Yesterday a BOB Titan was downed by Goonswarm and allies. It’s the first time that a fully complete and piloted Titan (the largest ship in the EVE universe) has been downed while in active service. It is a surprising twist in a saga of online and offline conflict that has embroiled CCP, the developers of EVE, in a maelstrom of metagaming machinations – allegations of developer malfeasance and bias, cover-ups and conspiracies exposed by individuals of dubious reputation and siezed upon as useful propaganda by characters with obscure and highly questionable motivations. It is an epic story that has made headlines and the destruction of this ship is just another paragraph in that story.
I don’t even play EVE – why do I care?
I first signed up to EVE nearly 3 years ago, around the time that CCP were celebrating having 10000 concurrent users in the game at one time. I was impressed by the game more or less straightaway. It was (and still is) a beautiful game to look at but above all else, it was a space based MMO, an Elite for the 21st century.
I don’t really remember too much about those first couple of weeks. I managed to get hold of a full copy of the game for less than $10 from the bargain bin of my local games store, loaded it up and started playing. The only thing I recall was having to set the autopilot to make jumps across 10 or 15 systems on FedEx missions. To pass the time during these jumps, I’d go pour myself a Whiskey Mac (1 part Tesco’s Own Brand Whiskey, 2 parts Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. You don’t want to use good whiskey – it’s a waste). After a while I was far too drunk to fly and couldn’t actually remember what I was doing so I ended up logging out. When I got around to logging back in, I had no idea where I was, what I was doing and where I was going next.
I had quite a few nights like that. Eventually I logged out and didn’t log back in.
Cut forward a to a couple of months ago. I signed up again after reading a friends blog about the ongoing conflict in 0.0 space. It sounded intriguing and I needed a change from the fantasy settings of EQ2 and WoW that had dominated my last years worth of gaming. I knew there had been a lot of significant changes (I had resubbed for a week or two shortly after the Exodus: Cold War release but don’t remember a thing about it) and knowing one or two people who were in game might also help. So once again, I resubbed and created a new character. This time I did some research and took some advice about what options to select and what skills to train. There was much more information available about setting up characters now than there had been in 2004 when that same info had been scarce and hard to glean.
I decided that I’d eschew mining in favour of combat as again, it seemed like a viable option now whereas the general advice previously had been to mine, mine again and mine some more and don’t even think about combat until much later. I transferred some gear over from the previous character I had created and my friend kindly donated enough ISK to me to set myself up with a frigate and weapons that would improve my survivability.
A-questin’ I did go.
I stuck it out longer this time. I think I managed a month or so and trained further than I had done before, earning the right to fly cruisers, control drones, salvage and armour tank effectively. I understood the game better than I had done before and I took time out to find people who would help me learn. I got to the point where I could easily earn a million or so ISK from one sortie – peanuts compared to the big boys in non-Empire space but a step in the right direction for me. But it wasn’t enough – the game just wasn’t “doing it” for me.
A digression: I love space sim games. As a young broodling, I spent an inordinate amount of time playing the original Elite on the BBC ‘B’ and other 64k machines. I spent more time playing Elite 2: Frontier on my Amiga than most other games I ever owned. After that I moved onto the space combat games – the reason I first bought a PC was because of X-Wing. I played through that, then TIE Fighter follwed by X-Wing Alliance before taking on Freespace 2. Things slowed down for a bit after that – I messed around with Tachyon: The Fringe and dabbled with Freelancer. I avoided the original X because I didn’t enjoy the demo but I recently had a crack at the X3 demo and may well be downloading it from Steam soon. It wasn’t until the release of the SWG space expansion, “Jump To Lightspeed”, that I returned to the Black. And boy, did I ever.
I loved JTL. Most of the time I was in SWG I spent in space and if I wasn’t in space, I was Reverse Engineering ship components. It wasn’t fantastic and it paled into nothing compared to something like X-Wing Alliance but it was fun.
EVE, however, could offer me so much more – a hugely intricate and successful player economy, meaningful PvP, a versatile and open-ended skill system and a vast universe to explore. I so wanted to like EVE. More than that, I wanted to really enjoy it. So what was the problem?
The answer is actually pretty straightforward. The first thing that got to me was that every system seemed identical. I’m not sure how you could make things seem different, with it being essentially a game about flying around in the big nothingness. Nothing tends to look pretty much like nothing whereever you go. The second thing was when I came to the realization that the agent missions were pretty mundane and not part of a greater story. Not only that, but the missions were repeated – not just in content or type but the entire mission text itself was repeated. I asked around to check I wasn’t doing something wrong but apparently no, the missions are actually tediously dull and repetitive. However, the truth of it is that none of these are that important. I could have overlooked all of these and got more involved directly with a corporation and engaged in PvP and just gone ratting in gangs or running ‘plexes. But there was one major issue I had with the game and one that wasn’t about to go away.
The realisation of this issue came when I was helping another noob mine in an area where there were likely to be NPC pirates. He would mine while I took on any trouble. We sat in an asteroid field and he mined away while we chatted. All of a sudden, a couple of red blips appear on my scanner and a smile appeared on my face. A fight in an asteroid field – my favourite location. Dodging and weaving between rocks, juking and jinking to avoid laser bolts, trying to get a bead on my target and vapourise them with the pew pew of my wing mounted ray guns.
Except. Except. This was EVE. I couldn’t just grab my joystick, throttle up, loop an asteroid and go head to head with the fighters. This was EVE. There wasn’t going to the thrill and excitement of the chase nor the perfect moment when the lead indicator lights up, you squeeze the trigger and the ship disappears in a graphical cloud of pixellated laser fire. This was EVE. At the end of the day, it’s a turn based combat system. But for me, when it comes to space combat, I’m all about the twitch.
That for me would part and parcel of my ideal, space based MMO. It would have to have a twitch based combat system. It can be done – it already has been with JtL but there are probably technical limitations to the full-on type of space sim MMO that can be made at the moment. I don’t know. Perhaps if Egosoft ever get their X-Universe Online project funded and underway, that’ll provide the alternative to EVE that twitch junkies like me are looking for. Until then, I’ll still be interested in the comings and goings, gossip and scandals of the EVE universe but as a game, it’s just not for me.