Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Affable indentured servitude

Happy Crucible day, everyone!

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.


  1. I, being a sports geek, movie geek and a pop culture geek, LOVE www.grantland.com.

    I recommend it as an addition to your list of blogs that you link to every day.

    not a day goes by during the week that i don't check the website, sometimes twice or three times (depending on sports related news cropping up)

  2. First M is Massive. Second M is multi-player :)

  3. It's funny that you mention Skyrim today. I bought the game this morning after considering it for a few weeks.

    I played it one hour and then lost interest. I'm not entirely sure why I lost interest, but I just felt like I had better things to do in EVE.
    Skyrim reminds me a lot of Mount and Blade Warband, except in warband you can control a whole army and the battles are fast paced. Still it has a lot of potential.

    Of well, I'll try to play more of it eventually.

    Things in EVE are getting interesting. The PI market is going haywire with the changes to taxes.

  4. Very few people who have ever played a computer game haven't been playing skyrim, and i fell into a bit-


  5. To be Completely Fair the whole "" 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. "" can be also used as an example to life where you "Go to Work/School to get Money/Knowledge after which you use at Stores/Job Stuff(interviews, applications, etc) to Buy/Get a Job to Get all the crap you want.

    Any way you see it, Something is only worth doing if YOU yourself think its worth doing, be it playing eve to do all the typical mmo stuff or going to work on a daily basis to get money so you can feed yourself. To think of playing skyrim or any game as a compulsion means you can think of anything you EVER do as a compulsion.

  6. I'll be playing skyrim imminently but have to concede that i lose interest in single player games quite quickly since the birth of mmos. I find myself asking "why am I doing this"? Getting one up on other humans is what gaming has become for me. I look for permanence and the idea that what I do in game will have permanent consequences. In mmos you 'level up' socially as well as in the game. This is what makes eve so great to me.

  7. Damn, I see an Anonymous beat me to it, "Multiplayer is actually the 2nd M."

    I had this discussion in Alliance the other night.

    Firstly, just as you defined alt, let's define "carebear" properly. It's a reference to an old cartoon that you no doubt remember... the protagonists would "care bear stare" at evil, mean spirited people and make them all see flowers and faeries and sparkles and.... I'm sickening myself so I'll stop there.

    Someone who does industry, mining, missioning, etc, is not necessarily a carebear. They may participate occasionally in PvP themselves, or they may just acknowledge that PvP exists, and in EVE can be forced upon you at any moment. Those people are not carebears.

    A TRUE carebear denies the reality of PvP. They think everyone should "play nice" and "get along"... to the point of trying to change the entire game to pander to their "let's all be friends" playstyle.
    As I said in my blog post on the subject (yeah I don't write all that much), true Bears like the sandbox, but only insofar as we all play with it the way THEY think we should.

    I do believe multi-clienting is economy-breaking and "exploiting" the intended MMO mechanic of working with other players, but that's really an aside ... my main issue with true bears is that I don't CARE if you play by yourself, but when you sign in to an MMO, ostensibly with the realization that OTHER PEOPLE are in the same game, and throw a ragefit because someone shows up in "your" plex (that you couldn't even finish), or ninjas you, steals loot and tries to get you to aggress, hulkageddon or suicide ganking, etc.... or worse yet, those who wander into lowsec and expect the same "lonely safe and secure" gameplay... now that chaps my ass in a very serious way.

    Also, the calls to "buff hisec"? Bullshit, I think. As I've said in my blog, your blog, and others blogs.... yes, you should be able to grind away a dull boring existence with a decent (but not complete) sense of security in hisec. Hisec, like all major metro areas, should have taxes, fees, tariffs, etc coming out the asshole (yay new hisec CO taxes!)... if you want to get away from that, you gotta make like every major American corporation, and OUTSOURCE to lowsec.

    Accordingly, however, lowsec needs a serious buff (which might be partly met with a serious hisec nerf), to make the rewards on-par with the risks. As of now, nullsec and hisec are great ISK producers... and lowsec isn't even really an ISK sink (as previously noted -- it's a minerals sink in ships and destroyed modules, but the ISK goes to indy chars in hi and null).

    For me, the "bear vs PvPer" equation is more about, this game was originally designed as a PvP game. Bears want to make it into WoW in space, ergo trying to undermine the original stated purpose of the game. Sadly, every time we do something in accordance with the stated purpose, and within the mechanics allowed, the tears and rage cause the mechanics to change, and eventually, even I've seen it over the last 2 yrs, the stated purpose is changing as well.

  8. It doesn't matter what the game was originally designed as. That's the great, and sometimes not-so-great part of MMORPG's. They evolve. They are updated, patched, new content is released, etc... It's life, we improvise, we adapt. It makes no difference whether we over-come or not. Someone will, and they'll keep playing, while those who can't will move on to the next MMORPG. :)

  9. @Aboo -- yeah, well, "Incarna" and WIS was supposed to be the 'evolution' of EVE. Players dug in their heels and that ground to a screeching halt.
    Reason that won't happen with regards to the WoW-ing of EVE is nullsec players got their own politics to worry about, lowsec players are mostly pirates or FW folks, and hisec is a place to get more shit to blow more shit up, and occasionally a source of easy killmails by some poor n00b wandering into a .4 thinking "well I didn't get killed in .5 and that's yellow..." whereas most hisec players are VERY interested in continued buffing to hisec, and so far as I've seen, completely ignorant of what low and null are about, or what happens there.

    According to most dedicated hisec players I've talked to, there's a camp on EVERY gate in low and null... some even think you can use bubbles in low!
    Most of them decry an aspect of the game they know jack and shit about, and jack left town. All it is for them is "here be ye dragons!"


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