Shadow of the Serpent: Motivation and MetaphorJakob Anedalle
The Dev Blog for Shadow of the Serpent is out, and I’m particularly struck by how they’ve organized the primary contest: the one that pays out in BPCs for what will be the most valuable ships in New Eden. CCP has been experimenting with different ways to reward the players. The method they’ve chosen for Shadow of the Serpent is a metaphor for Eve, and one that some playstyles may not be thrilled about.
Five single-run Vendetta BPCs and five single-run Vanquisher BPCs will be available through the Shadow of the Serpent event. The top 5 highest scoring characters during the event will receive Vanquisher BPCs and characters placing 6-10 will receive Vendetta BPCs. After a short period of event exclusivity, BPCs for both of these ships will become available in the Serpentis LP store.
Let’s contrast that to the contest that gave out PLEX during the Amarr Championships, which was structured as a random drawing at the event’s close. CCP could have chosen to let every X points in the event act as an entry into such a random drawing. Another option would be the method used with the Blood Harvest and Frostline events, where the big payouts (PLEX and Skill Injectors) were rare drops in sites that the player would receive immediately. Each of these methods leads to a different distribution pattern and thus also different incentives.
Point Race Method
I joked on reddit that “elite PL PVE squads” might descend on the contest to max out points amongst a few individuals and thus score a majority of the 10 BPCs. I could see an organization like Pandemic Legion seeing this either as a way to demonstrate their prowess by running the board, or the complete opposite and saying “no poors here- it’s not worth our time, we’ll just buy them when they’re out.” The important thing in terms of structuring the contest is that such a dominating result is possible.
This can produce conflict and good media content
This can produce conflict and good media content, particularly if backed up by a leaderboard that encourages groups to keep pushing harder to secure these sites and the points they represent. The existing in-game conflicts can carry over into the contest, and conflicts in the contest could carry over to future interactions between groups. On the other hand, if such a leaderboard clearly showed that one group was running away with the lead then it could depress engagement with the event, as players start to view the outcome as a foregone conclusion.
In the point race method the small corp or solo player knows they’ll never hit it big. This could discourage participation in the contest, as well as a cynical attitude from the tinfoil-adorned that the whole thing is just set up to seed the BPCs with a favored few in nullsec. I expect such a posting on the Eve Forums will be up well before this article gets published.
We can expect that sites in lowsec will be contested, as that space is tumultuous to begin with and has porous borders. In such a points race approach, organized groups may scout out sites to run them. I particularly enjoy the idea of such an organized team ganking site runners from rival groups in highsec to get those critical extra points that might move them up the leaderboard towards a supercapital BPC. Oh, the carnage!
Random Drawing Method
The random drawing approach means that an organization cannot goal-set to effectively dominate the drawing. Certainly they still can push to gain more chances at the win than a rival group, but without the certainty of knowing that they’ve secured the top spots to get those Titan BPCs. It also means that the lone player (or small group) can have a dream that maybe that one site that they find in a wormhole late at night might be the one that wins the lottery for them.
In the random drawing approach I expect that groups may spread into unfamiliar territory, but won’t have quite the incentive to try to dominate all others for the promise of a slightly higher chance at the top prizes. It will be more comfortable and more casual for all.
Random Drop Method
there can be a dream for the big prize
In the previous pirate faction events (Blood Harvest, Frostline) the prizes were drops associated with the sites. This engages with the small group / solo players more like the random drawing method since there can be a dream for the big prize. However, it opens up more room for conflict since once you’ve secured the drop you still have to make it home safely. Even highsec site runners need to fear a ganker on their favorite hub, cargo scanning them for such a potentially lucrative drop.
There is incentive for players to get into more dangerous space with the random drop method. Perhaps that wormhole in your favorite mission-running constellation leads to a site with that ultra-rare BPC – as well as the cloaky Proteus on the hole. This method has the potential to build excitement over time as players start to report in one their great finds. I can guarantee that an reddit post with an imgur of a cargo hold with a Vanquisher BPC would make for a thread that inspires many a player to dive into the event. I expect that CCP saw this when the first big drops appeared in Frostline.
The Metaphor of the Serpent
CCP chose the point race method for this big kickoff to the next stage of pirate events. In part we know this is another experiment in understanding what motivates the player base. Your hat doesn’t have to be entirely lined with tinfoil to think about how the structure interacts with the vision of Eve. This event will drop BPCs for supercapitals, traditionally the weapons of choice for powerful, well-organized groups rather than random players (no matter how experienced or dedicated to the game). The structure of the contest is such that a well-organized group is best placed to do well and secure those prizes. In that sense, the prize is set to go to those who will use it best in a very utilitarian way. We’ll likely never know if that was CCP’s design intent, but it reinforces a “power flows to the powerful” message that is in many ways very Eve.
We’ll know more soon. It should be a lot of fun to see what this latest experiment in player engagement brings to New Eden.