Monday, February 19, 2007

Why I Play Eve

Hi and welcome.

I'm a relative newbie Eve-Online player (coming up on two months now), one who's fallen in love with this game so completely that I just shelled out for a year's subscription just a few weeks ago...that's how sure I am that I'm going to continue playing. I'm also probably a bit different than most people playing this game. For reasons I may or may not eventually go into here, I'm fairly well-known in certain circles outside of the game itself, and the fact that I play Eve and the name of my character are known as well. So, if you're one of those who found this blog and knows the connection between my Eve and RL personae, that's fine. If you've got no clue and to you I'm just another Eve player, that's cool, too.

I'm a writer, and Eve has given me many ideas in terms of subject matter, so much so that I'm going to be trying some of them out here, separate and apart from my regular personal blog. Some of what you read will concern my in-game experiences, some will be relevant to some aspect of Eve which inspired it, and some...who knows? I'm not to paint myself into a corner in terms of content so keep reading and we'll see how it goes...

Today, I am a pod...again.

It's ok, I deserved it, forgetting to activate my armor hardener and armor repair modules until it was too late. My Thorax was pounded into space dust and the lag didn't help, either. Call it a hunch but I have a feeling this particular level 2 mission will be far easier to complete if I attempt it around midnight or 1am eastern, when only about half the number of players are on
as are usually on during the day and early evening.

This is a damn hard game. No, I don't mean difficult, I mean hard. You fuck up, it costs you, sometimes a lot. Sometimes, a lot of times, it costs you even when you do everything right except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When you're on the losing end, you have to pick yourself up and work your way back up to where you were before...and the wealthier and more powerful you become, the easier it is to weather the losses. In some ways this game is so much like real life it's scary.

I used to play was the first MMOG I ever played. During the six months or so I played EQ, I found myself constantly repeating certain things over and over in order to reach certain places and items. After a while it became more about what items I was able to acquire or how high a level I had managed to achieve rather than just about the enjoyment of the game itself. In EQ, I followed a path pretty clearly marked out for players and it wasn't that long before I found it boring...too much like all those Dungeons and Dragons-style games before it to truly prove a unique experience. After a time, I moved on.

The next thing I found was Second Life. I found the concept interesting, but the software was simply too much for my computer at the time to handle. I moved on (While my current computer could probably handle SL without a problem, I've been too busy with other things to try it since I got it. Maybe soon).

Then, about a year ago, I ran across Eve. I signed up for a trial account, did the tutorial, and headed out into the great, vast universe...and got my ass shot into smithereens by gate campers, over and over and over and the point where this, too, started getting boring. Add to that the fact that the game itself barely ran on my computer and after about a week I decided it wasn't worth it and again moved on.

After that, it was Pogo, GameTap, anything that seemed a good candidate for satisfying my gaming instinct. Nothing held my interest for all that long and most of the decent games one could buy had system requirements far in excess of my little 660mhz...

Then, my best friend Robyn told me that her Dad was getting a new computer and I could have his old one, which is almost twice as fast as what I had. One of the first things that immediately came to mind upon hearing this was that now I'd be able to play some of the more demanding games I'd been wanting to try. Yet, by the time Robyn had gotten the thing up and running, I'd already become involved with Eve again.

A few days before Robyn had come over to set up the new machine and transfer all my files over, I'd dropped by the Eve-Online website to take a look at where the game had gone in the year or so since I'd played it. I noticed that there had been several updates, including the introduction of an anti-gate-camper "Warp to 0" ability that I found especially appealing. Even though my new hardware wasn't yet online, I decided to sign up for a trial account, download the client, and see if Eve was better the second time around.

It just about every way imaginable. The game ran much more smoothly this time than a year previously, and I quickly found many new things within to appreciate and enjoy. Clearly, the people who create this game had been busy. Once the new computer was working and Eve ran almost flawlessly, I was hooked.

After about a week and a half of playing the free trial, I started running into the problem of needing or wanting skills that were blocked from being trained on trial accounts. This was actually kind of surprise at first, but in reality makes perfect sense as a way of limiting progress and content within the game for those who aren't paying customers without limiting their ability to use the tools that are within their reach to truly get an idea of what Eve is about before plunking down their cash for a subscription or time code.

This kind of inventive thinking is one of the things that most appeals to me about this game and the way it's designed. The more you play Eve, the more you understand the level of thought and attention to detail that has gone into every aspect of this game. Progress in Eve isn't tracked by attainment of levels or possession of certain items as much as it's regulated by time and money. In Eve, many of the things you can do require you to spend a certain amount of real time in order to complete them. In addition, many also require significant sums of ISK, which can be attained through various activities in the game...essentially, if you want something and you don't have the money for it, you can go to work and earn the money...or start your own company and have others work with and for you.

Being slightly less than two months into the game gives me a perspective unlike that which you can read on Eve's official forums. It seems that in the most well-read areas of the forum it's the hardcore PvP'ers who dominate the conversation. On the other hand, the forum of the corporation I belong to, Eve University, seems to offer a consistent voice to a much more diverse collection of posters. Funny thing is, the first conversation I've gotten into over there was not only started by me, but has little to do with Eve itself.

So, why do I play Eve, really? Why not Second Life, or World of Warcraft, or...? Some of the reasons are easy...others, less so. If you understand Eve and you knew me, you'd know the answer. The easy answer is that I'm a total sci-fi geek and I like blowing things up. The harder answer is that I'm a student of culture and, in my experience thus far, Eve is certainly a culture unique unto itself in many ways.

In the real world, a lot of what I do is tied up with real world problems, social issues, politics, and the media. In Eve, I find myself in an artificial reality that is at the same time both like and completely unlike the real one. To make headway, one has to work and study, but to truly attain power and influence one has to get political. The guns and the warp drives are just one part of the game...the people and how they interact with each other are what truly determine the course of events in Eve, just like in the real world.

In truth, for me to comment on the political happenings, the wars and such, of this game at this point would be pointless. Right now, I'm just a second level mission runner who's got to learn to bail a little earlier from skirmishes than she'd really like to in order to keep her ship one piece (insurance is a really, really wonderful thing...don't undock without it). I can't tell you if developers helped Band of Brothers to an unfair advantage...I wouldn't even hazard a guess. In truth, I couldn't care less. From my perspective, it matters about as much to me as an Eve pilot as Jayson Blair committing plagiarism in the New York Times matters to me as a journalist, which is to say not at all. I love the game, just as I love to write, and if some people get ahead by cheating that sucks, but it's not going to stop me from doing something I enjoy.

So now you see a little sampling of what you can expect to read here in the future, and there's much more to come. I doubt I'll be heading off in a shuttle to go explore 0.0 space on a whim...I'm much too cautious and prone to preplanning for something like that. That's not what this blog is going to be about. This is just the ramblings of one of the many denizens of Eve with a story to tell...just a girl and her Thorax.

Stick's just getting started.

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