Missions and Content on Demand

Friday night at about 10pm I was sitting in front of my computer and really feeling the desire to resubscribe to World of Warcraft.  My wife and daughter had gone to bed early, it was quiet in the house, the air was cool in something of the usual mid-September tease of the coming of autumn, and I was really in the mood for the sort of easily guided, always something to do, nature of Azeroth.  I might have even had enough gold for a WoW Token, though they have gone up quite a bit of late.  If I did that I could just jump back into the game.

Ah 2015! WoW Tokens prices are now about 170K Gold

That is the way it is with WoW.  You can log in and just do something.  And, more importantly, you can log in a do something yourself.  Being able to solo is one of the key attributes of the game… perhaps THE key attribute sustaining its ongoing success.  For all the talk of the Blizzard name, the Warcraft setting, the low system requirements, the stylized graphics, I think being able to just log on and potter away on your own might be the biggest thing in retaining its player base.

A lot of us old timers pine for the glory days of early EverQuest, becoming practically fetishistic about the forced grouping and harsh nature of the game.  But even at its nadir in the dark days of garrison boredom during the Warlords of Draenor era, WoW was still pulling in an order of magnitude more subscribers than EverQuest did at its absolute peak.  And with good reason.  Mixed in with all those “good old days” memories of Norrath are the recollections of evenings wasted trying to get something going, not being able to find a group, waiting for a spawn camp to be available, or just traveling across the world to group up with friends only to take so damn long that everybody was done for the night by the time you arrived.

You can even do the traditional group things solo thanks to Dungeon/Raid Finder.  Well, solo-ish.  You get grouped up, thrown into an instance, and everybody still has to do their job.  So there is always something to do, and usually something you can do right away with a limited amount of time.

So when sitting, stuck for a game to play, it isn’t hard to see why WoW springs to mind unbidden.

And, as I sat there pondering Azeroth I did not even consider New Eden.

The problem is that many of the things that make EVE Online challenging, interesting, dynamic, and what not also conspire against it being, for lack of a better word, convenient.  World of Warcraft is, most of the time, very convenient.  I recall getting to Desolace back in the day being a long run, but even that sort of thing has been smoothed out.

I have said in the past, only half-jokingly, that before you do anything in EVE Online you usually have to do two or three other things first.  At least I am past the point where I need to train a skill to do something new on my main.  That only took a decade.  But even trained up I was a bit stuck.  On Friday night my jump clone was still on cool down and I was in a clone with implants in a station so I couldn’t jump, couldn’t swap to a clean clone, and couldn’t self-destruct without wasting some implants.

But that really didn’t matter.  While I was in an out-of-the way location, there were no fleets going up and I was just in the mood to “do” something and not travel somewhere on the off chance that maybe I might find something to do.  Something besides running anomalies, which I tend to when I don’t really want to “do” anything.

I do get an occasinal screen shot out of anoms…

Which brings us back to missions.  I could have logged in the Alpha clone alt I used for the last few events in The Agency cycle and run a few missions.  Missions are one of those things you can do on demand, at least once you have yourself setup, which leads us back to the whole thing about new players going down the mission path until they are able to run level four missions, at which point they leave the game.

To recap, missions are the closest thing EVE Online has to the theme park, WoW-esque, PvE experience in that they:

There isn’t much else in the game that hits those three buttons.  Even mining, the beloved pastime of those doing something in another window, isn’t as reliable as you might assume.  Belts get mined out, anomalies take time to respawn, and on a rare day somebody might even try to interfere with you just to see if you’re awake.

Covering those three things seem to me to be something of a baseline to cater to a casual player base.  And EVE Online fails on the first one eventually because the progression is only temporary.  Once you, as they say, “level up your Raven” and can run level 4 missions safely, there is no more progress to be made.  There is no story tying the missions together, there are no other stories to follow.  The cold darkness of the space sandbox, where content is random and fleeting is what remains.  The occasional highs are offset by long periods of quiet routine.

Which is why EVE Online is never my only game.  In the end, I am far far further down the casual spectrum than you might suspect.  There are things to do and sometimes I feel inclined to log on and do them.  But more often my tales from New Eden start with a mention that a ping went out over Jabber for a fleet op.  That is something that works for the space tourist in me.  Somebody else has found something interesting and I log in to go along for the ride.  I’ll do my part as something of a combat reservist that shows up when called to support the people who find the content.

But as a game that provides content on demand… and those other two things… EVE isn’t very good.  As has been said many times over, you need to find your own path in the game, you have to discover what is out there that will keep you engaged.  EVE Online pretty much dares you to like it.

It is never going to be a home for casual theme park MMO players.

Anyway, that is the last of my three part exploration of PvE in EVE Online.

I’m still thinking about resubscribing to WoW, though on Friday night I managed to distract myself by picking one of the many unplayed games out of my Steam library to try.  I spent a couple of hours with Sniper Elite V2, which I think was a freebie on Steam at some point in the past as part of a promotion.

And Potshot has mentioned Medieval Engineers as a possibility.  But it seems likely that there will be more Azeroth in my future.

