Ten years ago CCP Games released Eve Online, an unusual sci-fi space combat massively multiplayer game that revolves around a player-driven economy and society. Unlike most games that have tried the same, Eve managed to survive, even thrive, and its popularity has only risen with time.
Yet most gamers only remember their early experience which, for many, was rather painful. Early Eve suffered from a terrible interface, unforgiving mechanics and an almost non-existent tutorial, and even veteran MMO players often bounced off these obstacles. Over the past few years, however, CCP Games have made changes to help newbies dig into Eve’s massive universe, and they’ve paid off.
The Tutorials Are Good
I tried to get into Eve three times prior to my latest attempt, and every time I struggled because of the very bare-bones tutorial which only introduced a few basic mechanics, like targeting, and then unleashed the player on the universe. Entire professions went unexplained.
Thankfully, this rather obvious flaw has been fixed. The game now has five separate mission lines available at the start, each covering a different mechanic; mining, trade, exploration, basic combat, and advanced combat (which tends to focus on PvP). In addition to teaching the game, these tutorials offer substantial monetary rewards, and even hand out numerous frigates. Nothing exotic, of course, but the ships you obtain in the tutorial can be very effective with the right equipment.
Some players may find the tutorials to be a lot of reading, and that’s not an unwarranted complaint; Eve is still a complex game, and it takes a little time to explain. But the tutorials are absolutely worth doing, and they provide the resources a player needs to get started in their chosen profession.
You Can “Carebear”
Eve is a game known for its massive warfare between player corporations. These battles have at times been so large that they’ve made headlines on the BBC and The New York Times. War and politics are part of the game, and CCP Games doesn’t attempt to police either.
Yet, in spite of those stories, Eve has an active “carebear” community of players who enjoy only solo or cooperative content. Most of the player population is in “high-sec” space, which is policed by NPC ships that attack pirates. Players sometimes make suicide attacks against others in these territories, but such “ganking” usually only targets very, very high-value ships. Most players in high-sec space are never given trouble.
PvP Is More Accessible
At the same time, however, player versus player has been made more accessible. This is mostly thanks to the factional warfare system that was introduced in 2008 and has since been gradually tweaked and refined. Faction warfare, which occurs between the four major empires (every player chooses to be a member of one at character creation), is limited combat between opposing factions with the ultimate goal of taking over star systems and earning ranks.
Three factors make this kind of fighting easier for players. First, the systems designated for faction warfare are just a few jumps away from major high-security trade centers. Second, faction warfare doesn’t reduce your security status, which means you won’t be marked as a pirate. And finally, the combat areas for this kind of PvP come in different flavors. Novice ones can only be entered by basic frigates, small ones can be entered by frigates and destroyers, and so on. This helps players find areas where they’re likely to find a relatively even match. Militia members even receive discounts on faction equipment, which helps reduce the real cost of losing ships, a misfortune you’re certain to experience.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s still risk and cost involved. New players will need to do some other content for a couple weeks before starting to look into faction PvP. But this sort of warfare is much easier to enjoy than the free-for-all of corporate war and is much more likely to result in relatively even fights.
There’s An Insane Amount Of Content
Eve has received 18 expansions over the last ten years, and all of them have featured a new gameplay system, substantially revised an old one, or added new systems and/or ships. This has accumulated to a mind-boggling volume of content.
Many players will start out doing missions, tasks that gradually become more complex and difficult as access is gained to level two, three, and four agents (Eve’s name for quest givers). These pay well and provide a literally unlimited stream of content, but many will branch off to other professions. Players can trade, explore, mine, salvage, craft, “rat” (slang for hunting hostile NPCs outside of missions), run incursions, join in faction warfare, or engage in piracy.
What sets the content apart from an average MMO, however, is that it never becomes irrelevant. The economy is driven by players who construct almost every item available in the game, so there’s a constant need for money and resources. Even the most common ore is in constant demand, which is why experienced miners can be seen extracting it from the relative safety of high-security space.
You Don’t Have To Spend Much (Or Anything) To Play
CCP Games has created a unique monetization system to go with its game. Players can sign up for a recurring monthly subscription, which is the typical $14.95 (pricing is the same in Euros, but 9.99 in pounds), after enjoying a 14-day free trial. Both the game client and the expansions are free, so don’t get ripped off by purchasing it for $49.99 on Amazon.
Players can also pay for their subscription with PLEX (short for Pilot’s License Extension), an in-game item that typically is priced between $14.95 and $19.95. Since its in-game, it can be sold or purchased with in-game currency. Current pricing is about 550 million ISK, which is too much for a new player to make in a month. But after some time in Eve it’s not difficult to play the game for free with in-game currency.
Or you can flip things the other way, buying PLEX with real money and then selling it on the market to give your character an instant boost. Some individuals even play the market, buying a number of PLEXs when their value is lowest (typically spring, as active player numbers take a seasonal dip) and then selling later (usually winter, when more people want to play).
Eve Online has come a long way since its release. Though still far from the most popular MMO, its developers deserve credit for evolving the game and reaching new players without simultaneously destroying the hardcore PvP which makes headlines. If you’ve tried Eve before, but found it too dense, give it another shot. You may be surprised by how much you enjoy it.