Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Tinker, Tailor,Soldier, Zombie Skill Point Alt

OK so the rationale of this post is to close off the final in Eve 'project' I started (The Farmer Needs an Alt). It still gets a bit of traffic still  so there is some idle interest out there, but the lack of an outcome would leaves the reader hanging in suspense. Feel free to skip the background, and jump to the outcome if you want to avoid my usual tourettic rants.

Background


So in March this year, CCP decided to poison the well with its Citadel release. While there were many great ways citadels could have been implemented for the benefit for all, CCP decided to play to the in-crowd at the expense of the main percentage of play-styles. Be compliant or be taxed  was the message delivered to the plebs with more of the same to come for the foreseeable future. It was a hard message but just to be sure it was received and understood it was further reinforced when CCP's Skill Point skunk works announced dailies were to become a thing. So log on everyday, bother a belt rat and tickle the in-crowds ego by playing with their citadels like a good little capsuleer or face the consequences. 

While you can only admire CCP's belief that they could pull that off (and maybe in financial terms they have), but the reality dawning on them is there are more engaging experiences than being virtually waterboarded to subsidise the entertainment of a few. This is of course a completely personal view and others who have expressed a view have said Eve has never been better. I don't doubt that is their experience, but player activity is down and this is following longer term trend (see below). No Incarna pitchforks here, just the silence of the lambs as players vote with their feet. 

Bye bye
As a side note it appears Sion is agitating for a player revolt. This coming from the podcast he participated in that was discussing his article on his (and the Imperium's) website. Yeah a bit circular isn't it. However the article is not the worst thing ever penned and there are some interesting details. The underlying meat of  the story about CCP using Eve as cash cow is neither surprising or exceptional though. While there may have been player sensitivities in the past about it, CCP have ensured the very same vocal activist set of players have had their mouths filled with gold over preceding years or they have just moved on as life dictates. So there will be no Incarna style riot. More an individual and continual flight to the suburbs than a collective torching of the city neighbourhood.

Anyway, March 24th was the day I called it a day. It was also the day in 1765 that Great Britain passed the Quartering Act on the American colonies - one of the tools of oppression associated with the American revolution. It felt appropriate. However, the drop the mic moment was somewhat undermined by the fact I inexplicably had a six month sub that would expire on the 3rd of August. What to do with 133 days?

Result


Meet Lab Otomy.

Mr L Otomy

Lab Otomy is known as just 'it' to the friends it doesn't have (why do capsuleers have to have a gender?). It is my zombie SP alt. It too was created on March 24th and has been accruing SP ever since. As I write 125 days later, it has got 7.5 million SP - or rather it would have if I hadn't drained its brains of 1 million SP. I sold the SP for over 1.2 billion ISK. I then bought a PLEX for just over 900 million and have enough left to buy an extractor for around 200 million. 

I haven't been hugely optimal about this but it is looking like I will get around 3 extractions a month. I have maxed two attributes (Perception and Willpower). I selected those because I happened to have a couple of implants lying around that would further boost those particular attributes. I know I could get better prices if I could be bothered to shop around and not go for the quick sale/buy. I could have also focused on some trading skills to eek out the margins too. Set up costs were largely covered by using skill books I already had spare on my other characters, and since no ship is needed, you only have to sub the zombie long enough for it to hit the 6 million SP mark when you can cash in enough SP to get a Plex. From that point on it should be sustainable.

The dependency you will have will be the price of PLEX. If it rises and the cost of SP stays the same then you will not earn enough to buy a PLEX. However , I suspect there may be an element of self correction however. The people who buy SP are the ones who want to be able to do something right now. It is therefore likely they are funding the purchase of SP by selling PLEX. If I and other zombie SP farmers can't afford PLEX then obviously we won't buy them bring a downward pressure on the price of PLEX. Similarly we won't be producing SP which in turn puts an upward pressure on price of SP. So it should balance out. That's the theory, but time will tell.

The other thing to note is that the profit margin is small but it will scale up reasonably quickly and be cross financing. An army of zombie SP alts will bring economies of scale and clearly some people are already doing this. I am quite content with the one. It proves the principle and if I choose to continue with it, it only takes about 20 minutes of my spare time a month for no other cost. 


Reflection


With the sensible bit over, you will probably want to avoid this bit too if you are rant (dressed up as a profound insight) averse... 

The introduction of PLEX and the commodification of SP both represent business design decisions by CCP rather than pure game design decisions. Whatever you may feel about them, they along with other business decisions have been been successful as CCP are making more money per player than has historically been the case and the Eve markets for both SP and Plex have been vibrant. 

So the business brains at CCP have delivered and one way or another their changes have embraced the entire player base directly or indirectly. Kudos to them, they have earnt their wages and you can't blame CCP for wanting to make money. 

Sadly, you cannot say the same about the purely game design decisions CCP Devs have been making. While they may have pleased some, they have patently failed to deliver as player activity continues to dwindle. To the extent to which I care, I would imagine there is not a little tension between the business and game design cliques within CCP at the moment. The appalling tacky SP dallies experiment that made a thousand and one Facebook games look good might possibly be an expression of that tension as it would likely have to have been a joint enterprise between the two perspectives. 

If I were a CCP business bod, I would be spitting feathers when you consider how Tiancity have managed actually increase player activity this year by using innovative SP promotions  alongside their other marketing activities on Serenity - the Chinese instance of Eve. Admittedly the Chinese haven't been hit over the head with the full consequences of the Citadel release yet so that might change.

Serenity says Ni Hao

Anyhow, I have now staggered into unsubstantiated speculation so lets draw a line there. But what I do know now is what my relationship to Eve is now. I no longer play Eve: The Game. No spaceships or planets cross my path or any other Sci Fi concepts for that matter. What I do play now is Eve: The Business. For juggling with Skill Points and PLEX is the extent of my engagement and these are just business concepts pretty much independent of any spaceship context - but for only 20 minutes a month at zero cost if I remember to log on.

Sod it, one more piece of speculation and then I am done. It is the nature of game devs to want nerf vaguely (in game) rewarding activities - especially ones suited to solo casual players. Ore refining, datacore farming etc etc are a couple of indicative examples. "Balance!" or "It should be more engaging" are the reasons usually cited. It is nonsense of course. The real intent is to coerce players into nullsec and join the sexy alliances. It doesn't generally work but inadvertently has kept the game fresh I suppose. When it comes to SP farming however the discussion might be a little different. It will be the underperforming Game Devs verses smug Business Bods facing each other across the table. When it comes to delivery, who might you imagine would have the upper hand? I would love to be a fly on the wall watching that internal meta game but then again there are genuinely more rewarding and better things to do.

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