Chris Cascioli Edward Huyer EVE Online Introduction After World of Warcraft was released in November of 2004, it almost immediately became a gaming juggernaut. It has drawn literally millions of new players to massively multiplayer online games, as well as drawing players away from other, established MMORPGs. As of June 2006, World of Warcraft not only has more subscribers than any other massively multiplayer game, it has more subscribers than all other massively multiplayer games combined. This paper is not about World of Warcraft. This paper is about one of the smaller major MMOGs: EVE Online, by Crowd Control Productions (CCP).. EVE is somewhat unusual in that it has managed to consistently grow its subscriber base since the release of World of Warcraft, while many other games in the same market have been losing subscribers steadily. We will be looking at what sets EVE Online apart from other MMORPGs, both in terms of EVE's game mechanics and in terms of the EVE community. Game Description EVE Online is not your typical “swords and sorcery” MMORPG. Unlike most such games in which the player's avatar is human-like with armor and some kind of hand- held weapon, in EVE the player's avatar, for all intents and purposes, is a space ship. Granted, there is some background information about how the player's character is actually a human in a life-support pod buried in the center of the space ship, but you never really see that. The player is an abstracted consciousness that transfers from one ship to another, directing the currently occupied ship to do his or her bidding. The universe of EVE consists of a network of star systems linked by special gates allowing ships to travel between systems. These star systems are populated by asteroid fields, space stations, planets, and NPC ships (mostly pirates and the police force, CONCORD). Players can travel with relative freedom through these star systems mining asteroids, fighting pirates, performing missions for NPCs in the space stations, attacking other players, trading between space stations, researching and crafting equipment, similar activities. All systems have a security rating from 0.0 to 1.0, measuring how active and effective CONCORD, the NPC police force, is at responding to players being attacked by other players. In 1.0 space, which is space controlled entirely by one of the major “races”, CONCORD is very active and effective. In 0.0 space, CONCORD simply doesn't exist. That's not to say that 0.0 space is entirely a free-for-all no-man's-land. Corporations (discussed in detail later) often control sections of 0.0 space, and while they don't have automatic protection systems, they will take issue with their members being destroyed by other players. In terms of character development, EVE's system is very different from most other games. In EVE, there are no experience points that are gained by killing enemies or completing quests. Instead, players can have their characters learn skills simply by buying an appropriate book and using that book to train the first level of the skill. Once a player has at least level 1 in a skill, they can simply select it for training, though only one skill can be training at a time. Training takes time depending on the level and difficulty of the skill, and progresses regardless of what the player is doing at the time. Training the skill “Mining” from level 4 to level 5 (the maximum) requires exactly the same amount of time regardless of whether the player is mining asteroids, fighting pirates, or sitting logged-out in a space station. Training times can range from minutes for the first level of a simple skill, to weeks of real-world time for the upper levels of a high-end skill. The other half of “advancement”in EVE is, as in many games, economic. Many skills are simply worthless without the right ship and equipment. A large portion of the reward for the activities mentioned above are economic; either the player earns money by selling the proceeds of their particular specialty, or they use it to build their own equipment, or they contribute it to their corporation who in turn helps the player get what equipment they need. Actually using skills and equipment, including attacking enemies, follows a somewhat similar pattern to most massively multiplayer games. Skills are entirely passive, but they allow the player to use particular pieces of equipment, or enhances the effectiveness of that equipment. Equipment is used by selecting and locking on to a target, if applicable, and then clicking the equipment or weapon to activate it. The equipment will then do its thing, be it extracting minerals from an asteroid, regenerating the player's shields, or launching white-hot death at an enemy. Of course, whenever there is combat, there is the possibility of death, and unlike many other MMORPGs, death in EVE is painful. If a player's ship is destroyed, some of the equipment is left behind to be collected by the victor or whomever runs across it, but the ship itself is gone. The player himself is ejected in a small, unarmed escape pod which he can use to limp back to a space station. If the victor is feeling particularly vicious, he can even destroy the loser's pod, killing him. Neither of these results in quite permanent. Ships can be insured so that if they are destroyed, a portion of the value of the ship itself is deposited in the player's account. That insurance does not cover the value of the equipment on the ship, or the value of any cargo the ship was carrying. It's not uncommon for the value of the equipment on a ship to be greater than the value of the ship itself. As a result, a common bit of wisdom in EVE is to not fly anything that you can't afford