Sunday, May 6, 2007

Four Years Is A Long Time...

...a heck of a lot longer than I've been playing EVE, that's for sure. Four years ago, I don't think I even knew what an MMOG was, much less that I might be interested in playing one.

It's funny how, looking back now, my concept of video games was so different. I was still in the mindset that such a game had a beginning, a middle, and an end, much like an interactive book or movie that allows the player to participate in, but not dictate, what happens next. I played things like sports sims, games based on movies like Spider-Man, LOTR, and Star Trek (yes, I admit it, dyed in the wool Trekkie here), and silly little games like solitaire and online poker.

Really, it was Everquest which changed my perception of what a video game could be. I was (and still am) extremely interactive online in other aspects of my life, so discovering a game that combined these two things was quite a find for me. In addition, the idea of a game that didn't really end, even though EQ did have content that one played through before moving on, was also quite new to me.

I lasted about six months with Everquest, but grew tired of it after a while. In all honesty, it was a few things that led to my losing interest and eventually canceling my account:

1. Grind, grind, at first, boring later. Once I'd reached a point where I had to keep repeating the same content over and over in order to accomplish certain goals, I'd also reached the point where I started becoming disenchanted with EQ as a game in general.

2. The people. Some were terrific folks, others, not so much. I discovered that I dislike playing with children...or, at least, those who act like children. While that's certainly something likely to be found in most MMOG's, some apparently have it worse than others. Eventually, I just got tired of playing with people who acted like it was middle school recess in the schoolyard.

3. The content. Sure, much of it was interesting, but I've never been that big a fan of a medieval swords and sorcery kind of theme, and this game was clearly Dungeons and Dragons brought to life in video. Fun for a while, but only for a while.

4. The price. Just too damn expensive. Not only do these people bang you for a monthly fee, but they make you pay again every time they create a new content expansion for the game. After paying for two expansions over the six months I played, I just refused to shell out any more money, and it bothered me that despite all the money I'd paid into this game, I still didn't have access to all of it. While that may be standard operating procedure for most of these games, to me it just felt like a ripoff.

5. The game in concept as a whole. It just always seemed to me that there were parts of the game I'd never see without years of preparation and literally hundreds of friends to help me get there. It really seemed like there was a distinct line between those who would have access to such content and those who'd never see it regardless of how well they personally did in the game as individual players. You can guess, I'm sure, which group I felt myself to belong to. I just couldn't realistically see myself investing the hours necessary to reach that point, and even if I did, there was no guarantee that I'd be able to join a guild that would be capable of taking it on.

The first time I tried EVE, just before I signed up for EQ, I really wasn't all that impressed with many aspects of it. While I loved the concept and the theme, it just seemed like it was too hard to progress, too easy to die, and too hard to recover once you did die. I signed up for the free trial, but only lasted about a week before I became frustrated with it, seemingly just getting blown away by gatecampers over and over be honest, after a week of this it just wasn't lot of fun. Still, there were certain aspects to EVE that I absolutely loved, if only...

So, I signed up and did my six months with EQ. I really don't regret it because the experience helped me to understand what I like and don't like about MMOG's, what's important to me as a player, what isn't, and what I wanted more of, enough that I was willing to pay for it.

I know myself well enough to know exactly the point when I determined for certain that my time as an EQ player was coming to an end. It was right after EQ released yet another expansion to great fanfare, and I realized I just couldn't afford to buy another one. I resolved to play what I had, that the original game plus two paid expansions should be plenty to keep me occupied for at least a while. The problem was that all roads seemed to lead to this new expansion and the new gameplay features that came with it. The marketing push was quite heavy and I found myself resenting it. By the time my next monthly EQ payment became due, I'd already decided I was done with the game and was actively looking for something else to play.

I didn't come back to EVE right away. Instead I played dumb but fairly fun little games like solitaire, poker, and even a sword and sorcery Java thing called Adventure Quest for a few months. None of the other MMOG's I checked out fired my interest enough to bother even trying them. I found myself purchasing games like "Rise of Nations", "Civilization", and "Runaway", but none of these held my interest long. And then, one day, I was leafing through a video game magazine and saw an ad for EVE.

It was like the proverbial light bulb winked on. I remembered how I'd loved the concept, the graphics, and the gameplay, but kept getting my ass kicked. I also remembered that I'd made some colossally huge mistakes during my first time playing and that, thanks to major fines levied by CONCORD for transporting contraband, my original character was several million ISK in the hole. I decided that the best way to try EVE again would be to do the free trial again with a brand-new character and just completely start over from scratch.

In all honesty, I was still wary. Remembering my first experience, I expected to be blown away with regularity again, but I figured that since I knew it was likely to happen perhaps I could at least prevent it from happening as frequently. The first thing I decided to do, before I even signed up and created a character, was read...everything. I read the entire 300+ page collected backstory, then the entire player guide. I went to the forums and read plenty there as well, especially the stuff intended for new players, where I discovered Eve University. Armed with all this mostly new knowledge, I then signed up for the free trial and created a new character.

I noticed the difference right away. The gatecampers were gone. I discovered that this was probably due to the introduction of "Warp to 0", which had been one of the many improvements implemented while I was gone. After screwing around for a few days, mainly just checking things out and watching the conversation in the "Rookie" chat, I decided to join E-Uni and get started on really getting good at playing this game. I've never looked back since.

It's been around four months now, and I've never regretted my decision to sign up for an entire year after only a couple of weeks of playing. Sure, I've had issues with certain corps (one in particular ;)) and their play styles, but never with being a player of this game. It's been tough, even frustrating at times, but never boring and always fun. Unlike EQ, I've never not wanted more.

That's really the best thing about EVE, the thing I tell people when they ask me why I play this game. It always keeps me interested, engaged, and wanting more. When you think about it, that's really the best compliment you can pay to any entertainment media: It keeps you wanting more.

And speaking of wanting more, it's time to go change my skill training and maybe take on a few more missions...

Happy 4th birthday, EVE.

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