In Part 2 I discussed the definition of The Sandbox, quests and raids (EVE Online's analogues to them), the end-game (or lack thereof) and the all-importance of user-generated content.
Before we get to a discussion of PvP (player versus player) combat and conflict, it's important to approach EVE Online with the correct mindset. Part 3 of this series will focus on the psychology of stuff. How you interact and relate to your stuff will determine your enjoyment with the game, your levels of frustration, your feelings of loss.
There are four types of stuff in theme park MMOs, only three of which have an analogue in EVE Online: consumable, crafted, vendor, and soulbound (or character-bound) items. The ratio and importance of these categories of items are markedly different between theme park MMOs and EVE Online. Those differences will play into the psychology of stuff.
(I'll be making quick mention throughout of ISK/gold faucets and ISK/gold sinks. Faucets introduce currency into the game. Sinks remove currency from the game. Sinks are important because they keep rampant inflation in check.)
Consumable ItemsIn theme park MMOs, you're familiar with these items as one-time, short-term buffs. Potions. Scrolls. Food.
Boosters and ammunition would be the most obvious consumables in EVE Online.
Boosters are akin to potions. Though they are less used than their counterparts in theme park MMOs. Synth boosters offer a variety of small bonuses and are legal throughout New Eden, these are most popular with faction warfare pilots. Standard, improved and strong boosters are illegal in high security space. The see less use, except during large sovereignty fights in nullsec, when time and length of battle are more easily known (due to sovereignty timers and such.)
Ammunition is a consumable, too.
An argument can be made that everything in EVE Online can be considered a consumable item, since everything in EVE Online can be destroyed. This idea is usually quite shocking to the theme park MMO player, because very little is destructible in those games. You die, you do not lose what you were carrying, in the vast majority of circumstances. You die in EVE Online, you lose everything you were carrying.
But for simplicity's sake, and to ease you into the conceptual differences between EVE Online and theme park MMOs, we'll break-down itemization into specific categories. For the purposes of getting you up-to-speed quickly, we won't lump every item in EVE Online into the consumable category.
Crafted ItemsCrafted items play a far more dominant role in EVE Online, due to the fact that the vast majority of items in use are player-created. Unlike in theme park MMOs, where the game itself supplies characters with the equipment they need, in EVE Online the players supply the other players with the equipment they need, via the market, contracts and trades. Due to the PvP aspects of the game, items are regularly destroyed, thus a constant supply of items are required by the player base. Without crafting, nothing can be accomplished in EVE Online.
Theme park MMOs, the crafted market mostly consists of consumable production. Crafting of armour and weapons is usually done pre-endgame, for new players (though even pre-endgame, this is limited, since players can still gain what they require from questing.) Once you hit the end-game in a theme park MMO, armour and weapons are mostly gained via raiding and other available end-game content.
Crafting in EVE Online is done through three types of industry: invention, research and manufacturing. Invention allows the creation of more advanced blueprints (which are used for research and manufacturing) from less advanced blueprints. Research is used to increase the production efficiency of blueprints (less material wastage at production time.) Manufacturing produces the actual item from a blueprint (along with a wide variety of materials, some of which are also manufactured) for use by other players.
Vendor TrashVendor trash in theme park MMOs is a gold faucet. These are items which have no value in the game other than to be sold to NPC vendors. It's a method to get gold into the pockets of the players.
Vendor trash plays very little role in EVE Online. Nearly every item has some use within the game, or can be converted into something that has use (e.g.., metal scraps being converted into minerals for use in manufacturing.) Players earn money through a myriad of different paths and options, thus vendor trash as an ISK faucet is mostly unnecessary and would be damaging to the economy overall.
That said, there do exist NPC vendor only items in EVE. Things like Quafe (the carbonated drink of New Eden), dairy products, soil, holoreels, plus many more. These are mostly used for missioning, distribution missions especially, and for new players to earn money via hauling and trading due to cross-system and cross-regional price fluctuations. (I made some good ISK, relative to being a new player, hauling stuff like frozen food and toxic waste between NPC stations in the Metropolis and Heimatar regions.)
Skillbooks are the one item in EVE that every player requires for the development of their pilots, yet the market is entirely NPC controlled. Skillbooks are a major ISK sink, so to move them to the player-controlled market would require the addition of new ISK sinks to the game.
