MMO natural selection, and what it means to your game.

In the most recent SUWT podcast (always good stuff btw), the crew got off on a tangent when talking about the cultural differences between players of EVE Online and WoW. EVE players embrace scams, trickery, underhandedness, and generally resent any changes that would ‘dumb down’ EVE. In WoW that gets you quickly banned, and before that rivers swell from all the tears shed while players scream mommy.

The ‘why’ of the issue is of course multi-faceted. One major factor would be the game rules. EVE is harsh on day one, and stays that way. WoW holds your hand from 1-80, and makes sure you get a cookie regardless if you win or lose. EVE not only takes your cookie, but laughs at you for bringing one in the first place. Another factor is overall complexity. To really succeed in EVE, you have to know what you are doing and pay attention. You can’t just run a mod and become a market genius, watching the money flow in endlessly. You can read all the guides you can find, but more often than not you actually have to make a few costly mistakes before you learn something in EVE. The rewards are often more meaningful, but the path is also far more difficult.

The rules of any given MMO are, in many ways, a modified version of natural selection. EVE quickly breeds out the ‘weak’ MMO players, and only those who can survive in the ‘sandbox with mines’ stay around and thrive. On the other hand, with its super low barrier of entry, WoW is accessible to anyone with enough brain cells to double click an icon. When Blizzard marketed WotLK stating “Your definition of epic will be shattered”, they might be referring to the fact that even brain-dead monkeys will shortly be decked out in ‘epic’ gear. The definition has indeed been shattered, to an all-time low. The argument that “11 million gamers can’t be wrong” holds about as much water as stating that McDonalds is as good as it gets for food, since 1 billion customers can’t be wrong…

In most games, who else is playing is generally a non-factor. I’ll enjoy Fallout 3 regardless of who else picks it up, but this same rule does not apply in an MMO. We log on and interact with the world around us, and if everyone around us is an ignorant 13 year old who still thinks its cool to be an e-thug, that seriously impacts my enjoyment. PUG groups in WoW are a perfect example of this. Outside of WoW, pickup groups are an excepted and encouraged part of an MMO, yet in WoW they are avoided like the plague. To further complicate the matter, Blizzard’s solution was to remove almost any need for a PUG until the very end, brushing the problem under the rug rather than addressing it directly.

While listening to the discussion, it got me thinking about the direction Mythic can take with Warhammer. While it’s no EVE, WAR has yet to reach even 2004 WoW, let alone the 2008 version, in terms of challenge and player accountability. It will be interesting to see whether Mythic has the patience of CCP (the makers of EVE) to grow their vision and let their game mature naturally, or if they try to go for the quick sellout and dumb everything down, trying to appeal to the zombie masses. While making money is certainly the goal of any company, it’s not always the one and only goal. At some point pride in what you do factors in, and sometimes providing a higher level of service supersedes cutting every corner to chase every last penny. Hopefully Mythic caters to the fans they have, rather then excluding them for ones they don’t.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Console Gaming, EVE Online, MMO design, Podcast, Rant, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to MMO natural selection, and what it means to your game.

  1. Thallian says:

    “Your definition of epic will be shattered”, they might be referring to the fact that even brain-dead monkeys will shortly be decked out in ‘epic’ gear. —- you got me laughing with this one.

  2. oakstout says:

    My question is why is “Easy” a bad thing. Just because the ease at which you can obtain certain and ultimate power in WoW is less encumbered than EvE doesn’t make WoW any less fun or entertaining.

    The question you have to ask is, why do some many people enjoy the pain and hassle of playing EvE when the carrot can be yours for the taking in WoW. I mean, getting kicked in the groin repeated and liking it isn’t something to be proud of, is it?

  3. Graktar says:

    I was with you up to a point, but then you contradicted yourself with this:

    “We log on and interact with the world around us, and if everyone around us is an ignorant 13 year old who still thinks its cool to be an e-thug, that seriously impacts my enjoyment.”

    You complain about people complaining in WoW about being scammed, cheated, or abused (which is ok in EVE, supposedly), but then you complain about ‘e-thugs’ seriously impacting your enjoyment.


