Of course its all perceptual, something new and difficult to comprehend in terms of its scale will engender a feeling of amazement. Once we are accustomed to sensation and are better able to comprehend the phenomenon we are observing so that sense, or feeling, begins to wear off.
Of course this is a common problem for all MMO developers – that initial ‘OMG!’ sensation pulls us in and the desire to explore to comprehend holds us there, at least initially. The challenge for the developer comes however when that sensation passes. For most traditional MMOs the only solution is to add more and more content – additional feature packs with new realms to explore and new quests to complete.
That in turn creates additional problems – each subsequent expansion needs to be “bigger!”, “more epic quests!”, “HUGER monsters!” in order to re create that ‘OMG!’ moment.
And we’re not talking here just about the size of the universe but also its scale and depth. EVE isn’t just x number of star systems, its also x number of player corporations, x number of market transactions, x numbers of modules, x numbers of ways to play. That last one is key – the feeling that not only can you roam across thousands of star systems as a pirate but you could (if you were so inclined) do the self same thing as a trader. Or a smuggler.
Possibly the biggest pitch CCP have made to date to recapture that ‘OMG!’ moment has been the introduction of Wormhole Space. The uncertainties of travel, coupled with the removal of the local channel really help to create the sensation of space being a vast and unknown quantity. Sadly in some respects CCP just fell short in my view of what it could have been. Because w-space is the ‘sleeper’ version of EVE it is, well rather predictable. When I arrive at a wormhole that tells me Im entering ‘unknown space’ although actually, from prior experience, I really already know a great deal about it.
It will have sleeper drones and sites, no outposts, perhaps a few player POS and …erm..well thats it. I wont stumble across a isolated sansha outpost, or ruined station where I can dock and wonder at why all the services are still running. I wont find a dark system full of asteroid belts but devoid of planets. In short I am ‘exploring’ but my destination is already known to me.
To what extent Incarna changes that feeling of finding something new is hard to judge – that spike to the brain that makes you think ‘whoa…this universe is BIG!’ because it is so different from one locale to the next. If I dock in a station in Verge Vendor how different will it look to any other station environment in the region? Or to the region next door?
If, and its a big ‘if’, these stations develop and are customizable internally to the extent that they become ‘places’ in the real sense of the term then CCP will probably have pulled it off. Perhaps that station in Fensi will become renowned for its gothic decor and dubious residents? Whilst one in Ansur a haven for industrialists and miners – gritty dark but functional: the main hall statue a tourist attraction for the whole cluster?
If, on the other hand, one Incarna environment is well, pretty much like the next, then I think its appeal will be limited and that sense of wonder and awe one which soon fades.