Listening to the latest Drone Bay podcast, a thought came to me while listening to the ‘mail time’ section. A new player basically asked what he can do about older players having tons of money, and an inflated economy making it difficult to purchase better gear at reasonable prices. The response, which I agree with, was that in EVE inflation is not really an issue for most items, especially the early game stuff like frigates and cruisers. They also mentioned that EVE has multiple money sinks keeping the economy in check, chief among these being that ships blow up and are destroyed permanently, which happens very frequently in PvP.
This led me to thinking that generally PvP pilots tend to be the most hardcore overall players, the ‘raiding elite’ of most other MMOs. As EVE statistics have shown, the majority of players stay in Empire space and tend to do the PvE elements of the game, mission running or high-sec mining. The key to EVE’s amazing balance is that those Empire players (lets call them casuals) are not hurt by the ‘raiding elite’ PvP players, but in fact benefit from them. Ships and fittings need to be replaced; creating a demand for the goods casuals can produce either from mining or mission running. The PvP players benefit from the lower prices caused by constant supply from Empire players. A slowdown in either section would actually hurt the other, which is somewhat unique in the MMO space.
The almost direct opposite is the current balance in WoW, especially as that game attempts to shift towards PvP. The hardcore raiders are upset whenever Blizzard drops the difficulty to raid, or whenever new welfare items are introduced (like the new 70 blue set). The casuals are constantly upset that the game is tuned to the hardcore raiders, asking for easier access to raiding instances and complaining that PvP is unfair when they have to face characters in full high level epic gear. Whenever Blizzard helps one side, be it the hardcore or the casual, they seemingly hurt the other. Add a casual 5 man instance, the raiders will call it useless content. Add another raiding instance, the casuals demand content. More powerful PvP gear is introduced, the raiders get pissed. Useful PvP items found in PvE, PvP players get pissed. In some respects, no matter what Blizzard does, a large portion of their player base is going to feel slighted, more so than in most MMOs.
It’s a good lesson in MMO design however, that in order to really please both sides (casual and hardcore), its not about giving both sides equal development time, but rather making both side benefit whenever one gets a boost. Somehow a new top end raiding instance needs to benefit the casual crowd, and somehow new casual content needs to impact the hardcore crowd in a positive way as well. A game that provides such a base, like EVE, is going to have far less issue with its hardcore/casual divide.