    Don’t you think being scammed, cheated, or abused seriously impacts most people’s enjoyment? You just argued against your own complaint with an anecdote of your own experience. People complain in WoW because being ripped off through exploits and scams isn’t fun.

    Espionage is part of EVE, it’s an intended gameplay style and people expect it. Rival corporations are just that, rivals. And espionage in EVE requires the agent of espionage to be crafty and intelligent, rather than the victim to be careless. Being ripped off in WoW, you’re being cheated by someone on your own side (no AH scams from the enemy are possible), usually by exploiting game mechanics or poor graphical representations of items/money/costs/whatever. It doesn’t require any skill or intelligence on the part of the scammer, just a moment of inattention by the victim.

    You can hear about an EVE player who pulled off some heist and think “wow, that guy’s good”. But if you read about some dick that scammed newbies out of everything they owned by posting misleading prices on the AH in WoW, well, you just think he’s a dick.

    You’re comparing apples and oranges really. It would be like someone in a movie theater complaining about people being too loud compared to someone on a rollercoaster complaining about people being too loud. The first is valid, the second is silly.

  4. syncaine says:

    That’s the point though Graktar, you CAN’T do things in WoW that you can do in EVE, for exactly those reasons. Bliz keeps WoW super safe, which protects everyone, but also limits the creativity of the players.

    Spies and scammers might be an annoyance in EVE, but they are also part of what makes it a living breathing world, rather than just a series of quests. Leet speak and being racially ignorant has nothing to do with being a Corp spy, or even half the stuff Goons do. I’ll take the goons in EVE over barrens chat any day. Both have negative impacts on others, but one is an accepted challenge in the game, while the other is just mindless stupidity.

    The AH example actually works in both games, it’s just that hardly anyone falls for it in EVE, while it took Blizzard changing the AH to quite down WoW players about being riped off.

  5. Yeebo says:

    EVE is the most hardcore MMO to ever be financially successful, but it’s also decidedly “carebear” compared to failed experiments such as pre-Trammel UO and Shadowbane. There are huge areas of safe space after all. What kind of “super gamer” does it take to master the art of making ISK mining in safe space?

    Getting past the horrifically clunky AI and arcane character development system is a bit of a feat, admittedly. However, put in an afternoon of cursing at your screen and you too can be an “elite” EVE player without ever engaging in any PvP.

    The players of niche titles often seem to convince themselves that they are somehow superior gamers to the mouthbreathing masses that play more popular games. It’s really just a matter of different strokes for different folks. The point of a game is to have fun after all, and “fun” is a complete intangible.

    I happen to think MANGBAND on hardcore mode is a hell of a lot of fun, but I don’t go around beating my chest about it. I’m sure the ten guys still playing Tabula Rasa feel that they are superior gamers to the masses playing turn based MMOs.

  6. coppertopper says:

    So what’s the difference in maturity levels of say a 13 yr old WoW player who steals everything from a guild vault a part of which he was a trusted member, and a 30 something EVE playee who steals everything from a guild of which he was a trusted member?

  7. Hirvox says:

    Personally, I think that the crucial difference between antisocial people in EvE and antisocial people in WoW is the possibility of retribution. In WoW, you cannot crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women. Blizzard is the only authority. And if they do nothing (like when you get corpsecamped, your guild vault gets emptied or someone ninjaloots legendaries), Blizzard is seen as protecting the offender by refusing to take action. WoW players whine because it’s their only option.

    In contrast, in EvE you can pursue retribution on your own. CCP doesn’t protect you, and a sufficiently motivated player can even kill people in the “safety” of high-security space. EvE focuses on consequences, not pre-emptive protection.

  8. Jaggins says:

    I think EVE provides an ideal balance of possibility space vs. safety. While you can hide behind CONCORD with reasonable safety, it is much more fun and rewarding to venture into areas with more risk. The mechanics allow for minors, traders, pirates and sovereign alliance wars. WOW!

  9. Jaggins says:

    the game allows for miners as wells as minors. oops!

