Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
 
Why there ain't no sparkly ponies in EVE

After the first wave of outrage against Blizzard selling $25 horses, some people started wondering how we got there. How did we arrive at a situation where Blizzard not only has the idea to sell a mount for $25, but also gets hundreds of thousands of players buying one? The reason why people are asking that question is that deep in their heart they know the answer, and they don't like that answer at all, because it doesn't reflect nicely upon us as players:

We started out with a game in which people played and were rewarded with virtual goods for playing. That over time evolved into a situation where we valued the virtual rewards more than the gameplay leading to it. People began to minmax, to "optimize the fun out of playing", trying to get to the reward in the fastest possible way, regardless of whether that way was fun to play or not. And the developers saw that, and said: "Well, if you want only the virtual reward and not the gameplay, we are quite willing to sell you that directly!". In short, the players are as much to blame for this than the developers or "greedy" managers.

Now I'm certainly not immune to the draw of virtual rewards. For example I ran heroic dungeons with my level 80 characters until they were fully or nearly fully equipped with emblem of triumph gear, and then stopped when the only thing to look forward to was minor upgrades or long grinds of emblems of frost. But in other situations I'm quite capable of heading down the least efficient route, trying to have more fun at the expense of getting less rewards. I'm generally a slow leveler because of that.

Knowing well the two paths, I quickly realized when playing EVE that the "playing for rewards" path is not the EVE way. In fact, if EVE teaches you anything, it is to be not too attached to your virtual goods, because you are quite likely to lose them. Seen like that, the real time skill advancement system of EVE makes more sense: There is deliberately no link between gameplay and advancement, so you don't play for the rewards. Of course that design philosophy has different problems, like people not being so motivated to play if there are no character advancement rewards connected to it (aka the "EVE Offline" problem). But it does have the advantage that people are less obsessed with the rewards, and more interested in the gameplay. Thus no sparkly pony in EVE: It would be difficult to imagine CCP selling virtual items, like an extra sparkly space ship which is then just going to be a prime target for gankers.

The fact that "having" something isn't as important as how to get there also changes the perspective on RMT. It matters surprisingly little how many million ISK you have. It is how many million ISK you *make* that confers a certain status towards your fellow players. Many EVE players are quite generous towards new players, handing out advice and items or cash. Of course you quickly learn not to depend on that, that container flying in space labeled "free newbie items" might well be a trap, and have a cloaked ship close to it, shooting you down for "stealing" from a can that doesn't belong to you when you dare to take something. But ultimately opportunities to make money are more than plentiful, and if you don't constantly get shot down in low sec space you are likely to always have enough money.

And if you have enough money, you also have all the items you could possibly use. There is no such thing as bind-on-pickup rewards in EVE Online. Yes, you can shoot down a pirate and find a useful module in his wreck. But you'll find the same module on the market, and as long as you don't have exotic skills at high level, every module you can actually use is something mass produced and relatively cheap. Thus when you get shot down and lose all your modules, none of them is irreplaceable, and you don't need to kill raid boss X again and be lucky with the random loot drop to get the item you want, you can simply buy everything in the auction house somewhere. Thus EVE rule number 1: Never use anything you can't afford to replace when you lose it.

One consequence of that is that people in EVE are less attached to their virtual belongings. Spinks asked in a comment whether veteran EVE players were "hardcore" and looked down on newbies. I didn't get the impression. You are far more likely to meet an elitist jerk in the trade chat in WoW, where recently I observed somebody organizing a raid with a 5128 gearscore minimum; why such an exact number? Because that was exactly the gearscore he had, and everybody having even 1 point less was obviously a clueless n00b. EVE players tend to be less boastful about their "gear", because who knows whether they still have it tomorrow.

