More like “Economics Online”
Ever since I stopped playing World of Warcraft a few weeks after I got to college (some correlation there), I’ve been meandering from game to game. I suppose this is how most gamers are, but spending “only” a month or so on any given game seems short after you play one game for two or three years. Now, I played other games, of course, but the mainstream of my time was WoW.
I’ve gone through all of Valve Software’s catalog, especially the Orange Box, as well as Call of Duty 4 and BioShock and the excellent Half Life 2 mod Insurgency. But in the last week I’ve become utterly charmed by a new and different massively multiplayer game, EVE Online.
This is a space-based game where you fly around in a galaxy of some five thousand solar systems populated by five races. Some parts are patrolled by the galactic police, but the vast majority is a sort of lawless waste where the corporation that owns the space makes the rules.
By objective criteria, this is a role-playing game: you start off in a small ship with few skills, and spend time improving your ship, skills, and wealth, usually forming alliances and performing tasks for others. In this particular capacity, it’s mediocre, really. The quests are unoriginal and at times far above or below your level ability.
But where EVE shines is the economy. Where, in WoW, the best way to get magical items was to kill computer-controlled monsters, here it’s a matter of buying them. Well, not magic items, but really cool ships and weapons and so forth. But who do you buy a battlecruiser from? Well, a shipmaker of course. And the shipmaker builds it with materials he buys from a miner and using blueprints he buys from a printer. And the miner takes the money he gets from the sale and buys a bigger mining ship, or a better mining laser. And it just keeps going.
And for those of us that are recreational economists, this is all very fascinating. Which is why the developers of the game ended up hiring an Economics Professor to act as the EVE Economist, who now puts out quarterly financial reports, tracking things like galactic deflation despite an increasing money supply and trying to come up with a good representative statistic similar to GDP. There also seems to be a custom that the last three or four pages be dedicated to all kinds of wacky graphs, which are always fun to look at.
Similarly, there are plans in the works for a galactic election of a nine players to form the Council of Stellar Management that will act as advisors to the developers on the issues most pressing to the playerbase.
It’s been said before that directly competing with WoW is almost impossible, and the developers of EVE aren’t even trying. They’re taking a completely different route that has me completely suckered in.