Eve Online is many things to many players, but its economic sandbox seems to get a lot of play (fn1).
I thought in "PvP, asymmetry, and the information game in Eve-Online" that Eve-Online was "a game about economics and its constraint on power." My view of Eve-Online has been of late on the alliance game (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. 7. ) and is therefore naturally inclined to look more towards the constraint and power elements, as I find their texture and nuance interesting. Yet there is a more direct view.
When I first started out in Eve-Online (EO) I played an arbitrage trader. I contributed a brief description of my early career to Dan's "Adventures of Capitalism" series a couple of years ago, scarcely anonymous (Terra Nova tongue-in-cheek). Using the language of My friend's keeper, the trader's game in EO offers a peculiar *carebear* perspective (fn2). Not one missile fired in anger. A player's nose firmly planted in a spreadsheet. Every ship lost was simply mark-up in a product line, a ledger entry.
My trader's view of the game then was relatively detached from game events. For example, I had an elaborate (though not always correct) intuition about the alliance wars at that time (far, far away) based on supply and demand of ship modules. A view by proxy, by tea-leaves. War is a profit opportunity to EO traders. In fact, in my glib moments I thought I could anticipate conflicts through price shifts (by location) in the basket of items I monitored.
Dr. Eyjlfur Gumundsson's (EyoG) cumulation of three articles (so far) is starting to complete (and correct) the contours of the oceans of intuitions and superstitions that traders developed on the back of envelopes with quantitative baselines. Mandatory reading for those interested in the subject:
To my experience, the world view of an EO empire trader was a rarified one. The world looks different through spreadsheets. Alliance wars, for example, were seen as opportunities and costs. The politics mattered little so long as goods moved.
EO's alliance ecosystem is as much driven by the invisible hand as are the trader markets. Yet, as Dave Rickey pointed eloquently out in many earlier comments (see above cited series), the 0.0 markets are largely less mature than Empire ones. Yet in their Wild Western ways they work. Alliance markets also bear more direct scars: their effects and causes are filtered through political and social forces and shaped by conflict. Recall again the farmer and the cowman ("My friend's keeper") and ask, who pays for those ships and at what trade-off to the alliance/corporation? Ask of "Rapacious marketeering", what then when markets are turned to weapons?
I started (a while back) with "The face of information" a look at the information economy in the alliance system in EO. This look is continuing in "The 0.0 pilot's stare" ( 1. , 2. ). I believe that the flow of information there is impacted by the other forces in the alliance system. For example, every alliance pilot will recognize how the quality of "intel" (on the intelligence channels) can vary considerably over time. Clearly, the motivation and engagement of the participants play a substantial role.
In a similar way, what I found interesting about my transition from an abstract Empire view of markets to a grittier view of 0.0 and alliance markets is how markets came to mesh more directly with the story and the other elements of the player ecosystem.
The gorilla is there. The question is how in-your-face you want him. Which view is the more interesting one to whom?
fn1. From “In an Ever-Changing Galaxy, the Action’s Starting to Get Intriguing” (Seth Scheiesel, November 28, NYTimes.com):
“There are basically two schools of thought for operating an online community,”…
“There is the theme-park approach and the sandbox approach,” he continued. “Most games are like Disneyland, for instance, which is a carefully constructed experience where you stand in line to be entertained… [Eve-Online focuses] on the sandbox approach where people can decide what they want to do in that particular sandbox, and we very much emphasize and support that kind of emergent behavior.”
Also, Press release, via Vili Lehdonvirta (CCP are the developers of Eve-Online):
Virtual economy research project starting at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology
December 12th, 2007, Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) has secured funding and partners for a new research project into "virtual economies": systems where millions of Internet users create and trade virtual items and currencies, often for real money. The project, titled Advanced Virtual Economy Applications (AVEA), begins in January and will continue for 2,5 years... HIIT's financiers and corporate partners in the project are Nokia Research Center, CCP, Playdo and SWelcom. The majority of funding comes from Finnish technology and innovation funding agency Tekes. Main topics addressed in the project will include measuring economic activity in large-scale virtual economies, virtual asset sales as a revenue model for online services, and virtual economies on mobile and ubiquitous platforms.
The "Moon is a harsh mistress" provides overview of differences between Empire and 0.0 space in the world of Eve-Online