to have destroyed. In the case of a player having their pod destroyed (getting “podded”), they stand to lose the time they've put into learning skills. In some space stations players can buy clones. Clones are rated for a certain number of skill points depending on their quality. If a player has a clone and dies, they only lose a number of skill points (and thus a corresponding amount of time) equal to the difference between their current number of skill points and the number of skill points the clone is rated for. If the clone is rated for more skill points than the player has, none are lost. Given the time and in-game expense involved in gaining skills and equipping a ship, death is to be avoided at all costs. An unexpected loss in battle can result in the loss of weeks or months of game productivity. Economy The economy in EVE is primarily player-driven. Players mine asteroids to acquire mineral ores, which can then be processed into usable materials. Players can also buy or research blueprints for objects ranging from ammunition for weapons to equipment to entire spaceships. The materials combined with the blueprints can then be used to create the items which can then be sold to still other players. In the case of more advanced and complex items, there may be a number of intermediate constructions required to build the final product. The time required to perform the construction is fairly nontrivial, taking anywhere from minutes for a small amount of ammunition, to days for more or more complex items such as spaceships. It should be noted that virtually anything can be sold, including blueprints. In fact, it's possible to make money by buying a blueprint that allows unlimited production, and then making copies of it that only allow a limited number of production runs before the copy expires. Likewise, since anything is potentially salable, and there is no in-game mail system for items, money can be made simply by moving goods from one location to another and getting paid for it. Sometimes people make money this way by trading. Others do it for their corporation, which often needs goods in one location to be moved to another location so they can be used in construction. Still others do it on a freelance contract basis as couriers. All this adds up to there being a wide variety of ways to make money, even without resorting to piracy. However, the expense, difficulty of acquiring resources, and time required to participate in the higher (and more profitable) levels of these activities makes it difficult for the independent operator to go very far. To get the most out of EVE, it's all-but required that a player be a member of a corporation. This is even more true when players want to take advantage of player-built space stations and planetary outposts, which are immensely expensive and can only be built in 0.0 space. How Corporations Work Most massively multiplayer online games have a system for players to form groups. Many games call these groups guilds or clans, but some games refer to them in terms that relate to that game’s world. City of Heroes calls them “super groups”, which goes along with the super hero motif. EVE Online calls them corporations, which relate to the futuristic, economy-centric feel of the game. Corporations are an integral part of EVE, so much so that from the moment a player creates a character, that character is in a corporation. New characters start in one of the many computer controlled corporations in the game; it can’t be avoided. If the player joins a player-run corporation and later leaves it, they will revert back to their previous NPC corporation. However, NPC corporations don’t provide an opportunity to advance, so if a player wishes to take on some of the responsibilities of a corporation, they must join a player-created one. Players can also create their own corporation if they have the correct skills and enough money. If a player does decide to create their own corporation, they become the CEO. Once the corporation is up and running, the CEO can invite new members, who by default always have very limited powers. A member can then be granted one of several higher positions by the CEO (or by other members who themselves hold specific higher positions). There are many positions available in corporations, including Director, Personnel Manager, Station Manager, Factory Manager, Accountant and Pilot. The Director position has many of the same abilities as a CEO. Directors can invite new members, remove current members and do much of the day-to-day maintenance and management tasks that go along with corporations. Personnel Managers are able to invite new members into the corporation. If the corporation owns a space station, a player in the Station Manager position can perform many of the station-related tasks in the game: they can alter the station’s defenses, docking criteria and even adjust station-related permissions. Factory Managers, like Station Managers, are in charge of factories and research slots, and can use corporation-owned materials and blueprints to create items. Accountants, as the name suggests, deal with the corporation’s monetary issues. There are always bills to pay, and EVE corporations are no different. An Accountant can deal with the corporations financial holdings, pay bills and keep track of who owes the corporation money. A player with the Pilot role is able to utilize ships that are in a corporate hangar, be it for travel or combat. These various levels of responsibility built into the corporation system can be a double-edged sword. One on hand, the distribution of responsibility allows a corporation (especially larger ones) to run more smoothly. Members in higher level