An Abundance of Queues and the Paradox of Choice

Reading about the pending changes to the queue system earlier today struck a mental chord with me.  Beyond the rewards, and lack of choice between ground and space, and my gut-level aversion, my first thought was “this change is really meant to be a behavioral change in the way I play the game.

Put aside for the moment that many long-time players make an implicit choice to either do consecutive space or ground runs, maximizing builds and traits accordingly.  The goal of that maximization is the belief they will accomplish that run faster, or with higher dps, or that it implicitly improves their game.  It’s the best way for them to grind.

Repetition builds confidence.  Confidence and the rewards of a quickly executed run will instill happiness. And for many – not all – players, it’s a way to unwind.  It’s the way they have adapted to the challenge of earning in-game, to make the grind less of a negative experience.

Also, consider that these players may only enjoy the ground or space experience exclusively.  It’s not uncommon to see players focus only on ground, or space.

The queues have been seen as, at least anecdotally, a declining measure of the performance of the game since Delta Rising.  We can argue the causes, or that what we ‘see’ may not be right.  Lower player engagement.  A wider selection of queues.  Better content.  Frequent events.  Other sustainable sources of dilithium and the draw of new and better games to focus our attention on.

I’m going to stray out of Star Trek for a bit, into the wonderful world of retail.

What stands out for me is that they have likely acknowledged that too many choices have had a negative effect on players.  That is an oversimplification of the conclusion of the book ‘Paradox of Choice’ by Barry Schwartz.  Is more, a good thing? It’s a counter-intuitive conclusion, especially in western society.

Some have even called it pseudoscience.

But here is the reality I see in business on a macro scale.  If I have 20 versions of an item or options you can choose from, I will sell significantly more, if I only offer you 8 versions or options, with far fewer returns.  Most people who buy from the list of 8 options will have a stronger, more positive connection to that purchase.  That strength reinforces the next purchase.  Studies can back this up, but I’ve seen that philosophy work first-hand.  I’m unable to share specific examples (non-disclosure), but I can share that by minimizing the selection of an item most see as consumable, I can actually increase sales substantially when people don’t have to make decisions.  Take out color choices, and sales go up further.  The more anxiety tied to a decision, the less likely they will enjoy the results of that decision.

And I’m seeing that in the queues.  More choice, spreading out the existing player base has lead to declining participation.  Maximizing increases participation to do only this or that type of run, and then you get players who only do ground, or only do Crystalline Entity and that one run that allows them to finish a reputation.  When do we see higher participation?  Special Events. For multi-alt players, it becomes a cadence that reinforces that maximizing behavior.

What’s odd is that behavior has always existed, but it did so in an environment with fewer options and I would argue more enjoyment.  Repeated Borg ground and space runs, over and over, in an atmosphere of player consolidation. You can experience that now in the Special Event de jour.

I believe that the consolidation of the ‘operations’, and introducing a new random selector with random reward boosts, is in effect designed to increase participation and enjoyment of the game.  I believe it’s based on good science.  The real question, is what percentage of the player base will adapt to this new behavior?

The new ‘work in progress’ Task Fore Operations screen.

I can still do my ground runs.  I can still do my popular space runs, and there will always be Crystalline Entity for that mindless 60 seconds of space magic.

Stretches of special events between great content (damn, I’m still marveling over Victory is Life) will still be there, plus something new that might reward something awesome.

I think I’m ready for the thrill of a random TFO; probable rage quitters and newbies be damned!  28 days later, I might actually change a behavior.


2 thoughts on “An Abundance of Queues and the Paradox of Choice

  1. For the better part of two years my daily play cycle in STO looked like this.

    – Login
    – Check Mail
    – Check Fleet Calendar
    – Run Borg Space 3 Pack on Normal in Pug Groups to get my needed marks on Alts
    – Run the Mirror Universe (Hourly Event) About 6 times within that hour to gain as much XP as possible on alts/new toons
    – Fleet Mates would gradually start logging on during this time.
    – Run Space Borg 3 Pack on Elite (Old Elite) with Fleet Mates on main to help others learn the missions.
    – Run Ground Borg 3 Pack on Elite (Old Elite) with Fleet Mates on main to help others learn the missions.
    – Once both sets of 3 packs were done…. we moved onto NWS. Where I would cycle through 3 Characters and run the mission back to back from about 7pm – 10pm

    I did this daily… for the better part of two years and it never once felt like a grind. I was always in the hunt for something. Whether it was a piece of Rep Gear, a Ship, a trait, a costume. I was always on the hunt for something and these runs benefitted that. Plus it was damn fun. The camaraderie that I had with my fleet mates… made it so that every run was fun and different. I miss that a hell of a lot. NWS was the content I logged in for daily, and yet I still found myself running numerous Borg Queues in ground and space, because that’s where my friends were and I wanted to spend time with them. It was them that made the content enjoyable, not necessarily the content themselves, or even the rewards.


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