Why people play

I have a forum argument going on with devs of another MMO over several months now. In order to have good points in the argument I’ve read some articles and watched some vids. Which I’d like to share now with whom it may concern. Especially CSM members and candidates. Hope you’ll find those useful.

Player types

I heard many times in Talking in Stations, INN, CCP twitch videos how they oppose “fighter” and “builder” player types. That is pretty narrow view on player motivation. CCP_Hellmar often brings up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory which has been falsified. At least in that the “hierarchy” part is based on the assumption that the lower needs must be satisfied before a person can achieve their potential and self-actualize, which is demonstrably false.


Game Reward Systems: Gaming Experiences and Social Meanings
Many researchers have tried to clarify why people play video games. LeBlanc (2004) has
proposed an MDA (mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics) model for game design analysis
that includes a list of eight kinds of fun: sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge,
fellowship, discovery, expression, and submission (see also Hunicke, 2004). Lazzaro
(2004) has listed four keys to creating emotion in video games as hard fun, easy fun,
altered state, and a people factor. Bartle’s (1996) four player categories, based on multi-
user dungeon (MUD) games, are achievers, killers, socializers, and explorers—a
taxonomy that corresponds to player activities. Based on player responses to massively
multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), Yee (2007) has extended Bartle’s
taxonomy to propose three major MMORPG gaming components: achievement,
immersion, and social interaction. According to Ryan et al. (2006), the pull of a game is
sometimes associated with out-of-game effects. Using self-determination theory (SDT),
they posit that the pull of games largely results from their ability to generate (at least in
the short term) three key feelings of well-being: autonomy (sense of willingness),
competence (challenge and feeling of effectance), and relatedness (feeling of connection
with other people). Koster (2005) views game fun in terms of four categories: fun,
aesthetic appreciation, visceral reactions, and social status maneuvers. In that taxonomy,
fun focuses on mastering a problem mentally—that is, recognizing new patterns based on
our brain’s desire for stimuli. Thus, Koster’s definition of a good game is one that teaches
a player all aspects of the game before the player stops playing. In the following sections,
we analyze how reward systems provide pleasure and satisfying experiences by
classifying rewards and playing activities, and relate reward mechanics to psychological

Famous Bartle taxonomy of player types, which divides players into Killers, Achievers, Explorers, and Socializers according to their interest in acting/interacting with world/players.

Famous Self-determination theory claims that Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness are innate and universal psychological needs.

I highly recommend watching Ubisoft’s Jason VandenBerghe GDC2016 talk Engines of Play: How Player Motivation Changes Over Time (1:02:12) where he connects O.C.E.A.N. personality model with SDT theory and Bartle’s taxonomy.

I also recommend watching Nick Yee’s GDC2019 talk A Deep Dive into the 12 Motivations (1:03:01)

Richard Bartle’s talk at Gamelab Barcelona 2017 Non player types: who is not playing and why (0:34:23) where he brings up reasons why different people quit games and stop playing.

Solo gameplay

It’s a common thing to hear people say in gaming forums “you can’t play this game solo, its an MMO”.

In this classic GDC 2011 talk, BioWare Austin’s Damion Schubert (0:51:23) discusses the rationale for solo playstyles in MMORPGs.

Being a 'loner' implies and requires other people - namely those which are being avoided.

The 10 Different Kinds of Loners:

