Dec 29 2006

Day 76: Addiction?

Lowsec Minmatar stationI make a big point of staying firmly anchored in real life, so the christmas season is a good way to gear up for those level V skills that require a bit more training time when you are off having fun elsewhere. Aeon is training Astrogeology V, and Loreena Learning V, and both will be ready for the week after new year. I think I will update my skillplans then, a few ideas have been on my mind for a while now.

The place we are staying has no Internet connection in a 20km radius, so you do not even get tempted to play, knowing there is no way you are going to get online anyway. I knew even before I started playing EVE that it could be addictive, and I have felt the real power this game can unleash over the past two months. I would not know how to classify myself as a gamer, but I think it is safe to say I am addicted for life. Envisioning a life without computer gaming does not come easily – I know I have the power in me to turn my back on it, but after 22 years of playing it is a part of my soul.

“Playing EVE is fun, but through a number of ingredients it has begun to transcend fun.”

I have played a lot of addictive games like the Civilization series, Privateer, the Elder Scrolls series and a lot more, but none were addictive in the way that EVE is. Okay, when playing Civilization I used to print out sheets to write down my Civilization’s statistics every X turns that I would use to create evolution graphs in Excel to optimize my playstyle – but that was still just for “fun” because I like statistics. Playing EVE is fun, but through a number of ingredients it has begun to transcend fun.

Putting aside the facts that I like Scifi and enjoy the game’s aesthetics and playstyle a lot, I think what makes EVE different is the player interaction and level of complexity of the game. The player interaction is what makes EVE’s world credible and feel truly alive – very much like the real world we live in.

“All this makes EVE’s world seem very much as complex as the one we live in, yet more accessible and more fun.”

The level of complexity also makes it credible, because there is so much to do and so many ways to do them that you do not get the “I have done it all” feeling you usually get in other games. In essence, when you are tired of running missions and decide to dedicate yourself to manufacturing, you discover an entirely new aspect of the game – one that you can spend as much time on than running missions. Same goes for mining & refining, running corporations, archaeology and the like. All this makes EVE’s world seem very much as complex as the one we live in, yet more accessible and more fun. There is no way you will ever know it all either – with a current skill training time of 3 years to learn all available skills and knowing that there are always new skills being added, you can be sure your life in EVE will never get boring.

Incidentally, all these elements make EVE and other MMO games like WOW very addictive. Addiction scares my rational me, because it has ways to crawl in that you did not know existed. Of course there are the big, flashy signs like when a deadline to finish a mission suddenly takes precedence before a real-life project deadline. There are more subtle signs though, like thinking of things to do in-game when you would usually be thinking of what nice things you could do this weekend. It is perfectly understandable, as thoughts like those are enjoyable and transport you back into the game… a game that allows you to socialize with people that like it as much as you do, and understand your in-game problems and wishes perfectly. It definitely feels real in a very enjoyable way and can flatter your ego in ways you will not get in real life, and everything is so much easier in-game.

“There is nothing bad at all in playing, but it must not govern your real life decisions.”

I am in no way a specialist on addiction, I just try to analyze objectively my own experiences and to understand how a game like EVE can be so addictive. I need to be able to protect myself, as I am convinced that if I did not have a happy family life and trained my control over my gaming needs EVE would already have gotten the better of me. Many fellow gamers obviously have not – in the encounters I made in-game I met quite a few people who even if they are not roleplaying are already spending way too much time in there. I have a few moments every day I can spend gaming, and usually have one game I spend them on for a while, then switch to another for a while so I do not get bored. A while back I bought Civilization IV and played it until I got The Elder Scrolls V: Oblivion. Oblivion obviously gave way to EVE – but in a while, I will switch back to either Civ IV or Obilivion to clear my head (and residual addiction). One of the most important things I have found is to keep seeing the game as a game. Nothing in there can ever be more important than, say, your family/girlfriend/friends. You cannot really lose anything in a game. In the real life you are in, you can and you will. There is nothing bad at all in playing, but it must not govern your real life decisions.

Okay, I think this is quite enough for today.

Time to spend some time to play! 🙂

Oct 13 2006

Day 1: Genesis

Actually I did not write anything on day 1, but I remember how I met the game. Being a hardcore singleplayer fan, I never really wanted to play an MMO – one of the main reasons being that knowing I would probably be as addicted as many others. World Of Warcraft seemed interesting enough, especially since I really liked the whole singleplayer series. It is way overhyped though, so I never got curious enough to start playing it online. I told myself in a reassuring tone that I did not really need to play online anyway, that it was more stressful than enjoyable. Then there was an article on EVE in my favorite gaming magazine, the french “Joystick“. I had vaguely heard of EVE before, so this time I read the full article and it seemed interesting enough to chance a second glance.

Warping to cargo

The next day I browsed the official site, checked the price and screenshots, and finally read nearly the whole FAQ. It was an interesting read, but the idea of playing in a virtual world having its own economic system, ethics, roles of conduct and co resembled real life a bit too much. Why would I “play” in a virtual world like just like the one I am in? I told my wife of these findings, and she agreed that it seemed a bit “too much”. Something kept nagging me though… I really like open-ended games with a lot of ground to cover. Games like The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion come to mind, which offer an amazing freedom an rich worlds that take very long to explore – long enough for the player to think they are nearly limitless. EVE offered this, and then some. Somewhere deep inside, my gamer interest was piqued.

I think the revelation came when I made the connection between EVE and my favorite Scifi novel, “The Gap Series” by Stephen Donaldson. In my opinion, the best space opera novel out there – and from what I read in EVE’s FAQ, many of the aspects of the novel’s spacefaring side were present in the game. Once that connection made, I knew I had to at least give it a try. I took a one month subscription, downloaded the client and let the introduction to Red Moon Rising give me the background story to this new world. The character creation was fun, I must have spent at least half an hour choosing a race that fit my style: the Minmatar. They smell of freedom, and their somewhat brutish side appeals to my usual axe-wielding playstyle.

I had read a few posts on character creation in the forums, so I knew how to balance my attributes for an allrounder character (should have taken a bit more perception though). The skill choices I made were a mess, but that’s no big deal – no skill is ever lost in this game. When the Interface lit up and the tutorial voice greeted me, I instantly knew that the tutorial would not be optional. I took the time and patience to follow it from A to Z, and that is really the best thing you can do when starting EVE. I remember doing all the missions for the tutorial agent, and then set out to make my EVE dream come true: mining asteroids 🙂