Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slow bleed

With the CSM in Iceland pretty much... oh... now, I thought it would be useful to revisit Snapcount one more time this year.  The CSM operates best when they have hard numbers in front of them, I think.

Let's start with this:

That's the 90-day rolling average of players logged in to the game through the entire Crucible and Inferno expansions.  Crucible was released 29 November 2011.  Inferno was released 24 April 2012.  Just to refresh your memory, I've been periodically updating this table of the EVE expansions since about 2006:

RMR/Bloodlines  T2s, Carriers+4.6%+7.0%+11.9%Success
Revelations IInvention, rigs  +4.3%-0.1%+17.6%Major success
Revelations IISov changes+0.8%+6.4%-2.6%Failure
TrinityNew graphics+2.4%+29.0%+19.5%Major success
Empyrean AgeFaction war+0.5%+7.1%-8.5%Major failure
Quantum RiseNano nerf+18.5%  +30.5%  +24.7%  Major success
DominionSov changes+13.6%+13.5%+6.4%Success
IncarnaCQ+0.3%-0.2%-10.7%Major failure
CrucibleIterations+7.7%+14.6%+20.4%Major success
InfernoMissile GFX-8.3%-6.9%-10.2%Major failure

Again, just to refresh your memory, each expansion is listed with a signature feature, and +30D, +60D, and +Next percentages.  Each corresponds with the growth in logged-in players.  +30D is 30 days after the expansion's release, showing initial excitement about the expansion.  +60D sometimes shows an initially exciting expansion dying off some (Tyrannis) or growing even more because of positive word of mouth (Trinity).  +Next is where the logged-in user base is when the next expansion is released, showing the final success or failure of that expansion.

I think everyone kind of instinctively feels what the chart and the table are saying: Crucible was excellent damage control, calling back the players that unsubbed during the summer of rage.  Inferno, though, has been "more of the same" and has not done a good job of retaining players.  Even the tent-pole feature of Inferno, the so-called Mercenary Marketplace, could not be regarded by any objective witness as a success.  It's certainly not what the Inferno expansion is going to be remembered for a couple of years down the road.  Just as Quantum Rise is now remembered as the nano nerf expansion, Inferno is going to be remembered as the missile graphics expansion.

Taken together, these two expansions have grown the base of players in-game by 3.7%.  But that's only after the 20% drop inflicted during 2011.  The damage inflicted by Incarna and the NeX and :fearless: has not yet been repaired.  It's too early to predict the impact of Retribution.(1)  But long-term, my gut instinct is that Retribution is another "more of the same" expansion.

The good news is that through these two expansions, we've seen growth: lapsed players have come back, and we've picked up a few new ones.  The bad news is that the chart shows significant depressions with the release of competing MMOs this year.  Once you see it, it's hard not to see the big dip in active EVE players in late May when Mechwarrior Online entered closed beta, and the even bigger dip in September when Guild Wars 2 was released and started getting such excellent word of mouth.  Ouch.

I've got a little widget on my gaming desktop these days.  It's counting down the number of days until 19 November 2014.  That's the day that Star Citizen closed its crowd-funding effort, plus two years.  Will Star Citizen release on that day?  Not a chance.  It will almost certainly be at least somewhat late.

But that game is swinging right at EVE, almost 100,000 people contributed to its crwod-funding, and EVE has already shown that it's vulnerable to pressure from competing MMOs.  If CCP hasn't done something pretty dramatic with EVE Online by November 2014, then it's a pretty good bet that they're going to lose the bulk of their customers to Star Citizen on or about that date.  Releasing "more of the same" expansions between now and then isn't going to cut it.

Which is no doubt why CCP Ripley is looking to strike a new balance between iteration and Jesus features.  I think she has better data than I do, and can see that EVE is slowly bleeding out.

Last year, I produced a chart showing average logged-in players going all the way back to 2006, with lines showing where every EVE expansion had been released.  I think it needs an update, so here's the updated version:

Concentrate on the green line, though I've left a blue 30-day rolling average behind it to give you an idea of more micro changes that are having an influence.  The dip in the 30-day average in 2009 is due to Unholy Rage banning a large number of active botting accounts.  If you take that into consideration and give Apocrypha credit for the logged-in players that were lost to that, something interesting emerges: the expansions that have been built around one big idea have been the successful ones in terms of growing the EVE player base.  The only exception has been Quantum Rise, which saw big growth despite not being built around a single big idea.  I think that expansion actually benefitted from the fact that CCP was advertising and marketing EVE heavily during this period, including television advertising on the SciFi Channel.

The other big jumps in on-line players correspond with:
  • Trinity (big idea: complete graphics refresh);
  • Apocrypha (big idea: wormholes);
  • Dominion (big idea: allowing null-sec alliances to upgrade space); and,
  • Incursion (big idea: incursions).
Crucible was also associated with a big jump in logged-in players, but lacking subscriber data, I believe this was due to players returning to the game rather than new players joining.  Only CCP knows that for sure, though.  Each of the remaining expansions really only had one big idea behind them, and it took everything CCP had, focused on that big idea, to get the expansions out the door.(2)

But they were justified each time.

