This post is incendiary

If you were to sit me down with a cup of coffee and show me all the MMO(x)s we have created since we ever started creating these things, and after showing me all those pretty pictures you were to ask me, “So, J, in your dispassionate and academic opinion… which one do you think is the best ever?”… what would I say?

The answer is simple. I would take a sip of that coffee and, beyond even the mere hint of irony, humor or doubt, I would say “In my mind, the best MMO(x) that we have created so far, for sure, would be EVE Online”. Then I’d watch as I would get rocks thrown at me. As always.

But consider this…

I say EVE is the best MMO(x) ever in the same way that I say, for example, that the Bugatti Veyron is the best car ever, which it arguably is. Think about it. Inside EVE you’ll find:

- An insultingly huge game world universe.
- The best, functioning, most feature complete player-driven economy and market ever programmed.
- A myriad of options available to customize both your character and your ships. There are skills and modules for pretty much anything except leaving a rainbow trail when you warp.
- A concurrent, one server, “everyone is there” arrangement
- Fully functioning contract and bounties systems
- Ridiculously detailed and comprehensive research and manufacturing of items
- Planetary interaction and plenty of things to mine and salvage
- A classless character system
- Offline skill advancement
- Probably the most widespread PvP environment there is. And on top of this, there are very tangible consequences for victories and defeats. Stuff matters.
- Seventeen expansions (soon to be eighteen). Free of charge.

And so on. So why isn’t this “best MMO(x) ever” being played more? If it’s sooo gooood why doesn’t it have a hojillion subs, huh? Huh, J? That question answers itself. And the answer would be the same if we asked “Well, if the Veyron is the best car ever, why don’t we see it more on the streets, huh?”. It’s because both Bugatti and CCP priced their offerings well outside what the market can bear. In Bugatti’s case, they did it with money. CCP chose time. And as we all know, time = money.

Ask anyone who played EVE, past or present, and no matter how much they might have hated the game, if they are honest they will tell you a new player can be out in space in all of… what… 30 seconds. They can get their first ship in a minute or so. They can go out and start mining asteroids, running missions or entering complexes in something silly like five minutes. Trouble is, that’s not where The Game(tm) is. For most avenues of play, EVE’s game is way up ahead in nullsec. And to get there it takes a while. And to get there with a reasonably good chance of making it unscathed it takes an even longer while.

This is not an outlandish statement, just like saying “The Veyron is made to be an engineering masterpiece, to move fast and look good” isn’t either. It’s not a people carrier, it’s not a muscle car and don’t complain if you can’t fit 2.5 kids + dog in the back of it. The raison d’etre of the Veyron is to be what it is, just like EVE’s is to be found in the nullsec game (and I’m not talking about PvP, strictly, although EVE’s PvP colors many non-PvP decisions a player can make). All the other stuff are afterthoughts and additions, some very good, some not so good. And just like the Veyron, EVE is priced way ahead of the common reach of the common player.

Could we say that more people would play EVE if it was made prettier and highsec more accessible and straightforward? Yes, we could. And in fact we might even be right. I think it’s a fair statement. EVE scares the new player like few other games do and if you want to get new players, well, the best thing you can do is not to kick them in the joolies within ten minutes of logging in for the first time. But that’s like saying Bugatti would sell more Veyrons if they were cheaper.

Duh. Of course they would. Would it still be a proper Veyron, though? Who knows. The real question is how to make it more accessible?

Your thoughts somewhere down there.

 

 

 

40 thoughts on “This post is incendiary

  1. bhagpuss

    It’s spaceships.

    I have zero interest in imagining I’m a spaceship, or even a spaceship pilot. It makes no difference how brilliantly conceived and executed an MMO is if the underlying conceit is of no intrinsic interest.

    I think the market for people who want to pretend to be spaceships or spaceship pilots is probably quite limited no matter how accessible it becomes. How many of the really successful video games of the last 30 years have used that conceit? Compared to fantasy, sports, funny animals?