  10. soren the lurker says:

    For me, the distinction is that WoW accepts (indeed,may well be designed around) people who want to play character-tropes (the Healer, the Tank, the Paladin, the Bad-Ass Guy with the *BIG* Sword/Axe) — it indulges this type of play.
    EVE contrariwise, will let you get away with that, if you insist, but prefers people who’re a little of a lot of tropes — the industrious miner who’ll blow you away if you speal from him, the yarr-pirate who’ll allow you to ransom your ship for a joke he hasn’t heard before, the secret scientist spending cycles researching radical and revolutionary new techs, who’s also a secret vigilante sneaking out to join the Militia and kill his people’s foes.
    If I want to be killed by someone bigger, stronger and better-equipped than me, I can be in either, but if I want to get on with a non-combat life, I’ll do better where I am. Even if I don’t have a pet Dire Bear beside me.

  11. Solidstate says:

    Typical elitist drivel…

    McDonalds is a good, low-cost, fast and tasty solution to eating a quick lunch or dinner, as long as you don’t overdo it and stay away for the Coke (very bad for your teeth). It’s a great place for kids, they love the food and there is stuff there to keep them happy and occupied, which makes tired parents very happy. 1 billion customers aren’t wrong!


  12. Manasi says:

    “The argument that “11 million gamers can’t be wrong” holds about as much water as stating that McDonalds is as good as it gets for food, since 1 billion customers can’t be wrong…”

    I LAUGHED OUT LOUD in my office with people around at that
    @ oakstout you ahve to avoid getting kicked( that’s his point)
    @solidstate get real bro..convenience is king… not the food quality or anything else

    When lemmings attack describes WoW very well. Is it an enjoyable game, probably but it has a finite beginning, middle and end. EvE does not have a finite beginning middle or end.

  13. Bonedead says:

    Hey, I’ve got this opinion that I treat as fact, it differs from your opinion which actually is fact though, because I want to be right, especially on the internet.

  14. Brast says:

    Agree that this is typical party line for elitists. Accomplishing things in WoW is easier and takes less skill and thought. I agree with this. There are still higher levels of accomplishments that less skilled players do not and cannot get to. It does not mean that WoW is the game for the stupid and lazy while the real gamers play EVE. The audience is different based on factors like available time, age, and personal play style.

    EVE caters to a very specific audience and does it well. Its longevity proves that. WoW also caters to a certain audience and does well at that. I don’t get where we have to say one game is bad and one is not.

    Regarding, “While making money is certainly a goal of any company, it’s not always the one and only goal. At some point pride in what you do factors in..”

    There is no way you are going to sell me in this. I cannot even see a rational argument where Pride > Money for a video game. Making money is the primary goal. It is good to have secondary goals, but never at the cost of the primary objective… make money. There are nitches out there that people are trying to reach because they see a market opening (aka $$$), not because they believe it will better society or some such drivel.

  15. Herc says:

    Hmm so basically your saying

    WoW players – zombies, no skill, stupid and lazy. Poor WoW players they don’t even know. I guess I should tell all the people who just wants the game to be accesible that they should quit and play a real gamer’s game.
    Eve players – hardcore/skilled players, God’s gift to MMO. Serious gamers!

    I won’t judge because there’s always an elitist jerk deep inside us =). Just made me laugh there on your generalization of EVE/WOW players.


    100% agre on the niche. You will only invest in something that you think will make you money or in this case you have a customer base. This is how some small businesses grow … thru their own niche.

  16. rokk says:

    You do realise that WoW isnt always as bad, and Eve as good as most opinions state here?

    There’s different levels of play within WoW, some of the “13” yo ppl mentioned arent even 70, save 80 yet, and when they get to the upper reaches they tend to stay mixing with their own clique, whilst “mature” players tend to stratify also.

    Eve is better if your older and have a more machavellian mind for sure, but better in and of itself?

    my favorite color is blue therefore anyone who likes a different hue is deluded and foolish.

    Them hardcore elitists who like black ruin my game tbh.

