Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
What would you actually do with all that sand?

So Smedley announced that he wants to turn EQ Next not into just another Everquest, but into "the largest sandbox style MMO ever designed". I found it somewhat surprising, while simultaneously being disappointing for lack of imagination, that most commenters interpreted that as "there will be free-for-all PvP in the next Everquest". I don't think that this is what Smedley means. If anything, Everquest if famous for having *less* PvP than other MMORPGs.

What kind of sicko reacts to a promise of endless freedom and infinite possibilities with the response "oh great, finally I can gank other people!"? If ganking and griefing is the whole difference between a sandbox game and a themepark game then sorry, sandbox just lost forever. There is only a single game that is always presented as "proof" that free-for-all PvP can work commercially, EVE Online; and if you look a bit closer, the numbers don't hold up: First of all EVE has a lot less players than the numbers that are usually thrown around, because everybody just lists the number of accounts, not the number of players. EVE Online probably has less than 100,000 players, but many of them have multiple accounts because of the original pay-to-win scheme of only one character per account "leveling", and that even if offline. And second even CCP admits that over 80% of their players in any given month never leave safe empire space, so the number of actual EVE PvP players is below 20,000. I doubt Smedley plans to make an expensive new game for those 20,000 people.

So it will be interesting to see how SOE is planning to create a "sandbox" MMORPG that is *not* based on people ganking each other. I've played PvE sandbox games, for example A Tale in the Desert, but that one isn't exactly a huge commercial success either. Will players actually know what to do with all that sand? If you put a virtual hero in the middle of a fantastic virtual world and just tell him to go out and play, without holding his hand and telling him what to do all the time, will the players appreciate that sort of freedom? Or will they just log off, feeling lost?

What would you want to do in a fantasy MMORPG in which you had freedom to anything, except killing other players?

I am actually dabbling in EVE a bit as of late, something about Guildwars 2 drove me to something more "complex". So far, i actually haven't left Empire space, and have spent alot of time simply managing my Planet Production stuff without even undocking (i wasn't even aware you could do this Planet stuff so early without needing alot of money before).
However i am still not a fan of the EVE "world" , it still feels a bit too cold and lifeless. (Hence the term "spreadsheet MMO").

Thing is PvP or Non-PvP, if you don't have PvP, i actually feel the MMO will eventually devolve into something like SimCity.

Players will only interact on a marketplace level. Kinda like a more complex version of Farmville. So you'll have to ask yourself, why have a "world" at all? Why not give everyone a little "instance" for themselves and allow them to trade with other "instances".

It is actually almost like what Rift is doing with their Player Housing. If you think about it, ultimately a sandbox without the risk of getting "destroyed" by players , is effectively a little safe instance where you build your own house.

Even if you do combine PvP and Non-PvP like EVE. The two groups will most likely only interact on a market place level. The difference is, the PvPers most likely only want to buy resources, not actually research and farm them. So this might actually "create" an economy.

Kinda like the USA and their wars they constantly fight. If they had to cut their military budget right now, their economy would probably not recover.

So i suppose the question would be, does it make sense to exclude PvP/Ganking from the sandbox? What kind of "massive" interaction will actually occur in the absence of any form "war" ? In a peaceful sandbox MMO, wouldn't everone become sheep farmers and simply build their little empires in the isolation? .... like playing Simcity by yourself?
I'm similarly annoyed by the sandbox = PVP gankfest assumption.

I kinda like where Firefall is TRYING (not yet successfully) to go with it, with a common enemy controlled by the devs. What does every invasion movie have in common? People abandon their differences and work together to kill aliens. Black and white gang up on green.

And it's not even necessarily that there needs to be an adversarial context. People play minecraft to death, right? If you could swing a dynamic by which folks COULD minecraft out their own little house/village/city without falling prety to the Wurm factor or Minecraft griefer tropes, you'd be on to a winner.

Some mechanically-fun solo professions that act as supply to industry, toss in some combat by way of wild animals or other relatively benign NPCs...

