Friday, January 10, 2014

BB52: Live Fast and Die Young, or…

~or “Live Long, and Prosper…”

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 52nd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

Blog banter #52 – The Other Side
Go to the always useful and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.

What's on the other side of that plateau?

Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past.


There are three distinct possibilities for what’s on the other side of the current state of the WCA (Weekly Concurrent Average)… (1) it will, for some reason, climb again, (2) it will for some reason begin to decline, (3) or it will, again for some reason, remain the same.

Now most feel that ‘Growth is Good’… and in many specific cases this is true, but not ALL cases. Population growth in living things is ‘good’… until the population outgrows the available living space/water &/or food sources and then it causes starvation and in-fighting and with humans, it can eventually lead to War… Cancer is unrestricted growth and to the cancer cells, for a while, it is ‘good’… until they kill their host thereby killing themselves… Market and production growth in companies is ‘good’ until they start to outstrip the natural resources and run the risk of losing sight of legal and moral ‘rules’ in order to maintain that growth, this is seen as greed and has been the cause of amazing harm to individuals, groups and whole populations.

I have never felt that growth or a ‘continuous growing trend’ is a good indicator of health in living or legal systems… ‘Sustainability’ should be by far the more important aspect. Growth is what happens in the early years of a lifecycle of any dynamic system, be it a living organism, a population of organisms or natural or manmade complex systems… Stars and solar systems have lifecycles… granted extremely long ones from our perspective but they don’t exist forever. Individuals and groups have lifecycles as do nations and companies… But growth ends when maturity is reached.

The cycle of Birth, growth, maturity, decline and death is one of the very few things you can reliably count on in the world as we know it. Nothing man has ever seen is provably infinite… everything and everyone eventually dies. Even the uncountable galaxies we see in the black are finite in their lives (and possibly in their numbers)… as finite as the mayfly, though on a very different timescale.

The other Absolutely Guaranteed Thing in the verse (and this goes part and parcel with the concept of lifecycle) is ‘change’. Change is the force that drives the lifecycle in all things. Change is, IMHO, the ONLY real constant in the verse. Everyone right now is crying and beating their chests and arguing over Global Warming like it’s a Bad Thing… well, it’s not… it is however just the Next Thing in the normal course of Climate Change. I don’t even use the term “global warming”… it to me is a non-sense term in current usage.

Yes, the planet is warming up, and yes, we are a factor… but why is that a Bad Thing? Ever think it is supposed to be this way? Would you rather we were heading into another Ice Age? Cause I can guarantee you with or without us it AINT gonna stay like this forever… right? Climate Change has been and always will be the ‘norm’ everywhere in the verse… it just happens on dynamic living planets like Sol III a wee bit faster than it does on moar staid, settled down and lifeless worldlets like Pluto or for that matter, even our own moon. But both of those, in their time, have seen dramatic change… and they will again one day… just not on OUR timescale.

So, to me, the core of the answer to the Burning Question of The Day in EvE is not “Is EVE dying?” but can EvE do something so far NO OTHER MMO has done… Reach a viable ‘sustainable’ maturity?

My friend Mabrick got his .2 ISK posted afore me, so to his blog post on BB52 we go to see this… Subscriptions : 150k - 1m. That is a chart showing the historical growth curves of MMOs with 150,000 to 1,000,000 subscriptions… shown below.

What I read out of this is ‘sustainability’ in EVE Online. The ONLY other MMOs listed in this category that aren’t in decline are Dofus and Second Life. ALL of the others show serious, sometimes dramatic, declines and several have bottomed out. 17 YEARS of statistical data and ONLY 3 of the 15 MMOs listed are still showing signs of health and sustainability.

Let’s look at some of the others… how are the Big Boys of the MMO world doing? Subscriptions : 1m – 12m?

Not so hot huh? While the King of MMOs, WoW did once hit 12 Million subs, it is now under 8… over 25% decline. Of the 7 MMOs with over 1m subs, only one not related to WoW shows any signs of sustainability, Runescape Global… but RG is a lot like EvE in one way... Look at the numbers, Runescape is obviously a very niche MMO… like EvE. And that I feel may be key. Niche markets, or I should say niche players, are DEVOTED players much like cult movie fans.

Look at “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”… a B-grade tribute to B-grade movies but it is also one of the most well-known and financially successful midnight movies of all time. Released in ’75 it has the longest running theatrical release in film history… and it is still playing in movie houses today. And that is testament to its deep cult following… to its niche audience, the people who LOVE that film (and yes, I have been several times over the years, though NOT in drag…LOL).

One that Mab dint go into was the one that caught my eye the most… the PCU : Largest Shards, the Peak Concurrent Users in the only 2 Single Shard MMOs out there… EvE and Second Life.

