Tuesday, February 23, 2010

EVE Online: My Review (even if it's 5 years late)

I know how emotional and sensi-poo players can get about their favorite MMO, so I’ve been letting this post brew a bit. Parts of this post are going to come off like I’m bashing EVE and since I have a negative opinion about certain things, there really isn’t any way to avoid that. So I’ll only preface it with, this is only my opinion blah blah blah and I respect your opinion blah blah blah.

Other parts are going to be supportive. So if you do think I’m bashing your favorite game, well.. all I can say is that I do have LOTS of positive things to say about it as well. Also, I don’t have anything better to do at the moment, so I’ll likely be continue playing it for the foreseeable future (painful as that is at times).

My Mandatory Ed Zitron Disclosure
I’ve been playing EVE for around a month now logging on average 2-3 hours a day, up to 10 hours a day over the weekends. I’m somewhere between 80-100 hours logged in the game with maybe another 20-40 hours spent in out-of-game research and so forth. For those keeping track, that’s a pretty nice chunk of time over the last month playing the game even if it’s not enough time to experience every single nuance.

I’d say my time spent in EVE has been broken down into about:
  • 30% mission running in hi-sec
  • 20% ratting in 0.0 space (killing Pirates for ISK and Ops)
  • 10% fitting/equipping ships
  • 10% running ships from hi-sec to low-sec
  • 15% spent looking for Gang PvP
  • 5% hunting down WAR targets in high-sec
  • 5% participating in Gate Camps
  • 2% Mining
  • 3% podding myself to travel from point A to B (no Jumpclone)
Noticeably absent on this list is Fleet combat. Although I have watched this video and this video and this video which all give me a pretty good idea of what I believe I could expect from Fleet combat.

Graphics: The prettiest black space and red squares I have ever seen
This is my first shot across the bow. Obviously the picture I posted is a parody, but if you watch some of the videos I posted above, you’ll sadly note that it’s not that far off from the truth.

Before I even began playing EVE, I remarked how I thought Space is Boring. And I’m sorry, the best graphics in the world can’t hide the fact that outer space is big, black and empty.

EVE does a very commendable job in creating really neat looking ship models, stations and other cool looking stuff. It also does a commendable job of showing you what those things look like from 20km away – microscopic.

Personally, I found it really ironic that one of the things that people praise CCP for is updating the graphics engine in EVE. Why? I mean you see things up close in EVE so rarely, why does it even matter?

It’s worth pointing out that I really don’t attribute this as a flaw in EVE, but in all space-based MMOs. Any sense of realism in terms of actual dimensions and distances is going to result in this exact same thing.

Combat: For me, the heart of any game
If you look over the activities I performed in EVE, you can see that 75% of my activity was related to blowing things up or looking for things to blow up. That’s the part I like best in MMOs – killing stuff. Ideally, I prefer killing stuff for a purpose – but at it’s core what I really want to do is set stuff on fire.

Until I played EVE, I never thought blowing stuff up could be made so boring. I click a few auto-attack modules, click some other stuff on and off as appropriate, fly around great distances (often slowly).

Occasionally things get really exciting and I get Jammed, Scrambled or Webbed. All of which means that I can’t do as much auto-attacking or move around more slowly than I did previously.

And if you aren’t ratting or mission running, finding stuff to blow up is HARD. Surprisingly, people don’t want you to blow their stuff up, so they hide in stations and other POS. My small gang of three entered into a 0.0 system owned by an enemy alliance the other day and no fewer than 20 reds all hid in the station.

It’s really no surprise that the most PvP action I saw were Gate Camps in 0.0 systems bordering hi-sec. Which, in itself, is terribly boring when you outnumber everyone 10 to 1.

The impact nature of the PvP certainly adds a flavor, and I appreciate that, but the mechanics of it leave a lot to be desired.  In some ways, the most exciting moments for me happened when I was running an expensive (for me) ship from hi-sec to low-sec and I saw a red following me in Local.

Time based Skill systems suck
I really only have one other bitch and that’s the time-based nature of the Skill system.

At first, what I thought would bug me about this system is catching up. That’s not really the case now that I understand that if you want to specialize in a very specific rig, you can be capable of flying that ship fairly quickly and a master of that ship in maybe another 9 months. Other people might have more ships mastered, but you can reach a point where you are just as good in THAT ship as anyone in the game in less than a year.

No – what ended up really bugging me is the pacing of the skills. As I noted above, I put a pretty decent amount of time into the game over a short period of time. All of that time might have given me more experience with the game, but my character is still just as limited in the ships he can fly as someone else who logged just a few hours of time.

It’s not a very favorable system for people who play frequently and expect to advance accordingly. This is a very personal thing. My good friend logs on just a couple of times each week over the weekend and loves this model. I can’t stand it, particularly since I’m gaining skill points at the normal rate having passed the 1.6M mark.

Everything else: Thumbs Up
I really like the negative-sum PvP and PvE. It really makes everything else in the game work. You don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. People losing stuff feeds the rest of the economy. It really is the lifeblood of EVE and you can count me as someone who thinks this should be implemented in more games.

The only other thing I’ll say about the negative-sum system is that it’s not nearly as dramatic and scary as people make it out. Yes, you lose ships. But the game is built on the idea that you are going to lose ships and it’s easily recoverable. It’s unfortunate that so many people make this out to be such a big deal because it really is a very tidy solution to making lots of things work (power balance, economies, etc).

Also, I found the economy to be very interesting and complex because of distances, travel and Buy Orders. The Buy Order is something Blizzard should absolutely implement on their Auction House. For one thing, it would get rid of a lot of people spamming Trade.

I have mixed feelings about the Corp and Alliance system. My personal experience was very good because I got into what appears to be a decent Corp/Alliance. There is a real sense of community within my Corp (at least in 0.0) and Alliance. They run Ops and are doing other stuff in 0.0, so it’s been fun. I say mixed feelings because I have to think that this isn’t a uniform experience for everyone. Had I gotten into a bad Corp, I might have an entirely different experience to share.

Fitting ships is a blast. At first it seemed like there were an overwhelming number of options. Now, I wish there were more options. I’m a theorycrafter, so the depth of this type of thing will always appeal to me.

All of these things are really great and I enjoy them quite a bit. It’s just too bad I can’t stand the combat mechanics or the space environment.

1 comment:

Houseplant said...

I have to admit that I found this really ironic considering I did basically the same thing as what you just did: a review of EVE, just five years late.

It was a really enjoyable read and, like many other things EVE-related, brings back a lot of good memories that came with the game.