Sandbox Space Sim: EVE Online

By Shamus
on Feb 2, 2014
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Let’s just agree up front that I’m not going to be able to scratch the surface of a rough outline of a summary of this game. I’ve been playing for about a week, so writing about EVE at this point is like a guy from Azerbaijan deciding that since he spent 24 hours in Anchorage he’s qualified to write about AMERICA. The subject is too big for anything as ambitious as an overview. So if you’re an EVE veteran, try not to rage out about overlooked details or errors in this write-up. EVE is huge and there’s no way I could get it all down in the week I’ve been playing.

I’ve rolled a few characters, bought some ships, joined a corporation, and smashed about a million asteroids. The game isn’t so much “fun” as it is “engrossing”. I’m in it for a month, but I’m not sure I’ll extend my account beyond that. We’ll see. I’ll talk more about this in the podcast later this week.

A corporation is a player-run group. In other games they’re called guilds. The corp I joined is Starfield Enterprises. I joined Starfield because:

  1. They’re not so massive that I’d be lost, so I could ask my newbie questions without feeling like I was shouting into the storm.
  2. They focus on industry and mining, which is what interests me.
  3. Their name isn’t stupid. Far too many corps think that members would want to fly under the flag of “xXMurdar EliteXx” or “Surprise Buttsects”. And too often they are right. Sigh. Still, I feel compelled to note that when it comes to players choosing lore-friendly names, EVE is actually one of the best. It’s second only to LOTRO for non-stupid character names.
  4. They seem like a nice bunch of reasonable, low-key players who enjoy the game.

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely… etc.
Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely… etc.

EVE plays nothing like a traditional MMO. You don’t “grind mobs” for XP, nor do you kill them for random drops. There are quests, but they’re mostly tutorials and not the meat of the game. The actual game – the thing that drives the action – is entirely created by the players. Once you graduate from the newbie zone you’ll likely be flying a ship built by players using a factory built by players from raw materials harvested by players. It’ll be outfitted with player-built weapons and player-built systems and no matter what you do with it, you’ll probably be selling your efforts to players. (Unless you make your living as a pirate, by killing players.)

As a way of explaining how deep, technical, unusual, and emergent the game is, let’s talk about PLEX. There’s a cool story behind this, but like anything to do with EVE it’s incomprehensible without a couple minutes of instruction to provide context.

PLEX

I tried to make an old man. I wanted to play as a kind of space-Dumbledore, but the character editor wasn’t quite robust enough for that. (There are good reasons for this, in-universe.) So I made a woman. If I wanted to play as a young dude I would just play ANY OTHER GAME EVER.
I tried to make an old man. I wanted to play as a kind of space-Dumbledore, but the character editor wasn’t quite robust enough for that. (There are good reasons for this, in-universe.) So I made a woman. If I wanted to play as a young dude I would just play ANY OTHER GAME EVER.

PLEX is Pilot License EXtention. It’s game time. Go to the website and buy a PLEX and you can play for another month. But you can also sell the PLEX to another player. You can even trade PLEX like stocks. Right now, a PLEX is worth about $650 million of in-game money. (Which is called ISK, for reasons I’m sure a non-newbie could explain.) Lowbie that I am, I can make about 4 million ISK an hour. For me it’s probably not worth playing for 150 hours just to pay my subscription fee, but it’s really interesting that the option even exists. Some of the other guys in my corp can pull in 100 million ISK an hour, so they don’t need to pay for the game if they don’t want to. They just need to sink about six hours of playtime into paying for a PLEX and they’re all good.

While it seems odd that you can play the game without paying for it, this isn’t like a FtP game where it will harass you to buy things. Everyone’s license is paid for by someone. It’s just that if you trade ISK for a PLEX, it means someone else has put real-world money into the game to pay for your time. Essentially they paid you to earn ISK for them, thus making you a goldfarmer who works for game time instead of cash. It also means that – as of this writing – the going exchange rate between dollars and ISK is roughly $20 for 650 million ISK. This way to empirically measure the cost of in-game items with real-world dollars is why people are able to say that the recent Battle of B-R5RB destroyed $300,000 worth of ships.

The point is: While traditional “goldfarmers” exist in EVE, they are not nearly as healthy or viable as they are in other games because there’s a safe legal alternative. I’ve never seen a single blip of goldfarm advertising, and I’ve been watching for it.

Which brings us to…

SirLordex

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely… etc.
Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely… etc.

All of this leads us to the story of SirLordex, a Russian billionaire who got hooked on EVE. He had big goals (he wanted to go toe-to-toe with some of the most formidable groups in the game) and he didn’t want to spend years building up his corporation. So he did what he would do if he was launching an enterprise in the real world and bankrolled it with an infusion of his own cash. He bought a massive amount of PLEX, so much that he single-handedly caused a 16% drop in the PLEX market, pushing the price of PLEX down to around 550 million ISK. He was basically paying the subscription fees for thousands of players.

Think about that. We’ve got a game where people with lots of money end up funding the participation of people that have less to spend on it, and it accomplishes this without the usual stonewalling and harassment that typical FTP games employ. On the other hand, if you do pay for the game (and at the start you have to, since it’ll be a while before you can make that 650 million ISK in a reasonable amount of time) it’s a shocking $20 a month. In an industry where $15, $10, or zero are the norm, that’s a lot to ask. Given the steep into cost, the long time it takes to get rolling, and the massive learning curve, I’m surprised new people join the game at all. (Says the guy who just joined the game.)

PVP

EVE is probably the biggest sausage fest this side of stuff like Scarlet Blade. Which is interesting, since I don’t see anything inherently “dudebro” about it. I can’t speak for women, obviously, but as a guy I don’t see any of the stuff I normally associate with deliberate male pandering or the exclusion of women. They just don’t play. And I would not dare guess why without a gun to my head.
EVE is probably the biggest sausage fest this side of stuff like Scarlet Blade. Which is interesting, since I don’t see anything inherently “dudebro” about it. I can’t speak for women, obviously, but as a guy I don’t see any of the stuff I normally associate with deliberate male pandering or the exclusion of women. They just don’t play. And I would not dare guess why without a gun to my head.

In most other games, PvP action is most likely based around some sort of arena concept. The two sides enter a closed space and murder each other for points and loot. Maybe you capture the flag or defend the control point, but it’s all an artificial construct, like a sport. Later today the Seattle Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos in Superbowl XLVIII. This isn’t because the people of Seattle hate Denver, or because the Broncos need crucial Seattle resources needed to keep their home city going. It’s because this match was ordained by the rules. And that’s fine. It’s certainly better than the alternative.

But in EVE, most large-scale conflict is driven by factions fighting over specific resources. Maybe your faction wants to control this star system because it’s rich in ultra-rare minerals. Or maybe it’s a valuable crossroads, allowing you to control and monitor the flow of traffic and forcing rival merchants to take long routes around you. Or maybe you just need it as a buffer between the rest of the galaxy and your home system where your corporation has erected the massive multi-billion ISK space station that allows you to operate in deep space without needing to run back to civilization to sell your goods.

Here is a tiny slice of the galaxy map. There are a LOT of star systems. The bright ones are the part of the gameworld where police patrol and enforce some semblance of justice. The dark red ones are nullsec – the wild west where anything goes. That’s where the good stuff is, and that’s where player corporations try to establish a claim and build bases.
Here is a tiny slice of the galaxy map. There are a LOT of star systems. The bright ones are the part of the gameworld where police patrol and enforce some semblance of justice. The dark red ones are nullsec – the wild west where anything goes. That’s where the good stuff is, and that’s where player corporations try to establish a claim and build bases.

To explain how it works: Player characters are clones. If you die, the most recent backup copy of your brain is dumped into a new clone, they pull your new meatsack out of the tank, towel you off, and you’re good to go. Good as new. This means the player is effectively immortal. However, if your starship gets all blowed up, then it stays that way. Since a lot of your wealth is tied up in your ship and different ships are designed for different purposes, this means everyone isn’t flying around using the one uber-ship, even if they’re fabulously wealthy. Powerful players will often fly around in completely mundane ships, just to restrict their losses if something goes wrong.

While there are plenty of cases where wealthy players blow up each other’s ships for the lulz, the vast majority of conflict in EVE takes the form of warfare over resources and territory. Reports of wars in EVE sound less like someone reciting the box scores and much more like news intercepts from a spacefaring civilization. The events of the fight persist long after the fight has ended and are remembered for even longer.

