EVE Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) set in a futuristic region of space. Players pilot many different types of starcraft through a massive game world, forming complex alliances and even conquering the outskirts of space. EVE allows for space combat on a small or very large scale (versus both players and non-player combatants, or NPCs), resource gathering, production or goods, access to a huge interstellar market, and more.
What makes EVE Different?
From the EVE website:
EVE Online is an open-ended Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG). Most other MMORPGs focus on a structured playing style with predictable outcomes and monotonous leveling. This seemingly innocent fact is why EVE is so different from almost all other MMORPGs, as the players have an incredible impact on how the game develops.
One could compare this to the difference between a playground, such as EVE, and a theme park, which would be the traditional MMOG. In a playground you have access to different kinds of toys and rides, and you are allowed to use your own imagination to figure out how to create games you enjoy. In a theme park all the rides have been created for you and are either good or bad by design. The playground clearly offers more freedom but it requires you to think and be an active participant, while the theme park has taken those responsibilities away from you and you can just go with the flow. As an interesting side-note, “theme park” style MMORPGs commonly develop lines, just like real world theme parks, as players wait for monster spawns, rare items, or quest requirements.
Players that enjoy the freedom and opportunities for creative thinking an open-ended game offers have become mesmerized by EVE, while others that depend on structured, repetitive game style have not. For this reason we don't contend that EVE is for everyone, but for those that enjoy a bit more of a challenge.
A unique aspect of EVE is that it is run on one server. In EVE you can find over 25,000 players at any given time interacting in the same persistent universe. Other MMORPGS are played on multiple servers called Shards; these have a limited number of players on each, usually between 500 and 3000.
EVE is also different from other MMOs in the way that skills are gained and increased. Most games require the repetitive killing of NPCs or the running of quests in order to gain "experience" (XP), which normally allows one to "level up". In EVE, there is really no such thing as XP, nor are there levels. Progression in EVE is based upon skillpoints. There are a great number of skills in the game, some of which you begin with, and some for which the first ranks can be purchased. Skillpoints are gained by choosing to train a certain skill - that's it. The skill trains whether or not you are logged in. The simplest skills train very quickly, whereas the most complex ones take a great deal of time. But you can be effective in the game, and in group PvP almost from the start. Flying massive ships is going to take some time, but there are plenty of things to do along the way. There are no levels, no classes, no tradeskills to be locked into. You can literally do anything you want, given time and resources. In EVE, it's truly about the journey, not the destination.
The bottom line is that EVE is a rich and immersive universe centered on human interaction. Players can play the game as a simple space trader or endeavor to control the largest, most powerful company in the universe. We provide the rules and tools, but it is the players themselves who create the adventures.
Pros to EVE
Lasers in SPACE!
Eve-Online is graphically impressive and detailed (watch the video!), its music and sound effects are well done, and its gameplay is incredibly detailed and will keep you playing for months or years if space combat and economics are your bag.
Totally non-linear skill system
You are not “boxed in” to a certain set of skills depending on what race or gender or anything you want your character to be. You can start as one race and immediate begin training up ships for other races, and anybody can eventually fly any other ship and use any module in the game, given enough training time. Additionally, you train skills while offline, so you can take a break from Eve for days, or even weeks or months, and come back to a character that is stronger than when you left him.
No "maximum level" for your character
You literally could not train up every skill in Eve to its highest level. At the moment it would take nearly 7 years to max out every skill to Level V, and the devs release new skills every 6 months in free expansions, so the end-game in Eve is non-existent. Some people might call Titans (enormous, mobile station-ships) end-game, but a single Titan requires the efforts of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people to pay for, manufacture components for, and finally produce. And one pilot gets to fly it.
Broad and deep PvP system
Eve can be learned well enough in a few hours for you to fly around and shoot NPCs, but mastering the art of player combat in the literally millions of different ways to outfit the myriad ships of Eve will take months and years – and even then the devs are constantly introducing new ships, new modules, and new tweaks to the game to balance and rebalance PvP. There is no such thing as a person who has mastered every single ship in Eve because there is literally not enough time in the day for somebody to do it. You must work with wingmates and other corporations to achieve victory on the battlefield, and you must pick your enemies carefully as winning an unwise battle might pit you against far superior forces and lose you the war. Eve is a complex, but incredibly rewarding PvP experience.
