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

This is part 2 of the detailed review of Eve Online, focusing primarily on Nullsec and a final summary. It is highly recommended that you read part 1 first.
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.

Hello again.

It seems there is a limit to the length of these review articles, which is why I had to create a second article for my review of Eve Online. The fact that I had to use two of these to properly review this game is proof of how increadibly complex Eve Online is, and this part is a detailed look on the most increadible aspect of it. It is highly recommended that you read part 1 first, as I will not repeat here a lot of the detail on several aspects of Eve that I already described in the first part, so if you just read this part alone you will probably not understand quite a bit of what I am talking about. If you have the endurance to get through the first part and this one, that is good proof that you have the patience for this game.

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND GAME INTEGRITY

CCP, the makers of Eve Online, has had its ups and downs over the years. At times they seem very willing and able to implement new features to the game that definitely improve it, at other times they make additions that almost universally make the players scratch their heads and say "What the hell were you thinking?". In general, though, they do seem willing to listen to the players and fix the underlying issues, as well as bring new and exciting content to the game.

And now, for the final act, the most complex aspect of Eve Online, the area that makes it a god among games:

 

NULLSEC

This is it. The crème de la crème, Eve Online's "end-game" as it were, though there definitely is no forseeable end to this zone. Every ship, every weapon, every piece of equipment is useable here. CONCORD has absolutely no influence here whatsoever and there are no automated NPC turrets anywhere, so if you blow up something here there are no repercussions to your security status. The rarest and most valuable materials are available to harvest here, and the NPCs, wormholes and complexes that you can access here have the highest rarity and value. To top it all off, corporations and alliances can "own" star systems if they deploy certain structures in the area, allowing them to build unique space stations and outposts that give a number of additional benefits.

The logistical complexities that you can get into in this area are absolutely mind boggling compared to any other game I have ever heard of, especially if you are one of the leaders of a large alliance.

Remember everything mentioned in part 1 of this review about setting up a player-owned station? Now imagine that multipled a hundred-fold as you will have to set up and maintain mining bases, manufacturing stations, defensive shipyards/rallying points, a jump-bridge network...this is corporation management at its core, needing skills that some people in real life go through years of post-secondary education to learn. For the jump-bridge network in particular, in order for your corp/alliance mates to use it you'll need to produce and safely distribute maps of the network overlayed on the normal stargate network of your territory, along with the passwords for the shields of the various stations (yes, in Eve Online you even need friggin mapmakers!).

Remember everything mentioned before about mining and manufacturing? Since the exits to Hisec from Nullsec are very well known, as are the main stargate routes through the area, these are prime locations for blockades from enemy corporations or pirates (and they WILL stop you, as they usually heavily cover the gates with warp disruption fields). Because of the risks (and expenses) of relying on Hisec trade for your supplies, alliiances in Nullsec have to become as self-sufficient as possible. They need an extensive dedicated team of industrial-type players devoted to extracting and processing the various materials available and building ships, ammo, equipment, station fuel etc, including the mighty Capital class ships. You WILL be attacked, you WILL take ship losses, and if you don't have relatively cheap replacements for their stuff you'll find your alliance mates ditching you quite quickly as no one works for free in Eve. The timing of building ships and equipment is also more "real" than most other RTS games out there; in Homeworld 2 for example in a PvP match, if you have the resources it only takes a couple of minutes to build one of the larger ships like the battlecruiser, carrier or shipyard. In Eve, building a several kilometer long ship can take days or weeks even if done in an inefficient but quick manufacturing plant, so long-term forcasting of your needs will be a definite factor.  If in real life you're an inventory planner for a manufacturing company, you'll find yourself right at home here.

Nullsec is also where managing a corporation/alliance really starts looking like managing a corporation or alliance in the real world, and truly makes the use of "corporation" instead of "guild" a valid one. Organizing and running a group of thousands that can handle everything from spying to manufacturing to combat takes some seriously advanced skills; MBA graduates are not only at home here, but openly welcomed to help out. Access roles, morale, loyalty, promotions, salary, corporate espionage, propaganda...they're all here. And because of Eve's open allowance of griefing, those also allow for sudden unexpected events of a type and scale completely impossible in other games...like this one...

In 2009 two large alliances were at war with each other, Goonswarm and Band of Brothers (BoB). BoB appeared to be winning. But then, somehow (and I would really like to know how) the leader of Goonswarm was able to convince a very high-level leader of BoB to defect to Goonswarm. Before leaving, that leader with his top-level security access removed all sovreignty rights for the alliance for every system within their space, making them vulnerable to attack; ejected every member corp from the alliance; and finally liquidated and stole every scrap of the corporation and alliance assets that he could get his hands on, which was a significant amount of it. Within one night, through the actions of one single man, the entire alliance imploded, instantly and drastically affecting the game lives of THOUSANDS and the ripple effect of that was felt throughout the entire (massive) Eve game world. This made real-world news headlines, one of which you can find here: http://www.destructoid.com/breaking-goonfleet-stomps-band-of-brothers-in-biggest-eve-takedown-ever-77421.phtml . No other videogame created in human history has the capacity for something even a tenth of this scale to happen. None of this was pre-scripted either: Eve's simplest, yet potentially most powerful, aspect is that it simply ALLOWS for this to happen. The players themselves, through their own choices and actions, bring it to life.

