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2011 Review of Eve Online from a veteran, part 1 of 2

Most of the reviews I have seen for Eve Online on various sites always seem to fall short at describing and reviewing everything that this unequaled game has to offer. This is my attempt to correct that. Sit down and get comfortable, this will be long.
Final Score

9
Excellent

Pros
 
 Potential for utterly massive fleet fights (current record I think is over 3000 between both sides on one field)
 Increadible logistical complexities in certain situations not found in any other game
 A true challenge; forces you to really think, and you will become a better general game player from playing this
 Massive variety of different things you can do
 Not limited to one role, given enough training time your character could fulfill every concievable function
Cons
 
 Lots of patience needed; this game is designed to be played over several years. If you have no patience, don't try it
 People will do everything they can to try to kill you
 Not very good at solo play, as that can get very repetitive
 Lack of set goals can be confusing to some
 Learning curve can be steep, difficult to get into for some that aren't used to gaming
Disclaimer: The following article is the sole opinion of its author and does not represent MMORPG.com in its thoughts or opinions. This is not an official MMORPG.com editorial article.

My name is Daryl. In Eve Online, I am known as Kiljaedenas.

I have seen quite a few reviews of Eve Online in the past, and in my opinion all of them have fallen short in reviewing all of the aspects of this increadible game. Some are just plain bad, done by people who couldn't make it past the 15 day free trial and therefore only really reviewed about 5% of the content. Others are from more established players that have been in the game for quite some time, but they don't touch on all of the aspects of the game in what I would consider enough detail. Eve Online is the only videogame I have ever gained a true profound respect for in my life, and I am a hardcore videogame veteran of over 1000 games of every type known to man. I have seen all of the logistical aspects of the various genres through all the platforms; new games come out with nice shiny graphics, but the core logistics behind the gameplay usually doesn't change. I know what works, what doesn't, and what is considered "good" by both the industry and the fanbase. And with all of that experience, I want to properly review the absolute work of art that is Eve Online, one of the best and most complex videogames ever made in human history.

Sit down, get comfortable, maybe get yourself a drink and a snack first. To properly review the unequaled complexity of Eve, this is going to be very, very long. If it were any other game, at all, this article wouldn't be even a fifth as long as it is, but since Eve Online is an absolute beast of a game I need an absolute beast of an article in order to properly review it. You have been warned.

Ready? Alright then, let's begin with a general overview:

Eve Online is effectively multiple games in one. It has elements of an RPG (Role Playing Game), a Manufacturing game (think Runescape; god did I spend a lot of time grinding on that one) and above all else, an RTS (Real Time Strategy). Usually games that have this much variety in them don't really do all of them well, sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. What really sets Eve Online apart is that its versions of these aspects are more in depth and complex than most, if not all, of the solo games specifically designed to have one of these aspects as their main strength. Because of the unscripted nature of it, the missions/goals given to you by the leader of your corp and therefore the role you have to play could have a logistical complexity to it that no standard scripted RPG could match, the depth and complexity of the in-game manufacturing system and economy completely blows Runescape and games like it out of the water, and the level of tactics involved in not only large fleet fights but also managing owned space in Nullsec, with all of the planning required for building/maintaining ships and space stations completely stomps Starcraft, Warcraft and any other RTS ever made completely into the dirt. To top it off, activities normally considered "griefing" i.e. theft, extortion, blackmail, scamming; it is all openly allowed in Eve, making it one of the most "real" games there is as all of this is present in the real world. It is the hardcore game for the hardcore game player, and it can be best summed up by three words: Adapt or Die.

Now for a review of each of the main aspects of the game:

 

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

In Eve Online you are a Capsuleer, a genetically enhanced human with advanced cybornetic implants that can establish a neural link with a ship, allowing you to pilot that ship to a level completely impossible by ships with traditional crews. Unlike in pretty much every other RPG ever made, in Eve Online you don't get experience points or levels nor do you unlock skills from mission or event achievement or get better with those skills after repeated use. What you do have, however, are trainable skills. Each and every skill either improves a particular aspect of one or more ships and/or equipment, helps unlock the ability to fly/shoot/wear anything in the game, or both. Absolutely everything except for the absolutely basic ships and equipment (i.e. rookie ships, shuttles and civilian modules) needs skills of some kind, and there are rather in-depth prerequisite trees for the skills and the items.

To train a skill, you first have to go buy the Skillbook for that skill which is a kind of digital data repository. If you have all of the required prerequisite skills you can inject that book data into your brain and start training it. The storyline behind this is that a computer in your body starts rewiring the neural connections in your brain as quickly as is safely possible with the new knowledge; once that rewiring is complete you can then access that part of your brain as normal and use the skill you just learned. The training is done by generating Skill Points in that skill. Each skill has a certain complexity rating and five levels of competence, with each successive level improving your knowledge but taking more time (a.k.a. Skillpoints) to learn. This training continues even when you are offline (i.e. similar to if your character was sleeping, which could be considered what happens when you go offline). This basically allows you to "play when you're not playing" in a way. The speed at which you learn a particular skill also depends on your core Attributes: Intelligence, Memory, Willpower, Perception and Charisma. Different skills get bigger boosts to training speeds (i.e. the rate at which you generate Skill Points in that skill) from different Attributes, and there are also cybornetic Implants that you can buy that give you a boost to these attributes and therefore to training speed.

There is a finite limit to how fast you can learn skills. Even if you were able to find someone in-game that gave you the best possible implants and paid for all of your skillbooks you would still take several months of training to be able to even fly one the largest ships available, let alone fit them properly to a point where you wouldn't die easily. Many of the better ships and equipment need you to have all five levels in one or more skills, and many of those skills can take over a month to train that fifth level. That forced slow pace of development is not popular with some people; they like to grind through the experience levels in something like WoW and become the ultimate character as quickly as possible. You really need to plan out your development long-term based on what you intend to do and what ship types/equipment you want to use, as it would literally take several years to learn every skill available. There is no hand-holding in Eve; you have to take your fate in your own hands. If you are not willing to play one game for well over one year at least, Eve Online is not for you.