positions can take care of their day-to-day tasks fairly independently, allowing business to continue even if many of the members are not logged in at the same time. The Director position, for instance, has almost the same powers as the CEO himself. This is where the problem lies. A player in a very high level position has access to many of the corporation’s holdings, locations and communications. If a dubious player decides to take the time to rise in the ranks of a corporation, they could gain access to the corporation’s hanger, where many high level ships may be docked, and even the corporation’s bank account. This is why corporate positions such as Director should not be given to just anyone, but those who are trusted. Even then, there’s always a change someone could get stabbed in the back by an unscrupulous player. In a case like this, the offending player can be removed from the corporation by some of the positions of other members. This is not always as simple as clicking a button. If the player in question has more than the average number of shares per shareholder of the corporation, the CEO must start a vote to remove the player. More than likely however, the crooked player would leave on his or her own. When a player resigns from a corporation, they revert back to the NPC corporation they started the game with. If the CEO resigns, either another member becomes the new CEO of the corporation, or the corporation is disbanded if no other members exist. The Community of Corporations Corporations in EVE exist for many reasons. Like a guild or clan in other games, it is a way for players to play the game together and coordinate their efforts more easily. However, corporations reach far beyond being a glorified friends list. Corporations allow groups of players to achieve things far greater than a solo player ever could. They also allow for the pooling of both money (ISK) and resources such as raw materials and blueprints. Corporations have their own channels of communication, so members can easily get in contact with one another and organize parties to travel out into the universe. Because of the varying levels of responsibility in corporations, players can get the feeling they are involved with a real organization. If a player does well in the corporation, they may get promoted and rise through the ranks, although this won’t be the case for every member of a corporation. Even as a basic member of a corporation, a player can contribute to its overall well-being. They can be a resource collector, and mine for raw materials or salvage the wreckage of ships destroyed in combat. Conversely, they could be the ones doing the destroying. Combat plays a large part in EVE, as well as with the community feel of the game. A solo player might do fairly well for themselves in the high security areas of the universe, but will become an easy target once they venture into the more lucrative and much more dangerous low security zones. Players willing to risk heading into these zones are much better off if they have a group with them. This is where the corporation comes in. A group of players wanting to head out into a low security zone would be much safer if they enlist the help of fellow corporation members, the benefit of this being two-fold. Taking more resource gathering players could help speed up the process of finding and retrieving materials, and taking a group of combat-skilled members will ensure the group is safer during their travels. Corporations seeking even more profitable ventures can attempt to control entire territories or markets (something a solo player could never even dream of achieving). Since the universe can be such a dangerous place, being a member of a corporation can provide much more than a business endeavor. It can provide protection. Corporations vying for control of regions can declare war on one another. When this happens, the security force in the universe, Concord, will not step in and intervene when skirmishes or all out warfare takes place. Corporations can take part in large scale, tactical warfare with coordinated efforts among large groups of combat-ready ships. At times like this, having a large corporation with many dedicated players can help level the playing field and ensure victory. Multiple corporations can even come together and form Alliances, allowing them to work together to overcome enemy corporations and triumph in their endeavors. Another important aspect of corporations is the ability to recruit players based on skills, and coordinate which skills the corporation could use to round out their overall skill base. Since skills take time to learn, and the higher levels of a skill take much longer than the lower levels, it is important for a corporation to get a good balance of skills. If the corporation is lacking in industry-related skills, they may scour the universe looking for players who are focused on these skills. They could also ask that within the corporation some players focus on certain skills, so that the whole corporation can benefit. Having a wide range of skills provides more opportunities, both financial and material. While solo players are not alienated from the game, there is a large portion of EVE they may never get to experience on their own. The fact that the player is always in a corporation of some type highlights the importance of corporations. Gaining high level items usually requires the resources of a corporation, or the money to purchase the items from a corporation that can manufacture them. Being a jack-of-all-trades in EVE would prove fairly difficult and time consuming. It would take any one player an immensely long time to train in every skill, but focusing on a small