Now that I’ve worn you down with 1,600 words of preamble, let me tell you another story…

Battle of Asakai

And then they were swallowed by a small dog.

You can hear this story all over the place, but most reports are jargon-heavy, dense with politics, and impenetrable to outsiders. If you’ve seen a couple of episodes of Star Trek or Babylon 5 at some point in your life, then you should be able to follow my version even if you’ve never heard of the game before.

There were a couple of large forces in the game who were having a pissing match of small-scale skimmishes in the star system named Asakai. On one side was the Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC), and on the other was the Pandemic Legion (PL). They were supposedly allies and their alliance was a really good arrangement in an economic sense. The two sides (and many, many allies that I won’t get into here) had conspired to lock down the supply of a certain rare resource in deep space, effectively turning themselves into a cartel. It made them rich. The wealth led to them building massive fleets. Vast fleets and great wealth led to boredom, restlessness, and a lack of discipline. Students of history might find this sounds a little familiar.

As a result, the two sides had been taking small-scale potshots at each other over petty disputes or alpha-male posturing. It wasn’t anything serious – just the odd raid or a few blown-up ships. For an organization with holdings in the trillions, nobody is going to want to rock the boat over a couple million in losses.

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely… etc.
Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely… etc.

In this instance, the CFC was using a Titan, which is the largest ship in the game. In terms of usefulness, it’s basically a floating space station with all the amenities. In terms of reputation, it’s about as notorious as the Death Star. It’s a thing of legend. It takes months of effort from hundreds of players, as well as the investment of billions of ISK. Being that they’re so expensive, pilots generally don’t like to place them in harm’s way. Using a chess analogy, it’s both your king and queen. Your most valuable piece, but the one you can’t afford to lose.

Rather than putting their Titan someplace where it might get shot, CFC was using theirs to send other ships into battle. See, a Titan is the only ship in the game that can act as a warp bridge. You set the parking brake, light a cigarette, feed 1.21 gigawatts through the warp thing or whatever, and you can send your fleet anywhere you like. The Titan stays behind and just catapults the fleet into enemy space. Defending players can post scouts at the standard warp gates to watch for incoming hostiles, but a Titan-launched fleet won’t come in that way so you won’t see them until they’re blowing your stuff up.

So the CFC plan was something like this:

  1. Mass their fleet somewhere sneaky and out-of-the way so that PL wouldn’t see it coming.
  2. Have the Titan fling the fleet into the PL base.
  3. The CFC fleet destroys a few things as fast as they can and then warps out before PL can organize their defenses. By the time reinforcements get there, a lot of stuff is broken and CFC will be long gone.

This keeps the Titan off the battlefield. The corporations might overlook a little bit of intra-alliance piracy and griefing, but sending a flagship into battle against alleged allies would likely cause a bunch of angry drama and maybe even demands for reparations. That’s no fun.

On the other side of space, PL actually suspected they might face some sort of hit-and-run attack. So they put some interdiction ships in their fleet. These couldn’t prevent the attack, but they could be used to trap invading enemies and prevent them from running off. It would force them to stay and fight, which might make them think twice about attacking in the future.

So what happened? This:

Image taken from the <a href="http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/74227">official site</a>.
Image taken from the official site.

Instead of turning the Titan into a warp gate, the Titan just warped itself into the PL base. Alone. Instead of sending the fleet, the pilot ditched the fleet. The CFC fleet was suddenly floating helplessly many jumps away from their flagship with no way to quickly reach it. The Titan was interdicted when it arrived.

The resulting conflict is known as the Battle of Asakai. The Titan couldn’t leave, because it was trapped by interdiction. The PL wouldn’t leave, because this was their home. In a panic, the PL called their entire fleet in to defend against the Titan. In a panic, the CFC sent their entire fleet (including a number of Titans) in to rescue their stranded flagship.

It was an accidental all-in from both sides.

The Titan has a doomsday beam that will kill pretty much everything in a straight line, but it only fires once every ten minutes and it can’t do that much good when your foes are swarming around you like angry bees. Its purpose is to brush aside capital ships, not shoot down clouds of frigates.

By chance, another faction in the alliance just happened to have a group of fifty players moving a bunch of dreadnoughts from one system to another as part of an unrelated operation, and these ships were flying reasonably close to Asakai. When news of the battle reached them, they diverted course and joined the battle on the side of PL. Lots of other groups dog-piled on the battle, mostly joining PL. It’s impossible to know the reasons for sure, but it’s very likely lots of people were frustrated with the childish sucker-punch shenanigans, and now that the gloves were off they all wanted to punish the troublemakers.

At the end of the day, CFC was crushed. They finally managed to extricate their fleet from Asakai, but only after taking serious and historic losses. The two sides would fight again almost exactly a year later. That battle was last week and is now known as The Bloodbath of B-R5RB. And as before, it was sparked by a simple clerical error.

In another MMO a writer might, on a good day, come up with something that interesting to jam into a bit of expository dialog. In another MMO players would read it. But in EVE the players made it happen.

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A Hundred!2020204Many comments. 164, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. Talby says:

    So awesome. This is the direction I want the MMO genre to take. If someone could take the gameplay and freedom of EVE and stick it in a more familiar setting, like medieval fantasy (just let me run around as a guy on the ground, basically) I would be all over that.

  2. Corpital says:

    Just…wow. This is the first article I’ve read about EVE, that actually makes me want to play the game. Most seemed to indicate it was a middle management job with shiny graphicsm but that bears the question: How easy was it for you to get into the game?

    Anyway, excellent post.

    • Volfram says:

      It was stories exactly like this(many written by formal Eve Councilman and former Goonsquad commander Mittani in his hilarious Sins of a Solar Spymaster series) that prompted me to pick up Eve Online.

      And it was fun, for a time.

      But the CEO of the corporation I was in has a tendency towards strict regimentism and against just screwing around, and as a result we ended up doing a bunch of incredibly safe and rote things, and my job in the fleet was basically to serve as a targeting AI, and I was concerned I might lose my job and didn’t want the $15 a month expense, so I ended up quitting again.

      But yeah, in the future I might enjoy re-activating my account and being a small-time merchant instead of a glorified drone(I flew Frigates) and target designator.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        What makes me want pick up EVE every now and then is precisely that I like being part of “the machine”. I enjoy the feeling that I’m part of a larger whole contributing to some bigger project. This is what makes me jump into newly established minecraft servers every now and then, I like the part when everything is just starting, projects are being established and people need to hunt for resources. sadly so far I’ve been unable to find a place that would keep this kind of thing up and once people build up they loose interest in further projects and maintaining what you already have is rather easy (on that note, if anyone could recommend something…). I like the idea about EVE that there is always something to contribute to, even if it is only making up the losses.

        What kept me away was primarily the lack of stable income to maintain a subscription (and not being sure if I could make the commitment to earn it in game every month) and the fact that I don’t really like meeting new people. So while I would appreciate some kind of long distance mining or hauling job I was never sure I could actually get around to finding a corp that would give me reason enough to keep playing.

      • Joshua490 says:

        I’m finding that series fascinating. Thank-you.

    • ching says:

      Ok, You can basically do anything. There are politics but 99% of players do not do it. They are instead pirates, members of a navy, explorers, miners, ect. One thing this article gets wrong is the fact that there are in fact campaign missions

  3. Kamica says:

    I absolutely LOVE Eve for the stories it creates etc. But I don’t think I’d enjoy it myself, so I’ll just sit here, reading the epic stories every so often of it =P.

    • KremlinLaptop says:

      I played EVE for about one year. Six months very actively and the other six sort of less and less all the time. I really enjoyed my time playing it, but in that time? I enjoyed hearing about all the stuff that was going on far more.

      I read battle reports and just talk to friends I met through the game to ask what’s been going on because honestly? It’s such an interesting game to hear about.

  4. Henson says:

    Shamus takes the plunge! Awesome.

  5. ENC says:

    As someone who’s played Eve, it really is 95% waiting around, 4% action, and 1% really good action at best. It’s more fun to read about for me as I’d rather spend all my time playing civ 5 or DotA 2 rather than trying to maximsie my income from system to system so I can go pirating and sit for hours on end waiting for people to plunder.

  6. So they blew it all up over pilot error?

    • Kamica says:

      Stuff like this happens in real wars too, I believe the first world war started something like this, one guy gets shot, suddenly everyone starts pointing fingers and war starts.
      It only takes the smallest of cuts to break a tensioned rope =P.