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that DUST 514, while intended to be this cycle's big idea, is really going to struggle to bring in a new wave of EVE players.  I still think the game is going to be mildly successful, but I also think this is going to depend heavily on how much impact DUST play has on EVE sovereignty.  That's not going to happen easily or quickly -- it could, in fact, bog down into another Incarna-level mess if CCP isn't careful.  In any event, there's a ton of coding between here and there.  That means to grow EVE, the spaceship game, I've come to the conclusion that EVE is going to need another big new spaceship idea.  I don't think orbital bombardment or ring mining or new POSes is gonna do it.

And I suspect CCP Ripley has come to the same conclusion.  It'll be very interesting to see what the CSM December Summit Minutes have to say on this topic.

In the meantime, I have a goofy little proposal for EVE's next big idea.  Come back tomorrow for that.

(1) One bit of interesting news: the "MoMA Day" that CCP declared on 9 December 2012 caused the biggest single-day sustained average on my chart in almost two years.  It did not, however, beat the logged-in players record.  Not even close.
(2) CCP might argue that they don't have the resources to do this.  I would argue that they've done it before, with fewer resources than they have today.  CCP was a much smaller company when Trinity and Apocrypha were released.


  1. Something that you can't see from these raw numbers is the difference between players and accounts.

    Over the years, there has undoubtedly been an increase in the percentage of players with more than one account. This was particularly made evident during the Incarna unsubs, when players on the forums were declaring how many accounts they were unsubbing.

    The drop in cost in graphics-capable computers and laptops has also resulted in the increase in the percentage of players who multibox.

    When these two factors are considered, it seems evident that the actual number of people playing EVE must have been dropping over the years - the overall sub and CCU numbers are kept up only by the multiple account & multiboxing players.

    The Crucible numbers would also seem to support this conclusion. There was absolutely nothing in that expansion which would have appealed to a large number of new players.

    1. Crucible was *absolutely* CCP's attempt to call the lapsed faithful back to the church. Even the trailer made it clear that the whole expansion was basically saying "Guys, we're doing spaceships again! We promise!"

    2. Good point, Anon506. And I wonder if a nerf to off-grid boosting will result in a noticeable number of unsubbed alt accounts?

      I know that I will be unsubbing my boost-specific alt account, if/when CCP decides not to allow off-grid boosting. An on-grid booster alt won't be of much use to me - I can't manage two ships on grid at the same time.

    3. ... and for every off-grid alt un-subbed, a actual PvP player will re-sub.

    4. No PVP players are going to resub, just because OGB is nerfed.

      Anyone who unsubbed because of OGB was a loser anyways.

  2. Hahaha... Inferno was the worst failure! An 8.3% drop in the first 30 days!

    Thanks to CCP SoniClover and his stupid wardec changes. He was warned that this would cause significant numbers of unsubs, due to griefdec'ing of high sec players, and he just refused to listen. What an idiot.

    1. Inferno certainly gets my vote for worst expansion ever.

      Half of the players in our high sec corp quit playing after Inferno launched and we got wardecced by some corp that was 5 times our size.

      They weren't in it for fair fights, either. Any time we undocked with equal numbers, they called in reinforcements - no less than 3 times whatever we had on field. One battle I was in had them bringing a dozen Drakes, supported by four logis - against four of us in mission-running Myrmidons. WTF?

      Not fun, in any way. So, 1/2 of us just station camped and played WoT before coming back and joining Dec Shield; the other 1/2 flat out quit and never plan to play EVE again.

      Good job, CCP, on retaining those subs.

    2. Inferno also saw alot of Incursioners & thier alts unsubbing with the rise of the Wall of OTAs

    3. Agreed. Inferno war dec changes could have been ground breaking in promoting PvP in hi sec. The war dec cost calculations put forward by the community in Eve O forums, that would have ensured balance, were ignored.

      What really turned Inferno into the Damp Squib Expansion were the nerfs to the ally system to prevent "dog piling" and the killing of "perma-wars".

      I would hope that when the topic comes up, the CSM members are forcefully suggesting that war decs need a serious band aid.

    4. When goons decced that one alliance who made it mutual and started inviting anyone who wanted to to join in on the wardec, I was completely ready to resub and bring all my friends who used to play just so we could participate in that. Lucky for my wallet, ccp stepped in and broke it up before I could renew my subscription.

      Now with that DecShield alliance making wardecs a complete waste of time and isk, it's even worse than alliance hopping to dodge wardecs in previous iterations.

  3. The obvious target is starbases. If CCP can come up with something really cool and engaging rather than a chore that stands between you and fun, they can pitch it as iteration to vets and a 'Big Idea' to potential new players (just gloss over the old system).

    But I'm more interested in seeing what this goofy proposal you have is.

    1. Not even. Starbases are a vet-only feature.

      New players would fund a starbase with PLEX, only to get to watch it get popped by a bunch of vets, who would laugh at them in local. Shortly after, the noobs would all quit and go find something more fun to play.

    2. I don't see how Starbases would encourage new players when it'd take them 2 years to training to make it usefull for them

    3. "Not even. Starbases are a vet-only feature. "

      What if CCP targeted the new starbases at young players? Just like most of the recent changes...

