First, the Facts. EVE Online is an MMO by Icelandic developer CCP Games. It operates on a subscription system, whereby players shell out $14.95 per month, or less if they buy multi-month packages. EVE launched on May 6, 2003, and has seen thirteen expansions since then, all distributed free to players. There is a 14-day free trial available.
With those basics out of the way, here’s an even dozen good reasons you should be playing EVE Online, aimed especially at those folks who continue to bemoan the lack of impact PvP, player ability to affect the game world, and sandbox play.
One Universe. The average server for WoW or Warhammer or EQ2 or whatever tops out at a few thousand. That’s big, but it creates a number of logistical problems – like getting all your friends on the same server so you can play with them. EVE is run on a single shard that really reflects what we mean when we say “massive.” Everybody is playing in the same universe, instead of different iterations or copies of a universe.
The Scope. The EVE universe is almost certainly the largest virtual world out there, not only in terms of space, but in terms of the number of players inhabiting it. Because EVE players all play on the same shard, the number of users playing at any given time is usually in the tens of thousands. There are almost eight thousand star systems in the EVE universe (about 2500 of which are accessible via wormholes,) each a vast expanse in its own right, with planets, moon, settled stations, asteroid belts and weird anomalies like rogue drone hubs and such. Some of those systems see very little traffic, of course, but it’s trivial to find systems in Empire with dozens or even hundreds of players in them at any time. A few have thousands, routinely.
Persistence. While it’s not technically true to say that there’s no instancing in EVE (mission instances spawn when you pick up a mission,) these instances are not private copies of some subset of the world as they are in other games. Other players, friendly and not, can find them and join you in them. Because space is big, this can be hard to do, but you’re never disconnected from the universe in the same way that you are in, say, a WoW dungeon. It’s also not technically true to say that there are no loading screens, either – but they’re hidden in the gameplay, so you never really notice them unless you think about them.
Amazing graphics. EVE looks as good as or better than anything on the market, but just saying that is kind of wishy-washy. There are amazing scenes to see in the EVE universe, from the Titan of Caldari Prime to the EVE Gate. Even garden-variety systems boast features of spellbinding beauty. I’m not a habitual taker of screenshots in MMOs; I rarely even think to take them in WoW or WAR or EQ2. But I take one when I come across something that I find genuinely spectacular – and I’ve taken many in EVE. Only from Vanguard do I have a comparable number of screenshots.
Do what you want. With negligible programmed content and no scripted storylines at all, EVE dumps you out of its series of tutorials with a basic understanding of how the game works, and lets you decide what you want to do from there. Want to be a tramp merchant travelling from star system to star system? Or be a belter scavenging precious ores from asteroids? Do you want to be a pirate, taking what you want from others by the threat or application of naked force? Or a corporate kingpin, or a captain of industry, or a ruthless bounty hunter tracking your quarry in the dark places between the stars? Do you want to build an empire out in lawless space, and rule by justice or fear? In EVE, you can find a way to do it.
Lore. Almost hidden under the dynamic universe and player-driven gameplay is the tremendous amount of top-quality lore that CCP has developed. I’d stack its depth up against that of anything else on the market. Especially neat are the regular in-character news bulletins issued by CCP as often as a couple times a week. These lend a dynamic atmosphere of unfolding events as a backdrop to the game, without tying you to a developer storyline.
Set your own goals. EVE doesn’t have a storyline track for you to follow. It’s not just possible for you to set your own in-game goals, it’s necessary. EVE gives you tools and systems – it’s up to you what you do with them. EVE is the definitive MMO sandbox.
The amazing community. I doubt I’m letting you in on a secret by telling you that there are a lot of dicks in MMOs. This is no less true of EVE Online. In fact (and see below,) in some respects aggressive players who like to screw with other people have more room to do so in EVE, because of the game’s open structure. But on the other hand, no MMO has so many helpful players willing to offer advice, assistance, or even ISK, and no game has anywhere near the volume and quality of the resources available online. Guides to every conceivable activity and game subsystem, handbooks for newbies, podcasts, blogs, videos, streams, machinima, forums… the wealth of information and resources are available is second to none. Which is really amazing when you think about it, and consider that only WoW – a game with forty times as many players – even comes close. And still falls short.
There are player corporations involved in every conceivable activity: mining corps, manufacturing corps, mission-running corps, bounty hunter corps, pirate corps, RP corps, nullsec empire corps… and corps that do all these things and more.
A Real Economy. Almost everything in EVE is made by players. While the game seeds a few things like skill books, just about everything else was made by a real person. What’s more, everything can be traded between players (factional ships cannot currently be traded, true, but this restriction is about to be dropped.) This creates the biggest and most robust economic simulation in or out of gaming. Commodities rise and fall in price according to supply and demand, markets are cornered, and economic wars are waged between enemies who never fire a shot. The size of the universe and player base contribute to this.
PvP with consequences. In EVE, you can in principle be attacked anywhere, at any time… although the NPC space cops might come down hard on your attacker if you’re in protected space. But that doesn’t stop it from happening, sometimes. And you can lose your ship and the modules and cargo in it to the folks who shot you down. It’s not “full loot” – some of the stuff will be lost – but it’s pretty close. Interestingly, this has not led to an atmosphere to constant griefing. Instead, it’s led to a culture wherein “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose” is the prime directive. And because they can’t take your money and everything can be bought and sold freely on the market, anything you lost can be replaced.
Player impact. Because of all these things, the actions of a single player can have a measurable effect in shaping the universe. Players can build their own stations, which function just like those of NPCs, changing the very landscape of the universe. Players can forge their own nation-states out in nullsec, establishing sovereignty over star systems. Players create the mightiest empires in EVE, not the developers. And players, often in groups but sometimes alone, can make them fall. Players have a huge impact on the play of the people around them, because to a certain extent, everything in EVE is PvP. Even the lowly miner hacking Scordite out of asteroids is keeping minerals – and therefore money – out of the hands of other players. The tramp trader hauling stuff between systems is fouling the gears of somebody’s carefully-managed industry. In EVE, you can take out an opponent, fight a war or even cause a mighty alliance to fall with or without firing a shot. You.
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