While it is interesting to play a game with such a very different basic design philosophy, I'm not ready to declare the EVE model as "better" or "worse" than the reward model. Maybe some people who are currently sprouting doomsday scenarios of how we are all going to have games with no gameplay and only rewards for cash should play EVE for a while to see how the other extreme looks. Because the "getting rewards for playing" model has some huge advantages, and is easier accessible for most people. And even in a reward-based game, rewards for cash aren't likely to take over and displace gameplay. Just imagine Blizzard had not released one $25 mount, but a dozen of them simultaneously; would they have made a dozen times more money? Most probably they would just barely have made more than with the single mount. The "buying rewards" business isn't all that scaleable, and it requires there being a big game that people actually have fun playing behind it to work at all.
Comments:
I've touched on this a few times myself.

Not only are the two games different in terms of what players value, but WoW players have asked for RMT items for a few years now through the trading card game.

With in-game items going for up to (and maybe over now, I'm no longer up to date on the items) $1000 on Ebay, rest assured that Blizzard has taken note and lusted after some of that profit.

So, now we have sparkly ponies to go with the sparkly cats and cubs. The only difference is that now all of that money goes directly to Blizzard rather than Ebay sellers.
 
Tobold I think you are finaly getting to the real difference between wow and eve, I have been reading your blog for a while ( and comenting on it in my own) and have always been amused how you thought using plexs to buy the top ships was a rmt flaw in the game, I hope you are seeing now in eve it's not just having the ship it's also having the skills the expirience and using the right ship for the right job.

Anyway I am enjoying your evaluation of eve, the good and the bad, if I can help your eve expirence on anyway email me @ astraldominix@hotmail.co.uk or drop a coment at my blog.

Have fun!
 
There's not really anything new about this. MMO gamers haven't recently learned new behavior from anything Blizzard or WoW did. There have always been plenty of people with the discretionary income to buy money out of game in the MMO space. In EQ, 8 years ago, one could buy toons and cash at will. Sony even launched a $100 a month server and had no issue at all filling it up with players. Eve is no different, they just flat out sell in game credits for real world cash and there are really high end ships to buy with that cash.

Nothing new is going on, just plenty of middle gamers with solid salaries who don’t consider it cheating to use their extra cash. It’s been like this for years and always will be.
 
Good post. Thank you. Here my comment:

WoW is successful due to the gameplay. It sometimes seems like the developers themselves forget this, but it is rather obvious:
If the way to make a successful MMO was to advance players real fast, we had a lot of very good MMOs right now; we don't.

In EVE you can get implants that will be lost if you need your clone. In addition the latest tier of ships are not so easy to replace, if I remember correctly.

You could say they are just very newbie friendly in that a newbie in EVE doesn't have to care that much about losing something. That is a confusing sentence if you think about it :)

A note about game development:
The player is never guilty. Full Stop.
Rather, the player is predictable. If WoW makes the game 100% item-centric and raises a generation of people who think that this is the only way possible to make a game, that is Blizzards desicion and if this decision makes the game less fun that's not because the players foolishly adjusted; it is because the developers failed.

Games are made for humans and humans are very predictable. If your game fails due to human nature, the game is a bad game.

WoW already started out very item-centric, but it became even more item-centric every year.
GearScore is just the latest excrescence.

The last few weeks I have been doing BGs with my ilvl245 PvE arcane mage and it has been a lot of fun. I didn't buy any PvP items from the honor, because I want to be able to kill people and not survive extra long when beaten.

Point is: I had fun for 2 weeks, although I didn't get anything out of it. WoW is fun, because teh gameplay is fun, smooth, working.

The game I played was not balanced, I could not achieve anything, I just explored various speccs and had fun. This is the heart of WoW. This is why it is successful.

In classic WoW I played that way and the only upgrade was weeks or months (and the RNG) ahead. Did it keep me from playing? No. Did it prevent other people from playing? No.

Blizzard listens to its customers. They always ask themselves the question: Couldn't we do what they ask, might it be possible ?

Sometimes they succeed. Often they don't.

At least with arena/class balance they learnt. Was about time!
 
