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PinWang

Eve Online - A Case Study in Innovative MMORPG Design

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Whats up people, it's PinFX (old e-mail no longer active), and I'm once again blessed with a lot of free time in my last semester of university. Here I am back with another topic in MMORPGs. This time I'd like to talk about one MMORPG that has arguably broken a lot of the "rules" when it comes to following commercially viable guidelines in MMORPG game design and been extremely successful. From a small company, the creators of EVE slowly expanded their online universe to today's incredibly successful levels. CCP's Eve Online is the opposite of most MMORPGs that come out today, targeting quite clearly the "hardcore" gamer over the "casual." The game's mechanics, though recently upgraded to increase accessibility for the "new player experience," has a steep learning curve and often leaves new players confused and lost. Yet the game is populated with a significant amount of players, mostly older players and mostly players who invest a significant amount of time into the game every week. EVE ONLINE's subscriber count has been steadily rising over the years and continues to increase at an impressive rate. Within a few hours of entering the game, a seasoned MMORPG player will quickly realize that he is playing something very different. Some will quickly become bored with the tedious aspects and the lack of action, yet others will be sucked in and emphatically claim that EVE is somehow superior to other MMORPGs they had played. So what are the elements that make EVE so different for players? Why is it that this vast game universe gives players such drastically difference reactions? What are the benefits and downsides of EVE's type of MMORPG design? What elements in EVE can future MMORPG designers learn from? And of course, how can it be better? My Post here will suggest answers to all these questions. Moreover, it will make a claim that many of the elements of EVE's design will be essential to the success of future MMORPGs. I encourage a discussion and of course would like the opinions of players who have played man MMORPGs, with EVE among those MMORPGs. I cannot stress this next point enough: this is not about your preference of which MMORPG you prefer. It is a structured discussion about game design. PvP in EVE I hate to have to do this, but I TOLD YOU SO. In many threads posted on IGDA a couple years ago, I asserted that the next evolution of MMORPGs lay in the implementation of several general concepts: Primary focus on PvP, "meaningful play," non-combat oriented character development, heavy death penalties, limited resources and competition, and player-generated content. It just so happens that EVE has all of these elements. It has been widely agreed upon in previous discussions here on IGDA that player-generated content is central to the lifetime of an MMORPG as well its development of a unique player culture. My previous assertion was that PvP is one way in which player-generated content could be exploited. Competitive PvP in online games that are not MMORPGs, such as Counter-Strike, Starcraft, WC3, etc. have all been examples that PvP is an element that can take the replayability and depth of a game to new levels. EVE's heavy focus on PvP fully takes advantage of this, with a wide array of game mechanics geared towards PvP-centered play. Central among these mechanics are two concepts: heavy death penalties and limited resources. A system of limited resources constantly pits players against each other. CCP allows no players to play in isolation. Even miners and mission-runners (your usual grind for money solo players) playing in the protected "high security" game areas are still vulnerable to the harassment of malicious players. Astonishingly, every spaceship and item in the game either comes from the dropped "loot" of NPCs or is built, from scratch with basic mined minerals, by players. The result is that EVE boasts one of the most complex and healthy economies among all MMORPGs. By limiting the resources of ore in high security space, CCP has pushed players towards the low and "no security" areas of the universe, where richer ores and lucrative "moon mining" are available at greater risks. The results of this game mechanic are that organized player groups have dominated no security space and also the market for high-end ships, weapons and modules which are constantly in demand. The potential income able to be generated from securing your own space and setting up a robust industrial structure, when converted to real-world numbers, is comparable to real businesses. Of course, such an occurrence is rare, but still worth mentioning. The distribution of limited resources, or more specifically the placement of resources in locations connected closely to PvP, makes the value of every ship and item meaningful. That is, to accumulate wealth, a player must not only grind alone, but also deal with competitive market forces, malicious players, and other player factors. EVE also has some of the toughest penalties for death among all MMORPGs. With the economic system described above, losing a ship in PvP becomes a financial blow that presents real risk. One unfortunate result of this system is that most players in the game are revealed to be conservative players who rarely like to take risks. However, the investment of skill and finance into a PvP conflict dramatically raises its meaning to the players involved. Though death is by no means a game-ender for players, and can be absorbed, excessive expensive ship losses can break a player's ability to field well-fitted combat ships. Note that in my discussion of PvP I have not even mentioned how the combat actually plays out. Though EVE does have a very well-balanced combat system, in the context of this discussion, it is almost irrelevant. The important point here is that each PvP encounter is meaningful, both in terms of achievement and loss to the players involved, as well as "real" investment of players into a fight. Players are given much more meaningful conflicts that are essential to the development of the game's history as well as the player's experience. In other words, PvP no longer becomes just another mechanic or part of the game, it becomes central to the role playing aspect and is part of every player's story in the game; PvP itself is player-generated content. Sadly, met with this pre-requisite of "real" investment, many players choose to create stories where they run instead of fight, this is an unavoidable side-effect of heavy death penalties: players simply do not like taking that many risks. In this system, the high-risk takers are heavily rewarded for their guts, and the conservative players slowly punished through the long run. The balance between risk-taking PvPers and more docile mining-industrial players is, as exepcted, disputed by both sides. The most telling evidence is that high-risk takers, if organized, reap the greatest rewards. Non-Combat Character Development In a previous thread, I asserted that non-combat oriented character development presented the ability to harness a vast and untapped market of potential MMORPG players. With "carebears" being constantly criticized in combat-oriented MMORPGs, CCP intelligent put these carebears in charge of the economy. Mining, industry and production are central parts of the EVE universe and are managed by carebears. Certainly, carebears are still criticized by PvPers for being passive, but they are clearly defined by the game itself to be as such. Industry is given its own CCP employees to be taken care of, and instead of "PvE" carebears can are given a real role in the world that is at the same time essential to PvPers. Flaws of EVE EVE is hardly the end-all-be-all of MMORPGs. Despite its successful integration of non-combat and PvP elements, the game is still overwhelmingly a combat-based game. NPC "missions," or basically your average quests, are still the primary source of income for many players. In other words, the grind of "farming" money is still there and has not been completed replaced by "meaningful play." It is very important to note here that there is a small percentage of players in the game who do not "farm" at all. Many pirates, for instance, live off ship "ransoms" and the salvaged parts of their victims. Other large alliances based in no-security space have a dramatically different gameplay experience with robust industrial structures and wage wars with other alliances in large-scale capital fleet battles and economic warfare. For these players, EVE has provided a meaningful gameplay experience that is, in the author's opinion, unmatched by other MMORPGs in how it was formed almost entirely by the players themselves as well as the entirely unknown direction these experiences could go. Unfortunately, the grind is far from removed in EVE, and for the vast majority of players, is still a major part of their game experience. Furthermore, the focus on heavy PvP design and fierce competition, when combined with the gameplay tendencies of the average player, make for in many instances very slow gameplay. It should not be mistaken that PvP action in the game is some of the most exciting MMORPGs have to offer. However, EVE play is often characterized by large timespans of waiting. Since the developers had all of these complex and innovative game elements to balance and maintain, the "PvE" content suffers. In other words, since the grind is still there but is not the main focus, it will be even more boring to players. In Conclusion EVE has a huge number of players who have played for several years. It also has impressive statistics in players who come back to the game after long breaks. The reasons for this are obvious: the meaningful gameplay generated by EVE provides almost infinite playability. However, with the inability to break away from the necessary 'grind' in MMORPGs, and an inability to generate a system of non-combat gameplay that is NOT separate from combat (all industry is geared towards generating combat products), EVE actual play is not that interesting when averaged out. It would be accurate to say that, despite this, the interesting conflicts of EVE make it a constantly engaging game experience that does not decrease over time (as much as other MMORPGs). Certainly, it would be fair to say that EVE does not simply provide content to be consumed as in other MMORPGs (ex. grind quests to level cap, participate in closed pvp systems, be dependent on expansions for more interesting gameplay). EVE's experience that players enjoy is not content that is created by the developers, but something that they create themselves. Thus, it could potentially be played by a player forever. Since its launch in 2002, it has retained many of its older players, but only time will tell if its unique elements will make it last longer than other MMORPGs of more traditional molds. Yet in the mind of this author, it contains elements of design that can be taken and expanded by MMORPGs to much more intensive levels. Cheers, -Pin