    4. I bought a house in Skyrim and a house in Fallout 3 and I felt in both cases like I'd accomplished something.

      But I didn't spend the next hour admiring my house. I went back to the game play.

      Personal POSes is a great idea, but it is not in and of itself going to attract new players to do this.

    5. @Jester - has anyone blown up your house(s) yet? :)

  4. as currently retired EVE player almost everything I have read or seen about Retribution is making me think about subscribing again.

    Eve's marketing needs some serious work though. Exposure is very limited in media or on conventions. They should really push the sandbox aspect of game play. It's what sets EVE apart from most other MMOs and fills a niche, certainly did for me. Butterfly effect is most popular trailer for a reason.

  5. Jester, as much as I respect your posts, I am starting to get tired of your constant chicken-little-ism. Its always some slow decline, slow bleed, summer of rage, whatever. In the meantime, many of us log in and have fun, get challenged with - for us - new content and enjoy this game for what it is - a game after work.

    Who said that EVE's success is to grow? If CCP needs growth, let them hire marketing people and get it done. Is this really our concern to advertise the product? When the time comes (and it will) when EVE goes stale, people will leave for other games, remember their time in New Eden and move on. Maybe CCP has another game by then, maybe they do not and go under. Do we - the players - own stock and responsibility for CCP's investor's wellbeing?

    comeone, write about the cool shenanigans that Rote Kapelle is up to. Write guides, let Garth mouth off, something. This non-stop doom&gloom thinking does not make our game better.

    1. Making the game better is what this post is all about, mate. I'm trying to push CCP back into motion. Come back tomorrow and I'll have some anti-gloom for you.

    2. Keep pushing, Jester.

      It seems that the CCP devs are much more responsive to the posts and player feedback on your blog, than they are to the posts on the official forums (which I suspect go mostly unread by anyone at CCP except the moderators).

      There is certainly much less Goon trolling here... :)

    3. splatus, CCP was not able to repay its loan. They had to lay off part of their staff to mollify the investors that they could not pay back.

      CCP is not cash-rich. CCP cannot afford to hire marketing people and "get it done" In the real world, word of mouth is the only truly effective advertisement. If you are too lazy to help out your game, then your game will disappear.

      Jester's blog, and others like it, are doing more than their share to bring in new customers to Eve.

  6. "It's too early to predict the impact of Retribution.(1) But long-term, my gut instinct is that Retribution is another "more of the same" expansion."

    Nah, it will break even most likely or be a small success. Inferno changed one broken system for another broken system (wardecs) and broke a fully functional system for a while (uni inv). Retribution, on the other hand, fixed a broken system and is going to bring back a lot of variety to the ships you actually encounter in space.

    1. Bounty system is still broken (if that was indeed what you were referring to when you said that Retribution "fixed a broken system").

    2. I don't think the new bounty system is broken... as amatter of fact I think compared to the lastsystem it is a success...
      One interesting point though is look at the Goons current bounty: 0(zero) not because people are not putting bounties on them but because their large numbers die so often.
      Which brings me to my current signature in the Eveforums:

      "Ironic fact: In the future the pirates and PVPers will likely have no bounties on them, while the risk averse carebears will run around with "wanted" marked across their face."

    3. @Darth - your "ironic fact" concisely states the failure of the new bounty system:

      a) Carebears don't want to run around with WANTED on their faces. It is already resulting in carebear unsubs, much as did the wardec changes which resulted in the negative numbers (and massive failure) of Inferno.

      b) In the long run, no one will be putting bounties on pirates and PVPers, because it is no different than just giving them ISK. This is already happening with the Goons.

  7. I'm curious what makes you think DUST514 will be at all successful? I hated my time with it, and all signs point to either a lackluster eve link, or a far out release.

    They can't afford either; planetside 2 might have had a rough launch, but people still like it, even if the platforms are different they won't get away with an inferior product. Since dust was announced, other games have beaten CCP to the "F2P shooter" punch and flopped (its a home-tied 3rd person shooter that by all accounts was bad)

    1. CCP is patient: it took EVE forever to get going. And I think they're going to give DUST a lot of time to build an audience. I think in that time it's going to attract a lot of more patient, tactical FPS players.

    2. Isn't "patient, tactical FPS players" an oxymoron?

    3. Not at all. I love stealthy shooters, which is very tactical. My favorite shooters of all time are probably the first set of Ghost Recons and the original Splinter Cells. Not FPS MMOs, to be sure, but very tactical.

    4. I haven't touched Dust yet because I refuse to buy a Playstation. But, there has been a steady nod of hints for over a year now that it will come to PC. And honestly, unless Dust does something truly revolutionary with shooter mechanics there is no way it'll be able to compete with Planetside2. I spent a bit of time playing it over the double EXP weekend and I have never had an experience in gaming that comes anywhere close.

      Instead of base caps the exp was so good the server kinda informally decided to run an hours long 3 way assault on the base I've already decided is the greatest FPS map in gaming history: The Crown. There is nothing like crossing the top of a ridge, looking down into a canyon, pulling up your scope; and seeing tens of tanks on 2 sides, planes dogfighting in the air, hundreds of ground troops; and your side is about to hit both of them with an equal amount of force.

