Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eve blog banter 29: I was there! With them!

Today I received an email from Freebooted's Seismic Stan, regarding the next Blog Banter topic:

"EVE Online is renowned for its depth. Its backstory, gameplay and social aspects are all qualities that draw players in. What does immersion in EVE Online mean to you?"

A subject near and dear to my heart, as it was immersion that originally drew me to virtual worlds. After a while though I needed something with more action, a virtual world with game elements, preferrably scifi themed - and via a banner ad I found Eve Online. 

Alien indeed
As an experienced virtual world inhabitant, though, Eve Online proved to be a much more alien environment than I expected. I did not customize my 'avatar' during account creation, because I assumed I could tweak him later.. this turned out to be false, as the original avatar had no function whatsoever. It was utterly meaningless, and definitely not 'me'. Upon logging in for the first time I found myself in something called a 'Velator', in a large cavernous space, in a system called Bourynes.. again, no avatar in sight, no human figure anywhere. In Eve Online, "you" is the ship you pilot. This is a steep barrier to achieving any kind of immersion, at least as we know it in other virtual worlds. At that time I knew several people who crossed over from Second Life to Eve Online, and I heard a lot of complaints about this issue. 

Of course this is all changing, now that Incarna is slowly unfolding in New Eden. For all it's faults and issues, the basic idea of Incarna still appeals to me, for pretty much the same reasons mentioned by The Mittani. If (ever) properly implemented, Incarna should provide the fundamentals for a full fledged virtual world simulator, both in and out of station, with a much higher level of immersion. I still want to sit at the window of a space bar near a busy undock ramp! And after reading Hillmar's devblog, I think I can say we will see that - one day. 

Incarna in a ship, a pos..
Taking it one step further: I would love to be able to walk through my ship as well. They are supposed to be anywhere from a few dozen meters up to several kilometers long, staffed with dozens or even hundreds of people. Wouldn't you like to have a look at the interior? Even if it's only a captain's bridge? Or, housing modules for a POS, again with windows?

Currently I don't think CCP can pull stuff like this off, given their trouble with getting the basics of Incarna right, and the immediate need to appease the 'Flying in Space' related wishes of their subscriber base, but it sure would enhance immersion. It would also appeal to the Star Trek fans, probably.  

My wife, immersed
I was there! With them!
Obviously, the lack of basic immersion didn´t drive me away from Eve Online. What kept me subscribed, was two things: emotional and social immersion. The emotional immersion is, in my opinion, caused by the sandbox nature of New Eden. There's always the risk of something unexpected, always the chance for an adrenaline rush, exhilaration, joy, raw anger and disappointment, great achievements and monumental losses.. See this forum post for a telling example. 

The second one, social immersion, happens when you find a nice corp and some good people to fly with. They become friends; some of my current corpies I have known for years, I know of their personal situations, I trust them. 

The emotional and social immersion of Eve Online: I was there, with them!