    1. Ravious

      I have to agree here. If EVE was a fantasy MMO, I would be so much more for it. The spaceship portion adds another layer that I just don’t feel like trying to understand.

      That’s why I am looking forward to WoD.

    2. silvertemplar

      The irony is, EVE now got of the best facial/character customization tools out there. I was actually quite surprised when i was creating my character how cool the face editor was.

      You know when people moaned about The Secret World’s lack of character customization? EVE got them beat, Funcom should just hire CCP for it. To make things worse, CCP built that entire “engine” only so you can walk around in the space stations, which seems, no one really do unless they are role playing.

    3. musik

      I’d like to “pretend” I am a spaceship/pilot, but I would expect to play a racing game and not an MMO and be quite disappointed to find out I am not ;)

  2. spinks

    It may well be the best MMO ever for people who want to ‘harden the fuck up’ but does that mean no one else is allowed to have a good MMO?

  3. William Collins

    I have to say I full heartedly agree with these statements. I have played Eve on and off for a few years. What usually draws me back in is reading other peoples exploits in the game. Yet I am still afraid and underskilled/geared to venture into Null Sec. The potential is there, but the learning curve… no I should say cliff is very hard to get over. I do know I am coming back for the December Expansion. The one task in the game I love doing no matter where I am – Mining! Is getting an upgrade to the ships, I am excited (More excited than a Hozen in a Brewery).

  4. GLN7

    The answer is that there is no answer to that question. It mostly boils down to personal preferences, and since everyone has their own, there is no “best game”.

    Even trying to argue that there is a “best game” out there is downright egocentric, as if the personal opinion would be a commonly usable benchmark. Saying that the game is not THE MMO out there concerning subs because it needs a lot of time investment is downright ignorant to that fact.

    Perhaps you*d have some use for a slave on your chariot that keeps on telling you that you’re only mortal.

  5. Pai

    Was it WoW that started the trend of sneering at games with less than ‘x amount of subs’ as somehow failing some standard of ‘good’, or have MMO players always been so superficially judgmental? Then on the opposite extreme we’ve had people sneering at WoW because ‘millions of people eat McDonalds too, and that doesn’t mean it’s good!’. People need to make up their damn minds whether subs matter or not (imho they don’t, not by themselves — what matter is if a game is sustainable/healthy for both further development and current profits/player satisfaction at whatever population is DOES have).

    There is no single ‘best’ MMO, because there is no single type of MMO player with one single preference in gameplay.

  6. Dan Hulton

    Oh my god, I have long been thinking and wondering exactly this.

    I guess the reason I agree wholeheartedly that Eve is the best “MMO”, is because if you took the “MM” out of all the other high-profile MMOs, they would play largely the same for so, so much of their content. Eve makes the “MM” part of their game the core tenet, and goes on from there.

    The “problem” is that they have targeted a very hard-core audience, and so of course that audience is pretty limited in nature. But is that really a problem? The hard-core are loyal, and more likely to explore the “MM” parts of your game.

    If Eve were more accessible, it would appeal more to the casual gamer, who is more fickle and less likely to stay around. Even WoW has to deal with declining subscription numbers, while Eve’s have grown year-over-year since launching. (At least I’m fairly certain I saw a graph to that extent not long ago, correct me if I’m wrong.)

    I’m not really sure that creating a more accessible Eve would really be worth it, in terms of profit or even just the game you create out of that desire. If all you attract are fickle players who don’t bother to interact with your MM mechanics, what’s even the point of investing all that effort into them in the first place?

    1. gwj

      “If Eve were more accessible, it would appeal more to the casual gamer, who is more fickle and less likely to stay around.”

      Sure, but it would also appeal to at least some of the “hardcore” gamers out there (WoW endgamers, GWAMMs in Guild Wars) who don’t yet play Eve. That your game is almost exclusively made up of hardcore players doesn’t mean the hardcore audience would not expand if the learning curve were smoothed. Since all of the “real” MM mechanics happen at the endgame anyway (nullsec?), how much difference would it make if the learning curve before that point were smoothed?

