CCP did not design EVE Online with the free-to-play business model in mind. Playing other MMORPGs always reminds me of EVE’s unique selling point. The feature that makes EVE unique is not its player-run economy, time-based training system, harsh death penalty, or single-shard nature. No, other games have many, if not all, of those features. Instead, what makes EVE unique is the nearly unlimited inventory space for each character. I don’t know of any game that allows players to hoard as many items as EVE. With the fall of the subscription system for MMORPGs, I doubt we ever will again.
The inspiration for this post is my third attempt to play Elder Scrolls Online. Most level-based games have a dead spot about half-way toward the level cap, as if one team of designers started building the game from level 1 upwards while a second team builds the game from the level cap down. Someplace in the middle is a dead spot where the two teams meet and don’t quite mesh the content together smoothly. A player just must grind through with the hopes the game is not the second coming of Age of Conan and the blight that occurred after leaving Tortage. Unfortunately, in ESO I hit the dead spot around level 8 and have yet to get past level 16. In my current playthrough, I am at level 12 and am ready to throw my keyboard out the window.
Perhaps my biggest pain point in the latest attempt to hit level 50 is lack of inventory space. At level 8, I not only had full bags, but a full bank as well. I desperately needed to make some bags, but I didn’t have the ability. Since I fully intend to hit level 50, even if it kills me, I broke down and spent $40 for a three-month subscription.
Paying money makes life so much easier in ESO. The first benefit is subscribers (called ESO Plus membership) receive double the bank space as those who just choose to buy the game and not subscribe. The difference between 70 and 140 bank slots is huge. On top of that, subscribers get access to a special bag that holds all of a character’s crafting materials. My bank situation went from using all 70 slots to only using 14 out of 140 inventory slots. I’m used to paying for extra bank slots with real money, but I never experienced such a change in a game like I did when I subscribed to ESO on Saturday.
The purchase of inventory space, a staple of games with cash shops, is unneeded in EVE. Players can store 1000 stacks of items in any station. But that is just the beginning. Players can then purchase containers, place them in the station, and then fill up the containers with additional items up to the volume capacity of the containers. Notice I stated items above. Ships do not count as items and have their own storage space. I assume that the capacity is 1000 ships, although I have never run into the cap.
Did I mention that, unlike most games, players in EVE do not access a global inventory system? While inconvenient if the shiny module wanted for a ship fit is 60 systems away, EVE's inventory system means players can store 1000 stacks of items in each stations. As an example of how much inventory space is available to new players, let's use the system of Lustrevik. Located two jumps away from one of the Minmatar starter systems in the Heimatar region, the system is home to 9 NPC-owned stations. Nine stations represents 9000 inventory slots, not including ship storage. And if 9000 inventory slots is not enough, a player can travel to the next door system of Eystur which contains 6 NPC-owned stations and an additional 6000 inventory slots. And did I mention that I have yet to run into a stacking limit for things like ore and minerals? Those used to limits of 100 or 200 item stacks will find the ability to have a stack contain one million items mind blowing.
EVE Online is a pack rat's dream game. While most games force a constant need for inventory management on players, CCP took that worry away. Instead of trying to keep space open for the next shiny drop, players in EVE have the challenge of trying to keep track of all their stuff. I wish I could find another game with the same design mindset, but I don't think modern business models will ever again allow for the discarding of such a basic source of sales from players. Which, to my mind, is a shame.