There is something about the CSM process that I find very depressing: Because the candidates all want to impress us with their grip on the things we want changed in the game, and the issues CCP face, we seem to spend 3 months a year dwelling entirely on the problems in eve, and why it is a terrible game. Because of this imbalance I have decided to write today on why I think eve has been so successful compared to other MMO’s and where it has succeeded. First off though I should address that there are those who choose to claim that eve isn’t successful, because compared to wow, what is? So to this I say: balderdash. What game has gown year on year since 2003? What other games core has made international news so often, simply because its players are playing it as it is intended to be played? What other game allows 500 people to fight another 500 people on a regular basis? What game has pioneered the first cross-game cross-platform link? I could go on. In my mind there can be no argument, eve is an immensely successful game, and I will broke no argument otherwise.
So here is the main question then: why is it so successful? Eve with it patched history, its outdated UI and its code base that even the developers are sometimes afraid to touch? What solar alignment caused this game reach its tenth anniversary, still going strong? I believe that this was caused by several factors, and the first is very obvious:
Space. Eve itself was on the first “big league” MMO’s to hit the shelves and since then, no other sci-fi based MMO has really seen much success. Indeed most, like Tabula Rasa failed before they even left beta. The simple fact of the matter is that if you are interested in Sci-Fi, there are two MMOs you can play, Star Trek Online, or eve. This means that for Hard-core Sci-Fi fans like me, who don’t like elf’s and ponies as much as they like Space Marines and Starships, we are pretty much stuck with eve (in my opinion). That’s not to say its a hardship of course, but even if the last turkey in the shop is the best one, its still the last turkey.
But there is much more to the success of eve and the next factor is a huge one: difficulty. Eve is, as the now famous slogan goes, hard; and we (the older players) love that. Now some will argue that this is a failure of the product. Its to harsh, to unforgiving of new players and drives away to many potential customers. Here is the interesting bit though; these very same factors could actually be helping the game more than hindering it.
You see the human mind is a very fucked up piece of kit and one of its favourite functions is adjusting our beliefs, after the fact, to explain why we did something. For example lets say I am running a course on wine tasting; and its shit, properly shit. So I get two groups of people, the first group I give the course to for free; no strings. The second group I acquire by placing an advert in the local paper offering 10 free tickets to the best ten 100 word essays on the wonders of British Wine. Both are given the same course, the same (free) shit wine: but studies have shown that if asked afterwards the second group (who had to fight for their places), will rate the course’s quality much higher. An even stronger example of this principle of self deception is that of “Fagging” or “Hazing” to the colonials. Where initiates are given humiliating, dangerous and downright stupid quests before they can be admitted to a group. Once individuals have gotten through the rituals and into the groups, they will have a much stronger devotion to it than if they were simply admitted on request. This is because our minds have to justify our effort in getting something by valuing it higher. “of course I enjoyed that wine tasting” it says “or writing that essay would have been a waste of time”.
So here we come back to eve: Where our new initiates are greeted by an old UI, a game full of odd little quirks and bugs, and the often abusive behaviour of other players. We Fag our new players, we ritually abuse them just like we were abused when we joined; and a lot of people leave because of it. But the thing is, the people who do make it through, the few who stick it out and learn the system; much like the wine tasters, and the Public School Boy who is now a sixth former; they will be fiercely loyal to the game. After all: Of course I love eve, I fought through years of learning how to play (and still going) to get where I am now. If I didn’t love it I would have been stupid to have wasted all that time, right?
Further more, once you are in, and devoted. Eves skill system is a master class in manipulation. In games like wow un-subbing for a few months means pretty much nothing (except missing a few raids maybe). In eve however, every second your not subscribed, is a second that takes you further away from the people who joined at the same time as you. Every tick of that skill point number missed is a moment longer you’ll have to train for the next big thing. Not only that but unlike wow, there is no such thing as a complete character, nothing to get to and say “Well, done that now. Lets play something else”. Its truly masterful and wonderfully addictive, in what I think is a brilliant way.
The final reason is likely not the most important one, but it is the one I wish MMO makers would look at and realise the value of. Eve was released on May 6th 2003 (if you believe Wikipedia), and a certain other MMO was released on November 23rd 2004. Eve is a diametrically different from wow as you can get really:
- Space / Fantasy
- Ships / People
- PvP / PvE
- Sandbox / Themepark
- ~Perma death / minor penalty
Ever since wow became the success it is known as today, every one and their dog has been trying to emulate it and by proxy is success. Eve is the only one which has lasted as long (as a top ranked MMO), or done even close to as well. I believe that is because it is in pretty much no way influenced by it (It can’t be). Eve started life from the minds of its creators, not the greed of a Corporate Finance Officer. It is truly unique and makes no efforts to kowtow to the “accepted norms” of MMO design. I’ve tried out pretty much ever attempt at a major MMO since wow was released, and every time it has come up lacking because it was just another wow clone. Eve doesn’t have that problem, and EA et al should take a look at that for inspiration.
Eve is a massive success for lots of reasons, and these are just some examples, but I think that during the CSM campaign season its a good idea to keep in mind that we do play a great game which is successful with the formula it has used so far. I hope it never changes that, and remains the success that I love to this day.
Fly like a champ,