No need for PVP anywhere. Just people accomplishing goals.

I agree that it would be nice to see a more imaginative take on the sandbox but it has to be pointed out that SOE has already developed links with CCP and John Smedley himself is know to be a player of EVE. So it is logical to assume that he intends to bring some of what he sees in EVE to Everquest.

Can he make a sandbox more attractive to a wider group of players? I don't know. I myself am a hug fan of what EVE has achieved does but I rarely play the game.
Don't miss my tomorrows post! It tells exactly what one have to put in his game to make it "free for all sandbox"
A lot to talk about here. Not the least because you make me cringe whenever you talk about Eve. Its like you read up on Eve but have never actually played the game.

First: FFA PvP in EQ NEXT.
Quite possible really. Smedley has gone on record as being a massive Eve fan. He is a member of the Clusterfuck Coalition and even went to fanfest.
I dont think EQ will see server wide FFA PvP, but I do think there could be zones where FFA with consequences is available.
Kind of like UO used to be but with actual consequences.

Someone who likes FFA PvP /= sicko.
PvE can never generate the same feel in a game as to where a real person is ready to capitalise on your mistakes.

80 percent of eve in highsec blah:
Yep that is a statistic. I spent about half my time in highsec when I played. But I would never even have been playing if it wasnt for the possibilities I saw in Eve's nullsec alliance system.
Highsec is often where you go if you are between alliances, or where you dont have much free time to log on this month etc. At least for a lot of people.

This 80 percent is not pvping blah:
Absolute fallacy.
Completely nonsense.
A few examples:
Red Vs Blue
Faction warfare spillover
Rival corp wardecs
Privateer style mass wardecing
Merc contracts on nullsec alliances to disrupt their highsec logistics
Suicide freighter ganking
I could go on. When I was in highsec I spent half the time pvping (rival corp wardecs and some merc contracts against nullsec alliance logistics).

Original pay-to-win scheme:
This is also a massive stretch.
It is not pay to win. At best you could describe it as "your sub money also allows you to have more options the longer you play".
As an example, i spent a good deal of my time pvping in a T1 battlecruiser. This could also be flown by a 2 month old noob if they specialize. My 5 years of "pay to win" does not gain me any advantage in this case. In fact I have lost this ship to relative noobs that know what they are doing.
Eve is a rare case amongst MMOs. Even month old noobs are useful in endgame pvp. Compare that to other MMOs. Hardly pay to win is it?

I do not really enjoy reading about Eve on this site. I always find myself having to defend it. Eve has its problems, but it is not what you seem to think it is.
Point taken on the sandbox= unfettered PvP topic (I have been arguing for years that the only reason the two are equated is because of EVE's example,) but your numbers are highly suspect. Too, just as some thempark games give an illusion of being more sandboxy than they are, EVE gives the illusion of having PvP that's more unfettered than it is.
Suicide freighter ganking

While I take your point that somebody on the receiving end of a suicide gank or Hulkageddon event is "participating in PvP", my point was about how many people would be attracted by a free-for-all PvP game. I would think that somebody who just wanted to play a peaceful SciFi mining and trading game and ended up being ganked in highsec is actually *less* likely to buy another game which allows ganking.

Furthermore, somebody who wants to play a PvE SciFi mining and trading game doesn't have much choice, and might well end up playing EVE in highsec for lack of other options. If Smedley would create EQ Next after the same model as EVE, why would somebody want to play that in highsec, with risk of being suicide ganked, when there are so many other options for fantasy PvE games?

That is the point of this post: What else than ganking can a fantasy "sandbox" game offer, which isn't on offer in the existing "themepark" games?
One prediction I have is that with a sandbox potentially that large, the power MMO users that focus on endgame will say "there's nothing to do!" and wander off. People that get a rush from raiding and beating the game will have trouble switching gears in much the same fashion that people who have spent years in the military have major trouble adjusting to civilian life. When the command structure that supports you disappears, some ex-soldiers simply can't adjust.

