I've spent a lot of time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic over the past 3 weeks and have done a lot of missions. (I guess sci-fi MMOs call their quests missions). So many missions that I actually took a break this weekend and spent about 90 minutes logged into Eve Online practicing my directional scanning. I will keep on playing SW:TOR because I really want to finish the Smuggler's class story, at least as long as I can stand doing the missions. Not that the missions are bad, at least compared to the themepark fantasy games I've played, but as crazy as this may sound, playing SW:TOR has given me a new appreciation for Eve's mission system.
Control - When playing SW:TOR, I have to do all the missions. Okay, if I did the flashpoints and heroic content I could skip some of the side quests. But I really don't have a choice if I want to get through the story. And some of those quests I wish I could skip. In Eve, I can choose what type of mission I want to do. If I want to shoot the Angel Cartel, I select an agent who passes out Security missions. If I just want to fly around and get paid to do it, I find a Distribution agent. Sure, I lose some control if I do a storyline, COSMOS or Epic Arc mission, but I don't need to do those missions to progress in the game. Actually, I don't need to do any missions to progress in the game, so I only do them when I really want to.
Quest Givers/Agents - In most games, I run up to a quest giver, ask for the quests, do them, and then run off never to talk to the NPC again. In Eve, I actually do research into what agent I talk to. What level missions does the agent give out? What faction? Is the agent in high-sec or low-sec? How far away is the agent? I guess I could put this under control, but I decide which agent I deal with, not some script writer for the game.
No kill ten rats - In every other MMO I've played has had the "kill ten rats" quest. That is, a quest giver gives you a quest to go out and kill X number of a type of mob. SW:TOR is really sneaky about the practice, with many missions having "bonus" stages in which you frequently kill X bosses. In Eve, I can't remember ever doing a mission that required killing X mobs.
Improving payouts - Maybe I'm playing the game wrong, but in SW:TOR, like in other games, I do a quest, pick up the drops and collect the reward. In Eve, I can increase the amount of money and drops I receive by learning skills like Salvaging and all of the social skills.
Story - In SW:TOR, the story is pushed right into a player's face. Sure, I can skip the cut scenes, but that is why I bought the game in the first place. But do I really remember all of the story? No. Of course, I don't remember all of the missions I've run in Eve Online either. In fact, outside the Epic Arcs, there are very few missions that are strung together in a typical quest line. But I've found stories while doing missions anyway. During my grind my industrial pilot Wandering Rose seemed to pick up an admirer in the Republic Parliament agent Fratt Asmurkik. Over Christmas, the missions aligned themselves just right and I experienced what I thought was a pretty cool story. Perhaps I'm just weird, but I like the surprise stories that come out of my experiences. Eve is famous for those in null and low sec but I've found them doing missions as well.
I don't want to claim that missioning in Eve is so great I race home to do them every night. I can quite happily go two weeks without doing a mission. But missioning in Eve is not the horrible task that a lot of bitter vets would have you believe. Well, compared to other games anyway.