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Friday, May 9, 2014

New Bro Participation Stories are Anecdotal Fallacies

The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) wrote a very nice piece yesterday about giving a new bro a tackling frigate and making him part of a CFC fleet. You should read it here if you haven't already. I am grateful for CFC taking this one day old new bro under their wing and teaching him the CFC way of life. It's great that he got to see all that really cool stuff on practically his very first day. You are a lucky capsuleer Jelly Knight. You certainly must know the right people.

You see, it's tough getting into Goonwaffe unless you have someone to vouch for you. Vouchers put their membership in that storied corporation on the line by promising you'll be good, but it's the fastest way into Goonwaffe. With out a voucher, you have to provide the required security deposit as outlined on goonfleet.net.[1] "Most applications will require some form of security deposit, as calculated by the risk of your account being a spy," the web site says. A one day old capsuleer equals a very high risk of being a spy. Anyone will agree with that. Your deposit must have been very high indeed. I am glad you were able to get that much ISK together after only a day. Of course, you could have been given a bye on the deposit. That would surely happen if they already knew you. But that brings into question whether you are actually a new player or not, doesn't it? Still, I could be wrong about all these requirements. The website with the recruitment information is a bit dated. It still talks about the Fountain War as if it is current news. Other than that though, I've no reason to believe Goonswarm recruiting policies have changed. Sorry TAGN, your story is heart warming, but in no way does it reflect the reality of what happens to most new players. Goonswarm takes care of their own very well, but that's as far as it goes. And they may be the largest player alliance in the game, but thay are far from a majority of players.

Following this post, SynCaine over on Hardcore Casual posted a piece extolling the EVE Online MMO model. He used the combat report from TAGN as evidence that CCP has broken the code on facilitating meaningful game play on day one of a capsuleer's life. He wrote,

"EVE does a good job here because the mechanics don’t punish the new player OR the group he joins when they bring him along. In fact, ‘bring him along’ is actually understating the situation, because he isn’t just allowed to come along and view what is happening, he is able to meaningfully contribute."



In general, I do not disagree with this statement. EVE Online does allow for it to happen. What I do question is how often it happens. How many happy circumstances must fall into place for a new bro to have the opportunity Jelly Knight had? When I started playing EVE Online over six years ago, I knew no one. I had zero chance of being the lucky new bro who got to see a Titan on his second day in EVE Online. That's what happens to the vast majority of new EVE Online players. Sure, EVE Online allows new bros to contribute on day one, but most times that contribution is in the form of being a target for some other more experienced player to blow up.

That, SynCaine, is why the MMO industry is not wholeheartedly adopting CCP's methodology. The very loose structure in EVE Online, fondly called sandbox, may allow for lucky capsuleers to have wonderful experiences under the guiding auspices of Goonfleet, but more often it allows for can flipping, ganking, scamming and the myriad of other woes that plague new players. It's a real stretch to hold up such a rare event as Jelly Knight's story and claim it's what EVE Online is really like for new players. Most new players just don't know the right people. Go look again at Jelly Knight's character information on TAGN's post. He wasn't even 24 hours old when he made it into Goonwaffe. Goonwaffe's own recruitment page says it'll take at least 24 hours to get a response back on applications. That just cements the fact Jelly Knight had a sponsor. He was fast tracked. Would Goonwaffe be willing to sponsor ALL new players so efficaciously? I thought not.

Actually, the argument TAGN and SynCaine (SynCaine more than TAGN) seem to be making is an anecdotal fallacy. You can read about logical fallacies here. Here's what an anecdotal fallacy is,

It's often much easier for people to believe someone's testimony as opposed to understanding complex data and variation across a continuum. Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences, but our inclination is to believe that which is tangible to us, and/or the word of someone we trust over a more 'abstract' statistical reality.



The problem is, CCP won't discuss the 'abstract' statistical reality. They haven't released specific subscription numbers for years; since it quit showing EVE Online in a glowing light. That aside, I think we all need to understand the Jelly Knight story is a good one to be sure, one I thoroughly enjoyed reading about, but is at best anecdotal and of little use in determining if the EVE Online sandbox model is truly revolutionary or not.  The model has many shortcomings to go with its strengths. One of those shortcomings is that it is very, very hard for the un-sponsored to make their way in New Eden. They often become solo players. Then many of them give up and go play something else.

