Goals and Compulsions in EVE Online

I've have now been playing EVE Online for more than four years - since July of 2009. I remember first deciding to give the game a try. I had glimpsed a colorful little banner ad while browsing around the Internets on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I didn't know why then, but something about the picture of a Rifter ripping through a dusty red nebula in space caught my eye. Upon seeing this ad, my brain immediately switched to heavy-duty choice selection mode. The in-depth analysis and rigorous review process went something like this....


"Oh... space game... starships... I like starships." *click* 

My charming bride of more than thirty years calls this process "the male stimulus-response decision-making method". She does not say this in an admiring way.

Nevertheless, there I was, contemplating my oddly shaped Velator and struggling through the arcane tutorials. Many people disparaged the tutorial missions back then (and the latest versions are much improved, definitely), but they served an interesting purpose: they filtered out those with only a passing interest, and retained the truly compulsive.

My experience with those tutorials went something like this... 

"OK, so now I have to undock my ship... right. Click here and... what the f**k?!

There are two ways to react to this scenario:

  1. Rage quit
  2. Give in to an overwhelming, innate need - that little voice in the back of your head that whispers, "You MUST complete this, or you'll be an empty, unfulfilled shell of a man!

This is how EVE Online first attracts and then retains people with mild to severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder, by design.

This doesn't end with the tutorials. The insidious and clever design of EVE Online is an endless parade of mildly frustrating yet compelling layers of gameplay - each of which beckon to those of us with an inescapable desire to fully control their environment. To illustrate this point, here's a summary of dialogues that have happened in my head over the last few years...

  • "Missions, eh? What's this standings stuff? Oh, I see - to get to perfect refine, I've gotta do more Minmatar missions. I don't know why I want perfect refine, but it's called perfect, so I must have it."
  • "Hmm, this frigate doesn't mine enough.... Hmm, this Retriever doesn't mine enough... Hmm, this Covetor doesn't mine enough... Hmm, this Hulk mines OK, but perhaps if I fit it better... WHAT?! CCP IS CHANGING ALL THE MINING BARGES AND EXHUMERS?! *sob* My world is destroyed! Oh, wait, this isn't too bad. Hmm, this Mack doesn't mine enough..."
  •  "So, to make ammo, I need a blueprint. Right... Oh, I need to research it to make some good money... Oh, I need more skills to research it... Oh, I need a POS so I can make enough copies... Oh, I need to run COSMOS and data center missions so I have standings high enough to anchor a POS... Oh, I need to mine ice to make fuel for my POS... Oh, I need R&D agents to get datacores to invent things with my copies of the blueprints that I researched... Oh, look, the price of ammo dropped - I'll just buy it."
  •  "Ah, ha! Cruisers I achieved! Now all challengers shall bow down before me!... Ah, ha! Battlecruisers I achieved! Behold the might of my awesome firepower!... Ah, ha! Battleship I achieved! Now the bigness of my biggy big ship is bigger than yours!... You know, flying frigates is more fun."
  •  "Oh, hi, everyone - very glad to have joined the corp!... Oh, you have titles? Sure, I'll be a Personnel Officer... Mentor? Is that a new title? OK, I want it... Manager? Yep, sign me up!... Graduate title, with a medal? Oooh, shiny! I must have it... Director? Me? Really? Oh, yes, thank you... *sigh* I remember when I didn't have any corp title - those were the days..."

And so it goes in EVE Online. There's always something different to unveil and tinker with - always something fresh to hold your attention for a while. Just when I think I've about had my fill of EVE, along comes something I've not yet tried, and that little voice in the back of my head whispers yet again: "You MUST do this!

I feel like CCP is perpetually dangling a new string of yarn over my head, and I'm their pet cat. As much as I try to resist, I always find myself playing with the string - every time. 

