I have been having one of those little days of doing lots of random things that are all geared towards doing stuff on various levels. However, they are so scattered and seemingly interconnected and in a way seemingly unproductive that I pondered: What does a player do in Eve?
One of Eve's most confusing characteristics is that there is nothing that has to be done. Aion is my newest and latest comparison tool (I have never played Wow). When I log in, I have little quests to do. I can do random things to improve my character but I always have my little quests to do.
There is none of that in Eve. Optional will be the word of the day.
Eve's mission running is the closest resemblence to a classic MMO's or games questing system that the game has. But Eve's missions are for the most part single instance things. You can go to any agent that you can access, ask for a mission, complete it, turn it in, and walk away to never meet that agent again. NPCs seek you out every 16 missions for 'storyline' missions that effect your standings. All in all the mission system is 100% optional and a player never has to interact with it if they do not wish to.
What do Eve players do? The game is a sandbox game without direction. There is an interactive world out there. NPC factions, security status, faction status, NPC corp status, high sec, low sec, null sec. You can fight, mission, mine, haul, build, trade, explore, fly around, chat, spin your ship, develop offline applications... its and endless list.
A game that is significantly nonlinear is sometimes described as being open-ended or a sandbox, though that term is used incorrectly in those cases, and is characterized by there being no "right way" of playing the game. A common consequence (intentional or unintentional) of open-ended gameplay is emergent gameplay.
I believe that defines Eve quite well. With the lack of a 'leveling' system and a steady passage of time towards charater development goals as long as the subscription is paid, Eve's gameplay becomes about the player's personal development within the game. It sounds serious. Thankfully, internet spaceships are serious business.
Doing "what you want to do" takes some time to develop. It is almost its own skill. The removal of direction and the need to learn leave a person adrift for a while. Progress can only be personally marked unless goals are accepted from another player, such as a corporation CEO or a Corporation's Recruitment requirements.
It also opens up non traditional gameplay career paths for players. Eve's wiki page for its career path is very bland but expected from what you would expect from the game.
1 PirateCareers: Industry
2 Mission Runner
3 Defense Specialist
4 Faction Warrior
1 MinerCareers: Business
1 SellerCareers: Exploration
From the top, it looks pretty good. Piracy is totally legitimate. But here are some random things the lost does not cover that players do.
Internal Security Specialist
Deep Space Hauling
ScammingCarrers: Out of Game
Jump Clone Services
Third Party Applications
Third Party Websites
As my corporation's first contact recruiter (they don't let me let people in. I am the gatekeeper.) I spent a chunk of time together doing write ups on the applicants for the decision makers to peruse. Yes. In a video game I did paperwork and wrote a report about it. It almost sounds terrible. Thankfully, I found it to be a pleasant and productive experience that has the added value of enhancing my in game time with new corporation members. That is a far cry from "Bring me the hides of 16 Zulaga Beasts."
I then managed my industrial stuff, did some calculations on building a few spaceships, spent some time doing exploration sites and downloaded the test server to go test the new changes to keep myself current on the situations that matter to my gaming. I tentivly set up a meeting with someone, updated the corporation forums with the latest news and in general felt that I was very productive. Yet, I have no Zulaga Beast hides to turn in to my quest person. No battles. But I enjoyed myself and I felt productive and accomplished with my game time.
I've been playing for nine or ten months now. It starts to get harder to define myself within a box. "What do you do?" Well... a lot of stuff... some of it interesting to others some of it interesting only to me. That's the beauty of it.