Almost all ships, modules, and items that players use are player-produced in Eve, using raw materials harvested from asteroid and ice fields. A complex economy has developed over the last 2 ½ years: corporations look for investors, issue stock and dividends, fund large-scale projects worth thousands of real dollars, are destroyed by warfare and subterfuge, or thrive and grow into multibillion ISK conglomerates and alliances. Research investment may yield original blueprints to new ships and modules that can make you rich overnight, or you might labor for months and be left with nothing. Fraud, theft and piracy are everywhere, but so are the paths to riches. Eve is the best and worst parts of anarchy and capitalism together.
How you make money is your choice, and you have many. Hunting NPC pirates (called rats, not to be confused with player pirates, which is what people typically mean when they say "pirates" in Eve), running missions for agents for different factions and corporations, mining, hauling, production, trading, research, thievery, piracy – or all of the above.
The price is right
Eve costs $20 (less if you live in the UK and can find a copy of Eve in a store someplace) for the first month after your 2-week free trial, and then $12-15 a month afterwards depending on whether you purchase 1, 3 or 6 months at a time. All expansions are free and are released roughly every 6 months. Game timecards can also be purchased from other players for in-game ISK (credits), but it’s a very steep price for new players so don’t count on playing for “free” at first.
Eve can run on crappy 1 GHZ machines with semi-shitty video cards. Some people even run it on old laptops without a problem. People with super l33t machines can run multiple instances of it at once without significant problems if they’ve paid for more than one account (not recommended for PvP). If you get a lot of system lag with Eve, ask vets for option tweaking advice, because it should run pretty smoothly (especially on lower settings).
Cons to EVE
Newbie life is brutal
You start Eve with virtually nothing – few skills, almost no money, an awful newbie ship, and an incredibly diminished ability to make money for yourself. You are the space equivalent of a homeless person crawling out of the gutter and getting a sub-minimum wage job as an unskilled laborer. Going into the wrong part of space will get you shot and very likely blown up and podded, then laughed at by pirates. Ignoring a warning will get you blown up by the police and your security status lowered. The first few hours of the game are just as likely to be confusing as they are frustrating, but if you stick it out, you will find awesomeness just below the surface.
Steep learning curve
The newbie tutorial is long and boring, but skipping it means that you will likely make mistakes that will lead to you feeling like a horse’s ass and potentially getting frustrated with the game. There are so many things to remember that veterans take for granted and forget to mention to new players that it’s almost comical to see another newbie get blown up because he mistook a player for an NPC pirate and fired on him in secure space (and the police responded with immediate lethal force). Patience and a willingness to learn are mandatory for getting through the “I don’t know what’s going on” stage and into the “Wow there’s a lot of cool stuff that I need to remember” stage.
Your character takes time to develop
You cannot create a character, hop into a huge ship, and then go around blowing up player-owned space stations on day 2 of your existence, because you will neither have the money nor the skills to do so. It will take effort and planning to train up the proper skills to fly the huge/fast/powerful/stealthy/whatever ships that you’ve set your sights on, and it will take either ingenuity or work to make enough cash to purchase what you’ve finally trained for.
There are always bugs
Eve is generally free from bugs, but every major expansion introduces a good 25-30 new bugs to the game that take between 2-4 weeks to iron out. Occasionally a hotfix or minor upgrade will result in some crazy new bug that the devs don’t get to for a month, but it’s the exception and not the rule. Bugs are a part of MMOs, so everyone should be used to it by now, and at least you’re not paying for the expansions. You will crash every now and then too, but this can be mitigated by tweaking your options.
Lag is omnipresent, but improving
Since Eve isn’t a "twitch" game like Descent, Wing Commander or Freespace, this doesn’t matter as much as it would if every action was time-critical. However, Eve has grown much faster than its parent company anticipated, and they are struggling to keep the hardware upgraded fast enough to handle the new player base. Recently however, Eve's parent company CCP have purchased one of the 500 fastest computer systems in the world on which to base the Eve clusters, and upgraded to 64 bit IBM Blade servers, resulting in massive decreases in lag. Large, hundred plus player battles are no longer filled with lag, and it remains to be seen how many people you can cram into one system before the node crashes.
We have recently discovered (in February 2007) that it will take roughly 800-1000 people in one system to crash a node.