      I can understand that profits may not increase by an acceptable margin by changing it like this, though. And I can also understand that this might just be how the developers envision the game continuing.

  7. Tremayne

    EVE is perfectly adapted to the niche it’s in, and it’s obviously the niche that you’re interested in. However, it’s not a popular niche… which is why EVE has taken years to slowly crawl up to subscription figures that would be regarded as “fail” if a more modern MMO laid claim to them.

    I won’t argue that EVE is the best sci-fi sandbox capitalism simulator MMO out there, but there’s not a exactly a lot of competition for that title :)

    1. SynCaine

      “which is why EVE has taken years to slowly crawl up to subscription figures that would be regarded as “fail” if a more modern MMO laid claim to them.”

      Like which MMO? SW:TOR with is going F2P because it could not retain EVE-like numbers in its first 6 months? LotRO which is already F2P? F2P EQ2? No sub GW2? Maybe WAR got about 350k more subs since I last checked? F2P AoC?

      Which modern MMO not called WoW are people referring to when they say these things?

  8. Azuriel

    Don’t really see this post as incendiary.

    Best RPG of all time? Xenogears. If you choose something else, you’re wrong for X, Y, Z reasons. Sports cars. QED.

    On topic, though, I find it somewhat amusing that EVE would arguably be a worse MMO the more people that play it. TiDi and impressive server architecture and timezones keep the 350k people that play on the “one shard” together. But… what happens when there are 1 million people? Is the game still as good with 50% perma-TiDi? Would CCP relent and make 2+ shards, and all the logistical hurdles that would cause?

    Bugatti Veyron is only the best car ever made if you completely ignore the reality of actually using it on a daily basis. When are you ever going to realistically drive it over 90 mph? Can it even go over speed bumps without tearing out the bottom? How does it handle in the snow? Would it survive being parked overnight in my neighborhood, or would it gutted and up on blocks within 5 hours? What is its safety rating in a side-impact collision? And so on.

    I am much more interested in cars (and MMOs) that are more practical to use/play on a daily basis.

    1. SynCaine

      Xenogears sucked. The game was one long (long…) self-masturbation session and a total hack of a game for that era. FF7 is the correct answer.

      If CCP had a million subs, they would upgrade TQ, create the next TiDi system, and make it work. Unlike Blizzard, they don’t subscribe to the notion of “100 players in an area is technically impossible” and just give up.

  9. gwj

    I couldn’t get through the section about how “you can do stuff, but the real game doesn’t start until you hit nullsec” without comparing it to WoW and how “the game doesn’t start until raids”.

    I also disagree with the premise that a “classless character system” makes a game objectively better. Aren’t you basically just switching classes when you switch ships anyway?

    1. SynCaine

      The ‘EVE end-game is null’ thinking is wrong. It’s just one option out of a dozen, and a week-old pilot can (and plenty have) head straight into null and contribute. The learning cliff is only as high as you make it.

  10. Aly

    Not incendiary, just…silly, with obvious counter-arguments to be made. As others have said, there’s no such thing as the best MMO because different people have different preferences. It’s one thing to compare MMOs that share a genre, and even then it’s a very subjective debate, but at least there’s enough common ground to draw comparisons. I don’t know that you could even compare Eve with Star Wars for example because they serve very different purposes.

    I don’t play Eve because I’m not into spaceships, and economics even less. Nothing wrong with spaceships, just not my cup of tea. I can’t even comment on the game play or its accessibility because I never looked past the premise. I don’t even know how much the game costs. Accessibility could be used to explain why some people stop playing a game they were otherwise interested in, but not why they never tried the game to begin with.

    Choosing the best MMO is of even less value that ranking CDs or movies because it’s an even more personal decision. It’s one thing to commit to a two hour movie, and another to commit to an MMO. It has to be a world you want to inhabit for a long time, and that takes more than being a “good” or even “great” game.

