The Psychology of Stagnation

The stagnation in NullSec is nothing surprising for anyone with a basic understanding of human psychology. Psychology and neuroscience teach us that all of human experience can be broken down into two spheres: Order and Chaos. This is the primum materiae of reality; more fundamental than atoms - because even atoms can be in a state of order or chaos.

Order is best described as “the known and the predictable”. Order is what is mapped and mastered. Utility and safety are maximized. Most humans seek order, because order is survival and optimization of resource gains. When you know the territory, and when you know what to expect there, you can extract maximum benefit from the environment, and prepare optimally for any dangers.

However, too much order is no good. Too much order leads to tyranny, rigidity, and stagnation. Prolonged habitation in order makes human systems extremely vulnerable to change, as it reduces adaptive capacity (see below). This ultimately leads to death when the unexpected occurs.

The quest for order (read: security) leads to blue donuts, supercap umbrellas, and massive unrest and unsubbing when a small change upsets that arrangement, as the playerbase has lost their adaptive capacity.

Chaos - Chaos is the unknown and the unpredictable. It is the unexpected - the unmapped and the unmastered. Chaos is at once terror and hope, because the only appropriate attitude to what cannot be known or classified is ambivalence. Chaos is danger, but also opportunity. When you learn something new, you are turning chaos into order. When you first logged into EVE Online, you were experiencing chaos. As you learned, things that took a lot of effort and attention became reflexive - order was being created.

Chaos in an adequate amount is fun, exciting, and engaging. Too much chaos is overwhelming, stressful, and dangerous, leading to phsyiological and psychological damage and ultimately death. Fun chaos was the introduction of WH space or the changes to FW. Players flocked in droves to this gameplay - humans are attracted to the unknown, the new - but eventually these gameplay elements were mapped, ordered, and interest declined. The intrepid early adopters paved the way for more conservative players who are now involved in the “routine” of those gameplay elements.

Optimal human experience exists in a middle line, with just the right amount of order for a safe haven, and just the right amount of chaos to keep things interesting, fun, and growing. Too much order and safety = boredom, stagnation, disengagement, and the inability to adapt to the new. Too much chaos and danger = maladaptive fear, destabilization, psychological overload, and death.

So where does this leave us?

The stagnation and formation of megablocs in NullSec followed a predictable trajectory, one that we’ve seen time and again throughout human history and that all major sociopolitical spheres are currently engaged in in real life: affiliation and consolidation.

Human beings are social animals. Other people are our environment. But we face no greater danger - no greater chaos - than from other people. The best way to deal with this danger and chaos is to turn other people into allies and to adopt social codes, laws, and rules for behavior so that we know what to expect from each other. The social landscape becomes ordered - safe, predictable. This is how we went from a society of competing tribes to a civilization where people from many walks of life can coexist in relative safety and harmony.

Just as the Roman Empire pushed out and expanded, absorbing disparate groups (and many of those groups were eager to join) and assimilating their culture, just as the European Union has consolidated Europe, so too have the major groups in NullSec expanded and consolidated their “social holdings”. In real life this is a great thing - wars become less frequent, smaller, and less bloody (we’ve been on this trend since before the two world wars, but the two world wars accelerated it). But in a video game like EVE Online, it’s a content killer and dreadfully boring.

In this way, due to their psychological makeup, the human players of EVE Online work against their own entertainment and enjoyment of the game. As the custodians of New Eden, it’s CCP’s job to create the optimal amount of chaos and disruption to keep the game engaging and fun.

-more stream of consciousness to come-


Engaging with the Game: A Niche for Everyone

EVE is a niche game. It’s a niche game filled with little niches for players to populate. Different players have different interests and bring different attributes to the table. The more narrow the appeal of the game, the smaller it’s population will be (and perhaps more dedicated that population will be).