This leads into a corollary concern. Many of us who are lone wolves by nature, who only really enjoy small group or solo activities, are concerned that we will be left behind in the new vision for EVE Online CCP espoused during Fanfest. Such a concern, if warranted, would impact new bros hardest I believe. TurAmarth over on A Carbon Based Life has an open letter to CCP about this issue. He asks,

“Does CCP plan on solo, casual and small gang gameplay having a place, IE being involved, in this new vision?”



Ripard Teg had an answer to this question when Tur asked him it on Jester's Trek. You can read what Ripard had to say about it on Tur's blog. The gist of Ripard's answer (IMO) is, "don't worry, they'll throw you a bone or two." What he literally said was,

"Players that are in corps and alliances stay subscribed more, play more, and generate more content for other players than solo players."



That 's a company line for sure. What is becoming obvious to me, is CCP is completely fixated on this large-group player generated content shtick. Their answer to the anecdotal fallacy noted above is to force the 'abstract' statistical reality to conform to the reality they want. That's a reality where all new players are immediately thrust into large player corporations regardless of what the person behind the account wants. That's not "evil" or "bad." I think the worst you could say about it is it's unrealistic, possibly even fallacious, to believe CCP can force players to play the way CCP wants. But in the same breath, I have to say it might not be that at all. I see another side to the coin.

I left a comment for Tur about Ripard's answer. It's a mini post in it's own right. If you're interested in it, you can read it there. There is one thing I would like to pull out of that comment though and expound upon. It's this comment left on my post "Back to Basics" from my friend in FA, part of the CFC. As you read it, ask yourself how many "solo" type characters he has, and how many big alliance characters.

"I have played and enjoy playing as part of a corp and an alliance. My alts however, have their own corp, and do just exactly what you’re talking about. The simple joy of killing rocks…I like it when an asteroid belt goes “poof” and space becomes empty with all those nice rocks in my cargo hold. :-)



Mabrick, you know the quiet little back corner of space where I hang out. A few friends of mine from earlier EVE days have joined me for a while to simply relax and recharge their batteries before returning to other pursuits. It’s a nice life….."



Now add to that comment the fact Ripard himself has admitted to having a small army of alts supporting his other EVE Online habits. I think we can all agree it's common for many serious large-group players to do this. And these toons are, I think, by and large "solo" type characters. They are certainly small group oriented as attested above, if for no other reason than players of large-group main characters don't want their alts' identities discovered. Realizing that makes me wonder how many of the "solo" players in New Eden are just alts of large-group players. It's certainly possible they are a majority of the solo type game play. That's the other side of the coin.

Regardless of this realization, it's still wrong-headed for CCP to think they can change anyone's game play preference. I know they'll never change mine. So what DO we make of all this large-group-player-created-content aspiration from CCP? Nothing. It isn't a real issue. We've all known for years how broken POS mechanics are. We've known how broken sov mechanics are. We've known how broken industry is. We've known it would take ripping the guts out of the current EVE Online code to fix all that. CCP's solution is to start ripping, and create a new type of game play, the very large-scale-group game play, while they're at it. They are only giving us what we've asked for - large group and small group players alike - while adding a new game play content. Is that so bad? They aren't making the game I like to play any worse, and are actually improving some aspects of it. I'm not really concerned about CCPs direction as far as that goes.

So yeah, I sort of switched subjects in mid-stream on y'all. Sorry. Let me stitch it back together a bit. I don't think CCP's large-group initiative is a problem in most aspects. I do think CCP needs to work harder at new bro integration into this game, and believing the large-group initiative will solve the issue isn't it. It will not solve the issue, and anecdotal stories are not evidence it will. Frankly, the only thing that will work is allowing new bros to find their way in New Eden without the threat other players pose to them. I know many disagree with that assessment, but it will work. I know it will work because that is precisely what the rest of the MMO developer community does. When you get past the EVE Online anecdotal new bro stories, it is easy to see it's not the MMO developer community who needs to learn a thing or two about new player retention. It's CCP.