 

CHARACTER EQUIPMENT AND PLAYER DEATH

A player's Equipment in Eve Online consists of his ship, the modules he fits in High, Medium and Low Slots, Rigs (enhancements to the ship that are destroyed when removed, kind of like an enchantment gem embedded in a piece of equipment commonly seen in many MMORPGs), his Implants (some enhance the speed of learning as mentioned above, while the vast majority enhance practically everything else), his Ammunition/Charges stored in his cargohold, his Drones and finally, to a lesser extent, Boosters (drugs with a temporary effect on your stats, quite similar to temporary buffing enchantments from other games). 

The central aspects that determine more than anything else what a ship can have equipped on it are that ship's CPU, Powergrid and slot layout, and the natural bonuses that each ship gives to some particular types of equipment further define their overall role in a fight. And all of the traditional "classes" or roles found in standard MMORPGs exist in Eve as well. In other MMOs you would have the tank, the short range DPS, the long range single target DPS, the healer, the buffer, the debuffer, the AOE damage dealer and the stealth fighter. Correspondingly in Eve Online you have the tank, the short range DPS, the sniper, the logistics, the gang booster, the EWAR (electronic warfare), the bomber/smartbomber and the covert ops/force recon/black ops/covert configured strategic cruiser ships. Eve Online has the additional ship-dependant roles of PvE grinder (combination of DPS and tank ill suited to PvP), scout, miner, hauler, heavy hauler (freighter), besieger (dreadnaught and supercarrier), and a few other unique ones that wouldn't really fit in any normal category.

In most other MMOs, once you choose a class you are stuck with that class and corresponding playstyle. In Eve Online that is not the case; by simply switching your ship, or even just switching a small handful of modules on your current ship, you can completely change your role in a battle. There are very few pieces of equipment that are isolated to one particular ship, so as long as your ship has the Powergrid and CPU to fit the equipment you can put whatever you want on your ship, regardless of what that ship is naturally inclined to. This also allows you almost unlimited capability at creating a hybrid build of multiple roles. Fitting ships in Eve Online is definitely an artform that can take a while to get good at, which can be overwhelming for some players. But for the hardcore, it's a refreshing level of complexity.

One other aspect that definitely sets Eve apart from other MMOs is the way it handles player death. In traditional MMOs (Rift, WoW, Perfect World etc) if you die in PvE you would respawn with all of your equipment more or less intact, perhaps losing a little gold or experience and some of your equipment might be a bit damaged. You go back to a base, repair your stuff, grind for perhaps an additional hour or so and everything is hunky dory. In PvP those games often have PvP rooms where small teams of players go against each other, respawning at one end of the arena with no lasting ill effects every time they die. One team wins, gains points of some kind or perhaps some special piece of equipment, and that's it. Whoopty do.

In Eve Online, death is DEATH. If your ship blows up, it blows up. There's no mystical God or spiritual being or some Priest-like ship with a resurrection skill of some kind that makes you suddenly reappear with all your stuff...your ship is turned into a smouldering pile of wreckage in the middle of space, and you get ejected into a capsule (pod), which is the vessel through which you establish a neural link with your main ship. You switch ships by moving your capsule out of the first one and into the second one, but the capsule can be flown by itself. It has basic engines, no weapons, no cargo, and a paper-thin defence that can be punched through very easily, however it can align to warp out of an area very fast. Also, any Implants that you plugged into your character will still be safe. In PvE, usually the enemy NPCs will not fire on your pod but this is not always the case. If you can come back in a new ship and destroy the NPCs you will be able to salvage your own shipwreck, which may contain some of the modules and cargo that you were carrying. In PvP, however, good freaking luck. Whoever destroyed you will undoubtedly steal everything they can, and if you're unlucky they will also try to warp scramble your pod so that you can't escape, and most likely destroy that as well. If you get destroyed in your pod you "respawn" in a different way than most MMOs: in the game lore, all capsuleers have a main clone ready in case they die. At the instant a capsule is breached, a memory scanner in the capsule takes a rapid flash-scan of your brain and copies all of your memories, destroying your brain in the process (your capsule has been breached so you're dead anyways). That data is then instantly transmitted to whatever station is holding your waiting clone, where it is downloaded into that cloned brain and you awaken in the station. You are given a fresh Capsule for free, and if the station you are in does not contain any other ship that you own you are also given a free Rookie Ship, which is the most basic bare-bones vessel you can own (when you first start in Eve, you start in this ship). Since your implants were in that corpse you just left they are quite permanently fried, and since some implants can cost more than a whole fleet of small ships, this makes death in Eve very expensive.

To top it off, there are several grades of clones, each of which can handle a certain amount of data. You can upgrade your main clone at any time although higher grades cost more. Each grade of clone can handle a certain total number of Skill Points (mentioned above in skill training); if, when you die, your character has a total sum of skill points between all of his skills higher than what your clone can contain, you will LOSE skillpoints in a random assortment of skills worth 5% of the difference between what you had at death and what your clone can handle. Considering the limit on how fast you can train, losing skillpoints can cost you a LOT of time as well as remove your capability to fly/use certain ships/equipment, and you have to train those skills all over again.

More than anything else, the concept of every death involving the total destruction or looting of your equipment is what sets Eve apart from other MMOs. That aspect makes most players (there are always the stupid or the obscenely wealthy that don't care)  very careful not to die, and forces them to use much more advanced tactics than you would find anywhere else. PvP is one of the core aspects of Eve (which will be explained in more detail below), and the players who focus on it are usually very, very good at it. That is where the biggest challenge lies; instead of blowing up some predictable NPC, you have to fight an unpredictable human opponent - who usually has several friends hidden nearby, waiting to pounce on you - and if you lose, you lose everything on you which could have taken you a long time to afford. This is one of several things that makes Eve Online a game that is not for the faint of heart, and brutally challenging. Many won't like this aspect, but I certainly do :).

