Causation without Causality

You know how they say people go to the internet to find people they agree with?  I always try to find some dissenting voices – if those voices can clearly communicate.  Tobold, Keen (not Graev, since I agree with him 99% of the time) and Syncaine tend to do the best job that I’ve seen so far.  Just to be clear, I don’t always disagree with them, just more often than not.  I would say that the common thread for all three is that they are incredibly nostalgic and unlikely to take change well.  Plus they are much more meta about gaming than I am.  I also think that’s why they get so many people posting on their topics, since they tend to take a very different approach than most.

Take Syncaine’s post about the problems of depth.  Read through the comments a bit to find that while the concept of the post is sound, the arguments used within are less so.  If Syncaine is the target demographic for PvP and has 3 accounts, is that the baseline we should assume?  PvP doesn’t run the economy as ISK needs to come from somewhere – and that is PvE.  Sort of how in WoW nearly all money in the system is now generated from  Daily Quests.  EvE is a success story in marketing and development for being able to keep so many people active.  It is not a success story to show that a new game today should have the same amount of depth.   If EvE were to launch today as it did back in the day, it would fail.  Not a question.  Others have tried with the same model, minus the community, and have all failed.  Worse than the PvE ones.

Game succeed and fail for dozens of reasons in terms of gameplay but they all fail because they don’t have enough money to keep the doors open.  No matter how good your game is, no matter how deep it is, you need people to play it.  People who are willing to invest in a game, PvE or PvP or Sandbox combination, are invested in their current game.  There aren’t 500K people out there who are willing to subscribe to a game long term because they are already subscribed to another game out there.  Developers need to aim smaller, much smaller and build from that point.

3 thoughts on “Causation without Causality

  1. You seem to have totally misunderstood the post and the comments.

    The problem with depth isn’t that no one wants it, it’s that few have done it right. The problem with depth is that it’s hard. You can’t just throw manpower and money at it: you need brilliance and balance. And depth is hard to sell to the investors, because complex systems are a hell of a lot harder to describe than ‘we’ll have 10x more dungeons and 5x more classes than game Y!’, particularly to people who aren’t gamers.

    EVE was done on a shoe string budget. It had (has) horrendous UI and balance issues as well as countless bugs and exploits. Yet EVE is one of the most successful and profitable western MMOs out there precisely because it has enormous depth and it found a way to balance it all. People with 3 accounts aren’t a target demographic; they’re a symptom of making a complex game that people really, really want to get involved in as many aspects of as possible.

    “PvP doesn’t run the economy as ISK needs to come from somewhere – and that is PvE.”

    The fundamental point is that in a game like EVE, there is no such thing as PvE. Everything you do is a competition with other players. No one can exist in a vacuum.


  2. I understood the post. Depth isn’t hard. Plenty of games offer it, very few find a target audience for it. Time sinks were used all over the place 5-10 years ago to artificially pad games that lacked consumable content. Would EvE see success if you didn’t have to train for years?

    PvE is the source of all markets. Unless the developers are selling gold or reward players for PvP activity with gold, then all markets are built on the concept of PvE. PvP might stop the flow of money but it doesn’t generate it.


    • Again: there is no such thing as PvE in EVE. That’s because the entire market is relative. You are not struggling against the environment (E) to make ISK; that’s completely trivial. EVE’s environment will never challenge you unless you begin your gaming sessions by downing a bottle of tequila and a can of paste. You are struggling against other players (P) to make ISK more efficiently than they can because your money only has value in relation to how much other players have. The same holds true for the market trading and production.

      You seem to be defining depth as ‘taking years to train skils’ which is the exact opposite of what depth is. Depth means complex systems that allow players to create and be content for one another. Time sinks are not depth. Depth is extremely hard because complex systems that create content are hard. Time sinks are easy, which is why most MMOs you spend your time grinding levels, killing ten rats endlessly, or running the raiding treadmill.


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