    1. Julian Post author

      Well that’s why I said in my “dispassionate and academic” opinion. My personal opinion which includes how I feel about things and fuzzy like/dislike logic is quite different.

      I don’t play EVE. I tried it and didn’t like it. But if I look at it dispassionately I can see it’s right up there.

      1. Tremayne

        It’s right up there… on certain criteria. However, looking down that checklist of criteria most of them don’t seem to be things that the vast majority of paying customers seem that bothered about.

        Conversely, if the completely arbitrary list of criteria had been “progression-based endgame”, “arenas”, “fully developed set of daily quests to grind endlessly” and “enormous shoulderpads” then it’s possible some other game would be ‘best MMO EVAR’ :)

  11. Daulnay

    Afraid I have to disagree. EVE fails to be the best for two reasons:

    1. It’s a space MMO, which means there are long stretches of travel. Uneventful travel (mostly). The other space MMOs I’ve played (Earth and Beyond) have the same problem. There’s a reason most MMOs now have faster/instant travel.

    2. EVE focuses players on PvP in a way that discourages making friends and trusting people. That’s as much a barrier to entry for new players as the steep learning curve. Not only is space economics not for everyone, intrigue and backstabbing aren’t most peoples’ idea of fun. Established guilds are (justifiably) suspicious and wary of admitting unknown players — they might be spies for a rival. That erects a huge barrier to new players.

  12. Alfonso Deegan, Private Eye

    “Guys, GUYS! Nobody’s commenting on the Dear Bookah posts, for some reason, and it’s starting to look like nobody reads our blog!”

    “Well, I dunno, make up a post that’ll hopefully get people riled up to try and account for the difference. We have to do SOMETHING. Say EVE Online is the best MMO ever or something, that should probably work.”

  13. Curuniel

    I’ve never played EVE but I consider it to be a fascinating game. Saying “best ever” is, sure, always going to be debated, but it certainly seems to be doing things (and pulling them off) that no one else is really doing.

    For those who say they’re put off because “it’s spaceships” (fantastic way of summarising a complex genre/embodiment preference!) – I think that’ll shove a game down the list of things you might try one day, but I also think that if EVE were really bigger, more of us would try it because friends played it. Cyndre’s experience of being brought right into the endgame because he knew people is illustrative. I think gameplay can absolutely transcend initial genre preferences, if it’s absorbing enough.

    Anyway, EVE goes in a box along with Dark Souls for me, of games which I can’t see myself ever really getting into, but whose design and philosophy I really admire.

    Oh, and as a GW2 fan… games that strike out to do something different should, in my opinion, stick to what they want and intend to be, even if that means staying small. Hundred of thousands of people isn’t even small, really – but at any rate I’d hate to see a unique game bend itself more to the ‘mainstream’ in order to be more popular.

    1. MotePrime

      “I think that’ll shove a game down the list of things you might try one day, but I also think that if EVE were really bigger, more of us would try it because friends played it.”

      Syncaine presented a valid argument that EvE Online is the second biggest successful MMO on the market second only to WoW. WoW’s market penetration (not counting the Asian market) is about 2 million western players. CCP has publicly disclosed a sub rate of over 400,000 players.

      One could argue this is the entire market for a PvP-based economy-driven hardcore space combat simulator. For players interested in that type of gameplay EvE can be considered the best MMO ever.

      For players who have no interest in PvP, spaceships, and prefer their MMO’s more carebear friendly EvE definitely would not be the best MMO ever. It is also interesting to highlight the fact that the playerbase of EvE Online is almost completely male. Females represent only 3-5% of the EvE playerbase.

      I would argue it isn’t really necessary to make EvE Online more accessible. CCP did try this with the Incarna debacle which resulted a playerbase riot. Why damage your existing playerbase? Was it greed? The strength and longevity of EvE Online is its core gameplay concepts and its playerbase. Damage either of these and CCP might as well close shop on what is currently a stable, consistent, and profitable MMO.

