Though I haven’t played for quite some time, I still keep track of EVE news. The EVE Dev Blog is still in my RSS feed, as are Ten Ton Hammer’s EVE posts. The most interesting news source, though, is definitely Jester’s Trek. The eponymous Jester and I have been good friends1 for nearly 15 years. His enthusiasm for the game, and the way he follows the changing tides of EVE, are fascinating reading. Naturally, he urges me to resubscribe at every opportunity.
There are two reasons why I have resisted doing so and I wanted to discuss them in a little more than soundbite detail.
The first is entirely on me: EVE felt to me like a second job, rather than a game. That’s because, in part, I made it a second job: it was my objective each month, while playing, to earn enough in-game money to pay for two PLEXes, which kept me from paying real-world subscription money. I had a spreadsheet to track this, to ensure I was on-track. I had to make so much per day in order to hit my mark, and if I skipped a day, or fell short, I had to make it up by the end of the month. There was real-world money on the line, even though it wasn’t a great deal. I made this money through mission grinding — essentially, soloing in an MMO.
I freely acknowledge this is stupid on a number of levels. For one, why was I not playing with my friends? That’s the whole point of an MMO — playing with others. There were many times when I commented that I wanted a single-player EVE. But why? The whole point is the fact that there are thousands of other players in the same universe. And while mission running brought in a decent amount of money, I could have been making substantially more with a bit more effort. The aforementioned Jester mentioned an in-game purchase recently that dwarfed the most in-game money I ever had. Clearly, I was just doing it wrong.
This was my fault and is something that I could probably fix were I ever to return to the game.
The second is entirely on EVE, though, and I’m skeptical it would ever change. The thing about an MMO is that you’re essentially paying an ongoing lease on an virtual investment. To play on the lease idea, I’ll compare your character in EVE to an apartment. When you get the apartment, it’s empty. Maybe it has some key furnishings like a refrigerator or a stove, but more than likely you’ll need to supply the actual furniture. You need to acquire food for that refrigerator, populate that apartment with your own furniture, supply your own wardrobe, and pay for all of that while also paying for the lease on the apartment.
No matter where you live, there’s always the risk that some nefarious villain is going to break into your home and take your stuff, mess up your apartment, and generally make your life sad. We combat this with insurance against things like theft, fire, weather, and so on. While insurance companies have earned a rather poor reputation for fulfilling their end of this contract, the spirit is nevertheless clear: you pay them a regular fee, they replace your stuff as best they can if and when you lose it.
This brings us to EVE. If I am to spend paycheck dollars for this lease — my subscription fee — and hours of my week investing time into creating this character, acquiring bigger and better ships and modules, and so on, I’m not going to be too pleased if someone asshole out for a griefing joyride swings by to blow up my ship. EVE is an everyone vs. everyone game, with PvP available all the time, and that’s fine. But I fundamentally disagree with the idea that someone can take away a thing I’ve poured hours of my life into without being compensated for it in some way. EVE has insurance for ships. It works fine to fund the replacement cost of any “tech 1” ship. It does nothing to cover the costs of the modules equipped on that ship, nor the cargo it carries. And insurance on “tech 2” ships is laughably low compared to their actual costs.
In WoW, if you’re on a PvP server, you’re pretty much fair game at all times. If another player kills you, it’s obnoxious. But you don’t lose the gear you spent hours of your life grinding dungeons or wiping against raid bosses to acquire. You keep it. Maybe it gets a little damaged2, but you don’t outright lose it, or your stuff. Realistic though it may be to loot the corpse of a vanquished foe, it’s not fun to be the vanquished foe. I’m not playing a game to be confronted with the harsh realities of life, wherein any asshole with half a mind to do so could potentially waltz up and shoot me at any given time.
I don’t mind being inconvenienced a bit to simulate this, as WoW does it. Some griefer comes along to kill me while I’m out questing, fine. That’s annoying, but it’s a risk you take on a PvP server. He has his fun, gets his reward3, and we go our separate ways. EVE is a different world, but that doesn’t change the fact that I spent a lot of time, as a player, acquiring that stuff.
If EVE wants me back, it won’t be hard: overhaul insurance. I don’t mind keeping my insurance paid up, and if I forget, then it’s all on my head. In return, I expect that when I lose an insured ship, fair market value4 for the ship, all installed modules, and all cargo be reimbursed to my wallet upon its destruction. That way, I can go re-acquire all of those things. It’s inconvenient to do so, but at least I can do it with only a minor disruption in my own game.
There’s an EVE mantra: “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.” I’m essentially advocating the nigh-abolition of this mantra. What you can “afford to lose” becomes “what you didn’t insure.” Getting your ship shot out from under you should be an annoyance, just as getting ganked in WoW is an annoyance. It should not represent the loss of hours and hours of labor on your part. That’s not fun.
If it’s not fun then why would I want to play it?
- To the point that he lived in my parents’ house for a while [↩]
- The mechanics of PvP gear wear vs. PvE gear wear are unimportant to this particular discussion [↩]
- Honor Points, with which he can buy PvP-specific gear [↩]
- What’s fair market value? I would argue the median or mode cost for the item. Means are too subject to influence by outliers. This would, of course, require a continually updated database of these prices across the entirety of New Eden, tracking sales on both the open market and in contracts (or whatever they’re calling them these days). Naturally, such a system would be subject to manipulation all on its own, but I frankly don’t have a fool-proof answer. The key point is that I should get enough money from my insurance payout that I can go hop on the market and reasonably expect to buy a new ship and replace all modules and cargo for the amount I was reimbursed. [↩]