First, let’s start with what this post is not about. This is not a thread to discuss how wrong I am because you loved the content afforded to you by the revamped Abysssal PvP released this summer. I have no doubt that you enjoyed every second and are very happy that this content has been brought to New Eden. This is equally not a thread to tell us how much you think Abyssal PvP sucked or was unbalanced or could be improved. We all know that there are issues with what CCP was able to implement and that there are a dozen things that could be fixed with some effort and resources.
No, what this post is about is the acceptance and impact of instanced arena PvP on the broader game. I am less interested for today about where the content itself succeeded and where it failed, and rather more interested in the effect of adding queued PvP arena matches to Eve Online. So please, take you praise and criticisms of the content somewhere else, and let’s just focus on how this affected our shared universe of New Eden, shall we?
Alright, before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with some caveats. First, it is still early days. We only have data from the first six PvP events of a quarter where there are nine separate arena events planned (and it seems more after this according to hoboleaks). There is still a lot of data yet to be collected and changes that could be made, but I think we have already seen enough with these first events to do a preliminary analysis and set some exceptions here. Second, I am only working here with the publicly available metrics, so you can check my work but it is possible CCP can see things we cannot from the outside.
Ok, with that all said let’s get to the nub of the whole thing: did the addition of instance PvP increase activity in the sandbox? A fair question, as common sense, and multiple repeated experiments in other MMOs would predict that adding queued, instanced PvP can be very detrimental to open-world PvP activity as players opt for the easier, more consist match making offered by queuing up to be magically teleported to an arena. Any gains offered by the increased activity a matched arena provides, are offset by the decrease in open-world activity as players are taken out of the shared universe and spend their time in the PvP instance, or safely queuing for it.
During the admittedly well co-ordinated full-court press to bring attention to, and sell this new “feature” to the community, a certain CCP dev claimed that in contrast to the conventional wisdom CCP has found that when new features are added to Eve Online, they don’t reduce activity in other areas of the game, but just drive more player activity. While I find this claim dubious, I guess it could be true depending how you measure activity or what they were referring to. However in the case, we don’t have to guess. Basic activity metrics like killmails and PvP kills are provided to the public by CCP and we can test these claims directly.
So, did activity increase? The answer is no, there is no obvious increase in player activity:
Im not even showing you the overall activity (using unique characters on a killmail as a metric) as that is dominated by nullsec and highsec kills which proceed as normally, trending slightly down all summer. What is shown above is what I guessed the best chance to see something, and that is by comparing lowsec PvP participation to the arenas, and what you see is that while the first two events did have noticeable increase in player PvP activity, it was largely at the expense of lowsec. The disruption of the weekend activity cycle is clearly evident (each highlight sections was the time period when an arena was active).
However, so while there was some cannibalization of activity elsewhere in the game early on, this basically disappeared with the third and subsequent arena events, largely because players basically gave up on the arenas. This was actually what I found most surprising from this analysis - not that some devs were putting out some rosy spin to try to drive uptake of a new feature they worked hard on - but how quickly and utterly interest in instanced PvP arenas collapsed:
As you can see, the last 4 events have only had a mean daily participation of 100-300 characters. Given the rumours and reports of match fixing and queue stuffing, this is likely an upper estimate, so there really are only a few hundred people who cared to engage with this content once the initial hype had worn off.
Clearly a permanent arena system is out of the cards with these numbers. Sure, you can say that CCP missed the mark on the implementation, and if this change was made or that change, players would flock to it, but that is just standard wishful thinking of players who think everyone else is like them Eve players engage in all the time. There is nowhere near the interest to justify significant investment, or to support matchmaking or other systems players expect or claim would fix things. Participation in even the most hyped, most active event itself collapsed after 4-5 days:
I don’t know where you go from here. A few hundred people is a playstyle so niche, it really doesn’t merit any real development effort, and I don’t see a viable future for these “events” beyond either a rotating, largely ignored feature not much more popular than the last incarnation of abyssal PvP, or just being switched off entirely. I think the best case is that CCP takes the tech and what they have learned and tries again with a more structured PvP system, tied better into either the real universe (part of a revamped Faction War system?) or maybe a new Alliance Tournament.
Well, kudos to CCP for experimenting, but it does seem the case that not only many of the concerns people had regarding the suitability of Eve’s PvP systems for arena play were valid, there also is just a general lack of people wanting to participate in arranged PvP apart from the greater Eve universe. But even if CCP were to succeed, none of these data support the dev claim that this would be new activity, and not come at the expense of activity in the open-world. I’ll keep an eye on the remainder of the planned arena events to see if CCP can find a tweak or change that drives broader interest, but I’ve seen enough to declare the Abyssal Proving Grounds arena filament experiment a failure.