subset of skills would allow greater specialization, which in turn could be a selling point for corporate recruitment. Once recruited, the other skills fellow members bring to the table would be at the player’s disposal. Although anyone can play the game solo and enjoy it, much of the game is built around corporations. Without being in one, a player would be limiting him or her self to a small section of the overall game and many of the community opportunities that corporations provide. The External Community Much of EVE Online's out-of-game community is centered on the official EVE forums. In these forums, as with many MMOs, players can discuss strategies, optimal character (or ship, in this case) builds, game balance, etc. The “Crime and Punishment” forum is a bit unusual. Since EVE is quite open to player vs. player combat as well as many economic scams, it's only natural that mercenaries and other guns for hire will arise, and the “Crime and Punishment” forum is in part for such bounty hunters. Indeed, one of the stickied threads is a list of known mercenary corporations. People openly discuss piratical tactics, particularly juicy or interesting plunders and escapes, and even requests for assassinations. When visiting the EVE forums and comparing them to the forums of other massively multiplayer games such as those of World of Warcraft, there is an impression that the individuals posting are more mature on the EVE forums. Profanity is rare, as are direct insults, and people tend to be relatively helpful. Whether this is due to more restrictive moderation policies weeding out the immature posters or the pace and style of the game attracting more mature players is unclear. It seems reasonable to expect that both play a role. In addition to the official forums and the websites of the in-game corporations, there are other unique community endeavors. EVE Radio is an in-game radio station, run by players, that broadcasts music and talk over the Internet for other players to listen to. The radio station even sponsors contests and conducts interviews with notable in-game individuals. To aid such activities, CCP's community building volunteers can provide in- game sponsorship in the form of funds and prizes. That allows individuals in the community to more easily create the events, since they don't have to work as hard to provide the prizes and other in-game support. As a result, the community as a whole is enriched. EVE Online vs. Other MMOs EVE takes a fairly different approach to many of the staples of massively multiplayer online games. One of the first things a new player will do in EVE is create their character. There is a detailed avatar customization section of the character customization, which allows for a wide range of facial feature tweaks. The resulting portrait of the player’s avatar is the only representation of the avatar others will see. This is because in EVE, a player is represented in the game world as whatever ship they happen to be piloting at the time. When interacting with other players, their portrait can be seen, but there is no way to get out of a ship and walk around on land or in space stations. This is a big departure from other games in the genre, especially City of Heroes. In City of Heroes, the amount of character customization is astounding. This is especially important because for the most part, a character’s costume doesn’t really change. Although there are mechanisms for altering one’s costume for a price, through the natural progression of the game a character’s costume won’t really change. In a game like World of Warcraft, a character’s gear (armor and weapons) is everything. Not only does it provide stat upgrades and make a character more effective, it is a status symbol within the game. There are even whole sets of armor that aesthetically match, and acquiring one of these sets in its entirety is considered a rite of passage for many. This type of thing does exist in EVE, but it affects a character’s ships instead of their 2D character portrait. Their avatar in the game world is the ship they are flying, which in and of itself is indicative of their wealth, connections and accomplishments. There are also different types of ships for different tasks, such as frigates, battleships and shuttles. These ships can be customized with different types of equipment, ranging from combat-oriented guns and shields, to hauling or mining hardware. Character advancement in EVE is also different from most MMOs. City of Heroes and World of Warcraft use experience point systems and character levels. When a character has earned enough experience points, through defeating enemies or running quests/missions, they reach the next level. At certain level increments, a character may train new abilities to use against their foes. These abilities are determined by the character’s class and sometimes specializations. City of Heroes doesn’t go much further in depth than that, but World of Warcraft also has skills that can be raised through repeated action. If a character swings a two-handed sword enough, for example, their two-handed sword skill will increase. These skills, while important, are not usually a large focus in World of Warcraft, since they rise by themselves through normal use. EVE’s character advancement is more like the advancement in Ultima Online, although there are still distinct differences. In Ultima Online, there are no character levels or character class. Instead, there are approximately 50 skills that players can utilize to fight enemies, craft items or be mischievous. The skills a player decides to train determine what the character can do, but there are no official classes. A player can take