In the world of MMORPGs, the fantasy setting, led by World of Warcraft, dominates the landscape. But a small independent company has bucked the trend of games losing players over time and now dominates the science fiction genre of MMOs, surpassing game studios like NCSoft (Tabula Rosa) and Sony Online Entertainment (Star Wars Galaxies) to a point that it now rivals fantasy MMOs like Warhammer Online in subscription numbers. That game, of course, is CCP’s Eve Online. Eve, famous for being a one-shard world, is on the verge of opening a second world for players from China. If projections are accurate, opening the game to China could make Eve one of the largest Western MMOs of any genre.
What is so special about Eve that leads players to want to play the game? I’m sure that people who have played the game can start ticking off all the features that keeps them playing or keeps them coming back. But what draws those people into the game? As one of those people looking at the game wondering if I should play, my perspective might shed some light on what makes Eve so attractive.
It’s Space! – I’m not saying I’m old, but I was 4 years old when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon. At the same time I became a fan of a series called Star Trek and later on the Star Wars trilogy (the good one). From there I started reading authors like Asimov & Heinlein, Drake & Pournell, and love David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. How could I not be intrigued with a game like Eve?
The Challenge Starts At The Beginning – Eve has a reputation for having a steep learning curve. I’m not saying that the game is hard to learn (because I’ve never played) but players have set up a university in the game to help players learn to play once they get past the tutorial. Eve is not World of Warcraft, where for many players the game begins at level 80. The game is challenging from the first day, or so I’m told.
The Journey Is The Game – If you look over at my Bartell Gaming Profile, I rank extremely high as an explorer. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I really like the journey to the end game. I don’t like the end game. As far as I know, if Eve has no end game. At least that’s what Tim & Jon said on Van Hemlock #52.
The Economy – I’m a player who signed up for SOE’s Station Access so I could make an alt for each crafting class in EverQuest 2. As much as I like crafting and the broker in EQ2, Eve really intrigues me. CCP actually has a staff economist who is a PhD. The ability to move around from market to market is really attractive. I wonder if I could play with the big boys in Eve.
Skills, Not Classes – From what I’ve heard, Eve is all about gaining skills, whether it is mining, gunnery or ship handling. So I can be anything I want as long as I train properly. That is sort of the attraction of Runes of Magic, where you can be two adventure classes and various skills in all crafting classes, and Free Realms where you can be any class you want as long as you have a member account.
Space Ships Instead Of Avatars – I know that a lot of Eve players would like to have avatars that can leave their ships and wander around space stations. But the idea of being able to change your identity by changing your ship has an appeal to someone who has been playing MMOs for about 4 years now. In EQ2, you can go to the barber for superficial changes, while in both EQ2 and World of Warcraft you can spend real money to really make changes. In Eve, "just" train up and buy a different class of ship.
Now, I have a lot I still want to accomplish in EQ2 so I won’t be starting up Eve anytime soon. From what I’ve heard, I should take a week off of work to really get a good start. And some of what I’ve written above may be completely naïve. But I’ve never played; I’m just like the kid at the candy store window looking at all the goodies inside.
Update: Sometimes I really need to read closer. The post from the Eve forums (at least, I think it's from the Eve forums) I read about Eve's Serenity server was from last year, and the OP got some more things wrong. If I would have read the rest of the thread, I would have gotten some facts straight. But I've been interested on and off in China's space program since they put a man in orbit when I was writing my political blog over 5 years ago and I wonder if their space program fills China with the same fascination America felt back in the 60s.