Thursday, July 10, 2008

In which Eve online is compared to Guild Wars and a number of remarkable similarities are found.

In a gaming space where the dominance of World of Warcraft has strangled many would be competitors both Eve and Guild wars have managed to survive and prosper by carving out their own special niches. They are very different games: Guild Wars is a fantasy game, Eve is set in Space. Eve charges a monthly sub while Guild Wars does not. Guild Wars is almost entirely instanced while Eve is entirely un-instanced to the point where all players play on a single server. Eve allows for non consensual pvp. Guild Wars pvp is strictly consensual. The differences are obvious but there are also a few surprising similarities that I would like to explore.

Most obvious is the fact that they are both generally acknowledged as PVP centric games. Perhaps less well known however is that both of these games have a very sizeable proportion of players who are pvp-phobic carebears. Taking a very unscientific look at the official EVE forums I notice that the strongly pvp focussed "Crime and Punishment" forum has 14,851. Compare this to the more PVE centred "Missions and Exploration" forum with 25,309 topics. Does this mean that the majority of EVE players are carebears? I don't know but it wouldn't surprise me.

I am pretty sure the same applies to Guild Wars. When the game came out the amount of PVE end game content was very limited and the general feeling was that the PVE game was really only a training ground for PVP. Over the intervening years a succession of high end PVE missions and dungeons have been added to the game which can only be a reflection of the developers realisation of just how important PVE players are to the game.

Another point of similarity is that both games have taken a fairly novel approach to doing away with the usual levelling grind in mmorpgs. Guild Wars put a hard level cap that players reach within a few weeks of starting to play. Eve uses real time based skill learning so that you don't even have to play to level up.

It is curious to note that despite these innovations neither game has actually turned out to be grind free. In Guild Wars the grind is mainly voluntary but nevertheless many players invest thousands of hours grinding for elusive titles or prestige armour sets. In Eve there is a far more traditional grind for in game money. Happily there are a variety of ways of earning ISK but whichever method you pick you need to be prepared to do a lot of it in order to fund your space borne adventures.

A final similarity that has struck a chord with me is that both games have a sophisticated metagame involving character builds. Guild Wars characters can carry only 8 active skills out of the hundreds available. Combine this with the extremely flexible respeccing rules in Guild Wars and you have a fascinating mini game setting up the right character build for a given situation. World of Warcraft's model with unlimited skill slots and barriers to respeccing tends to result in a few limited cookie cutter builds that everyone aspires to. Guild Wars on the other hand has thousands of viable builds and players dream up new variations every day.

In Eve builds are focussed around ship fit out. As my last few posts have shown there is a fun to be had fitting out a ship to do the job you need it to do. Like Guild wars you are faced with a wide variety of options (modules) but must work within a rigid set of constraints. In Eve the constraints are set by ship capacity, player skills, the players wallet and the often overlooked constraint of how much you are prepared to risk losing if the ship gets blown up.

In one sense however ship fitting in Eve is less satisfying than Guild Wars character building. The rigid constraints in Guild Wars mean that a good character build has a certain longevity. It will not be surpassed in utility merely through the character levelling up. In Eve however there are always bigger, better ships to be had. Find it hard to do squeeze everything you want into a frigate? Just wait till you can afford a destroyer. Struggling to do level 3 missions in a cruiser? Save up and skill up for a Battle Cruiser and life will get much easier.

There you have it. Two very different games that have some striking similarities. Of course I didn't mention what is probably the most important similarity: Both games are not afraid to innovate. This fact more than any other has probably ensured their ongoing success in a very tough marketplace.

Afterthought: The number of carebear PVE players who join and continue to play PVP focussed games is an intriguing topic and one I would like to explore further. Perhaps fuel for another post?

7 comments:

Crimson Starfire said...

Great article. You've done a really good comparison job.

I've spent about 6 months playing Eve and 3 years playing Guild Wars. They are both great games in their own right. I get the feeling that the innovation these games have brought to the industry is just the beginning of something really awesome. If only CCP Games and ArenaNet merged...

mbp said...

Thanks Crimson. Nice blog yourself by the way. Its been over a year since I played Guild Wars but looking over some of your articles has given me a hankering to try it again.

syncaine said...

Going to post my own "Why carebear's play PvP games" post, curious to see if our reasons match up at all.

Just a quick note on the EVE ship thing, just because a Battleship is 'bigger' than a frigate does not make it the automatic better choice. Many players with the option of a BS fly Cruisers or BC instead, as they find them more useful. I've had plenty of Corp mates bring T2 Cruisers to missions over their BS, and plenty of high skill pilots will bring out frigates for PvP, as they find tackling more interesting than sitting back and shooting from 100k with a BS.

mandrill said...

A note on PvE in EVE:
Because of the way everything in EVE affects everything else it can be said that there is no activity in New Eden which is purely PvE.
When thinking about PvP commentators tend to fixate on the pew-pew and miss the fact that any activity on the market can be considered to be PvP. Even when selling loot from missions or ratting, if you are undercutting the price of someone who manufactures it you are participating in PvP.
The whole gamplay mechanic of EVE is based on players competing over scarce resources, everything in EVE is PvP, its just that some things are more obviously so than others.

mbp said...

I agree with you up to a point Mandrill. I agree that participation in the market whether as a producer or a trader does put players into competition with each other. On the other hand there is a fundamental difference between the nature of competition in combat and in business. Combat is at very best a zero sum game and is usually negative sum. For one party to gain anything the other party loses. Business on the other hand can be (and indeed should be) a positive sum game. You are happy because you made a profit selling me dilithium crystals. I am happy because those dilithium crystals are just the part I need to finish my hyperdrive. It just like in the real world. Business jocks may like to see themselves as ruthless predators getting one up on the competition but the truth of the matter is that a healthy economy requires many companies to prosper and in the end everybody benefits.

Cyron said...

I'm a carebear in EVE, and I play it specifically because of the non consensual PVP. The scams, the fact that the devs don't try and protect you from yourself etc lead to a game that provides challenge from other players, which is where the /interesting/ challenge is. I play the market and I build. That's my area, and I can do my best to avoid getting shot by someone who is better at shooting than I am. But if they play clever and get me in a situation where they can open fire and take me out, then more luck to them. It keeps me on my toes

mbp said...

Welcome Cyron. Your motivation sounds very similar to my own. I'm not particularly motivated to go out and hurt other players but the fact that there are players out there who want to hurt me adds a whiff of danger to the game. It makes mundane tasks exciting.

In a very real sense the pirates, the gate campers, the griefers and the scammers are all adding content to the game only they are (for the most part :) ) more intelligent than mission rats. They add a great deal to the challenge of the game.

I am aways amused when I see whining posts on the forums from carebears who have been suicide ganked or similar. That's the game. As far as I am concerned you may as well complain about being shot by a mission rat.

Mind you the pvp community are not above whining themselves. For every gankee whine there are at least as many whines about warp to zero or cloaked MWD jumping or some other tactic that is used to avoid being caught. Again I have no sympathy with the whiners. That's the game. Players will use whatever means are available to escape from traps.