In the midst of the new EVE Online expansion, this morning, Rixx Javix pointed the #tweetfleet on Twitter to... an article about Skyrim. ;-)
It's a great article, and if you have time today while you're busy checking out Crucible, I recommend it. It's worth your time. Maybe you can read it while Crucible downloads or something. ;-) And as I've said on this blog already, I've been an Elder Scrolls fan-boy since the beginning. Is Skyrim basically Oblivion with a new (and awesome) coat of paint? Essentially, yes. Does it suffer from Oblivion's slogging mid-game problem? Yes again. Is it hurt by an over-abundance of skills, and an over-reliance on crowd-control and DPS magic over actual tactics and strategy? Yes a third time.
Is Skyrim awesome despite all this? Why, yes. Yes it is. ;-)
Still, before rocketing off on his main point about fantasy RPG writing, characterization, and story-lines(1), the author of this post teases me with the following paragraph, which I quote in full:
Except for one thing. Despite how much gripping, odd, surprising, and otherwise enjoyable content the Elder Scrolls games contain, you cannot escape the repetitive and somewhat entropic nature of the core experience, which is dozens of hours of heading into caves/dungeons/forts to kill bandits/necromancers/skeletons to find a tome/rune/amulet, after which you beeline for the nearest merchant/alchemist/blacksmith to sell/trade/repair all the picked-up crap you've arranged and rearranged your inventory to accommodate. Is this enjoyable? Of course it is. But there's a point at which this brand of enjoyableness becomes indistinguishable from compulsion, and it seems fair to ask when a game's expansiveness becomes an affable form of indentured servitude.The paragraph just a tangent to the main article. But it's a hell of an interesting tangent, made even more interesting when you realize that he's not just describing Elder Scrolls games.
He's describing every RPG-based video game, ever. And I include the MMOs I've played among them, EVE most of all.
At the end of the day, no matter how you play EVE, you are essentially "heading into caves/dungeons/forts to kill bandits/necromancers/skeletons to find a tome/rune/amulet, after which you beeline for the nearest merchant/alchemist/blacksmith to sell/trade/repair all the picked-up crap you've arranged and rearranged your inventory to accommodate." Only, PvPers call it roaming and what they're killing are other players, and what they're selling is the stuff that formerly belonged to those players. PvEers call it missionining, or wormhole-running, or incursion-running, and the stuff that they're selling is rat loot and salvage. And unless we have an alt with a hauler along, we're all arranging and rearranging our cargo bay to bring home the best types of stuff we grab.
But describing this as a compulsion is kind of missing the point.
I have this unfortunate and incurable condition in which I can usually understand and empathize with a lot of different types of EVE players. In particular, at heart, I am an evil evil PvPer... but yet I can still understand and explain why total EVE care-bears play the game the way they do. This is something that doesn't usually endear me to my PvPer friends. ;-)
"How can people solo mission all day long?" I always hear PvPers complain. "How is that fun? Why don't they just go play single-player games? The first 'M' in MMO stands for 'multi-player'," they always add. I have an analogy that I break out at moments like this. I generally reply, "They're basically playing a single-player game... but they're playing a single-player game with a persistent score-board. They're using ISK to keep score. Think of it like playing Tetris... only this version of Tetris keeps track of your total lifetime Tetris score." I understand this mind-set just fine: there are a ton of people out there that just want to play EVE casually for a couple of hours after work. Sure, they could play Sins of a Solar Empire or some other spaceship game, but Sins of a Solar Empire doesn't keep score. ;-)
To me, that's every bit as valid a way to play EVE as those who get home from work and the first thing they check is the Fleet button to see if there's a gang going out.
I love open world games. The closer the game is to a sandbox, the more likely it is that I'll like it and I'll play it. EVE and Skyrim both qualify. But in both games, the "affable indentured servitude" isn't the game play. It's just the process for keeping score, not the end result. The end result is the fun we have while the scoreboard ticks up or ticks down.
Have fun with Crucible today, everyone. :-)
(1) I cannot wait to see how the Kingdom of Amalur games address the interesting and valid complaints raised in the article.