Hello, and welcome to my return to JGGH. I am going to be doing a series of articles on a fantastic MMO called EVE Online. This will probably end up being a very long series, as EVE is, well EVE. To start with, I will go over the basics of what EVE is, in and of itself, and why it has been as successful as it has.
First, here’s a good introductory movie to EVE Online:
The Butterfly Effect Watch this before continuing.
So here are some basic numbers for comparison:
It’s hard to see easily here, but obviously the green line destined for outer space is World of Warcraft.
Lineage 1 & 2 are seen to have spiked and have, over the last few years, decided to decline. The rest however, show a steady growth rate but not exponential acceleration (a la WoW). The little orange line is EVE Online. It’s hard to see on this scale, but since it released in 2003, EVE hasn’t shown a decrease in overall Subscriber Numbers. Just recently, EVE celebrated it’s 6th birthday, and posted subscriber numbers at over 300,000. That makes it the second largest Western MMO according to some reports. So why has EVE Online shown steady improvement in subscribers over the course of 6 years, where some MMO’s that have been out less time have crashed and burned? Everything has to do with CCP Games, and the crazy Icelandic Vikings who decided to make a Sandbox Space MMO.
The principles of design followed by CCP harken back to the golden days of gaming when games like Doom, Quake, and their ilk were being made by a handful of people out to have a good time, and share that with others. They aren’t some big name who has to make as much money as they can before their product tanks and they move on to their next project. They care about their world they created, and those of us who choose to live in it. And live in it we do (although that will have to be held off until Part 2). They care about us so much that they invite us to their native Iceland each year for the now infamous Fanfest celebration.
Fanfest is unlike any other gaming convention out there. The closest thing would be Blizzcon, but even this well thought of event pales in comparison to Fanfest. Why? Well, Fanfest is a 3 day event held in Reykjavík, Iceland. There are events such as the Pub Crawl with a Dev, Round Table Discussions, PvP Tournaments, and of course, The Party at the Top of the World. Don’t believe me? Go to the the Fanfest Site and see what it’s all about.
So why am I talking about the party they throw for EVE Players? Because it is the prime example of how CCP runs itself. They get the job done, and then they have a good time. They are human like the rest of us, and aren’t pretentious just because they are successful.
So now that you know that the guys at Crowd Control Productions run things, let’s look at EVE itself.
So what is EVE, and why is it different than other MMO’s?
- A Space Based MMO
- A Single “Shard” MMO
- A Sandbox in the purest sense of the word
- The largest Game World of any MMO
- Constantly Evolving
Some of what I listed above is also why EVE is different than other MMO’s. There aren’t many Single “Shard” games out there, especially this size. If you are unfamiliar with MMO’s, a “Shard” is the term used for a Server. In games as far back as UO and its predecessors had Shards that were named based on the server locations (i.e. Pacific, Atlantic, etc). Todays MMO’s, like WoW, name their Shards on things within their games world (i.e. Dagger Spine, Thorium Brotherhood, etc). Each server has a limit of players allowed to be on it, both in total and simultaneously. New Eden (the cluster of stars that we inhabit in EVE Online) is One (singular) server. Peak congruent users was around 53,000 or so. On average, you will see anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 users online at any given time. And you can go find every last one of them.
As for the Sandbox statement, there are a lot of games that tout being a Sandbox, and none that I have played come anywhere near to EVE. From the instant you can create your character you can go anywhere, and do anything (within the limit of your skills). If you want to head out to Nullsec and see what it’s like, you can. Though the odds are that you will be blown up well before you make it all the way. There are no limits to what you can do, beyond your skills and personal ability.
Another difference between EVE Online and other MMO’s is the skill progression system. Most MMO’s are like World of Warcraft’s method, what can be called an Active Skill system. What that means is that by using the skill, you progress and get better at it. EVE, on the other hand, is a Passive Skill system. You inject a skill, and set it to train and it does so. Even when you are offline. This real time passive progression model is unlike any I have ever seen in a game before. If the skill you are training says it will complete in 37 days (and yes there are skills that take that long, but they are more high end) then 37 days from then it will complete, and you will have gained the next rank in that skill. There are hundreds of skills in EVE Online, with 5 levels in each. But more on that later.
Another big difference (but not applicable to all of its competition) is the support for EVE Online that CCP shows. Twice, every year, EVE Online gets a full expansions that radically changes the gameplay. So that means that Dominion (due out Dec. 1) will be the 12th full featured expansion since launch. Previous expansions have introduced new ships, new gameplay mechanics (Faction Warfare, Wormholes, etc), more solar systems, etc. Not many MMO’s can report that kind of support for 6 years and running.
Based on those three major differences, I personally think that EVE Online is (mechanics-wise) a better game for the casual player. You don’t have to worry about being on different servers from your friends, and you don’t have to actually be playing the game all the time to advance your characters skills. While my assumption may or may not be true, the reality of EVE is vastly different. EVE is a dark, foreboding place. No one is safe, unless you are stay permanently docked in a station. On top of that, the learning curve for EVE Online is brutal. While recent strides have made life for a new player easier, it is still harder than any other MMO out there to get the grasp of. A well circulated image comparing learning curves for 4 MMO’s looks something like this.
As you can see, it’s not so much a curve, as a cliff. This is fairly accurate, even today. You are thrust into the world in a ship that can’t handle more than the simplest of missions (EVE’s name for quests), is worthless for mining, and has no ISK (EVE’s currency) value whatsoever. So why is a game that is so challenging, so perilous, so mind shatteringly expansive doing so well? One reason is the big ships (one variant of the “end game” of EVE if it even has one). Here is an image of an Erebus Class Titan (the Gallente race’s big guns) as it would appear next to something we all can recognize, Manhattan Island.
If the fact that, with enough time in game to get the proper skills, you can actually pilot that ship isn’t awe inspiring, I don’t know what is. Another big ticket draw for EVE Online is the Market. You hear bits and pieces about other MMO’s “economies” and how prices of various items are affected by drop rates. EVE’s economy is just that, a fully functional economy that follows the standard cycles of real world economies. It is driven by us, the players. There are no vendors to sell items to for a set price, the whole market is like the Auction Houses of other MMO’s to an extent. The market can be discussed at length (and has been, in many many places) so I won’t go into more than that basic introduction there.
As you might think after reading this, EVE attracts a different kind of player than other games. It attracts intelligent professionals across the globe. Some of my friends in EVE are Programmers, Graphic Artists, and Military Personnel. Even people who work for other game companies enjoy EVE Online (no, I won’t name names).
So yes, EVE is a dark and terrifying universe, fraught with peril at every turn. But at the same time, you are given the tools to succeed, prosper, and blow the ever loving crap out of anyone who gets in your way.
In the next part I will discuss the EVE Community. But for now, I think this is long enough for you all to have to read, and thanks for reading. This is Chainer Cygnus saying, Fly Safe.