      Every player has an ideal concept of what they want in an MMO. I don’t believe MMO’s need to cater for all types of players. Trying to do so gives you MMO’s like SWTOR which tried to please everyone but failed on almost all fronts.

      1. Curuniel

        I agree, and thought the rest of my comment reflected that, haha. EVE can be GREAT at what it is, or water it down trying to be other things to satisfy a wider range of people… I’d advocate for sticking with the niche, and it seems to suit them just fine.

        As a female MMO fan I’m interested that EVE has so few female players. I wonder why? The cut-throat PvP appeals to women less? The relative lack of an avatar (awesome character creator aside, you don’t get new outfits etc)? Both of those kind of stereotype ‘what girls like’ pretty badly, so maybe it’s just that women don’t have friends suggesting they try EVE out. Less women -> less women.

  14. Nom

    It’s probably fair to say that there aren’t a lot of games out there that fully take advantage of the “MMO” genre. Wow, GW/2, DDO, LotRO, CoH, … are all primarily single player / small group games translated into an online format. DoaC (I think) / GW2 do try at going a bigger PvP environment than the small group arena, but even GW2 WvW is still just a big arena.

    EVE is competitive massively multiplayer. Just about everything you do directly impacts other players in some meaningful way. Almost every item you use was built or obtained by someone else, at some point in the food-chain. Other players can insert themselves into your gameplay almost at-will; when they don’t, it’s because they can’t be bothered to, not because they can’t. EVE generates “content” without the devs lifting a finger.

    That is EVE’s triumph. The game mechanics aren’t fantastic, but they are sufficient. EVE is one of the very few mass-market games out there whose fame comes from the contribution of the players, not the developers. Can you name another?

  15. bernardparsnip

    @Julian

    I think it’s interesting that something can be the best MMO whilst not something that you want to play.

    I understand that you are attempting to give an impartial perspective based on the ‘MMO-ness’ of the game versus its competitors, however if we consider that this is fundamentally a game designed to entertain lots of people, can we say that it is the best in its category without judging whether it is fun for the average MMO player?

  16. musik

    “And so on. So why isn’t this “best MMO(x) ever” being played more? If it’s sooo gooood why doesn’t it have a hojillion subs, huh? Huh, J? That question answers itself. And the answer would be the same if we asked “Well, if the Veyron is the best car ever, why don’t we see it more on the streets, huh?”. It’s because both Bugatti and CCP priced their offerings well outside what the market can bear. In Bugatti’s case, they did it with money. CCP chose time. And as we all know, time = money.”

    I find EVE to be a great MMO, that gives it’s players pretty much what they want. I also know it requires a time investment I am not willing to make and do not find ejoyable. What makes it great for some people, also makes it horrible for others. I find that there are a lot of MMO’s I do not like (most of them actually)and of those EVE stands out to me as one of the rare exceptions where the fans are really passionate about their game, they are happy with what their developers do and tales of peoples adventures are actually interesting to read, even when you aren’t playing the game. So I really have a respect for this game that I wouldn’t like to play, but seems to do a great job. The relative small size of the community is probably one of the reasons why this works: they have united a very similar player archetype and created a perfect game for them. That makes it hard to gain new players, but also ensures they will probably like the direction of your developement and can step up if this is not the case and stop CCP from commiting big mistakes. A game like WoW can only cater to so many playstyles that it all tries to support and someone will always be unhappy. And if you try to include something for all of them, they are all unhappy because they think they didn’t get enough attention.

    I am a bit jealous to tell the truth, I don’t think I will find a developer that will reflect my preferences as well as many EVE players (at least from what I gather as an outsider)have. Still, I have found something that comes close most of the time and makes up for the times it doesn’t with pure awesomeness.

  17. Winter

    The biggest issue with EVE, and what gamers from other games never seem to grasp is EVE is not a solo game, period. Doing anything in EVE by yourself will burn you out in record time. You have to find a group of players with similar interests.

