Haul shit all over space? Do they not put stuff on the market and buy stuff from the market? Is it that a solo player’s money no good? They pay for each month whether via PLEX or CC or Paypal or Steam, same as everybody. I say that alone is merit enough. We need MORE players, not more of just THIS or THAT kind of player.
Let’s go back to the EVE PLAYING BEHAVIOUR online survey mentioned earlier. When asked, “Who do you usually play EVE Online with?” the response was interesting…
The top entry, “Friends I met in EVE Online”, 68% is very interesting when looking at New Player Retention because some are (1) Forum Born players coming into the game and immediately blood jumping into deepest null to join Goonfleet or such, so, well, retention is not really an issue in that case now is it? But the rest are (2) talking about a group they met later… but how much later? Sadly this graph does not say.
I am sure some are getting involved with corps early on. In HELPeR we have a tendency of carefully collecting noobs. But I have a corpmate who played totally solo for a year before we met at work and he joined us. But we didn’t ‘save him’ from increased isolation, depression and disengagement due to playing solo. He was enjoying the game, he is just enjoying it with us now is all.
But most interesting of all is of course, the second highest response to ‘Who do you play EVE with?’… 36% replied they play solo, a substantially higher number than the 16% given in the ‘What is your playstyle?’ chart at the top of this post.
So I say give solo players great solo content... as long as we don't change the PvP Open World Sandbox rules in EVE, good Solo PvE gameplay will never kill EVE nor make it "safe" nor turn it into a WoW in Space Themepark, no, quite the converse… Good PvE and support for solo gameplay will bring in MORE players period. If we actually do support and respect all playstyles, why not work on retaining ALL playstyles?
There are enough players in the world who will never play EVE because of the PvP and the Sandbox Open World Rules that we need to seriously consider attracting and retaining ALL players and playstyles that are willing to play in such an environment... not additionally limit ourselves even more by saying ONLY Social Gamers are worth retaining in EVE.
I say make EVE more not less for everyone... as long as they want to play in an Open World PvP Sandbox. You wanna play as one of hundreds? thousands? cool, we gotcha covered. You wanna play solo?... cool we got that too, and you will be in the majority and I know you will have an amazing experience 'cause you are playing EVE and yes, you are adding to the game as a whole, no matter what the 'socialbears' say.