When Crowfall was first detailed during late February's Kickstarter launch, the game was described as "Game of Thrones meets EVE Online" as a way to show the basic premise by comparing two easily recognizable IPs. The "Game of Thrones" part is easy to discern for several reasons, but I can't help but wonder why every modern multiplayer online sandbox insists on comparing itself to EVE Online.
The simple answer involves the appreciation of dedication and passion. EVE certainly doesn't have the largest player-base of all MMO-like games, but it does have one of the most passionate. It only makes sense that MMO developers want to know what flavor Kool-Aid CCP is using to keep so much dedication in a game about internet spaceships.
The days of comparing your new game to World of Warcraft are over. The MMO market is no longer about grabbing the attention of millions of players; it's about keeping that attention. And EVE has done an amazing job of not only keeping the attention of veteran players, but also giving them a reason to have a half-dozen alt accounts, too. That formula has caused some inevitable breakdowns over the years, but the most amazing part to me is how EVE has garned so much attention from the mainstream gaming press while completely eluding them at the same time.
But Crowfall really does have similar elements to EVE Online, so it's not just lip service. The most obvious of these features is the importance of politics, which is also where the Game of Thrones reference comes in.
EVE Online is not a combat game, just as Crowfall will not be a combat game. Both games are about strategy, planning, and giant wars that will end in mass destruction. Some of EVE's greatest moments have revolved around player-developed campaigns that have gone against anything that anyone could have predicted -- including the developers. But it's the loss of assets that really brings that point home for EVE players. The disposable worlds of Crowfall may add an interesting twist on that, especially since your rewards will still carry over.
Resource gathering in dangerous zones is also a similar mechanic. In Crowfall, the best way to expand and improve your kingdom is to venture out into the scariest corners of the universe (think null-sec in EVE). This prevents us home-bodies from just sitting around rearranging our virtual living rooms all day.
And the truth is, we still have a lot to learn about Crowfall at this point. But if there are further EVE-like angles that ArtCraft isn't showing us yet (in crafting, upgrading, further political tools, etc), then my interest will hit new levels.
"MMOs have been caught in the paradigm of leveling up and grinding for so long that I think it's going to be a real surprise to once again see an MMO based around this kind of freedom of action and conflict," Designer Raph Koster said in a recent interview with Polygon. "Crowfall is a hybrid of strategy game and MMO. It also echoes back to the early days of MMOs with robust economies and rich player freedoms."
One aspect of Crowfall that may allow it to expand even further than EVE is the refreshing of worlds. This takes away the veteran stranglehold that scares away new players in many established MMOs, but other political features still give the veterans a reason to stick around. The game won't center around ganking noobs on their first day, but recruiting those noobs on to your side to fight for your cause... in theory.
But trying to replicate EVE Online's success is difficult and should be handled very carefully. It's almost an insult to come in with a new game and say it's like EVE Online, because the game and its community is the result of so many different elements that came together perfectly.
While I'm far from an EVE fanboy, I still respect it as a fine, aged wine. You can throw in artificial flavors to replicate that aged taste, but it's not the same. EVE is a success because of its 12-year history and every story that surrounds that. And while I would love to see the next EVE come along to a new generation of MMO gamers, I think it will be interesting to see if Crowfall can pull off anything close.
We're rooting for you, ArtCraft, because it's still inspiring to see what you're doing with Crowfall, but you have some big shoes to fill.