  1. The new kid in town. Many people prefer doing their learning alone, away from social scrutiny and the potential shame of failure.
  2. The Daria. A staggering 90% of the readers of the most mailing lists and message boards never post. These ‘lurkers’ still find value in just watching - because other people are interesting.
  3. The Sociopath. “It’s long been known that people are less inhibited over the phone than in person, and people are now aware that they are less inhibited in email than on the phone, and I believe they are less inhibited in MUDs than in email. This leads to an interesting conclusion for MUD design - penalties won’t solve your playerkiller problem. Helping them gain empathy will.” - Raph Koster
  4. Mr. Lunch At His Desk. Many players are playing under real-world constraints, such as during limited break opportunities at work, or at home when the spouse and baby are asleep.
  5. The Introvert. A huge percentage of the population are Myers Briggs ‘introverts’ - between 25-50% of the population, depending on which study you read.
  6. The Adrift. Having a social group disintegrate can be just as terrifying as being dumped, and create similar feelings of loneliness. In this case, playing solo is a broken state.
  7. The Unworthy. Find ways for these players to learn the skills they need in a solo environment, where they can fail without the social stigma of failure.
  8. Vacationer. The player wants to play the game he loves to escape his obligations. Sometimes this includes his in-game obligations.
  9. The Commitment-phobic. Many players like the idea of group activities like raids, but are leery of huge timesinks, potential drama, or making a commitment to 25 other people who turn out to be idiots.
  10. The Garbo. Some people just want to be left alone. It is important to remember there’s a clear difference between being alone and being lonely.

They say getting into player corp early, engaging in fleet roams, interacting with other players is good for retention. Solo players are considered less engaged. And though EVE always was and still is great for solo, CCP seems to have pivoted towards group gameplay design lately. And they should keep solo players in mind.

Loss aversion

In this 2017 GDC panel, Mind Bullet Games’ Geoffrey Engelstein (1:02:51) examines board games and other relevant game-like experiences to explore framing, regret, competence, and other effects, and their relation to the concept of loss aversion in gameplay.

Watch the talk, it’s awesome. Here are some good points:

  • Losses are 2x more intense than Gains.

  • There is little you can do in D&D to viscerally terrify players, but for whatever reason level draining does it. Giving something to a player and then taking it away is very emotional.

  • Too many choices is bad. When choices get to more than seven, decision-making ability plummets. People will avoid making a decision rather than make a wrong one.


In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone , is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.

In game design, the flow is an important factor to take in consideration if you want to create player engagement. Here is the list of elements that can influence and affect the flows in video games.

The flow theory applied to game design

Rewards: Intrinsically rewards are constantly obtained by the player as real and instant rewards.

Clear goals: The players have clear goals and know what to achieves. There’s is no question about it and this element is important to be clear for the entire player progression through the game.

Loss of consciousness: The flow works well in video games when the player doesn’t have to concentrate on what he’s doing to achieve an action. This is the state for the player is the merging of action and awareness.

Loss sense of time: The player is hooked by the activities that he’s doing and doesn’t realize that the time flies while doing it.

Direct and immediate feedback : The player is guided by the feedback of the game and know what and how much to succeed.

The balance between player skills and challenge: The challenge of the activity is neither too easy or too difficult. The challenge is constantly adapted to the player’s skill. Even if this seems to be obvious, this is where most of the game failed and I will explain why later.

The player controls the situation and the activity: The player feels that he can successfully beat the challenge. The objective for him seems reachable.

I understand the reasoning but still hate how they changed Emerging Conduits respawn timer from 1 to 10 minutes.

Afk mining, afk ratting exist for a reason. When activity does not feel engaging players won’t do it for fun.

Overjustification effect

The overjustification effect occurs when an expected external incentive such as money or prizes decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a task. The overall effect of offering a reward for a previously unrewarded activity is a shift to extrinsic motivation and the undermining of pre-existing intrinsic motivation. Once rewards are no longer offered, interest in the activity is lost; prior intrinsic motivation does not return, and extrinsic rewards must be continuously offered as motivation to sustain the activity.


In this 2019 GDC session, Grinding Gear Games’ Chris Wilson (0:59:15) describes how Path of Exile has been designed to retain and grow its community for the very long term.

Design pillars for great action-rpg:
  • Visceral action combat
  • Randomly generated levels
  • Randomly generated items
  • Secure online economy
  • Deep character customization

I’d say those are important for engaging PVE experience in any game genre.

If I had to pick one single most important point in this talk it is going to be Content re-use (timestamp 0:38:38). They re-use game mechanics blocks from leagues as rewards later in the game when a league is over.

