Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Niche game vs WoW clone

We always here the terms "niche game" and "WoW clone", without understanding what do they mean. They are often cursewords or badges of honor, instead of descriptions. So let's see first what WoW is: "WoW is an interactive media that the subscriber can fully consume regardless of his input (besides open trolling)". WoW is like movies: if you pay the movie ticket, you are entitled to fully watch the movie, unless you make a scandal inside the theater. Both WoW and a movie exist without the input of the consumer. The movie is the same, even if no one watches it and an individual consumer gets the same experience regardless the existence of other consumers. Same for WoW, Deathwing is dead in a server where no player killed him.

Unlike the movie, WoW retains some illusion of interaction between the consumer and the World, but its results are limited to the avatar of the consumer. If you never killed Deathwing, you don't have the achievement or other rewards from it, if you killed him multiple times, you may have all the rewards. But you (or anyone else) killing Deathwing has no effect on Deathwing. Similarly, if you never engaged in Battleground PvP, you don't have the achievements or rewards. If you did, you have. However while you claim (and have rewards to prove) that you were victorious over other players, so do they claim and point to the very same proofs. The characters of both of you have improved and have the same rewards to show off your illusionary victory. So in WoW the consumer is not a player as his experience is uncorrelated with his input (besides extreme inputs).

Niche games are different from WoW because they are games. The outcome can be favorable (winning) or unfavorable (losing) depending on the input of the player and the inputs of teammates and opponents. The "niche" is defined by the ruleset. EVE is different from Counterstrike, each harboring different type of players who enjoy different kind of challenges.

WoW is an enjoyable one-time consumption for everyone (besides extremes). WoW clones wish to emulate its success, but fail, because they lack the funding to do so. Since - unlike movies - consuming such product takes lot of time, it's unlikely for a customer to consume more than one in the same time. They are also competing for the total consumer base. Therefore they are in direct competition and only the best-made can survive and it's currently WoW. WoW-clones cannot succeed, except for the yet-to-be-seen WoW-killer, that will take its place. Also, constant content updates are needed to upkeep with the consumers, in absence of these, they would leave. If WoW would receive no more content, it would die in a year.

Niche games only need to compete with games within the same niche. So EVE is competing with Darkfall, but not with Counterstrike, Heartstone or Starcraft. A successful niche game can (and often do) survive without further content. Counterstrike is being played without serious new content in the last decade.

PS: daily evil propaganda bashing. The head of evil is busy spreading lies. Not by mistake the punchline of his recent one is the usual "nerf supers because I have less". His article blames supers for being the reason for the two-block cold war nullsec. He is 90% right: the only counter of the "apex force" of supercarrier blob is a larger another supercarrier blob, forcing everyone to join blocks to be part of the "larger supercarrier blob". What he doesn't mention is the "apex force" logic doesn't need supercarriers. Something will always be the apex force (a fleet that can only be defeated by a larger version of itself), so groups will always be motivated to join a block. He doesn't want to nerf the apex-projection (which probably can't be done anyway), he just wants to keep nerfing the actual apex until the new apex is his own. When Drakes were the apex force, he didn't complain.

Power projection can be nerfed by ... nerfing it: greatly decreasing the jump range of all jump methods and/or putting timer on re-jumping. But the real solution to the power projection problem is what I'm proposing: asymmetric warfare. Small, mobile groups terrorizing the backyard of the undefeatable block until it is forced to negotiate peace or weakened to the point where the other bloc can safely go war with it.

PS2: how can someone be this stupid?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why do you gank us, we build your ships?!

One of the tiles of the infamous miner bingo is "without miners you'd have no ships". The miner bingo is a collection of typical cries of gank/bump victims. The quote is in the bingo, because it's another hilarious nonsense. Which is surprising considering that it's factually true: without miners, no one would have ships in New Eden.

Making such useful service makes one needed, valued and therefore protected. Since miners are so important, it's natural that they get protection from the ones they provide to. After all, if I try to blow up a moon miner tower, I can expect a fleet defending it.

