Thursday, October 25, 2012

The real difference between EVE and WoW

Everyone agrees that EVE isn't a WoW clone. However they are wrong in figuring out what the difference is. The common answers are all wrong, leading to various games that end up being a WoW-clone and fail as they are all worse in being WoW than WoW:
  • "Open-ended" is wrong because you can do countless things in WoW too. OK, the quests are linear, but so are the EVE multi-step missions. You can fly anywhere in EVE but so in WoW. You can collect minipets, build a museum, gain exalted with some obscure faction and countless other options are available in WoW. Also the raiding toplists are still third-party, WoW has no official scoreboard.
  • "Losses" are equally wrong. The resources are infinite in EVE, therefore getting ISK is only matter of time. If your ISK/hour is 30M then losing a 15M ship is losing 30 minutes. In WoW you also lose time if you die. The honor/hour of the losing team is lower than of the winners. The valor/hour of a team steamrolling a heroic is higher than the valor/hour of a usual LFD group where the #1 is the tank, the #2 is the healer. Losses in EVE and WoW are merely decreasing the average income/hour.
  • "Non-consensual PvP" is both a blatant lie and irrelevant. 80% of the EVE players don't even leave highsec where PvP is extremely limited. Unless you do something really stupid or bump into one of the few pre-announced ganking events, you can't lose a ship. Also you shoot a red cross in EVE, an avatar in a game. If one would make properly coded AI that can't be distinguished from players, he could create an equally engaging PvE game.
The fundamental difference between WoW and EVE is that in WoW the endgame provides gear/currency rewards while in EVE doesn't. The more competitive type of gameplay you choose, the higher ilvl you have in WoW. The faster you start raiding and the more bosses you kill every week, the more high ilvl epics you have. In EVE winning in the competitive areas only make you poorer. I've recognized long ago that highsec is the most profitable zone in EVE and proved it both via economic theories and my own income. The recent statement of a CFC diplomat "if I had any interest at all in making personal ISK, I'd be doing it in empire" hopefully silences those who suck with numbers and troll with "i haz experience in null so im right lol".

The reward structure in WoW has two effects: at first it forces players to unite completely according to in-game merits. No matter how terrible X is, if he spams buttons faster than Y, he is in your team. When Blizzard started the nerffest, they focused on this. They wanted to allow people to play with their friends, even if those friends totally sucked in the game. They failed because no-friend teams are still winning WoW. The only effect is now everyone, including the average player finds the game trivial which is necessary to allow an average one to play with below-average friends.

The important effect is that WoW endgame is a positive feedback loop. I mean if A and B are equally good teams, but for some totally random reason A kills less bosses in the first week than B, then in the second week B will be stronger than A due to more gear and will kill more bosses becoming even stronger. In EVE having a space empire costs you resources. Sovereignty structures costs money. Towers costs fuel and manpower to keep them running. Fleets need ships and manpower. If A and B are equally good and for some totally random reason A loses some systems to B, the next month A will be stronger due to less Sov costs and less people spending their time babysitting towers. This allows A to counterattack and win again. A new player can catch up by focusing on making money in highsec, a defeated alliance can regroup by no longer being bound to Sov. On the other hand in WoW if you are not in the best teams or just came late, you have no chance to catch up ever, the difference between you and the established one just grows, this is why Blizzard needs to reset gear time and time again.

The "failed" economy design is the very reason EVE lives after 10 years with little new content added, while a WoW content patch has the maximum lifetime of one year. The year CCP "fixes" the EVE economy, making living in Sov-null more profitable than living in highsec, will be the year the total Sov map becomes conquered by one entity and everyone who matter will be blue to each other. In short: the year EVE dies.

