If there’s one thing that EVE Online
does better than any other MMO on the market today, it’s persistent gameplay on massive scales. The now-famous Bloodbath of B-R5RB
in 2014 involved 7,548 players over the course of almost 24 hours, and the Siege of M-OEE8
at the end of 2016 peaked at 5,300 separate players all piled into the same star system at the same time. Hundreds of thousands of players live and fight in the same single-shard universe, and EVE
‘s largest corporations have more members than the total population on some other MMOs’ shards.
But what about the smaller end of the scale? MMOs aren’t just populated by monolithic organisations bent on galactic domination, and a growing proportion of today’s gamers play online games solo or in smaller groups. Features such as Upwell structures and the new PvE gameplay have clearly been designed with a wide range of gameplay scales in mind, but EVE has never really got past the problem that bigger groups are almost always better. Could the solution to this problem be found in small-scale asymmetric and asynchronous warfare opportunities?
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why EVE‘s massive scale makes it so compelling, the problem that massive scale introduces, and the case for more asymmetric and asynchronous warfare.
Happy pre-alpha, Dual Universe! The ambitious indie space sandbox MMORPG kicked off the pre-alpha over the weekend, bringing 2500 backers in to test. You’ll recall that it was the alpha that was meant to start this fall, but studio Novaquark didn’t believe it was ready enough, hence the birth of a pre-alpha to “honor [the studio’s] commitment to [its] backers.” This particular round of testing is open to “gold founders” and up who contributed to the game ahead of September 7th.
In today’s press release, Novaquark CEO Jean-Christophe Baillie talks up both the game’s funding ($7.4M to date) and single-shard tech. “Our proprietary CSSC (Continuous Single-Shard Cluster) and voxel engine technologies are now benchmarked for the first time with real players and not just bots,” he says. “It is truly amazing to think that when you see a moon in the sky, it’s actually there, you can fly to it with a proper spaceship. And you could carve out half of it, given enough time, as the world is entirely editable. Everyone will see it. This kind of giant continuous world experience has never been seen before in gaming. We can’t wait to see what people are going to build over the next weeks.”
The studio has a brand-new trailer out today in honor of the pre-alpha; you can watch it down below, and then when you’re done, take a peek at our demo and interview with Baillie from PAX West, after which MJ dubbed it “Landmark in space but better.”
EVE Online has practically dominated the sci-fi sandbox MMO niche for nearly 14 years, with its harsh PvP-oriented gameplay and massive single-server universe combining to provide something that’s remained compelling in an ever-changing industry. From its humble foundation as a mostly empty sandbox with a smattering of people and limited resources has sprung political intrigue, war, espionage, charity, theft, and economics that often mirrors the real world in startling detail. In over a decade of virtual history, we’ve seen the rise and fall of massive empires, the birth and collapse of industries, the emergence of heroes and villains, and the forging of thousands of real life friendships.
While EVE‘s long-term success can be attributed partly to the absolute persistence of a single-shard universe, I often wonder what would happen if a fresh server opened today. What could players achieve with a level playing field and blank slate for all, and what would the EVE universe even look like without 14 years of accumulated wealth and skillpoints behind it? A tantalising hint of what that gold rush might look like comes from survival sandbox games such as RUST and DayZ, which have hundreds of small servers and very little focus on persistence. It’s got me thinking about what a shorter-term survival sandbox game with EVE‘s core gameplay would be like, and I honestly think it could be amazing.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I make the argument for an EVE Online survival sandbox game and the massive gameplay opportunities that periodic server wipes can present.
The debate about what makes a good sandbox game is as old as the term itself, and everyone seems to have a different view on where the gameplay priorities should lie. Some insist that a proper sandbox must have open-world PvP everywhere and even that a brutal scheme of item loss on death is essential. Others point to games that prioritise world-building and environment-shaping tools that put the focus on collaboration over conflict, or that focus on exploration of environmental content. I would argue that the specific gameplay is less important than how actively a game encourages emergent gameplay
, and in that regard I believe the most important feature is a complex player-run economic system.
EVE Online‘s core design philosophy is to put lots of players in a box with limited resources and see what happens, the result being resource-driven conflict, complex economics, and sociopolitical shenanigans that often mirror the real world in shocking detail. Much has been made of EVE‘s economy over the years in both the online and print media, and it’s even been the target of research papers and studies in sociology and economics. EVE isn’t the only sandbox game out there, and it certainly isn’t the only one with an interesting economy, but its single-shard server structure makes it an intriguing case and has led to some interesting gameplay over the years.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how EVE Online‘s single-shard server structure has affected the game’s complex economics, politics, and professions.
Back in February of this year, Massively OP got wind of an upcoming science-fiction MMO in development called Dual Universe. This looked like an interesting sandbox that promised a single-server realm and the ability to edit and manipulate most anything in the world.
Back then, developer Novaquark wasn’t quite ready to fully put the game out there (although the studio wasn’t hiding it, either). Now the time has come, as Novaquark is trumpeting this “boundless” massively multiplayer game as ready for public eyes.
“For the first time in a single-shard MMO, the world is entirely modifiable and an unlimited number of players will be free to build together, cooperate or compete,” Novaquark sent in a press release. “The focus has been made on giving the keys back to the MMORPG fans: using the building blocks provided by the game, the in-game community will make the choices and create the content they will play in.”
When it comes to creating a science fiction MMO, there are two directions you can take. You can either hold up EVE Online as the master blueprint for sandboxy excellence or you can flee as far as possible from the cutthroat nature of that title. Dual Universe, an indie title in development by Novaquark, most definitely has hero eyes for CCP’s long-running title.
Like EVE, Dual Universe will take place on a single shard, have PvP out the wazoo, and focus on political, construction, and economic sandbox features. Unlike EVE, however, Dual Universe will be splitting its time between cruising among the stars and adventuring on planetary surfaces. It’s promising seamless transitions between zones, planets, and outer space, as well as support for the Oculus Rift. There is also a lot of talk of voxels, because why leave any buzzword behind?
Dual Universe is currently assembling its alpha team for testing some time in 2016.