I was dutifully entering wormhole data into Tripwire when the spell suddenly broke:
"I don't see myself still playing EVE in a month."
In order to figure out what it was that led me to that realisation, I started to think about what it wasn't.
Things that aren't reasons why I've stopped wanting to play EVE.
It wasn't because I thought I'd got everything I could possibly get from the game. I've seen enough to know that it is potentially a game that could keep one entertained for years. Indeed, the leader of Signal Cartel had quite the reputation as a space pirate at one time, and is now in charge of a corporation that could barely be further away from that. It seems like a world where you could take left turns whenever you get bored and find some new pocket of play to become interested in, or invent your own.
It also wasn't because of the worries I expressed in the last diary. I still think abuse and harrassment is an issue, and I definitely think that by not doing more about it both the developers and players take surprisingly little pride in their accomplishment, in a way. It's like they've built the greatest bar in the world but are content to let it be the one with used needles clogging the toilets and a reputation for somewhere you don't want to leave alone late at night. But even knowing this, I was still determined to give it a real go.
So if it's not scope of the game, and it's not the issues surrounding the game, then I have to look at the game itself.
This is not my beautiful house
I've come to realise that while EVE promises to be a different sort of MMO, where this is most true is on the macro scale. In the moment to moment play, it's similar to other MMOs in ways that I don't particularly get on with.
Like any MMO you have a grid of skills which you activate, which have cooldowns and certain effects on what you are doing. It's not class based, so what you have access to is your ship and what you can equip on them based on their specs and your skills. But the basic idea that you have passive effects and then active effects on a cooldown holds as true as it has done in most MMOs since World of Warcraft.
And just like most MMOs, what is actually happening on the screen is subservient to the dice rolls that are happening in the background. There's nothing wrong with this - I'm used to seeing it - but I found myself starting to miss games which feel like they place me in the world. I didn't have that connection to my ship which I feel when playing other kinds of space games, because that's simply not the type of game EVE is. Getting around space feels about the same no matter what I'm flying. Some might be faster and more nimble, but at least in the early game that's about it. And because of the style of play I enjoy, I doubt I'd ever want to progress to command of huge capital ships where those differences may be that much more pronounced.
For this reason and for all that EVE succeeds in elements of its world building, the fascinating economy and emergent PvP that it encourages, I almost always feel one step removed from what is going on.
Then there's the PvP itself. The biggest danger to my continued involvement in EVE was always how much it would be able to hold my interest as a primarily PvP focused game. I'm not against PvP, but I usually take it in small doses. The developers of EVE have been more than clear that everything that happens in EVE should be considered some form of PvP. That's just the sort of game they're going for, and that's fine.
But it also means that you have to actively fight against the design of the game if coming into conflict with players is something you're not interested in doing right now.
In my home base I might spend an hour periodically poking my head out in a cheap ship like a meerkat, until I find the window of opportunity I need to get out without being blown up. Even then, the safest way to leave is via bookmarks I've previously placed straight ahead of the exit in order to make it to warp as fast as possible. With war declarations, I'm by no means safe in high security space, either.
While navigating space, I must circumvent the odd navigation mechanics by creating safe spots via a series of clunky bookmarking procedures, to lower my risk of being detected when I want to make a cup of tea or just want to sit in space for a while but am not ready to dock.
If my corporation isn't interested in fighting wars, my only recourse is to try to avoid getting blown up or just stay in bases or offline while the war declaration is going on.
I'm not saying any of these are necessarily bad for the game, but they are representative of the kind of PvP the game is going for. Signal Cartel takes no small glee in working against the grain of the mechanics and that's interesting in itself. But that's something I would only have long-term patience for if I had fallen in love with the basic game systems I'm spending most of my time interacting with. And I haven't.
Elite: Dangerous, my other current go-to space game, often feels like a shallow world simulation. It's gradually getting better at it, but as a believable, living galaxy it's still trumped by EVE in almost every way and may always because of some of the fundamental design principles. But in EVE's early game there's nothing that felt so dramatic as, say, the difference in weight, feel and even sound flying around in a cargo hauler in Elite compared with a small fighter. And even after dozens, hundreds of times I still get a kick out of the simple act of piloting my craft into the 'mail slot' of a large base and setting it down manually. It turns out that it's the simple pleasures that I crave, right now.
The Farewell Tour
So I find myself thinking about how I'd like to say goodbye to EVE. I don't want just to stop - I haven't quite had my fill, and it feels like rather an anticlimax after having enjoyed writing about my experiences. No, I think the best way would be to leave doing the thing that I enjoyed most in my time with the game - sightseeing!
I want people to suggest to me places in the New Eden, the EVE universe, that are worth seeing. I'll use this to plan a final farewell tour, with only two rules:
1) I'm allowed to stop whenever I like.
2) I MUST stop if my ship gets destroyed.
Before I switch off for the last time, I will turn over as many of my (not particularly numerous) assets to the EvE-Scout Alliance as possible, whose mission I wish them the very best of luck with, and whose Signal Cartel corporation have been unfailingly polite and helpful to me.
The next diary will be my final entry.