4. EVE Online
If EVE Online did not exist, somebody would have to create it just to give the MMO blogsphere a focus. It is the horn of plenty for MMO bloggers, whether you like the game or not.
First, there is the legendary learning curve. EVE Online is hard and dispenses information like a miser parts with loose change.
There is a tutorial, which teaches you the basics of the game the way pre-school teaches you everything you need to know about international patent law. It seems like you learn a lot, then it kicks you out into the “real” game and you find that you know very little indeed. This frustrates many people.
Then there is the fact that it is what is known as a “sand box” game. There is no story to follow, no final objective laid out for you. You have to figure out what you want to do. This also frustrates many people.
Third, the game is avowedly biased towards player versus player interaction… which essentially means that everybody is potentially your enemy. And you’ve been thrown into the game untrained and have no idea what the point it. So the first person who offers to help you will undoubtedly really be trying to scam you. This frustrates a lot of people.
And then there are the pirates. And the suicide gankers. And the can flippers. And Hulkageddon, where bored players get together and try to kill other players who are just minding their own business. And it happens in space that has security that is supposed to dissuade this sort of thing, yet they get away with it almost every time. This is, of course, hugely frustrating.
Which brings us to the scams and scandals. When we look past other players killing you for any reason, or no reason at all, we find that the game also thrives on new and interesting ways for players to cheat each other out of vast amounts of currency. Phony banks, traitorous corporate officers, Ponzi schemes, it is all there… like Wall Street without the SEC. This seems totally unfair and frustrating, as there is usually nothing you can do once you’ve been taken.
And the company that runs the game will sell you a token, called PLEX, that you can sell for in-game currency,which is seen by some as biasing the game towards the rich, causing much frustration. Plus, this also provides a real world exchange rate calculation that allows people to assign a monetary value to the aforementioned scams, which just helps build rage and frustration in some.
And then there are The Goons. They are the dominant alliance in the game, and they do all of the bad things above and more, but they tend to bring it to a new level. They want to have fun… and what they find most fun is making other people miserable. When they make somebody quit the game, they see it as a win.
And you cannot even join them unless you are a member of the Something Awful forums. But they will try to recruit you in the game. You will give them some money and your stuff and they will say, “Buh-bye!” Because, of course, it was yet another scam.
And then there is the company that brought this whole mess into being, the in-aptly named Crowd Control Productions, or CCP, a band of rapping vikings from Rekjavik for whom “Politically Correct” is just a show hosted by Bill Mahr. (If you’ve been to any of their parties, you know what I mean.)
CCP seems to alternate between embracing their user base in a giant love-fest of hugs and doing their damnedest to alienate or just generally piss off their most loyal followers. It is like the Christian ethos got through the first couple of layers of their hides, but down deep there is still that inner Viking that wants to burn, rape, and pillage. That cross on their flag… it might be a sword.
All of which could add up to one of the mightiest train wrecks in gaming history. Even those who hate the game cannot look away when fireworks are going off in EVE
And yet the whole thing seems to work. It staggers from crisis to crisis, the scandals make the BBC news, people scorn it and predict its demise. Yet the game is a success. It continues to grow and thrive.
And more importantly, it gives MMO bloggers something to write about, something to praise for being unique or something to complain about for being the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in the MMO space.
We love it, even when we hate it.
[And since I posted this, a really dark look at EVE Online players was posted over at Ten Ton Hammer, fittingly written by the chief Goon.]