I think you might find interesting pvp'er perspective on this whole dilemma. For starters fun for me is really winning over other player, not anything else really, so shiny gears per itself means absolutely nothing. When I play pve game i dont really care all that much about better gear, I find the fact that it limits my progression even mildly annoying, as I give a crap about whole pve power chain. But there is big "but" -I do it. Why?

Reason is in pvp there is no advantage too small , so if you serious about pvp you play for min/max. Before the actual pvp (where skill starts being more important) in mmos there is "level up/gear up stage". You dont question whether your gear/char should be the best possible min/maxed to the hilt. that is a given

In early days of UO that stage was not so noticeable as one could macro skills to gm pretty fast and gear didn't mean all that much

But that stage gets longer and more important now. I quit vanilla wow after hitting lvl 60 and seeing i have 1/4 of hp and mana of players who run pve raids all day (I instead was world pvping every level to 60 , with quests in between). Just didnt want to gear up.

One of the main reasons I dont play eve is that if you want truly compete you need at least 6 months of offline skill leveling, as yes no way in hell you are on same level field as a vet , even if you both fly frigates.

Reasons I dont play RMTs (and they are many which are actually quite good, especially pvp wise) is because the top players spend literally thousands of dollars on their chars ( I did the math - to have a char who can stand on their own in in perfect world I would have to spend roughly $3k)

What does that leaves me -ironically wow seems like most level playing field out of all mmos, as its gear/level up stage is actually cheaper and shorter than RMTs or Eve.

But why grind at all? -I can fire up an FPS and get to end stage (actually playing other player one even field) immediately. There is one thing I miss from fps and its template stage.
 
That's a great description of how Eve is different. I'm glad you're getting into the game. After playing a couple of years I decided Eve wasn't the game for me anymore. But it's a damn interesting game, particularly because so many aspects of how it works are different from every other MMO out there. Worth studying.

Looking forward to when you start discovering 0.0 politics :-)
 
Actually there are sparkly ponies in EVE. But to get them in the first place you must actually do something significant - like say be one of the pilots who won the VII'th alliance tournament. Then you could possibly get some of the rarest ships in EVE (each of them got 5 run bpcs of a limited run ship with special artwork). Note that these ships are not replaceable - once they are gone they are gone. Also as you can imagine each time one dies the remaining ones just go up in value (as usual - everything in eve can be sold). I'm not sure but I think there's at least one class of ship that "reached" extinction level (last known example was killed) but I'm not sure on that. One of the early imperial yachts or something. The collectors would know.
 
You're beginning to see the light!
Joking aside I'm going to quote a fellow EVE blogger, as his is probably the best description of the difference between WoW and EVE I've read:
The feeling of reward in EVE isn’t about getting the axe, but what you accomplish with it.

The true rewards (leaving aside items, ships and money) in EVE are intangible, they are not hard coded in but emerge from your actions within the game.

They are taking down a fleet that outguns and outclasses your gang of tech 1 frigates. They are taking and holding your own slice of space against all comers. They are making a killing on the market with the modules that you've just built with the minerals you've mined.

There is also the fact that EVE is an incredibly social game, with a community that extends far beyond the confines of the client into blogs, twitter lists and forums across the entirety of the internet.
 
"In short, the players are as much to blame for this than the developers or "greedy" managers."

This sad comment of course is comming from a official gold buyer, who loves to get things easily and without playing the game.

When a company sells cash items, that give unfair advantage or makes the game unbalanced, they are just openning the gates for the prisoneers to escape.

The faulty is only of the company which knows that there are many cheaters like Tobold who wanna get things faster than the real players, without playing the game itself, but conquering their things with real money.

We are playing a online game like any other online game. That's why it's called a game! When there are PVP involved on a game there should exist a control to avoit unfair situations, no?

On a online game, why a player that don't play and uses his real money to equip his character should have more opportunites to become stronger than a player who plays the game itself, wasting time and depending on the game system reward?

Sometimes I doubt Tobold is a real gamer.
 