The plight of the highsec miners is a symptom of the plight of EVE: casual players don't matter and they don't even know about it. Highsec miners are a punching bag of everyone because they are not needed for building ships. Multibox miner fleets would provide enough ore even if all the casual miners would be kicked out. Nothing shows it better than the pathetic income of highsec mining. Literally everything earns more than 8M/hour that an unboosted highsec ore Mackinaw can earn.

The miner believes that he is an important contributor to the New Eden economy, while he wouldn't be noticed if he'd be gone. This is why no one bothers to organize, help and protect them. This is why "mining corp" is a synonym of "useless lolcorp". But the miner doesn't know that mining in a solo ship is acceptable only during newbiehood and later he must change or get more accounts to turn into a multibox-monster himself.

He lacks not formal knowledge, but even the common sense of economy, he doesn't measure his activity in ISK/hour. What I mean is not to compare it with other activities and abandon it if others pay better. I mean that he doesn't realize that if he earns 8M/hour, he is considered a loser and treated that way. "Flipping burgers" isn't a term of respect. He doesn't realize that his low income places him into a despised social group that serves as nothing but punching bag. The Code is ultimately right: "Gallant recognizes his place is at the bottom of the EVE hierarchy."

CCP could help a lot to these players by creating an in-game accounting tool: you turn it on and it measures the time until turned off, and also measures all kind of direct gathering incomes: bounties, mission rewards, loot and ore gathering, LP gain and so on. The ratio of the two gives ISK/hour. It wouldn't be exact, but would give the player an impression how well he is doing.

EVE has a competitive economy. The miner doesn't know that and assumes that what he does is OK, just because it's fun. When a Catalyst pilot reminds him that it's not, he gets mad and might quit the game. Maybe the game itself should inform him about his sorry state instead and give tips and tutorials how to improve.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Where does the Drama Llama live?

We read about the big dramas and resets and alliance movements. However most of them are invisible to us. But not to Dotlan. It says that in June, 1155 corporations joined an alliance. Probably there are more, many corps aren't tracked by Dotlan. Anyway, that's a lot of movement. The idea to look after these came from minerbumping, where the good agents destroyed a lolalliance of lolcorps. What if most of these alliance movements happen in highsec?

Let's figure it out! I collected the data of NPC and ship kills from the various zones from Dotlan for 18 months. Then I plotted these data against the "alliance joined" data. It looks stupid, as joining to an alliance clearly doesn't cause more ratting. However I was just looking for connection between different activities and alliance movements.

The nullsec, WH and lowsec data provided very low R2 fits. On the other hand, the fits against highsec data were better: 0.47 and 0.56 for PvP and ratting and 0.66/0.69 linearcoefficients. So having 2x more drama predicts 1.7x more highsec ratting.

The drama obviously didn't cause the ratting increase. This should be interpreted as "most drama happens in highsec, if the activity increases there, so does the drama". This is reinforced by the strongest correlation found:
Not surprisingly, drama is increasing with more people. As we saw earlier, the variation of logged in users causes variation in highsec activities and not in low, null or WH. So what we realized here is "alliance movements are driven by casual players". They create and join highsec alliances that claim to do everything, recruit everyone, do nothing useful and gets destroyed by a 1-man wardeccer corp.

CCP has to realize that the newbie and casual activity happens in highsec. If they want the game to grow, they must focus content creation in highsec. It doesn't mean "making EVE WoW", as that would need making these casuals "win". WoW subscription count is decreasing because such approach makes core players leave. This can be completely avoided if the new highsec content isn't relevant for the low-null-WH play. The NPC corps should be restructured into a more social experience, by assigning GMs as corp leaders. Maybe less NPC corps would be better for management and activity. These GMs would teach, answer questions, lead events and kick troublemakers from the corp into a special "ghetto" NPC corp were they can try to scam each other.

Letting players dumbly join Interstellar Services Syndicate fits more to the "short bus universe" than the "dark universe" theme. Everyone has to accept that there are casual players who will never do anything worth mentioning in New Eden. But with some GM help, they could become satisfied subscribers.