In Pursuit of Virtue (Implants)

I now have several projects going on in EVE. One of them is to earn a complete set of Virtue low-grade implants by running missions with the Sisters of EVE. A complete Virtue set provides a 33.83% increase in probe scan strength. That sounds very impressive, but frankly, it's not very useful for anything other than probing anomalies faster in wormholes and finding ECCM fitted "unprobable" Tech III strategic cruisers - two things that I am unlikely to need to do anytime soon, if ever.

Further, earning a complete set of Virtue implants - there are six of them in the series - is a long and tedious process. The amounts of loyalty points that one has to earn in order to purchase them from the SoE LP store are not trivial: 

  • Alpha: 28,500 LP
  • Beta: 37,800 LP
  • Gamma: 56:700 LP
  • Delta: 94,500 LP
  • Epsilon: 170,100 LP
  • Omega: 321,300 LP

There are also some lower-level implants and ISK - graduating from 19M to 214M over the six levels - required to purchase each Virtue implant. So, this is not a cheap or easy exercise.

I am running Level 4 missions to earn these LPs. My standing with the SoE security agent in Osmon, Lozdod Ponsel (Who at CCP comes up with these names?) is now so close to the 10.0 maximum that he practically goes into orgasmic seizures whenever I start a dialogue with him: "Ah, my good friend Neville Smit! It's so good to see you once again!" Dude, we just talked like fifteen minutes ago. Shut up and give me another mission. Oh, that one again. Didn't we just do this? No? Hmm, must be bad deja vu or something. Yes, of course I'll take it.

(If you are wondering, yes, I really do talk like this to panels of text provided by EVE Online agents. But everyone does, right?)

I have maxed the relevant social skills (Negotiation 5, Security Connections 5) to get the highest payout of Loyalty Points from missions, so I'm earning a little under 5,000 LP, on average, per Level 4 mission run. So, here are the numbers of missions I have to complete for each implant, at a minimum:

  • Alpha: 6 missions
  • Beta: 8 missions
  • Gamma: 12 missions
  • Delta: 19 missions
  • Epsilon: 35 missions
  • Omega: 65 missions

That's at least 145 missions - probably more than 150 since I'm assuming a pretty high average LP payout here.

Blitzing through L4s in an optimized sniping drone boat, I find I can finish L4s in about 25 minutes each, on average. And that's working each mission at rapt attention, as quickly as I can burn through them. Being conservative and estimating 30 minutes per mission (I do eat and take a break every once in a while), that's a total of 75 hours of mission-running to achieve my goal. And this does not include the occasional delay when Lozdod tries to give me two Amarr faction missions in a row, which means I have to sit out mission-running for a while. (This is probably a good thing, as sleeping every once in a while is healthy, or so my wife tells me.)

75 hours, at least - for a set of implants that really aren't that useful. Who does this?

That would be me - Mr. EVE Online Obsessive Compulsive Guy.

I can't be the only one, though. I see lots of Virtue implants for sale in Jita all the time.

It's good to know that I'm not alone in my affliction. 

The End Game of EVE

When will this cycle of pursuing the next mundane goal in EVE Online end, I wonder?

I was speaking with an EVE University alumnus recently, who had moved on to join a corp in null sec space. He now flies a Titan for one of the large alliances there.

"How do you like it?," I asked him. 

"Well, it's sort of the end game," he replied wistfully. "Once you are in a Titan, you never leave it, really. You just wait for alliance leadership to tell you to move it here or there. That's about it." 

The idea of an end game in EVE Online - where there's nothing left to do, everything is mastered, all is done - boggled my mind. I had never considered such a thing. And yet, here was my friend, who had achieved exactly that. It was like discovering someone who had attained a higher level of enlightenment. 

"You are my guru," I told him, admiringly. "You have won EVE Online." 

"Nah, not really," he said, chuckling. "I just started a new character, so now I get to do it all over again."

I forgot that you can reincarnate yourself many times in New Eden. 

Oh, my God - this is never going to end, is it? 

*sigh* Oh, well - back to mission running then. Those Virtue implants await. 

Fly safe! o7