    People always complain about the learning “cliff” of EVE. The cliff is part of what makes EVE so great. It forces player interaction. Look on the /r/eve or any of the other forums about EVE and you will find countless posts of completely new to the game players joining null sec corps immediately upon starting.

    When I first started playing several years ago I struck up a conversation with a random individual and wound up joining his corp in null sec in the first month of starting EVE, and I stayed there for over a year.

    If you want to do something in EVE, do it! Its really that simple. People say “harden the fuck up” a lot and with varying degrees of sincerity. But it honestly sums up EVE’s culture. Either you find something you like and you do it, or you dont and you quit EVE and forever bitch about what a terrible game it is (all because you lacked the desire/willpower to put one foot in front of the other).

    If you want to make EVE more accessible, promote the corporation/alliance aspect of the game more. Highlight stories like Test, Goons, Dreddit, FWeddit, and Wheddit; where people come up with an idea that appeals to them, heavily advertise it, recruit people in droves, and the accomplish that idea.

    1. spinks

      “Look on the /r/eve or any of the other forums about EVE and you will find countless posts of completely new to the game players joining null sec corps immediately upon starting.”

      This is a part of the cliff though. I don’t see posts from new to the game players joining null sec corps on the official forums. Corps there all have minimal training requirements that look huge to a new player.

      So if you are not the sort of person who hangs out on reddit or something awful (or you are not the sort of person who wants to hang out with those sorts of people), does that opportunity still exist for you or not?

      1. Winter

        Yes and no. For some groups it is harder to get into since they rely largely on third party forums like goons and dreddit. However, most corps have public channels that you can join an strike up conversation in. I forget when exactly they improved the corporate recruiting tools, but it is now much easier to search for corps that meet similar interests to yours and they will typically list their public channels. The official EVE forums also have a recruitment section were several corps will post looking for new people.

      2. Wilhelm Arcturus

        There are plenty of corps in null sec that are not driven by Something Awful or Reddit.

        The issue is that being in a null sec corp is a social activity. You have to cooperate and be a part of a group. That doesn’t just happen, as it doesn’t just happen in a WoW raiding guild.

        People who come from the two groups above already have a social connection with GSF or TEST. They have done the work in advance that you will need to do in the game itself in order to build those bonds. So you have to go get involved.

        In the absence of social bonds, a null sec corp must the realistically ask, ‘well, what can you do for us?’ And so the skills and requirements come into play.

        Or you can do what I did and just hang around for a few years until one of your close friends gets into a null sec corp then have them sponsor you.

        1. spinks

          Fair enough, and tbh if I did have a friend in a corps like that which didn’t mind teaching noobs, I’d also be much more likely to try the game.

          But I’m not sure how posting on reddit once or twice really gives people strong social bonds. (I guess having to pay to join SA means there is more of a bond there.) I mean, in a way that posting on the official forums wouldn’t. It’s just interesting to an outsider that the official boards on that game are like the worst place to find a newbie friendly guild.

  18. flosch

    EVE is a great world. It’s a pretty shoddy game.

    It is great with nice people. But it’s mostly run by people you’d rather not hang out or even deal with.

    I always return to it. And then wonder why.

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  20. camazotz

    I’m surprised that the “MMO” component of comparison always weighs more heavily than the genre/style of game. WoW, Rift, GW2…all are MMORPGs, effectively; you focus on a character, that character’s quests and events, and it is entirely possible to perceive each of those games as being about your character. EVE is more closely related to something like Starcraft 2, or Civilization; it’s unique among MMOs precisely because it eschews the -RPG tag at the end and you can play EVE without ever imagining you’re anything other than a person managing a posse of fictitious starships. It’s possible to role play in EVE, sure….but the game (until very recently) provided few to no tools to encourage such, and all it offers now is a “place” to do it and avatars to gawk at. EVE at heart is not a game about being someone else, it’s a game about management and acquisition. So…I think it’s a very good game for what it aims to be, but I still wonder why anyone would expect a person who loves GW2 or WoW to have any inclination to try out EVE simply because it’s also an MMO.

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