CCP could also add items or triggers to spawn event sites like Guardian Gala, Blood Raider Event, Rogue Drone Infestations etc., like they did with filaments. Event sites on demand, available as a reward, new kind of escalations, expeditions.


Celia Hodent is a Game UX consultant with a PhD in cognitive psychology, author of The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX can Impact Video Game Design. She made a great 3 part talk. @CCP_Convict, @CCP_Dopamine, guys, make Hilmar hire her, seriously.

The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Design (0:53:47) In this 2015 GDC talk, Epic Games’ Celia Hodent provides fun facts about the brain to help designers increase the chance of their audience experiencing the intended design of their game.

The Gamer’s Brain, Part 2: UX of Onboarding and Player Engagement (0:57:08) In this 2016 GDC session, UX Researcher Celia Hodent cover the common onboarding pitfalls in game design, provide guidelines from User Experience (UX) research, and discusses best-practices used on titles like Epic Games’ Fortnite.

The Gamer’s Brain, Part 3: The UX of Engagement and Immersion (or Retention) (1:03:37) In this 2017 GDC talk, UX strategist Celia Hodent discusses the UX challenges of retention and how to use cognitive science knowledge and the scientific method to make your game enjoyable and engaging in the long term.

Devs should be very careful using red color in UI, as human perception has certain limitations and red just draws too much attention. It is statistically proven that in team fps games red team is more likely to lose, simply because of this.

Red dot. CCP, if you absolutely need it to stay, at least change it’s color.


im a solo player
mostly because i like to immerse in eve and i find the necessity to be in coms very anti immersion
i like to loose sense of time and go to bed at 3 AM pissed that my poor human body is addicted to sleep and i cant just play eve till the next morning , like it should , puny human
im a generalist in the game , so i tried most of the activities and i can make my plex in MANY different ways , i changed play-stile over the time a lot of times , but i must confess most of my money came from low end activities like mining , fw , supplemented by market play and gabling wen it is available
the thing i like the most about the game is roaming and involving myself in small fights , i like to shi% talk in local or militia/corp chats to, have little funny interactions with the members of new eden , role play a little , my favorite kind of player are those who present a naive sense of discovery (mostly new guys , and in my career in eve i always like to help the new ones that i think deserve ), and the old fart pirates and misfits like me who i think get the game and i can identify ,have admiration or camaraderie, like a fighter who ■■■■ talks before the fight and hugs the opponent after a lot of player that had meaningful interactions with me were “enemies” in the game .
i dont like to have a boss , i think the anarchic style of new eden is perfect for a guy like me , as long as i pay my plex and don’t run out of isk to buy cheap ships im in the game and the only meta game i play is to have money at the end of the month to omega and have fun doing it .
the worst part of eve for me is that most of the time I’m alone against a group of friends , or a big corporation and sometimes it feels kinda sad to lose yet another ship to a big group of dudes just because i jumped the wrong gate , i think eve should have some means to reward the solo player but i never talked about it because im happy as it is and im no cry baby .I have a little sense of pride because against all odds i took more from new eden than new eden took from me, im 400+ solo kills strong on the way to 1000 :stuck_out_tongue: . Because the way i play eve im poor for a veteran , but i don’t care much about money and if i would wish for a lil more it was just enough to waste some nightmares , phantasms and Bhaalgorns in semi suicidal pvp. Being a solo player is not about being alone all the time , the people in new eden make my world alive , and if there is no others i would never had played eve for such a long time .
i dont know if this topic was to tell our story or just a collection of facts about various types of players and cool info and stuff , it was too long didn’t read and besides sharing is caring , ty all , fly safe , o7


Great post, Siegfried Tahl. Since you mentioned Nick Yee briefly, he and his colleagues at Quantic Foundry have researched gamer motivation on a database of 400 000 participants. This is the most in-depth work on the subject and would be of benefit for CCP, EVE and it’s playerbase. Just look at these motivation categories (derived from answer statistics) and check to what extent these motivations are supported in Eve:

Do we get surprising action? How is community play these days? What collections are there to gather? How is immersion encouraged, what about roleplay? And how is creativity encouraged in Eve?

