EVE Online, realistic sci-fi war economics

In my previous post I argued that games can be used to prototype alternative economical systems. This post introduces the sci-fi MMO called EVE online, a game which features an advances virtual economy. Could EVE be used to prototype new economies?

Picture of EVE online

EVE online, “where spreadsheet warriors go to wage war.” CC-Attribution: Elu One

Eve Online is all about trading, alliances and war over resources. The only thing that is generated automatically in the game are various asteroids which in turn form the basis for transport ships, massive fighter ships, space stations and all sorts of other items. Players form corporations ranging from small pirating groups to large well-oiled hiarchical organizations. While WoW’s players are spread over a number of “sharded” servers (identical worlds), EVE’s world exist on a single shard hosted by multiple servers. So, if you take two WoW players chances are they’re not playing on the same server, same world. However, in the case of two EVE players meeting each other they’re undoubtedly playing on the same server. EVE’s single sharded world enables all sorts of meta-gaming in the form of espionage and sabotage outside and inside of the game. Some people play the game entirely through spreadsheets as an economist for a large corporation or as a spy infiltrating enemy corporations and working their way up. [In my previous post I argued that games can be used to prototype alternative economical systems. This post introduces the sci-fi MMO called EVE online, a game which features an advances virtual economy. Could EVE be used to prototype new economies?

Picture of EVE online

EVE online, “where spreadsheet warriors go to wage war.” CC-Attribution: Elu One

Eve Online is all about trading, alliances and war over resources. The only thing that is generated automatically in the game are various asteroids which in turn form the basis for transport ships, massive fighter ships, space stations and all sorts of other items. Players form corporations ranging from small pirating groups to large well-oiled hiarchical organizations. While WoW’s players are spread over a number of “sharded” servers (identical worlds), EVE’s world exist on a single shard hosted by multiple servers. So, if you take two WoW players chances are they’re not playing on the same server, same world. However, in the case of two EVE players meeting each other they’re undoubtedly playing on the same server. EVE’s single sharded world enables all sorts of meta-gaming in the form of espionage and sabotage outside and inside of the game. Some people play the game entirely through spreadsheets as an economist for a large corporation or as a spy infiltrating enemy corporations and working their way up.]3

Corporations profiting on war

One such EVE online story my friend told me was how his corporation planned to wage war on a neigbouring system. In preparation, they went in and bought up a lot of key resources in that system before putting it back out on the market under an heavily increased prize. They then moved in on the system and started waging war. To respond to the attack their enemy had to buy resources for the war, resources which my friend’s corporation sold at a high prize. In sum, my friend’s corporation earned money on the war. He told a number of these stories how they could quite realistically “play the market” in this game.

What was perhaps most interesting was hearing my friend explain how corporations would be run as hyper-capitalistic, communistic, as a mix, or completely novel economical entities. There is some research on Eve Online as a phenomenon, but not so much on what economical approaches corporations undertake. If one had access to a copy of EVE’s game database, one might be able to use number crunching to search for patterns in corporations’ approach to handling their economics.

Sounds like a potential research avenue.