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Well, I watched this thread for the typical quick replies and I am glad to see that you intimidated them :). I am pleased at the level at which you wrote that, which sounds like an essay/post you shared with IGDA as well. It's rare that such is seen here, so I thank you.

I'll be the first to take the bait. I've been recently re-reading much of the MMORPG design links that I have accrued and came across a forum thread that contains a comment in particular that interests me. The user in question states that "[he dislikes] the treatment of PvP as an 'endless well of content', instead of treating it as a tool for players to settle their differences." Now, granted, this is one person's opinion, but I think he strikes on something very important that pertains to the discussion at hand. It is my opinion that this player is referring to PvP as being a disconnected sidegame, that really plays a small part in the world/game experience. This seems to be the trend in most current MMORPG's, even with WoW. To me, WoW's PvP seems to be an FPS game tacked on after the fact.

Lets step back for a minute and try and discern why designers need features at all. An MMORPG is a game the tries to give a player an RPG-type experience, which is in a persistent and virtual world. In a single-player RPG, the content is arguably linear. Even the games that are not entirely linear still have a beginning and an end. An MMORPG tries to either avoid this completely, or postpone it as long as possible. They use content to try and slow the players progression from a linear beginning to end so that they stay longer, and thusly pay them more in the way of subscription fees.

As I continue to attempt to infer what our example player from the forum above meant, we have to try and follow his logic. He mentions treatment of PvP, and the only people who I could see "treating" a feature in a certain way, or in other words, expecting an outcome from a feature, would be designers. I would then rewrite his statement in my own words as: "Designers of PvP systems seem to throw them in as a magical panacea meant to provide endless content." Moreover, there is a tone associated with the statement that has other implications. Obviously there is some dislike associated with making a panacea, or fix-all.

The meanings that can now be gleaned arise when we address the weaknesses of trying to use a fix-all. A fix-all, in terms of MMORPG design, would be one of two things. The first option is something that attempts to be all things to all people. When we hear that phrase when discussing MMORPG design (or any game design, for that matter), a flag should pop up in our brains that is labeled "No-no". It is never a good idea to try and appeal to everyone. This leads to being "spread too thin," or in other words, having shallow gameplay that contains no depth. Players quickly grow tired of shallow gameplay, especially in MMORPG's. This type of gameplay is commonly referred to as a "grind."

The second possible meaning of fix-all is something that attempts to solve many problems with as little effort as possible. This, from a designer's standpoint, is a good thing, since it uses minimal effort from the developer's perspective. From a player's perspective, this is also potentially a good thing, since his/her need is being fulfilled. When playing a game, players are notoriously selfish, only caring for their own wants and desires. If there is one mechanic or gameplay element that fulfills a player's need, the player doesn't care how much effort went into it. If it fulfills many needs from many players, they probably don't care either, as long as these needs are being fulfilled. I don't want to dig too deep on this subject, but let's just assume for the time being that players are like humans, and they have needs, just as Maslow would say humans have them.

We are now back to Eve. I myself have not played Eve, but I continually read the same things about it. I continually hear how good the economy and the PvP are done in it. There must be some merit to these statements, since if they were untrue, Eve would have gone by the way side long ago. Because of this, I think we can even infer that Eve's PvP must use the second of the two definitions I offered. That is, of course, if we assume that Eve's designers were trying to use it as the "well of content" referred to above. You've already pointed out how much PvP is integrated into the Eve gameplay, and we know it is enjoyable based on its success, so I think we can safely make that assumption.

So, in my estimation, Eve does in fact dip into the well, but not cross the line when it comes to their PvP implementation. Even that poster himself said Eve's PvP was good, but did not elaborate. I guess the most important part of this would be to learn why theirs works and other's do not. We've only just scratched the surface.

I'll stop here for now, since I've got other things going on, but I would like to address item #2 in Eve that I think contributes to their success, namely, the economy. It's not enough to merely state that they have an in-house economist and call it good. I goes much deeper and therefore must warrant another post. I've done a LOT of research on MMO economies over the last couple months, so I think we will be able to have a good break down on Eve. If someone in the mean time wants to break down how their economy flows, feel free. As I said earlier, I haven't played it.