      • syal says:

        Also, the USS Maine and the Spanish-American War.

        I don’t know how interdiction works in EVE, or player communication, but I’m assuming the PL probably had the option of letting the Titan go home if they really wanted; that they didn’t tells me they wanted to hurt the CFC already.

        • Dave B. says:

          That sounds quite likely, though I have to wonder if maybe they all just panicked and committed their fleets before cooler heads could prevail.

          • Kamica says:

            I think it was like this, because frankly, if one of the most powerful ships in the game warps into your system, and you know the owner is hostile, you’re not going to think twice before trying to kill it, as your logical first assumption is that they’re attacking with a battering ram =P.

          • guy says:

            Yeah, I’m betting that the thought process for the guys at the station went something like this: “Well, the CFC will probably be attacking soon, so we just need to smack them arou- AHH! TITAN! KILL IT KILL IT!”

            Probably by the time people figured out it had been a colossally stupid screwup it was already a major fleet engagement.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              Very much this. On top of that we’re talking hundreds of pilots allied and semi-allied into a number of corps who are again allied and semi-allied into cartels and alliances. Before any real diplomacy can take place they are all firing on each other and even if you would want to pull back it is impossible to tell all those guys who are more or less on your side to stop firing at more or less the same time. That’s without even beginning to account for the fact that your side may not be exactly uniform, it would be nice if the other side did this too and with the battle of this size there will most likely be third parties jumping in just for the hell of it.

              • Felblood says:

                So like the political situation in Syria, but more fun, since nobody actually has to die.

                I wonder how many Poli-Sci papers are being written about EVE, right now, as a sort-of petri dish, to test peacemaking strategies.

            • Kana says:

              At the same time, I can’t really blame them. There already expecting an attack to come in. Suddenly, boom, you have a Titan in-system and you’re lookin’ down the barrel of a literal doomsday weapon.

              It’d probably look like a declaration of all-out war if CFC started to launch capital ships. Only they didn’t mean to, so they launched a ton of ships anyways to try and save. Which probably then set off a chain-reaction as more ships were called in to win the battle.

              I doubt anyone could have stopped the battle from exploding the moment the Titan warped in. Even if PL hadn’t panicked and stayed their guns to demand an answer, CFC sure looked like they panicked and escalated the thing anyways when they went in for the Titan.

              • syal says:

                CFC could have potentially stopped it by not firing with the Titan (if it’s as big as Shamus says, it can survive a few hits in the process) and informing everyone that it’s presence there was a huge mistake on their part, and threatening all-out war if they didn’t get their ship back (and/or just offering to exchange the ships they did mean to send, as reparations), instead of immediately doubling down.

                But I don’t expect an organization called the Clusterfuck Coalition to be huge on diplomatic solutions.

                • Thomas says:

                  They’re probably the first coalition to have a whole branch of people dedicated to diplomacy (which used to be led by someone who worked in the US embassy system) and they keep extensive records on the abilities and political affiliations of every alliance in null sec whose worth anything.

                  Not only that, but they draw up extensive contracts parcelling up space and organising restrictions on what ship can fly where. The latest of which was made with Pandemic Legion. Whilst in a war fighting against them.

                  They probably play the diplomacy game better than anyone else. It’s rare for them to fight a war without having manoeuvred other factions into taking a bullet for them and even during a war they’ll be constantly cutting deals with various alliances.

                  The thing is, the CFC understand how to limit aggression but still keep their members happy. Everyone wants to headshot a Titan, hunting them down is a point of pride for many alliances. If they’d diplo’d their way out of the situation it would have created resentment within Pandemic Legion and their members would feel controlled by the CFC.

                  But if they fought it out instead, sure they’re going to lose money and a significant ship, but it won’t harm the coalition in the long run and the Titan will be replaced. Pandemic Legion are happy because they got a good fight, the CFC are happy because Pandemic Legion are still amenable. Everyone wins

                  • Mukk says:

                    PL and CFC had two proxy groups fighting in Asakai. It was not a home system, it was not s scramble for defense. It was more like a proxy war between like two superpowers, like Korea or Vietnam, but on a much smaller scale.

                    When the titan was tackled, PL went to fight because they wanted to kill it. Successfully destroying it would be something to be able to brag about. There was no concern that the titan was about to break something valuable. It was opportunism upon seeing that there was a valuable asset outside of its normal protection.

                    There were no agreements in place at the time not to kill each others capitals. The only agreement was not to attack each others mining operations when the mining in question was of that particular thing that they had formed a cartel over.

                    • Thomas says:

                      Are you directing that towards me? I know those things and I hope it didn’t come across as anything else

        • guy says:

          From what I vaguely recall from a prior massive disaster in EVE, shutting off interdiction means that you can’t readily switch it back on.

  7. SlothfulCobra says:

    Even though it looks a little boring to play, Eve Online is my favorite online game to hear stories from. The Something Awful Goonswarm is particularly infamous. I’ve heard a lot of stories of PLEX scams and other various schemes and tricks. The biggest though, is the story behind the Hulkageddon.

    As I understand it, hulks are a type of ship in EVE that require Technetium, and at one point or another, the Technetium market was cornered (I think that might be the cartel Shamus alluded to). The Goonswarm was part of the cartel, and so it got a nice slice of all profits from Technetium sales, so every time someone built a hulk, that was a bit of profit in the Goons’ coffers, so the Goonswarm decided to boost the production of Hulks by putting a bounty on every Hulk destroyed. That was the first Hulkageddon, and I think it’s become some kind of seasonal thing. Last I saw they were on the fifth Hulkageddon.

    Shamus also neglected to mention the most interesting part of PLEX, which is that it’s a resource that has to be physically carried around. As I understand it, most PLEX transactions take place in deep space to avoid bandits, and occasionally someone carrying around a truckload of PLEX will end up being destroyed, meaning all that money is destroyed along with it.

    EVE Online shows a lot of what happens when a libertarian free market society gets out of hand. It’s just so fascinating.

    • I was privileged enough to get a handful of Goonswarm Bee stickers that I’m putting on my laptop covers until I run out of them (stickers and/or laptops). I’d posted (gushingly) about how amazing it was that a hegemonic power (“Band of Brothers”) could be deposed through actions both online and off, changing the face of the galaxy.

      Also, the huge battles scratch that Babylon-5 “Shattered Dreams” itch I get every so often.

    • Volfram says:

      There’s also the story of when Goonswarm single-handedly skewed the market for an entire resource. A particular variant of ice, used to fuel, as I recall, space stations of Gallente design.

      See, these space stations were the most popular and most common, and as a result, the ice used to fuel them was the most popular and most common. So the Goons decided that for the lulz, they would put a bounty on anybody caught mining this particular kind of ice, suicide-gank anybody caught mining this particular kind of ice, blockade all jump nodes into fields bearing this particular kind of ice, and create a shortage of the fuel used to power the most common player-built space stations in the game.

      Oh, they had also been STOCKPILING this particular variant of ice for several months before hand, so in the end, I believe they turned a pretty hefty profit.

    • Mintskittle says:

      Ah, Hulkageddon. That brings back memories. During Hulkageddon III nad IV, I participated in a counter-event called the Ore-a-thon.

      http://oldforums.eveonline.com/?a=topic&threadID=1349686

      http://oldforums.eveonline.com/?a=topic&threadID=1447354

      It wasn’t a real big event, just a small corp and a few freelance miners who decided that during this time of strife, it’d be business as usual. We did take some precautions though to minimize losses, like flying mining frigs, or mining in mission rooms. There were a couple close calls, but never lost anything huge. Good times.

    • aldowyn says:

      I’m pretty sure Goonswarm is the primary corporation in CFC, the alliance that accidentally sent the titan in during the battle Shamus discussed.
      They’ve been the most powerful alliance/coalition I think since 2 or 3 years after the game launched – there was a big war that lasted months with them trying to topple BoB (band of brothers).

      EVE history is amazing.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      The alliances and corporations act a lot like governments, especially “Sovereignty” -so it’s more Wild West than anarcho-capitalist or libertarian. This has a benefit for me, though, as my day job involves researching the origin of government (I usually focus on cities, so it’s not exactly the same). Periodically I contemplate writing up a proposal to cruise null space for a year, watching the rise and fall of corporations and alliances to see if we can learn something about actual political behavior from it.