 

THE GAME WORLD

The world of Eve Online is divided into several thousand star systems linked to each other by Stargates, as well as hundreds of systems in Wormhole space (explained later) that link to the standard star systems through randomly moving wormholes. Each individual system has its own assortment (or lack thereof) of planets, stations, asteroid belts, NPC pirates and the like. Each star system is given a Security rating from 0.0 to 1.0 in decimals of 0.1, which indicates how "safe" the system is. Systems of similar ratings are usually close to each other, which logically groups the Eve world into regions.

High Security space (Hisec for short) is at security levels 0.5 to 1.0. This is where all new players start. In Eve a player can attack another player at any time they want, however if they do it in Hisec when they do not have special attack rights on the target (explained below) police security forces (known as Concord) will warp in and very quickly fry the agressor to ash (known as Concorded, or more popularly Concordokken as a nod to the popular Street Fighter move :) ). NPC station and stargate sentry guns can do the same, and they are extremely overpowered. The Hisec securities are so strong that if an illegal agressor does manage to survive somehow, it is considered an exploit. The agressor would also take a hit to their Security Status, which is a general ranking of how evil a player is. If a player's security status drops low enough from repeated agression against players in higher security areas, NPC forces will attack them on sight the moment they enter Hisec. This high security space is therefore the safest there is, and is the most popular area for new players just learning the ropes and for players who don't like PvP (dubbed Carebears). There are also limits on the types of ships and equipment available to fly and use in Hisec: no capital ships other than Freighters can warp into Hisec, no heavy AOE weapons or effects can be used (such as warp disruption bubbles and covops bombs), and several of the structures that can be anchored to a player owned station (explained below) are not available, such as the moon mining laser and capital construction facility. The quality of asteroid ores and quantities of planet materials are also significantly lower in Hisec than anywhere else. Hisec is also entirely dominated by the main Empires or races of Eve, which are the Amarr, the Gallente, the Minmatar and the Caldari. They exclusively own all sovreignty rights to their particular section of Hisec, and police it heavily. Players who have pissed off an Empire enough by repeatedly attacking its ships in missions will be engaged on sight if they enter a system of that empire with a high enough security status, and the Empire defence forces are almost as deadly as Concord.

Low Security space (Lowsec for short) is at security levels 0.1 to 0.4. In these zones, players who openly shoot others without special attack rights will still get a hit to their security status and sentry guns around stations and stargates will still attack them, however those turrets are significantly weaker than their Hisec counterparts and Concord does NOT show up to protect the victim. At security level 0.3 or below, AOE effects such as warp disruption bubbles become available to use, and moon mining lasers can be equipped on a player owned station. Capital ships can also enter Lowsec. The quality of asteroid ores and quantity of planet minerals is significantly better than in Hisec, as well as the value of bounties on NPC ships so there is definitely greater money to be made. Piracy runs rampant through Lowsec; some players make it their entire livelyhood. If you come into Lowsec, come prepared or you are guaranteed to die, likely after getting blackmailed to boot.

Null Security space (Nullsec for short) is at security level 0.0. In these regions, everything goes. Every ship, every piece of equipment, every type of station module, EVERYTHING can be used. No NPC stations or stargates have security guns, Concord never shows up, and attacking/destroying another player does not have any effect on your security status. Asteroid ores of the highest quality and rarity are available here, and the quantities of minerals on planets are at the highest possible values. Not only that, player corporations and alliances can fight over systems to own and control them, setting up special stations and equipment that allow them to build anything they wish including the largest ships available. This is also where the largest PvP battles and wars can take place, sometimes with thousands of players dueling it out in one area (I believe the current record is a bit over 3000 between all the sides in one fight). Nullsec is really where Eve stands apart from other MMOs; the complexity of what you can do there is completely beyond what any other MMO I have ever heard of has even attempted, let alone implemented. Nullsec, and the deeper levels of what can be done in it, will be covered in more detail later.

Wormhole Space (or W-Space for short) is a special separate set of star systems that can only be entered by a Wormhole which switches its entry point in known space (or K-Space for short) every couple of days or so. The security of W-space is equivalent to 0.0. The heavy stations that corporations can set up in Nullsec are not available for W-Space, however player-owned-stations (i.e. a POS) can be set up with any equipment, and effectively "owned" by virtue of the fact that the players with an established base in a wormhole system will very aggressively fry any intruders they find.

Compared to other MMOs the game world of Eve is increadibly vast and varied, and the possibilities of what you can achieve if you are willing to take the risk of going into lower security areas can at some times be almost mind-boggling. True, you may not have the beautifully rendered cities, landscapes, dungeons etc. that you would find in typical fantasy MMOs and some of those can be quite cool looking (Requiem has some pretty creepy ones), but Eve has a beauty of its own, and in the end it's the game content of what you can do that really matters. A lot of the higher end graphical detail goes into the ships, stations and weapon effects, with quite a variety of results. Some ships and stations look quite majestic, elegant or fearsome, while others are just plain ridiculous (the Amarr Titan has been compared to a giant mushroom and a giant horse penis by many, the Dominix battleship looks like either an upside-down shoe or a flying ballsac with a face depending on which angle you look at it from, the Moa cruiser looks like someone collided a giraffe with a shipping container and the new Sansha supercarrier is universally considered a 5 km long lumpy turd with spikes).

 

INDUSTRY & ECONOMY

All traditional MMOs have some kind of resource extraction and crafting system, and for non-Eve games Runescape's system is at the higher end of complexity though many others have systems somewhat close to it. There is usually the NPC economy with a host of items and equipment that can be bought directly from an NPC store, as well as the player-built economy of stuff that players have mined/salvaged/manufactured/found etc. There are traditional "job" areas for resource extraction such as mining (ore harvesting), botany (plant harvesting), skinning (taking pelts off of creatures), fishing, salvaging (breaking equipment apart and getting base materials from it). There are also traditional "job" areas for manufacturing such as blacksmithing (metalwork with mined ore for heavy weapons and armor), leatherworking (transforming pelts into mid-grade leather armors for lighter classes), tailoring (transforming light cloths usually found on dead NPC enemies into light armor for ultra light classes such as magic users), cooking, alchemy (potion making), enchanting, etc. Players can usually only choose a limited number of these jobs and they are then stuck with them; there may exist special items available at a P2P (Pay to Play) cash shop where for real money they can get an item that "unlocks" a job from their character and allows them to choose a new one. Even if there isn't a particular item you're looking for in the player market or the prices go too high, there is always the NPC market available with unchanging prices to get something functional, as well as being a staple customer for selling manufactured items.

