Sunday, January 10, 2016

This is your Wolfe on EVE

It's been six years since I've left my last corporation in EVE-Online, so it must be slightly less than that since I've played it. Along with City of Heroes and Lord of the Rings Online, EVE has earned a good half-dozen second chances from me even as I abandoned other games over its dozen-year lifespan. LotRO retains nothing else to offer besides fleeting visions of Middle-Earth itself and CoH drew me back for its character creator and few other thematic elements despite its utterly dull leveling treadmill routine. EVE, on the other hand, I keep revisiting for its gameplay mechanics.

Not that said mechanics can be called good on the whole. EVE stumbles into almost as many pitfalls as any of its competitors, managing to remain borderline playable only in comparison with them, merely by grace of the abysmal standards set by multiplayer genres as a whole. These are, however, different flaws, and as megacorporate homogeneity increasingly strangles the game industry, a slightly different flavor of hell is the closest you can get to heaven. EVE manages to fail on its own terms and these days that's no mean feat.

I bring this up because CCP made me a Christmas discount offer I couldn't refuse, so like any good recovering addict I dove off my wagon head-first. I suppose this detail in itself merits attention: CCP is one of the last holdouts in the industry not to adopt the all-purpose cash-shop as its central feature or call itself "free-to-play" though it does have a cash shop, trial accounts and its own methods of paying to win, which will all have to await discussion in future posts.

For now, I'm flying again. I've already managed to blow up my biggest ship in a PvE mission, mine some asteroids, over-invest in spaceship components leaving me with an utter lack of liquidity and dodged several people trying to kill me while piloting the lovely space-slug flying past the station above, my trusty blockade-runner transport (it made the Kessel Run in less than twelve catchphrases) and set up production of top-quality Amarrian frigates and parts (available at fine trade hubs everywhere.)

All of which serves to illustrate the game's position, out of any well-known MMOs, as the closest approximation of that persistent world pipe-dream I outlined in my MM-manifesto. Activities tie into the main game world to a much greater extent than in any WoW-clone, and for all its myriad flaws EVE has not allowed itself to devolve to the stultifying, monomaniacal "kill ten rats" routine.

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