Somebody on the receiving end of a suicide gank or Hulkageddon event is "participating in PvP"

I am not really saying that. But the ganker is certainly participating in PvP. And they are in highsec too.
There are other more "mutual" examples in highsec as well.

That is the point of this post: What else than ganking can a fantasy "sandbox" game offer, which isn't on offer in the existing "themepark" games?

There are a few things, like exploration etc. However I think there is a bit of a flaw in your question. I will try and argue my point...

I believe (as well as many others) that FFA PvP is the reason so many other sandbox elements work in EVE.

Peaceful trading game:
Eve has often been heralded (rightly imho) as having the best economy in any game.
This is directly related to FFA pvp, and you drop all your equipment when your ship explodes. (well half your equipment, the rest, as well as your ship, is destroyed).
This drives the economy. Nullsec alliances require massive logistics efforts to sustain invasions, normally providing good manufacturing and trading oppertunities to "highsec bears".
So the great trading and manufacturing game in EVE is driven by "the blood of all these wars".

Mining in EVE is a profitable venture. Because of PvP.
People die in EVE and require new ships. Manufacturers build these ships from the resources provided by miners.
Minerals in EVE dont get sold to NPCs, they get sold to player manufacturers. Who make their profits on the blood of all the wars. Miners and manufacturers are arms dealers. They profit from people dying in PvP.
If you look at it like this, miners are indirectly participating in PvP. When they occassionally get ganked in highsec, they are actually just part of the chain that makes their profession possible.

Eve has an intricate and open sandbox that works because of PvP. If you take away the pvp, you destroy the sandbox.

Another point I would like to make is that PvE players in EVE are succeding in a challenging environment.
Imagine playing wow and being as dumb as a bag of spanners. What happens is you die a lot to stupid mistakes and get kicked from groups sometimes for being an idiot. It doesnt slow your progression much. You can even successfully raid in WOW while having the IQ of a glass of water.
The obvious point I am making is that you just cant get away with that in EVE. You will lose your shirt. A lot. And quit.

PvE in EVE requires a certain level of intelligence. You dont have to be a rocket scientist, but you cant get away with being a moron either.
Also, EVE rewards you for being more intelligent than other EVE players. Even in PvE. A lot of people like that, and view it as a challenge. Something that just isnt there in WOW.

This has been my roundabout way of countering your argument. Sorry for the wall of text.
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Actually I would say that Guild Wars 2 is already *relatively* close to being a sandbox game. Remove the personal story and possibly the hearts and it would be even closer.

Think Skyrim but without the main story guiding you and that would be even more close. In fact I think I wrote a comment here some months ago where I sort of had a vision of a great game that I called for lack of better description as Skyrim Online. The only thing really missing (IMO) is that everything should be much more dynamic on a large scale. Not just scripted events but really dynamic. Kingdoms going to war over the control over a gold mine. Trolls moving in and settling down in a nearby cave. Two tribes of orcs battling, maybe one of them wins so big that the other has to move to not be wiped out. Gypsies travelling from town to town and setting up some sort of performances. And so on. Players can take a side in conflicts, and there should of course be relatively dynamically created quests that you can pick up here and there. I'm not saying that there can't be scripted events, but I'm relatively sure that if you do find a tribe of centaur moving in and setting up camp in a nearby field where there were previously only a few giant spiders because their AI decided that it was better hunting grounds you would probably find that a pretty cool event. They could in turn because of that have quests for you related to that, maybe to scout for game. Or maybe it's mostly women and children because of a previous conflict so that you could be hired to hunt for them. I'm talking true (or relatively true) cause and effect.

Yes it could probably mean that someone would wipe out certain factions (although that should probably be pretty hard to do), but you could always spawn in new factions here and there in less populated areas instead with their own motives. There could also be some sort of safeguards in one way or another which would prevent the game world to become too depopulated. Exact rules I can only theorize about right now. :)

I do realize that this isn't the type of game that would be easy to pull off. But the developer that would be able to do it well would probably have a big hit on their hands.