I believe by answering these questions Eve will rise to new heights.


Whoa, that topic is a lot to absorb. And then there’s links!

I would disagree with most of those points, as they are trying to take advantage of knowledge of human thought processes in order to turn games into an “addiction“, rather than making games for the sake of enjoyment. Game “addiction” ultimately leads to its own kind of burn out as well.

EVE has quite a few contents that lead to enjoyment or also another concept I was introduced to in these forums: satisfaction.

Satisfaction is different than “fun” or addiction. And may be slightly different feeling for different players. The simple content of mining can be satisfying for many players. Mission running may be satisfying in that it can fulfill the “fighter” and “builder” all at once, with destruction of npc’s and looting the field which can provide all the materials for industry, a sense of “completion”. Wormhole hunting may also be satisfying even after waiting hours at the “watering hole” to finally be able to strike and nab their kill.

But there is a lot of interesting stuff in the OP, maybe I’ll check out the links another time.


Hey, I even made a couple of topics on collectibles.
Display Hangar
Collectibles: Sets, Achievements, Checkboxes, Cards

Richard Bartle claims that MMOs follow the steps of MUDs, repeating the same of mistakes. He wrote an article back in 2013 “The Decline of MMOs” (free d/l)

Ten years ago, massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMOs) had a bright and exciting future. Today, their prospects do not look so glorious. In an effort to attract ever-more players, their gameplay has gradually been diluted and their core audience has deserted them. Now that even their sources of new casual players are drying up, MMOs face a slow and steady decline. Their problems are easy
to enumerate: they cost too much to make; too many of them play the exact same way; new revenue models put off key groups of players; they lack immersion; they lackwit and personality; players have been trained to want experiences that they don’t actually want; designers are forbidden from experimenting. The solutions to these problems are less easy to state.

Can anything be done to prevent MMOs from fading away?

Well, yes it can. The question is, will the patient take the medicine?

The point is that unless it’s fun, unless the gameplay is intrinsically motivating players leave sooner or later. So the devs in those vids and articles mostly recommend focusing on making the game fun to play.

That is Self Determination Theory in action. Satisfaction and fulfillment of players psychological needs.

Autonomy - you decide when and what to do, which ship and fit to use. Competence - EVE activities are skill demanding, there is a ton of things to learn. Relatedness - the ore you mine, the minerals, industry products, mods you loot, ships you build, you do it all with a purpose, for a reason. You, your corpies, someone else will use it. Someone needs you, you need them in return. You depend on your fleet mates, they depend on you.


Resource Wars is a negative example IMO, mostly because of the lack of relatedness. The ore you mine in the site is quasi-ore, it magically disappears from your cargo when you leave the site. You can’t use it, nobody needs it. Hardly anyone wants LP rewards they offer. It’s useless.

Yet some people run them. I did. They still fulfil autonomy and competence needs.

What CCP needs to do to fix them is either add extrinsic motivation - new LP shop stuff, or intrinsic motivation, relatedness. What you do should matter - you should be able to use excess ore you mined outside of the site, some new BPCs. Or there should be some visible progress for the faction you run sites for, like in FW, a cause.


Some useful ideas, but I’d like to disagree with a couple things:

Less “can’t”, more “shouldn’t”. A MMO exists under design constraints that hinder its ability to be a quality single player game, and unless you’re talking about an extreme niche concept where no single player alternative is available a solo player will be better served by a game designed around their needs. And MMO designers should embrace their concept and not compromise their goals in pursuit of players who don’t really belong there.

There is little you can do in D&D to viscerally terrify players, but for whatever reason level draining does it. Giving something to a player and then taking it away is very emotional.

I don’t think it’s about emotion or deeper meaning. It’s very simple in D&D:

  1. A level represents a massive amount of work. That could be literal months of effort by a player to get that level, and now they’re looking at more months of work to get it back (if the gaming group even survives that long). It’s less comparable to a normal ship loss in EVE and more like having your entire nullsec alliance and all of the systems it holds disbanded by a single act.

