Sunday, December 28, 2014

Progression as a Ball of String

Editor's Note:  Happy Holidays!  We're doing the usual tour of family homes that generally leaves us exhausted.  I've not had much time at all for EVE the past week and a half, but I did have this old article gathering dust in the drafts bin.  Let's knock the dust off of her and see where it goes.

Let's talk a little bit about progression.

I started this post awhile back; before the wave of newbies pulled in by the supercool trailer.

Progression.  That's a dirty word in EVE as it's associated with the themepark mentality. You say the word 'progression' and it conjurs up other words like 'raids' and 'gear treadmill.'  But let's strip that away for a minute and get back to some core game design concepts and adjust our context away from a particular implementation.

Game Theory:  In order to log in every day, a player needs to have an itch to scratch.  He has to get some sort of satisfaction out of it, or he wouldn't do it.  Even if the task at hand is grindy and tedious, he's building towards something bigger and better, and that feeling of progress compels him to log in and get to work.

EVE has nonlinear progression.  In fact, I'm reminded of an old-ish Dr. Who episode with the infamous weebly-wobbly, timey wimey stuff quote.

Another way of saying:  a big ball of yarn.

So let's distinguish -- "Linear Progression" is something I think is bad.  That's the WoW mentality of how to play the game.

"Nonlinear Progression" is something that I think is good.  That's the EVE sandbox mentality.  I can pick and choose what I do.  I am still working towards a set of goals of my choosing, but with all the interconnections between content there is really no end to the things I can tackle.

EVE has no endgame.  Or it's all endgame.  It's all the same ball of yarn.

The trouble is that many players (especially new ones) tend to play the game as if it's linear.  As if endgame is some faraway place.  They figure out that lvl4 agents are consistent isk, and there's a reasonably straightforward skill/ship upgrade path to get to lvl4's and voila -- linear content path.

They get good at missioning, they get a perfect fit and peak isk/hr.  And they progress themselves right into a no-man's land where the viable alternatives are more missions or a fundamental shift in how to play the game.

And then one day they don't log in.  They don't really mean to, but they got busy or a friend got them to try another game.  Then a week goes by, and they've not logged in.  And they realize: they don't miss it.  Voila, unsub.

So the trick isn't to punish the mission runners and convince them that they're doing it wrong.  By the time they're in a raven, the blinders are already on and they're comfortable with their nice linear path.

The trick is to offer content bridges (there's a term) that give them off-ramps into other territory.  New things to train for, new communities to meet, other parts of the ball of yarn.  These off-ramps need to come early and often, and be subtle enough that they don't appear too daunting.

So here's the big finish of this post:

I'm an advocate of more variation in highsec PVE options for two reasons.

1) Long term, we all need new things to grab our interest, open up new content we should train and prepare for.  Personally, Burners have been huge for me - I thought that at my skillpoint level I was out of things to train, but Burners uncovered a ton of small-ship skills that I lacked, fighting techniques that I'd read about but never tried, and hulls that I'd never flown.

2) Content that blurs the lines between highsec and lowsec and nullsec is welcome.  Running combat anoms in highsec is a great example of skills (scanning in particular) and techniques that can be used in low for those that are willing.  Another burner example:  PVE content that forces you to fit a web, scram, or a cap booster or other "pvp" modules so you understand how they work BEFORE your first pvp encounter.

The path to endgame, however you want to define your particular endgame, needs many loops and paths.  Bridges to other content.  Incremental character advancement (i.e. progression) is a strong drug to keep folks logging in every day.

So bring on the small ship combat.  Burners in Cruiser flavors, or Destroyer Burners.  Small ships are often harder to fit and offer a nice bit of variety away from the Raven.

Bring on the exploration.   Is there such a thing as a highsec-to-highsec wormhole? If not, why not?

You get the idea.  Big ball of yarn.  Let's go knit a sweater.

What's Playing:  Primus, Pork Soda, My Name is Mud


  1. There are definitely high sec to high sec wormholes just to cover that off. Which gets interesting if you have bad standings with the faction at destination...

    Talking about L4s for a moment, great for a (very) casual player, but won't hold interest in the longer term. Also tends to fix PvE fits in someone's head as the way to go. PvP is very VERY different, and while the burner missions help with this, they are very high end and not for the faint of heart.

    TL;DR - there should be something in between burners and L4s that encourages PvP fits to assist with the transition.

    +1 on this post though

    1. Agree. Part of an answer could be more flavors of burners (easier, like lvl3 burners ... and I'd love to have a burner tuned around a non-faction, tech1 fit ship). More PVE encounters that emulate pvp would also be welcome - we've had years and years of 'tank up and shoot all redX' as mission/PVE content; I like the idea of needing a pvp fit to be successful at pve too.

      Rumors were that CCP is rebuilding their PVE toolset, so hopefully we'll see more variation once they've got the infrastructure back in place.


Alpha State

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."  That's one of my favorite quotes from the Matrix 2.  It has to do with the ...