Presentation of the game
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What is EVE Online?

Introduction

EVE Online is an MMORPG, a genre which is dominated by World of Warcraft and its numerous clones. Thankfully, aside from belonging to the same category, these two games don't have much in common. By offering a deep and original gameplay, in a relatively dark and violent sci-fi universe, EVE has been able to stay afloat where so many have drowned, shadowed by WoW's influence... Which is an impressive feat considering that the game is even older than said WoW.

In EVE Online, your eventual past experiences in other MMOs will not be very useful. Most mechanics are wildly different, much deeper, and offer way more freedom. Your creativity will be much more stimulated, as will your initiative, ability to keep a cool head, or even your communication skills.

The best game trailer ever

Before we begin talking about EVE in more details, there is a video realized with actual gameplay recordings of actual players that I'd like you to see. CCP has kept the original audio, and redone with a very high fidelity the scenes in their own rendering engine, so that the UI is hidden, and the action more readable. The end result is exhilerating, and quite authentic. For once, this is a video game trailer that doesn't lie about the actual cntent of the game.

Aside from giving you a brief glimpse of what the game actually is, it will also show you the emotional weight that some in-game situations have, something that is truly unique to EVE, and is in big part due to the way the game is structured.. More on that later.

Watch the video

CCP

So let's delve deep into this guide's main focus! EVE Online is a game released in 2003 by CCP Games, an Islandic game development company. CCP is one of the companies that highly values player feedback and player communication, even before doing such was considered trendy. This shows in the end result, as EVE Online is a game that belongs as much to its players as it does to the company developping it.

Nearly bankrupt in 2003, CCP has managed to reverse the tide, to create something unique, to prosper... And reach the state that we see today, with a game that is more than 13 years old and counting, and with other projects still in development or already released (EVE Valkyrie, Project Nova, EVE Gunjack...)

The key, the small initial difference that changes everything, is that CCP has understood that instead of trying to grow at all costs by racing to the bottom until the game dies, it was much more viable to create customer loyalty and embrace game mechanics that might be more complex than average, creating a more engaging game. And once in-game, it changes everything! From the gameplay styles that the developper choses to adopt, to the value of player investment and trust, or even to the notion of accomplishment. Because once freed from the constraints of constant marketshare growth, it is possible to create massive and revolutionnary features, without the developer fearing to lose some of its customers.

Note: That doesn't mean that new players aren't welcome though. For instance, it can happen for a new player to get privately contacted by a GM, just passing by to see if said new player is encountering any specific issues during the tutorial.

EVE Is also...

EVE is also the endless evolution of a game that aims at turning into the "Ultimate SF Simulation". With more than 20 free biannual expansions, numerous graphical and gameplay changes, the game is showing that it has the means to keep trying to reach this ultimate goal. Everything happens on a single worldwide (except for the Chinese) server, called Tranquility, which means that beyond the numerous features of the game, the universe itself is also alive and somewhat "authentic"... Something often overlooked when tring to re-create a good Sci-fi universe.

EVE is also the place for excessiveness. Battles of hundreds of people, corporations able to reach 14 000 members, more than 7500 solar systems, millions of ships destroyed forever... Those are the numbers of the game. They may not be the norm, but they are possible and do occur in-game. What could be more authentic than a game that doesn't try to put virtual barriers in place to limit the strength of the biggest organizations? (In other MMOs, the maximum size of player groups is limited to ensure that their power level can be kept in check).

The sandbox

The core of the game!

As opposed to other MMOs, in EVE Online the NPCs only play a minor role, in the game's economy, in the player's progression... And even in its adventures. (EVE is, by the way, one of the only games that can legitimately use the term "economy" when talking about its trading system, as it is almost entirely player driven)

And so the main role falls on the players! This concept is simple in theory: The player is at the center of everything, but actually hard to implement, else the absence of any decent competition.

The sandbox translates to...

Let's take an item, for instance a ship. If you have used a Blueprint Original to build it, it is the only item in the entire industry chain that doesn't comes from a player. Everything else, from the minerals used to build the ship, to the research done on the blueprint to improve it, to the hauling of the minerals and  finite product, was fully done by one, or often multiple, players.

For your progression, this is the same thing: No need for devs to endlessly add new dungeons, new battlegrounds... In EVE, the progression is cyclic, whihc means that the goals that you have are YOUR decision... Because you can do pretty much everything, or nearly everything. Therefore, YOU also choose when your goal is reached, and what will be the next one. Hence the cyclic reference.

