The Unholy Trinity: What Drives EVE Pilots

There are many reasons why Eve players put up with Eve, but I feel the most common are greed, fame, and a good fight.
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EVE is the grand spaceships sandbox. If you can think of it, odds are you can do it. It’s a place to live out your dreams and express your darkest desires. With its unique mechanics regarding loss, victories are made all the sweeter and defeats all the more bitter. On my last trip on the Pod Express, I was pondering what drives us EVE players. What is it that keeps us going in this pitiless and play-for-keeps universe we spend so much time in? After some thought, I came up with three categories. These are hardly all inclusive, but I think they cover a vast majority of capsuleers.

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Sweet Victory: The Good Fight Feeling

Having been involved mostly in PVP and null sec warfare as of late, this motivation was the first to come to me. Of the many MMOs I’ve played, EVE by far has the best, most intense PVP out there. The rush I get when I’m in a solo dogfight or a massive fleet battle is unlike anything I’ve experienced in a game or otherwise.

This high after a good fight is what I would consider the most basic of the motivations. It’s emotional, visceral, and intense. So intense, in fact, newer PVPers often experience what I call “the shakes”. Once you overcome the initial anxiety, this rush can be quite addictive. Whether in the thick of battle or in all out market PVP, this is an ever-present aspect of New Eden.

There are two essential aspects of emotional high. The first of these is the element of risk. EVE is fairly unique in that there is no guarantee that your possessions today will be yours tomorrow. Ships get popped, POS’s get bashed, ISK is lost and tears are shed. This fact is ingrained in new players almost from day one, often quite spectacularly. Whether it’s being ganked in low sec, scammed by the denizens of Jita local, or having your corp stolen, you don’t soon forget the first time you got burned. Frankly this sort of thing sucks, often royally. However, the distressing lows make the victories all the sweeter.

That’s what many pilots live for: winning that fight that would have broken the bank otherwise, where you averted the loss of hundred of million, even billions of ISK. It’s the difference between coming to the rescue of an Atron and saving a freighter full of Sleeper salvage. It’s the difference between saving your high sec POS and defending your null sec home from invaders. The more you have to lose, the more satisfying the eventual victory.

The other aspect of the “good fight feeling” is uncertainty. The unexpected triumph is almost always more entertaining, more satisfying for the victor. Take a look at killmails for example. I will guarantee you that a majority of the most popular mails are an example someone overcoming extreme odds. They’re the sorts of situations that, on paper, you would never expect to go the way they actually did.  What’s more interesting, a lone frigate getting alpha’d by a battleship or this? I’m gonna guess the second one.

Greed: I want it all

The want of more–more ISK, more ships, more moons, more corpies, anything. Many of us come from increasingly materialistic cultures and I believe it shows in EVE. Whether it’s the lowly miner wanting more ore or the mighty HBC and CFC wanting more tech moons, there is a value associated with having more. It’s debatable as why this value is placed on collecting more and more stuff, and frankly it’s a subject best left for another day. Suffice it to say, it’s there.

The main requirement for this goal to spur people forward is not possessing the object in question. This is hardly ever a problem in a game as expansive as EVE. There’s always one more system to conquer, one more asteroid to mine, one more ship to pop. The more likely scenario is that you end up losing those objects you managed to gain.

Once again, we come back to risk. Risk is a funny thing for our average hoarder. On the one hand, risk is the single greatest threat to parting you with your stuff. You can’t lose that officer fit battleship if it never leaves the station, right? However, in New Eden, nothing is gained without some amount of risk. Risk is the gateway to greater riches and ultimately more stuff. Ultimately, every packrat, indeed every capsuleer, must come to a balance of accepting risk and taking on the amount they’re comfortable with. As the EVE mantra goes, “Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.”

Influence: Becoming Space Famous

The last motivator I will touch on is the desire to be space famous. Those who have achieved this position are often showered with praise and derision just as often. Simply put, this is the desire for attention.

The natural question when looking upon these celebrities of New Eden is what makes them famous in the first place. Of the myriad of reasons one can come up with, I believe there’s a common thread. These are the people that provide content to the rest of EVE. To use the sandbox analogy, the space famous are the kids that came up with the cool games when you were young. They’re the ones that are doing things and getting things done. People are going to naturally gravitate to them because, frankly, making things happen in New Eden is hard work.

The downside to this motivation is that your time in the spotlight may come to an end. There may come a time when someone better and new comes along and takes your place. Even worse, you may lose that special something that drew people to you in the first place. There aren’t many things more demoralizing than finding out you’re replaceable.

The Take Away

So you may be asking what the take away from all this is. Put simply, I would encourage you to evaluate your own motivations for playing EVE and seriously ask yourself are you getting the most out of it. Try not to be motivated simply by one factor, as that factor can easily be taken away. The last thing we want is for you to quit because the reason I play this game isn’t for the story or game mechanics–it’s because of the players.


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Image of Lioso Cadelanne
Lioso Cadelanne
I'm Lioso or Justin IRL. I'm an avid player of Eve Online and other MMOs. I've been a gamer most of my life and have a particular fondness for MMO's. The culture of Eve and of gamers in general fascinates me and much of what I write about reflects that.