In this instalment I'll discuss content. This is the area of EVE that really differs from what the theme park MMO player is accustomed.
I'll discuss EVE Online's PvE content, the quests and raids, terms you as a theme park player are familiar with, and which have their analogues in EVE. I'll discuss EVE's lack of end-game, how the lack of end-game puts the onus on the players to create the meaningful content that keeps players engaged with the game. This idea of player-created content is an essential component of the sandbox MMO.
But first, what is this sandbox term people keep throwing around? What does it really mean? The sandbox is the ultimate design-force behind everything in EVE Online. The sandbox is sacrosanct. The integrity of the sandbox colours every design decision, addition and alteration that CCP makes to the game (at least it should, I believe they try hard to do just that, even when they miss the mark.)
The SandboxA sandbox MMO has no universal goal, no universal destination for players to reach. There is no end-boss. There is no max-level. Rather, the players create their own objectives, and their actions will have some effect on the entirety of the sandbox. Sometimes those effects will be small dunes, only affecting a few players in your small space in the play area, sometimes they'll be sandstorms that will sweep over large swaths of the sandbox, affecting large numbers of players. Burn Jita and Hulkageddon are two large recent player events that have touched large masses of the community.
Every player does not have their own individual sandbox, but rather the game is one massive sandbox. Players are plopped into this communal sandbox, they are encouraged to mold out their own space within it. You can build your sand castle, but anyone at anytime can decide to kick a portion of it down, or all of it. You can decide to do the same to other players. It's your responsibility to be cognizant of those playing around you. You decide who to trust, who not to trust. You decide how you defend yourself, if at all.
What you do not get to do in the sandbox is decide who you will not interact with. Every player decides who they will interact with. You can choose to interact with player A, even if player A would rather not interact with you. They have little say in the matter. They can make an effort to avoid you, but that in itself is an act interaction. You have forced them to recognize you, take heed of you.
The sandbox is ultimately about player interaction, interaction that affects how other players play and interact with both the game and other players. The landscape of the sandbox is constantly in flux. (Note: while the link illustrates the nature of the sandbox in null security [nullsec] space, the sandbox is not relegated to nullsec; the sandbox exists throughout New Eden.)
Another important aspect of EVE Online's sandbox is that it is a single shard/server/realm game. Other MMOs split their population across servers, each consisting of a five to twenty thousand accounts. World of Warcraft may have ten million players, but you're only encountering twenty thousand of those players on the server you chose to play on. In EVE Online you are mingling with every subscriber.
In World of Warcraft, you can run from your reputation by moving to a new server and name changing your character. This is not the case in EVE Online. There are no name changes. There are no servers to leave or move too. You hang on the reputation you build for yourself. There is no escape from the sandbox (other than cancelling your subscription.)
QuestsMissions are EVE Online's equivalent to quests. There four different mission types: security missions (shoot and kill stuff), distribution missions (deliver stuff), mining missions (mine and deliver stuff), and research missions (do stuff to get datacores which are used in industry.) There are five levels of missions, which require larger ships, the higher the level. There are a few hundred missions in the system, and agents randomly assign them to you. There is no competitive aspect to missioning, they are an endless resource and locationally unique resource. Six people can be doing the Worlds Collide mission in the same system, and none of them will be completing the mission in the same pocket of space.
There are also storyline and epic arc missions. The storyline missions simply give you larger faction adjustments when completed. The epic missions are static, and can be completed every four months, they generally also reward large faction standing adjustments. (Faction standings is a reputation system that allows players certain interactions with the four races.)
Complexes, also known as exploration sites, are areas of space that are probed down with scanning ships. There are different varieties, but they generally reward rare modules and ship blueprints. These are competitive sites. They spawn in system and can be scanned down by any player. Once completed, a complex will close down and a new exploration site will spawn to replace it.