    5. I'm with you Halycon, I've pretty much dropped all EVE play these last couple weeks to play Planetside 2 instead. The Crown is awesome.

    6. I'm not certain that CCP has the cash & resources to fix both DUST and EVE. It was a major mistake for them to develop DUST on a console platform - they should have kept it on the PC/Mac, so that the development resources could have been better shared with EVE.

      I think they are soon going to have to make a choice as to in which basket to put all of their eggs.

  8. I wonder if Retribution will manage to go even more negative than Inferno?

    Inferno's wardec changes adversely affected carebears in player corps. Retributions' bounty changes can adversely affect carebears in NPC corps, as well.

    So far, I've witnessed over a dozen new players quit EVE, after getting a bounty placed on them, by some random a**hole in local.

    Ah, well, I guess CCP only wants PVP minded folks to play EVE anyways....

    1. The bounty system will settle out. Right now it's new bling and people are going crazy. Give it a month and I doubt we'll see the same amount of usage.

      There are already some edge cases CCP isn't happy with. In an interview Soundwave was talking about some guy who sat in the newbie help channel and added a bounty to anyone who asked a question. So I imagine we'll see some limiting mechanics in the future. There were several paragraphs about bounty shedding which will probably go in because it's an ISK Sink, and the game needs ISK Sinks.

    2. Soundwave is a moron, too. He was repeatedly warned that this would happen, and yet he thought it was fine, at the time.

      As a senior game designer, he has proved to be a major flop. Hopefully, Fozzie will take his position and Soundwave will be relegated to joining Dolan as just another talking head for tournaments.

    3. I don't think being able to put bounties on anyone and everyone is an "edge case". There are laws against this sort of thing - at least, in the US.

      I call this one a major game design flaw.

    4. Halycon, it doesn't matter if the bounty system will settle out over time or not - the players affected by it have already un-subbed and will not return.

  9. So, the real problem confronting CCP Ripley is that Incarna forced CCP to concentrate all of their effort, over multiple releases, on the kind of releases that don't bring the boys to her yard, so to speak. Incarna was the one Major Feature release that failed, and badly. No wonder it caused such a disaster.

    So now the players no longer give CCP the benefit of the doubt. They have to release a Major Feature, and they have to hit it out of the park on the first swing. But first, they have to clean up the huge mess they left behind in the course of rolling out all those other Major Features. I hope Ripley is paid well.

    On the up side, Retribution rolled out very smoothly for an EVE expansion, and although there's nothing huge about it, the tone it sets is more like the old hell-for-leather EVE, thanks to the entirely unrestricted bounty system and the rebalanced T1 ships that allow much less skilled players to wade into the fray. I don't know if it will count as a Major Success on your chart, but I predict that it will win back many of the people lured by Crucible and scared off by Inferno, and buy CCP some time to roll out something big.

    If they have really huge balls, it'll be avatar gameplay. I'm not putting money on that, though.

    1. heh. Dust on POS. Assault ships to transport the boarders.

  10. Great post, Jester.

    It is always interesting to see this sort of analysis, which is a much better measure of the relative success of each expansion, versus accepting the loudest player ranting as fact.

    Please, let's see an update after the Retribution numbers are in.

  11. "I don't think orbital bombardment or ring mining or new POSes is gonna do it."

    POS rework can ...

    improve wormhole life, because wormhole dwellers are highly dependent on player build stations

    improve the technetium situation, because moon mining extractors are based on pos mechanics

    improve eve graphics, because there is a lot of room for new shiny design ideas

    improve the new player experience, making this game feature more easily assessable for new players (required faction standing, maintenance cost, vanishing of abandoned POSes)

    improve 0 sec industry, giving POSes more production functionality

    improve 0 sec, with "multiple POS building" aka space cities

    improve 0 sec, with new combat pos mechanics (force fields etc.)

    improve NPC-0 Sec and low sec by introducing pirate hubs/black market hubs as part of the pos rework

    All in all pos rework can, in my opinion, combine a good portion of game balance tweaking with the introduction of new ideas. Am I missing any substantial info's why your expectations are low ?

    1. I agree with all of your positions. But none of those positions are game play. They might change existing game play here and there -- how fights happen around them, for instance. But they don't add game play in and of themselves.

      Orbital bombardment is at least game play but will probably be so narrow in scope that I think it's going to overall be kind of a nit, like datacores or pirate epic arcs. Something that a few players do but nothing that breaks even close to the mainstream.

    2. Orbital bombardment will be so overused during its initial release that there won't be any DUST players after the first month or two.

      Hell, I'm not interested in playing DUST at all, but I'll be glad to spend a billion ISK or more on a ship to blast the DUST players, just for shits and giggles.

    3. Orbital bombardment and DUST-Eve interatcion will be rendered inert by TiDi and lag. Can you imagine the reaction of Dusties accustomed to real-time action when things suddenly slow to a crawl and headshotting other ground pounders takes 20 seconds from firing the weapon to splattering the opponent?
      Set sail for fail if the Dust-Eve link is dialed up to any level above "casual lulz" when the balance of sov is at stake.