In Eve Online, the situation is quite different. The entire economy is almost completely player-run, with nearly every ship, piece of equipment, bullet, missle, fragment of ore and anything else you can think of on the market having been manufactured, harvested, salvaged or stolen by a human player. There are a core set of items that are sold by NPCs directly which are primarily blueprint originals and skillbooks, and there are a fair number of them. Since these are the basis for pretty much everything you can do in Eve it makes sense for them to be sold by NPCs as they should be accessible to anyone. However, aside from these, for anything that can actively be used in the game world only about 1% of the items that exist in Eve can be bought ready-to-use from an NPC store without any other human interaction involved, which is through the Loyalty Point stores for the various NPC corporations. Everything else is player-sourced, and often those items bought from the NPC stores get re-sold by players in the market anyways or through Contracts.

The item economy and resource extraction system in Eve Online is also almost mind-bogglingly vast. There are more variations of ammo than most MMOs have player levels, ships that range in size from a small Capsule barely larger than a human to an 18km long Titan (with accurate size rendering as well!), trade hubs, supply lines, multiple different resource types with very different methods of extracting them (and with enough time and training you can do them all)...the list goes on. There are currently over 9000 different "things" that a player can own, and that list is constantly growing. And since the selling and buying prices of all of the items in the market and contracts are set by players, the prices are constantly fluctuating like a real world market does, and new game content can significantly affect this. For example, the introduction of the Noctis ship which is specialized in salvaging shipwrecks was so popular that for a time it more than tripled the cost of the mineral Noxium, which is a bottleneck in the material requirements to make it.

To manufacture anything in Eve you first need to buy a Blueprint Original for it, and have the necessary skills trained to make it. You then need to acquire the resources listed on the blueprint BOM (Bill of Materials, for those in the manufacturing industry like myself :) ), which are acquired through a number of means. You then have to find and rent an available manufacturing facility and put both the blueprint and the required materials into the facility through a manufacturing Job. After a certain amount of time, the item is created and shows up in your item hangar of the station it was built in along with your blueprint. That is it at the core, however there are a lot of things you can do to modify this. As was mentioned before, the manufacturing facility needs to keep a hold of the blueprint while making the item so to run multiple manufacturing jobs at once you need multiple blueprints. You can make copies of the original blueprint but these can only be used for a limited number of production runs whereas the original can be used infinitely. Also, the original can be researched to be more mineral and time efficient, or to try and make a higher quality item blueprint copy.  This adds a much deeper and more interesting level of complexity to the art of making an item in Eve compared to other MMOs.

The resources to make and fuel various items come from a variety of sources and even regions in Eve:

- Traditional minerals are found from mining the various asteroid ores found in nearly every star system in Eve, with the higher quality ones only being available in the riskier areas of space. They can also be acquired by recycling ships and components found from various sources, or from special Drone materials looted from npc Drones in missions. These minerals are needed to build almost everything that can be flown, shot, shot at or deployed.

-Ice, and ice products, are also mined in the same way as asteroids though with different relevant skills and equipment, and ice asteroid mining is the only source of these products. They are needed for a variety of products, especially player-owned station fuel.

-Salvage is acquired from shipwrecks and special containers found during Exploration. They are needed to build Rigs for ships, and the salvage gathered from shipwrecks in Wormhole space is heavily needed to produce a special line of ships called Strategic Cruisers.

-Gasses are harvested from nebula-like clouds found during Exploration. They are used for manufacturing Boosters (ability enhancing drugs with temporary effects) and Strategic Cruisers.

-Moon Minerals are harvested through orbital arrays at a Player Owned Station. They are heavily linked into the production of higher quality versions of items, called Tech II items.

-Planetary Goods are harvested through automated facilities deployed onto a planet. They have a wide variety of uses, several of them being as player-owned-station fuel.

Some of the facilities needed to process these resources can only be found at player owned stations, adding another layer of complexity and cost to them.

In real life I work as a manufacturing engineer, and one of the most increadible things I found with the Eve Online economy and industry is the number of real-world skills and logistical issues that can get involved with it. You can have takt times, supply chain agreements, inventory and labour shortages, production schedules, market fluctuations, research and development, supply corridors that have to be protected against pirate blockades...there is simply nothing like it, anywhere, in any other game. This is another aspect of Eve Online that makes it a truly rewarding challenge for the hardcore player. If you do not like this level of complexity, Eve Online is probably not for you.

As has happened in the real world, certain systems have become natural trade hubs for the economy for one reason or another. These systems, and usually a very specific NPC station within each of them, had more market entries listed than others, and more trade contracts, set up in them by what could be just random fluke. But as that was noticed and more and more players set up their market listings there, they eventually became established as the main supermarkets of Eve and there was no pre-scripted plan for this ever established, anywhere. There really is nothing special about these particular stations; they give no bonuses to trading, they aren't necessarily in a notable location...it just naturally evolved that way. Each of the main hisec Empire regions has one of these supercities. The Amarr have Amarr (yes, it is a system named after their race), the Gallente have Dodixie, the Minmatar have Rens. Each of these systems has a pretty respectable amount of trade in them, with at least a couple hundred players in each at almost all times.

And then there is Jita, in Caldari space. More specifically, the Jita IV - Moon IV - Caldari Navy Assembly Plant.