How could WoW be changed to be "sandbox"? Raids should have high gear demand, high consumable cost and provide absolutely no reward at all besides achievement and cosmetic stuff. Create an official scoreboard celebrating the guilds that raid well! To get gear and consumables one has to do lot of non-raiding activity. This will have the following effects:
  • Social: every player is a valuable addition. If he picks just a few flowers for the guildbank, he became an asset as his flowers will provide elixirs for the raiding team. He would rightfully consider himself a member of the guild and not just a carried casual friend.
  • Easy to catch up: a latecomer who focuses on getting gear gets gear faster than those who spend their time raiding.
  • Open: various different activities are useful for the progress of the guild.
  • Competitive: only those would raid who want to raid for itself or for the scoreboard position. Lootwhores would have no reason to raid.
Unfortunately Blizzard managed to find the direct opposite of the solution: in challenge mode dungeons you get valor points (gear) and you don't need gear for it (as it's normalized).

With all this, we reached the true definition of "sandbox game": where the "fun activity" or "winning" is completely separated from "grinding in-game wealth". In a sandbox game only the "not fun" farming (or paying in the cash shop) creates gear, currency or other useful items. This is the only way to prevent players "optimize the fun out of the game" as they can only optimize the no-fun time. It is impossible for someone who mines for fun to ruin the ISK/hour of his "serious" teammates as no one mines for fun. On the other hand a "for fun" player in your dungeon is the most common source of annoyance of gear-farmers in WoW. Similarly, the "no lifers" won't ruin your fun on a roam since they don't go a roam as the game gives no reason to. In WoW the players looking for rewards are mixed with "for fun" players ending both parties annoyed.

Of course the results of grinding and fun/winning are connected: your ISK limits what kind of activities available to you. If you have little, all you can do is frigate roams. If you have a lot, you can doomsday down supers and own regions. The grinding part is necessary to give a meaning to winning or even fun, without it all sinks in "who cares" nihil that can be seen in WoW.

Yesterday I was primaried first time in EVE - and lived. It happened in LGK where some small fleet was doing random things when -A- jumped on them and needed reinforcements. By the time I bridged in, there were a serious Foxcat fleet already. As soon as I started clicking things and moving, I had target painters on me and yellowboxed by every red in the system. Broadcasted for reps but was in hull in a few seconds. Luckily for me I did not have time to start repping anyone before they aggressed, so I simply docked up in LGK, repaired the ship and undocked. We won soon after, they docked up, the battle ended. -A- considered themselves winners because their "capital killboard is green".

Thursday morning report: 178.4B (5.5 spent on main accounts, 6.5 spent on Logi/Carrier, 3.2 on Ragnarok, 2.7 on Rorqual, 2.8 on Nyx, 2.8 on Dread, 37.4 sent as gift)


Trebron Znieh said...

No, we did not win the engagement. But still...if anyone wants to know what really happened:

Rohan said...

Very insightful. Eve's nullsec is a negative feedback loop, making it more stable. Meanwhile WoW's endgame is a positive feedback loop.

That's a very intriguing way of looking at things.

Excellent post, Gevlon.

Espoire said...

I disagree, while the VP rewards exist in challenge mode dungeons, frankly it's faster and easier to collect VP through other methods.

Dailies give higher VP/hour, plus gold and reputation. Random heroic dungeons give higher VP/hour, plus gold, 463 gear, and a low chance at epics off the endboss. Raiding gives better gear than VP can buy. Using LFR gives better VP/hour, some epics, and legendary quest progress.

The VP from challenge modes, I think, only serves to make sure that people who devote their time to them don't fail to cap their VP that week because they didn't get to do other things. It certainly isn't an activity you do expressly for the VP reward. Much like what you described, challenge modes are a huge resource suck, costing flasks, potions, grenades, high-quality food, runescrolls of fortitiue, drums of forgotten kings, and repair money, while paying precisely zero gold.

Also, they're a lot of fun, and if you still have game time, you should give them a go. I feel that they accomplish what LFR failed to do: raid-like nontrivial content, without the need for a rigid schedule. It's very likely that I can just log on and grab 4 friends whenever I feel like doing them.

Torpid said...

Actually I think the current challenge mode implementation sounds ideal from a "fun" perspective. (Disclaimer: I didn't personally do any challenge modes yet, but I get the general gist that gear stats are devalued down to ilvl 450 levels (except for hit and expertise, which remain capped) and NPC skills are alot more potent than in regular dungeons.)