    4. DUST takes place in low sec, not null. So, there is no sov issue. We don't see much TiDi in FW, you know.

  12. I was just talking to some CCP folks about PCUs. One *big* issue is the war on bots, which is artificially dropping the PCU numbers in the most recent expansions compared to ones in the past.

    1. I left the 30-day rolling average in because it's great at showing mass in-game bans. You can't see any. In the second set of bans after Unholy Rage, the numbers of accounts banned was anemic to say the least: only a few hundred. When Sreegs was directly questioned about this, he indicated that CCP had moved away from mass in-game bans as a "sledgehammer" and was moving toward more subtle techniques.

      And that was when we found out they were going after the sellers, not the producers.

      Has CCP changed this strategy again? Because they have not announced it.

    2. Believes everything people tell him.
      Lacks critical thinking skills.
      Totally qualified for a job at CCP.
      Double-digit IQ.

      Is two step.

  13. "+Next is where the logged-in user base is when the next expansion is released, showing the final success or failure of that expansion. "

    HUH how did you come up with that conclusion?? +Next is what you should be using in measuring the excitment for the NEXT expansion.

    1. Er, no. No one but an idiot subs (or resubs) prior to the release of an MMO expansion, based on the hype, unless the company is giving away something (like CCP's X-mas gifts).

  14. I agree with most of what you said.

    Except for one thing:

    A well done new POS-system would be one of the most successful Jesus features since w-space.

    Think about the consequences of a truly scalable (from small, affordable to alliance-sized), modular, well-designed (easy UI) POS system. It would have a huge impact on the player experience of almost any kind of player anywhere, whether industrialist, null-sec, lowsec, w-space. It would be awesome for almost anybody, if well done.

    I can hardly think about anything I want in this game more than a POS system that actually works well.

    1. I can hardly think about anything I want LESS than a POS system, 'cause it will NEVER work well.

  15. In my opinion the playerbase just cannot grow more. There is not enough space and interesting stuff to do.
    We have double the amount of logged in characters than 6 years ago.
    I am not a veteran and I know that I almost unsubscribed after some months, because Highsec mission running was boring and everything else that was interesting was taken:
    - Hisec exploration overcrowded
    - class 1 and 2 wormholes all taken
    - Lowsec is not an option for a new player, except when you intend to turn some of your spare ships into scrap metal
    - No Nullsec alliance accepts small corps of noobie players.

    That left incursions and faction warfare as options.

    As luck would have it, I made the transition to Nullsec, which was better. But soon the same problem was arising: obviously not enough space, many alliances compete for it. There is a lot of them in lowsec who have been forcefully removed from their homes.
    I soon suffered the same fate. Gameplay as a resident of Catch was good, but it did not last long.

    I notice myself playing more and more WoT and other games, because of it. If there were more space to live in and more of the features available for everyone, the playerbase would grow.
    But in the current state, it is not possible.

    1. This is a very important point to consider about the potential of EVE's future growth. Even two years ago when I was playing, space felt crowded...and it was not just due to familiarity as some like to claim. It was because everywhere there are more people. Even wormholes started to feel busy...especially after the new scanning mechanics made everything so damn easy to find.

      There was also absolutely zero sense in EVE that you could through wandering around stumble on something unique and transitory ... some alien artifact, some odd thing in space that wouldn't necessarily be there for the next guy. Not a mission or site...just a ... thing. A thing perhaps with a puzzle attached that you had to spend time figuring out using your brain (not just random die rolls) to get at or open or solve.

      There is just so little sense of wonder after you have enough in-game experience to know about all the sites, missions, monuments and well-documented tourist stops. And frankly, it doesn't take very many before sites and missions started to feel the same.

      There was also very little sense that space was vast or mysterious by the time I stopped playing. Addressing those things might be a good hook to entice new players and give them a reason to get out into space. If CCP can spawn 2500 wormholes (or however many were initially created) with a single expansion like Apocrypha, I don't know why they can't suddenly make a bunch of new known space accessible by means of a newly discovered or reactivated gate or something.

      Of course, maybe things have changed in the time since I stopped playing. *looks skeptical*

    2. That has been my experience in Eve and the reason I un-subbed.

      During the new pilot tutorial, exploration seemed to be the most exciting, but when I got out of the starter system I soon learned that all the exploration sites are camped and farmed-out constantly. There are no sites for a new player.

      The second most interesting option was manufacturing. Turns out all the manufacturing slots are taken. There are some slots available in low-sec, but every time I tried to enter low-sec I was killed by gate campers.

      Which left me with running and salvaging missions - which are dull and repeat so often its punishment to do them.

      If you don't want to PvP, there are no gameplay options in Eve for the new player.

    3. Good point on the crowding of Eve systems.
      For me it started more with the proliferation of Stations in null-sec that started the trend of making every system the same.
      So why should it matter these days to the average player where you are based from?
      Currently there just isn't a sense of identifying or ownership with your basing system unless you wrapped up in null-sec politics. And even there the sov battles seem to slow down. Destroyable stations or limit to 1 per constellation maybe.
      The cosmetics fixes on the game in the last couple of patches are important, but most new players I know came because of the style of game, not the looks.

