My relationship with multiplayer games is complicated. It started with Doom 2 LAN parties and moved on to Warcraft 2 and Starcraft, Civilization, and so on. Multiplayer, back then, was always PvP. You’d play games with and against your friends. Things like co-op weren’t really part of the picture. Sure, there was ‘comp-stomping’ (you and your friends vs. the, usually very poor, AI) and the like, but let’s face it: there was no challenge there, and for me the whole point of multiplayer gaming was to find a challenge that the AI couldn’t give you without cheating rampantly and obviously.
EVE Online was released in 2003, at the height of the ‘Everquest Addiction’ fervor. I didn’t discover it until a friend introduced me to the game in 2005, and I immediately fell in love. EVE Online’s appeal has to do with the ways in which it capitalizes on the multiplayer aspect to deliver a dedicated PvP experience. The cooperative PvE is there, and lately it’s become quite good, but what makes EVE shine is the way it allows players a spectacular degree of freedom to play in the game how they please. The results are often discouraging to those who imagine humanity to be fundamentally, morally good, but by permitting the skullduggery, CCP gives great meaning to the decision to not be an asshole. The result is a world with much higher stakes than worlds like WoW offer. Only the smallest fraction of games offer this kind of experience.