Monday, September 14, 2009

Why is Eve Online a good game?

(This is part two of my mini-series comparing World of Warcraft and Eve Online and highlighting the merits of both. My entry "Why is World of Warcraft a good game?" can be found here.)

So, now that I've alienated myself from some pretty fierce Eve Supporters I thought I'd share what I like about Eve as well. Just for background I've been playing Eve for less than a year. I've never been a pirate, never flown a battle cruiser, never ran a level four mission (though I have salvaged a few), I've never engaged in a duel, and I've never even set foot in a wormhole. My interests in the game have been more in the realm of mining, trade, and industry. I know that there are vast amounts of the game that I haven't even thought about let alone experienced. Which brings me to one of the first things I really like about Eve.

The Universe Awaits
Eve contains, by far, one of the most expansive universes I've ever seen in a game. Yes, a lot of it is just empty space, but that is realistic. In space there is a lot of nothing in between the small pockets of something. Yet that isn't all, New Eden is huge, but the scope of Eve is broader. A character can be built around so many roles and aspects that Eve is almost like several hundred games crammed into one. Much like Second Life, it is more a reality simulator than a 'game'. It allows for styles of play that would never be enjoyable in other games. I could manipulate and affect the in game markets of World of Warcraft through the Auction House, but that isn't what the game is about and it wouldn't be fun. However, the same character type could have a blast on Eve and find many resources that would help him enjoy that role.

You Can't Do That Yet
To go with such an expansive universe Eve created one of the most elaborate skill systems I have ever seen (and I've played Rifts.) Everything you can do in the game is based off the skill system, and it is a system that rewards time as a character more than anything else. The longer you have been around in Eve the chances are the more you can do. While this would never work in a more single focused game such as WoW or Everquest, it works splendidly in Eve, because while an older player may be better than a younger player at a specific set of tasks, a younger player with a more focused set of skills probably would do better than an older player who too a different path. Case in point, there may be a number of older players who have taken a more combat oriented route. Chances are that they would utterly destroy me in any combat situation, but if the job at hand is clearing out an asteroid belt my Hulk will do the job damn quick. I also love the fact that skill training occurs in real time.  This gives a more even footing to all players while other games heavily favor those who can sit and just grind all day.

You Can't Always Get What You Want
But in Eve, you typically can, if you earn it.  I knew that I wanted an Orca for my alt, so I mined minerals and gathered ISK and got enough to purchase it. I earned it through my own hard work and dumb luck. In WoW I can find myself killing the same boss week after week, hoping that the piece of gear I want will drop and then that I will win it. This is so arbitrary that most guilds have put in artificial merit systems so that players can "earn" loot when it does finally drop. These systems include DKP, Suicide King, and Loot Councils. Eve doesn't have these systems and it doesn't need it. If I want it, chances are I can buy it. The only exceptions are some items that only appear on a rare basis. Unlike the gear in WoW these rare items serve more as status symbols than they do as a way to get ahead. I find that when I play Eve I feel like my time is rewarded, there are times in WoW where I've ended the night with nothing more than annoyance that my loot didn't drop.

Where's the Fracken Manual??!!??
One source of enjoyment and frustration in Eve is the lack of explanation. It is a game that relies heavily on outside research or asking around. Knowing that I wanted to perhaps mine wouldn't be enough. I wouldn't have known what ships to train for, or how to go about maximizing my skills without my corp mates or the internet. While this is very frustrating at times it is also very engaging. I find that when I learn something knew or when I begin to understand how specific skills work in tandem that I'm excited and can't wait to help others out.

On the flip side, there are times when I wish there was a little more in game help, like explaining exactly how the corporate hangers on the Orca works. I know that this has greatly improved since the dawn of Eve and that the tutorial system they have now is leaps and bounds ahead of what the first players experienced. But there are times when the accessibility makes even a nerd like me cringe. I can only imagine the amount of kicking myself I would have done if someone hand bothered explaining learning skills to me early on.

It's Gone... It's All Gone!
Along with a brutal learning curve the game almost carries some pretty stiff penalties for dying. Yes, the skills are the important part of your character, and assuming you keep your clone updated you won't ever lose that. But you will lose your ships, your implants, your modules. A simple mistake can set you back 200,000,000 ISK or more. Lessons come at a price in Eve and that price can often be very steep.

If that sounds like a complaint, however, it really isn't. Yes, you can lose lots in Eve, but that makes the rewards more meaningful. When I have to spend several hundred million on a ship then I'm going to be attached to it, if I lose that is a catastrophic blunder on my part then I am going to remember it. The severity of the losses make themselves meaningful in Eve. Dying in WoW means nothing; it is, at worst, a minor inconvenience. Getting podded in Eve, on the other hand, is a monumental event.

The Stories and the Community
This sense of involvement creates one of the most interesting communities of players. Just reading the blog feeds I get in Capsuleer shows how much people can take from this game. There are brilliant pieces of fiction, news reports, and so forth being written based on this game. Even those who just write about the day to day affairs as a player and not "in character" at all have such great stories. The fights and battles can take on epic proportions, and they are all original, there is no going back and having the same exact fight next week. When Larkonis sullied his good name last week it was news, both in game and out among the community of players.

This is something that WoW will never have. Yes, a few people may be in the top guilds and accomplish world and server first kills, but that fame is fleeting because next week the challenge hasn't changed for them. Eve is a game that is created predominantly by the players and their interactions, while CCP has created loads of Agent Missions and is including more and more Story Line Missions the majority of what I think makes Eve special is the player to player interaction.

So What Does It All Mean?
I hate trying to decide which is "better." Yes, both are MMORPGs, but that is like saying Casablanca, Ghost Busters, and Debbie Does Dallas are all movies and so I should be able to pick on that is the "best." Ghost Busters would make a terrible porno and Casablanca far less comedic than either. So even though many movie critics might want to say Casablanca is the best out of those three it really depends what you are looking for. I think Eve players need to stop worrying so much about how their game is the best one going and focus instead on just enjoying their game. There is more than enough room for both, as has been proven over the past few years. So hopefully there will be a little less WoW hate in Eve, but I won't hold my breath.

Did you enjoy this article? Did you have an opinion to share? Do you think I was way off base?  Please let me know. Comment and share your own thoughts.


  1. Hiya
    I really enjoyed reading your excellent article - I feel it encapsulates the game brilliantly, and explains why we all love playing Eve!

    As a part-time miner, I find your blog very interesting, and look forward to the updates - good luck with the roids!

  2. I think EVE is a lot better I've been a wow player too but EVE just feels more awesome and exciting, for example when you're at war(Which is impossible in wow except for some PvPing), the dangers of encountering enemies etc. just make it cool. and the possibilities as you listed in this article.

  3. I'll agree that Eve offers much more of an enjoyable PvP experience. The idea that there is no such thing as "safety" unless you plan on being a dockcrab is something else great in Eve. Though I'd say you can get some of the level of large scale combat in WoW with things like Wintergrasp and other battle grounds. But you are right, it definitely isn't the same.

    Thanks for the comments!