Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Morning After...

So, I finished putting my ship back together last last night and headed back to Vylade to finish the mission that had taken out my last Thorax. I did manage to take out several ships before I was forced to flee (a bit sooner this time, with my ship battered but intact), but not enough to finish the mission. At that point, I was forced to confront an enemy for more powerful and insidious than any opponent I'd had to take on before in this mission: exhaustion.

It had been a busy, full day, and I was beat. I knew there was no way I would be able to keep my eyes open long enough to make another run into deadspace, so I cursed myself for not getting the mission done earlier, docked in the nearest station, and went to bed.

It's now 1pm the following day as I write this and I expect I'll be firing up Eve soon after I post this. I know that my entire mission will be reset when I attempt it again, so if I really want to beat it I know I'll have to set aside at least a couple of hours to get it done.

More and more, I keep seeing how this game's mechanics are designed to keep players from getting too far too quickly, and I don't really have a problem with that. When I'd trained the relevant social skills and started getting access to level 3 agents, my ship couldn't provide the firepower to even effectively challenge, much less beat, the opposition in even the lowest L3 missions, and I quickly realized that until I'm able to buy, equip, and insure a battlecruiser there's just no way I'm going to be able to start doing L3 missions. Right now, with my ISK depleted after having to put a new Thorax in space, it's going to be a while before I can afford such things.

The funny thing is that if this were Everquest and I'd found something similar within the game blocking or hindering progress I'd probably have screamed bloody murder, but in Eve it's acceptable because it's a hinderance that makes sense. When you move to a higher level of missions in Eve, the opposition is tougher and so must you be. With your "level" in Eve more determined by your skills and what you fly than other things such as number of kills, etc., it makes complete sense to limit player progress in this way. It makes far more sense, for example, than limiting access to certain enemies or content to characters that have achieved a certain total of experience points, are in possession of a certain artifact...or, most annoyingly, to those players who shell out more cash for a new expansion.

One of the things I love about Eve is that you're forced to stop and smell the roses, despite yourself and your in-game ambitions. Unless you are very wealthy and/or have access to an inventory of ships and modules that will allow to quickly replace what you've lost in battle, progress can be slow, but there are always ways of helping to speed the process along. Still, regardless of how potent you are in-game in terms of skills, wealth or ordinance, there are times when the only way to get what you want is by spending the necessary amount of time to get it. I read somewhere, probably on the official Eve forums, that in addition to the extremely expensive blueprint, massive amounts of various minerals needed for its construction, and astronomical requirements in production time, it takes somewhere around six months for a previously well-skilled pilot to train the necessary skills to fly a Titan.

Make no mistake, this is a very good thing. Can you imagine, for example, if every two-bit alliance in Eve that wanted a Titan could have one in fairly short order? Think nuclear proliferation...if it didn't take even the biggies an enormous amount of time and resources to produce and field one of these staggeringly lethal behemoths, no one would be safe. Eve would quickly become a drastically different game, one that a lot of the less bloodthirsty players probably wouldn't be too interested in playing. Making ultra-high-end hardware like a Titan extremely difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to acquire and field is not only in keeping with this game's seemingly endless real life correlations, but it also helps protect the game itself from becoming less friendly to new players.

See what I mean? There's a depth of thought and planning that clearly goes into this game that's far deeper than any other game I've ever played. Yeah ok, there's a lot of stuff I've never played, online especially, but I've been playing video games since Odyessy. When I was a kid, I actually won one of these first-generation video game systems as first prize in a contest sponsored by the Good Humor ice cream company. Before we started each game, we would attach a translucent plastic cover to our TV screen that contained all the graphical details such as boundaries or obstacles. Once the correct plastic-handled circuit board had been inserted into its slot on the console, Odyessy itself provided white lines on a black background to fit the screen and run the actual game. In reality, all the games were just variations on PONG in some way, and most of the difference between them was within the player's own imagination. Even so, my brothers and I had a blast with it, for a while...

It's now over 30 years later. I've watched this industry top and re-top itself over and over. To me, Eve seems an excellent example of the kind of elegance of design that can be achieved when a game is designed to continue, expand, and evolve, rather than one which has a self-contained set amount of content and an eventual end. To my way of thinking, it's MMOG's, and Eve especially, which are truly at the leading edge of gaming in terms of quality of experience.

Ok, enough...for now.

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