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Erik, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Firstly, I want to agree with what you said and bringing in the comment from that other user was very relevant. Indeed, MMORPGs can never prescribe a fix-all panacea to provide unlimited gameplay; they will always rely on further releases of developer content and events to expand. This is a very good point, and PvP in no way resolves this issue (nor could this issue ever be fully resolved).

However, my argument is that, in EVE at least, PvP has allowed for their to be an exponentially larger "well" of content, even if it is not infinite.

The fundamental statement here is that by pitting players against players, there is an automatic generation of "fresh" content that occurs when players interact with each other. The richer and more complex that interaction, the more intensive this generation of "fresh content." Obviously, a developer puts no effort into allowing players to interact with each other, but the point is they can, through design, influence the richness and depth of player interaction.

A developer may choose to invest production resources into either PvP or PvE content. Let's use WoW as an example. By investing in PvE (raids), players are given increasingly difficult challenges to overcome. As you said, this delays the progression of linear gameplay, allowing developers more time to extend the "ending" by adding more content. Yet, in the end, this is only increased linear content. When investing production resources into PvP aspects, this is not an investment into linear content but rather an investment into the complexity of player interaction. Thus, as WoW invests more development time into PvP aspects such as Alterac Valley, players are given more of an incentive to continue playing.

Here is the key: fundamentally, MMORPGs are competitive. More fundamentally, MMORPGs are about interaction with other players. Even with PvE, such as WoW raids, the X factor in a player's desire to run a raid successfully more than once is competitiveness: they want to be better than the next guild or have an advantage in PvP. At the same time, even carebears play the game over single player RPGs to be able to have the social environment. In other words, the most basic form of player interaction desired by players is social interaction, and the second most basic form of player interaction is competition: the ability to relate your own status in the game world with the status of another player.

With this in mind, PvP is simply the most direct method is implementing player interaction, providing both social interaction as well as competitive play (in the most direct form possible). However, PvP is not the only method and this is where the argument with EVE comes into play. As you said, the economy is outstanding in EVE, this is a direct outcome of player competition. Inflation is not rampant within EVE because all resources are limited and must be competed for. Fundamentally, this is the flaw of MMORPGs such as WoW, they can never be truly and fully competitive games because they were not designed to be such from the start. Though on PvP servers it is possible to be harassed while leveling up, the incredible level range and diversity of player power based on level make this kind of harassment not competitive but almost entirely in the realm of "griefing." (This is another symptom of linear-based MMORPG designs [non-linear designs such as EVE allow relatively new players to make a big difference in PvP]) Just to repeat and reconfirm: EVE makes the competitive PvP factor CONSTANT throughout the entire game, and by doing so it creates a rich and complex platform for player interaction that potentially provides huge amounts of replayability and "fresh content."

So to sum up, EVE is certainly "dipping into the well," but as you said it by no means has the "final solution." The specifics of the PvP are not as relevant as the fact that the entire game is essentially "PvP." That is, the design of the game acknowledges that MMORPGs are fundamentally games about competition between players and therefore is able to take advantage of this fact. Unlike WoW and other MMORPGs, which as you said most of which have PvP systems "disconnected" from the rest of the game or "tacked on," EVE's PvP is not only central to the game but permeates through every other aspect.

Cheers,
-Pin

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I think the crux of Eve is that they attempt produce content at such a speed that it is impossible for a player to max out. however this makes for a hard start for novice players, since they see themselves at the bottom of a well of skills, and because it takes so long to get good its hard for the new players to catch up with the old ones. diminishing returns stops this to an extent but in some ways it doesn't affect it enough.
Now of course the older players SHOULD be better then the new players, we don't want to make a game like a private Ragnarok Online server that only takes three months to level up to the max and then just cakewalk through the game killing everything that crosses your path. To my knowledge there is no real way to prevent having one of these scenarios. WOW attempts and succeeds in treading the middle ground which is why its so successful, but its not a solution, its just a compromise.

In my mind Eve succeeds in a lot of ways, its PvP system is innovative and freeform their economy is completely player drivin and one of the best economies in an online game, and its gameplay is fun and open ended.

I was thinking about it and I think I might have a sort of solution for the skill level/ time playing conundrum. give players the ability to give their friends skillpoints. this would allow new players to level faster and catch up with help, while still keeping high players above the others since you need to have skillpoints in order to donate them. now this system could be easily abused and would need a lot of fine tuning but it might work.

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Quote:
Original post by PinWang
However, my argument is that, in EVE at least, PvP has allowed for their to be an exponentially larger "well" of content, even if it is not infinite.

Yes, and this I agreed with, and even tried to prove the validity of it with my reasoning above.
Quote:
Original post by PinWang
The fundamental statement here is that by pitting players against players, there is an automatic generation of "fresh" content that occurs when players interact with each other. The richer and more complex that interaction, the more intensive this generation of "fresh content." Obviously, a developer puts no effort into allowing players to interact with each other, but the point is they can, through design, influence the richness and depth of player interaction.

This is not something I completely agree with. The fundamental motivation behind an MMORPG is indeed social, but it is not always competitive in nature. I believe the competitiveness behind PvP appears to be more fundamental because it is currently more fulfilling than other forms of gameplay. This, in and of itself, does not prove that PvP or competition are better, or more crucial, it merely shows that there are flaws in other forms gameplay. Players turn to PvP because it is fulfilling more of their needs than other forms of gameplay within the games we have cited. I don't believe that any current game does non-competitive gameplay well enough to make a valid comparison.

We could use many other games that either use minimal PvP or do not use any form of PvP as examples here. There are even some very popular ones like Second Life which could be thrown into the mix, and while it is not a true MMORPG, it could still add to the discussion.

Quote:
Original post by PinWang
A developer may choose to invest production resources into either PvP or PvE content. Let's use WoW as an example. By investing in PvE (raids), players are given increasingly difficult challenges to overcome. As you said, this delays the progression of linear gameplay, allowing developers more time to extend the "ending" by adding more content. Yet, in the end, this is only increased linear content. When investing production resources into PvP aspects, this is not an investment into linear content but rather an investment into the complexity of player interaction. Thus, as WoW invests more development time into PvP aspects such as Alterac Valley, players are given more of an incentive to continue playing.