Since the only thing you get out of it is "skill," that is: your character doesn't advance at all no matter many challenge mode dungeons you do;(LFG/LFR provides much faster gear if that's what you're looking for, the valor/hr from challenge modes are nominal) but you advance, that is, even though your character is still just as powerful as before: you don't hit harder, take less dmg, or heal for more dmg per cast; but you as the player learn about the mechanics of the dungeon, when to pop shield wall, when to heroism, when to hand of salvation etc. so even though the character isn't advanced at all, you do end up taking less and doing more dmg.

That is, challenge modes make dungeons feel alot more like the progression in RTS games. In a game like WC3 (Warcraft III) you start in the same position every game, but obviously you get "stronger", since I would probably faceroll anyone who hasn't played WC3 before despite us both starting in equivalent positions in the game. This also applies to games like CounterStrike, SuperSmash Brothers, etc. where the only difference really is in the "skill" of the participents.

So this is basically where I disagree with you, all three examples contain only "invisible" grinding, since you can't grind out a +500 resources at start bonus no matter how much WC3 you play, and playing 2000 hours of SSB/CS won't make your character do any more dmg. The only thing grinding does for you is that you're "better" at playing the game.

This difference is important since what limits you from a certain playstyle isn't an arbitrary unlock limit, I don't have to play 100 WC3 matches before I can use spellcaster units. But I DO have to KNOW how to USE the spellcaster units, otherwise I just paid 2x the price of a basic foot soldier for a unit with half hp and half dmg.

But what does all this have to do with "fun"? Obviously a game which you win just by starting it isn't fun, since there's no effort involved. But there are two types of ways to necessitate "effort": 1, you can impose a grind limiter i.e. you must be level 90 to raid, you must have x level gear or the boss will 1 shot your tank, etc. or 2, you can impose a skill limiter, the boss spawns AoEs which 1 shots you if you stand in it for 10s like a retard, the boss does just enough dmg where your healers will exactly go OOM at the end of the fight IF they've managed their mana perfectly etc.

Obviously most smart people prefer skill limits, since the aquisition of skill is a function of encounter difficulty over your learning speed (ED/LS) versus a straight grind where your personal skill has little bearing on the speed of completion.

Two Parted Since I'm too verbose

Torpid said...

This is what challenge modes do for us, it removes the faceroll grind period where 2 trained monkeys can outperform a nonmultiboxing genius, since most grinds end up simply trivial but time consuming. That is, the encounter is entirely based on skill, rather than time spend, while skill naturally correlates to time spend, (if you clock 1000 hours WC3, you will almost guranteed faceroll anyone who is just starting) you can gain skill via various paths: you can beat your head against the boss, you can read walkthroughs, you can learn a programming languague and program a sentinent AI to do the encounter for you, etc. And the choice of which path to take determines how fast you advance, if you're some kinda gaming wizard and can instantly reach the top .01% from just playing the encounter once, you can do so. If you're some kinda crazy alien computer programmer who can make sentinent AI while composing a cannon in 9 parts, you will do so. (Program the AI, that is, no idea what composing a cannon would do for you here.)

TL;DR Boring Grindfest isn't only way to gate accomplishments, Nintendo Hard games were bought for a reason.

Leeho said...

That would be a terrible design. Raids are not the same activity as grinding gear. Raiding is fun for people who raid, in terms of having positive emotions from spending time raiding. Grinding is not fun in the same terms for the same people. That would be a game that requires you to do "work" to access activity you want.

Introducing two kind of activities, second being the reward for first - it's not a game, it's a gimmic. Either you like the first activity that provides rewards, then why would you even need the second one? Or if you don't like the first activity, then why would you spend time doing it, instead of finding yourself other game? It's like selling NFS racing game where you need to play chess for an hour to be able to race once, or vice versa.

Leeho said...

About challenge modes - they are fun, but they lack replayability at the moment. To beat some leaderboard scores you need to be a player of level like top-500 guilds. And you don't have reasons to replay after you get gold time besides going for said leaderboards. Though for a lot of people getting there will take much time, it's still one-time content, unlike raids that you replay for gear.

