EVE Online dev discusses how communities and lasting friendships form in the sandbox

    
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EVE Online dev discusses how communities and lasting friendships form in the sandbox

Let’s all ignore the 15 weeks’ worth of explosions, bubbles, and fighting going on in EVE Online and instead talk about friendship. Or more specifically, let’s hear developer Tryggvi Hjaltason talk about friendship, which was the subject of his talk at this year’s Devcom Digital that elaborated on the way players form bonds.

Hjaltason references the Friendship Formula, a psychological idea that posits Friendship = Proximity + Frequency + Duration + Intensity. It’s that final piece — intensity — that Hjaltason says is a place “where EVE Online seemed to excel,” referencing the way that players recover from loss through the help of friends in-game. If that sounds like a familiar refrain, it should; CCP Games’ CEO said pretty much the same thing.

On the subject of helpers, Hjaltason pointed to survey results that stated 44% of EVE players identify themselves as helpers, while 41% preferred combat and only 15% were playing simply to be competitive.

It’s receiving that help, he reasons, that turns casual players into lifelong ones. Research into what made players stay or leave after suffering a significant loss pinned down three variables that drove player decisions: the ability to understand what happened; a clear road to recovery; and understanding of the social connections that can help illuminate the first two, a finding that was proven when CCP devs reached out to players who had gone through such a loss personally.

“It turns out that the difference — we A/B tested this — between somebody who goes through this program versus somebody who doesn’t is monumental,” said Hjaltason. “They become super valuable, highly engaged, satisfied customers once they go through this path. The social connection element on this is crucial.”

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PanagiotisLial1

I first went to try this game in Feb 2012 and was actually a tryout(not intended to play it normally since I was playing WoW with my gf and a couple other games back then). However the next day someone talked me and recruited me in their guild(corporation there) despite I said I was on trial and not sure if I would continue to play. Towards the end of my 14 day trial he asked me if I had fun with the game and traded me a plex(which gives 30 days subscription) and told me to not worry about it, just return it whenever and if I can – and that from a person I had recently met there. I stayed(returned that plex too by the way) and made many friends – some of which I helped and some helped me and no t wasnt to do always with PVP. I was always a low time PVPer, I liked it but didnt want to get the majority of my time there, its just sandboxes are made for more cooperation, interaction and usually players stay more longterm unlike the breaks in anticipation for new content that is the staple of theme park games. So its practically easier to get into long term friendships in such games. It does help to a point that EVE’s pvp isnt full loot either but strikes a balance into some things dropping randomly and others getting destroyed. I havent seen any full loot having replicated EVE’s good parts of community but they do replicate all the bad parts.

Andy Turner
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Andy Turner

My last boss was an eve player and started treating me like an idiot when I revealed I had lost a 20 dollar item due to gankers. Later I was fired for being too slow to learn their garbage database schema. Just goes to show how bad people can be, online is no different clearly.

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Arktouros

Yeap. This is one of my big points when it comes to designing PvP games well that most devs just outright fail to do. A great recent example of this was in the New World alpha when it was PvP enabled. They kept putting penalties on aggressors/murderers but they constantly ignored giving players any way to recover from loss in PvP. Was only a matter of time before it was one loss too many and people just stopped playing. That method (penalizing aggression) just doesn’t work.

Helpers on the other hand are a more tricky subject. I would argue that in most cases helpers take the form of fellow guild members who have a vested interest in you remaining and thus are willing to help recover from loss. However can take many different forms as there’s many different ways to run a guild. This is not to say it’s impossible to engineer at a public level either, as Last Oasis showed with it’s hex claiming/proxy walker setup if you design a system so it’s beneficial that people remain in the area people will help and protect people in the area. In both cases (guild help and public help) the fundamental idea is still helping others because doing so benefits yourself. Any idea that it’s born from a sense of altruism is entirely misguided and misunderstood.

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Bruno Brito

So, basically, your approach isn’t to punish aggression, but to benefit the target, is that it?

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PanagiotisLial1

A big problem with full loot pvp systems is people cant recover from losses or its an insane amount of trouble(grind) to recover from them. EVE without being perfection strikes a good balance where you can mostly recover yourself and therefore losses hurt less. That is part of how the economy is design which is fundemental part most pvp sandboxes cant replicate

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Arktouros

Most game developers use punishing aggression as a method to try to curb or change people’s behavior. Like my New World example the devs saw a lot of people PKing and so they doubled the murderer timer. When that didn’t work, they made it so it doesn’t tick down offline. When that didn’t work, they made it so you can only have one character. When that didn’t work they gave up entirely and scrapped their whole PvP system.

Trying to curb aggression like that runs entirely counter to the idea of enabling it in the first place. If you don’t want people to PvP, don’t let them PvP. No amount of systems or penalties you come up with still stop people from PvPing. Black Desert Online for example has zero benefits for attacking other players (no loot, no xp loss, nothing) and nothing but penalties (risking your gems, your own XP, etc) and people still PvP there randomly all the time. In essence if you are going to have PvP in a game, people are going to PvP.

Instead you need to focus on giving people ways to recover from loss. It doesn’t matter how grizzled you are as a veteran, if there’s really no good ways to recover from loss people just stop playing. This is even more true for newer players. You look at successful examples of this like EVE or Albion where if you die you can get geared back up and be ready to fight again in minutes, or even less if your Guild full of “helpers” prepared for this scenario, dying isn’t so bad and people won’t feel so catastrophic. But if the game does nothing to address it and it’s response to you having an hour+ of your time deleted on death is “Well guess you gotta just go grind some more.” that’s just not sustainable.

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angrakhan

By ganking and betraying each other after earning trust, apparently…