Why EVE Online is still going strong

In an effort to attract more customers, Star Wars: The Old Republic went free-to-play last week. Wired’s Andrew Groen argues that the MMORPG’s game’s design is obsolete; constantly making new content for an MMO is too expensive. In my opinion, it’s not just too expensive, but relies too much on what should effectively be a single-player experience. An MMO’s core gameplay should incorporate other players, not isolate you from them. EVE Online is an interesting game because of how the decisions other players make affect the economy. There isn’t more content to make to keep players coming back. 

EVE Online relies heavily on the interactions that organically take place between characters, rather than developer-created content, to keep its users hooked. [Executive Producer] Lander said that when EVE started out in 2003 there wasn’t even much of a game yet, but there were systems in place to allow players to interact. As people started to form bonds, the game became better and better. Today it has nearly half a million highly dedicated subscribers, but it took a substantial risk for the developer to release a game that depended on players to drive the experience.

The core narrative of most RPGs—that you’re a hero out to save the world—might be antithetical to a meaningful MMO. Is there a way for the RPG design to be more focused on player interactions rather than levels? Possibly not.