One of the defining and critical features of a sandbox MMO is options. Options are different than layers in that options don’t fade or get replaced by “the next thing”. You ‘finish’ layers. You can’t ‘finish’ options.
EVE has a lot of options, all ultimately resulting in one thing: more ISK. More ISK is always on the mind of an EVE player, and as your wealth moves up or down, your gameplay adjusts. You fly pricier ships when you have more ISK, you gamble more, or you don’t focus on ‘farming’ as much. When your wealth dips, you refocus on more profitable activities.
One of the options our Corp has been somewhat focusing on lately is scanning/exploration. Initially the driver here was poking around in wormholes, but last night we also used exploration to find a Grav site for our Sunday Mining Op. It’s not a huge difference, but it does mix things up and add something new to a weekly event, gives us a different mix of ores/minerals.
Scanning is somewhat of a mini-game within EVE, one that initially I found incredibly frustrating. Some of the blame lies in the UI, which can make seeing the location of an item difficult initially in 3D. Another important aspect is simply the newness of the activity. It’s a much different task than anything else in EVE, and when you don’t know some of the tricks (shift-click dragging all probes, setting the camera focus on an object by clicking it), it can seem borderline impossible to get a site to 100%. And the ever-present factor, skill training, is there as well. When you first start out, you likely won’t have all of the skills you need at V, or even IV, which makes the whole thing a bit harder/slower as well.
What I am looking forward to is scanning down combat sites with my indy alt, and having my combat pilot run them in his Assault Frigate. While the total amount of ISK generated won’t be the same as running level 4 missions in my CNR, it will be something different, and if I get lucky with a faction spawn perhaps the ISK won’t be horrible. Mostly though this will help me improve at scanning itself, which is a valuable skill not just for PvE-based activities, but for PvP. Being able to scan down an enemy ship quickly can be the difference between scoring a nice kill and someone slipping away.
Exploration is just one more item in the EVE bag of tricks. And rather than replacing the previous ‘end-game’ activity, it’s an invisible option in every system, waiting patiently for you to mess around with.