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?
Thursday, July 10, 2008
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