@Yyidth

It wasn't $100. It was 39.99, I had thought it was 19.99 but I was wrong.

http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/everquest/news_2848677.html
 
@Max: But why grind at all? -I can fire up an FPS and get to end stage (actually playing other player one even field) immediately. There is one thing I miss from fps and its template stage.

More and more FPS aren't that way anymore. Take TF2. You'll get better rewards as you play more. Your heavy will get a new machine gun, a healing sandwich... Even RTS games like the new C&C3 force you to play to unlock all characters. Playing more does give you an advantage.

For TF2 that leads to mmorpg like grinds. Entire servers are set up to do nothing but get the achievements needed to get the new machine gun etc. Not my idea of fun.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Seen like that, the real time skill advancement system of EVE makes more sense: There is deliberately no link between gameplay and advancement, so you don't play for the rewards.

If that was the case, then, why does EVE have skills at all?
The more I think about EVE the more I ask myself this question.

Why can't I just make a new char, buy some PLEX and get going with the big battleship (it's going to be destroyed within the next hour, since I have no idea how to handle it).

Where is the skill system, the system that turns EVE online to EVE offline for, if not to introduce a character progression system that keeps me from playing?
 
@ Gevlon:
Something like that crossed my mind as well :).

But I think it's a mix of Tobold being honest and some psychic thing with receiving so surprisingly large and many donations.
 
I really like your coverage on EVE. I was thinking of playing it but felt that I was too far behind. Also, I didn't want to play both EVE and WoW together. EVE is the type of game that will really appeal to me. Your commentary on EVE vs WoW is a good insight on game design.

For me personally, I minmax, but to me, that doesn't "optimise the fun out of playing". I actually have fun min-maxing and theorycrafting, trying to extract the most out of my char for both PvP and PvE, and be as efficient as possible towards my goal (kill LK10 heroic).

In a sense, I can see your argument about people grinding for gear. I had this argument with my brother once where he accused WoW of being "WoWkemon" (Portmanteau of WoW and Pokemon. For those who don't know, Pokemon is an extremely grinding game).

I can see how may people play WoW for the rewards, but I play it for the challenge of raiding and PvP arena. I have the most fun in WoW tackling the difficult raid bosses.

I disagree that it is the fault of the players for the prevalence of RMT. I believe that it is in the game's best interest to keep it's "essence". Thus, for WoW, RMT must not involve any direct game benefits. Game companies who "cash in" too early will lose out in the long run when customers first abandon the game and then their future games.

I am really hoping for a next-gen EVE game. Something that I will hop on from the start.
 
Why would someone read a blog they didn't like?

That is mindless.
 
@ Gevlon:
Something like that crossed my mind as well :).


Only it wasn't Gevlon, it was troll fake Gev-i-on, whose comment I deleted for trolling.
 
Damn ;)
 
Where is the skill system, the system that turns EVE online to EVE offline for, if not to introduce a character progression system that keeps me from playing?

I didn't say EVE had no character progression, I said the character progression is not based on receiving rewards for things you do. Which leaves you free to do whatever you want.

And you are totally correct that *one* function of character progression in MMORPGs in general is to limit what content you can access. By making you play longer to be able to reach all content, subscription based games make more money. Not sure though whether I like how long it takes to advance your character in EVE: Learning all skills in the game takes over 21 years.
 
Not sure though whether I like how long it takes to advance your character in EVE: Learning all skills in the game takes over 21 years.

That's what I heard as well.
EVE players will argue that there is no need to learn all the skills and they are probably right.

The question is:
What's the point of the skill system?

I understand, why you shall not influence your learning speed, but I do not understand why they have a skill system in the first place.

This seems like some foul compromise between WoW and a 'true EVE'.
 
I would say the point of the skill system is choosing your "class" while playing. If you want to be "a miner", you skill mining skills, but if you want to do combat in a battlecruiser, you skill battlecruiser skills. The fact that you can't have all skills forces you to make a choice. But it would be feasible to learn minimal skills in everything, try everything, and then specialize in what you like best. Which ultimately might be better than having to choose a class at the start when you don't know what the game is about and later regretting your choice.
 