Probably the biggest problem with that kind of game would be a technical one as factions and sometimes NPCs would be driven by scripting based on needs.
Well, Grand Theft Auto is known as a sandbox game, but it is pretty linear if you think about it. Sure you can run around a big city doing crazy stuff if you want (and that can be fun), but there's still linear quest lines and such. By that standard WoW is a sandbox as well.

So if he's trying to say what EQ is doing to be different from previous EQ or other MMOs, I'm not sure what he can really mean.
I'm interested in seeing what they come up with, but agree that it would be nice to see sandbox seriously considered without the implicit assumption that it will be open-world PvP. I think the stigma of PvP goes back much further than EVE to the old Ultima Online days...I'm pretty confident that whatever Sony tries, it will avoid the problem that PvP introduces (which is a world without death as an actual consequence, leading to people engaging in behavior that simply wouldn't happen, for the most part, if losing a battle in PvP led to the deletion of that character).
Eve has an intricate and open sandbox that works because of PvP. If you take away the pvp, you destroy the sandbox.

No. Eve has an intricate and open sandbox that works because of a "sink" for the economy. While that sink is PvP in EVE, it would be perfectly possible to create PvE sink and reach the same result.

I see people in WoW farming carrots for raid buffs. They don't do that because of PvP, or because they like farming carrots. They do it because PvE raiding is their "sink" for economic output.
It is disappointing that so many people's first response is to be terrible to each other.

The trouble with many sandbox games is that the sandbox itself isn't all that fun, it's the other players that provide the content. In games like Eve, the sandbox is just barely fun enough so as to ensure a steady stream of victims for the more vicious/evil-minded players in the game.

In a good sandbox, like Wurm, you could pack up your stuff and go live on an isolated mountaintop, not seeing another player for months and still have lots of fun because the _game_ provides the fun.

PVP sandboxes aren't very fun for me because you run the constant risk of some random other player wrecking your stuff and killing you. In real life I don't worry about my neighbors coming over and raping and killing me, because the small amount of people at all inclined to do such a thing do it once, get caught, and are imprisoned. There are so few victims and so many people that it's not worth worrying about. In pvp games, these people hurt others over and over and are urged on and praised for doing it. I don't like pvp sandboxes because there's such a high chance of negative actions, losses that aren't fun.
"EVE Online probably has less than 100,000 players"

EVE Online probably has more players than they are generally given credit for. They certainly have more than you give them credit for.

They have, conservatively, ~350K active accounts on their main server. You can argue about how many players that really represents, but in the end, a paying account is a paying account.

And then they have ~400K active accounts on their China only server. I do not know what they pay model is for that off-hand, but if we're going to lump in all the pre-paid time card accounts in China when we talk about WoW, you should probably also include similar accounts for EVE.

All of which might mean there are more paying EVE accounts than SWTOR accounts right now.
I for once, I will not even touch it if it does not have PVE server or if somehow does not make PVP OPTIONAL.

I liked Aion very very much, I almost loved that game but I stopped playing it just because it doesn't have PVE server..

if they chose to make pvp unavoidable then good luck to them...I am amazed how stupid game developers can be and constantly shoot themselves in their foot..
No. Eve has an intricate and open sandbox that works because of a "sink" for the economy. While that sink is PvP in EVE, it would be perfectly possible to create PvE sink and reach the same result.

Ah but would it?
Tell me how you would implement a sink in a PvE game that promotes a vibrant economy and also a sandbox.

Your reasoning is good, and I have often thought of that.
UO had a similar loot sink to Eve, and was also based on PvP for the most part.

Remember in EVE and in UO you technically have a sink even if you die in PvE. But the trouble with PvE is its far too easy to avoid death, hence avoid the sink.

