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Natural selection applied to MMOs

James Egan

There tend to be some fundamental differences between players of World of Warcraft and EVE Online, due in part to the contrast in rules and game mechanics, and the types of personalities each title attracts. This was mentioned in a recent Shut Up. We're Talking. podcast and provided some fuel for further discussion by Syncaine, from the Hardcore Casual blog.

He observes that "EVE players embrace scams, trickery, underhandedness, and generally resent any changes that would 'dumb down' EVE. In WoW that gets you quickly banned, and before that rivers swell from all the tears shed while players scream mommy." There's also a huge divide between the titles in terms of how 'hardcore' or PvP-centric the games are. "EVE is harsh on day one, and stays that way," Syncaine writes. "WoW holds your hand from 1-80, and makes sure you get a cookie regardless if you win or lose. EVE not only takes your cookie, but laughs at you for bringing one in the first place."

In these respects, Syncaine views the rules of an MMO as a type of natural selection. "EVE quickly breeds out the 'weak' MMO players, and only those who can survive in the 'sandbox with mines' stay around and thrive. On the other hand, with its super low barrier of entry, WoW is accessible to anyone with enough brain cells to double click an icon," he writes.

Of course, these are generalizations. Not every EVE player is a podkilling mass murderer who pulls off heists and scams when not raining hell down on his or her fellow pilots. Likewise, there are most assuredly WoW players whose dedication to endgame and other high-level pursuits would certainly label them as being hardcore. However, stereotypes do exist for a reason and there's certainly truth in what Syncaine has written.

What he points out are the social dynamics associated with the sandbox vs. theme park rule disparities between EVE Online and World of Warcraft. Those design choices do tend to attract certain types of players to each respective game. You may want to have a look at Syncaine's "MMO natural selection, and what it means to your game" if his expressed views either strike a chord or strike a nerve.

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