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Monday, April 25, 2011

Why Incarna is critical to keeping EVE "forever" (and why you MUST embrace it.)

Captain's Quarters are on Duality and we have taken our first tentative steps (literally) into the future of EVE. First steps are the most critical and if EVE is to survive Incarna must be a success and you must not only support it but embrace it. Here is why.

EVE is failing. Now, before you start yelling and screaming at me, read me out. I do not say this lightly. I am very worried about EVE as a business. An awesome fan base does not an EBIT make and those of you in the business world know what I am talking about.

In order for a business to survive, it must continuously grow its customer base. Apple understands this. They are the most valuable technology company on the planet and when they saw their customer numbers stagnate in Europe and North America they went to China. They just released their latest figures and blew all the business estimates to smithereens - again.

The same cannot be said for CCP. EVE is a great game. I would even go so far as to say revolutionary. However, it has stagnated. CCP's customer base is not growing and no company survives through stagnation. Don't believe me? Take a look at CCP's own numbers given on three quarterly financial reports.

The Good

The Bad

The Ugly

This is not an Apple like growth curve. It isn't even a Microsoft growth curve. It is far worse. Frankly it is more reminiscent of Nokia or RIM. Those two companies are staggering under the Apple onslaught and the Android juggernaut. CCP will soon stagger too if it doesn't do something drastic - and to their credit I think they realized this years ago.

Simon Hill had a very interesting article at Bright Hub on March 22, 2011. The article is titled MMO Subscriber Populations and I wish you'd read it at the link provided. EVE came in 8th. You might think this isn't so bad but I'd say think again. EVE's subscriber base is listed at 325,000. It hasn't really changed in over a year and nearly two. World of Warcraft has always dominated but other games have leap-frogged EVE. I hadn't even heard of half these games (Aion, Lineage, Lineage II, Dofus) and yet they have more subscriptions than our awesome EVE.

But you are quick to point out that even the article calls the subscriber counts potentially inaccurate and even grossly inaccurate. But how inaccurate are they really? Are they inflated by 20%? How about 30%? Even at a 50% inflation the top 5 games in the list still have more subscribers than EVE. Why?

I think it is because most people like to show off with no work involved. They don't want to spend years training to fly a super cap. They don't want to spend a year infiltrating an enemy alliance to bring it down in one fell betrayal. Most people want instant gratification. They want to walk out into the virtual world in their big, bad, sick and shiny armor they just purchased as a micro transaction and be done with it. If actually logging into the game is free so much the better, they will spend their subscription money on customizations - and probably more than the subscription would have cost. If the subscription would have cost $15 and two cool customizations cost $20 they will probably spend the extra $5. That's a 25% increase in revenue for a company running a "free" game. Now THAT'S Apple like. Apple sells last year's technology at premium prices and convinces everyone it is more reliable and therefore great. Folks, it's last year's technology. Of course it's reliable. It matures and stabilizes for a year and Apple will never have a Sandy Bridge fiasco to deal with. And yet Apple sees nearly a 50% gross profit margin on every Mac Book Pro sold. CCP has to do it too and ships in space, where everyone looks the same, isn't going to get them there.

So what will get them there? Fellow capsuleers, gird your loins because you aren't going to like this. They have to allow an easy entry into the game and they have to dumb some things down. Seriously. That is the only way they will grow at more than a "modest rate." Modest rates don't win the game. They need to let the lazy buy their shiny things and show them off. Yeah, we'll all know them for the posers they are but their money is just as valuable as yours. You will just have to adapt. And yes, I very well know that many call this the Star Wars Galaxies model and it failed miserably. However, in SWG they dumbed down the entire game. They sold out wholesale to the lazy and the posers. I know, I was there, and I was a triple master which took a very long time to accomplish and they neutered my "accomplishment" without so much as a thank you, please. CCP has already shown they are not that stupid. Our beloved spaceships will not suffer.

So what makes me think this is even necessary? Well, besides their subscription base being higher then EVE's take a look at what some of them offer for account services.
  • Aion
    • Plastic Surgery for $9.99
    • Name Change for $9.99
    • Gender Change for $14.99
  • World of WarCraft (prices listed here.)
    • Name Change for $10.00
    • Race Change for $25.00
    • Faction Change for $30.00
    • Character (re-)Customization for $15.00
  • Lineage II
    • Name Change for $29.99
    • Gender Change for $9.99
    • Subclass Change for $49.99
    • Subclass Separation for $49.99
I have read that many of you will not pay such prices. I have even read that some of you would rage-quit EVE if CCP tried such a thing. I say to you that two posers will step in and take your place if these things come to EVE and they are easy. CCP will double their income (or more) and you, dear friend, will be the only loser.