The question is:
What's the point of the skill system?

I understand, why you shall not influence your learning speed, but I do not understand why they have a skill system in the first place.


Not that I so much agree with it, but I understand it from a developer point of view. When players get bored of your game, they are less likely to cancel their subscription. They might stop playing as much, but they are still advancing just as quickly.

I don't think Eve is actively trying to make players NOT play, I just think they have created a system which will keep you paying even after you grow tired of actively playing.
 
The trend toward being able to buy virtual goods with real world money is one of the reasons I'm playing mainly single player games at the moment. I buy - or rent - a game and from that point on the only reward is gameplay. I like the focus on gameplay in single player games instead of the focus on achievements and items in so many MMOs.
 
Eve's "Ponys" where called Zephyrs. They where a gift for chirstmas.

I guess you know what happend, after some people undocked with them :(
 
It doesn't take 21 years to train all skills in EVE -- there area few players right now with every skill.

It takes 21 years to train all skills to level 5, however. . . .

Perhaps that sounds like picking nits, but since training a skill from 4 to 5 takes about 5x as long as training it from 0 to 4 and having a skill at 4 is 80% as effective as 5, well... I'm in the camp of "if you don't need it as a pre-requisite for another skill, training to 5 is not really all that useful." And I think you'll find a ton of players right there with me.

Now, if you're going to specialize in a ship that you really like, then by all means, train 5's and get every last bit of performance out of it, but if you're like me and going a bit more generalist -- 4's are just fine.

Add in that I really can't imagine why anyone would WANT to train every skill to 5 (some of them really don't do much of anything, after all), and the "upper end" time of training statements really don't mean much. A common complaint in the "skills" section is "I don't have anything left I want to train." Well.. maybe not "common" but I have seen it said several times.
 
Magson is mostly right. But some high advanced ships need a large number of skills being at level 5 with prerequisite skills being at 5 as well, but thats life and flying those ships are clearly showing your status in Eve.

But as many Eve players will tell you: flying an advanced ship means nothing, being able to handle it well does, and thats where the player skill and his understanding of the Eve combat system comes into play.
 
Tobold, if you think you are far more likely to find an elitist jerk in WoW trade chat than in EVE then you need to get out and about a little more. LOL
 
That isn't to say there aren't really nice people in EVE, but having played EVE myself during three stints, I know EVE is chock full of that type of mentality.
 
A great many skills in Eve are gear locks. That is the skill exists to require advancement prior to being allowed by the game to use some bit of gear. Quite a few of the skills at level 5 don't provide any meaningful benefit. Those skills don't ever need to be at level 5 for anybody. Game advancement does net gear just like in WoW because it’s through the training in skills that one unlocks the top tier ships. The Eve guys just implemented a fairly normal classless skill based RPG, unusually in the video gaming world but fairly normal in the table top gaming world.

A better way to look at Eve skills is how log it takes to get the core skills to 4 added to how long it takes to get the gear unlocks needed to fly ones target ship, shot ones target gun or generally use ones target bit of equipment. Any calculation that is based on getting all skills to 5 in Eve would have to be compared to how long it would take to get all classes in WoW to 70 plus full top end raid gear for each class without dual boxing.

@Epiny I stand corrected on the price. But the point remains the same. Plenty of people existed in the pre-WoW EQ era to fill out that 4x the price server. Nothing has changed about the willingness for the game vendor to extort cash or the player to spend it.


A better way to look at Eve skills is how log it takes to get the core skills to 4 added to how long it takes to get the gear unlocks needed to fly ones target ship, shot ones target gun or generally use ones target bit of equipment.

@Epiny I stand corrected on the price. But the point remains the same. Plenty of people existed in the pre-WoW EQ era to fill out that 4x the price server. Nothing has changed about the willingness for the game vendor to extort cash or the player to spend it.