      Of course, the more direct way is probably to call CFF and see if I can get the records -but that’s less fun. And anyway, qualitative research is valuable to (and that’s totally the story I’m telling the research board).

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        The thing is though, EVE is an example of what would happen without any strong federal government, because in the absence of any kind of organizing authority, people will always provide their own if there’s enough people. If the US government fell today, then Walmart and McDonalds and other corporations would be in charge by tomorrow.

        I’ve always thought that there’s loads to learn in studying crazy internet phemonenae, but I’ve never seen any serious research be done.

        • Shamus says:

          I keep seeing people say this. So let me get this out of the way:

          EVE is a game where everyone is immortal, nobody needs to eat, and even the poor are preposterously rich. Once you have fantastic wealth, there’s literally NOTHING to do with it except build a massive doom fleet. It was DESIGNED to be controlled by corporations. Trying to draw parallels between the real world and this one is a huge stretch, and saying “This videogame proves your worldview WRONG, QED”, is a great way to launch a debate I don’t care to moderate.

          • Mersadeon says:

            Thanks for saying this, I would have done it otherwise.

            Also, just as a little tidbit – the ISK currency in EVE is a currency pretty much only the immortal ship-pilots use. All the normal folks on the ground? Yeah, even one ISK would be a lifetime of work. These people are poor, and even the lowliest player has the riches of an entire city.

          • syal says:

            Other factors: anyone who doesn’t like the culture of EVE stops playing EVE. Anyone who doesn’t like the culture of the real world stays in the real world and complains, and those people accumulate until something changes.

            Other factors: EVE Online has been around for about ten years. History takes more than ten years to resolve itself.

          • SlothfulCobra says:

            I wouldn’t try to directly draw parallels, but there are all sorts of things that you can analyze about human reasoning from studying isolated cases like you can find in EVE. It’s kind of like all the experiments that have been done in laboratories studying people’s responses to artificial conditions for game theory. A large amount of economic research that I’ve seen relies on analyzing smaller, simpler markets in order to figure out things about larger ones.

            It’s not like MMOs haven’t been used for similar things before. World of Warcraft was once used to study the spread of infectious diseases.

            And I would never try to confuse EVE’s social structure with the real world’s. The real world doesn’t have anywhere near as much white collar crime as in EVE.

          • somebodys_kid says:

            This got me thinking: maybe the EVE devs should introduce a natural disaster or an epidemic disease or something to shake things up…

          • Felblood says:

            No simulation is perfect.

            • Shamus says:

              …which obviously means clearly EVE is a fine model for the real world, appropriate for drawing conclusions about political systems and using that to score points in stupid internet arguments. On my blog. When I have nicely asked people not to do so.

              Is that what you’re saying? No? What are you after, here?

              And as a blanket statement to everyone else:

              I’m extremely disappointed that my request to take debate elsewhere has resulted in people blatantly having that debate.

        • PAK says:

          The Aeticles of Confederation were an example of what happens without a strong federal government, and they lasted only about as long as Eve Online has been in existence before the U.S. Government required a major overhaul.

  8. Dovius says:

    Clarification on the name of the in-game currency: ISK stands for InterSteller Kredit. The Xtreme Kool Letterz are partially excused due to it being a backronym from CCP using the same shorthand for the EVE currency as the one used by their native Icelandic Króna.

    This also reminds that I still have a copy of EVE and a free first month sitting around from a Steam sale a while back. Been wanting to get into it for a while.

    How was your experience in Starfield Enterprises? And what do they do, beyond the generic moniker of ‘Mining and Industry’? I’m kind of interested in the same things, so might as well see if they’re a good place to join up if they’re taking in new players :D

    • Lazlo says:

      I’ve always thought this must be *horribly* confusing for EVE players from Iceland, who have to spend around 2300 ISK (Icelandic) to buy one PLEX, which they can sell for 650M ISK (EVE).

      • Kamica says:

        Not more confusing than a New Zealander wanting to buy an American product but handling through a Canadian exporter =P, all of which use $, not USD, Canadian Dollar (whatever shorthand is for that) or NZD =P.
        “So, you want to buy this thing for $50? Well, shipping cost to here will be $5 and then you’ll need to pay another $0.50 tax”
        Which is which? =P.

        • Volfram says:

          USD, CAD, and NZD. I’ve never had to deal with NZD, but I’ve ordered a few things on Ebay, and they at least are nice enough to post international prices in a different font with a notation as to which national currency is being used natively. And they convert all prices to USD at the current daily exchange rates.

          I TRY to add the notations any time I’m dealing with people or currencies outside the US. Even if I’m just talking to someone from Spain, I want to let them know I’m talking about USD instead of Canadian or New Zealand dollars, just in case they need to do a conversion.

          I also have been known to hot-convert prices from Japanese Yen to USD at a 100-1 exchange rate, even though 1USD costs slightly more than 100Yen(though it’s apparently less now than the 150 or so that it was a couple of years back)

  9. Risven says:

    Ahh, don’t make me want to play MMOs! I have things I have to finish.

    Anyway, your explanation of the Battle of Asakai made much more sense to me than other accounts I’ve brushed past. Interesting. I’ve never seen a game like EVE, where players essentially make the game into whatever they want.

  10. Iunnrais says:

    You may want to look into finding a corporation that will throw you onto the front lines of Player Controlled Space from day 1. There’s an interesting article about it here, by the intellegence director of one of the larger corporations on EVE: http://themittani.com/content/soss-75-eve-born-6

    I played EVE for a month or two under him, and he’s right. Getting on the frontlines and dying repeatedly yet still contributing to the overall war is FUN. I can’t imagine wanting to mine rocks for hours and trying desperately to never lose a ship. I’d go out on missions with a disposable vessel, and if I accidentally survived the mission, I’d blow it up myself.

    • Volfram says:

      I’ll have to remember that if I ever get back into the game. I ended up adding a running tally in my profile of ships I had lost in combat.(not counting ships that I had suicided)

      It ended up dropping off after a while. Our first low-sec encounter, I was the sole survivor.

  11. Tychoxi says:

    This is what I always sort-of thought MMOs were. I was very disappointed when I played my first to discover everyone was doing the same quests, saving the same princesses and killing the same antagonists. It made it all meaningless and I just don’t understand why MMOs cling to that way of doing things so hard.

      • MechaCrash says:

        No, blame EverQuest, because that’s what WOW was copying.

        • Kylroy says:

          Actually, blame people. Because dating back to the original Ultima Online vs. Everquest, the more popular option has pretty much always been the curated game experience over the unregulated gankfest.

          Hobbesian free-for-alls can produce some entertaining stories, but by and large they’re not much fun as *games*.

          • Tychoxi says:

            Yeah, but those aren’t the only options! You can do what EVE does and have the developer-driven and player-driven stories separated but coexisting peacefully. Or if I were creating an MMO I would have the traditional WOWesque quests for MINOR stuff, the main quest and several side quests would be unique one-time events, and once the final boss is dealt with by a player/team then that’s it… time to release an expansion!

            So every player can get the main-quest, which would require players to work for clues, go progressing like any quest, invade this castle, kill that mini boss, etc… but all these intermediate objectives would be completed just once (or not, finding a clue can be done by everyone). So by the end of the main quest you’ll have this team that killed the main henchman, this other that discovered the villain’s lair and that other that actually managed to kill the bastard. All of them would feel something nobody ever felt in an MMO thus far.

            • Kylroy says:

              WoW’s explosion in popularity coincided with making their “endgame” (the epic boss kind of thing you mention) available to a much wider range of the player base. And you’re proposing that each epic boss would be killed only once, by one “team”.

              Given that coding and balancing that boss fight, even in the most slapdash manner, would take hundreds or thousands of man-hours, can you see why only letting one group of players actually complete it would be problematic? You either have them blow through weeks of your work near-instantly, or you make it so hard that they spend weeks of their own serial-wiping on it – and then only one group gets to actually get any upside from completing the fight. All the other teams competing to down the boss? Out of luck, wasted your time, maybe you get a consolation prize.

              I find that people who talk about how MMOs ought to be more persistent…don’t actually play MMOs. I think it would be awesome if first person shooters took place in persistent destructible environments where you could see the maps evolve over time as people keep fighting over it – but I don’t actually spend my money on FPSs, so I shouldn’t really be surprised that the market doesn’t provide this.

  12. Volatar says:

    Shamus, I am an Eve Vet, even though it has been a while since I last played it. You successfully captured the coolness of the game in this post.