And while replaying raids are way easier than first kill, it's still waaaay not the same as grinding dailies.

Torpid said...

Of course my previous comment wasn't saying that grinds are bad, we must go back to why games have grinds in the first place.

You know old computer games, the ones before RPGs were a things? Yeah, I'm thinking they didn't have the memory to even store things like character progression, so your character was the same every single playthrough. There usually wasn't even enough room for a story, so games were "fun" in that completeting them was impossible. Nintendo Hard.

Blah blah blah, some time later, RPGs with character progression happened. And the key difference is that while winning is still ultimately completing some difficult task, you can now spend more time say killing 100 rats to make the final boss easier. That is, skill is no longer the only deciding factor, the complete retard and the gaming genius can both complete the game, it's just that the latter doesn't HAVE to grind say 1 billion rats before fighting the last boss.

Problem is, this mechanic evolved to become some sort of monstrosity where the grindtime became mandatory, like how you can't even ENTER dungeons without meeting the level requirements. Can't raid without level 90 etc. Obviously the Heroic dungeons are not so difficult that they can't be done at a lower state of character progression, i.e. level 89 etc. No matter how skilled you are, even if you and your team were so awesome that you can faceroll level 90 Heroics at 85, you are not given the option. (With the 50% pentalty to DPS due to miss and 200% increased dmg taken due to crushing blows)

So while RPGs allow grinding to supplement skill, in that grinding allows the lesser skilled to comphensate by having a stronger character, it became a nusiance when the reverse conversion is disallowed. Even Paragon can't run Heroics at level 89, due to game mechanics. (While admittedly them being able to do that would cause a significant portion of the player base to spend hours wiping on dungeons they're not prepared for)

At this point I realized that I have no idea what the heck my point was anymore, so I'll just go to sleep.

Jumina said...

While I agree with your definition of the sandbox I must say your suggestions wouldn't help Blizzard. And WoW still has much larger playerbase than any other MMO.

Yes Blizzard tried to nerf raids in WotLK in order to get more friendly players to the raids. They failed. The nuber of actually raiding players stayed almost the same. So they created harder and more interesting raids in Cata and lost players because they forgot to make other content.

Now we have even harder initial raids and a lot of content outside raids for the majority who don't raid.

Raiders want to raid because they want to raid. We simply like it.

Anonymous said...

One of the concerns about Technetium was that it provided a very strong positive feedback loop (and that a nerf would only cement the advanatge tech holding alliances have gained).

NetherLands said...

While I agree to an extend with your analysis, the core issue (imo) is that Raid content is not the most business-savy content to develop.

What I mean is that traditionally only a rather small slice of the subscriber base of WoW (and quite likely MMORPG's in general) is really interested in Raid content, yet too many Devs are adamant about developing it, despite being high-cost content with little shelflife for a limited audience, with a sizeable chunk of said audience only putting up with it because it provides the biggest in-game rewards (directly or indirectly).

So in order to justify developing such wasteful content, as large an audience as possible needs to be dumped into said content and kept wasting time in it - which is a hard task, because Raid content is generally inacessible, highly repetitive and thoroughly scripted and hence sees quite the churn and burnout - leading to the nerfs you mentioned, exploding Stats and rampant Monty Hauling because otherwise even less than the 2% Blizzard's Zarhym etc. mentioned would put up with it.

Luckily however smarter Devs of more progressive companies are now flat-out saying that trying to put ever new pixel-Dragons in front of players to slay is in and by itself a dead-end proposition, so we may very well see the return of MMORPG's as virtual worlds in the coming years.

Johnicholas Hines said...

"The year CCP 'fixes' the EVE economy, making living in Sov-null more profitable than living in highsec, will be the year the total Sov map becomes conquered by one entity and everyone who matter will be blue to each other. In short: the year EVE dies."

I agree - and you put it very well.

Kurt said...

Your larger analysis seems true.

Specifically though, I'm not convinced that the "breeding ground" for new opposition couldn't be low sec/npc nullsec. Saying that hisec is the only possible theoretical alternative location for ISK generation to sov null seems to be jumping the gun.

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