For EVE’s continued survival, a niche is needed for everyone in EVE - a niche with varying levels of safety, complexity, predictability, and reward. Hilmar was correct in his sentiment that EVE Online should scale in difficulty; it should be easy for new players, but harder for veterans. A better way of stating it is simply balancing rewards against risks and complexity. The higher you go, the more complex and (potentially) risky the activity - but the more (potentially) rewarding it is. As a sandbox game, however, EVE should remain open for individual players to select their level of gameplay and engagement. Adding punishing mechanics just for playing the game a long time is no good, and will only alienate veterans who are the core of the playerbase and “train up” newbies.

What this means simply is from the “bottom” to the “top”, content would scale from relatively fast and accessible gameplay (see: small gang FW) to the relatively gated and complex gameplay that requires much more investment (see: SOV warfare, WH evictions). This sort of scalability is vital for a game like EVE with an ageing playerbase and a changing gaming culture; players have varying levels of time commitment, different attentional and intellectual resources, and diverse interests. It is vitally important to appeal to a diverse player base (without losing the core of what makes EVE what it is) in order to foster player retention and growth.

But this needs to be done with a deep understand of how everything in EVE is connected to and influences everything else.

-to be continued-


Skills and New Players

An MMO is either net growing in players, or net shrinking in players. Rarely the players leaving and the players entering result in a statistically flat line. But it’s not enough that more players are entering than are leaving; if the average “lifespan” of a player is short, eventually the market becomes “tapped” and the game population cascades. More players are entering than leaving, but the players who stay only stay for a short time - eventually this leads to a net loss. Long-term retention is the key.

EVE Online has a massive problem with retaining new players. Why is this? Well part of the reason is that EVE Online just isn’t the game for everyone, and that’s okay - that’s what makes EVE Online great. If EVE was like any other game on the market with the same mass appeal, it wouldn’t be EVE Online and most of us probably wouldn’t be here anymore.

What keeps most people from staying with the game is the steep learning curve and the fact that, as a new character, most content is off-limits until you’ve trained skills. These are the biggest complaints I’ve encountered from newbies I’ve taken under my wing:

  1. I’m bored flying alone all the time.
  2. Everything I want to do takes months of waiting for skills to train.
  3. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to interact with the game than actually doing anything fun or engaging.

There are a few things that can be done that will specifically help newbies:

Foster Social Interaction

The very first thing a new player should be introduced to is information on how to interact with other players, and directions to the nearest training corporation (EVE University comes to mind). Get players interacting with each other sooner and they have higher chances of forming social connections and staying.

Skills and Injectors

Skill injectors are not necessarily a bad thing, however, they were implemented in a poor way.

First of all, there should be a cap on how much SP a character can have and still be able to use injectors, and there should be diminishing returns as the character reaches that point. Making them cheaper would probably not be a bad thing; a cap would mean veterans wouldn’t be able to use them on senior characters, and cheaper would mean they’re actually accessible to new players. Reducing the amount of SP a single injector can produce would also be sensible. We’re dealing with newbies here, make everything smaller and cheaper.

A new account (read: not a new character) should have a base buff to training speed, before accelerators and implants and Alpha/Omega status applied. This base buff would decline every 30 days. So for example: 2x buff, declines to 1.75x buff after 30 days, then 1.5x, then 1.25x, then down to base speed.

Cheaper injectors and “newbie buffs” to training speed would still allow CCP to make profit off injectors, while at the same time allowing new players to “dive into” the game, without having to wait forever, and without overly advantaging veterans. Also, it would make it easier to make alts (= more sub money).

QOL Changes

EVE should only be as complex as it needs to be, and that complexity should be meaningful and scale.

Basic things need to be… basic.

The Overview options UI needs to be streamlined and simplified. There needs to be a default Overview that’s actually usable out the gate - “Travel”, “Players”, “NPCs”, and “Environment”. The tutorial should, in simple terms, explain the Overview to the player and how to modify it and why it’s so damned important. The Overview is how players interact with their environment and “see” what’s around them. It should not be overly complex.

UI Setup

The other night I decided I wanted to clone a single UI to all of my mining and PI toons. In order to do this, I had to download a third party application (GarpaUI), navigate to my EVE folder in AppData, and play with cryptically named data files. I also had to look up a tutorial and do a lot of Googling This is ridiculous. Players should be able to “Share Interface” the same way they share Overviews, and/or there needs to be an easy to use option in the Launcher that allows people to load the UI of one character on other characters.