  13. Andy Panthro says:

    If I ever had the patience to join another MMO it would be EVE. (My last was Anarchy Online, and I played Ultima Online before that).

    I’m hoping for a vaguely similar experience from the upcoming Elite: Dangerous, but perhaps a little more accessible.

  14. Bropocalypse says:

    EVE is like real-life war, it’s more fun to read about than take part in.

  15. Noumenon72 says:

    I just joined Eve yesterday! I never wanted to get into the PVP griefing game, but your “space sim” reviews made me want to fly so bad that even after I purchased X3: Terran Conflict I couldn’t wait for the box to get here in the mail.

    What triggered it was when someone asked, “Can I start an account and fly in to see the B-R54B memorial?” and someone else told him “There are people waiting everywhere to kill tourists, you’ll have to X and Y.” That seemed like a cool challenge I could do in 13 days. But when I got in I discovered Exploration and it seemed really fun so I’ve been trying to do that.

    There is no way I would ever pay for the game without a PvE flag though. Even though I knew going in exactly what it was like, it really sucks to know you could explore happily and peacefully if the game weren’t populated by ganky assholes, who you can never beat by leveling up. It’s not a game, really.

    • aldowyn says:

      well, you can totally stay in high security space, where as long as you don’t attack anyone, anyone that attacks you is going to get blown to bits by the NPC defense systems.

      Except high-sec is boring. :P

    • urs says:

      Be smarter than the ganky assholes :) My favourite part in EVE was becoming and then being really good at the Situational Awareness stuff Nathaniel mentions here. When someone got a hold of me (aka managed to lock me with a warp inhibitor) then there was noone and nothing to blame but me.

      (Also, running NPC missions WILL become very grindy, especially if you’re alone)

  16. guy says:

    Man, that might be the largest idiotic screwup I have ever heard of.

  17. Torsten says:

    EVE is a game I have always wanted to try, but I always keep hearing stories of the grind and how it is a bit like playing Excel. But every now and then there are stories like this about the player activity that doesn’t happen in other games.

    • Volfram says:

      It is a little like playing Excel, but in about the same way that the auction house in WoW is like playing Excel. If you have a taste for that sort of thing(which I did, and ended up being part-time accountant for my corporation. I would calculate everybody’s take on mining trips. This was made slightly faster by the fact that I was ALSO the refiner), then it’s… I won’t say a blast, but it is ABSOLUTELY fascinating.

      Engineers are weird.

    • Nathaniel says:

      People really play up the whole Spreadsheets… In… SPACE!! aspect a whole lot more than is really accurate, partially out of elitism and partially just as a joke.

      And partially because it is a little bit true. If you want to play space baron you’re going to need some spreadsheets. I think I still have bookmarks to some really fancy ones set up for station trading. I’m talking pivot tables, real time links to price data, the works. People have gone from the free trial to fully funding their game time in-game with the equivalent of buying a 18-wheeler and driving products from WalMart to Target thanks to the magic of Google docs.

      But if you just want to fly around and shoot some dudes that’s really not necessary.

  18. Hitchmeister says:

    All of this is fascinating and very tempting, but then I think about the Reddit threads I read about this latest big battle right after it happened. Several EVE veterans posted comments that didn’t make sense at first. They said things like, “Don’t rely too much on what I’m saying, I’ve been winning for the last few months, so my information is likely out of date….” Which really confused me until I found out that “winning” is EVE enthusiast slang for having let their subscription lapse and no longer actively playing the game while still keeping up with news about what’s going on. You “win” the game by not playing any more? ;-) I suspect it’s self-deprecating irony, but still…

    • Thomas says:

      You have to remember that the most influential alliance in EVE is based around people from Something Awful. The irony and trolling permeates everything. Even the latest dev blog that was designed for non-EVE press had healthy doses of Serious Business About Internet Spaceships splashed all over it.

    • ZzzzSleep says:

      It could also be a War Games reference…
      “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

  19. As a woman who has tried EVE online, my reason for not liking it was predominantly because it felt more like a corporate accounting simulator than a game.

    After a few hours of play, I quickly dubbed it Microsoft Spreadsheets In Space.

    I play games for the pleasures of exploration and goal achievement. A player may eventually be able to experience both of these through EVE Online, but I wasn’t willing to suffer through the wall of piddly minutiae to get to it.

    • ENC says:

      No offense but why did you begin your post with “as a woman” which was completely irrelevant to your post?

      • Shamus says:

        In my post I wondered why women didn’t play the game. So she was responding to that.

        • Thomas says:

          This is an article from Ali Aras (whose a CSM member, FC and a pretty good example of how much you can achieve in just 9 months of playing) that mentions some of the hostility women can face in EVE.

          I’d guess EVE is one of the oldest MMOs and it’s one of the hardest to get into which probably intensified the gender imbalance in it’s early life. And then I imagine the culture of the game would bring with it a few bad voices sprinkled amongst the masses who act pretty disgustingly towards women, and that might stop the imbalance from being naturally corrected. Women are represented by roughly 4% of players in EVE compared to a 15% average for all MMOs

      • Warrax says:

        Probably because Shamus specifically mentioned in the article that he’s never seen an MMO so so few women before.

      • JadedDM says:

        Presumably, she was referencing the part of the article where Shamus commented on how few women played and he briefly wondered why that was.

  20. Warrax says:

    I subbed to EVE for a couple of months a few years ago. I absolutely love the ship designs (in a completely sexual way, but who doesn’t feel like that about spaceships??), the action/sim gameplay is fun, and the player made world is truly a thing to behold.

    Couple issues for me though:

    One, I’m not a social gamer at all. The last time I was involved in anything guild-like was vanilla WoW, and those aren’t good memories. Probably not a big issue for people less militantly introverted than I am, but there’s nothing there for antisocial gamers like me. Well, except for drooling over the ships anyway.

    Second, those people that are participating in those really cool, news-worthy events are playing a lot. Like a lot a lot, probably enough to qualify as at least a part time job, if not more. And they’ve been doing it for years. So if you’ve never played and you’re thinking of trying it out, keep in mind that for the same the time investment you could probably earn an associate’s degree or buy a new car.

    It’s probably the best MMO ever made, but I’ll never play again.

    • Humanoid says:

      I don’t know about ‘militantly’, but as an extremely introverted person myself, it took until a few levels short of the level cap to join a guild, and at that point the extent of my networking in the game was probably having a couple other players to nod politely at if you came across them while out and about.

      Little short of a couple years later, I ended up co-founding and co-leading a reasonably competitive raiding guild, and did so for the next five years. Funny how that works. And yet throughout I was no more open to the other players than I am to fellow commenters on this blog. (And yes, running raids without voice chat is totally a thing)

      I guess the message here is not so much that I changed over the course of that time, but that the level of social interaction and commitment to make a go of it in an MMO is surprisingly low.

  21. rofltehcat says:

    Stories like these sometimes make me wish I’d gone to EVE rather than WoW back when all that mmo-stuff was still pretty new.
    WoW (vanilla and BC, then quit at WotLK release) was still a lot of fun, though.

    Getting into it now doesn’t really sound like a good idea. Maybe Star Citizen will be the next cool thing to get into and I’ll definitely check that out once it is released.

  22. syal says:

    Everything I’ve heard about EVE sounds like it’s a pretty solid reality simulator; lots of people, with the only rules being the rules of economics, and then societies spring up from there. So it ends up being as interesting, and boring, as actual history.

    • aldowyn says:

      :D Exactly. I’m sure there’s been more than a few sociology theses written about EVE.

      One interesting thing about EVE is that a lot of the players are real-life corporate executives, government agents, and stuff like that.

      One of the diplomats that was killed in the attack on the Benghazi embassy back in 2012 was a prominent EVE player – there’s even a tribute to him on themittani.com, which is the largest player-run site for EVE.

    • Kyte says:

      Keeping in mind, of course, that food is unneeded, death is nonexistent and income will easily outstrip expenses even at the lowest wealth levels.

  23. Irridium says:

    I just love how this all started because someone accidentally clicked the wrong thing. Oh, to see that person’s face…

    I do wonder how Dust 514 fits in to the game. For those who don’t know, Dust 514 is a free-to-play shooter on the PS3 that shares the same universe with EVE (including servers). The idea was that in EVE, the battle rages in space, where in Dust, the battle is on the ground. So you’d have two simultaneous battles going on and each side could effect the other in various ways.

    Sounds AWESOME, but I haven’t heard anything interesting come from it.