You see, people already pay these prices. These services would not exist if people didn't pay for them. That's how supply and demand works. It's a proven profit generating business model. I have no special insider knowledge, but I would wager the margins made on these services are large and well worth it. Perhaps someone can prove me wrong. I am certain some will try. Regardless, the only way CCP can realistically break the stagnation in their subscriber base is to appeal to a broader range of player. It means bringing in the WoW players and the posers. It means making EVE a little less like the game we love and a little bit more like what really sells well.

Mac Book Pros are coveted and they are made of last year's technology. iPad IIs sell like hot cakes and they don't even have a keyboard. And Apple posts record profits quarter after quarter because people value their products. We value EVE Online. Most gamers don't. I can say this with certainty. The subscription numbers speak for themselves and I haven't even touched on how many people play Halo, Call to Duty or Crysis. For CCP to grow and for EVE to truly be "forever," we have to accept that growth means making EVE Online into more than Internet spaceships. It means we must embrace the changes that are coming for our own future's sake.

Fly careful.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Time dilation? Really? You're kidding me, right?

I just read The Mittani', I mean Goonswarm's... damn, I mean CSM 6's letter posted on CCP Diagora's blog post. They think the best hope for beating lag is to institutionalize it. I don't mean put it in the nut-farm, though that might be an apt analogy. I mean it seems they think they'll beat the lag monster by creating lag in a controlled manner. Okay, to me this admits defeat without actually acknowledging it. Everyone will lag but everyone will lag equally so it's all good? No, it's not all good. Fights will take much longer to finish. I have faith that will start an entirely new line of whining. But if by some chance it doesn't, and it gets all those null-sec noise makers to shut up, I'm all for it. It will do absolutely nothing to enrich, enhance or provide anything of value to the silent majority's game play beyond greasing the squeaky wheels so we don't have to listen to them whine all the time. If that happens it'll be a win-win-win. Then maybe CCP can get back to developing a MMO instead of running a kindergarten.

Fly careful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This got me thinking and then laughing - thank you!

So I read The Point of Eve yesterday by Sleepless in Space. Excellent point and actually started this carebear into thinking about everything I do in terms of PVP, or as my carebear heart likes to rationalize it, competition with extreme prejudice. I haven't quite figured out how scanning down mag anomalies relates to a PVP perspective but I suppose if two capsuleers were scanning at the same time it'd be a race of sorts. I can't deny though that EVE is all about competition. That is what sets it apart from about every other MMO out there. So yeah, thank you Sleepless for the though provoking post!

Today this rolled out from Where the Frack is my Ship. *ROTFLMAO* Go Rosie the Rifter riveter!!!!

Thank you both for making my day that much brighter.

Fly careful.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The true types of EVE players.

I've read a couple of my fellow bloggers attempts to categorize EVE player. They have categorized by quantification and I think this is such an incorrect way to go. Any game that increases game play opportunity by increasing avatar stats over time lends itself to this. None of them are any different. I've seen the noob in every MMO I've ever played. I've also seen the grumpy veteran in every single game. Carebears are everywhere. Noobs often become grumpy veterans given enough time and patience. Being a carebear has more to do with RL time and disposition than avatar. I have enough combat skills to be a good pirate or ninja. I'm not by choice, not by capability.

If one wants to categorize EVE players, one needs to become more metaphysical. EVE players are people. Their motivations are based in RL. Their avatars actualize these motivations in game where it is widely perceived they can't hurt anyone. That, BTW, is completely wrong headed thinking. You can hurt people in RL through a game and pretending you can't is just a rationalization. However, that is perhaps a topic for another post. This post is about categorizing EVE players.

Game play is dictated by personality type. Reference this if you want more specific information: Personality Types. Introverts make great carebears. They thrive on internally generated rewards and generally won't seek externally derived accolades though they might want them. Extroverts love fleet fights, even the laggy ones. They want to be talked about. They want people to ask how their fit works. On overload, extreme extroverts might even troll the boards because even negative response is still response and they want to be noticed!

Then there are those who act and those who pause before acting (I really hate the term thinkers; as much as I hate the term elite in fact. Everyone thinks.) Those who act right away probably make the best PVPers. I can't quantify this but it seems to hold true in most endeavors that, providing they go in the right direction, they are quickly successful. On the other hands, those that don't act by impulse often hesitate until all is lost. On a 1v1 that is a catastrophic down side. However, I would much prefer an FC who was more the later than the former. The stakes change when you have dozens of others relying on your decisions.

Game play doesn't change throughout most players EVE careers. People stick with what appeals to them and that is driven by their personality type. Pirates move to null-sec fleets and perhaps to ninjas then perhaps back to pirate. The function of the action changes but not the nature of it. They may carebear to make money but it is only to buy more juicy ships with which to pew-pew. It is never an end unto itself.