Soulbound ItemsIn theme park MMOs, most items of value (especially armour and weapons) are soulbound. They are either soulbound the moment your pick them up, or soulbound the moment you equip them. Most are of the former variety, a few of the latter (which allows them to be briefly traded between players.) A soulbound item is one that cannot be removed from your character inventory, except through item deletion. The item cannot be traded to another character. (There is a subclass of the soulbound item, known as the account bound item, which allows it to be transferred to a character on the same account.)
EVE Online does (sort of) have the concept of the soulbound item. The bind on equip item. There are two: implants and rigs. Implants are items that you equip to your character. They offer a wide variety of enhancements. Rigs work similarly to implants, except that they are attached to your spaceships. Unlike bind on equip items in theme park MMOs, theses items, once equipped, cannot be removed without being destroyed.
Incarna introduced the Nex Store, which allows players to purchase vanity items for real world currency. These items remain with your character even after you've been podded. While not, strictly speaking, soulbound, they are the only items in EVE Online that cannot be destroyed, other than through deletion. They can still be traded and sold after being worn. They offer no special value other than aesthetics.
Item ChurnThere is not the continual drive for stuff in EVE Online. There is no real upgrade mentality. Once you can fly cruisers, you do not give up flying frigates. Once you can fly capital ships, you do not give up flying the 100 plus varieties of sub-capital ships. Every ship in EVE is viable for as long as you play the game. They all fill different roles, different niches. A black ops battleship is not appropriate for every type of battle. There is no item churn in EVE Online, the continual feedback loop of upgrades replacing upgrades.
In theme park MMOs, that gear you just spent three months acquiring is obsolete the moment next upgrade or expansion is released. You once again begin the task of entirely replacing your current set of gear with a new set of gear. And in a few months, you'll go through the same task all over again. Item churn is one of the big driving forces of theme park gameplay.
CCP does not introduce new modules and ships into the game with every new release. There is no upgrade cycle. EVE pilots do not go through scenarios of replacing tier six microwarp drives with tier seven microwarp drives every few months. When new ships and modules are released, they are introduced, not as upgrades, but as new tactical options for gameplay. The players may choose to use them, they may choose to reject them. It's how the players learn to utilize modules and ships that determine their viability. There is no replacement strategy to the introduction of new stuff.
The Psychology of StuffIn most theme park MMOS you cannot lose stuff (non-consumable stuff, that is), you simply continue to acquire it (you only lose it when you consciously make the choice to delete it.) If any of you are World of Warcraft players from the beginnings, you likely still have your Tier 1 and 2 armour sets, even though they are functionally useless items in the current game. You have an attachment to those items, because they represent your longevity playing the game, they represent a different time in your playing career. They allow you to reminisce. They're memory triggers.
In EVE Online you need to eliminate that sort of sentimentality. In EVE, items are created to be destroyed. Your first ship will likely be destroyed in your first week of playing. After your first year of playing, everything you first owned as a newbie will either have been destroyed or reprocessed. Getting attached to your stuff in EVE Online affords you nothing but frustration and anger. Your ability to enjoy the game will be greatly hampered by sentimentality to pixel gear.
Stop being attached to pixels. The sooner you realize and understand that your stuff is easily replaced, that your stuff is meant to be destroyed, that the destruction of your stuff is the engine that fires the EVE economy, the sooner you'll really begin to understand and enjoy the game.
And remember the most important credo for all new pilots. This should be your mantra for the first year of playing. Do not fly what you cannot afford to lose. Follow this and you're on the road to weaning yourself off of your sentimentality for pixels. If you put all your ISK into one ship to fly, then you're setting yourself up for a hard road and an empty wallet. Don't rush into ships.
Your stuff will be destroyed. It will be destroyed often. Tears over pixels affects only your enjoyment of the game.
Next Time . . .In part four, I'll finally talk about PvP and conflict. The most vital aspect of EVE Online.
These articles continue to evolve. If you notice any inconsistencies, or have a suggestion on how to explain a concept better than I have, then please add your notes and opinions in the comments section. They will more than likely be incorporated into the article in short order.
The Entire SeriesPart One