This is true. PvP content currently gives them more "bang for the buck" so to speak. Again, in my opinion, this is because of the many flaws in non-PvP gameplay.

Quote:
Original post by PinWang
Here is the key: fundamentally, MMORPGs are competitive. More fundamentally, MMORPGs are about interaction with other players. Even with PvE, such as WoW raids, the X factor in a player's desire to run a raid successfully more than once is competitiveness: they want to be better than the next guild or have an advantage in PvP.

Even this is not entirely true, since you are referring to MMORPG's in general, and not just Eve. I would say that: fundamentally, players have competitive tendencies, but this does not inherently make MMORPG's themselves competitive. As we pointed out with Eve, PvP-centric MMORPG's do bring out this tendency with some players, but that is also because the game was specifically designed with this in mind. An equally valid argument could be made using WoW, the most popular MMORPG in the world, that PvP is in fact not the thing players want to envolve themselves with most. I am not making that argument, merely pointing out that someone could make it.

Quote:
Original post by PinWang
At the same time, even carebears play the game over single player RPGs to be able to have the social environment. In other words, the most basic form of player interaction desired by players is social interaction, and the second most basic form of player interaction is competition: the ability to relate your own status in the game world with the status of another player.

I do agree with the social nature of play here. However, I do not think this social nature and the competitiveness you refer to are the same things. In fact, I think they are totally different.

Quote:
Original post by PinWang
With this in mind, PvP is simply the most direct method is implementing player interaction, providing both social interaction as well as competitive play (in the most direct form possible). However, PvP is not the only method and this is where the argument with EVE comes into play. As you said, the economy is outstanding in EVE, this is a direct outcome of player competition. Inflation is not rampant within EVE because all resources are limited and must be competed for. Fundamentally, this is the flaw of MMORPGs such as WoW, they can never be truly and fully competitive games because they were not designed to be such from the start. Though on PvP servers it is possible to be harassed while leveling up, the incredible level range and diversity of player power based on level make this kind of harassment not competitive but almost entirely in the realm of "griefing." (This is another symptom of linear-based MMORPG designs [non-linear designs such as EVE allow relatively new players to make a big difference in PvP]) Just to repeat and reconfirm: EVE makes the competitive PvP factor CONSTANT throughout the entire game, and by doing so it creates a rich and complex platform for player interaction that potentially provides huge amounts of replayability and "fresh content."

Agreed. PvP just happens to be the largest social instigator in Eve, although it is not the only one. That is merely a side effect of their design. Someone playing Eve, as you pointed out, is almost forced into PvP, whether they like it or not. It could be argued that Eve is missing out on higher subscription numbers because of PvP, not the other way around. Which really is the truth? Its hard to say.

Still without getting into the economy, Eve has definitely done some things that any game designer should be making note of.

To whomever rated me down for the comments I made in my last post, I invite you to participate, rather than hide behind anonymity. I have my real name here, and hide nothing. I take my rating very seriously and would invite you to explain why I deserve that while you participate in the discussion.

Cheers,

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Original post by Tsakara
I think the crux of Eve is that they attempt produce content at such a speed that it is impossible for a player to max out. however this makes for a hard start for novice players, since they see themselves at the bottom of a well of skills, and because it takes so long to get good its hard for the new players to catch up with the old ones. diminishing returns stops this to an extent but in some ways it doesn't affect it enough.

This isn't actually true. I've got several accounts at the moment, some of them brand spanking new as of the GDC, others that are years old, and then my primary which is from 2003. All of these accounts are constantly training and all of these accounts can do amazing things. Frankly, my newer accounts are my primary PvP accounts and even though some are only a few months old, I can easily take on players that are 2-3 years old or older. Why? Simple, skill points don't limit you except in the fittings of your ship, and the fittings aren't the only things that determine who wins in PvP. A lot of it is about placement and how you play your ship to its advantages. Now, admittedly, a T1 ship is at an extreme disadvantage compared to a T2 ship, but when I can fly a Jaguar after just a few months of training, I'm pretty much at the peek of my game as far as PvP goes. Moving up will only put me into HACs and the like.

The game is startlingly balanced as far as PvP goes for old vs new. Another prime example are fleet battles. In those situations rarely does the amount of skill points you have affect your survivability (you get called primary and you're in a pod shortly afterwards). They did increase the chances for new players as well by giving them a whole bunch of skill points now when they are created (around 850k if you do it right). Which is a damn sight more than the 5k or so I had when I created my character in 2003.
Quote:
Now of course the older players SHOULD be better then the new players, we don't want to make a game like a private Ragnarok Online server that only takes three months to level up to the max and then just cakewalk through the game killing everything that crosses your path. To my knowledge there is no real way to prevent having one of these scenarios. WOW attempts and succeeds in treading the middle ground which is why its so successful, but its not a solution, its just a compromise.

WoW has a lot going for it as far as the casual player goes and the hardcore player. However the endgame is somewhat lacking. Once you're there you either just PvP till your bored (and the PvP in WoW is quite boring tbh, the fits are almost always exactly the same), or till the next expansion comes out. Games with levels do end up that way though, there's just no way around it. EVE doesn't exactly have an endgame (no levels), and with a max of around 475 MILLION skillpoints to own every skill (at my current rate of skill production, I'll be there in... 20 or so years). That's not to say their skill system is perfect, its not. There are a lot of issues with the system that frankly just don't make sense (why can't I stick a small laser turret on my ship without knowing the skill? I should be able to, but the damage should be greatly penalized).
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In my mind Eve succeeds in a lot of ways, its PvP system is innovative and freeform their economy is completely player drivin and one of the best economies in an online game, and its gameplay is fun and open ended.
Yes, it is quote fun [grin]
Quote:
I was thinking about it and I think I might have a sort of solution for the skill level/ time playing conundrum. give players the ability to give their friends skillpoints. this would allow new players to level faster and catch up with help, while still keeping high players above the others since you need to have skillpoints in order to donate them. now this system could be easily abused and would need a lot of fine tuning but it might work.