    4. Crowding might be an issue in high sec and parts of low sec, but it isn't an issue in null. Null has tons of empty space. It's all alliance owned so you have no access, but nobody really uses it.

      The current stagnation of null and lack of opportunity to expand into null sec (successfully) leaves most players in the position of having few places to go and few opportunities. That's why things seem crowded in certain areas.

      Alliances are bad for EVE. No game mechanic will change that since it's much too late for that.

  16. I've gotta give CCP credit for what they've done so far - yeah they really messed up with Incarna, :greed: etc but I think that so far they have a decent plan and sticking to it.

    I agree with your statements Jester about not having the big interesting features in the recent expansions, or at least not ones good enough to really bring in the new players; but personally I see that as part of the plan.

    CCP probably could have released a few new expansions with some really cool big interesting feature that brought in the crowds; but with most things they novelty will wear out eventually and these players will look for something else to do - when they do what would they be left with? A life of piracy thats littered with hidden and complicated crime watch system? The life of a bounty hunter with a broken and exploited system? Factional warfare thats uninteresting and with no real benifits?

    I think CCP have planned to rebuild from the ground up - fix a good core set a features that really define the game; the AI, the various 'activities' that players will enjoy and then build upon those systems and the lessons learnt from them (ie, FW exploit, people farming incursions etc) so that when they build the next big feature to pull in the crowds then they'll firstly be able to provide a better feature due to the experiance from revamping the various 'sub systems' but also be able to provide these new players with a much better overall game so that they'll be less likely to leave once the intial 'jesus feature fever' has worn off.

    I can see next year maybe having at least one more 'lets fix things' expansion (I really hope that they revamp missions :P) and then they'll move onto the jesus features, probably in line with the launch of Dust so that they'll have some decent cross over.

    I agree that it appears to be a slow bleed but I think that its more a 'controlled recovery' rather than 'run before you can walk'.

  17. Jester, what about the new efforts by Sreegs and his team to get rid of botters? You mention the dip in numbers in 2009 caused by Unholy Rage, but you don't mention the newer efforts. If what Sreegs told us is true, then they now constantly monitor and ban botters so we don't see singular drastic dips in accounts logged on, but I'd still assume that a lot of botters were and are being removed from the game. I wouldn't be surprised if this has a pronounced impact on the concurrent users average, after all the botters are *always* logged on, so a botting player pushes the user count up more than a legitimate player. A regular player may play 3 hours a day, a botter is logged in 20+ hours a day!

    Aside from that, I think it's true that the last expansions didn't bring a lot of new players in. But they were absolutely necessary to reduce the 'technical debt' of EVE. We are now approaching a state where EVE looks and feels like a modern game, not some convoluted mess of outdated features and terrible UI. Then CCP can go forward and do something really new. You cannot build an ever-higher tower if it rests on a foundation of rotten wood.

    1. See my reply to Two step above. I don't believe these numbers are significant.

      Even if they were, they *definitely* should not be significant enough to completely stop growth of the player base. The player base has been flat for coming up on four years now.

    2. I don't know why you can be so certain without access to numbers. You write:

      "The dip in the 30-day average in 2009 is due to Unholy Rage banning a large number of active botting accounts. If you take that into consideration and give Apocrypha credit for the logged-in players that were lost to that, something interesting emerges: the expansions that have been built around one big idea have been the successful ones in terms of growing the EVE player base."

      So you give credence to the notion that a one-off ban-hammer strike made Apocrypha appear less successful than it really was, but you are certain that a permanent, on-going bot-hunt has no significant effects on PCU.

      I'd rather think the exact opposite. We can safely assume that most botters hit by Unholy Rage quickly made new botting accounts and continued their business, since there were no follow-up efforts. Whereas now quite a few botters may have given up for good because their accounts are banned again and again.

      Of course it's all speculation (if you don't trust CCP's word on it), but some theories are more plausible than others ;-)

  18. Retribution is a good expansion imo. But don't forget the mission-changes have the potential to scare a lot of (new) players away from the game.

    If they adress these issues and manage to keep the mission runners in the game I suspect it will turn out to be a very good expansion.

    My 0.02 cent,


    1. Missions just got slightly harder, not impossible. Most of the noise on the forums is just whining.

      Been running L4s since Retribution. Had to make a few changes to my fits (such as stop being lazy about not fitting mission-specific hardeners/resist mods - no more EANMs), and I can't run WC completely AFK anymore (at least, not until I pop a few of the NPC rats and get to kiting range), but otherwise, no big deal.

  19. Really good post. Great summary of CCP's troubles. It's interesting to see Incursion classified as a "Failure". I've always felt that CCP didn't go far enough with the Incursions feature. By now they really should have rolled out similar style Incursion content with other Pirate factions. Just leaving it as one specific faction that seems to have (from an outsider's perspective) cookie-cutter solutions has limited its appeal.

