My first reaction was to try to respond to what I saw as an attack on EVE, but further thought made me realize that any attempt to refute the point, namely EVE’s actual player-driven economy, actually reinforces the claim that EVE is all about the PvP. As was mentioned on Shut Up, We’re Talking #19, even EVE’s carebear activities (mining, trading, missioning, etc) are only really viable due to market demand and risk created by the pervasive PvP atmosphere. Also, the near total player control of the market makes market orders a form of conflict that gets every bit as heated as, and sometimes results in, ship to ship combat.
This, along with the skill-based, gradual progression system for EVE makes it, not the antithesis to WoW, but rather the other end of the spectrum, really creating another paradigm for MMOs. To say that EVE created the PvP-centric MMO does injustice to games like Ultima Online, where PvP was a constant motivator and factor on the gameplay of everyone, not just the hardcore PKers. All the same, that PVP focus, combined with a non-grinding skill progression makes it the polar opposite to games like WoW and LOTRO in many ways.
Finally, EVE’s single server nature makes it unique amongst the “major” MMOs. The consequence of this is a much more contentious, but simultaneously more tightly-knit community of players. In many blogs and the only current EVE podcast, in-game news takes up more coverage than dev blogs the majority of the time. I won’t say that EVE is a more immersive roleplaying environment than WoW, because it frankly isn’t, but it is a much more immersive community experience as opposed to a game based around the smaller group of friends/guildmates who gamers play multi-sharded games with.
The significance of this distinction in MMO “archetypes” became very clear in the SUWT discussion of the prospects of Warhammer Online. The debate very quickly became about who would be happier with WAR, EVE players or WoW players? The result of the debate is unimportant, in my view. What is important is that we seem to have two real mindsets that govern the thinking of a lot of MMO players out there. In his 101st show, Brent also describes aspects of The Agency as being EVE-like, particularly in the time-based character progression. Given that we have these two very distinct paradigms to work with, I think it really adds another dynamic to the discussions about the future of MMOs that is at least as important as the concept of free play, micro-payments, or a monthly subscription.
We already think in terms of whether a game will be EVE-like or WoW-like, but to what level are developers aware of this distinction. To what level are we aware of it, for that matter? I have noticed a personal tendency to prefer sci-fi games, despite their relative lack of success. I was more willing to give Tabula Rasa a try than I am EQ2. The reason is that TR is sci-fi, and so is EVE. I love EVE, not necessarily due to sub-genre, but because it is EVE, and the hardcore PvP aspect appeals to me. Thus, these two games not only represent the opposites of one another in terms of character development, but also in the sense of PvE vs. PvP. This PvE vs. PvP link is the one that seems more readily apparent to most, but I don’t think too many people realize the true pervasiveness of EVE’s PvP nature, and how
So what is the significance of all this for the future? After considering the existence of the difference in why people prefer, EVE and WoW are likely to be the two benchmarking points for MMO methodological extremes. As such, I think it is really worth people who are interested in the future of the MMO genre being familiar with both games. WoW has a head start of a few million, which EVE will never reach, due to its steep learning curve and low instant gratification factor, but in my totally biased opinion, it is all but required playing for the serious MMO journalist, at least for long enough to get a feel for what the game is in relation to WoW. Also of interest to me is when a new game will step in and deliver a third paradigm. Guild Wars offers it to a certain extent, but I always considered Guild Wars to handle more like a game of Halo than like WoW or EVE. Perhaps a twitch MMO will emerge in the near future to set up another group that appeals to the CounterStrikers of the world who find both EVE and WoW distasteful. Then again, I am still largely blind to the true nature of many other MMOs due to two long years in my EVE cave. Shared thoughts from people with other games is very welcome, due to my ignorance of a lot of the MMO offerings out there aside from the two I see as paradigm-markers.