In early EQ there was a big PvE death penalty, but it did nothing to promote the sandbox. So I argue that a stiff death penalty alone does not help create a sandbox. It has to include equipment loss.

In WOW there is technically a gold sink for raiding. But it does not do much for the economy or the sandbox. Its really a personal time sink. Not a good basis for implementing a sandbox.

So far the only time a sandbox in an MMO has worked is when it had equipment loss on death. Or at least Equipment degradation over time with the need to eventually replace.
And also having PvP as a way of increasing death in the world.

Early SWG is a good example here. Early SWG had an amazing economy too, as well as the whole vendor thing, exploration for resources, manufacturing etc. Early SWG was a pretty good sandbox in fact.
Early SWG also included a fair amount of PvP which sped up the loss of equipment, because of the increased chance of dying.

I would be very interested to see a sandbox MMO that works without PvP at all. I cant currently think of a system that would work.

I could potentially love an open-ended PVE sandbox. I would do the things I like doing such as exploring, and crafting, skilling, and progressing. The main difference is that I can progress in ways that are meaningful to me rather than the usual theme-park mode of "race to level cap, then gear cap".

Eve is a great sandbox EXCEPT for the Pvp stuff. I would love to explore everything and build bigger ships and POSes without the gank factor.

It's funny. Way back in the day when wow released, I assumed that was what their approach would be --- basically like the Warcraft SPG, where you gather resources and build stuff. In other words, there could still be faction vs faction, but no actual pvp. In reality though, this was never implemented.
Of course a sandbox is way more than just a good economy. But a good economy is a great start, because of the knockon effects for integration of different proffessions.

A sandbox (imho) should also be based on world simulation. Something that has gone totally out of fasion in recent MMOs.

World simulation. Immersion. Consiquential exploration. Working economy. Socialization based on mutual need.

These are some of the things I think of for a sandbox MMO.

It is difficult to achieve all that without PvP.
All of which might mean there are more paying EVE accounts than SWTOR accounts right now.

Everybody always takes the measure that flatters his game most. I'd argue that "paying accounts" is an unrealistically flattering measure for EVE. If you measure things like player activity, SWTOR has 50% more players than EVE (and GW2 has 800% more).
You can make PvE sinks - look at Darkfall where dying does not destroy anything but everything detoriates with use. You can have this in PvE game too.

The problem is IMO with motivation of players. Unlike WOW where you grind for epics but when you get them you keep them (until next expansion), grinding for stuff in PvE Darkfall would be never ending. Would you enjoy farming the same gear again and again? Would you use the "epics" when they just crumble with use? How would you accept wipes that eat tons of dura? At least for me such a game without the PvP aspect would seem repetitive and boring.
@Tobold - Not quite. You are trying to stick the fanboy label on me, but it works both ways.

People will always pick the measure that furthers their own agenda.

I put forth your post above as evidence in that regard.
I think it's wrong to assume that people want to, or need to be "terrible" to each other, thus ganking kills the sandbox.

What people want to do is to "affect" other people.

Ganking is the obvious way to do this since gameplay is historically and overwhelmingly designed around damaging opponents. Give a kid a toy gun and he points it at people and says "bang bang".

Without real options to affect other players in meaningful and more positive ways the default activity will be "bang bang".

The reason we gank is because the only real choice we have in interacting with other players is between attacking and talking. The tools we have to attack are amazing and fun, the tools we have to socialize are clunky, slow, and terrible.

Develop tools to allow players to intuitively interact socially, and reasonably progress while becoming popular and well liked, and the game will change. And if it can be balanced with progression via conflict and antisocial behavior, you will have a winner. You will also have the makings of a society.
In terms of EVE's population, if you got an EVE Client, start it up right now and it will show you exactly how many players are online.

I've played the last month, mostly during the evenings (european prime time) and the number was 30,000 to 45,000 players online at a given moment. Since EVE is only one server, you can probably extrapolate from there.