PS: Goonies! Something really nasty is cooking! Save yourself the defeat and just surrender!

Friday, July 18, 2014

If more people log in, more X happens

Nosy Gamer had a brilliant idea: he placed the average concurrent user (ACU) data and several kill data to the same chart. Unfortunately, he only did qualitative analysis and only for kills. So I collected the monthly ACU, kill, jump and NPC kill data to analyse properly from 2013 Jan to 2014 June.

At first I built a correlation table. Correlation is a formula that tells if two sets of data has linear connection or not. The closer it is to 1, the better the connection is. In the case of y = a*x+b, the correlation between x and y is 1 or -1. However it doesn't tell us the value of a or b. It only tells "hey, x and y worth further exploring":

"Month" and ACU has a strong negative (-0.79) correlation, telling us to plot these against each other and expect decrease of ACU over time:

The highsec data has stronger correlation with ACU than with time. The numbers are over 0.8, so all kind of highsec activity increases well with more players logging in. To let quantities of different magnitude fit into the same chart, all data are now in units of average. "1.1" means that in that month the variable is 1.1x larger than its 18 month average.
R2 is high for all highsec statistics and their linear coefficient is over 1, meaning if 10% more player logs in, highsec activity increases more than by 10%. Why? Because the core playerbase always log in, the ACU variation affects casual, highsec players. When the ACU drops, the core players are still here, highsec casuals stopped playing. This is both a blessing and a curse for CCP. On the one hand, there is no risk of the game become abandoned. On the other hand, casuals play less hours, so losing 10% of ACU means losing more than 10% of subscriptions.

The lowsec data has stronger correlation with time than ACU. Why? Because lowsec received constant buffs, greatly increasing its weight within the game over time. Nullsec and WH has weak correlation with both ACU and time. To analyze them all, each data set was linearly fitted against both. First against the one that has stronger correlation, then the fitted equation is subtracted from the data, then I fitted the remainder against the second. The first one is bolded in the table:
The first column is the R2 of the ACU fit, A and B are the coefficients from the y = A*x+B linear equation. The next 3 columns are the same for the time fit. The last two columns talk about the goodness of the two fits. They are the standard distribution of the reminder after the first and second fit divided by the original standard distribution. If the fit is perfect, it's zero, if useless, it's 1. I bolded the second if it's relevant.

What can we see? For highsec data, the ACU fit is strong and the subsequent time fit does nothing. Highsec activity is only affected by ACU. Lowsec NPC kills are strongly affected by time but barely by ACU: rat hunting jumped when tag rats were introduced. Lowsec movement and PvP are weakly affected by both time and ACU: seems some casuals wander into lowsec, the more they are, the more wanders. The nullsec data is very weakly affected by both time and ACU: nullsec neither got a life-changing patch, nor is affected by the number of players on the server. WH NPC kills detto, but WH player kills are increased by both. My guess: the scanning patch let more newbies find wormholes and when they foolishly enter, they will "participate" in PvP. Summary: if more people log in, there will be more activity in highsec, but not in low, null or WH.

But the gem is yet to come: the nullsec NPC kills have weak negative correlation with ACU and the subsequent time fit does nothing. Let's go back to the first table to see which data set has the highest correlation to it. Then plot the linear fit against it. Weak R2, but the connection is clearly there:
How can more highsec NPC kills cause less nullsec NPC kills? Because the nullsec people often make ISK in highsec, depending on the safety of nullsec and the price of LP.

Now we can see why CCP is in trouble: new players and casuals stay in highsec, so they must improve highsec to increase concurrent logins. But highsec is already so good that it lures nullsec player out to earn ISK! The solution could be adding goals and not activities to highsec.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Where did all the PBLRDs go?

