Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Eve Online: Space Sandbox?

Eve Online is a science fiction themed MMO (Massive Multi-player Online) Game in which you are the pilot of a space ship of some sort or another depending on the role you are taking on. That's vague I know but that's part of what I'm going to talk about here.

I've played most of the popular (and many of the not-so-popular) MMO games out there and they all tend to have one thing in common and that's that they're easy to pick up. They're easy to learn. They've got introductory missions that guide you on a path dependant on your race or your class or whatever. There tend to be quest lines that guide you from your starting newbie area to ever-increasing areas until you're finally in the end game content with other high level players. The zones, or gaming areas, tend to have other players of about your level and the relative safety of you as a player is something you can control typically. You can normally not be hurt by other players unless you're dueling them, which you typically have to agree to, or if you're in an arena area, or maybe if you've chosen to play in a Player vs. Player (PvP) server. Mostly the games are designed to be PvE (Player vs. Environment) and the game designers really hold your hand as you go through it from start to finish. I've played those and I really like those games. It's great. You wake up on a beach or escape from a jail or whatever and usually within sight of where you are is a person with a giant glowing question mark over their head.

Eve Online is nothing like that. Yes, there is an introductory tutorial to introduce you to the game and the controls which is great and if you play it (If you click on any of the links in here it'll get you 21 days of free game play that you can do for free without giving any credit card information or anything. If you DO decide to extend and keep playing it'll cost about fifteen dollars per month. Try it out first though, give it a go. It doesn't cost anything.) I wholeheartedly recommend without reservation, that you do ALL the training missions you can find. The rewards are worth it, very worth it.
An open world is a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives. The term free roam is also used, as is sandbox and free-roaming. ~Wikipedia.org
Eve Online, like I said, is nothing like that. After you finish the introductory missions you've got a ship, some knowledge of how to operate it, and a giant galaxy... but no guy with a question mark over his head. No information on where to go next or what to do next. And, if you think you're perfectly safe wandering around out there like you would be in other games you're sorely mistaken.  Unlike other games Eve Online is a giant sandbox, the first time I've used the term since the title, and as such the rules about player interaction are very much almost completely hands off from the runners of the game. If a player wants to attack you they can. Sure, in some zones, the starting zones (hi-security zones, AKA hi-sec zones) have a police presence and the police will attack someone attacking you. That doesn't mean you're safe. It means your attacker is in danger. They could very well still kill you and bug out and live through it. The police are strong and fast, but that doesn't mean they can instakill someone attacking you. Also, players can trade items and in-game ISK (that's what they call the money in the game, it's game money earned within the game) and if you're scammed by someone it's not something the game runners, GM's care about. You should've been more careful is their theory. Would you give your rent money to somebody you'd met ten minutes ago? No? Well, why would you give a lot of in-game money to someone you'd just met?

So, there are no quest givers to lead you around by the nose. You can mine asteroids, and if you look for them you can find mission givers that will pay out for doing mining missions. You can run courier missions where you'll pick up something from one station, fly it to another station and drop it off. That's nice. Sometimes there's combat. Sometimes there's combat in all the missions as space is a dangerous place. There are pirates and such out in space and they'll agro, attack, you when you're out in space. The police don't do anything about them. You can be mining or delivering some cows and then get jumped by pirates. Pay attention! Maybe you're running security missions, escorting a scientist from one place to another... you can count on being attacked on those. But you get to choose what you do and you can change what you're doing from one hour to the next, one minute to the next. If you don't feel like mining run courier missions, run security missions. Exploration is another option, harder than the others as there are NO mission givers for this one. It's exploration after all. You go into outer space and use probes to find anomalies and then send in probes to find out what the anomalies are. Are they wormholes? Are they pirate hideouts? Drug warehouses? Only way to find out is use probes and then go in there and see what you can find... if you can live long enough to take it then it's yours. But there are no mission givers and no hints. You just go out there and start looking.

All of this is totally up to you. You need different ships to take on different roles to run different missions. Mining works best with a ship with a giant hold, for example, so you can haul the most ore at a time. Courier missions work best with a fast ship that has a lot of legs and some weapons just in case you're jumped by pirates or opposing faction ships that don't want whatever data chip you're delivering to get where it's going. That variety of ships means you need to learn a variety of skills. Skills are learned at different rates and are learned in real time. You can't really speed it up. So, if it's going to take you 3 days to learn your  next skill level of Frigates then it's going to take three days in real time, before that skill is learned. You don't have to be logged in for it. It's real time.

I love the game and the freedom of it. I love that edge of unsafety that there is. I can be playing side by side with a player who has been playing for 7 years when we're running some mining missions. I have NOT been playing for that long at all. But the level based zones of other games aren't really in Eve Online. The low-security player vs player areas of the maps are mostly higher level players but there's no reason I couldn't go there right away. Now, to do so would mean my almost immediate death at their more experienced, better equipped hands. But I could go there. And, if they were unlucky I could possibly win even.


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