The problem with PvE

First off let’s address the elephant in the room on this topic: PvE in eve is not fun. I understand that there are missions runners out there who log into eve only to grind out another World Collide mission in their CNR/Golem and love it. In fact for a while I was even one of them (my alt has a 9.0 sec standing towards the Caldari Navy), and I will concede that in the early days of my eve carrier I enjoyed mission running with my friends. But with the discovery of PvP, as soon as I had met all my goals(able to do lvl4’s) I pretty much stopped missioning. Oh sure once every so often I dust off the Mach’a and bust out a few Lvl4’s for some quick action/cash, or do a few incursion rounds to earn the big money, but it never lasts long anymore. Which brings me to my point of discussion today, why is PvE so boring in eve compared to other games? Even if you love missions, you have to admit that there aren’t as many of your kind as there are say wow raid guilds? Are there any direct comparisons to our PvE experience in other Games? Could CCP copy some fun content into eve? And at the end of the day why can other, arguably more repetitive experiences, hold my attention longer than hitting red crosses for ISK?

First Im going to look at some other PvE content I have enjoyed over the years and, where applicable, looking for a direct comparison in eve. But first a quick point of note, this blog was accused a few posts ago of being “another whiny blog”; so to clarify, this is not a moan about how bad our PvE content is (well it is), I don’t have to PvE anymore so I don’t, there are plenty of non PvE revenue streams in the game to keep me happy. If CCP keep PvE as it is forever, I won’t really care. This post is more an exploration of my own preferences and an attempt for to better understand my own experiences of our PvE content. As such I’m writing this very off the cuff, scribing what I think as I go. I’ve no idea if this is going to draw out a consistent theme, or if it’s just going to turn out that I just don’t click with missions (well I guess I already know that bit).

Here goes.

Let’s start with the most obviously successful form of PvE in the MMO world: Dungeons. If you live under a gaming rock and have no idea what this is here is a 5 second run down: Groups of players work through a pre-defined zone fighting sequences of enemys leading to bosses and sub bosses, which require different uses of mechanics to defeat. The example of this I am most familiar with is of course World of Warcraft. I played this for about two years (hit 80 just before WotLK left just before Cata, so early 2008 till late 2010) during this time completed most of the WotLK dungeon content as both a Tank and a Raid leader, and thoroughly enjoyed it content. Here are the main reasons why I think I enjoyed it:

1. Social groups: To defeat even the non-bosses you needed to group up with friends. This created social bonds, and friendships I still have today.
2. Progress: to even get into the endgame dungeons you needed to have done some pre progress. Your gear has to meet some minimum requirements before you even considered joining a raid. Each step of the dungeon opened up new options to you to allow you to face off against bigger challenges, eventually new content was released and you began again in a new location with new bosses.
3. Prestige: Once you did start to get further up the dungeon-ladder your gear became a badge of honor, with people giving respect for your achievements.
4. Mechanics: beating bosses wasn’t just about DPS/Tank. My favourite boss of all time was the Safety Dance, which require alertness and dexterity to pass. There was a massive array of Mechanics used in wow by both you and the boss. This variance made every encounter at least slightly different and it was fun to try and work it out.
5. Investment: because of the progress factor, very few people (not I) would complete all the content in a short time; you had to chip away at it to get anywhere, meaning you got invested in the process.

I actually thing that a fair comparison of dungeons in eve is the Incursion system, there are at least a lot of parallels between the two. Yet I only managed to hang about in that for around a month. Let’s look at the points I enjoyed in Raids and if any of them do or could translate into eve.

1. Social Groups: This is actually quite similar; if I dedicated myself to incursions as much as I did in wow I could, most likelym find a good social group to work with. Unfortunately as my social wants are fulfilled already by my PvP group in eve, I only tend to “dip” into PvE groups not looking to socialise.
2. Progress: No serious group will start running an Incursion site if they can’t complete it. There is no grey area, only a binary switch: can’t do it, won’t do it | can do it, will do it. you might, I guess, get a group together and slowly work up the site sizes, but why bother when you could just join ISN and go straight to the top?
3. Prestige: yeah, try telling Jita you completed a Mothership site. Link the fitting you made entirely out of LP from Incursions. Just wait for the respect and admiration to roll in. you might be waiting a while. Respect, at least in terms of PvE, is not something eve encourages. Indeed for most, the better you are at mission running, the more distain you will gather. This would, and shouldn’t ever be copied over to eve.
4. Mechanics: Nothing going here really. Sure there are some targeting priorities, and the occasional drop X loot in container Y, but nothing actually challenging. Picture fighting the mothership while bits of the dead space site exploded in a patten which you had to memorise and dodge? This kind of mechanic would enhance PvE a lot for me, but it would have to be coupled with a greater reward for more complex missions.
5. Investment: it’s kind of a two way argument on this one; You always have a good investment in your equipment in eve, as you work damned hard to learn/earn it. But I would counter argue that investment in your gear is not the same as being invested in the content. I mentioned earlier my alt has a 9.0 standing with the CN, but that’s not exactly the part of my history I tout to others is it? If CCP upped the jump clone requirement to 9.5 tomorrow, I wouldn’t exactly rage quit.

