So a rather interesting debate exploded over at J3w3l’s last month which quickly began to turn into finger wagging and passionate claims and denials of the very existence of other players. The whole PvP/PvE debate is unusually touchy these days it seems. More than I remember it being in the past. In this case, I engaged a couple of fellow gamers on the question of what makes PvE and PvP so different. Specifically, there were several claims made that PvP is more “dynamic” than PvE which lead me to think about the PvE of EVE Online.
Now staunch PvPers will never want to be in a conversation where they admit PvP has anything in common with PvE. So usually they’ll try to frame the discussion as a duel between having a “dynamic” (defined as intelligent people to play with) game or having one where you only interact with AI (defined as PvE). I think their definitions are a bit off and the comparison too extreme. It strips each feature of it’s nuance and importance. PvE, generally should be understood as cooperative play when players use the term to describe their preference. They’re almost always trying to explain that they prefer not to compete in combat with other players. PvE players play with the same dynamic people as PvPer’s, so that’s not a defining difference between the two. PvP on the other hand is typically used as a euphemism for “player combat”. Players usually use it to reference this specifically. When PvP’ers come to the conversation with this term their number one argument is that “players are more dynamic” which means this is the subject when the term is brought up.
So here I am pondering just what it is about EVE Online that me and thousands of other players like me – nay, the majority of EVE players – love about it. I pretty much only engage in PvE in EVE these days. It’s just vastly more interesting to me. I interact with other players. We have politics, we have rivalry, and of course the economy. We’re every bit as active with other players as PvPers. It’s just the nature of that interaction tends to be non-violent. I’ll balance that by saying I know capsuleers who find the same amount of joy in combat against other players. They also have politics, rivalry and economic interests. These are equally valid and fun ways to engage the game. The differences between the two come down to how players prefer to approach one another. PvE’ers tend to prefer cooperation, and PvPer’s the opposite. Of course, none of us can ignore all the players in between, such as the bounty hunters, good-guy militias who fight pirates, pirates who fight evil pirates, industrial companies who hire bounty hunters, freight runners who hire security and so much more. This is why defining PvP and PvE based on combat/AI gets us nowhere. Both features employ combat, but the approach is different. The defining difference is how each player prefers to approach other players.The gameplay is otherwise, not very different.
If we were to say that there was a heart in EVE, a core that gave the game all of it’s strength and power to influence gameplay, what would that thing be?
My first hunch is always to say it’s the economy. It drives all interaction, both peaceful and warlike. Maybe that’s why so much of what I enjoy about PvE other players enjoy about PvP. How else could these difference be bridged? They’re two approaches to the same game with the one major intersection being the economy. All the same, it’s true that every feature of the game is interconnected such that no one piece is as good without the other. You can’t subtract the economy from EVE in any way and still have the game we know. Each piece, including the PvE/P pieces, makes up the whole. None can be removed without changing the game dramatically.
They’re just features, and while players may have a preference for one or the other, the things they signify usually are only tangentially related to what they actually mean. So PvE is no more strictly about playing with AI than PvP is about strictly fighting with other players.
EVE is a fascinating game, totally unique in its offerings. It’s got flaws, but it’s also got something no other MMO I’ve ever lived in has. It’s got politics and economics are gameplay systems. I’d say these are the heart and soul of the game. PvP and PvE are just additional features.