Quote of the Day – We are Just Alluvial Accretion

It [EVE Online] has existed for 16 years and people think it’s in stagnation. But that’s the story with a lot of these long running franchises; it’s like a river that flows through, and there’s a bottom layer of people that stick, and over time there are layers of generations of EVE players that keep on being added every single year.

-Hilmar Petursson, Gamesindustry.biz interview

I think he is saying that New Eden is a wretched hive of river bottom scum and villainy .

Anyway, Hilmar has been out again selling the strange beast that is EVE Online.  A lot of the interview focuses on challenge of updating the game to keep up with the push to support ever larger battles out in null sec, which ends up in the Aether Wars demo from GDC last month.

EVE Online Forever

But as the article goes on it starts to delve into player numbers and the ongoing survival of the game.  The numbers are a bit dubious to me.

The article states that the game has 300K monthly active users, but that isn’t in quotes so may not be represented as it came out of Hilmar’s mouth.  We do have a quote from Hilmar in a Venture Beat interview back in September, when the Pearl Abyss merger was the focus, saying “The MAU fluctuates a bit, but it’s 200,000 to 300,000 people.”  That helped narrow down the answer the the question of how many people play the game, but it is a range not just the highest number.

But then there is another number that came straight from him in a quote:

“Contrary to what some people think, a lot of new people join EVE Online every week,” he said. “Every week we have about 10,000 people that log into EVE Online for the first time.

This plays to the stagnation question that came up.  The answer was that things are not stagnate if so many new people are showing up, leading to the river metaphor that I quoted at the top.  A river isn’t stagnate with that much water flowing through it.  But EVE Online isn’t a river, and players that “flow through it” are not adding the collective story of the game or to the bottom line of the company.

At first I questioned the idea that 10K players… okay, let’s be honest, 10K new accounts… are created every week. (The 10K number also came up during his AMA earlier this month.)  On the Tranquility page over at EVE Offline the new born player graphs hardly support that notion.  Of course, with the API apocalypse of last year, one cannot be sure of external numbers.  However, over at EVE Board, the character tracking site (run by Chribba, who also does EVE Offline) the birth distribution chart down the statistics page seems to have numbers that support at 10K a week number, at least for character creation.  In fact, it seems to indicate that 10K would be a low number, as it records 74K new character creations so far this month, with a week left to run.  That would be something like 25K characters a week.

But a new character is not necessarily a new account and a new account is not necessarily a new player.  In the age of alpha clones new account creation isn’t the measure it once was.  That birth distribution chart shows a big spike with the introduction of alpha clones in November of 2016, but that settles down fairly quickly, dropping below the peak period for the game around 2011 to 2013.  So I cannot discount that 10K number, though I did choke a bit on the next one.

Last year, I think about a million people came into our systems in one way or another for the first time.

I suppose there is some ambiguity in that phrase, but even if it is true I am not sure it is a number to be proud of give the peak monthly active users quoted.  You start to wonder how many long term active players there really are.

The obvious point to all those fresh accounts flowing through the game while the MAU numbers stays the same and the peak concurrent number slowly declines is that player retention, especially new player retention, sucks.  That isn’t a new problem.  I’ve been over some of the issues I think the game has, but you can’t fix most of them.  EVE Online is a strange and complex game that no other titles really prepare you for.

Of course, just last week Hilmar was being quoted about Asia being the future for EVE Online.  But there has been a server in China, Serenity, for more than a decade and, while the company they partnered with ran it into the ground, even at its peak moment in 2012 it barely hit numbers that would mark the daily low point on Tranquility.  More recently there has been an exodus of hardcore players from China to Tranquility, a trend that continues.  While getting us all on the same server makes for a better game, these were already players, fellow members of the scum forming on the bottom of the metaphorical river.

It seems like less flow and more stagnation… player retention… might be a good thing.

And so we’re back to the same old issue.  How do you get somebody engaged with a game that seems bent on driving people away with complexity?

11 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – We are Just Alluvial Accretion

  1. anypo8

    EVE doesn’t just drive people away with complexity. It drives people away with:

    * A worst-of-class user interface, full of unnecessarily bad experiences. The mixture of pop-up menus, sidebar menus, direct-manipulation controls, keyboard controls, an endless stream of modal and non-modal dialogs, and a viewscreen that you can’t even see unless you have a second monitor. When I was playing, I would occasionally teach 16-year veterans a new trick I’d found out somewhere.

    * A consistently hostile environment from which there is no escape. This is only “fun” for the river sludge: spending the first few years of a game as designated victim is a hazing ritual few will subject themselves to.

    * The sheer drudgery and tedium of much of the play. The bottom muck has become inured to “I jumped 30 gates”: I never got there. The dragged-out clickfest is punctuated only by the occasional unwanted moment of terror.