  2. A lost level is a crippling penalty. You don’t need emotions to understand that losing a level or two means suffering such a huge stat penalty that your character becomes dead weight. And because of point 1 you’re going to have to slog through being dead weight for months before your character is relevant again. You might as well suicide them and make a new one to match the level of the rest of the party.

With EVE you have more of a standard loss aversion concept, where losses that should be temporary setbacks that are just part of the game get blown way out of proportion by players who shouldn’t be in EVE at all.


We used to have that loss thing with SP clones. Thank ■■■■ that mess is gone for good. It didn’t add anything and just set you back two weeks worth of training time all because you forgot one little thing.


I read a lot of science fiction. While I find EVE relaxing, I would like to follow a story of NPC characters as they progress through EVE, with player interaction involved at crucial points. With EVE lore as rich as it is, integrating an ongoing tale with realtime EVE occurences/events would be fun to follow. Who doesn’t want to be an extra in a movie or TV show just for kicks?

Yeah, Maslow turned out to be more structured than necessary, with 3 levels being quite sufficient. Do theories of RL motivation transfer to game behavior, or does the detachment effectively negate that connection? Characters do not eat, are not intimate with each other, nor have any urgency of physical pain or fear of death. If a player identifies with his/her character, does he/she automatically transfer psychological needs and desires to the character in an attempt to satisfy them vicariously? Or does the character represent the waking dream of being a superhero in your mind?

I would expect MMORPGs are interested in the psychology of the gaming mentality as it relates to ones personality and situation in RL so they can set that salesman’s hook. If games become stagnant, it’s up to the salesman to get better, it is their living to earn.

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That link was v interesting, ty.

Eve is singled out …

“EVE Online has no elder game; or, rather, if it does have an elder game, the
whole game is that elder game. It has a shifting web of alliances from which new
content continually emerges. The fact that corporations can be eliminated and that in
theory it’s possible for one to win adds meaning.”

Eve isn’t perfect, there are many things I’d change, but I wouldn’t still be playing after 3 years if CCP hadn’t got some things right :slight_smile:

Where I def disagree with that paper is the promotion of instanting, that Eve is a “single shard” was one of the main reasons I started playing. Although you could argue that the game’s architecture provides instants on the sly by having a seperate process per system.

In contrast, while not an MMO, Elite: Dangerous looks great but can’t handle more than about 16 players in an instance which makes it little better than some small solo/co-op game (yes I know there are community goals blah blah but it’s all shite & bluster).

Star Citizen, for all it’s apparent problems & issues, does look really nice (if you ignore the eleventy bzillion bugs) but has the same issue, max 32 - 64 players as I understand it.

So for me, while ED & SC are superficially attractive, Eve is the only one I play because it has that whole galaxy feel and overcoming risks & challenges feels like it matters. Just my 2 pence…


As a CSM Candidate myself, I appreciate your post. Have you read the book “The art of game design” by Jesse Schell? You’ll like it :wink:

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But how do you define decline or success of an MMO? Number of players? Revenue? Longevity? Generating countless stories? What if the devs of a game like EVE are content with where they are at, e.g. player population and revenue? What if their vision and feeling of success is simply seeing the acts of their player base socially interacting in meaningful ways?

I once felt like EVE was hopelessly declining. But the bold steps the devs take, and that the player population has been fairly stable for years, suggest PA and CCP are fine with the game as is. Perhaps there is indeed a method to their “madness”.

These are some good descriptions of player types. And all are things I have experienced in any number of MMO’s and single player games I have played.

But I feel some qualities are missing here in regards to EVE. One may be that subtle thrill while in high sec, that you are always in danger. And due to that ghostly danger, you are never “maxed” out, there is always a bigger fish(es) lurking “somewhere”.

Perhaps another quality of EVE that I kinda don’t want to gain knowledge of, is the quality that keeps many players coming back, even after long breaks. I kinda fear that once I discover what that quality is, I will have “won” EVE.


This one’s interesting.