fishing, mining, musicianship, blacksmithing and fencing if they so choose. However, players have a maximum number of skill points to spread across these 50 skills, which equates to having 7 skills maxed out at any one time. If a character reaches the skill cap and wants to work a new skill up, which happens through repeated use of that skill similar to World of Warcraft, they must give up points in another skill. EVE works in much the same way. There are no character levels or class. Characters train their skills up, and their “class” is essentially determined by what the character can do and what skills they have. Unlike Ultima Online, characters in EVE do not have a limit to the number of skills or skill points they can have at any one time. A character could theoretically posses every skill in the game, although they would take a long time to attain. This highlights the method of skill gain in EVE: time. Skills do not increase with use. Instead, the player chooses one skill at a time to train, and that skill will gradually increase over time, even if the player is logged out. One very nice thing about this system is that it discourages “power leveling”, because it’s essentially impossible. Corporations vs. Guilds Another area where EVE differs from traditional MMOs is corporations and guilds. The complex structure, multiple roles and shared resource capabilities of corporations are things very rarely seen in MMO guilds. Most MMOs require some sort of purchase or money sink to start a guild, and EVE is no different in that respect. However, EVE has an entire skill that must be learned before a player is able to start their own corporation. While most games simply have a hard cap for the number of players allowed in a guild, EVE’s approach is that a corporation’s CEO’s Basic Corporation Management skill determines the maximum number of members. This is a very interesting component to corporations, and one that limits corporation creation and management to those who are more dedicated to it. World of Warcraft has some similarities in its guild management, but nothing to the level of EVE. In World of Warcraft, a player may purchase a guild charter, which requires 10 signatures before being turned in. This means a character cannot simply start a guild at the drop of a hat; they must actually have people interested in joining the guild (who are not currently in a guild). This is often a moot point however, since once the guild is formed the members are free to leave without destroying the guild and people are often swayed to sign a charter by donations of gold. Once formed, the guild leader can customize character ranks, allowing for officers who can invite new members, higher level officers who can promote normal members to officer status, and even lower than normal ranks for people who are not allowed to speak in the guild chat channel. The only real power any of these people have within the guild however is the ability to invite new members and kick, promote or demote current members. In City of Heroes, super groups are formed and maintained in a similar fashion to the World of Warcraft guilds. Ultima Online uses actual in-world items called guild stones for guild management. The guild stone must be placed inside a player owned house, and all guild management functions require clicking on the stone for access. The one place where UO is more similar to EVE is that in UO guilds, if enough people vote for a new guild leader, the old leader is demoted to a regular member and the new leader is appointed. UO however doesn’t have much structure to the guilds other than customized guild titles. Many times guilds in various games will set up specific roles for individuals, such as recruitment or item management, but these are purely social roles and are not part of the game itself. Resource sharing is another aspect where EVE differs from the norm. City of Heroes has something similar, whereby a super group’s base can hold a cache of power ups, but since these are the only tradable loot in the game, there’s not much point to resource sharing. Ultima Online does have a way for multiple people to access items in player housing, but that is part of the housing security system and is not related at all to guilds. World of Warcraft also has no way to share items directly among guild mates. Sometimes players (usually the guild leader or an officer) will create a “guild bank” character whose sole purpose is to hold money and items that can be distributed to the guild, but this is not an actual game mechanic. In addition to guild management, guilds and corporations in MMOs allow players to access content that may have otherwise been unavailable to them. EVE is the most extreme case of this, since many of the items in the universe are simply too expensive to purchase or create for solo or very small groups of players. Also, the dangers inherent to the lower security level zones prohibit most solo players from entering for fear of destruction. Games like World of Warcraft and Everquest have large scale raid dungeons that require upwards of 40 players to successfully complete. However, unlike EVE, these dungeons don’t require actual guilds to use them, any 40 players can join up and attempt them. Usually you don’t find many pick-up groups attempt them because of the amount of coordination required to be victorious. The Year Long Plot In April of 2005, an event occurred in EVE that was remarkable even within its anarchistic universe, and virtually impossible in any other MMO. Mirial, the head of the powerful Ubiqua Seraph corporation, was assassinated by her second in command and a group of his allies, while the coffers and storage hangars of the corporation