Dailies in EVE: A Design ChallengeAshterothi
While the war continues to stumble onward, and with both Fanfest and the Citadel release behind us, things have started to die down a little. The news cycle has entered into a slower period than even two weeks ago, making this the perfect time for more sober reflection of the future, and our path towards it.
Just prior to Fanfest CCP Rise revealed the plans for daily rewards to come to EVE Online. This has been met with passionate mixed responses, leaning heavily towards negative. I even wrote an article lambasting the idea, calling it a “Tribute to Bad Design”. However, through all of the knee-jerk responses and impassioned fighting, many people have lost sight of what is really important: this is not an argument about whether dailies should come to EVE, only a question of how.
Since my article, CCP Rise has posted his own follow-up. He directly counters my comparison to the Tribute system, explaining this is an entirely new variant, with new design goals. He then goes on to explain what exactly those goals are: the principal challenge being that logging in frequently to update the skill plan has been removed with the introduction of the endless skill queue. He also clarified this position, and expanded upon it in his Game Design Panel at Fanfest.
Arguing the Wrong Problem
the goal is to get people to do what they otherwise wouldn’t be doing, for some reward
Given this information, we can see that arguing that there should never be dailies in EVE is a fruitless endeavour. The issue of the need for dailies has nothing to do with people “wanting” it as a feature. It is, in a very real way, medicine. As a feature, the goal is to get people to do what they otherwise wouldn’t be doing, for some reward. There is no way to design the feature to not feel like work to someone, but that is also it’s problem. People logging in and doing things is both something players do to get value out of the game, but also a way for players to be value for CCP and EVE by being part of New Eden for everyone else.
Additionally, data has shown that if you create a very simple task such as “shoot one rat” or even just “log in”, it will result in higher player interaction even outside of these simple activities. For example, in many F2P games you’re rewarded for simply opening the application, however it still benefits the company, and the community, because a large number of people who log in simply for the reward will go on to do other activities.
Another argument that was brought up by many people, including myself, is the simplicity of the program. My fear was that rewards are the very definition of a slippery slope, and you risk devaluing SP, as well as limiting design space in the future. While I do believe this is still possible, the Fanfest presentation seemed to suggest that the plan as described would be a short lived one, perhaps tied to an event, so as to collect additional data.
So dailies are the bitter pill that people don’t want, but ends up benefiting everyone overall by their existence, not just because of the direct reward, but the indirect reward of having a more active player base. Given all of that, it is clear why CCP did not ask us “should there be dailies”, but instead the question of “how”.
Points and Counterpoints
if we can get them to log in, they have a high chance of becoming engaged
With all of that out of the way, we can set to the task of looking at the possible design space. All good design starts with a problem to be solved. In this case we know of one problem: the need for people to log in more frequently, because we assume that if we can get them to log in, they have a high chance of becoming engaged, and having a fulfilling session of the game.
We have the additional problem that EVE Online players don’t like being told what they have to do, so the solution has to be as generic as possible.
On top of that, there is the issue of relative value in EVE. You cannot just give them ISK, or other in game currencies, as that may not have the same value, and also could disrupt other systems.
We have the additional problem of throughput constraint in terms of development time. We can assume this is not priority one, and thus a system that requires less development has a better chance of seeing fruition.
However there are counters to some of these.
Psychologically, people are more malleable when they are happier. If you can make the daily log in process a game in itself, people are more likely to be performing the action for something exciting, priming them for a more enjoyable game session overall.
Another problem with EVE is a complete lack of direction. While some may opt to not do particular tasks, by having various tasks eligible, and by rotating/randomly selecting which tasks get rewarded in a day, you could encourage people to seek out the real depth of EVE. Although, because of players aversion to some tasks like mining, perhaps multiple options per day is best.
Most good daily reward systems, or loyalty systems as they are often called, have a variety of rewards, from regular currency, to premium currency, to cosmetic items only acquirable through certain levels of loyalty.
Finally, throughput constraints, while a consideration, only should impact how you develop a feature, and not be used as an excuse to build a poorly formed one.
What Can We Learn
The goal of a daily reward is turn the chore of forcing someone to do something they don’t already plan on doing (logging in when they otherwise wouldn’t) into something to look forward to. There are two things that many good daily systems do, that CCP would be smart to learn from.
- Daily systems that build up are better than those who don’t. I addressed this in my previous piece, most reward systems start relatively small for a single day, but rapidly build up. Some track things in smaller increments such as days per week, where the biggest prize is for those who manage to keep going the entire week, others function on longer term reward systems where every month includes increasing rewards. It is worth noting that the former is generally seen in competitive games, or other games where other players’ participation is required for a good game, and the later generally shows up in MMOs (in particular subscription MMOs).
- Daily systems that are based on randomness are generally more favorable than those that are not.
However, thanks to throughput constraint, we can’t just build a system that has all of this already built in. Many game put a disproportionate amount of the design and implementation to their daily systems, and not always with great effect. However there is one company that has built this into each of their games, and is currently adding it into their biggest franchise.
