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CCP's Careful Use Of Metrics In EVE Online

EVE Online lead designer Noah Ward with CCP tells Gamasutra how the space-faring MMORPG uses a mix of metrics and design instinct in the evolution and maintenance of the game.
EVE Online lead designer Noah Ward with CCP tells Gamasutra how the space-faring MMORPG uses a mix of metrics and design instinct in the evolution and maintenance of the game. Ward said in a new feature interview that the EVE Online team is increasingly collecting and analyzing player data in order to help make design decisions. "I'm trying to get our designers to talk more with the researchers," Ward said. "The researchers have been looking into the money flow and the sinks and faucets, and seeing how all that stuff is -- [we've been] really delving into that stuff lately." He added, "We're starting to look at all of that, like how people are using the various UIs, and also where people are when they log on, and play, and log off. Are people starting their session in a secure space, and then moving to the unsecure, and then back again?" But Ward emphasized that metrics are only part of the motivation behind design decisions. "A lot of people outside of the design department say, 'Well, you should really use metrics!'" he explained. "It's like, 'Well, we can read all the metrics in the world, but if we don't have a vision where we want to take it and a goal, it doesn't matter if a thousand people use this ship compared to that," he said. "Do we nerf that ship -- or did we want it to be that way?'" Ward also said CCP gets player feedback through polls, so there's an actual voice and hopefully an explanation of issues to use in conjunction with data. He added that he wants to avoid purely metrics-driven game design, which social game companies are often accused of adopting. "I think to some extent, social gaming, it feels to me like big evil companies just putting people in a Skinner Box, and it's an aberrant conditioning sort of thing," he said. "And they're just sort of like, 'Click this stuff, and then get the desire to pay us money!' And we're not trying to be quite that evil. We're trying to make people enjoy themselves, I think, and feel like they're this space captain badass dude, not just making people pay us for virtual chickens." For more from Ward on the design of EVE Online and the MMORPG's next steps, read the full Gamasutra feature interview, available now.

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