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.”