As was mentioned before, there is absolutely nothing special about this particular station. There are no bonuses to trade, the system it is in is just like any other, nothing in particular that at first glance would make you think this would be a major trade hub. However, somehow, over time, this particular station became THE major marketplace in Eve, with more market activity going through it every day then the next six busiest systems combined which includes the other major trade hubs of the other races. Honestly, I'd like to see a breakdown of the history of Jita and see how it became this massive supermarket. There are always an utterly massive number of players online in it, sometimes more than the entire capacity of an isolated game server shard of other MMOs. During the main daytime hours I've seen the player count in the system top 1400, and I have never seen it drop below 700 even at really stupid early hours of the morning. The amount of money that passes through that place on a daily basis is absolutely staggering.

To give you a sense of scale of this, there is a way to equate the in-game money ISK to real world money which is through the value of a PLEX, or Player License Extention. Normally a player would pay a subscription fee to play Eve, however they can also buy a PLEX for roughly $15 USD, which is also roughly equivalent to a month of gameplay subscription. When they do this, the PLEX shows up in their item hangar at a particular station, and they can either activate it or trade it on the market. When activated by a player, the PLEX gives that player a month of free game time. Currently they trade at about 350 million ISK apiece. At first you may think "Hey, the company will go bankrupt, you can completely support your account with in-game money if you work hard!"...not so. Somewhere, some player had to buy that PLEX for real money so if you use them really your account is still getting properly paid for. Just not by you.

At that ratio of roughly $15 USD for 350 million ISK, the amount of money that passes through the main Jita trade station on a daily, occasionally hourly, basis is in the TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars! Jita is a market unlike any other you will ever find.

There is also that group of players that likes to do nothing more than completely screw over other players, much like certain people in real life. Those are the Scammers and the Suicide Gankers, and they absolutely love Jita. These players can and will lie, cheat and steal anything of significant value and if they manage to get you and you complain about it, they and everyone else around will laugh at you for being an idiot and falling for it.

The Scammers work usually by creating a trade contract and name it as if it were for a rare, high quality ship or item for a really good price, but in fact the item they are trading is a much lower quality version of that item in the hopes that some eager enthusiast will immediately accept the seemingly very good contract without actually looking at the items being offered. They also regularly advertise these contracts in the local chat channels. Another method is just to say what they want to sell without a contract and then open a trade window with you, but they put the low quality item in the window instead with the hopes you'll hit Accept without looking at it. These are actually very easy scams to avoid by simply looking at the core info of the items being actually offered before hitting the Accept button, but from what I hear there is a rather ample supply of fools who fall for these. If you choose not to use one of those two protected trading methods and just send someone money in the hopes that they'll send the desired item back, and they most likely won't...you're an idiot, and if you whine about getting scammed in the forums or chat channels you will be laughed at big time and/or simply told to stfu.

Trade scams, however, are not the only kind of scams that can be found in Eve, so you must always be watchful for them. One in particular that I heard of was that a somewhat newer player started claiming in the chat channels to be a jump freighter pilot and offered to help some corporations move their operations into Nullsec. Those corporations accepted his offer and (quite foolishly) gave him up-front money payments and inventory that was not protected by a contract that required up-front collateral. He quite happily ran off with their stuff, which was supposedly worth several billion. Another recent and quite impressive scam was a classic Ponzi scheme done by a corporation of 4 players over the course of 8 months. Even with other people in the local channels calling them out as frauds, they somehow managed to convince enough players to send them money that they made off with the majority of the 1.8 trillion ISK that was invested, which would be worth over $50000 USD in real life. Some people completely condemn them for their actions (most likely people who fell for it) and are crying out to CCP to have those players return the funds, which they won't...but honestly, it's just a game, you chose to send them money under your own free will without getting any kind of collateral just in case. It's you're own stupid fault, and hopefully you learned your lesson so that you don't fall for one of these in real life. Most people, like myself, applaud the intelligence of the scammers for being able to pull this off; they must be God's own negotiators, and would probably make awesome salesmen or diplomats in the real world.

The Suicide Gankers, however, are much more dangerous. These are players who get together in groups near the exit of a major trade hub station (with the Jita one mentioned above being the most popular) and they use cargo scanners on every ship that leaves the station. Since a cargo scanner does not damage or debilitate a ship in any way it is not considered an agressive act that Concord would defend against. The gankers are in cheap-but-high-damage ships. When they find an outbound ship that has very valuable cargo they attack and destroy that ship, even though the station defence guns and Concord are guaranteed to rip them a new one afterwards. They then have one or more ships who did not engage go and loot the wreck, and often the value of the items salvaged can far outweigh the cost of the ships lost. There are ways to help protect yourself against these players but you'll have to figure them out for yourselves. Nowhere in Eve is truly safe for the unprepared or stupid. This absolute cutthroat environment can be appealing for the hardcore gamers who want a challenge, but it is definitely not for everyone.

 

You're doing well, you're over half-way through this part of the review. Keep with it!

 

EXPLORATION

Exploration and scanning are the closest thing that Eve Online has to what could be called a minigame. However, unlike the minigames of other MMOs where you play them and get rewarded with some kind of points, special currency, loot etc, this minigame rewards you with one, simple thing: the ability to warp to something that you cannot normally warp to when you first enter a star system. That's it. It sounds quite mundane and useless at first glance, but in reality it can be one of the most important things you need to do depending on the situation. For starters, there are various complexes and sites scattered around the Eve universe that can only be found through scanning. These sites can be hidden pockets of NPC pirates, harvestable gas clouds (in fact the only available gas clouds are those found through exploration), pockets of mineable asteroids that are of a higher quality than can normally be found in the area...from that alone the rewards are definitely worth it. It is also the only way to find a Wormhole which is the aforementioned method of entering a Wormhole system, and within a wormhole system it is the only way to find anything of value, even asteroid fields as they are normally completely hidden unlike in known space.

There is also the PvP aspect of exploration and scanning. Your ship in Eve has to be able to "lock on" to a target to warp to it, and except in certain special circumstances another player's ship, such as the ship of someone you are hunting down to destroy, is not one of them. If you are hunting someone either you have to guess where they will go, get there first and stop them from escaping you somehow; or you can scan down their position and warp in right on top of them.

Unlike virtually every other minigame found in MMOs, Exploration is not one for mindless instant rewards. It is a minigame with purpose, which adds another refreshing layer of depth to Eve Online.