There are three large renter empires: PBLRD of CFC, Northern Associates. of N3 and Brothers of Tangra of PL. There is a minor renter within CFC: Initiative Associates. I've already done a comparison based on land and member sizes and PvP losses. This time I collected data reflecting customer satisfaction. Who is the most unsatisfied customer? The one who quits. DOTLAN has a list for former corporations of alliances and each renter corp must join the renter alliance. So I added the member count of the corps that left the renter alliances in the April 15 - July 15 period. I also looked up which alliance they are in currently:
  • They can be in the same renter alliance they left. These cases are considered administrative issues. They didn't leave after all.
  • They can be in a non-renter alliance. This case they just used renting as a probation time, didn't mean to stay renters. Their departure is probably not the fault of the landlord.
  • They can be in no alliance. This case the conditions of renting made them quit, give up and go back to Empire space. The landlord is probably at fault.
  • They can be in another renter empire. The landlord failed hard.
Below you can see the absolute numbers of leavers and their ratio compared to the sizes of these alliances in the middle of the examined period, June 1:
Ouch! PBLRD lost 45% of its members in 3 months, while NA lost 12% and BoT lost 18%. Of course it doesn't mean losing 45% of its size, as new members arrived, but still, it's a huge rotation rate. Also, for the other two renter empires, switching landlords are the least likely reasons of leaving. For PBLRD, it's the largest.

We can say without doubt that the experience of renting from Goons hasn't improved much since the days when it was just a scam they did for pocket change and giggles.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Battle size analysis properly done

I made an analysis of BL, Mordus Angels and Pasta ISK ratio against CFC, based on killboard data. I wasn't happy with the methodology, but I figured that it will be OK. I realized that it's not, when I saw this solo kill. Yes, you see it right, a frig blapped by a dread. One killer only. However this is anything but a solo kill. This happened in the 150B value dread battle, so it shouldn't be booked as a solo kill. So I redid the analysis. I used the May and June CFC loss data and a separate MoA/BL/Pasta loss data.

In this analysis, if two kills happened in the same system within 10 minutes (that's 1 min under TiDi), they belonged to the same battle and every kill was booked under the size of the battle. So every kill in the Battle of Daras were booked under 802, the highest number of killers on one kill of that battle. Of course the kills are de-whored, so if a 100M CFC ship died and MoA got 10% damage, it contributed to 10M MoA kill.

At first, let's see the activities of these alliances, measured in kills+losses:
As you can see, MoA and Pasta have nearly identical fleet size distribution (in absolute terms, MoA is 1.5x more active than Pasta). BL on the other hand is a large-fleet alliance. Very different playstyle. Whenever MoA or Pasta are joining a fleet, they are playing the game of BL, not their own. This is very visible on the ISK ratio graph:
Pasta has 80%+ ISK ratio in small fleets, MoA has 60+%. In large fleets on the other hand they both have much worse results and BL gets better than them, though BL is also better in small fleets.

So the old conclusion stays: if you want to fight CFC, you should do it in small gangs. If CFC forms up hard, just run away or dock up! If you engage their blob, or allow a small gang fight to escalate, you'll lose. Yes, running isn't fun. And blapping their blob is very much fun. Hunting ratters and small-gangs isn't that much fun. But it beats them, while banging your head to the wall with 33% ISK ratio is very much not. You need small gang FCs and gatecamps, blackops drops and inty roams, not following Elo Knight into his latest welp.

Finally: Goons avoid losses by using cheap doctrines, so it's impossible to hurt them by destroying their fleets. Let me illustrate this with two events from yesterday: a Pasta-BL-MoA fleet in 1DH-SX, between 0:20 and 0:40 slain a CFC Rupture fleet. 75 ships were destroyed, so at least 100 pilots took part in the battle that cost 2B to the evil and 0.4B to the champions. A few hours later 3 MoA and 1 Mortus pilots caught a PvE Tengu + pod belonging to a minion of evil. The "battle" report: 1.7B kill, 0.0 lost.

PS: I can't dedicate my blog to refute the lies of the head of evil, so just a quick PS. In his recent misinformation, he blames supercapital blobs for "crappy alliances" can't get Sov. The truth is that these "crappy alliances" don't want to get Sov, since it's nothing but a sub-par farming field. They are also very fine killing the "unbeatable" block members in small gangs. Again: in June, 75% of the CFC losses had 10 or less killers on them. Your clearly don't need a supercap blob to massacre CFC.