    * The life commitment required to play reasonably well. I’ve met plenty of WoW casuals: I don’t think I’ve ever met an EVE casual. I’m not sure they exist.

    Some of this is fixable. Some of it is baked into the game design in ways that would be hard to undo.

    I really enjoyed my time in EVE, and miss it occasionally. But I recognize that it’s not the world for me. From introducing the game to friends and family, I think I’m the normie here.

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  2. Mazer

    You can play EVE casually, but you probably can’t learn it that way. Plus you probably also need an organization of one kind or another to serve up content since anything fancier than mining or mission running will fall apart when you decide to take a week or two off if you’re solo.

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  3. Mailvaltar

    @ anypo8 – “spending the first few years of a game as designated victim is a hazing ritual few will subject themselves to.”

    I really don’t understand where you – or anyone – gets that from. It certainly never felt like that to me, nor to the friends who brought me into EVE, nor to my GF who started to play much later.

    The one thing I’ve noticed time and again that can make it really hard for newbros is the fact that a lot of stuff is required from you. The bigger the organisation you hook up to the harder it gets in my experience. The moment a ping for a fleet goes out it is expected of you to know
    – where you are supposed to be
    – which voice chat to use and how to set it up
    – how to get into fleet
    – which wing and squad you’re supposed to be in
    – what ship you need to sit in and which exact fitting you need to have
    – what you have to have in your cargo hold and drone bay
    – which implants you need to have plugged in, if any, or maybe you mustn’t wear any implants
    – how your overview has to be set up
    – how your autopilot has to be set up
    – what you must and must not do once the fleet gets going
    – some more stuff I’m forgetting

    Sure, there are always forums posts, alliance mails or whatever explaining all this stuff, but looking it up and being able to execute on it are two very different things.

    That being said, I’ve never (well, almost never) felt ill will towards me when something wasn’t explained or when questions were answered with “read the forum, noob”. When you have a couple hundred people in fleet you just can’t expect a special treatment just because you’re new.

    It just is a very complex game. That doesn’t mean that it is specifically designed with the intention to make life miserable for new players though. Any assumption that it might be is just bogus.

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  4. anypo8

    @Mailvatar I didn’t mean I was victimized by my own corp (I mean I hear some people are, but I never was). I have something deeper in mind: the need to retain folks like CODE, gatecampers, wardeccers, explo hunters, etc etc whose big fun in the game is causing others grief and taking their stuff. To keep those people, you have to feed them a steady supply of victims and a reliable, safe environment for victimizing in: if you don’t they’ll quit. I got tired of being the bottom half of that after a few years: the friends and associates I’ve introduced to the game got tired of it in days or weeks, probably because they are smarter than I am. Something fundamental would have to change for them or me to try the game again; that’s a really bad sign.

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  5. Mailvaltar

    @ anypo8 – I see. I’ve never been a victim to any of that. I guess that’s why I often assume reports of such things to be somewhat exaggerated.

    I mean, I haul stuff around in a freighter, I fly mission running ships with fittings worth a couple billions, all that stuff, and I have never ever lost something to griefers in high sec.

    In low sec, sure. But that’s just part of the game – and not the stuff you’re talking about, I get that.
    Maybe I’ve just been lucky all that time.

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  6. Hanz Riemannder

    @anypo8
    I get what you are saying about being the bottom half and being fed up with it. You’re 100% correct in saying that the game needs its steady supply of small fish for the meat grinder. But would it still be the same game without this ‘design’? I don’t know. Better? Maybe.

    I’ve recently started playing again (stopped in 2014 I believe). Why did I start playing again? Reasons unknown to be honest … I love the solitude of EVE, the atmosphere, the lore, the ships, the vastness of space. The dark, cold future of mankind etc etc. But I to struggle to find my way in New Eden.

    I know it would be way easier if I joined a player corporation. God knows there are plenty of them. But I’m not interested in that. I’m not looking for more online friends, for social interactions.

    So yes, that means a lot of trial and error. A lot of time, a lot of clicking, reading, learning … and a lot of waiting, for skills, to be trained…

    The actual game versus the marketing/image it projects … they differ, a lot. Most people find out during their trial (alpha).

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  7. SynCaine

    Overall I think his numbers make sense. EVE is a very unique game, not just for an MMO, but overall, and I think that uniqueness peaks a lot of interest from people, so lots come in.

    That uniqueness also means the game isn’t for most people, and not because its a ‘bad’ game or because if CCP fixed X flaw, those people would stay, but rather simply because it is what it is. Its a long-burn game that isn’t very fun moment-to-moment, and its really only fun for 99.9% of people if you get hooked into the social aspect of it. That means most people who try it will quit, either in the first week or after a few months. The ‘bottom of the river’ that he talks about are mostly the people who get pulled ‘down’ into the social layers of the game.