11 thoughts on “Missions and Content on Demand

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Duscar – I’m not sure what you mean. Sales aren’t per server, they are per region, so all US servers pay the same. I took the top to the current range for the comment on the screen shot, but the screen shot itself is from 2015, also noted in the comment, so is very much out of date.

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  2. Krumm

    Yes the price jumped significantly when they unlocked the ability to use those to purchase other services. So if you have 156k or so you can convert it into races changes, faction changes, and things like that…so you really could farm gold to pay for your habbit…if your habit is gold farming.

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  3. Dire Necessity

    Damn Wilhelm, your three part exploration of EVE’s PvE is very insightful. As an obstinately soloish EVE player, you’ve got me thinking about how I’ve managed to avoid many of the pitfalls you detail. Will you be going to EVE Vegas this year? If so, I hope to see you there and discuss these matters because this is good stuff you’re writing.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Dire Necessity – My exploration was more an attempt to ask questions than find answers, to explain why New Eden will likely never have a huge, dedicated base of long-term PvE players to sustain it no matter what they do to shake up missions or events or whatever rather than figure out how CCP could change to make such a thing possible. EVE just doesn’t want to tell you what to do, and if it did, it wouldn’t be EVE.

    At 11 years in, half of which was PvE in high sec, I can say that finding a purpose, a mission of your own, a destination to reach, an achievement to master can keep you going on for quite a while. I went through half a dozen iterations of that. But eventually you arrive and the journey is over and you’ve relived it enough times that it starts to grow a bit stale.

    And yes, I do plan to be at EVE Vegas.

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  5. Catalina de Erauso

    Personally I think that it would be healthier in the long run if CCP worked on improving the retention and extending the tenure of PvE players. Instead of that, now they just keep wasting efforts in luring PvE players to the PvP side, and milking them off their money with shiny.

    EVE is beginning to look like a storefront with so many promotions… Not a fraction of as bad as other F2P, but frankly, having less and less people online and moneygrab them is a hefty price, compared to just taking PvE seriously. PvE is the only EVE that many players will play, why keep it wrong?

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  6. @TheDimPause

    I did actually re-subscribe to WoW back in July after a gap of more than two years. I don’t have Legion expansion. I enjoyed a couple of months play, but have not been inspired to renew for a third month or purchase the expansion.
    Very familiar, almost comforting, but I’m afraid nothing really new (I’m at the old 100 level cap) so I got bored quickly and am taking another break…

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  7. Saint Michael's Soul (@SaintMichaelsSo)

    That’s just how you play eve. I’ve adjusted my playstyle to fit the amount of time available – So I do solo PvP in FW LS. I can find a solo fight within 15 minutes guaranteed, sometimes even one I can win :) Statements like “I was on cooldown and had implants in” suggests considerable risk-aversion on your part. All of my (combat only) implants are precisely based around my playstyle, the “problems” you cite are because your chosen Eve playstyle ISN’T casual. Eve’s appeal is not PvE, it’s the huge number of other people to interact with.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Saint Michael’s Soul – Not wanting to take my training clone with my +5 set out into combat isn’t so much being risk averse as simply not wanting to piss away ISK. Yes, I can find a “fight” where I can die pretty rapidly… rapidly enough that it would barely qualify as a fight. Like any PvP game, the skilled prey on the unskilled and getting better requires the wherewithal to be willing to die many, many more times than I have the patience for. My fun is more escape and evasion. When I haul stuff out to Delve, thwarting a gate camp or escaping somebody trying to shoot me is the fun bit. Statistically speaking, activating my weapons means the destruction of my ship in such circumstances. We all have our different paths in the game.

    Anyway, you picked out one tiny bit of a long post, one in a series of three, exploring why PvE isn’t appealing in EVE and why it won’t ever be (unless CCP radically changes the game), so preaching to the choir on that last bit.

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  9. bhagpuss

    I’m not sure WoW is any better at providing a wide range of immediately available solo content than a whole raft of other MMOs, although obviously it was instrumental in those MMOs coming into existence or altering to take that approach. The thing is, as a casual player looking for readily available entertainment you don’t just need an appropriately co-operative MMORPG, you need a good deal of game-specific knowledge about that particular MMO.

    Very, very few games do a stellar job of showing you all the things you can do right now if you don’t already have at least a fair idea where to look. WoW certainly doesn’t. Actually, the ones that do it best are probably the Eastern F2Ps, which often highlight enough options on the main HUD to keep you occupied for an hour or two every day. The quality of the entertainment on offer may be somewhat lacking but at least you know where and what it is.

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  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – The point wasn’t to stack rank fantasy MMORPGs for the PvE accessibility, but to contrast what is something of the norm in that part of the genre with what is presented to the new player in EVE Online. A title that is incrementally better or worse than WoW, which I use as the default “most people likely know” example, is still many AU ahead of EVE Online in giving the player accessible, on demand PvE content.

    I do have to ask for an example of an Eastern MMO you think does a better job. I get the options being visible and popping up and such. Runes of Magic did that. Constantly. To the point of annoyance. And all that information was badly presented and did very little to overcome other shortcomings of the game. WoW is just a lot smoother in so many ways that it is hard to top.

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