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Why I Play: EVE Online


Sci-fi MMO EVE Online is possibly the most polarising online game in existence. It has some of the genre's most loyal fans and spawns some of its biggest news stories, but most people just can't stand the user interface and gameplay. It's been called boring, overcomplicated, and a griefer's paradise, but even those who don't play it often still watch from the sidelines as each insane story of theft or corruption emerges from the sandbox. Most games can only keep my attention for a few months at a time, but somehow I've played EVE for over eight and a half years.

I've heard it said that EVE is a long-term commitment, a statement I find hard to argue with as at only 26 years old I've been playing EVE almost continuously for a third of my life. It's not just been a game to me; at times it's been a way of life, a refuge from stress, a way to stay in touch with friends, and even a place to learn skills that can apply to the real world. Thanks to Massively, my attachment to EVE has even grown from a hobby to a career in writing and games journalism. I've had numerous periods of low activity in EVE and even quit for months at a time, but something always brings me back to the world's biggest sci-fi sandbox.

In this article, I look back at what drew me to EVE initially, some of the unusual factors that have kept me playing EVE over the past eight years, and the reason I'm still motivated to subscribe to this day.

Why I Play side imageAn online version of Elite

When I started playing EVE in February of 2004, there weren't many MMOs on the market. World of Warcraft hadn't even been released yet, and I was sinking a bewildering number of hours into mining rocks and smashing 2-D orcs in the original RuneScape. So when a friend told me about a huge new sci-fi game with a fully player-run economy and thousands of solar systems to explore, I jumped at the chance to give it a go. Having grown up playing Frontier: Elite II on the Amiga, I hoped that EVE would be like an online version with players taking the roles of pirates, cargo traders, and explorers.

My first week in a mining corporation was fun but not the Elite experience I had been looking for. The explorer's urge soon overpowered me, and I began traveling the galaxy and looking for opportunities. I mined Crokite with newbies in nullsec and hunted the fringes of empire space to find research labs to buy and resell on the black market. Becoming a self-made freelancer in a universe without laws, rules, or boundaries was the intoxicating experience I had been searching for. That sandboxy emergent gameplay was something few other online games could offer, and it's a big part of what keeps me playing to this day.

Why I Play side imageMaking a name for yourself

I think it's safe to say that most of us play MMOs for more than just the gameplay. There are plenty of singleplayer games out there if all we're interested in is some hack-and-slash with a story. The social aspects of MMOs and online games are undeniable, and nothing keeps players subscribed to an MMO more than social ties. This effect is amplified in EVE by the fact that all the players live in one single shard universe. If you build a reputation in EVE, set up a successful business, or lead a powerful organisation, it's a much more tangible achievement than it would be in a sharded MMO.

Throughout the years, I've built a name for myself in the EVE community that I'm really quite proud to have had. I started out as just a guy who posted a lot on the EVE forums and later became known as "the tanking guy" for my exhaustive article in EON Magazine issue 2, but that public recognition opened a lot of doors. I ran lotteries, launched public investment schemes, managed alliances, and rallied fleets of hundreds of players in Faction Warfare all because people recognised and trusted the name Nyphur. That ability to make a real name for yourself is something special that I've never seen as strongly in another MMO, and it's been a huge factor in keeping me playing all these years.

Why I Play side imageDeveloping talents

One aspect of sandbox games that nobody really talks about is their incredible educational value. You can read about and study business in the real world, but inside EVE you can test those things out at an accelerated pace. Running a corporation can teach responsibility, leadership skills, and motivational speaking. The race to get a competitive edge in EVE's no-rules universe has led to some pretty awesome innovations like Somer.BLINK, Dotlan maps, and EVE Fitting Tool. Some players have even managed to monetise their success in the real world through advertising and game time affiliate schemes. Try telling those people that EVE has no educational value and that they should focus on studying business and economics!

For all the jokes that EVE is "spreadsheets in space," I've actually learned some really useful financial and account management skills from running in-game businesses. EVE forced me to work with numbers every day and get better at maths, and figuring out how all the game mechanics worked gave me practice in analytic logic. Before I worked for Massively, I even discovered my writing and editing ability when preparing guides for EVE. Not many people would care about the educational value of a game that they play to escape reality, but I know that I owe at least part of my ability as a writer and a programmer to EVE. Other people have discovered similar talents through EVE, from artists and political public speakers to some incredible film directors.

Why I Play side imageA new game every six months

When I first started playing EVE back in 2004, it was to get in on the ground floor of something I thought was going to be huge. EVE sold to me based not on its gameplay or graphics but on all the future potential it had. It was the world's only single-shard sci-fi sandbox universe ruled by players and developed by a team that wasn't afraid to tread new ground in game design. EVE was a blank canvas onto which so many ideas could be painted. Over the years that followed, I watched as new gameplay, ships, and content were added in huge expansions twice per year. EVE was renewed every six months, and the players who did best were the ones who were quickest to adapt.

More than anything, it's that renewal and constant change of the state of the game that keeps me coming back to EVE after periods of inactivity. There's always something new on the horizon to prepare for; there are always new opportunities to change the way you play the game. Every time the game is starting to get slow or samey, something new comes along to refresh it. I mainly play EVE casually at the moment, and what keeps me subscribed and dabbling in the game today is that I still see so much untapped potential in EVE and still want to support its development.

There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.

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