That is ACTIVE players, if that number remains constant for say 20 hours a day (USA/Asian players playing in the other hours)., you just need to figure out what's the average playtime per player per day. If we say, 4 hours, you can easily get to 200,000 active players PER DAY. This would exclude inactive (but paying) players and any other player which are doing the "offline training" and thus not actually logged in.

So just me conservative estimates, i would easily imagine the active playerbase to be 150k - 250k , unless i'm missing something with my arguments above.
I find it funny that the same people who will always tell me that popularity doesn't say anything about quality when WoW is mentioned are then the first to talk up the EVE player numbers.

None of which changes my point that few people have any idea what to do in a sandbox game unless it is to hurt other people.
People asking for a "sandbox" game where you can do "anything" have always regarded me as something like this:

Player: I want to be able to do anything.
Dev: Like what?
Player: Oh, I don't know...just...anything...
Dev: You just want to be a total prick, don't you?
Player: ...maybe...

If you wanted to be able build things, you would ask for a game where you can build things. If you wanted to be able to control territory, you would ask for a game where you can control territory. If you wanted to do X, you would ask for X.

Except you can't just say "I want to grief people." You have to disguise it under the more socially acceptable premise of "sandbox." That's why it's reasonable to be suspicious of a game which claims "sandbox" but no specific features.
Let's say for the sake of argument that EVE really does have 750K players, more than half of them in China. Is that the kind of success SOE would want to shoot for with EQnext?

You kind of have to expect that SOE is hoping for somewhere in the neighborhood of 500-800K paying players in the west alone. Slapping a fantasy skin on EVE will obviously not get them anywhere near that. Minecraft with better graphics and some RP mechanics might. However, that sound's like a pretty challenging design goal.
I would probably want to do some questing and maybe a dungeon to gear for a raid.
As far as Sandbox PvP goes, it could be construed as being consensual non-faction PvP -- i.e. no Horde vs Alliance, everyone who wishes to participate is free to choose their allegiances in any way they want. FFA won't happen.

On a separate note, SWG was put out by SOE (I think Smedley was in charge at the time), and that was the most "sandboxy" mainstream MMO since UO (Raph Koster being in charge of the development of both games).

So for a modern Sandbox game you've got a crafting based economy, a skill based character advancement system (no levels), player housing, and consensual non-faction PvP.
Natris says "Would you enjoy farming the same gear again and again?"

This is a good example of people thinking that MMOs are only a gear grind! A sandbox gives you options. Sure there may be BiS for you in a given world, but that won't help you build a castle or gain social influence with a faction or grow food for armies or transport goods across a dangerous plateau or a million other things that the game could be about.
IMHO, people continue to dream with the old times of UO and want a pvp full loot sandobox try to revive it.

Sadly, UO was fun because the sheep had no other MMO for go and they were preyed by the wolves. And when EQ come, the sheep migrated to that other MMO and the wolves had no other thing to do than hunt other wolves... and that was not so fun.

So, IMHO, try to revive that dream can prove be a nightmare: a hundred million bucks MMO with only 20 k players. And companies go bankrupt when make big financial mistakes...
"I find it funny that the same people who will always tell me that popularity doesn't say anything about quality when WoW is mentioned are then the first to talk up the EVE player numbers."

Case A

You kept saying that if 12Million people played WoW then they couldn't be wrong.

"They" said that popularity doesn't necessarily means quality, citing Macdonalds.

Case B

Someone said that EVE has less than 100.000 persons playing it.

Wilhelm corrected that.

How are both connected? Non-sequitur, much?
"None of which changes my point that few people have any idea what to do in a sandbox game unless it is to hurt other people."

Nobody gets hurt in a game. Unless we are talking about people with huge ego's that can't handle being on the receiving end of anything...

Someone said that EVE has less than 100.000 persons playing it. Wilhelm corrected that.

I am saying that less than 100,000 people are playing PVP in EVE. And looking at the second-biggest sandbox PvP game, I'd say that the market size for a free-for-all PvP game is about 20,000 players maximum. Thus making a PvP sandbox game is a bad business idea. Thus I'm asking how we could get to a sandbox game *without* PvP which could potentially do better.