I on the other hand get satisfaction out of a self-derived bank account. I am loath to spend my hard earned ISK on pew-pew toys. I want an Orca but NOT until I have 2.5 billion in the bank damn it. It is a goal. A goal that I look forward too. But it is also a restriction. I could buy the Orca now. I did cave last night and train the skills to fly it home. Then I immediately realized that I had set myself back nearly 50m ISK in getting an Orca. That was how much the skill books cost. The realization redoubled my self-imposed restraint. I'll not buy that Orca until I have 2,500,000,000 in the bank damn it or else! Now what pew-pew stick jock would ever do that to themselves?

So I think you have really only two types of EVE player when it all boils down. You have those who must be noticed and those who want to be noticed but aren't dependent on it. It must be very hard on the first if they don't get what they crave: the accolades, the carebear tears, the flame wars on the boards. It almost makes me feel sorry for them. Almost.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More snooping around passing wormholes.

I took Space Ghost out last night to have a look around the ol' home system. All I came up with is someone's wormhole sphincter into hi-sec. Since there was nothing else going on I took a look.

While still under jump cloak, I figured out the system was occupied. I didn't even need probes as a quick directional scan showed a Mobile Small Warp Disrupter in system. My overview also showed 3 birds in system.

I hit the MWD, cloaked and brought up the map. A quick look determined the most likely place for a tower. I warped to 100km and there it was. They are evidently a little paranoid.

I cleared the screen of clutter and pulled out my spy glass. I took a closer look...

...and closer...


The birds just floated there. Nobody was home. So I left to make some profit elsewhere.

Fly careful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gravimetric Anomalies of Pure Profit

I took the Arazu, Peeping Tom, out for practice the other day and got an immediate probe hit. I started to zero in on the anomaly and soon realized it was something a bit special as it was slippery. You know what I mean, it bounces around a lot and makes you reposition probes even after getting the scan resolution down to 4 AU and centered. However, at 2 AU I saw that it was gravimetric and my little miner heart skipped a beat.

When I finally got the scan resolution of the probes down to its lowest possible number I knew I had something special: I only had an 84% fix on its location. Space Ghost has a better scanning resolution than Peeping Tom currently has and I was just about ready to head back to dock and jump into it. The thought of wasted time (and profit) repeating the scan didn't sit well. I gave Peeping Tom one more try after bringing the probes closer together.

Nailed it. I bookmarked the location, recalled my probes and hit warp. Peeping Tom dropped out of warp 30 klicks from the anomaly.

My smile broadened into a huge grin as my scan came through on the overview.

Jaspet! Now there's a site you don't often see in hi-sec! As I warped back to jump into my Hulk, Blue Bucket, I realized there was one big problem. I had never gotten around to learning Jaspet processing. Damn it. It looked like I wouldn't be able to maximize my profit but I could train as I sucked the Kernite roids dry. All in all, I managed to pull 20+ million ISK from the anomaly in the few hours I had. It wasn't the most ISK per hour I've ever pulled but they were the first Jaspet roids I've ever popped.

And as I sat there feeling like a rookie again because my Jaspet processing skill was so low, I at least had some fairly amazing scenery to help pass the hours.

 Fly careful.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why does this make me nervous?

The latest quarterly economic report is out. Damn but I love reading these tomes of fiduciary largess! Still, some of it makes me nervous - even after I read it a third or fourth time for clarity's sake. Take this passage about the PLEX market for instance:
"However, due to its complex function and potential impact on the velocity of money supply, the Central Bank might intervene in the PLEX market in order to curb inflation or avoid sudden deflation in the EVE economy. All such action would not be announced beforehand and only limited information would become public in the quarter after actions have been taken. These actions would aim at stabilization of the PLEX market and do not have a specific price target for PLEX or a specific inflation target for prices in EVE."
Okay, so whenever I see deflation my heart shutters and whenever I see inflation my heart flutters. Tachycardia aside, that's just the capitalist in me. However, when I see the casual promise of market intervention, I worry.

I get that PLEX can be a very difficult commodity to manage. In fact, it is probably the only true commodity in EVE. And as with all commodities, it's price can fluctuate wildly. About the only thing I can't see evident in the PLEX market is gross speculation. That is a good thing since gross speculation is an abhorrent bastardization of supply and demand fundamentals that can only bring ruination for the masses. Yeah, a bit over the top there wasn't I? Nevertheless, I am not certain that by this announcement, CCP hasn't thrown the doors wide open for gross speculation.

