I was asked that question yesterday and thought it would be an excellent topic to blog about as well! I admit I’m probably not the typical MMORPG player, however there’s likely enough commonality between myself and a majority of other gamers to make this explanation as meaningful to them as it is to me.
First, MMORPGs offer something that most solo-play games can’t, or don’t offer — persistence and cooperative play on a truly large scale. True that persistence is somewhat illusory in most MMORPGs, but not in EVE Online, or other MMORPGs like it. Players in WoW have no real and lasting affect on the gaming world, nor can they change the world itself — such as set and maintain boundaries, though they can in EVE Online. Cooperative play is something that single player games have been latching onto more often in recent years, but its still not close to the level of cooperative play that can happen, and is typical in MMORPGs.
But lets delve a bit deeper into the persistence issue, because what we’re really talking about are consequences aren’t we? In a single player game there are no real consequences to a players actions. You can often times save the game, and if things don’t work out post save you can always start over from a previous game state. Or, if all else fails, can be started over from the beginning. You play against the computer, which despite certain advantages can never win. Even if a player doesn’t always take advantage of that fact. After all, how many games would a developer sell that was intentionally impossible to beat? Single player games are intended to be beaten, and there is a distinct beginning, and end to them.
Not so in MMORPGs, which is why I love them more than single-player games. There are no real “beginning” or “end” points in an MMORPG, and you play against other players as often as you play against the computer itself. Decisions made in an MMORPG, and especially in MMORPGs like EVE Online are often meaningful, lasting, and come with consequences. Which leads me to specifically why I love EVE Online as much as I do.
EVE Online is typically called a “Sandbox”, which is a style of MMORPG based on player created content. Sandbox MMOs are usually akin to the old “Wild West” in that there are loose regulations within which the players operate. Consequently players have more freedom to play,and there are often much deeper elements to these MMOs. Often described simply as the “meta game”, Sandboxes enable players to introduce elements to game play that are simply not possible or even relevant to other MMOs like WoW. Much to my sorrow because that element is where Sandboxes shine!
The meta game is the area of game play where there’s a bridging of the real world and fantasy game world. Real life activity, outside the limitations of the fantasy landscape, can have very real and important consequences within the game. Perhaps the best example of which is the famous coup the Mittani pulled off in collapsing one of the largest alliances in EVE Online up to that point. In EVE, not only is this meta game encouraged, but its a bedrock of game play where spying and the consequences that can come of it are a normal every day affair.
Unlike in WoW, alliances and corporations can actually “own” territory; are able to defend it and take territory away from others. The economy in EVE is about as accurate and “real” as is possible in a game. And because of the loose boundaries and basis on player content, there are a very wide range of activities that players can partake in.
Are you the type of person that tends toward Industry? There’s plenty to keep you occupied in EVE Online! Including Mining, Trading, Invention, Manufacturing, and Research. Are you the type of person that doesn’t like to stay in any one play too long, and likes to explore your horizons? What a coincidence! You can do that in EVE Online too, and mix it up with other players while doing it too. Or are you someone who wants to see your enemies driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women? Good, because EVE Online has some of the most intense and complicated combat in any MMORPG. Combat and game play that accommodates everyone who desires to be a criminal/pirate to a space faring soldier defending your homeland or invading others.
Coincidentally Jester’s Trek posted an apropos video earlier that does a marvelous job showcasing the complexity and riveting combat that can take place in EVE Online. Combat you simply won’t see anywhere else. It’s lengthy, but worth watching from beginning to end. After which, if you don’t by then understand why players love EVE Online you probably never will.