Wilhelm didn't "correct" that, he just massaged the numbers to look better, e.g. by counting a person with 5 EVE accounts as 5 "players".
EVE Online probably has less than 100,000 players

Please don't imply that I was lying when you are in the process of lying. That is a quote from your post, and I did, in a sense, attempt to correct it.

I did not "massage" the numbers any more than you did. You flipped things to prove your point, I flipped them another way for an alternative view. Does that frighten so?

Basically, I pointed out that EVE has a server in China, for which you failed to account. Seeing that WoW players in China get counted in your totals in other posts, I felt that EVE players in China ought to count as well. You seem to want to have things one way for one game and another way for another. Anyway, that would push the number of EVE players above 100,000.

Do you dispute that? Is that a "massaged" data point?
As a long-time EVE player with PvE roots, I can't quite decide on what side of the fence I fall in this debate.

In EVE, I enjoy the inherent danger provided by the threat of PvP, but so often I just want to amble around and do my own thing. Knowing that every action I take has potential risk gives the game environment its energy. However, sometimes it's me that doesn't have the energy and I just want to chill out and enjoy the dystopian universe. Mostly, this leads me to log on to the test server or go play something else entirely.

I've always liked the dark sci-fi backstory of EVE's universe of New Eden, but I've become increasingly aware that CCP's development direction is not far from abandoning content entirely.

I even challenged CCP's senior producer Jon Lander about this at a recent pub meet. He pointed out that investment in static content is becoming increasingly obsolete as evidenced by SW:TOR, WoW and others - many players burn through new content in record time and player-made walkthroughs are available within days. There's much more value for money in making the players the content. Whilst I don't like this pandering to the hardcore, there is a truth to it.

On reflection, EVE is - and always should remain - a PvP focused sandbox for hardcore players. Much of the casual, PvE content was there more as a lure to provide a stepping stone to PvP culture for those who were unfamiliar. It's not something CCP are very interested in developing further.

Irrespective of subscription figure pendantry, EVE's emergent gameplay model is a success, as evidenced by the game's longevity. But it is most certainly a very specific niche within the emergent gameplay field.

For too long MMOs have failed to innovate and stuck to hackneyed concepts lifted straight from old pen & paper RPGs. Modern gaming technology is capable of so much more. I would certainly like to see more MMO studios embrace some of the concepts of EVE Online, but provide their own twist.

There are so many ways the emergent gameplay formula could be improved and it's about time someone did. EVE is nearly 10 years old, yet during that time few other games have offered anything similar. It remains an unexplored gaming frontier.
Do you dispute that?

I do not dispute that more than 100,000 persons are active subscribers of EVE. And yes, my original quote only counted Tranquility, where I'm not sure there are much more than 100,000 players behind the 361,000 accounts. The "Chinese players don't count" argument is also frequently used against WoW, so don't pretend that was incredibly unfair by me.

I do dispute that more than 100,000 persons voluntarily play PvP in EVE. I think 20,000 is about the number of people a new PvP sandbox game could attract.

As people often say that WoW is an exception and doesn't count to determine the popularity of PvE games, I would respond that EVE doesn't count either, as just like WoW there are several special circumstances that boost its numbers. I am very much willing to have the matter of popularity between themepark PvE and sandbox PvP be decided by looking at the second-most (or third-most) popular game in both categories.
Nobody disputes the popularity of themeparks vs sandboxes.

What I for one will dispute is your comment-chasing notion that only players who want to grief other players will want a FFA PvP Sandbox.

I played a few and although I agree with Syncaine ("In a FFA PVP game if the fight is fair, someone screwed up.") very rarely I was on the right side of a gank.

But the thing is, in a FFA PvP game, going to chop wood becomes a intense quest for at any moment an enemy might pop out of the bushes... And I do believe that most players look for that experience.
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