Missions and complexes are generally solo activities (except level 5 missions which are meant to be group missions, though can be done solo.) They are primitive in tactics and repetitiveness. Neither affect any aspect of the game universe or gameplay. They exist solely for the player to earn ISK (the in-game currency), rare modules, rare ship blueprints, and to increase faction standings. ISK is earned through looting, salvaging, loyalty point earnings, mission and bounty payments.
Missions and complexes can also supply some background information on the history of New Eden.
Missions consist of rudimentary AI. There are simple to follow procedures to completing them successfully and with a minimal amount of danger. EVE Survival is EVE Online's Wowhead, for those looking for mission information.
Questing in EVE Online, unlike theme park MMOs, does not drag you through content, from newbie zone to end-game.. Questing in EVE is not much more than a random number generator. There is no linear nature to the EVE Online mission system, it does not tell an over-arching story.
The mission system in EVE Online is far more rudimentary than in theme park MMOs. It is not an activity that keeps players playing EVE. Players don't mission because the game forces them too, they mission because ISK is in short supply or they need to increase faction standings.
RaidsIncursions (for known-space [k-space]; high, low and null security systems) and Sleeper sites (for wormhole space [w-space]) are group endeavours. These are the raids of EVE Online. They are more difficult, generally more varied encounters, which usually require a complete fleet setup, consisting of damage dealing, tackling (crowd control) and logistics (healing) ships.
These encounters have more advanced AI compared to missions and complexes, though more reliant on randomness than actual intelligence.
Incursions have very good ISK and loyalty point [LP] payouts. Sleeper sites have no ISK or LP payouts, but better chances at premium loot and salvage.
Like missions, EVE's analogue to raiding is barely story-driven. It's not an end-game. It's a side activity people do when they're waiting for player-driven content to happen. It's an ISK-making activity players do to get back into player-driven content.
User ContentIn a theme park MMO, the player is directed through the game via the created storyline, this is almost always PvE content. The player is conveyed from their first quest to kill ten rats to the final encounter with big bad final boss of the moment. The theme park MMO might give their players the illusion of choice, the illusion of choosing their own path through the game, but ultimately all paths lead to a single location, the final raid, the final encounter.
In EVE Online players drive the meaning behind the game. The politics are not artificial. The animosity is not artificial. E-peen is not driven by owning a shiny breastplate, or a purple winged mount, it is driven by ego and narcissism. It is driven by creating something that the game did not possess without the players. For some players, that will be conquering and holding vast swaths of space. For other players, it's affecting the gameplay of others. For some, it's being an administrator of a corporation with thousands of members. Some want to run a University to help newbies. Some want to be mercs. Some want to be spies, take down entire alliances. Some folks explore and do math. Some folks roleplay, make mad music and drink their protein shakes. The game is wide-open, you just have to have a wee bit of imagination.
There are no boundaries, other than what is impossible with the given game mechanics. But within that prescription (and it's a broad spectrum anti-viral), the sky is the limit. The boundaries bleed well outside the game client itself; EVE Online exists strongly in the meta. Just visit the forums or the #tweetfleet (on Twitter.) Or blogs.
User content is about interactions between players, consensual and non-consensual.
What sorts of interactions (interesting and meaningful interactions) exist in PvE-heavy theme park MMOs? Weddings? Dance parties? An occasional, mutually-agreed upon duel? Theme park MMOs are far more restrictive on the ways in which players can interact, thus the opportunity for any consequential user-generated content is stifled.
End-GameThere is no end boss. There is no series of quests that will hand hold you through a storyline. The stories are the player's stories and they are constantly changing and evolving.
One could say that the EVE end-game begins the moment you make contact with your first player. Since EVE Online is entirely about user-generated content, the moment you interact with your first non-NPC, non-GM entity, the first chapter of your story in EVE Online has begun to be written.
Next Time . . .In part three we'll discuss something. Not quite sure yet. Some topics that will eventually come up: crafting, the importance of learning PvP, the psychology of stuff, keeping up with the Joneses, or the economy.
If any readers have any topics they think should be discussed and/or covered in a future Theme Parker's segment, post it in a comment.
The Entire SeriesPart One