    • Thomas says:

      Unfortunately Dust isn’t a great shooter on it’s own merits yet and CCP have been very careful about limiting the interaction and introducing it slowly so that it doesn’t screw EVE up. I think they’ve only just started merging the economies.

      But CCP have a business model where they can plug away improving a game bit by bit for as long as it takes. EVE now is nothing like it was 10 years ago, because they don’t need to be constantly generating new content they can put all that effort into game design instead. So Dust should improve with time and become more and more linked with EVE

  24. EVE has the best stories in any videogame ever. It’s ridiculous. I will NEVER play this game, but I also NEVER want it to go away! Is it even possible to write a bad story about EVE?

  25. Anorak says:

    I love the IDEA of Eve, but in practice I never really got into it. Part of the trouble was that I was trying to play on a 26.4kbps connection, with friends who had already played for 2 years. Took away the enjoyment somewhat.

    It does have some fantastic machinima though: Clear Skies, made in Eve and Half Life 2.
    /PLUG

  26. Muspel says:

    I’m convinced that EVE was originally developed as a social experiment to see if people would pay a subscription fee to fund the social experiment they were taking part in.

  27. Elec0 says:

    I’d like to point out that PLEX is not the only way to pay for your account with real money. You can pay directly to CCP $15 as opposed to $20 for a PLEX and it’ll extend your game time by a month as per the norm.

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well when you name yourself the clusterfuck coalition,stuff like this is bound to happen.

  29. Steve C says:

    Eve is one of those games I’m intensely curious about and will never play. The game sounds great. The politics and real world shenanigans turn me right off. Real world billionaires buying huge fleets to fight against virtual world trillionaires. Then having those people track down real world addresses with plans to cut their electricity so they can ambush him? Umm that’s too hardcore for me. I don’t want to worry about what’s happening while I’m sleeping let alone if I’m being conspired against.

    I want an EVE-Lite version. Kind of like how all online poker websites have a .Net version that’s free to play with fake money and a .Com version that uses real money. The .Net version allows you to get used to the game without risking anything. (Which then encourages you to try out the .com version.) If EVE had some version of that, then I’d be down in second.

    • Volfram says:

      They do have one-month trials and a recruitment system wherein by recruiting a friend, you will get your own shiny new PLEX if they stay around long enough(about 2 weeks, as I recall)

      I’m honestly not sure how an “Eve Lite” without the PLEX aspect would work. One of the reasons PVP is always turned on in Eve is because you can actually engage in PVP while parked in a station, without firing a single shot in combat, via market speculation.

  30. Nytzschy says:

    I’ve only ever played Eve on a trial basis, but I still got some enjoyment out of it. Looking back on maybe a week of play a couple years ago, I found the funnest thing in the game to be scavenging and finding the strange odds and ends left behind by other players. Scavenging, by which I mean entering low-sec space in a weak newbie ship and hoping both to not to get blasted out of the sky immediately and to find the wreck of someone else who had, could be quite rewarding. When your ship is only worth 250,000 ISK and you can find weapons and components worth millions of ISK, it essentially becomes a free activity. If there were a way to get into Eve and do that kind of stuff much faster, I’d probably jump in with both feet. Alas, it does feel kind of spreadsheet-y, and on top of that the unrealistic elements like top speeds in space and being able to warp straight through planets leave me cold.

    Anyway, I’m surprised no one has mentioned this story:

    http://massively.joystiq.com/2009/01/21/eve-online-player-embezzles-over-80-billion-isk-from-dynasty-ban/

    I think it’s fascinating that a massive, multibillion ISK theft like this is simply another part of the game.

    • swenson says:

      The thing I love about EVE is how stuff like the corp fights and the embezzlement you mentioned, it’s all 100% legal under the game rules. Aside from scamming, hacking, and tanking CONCORD, pretty much nothing isn’t allowed.

  31. Orillion says:

    I can only speak for my wife, who has given me her reason in the past of why she would never play a game like Eve, and that’s basically that Eve is pretty much a game where, as soon as you are worth anything to other people, you are a target to be harassed and destroyed.

    Woman kind of sort of have to deal with enough of that in the real world, you know? At least, more so than men.

  32. Jonathan says:

    If I were single and had more free time, I would be tempted to play this game.
    Awesome.

  33. Eve Online is one of those games I admire from afar for its emergent gameplay, but I’m not sure I could ever get into myself. That stuff is mind-blowing!

  34. Eschatos says:

    Of all the things you can do, you picked mining? To each his own and all, but goddamn EVE mining is boring.

  35. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I have never played EVE Online, and I probably never will. however I utterly love it all the same, for being different, for encouraging emergent behavior, and because I love to see the stories that result from it.

  36. Some Guy says:

    The great and terrible thing about Eve is that to have fun, you need to set your own long-term goals. You can play it as a pirate, or you can fly a ship of the line in a huge fleet, or you can be a robber baron or a space UPS deliveryman or a real estate agent or a con artist or you can run a factory or be a propgandist. Anything.

    But like in life, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do and how to go about it, which can be scary and stressful, or it can be exhilarating.

    But yeah the UI looks exactly like spreadsheets.

    PS I recommend you get out of mining and into industry ASAP – mining will age you ten years.

  37. Disc says:

    It’s the kind of game I wish DayZ and the like would be. The gang war and alpha wolf bullshit that it seems to be at this point in time just holds no interest for me at all.

    EVE itself is something I admire from afar but will probably never play. Was a time I may have had more interest and willingness to invest time for it, but reading on bullshit like people suicide-ganking random people in the “safe zone” with free ships they get from abusing a social care game mechanic and then looting the spoils (since it didn’t count as engaging in PVP, which would normally bring in the space police) kinda turned me away. Stuff like a story of a guy in charge of some corp or an alliance (been years, can’t remember exact details) getting his electricity shut down at a critical moment by a player from the opposing faction never really painted the game in too positive light either. Not so much amazing as having one too many levels of dedication to the game.

    • The story about the guy getting his power shut off was something that I don’t think ever actually happened. It was one of the russian corp leaders offering to Mittens to “send some guys” to do that, but I don’t think he took them up on it. I could be wrong I can’t really remember. I think it was during the goonsquad vs BoB epic war.

      • aldowyn says:

        No, he didn’t take him up on it. I’m pretty sure even the goons aren’t bad enough to take the trolling out of the game.

        Although they’d probably think forcing someone out of the game is the ultimate victory.

        • Mintskittle says:

          I heard a story about the very first titan kill way back when was that the titan pilot got hacked or something to force him to disconnect, so he couldn’t flee the fleet sent to kill him. Then again, this is third-hand info, and I’m not sure if it’s even true.

          http://eve-history.net/wiki/index.php/Steve

          A quick search found this, and lists the power outage as one possible reason for the pilot disconnecting, but not the most likely. It also doesn’t say anything about being hacked, so my story isn’t true. And now I know.

  38. I want to like Eve. In fact, I’ve played probably 2 years of Eve on and off. It’s everything I want out of an mmo.

    Except the terrible, terrible skill system. I loathe the Eve skill system. Have you been mining for 6 straight hours? You think you would be better at mining for having done that? Nope. Because the Eve skill system runs on real time. You slot in the skills you want to learn and then pay a monthly fee until it’s done. When you break it all down, you’re basically paying a monthly fee for a little timer that slowly ticks down in real time. You don’t need to play at all, except to be able to pay for the skills. And there are no other ways to learn skills at all. Doing some advanced skills? Set it and forget it, because it could be weeks before you’ve actually learned the skill. Sure it runs while you’re offline too, and that’s fine.. but I would rather just get better at something I do a lot.

    I think what it comes down to is Eve is about the experience of getting there, rather than the result of your efforts. And that annoys the fuck out of me.

    Every time I think about picking Eve up again I just remind myself how irritating the skill system is and I feel better immediately.

    And if that doesn’t work I just look at random spreadsheets for a few minutes until the madness has passed.

  39. Ilseroth says:

    I’d have to say EVE is one of the best games to *know* someone who plays it. honestly, the game itself really isn’t overly thrilling and I know a lot of people play other games or watch tv while they mine or do other things in the game.

    For instance *as any EVE story goes* “I Know a guy who play(s/ed) EVE” he ran an EVE radio station but more importantly, he was 3 years deep in intrigue with two corporations butting heads. Essentially he was in one, but was acting as a double agent in the other for three years.