  17. syncaine says:

    Of course its a generalization. I’m sure plenty of 13yr olds play EVE, and I know plenty of very cool and mature people play WoW.

    That said, the game design tends to FAVOR one type over the other.

  18. Einherjer says:

    Totally agree with the post Syncaine.
    But… try to tell a Britney fan that what she bellows on the mic isn’t Music but sounds put together by intelligently analyzing trends and demographics…
    I walked away from WoW becasue it stopped being a game. Most of it is mindless drivel and even raiding is becoming a synchronization challenge than a fight.
    Boss A – enrage, Boss B get of the fire – enrage, Boss D get of the fire – avoid the fireball – enrage.
    “But it’s fun!”
    Get a red button, each press will get you a banana and call that fun.
    That’s WoW today. Just keep pressing the red button.
    The rest of the “elitist jerks” would like to have a game with some challenge. Please.

  19. Bonedead says:

    I guess some of these commenters haven’t heard of Star Wars Galaxies, where taking pride in what you made was almost the reason you rolled a Trader. I seriously doubt that anyone playing a crafter, leveling from 1-Max, would do so simply to make a lot of money especially if the crafter is their only character. But I guess something like that is too hard to grasp in the mind of a WoW player where tradeskills are mandatory at high levels. I don’t think they can understand pride in crafting.

    Which is exactly the point I’d like to think Syncaine is trying to make here. WoW is so many people’s first MMO, and now everyone has extremely high expectations and stupid fucking ideology based on WoW. They think WoW invented BGs, MMOs, and some probably even think WoW invented achievements.

    So many WoW players went into WAR looking for WoW version 2.0 and they just couldn’t handle the bugginess that usually comes with a new MMO, why? Because their first MMO was WoW, they probably didn’t even play WoW at release when even it had some bugs. It is just viewed as some perfect as shit holy fucking grail of MMOs. Which is why I blame everything on WoW.

  20. Dish says:

    I love chess so people who play cheekers are loooosers…

  21. Hirvox says:

    Actually.. my first character in EvE was/is a trader, who now has branched into manufacturing. While I know some people who mostly play in the Auction House, you’re correct in that in WoW, trading/crafting is a means, not an end.

    However, I’m a bit confused about your second point. Is it bad to compare competing products A and B? Of course, if A happens to be a sports car and B a rally car, it would be unfair to complain that B has bad aerodynamics. However, it is fair to complain that the pedals are somewhat unresponsive.

    And that’s where Blizzard’s strength is. They might not make the fastest or the most rugged car out there, but anything they make has a precise and well-fitting steering wheel, a reliable transmission, responsive pedals and a cupholder that doesn’t break. ;-)

  22. teet says:

    I’ve tried playin EVE a bunch of times, and while I have tons of respect for it, it isnt for me. The reason: Its too hard. It IS a more intelligent game and more demanding than almost all over MMOs. You will NEVER have 11 million people playing games that require intelligence. The combination of “game” and “intelligence” is oxymoronic. I’d be thrilled if I could commit the time to research the fundamentals of EVE, but my day job just doesnt leave me with any brain power left over in the evenings. WoW is a bit too simple, so I usually find myself resubbing to EQ2 every 3-4 months. I strongly agree and hope that Mythic accepts that they arent going above 1M subs and respectfully continue to cater to their 3-4 hundred thousand that will likely support the game for years.

  23. ThePlebeian says:

    So… this is one of those blog posts deemed newsworthy by Massively that backhandly insults WoW players while lordly proclaiming how superior EVE players are because they enjoy gouging out their eyes with red hot pokers while walking barefoot in the snow to school?


    Apparently the ticket to become one of the gaming elite is the monthly EVE fee. Sign me up; I feel a need to flaunt some overinflated sense of self-value.

