Why so solo?

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss why some players seem to prefer their own company…

While casting my eyes over the EVE-Online Newsletter Volume 77, I noticed the link to the results for last month’s player survey on ‘Playing Behaviour’.

I’m not entirely sure who actually receives the newsletter emails to be honest, but I assume it goes out to both current and lapsed subscribers.  I’m sure that there is even an argument that can be made for the personality types that are more likely to fill it out and those that won’t.  But let’s assume that all kinds of players decided to fill this one out in roughly even proportions.

I do, obviously, take the time to answer the survey as I want CCP to know what I’m thinking, and to influence their marketing metrics.  That right there was an unsubtle hint to suggest that you my dear reader should do the same. 😉

The first few questions turned up some interesting if unsurprising little statistics;

More than a half of EVE Online players play EVE Online daily and 90% play at least every 2 or 3 days. They are likely to play in 1-to-3-hour sessions and they spend 18 hours per week on average playing EVE Online.

I probably don’t spend that long logged in and playing the game, but I certainly spend that sort of time around the game doing things like this blog, reading forums etc.  I imagine a lot of respondents factor that in to their responses too, so all good there then.

Majority of EVE players have played EVE Online for more than 2 years with average account age being 3 years.

I’m now just a couple of weeks off 8 years.  Which puts me well within the most senior 7% of players!  Just sayin’. 😉  This next chart gets interesting.

File:Influence factors.jpg

Lets look at the bottom eight responses.  The bottom four aren’t very significant (sorry Mac users) but I think the next four are.   Friends.  PVP. Community.  Corporations.  Three of those are about communicating with other players while the fourth, PVP, by definition is also about player interaction.  And these all rank effectively bottom of the list.  And then we come to;

There are more players who prefer to play solo than players that play as part of a group in EVE Universe.

Playing style.jpg

When not playing solo, most of the players play with friends they met in EVE Online, some also play with friends they met offline, coworkers, friends from other MMOs and family members. 4% of the players play with their romantic partner.

Playing partners.jpg

55% of the responses shown in that pie chart suggest the respondents gravitate towards playing EVE solo.  In the following bar chart 35% said that they usually play alone.  Putting all that together, it seems the take home message is that over a third of all players approach EVE as a single player experience.

It is well-known that the bulk of all characters (but not necessarily players) are concentrated in high sec.  Industrialists, haulers, mission and Incursion runners, RvB pew-pewing it up, FW pilots shirking their duties and what have you.  Several of those groups are by definition interacting with other players (PVP and Incursions for example), but it seems that a great many people are having none of it.

To be blunt, its kind of beyond me why anyone would want to play a game like EVE as a solo experience.  It’s a very curious mindset.  To quote a twitter quote;

Hilmar Veigar @HilmarVeigar

*trying to solo #eveonline is like trying to solo facebook” – @torfiFrans 2012

In other words; kinda pointless.  You deprive yourself of all the best content that makes it appealing in the first place – the other people doing stuff.  And yet, a great many players seem to be attempting just that.  Approaching EVE, a massively multi-player game, as an almost entirely single player experience.  I struggle to understand why, given the nature of EVE’s repetitive mission agents as an example.  I’d much prefer to go run an Incursion instead.

But it does make me wonder just what CCP think of this large portion of their player base.  Incursions were apparently designed to be a more interesting and social alternative to missions.  What little has been said of Planetary Ring mining is that it will be the miners answer to Incursion; group based.  The aborted (and elusive) vision for Incarna was for a highly social-focused design.  When you get down to it, nearly everything that CCP has done for a long time has been with an eye towards players grouping together, with the arguable exception of Planetary Interaction.

This is I think all to the good.  EVE is at its best when players are active in large numbers and interacting with one another.  When looking at the results of this survey your first thought might have been that CCP will read it and conclude that they need more solo content to keep those subscribers happy.  They might.  But I don’t think that they will.

This survey shows that CCP need to continue developing design carrots, and perhaps even the occasional small stick, that encourage players to group up wherever possible.  Create incentives for cooperation, but still leave opportunities for players to wander off on their own when its quiet in corp chat.  If a third of the player base are opting out of social interaction, then it seems that there is still much work to be done here.

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