A better way to look at Eve skills is how log it takes to get the core skills to 4 added to how long it takes to get the gear unlocks needed to fly ones target ship, shot ones target gun or generally use ones target bit of equipment.

@Epiny I stand corrected on the price. But the point remains the same. Plenty of people existed in the pre-WoW EQ era to fill out that 4x the price server. Nothing has changed about the willingness for the game vendor to extort cash or the player to spend it.
 
I don't think it is the same at all. The legendary server on EQ had GM ran events weekly, often times multiple GM events a week.

You paid more, but got better customer service. I hate analogies but this isn't much different than the guy who pays $1000 a night for a hotel room and gets better service then the guy who got it for $69 off Travelocity.

If WoW offered a premium server for 39.99 a month and had GM events weekly I would probably play on it. I would pay more for a higher level of service, though the amount of service needed to equate to $40 a month is subjective, I feel alot of other people would do the same.

I'm in the SC2 Beta right now and there have been rumors that B.net is going to charge for service in the future. To be honest B.net isn't worth even putting up with ad space at the momment. It's all about quality of service and percevied value.
 
Tobold you make some thought provoking points. The point about the helpful community is particularly interesting given that EVE is also known for having some of the nastiest griefers in gaming.

Have you been to Jita yet (busiest trade system in EVE). If you haven't I recommend creating a Caldari Alt and just flying there for a quick view of the seedier side of EVE. Every second offer in in local chat is an outright scam.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Great post....

As a player of both, I have to say i find wow much less welcoming...and much more demanding of you to have x before you can do y...
 
Why can't I just make a new char, buy some PLEX and get going with the big battleship (it's going to be destroyed within the next hour, since I have no idea how to handle it).

I believe you still have not understood what Tobold has written about in his article. You seem to think that the goal in EVE is to fly a big battleship, and that anything smaller is for noobs to waste time in. Which, fortunately, is far from the case.

It is like asking "why can't I create a new warrior and dual wield level 80 boe epic 2handers?"

I believe Guild Wars might be the only MMO in existence which lets you do this :)

Where is the skill system, the system that turns EVE online to EVE offline for, if not to introduce a character progression system that keeps me from playing?


Again, how exactly does the skill system "keep you from playing"? Do you lose ISK when you play if you don't have a certain skill? Are you unable to log in?

Consider you not playing vs another player, training exactly the same skills, who plays during the same 6 month period. At the end of that time you will both have the exact same skill points, but the other player will much more character progression (standings), player progression (experience and knowledge) and economic progression (ISK).

And lastly, that other player has had 6 more months of fun than you. As Tobold has stated, it's about the gameplay, not the shiny battleship.
 
The other way of saying it is everything, gear or characters, is a Sparkly Pony in EVE. In your first hour, you can buy a character that has been trained continuously for 4 years and a $7,000 ship for them to fly; (unless you are a savant, the latter will be quickly rectified.) Someone already has spent $100,000 on buying stuff for their alliance.

An upside to the design that you can buy almost anything, is that there is less of the "aren't I leet cause I have leet gear" (Did you have Armani War Bears in IF on your TBC server? ) The fact that others can steal or destroy most anything is another reason to not brag too publicly. :-)

A lot of the "strategic" aspects of EVE are wonderful. I like that player's actions change things. Use ISK to play for free or sell PLEX to avoid grinds is nice. And there is far more buffing and nerfing in EVE than I would like, but it is nothing like WoW where 5 month old gear is quite obsolete.

IMO, EVE does have two problems. The lack of resources (e.g., the UI is let's just say Spartan). And a user base that does not want EVE to be popular and frequently confuses inconvenient with requiring great skill.

P.S. It was interesting and surprising and appalling to me that someone did not think a public company has an obligation to its shareholders, among other things to make money.
 
It's not as black and white as you post it here, although I do agree with the general idea.

There are plenty of people in Eve that collect ships or pimp out that mission runner with very expensive modules. Although the bragging from Wow I usually don't see :).
 
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