Chess and checkers

I’ve been splitting my limited game time this week between Eve and World of Warcraft. I hardly ever talk about WoW here, but I’ve been playing since the beta, and I still continue to monkey around with it. WoW is my Diablo of mmorpg gaming. I don’t raid, I rarely run instances…in fact, I hardly group at all in WoW. My play sessions are usually filled entirely with solo activity from the time I log in until I log out. And when I say filled, I mean that nary a minute is wasted in idleness. Blizzard keeps you busy, and that’s one of the strengths of WoW. There are a lot of little mini-games for gamers beyond getting to max level, raiding, or running Battlegrounds. It’s a little like checkers for me. None of it is complicated, but it’s fun and engrossing and fast and I can pass a couple of hours with my mind mostly blank beyond what’s happening on-screen.

For example, last week my daughter decided she wanted a new character. She’s seven and a half (almost eight, Dad!), and there’s nothing she enjoys more in WoW than making a new character, getting that character up to about level 5, and turning it over to me for enough leveling/money-making so she can hit the Auction House and go shopping. My daughter is the reason I know there’s a 50-character limit per account. Yes, we’ve hit it quite a few times, and had to go on an alt-deleting spree so we could make more new characters.

I’ve made a mini-game out of making new characters. This time around, my daughter wanted to play a rogue. We already had a couple characters on the server where she wanted to play, a level 20 druid and a level 17 hunter. They were both parked in Darnassus. The druid became my market alt, selling every decent drop (holy cow, people will pay crazy prices to twink an alt for a couple levels), and the hunter became an alchemist. I had the rogue skinning and gathering herbs, so my runs through Elwynn Forest were all about profit. I tried to level as fast as possible, within a certain set of rules. I wouldn’t pay more than 25 silver or so for items on the AH (you can level naked in WoW, fer cryin’ out loud, why pay 5 gold for a dagger with a little extra agility that you’re going to use for 2 or 3 levels?), but that meant I still had fun searching for deals at the AH while my druid was marking up my early green drops.

The rogue hit 19 the other night, without too much time played. I had about 20g in the druid’s bank account, and I also had a level 10 paladin that I encouraged my daughter to create because I had so many green mail armor items drop. My daughter did not need much encouragement to create another character, obviously 🙂

Contrasting that experience with Eve, it’s remarkable how different the two games are, despite the fact they’re both in the mmorpg genre. Eve is much more like chess than WoW, at least at the level I enjoy WoW. I’m sure WoW’s more chess-like when it comes to raiding. I know many of the raid encounters are complicated and require a lot of interaction from all the participants, but honestly, I don’t have the patience (or time) to raid. So, my checkers/chess comparison is solely based on my play styles.

That said, it’s tough to say “WoW is a great mmorpg, and Eve sucks”, or vice versa. They really have very little in common. Part of the reason I love Eve is because the gameplay gives me ample reason to interact with other people in the game, to carry on conversations, to feel like I have the time to talk. When I’m in Checkers mode in WoW, I don’t have time to chat. I have to LEVEL. I have buttons to hit all the time. Chatting just delays LEVELING. Yes, I’m a bit of a freak about it, but hey, it’s how I enjoy playing WoW. Much like Diablo, my job is to kill and kill again and keep killing until I hear my Pavlovian bell, and then I train and sell quickly so I can kill kill kill some more. *pant*

With Eve, there’s no shortage of action if I want it, but if I want to spend a night goofing off, fitting out a ship, mining instead of missions, ratting instead of missions, screwing around in a Rifter instead of a battleship, I haven’t missed a minute of advancement. My skill training still ticks along nicely, bringing me my reward at the same time, regardless of what playstyle I chose that evening. Eve’s difficulty scales pretty nicely to my desired level for the evening, without having to log in an alt to experience an different level of gameplay.

I find that A) I really love both games, and B) they both serve very different purposes. First, I think they both help me avoid Game Burnout, which is all too common when we’ve spent ungodly hours fixated on just one mmorpg. Yeah, I know, that sounds a little like saying smoking crack wouldn’t be so bad if we’d mix in a little heroin now and then, but I think y’all know what I’m saying. But my real point is that I don’t think we need to be arguing about which game is superior. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. Syncaine had his post about how Eve had “fixed” issues in the mmorpg world, and while I happen to agree with a lot of his points, I don’t necessarily think all games need to be “fixed” in the same way. I like that there’s no open PvP in WoW, I appreciate the world they created without it. I love that there’s open PvP in much of the Eve universe. But you can’t take “PvP or no PvP” argument and drop it on WoW or Eve without considering a hundred different design decisions about both world. Open PvP in WoW might suck. Eve’s designed for it. A solely PvE environment in Eve might be boring as hell, and it definitely wouldn’t create such excellent stories about politics, intrigue, and espionage.

Chess and checkers. Both great games. No one’s trying to say checkers should be more like chess, are they?

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One Response

  1. As I’ve said elsewhere, WoW is a great game, Eve is a mediocre universe simulator. They have totally different aspirations. Eve has so much more imagination-capturing potential, but also mechanical problems, a very tough early game, and very limited scope for self-expression through character creation – those were the reasons my girlfriend didn’t enjoy it at all.

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