For what The Battle for Caldari Prime was, for what it was meant to accomplish, it was certainly a success.
It still had its problems, and there were a couple of missed opportunities, but overall it can be described as nothing short of successful for CCP Games.
So what to start with first? The problems with the event? Or why it was successful? Let’s start with the negative, end on the positive.
I’m not going to rehash this too much. I’ve already made my distaste for predetermined events known. I think most players want to know that they have some control over the outcome of a roleplaying event. Knowing that they could just sit there and do nothing, and that the event will play out as CCP intended, that can give a negative impression of the event to some players. CCP must work harder at giving players some level of determinism over the outcome of some of their events. Pre-determined events are okay, for marketing purposes, much as this event was meant to be, but work at allowing players some say in the story of EVE in events of a smaller scale going forward.
The destruction of the Leviathan, on the EVE side, was quite anti-climactic. The titan blew up. It’s wreck sat there for a bit (until looted), and then the event was over for the EVE players.
Of the 1600 in system, most of those people don’t pay attention to TMdc or my blog or the forums or Twitter. They had no idea that the titan was going to end up, a heap, on Caldari Prime. The end result was unknown to them.
That CCP screwed up the day before, accidentally releasing the climactic moment to the DUST 514 servers, that was probably a benefit to those players who do pay attention to media outside of the game, they had some closure to the event, some information that the rest of the players in system were not privy too. They knew the end result of the titan’s destruction. Everyone else, no clue. It was a one hour battle with no apparent or immediate closure for most of the participants.
This was a missed opportunity for CCP. They should have considered creating a game trailer that visualized the descent of the destroyed Leviathan to the planet’s surface. At the end of the EVE event, they could have immediately made such a trailer live on their YouTube channel and spammed the link into the local channels. It would have given that sense of closure to the event.
Granted it would have been a complex and expensive trailer to create. But …
It would have also served as a very valuable marketing tool for the One Universe campaign. Here was an event that began in EVE (the battle with the Leviathan) and then ended in DUST 514 (the ultimate demise of the Leviathan onto the planet’s surface.) I think it would have been an amazing visualization of the connection between the two games.
I’m not going to fault CCP hard on this issue. It was simply a missed opportunity, not a failure on their part.
I always liked watching Kil2′s Bringing Back Solo streams and I’ve always enjoyed him as an Alliance Tournament commentator, but he doesn’t bring a lot of energy to his commentary. There was no sense of excitement to anything he said. CCP Dolan would have been the far better choice in this regard, though I do realize he wasn’t available, being at the EVE booth at PAX East.
A consistent roleplaying theme might have worked better with the live stream. Perhaps giving it the semblance of an actual newscast. Some graphics from The Scope, and the commentators doing their best to remain in-character as newscasters. That would have required some practice, to be able to carry a feed in that tone for up to two hours, not too mention being able to draw upon past lore. At any rate, something for CCP to consider in the future.
Another problem was that the live feed only focused on EVE Online. I had expected that we’d bounce back and forth between EVE and DUST, but that did not happen. I’m not quite sure why. It seems like another opportunity missed to draw parallels between the two games. Again, the One Universe campaign.
Capping the system, to begin with, at 1000 players, and then increasing to 1600 was the right move.
Anyone that watched live Asakai streams knows what a terrible experience that was. As exciting as the battle might have been for the participants (and for people reading about it afterwards), watching it live was a terrible showcase of the game. Nobody is going to get excited watching something that is chugging along at 1 frame per second. The only people that are going to understand TiDi are experienced EVE players. No one unfamiliar with the game is going to care, all they’re going to see is a game broadcasting at some subpar frame rate and think to themselves “What is this shit?”
It was the right move for CCP to limit the participants, and then increase that number when they knew they could handle the extra load. They were broadcasting a live stream, they had to showcase the game in the best possible way. That meant finding the tangent between as many players as possible in system and something that looks spectacular and exciting.
CCP might have told players ahead of time to expect a hard system cap. I knew CCP was not going to let 4000 people into system, but apparently the 2000 people sitting in systems adjacent to Luminaire had no idea. Some player frustration here might have been avoided.
In my opinion, the system cap added to the overall success of the event, as long as we view the event as a marketing tool. Which brings me to the last point. Where the true determination of success lies.
Ripard Teg made mention on Twitter that CCP will only conduct live events if their return on investment [ROI] continues to have positive results. It’s an important point. Companies rarely spend their time and money out of the goodness of their hearts. They spend resources because it brings them benefits in other areas. Some readily tangible, some not quite as tangible, but all still measurable to some degree.
What were the returns on investment for The Battle for Caldari Prime?
Player goodwill. You had 1600 people in Luminaire who seemed to be having a really good time. Shooting at NPC capital ships and shooting at each other. It was a highsec free-for-all. Player enthusiasm is always high where highsec free-for-alls are concerned. Whether player-created content such as Hulkageddon or Burn Jita, or CCP-sanctioned events such as this Battle for Caldari Prime.
Exposure. I was watching the stream numbers carefully. I watched the event from the start, until shortly after the desctruction of the Leviathan. There were 50K unique viewers to the stream through the hour and bit that the event lasted. The stream itself peaked at 8900 concurrent viewers. That’s nearly double the maximum concurrent viewership that the New Eden Open Tournament got.
New Subscribers. I was reading the stream chat channel. There were a lot of interested newbie questions, from people not familiar with EVE Online, but obviously intrigued by it. CCP will never release the numbers, but I would be surprised if they don’t see a small, but noticeable, new subscriber spike this weekend. That’s certainly the sort of tangible return on investment that CCP is looking for.
I would be surprised if we did not see another event at this scale in a couple months, perhaps sometime before the start of summer vacations.
What did this event cost CCP? Some developer time to create the fallen Leviathan skybox artwork for DUST 514. Some additional dev time to integrate that artwork into a DUST battle map. Some additional dev time to place some Leviathan debris around the DUST playfield. Also, in Iceland, some developer time to set-up the NPC battle that was the heart of the event — Gallente capitals versus Caldari capitals plus titan. Some developer time to stream the event, as well as commentate it. Some developer time to manage the Luminaire node during the event. (I also think CCP should have went further and created a trailer for the event, but they didn’t, so be that as it may.)
What did all of this cost CCP? I have no idea. At least $10K in developer time. Though probably more in the $25K ballpark range. Again, I have no idea. But what makes the event worth it for CCP? Well for one, if it generates new subscribers. And two, that it retains players who might have been thinking about taking a break until the summer expansion. Both of those values have to equal or exceed the cost CCP put forward. There are probably some other less tangible metrics that CCP will try to measure.
I have a feeling that CCP succeeded in that regard. Which is why I would call the event a success for them. Not an unmitigated success, but certainly a small success. One they can build upon.
There are obviously things they can do better, and I’m sure they’ve received earfuls already on those lapses and small failures. Those are easily remedied the next time they stage another large scale event. They can certainly build on Friday’s small success to create a larger success in a few months.
You can read more of Poetic Stanziel’s opinions at his Poetic Discourse blog.