Let’s look at levelling next, (note I am in no way pro a “Grind for XP” experience in eve *shudder*) for this I’m going to revert to Guild Wars 2, as I didn’t really enjoy leveling in WoW at all, in GW2 on the other had it was the best bit of the game. Here’s why:

1. Diversity in scenery/Exploration: leveling took me progressively through the games zones and let me enjoy the fantastic visuals. The constant change in surroundings and environment kept things interesting and diverse, thus fun.
2. Ease of achievement: The game wanted you to complete quests, and made it immensely easy to do so. Things just happened around you and you joined in.
3. Gear acquisition: Progression isn’t just the number next to your name
4. Playing with friends: there it is again, pesky social preferences! I liked leveling with friends, and GW2 actually made it better to work in a group while levelling, while at the same time not killing the solo experience

Again the eve comparison is Missions:

1. Diversity in scenery/Exploration: No real rewards to exploration at all (scanning down sites doesn’t count, that’s just another form of mission). As to diversity in scenery, it’s always going to be damned hard in space. CCP actually do a good job of trying to do this by changing the objects in your local space, and to some extent it works. Unfortunately, it’s still mostly boring, and I’m never sure it will reach the wow factor of GW2’s vistas. I’d love to see this translated into eve, not sure it could be though.
2. Ease of Achievements: missions require a lot of bureaucracy. Fly here, do this, pick up that, don’t touch that, mind the sofa, fill that out in triplicate, leave the dog where it is please! 0.0 Plex sites do this slightly better, as you can just run from “mission” to “mission” one after the other without the bureaucracy of talking to the agent and jumping through his/hers/its hoops. Could we use this functionality to mirror the GW2 method of quests? Systems just give random mission after mission to those in local who qualify which require no start stop routine? There are plenty of things to remove in Missioning to reduce the bureaucracy, simple litmus test: Am I blowing something up? Yes, good keep it. No, can we take that bit out please?
3. Gear acquisition: Much like GW2 leveling will give you better gear (well the money to buy it anyway). But unlike GW2, eve expects you to want to go through the motions of this method of acquisition once you hit top level. Again this method is fundamentally against eve’s levelling model.
4. Playing with friends: Most players older than 6 months can solo lvl4s, bringing friends speeds up the grind, but also lowers the rewards too much to make it worth it. Make missioning with friends more rewarding.

Finally as an example of PvE I’m going to pull out an unusual, indeed unreleased one: World of War Planes*. Although I don’t count this as a real MMO (any more than BF3 is, but that’s a whole rant I won’t go into here), it is an example of a game with a similar PvE:PvP balance to eve. i.e. Mainly people aim to PvP, but if you want, you can fly a bomber and exclusively blow up Environmental enemies (ground targets), just be prepared for PvP players to not give a crap and shoot you down (sound familiar?). So here goes:

1. The thrill of the chase: How many structures can I blow before they get me! Uh oh jerry is onto me evasive mauves! Quick drop the bombs and let’s toddle pip lads! Tally ho!
2. Lack of consequence: If I lose my plane it really doesn’t matter, a small repair bill and its back again. Of course I don’t want to lose it, but I don’t really mind.

Here I feel the best eve comparison is the pirate story arc. This is mostly done in interceptors/faction frigates, and it’s all about doing what you can before the ebil piwates get you. I won’t go through the points because it really matches one to one in this case. However unfortunately only a tiny fraction of players can participate, and even then you only get one go per character. Why don’t we have more content like this? Why not bring in some high reward missions which is literally the game daring you to go into deep null or low sec locations (maybe were lots of kills have happened) and hit a target before running back?

It’s obvious to us all that eve is very different to most other MMO games, but we do seem to severely lack in quick fun PvE content. I believe that my personal issues with what we do have revolved around the lack of progress/achievement. I don’t want CCP to dedicate itself to bringing our more PvE content each patch in a rolling chain like WoW, they have better things to dedicate to. But we could get a lot further by improving the sense of progress within the corporation we are working with than just the increment in mission level. Let’s progress up the ranks, lets improve our system standing, make missions actually, you know challenging, and why not throw in low consequence PvE which allows others the PvP at us in a way that’s fun for all parties!

Fly robotically,

Hark¬

*I don’t believe I am breaking NDA on this one as the feature is widely reported in the press from releases by WG themselves during the Alpha.

One thought on “The problem with PvE

  1. Arian Blade says:

    Interesting ideas, I will see if I can expand on one idea you touched on that struck a chord with me, I feel a post brewing……

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