The secrecy provisions outlined above come into clearer focus though when this worry rears its ugly head. They have at least have considered this problem. If they announce a market intervention they tip their hand to the speculators and the market lurches one way or the other. Unfortunately they have not thought this out enough moves in advance.

I don't need their announcement to speculate. All I need is for them to say after the fact, like they say they will, that they intervened. They don't even have to tell me what they did. I'll see what they did because I'll have watched the market the entire time. I'll see whatever trigger they used to prompt intervention. Once I know a trigger, I can anticipate an intervention when those conditions arise again and take advantage of them to the detriment of everyone else.

Yeah, it's a lot like forecasting the weather, but that's what speculators do. And they get damned good at it. If CCP intervenes in the PLEX market, they won't even have to make an announcement. They very act of intervention will not go unnoticed. The speculators will gather their information and when they reach a comfort zone THEY WILL SPECULATE.

"So what?" you ask. "What's the worst that can happen?" That's a good question. I'm not certain what is the worst that could happen. I do see a possibility where CCP's very efforts to promote stability actually do the opposite. As they react, the speculators react, CPP counter-reacts, the speculators do the same and on, and on, and on with the PLEX market getting so out of whack that nothing can stop it from crashing the economy... or at least the fear that it will crash. That is perhaps the biggest danger.

The Great Depression didn't begin with a Wall Street crash as many believe. The Great Depression began when people lost faith in the solvency of banks. General fear caused a run on the banks that quickly devolved into panic when people discovered the banks didn't keep ALL their money in the vault. To anyone who understood how banking worked this was not a surprise. To the ignorant it was shocking. When you only keep 10% of your deposits on hand, only 1 out of 10 customers needs be ignorant and demanding a full withdrawal. When they all demand their money, you are out of business.

Well, this certainly has wandered a bit. It is also a bunch of "what ifs" and "maybes" with a healthy dose of "reactionary knee jerk" to boot. I admit that. I suppose, in the end, we all have to trust that CCP and Dr. EyjoG know what their doing. To determine if they do, go and read the latest quarterly financial result for yourself. You will find it here.

Fly careful.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Did I mention that PI can be more exciting?

Yesterday involved mission after mission with the Fed Navy while I ingratiated myself with them. There was the lame...

And there was even lamer...

And though there were a few vistas of note...

It can all be summed up in one phrase: been here, done this.

BTW, just for the record, I MUCH prefer spiced rum over spiced wine. And another thing, how much spiced wine DOES the Fed Navy drink in a year? I bet they have to clone a new liver at least once a month! Go easy on the sauce guys; there's plenty to go around and they're making more every day.

There is one thing that is perhaps more tedious than ingratiation. That would be managing market orders. Today is market order day for the recycling business. Next time, I think I'll keep the buy range down to a single system. I'm gonna be putting some AUs on ol' Long Tom today and that's for certain.

Fly careful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Assuaging Drake decisions.

Last night I headed out with my Drake (more on it later,) the Prince Eugen, to do some work for the Fed Navy again. It's not that I resent what the fed Navy usually assigns to me, but honestly, PI is much more exciting at times. Fortunately this was not one of those times. Fed Navy sent me out to investigate a Mordu's Legion sighting. I'm always happy to investigate to death those traitors.

There were quite a few of them. I must admit, at one point they managed to get a double web on me and knock my shields down about two thirds. But it was never really close. Their tech one missiles were no match for my shields and my Widowmaker Furys made quick work of theirs.

At the second jump gate, I was not struck in awe of their defense but rather the entire scene that played out on my screen. I have seen a lot of beauty in space since becoming a capsuleer, but this took my breath away. Like the bones of some long-dead space leviathan, these strange asteroids framed the gate. I had to pass through the center of them to jump. I found myself holding my breath as the Prince Eugen passed through; expecting them to animate and attack as I did so.

It was a surrealistically fantastic moment I won't soon forget.

Now, about the Drake. Yes, I know it isn't Gallente. But it is a DPS dealing, max-buffer, passive-shielded  Incursion fit Drake that's been through all but a MOM fight and that makes it different. Still, the whole time I've been flying it, I've felt a twinge guilty about it being my first battle cruiser and all. I could buy a Myrmidon but it just didn't seem like enough recompense for buying the Drake first. The longer I waited the more heavily the Drake decision weighed. Finally, I realized the solution was just a day away.

So, after making the appropriate appointment with the neural re-mappers at the local training facility, I am now the proud pilot of Peeping Tom, my first Arazu!

For some reason this seems to make the Drake decision okay. It will be a month (more actually) before I can fly him really well (i.e. offensively with a good tank) but for now he'll go where I dare not take my thinner skinned Helios, Space Ghost. I can't wait.

Fly careful.