Probably wouldn't work, and the reason I say this is that the only people who would donate points, and the only people they would donate too, are alts. Also, skill points aren't exactly free, they are always being invested into skills. You can't simply produce skill points that go into a pool. Also, you can easily assist new players by simply giving them ISK or named T1 modules, some of which are quite expensive but close to their T2 counterparts ('Arblest' launchers vs T2 counterparts, same ROF as their T2, just can't fire T2 missiles).

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OK, so finally got some time to put this reply in. Going to respond to all 3 previous posts here.

Tsakara, Washu actually put in many of the responses I would. In terms of player-power level, EVE actually does a VERY good job of allowing new players to quickly be able to take useful roles in teams and become active in the game. Furthermore, their character development is setup in such a way that there are not only a few basic "stats" that are constantly rising as you progress. Rather, the skill training in EVE is much more focused towards role specialization. As I said in response to Erik earlier, the overwhelming problem of player-power range that you bring up is a symptom of linear-based content development. In the case of EVE, since they have invested so many resources into non-linear play, the result is a game where player power range is hardly an issue at all. Thus, the problems you are mentioning actually do not exist in EVE.

Erik, when I was talking about "social environment" and "competition" I never intended to say that they were the same thing. I definitely agree that when players are looking for a "social environment" this is hardly the same as looking for competition. Your comment about players being competitive as opposed to MMORPGs themselves I think is right on the mark. At the same time, underlying both of these concepts of competition/social environment is a broader goal of "social interaction" that I think is absolutely fundamental to the concept of an MMORPG. That is, MMORPGs rely on social interaction to transcend other genres of games (RPGs, Strategy Games, etc.) All the different aspects you touch on here and it seems the main point of contention has to do with PvP vs. other possible forms of player interaction. Personally, I would argue that since players are competitive, competitive play is always going to be the most effective way to exploit player interaction. On the other hand, its definitely true that MMORPGs have a lot of untapped potential for entirely non-PvP and non-competitive player-generated content. Just to cite a few examples: Zelda-style Graal Online which allowed players to submit their own maps of houses, arenas, guild houses, etc.; Lord of the Rings Online's music system that allows users to pick up an instrument and play them based on key-mapping; and of course Second Life which people almost argue is NOT an MMORPG because it has no competitive play but is a world entirely created by players.

Definitely, I agree with you that to fully "tap into the well" we are going to need more non-PvP oriented play or at the least non-Combat oriented play. As I talked about in my original post, the industrial aspect of EVE is entirely non-combat oriented and you could argue in many ways non-PvP. It becomes a sort of economic PvP at a certain point but still its important to note this aspect as a part of the game that is non-combat but still requires player effort, character development and basically full-game-time play to be successful in. Just like PvP, it is not a "tacked on" or "side game" as "crafting" often is in other MMORPGs. There have also been other MMORPGs that have been based on non-combat oriented play. For instance, Korean MMORPG developer Nexon (Nexus TK, Shattered Galaxies) made a puzzle game. Again, these are still non-combat aspects that are focused on competition. I want to say there is a part of me that wants to assert that, like LOTRO's music system and Graal Online's map submission system, there is a lot of room for adding in non-competitive player-generated content systems that are definitely going to be part of the future of MMORPGs. At the same time, I am hesisitant to suggest that such a non-competitive concept could form the basis of a successful MMORPG platform in the near future. Indeed, you could argue that Second Life has already broken this mold, but as you said, players are competitive, and after all players make or break MMORPGs.

P.S. Just wanted to note that I'm using a lot of quotes around some terms. Often in the past MMORPG discussions such as this have been off-railed by largely semantic arguments which are frustrating and should be avoided :)
P.P.S. Sucks with the rating, I rated you positive though haha

Washu, thanks for elaborating on a lot of the systems in EVE that make it work so well. It's really important to remember that, despite this being a discussion of EVE's innovative MMORPG concepts, those concepts sit on a foundation of many game mechanics that most designers could learn from. The specific mechanics of EVE that are not related to its MMORPG aspects are all astoundingly well-balanced. Even removed from an MMORPG context, they would excel in terms of design. Also its really interesting to note that a lot of "veteran" gamers play EVE. I've argued before that there is a rising number of older, more mature players who have seen a lot of what game designers have to offer. This growing player base is, in my opinion, a largely untapped market of gamers who demand games such as EVE which are essentially more challenging and definitely "different" from all the games they played before.

I think increasingly, designers will have to compete with other designers to think up more complex and interesting designs in order to compete for this player base, which will continue to have higher and higher demands. This is a very debatable statement that I'm making here and it's kind of unrelated, so its definitely something to save for another thread. Good to think about though.

Cheers,
-Pin

[Edited by - PinWang on March 26, 2008 3:00:39 PM]

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Hi,

I'll like to make some points as a 3 years old Eve player that currently lives in a major 0.0 alliance. I really enjoy the game, but I think there are some points that didn't go very well in the game:

- Movement: Eve space and way of movement (stargates) is terribly flawed. CCP seems to be taking steps to address it including more ships capable of using jump drives (the new T2 Battleships), but it's a long way of till they solve this problem.

- Lack of interest in space: Eve is very big, but most of the space in Eve is useless. That detail limits PvP to the only "important" places: stargates and PoS/Stations mostly. And as such, those events most times become lag-fests with hundreds of players, blank screens and node crashes. That is not fun at all.

- Death: death penalties in Eve are too harsh. Combine this with the movement/lack of interest in space/lag and PvP becomes too frustrating. It's great when it goes well (even if you lose), but it's so hard to find a good match and it can go bad with so many reasons that it doesn't balance out. PvP is central in Eve but it's too hard to enjoy it (although when you achieve it, it's very satisfaying).

- I'm not so sure resources are so limited in Eve as it has been said in this thread. Currently, most big alliances can field really impressive cap fleets and even amazing numbers of supercaps (Moms/Titans). CCP has acknodleged that this is a problem as too many people can now pilot capital and supercapital ships (specially with carriers and fighters that are lag beasts).

Just some points I wanted to express.