    Stop and rethink about that. Three years of hanging out with people generally leads you to be intimately aware with those people. They become your friends and yet, when his original corp asked him to flip the switch on a major, expensive space ship, it was gone. Just that simple, the corporation that he had been working for lost a major ship, a lynchpin to their success.

    They crushed the competition and he rejoined his original corp. For the record, this isn’t an embellishment, this was someone who lived down the hall from me in the dorms at college. He called everyone into the room when he performed the coup de gras.

    The biggest problem with EVE is that the actual interactions of mining and combat are boring as hell; but the intrigue and combat? Sign me up.

    • aldowyn says:

      From what I’ve seen, the combat is only interesting in a strategic, logistical standpoint, rather than a tactical, personal one. It’s all about who has what ships.

      • Nathaniel says:

        That is absolutely true of the absurd large-scale conflicts Shamus talked about in his post. 80% (low estimate) of the people there are just warm bodies needed to warp in and press F1 (the default key for “fire weapons”). There are some pilots that have skill intensive roles and the higher level logistics/strategy stuff is incredibly important but from a personal standpoint, yeah it’s not a big deal.

        However, that statement becomes incredibly untrue once you get into smaller battles. I’ve had a little bit of 1v1 combat experience and it is very difficult to do well because there is so much stuff you have to keep track of:

        At the most basic level you have to know your range from your opponent. Guns have an optimal range; too far away and their ship is too small to hit, too close and they’re moving too fast to hit.

        Speaking of moving too fast to hit, you have to keep track of their angular velocity relative to your ship and the tracking capabilities of your guns. If they’re circling you too fast there are a few maneuvers you can use to give yourself a few seconds of accurate firing time or you can use modules to slow them down.

        You have to keep track of your ship’s battery. Firing (most) weapons, repairing your ship, using your modules, and jumping into warp all drain your “capacitor” (battery). It recharges, but at a non-linear rate, building up more quickly when it’s around 30% charged. Ideally you want to stagger your use of active modules to keep your capacitor at around that level.

        You have to keep track of your hitpoints, you ship’s “tank”. Shields recharge but also in a non-linear fashion like your capacitor. Your shield, armor, and hull also have different levels of resistance versus the four different types of damage. How quickly are you killing him compared to how quickly he’s killing you? Are you going to win this fight? Maybe we should leave.

        You can also overheat your modules to get a slight edge of extra performance at the risk of damaging or destroying your equipment. You have to manage your heat levels to make sure you don’t leave yourself defenseless.

        Situational awareness is also paramount. Who else is in the system? Are they hostile, friendly, or a third party (probably hostile)? Can you escape if someone else shows up or can you kill them both? If a ship gets within several AU (Astronomical Unit, the distance of the Earth from the Sun. 149,597,871 kilometers) you can identify what class of ship they’re flying and whether they’re coming towards you or heading away. You need to take that data in consideration while also paying attention to the battle.

        Then you have all the raw knowledge, both stuff you know already and what you can find out in the seconds leading up to a fight. What ship they’re flying, what corp they’re a part of, their killboard history, the capabilities of their ship versus your ship. You also have to update that estimate as the fight goes on and you judge how you’re doing.

        And now do all that from your opponent’s perspective. Then add in all the dozen things I’m probably forgetting. And then lose 100 fights before you get any good at it.

        I’ve only been in a handful of fair fights in my time in EVE and they’ve been the most exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and skill-testing experiences I’ve had in gaming. To say otherwise is to buy into the weird, self-deprecating lie spread by EVE players and fans.

  40. DIN aDN says:

    Even after reading this article, I still find it a little difficult to wrap my head around why people would actually enjoy playing this game. Not criticising people for doing so, let me put that out there immediately; only when I play games with other people there tend to be enough rules and structure in place to define exactly how far competition goes and at what point it ends. Otherwise the competition can escalate to a level that I generally game to get *away* from.
    Put that into an MMO, where the other players you encounter are people from the internet who you know nothing about, and it’s – the idea that someone out there might be enticed by this combination is a very strange one to me.

    I don’t know. Any people from the internet feeling inclined to try and explain? Seeing all the positive responses so far has made me curious.

    • DIN aDN says:

      Should have done another editing pass on that comment. “[…]actually enjoy playing[…]” is far more negative in tone than I had intended. Incredulty was what I was shooting for here.

      • Nathaniel says:

        Yeah, it’s certainly weird and very open-ended. The game is definitely about the journey. I mean, the very instant you start the game you’re immortal and unkillable, in a long-term sense. Everything after that is just greed, really.

    • X2Eliah says:

      I definitely see this game’s appeal at a high level – it’s a very complex, very realistic espionage, sabotage, infiltration and deception simulator with real(human) enemies who all have genuine motivations.
      Also, it’s a masterful strategy game, with (again) exceptionally realistic enemies etc.

      As a space sim, though? … Idk. From what I’ve seen, I’d agree with you, the gameplay doesn’t really seem interesting.

      Essentially it’s the large-scale metagame that makes the game worthwhile, imo.

      • DIN aDN says:

        Hmm, I guess that makes sense. And I do love games of intrigue; so I suppose once you take that away it’s just the whole ‘playing with strangers’ thing, and that’s something I know is just my personal taste.

        Cool beans :)

        • Valfrey says:

          If you enjoy things like Game of Thrones or Romance of the Three Kingdoms, then you’d probably love EvE Online, simply due to the intensity of the metagame alone. As people who don’t play the game have noted repeatedly, it

          As a player who has experienced the massive fights and the smaller ones, I can say that it includes the large strategic lagfests you hear about, and the small, furious skirmishes that provide a nice adrenaline rush for individual pilots and happen all over the place.

          Also having actual consequences to your actions in-game make provide a nice bit of weight to everything you do. Its that sandbox effect I suppose.

          But yeah, I won’t lie, the first few months, when your skillpoint pool is limited, the game can be quite bland if you’re playing solo.

          But once you cross a few mill and get an idea of what you want to do in the game, that when Eve starts to truly shine. It’s what you make of it.

  41. Zaxares says:

    As a player I’d know that I’d NEVER enjoy EVE Online for the exact reasons you mention, but as a gamer I’m quite fascinated by the intricacy of the game world and amused by the colossal clusterfuck (fitting, considering CFC’s name) that took place.

  42. kdansky says:

    The good thing about EVE is its overall structure. The bad thing about EVE is its minute-to-minute gameplay. I’ve played it for a few months, but shooting stuff is just boring, and gaining a huge amount of ISK is also not very interesting (because what are you going to do with it?)

    • Thomas says:

      Try to conquer the world!

      Gevlon Goblin was the guy who first broke the gold cap in WoW and bored of that he turned his attention to EVE and was quickly generating insane amounts of money every week.

      But what I find most interesting about him is that what he wants most of all is to have some measurable challenging impact on the world. He’s incredibly left-brained, so climbing the social ladders isn’t the method for him, nor just ‘enjoying the game’. What he wants is to devise a method and use his money in such a way that everyone has to change their behaviour.

      For example, it’s a pasttime in EVE to suicide gank ships in the supposedly protected high security space and post the complaints of the victims online. So Gevlon started a corporation that ganked people in space and then posted ship fitting instructions explaining to them how they can equip their ship to be ungankable. He wanted to change the meta and force newbies into learning how to defend their ships.

      Or in the war between TEST Alliance Please Ignore and the above mentioned CFC, when TEST was growing low on funds they recruited Gevlon and he tried to completely change their financial base, so that it revolved around a score-board of donations from rich players, matched by his own wealth.

      Right now the CFC and Red vs Blue have formed a kind of cartel in high security space where they run on monopoly on the taxation of all production sites. There’s a gameplay mechanic where you can stake a claim to an area and tax all the people who want to create ships there. The only way you can destroy their claim is if you declare war on two of the biggest high-sec forces in EVE, which is not only dangerous, but also expensive.

      To declare war in high-sec you have to pay some money per member in a ‘War Declaration’ which allows you to fight for a certain length of time.

      So Gevlon has hired an elite mercenary corp and funded their war against the CFC and RvB, moreover he’s created a corporation whose sole purpose is to take part in this war and fight the two alliances. Absolutely anyone can join and it means that if you join up to the corp with your non-main character, you don’t have to risk any repercussions. And arguably, his side is winning right now.

      This is his blog
      http://greedygoblin.blogspot.co.uk/

      • Valfrey says:

        Judging by the lack of news on that corporation you said he made, he hasn’t been able to do anything with it.

