Header art by Quendan Comari
A friend asked me if she should try EVE Online. This led to a rather lengthy e-mail exchange, which I’ve turned into a Q&A format with her questions simplified. Granted, my responses are jaded from my own history with EVE, but I wish I’d had something like this to read through when I was starting.
Q: Are the players as toxic as I’ve heard?
No. It’s a standard online community that reflects the general population; just like in real life, or any other online community. The toxic or negative news will rise to the top of media coverage. No one talks about the polite guy trying to help people (or if they do it doesn’t seem to draw as much attention). That’s boring. You talk about the guy who scammed someone, or stole this or that, or threatened them.
Q: I heard EVE has a harsh cost per death. How does that work?
It’s similar to old school games. In those, when you died you dropped everything you had on you. In EVE, when you die, some of your items will just “poof.” So, even if you do go back to your “corpse” you won’t get it all back. Especially since your ship will always poof.
Aside from that, however, there is no death cost. The golden rule is ‘don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose’, and if you mind that axiom, death means almost nothing.
Q: The economy sounds like it’s complicated; I like complicated. But just how complicated is it?
It’s as broken as any other MMO. Tons of faucets, few sinks, and that results in a massive accumulation of wealth to the point where nothing really has any value once you reach that tipping point. CCP (the game developer) is trying to alter that, but only by tweaking the faucets, which accomplishes nothing in the long run.
Basically, you grind out the early days, then once you hit critical mass, it’s just like every other MMO.
Q: Can they fix that?
The first thing I’d do is add a ton more little sinks to better simulate a real economy. I work 40 to 50 hours a week, and if I had the equivalent of EVE’s sinks as bills I wouldn’t be living from paycheck to paycheck. I’d be filthy rich. There is literally no cost of living.
So to start fixing that? Docking fees, storage fees, and maintenance fees on your assets, just off the top of my head. When you dock your ship there should be a fee (percentage of value is probably easiest), unless it’s a freeport run by some player who doesn’t want to make money that way. When you put ships or items in a station, that storage shouldn’t be free, unless it’s a freeport. The more you store the more you pay. But now, it’s all free, which makes no sense. How do these stations pay for themselves?
Maintenance fees of any sort on ships don’t really exist. Think of it like buying a car, except in EVE once you’ve bought it and got it all tricked out, that’s it. You don’t have to pay for gas; insurance is completely optional, and repairs and the few other costs associated with it are so minimal that you can pay for those by going to work one day a year.
Q: How does PvP work?
There are areas where there is “some” protection for you (guards, sort of), but you are essentially always threatened with PvP. You can dock up in a station and be safe for as long as you’re in there (or logged out), but the rest of the time, you are vulnerable to attack. You can be ganked just about anytime, anywhere.
Q: So they can steal from your corpse?
Yep. Whatever dropped when you die they can take.
Q: Can you make money doing that?
Yep. All items have value. Your old murder-for-hire scheme is actually pretty common in EVE, and the “guards” in this game are even easier to get around than those you were dealing with in WoW.
Q: The ships fit into categories, right? How does that work in PvP?
Think of it as combat, industrial, and mining. In most games, any class can be useful in PvP. In EVE, that formula doesn’t work. A mining ship, except on rare occasions, will always lose to a combat ship. The same with industrials.
CCP decided mining ships should only be mining ships, industrials only industrials. The majority of them can’t even have weapons. It’s extremely unrealistic, but they never came up with a rigging system that would allow them, for example, to swap a high slot for a low slot or some cargo space for drone space, or add a turret or missile slot in exchange for cargo.
The best you can do to get around the class system is to equip a combat ship for industrial or mining tasks, but CCP never came up with booster items that would allow combat ships to achieve even a 50% parity with their counterparts.
The combat ships are also designed in such a way that either you can be fit for PvP, or PvE, but not both. I’ve come up with a few fits that kind of work, but PvP fit ships will kill PvE fit ships about 99% of the time, with the 1% being due to the attacker being pretty bad. Think of it like a fully geared PvP character versus a raider in old school WoW. It’s apples and oranges. The raider might look pretty cool, and survive for a bit, but in the end – he’s dead. He’s just got the wrong stats and bonuses.
Q: Does the race I pick matter?
Nope. They used to have bonuses, but for some reason CCP moved away from that and never went back to it. I keep hoping they’ll change their mind and put in some new meaningful attributes.
Q: There are no non-PvP zones?
I think the starter systems new players pop up in are PvP free, but that’s it. I keep thinking they’ll turn what’s called high-sec into a flaggable area, if even only on a trial basis, but they never have. They don’t seem to be interested in courting the PvE players out there. Current game design is more aimed at those who specifically want PvP as an option all the time.
