EVE Online

As part of my preparation work for the Starbound setting, I'm reading a lot of science-fiction, and I've downloaded the 14-day trial of EVE Online as well. It's a fascinating game, but I'm almost tempted to cast it as a different kind of game to other MMORPGs - an MMORTS instead.

The first thing that has to be said about the game is that it is stunningly, hugely complex, both in the setting and the gameplay itself. There are literally hundreds, probably thousands of star systems, all with their own resources and characteristics. As yet, I've seen about a dozen of these, and for all but three of those, I've only hopped through them, without stopping to look at anything.

Equally, there are hundreds of options in the gameplay. Markets, ship fitting, ore refinement, and skills are all vast areas. And the fact that there are about twenty thousand players online at any given time adds even more to it, as the chat channels and internal mailing lists are in continuous motion.

There are major differences between more standard MMORPGs and EVE Online, and I'm seeing them, so far, in three areas: characters, skills vs. classes, and the mutability of the setting.

Characters are very different, because, after an initial creation session where you set your character's race and bloodline, and set up a portrait, you never really see them again. In almost every other MMO I've played, your character is the one omnipresent thing, front and centre of your view of the setting. In EVE, what you see is your ship - but not all the time; you can focus on other players' ships, on stations and asteroids, enemy craft, stargates, and other objects in general. And the ship changes - thus far, I've switched from the basic "rookie ship" to a smaller, faster shuttle for the first line of missions, but later on, a player can acquire numerous ships, and switch between them at need and as skills allow.

EVE has a skill-based system, as opposed to the classes of Anarchy Online, World of Warcraft or Everquest. Your race and bloodline (they're all variants on humans, mind) define some starting characteristics, but that's as far as it goes - after that, the choices in skill are the only thing that defines what your character can and cannot do. It's very different, and I have to admit, it leaves me flailing a little as I try to grasp even what each skill is good for. I'm finding it hard to gauge the level of power of other players, as well - just because a passing player is flying a shuttle doesn't mean they haven't anything bigger or better; they could be going into a high-risk area and be unwilling to possibly lose a massive cargo ship. There's nothing to tell you "This character is level 50", or whatever.

And then there's the mutability of the setting. There's a central area which is patrolled by NPCs, keeping it civilised. Elsewhere, however, player-controlled factions, corporations, and even small nations are in control - as evidenced by the fact that there are varying political maps. A group called the Interstellar Starbase Syndicate have even gone so far as to accept investment money, and pay out profits to investors - maintaining a neutral base deep in dangerous territory, far from the jurisdiction of the NPC patrols.

I've a lot more to explore in the game - I'm only barely through the tutorial so far - but if you play, look me up as Shantar Dansari, and if I can figure out how, I'll talk back.

See also: Return to EVE Online

Posted by Drew Shiel at February 6, 2006 1:18 PM

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