Go Back to WoW
Regardless of what you think about Blizzard games, or Blizzard itself, there is something that is true about them: they have poured a lot of time, and money, into solving some of the same kinds of problems EVE has, especially this one. Additionally, while much of the themepark nature of World of Warcraft doesn’t cross over nicely into EVE, player retention, and player engagement is the kind of problem that is universal among all of MMOs. Furthermore, Blizzard has had a lot of opportunities to iterate upon their systems, with four IPs, five monetization methods, four genres, and millions of fans, they have been able to work on the puzzle of how to deal with dailies. In fact, the term “dailies” is derived from WoW daily quests, and while many EVE players remember daily quests with a lack of fondness, Blizzard has been busy fixing their problems, and may have stumbled upon our perfect solution.
If you REALLY don’t want to read about World of Warcraft, you can skip to the next section for the proposal for EVE.
A History of WoW Dailies
To fully understand the new daily system of WoW: Legion you must first understand where dailies came from. Dating back to WoW’s first expansion, Blizzard needed the ability to have an “end game” PvE questing area. However, at the time most quests were one-shot events. You go to the guy, get your quest, do it, and then turn it in. They had several hubs of quests that recurred every day, but mostly were for side rewards, and were functionally grinds to cosmetic gear. In the end they created the Isle of Quel’danas, a quest hub whose quests reset every day, and whose rewards were quite powerful. Not only did it become the defacto place for players to earn their gold, and work up the gear for other content, it also became a PvP wonderland for those so inclined. And the dailies system was born.
The Isle of Quel’danas was a huge success, and cemented dailies as a staple in WoW for years to come. The following expansion saw a greater work in with daily rewards, however, mostly they followed the reputation grind. A big reason this happened was a growing dislike for PvP and PvE to be forcibly placed together (a problem EVE doesn’t have), and so the PvP content was held in one area, and the dailies were in others. By this time, dailies had shifted from being a list of quests, like any other, that could be performed every day (go capture a dragon, kill 10 dudes, etc) and became more about pointing people to things to do; ‘dungeon of the day’, and rotating quests for professions for example.
Mists of Pandaria, WoW’s third expansion, saw the explosion of daily quests. The focus of the expansion was to give players many things to do at maximum levels, and daily quests were used for most of it. However, many people were unhappy about how spread out, and disconnected many of the quests were, and by this point the player base was tired of “reputation grinds”. It was clear the system would need changing once again.
By the time of Warlords, the latest WoW expansion, most of the daily activities had become centered around a player owned fort, known as the “garrison”. Your garrison is customizable, and offers around 20 minutes to two hours of content a day in the form of repeated tasks, random assignments, and followers to fiddle with. Overall, the garrison became more popular than the normal dailies ever were, however, eventually the repetition had become stale and the daily quest system was abandoned altogether.
So now Blizzard has combined their long history with dailies, the success of the garrisons, with the lessons learned through Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm’s daily quests (which are implemented quite a bit differently), to build the new World Quest system.
With World Quests, you have Emissaries from various groups who come to your new garrison, now called the “Order Hall”. Once a day, a new Emissary will show up and offer you a quest. This quest will be something that furthers that factions goals, and will send you to far flung corners of the world. The rewards are random, and are not simply gold. Blizzard has been introducing hundreds of pets, trinkets, and other shiny things to put in as rewards, and while some emissaries may have the more desirable loot, each is consistent with the organization they represent.
There are a lot of things that work about this new system. Emissaries who are not dealt with will wander off eventually, but only after several days. All one needs to do is log in about once a week and knock out the missions. Alternatively they may cherry pick, deciding which factions to work for, and what stories to forward. Additionally, there is good reason to log in daily to check in on what kinds of quests are available. Finally and most importantly, this is dailies without feeling like dailies. Others can come to you and beg your assistance and it is up to you if their requests are beneath you.
The Third Empyrean Age
I spoke once before how we are entering into a Third Empyrean Age. This term is more true than ever. For years agents have waited for us to come to them for missions, however with the huge success of Upwell’s “Operation Frostline” factions across New Eden are interested in working with Capsuleers to forward their objectives.
As long as you are in a station or Citadel with a corporate office, you can now access a new interface, brought to you by Impetus. This interface will allow for faction representatives to contact you directly. Once a day a new message will appear in the interface by an agent of a NPC faction. That NPC will offer you a task to perform that is consistent with the faction. For example SOE may ask you to do a data or relic site, whereas Blood Raiders may ask you to bring them a corpse of a fellow Empyrean. Whichever the task, you will be given a reward related to that faction on completion. These rewards could be SKINs, ISK, standings, LP, SP (for the coveted SoCT missions), and any number of other things.
an engaging journey into New Eden’s factions
Faction agents will only last for five days, allowing them to build up, and which representatives come to you will be based on your standings with their faction. Additionally, standings could be gained or lost based on which tasks are taken. Tasks should be simple, but there is no reason to ensure they are reasonable for all people. As standings increase, and tasks are completed, more difficult and rewarding tasks could be unlocked. Eventually the tasks will mold themselves to the player as they choose to support factions that support their play styles and interests. Also, given quests come from a pool on the server, CCP could add new variants, or have tasks support the ongoing story of the universe. Not only will this transform the daily system into an engaging journey into New Eden’s factions, but also allow for expansion by adding new tasks, and perhaps even allowing alliances to create their own quests for their membership.
Regardless of our feelings about dailies, the problems that they intend to solve are very real, and so cries to not implement them in EVE likely to go unheard. However, there are ways to solve the puzzle. This is just one of several possible style systems, and obviously this is still a super high-level idea. The most important thing is for EVE to continue to reinvent itself, and stay relevant with modern game design, all the while staying fundamentally EVE.