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
- 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.