 

PVE (PLAYER VS ENVIRONMENT)

PvE, or Player vs Environment, is synonymous with MMORPGs and Eve Online is no exception. Even though it is not considered the  central core of what makes Eve Online great, there are still multiple ways of getting involved with PvE in Eve Online.

Missions are the most well known, most commonly run, and depending on the person you talk to the most despised version of PvE in Eve. For most players these will be their main source of income when they are first starting. Some are pure stand-alone ones, other normal ones can get linked in a sequence of up to 5 missions. There are also the Epic Arcs, which are groups of 15+ missions in sequence meant to expose you to more of the underlying story behind the factions of Eve. I will openly admit that missions can get very repetitive and boring, even the epic arcs, although standard missions in other MMOs fare little better as most of them seem to be variants of "kill X number of Y monster" or "kill monster A's until you get quantity B of item C" etc. MIssions in Eve do require a bit more thought and planning than normal, at least for the combat ones; if you don't have the proper equipment on your ship or you kill the enemies in the wrong order, you could get overwhelmed, and as some mission NPCs are able to lock down your engines you could experience first-hand the ominously costly event of having your ship blown up. However, with a little preparation, missions in Eve are ultimately very predictable, like in pretty much every other MMO. However, if you get good at them, they can be a very good source of income. Missions can be done in a group, though it is not common as the rewards of the mission get split between the people participating.

Rat hunting is another form of PvE, more often done in the lower security regions. Virtually every asteroid field in Eve, both for minerals and ice, will have NPCs not linked to any mission (dubbed Rats) show up and openly engage any player in the area. The lower the security rating of the system, the stronger the ships you encounter, and in Lowsec and below you can also occasionally find them camping stargates. Since all of the good, PvP-safe missions are found in Hisec, for those that live in Lowsec and Nullsec rat hunting can be one of their main (and sometimes only) forms of income. It is like missions without the actual mission orders, and can be just as predictable and boring as ordinary missions. However, again, it can be a good source of income and quite important for pirates in boosting their Security Status, as destroying "evil" NPCs like rats does boost Security Status over time.

In lower security areas you can also find Complexes. These are a string of linked combat areas that you have to fight through, often with a rare ship or two at the end that may drop very valuable loot. Complexes are quite akin to dungeon raids found in other MMOs, often done in small groups given the number and strength of NPCs that you can find. The social aspects of group combat make this form of PvE not quite as boring as others.

In all of the above mentioned PvE methods the NPCs are quite predictable. With a little preparation you will know which "race" the NPCs are which will immediately tell you what types of damage they cause, what types of damage they are weak to and what single form of electronic warfare they might use, allowing you to prepare your weapons and main defences accordingly. They also have no capability to repair each other, only themselves with their onboard repair systems that can somewhat easily be overwhelmed, and they have very predictable aggression patterns. Once they have locked onto a target, they do not switch targets until that target either leaves the area, is destroyed or they are. Quite predictable. The next ones, however, are not.

Wormhole systems are a much more involved form of PvE, and only the lowest grades of these would be attempted solo. You could either get a group of squadmates together for a quick raid on whatever combat sites you can find and then get out of there before someone else catches you, or you can try to establish permanent residence by setting up a Player Owned Station (POS for short) with all of the facilities that you will need to repair, rearm, and if you're unfortunate enough rebuild your ships, as well as turn the very unique salvage you get from the NPCs in the wormhole, called Sleepers, into materials that you can sell or make into special ships called Strategic Cruisers. The AI of the Sleeper NPCs is quite different from the ones previously mentioned; they can use most forms of electronic warfare as well as remote repairing each other, and they can switch targets in the middle of a fight which adds a layer of unpredictability to their actions. They also hit quite hard.

Incursions are a recent addition to Eve Online. In the game lore, a man named Sansha was a big business tycoon who secretly performed cybornetic experiments on people and created his own drone army, as well as an empire. He was considered a complete madman, and for the only time in Eve's history the four main empires united to destroy or drive out him and his cybornetic drones. They thought him long dead. However, now he is back, he is pissed, his forces have been rebuilt and redesigned, and he wants revenge. In Incursions, tactical fleets of Sansha ships suddenly appear and assault a cluster of star systems, with the express intent on capturing innocent people off of planets to add to their drone army. There's a rather good video on Youtube that explains this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJKcK-Fv80I&feature=mh_lolz&list=PL59240C53111F5015. They also hack the local data networks and implant viruses that pretty much lock down everything except Capsuleer ships (that's you), though they can still reduce your ship functions at least at first. Each system under siege has several warpable sites created within them, with each site effectively being a mini-mission in that you need to fulfil certain requirements in order to clear the site and get rewarded. Sansha incursion ships have the same AI as Sleepers but they are significantly tougher and do much more damage, so you will need to be in a small fleet to do the sites. The rewards for completing sites consist of flat ISK payouts and loyalty points to Concord, which you can trade in for a very special new set of items: before Incursions, capital-ship-class weapons, shield and armor equipment had only one quality grade, unlike everything else. The Concord loyalty point store offers blueprint copies for higher quality versions of those components and it is the only source of them, so Incursions have been quite firmly entrenched as a vital part of the Eve economy.

 

PLAYER OWNED STATION (POS) CONSTRUCTION

One of the coolest things that you can do in Eve Online is build your own space station, a Player Owned Station or POS for short. It's a bit similar to fitting a ship but with far more freedom of choice as to what to put on it, and there is a massive variety of things that a POS can be used for.

The way that it works is this: First, a central Control Tower is deployed in space in orbit around a moon (called Anchoring). It is the central core of the station; it has powergrid, CPU, and bonuses to specific weapons and other attributes much like a ship. There are three sizes each for the four main Empires and several for certain pirate factions. Once a control tower is anchored (which takes about an hour), fuel can then be loaded into it. With the fuel loaded, the tower can be set Online which makes it deploy a large defensive energy shield around itself and unlocks the ability to link additional deployable structures to it. An anchorable structure can be deployed pretty much anywhere, but it needs to be linked to a Control Tower in order to be able to turn it online. Combat modules such as weapons, EWAR and the like, as well as certain unique structures such as a jump bridge, have to be deployed outside the shield, whereas the rest of the available structures can be safely deployed inside; attackers have to take down the shield before they can attack anything inside. The shield has a security code set against it; players can program one shield code into their ship's computer which will allow them to fly in and out of the shield at will, as long as they have high enough standings with the person/corp that deployed it.

