One of the last major Massive Multiplayer Online Games, often referred to as a MMO, for me to tackle is the Icelandic creation called Eve Online. It is an interstellar game of conflict, manufacturing, production, exploration, and control of space. It is a game spread across more than 5,000 star systems with each containing dozens of individual planets and scores of moons. Each of these locations are ripe for mining and production.
Unlike other MMOs, the breadth and scope of Eve Online is limited to two servers. Basically there is an English server and a Chinese server. All the players of the game exist in either of these two shards (consider them dimensions if you will). Most other games divide their players across dozens of servers, each an exact copy of the others but having their own economy and playing style. Eve online bundles everyone into one of two servers which makes for a more dynamic and personal experience of the game. (edit: I have recently been informed that the Chinese server is no longer in operations — as to the reasons, I am unsure but will find out)
Amidst all of this glory of gorgeous planets, stellar gas, and deep dark space are 50,000 real players who via for control of the space. The game has been around for many years, with its original release in 2003 it has gone through many free updates and iterations. As stated above, it is a game that was coded and produced in Iceland, a rather unlikely place to forge a MMO that is played around the world.
Unlike most other MMOs, where players are represented by a single figure that moves through the game, Eve Online is more focused on the various ship that one can fly. There has been a diminutive and lackluster attempt to create a single avatar, the person behind the wheel of the ship, but it has real no effect or use in game. One can leave a ship and walk around a small and boring cabin, but there truly is nothing to do there that one cannot do from the cockpit of a starship. Vague rumors have circulated that at some point open meeting points will be introduced where avatars can mingle with others, but other than a myopic Facebook device it will have little use in the game.
I have tried to play Eve Online many of times and it must be stated, at least from my experience, that it is one of the most complicated and obtuse MMO games on the market. It is truly a different experience than any other game I have played.
Most games of this nature are driven on two principles. Effort into improving skills and equipment and money. But in Eve online, it is all about Time. period. Other games make players play the game to improve their abilities, but in Eve it is simply a measure of real time devoted to a particular skill set. So in a similar game, a player may have to go out into the world swing a sword at monsters to get better at fighting, but in Eve you simply click on a skill such as Small Turrets and wait for the real world timer to click to zero. A player does not need to be in the game for the timer to click down thankfully, but many skills have unbelievable real world timers — it is not hard to find skills taking weeks or even a month to learn (again this is real time and not some condensed version of time in game).
Money is another thing that is handled completely different than in any other game I have ever played. In most other games, objects in the game are purchased with imaginary gold coins or some form of money (though there is a relatively new practice of real world money exchange proliferating around the game worlds now), but in general a character goes on adventures to raise gold to buy the new sword, armor, or magic spell he needs. In Eve Online however, money is really just a minor brake to the ends of gaining an item. That is because CCP, the company who makes the game, allows players to buy and then sell game time — see the connection. So a new player could spend $18 dollars of game time and then sell it completely legal within the game for 450,000,000 isk (isk is their form of money).
I have been playing for a month and I can generally now make about 10,000,000 credits in a day doing horribly time consuming and boring things. And I am sure there are thousands of players who will scoff at that and say they can make 10,000,000 isk in an hour. But however the money it is made, having the ability to legal buy isk at a comparably rate of 25,000 isk for every cent simply dilutes and cheapens the aspect of making money in the game. I should point out that, as I have been told many times, some player must buy the PLEX (the name given to game time) originally, so it is not as if the company is printing worthless script. It does change the concepts of the game, however.
Looking at the framework of most games, one gets better by actually playing the game and using skills repeatedly go get better and also going on adventures to raise capital to buy needed objects. But Eve casts that aside. It is only about time and real world money. A fresh player can buy anything in the game with a deep real world pocket, counter balanced that it requires skills that only real time unlocks. The good aspects to that is that a seasoned player cannot simply create multiple accounts and fly high end ships around without first spending time training, but of course the bad aspects is that Eve is all about time — a short commodity to most adults.
So with the understanding that the game is principally about time and really nothing else, we can look at the basic aspects of it.
Again there are three main paths for players in the game. PVP, Mining and Productions, and Missions. There is no restrictions to mixing these three paths and generally all players will do all three at some point in the game.
Space is divided up into regions of controlled space. With starting players finding themselves in an area guarded by computer controlled police ships that will enforce civility. As one ventures further into frontier space, these laws degrade and a player can quickly find himself in lawless space where there is no rules. This is where PVP starts. There are also worm holes that starships can enter that projects the ships into vastly deep space where both computer controlled ancient aliens reside or groups of players wait for intrepid explorers to stumble into. Winners of player vs. player combats, get the spoils of the destroyed ships to sell.
Next comes mining and manufacturing. Another huge time sink. Starting players can mine asteroids turning the metals into other objects in the game that can be sold to other real players. I have been told that 90% of all items in the game are player generated, making for a robust and thriving market. At some point the mining will become particularlly boring, which for me it already happening at 30 days of play. The next step up is to perform Planetary Interactions, or basically landing a colony on one of the thousands of planets in space and start mining and combining resources found only on planets. Expensive in the form of isk, but again if a player is willing to shell out real money, there are but a few skills one needs to achieve this goal. And finally there is moon interaction, which I have not done at all and cannot really speak of what it entails aside from that it can only be done in space that is open and wild and is more created for corporations (e.g. guilds, clans, or other terms associated with player designed groups).
Edit — There is also a portion of the game that I was completely unaware of, see how I am learning stuff just by writing about it, that is research oriented. I assume you can make research facilities that can recreate blueprints with. I have also been told that it scales far better than Planetary Interaction.
There is also missions in the game that can grant players money, items, and fame. Most of these things are the standard nauseating quests found in every other MMO on the market. Talk to a person who says he needs X of this, moved to Y of that location, but look out because E enemies will try and foil your attempt. Wash and repeat until you are weak in the knees and eyes crossed.
There is so much to see in the game and I again have been told it is possible to travel the expanse of the known universe, giving enough time — see how that word keeps repeating itself in the game. Time is everything in this game and there are no shortcuts. In some games they use teleporters to move avatars around because the world is so large, but although there are jump gates (e.g. gates that connect two far ranging locations in a moment of time) there is still incredible lengths of time devoted to approaching them and just traveling around in space to get to the planet, moon, or asteroid. I have become an expert at alt-tabbing to other things while I wait for my ship to move to this spot or do that little time chore. Mining is that way, for me; I get my ship mining then walk away or alt-tab to Twitter because watching my lasers cut asteroids into little chunks is as exciting as watching a pot boil with water!
There is something that keeps making me come back to the game, but it is a different pull then other MMOs. Games like City of Heroes, Everquest II, or Rifts is that you want to stay in the game to do that next quest or get that next skill. In Eve Online it is all about that payout of time — when 7 days elapse I get this new skill; or when I sell my PLEX I can open up another 3 planets for mining.
I am still learning in the game, something someone told me just recently who had been in the game for years — you are always learning something new here. It is ever changing.