What happens when people only log in to get their log-in reward, when the log-in rewards are changed/removed/become uninteresting? Do people stop logging in?

(My opinion: get rid of those login rewards, let us log in because we like playing the game)


I’m not sure Eve is declining. But it does feel stagnant. I know there have been events and new ships and triglavs etc … but is it not really more of the same?

I still have goals and I’ll continue for a good while to get where I want to be. I enjoy it, but is it FUN ? Not sure about that.

/me Waves Stick

Back in the day I used to play quake online with up to 32 players in a map, that was fekin exciting . So yeah this is comparing apples & oranges but seriously where is the excitement? Part of the problem may be my gamestyle and I tend to be a deliberate planner type but I’d like to see something to get the pulse moving a bit.

In your previous post, you talk about how you seem to enjoy “overcoming risks and challenges” in EVE, and your next post seems like you are disillusioned. But yah, without knowing what your playstyle is and what you have accomplished in EVE, only you can answer if EVE is still “fun”. Maybe you have done all there is to do in the game, and you are on the verge of “winning” EVE… :man_shrugging:

Anyways, I was more referring to the grand scheme of MMO’s as successful or not, as opposed to particular individuals…

Ok, first I spose my interest is the Space genre rather than MMOs in general, I played WoW for a week and just didn’t get it tbh.

As for fun & enjoyment, there isn’t really a contradiction, like any game I enjoy some aspects of it and others not so much. I came back to gaming after a very long break (12 years) to play Elite: Dangerous and ended up playing Eve. From a Space genre point of view the comparison is interesting, both succeed and fail in very different ways. Overall I want both to expand their player base so that the owners can add better gameplay and features.

  • Strategic Gameplay - Eve wins hands down, 10/10, is why I’ve played for 3 years. The sense of agency is complete, what you do affects everyone else even if it is only incremental. I have at least another year’s worth of play to achieve my goals.

  • Puzzle Gameplay - 7/10 as a finger in the air estimate. There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from understanding mechanics, fits etc and then like any technician, play with them and being creative. For example I spent a few days learning how to semi-control cap dumping & your resultant warp distance.

  • Twitch Gameplay - For me this is where Eve is unsatisfying, PvE/PvP are both meh IMO, 3/10. iirc David Braben described Eve as an Executive Control game and it’s not for me. It’s a shame that Valkyrie and Dust failed for whatever reasons. The Aether Wars tech demo was really interesting even though it was very basic. If Direct Control can be married with the Executive & Startegic elements I’m all in, take my money, please.

  • Social Gameplay - Eve does very well on this front, 8/10 (waves finger), Corp/Alliance dynamics are continually interesting both for personal & general aspects. As an aside however, I think CCP need to work on getting alphas into the right corp somehow, surely we want as many as possible retained and eventually subbing.

The only area that ED wins (for me) is really combat, is where I get my PvE/PvP fix when the urge arises.

Star Citizen still looks interesting/promising, we’re all aware of Chris Robert’s failings all over the place but I hope eventually, sometime, we get something to play that isn’t a total bugfest and ends up being a $1000/month sub. Maybe I’ll get to play it inbetween wiping off drool from my bib in the retirement home.


Just wondering of you have any thoughts on Dual Universe…

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Dual seems to be very a ambitious game and if the developer can deliver I am pretty sure I will join.

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I hadn’t come across DU before, probably because I don’t really follow game world developments that closely.

I watched a few vids. Some very interesting ideas there, I especially like the idea of the Lua scripting language and the fact u can custom build your ships. This reminds me of the guy who started Minecraft, he created a demo where your ship was essentially controlled by your own scripts and apps but then he just dropped it for whatever reason.

From my brief look at DU, overall lots of potential interesting gameplay possibilities altho the alpha graphics weren’t exactly inspiring. Anyway I’ve BM’d the youtube channel and will keep an eye on it from now on. Thanks for the suggestion.

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@Nicolai_Serkanner too

What makes me nervous is the claim " where millions of players all play on one server"…that’s insanity…

Hope for the best I guess is all we can do as it’s far off still.