 

Last, and definitely NOT least, is the large scale PvP that is quite unique to Eve, and perhaps its most celebrated aspect.

 

First off, to truly understand large fleet PvP in Eve you have to understand its scale. The utterly epic nature of PvP in Eve, the reason why it is considered an absolute god among games, is all due to one single, simple aspect of the game:

There is no ship limit.

In most RTS games, or games with PvP rounds of some kind, there is a limit to how many players can participate at once. For MMOs like World of Warcraft, Rift etc; there are set player limits per side. 64 vs 64 is a common upper limit, and even those can usually bog down most player's computers unless they have stupidly advanced computers and network connections. For many RTS games like Homeworld, Sins of a Solar Empire, Starcraft, Warhammer 40000, etc, there are "support" caps for how much "worth" of units you can have on the field.

In Eve Online, those preset limits DO NOT EXIST. The only real limit is on how many ships a star system can take before the server node crashes, and CCP (the makers of Eve Online) are constantly striving to increase that limit.

The amount of lag that a large number of players in a PvP battle can put on a server is also a major factor in determining how big of a battle you can have. In fantasy MMOs like WoW or Rift, a major limiting factor on this is that the terrain of the battlefield has to be rendered, and every player sprite in the area is constantly being checked for its position against that terrain, the various objects in it (walls, trees etc) and the other players. Also, to be able to move a character in one of these games simply by using the arrow or WASD keys on your keyboards combined with live movement from the mouse (i.e. holding Up to run forward, and while holding down the right mouse button scrolling around the mouse to have smooth turning) requires a high-speed reaction program (I believe I've heard it called "twitch" mechanics), which makes each player on the field consume much more processor power.

In Eve Online, it's open space. There is no terrain to render, which drastically reduces the drain on the system. Eve also does not have the twitch mechanics, which reduces the drain that each player puts on the system. The combination of lack of terrain, lack of twitch mechanics and no predefined player limit in a system, as well as some of the most powerful game servers in the world, allow for truly mind-boggling numbers of players to be involved in any particular battle. You can still get lag if the numbers get high enough, which is understandable since players can always bring in more ships, but those will be EPIC numbers. Here's a Youtube video that I think illustrates that rather well (censorship warning, it has swearing): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE9ykkZO33E&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

For my part, I must admit that I have only ever been in one major fleet vs fleet battle, and it was a relatively small one in Eve terms, about 100-150 per side...but it was the most intense experience I've ever had in any videogame, period. We were going to invade an enemy territory to do as much damage as possible to one of their stations, hoping to catch some capital ships off-guard. Over a hundred subcapital ships amassed at one of our stations with a Titan, and we had a scout making his way towards the enemy system equipped with a Cynusoral Field Generator or cyno for short. We waited...and waited...and finally the signal came through. The scout had been able to get past their defences and position himself an ideal distance from the station. He activated his cyno, and the Titan activated its jump bridge, a temporary stargate connected to that cyno. The attack began.

We appeared about 100km or so off of the station, an ideal sniping range. We thought we had caught them by surprise, and sent in a few fast ships to lock down the carriers at the station with warp disruption spheres...but we were wrong. They were waiting in ambush, and an enemy fleet with superior numbers suddenly showed up in the system. The fleet commander ordered us to retreat back to a stargate to try and escape, but they followed us. Knowing that they would block us off and that we would be vulnerable if we warped through the gate immediately, the FC told us to hold on the gate, and prepare.

I will never forget that moment. Waiting at that gate, watching as well over a hundred ships came barreling in after us right up into our teeth. Some jumped through to block the other side, but then the warp bubbles went up...and the whole thing degraded into one huge clusterf*ck at close range. The FC would call out primary targets, ships exploded everywhere, another player would take over as FC once the first one had been blown up, and again, and again...it was awe inspiring.

Now for the really epic numbers. That battle between 200-300 ships that I participated in was definitely awesome for me, but it was small on the Eve scale. The current record for ships in a single battle is a bit over 3000 between the two sides. Now sit back and think about that number for a bit.

3000. And that's PLAYER ships, most of which are a kilometer long or larger, not even including the automated fighters/bombers from carriers or the drones.

