Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Monetized Coalition

A bit over a year ago, in a post titled 'House of Dreams' I wrote about game designer CCP Greyscale's design goals for Eve Online. At the time I wrote that the goals were ambitious and mostly laudable. However, I noted at the time that the gulf between generalized goals drawn out on a white board and the execution needed to achieve said goals is exceedingly wide and with fraught with unfriendly practicalities. 

Probably the most unfriendly practicality of all is how quickly the dunes in the Eve sandbox shift as the players therein push and jostle and remake the landscape.  CCP designers like Greyscale seem to be at a complete loss when attempting to anticipate how the player community will leverage the game's digital mechanics. Indeed, 'game design', which normally assumes some degree of control over game-play and its impact the players' experience is something of a misnomer in Eve.  CCP designers have shown exceedingly limited insight into how altering, introducing or eliminating game mechanics will impact game-play.  Indeed, where game design is normally a proactive occupation, the CCP designers have become largely a reactive force; introducing changes that have no hope of incenting the desired player behaviors, and then behaving as though the resulting in-game mishigas was their intent all along.  

At this point the designers seem to have given up altogether and turned away from improving the capsuleer experience in a manner that expands the player base. After all, monthly fees are the old revenue model. The new revenue model is micro-transactions. Why fuss over whether or not the kiddies in the sandbox are throwing cat feces at one another?  After all, what's really important is that they remain in the sandbox. 

Then it's a simple matter of raising the cost of cat feces. 

And, if you look around, you'll note that the cost of cat feces is, indeed, going up.  The trick, though, is to keep the players in the sand box despite the rising cost.  Those are the players CCP wants most; the ones who stay through thick and thin.  They want players whose social lives revolve around the game, who are in large 'winner' alliances and coalitions, or plucky underdog alliances.  For players who closely identify with their corporation, alliance or coalition, leaving is not an option.  Alliances and coalitions that failscade are bad business for CCP.  Players in such alliances are much more likely to leave New Eden than their more secure counterparts. 

Now, capsuleers won't pay real money for golden ammunition.  But dust bunnies will.  And if dust bunny muscle becomes as essential to nullsec sov, as it soon will be to FW, then holding nullsec is going to take an application of real money micro-transactions.  Lots and lots of real money micro-transactions.  And who better to fund the needed micro-transactions than massive nullsec coalitions.  Let's face it: The leadership of a ten-thousand player coalition could easily maintain a sizable bunny army if sov (or messing with someone they don't like) were the reward.  I mean, just holding a Test Alliance Please Ignore bake sale would likely fund a couple of well supplied dusty armored divisions for months.

So, if big coalitions represent both player retention and a large pools of potential micro-transaction, why in space would CCP want to make them to go away? And the answer is, I believe, that they don't.  Rather than wasting money continuing the fight and spending CCP assets on fruitless design changes meant to eliminate the elephants in the Eve living room, CCP appears to have decided to milk the elephants.  I mean, have you checked the price of elephant milk on the commodities markets?

As Ripard Teg commented recently,  "Greyscale's dreams aren't distant. They're dead, dead, dead".  Small nullsec territories? Small fleet PvP?  Fields and Farms?  Nice ideas, I suppose.  Hard work, though.  And there are easier ways for CCP to turn a Kroner.


  1. I think the term you were looking for is whales, not elephants.

  2. I am not sure if you are saying "no matter what CCP do, they will fail" or "they are going about their ideas incorrectly"!

    CCP are a business that have a product "Eve-Online" and they want to make a profit. One way they can do this is by being unscrupulous, ripping off their clients until they have more money than sense or are caught. Another way is to please their audience by providing the product that is wanted. The second option is incredibly difficult to get right.

    You receive comments from customers on the current product, translate into company speak and hey presto a patch arrives, it rarely does what the customer expects. Unfortunately we usually pick up on the catastrophic ones because of the media frenzy and when they do get it right the applause is barely audible.

    I'm still not completely sure of the point that your are making. Do you think they are going in completely the wrong direction or just slightly off course?

    1. I merely point out the change in direction. Upon a time, the massive coalition was anathema to the quality of play. Now it is a central part of the business plan.

    2. Isn't it the player base that changed? At one point the endgame vision for most Eve players was to be a highly skilled elite pvp pilot, now it's to be part of a diplomatically successful, newbie-friendly huge power bloc.

      We get the game we want, as expressed by the way (most of) us play.

  3. I think I understand why too . . .

    It is clear the a real industrial core cannot evolve in a fluid space. Things have to quiet down and be stable for a long time before these sorts of things will actually arise in this game, because the price of war for an industrial player can be very high if he loses the BPOs and ships he needs to ply his trade. Until they know that where they are going will not be overrun in short order, no major industrial player will make the move to Nullsec. We'll see in a few months if this actually makes a difference.

    1. While it is many major industrial players would not go to Null because of the current inherent risks involve it is also true that the contempt most Null players and by extension organisations have for those following the industrial path is also a major factor.

      Null Alliances on the whole don't want industrial types, they need to be defended they need investment and they need a friendly atmosphere in which to work. Why bother with that when you can invest a small amount of the outlay required in a logistics chain to HiSec and spend the rest on packing your fleets with F1 monkeys.

    2. Actually, the majority of players in null these days are former bears with a grounding in indy skills. Despite this, the shelves in the markets there are largely empty of goods.

      As you point out, the ease of exporting materials to highsec and importing finished goods makes producing locally uncompetitive. However, much of this is because the means of production in nullsec outposts are not as efficient as in empire and the alliances routinely price the use of said means of production far too high - and then wonder why their manufacturing lines and refineries sit idle.

      The answer on the part of nullsec alliances is, of course, to call for a nerf of the means of production in high and low security space. This is currently in CCP's plans.