Neutral aspects to EVE
These features are either good or bad, depending on what you want in a game and how you look at them, but they make EVE, well, EVE.
It is impossible to “get ahead” skill-wise in Eve the way that you can poop-sock other MMOs by playing 24/7 for weeks or months. Skills are trained based on your character’s attributes, which are partially chosen at character creation and can be increased somewhat through training and temporary implants – but there are limits built-in. You will not be flying a capital ship around in week 2 because 1) it takes months to even have the skills required to pilot one, and 2) it takes months to have the skills to pilot one well enough to justify the in-game money required to buy one. Aside from earning a lot of money in-game so that you can buy somebody else’s character with more skillpoints, or earning money that will go to attribute-enhancing implants, new ships or better modules, playing a shitload does not get you much else besides out-of-game experience.
Every skill in Eve goes from level 1 to level 5, and each has its own rank. The first level of a skill varies but normally takes 15 minutes or so for a basic skill (i.e. Navigation to fly faster) to at most a few hours (Dreadnoughts to pilot the station-destroying capital ships) to train. Every level after that takes longer and longer, minutes to hours to days to weeks, to complete. A rank 1 skill usually takes about 15 minutes to train to level 1, an couple of hours to level 2, the better part of a day to 3, two days or so to 4, and a week more or less to 5 (taking into account basic Learning Skills which lower training time by permanently boosting your attributes). A rank 2 skill doubles all these times, rank 3 triples, etc. Skills also give the exact same bonus for each level trained (5% more damage per level, for example), so training a skill from 1 to 2 gives the same bonus as 4 to 5. The way this is set up means that it’s pretty easy to get levels to 3 or 4, but it takes a looooong time to get them to 5. So if we put a fairly new player with Gallente Frigate 4 together with an experienced player with Gallente Frigate 5 side by side, the experienced player only has a single level advantage (in that particular skill) against the newer player - so perhaps a 5% advantage in speed or damage, even though the experienced player spent a couple of weeks on training Gallente Frigate from 4 to 5. The flipside of this is that many advanced ships and modules have built-in requirements of high-level skills, so the experienced player can exploit his ability to use a ship with better stats that the newbie couldn’t. This means that you can fairly quickly become a jack of all trades in Eve and use most normal ships and modules well, but it takes a lot of time to master any one thing and a very long time to become a master of many things.
Aside from the built-in market mechanics and space police who shoot lawbreakers on sight in secure space, there is nothing to prevent fraud or theft on a massive scale in Eve. Corporations are routinely robbed by members who get access to corporate hangars, the contract market is filled with scammers who mislabel worthless goods and try to pass them off as full-price articles, pirates watch low-security gates like hawks and kill any newbie unlucky enough to wander by, loot from NPCs and players floats through space for anyone to steal, and anybody that you trust is potentially somebody that can blow you up and pod you in a moment of greed or anger.
There are two EVEs
One is the EVE of intense, pulse pounding adrenaline where you’re in the thick of combat against other players and your op leader is calling target after target while you rain hell down on the other ships and watch your shields frantically for some sign that you’ve been called primary and are about to get plastered with missiles and turret fire. The other Eve is mining in an asteroid belt, semi-AFK while you browse the forums, occasionally alt-tabbing back in to switch up your lasers to a different roid or dump the latest pile of ore from your hold into the jetcan which your hauler wingmate takes and empties into his larger cargo hold. Or going from agent mission to agent mission, grinding up your faction standing so that you can make a little more money each mission and painstakingly looting all of the cans left behind by dead NPCs so you can sell those for some spare cash. Eve can be incredibly fun or incredibly boring, depending on how you play it and what circumstances you find yourself in. Flying with your friends, shooting the shit on teamspeak while you cruise around low-security space looking for trouble and watching your victims explode in nuclear flashes – that is supremely awesome. Being camped in a station because 20 hostiles are outside and you’re all by yourself inside, your allies are hours away, and you can’t leave without being blown up – you might as well log off and go have some dinner.