    IMO the thing that EVE needs is to evolve its gameplay and add more variety to it. Incursions did this, but on too limited a level. This is where Apocrypha was particularly brilliant. Not only did it add new forms of PVE and PVP gameplay with wormholes, it also added T3 ships which was new content for industrialists as well. If CCP had truly committed to developing Incursions (the current FW sovereignty system should have been part of that expansion as well), then maybe they would have really had something to hype. As its turned out it was just elitist PVE feature. Not good for attracting new players.

    Look forward to reading about your new feature ideas.

  20. Tunnel vision is hard to fight, but it causes some to look at the data with narrow eyes. There is no arguing the impact that Incarna had on Eve certainly, however the single item that I believe has had an even greater impact has nothing at all to do with Eve.

    Take myself for example. I'll be modest and say I am one of the most pro-Eve players playing Eve today. I've been in love with the game for four+ years straight. And this past year even I came very close to un-subbing! Not because of Eve. Because the friggin' economy is in the toilet!! In case you haven't noticed ( and I mean the general "you", no one specific) people are unemployed, companies are failing, money is tight. My own accounts went from three to one.

    The majority of people I've talked to aren't leaving because Eve sucks, they have HAD to leave.

    This doesn't invalidate anything said above, but it does create a larger context that shouldn't be ignored. I am personally dedicating next year to helping grow Eve. I'll be posting about this in the coming weeks.

    As always, good stuff. But I'd prefer the spin be a positive one.

  21. I'd rate Retribution as a failure. The new bounty system is so stupid that sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry.

    Many of the players I know are pissed because someone put a bounty on them, and now their portraits are ****ed up with that Wanted banner blotched across them. There is no way to get rid of it, short of getting ships worth 5x the value of the bounty blown up.

    Several other players just up and quit, after getting hit with bounties and then blown up by gankers. They were all had positive sec status and thought it was ridiculous that you could put bounties on non-criminals, to encourage criminals to kill them.

    None of these bounties had anything to do with bounty hunting. Some of them were put on anyone talking in local; others were put on anyone flying into a certain station or through a certain gate. Some players were putting bounties on other people, just to try to collect even larger revenge bounties.

    And, putting bounties on criminals is just pointless. The criminals don't care - they just PVP with their friends and collect each others bounties.

    Bounties also don't keep gankers out of high sec and don't make them legal targets.

    So, what's the point of this new system? Just another means to harass players in high sec, like the wardec system?

    1. Yarr! Hate to admit it, but this guy is right. As a -10 low sec denizen, the bounty system doesn't change the way I play the game, except for giving me yet another way to grief carebears for tears. Some bear whined in local about the drone changes and I put a 100M ISK bounty on his head. He immediately quit playing 'cause he doesn't want his mission running shiny blown up.

  22. I really hope that EVE will prevail. Unfortunately, the very structure of the game is restrictive in and of itself. This is not the easygoing "go in and fire" like most games so it will never see a growth like that.

    Although these graphs are very informative for me they will not and cannot take into the account of multiboxing. Only CCP has those numbers and only those numbers are real. If I remember correctly the mean average is 1,2-1,5 account per "real player", so you can chop off the top and get to the real horrible realization that there are not a lot of us playing this game.

    For this game to grow (if that is the desired target) it needs NEW players. I mean really new players and treat them well. Give them some hard lessons but motivate them enough so that they STAY subscribed even though they have just been blown up with all their belongings.

    IMHO the following things should happen before this:
    - make EVE a more livable place. Harsh but livable (if that is a word for it)
    - introduce a game mechanic that will prevent any and all entity to assume the overwhelming control (66%+ ) of anything ingame (systems, moons, items)
    - Increase and/or introduce incomes for newbies that are not repetitive. Or at least not that much
    - etc.

    1. The funny thing is, CCP doesn't have the numbers for multiboxing. They really don't know how many actual people are playing EVE. This came to light during the summer of rage when the thread for "How many accounts are you unsubbing" got to be huge. Going on estimates gathered from that thread (2.5 characters per person), there are at best 11,200 a day logging in. That's still too high when you concider that so many run much more than 2 accounts. The one friend I have that still plays is currently running 9 accounts. The other 7 people I used to fly with accounted for 23 accounts toatal. You almost have to have at least 2 accounts no matter what you do after a certain point.

  23. I think if done right, and made such that newish players can access it fairly early (small high-sec 'homes'), the POS revamp could very well be a great jesus feature. Make it easy (on the EVE scale) to setup, make it look cool, and give it some basic functionality, and I could see it being a huge hit for both vets and new players. "Own a cool looking space station" is a good sales pitch.

    Plus the biggest problem with virtual world MMO housing is usually overpopulation. Not much of an issue in space.

    1. Don't get me wrong: I think revamped POSes could be a great feature. But it is not not not game play. Sure, you spent 20 minutes getting your favorite house in Skyrim. But after that, how much time did you actually spend on it?

    2. Jester, it depends on what you can do with that house. If my high-sec house had even one manufacturing slot, then I would use that house every day.

    3. How much time did UO players spend in their homes? For me, it was months-worth of sub time. Same for my clan's hamlet in DF; it was the single biggest source of content for us. SWG cities?

      Using Skyrim is a poor example; it’s an sRPG where little if anything lasts longer than 20min (by design).