        People don’t like being used and turned into cannon fodder without some hope of profit.

        RvB is a group of two alliance locked in constant war. It’s like a pvp training group for people in high security space. They generally fly smaller, cheaper craft.

        Not sure how Gevlon would ever be able to wage war again the CFC. Isk is only as good as your ability to use it. Technically, N3 and PL are substantially wealthier than their counterparts in the CFC due to their renter program, but they still lost B-R. Rather horribly.

  43. Cybron says:

    I have a friend who’s been playing EVE since launch. He has a lot of interesting stories, but as he always tells me, ‘EVE is a lot more interesting to hear about than to play’.

    It’s pretty fun hearing him talk about ‘the old days’, though. Back before Goonswarm even existed.

  44. Typo: skimmishes –> skirmishes.

    Sounds very cool.

  45. James says:

    Ok, so lets fist clarify one thing, While i’ve played eve for 8 years or so on and off, i am by no means an expert but any chance to talk about this game to anyone for any reason and ill waffle on and on. but lets talk specifically about the things brought up in this article.

    Time and money it takes to do things.

    More then any MMO time in eve is a resource, the much touted isk/hr concept makes things seam much like a job to some people, which i think feel is doing the game a disservice. isk is a means to an end for most people, i personally blow it all into ships i then go out and use to blow up other people, some people use it to make there ships more efficient or to make there manufacturing process more profitable, or maby take that step from mining frigate to mining barge, Isk/hr is very rarely a goal on its own, but sometimes people just want to be space rich.

    Additionally some people even though they can, don’t want to “play for free” via plex, i am one of these i’m much happier spending real money for a sub and even to inject my self with isk by selling plex, i do this because my free time is worth more to me then what i can “earn” by getting the isk to buy a plex for game time, or ships.

    Effort is also a huge element, you mentioned the Battle of Asakai and the Slaughter of B-R, these fights involved several thousand people and ships costing billions of isk, the sheer effort involved to co-ordinate even the generation of the ships used is astonishing, then there’s the effort involved in coordinating the fleets of players, being a FC (Fleet commander) has been jokingly but accurately called herding cats. Then there’s being an Alliance head, or really anyone of import in an Alliance, this takes herding cats to an absurd level a Fc might herd 200 people for 4 hours, a Alliance head does it for 5000 all day, every day.

    Ok so they way you get “XP” in this game is entirely different from any other game that exists, in the game the ability to do anything done so via “Skills” this skills range from using a mining laser to flying a Titan, to building a mining ship. skills advance by earning “Skill Points” these are earned passively over time weather online or not, the amount earned can be increased, but lets not make things complicated. you can only train one skill at a time, but you can queue several skills (within some restrictions) so over time you can get increasingly more powerful at anything while doing anything else. SP is not the only measure of ones ability at things in the game, but its a rough measuring stick.

    The Market in eve is almost entirely player generated, there are a few items seeded by the devs, and loot drops from npcs are also “generated” in the sense that npcs don’t buy things. but its reasonable to say that, the ship you are flying was built by x, the guns by y, the shiny afterburner was found and sold by z, and so on and so on.

    PLEX was essentially bought in to give players are legit legal way to buy ISK, instead of having a never ending war banning farmers CCP basically sold it themselves, so players will buy from them rather then face the “ban hammer” and CCP is exceedingly good at finding people who illegally by isk. also as PLEX is an item that can be moved it is not uncommon for people to load it into there cargo and then someone else blows them skyhigh and its could be gone forever. and as Shamus says it makes nice headlines when you can say the Battle of BR- destroyed 300k of ships.

    PvP, in eve PvP can happen anywhere to anyone (there is one exception and thats the new player systems the GMs will ban you for ganking or baiting in there) you could be mining, minding your own business in space where the police exist and BAM someone jumps you and your dead, the police then come in and exact “justice” by killing the people who killed you. (the response time of the cops is based on how secure the system is) and the entire game is really built around the idea of sandbox PvP. the minerals the miners mine will be likely used to blow people up somewhere down the line. for the most part PvP is not consensual (except when it is for events and the like) a person or people rock up attack you and you can fight back, run (if you can) or you die.

    Alliance PvP can be based on any number of reasons, Resources, space, bragging rights, to put a dent in the strategic abilities of there enemies, or as once happened ‘cus someone insulted someone else. this can easily escalate out of hand when people have allies and coalitions up to the point in 2012 then the entire north invaded the south, or when because of a miss click 4k people brawled in low sec (Battle of Asakai) or the Battle for HED-GP where 4+k people brawled over one of the most important systems, or the Slaughter of BR- where after a missed payment on rent 4k people fought over a station and where both FC’s went “balls deep” and deployed the largest number of Titans ever seen leading to 75 of them being lost, the previous record being 12.

    Clarifying the Battle of Asakai
    Ok so Asakai went a little different then Shamus recounted by most of what he said was correct.

    As i recall it. (might not be 100% accurate news in eve is filtered through player run sites so bias is abound)

    Originally two groups where fighting over a PoS (mini station players own essentially) one side had the CFC to back it up if need be, the other side knew this and asked PL if they wanted to escalate to shoot the CFC if the CFC did back up the attacking side, PL said maby. so when the CFC was supposed to “bridge its sub-capitals to support x” the titan instead Jumped itself. it was then interdicted (titans are immune to normal warp inhibition so heavy interdiction are needed) and PL who happened to be on a moving op with Dreads nearby answered the call to shoot the stricken Titan, CFC counter escalated again to save it, and PL Counted escalated again on top of that, then a message went to to EVERYONE in the game via certain channels to come to Asakai and shoot whatever, things got very very messy.

    If anyone wants to play and would like help, advice ect. the following is useful information

    Eve University is one of the corps in eve dedicated to training players in everything

    The Help Channel is full of people who will answer your questions and give advice.

    If you need anymore help you can always bug me ingame. i play a character called Rebbeca Neresh.

    Sorry Shamus for making this VERY long.

  46. Rick says:

    I just interviewed for a job where an EVE subscription is listed as a perk. I’ve always been intrigued by EVE but don’t trust myself with access to such a time-sink.

    Anyway, thanks for a great read, and some talking points :D

  47. Thomas says:

    I’d love more writing on EVE if you continue to play it!

  48. Blackbird71 says:

    Shamus,

    First, just to correct a misconception you seem to have – an EVE Online subscription is pretty much standard for any MMO – about $15 a month, less if you buy more than one month at a time. Yes, a PLEX (worth 30 days of game time) does cost close to $20, but no one buys a PLEX to use towards their own monthly subscription. You either buy a PLEX to sell for in-game funds, or to use to unlock other options (dual character training, etc.). If you’re paying real world money for your own account, you just pay a normal subscription fee like that for any other MMO.

    As a long-time on again/off again EVE player (currently on), I wish you luck. From experience, I can say that nullsec, where all these massive newsworthy battles take place, is where souls go to die. It is a tedious environment to play in. and is really for those who want to spend several hours a day in this game (usually running multiple accounts simultaneously). The months I spent in nullsec made the game feel like a job, and it was responsible for my most recent hiatus from the game. So while the occasional epic fight occurs, everything in between can get pretty boring. Even the massive fights themselves are usually more fun to read about than to participate in.

    If you’re just looking for mining/industry, stick to high sec (unless your corp can protect operations in lower security space); if you want excitement, try small fights in low sec (Factional Warfare is a great place to start). Wormholes are also a great speace to get into, but I don’t recommend it as a starting point for anyone. But unless you want the game to be a second job, stay away from player-controlled nullsec!

  49. Blackbird71 says:

    On a slightly different note, here’s a brief sum-up of the Battle of B-R5RB Shamus mentioned geared for those unfamiliar with EVE (pay no attention to the fact that the author does not understand the difference between a Star Wars Star Destroyer and a Super Star Destroyer):

    Battle of BR5RB

  50. urs says:

    Yes, Shamus, please more of this!

    I haven’t played for ages but somehow, it’s not out of my system.
    God, I’m tempted to take a look right now…

  51. Mukk says:

    I tried to join your corp with a character. They told me they didn’t allow pvp in corp. EVE PVE is pretty boring so I said that I wasn’t too interested. A bit later they introduced me to some guys who do pvp. I joined their fleet and got on their teamspeak 3. They warped around for a few minutes, got bored and tried to suicide gank my Astero with 3 destroyers. They all died. I can’t stop laughing.

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