Not exactly the comment of the week, but I had an alliance-mate ask me what I thought was an interesting question related to my "Perception is reality" post the other day. The question, paraphrased, was basically "If EVE is such an awful game and its players are so terrible to each other, why do we keep playing it? Why do people who unsub come back to it?"
The most basic answer is: what choice do we have?
When it comes right down to it, EVE basically has a monopoly on a certain MMO style. And even if this gets me flamed, it's still true: "Internet space ships" are only part of it. As this amusing little article put it, what EVE has that other MMOs don't is a combination of the sandbox and "old school Ultima Style PvP". If EVE suddenly and magically transformed tomorrow into a fantasy-based game, but everything else about it stayed the same, I'm not convinced that the game would lose very many players. Hell, it might even pick up some new ones. ;-) Because at the end of the day, the space ships are almost incidental. A lot of us play this game zoomed so far out that those little squares could be space ships, archers, fighter planes, or animated tangerine creatures. All we care about are the actions and the tactics, the personalities and the stories.
There just isn't a lot of competition in this arena, you know?
CCP Guard was interviewed by Lost in EVE last week.(1) He was asked whether he played other games, and without naming names, he indicated that he did. And he said that "like many of us", he sometimes stops playing EVE for a while to play other things. But in the end, those games don't get his brain involved and he said he always comes back to EVE. He didn't mention if this was before he was a dev, or now that he is a dev. And I don't think it occurred to him to specify. That's how EVE is, whether you work for CCP or not.
What this is not is a wife staying with an abusive husband because she's hoping she can change him someday. This is a wife staying with an abusive husband because he's quite literally the only man on Earth. ;-)
The real question will be what happens if EVE ever gets some real competition. We saw a bit of that last year when the summer of rage drove hundreds of EVE players to Perpetuum Online. But what Perpetuum does wrong, in my opinion, is that it copies EVE too closely. It has only a few unique features of its own. Those good elements are balanced by the fact that it's a very young game competing with a very mature one with so many more features. So Perpetuum is always going to come out looking second best simply because it doesn't have the development time into it that EVE does.
In EVE, the player-base itself is often the content, and it takes time to build up the sandbox to generate the stories. It takes time for this element of the game to emerge.
Any competition that EVE gets -- if ever -- will likely suffer from these problems. Anything that gets launched in today's gaming climate is going to stumble out the door with only a small feature set that is going to look sub-par next to EVE's ten years of development time. And then it's going to pray for enough revenue to develop into real competition. It's also going to have to pray for its own Guiding Hand Social Club story or Goon versus BoB story to launch its initial sandbox meta-game.
But that assumes that some game developer will ever look at sandboxes and meta-gaming as something worthy of competition. You'd think that Diablo III would buy into its harsh, cold world and make PvP non-consensual, for instance. But from what I hear, that's not only not the case, but even the ability to perform minor griefing like path-blocking will be prevented.
How much DUST 514 will buy into this aspect of the EVE universe is something that I'm keenly interested in... Can CCP capture lightning in a bottle twice? DUST's long-term success may well hinge on their ability to do this.
(1) This interview will also be the source of my Quote of the Week tomorrow.