Most of the time in the sci-fi entertainment world, discounting books (as they never have a limit) the super-large battles have more been in the realm of movies and TV shows instead of video games. For most RTS games, unless you hack into the game and modify the code, you will not be able to hit a number that high (and your computer would probably crash if you tried). Starcraft could probably reach it in an 8 player PvP match, but only if every player was Zerg and they built nothing but Zerglings, which would be an extremely gimped way to play (imagine if all those Zerglings were Battlecruisers instead).

With Eve Online, however, it's the reverse. Very very few, if any, shows have had a space battle between 3000 large ships, and only Star Wars even had a capital-class ship of the size that can be found in Eve in a large fleet battle (the super star destroyer). The large battles in Star Trek DS9 didn't get that high, topping out at around 2000 in the largest one that I can remember when they mentioned the numbers. Battlestar Galactica had lots of fighters but very few capital ships, and even then it was only numbering in the hundreds. Babylon 5 and Star Wars didn't get up there either (fighters don't count, they're too small and Eve has them anyways). So Eve Online doesn't just stretch the limit of videogames, but all audio-visual science fiction as well.

The tactics used by Eve fleet commanders in these battles moves to a whole new level of complexity, a level that is probably as close as any videogame can get to what real life military generals have to do in wartime. They have to know the terrain (or stargate and jump bridge network, as well as their assets for using Titan bridges), scout out the enemy forces, constantly adapt to changing situations and evaluate if they have the upper hand or if they should retreat to curb their losses, call out orders to focus fire on priority targets, rally their forces in case morale is slipping...these are techniques and skills that real people could take years of training to learn to do well. Your opponents aren't predictable computer entities; they are unpredictable, adaptable humans, down to the very last man. This is the absolute purest form of real time strategy found in any videogame, anywhere. Period.

You may have noticed that I haven't been putting up pictures in this review. Quite simply, I don't believe any single, stationary picture would be good enough to portray this game. Youtube videos, however, are another story, and here are several that I believe portray this game rather well (censorship warning, some of these have swearing):

LARGE SCALE COMBAT:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGDWsIF37g4&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeT63YF_O9M&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38dD23mg_t0&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYEaPLCCIrY&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

HAVING TO ADAPT TO SURPRISES:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZDME4zZdMQ&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGIALyoZc3o&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

MISCELLANEOUS, BUT A GOOD SAMPLE OF THE GRAPHICS:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELrU6rIAYFk&feature=BFa&list=PL59240C53111F5015&lf=mh_lolz

 

FINAL OVERALL VALUES:

PvP 10/10  You won't find the same kind of numbers or tactics anywhere else

PvE 8/10  Sometimes repetitive, but can still be fun and a good source of income

Industry and Economy  10/10  Unmatched complexity and detail

Nonlinear Content  10/10  Your fate is in your own hands; do what you want with it.

Community 9/10  There are those that will help and those that want to do nothing but screw you over, and they will; much more "real" than you'll find anywhere else

Customer Service 8/10  Despite occasional blunders, CCP really does try to listen to the fan-base most of the time

Integrity 9/10  It has occasional glitches, but considering the kind of crap the players put it through (i.e. fleet fights between thousands), the system handles remarkably well, much better than would be expected from other MMOs in those situations

 

So, finally, there you have it. My full review on Eve Online. I'm sorry that it was so long, but it had to be in order to properly review this game. I personally believe this is the most increadibly advanced game ever created. Out of the thousand or so videogames I have ever played, Eve Online is the only one, ever, that has had aspects of it that I have actually feared to attempt, such as being a Nullsec commander. And that is what makes this game so damn exciting!

Eve will test you. It will punish you for being stupid. It will frustrate you to no end at times...but the feeling you will get when you are able to overcome those challenges are beyond anything you could find in another game. There has nevery been anything like it, nor will there be, unless they are blatant copies of it. You will need patience and determination to go far in Eve, and if you've been able to go through this entire review that is proof that you have a chance. You may wonder why my final score of this game was a 9 instead of a 10...every game has its bugs and Eve is no exception which is what costs it that final point, but there is no other game of this genre that I would rate a 9 (or even close to it).

For those who are willing to try, I look forward to flying with you.

Final Score

9.2

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

More EVE Online Features:

EVE Online - Valkyrie: Ready When the Hardware’s Ready Interview added on Monday August 17
EVE Online - Chronicles of a New Eden - Blackmail Column added on Tuesday August 11

More Features:

General - Oculus Rex? Column added on Saturday August 29
 
Kiljaedenas writes: 

Very surprised not to see any comments on these reviews yet...I thought there'd be at least a bunch of naysayers or something.

2/16/12 8:50:06 PM  / Report
Dety2 writes: 

it's a very good review, i read it for more than 1 hour then i stopped and decided to give it a try :)

3/09/12 12:44:27 AM  / Report
 
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