 

[1] Edit 5/9/14 @ 12:10 PDT - Goonfleet.net is a scam. That's why I say it's dated. It's part of my point and a troll. If you are a goon, get over it. If you are not, don't submit anything to that web site.

[2] Edit 5/9/14 @ 13:00 PDT - Comments suspended on this post.

9 comments:

  1. I agree with you that Jelly Knight's story is anomalous. At a guess, he's someone who was recruited straight off the SA forums with a reliable posting history there. (Which, I thought, was the main way to get into GoonWaffe...) That's not a good model for finding a large player base.

    I'm wondering, though, if you've watched the New Player Vision presentation from FanFest yet. CCP Rise does a good job of laying out the situation they're seeing, along with how he thinks they can get new players to not feel lost after the tutorial missions. (As it turns out, it mostly involves replacing the tutorial missions with something less mission-like.) What was really striking to me was that he broke things down that around 50% leave quickly, 10% go on to do corp stuff, and 40% go on to do solo mission/industry stuff... but most of that 40% ends up quitting anyway. Rise's goal seems to be to convert more of the 40% to the 10%, while I think you're arguing that we need to find a way to get fewer of the 40% to quit without encouraging them to do anything different. What are your thoughts on this?

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  2. I would respectfully advise you to do some research. On every wiki page Goonfleet has involving the steps on how to join, they have in large, bold, red letters "If you gave isk to join Goonfleet then you were scammed and you're shit out of luck." They also state, in bold lettering, that Goonfleet is not a publicly recruiting corporation. While the front page states differently, I would be unsurprised if this was deliberate to facilitate recruitment scamming. Please modify your post, in case some credulous newbies stumble across the blog.

    http://www.eveinfo.net/wiki/index~17.htm
    https://wiki.goonfleet.com/Joining_GoonWaffe

    Bluntly, it is not Goonfleet's job to introduce newbies to Eve. It is Goonfleets job to make fun things happen for SomethingAwful members. The Goonfleet style is what the Eve newbie experience could be, if the experience was completely revamped and changed from its current form, but, as you say, there are issues with trust. Eve is not particularly friendly to people who join the game without a preexisting social circle to come with, and changing that would involve fundamentally breaking the game.

    Best advice - do preliminary work before actually signing up for Eve, at least a couple month's worth. Lurking forums, reading wikis, and yes, either joining an extant community or going for EVE Uni ASAP.

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  3. I think the goon website you linked is the page they use for recruitment scams... http://www.eveinfo.net/wiki/index~17.htm details the recruitment process for goonswarm and says in big letters if you paid a security deposit you are SOL.

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  4. People expecting MMO companies to focus on "lone wolf" morons in their massively multiplayer games are pretty dumb.

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  5. "Bluntly, it is not Goonfleet’s job to introduce newbies to Eve."

    Thank you supporting my exact point. I agree with you. I don't know why you are so upset. Is it because goonfleet.net is perhaps a scam? Like I didn't know that... trollololololol. Still, it's the first search result you get when you Google "goonwaffe recruitment." It's the first thing anyone looking for the information will see - like new EVE Online players. And yes, I know it's not the official site. Bluntly, it is not my job to point out to Goonswarm they have a web site issue.

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  6. This is the last comment I'll allow on what the official goonswarm recruitment policy is. That subject is off topic.

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  7. The original comment is off topic for my purposes so I'm going to replace it with a personal message.

    Wilhelm, I meant no offense. Your post was a good story and your blog is one of my must reads. I simply used your post in a way you didn't expect. I meant no disrespect. Also, I am very knowledgeable of Goonswarm recruitment policies. What I wrote concerning goonfleet dot net is a troll. I got the reaction I wanted - first bite in fact. My point made, I'm calling off the troll. As for logical fallacies, everyone uses them all the time, myself included, to make our points. Hell, there is even a fallacy about using fallacies. Nothing is more human. I'm not an "expert." I have some gaming experience, but mostly I have opinions. That's what I record on my blog. Thank you for reading it.

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  8. […] on the other hand, seemed to take offense at the idea and accused SynCaine and I of arguing an anecdotal fallacy.  Technically, my post wasn’t arguing anything, it was an observation on a fleet action, but […]

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  9. […] Mabrick’s counterpost about Jelly Knight’s experience being atypical […]

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Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.