My name is Gonzo aka 'Kismeteer' in a game I play called Eve Online made by CCP. Eve is a 'sandbox' mmo. "Kyle T" reached out to me in discord and asked me about what drives these narratives that happen in eve. I like to tell new players that Eve is 90% boring, 9% okay, 1% pure excitement, because it is a slow moving game. But nothing matches it when things really kick off.
But there are a couple key features that make Eve different.
Everyone is in the same world, there are no 'shards', no instances. This encourages people to build a name for themselves. Other games: Foxhole, Planetside.
The game can scale to a number of players that is not found in any other game. CCP holds two world titles for most players (6,557) and largest fight (8,825). These fights happen organically, without any input from CCP. It is always unclear if these fights will start, if they will escalate, if they will escalate again, and what happens next. The only other game that comes close is maybe Planetside 2, which broke 1,283 players, while Eve regularly breaks 2k.
Around 95% of all things in the game are built, used, and lost by players. This caused a cyclical loop of activity, where things cause a 'butterfly effect' on every other thing in game. Other games: Foxhole, Minecraft, Ark, Rust
There is a concept of risk vs reward that doesn't exist in most other games. By risking more, you have a greater chance of reward. When you die, you drop everything on you, allowing enemy players to claim those things. The losses of individual ships can equate to hundreds of man hours of effort. Other games: Tarkov, Diablo
Spying is encouraged. You are allowed to disguise yourself to gain an advantage in the game against other players. Because it is player driven, letting in an enemy can cause you to lose everything. Other games: Minecraft, Rust
There are no resets, no do overs, everything that happens is forever in the game. The only reversals are the game bugging out, and are rarely done. If someone comes and knocks over your sandcastle, it stays knocked over. Your hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of spaceships are blown up. Other games: ???
By combining these 6 aspects, you get a unique game, unmatched in the marketplace. All the ore mined, to get the minerals, to build the ships, to be flown by players, to be blown up by players, all with very little help from CCP NPCs. This can cause motivated players to pool together to make corporations, to make alliances, to make factions, to make massive groups of 50,000 people all pulling towards the same goal. It also thrives on the idea of 'asymmetric warfare', where everyone shoots the weakest link to remove it. People brag about 'wanting small gang' when they actually want is to gank helpless people.
Let's take a theoretical example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08hmqyejCYU is a video of the 'butterfly effect' that outlines one of these events. But this might be a more accurate representation.
I go out into a belt, mine ore with several friends, using ships and equipment built by players. One of the players, we'll call AG, decides that he did most of the work and isn't being rewarded enough.
We refine that ore to make minerals, often in a player-created citadel, but maybe an NPC owned station. There is a minor tax associated with that, paid in minerals.
We sell some of the minerals to buy other products. We think of a plan!
We buy a Blueprint Original from a CCP NPC, or more likely for a small scale enterprise, a blueprint copy from a player.
We use that Blueprint to create a citadel in space, a safe space to dock.
During this entire process, AG thinks the citadel should be named after him, and gets mad when we disagree.
AG contacts a couple friends outside the group, and asks 'hey can you come reinforce this citadel? I want to see what happens!'
We are taken aback, unaware of AG's actions, and mount a defense of this structure after the first cycle. We contact experienced pvpers, mercenaries, who show up when it's done.
However, because AG knows our plans, he contacts the enemies of those experienced PVPers, who will show up to shoot the mercenaries we hired.
When the fight kicks off, it's small, a small fleet, maybe bombers.
Then a small group of cruisers to shoot the bombers and defend the citadel. Then a full fleet of HACs show up to shoot the cruisers.
Then a HAW dread. So dreads are dropped to kill the HAW dread, along with a carrier.
Then supers are dropped. Then titans are dropped. Doomsdays are flying across the field. During the fight, AG renames the citadel 'AG Wins'.
At this point, this battle is out of control. Byigger and bigger ships causes everyone in all of eve to say 'holy crap big fight going on here'. All of eve escalates, running to that system to do whatever is best for their group, but mostly to shoot spaceships.
AG reveals that they should have just named the citadel for him, and uses this to launch his own corporation to fight us. Some of our friends go with him, but most just hate each other forever for a minor betrayal. :)
Hey guys, remember that fight of AG Wins? That was crazy. Repeat this story from the POV of 2,000 different players.
Or maybe everything just kind of ends at step 8. or 11. You just don't know where it might spiral into, it's uncertain, and that's the real beauty.
There are similar story lines in CCP's video 'I Was There' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSxSyv4LC1c though the Shadoo version is more accurate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zMKXTJL35g
Minecraft has a lot of similarities to Eve style. Everything is player mined and built, you risk your diamond armor to get greater rewards, you can play on very large servers with a couple hundred, and a spy can get access to your cache of diamonds and steal everything. But it is sharded more than any other game out there, with most playing on 2-4 people together rather than 150 on a daily and constant basis.
Tarkov has the idea of actions having consequences and trusting players who might betray you, but nothing is forever, you can easily change names, and cheating is mainly present in the sense that there are wallhacks and aimbots. And is limited to around 8 players at most, has frequent wipes due to the problems they're experiencing, and does not have things 'escalate' because everyone starts at once and everything is over in 45 minutes.
Foxhole is maybe one of the closest games, with a much smaller subscriber base of 2k-ish simultaneous versus Eve's peaks of 20k-ish. It has a player driven economy, has meaningful actions, and has a semi-spying acceptance, though it's being suppressed. It doesn't have the 'reward' aspect down, and does regular wipes because there is an end game. You can risk tanks, but the loss of that tank can be replaced in a few hours of work.
Anyway, this is now long enough that I'll just post it as an essay on my website. :) Let me know what you think.