Now we are finally comparing a Granny Smith to a Golden Delicious… Like 2ndLife, EvE is far moar a true Virtuality, a virtualized simulation of ‘life’ than just a ‘game’ such as WoW. To me WoW feels like a ‘game’, EvE feels very different, and not just because you are not running around following some fantasy elf ass either... Undocking in EvE feels like a lot more than just a game… at least it does to me and many others according to the amount and content of the blogs and forum posts and articles both in the Net and in the RW media.

In the above comparison we see in the data points that 2ndLife had very slow growth for 3 years then a sudden surge to a peak just shy of the 90K mark mid ’11 with an almost straight line gradual drop off since … The statistical curve is very telling… and looks to me, like a healthy lifecycle, a strong growth then a steady slow decline.

EvE however shows a very steady and, in comparison, smoother growth curve that, in the data points, shows so little comparative variation it is almost flat line.  The trend has its largest variance across 2011… from an approx high of 65k+ to a low of 45k+… only a 20k change. In the statistical curve, which is much closer to the data points, it has only JUST NOW started to really flatten out. If you were to  make an assumption and trend these out as Bell Curves, you get an approx 12 or so year lifespan for 2ndLife and an amazing possible 22 years of life for EVE Online! Imagine an interactive MMO GAME lasting for 22 YEARS!

So, taken in this light the question is, how do you EXTEND a healthy life in an MMO? How do you plan for sustainability in a virtual world? The answer… No One Knows. It’s never been done before. ALL of this is a New Thing in the world. We are creating the The Age of Computers, we are living right now, today, in the birth pangs of the Information Age. There are those who will immediately say “No we aren’t!”… but I say we are.

The Information Age may be set as beginning in 1947 when the transistor was born, and main frame computers may have been around since the 50s… but the modern Personal Computer is only 37 years old. The first successfully mass marketed personal computer was the Commodore PET introduced in January 1977, but backordered and not available until later in the year. It was soon followed by the Apple II, usually referred to as the "Apple", in June 1977, and the TRS-80 from Radio Shack in November 1977… Think about it… only 37 years.

I’m 53… so am I an AGE unto myself? Mebbe in my own mind (but it’s OK, they know and like me there…) but not out in the Real… no, 37 years does not an Age make… only history will judge the ages of man and the ‘verse. So we are at the barest beginnings of an age of man that will see wonders yet undreamed… who in 1977 could have imagined a virtual world as deep, broad, detailed and engaging as EVE Online much less the Internet and all the change it has wrought?

I was 17 in 1977, and by sheer luck I was exposed to computers. My math teacher took an interest in me. I was then, and still am, horrible at math but I am a absolute whiz at geometry and with anything in three dimensions, he saw this and he and I had found we shared a common interest in SciFi and games. So he mentored me, nurturing my natural talents and helping me get over my fears and frustrations with math… (a debt I can never repay except to try and pay it forward in my personal and working life and with my kids…).

He met with my parents and received their permission to take me to the Va Beach campus of TCC once or twice a week after school that whole year where he taught me a text based version of Star Trek… (really, Star Trek!) I played it on a terminal of the Tidewater Community College Main Frame. And here we are a mere 37 years later and I am once moar flying virtual spaceships… but this time in the most amazing visual 3D environment man has yet created (that I know of), but, I digress...

One last thing, EVE Online is also a dynamic living system. It is created and maintained by the Devs and Managers at CCP… it is influenced and changed by the players directly and their reps on the CSM… it will find its own way in the world, as do all things in creation… and yes, one day it too will pass… but look once again at that nice steady curve… EvE is just now hitting its stride… it is maturing, and I personally believe, unless someone, be it a Manager at CCP or we the playerbase, push EvE in front of a train, (a sad yet distinct possibility if one looks are the history of both)… as long as we avoid that, I believe we have a real chance to be still logging on and undocking in, the most amazing virtual verse man has yet seen well unto and mebbe even past, my 65th year… and I would like that a lot.

So, to sum up… All of the above charts and such show a large number of games that have Lived Fast and Died Young, a very few that are Living Longer and Dying Slower and one… one that just might live long enough to reach maturity, and that is a very fine thing all told. I want to live my virtual life almost as the Vulcans teach, but not exactly… I wish to Live Long, Die Not Too Often and Prosper in the deadly skies of New Eden.

I have no answer for what CCP or we, the players should/can ‘do’ to ensure that any more than I can predict the stock market or the weather… All I can say is, let us all take great care in what WE each do and say and how it all impacts this great game we all love.

Fly Wreckless and see you in the Sky  =/|)=

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