Posted Wed, Oct 05, 2011 by Space Junkie
EVE Online is an MMO with epic scope and famously treacherous metagame. It is one of the most successful MMO games in terms of subscriptions over time, despite having a science fiction setting rather than fantasy.
What Is EVE Online? Hard Science Fiction In Space.
By the immutable decree of the market, science fiction is eternally second fiddle to fantasy. Books, movies, and video games all generally do better if they are based in the fantasy genre. CCP Games' EVE Online has completely bucked that trend. More impressively, EVE has done it without the huge advantage of a successful brand like Star Trek or Star Wars. Instead, EVE Online has a unique world and story that are more reminiscent of hard science fiction blended with transhumanism.
For fans of space opera, the setting can be disappointing. There are no aliens, laser pistols, or psychic powers. Most players, however, will be content with the space battles, cutthroat business dealings, and sprawling space empires. I sure am!
As far as MMO games go, EVE Online possesses a number of traits that make it stand out from the general MMO milieu. Some of these characteristics were made in reaction to the problems that the creators saw in the other games of the day, when EVE was released back in 2003. Others qualities have emerged over time, either as a result of other choices or because of the laissez faire attitude of EVE Online's gamemasters.
What Is EVE Online? A Sandbox.
EVE Online is a sandbox MMO. This term is frequently bandied about when EVE is discussed, because it is largely absent from the successful MMO games. It means that the content is player-driven rather than predetermined by game-designers.
Rather than following a set path where you spend time in one zone what at a particular level and progress through other zones as you improve, EVE will allow you to go anywhere. But there is more to it than that: rather than being restricted by classes, you can train the skills necessary to do anything, without excluding yourself from areas of the game.
Similarly, PvP is open-ended and not determined by level, instanced, or otherwise controlled based on the players involved. Sure, some places make PvP more difficult, but that is part of a spectrum wherein players of any skill level can self-determine their comfort level.
Nor is PvP constrained to violence. Market-based PvP is arguably more bloody and commonplace than ship-based combat. Another sandbox quality along these lines is that nearly every item of consequence is somehow produced by players, who can then determine their own prices. EVE Online's economy is very active and complex, and to my knowledge blows everything else out of the water. This is largely because of the server situation.
What Is EVE Online? A Single Server MMO.
Unlike every other mainstream success in the MMO market, EVE Online is un-sharded. Put another way, it is a single-server MMO. Aside from a test server and a China-only server, every EVE player exists in the same world. This is by far the most impressive thing about EVE Online. Something like 350,000 players all use the same shared world at once, including forming corporations (the EVE version of guilds), buying and selling on the market, and competing for resources.
The scale of EVE's universe is downright scary. Corporations can gather into mega-corporations called alliances that can more effectively cooperate toward their shared goals. The largest EVE alliance has over eight-thousand people in it. These alliances go to war with each other over territory and valuable resources in a highly competitive environment. Another example that might help drive home the scale: the largest fleet battle to date had well over three-thousand players participating at once. Rather more than the usual PvP raid, no?
What Is EVE Online? A Cold, Hard World.
Part of EVE Online's schtick is the mercenary nature of the players. This means that, short of messing with real life information, accounts, or exploits, gamemasters will not get involved. For example, CCP will not reverse an accidental market purchase, nor one in which the goods sold were misrepresented. Nor will CCP's gamemasters get involved if a player socially engineers your goods away from you. It's all in the game.