Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The EVE of a New Kind of MMO

For the as of yet uninitiated, EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) that puts you in the role of what’s called a “capsuleer” which is basically a pilot. Your character flies their ship from a small escape pod called a capsule contained within the ship and compatible with any type of ship in the game. The real difference between EVE and other MMOs is the way you advance your character. Gone are the days of grinding monsters for that next level. Now you simply decide what you’d like to do and start learning the skills to do it. Each skill has 5 levels to it and you can train as many or as few skills as you’d like, but only one at a time. Many of the skills are interrelated meaning training certain types of skills is going to make you better at that sort of thing. The best part though is that skills train in real-time even when you’re not logged in which means even if you’re not actively playing, you can be training skills to make your character better. As you can imagine, there’s quite a diverse number of things you can do.

One of the earliest avenues open to you as a new player is the mining career path which involves going out into a system, gathering the ore that’s there in the form of asteroids and bringing it back to a space station where you’ll refine it and either sell it or use it for other things. If you choose to go this route you’ll have to start slow using a frigate equipped with a mining laser, but eventually you can work your way up to larger more impressive kinds of ships that will allow you to mine an entire asteroid belt by yourself over the course of just a few hours. Naturally this career splits into two related careers and what you choose will depend on how many like-minded friends you have. If it’s just you, sticking with the typical mining route works, or you can branch into ice mining. On the other hand if you have other friends who also mine, you may choose to branch into the mining foreman career set which will allow you to provide mining yield bonuses to your friends through the use of your ship, skills, and modules (equipment on your ship) This can be great if you work out a deal to share the profits equally between everyone as the cargo capacity, mining bonuses, and extra security provided by a mining foreman for even just one mining ship can equal out to more than the total of two mining ships working together.

In the EVE universe there are many agents who need things done. The more you help particular agents the better they like you and thus the more lucrative the missions they’re willing to give you. These agents often times will also refer you to other agents they know who are offering missions you’re qualified to handle. These agents typically work for a particular corporation and the more missions you do for agents of that corporation the better your standings with that corporation will become. This can become important as good standings allow you discounts, more lucrative assignments, and extra perks where as bad standings can lead to being attacked on sight by agents of the offended corporation. Most players start off doing missions as the agents where you start off provide the tutorial missions for you.

One of the coolest things about EVE Online is that the entire economy is player driven. Miners collect resources which manufacturers then use to create goods (everything from boosters for your character to giant space stations). These goods are created using blueprints which tell you what you’ll need to make the item and how long it takes. Once you have the blueprint and the materials you select an open manufacturing slot at the station you’re at (assuming the station has a manufacturing center) and let it run. Like skill training, manufacturing is done in real-time so once you start it going, you can move on to other things.

Research is strongly connected to manufacturing, but it’s a career path all its own. Using research facilities located on many of the space stations you can improve any blue print originals you have to reduce the amount of material used and the time it takes to make them. This can be a huge advantage for anyone who wants to offer their products for less, or offer more over a shorter period of time. To get started you’ll have to do a fair amount of missioning as access to research resources is one of the perks of higher standings.

Even in EVE not all has been discovered. Exploration is a means of tracking down randomly generated hidden areas in a system. These areas can contain enemy bases, rare mineral deposits, and valuable information caches that can be an advantage in many of the other career paths.

As the economy in EVE is completely player driven, so too are the shipping lanes operated by the players. Goods are produced for less or more conveniently in one location, but are worth more in another. A manufacturer can choose to transport their goods themselves, sell them from where they’re at allowing someone else to buy them at the lower price and ship them to a place with a higher sell price, or contract the job out to another player. No matter how you cut it, there’s money to be made by moving products from one area to another.

While a thriving economy can be a goal in and of itself, so often it seems the need for goods is fueled by the desire to destroy. Combat is a major part of EVE online and in fact the whole game is a PvP area. While the consequences of attacking another player in certain areas can be severe, you’re never truly safe in EVE. This can take the form of legitimate warfare between corporations or somewhat less legal privateering. No matter how you cut it though, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of felling one’s foes.

EVE Online offers its players a truly unique experience among MMOs with a level of micro-management that would satisfy even the most demanding detail oriented gamers (I can say that because I am one and am quite satisfied) If you like complex player driven games with a sandbox feel, definitely include EVE Online in your N3rd C0rn3r.