The variety of structures that can be deployed, and the resulting core role of what the station fulfills, is quite significant. There are shield hardeners that boost the resistance against the four main damage types, so a "death star" is a station equipped with almost nothing but weapons, hardeners and perhaps a ship hangar or two, used to both defend territory and act as a ship staging ground and storehouse; there are the aforementioned orbital mining lasers used to extract resources from moons, and those resources are quite critical to the production of higher grade tech II ships and equipment; there are ship and item hangars, component and ship manufacturing arrays including those for capital ships and their equipment which are among the only things that can build them; material processing arrays for refining the various resources you get from moons, asteroids, gas clouds etc; science arrays for researching blueprints and developing the tech needed for building Strategic Cruisers and such...even the very position of where you anchor something can have an effect on the efficiency of the station in performing its role. It's a refreshing level of complexity in base construction and really lets you design it pretty much from the ground up.

Not only do you have to design the station layout, you also have to consider your fueling infrastructure. The control tower consumes over half a dozen different materials at varying quantities at an hourly rate, and the number and type of structures that you have online at one time also modify these consumption rates. The source of these materials is varied, but most come from refining ice asteroids and planetary materials from multiple planet types. Are you going/able to simply buy all of the fuel you need from a Hisec trade hub, and if so where is that money coming from? Will you harvest/process the fuel yourself, in which case are the sources of those fuels easily available and do you have people with the right skills needed to harvest and process them? One of my own fondest experiences was when a small group of people from my corporation, including myself, decided to set up shop in a wormhole system with a POS, and the system did not have one of the planet types we needed for the required fuel. I was the only one of our group at the time that could fly a cloaked cargo hauler ship called a Blockade Runner, so I became the main station refueller and had to regularly fly out of the system with loot we had acquired, through pirate-infested lowsec (including several gatecamps) to a Hisec trade hub, sell the loot, buy fuel and then fly back through pirate-infested lowsec and into our wormhole system to refuel the station. Remember, as was mentioned before, the entrance wormhole to a Wormhole system changes position every couple of days, and the exit into known space could be practically anywhere in New Eden (I probably ended up flying through nearly half of it throughout the course of the time we were in that wormhole). This was a quite unique, extremely vital, unscripted, player defined role that I was in which simply does not exist in any other MMO I have ever heard of, and it shows the level of logistical complexity that you have to consider when you start building bases.

The combat aspects of setting up a station must never be ignored, and there are several logistical issues with that which have to be resolved. First off, unless you're using Ammarian laser turrets you have to load the turrets with ammo, and unlike loading the weapons on your ship you can't simply drag and drop ammo from a cargohold to the weapon. You have to fly a ship with the ammo out of the protection of the station shield and up to the turret, and load it manually. If your station is actively under attack, good freaking luck getting a ship to the turrets to load them. Keep in mind, the station shield is a complete barrier for weapons, so ships inside the shield cannot fire out through it on attackers. The station can also have a group of AI scripts set that dictate when it automatically fires on a ship, based on factors such as the security level of the intruder, their standings rating with your corporation and whether or not they take some sort of agressive action such as firing a weapon within proximity of the station. However, the station's combat modules can also be manually controlled if you have the correct skills. A player with those skills can fly inside the shield and up to the tower, and link with the defensive mainframe. They lose control of their own ship but are able to take control of up to five of the defensive modules outside of the shield, and then have them target and fire on enemy vessels. Multiple players can link to the tower at once to the point that every weapon can be manually controlled, and focused on targets of opportunity.

A last, and most certainly not least, aspect of setting up a POS for a corporation is defining access roles. Security access levels such as being able to access the tower fuel bay and man the defense turrets can be set at a player-by-player basis. Knowing that espionage and sabotage are very real aspects of Eve, and knowing that a spy can cause real havoc by stealing the fuel and making the station go offline, or by changing the shield code and the defensive AI scripts and then sitting back and watching the carnage as your own station attacks you, you have to make sure that you only give such access roles to people that you really trust.

 

PVP GENERAL NOTES

PvP (Player vs Player) combat is pretty much THE central aspect that Eve focuses on, and the fact that player death means the loss of pretty much everything you had on you makes it much more challenging than you would normally find in other MMOs. The tactics used vary greatly depending on the number of players involved in a fight.

First off, it is worth mentioning that even though in Hisec you are relatively safe from PvP due to Concord and sentry guns intervening to protect you if someone attacks you, there are several ways to get around this. The two mentioned below are by far the most commonly used.

If you steal loot from a player's cargo container or from a shipwreck of a ship that they destroyed, that player and their corporation will be openly allowed to fire on you for 15 minutes without being attacked by Concord or sentry guns. This may seem great at first because some players like to steal loot from others so you get to fight back, but be warned: if you shoot someone who stole from you, they have the right to defend themselves so THEY and their corp can now openly fire on you as well! In fact, a LOT of players who steal your loot are trying to sucker you into firing on them because they want a killmail, and if you do shoot them they will either warp away and then come back in a much stronger ship, or have a bunch of their friends show up. Either way, they will most likely kill you. This suckering move has probably been the cause of more ragequits than anything else, and shows that you ALWAYS have to think before you act in Eve Online. Any ships destroyed during this countdown will not inflict a security status penalty, but pod kills will and will also incur the wrath of Concord.

