Welcome to my new series where I am trying to find a new Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) to play with my friends. The sudden spike of interest in StarCraft 2 has finally faded, so I am now looking for a new game to play. I’m not a huge MMO player, but I’ve enjoyed a few during my video game career (Guild Wars 1 and 2 mostly). Why am I looking at MMO’s in particular? I think MMO’s are a suitable game category to select from because my friends tend to like them, we can easily play together, and, ideally, they have a lot of replay value (content). Also, I thought it would be enjoyable to examine some games in one of the most popular PC game categories ever made. I am not entirely sure what my criteria for comparing the games is yet, but in general I would like to play something that is at least moderately visually appealing, has a fun and fairly fast paced battle system, provides something beyond generic ‘fetch quests’ (i.e. get 10 of these, run this here, kill 10 of these, ect.), and has fun and somewhat meaningful (a loaded word, I know) content after reaching the highest level (often called ‘end game content’). A game being free to play (F2P) might be a plus, but it is not a requirement.
My first entry in to current MMO’s is CCP Game’s EVE Online, first released in May 2003. The last update was called EVE Rubicon, released in November 2013. The game came strongly recommended by one of my friends because it offers a unique and almost totally player controlled environment that one cannot find in any other MMO. He also agreed to guide me through the game during my one month free trial. I sense that many people would say EVE is a terrible place to start investigating MMO’s, with many forum posts I have seen (and some friends of mine) calling it overly complicated, unforgiving, unfocused, and/or just plain boring. I often saw the phrase ‘the spreadsheet MMO’ being used to describe this game. But, I dug the space vibe of the game, and my friend was excited about the prospect of us playing together, so I figured I would give it a shot.
EVE is a space based MMO with an enormous universe consisting of more than 7,500 star systems (star map shown above). Each of these systems can contain planets, space stations, asteroid belts, anomalies, and a plethora of other things. Currently the game is estimated to have about 500,00 subscribers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_Online). EVE is often considered a sandbox game where most of the content is generated by users and the developer is known to have a largely hands off approach. If you fly your fancy new ship in to a bad region of space and it gets blown up by pirates or other players, don’t cry to the administrators about it, they won’t give you your ship back. In EVE the economy is totally player controlled for instance. The players make or find the materials that get sold on the markets, the players decide the prices and where to sell products, and the players generate all the in-game currency (ISK). CCP has created this universe called EVE, and what you do with it is largely up to you (within the scope of the game of course). Players can take part in several different ‘careers’ including mining, manufacturing, exploration, business, and warfare. Do you want to build your own space station or corporation? In EVE you can do that (don’t expect to be able to do it quickly or by yourself though).
A big part of EVE’s fame comes from the negative aspects (or, perceived negative aspects) created by CCP’s hands off approach. People can decide to be total jerks in this game for the fun of it, and that behavior is totally allowed (I’m sure CCP has policies for dealing with harassment and illegal activities though). People can blow up your ship to steal your stuff, rip you off, scam you, infiltrate and spy on your corporations or fleets, form pirate fleets, lure you in to traps, or even just blow you up for the fun of it, and I have no doubt that the list goes on and on (and extends in to scams and in-game shenanigans that can ultimately impact large portions of the player base). EVE doesn’t encourage new players to behave this way, players just choose to play the game this way. I’m sure a sociologist could have a field day studying human behavior in a game like EVE. These behaviors may instantly turn off some gamers, but for others the ability to have these things transpire in a game is exactly what draws them to it. Of course other people come to EVE for the possibility of epic space battles, making and optimizing cool ships, and the ability to experience an enormous space universe.
I doubt that I will spend this long setting up the other MMO’s that I am looking at, but EVE is the sort of odd cousin of typical MMO’s that tend to have faeries, handsome warriors, and treacherous dungeons to explore. Also, part of the fun of EVE is looking at the ridiculous things players can do in the game. Next post I’ll focus on how the game actually plays and if I enjoyed being a new pilot in the universe of EVE. As always, thank you for reading.