I had an aha moment the other night while playing EVE. Several of my corp members were engaged in a mining op, and listening to them chat on Teamspeak, I realized that they were doing the equivalent of fishing. Right down to the beer.
Like a lot of EVE, the important part of mining is strategic. Where are you going to mine? Which kinds of rocks will you mine? What ship will you use? How will you fit it? For maximum efficiency, you will need someone to deal with the rats that might spawn in the belt, and someone to haul the ore to a station somewhere for processing. There are bonuses to output – buffs – to be had from having the right people and right ships in your fleet.
But once all that stuff is in place, there is lots of – well, I won’t say dead time – but space for kicking back. You can’t make it go faster by hurrying. The focus is on efficiency, not speed. Which cultivates a relaxed mind-set, and gives opportunity for conversation.
Which is like going on a fishing trip. The important things about fishing are mostly strategic: where will you fish, what equipment do you use, what bait to use, and who is going with you? Who’s bringing the boat/camper and the icebox? And so on.
And once you are on-site, at least with many kinds of fishing, the pace of affairs is dictated not by you, but by the fish. Which is the main appeal of it, I think.
I’m not much of a fisherman. This is doubly odd, since I grew up in a place where fishing was a business, in NW Washington State, with uncles who owned fishing boats. The kind of commercial fishing they did was a lot more active than EVE mining, though.
And my father was an avid fisherman. Mostly he did fly-fishing, which looked pretty fun, but I never got to lay hands on his expensive poles. We also did a little salmon fishing on Puget Sound, which I loved doing because A) I liked being out on the water and B) it gave me a chance to read.
In any case, it seems that many, if not all, MMO’s have some sort of fishing equivalent in them. WoW has, well, fishing. You can skill up, buy better gear, even do quests.
Everquest has fishing. Who hasn’t fished from the docks while waiting for the boat? Come to think of it, camping a room with a group in Everquest was a lot like fishing, once the spawn was broken.
EQ2 has fishing, but don’t be distracted by those harvesting nodes that have “fish” in them. That’s not fishing. No, I posit that the true fishing in EQ2 is gathering shinies. There’s gear to be had (the tinkered shiny tracker), and strategic decisions to be made. It might be more fishing-like if you simply had to wait for the shinies to come along, instead of constantly roaming for them, but then, that’s kind of like trolling rather than still-fishing.
LOTRO has fishing as such. Along with the “what’s going to be on the line this time” fun.
Zork Online doesn’t have any fishing. Maybe that was the Kiss of Death. That’s a game where there is nothing to do except go out and kill things. It kind of seems like a job after a while.
So the success formula for an MMO includes some sort of fishing equivalent, something that doesn’t involve killing things, and something that has a relaxed pacing to it, maybe one you don’t control.
That, and it needs to let you show off your fabulous red hair.