The universe is large, and there’s only one
Eve is unsharded, so you HAVE to play with everybody else. There is no “carebear” server or “PvP” server, nor can you go to a different server when you alienate everybody with your shitty personality and unfunny jokes (and they can’t escape you either). Goons do not run the world, although they compose just over 1% of Eve’s player base they certainly must work with pubbies to survive and thrive together or in small groups. The upside is that the universe is massive – thousands of systems – so chances are that you can find a place to call home somewhere in the cosmos. Of course, the most valuable resources are scarce and (usually) contested heavily, so you’ll have to fight for your ability to get rich or stay rich. Politics and diplomacy are more important in Eve than other MMOs, because everybody has to live together and everybody wants what only a small number can possess at once.
What Can I Do In EVE?
As you would expect, the game focuses upon space travel. Players begin their life with a small ship and relatively little cash. Money can be made in a number of ways. To begin with, most players will accept missions from NPCs, which carry a cash reward. The missions can involve combat, courier service, etc. Missions also allow you to gain standing with various factions, which has certain benefits. Players also harvest the raw materials needed for production from asteroids, which can be very lucrative. Producers use these materials to fabricate a wide range of items. In EVE, you are not limited to creating certain types of items, as you are in other MMOGs, and anyone can create an item if they have the blueprint, though they will be less efficient than someone who has invested time in research and production.
Space combat, involving both NPCs and other players, is engaged in by most players. Player-vs-player (PvP) combat can range from solo to fleet operations, in which dozens to hundreds of players may participate, with many different roles available to players. Players, in the form of corporations and alliances, can even claim certain remote parts of space as their own, including space stations. There are also NPCs patrolling various parts of space that can be killed for a bounty, and for the loot that they drop.
The beauty of EVE is that you can do all of these, or a few, or just one. You can focus on trade and play the markets, or you can focus on PvP and lead operations, or scour space for enemies to kill.
It's About the Journey
In games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest, it's about the destination. You grind or quest to obtain the next level, eventually reaching the final level and entering the "endgame". EVE is not like other MMOs and requires a different mindset. While most MMOs are about the destination, with the journey itself being somewhat of a nuisance that you must endure, EVE is about the journey itself. You'll find yourself obtaining new skills regularly, piloting different types of ships with a wide range of roles and characteristics, perhaps manufacturing a wide range of products, etc. EVE has no levels, no classes, and no real notion of "endgame", because the world is largely player-controlled. While you may have a goal in the distant future - perhaps piloting one of the huge capital ships that can assault enemy installations, for instance - that's an extremely long term goal that will require becoming proficient with other skills in the shorter term. Each new set of skills brings new options and opportunity for players.
Short and Long Term Goals
For example, let's say that you want to pilot Interdictors, which are fast gunboats capable of deploying "warp spheres", which limit the enemy's ability to escape your fleet. The first thing that you'll do is learn to pilot frigates - small, maneuverable ships with light weapons. You'll train up the skills that matter - your piloting skills, your knowledge of frigates, the gunnery skills that are appropriate for that vessel, etc. Eventually you will be an accomplished frigate pilot. At that point, you can move on to Interceptors, which are high-tech frigates that are lightning fast, and good at harassing the enemy or immobilizing their ships so that they can be picked off by your fleet. Again, you'll train the relevant skills, and spend time learning to pilot Interceptors. Now, at some point you're also going to need to learn to fly Destroyers - fast, anti-frigate gunboats that are lightly armored. Finally, you'll learn to pilot Interdictors (which are high-tech destroyers), and you'll also train up your Science skills to be able to launch the spheres that can pull enemies out of warp drive. And once you learn to pilot Interdictors, there are still a great number of other directions in which you could proceed, each offering something new.
Whew. It may sound complicated, but the point is that you take EVE one step at a time. It's good to have a general idea of where you're going, as it informs you of what you'll need to train to get there, but you can have a great time piloting frigates or Interceptors, before moving on to other vessels. Better yet, you'll always have the option to fly those vessels, even after you can fly your Interdictor, and since you trained up those Frigate and Interceptor skills on the way the mere fact that you can fly these Interdictors will automatically make you a better frigate/Intercetpr pilot.
It's a different paradigm than most MMOs on the market, in which you are a Warrior hoping to hit level 60. There are no classes - you can train for anything you want. You can pilot battleships and Interceptors, given enough time. You can produce any item you want - you're not locked into being a "shipbuilder" or a "weaponsmith". The possibilities are almost endless. So, enjoy the ride, and go in whatever direction interests you. EVE is about the journey, not the destination.