In the context of human behavior, the novelty of stimulii influences the interest and investment of a person into the entity causing that stimulus. EVE Online is a cold, harsh, and wildly unintuitive game that is brimming with incalculable outcomes and possibilities, yet novelty and content thrive within it.
Most MMOs today have some sort of level system or time/effort based progression that is permanent, no matter what the player does. The presence of value that cannot be lost twists the player’s perception of object permanence in a way that predisposes them to the “Sunk Cost” fallacy. The player justifies their continued efforts in the game world because they have already invested time, money, and effort to get to where they are. This way of thinking can and often does work even when the player has no desire to play the game or interact with the stimuli within it. During Fanfest this year, CCP revealed that more new players stay with EVE if they had been ganked than if they had not been. This data can be interpreted a number of ways in different contexts, but the general theme is in line with EVE being a game were the only thing permanent is your immortality.
A game like EVE can only truly die when the people who have invested in it pull out and move on. This investment can be financial (subscriptions/PLEX sales/etc), social (videos/social media/groups/events), or it can be a combination of both. When aspects of the game world cease to appeal to a demographic of players within it, stagnation occurs. Imagine a river, once vibrant with life and activity, becoming a noxious swamp of bitter regret and angst. Soon after this swamp of disinterest forms, the value of the financial investment starts to diminish. Sunk Cost loses effect on the consumer as they “drain” from the game world and often into another.
SOCIAL INCENTIVE OR INVESTMENT
Often the novelty of stimuli can be spiced up or flavored by the presence of peers and social groups that interest the player. In essence, a bad game can still be a source of fun and amusement when played with friends. Sometimes the investment into a game has more to do with ego and competition with peers, than friendship and the comradery that results from it. Every player is, at their core, the hero of their own story, and every hero needs a good villain. Perhaps a player remains in EVE after being ganked because he wants to do better next time, or perhaps he remains because he wants his revenge.
The relationship between the player community and the developers can also impact how long new players stick with a game. In the context of EVE, CCP has some of the most approachable and down to earth community representatives in the industry. Profound effort is put into bridging communication gaps between the player base and the people who make decisions about the development of the game.
The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is one such bridge that speaks to CCP’s willingness to change based on input from the player community. Elected from among the players by votes cast by players, the CSM is a level of direct feedback that no other MMO developer has. It has served as the model for the Council of Planetary Management for EVE’s sister game, Dust514. Over the years, the CSM has been instrumental in adjusting the course of planned releases, such as the recent changes in nullsec ore composition and other tweaks to the Oceanus, Phoebe, Rhea, and Carnyx expansions.
SOCIAL INTERACTION STARTS WITH YOU
The lesson is that no matter what changes or doesn’t change about EVE, the lifeblood of the game will always be the people and relationships they form with one another. No amount of flashy gimmickry or 4k resolution shoe textures will bring people to, or keep them in, New Eden in a meaningful way. It is the responsibility of us the players to interact and form connections that build the story of this cosmic sandbox.