The lack of new "players" in the Sov space is not because of lack of ability but lack of will. Tell me, why would anyone want Sov, when you can earn more ISK in highsec and more kills from NPC space? The purpose of his article is "nerf supers", obviously not because he cares about the little guys, but because he can't keep up the supercap arms race with N3 but he clearly have superiority on the bombless bombers front.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The head of evil is plotting against newbies

The Mittani, the leader of the evil in New Eden wrote a piece after long time of hiatus. When someone posts daily, some ideas aren't complete or well-thought. But a return post after months, has its words reconsidered many times before publishing. It's about newbie retention, an important topic. We could just dismiss it as an easy upvote-hunt, if it wasn't so cleverly evil.

Its first part is redundant and harmless, everyone and his mother could tell you that better tutorial would help. However the first hint of the evil plot is inside, invoking World of Warcraft. No one, (except me) dares to mention WoW in an EVE discussion, because of the (completely unearned) feeling of superiority of EVE players over WoW players. Also, his idea doesn't even need a WoW parallel, he just used it to throw a bomb: "this is the real talk guys, I speak from the heart, I don't care about being unpopular". Then he moves to the point: banning awoxing. That's also something I've suggested before, but not without making some corps safe from wardeccing. These corps obviously must pay NPC tax and own no structures.

Awoxing is a convenient way of griefing, you don't need to pay wardec fee, you don't need to wait a day for the war to start and don't need an alt in the corp to collect their tears on the corp chat and mails. But this is just convenience, if someone wants to hit a corp, he can wardec it and can kill them just as well. So on the surface, the suggestion of The Mittani does nothing. Why would he open his series with an obviously useless suggestion?

Because even mild inconvenience is inconvenience and stops casual users. If a corp has activity, it has competitors, people who have reason to hit it. Someone farming easy kills to have a good killboard, also has a good reason to pick them. They won't be deterred by inconvenience. However a bored punk looking for someone to hurt because his life sucks won't be bothered with paying and waiting. He'll turn to more instant gratification like duel-spamming next door to the newbie systems. So this suggestion would indeed increase the safety of some corps: those who have no competitors or anyone with a real reason to hit them.

So the suggestion of The Mittani is aimed to make useless lolcorps more viable. The ones that no one notices because they do nothing. They are lead by an idiot, their activity is limited to idle chat and ridiculous daydreaming about growing big one day - without any actual attempt to do anything besides random mining ops. These won't get wardecced because no one has a reason to stop them - as they do nothing at the first place. The only one who would poke them with a stick is the griefer, who does the work of the Lord by disbanding these hives of idiocy.

The current coalition enemies are harmless to CFC. PL is pacified, N3 is too weak alone. Both are also risk-awerse, as we saw it in the Fountain war and earlier when Montolio wanted to start a real war. The real risk for CFC is random pirates roaming their space and killing their ratters. Or small NPC-living alliances taking odd moons. Finally highsec wardeccers who slay them in stupid amounts. A new player might become a threat as one of the above. Hell, if he is randomly stumbling around in nullsec in a failfit frig, he still shuts down ratting as everyone in the constellation safes up considering him a dangerous cyno-tackle. So it's better to lock him into an idiot ghetto where he learns that the way of playing EVE is running missions for a purple Golem and avoiding any attention. In the current EVE, awoxers destroy these lolcorps, with the chance that the scattered members end up in a competent group.

The safe, but openly limited corps I suggested would have a "beginner" feel, everyone inside would know that he is irrelevant and must join the "real game" to change that. I also suggested giving random players crayons, mostly in the form of useless highsec supers to distract them and keep them subscribed. However I would make it clear for them that these features aren't the "real EVE", it's like pet collecting in other MMOs. The head of evil wants the newbies not only to be irrelevant but be unaware of that nor have any idea how to change it.

PS: Another glorious battle (loss list) of BL/MoA/Pasta against CFC. Too bad that 5 more like this are needed to even out the losses of the dread welp. I'm still sure that deploying to the back-end of the CFC space and killing odd minions of evil would be better.

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