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I totally agree with
Quote:
EVE also has some of the toughest penalties for death among all MMORPGs. With the economic system described above, losing a ship in PvP becomes a financial blow that presents real risk. One unfortunate result of this system is that most players in the game are revealed to be conservative players who rarely like to take risks. However, the investment of skill and finance into a PvP conflict dramatically raises its meaning to the players involved.
thusly i think
Quote:
Death: death penalties in Eve are too harsh.
couldn't be farther from the truth.

This is the whole reason i love EVE. Unlike WoW or Helgate, everything I do has meaning to me as time I invested.
I'm not striving for "lets get item X. Everyone needs one or we can't go to the next level area". I'm striving for
what can I get that helps me and my team out the most. And this doesn't mean getting the same things they have.
There isn't a end all "Tier 4 Set gear" that you put on your ship to win the day. There is individual pieces that all fit
together and make many unique and powerful setups, that are not 100% limited by you being a "warrior" or "priest"
because you can train any skills in the game you want to play with.

Washu also brings a good point to the table that newcomers to the game are FAR from usless and FAR from being hopelessly behind.
I think this is one of the biggest failings in all the hype around EVE. People somehow get the feeling that it progresses just like
WoW or any other major fantasy mmo. It doesn't. There isn't the same scaling of "My lvl 70 will OWN your lvl 40". A month old player
can bring tonnes of support firepower to any fleet battle, expecially since things like webs, scramblers and jammers all stack
up against even the best equiped player. But this does mean you have to have a level of social interaction in the game, and maturity
to that interaction, as "Leroy Jenkins" would be taken with less comedic light in EVE.

And that brings me to the final point, that I think EVE brings a much more mature crowd into the game.
That doesn't mean people ARE mature, but that they all understand that there is a price to be payed for mistakes and
clowning around. This removes a whole segment of the gaming community that wants instant gratification. There is no
power leveling. There is no easy griefing. There is no safe crime. And there is less to be gained by having someone you know
shuffle you money and items, other than saving you some time building up your stores. (some of the same problems exist,
but the effort the trouble makers put in far excedes the effort you'd have to put in for any other MMO)

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Quote:
Quote:
Death: death penalties in Eve are too harsh.
couldn't be farther from the truth.


That you like it (as I do too) doesn't take out the fact that death penalty in Eve is too harsh. For 2 parties to get a fight you need:

- the 2 parties in the same physical space.
- the 2 parties willing to fight.

With the current state of Eve space, to get a fight you have to resolve most times to those "extra-funny" gatecamps where you sit for hours waiting for someone to come. Or to the even more funny PoS-siege-lag-fests. You can go around on enemy territory and you will get to gank some miner/ratters,... But nothing to tell about. You won't get a real fight unless another party wants to fight with you.

And for both parties to engage, both parties must think they can win. Or 1 party must be so bored of running around without getting a fight that they won't mind suiciding for 15 mins of pew-pew.

When you die in Eve you lose implants, rigs, equipment and if you are in a tech2 ship your insurance is like nothing. A lot of money can disappear for a bad decision, so people are very careful when choosing their fights. If Eve death penalty wasn't so hard people would be more willing to engage in not so clear situations or even in a little disadvantage (something that only happens now when people are utterly bored).

What's the fun in engaging when you are sure you are going to win? What's the fun on ganking a miner/ratter or the poor soul who crosses a gate without proper intel? A really interesting fight is something really hard to get in Eve and death penalties are part of the reason it's so hard. Ofc I like more Eve death than WoW death, but Eve mechanics can improve a lot, there's a lot of ground between those 2 extremes.

Following the way open by Eve, I have really high hopes on AoC, who seems to be pretty similar in the core aspects (economy run by players, PvP is central in the design,...).

Regards

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Quote:
Original post by PinWang
Also its really interesting to note that a lot of "veteran" gamers play EVE. I've argued before that there is a rising number of older, more mature players who have seen a lot of what game designers have to offer. This growing player base is, in my opinion, a largely untapped market of gamers who demand games such as EVE which are essentially more challenging and definitely "different" from all the games they played before.

I would definitely agree with this. I think one of the many reasons, ignoring the others for the time being, that WoW has gotten such high numbers is that there are more younger high-school aged kids playing than there were a few years ago. I don't have numbers to back this, but I think there are more younger players now than there used to be. The penetration of the PC and high-speed internet into more middle-class homes plays a part in this.

What this means is that is that these older "veteran", or interstitial, players are growing weary of the shallow gameplay offered in a game made to have WIDE appeal. This is why they are leaving WoW for Eve. Unfortunately, because these companies are tight-lipped in regards to their subscriber demographics, this is pure speculation on my part.
Quote:
Original post by PinWang
I think increasingly, designers will have to compete with other designers to think up more complex and interesting designs in order to compete for this player base, which will continue to have higher and higher demands. This is a very debatable statement that I'm making here and it's kind of unrelated, so its definitely something to save for another thread. Good to think about though.

I agree with this, although I do not think it needs to be complex. There is an invisible line out there that marks the limit of when complexity loses its appeal. I think most games could stand a little more complexity and depth, but only to a point.

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These sites have a lot of interesting information about suscribers, growth rates,...

http://www.mmogchart.com/
http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/gateway_demographics.html

Regards

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Original post by Vicente
These sites have a lot of interesting information about suscribers, growth rates,...

http://www.mmogchart.com/
http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/gateway_demographics.html

Regards


I was aware of these, sorry for not stating that I was after current info. I believe they are outdated, and I think we are after more current information in this discussion. The subscriptions numbers are relatively up-to-date, but there are no demographics with those, and I think Nick's are old numbers, unless I am mistaken.

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Vincente, in terms of the way you describe movement and space in EVE these two are definitely important issues with the game right now. I whole-heartedly agree as an EVE player that conflicts too often take place on a GATE or a STATION, where very the mechanics of these movement-mechanics were never meant to really provide for "better" PvP but most of the time get in the way. In this sense, it is more important control these specific locations than space itself: gates, stations, etc. are more important to be controlled than the actual space itself. This definitely limits how good of a game can be.

Another argument I've made in the past in relation to this is the "over-expansiveness" of many MMORPG universes. EVE definitely suffers from overexpanded space. The point is you want to spread out your player base enough so that locations are not too crowded(such as the central trade-hub Jita), and also are given enough meaning to players so they are not too sparse (such as large swaths of 'no-sec' space).