    That said, I think the recent changes to high-sec Corps will go a long way into keeping more people long-term, because now the viable social aspect isn’t strictly limited to large null-sec groups or specialized low/high sec corps. It’s now, probably for the first time in the games long history, actually viable to start a small Corp with friends, be based in high-sec, and not get ground down by the eventual war-dec. I think that’s huge, and perhaps will lead CCP into focusing more towards making such Corps more interesting by expanding gameplay options in and around high-sec.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Random Poster

    I played off an on for two years solo. I never joined a Corp because everything you read on most sites is warnings of scams and the like because those stories generate interest.

    It eventually got to the point that I was sitting there one night and was like Wtf am I playing for. Signed out and not been back in. I have wanted to (thanks to Wilhelm constant posts on it lol) but the same things that kept me out then are still there now. I don’t have an existing social structure to join I am literally the only person I know who wants to play Eve. I have tried to get others interested but always a nogo.

    I loved the atmosphere I love space and as old as the game is it can be starkly beautiful. But the hooks to get you into the social aspect just weren’t there.

    It’s all good to say fly only what you can lose but if you don’t have a support structure behind you it can basically be like ending the game for you. I worked myself up to a Raven and took it out once was so terrified I would lose it I never took it out again lol if it had been destroyed It would have meant starting almost from square one financially.

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Random Poster – Probably the toughest thing to get past in the game is the idea that you are going to lose ships, that when you buy one you should have the next one queued up, that they are essentially ammo to be expended.

    The WoW model of irreplaceable epic raid gear just doesn’t work in New Eden. People lose heinously expensive ships every day, even in PvE. Over at zkillboard there is a pre-set search that lets you see people who lost billion ISK ships running Abyssal space content.

    The thing is, people have to have losses for the game to survive. If everybody was able to preserve their favorite ship like it was raid gear, the economy would collapse. Being able to buy what you need in Jita or Amarr largely depends on there being enough demand that the people who play the market or industrialist game will keep the market stocked.

    I still don’t like losing ships. But I don’t feel like quitting when it happens. I used to though, especially early on. Now it is more of a big sigh moment as I figure out how I am going to get a replacement. But with insurance and alliance SRP and the ISK I have socked away, it is more a question of logistics. Moving things around in New Eden is most of the work.

    As for social groups, I think the fear of being scammed is over blown. Any long standing group, Signal Cartel, Goonswarm, TEST, EVE University, Brave Newbies, or whoever, will have some rules about abusing the membership and will try to screen people they put in power. I’m past the 8 year mark in my alliance and have never had any problems. I trust that if I give somebody a few ships to carry to a deployment in their capital ship that they’ll contract them back to me when they arrive. If nothing else, stealing my stuff would be peanuts compared to what it would cost them if they were caught doing it. And, likewise, I am always careful and generous when dealing with others. I want to support the team of which I am a part.

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  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I wrote that then checked, and they don’t have the pre-set 1+ billion Abyssal loss search in the menu any more. They replaced it with an Abyssal PvP option, to see who is getting blown up in the “two enter, but only one may leave” element of Abyssal space. But you can still see Abyssal losses quickly from the menu, and a lot of them are not cheap.

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  11. anypo8

    @Syncaine “It’s now, probably for the first time in the games long history, actually viable to start a small Corp with friends, be based in high-sec, and not get ground down by the eventual war-dec.”

    Been there, tried that (a year ago). About the time friends were getting tired of the game anyway, wardeccers showed up and blew our structures up. Was kind of the last straw for me.

    I guess what you’re probably saying is that with the new wardec rules, we could have avoided wardecs by not owning any structures. It seems to me that corporate identity in New Eden has been pretty much set up around structure ownership: it’s rare to find a corp that doesn’t own any. The structures provide huge benefits, and who wants to be living in someone’s rental space when they could own? So yeah — there’s a sort of path forward now, but as usual it only works if you avoid capability and fun.

    Anyway, we could avoid the wardecs that way, but there’s still 15 kinds of griefers we’d have to deal with. Heck, the first week after we set up camp in our new hisec system we got a brand new Blood Raider Forward Operating Base to share it with. We were in no position to blow it up. Just about the time we decided the Blood Raider NPCs were good training for our new players, somebody came through and killed it. Idk what to make of that incident, except to note that (a) even the NPCs are hisec griefers now (and CONCORD apparently couldn’t care less) and (b) there’s no corner of hisec where you aren’t constantly being preyed upon by players one way or other.

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