Over the past day, several industry analysts have weighed in on the business move, with many (but not all) of them saying that it was a bold but smart move for the company. SuperData analyst Joost van Dreunen noted that King was a “key acquisition target” for Asian publishers looking to expand in the west and that Activision’s purchase would gain a mobile division for the company while denying King to its competitors.
Welcome back to our ongoing exploration of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate. As you can guess, the book itself focuses on games in general, not just MMOs and online games, so I was able to apply today’s chapter on moral panic to recent trending indie RPG Undertale. I’ve argued to educators that not only is there evidence that games can positively affect morals, but that part of Undertale’s charm is that we know we can do bad things yet are emotionally rewarded for acting in a peaceful manner. In fact, the game actively discourages you from committing violence by constantly trying to include you with its cast of characters.
Then someone on Reddit stepped into a conversation and asked, “What about all the griefing in sandbox games”? It’s a great question, and one addressed in this chapter.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Online worlds researcher Dr. Richard Bartle didn’t actually write the Bartle test.
His original research explored, analyzed, and defined the four player archetypes — killer, socializer, achiever, and explorer — but the test based on that paper was created a few years later by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey and named in his honor.
We’ve been talking a lot about Bartle’s ideas’ relevance to modern MMOs in the last month or two, so I thought it would be fun to ask the Massively OP staff and readers to take the test, share their results, and talk about what it all means in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
There are, of course, some caveats.
One of the problems facing some fields of scientific research is that there are often huge numbers of images to classify and analyse, and researchers just can’t keep up with the workload. Several labs have launched projects over the years that aim to get the general public’s help with this problem, such as the Galaxy Zoo project that asked the general public to visually classify galaxies. While machine learning has come a long way in recent years, the human brain is a powerful pattern-matching computer and real humans will always be useful for pre-classifying training images for the computer system.
Project Discovery aims to bring this powerful tool into EVE Online universe by turning the classification process into a game mechanic that makes sense within the EVE universe and lore. When the project goes live, the Sisters of EVE faction will begin offering people loyalty points for each image they correctly classify. Developers selected the Human Protein project as it fits with the EVE design and is altruistic in nature, supporting research into protein expression in cells that could have important consequences for research on a variety of diseases and genetic conditions.
I’ve been reading this book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. Actually, the full title is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business, but that was a mouthful for an opening sentence. It’s a book that draws heavily on academia as well as interviews with private sector executives to identify something called the habit loop, which is the author’s way of quantifying how the human brain sorts habits from conscious choices.
“At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office,” Duhigg writes. “Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic.” What does that have to do with video games or MMORPGs? Let’s find out.
The generally excellent Extra Credits series occasionally touches on MMORPGs and their various systems has a pair of new videos out that might be of interest to you.
The first explores Bartle’s Taxonomy, which you might know as Bartle’s Test or Bartle’s Gamer Types. The video traces how Bartle came up with the categories and how those categories define how and why we play. The second tackles the application of these types of players and the challenge of balancing an MMO ecosystem to meet all of their needs.
You can watch both videos after the jump.
Massively OP’s overview of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate last month was just the beginning of our coverage of the topics contained within it. I advised MMO players and writers to pick up the book and read it for themselves, but for those who don’t, today I’ll break down some of the ideas expressed in various chapters of the book and try to relate them to the world of MMOs specifically.
We’ll be starting with chapter five by Mark D. Griffiths. The topic? Gaming and internet addiction.
Late last year, I published on Massively-that-was a set of articles addressing current research on the relationship between shyness and online game friendships, including a detailed interview with Dr. Rachel Kowert, a lead researcher on the related paper. Kowert and University of Münster colleague Thorsten Quandt have now collected and published their work and work by other academics into a new book now available called The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games.
Kowert generously provided me with an early draft of the book to discuss here. Her goal, she says, was to make an accessible book about modern game research for the public, but the results are a little depressing, even though the work and research done make me wish I had enough money to buy a copy and send it to everyone in the professional games and media businesses.