This freedom is also found in the way in which you equip your ship, as an infinite amount of module combinaisons are possible. I often define this concept of being like a toolbox: There is a lot of choice, and it's up to the player to compose with it, depending on its needs and desires. This works for the ship, as much as it works for the goals explained above.

Finally, let's take the example of a "low security" area. In a classical MMO, areas that are reserved to veteran players, are classified as such because of the monsters that will roam it. In EVE, other players are the danger. If there were no players, the game would be nearly secure everywhere. Once again, players are at the core of the content of the game. Not devs.

Key Points

Freedom

The game is balanced in such a way that there is no ultimate combinaison of modules for your ship... Instead, think of it like chess: Each module has strenghts, but each module can also be countered by something else. There is no perfect strategy, only adaptation. This opens the path for a ton of roles that you wouldn't see in other MMOs: Scout, Spy... Because information is key to adapting your strategy, and will matter, during a space battle, as much as your character (and player) combat skills.

Still about freedom, the recurring question coming from new players used to more mainstream MMOs, is "I have done the tutorial, what now?". This highlights the downside of beeing too free, as it forces EVE Players to find their own objectives. This itself is a very good point, but not for new players, as they only have a distant idea of the various careers of this game... Which is one of the most contributing factors to new players not sticking around long enough to enjoy the game.

Teamplay

Teamplay, as obvious as it may sound for an MMO, is an integral part of the game. EVE is really meant to be played together, and while you can reasonable explore and enjoy it alone, EVE's full potential can only be unlocked as a team.

This is not an MMO that will make you play alone, next to other players also playing solo. Or at least, it is not the most rewarding format.

Investment

Your character's progression is made of skills that improve with real life time. This means that your actual playtime doesn't matter as much, as your character will improve with or without you (as long as you keep putting new skills in its "skill queue"). The absence of restrictions or specializations means that any player can train any skill, leaving you with a lot of choice to do absolutely everything you want, on a single character.

But everything is a question of time, and you don't have any easy way to substantially shorten it. EVE is therefore a game that is best considered on its long timespan. Due to the way skill levels work (exponentially longer to train for each level), a veteran player will not be impossibly strong compared to a new player, and you can actually catch up this veteran relatively "quickly" (for EVE) in one specific domain. It is therefore fairly accessible to get as effective as a veteran players for specific activities, but what the veteran has, is that they will be effective in multiple domains.

This is a very clever way to let new players have a shot, while giving an advantage to veteran players, and make the progeression meaninguful. Note that EVE has some (rare) gameplay mecanics to restrict objectives to, for intsance, some of the first class of ships. These artifical limits are pretty rare, as they are not very "EVE-like", but they do offer some form of equality between two players of varied character age.

Still on investment, the large variety of game mecanics and their depth, means more complexity for the player. The progression curve will therefore be slower, but it offers lots of interesting possibilities during gameplay. Knowing when to bring what ressources to a fight can actually be much more important than bringing the theoretical best ressources. This ensures that the game stays fun for everyone, as smaller ships stay viable even in the end-game, and as in-game wealth will not equal success.

Stakes

What makes EVE, EVE.

In this game, there is no notion of reimbursment. What is lost, is lost forever. What is stolen or acquired through scamming, remains the property of the scammer. This means that any loss will not magically reappear in your ship hangar, that Game Masters will not refund you, and so on...

Likewise, goals that you can achieve are done on a long-term basis, with durations in days, weeks, and months... There is a lot more at stake when someone or something tries to endanger your goals, as they represent a substantial investment of time.

But is this actually a bad thing? No! As this is this very notion of risk, and reward, that gives its unique sensation to PvP Combat in EVE, and overall any risky enterprise. This is the very difficulty of realization of an objective, that makes it all the more rewarding to actually manage to pull it off!

 

Wrapping things up

We are now reaching the conclusion of this presentation. In addition to thanking you for sticking with this article for so long, I'd last to add one final word:

No, EVE is clearly not for everyone. It is a mature game where you cannot find any "instant fun" like you would on Call of... However, do not forget that just because you aren't familiar with some game mechanics, doesn't mean that they are incompatible with you!

This is not because most MMOs took the same approach, that other viewpoints aren't interesting to consider.

In order to truly wrap things up, here is a short CCP Trailer illustrating the concept of butterfly effect in EVE, something that can only happen in a game with a worldwide server, and a wide array of possibilities (including betrayal) embedded in rich and complex gameplay:

Please note that EVE is not a dogfighting game. You issue orders to your ship, and will not use a joystick or any controls of the sort to fly it.

At its core, EVE is more like a real-time, mono-ship strategy game.

Interested by the game? Don't forget to use the Trial Reward Program for your EVE Online account creation!