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Monday, April 19, 2004
03:01 pm UTC @Creator MightyE EVE Online
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MMOG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Game, also known as MMO, though that acronym doesn't make sense to me) have this quality about them that manages to not be found in any other genre of game. That is repeat playability. If the measure you use to determine the value of a game is purely the ratio of hours of gameplay to cost, no game will hold as much value for you as an MMOG, with perhaps the possible exception of Diablo 2, depending on the quality of the MMOG you're comparing it against. Note to those who haven't yet completed the MightyE Mind Reading 101 course that Kendaer (slash JT slash MoonChilde) offers, the two latter links in the previous sentence were provided as a courtesy so you have examples of MMOG's which have less playability than Diablo 2.

For me, I have a slightly modified metric for determining the value of a game. Take the following formula:

v = e * h / c

Here we see that value (v) is determined (=) as enjoyability (e) times (*) hours of gameplay (h) over (/) cost (c). If a game only has a few hours of game play, but is insanely enjoyable at a low cost, it is much more valuable than a game which is not so enjoyable but lasts longer. However, if you plot e against effort required on the part of the vendor, e is sortof a natural log. What I mean by that for you mathematically disinclined (hi sweetie), is that as enjoyability goes up, the amount of time and effort required on the part of the game manufacturer in order to make noticable increases in my enjoyment goes up.

This means that when catering to my personal tastes, it is in the best interests of the game manufacturer to establish a reasonable level of enjoyment in their game, then spend the remainder of their development effort working on content for the game, thus increasing the hours of playability.

What this all has to do with the point of this blog, I can't really say. Not because it's a government secret with which I alone have been entrusted, but rather because it has not been entrusted to even me. Apparently my Security Clearance level of "None" is insufficient. The above math really is only tangentially related to the topic here, which is discussion of EVE Online. EVE is a MMORPG (the RP portion standing for Role Playing) set in outer space far, far away. The story says that humans went through a natural wormhole and ended up some place they couldn't determine, but for whatever reasons humans have, decided it'd make sense to live here.

A number of things set EVE apart from other MMOG's that are out there. For example, there is only one EVE universe. Other MMOG's have multiple instances of their game world established in order to accomodate a high player base. EVE is a universe though, rather than a world. There are thousands of starsystems, so even if 100,000 players were on at once (I believe this was roughly EverQuest's record, EQ being the most popular, and thus most populated MMORPG out there), starsystems would only have maybe 20 people in them on average. When referring a buddy to EVE, you don't have to say, "I'm on the Razelfritzenschnafer server." This is actually nicer than you might think. You see, the thing is, although Razelfritzenschnafer is a term you're intimately familiar with, being a long term player of the game you're recommending, the person who you're recommending might well have a hard time even remembering the name of the game, let alone specific server names. Also, having been an off again and on again player of EverQuest for several years, I have yet to meet a single person from a non-EverQuest environment who plays on the same server as me. I've met a fair number of other people who play EQ, but none have played in the same world as me (Tunare), and so I am unable to play online with any of them unless one or both of us is willing to start a new character from scratch.

EVE also does not really encourage players to group together, at least at the earlier levels. Player interaction is really one of the fundaments of most MMOG's. This social aspect is highly addictive, and most MMOG's encourage it as much as possible, typically by requiring any significant advancement past the first few levels to be achievable only through interaction with other players in organizational units commonly referred to as "groups." I can't speak for higher levels in EVE as I've only been playing it for a few weeks, but at this stage, I have not yet felt the desire to attach to anyone else and accomplish goals in unison. In fact, none of the goals I've attempted to accomplish so far would have been accomplished much faster or with significantly more safety if I'd had a buddy along.

EVE's advancement system makes it difficult to "power level" other characters; your character's advancement is measured in skills you acquire, and these skills take a certain amount of time to acquire, regardless of how many other characters you have assisting you in advancement.

The skill system is hierarchical, in order to get some skills trained, you need other skills trained to certain levels. For example, if you want to get High Speed Maneuvering, you need to have Navigation up to level 4, and Afterburner up to level 4. If you want to us a MicroWarp Drive (believe me, you do), you need to have High Speed Maneuvering to at least level 1. You can only have one skill training at a time, and when you train it, it tells you how long it will take to hit the next level at that skill. Depending on your character's stats, different skills will train in different amounts of time. Once you get up to level 4 or so though, you're looking at anywhere from 1.5 days to 7 days to train each level of a skill. There's no real way to make these skills train any faster. Fortunately they train while you're offline, so if you've got a long skill to train, and you're going to be away for the weekend, set it to train, and log off.

The EVE universe is positively gargantuan, there are starsystems linked together by stargates. To jump from system to system, you need to warp your ship over to the appropriate stargate. Not all systems link to all other systems. In fact, most systems only link to 3-5 other systems. If you want to get to some far away system, you need to make several jumps. Fortunately there's a huge 3D map in the game, with neat search and path planning features. You can type in a destination name (or partial name) and set your destination there, then click on Auto Pilot, then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Don't set yourself for 30 jumps from your current location, click auto pilot and go to bed though. Not all systems are safe. You can use your map to avoid dangerous systems to a certain extent by setting security parameters in the path planner, though some times you just have to jump through a few dangerous ones on your way some place else. If you get targeted by an enemy ship, your auto pilot kicks off and you need to defend yourself or make the decision to run.

EVE employs a pseudo consensual PvP system, which is a recent trend in MMO games which I really admire. Lineage 2 strongly punnishes anyone who kills another player that doesn't defend themselves, so you might see someone give a warning shot to someone else, which is equivalent to a glove slapped across the chops. If the other player attacks back, then it's consensual PvP, and there's no real penalty to being the victor. If they don't and you kill them, your name goes red, and you have basically just consented to any PvPings from any other players. This makes you a very visible target, and you'll find a lot of people are quite willing to attack you. More about this in another blog though. In EVE, consensual PvP can only happen in security systems with a certain security rating. The rating system goes from 1.0 (safest) to 0.0 (most dangerous). Anything below about 1.0 has some chance to see NPC pirates attack you, anything below 0.7, you should actively expect NPC pirates to attack you, and anything at 0.4 and below is full PvP. In 0.4 systems, you'll see players who might camp at a jump gate, requiring you to pay a fee in order to pass through the gate (by using devices that slow your ship to a crawl, or keep you from being able to warp away), or be killed if you refuse to pay the fee. You'll also see large powerful corporations (similar to clans or guilds) duking it out over some rare resource or otherwise useful location. I've seen screenshots where there'll be 60 ships engaged in a large space battle.

Players can attack each other in higher rated systems, but when you do this, you risk either the local militia showing up and teaching you a few lessons, or losing security standing. Players with a security standing below 0 (that being neutral) get a special flag on their ship in other players' sensor logs, and below 0.5, they get a second flag (for being dangerous). Players with a security rating below 0.5 are valid pvp targets for other players, even in high security rating systems. In fact, these players faces appear on billboards throughout the galaxy, with prices on their heads. If you see such a player and can take them out, you can make 5-30 million isk (the local currency), in bounty which is not a terifically small amount of money even at high levels.

The game is quite a bit of fun, and I've always been more of a solo MMOG player than a group player, so on this level it appeals to me. If anyone is interested, I can send you a free 7 day trial (where you're not required to enter credit card information or anything), just yom me with your email address, and I'll hook you up until I run out of these offers (if I run out at all, I don't know how that system works).

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