Like the idea of survival games, but not PvP? Wish your class involved video games? Maybe you want to doom humanity to choking itself on its own filth?
The game is basically a PvE survival game launching with player made governments where players use server-provided data on the environment (such as number of deer, population over the past month, and cause of death) to make laws. These laws aren’t just ideals but server enforced rules created and voted on by players, so if people choose to allow players to kill only three deer a day, the game prevents you from killing a fourth. Over harvesting leads to extinction, not just of that species but others related to it, which can eventually lead to the death of a world (read: server-wide permadeath via PvE). The emphasis on social tools, data use, and environmental balance isn’t a coincidence, however; Eco is built to be used as an educational game.
Expanding to include the smartphone market was one of Hearthstone’s strongest moves, as the card game’s revenue climbed 31% after making the jump to the platform. Superdata notes that Blizzard is recreating the circumstances with Hearthstone that made World of Warcraft a breakout hit: “Hearthstone managed to disrupt the category in the same way World of Warcraft transformed massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs). Blizzard’s first digital card game has deep mechanics, but it is more accessible and streamlined than long-running games like Magic: The Gathering.”
The site’s analysts predict that the global digital card market will grow 5% in revenue between now and 2018. You can check out a chart of Hearthstone’s revenue as tracked by platform after the break.
Tomorrow’s the big day for Blizzard’s entry into the crowded and uber-competitive MOBA market. Heroes of the Storm officially launches on June 2nd, and SuperData CEO Joost Van Dreunen has penned an editorial at GamesIndustry.biz that asks whether or not the new title can measure up to genre titans like League of Legends and Dota 2.
Van Dreunen predicts that HotS will capture a larger monthly active audience than Heroes of Newerth and SMITE, though he has nice things to say about the former, including the fact that its recent world championship featured a prize pool larger than LoL’s 2014 championship purse.
“During the initial marketing blitz and the June 2nd release it is likely that there will be a drop in monthly active users for all titles in the space,” Van Dreunen writes. “It’s possible that MOBA players will briefly indulge in the newcomer’s offering, only to return to the game they’re most familiar with and where their social connections are strongest,” he concludes.
Elite: Dangerous is a work of science fiction; that’s not under discussion. So as in all science fiction, the developers just created a galaxy by selecting random areas and dropping in planets or stars. By which we of course mean that the game has based as much of its space as possible on NASA data about what’s out there in the galaxy.
Obviously, NASA has only a picture of what’s present in a small portion of our galaxy. The game uses a bit of technology called Stellar Forge to take what data is available about points of the galaxy, however, and match it to in-game representations. So if you’re gliding through a system with four planets, one covered in ice and one a breathtaking gas giant, that’s meant to be as close as possible to what you’d see in the real world, assuming you could get there. Ain’t science grand?
In other Elite news, PC Gamer reports that space destruction derbies are back, so you can stop spamming Twitter with goat pictures now.[Source: Gamesradar]
Two weeks ago, a mathemagician over at The Nosy Gamer published some interesting calculations showing that EVE Online‘s subscriptions may have dropped by around 18% in the past two years. CCP has always prided itself on the fact that EVE has grown year-on-year since release, but the last official number we heard was when it reached 500,000 subscriptions back in February 2013. Players have taken the company’s silence since then on the matter of subscriptions as an admission that subs have been falling or at least not growing for the past two years.
So where did this 18% figure come from? It was extrapolated from estimates of player participation in the last two CSM elections, and the reasoning behind the number seems pretty good in the absence of any official announcement. It will probably not come as a shock to anyone if this calculation turns out to be accurate, as EVE‘s concurrent player numbers have also seen a roughly 20% drop since 2013. As development on EVE has been very well-received over the past two years, I’m inclined to believe that the drop in activity has more to do with trends in today’s gaming habits and purchasing choices. Online gaming seems to be going through an evolution, and the mandatory subscription model may be becoming obsolete.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I run through a set of calculations to work out how many subscribers EVE really has, determine where the reported 18% drop is coming from, and ask whether this is a trend CCP can fight.