  24. Joyelel says:

    There is an argument that players of World of Shoulderpadcraft typically fall back to when any criticism is leveled against their game which is “It can’t be a bad game because it is so hugely popular.” Yet this “defense” of game is so utterly mistaken. It is the WoW/McDonalds analogy which highlights the incorrectness of such a “defense”. Just because something is popular or has good sales, doesn’t itself justify the claim that the product is the best of it’s kind. Things CAN be popular and still be terrible or at least lacking. In addition to showing the mistaken premise behind the “popularity defense” it also displays some odd additional relationships. For instance, I will never again be able to hear a discussion about Blizzard adding some special new “rare” pet or mount without thinking about those silly little plastic toys included in every McDonalds Happy Meal. The glee and excitement with which both are greeted by their respective consuming communities is startlingly similar.

  25. Swift Voyager says:

    I think I get the point you were trying to make, although the discussion following the OP has strayed into the hardcore vs casual debate. It’s not that one is better than the other, they are just different. I play Eve, but I took a break for several months to play the game Wizard 101 with my daughter. The contrast between Eve and W101 is far more extreme than the differences between WoW and Eve. If I were 13 years old, I’m certain that I would find very little enjoyment in Eve. However, since I’m 38 years old, I think I prefer Eve over Wizard 101. It’s not that 101 isn’t fun, it’s just that it’s hard to find anyone I have anything in common with while playing. My daughter is a great kid and you won’t ever catch her spamming the chat window with leet speak. However, she’s 12 and she has a 12 year old’s attention span. While playing Wizard 101, you’ll notice that it’s hard to get someone to stand still long enough to talk to them. The game just isn’t designed for that. Eve is designed to drive away players who think it’s funny to say their own name 1000 times in the public chat window. I don’t know about WoW, but in Wizard 101 there are extremely tight filters built into the chat system. It’s impossible to type anything into the chat window unless the word is on the list of allowed words. If players of Wizard 101 could just type anything they want, then the chat window would be an unreadable mess. Back when I played Starwars: Empire at War, the chat window in the lobby where you wait to start your next game was a good example of how horrible the chat can get when 13 year olds are allowed to run wild. Eve doesn’t have any filters in the chat system that I’m aware of , except for a basic anti-spamming mechanic that prevents you from submitting too many comments in a short time span. However, you hardly ever see anyone doing random racial slurrs in Eve public chat. It’s not that you can’t say anything you want in Eve. The reason you don’t see it much is because the people who do that need someone to get mad about it in order for them to enjoy it, but Eve players will just ignore that kind of stuff most of the time. It doesn’t take a moderator banning a problem player to keep Eve clean. The nature of the game naturally selects older players who just don’t act like that. Despite the fact that I could curse like a sailor in our corporate chat and nobody would complain about it, you never see anyone do that in Eve. The mechanics of the game and its difficult and complicated interface provide plenty of reasons to make people curse, but people don’t. When I play Wizard 101 and compare it to Eve, it’s obvious that the wizard game is more pleasant and fun, but I rarely talk to anyone. On the rare occasions that I’ve tried to talk to people there, they usually don’t take the time to actually read what I was saying or respond in any meaningful way. They just don’t log into that game to talk to people. They want to get to the level cap and unlock all the areas, and that’s all they want to do. The very nature of the skill system in Eve will prevent anyone of that ilk from playing Eve. I think that’s what syncain was trying to say. Not that Eve is better because it’s like that, but just that it’s different and that the players are different because the game is different. Much like the example of comparing McDonalds to a fancy restaurant, you’ll find people who eat at the fancy place who get lunch at McD’s but there’s way more people who eat at McD’s who never go to the expensive place. Niche MMO’s are the same as the expensive restaurant, the rules for eating there are a lot more strict and the customers are a limited sub-set of people who eat at restaurants in general. While the wine may be great at the high class place, it’s probably the last place in the world you’d want to take your kids for a birthday party. The restaurant wouldn’t like a bunch of excited kids running around and the kids would be bored to tears there.

  26. Swift Voyager says:

    wow, sorry for the wall-o-text. got carried away

  27. syncaine says:

    Paragraphs FTW :)

    But yea, excellent points, and the post was not really about hardcore vs casuals. Actually the post itself started as one thought and morphed into another, and overall is kind of a mess of a post. I’m glad some people sorted through the mess of thoughts to get to the actual points being made.

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