In terms of the harshness of the death penalty, I tend to agree more with KulSeran. Even though I agree with the problems you mention, I think they are less a symptom of a harsh death penalty and more the symptom of the spatial/movement problems you mentioned. Definitely, I agree that there a whole lot to be improved with EVE's PvP system. And indeed, my trip to 0.0 showed me that blobs and gate-camping is not that fun. However, there are ways for players to get challenges for themselves and have more meaningful PvP. I, for instance, formed a solo corp and declare war on corporations and try to fight them all myself. It's all about how you creatively approach the game, and this kind of creative player approach is much more possible in EVE than in other games.

And please enlighten us on what AoC is :)

I've also seen Nick Yee's work before and its quite interesting, I think I even had a conversation with him once when I was still really into indie game dev. Is there anything recent in these kinds of studies? I know there is a lot of research being done on EVE, I will try to find some but if you guys find any please link it here.

Cheers,
-Pin

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Jerky, both sites seem to be active right now and quite updated (last update of MMORPGCharts was this month and last update of The Daedalus Project was last month).

PinWang I do agree that you can use creative approaches in Eve to find interesting/challenging things to do and that Eve gameplay is much more open ended than probably any other MMORPG out there. But that kind of creative approach is quite limited in a 0.0 alliance as the game mechanics force you to blob/camp/siege/spam pos quite a lot. Not because it's fun, but because it's the most effective thing to do while living there. But it's true that there are great initiatives that make Eve much more fun, like the new "Red" and "Blue" alliances that were formed for free PvP without cover politics and other projects for newbies like Eve University.

Btw, there are also studies about Eve economics from the economicist guy CCP hired some time ago. This is one of his studies for example:

http://myeve.eve-online.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&bid=498

They are pretty interesting to read :)

About AoC (Age of Conan), I haven't been able to join the beta, but all the information and videos released from the game sound really nice. The end game is about cities built by players who produce resources for crafting etc etc. Combat seems pretty dynamic (very action oriented, probably a matter of what you like the most),...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Conan:_Hyborian_Adventures

The Combact section mentions several nice things about AoC. Let's see if it can live to the expectations when it's released (in less than 2 months I think).

Regards

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Quote:
Original post by Vicente
Jerky, both sites seem to be active right now and quite updated (last update of MMORPGCharts was this month and last update of The Daedalus Project was last month).

The current demographics of the numbers found on MMORPGchart.com would be what I am interested in. According to this page Nick does not have any current numbers. There are only two things gathered in the last 1.5 years, and neither cover what I mentioned in my post. The page is active, yes, but Nick doesn't continually chart things like the MMORPGchart.com does, so the numbers are stale (for my purposes).

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Ah, blessed EVE, my precious ...

I just canceled me EVE account due to the game's bad design. I was looking for a space based game and there are only two barely decent ones available. EVE was one of them.

After playing it for awhile, it became apparent that they did not think about the basic technology design at all. For instance, on the client side, the network handling and graphics rendering is in the same game loop. This is a basic no-no when designing games. Network should be in it's own thread at a minimum. And the graphics rendering/fps should never be locked.

You can see evidence of this when you go through a jumpgate. The stuttering of regular flying and playing shows this as well. This makes the game almost unbearable. Top that off with releasing a graphics pack that was unplayable with most of their customers.... ouch!

I think there are still growing pains, but they are, unfortunately, following Blizzard's footsteps where money is higher priority then customers. :(

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Original post by Reddox
Ah, blessed EVE, my precious ...

I just canceled me EVE account due to the game's bad design. I was looking for a space based game and there are only two barely decent ones available. EVE was one of them.

After playing it for awhile, it became apparent that they did not think about the basic technology design at all. For instance, on the client side, the network handling and graphics rendering is in the same game loop. This is a basic no-no when designing games. Network should be in it's own thread at a minimum. And the graphics rendering/fps should never be locked.

You can see evidence of this when you go through a jumpgate. The stuttering of regular flying and playing shows this as well. This makes the game almost unbearable. Top that off with releasing a graphics pack that was unplayable with most of their customers.... ouch!

I think there are still growing pains, but they are, unfortunately, following Blizzard's footsteps where money is higher priority then customers. :(


Like i bolded in my original post, this is not a post about your personal preferences it's a post about MMROPG DESIGN concepts!!

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Ack!! My apologies. Although most of my post is about EVE's bad game design. So I guess my post took on an anti-design feel to it :)

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Okay, economy time. I have finally read enough to feel that I know a little more about what makes their economy tick. This page was very helpful in giving a brief overview, for anyone who is lacking in Eve knowledge, as I am/was.

My first question was whether or not they had an open or closed economy. Apparently, they, like UO did before them, attempted a closed economy before finally changing it to an open economy. According to the devs, it wasn't because they couldn't pull it off, but rather, it was because it took too many of their resources. They also said that they, with their current system, are getting all the benefits of a closed system. I suppose this would imply that they have been able to control hyperinflation as much as a closed economy would.

Now, it is our job to find out why this is the case, so we can learn from it. From what I gathered, NPC's provide a very small amount to the economy, and the rest is player driven. I think behind the scenes, the devs are monitoring the supply and demand metrics, and make adjustments as to where the rich spots for the resources are found. Without question, based on some of the graphs I saw on the developer blogs, they have tools to monitor their economy that may have no match currently with any other MMORPG. I come to this conclusion merely by the fact that no other MMORPG economy is as consistently strong as Eve's. If other teams have tools just as good, then they must not be as smart ;). We'll assume that they are all smart, and that Eve's tools are just more deep, and therefore, superior.

So would a player-based economy always be better? Not necessarily, in my opinion. I think it works in Eve's case because, like PinWang pointed out, they are focused on PvP. There are many other smaller aspects, like the corporations, that help play a part, but because of the competitive nature of PvP, players seem a little less likely to hoard goods, as opposed to a fantasy game. That doesn't mean hoarding doesn't exist, I just don't think it is as widespread as it is in other games.

Thoughts? What else are we missing?