PI Almost There

Planetary Interaction is much improved, but there’s still (a little) more to be done. Players seem to either not do PI (because of the UI/setup) or do a lot of PI which takes hours to set up (because of the UI/setup). There should be options to “Save Installation Setup”. When you drop a new Command Center you can “Inport Installation Setup” and it automatically populates your buildings and links. Then you just set extraction/production/routing. A lot of time saved.


-will finish up later-

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As an actual psychologist with working knowledge of neuroscience I don’t appreciate the start of your article. Presenting a theory as fact and denouncing competing theories without proper proof is not suited for a scientist.

Other than that and minding you are simply venting an opinion; I enjoyed the read sofar. +1 for effort



I am not a social animal, although I have lived most of my life within organizational strictures in order to earn a living. Thank the fates I am now retired.

To that end, most of my interaction with other players has been negative, i.e. being ganked or someone jumping into an anomaly I’m doing and stealing loot. I have exchanged pleasantries in local on occasion, so some contact has been pleasant.

I do not think EVE should pander to the vast amount of gamers who have short attention spans and expectations of immediate gratification. Compared to what I faced in 2007 when I subscribed, this game is infinitely easier to enter and navigate.

The assumption is that player retention can only be achieved through ever easier training and awarding more and more skills, ships, and Isk within a very short indoctrination time. So how has that worked for CCP? All I see are threads like these and “Eve is dying” posts.

The real challenge is weaning folks off their smartphones, and seeing how a complex sandbox MMORPG can enrich their lives and enhance their consciousness by making a lot more synapses fire than they use now.

I think the marketing pitch should be: “EVE is not for everyone, only the best will excel. Are you up for the one of the toughest challenges of your gaming life?”


I appreciate your thoughts and the time you took to illustrate your perception on the matter. Thank you


Why are you refusing to see the obvious?

People don’t WANT chaos because they have what they need…
Any change into the unknown is just unconviniend so they refuse it.
This means standstill and standstill is good because they know what they have.

The struggles or needs of others are of no concern to them.

This is the reality today and the reason why ANY change that appears in this game is opposed.
You may call this sad but at the end of the day this is simply the reality of todays mmog everywhere.

It’s all about balance, the complexity of simplicity.
Our needs and desires for relaxation and enjoyment change continually, if order and chaos are not balanced logic dictates one entity will thrive at the expense of another resulting in stagnation.
I guess the real question is, can a thriving ecosystem be achieved through despotic micro-mis-management or by allowing it’s own hierarchy to emerge through evolution.
Interesting thread thanks for provoking thought OP.
An interesting blog post from a few years ago on the subject… Check it out

ONLY logic should dictate our decisions…emotions have nothing to do in it.

Blackout is an emotional decision by a small group that fails to see how the mmog reality has become.

They hope to revive old times that were buried and sealed in the trashbin of mmog history for good reasons and shouldn’t be digged out for the best of the game…

Blackout and chaos is a big mistake…


If your business strategy is to keep those who buy plex in large numbers fed by those who sell it in large numbers, Black Out makes complete sense.

Thats all I wanted to add.

+1 for a very readable topic and posts.

Whose logic are we using?

When offered two solutions to a problem that you only have the resources to apply one of the solutions, and either one could feasibly work, which one do you pick - and why?

One uses logic to craft the solutions - then, if all things are equal, emotions have a bigger hand in making the actual decision between crafted solutions.

Confidence is an emotion.

–Gadget feels she’s got this


Actually, emotions and cognition are so entangled that it can be argued that emotions precede cognition most of the time.

It took humans thousands of years to come up with “scientific thinking”, and years of training individually to do so - and even then most do it poorly.


Did you get this from Jordan Peterson

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There’s a reason Kirk is the captain and Spock is not…


Peterson, Haidt, Pinker, McGilchrist, Paglia, many others. :slight_smile:

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You could say science itself is an emotional endeavor. :wink:

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I couldn’t read any further than this because I went into a fedora-tipping loop that lasted over 3 hours