EVE Online is fascinating.
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It’s one of those games I’m too timid to actually venture into, but that I watch from the sidelines from time to time simply because it’s such a marvelous economic experiment.
The space MMO has a fully functioning economy, with regular trade of in-game currency and real money, which leads to a uniquely organic universe unlike any other MMO on the market.
Of course, with real money comes real losses, and when a huge space battle broke out in EVE Online recently, sparked over an unpaid bill, the ensuing damage was enormous.
Estimates of the total losses incurred by players during the height of the battle range from $300,000 to $500,000, most of that coming from the wreckage of massive “Titan” space-ships, which cost between $3,000 and $3,500 a piece in real money. (Exchange rates vary in EVE.)
Upwards of a 100 Titans have been destroyed so far, as well as countless other ships. It’s a bit staggering to even conceptualize in-game items, even massive space-ships, carrying that sort of real world value. And then blowing up dozens of them in less than 24 hours.
The success of EVE Online is in precisely this sort of dynamism, however.
A fully functioning economy, massive and totally spontaneous space battles between players, warring factions, and the ensuing damage all make it one of the few massively multiplayer that’s actually surprising from time to time. There’s no script.
Over 4,000 players participated in what is being touted as the game’s largest battle in its ten-year run, forcing developer CCP to slow down time on its servers in order for each command to process in the correct order.
“I’d be lying if I said our servers weren’t sweating a bit,” CCP spokesman Ned Coker said in a statement. “Allowing players free movement wherever they want in a game with over half a million players means for some pretty tricky technological requirements.” That’s especially true during epic space battles—and I do not use the term “epic” here lightly.
The entire episode is insanely impressive. I’m still waiting for a fantasy MMO to replicate the sort of openness and freedom of the EVE universe. I suspect I’ll be waiting for some time yet.
“In many ways it’s a quintessential sci-fi experience, where thousands of people from all around the globe are waging a huge conflict that will have real repercussions on the politics, economy and social structures of a virtual universe,” said Coker.
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