were simultaneously emptied of their contents. Within an hour on the morning of April 18th, Ubiqua Seraph functionally ceased to exist. This coordinated act of destruction was not the result of dissatisfied or power hungry subordinates. Instead, it was the result of a plot by the assassin corporation Guiding Hand Social Club. The head of the Guiding Hand, Istvaan Shogaatsu, Mirial's “second in command”, Arenis Xemdal (actually a Guiding Hand agent from the beginning), and many other Guiding Hand agents managed to organize the complete infiltration of the Ubiqua Seraph corporation. This monumental task took a year to complete, and the spoils from raiding the coffers and hangars far outstripped the actual payment for the job. All of this is completely within the rules of EVE, and illustrates a fundamental difference between the outlook of the game's developers and players as compared to those who develop and play other MMOs. In most MMOs, it's difficult to really lose very much of your progress, and it's even harder to lose it as the result of another player. The opposite is true in EVE: If you're losing part of your progress in the game, it's probably due to another player, and you are almost certainly losing a substantial amount of invested time. This can – and does – result in some potential players being scared off and established players being driven off. On the other hand, many people find the risk and freedom of EVE exciting and attractive. The Year-Long Plot in Other MMOs? The year-long plot that resulted in the death of a corporation CEO and the looting of much of that corporation’s holdings was a very rare occurrence in MMOs. It probably couldn’t happen in many other games simply because of the guild structure or lack thereof. Likewise, guilds in many other games are not vying for control of game-world resources and are not at war with each other. In World of Warcraft for instance, even if a player from another guild did infiltrate a guild, there’s not much they could do save kick everyone with a lower rank than them out. A situation like that would be more of a nuisance than anything, and would be easily corrected. Since most MMOs don’t have the ability to share resources easily within a guild, theft isn’t an issue. If a guild “bank” (a character used only for their bank slots) was set up by a guild member, that guild member is the only one with access to it. Allowing anyone else access to it would require users to share their login names and passwords, which is a separate issue. If passwords are swapped, guilds could be disbanded, item could be sold or destroyed and characters could be permanently deleted. This level of trust probably isn’t even reached in EVE, unless the parties involved know each other in real life or truly trust that no misdeeds could occur. Conclusion EVE Online's unusual player-driven economy and politics coupled with the game's anarchistic approach to player vs. player combat have attracted a community that values the game's excitement, risk, and freedom. Where most MMORPGs give players a reliable stream of rewards with relatively little danger of losing them, EVE gives players an unreliable supply of rewards that could be destroyed at almost any moment. That risk can – and does – scare away some new players, while the loss that comes from being defeated in combat may cause players players to leave in frustration. Some might argue that reducing the risk might bring more players or help retain existing players. That might be true, but it would also reduce the very things that allow EVE to cater to players that find World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, and other games unappealing. World of Warcraft wins in the low-risk MMO market. EVE is growing by tapping into a completely different market. Bringing certain features of EVE over to other MMOs might be possible, but would also tend to bring related problems. For instance, the shared corporate resources could make distribution easier for guilds in other games. However, it would also allow disgruntled players to steal or destroy the contents. In many ways, such actions would be worse in another MMO than they are in EVE. In EVE, there are valid in-game mechanisms to retaliate against such a criminally-minded individual. That's not the case in other games, leaving the victims with little to do but complain and make their grievance public. In the end, EVE is a game very well suited to its community, but rather poorly suited to many other MMORPG communities. The philosophies and mechanics are very different, and almost diametrically opposed. EVE players are liable to view World of Warcraft and restrictive, dull, and pointless, since nothing they do actually affects anything in the game. World of Warcraft players are likely to find EVE to be overly complex, too time consuming, and far too risky. The difference benefits both, since both communities mainly end up with players that share the same goals and desires, while the parent companies aren't constantly fighting over players. Works Cited EVE Online. CCP, Inc. 18 Feb. 2007 <http://www.eve-online.com> EVE Online. Wikipedia. 18 Feb. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_online> The History of MMOGs: EVE Online: The Second Genesis. Ten Ton Hammer. 18 Feb. 2007 <http://www.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=displ ay&ceid=54> MMOG Active Subscriptions 21.0 120,000+. MMOGCHART.COM. 21 Feb. 2007. <http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart1.html> MMOG Subscriptions Market Share – June 2006. MMOGCHART.COM. 21 Feb. 2007. <http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart7.html> Murder Incorporated. PC Gamer. September 2005. pp126-129.