A corporation or alliance can pay money to Concord and declar war on another, and for one week combat is openly allowed between the two groups, including pod kills. There are several PvP corporations and alliances in Hisec that like to do this a lot against corporations or alliances that they believe are "carebear" groups, i.e. groups of players who focus more on PvE and industry and therefore could be easy kills. The corp/alliance that declared the war can re-pay the fee after the first week to continue it for another week if they so choose, and they can keep doing this without limit for as long as they can afford the fee. This is also good proof of the fact that whether or not you like it, you WILL be engaged in PvP at some time in your Eve Online career. If you don't like PvP, you should definitely keep this in mind before getting into the game.

 

PVP SOLO

Solo PvP in Eve is when a single player in a single ship ambushes another single player in a single ship, in a way that Concord will not get involved. It is an artform in itself, and I have to admit up front that I have not had very much success in this area. I have been learning from my mistakes, but it is definitely a costly process. All of the races have at least a couple of ships that are well suited to this type of combat, with some having more than others (the Minmatar are particularly notable in this). A good solo PvP ship has to be able to lock down the engines of the target so they can't get away and both out-DPS and out-tank the opponent. The potential DPS of any particular ship is usually well defined by its allowed weapons and ship bonuses, but out-tanking the opponent can be done in a variety of ways, such as with pure brute force by equipping a lot of armor or shield equipment, being fast enough to avoid most of the enemy fire, using special electronic warfare equipment to cripple the firepower and defences of the opponent, or some combination of the three.

Suicide gankers aside, the attacker also has to be able to attack his target without getting vaporized by Concord or NPC defence turrets. Areas of space outside of Hisec are popular for this, particularly Lowsec, but solo hunters will also often work in Hisec and use any and all of the tricks mentioned above that allow for unrestricted fighting without Concord interferance. Newer mission runners are particularly popular targets. One often-used tactic for the attacker is to scan down a mission runner while he is in a mission site, fly there in a seemingly-weak ship and steal loot from several of the NPC wrecks. The mission runner, thinking that he's in a much bigger and stronger ship and pissed off at the theft, fires on the thief which activates the 15 minute window where the thief is allowed to fight back. The thief warps off, seemingly defeated, but he has bookmarked the location of the mission site and comes back in something significantly more powerful, and tears the mission runner a new one.

This can definitely be a nerve-wracking but exciting form of PvP, not only as the agressor but also as the "victim" if you are able to bait an attacker into thinking you are an easy target but in fact you are not. The best-suited equipment and tactics for this sort of PvP is very different from the other two main forms mentioned below, and in my personal opinion one of the most difficult to master as you don't have friends to back you up.

 

PVP SMALL GANG

Small gang PvP is extremely popular in Eve Online, possibly even more so than large fleet warfare. A small, mobile squad of ships equipped to do rapid hit-and-run raids can be very effective. From what I have seen, a "small gang" usually ranges between 5 and 15 ships designed for quick, close-range slugfests. A well-equipped gang has ships for multiple tactical roles including tackling, remote repair, electronic warfare and pure raw DPS/tank. Good PvP players often have multiple accounts and will use a "neutral" character as a scout as well, although a trusted neutral friend in another corporation can do the same. Unlike in large fleet fights where ships are usually cogs in a machine and most subcapital ships are raw cannon fodder, in a small gang every ship is important, as is the equipment on each ship. And as has been proven in real warfare throughout all of human history, a squad of multiple soldiers is only truly effective if it has a leader to direct it. Small gang PvP introduces one of the most important and difficult roles a player can have, a role that if you can get into it will put all of your previous experience with RTS games to shame: the Fleet Commander, or FC for short.

The FC, in order to have his squad be effective, needs to know exactly what every member of his squad is capable of, such as if they are capable of electronic warfare, logistics, tackling etc, and what every ship in the squad can do. This isn't necessarily the case in large scale fights, since with hundreds of ships each individual one won't be a major contributor, which puts a unique spin on the role in small gang fights. He also needs to be able to get information on the intended target(s) of his squad, either through surveillance, spying, research on killboards etc; a good FC will not lead his squad to ruin by getting them into an unwinnable battle, unless he has no other choice. Unlike in a standard RTS game like Starcraft or Homeworld, you can't just click on an ally's ship and then right click where you want them to go; you are dealing with humans, not computer entities. Just like in real warfare, when you need to issue rapid commands there is nothing better than voice communication. Teamspeak and Ventrilo are two very popular programs used for voice communication in Eve, and many heavy combat corporations make the use of at least one of these programs absolutely mandatory in order to remain a member in the corp.

In the heat of battle, in a small gang vs gang fight with roughly equal numbers and ship types on either side, if everyone on one side just randomly picked an enemy ship and started firing the firepower would be too spread out; by focusing fire on single targets of priority you can drop the enemy damage output much more quickly, giving you a much better chance of surviving. A good FC, therefore, has to pick out each priority target (usually dubbed the Primary) in order to destroy the most dangerous enemy ships first or attempt to break a spider tank setup (multiple ships with remote repair systems able to counter a lot of damage output on one or more targets). The order of targets chosen quite literally means the difference between victory and defeat, and unless the FC had extremely good surveillance ahead of time to find out exactly what the enemy squad was composed of, he will have to come up with this order very, very fast in order for his squad to survive.

The role of fleet commander in Eve Online is real-time combat strategy at its finest, and good FCs can be hard to come by. The training is usually long, and FCs are also often leaders in their corporations or alliances. If you have what it takes to get into this role, you will be in for an experience like no other in any other game.

 

Still with me? You're nearly at the end, and I've saved the best for last. Unfortunately there seems to be a space limit on these articles, so the detailed description of Nullsec has been broken out in part 2 of this review. If you rate this review, please rate both parts 1 and 2 equally since they are both part of the same article.

More EVE Online Features:

EVE Online - Why A Trailer Matters Column added on Tuesday December 16
EVE Online - I Was in Space Preview added on Tuesday August 19
EVE Online - Valkyrie: Building the Cockpit Preview added on Friday May 09

More Features:

Michael Bitton - The Troubling State of Rogue Column added on Wednesday December 17
Landmark - Monsters and Linking and Caves, Oh My! Preview added on Wednesday December 17
 
Kiljaedenas writes: 
11/28/11 3:12:44 PM  / Report
 
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