    4. Won't work.

      People don't build nice houses in RL in a warzone, so why would anyone build one in EVE, just to get it popped for lolz?

  24. For me, its the cost of PLEX that's done it for me.

    Pure and simple: I don't have enough game time to pull in income to support multiple PLEX accounts.

    Get PLEX to float in the 300-350M range, and I'll reactivate two accounts. With PLEX sitting where it is now, I simply can't do it.

    Some may argue that I should change over one of those accounts to subscription, as that would alleviate my time crunch issue. While I can afford it financially, I struggle with the concept that playing EVE would cost me twice as much. Sure it would be less than a round of golf a month for two accounts, but I have a tough time rationalizing it.

    1. Plex prices reflect a balance between how many people want to buy isk with cash, and how many people earn enough playing the game not to have to. With the current isk faucets in the game, lots of people want to pay with isk, and fewer people want to play with cash.

      Until that changes, I don't see the price of plex coming down.

    2. Actually, CCP controls the price of PLEX.

      They are the sole "manufacturer" of PLEX and can therefore set the RL price as they see fit. They are also able to arbitrarily add/remove them in the game, at will and at no cost to CCP.

      When CCP chooses to have a PLEX sale, the price of PLEX in-game drops. If CCP were to choose to dump a few hundred PLEX on the market, at each NPC station, the price would also drop.

      FYI - anyone who believes that the EVE economy is an accurate model of RL economics is wrong. RL economics don't work in EVE and never did, no matter how cleverly DrE would try to cobble together some econobabble (economic babble, similar to technobabble) to explain market activities.

    3. Actually, creating PLEX from nothing and giving them to players does have a cost to CCP.

      Let's say that the EVE population is split into two groups, those who pay their monthly subscription with real money, A, and those who pay using PLEX, B. A month of game time costs $15, and a PLEX - which must ultimately be bought from CCP - costs $20. For a given month, CCP's revenue is equal to 15a+20b.

      Now, let's further say that CCP creates 1,000 PLEX from nothing, then puts them up for sale in Jita, where players in group B will buy them and use them. However, CCP will receive no revenue for any of those thousand PLEXes, which means that they've effectively just lost $20,000 they would otherwise have had.

      Of course, that's just with a thousand plexes. You want them to seed "a few hundred PLEX on the market, at each NPC station". Do you know how many NPC stations there are in EVE? According to Grismar's EVE Explorer, there are 4,888 stations. I haven't sorted through all umpteen pages of search results to know if any player stations are included in that total, but the same source turns up 4804 stations with at least one agent in them.

      Assuming 4804 NPC stations and that a minimum of 200 of something is needed before you can say you have "a few hundred" of it, you are proposing that CCP create 960,800 PLEX, which would result in a loss of $19,216,000.

    4. not following you,

      a) you equate a sold PLEX to an used PLEX which is not true.
      b) you use game time equivalent for your revenue source. as long as PLEX price is larger than $15, how is that revenue lost?

      It's the opposite actually because of a) and b).
      Like to hear your reasoning.

    5. Every PLEX that CCP spawns from nothing and sells for isk on the in-game market is a PLEX not bought with real money from CCP's website. It doesn't matter if the buyer uses it for game time or resells it or holds onto it for a rainy day or whatever, the fact remains that CCP would be depriving themselves of that income.

    6. No, Anshu, it doesn't actually work that way.

      Despite what you think, there is not an 1-to-1 correspondence between the PLEX sold for RL cash, and the PLEX sold in game. The simple reason for this is that you cannot take PLEX out of the game and sell them for RL cash.

      So, PLEX purchases for RL cash are entirely based on the premise that a player's leisure time is better spent actually playing the game (ie. PVP), rather than grinding ISK.

      In the US and the EU, a player can typically make RL cash much faster than ISK. Minimum wage in the US is currently $7.25 per hour. Less taxes, about $5 per hour, say. This means that a PLEX takes 3 hours to earn in RL (for many of us, it takes less than an hour).

      Currently, PLEX are going for around 580M ISK in game, so assuming that you are able to grind 50-100M ISK per hour, per account, you'd be spending between 5-1/2 to 12 hours per PLEX. Note: I'm being generous here - this would be difficult/impossible to do via mining or mission running, and FW plexing for ISK got nerfed.

      In addition, many players don't want to spend 5-1/2 to 12 hours of their leisure time grinding ISK, just to be able to PVP for an hour or two. They would prefer to spend all of their in-game time in PVP activities.

      So, do the math. Even if PLEX prices were to drop down to 300M ISK, the players who buy PLEX for RL cash would continue to do so. Per unit time spent, it is just cheaper to play EVE that way.

      In fact, it is likely that they would purchase even more PLEX, to compensate for the fact that you'd only get 300M ISK for selling a PLEX in-game rather than nearly 600M ISK per PLEX.

      In other words, CCP makes more money, not less, when PLEX prices are lower, even if they were to dump PLEX in-game to push the price down.

  25. Since this post the number of players actively longed in has seen quite consistently very high. Care to update this post now that it has been over a month since retribution with how the login numbers have gone?


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