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Original post by Jerky
My first question was whether or not they had an open or closed economy. Apparently, they, like UO did before them, attempted a closed economy before finally changing it to an open economy. According to the devs, it wasn't because they couldn't pull it off, but rather, it was because it took too many of their resources. They also said that they, with their current system, are getting all the benefits of a closed system. I suppose this would imply that they have been able to control hyperinflation as much as a closed economy would.
Realworld economies aren't closed...so why should gameworld ones be? More importantly, inflation is simple an overubundance of currency in the market, however this can't happen in eve simply due to the base costs of producing items. At some point you can't charge more for an item than you already are, otherwise your competition will beat you out, or players will simply learn to make it themselves and not buy from you at all. This includes the basic minerals that go into making EVERYTHING. Even morphite can be aquired fairly cheaply if you know where to go.
Quote:
Now, it is our job to find out why this is the case, so we can learn from it. From what I gathered, NPC's provide a very small amount to the economy, and the rest is player driven. I think behind the scenes, the devs are monitoring the supply and demand metrics, and make adjustments as to where the rich spots for the resources are found. Without question, based on some of the graphs I saw on the developer blogs, they have tools to monitor their economy that may have no match currently with any other MMORPG. I come to this conclusion merely by the fact that no other MMORPG economy is as consistently strong as Eve's. If other teams have tools just as good, then they must not be as smart ;). We'll assume that they are all smart, and that Eve's tools are just more deep, and therefore, superior.
The distribution of minerals across the universe is known, hell there are maps for it. However that distribution is baised such that no one particular area of space has everything. This means that for each area of 0.0 there is one particular ore found that produces a great quantity of a particular rare mineral. This is done both to increase conflict and to help control the economy. As far as economic monitoring goes: Having spoken with Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson at the GDC, he basically gets to play with mirrors of the current database (not current mirrors, but ones from a few months in the past). Basically, eve collects statistics on EVERYTHING. At one point there was an isk duping bug, they were able to not only identify who was exploiting it, but every item bought with the isk, and then what those people did with the isk, and so on and so forth. This ability enabled them to essencially reverse the entire set of transactions so that no one gained and no one lost anything (execpt those who got banned for exploiting a bug). Item production, loss, etc, can all be tracked both by the fact that every ship destruction produces a kill mail detailing all the items lost (see below), but that all production also produces similar items. Contracts and item sales are all tracked so that you can use management tools to manage not only your characters budget, but also that of your corporation.
Quote:
So would a player-based economy always be better? Not necessarily, in my opinion. I think it works in Eve's case because, like PinWang pointed out, they are focused on PvP. There are many other smaller aspects, like the corporations, that help play a part, but because of the competitive nature of PvP, players seem a little less likely to hoard goods, as opposed to a fantasy game. That doesn't mean hoarding doesn't exist, I just don't think it is as widespread as it is in other games.
In any game where the market diversity isn't broad enough, a player driven market won't work. Take WoW... for the most part the player driven market exists for low end items and crafting items. Most of the good craftable items are bind on pickup (which means only the guy who makes them can use them), and most of the good raid gear is also BoP.


2007.12.08 08:17:00

Victim: Nikkolai Pierre
Alliance: NONE
Corp: Republic Military School
Destroyed: Rifter
System: Pator
Security: 1.0
Damage Taken: 3495

Involved parties:

Name: Nagato Yuri (laid the final blow)
Security: 0.2
Alliance: Shadow-Alliance
Corp: Robotics Development
Ship: Rifter
Weapon: 200mm AutoCannon II
Damage Done: 3495

Destroyed items:

EMP S (Cargo)
Bloodclaw Light Missile, Qty: 3947 (Cargo)
Nuclear S, Qty: 3817 (Cargo)

Dropped items:

Bloodclaw Light Missile, Qty: 35
250mm Light Artillery Cannon I, Qty: 3
EMP S, Qty: 3804 (Cargo)
Nuclear S, Qty: 53
'Malkuth' Standard Missile Launcher I
Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters

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Now, it is our job to find out why this is the case, so we can learn from it. From what I gathered, NPC's provide a very small amount to the economy, and the rest is player driven. I think behind the scenes, the devs are monitoring the supply and demand metrics, and make adjustments as to where the rich spots for the resources are found.


As Washu posted, the minerals productions from moons is known and this makes some systems more valuable than others. There are also NPC complexes that produce a good quantity of money and item drops and their places are known too. True security of each system (that influences the posibilities of good NPCs with good loot drops) is also known for each solar system in Eve.

CCP has done some adjustments in the past to economy (moved some complexes, changed drop rates from several NPCs like drones, moved ice fields out of empire,...) but more or less people continue to know which systems and constellations are rich and which ones aren't and that is one of the reasons that drive wars and politics in the game (there are others ofc).

In Eve, high end items are divided in 2 types:

- faction items: come mostly from NPCs (killing NPCs, doing missions for NPCs,...).
- T2 items: made by players.

The good thing is that items are not so combat defining as in other games so it's not needed to farm for faction items if you want to have a competitive combat ship (you can use T1 or T2 modules and that's it).

Regards,

Vicente

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Quote:
Original post by Vicente
As Washu posted, the minerals productions from moons is known and this makes some systems more valuable than others. There are also NPC complexes that produce a good quantity of money and item drops and their places are known too. True security of each system (that influences the posibilities of good NPCs with good loot drops) is also known for each solar system in Eve.

Aye, CCP routinely releases a DB dump that people can use to do all sorts of things, such as getting the true security of systems, and there are whole websites dedicated to this.
Quote:

In Eve, high end items are divided in 2 types:

- faction items: come mostly from NPCs (killing NPCs, doing missions for NPCs,...).
- T2 items: made by players.

The good thing is that items are not so combat defining as in other games so it's not needed to farm for faction items if you want to have a competitive combat ship (you can use T1 or T2 modules and that's it).

The important thing to note is that factional items tend not to be used in PvP most often, the exception being factional ammo. Faction items tend to drive the carebare market more than the PvP market except for some specific modules, mostly because the cost of factional items is far to high to risk it on a ship that will get blown up in short order. (I've lost one missioning raven, but can't count the number of PvP ships I've lost over the years).

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OK nice discussion! Very nice posts and good details/examples. Hopefully I'll follow up with another MMORPG-related post soon! Cheers guys,
-Pin

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