EVE is one of the few MMOs that have a vibrant role-play community, mostly due to both the open ended sand-box feel of the game and also the rich vibrant history to the EVE universe. It is highly recommended that you read up on at least the basics of EVE's history, as found at the EVE background collection of pages. Most of EVE's history are very good reads, especially the EVE Chronicles short stories, which touch on most all of the major subjects in the EVE universe.
Once space-faring became profitable due to asteroid mining and vacuum manufacturing, it did not take long for humans to settle all the planets and moons of the Sol system. Naturally, this development increased the economic growth of Earth, making humans more capable then ever of reaching further into deep space. The distance between solar systems was a difficult barrier to surmount, but the discovery of Warp technology changed all that. Jump gates, using gravity coupled with negative energy to create stable wormholes between them, allowed instant travel between two points in space. The downside, of course, was that one of the Jump gates had to be physically carried to its destination point, but their advent nevertheless started off the gradual expansion of the human race to other solar systems.
The next big step was the advancement of Warp technology into Jump drives. The first version only allowed very short jumps within the same solar system, but later versions allowed ships to jump between systems without the aid of a Jump gate. This sped up expansion considerably, and in short time humans had established settlements in hundreds of systems, including dozens of fledged colonies. By then, however, the expansion process was becoming increasingly difficult due to stifling bureaucracy. Almost every solar system within jump range had already been bought or leased long before actual colonization began, and many of those wishing to settle in a new world had to wait years to fulfill their dreams.
Things took an unexpected turn for the better, however, with the discovery of a natural wormhole near the system of Canopus . Although the existences of wormholes had long been the subject of speculation, this was the first natural occurrence of the phenomenon ever seen. Probes sent into the wormhole showed it was stable and it led to a solar system in an unknown galaxy. This system could be a far-flung region of our own Milky Way galaxy, another galaxy at the other side of the universe, another dimension, or parallel universe.
The wormhole was christened EVE because of the new worlds and new beginnings that it offered. A decision was made to build Jump gates at both ends of EVE. Only specially enforced ships were able to use the wormhole itself. Scientists predicted that the EVE wormhole would never close. Men and equipment were ferried through the wormhole, to set up bases.
The system was soon christened New Eden. The gates at both sides of the wormhole were called “the gates of EVE.” They had to be exceedingly huge, because of the unstable nature of EVE and the unknown distance between them. They were the largest single structures ever made by mankind and took more than 200 years to build. It had been decreed that the new world would be free for anybody to settle on a first come-first served basis. As soon as it opened, hundreds of independent organizations began exploring and settling the new world.
The EVE wormhole closed while the EVE gates were still under construction. This didn't seem to affect the gates at all and they functioned properly from the start. But then, after seven decades of working flawlessly, disaster struck. An unexplained phenomenon engulfed the EVE gates, creating a severe disturbance, rendering the gates inoperable and reducing the prosperous New Eden system to rubble. The EVE gate in New Eden still exists, but any ship that tries to go near it is destroyed by the gravity storms.
The effects of Eve's closure were sudden and dramatic, with all the bases and settlements in New Eden being affected. Without the gates, the colonists found themselves cut off and isolated. As most of the colonies had only been settled a few years or decades previously, very few of them were self-sufficient. One by one the colonies died out. The few colonies who survived slowly lost their knowledge and advanced industries due to the lack of tools and the ability to maintain them.
For thousands of years, these scattered human enclaves lived and grew in isolation from each other. As time passed, their different environmental and ideological conditions wrought small changes to their physical appearance, making each distinct.
A compilation of the EVE Backstory is now available as a single pdf