Q: I didn’t think there were that many PvP server types out there. Am I wrong?
Statistically, if you look at the populations of the MMOs out there, I’d say, no, you’re not wrong. I think the majority of players are probably like me – very willing to engage in PvP, but they prefer to have the option of when to PvP and when to PvE, even if it means having to relocate to high-sec or designated PvE areas.
I think, originally, EVE was built around the theme of danger in space and they are sticking to that theme. I’ll give them points for sticking to their guns, but it has probably cost them a lot of money over the years.
Q: Scamming gets talked about a lot. How bad is it?
It is allowed, with very few restrictions. However, it is not really a huge blight on the game. The fact is, 99% of scams are pretty obviously scams. It is like real world scamming: if you fall for it, then you sort of deserve it, and you should learn from it.
Q: How common are the huge fights I’ve read about?
It depends on how big you mean. The big titan brawls? Not very common. They usually happen a few years apart and they actually don’t really mean anything to most of the sides involved in the long run, aside from bragging rights, which, let’s face it, in MMOs is a hard currency.
Q: Why don’t they matter?
Because the alliances throwing those big toys around are past that economic tipping point I mentioned. The cost to replace almost everything is manageable, so the only real cost is the time it takes to replace those ships. CCP has not put any measures in place to control proliferation of huge capital ships.
Q: Will they fix it?
Probably not. CCP seems to be trying, but it is far too soon to evaluate the results. The easiest way I can think of would be to delete all of the big ships. Refund the original material costs to the owners, then rework how they are built, with limited/unique components required. Add in some fees to make it more realistic to maintain these massive fleets, even when they are sitting around idle, and, of course, increase the cost to make them.
Q: So what about this current war I’ve been reading about. Will there be a long term effect?
None that I can think of. Some of the alliances involved might disband, meaning the players do a little dance to new groups. Some territory might change hands, but there really is no cost to war aside from ships lost, and I’ve already addressed how meaningless that is.
Assets in this game are protected. Anything in a station can never really be taken by someone else (except through betrayal). In wormhole space, destroyed structures will drop everything, which is a special case.
So, let’s say the attackers destroy the defenders’ stations. The assets inside, which could be worth trillions and contain entire fleets of ships, will just move to another station. The attackers don’t get them. The defenders don’t lose them. Wars generate bragging rights, of course, which have value, but on an economic level? No.
Q: So it’s Warsong Gulch?
No, it’s not even close. Those kind of battlegrounds reward you with honor or tokens or whatever, which you can cash in for something. You don’t even get that in EVE. There’s no real cost to losing and no real reward for winning. You can put up flags and claim space and then profit from that space, but there is so much of it, that even owning space doesn’t add up to much. CCP recently added Quantum Cores, so you can make a little money by taking out enemy stations, but I doubt it will be enough to make it worthwhile.
Q: So what’s the point of these wars?
E-peen? Space bushido? Once upon a time the space actually had value. They would fight for moons or territory so that they could get richer. Now? Not so much. There’s more space than the amount of players in the entire game could possibly use, even if they were interested in trying.
The area of space currently being fought over, called nullsec, is actually being devalued so much economically that there is very little point in living there. Except that you can put up a flag and call it yours and build the Ferraris and Lambos to sit in the garage. To some that matters. I’ve always wanted to try it. Some day I might.
Q: I thought one side wanted to eliminate the other?
They don’t. One of the leaders said that, but he was just talking out of his ass. You can’t eliminate anyone in this game. You can’t force them to quit, since at the end of the day you don’t suffer from real losses. With things called skill extractors and skill injectors, players can even reinvent themselves with a completely new character, and lose very little of their ability to play.
Q: How do you gain levels?
There are no levels. You gain skill points over time, or you can buy them in the form of injectors. There are tons of skills to learn in all different areas that effect the game. I guess max level would be having all the skills learned.
Q: Is EVE solo friendly?
Absolutely, but with caveats. Some things can only really be accomplished in groups and some goals you may set will require others to help you along the way. But, if you want to play solo, you can find a ton of content.
Q: So is it worth playing?
Yes. It’s a gorgeous game, and extremely chill, with a lot of different ways to play. You can play an hour a day or ten hours, or not at all, depending on your mood, and you are still “leveling up,” so to speak. That’s a pretty unique aspect of it.
My only advice on that point is to give it more than a few days, or even weeks. Everything in EVE is a time sink on a level not seen in other MMOs. WOW and SWTOR and others are designed around near instant gratification. EVE? Not so much. It’s all much slower. It’s a very chill game. Once you get your mind around that fact, it can be a great game for you.