Updated Wed, Jun 30, 2010 by Space Junkie
The Primae is a special, limited edition ship, given to each active player account. It is only available until July 13th, 2010. Until then, you can get your free ship by logging into EVE Online and clicking on the gift icon, visible along the bottom of the character selection screen. Voila: so long as your character is docked in an NPC station, he will have his shiny new primae delivered to his hangar.
Why Fly The Primae
The primae is a strange, pretty ship. CCP's ability to texture ship models has increased impressively over the past few months, and this ship exemplifies this newfound graphic quality. The ship is ornate, with a gray hull encrusted with blue and yellow highlights. It includes a boom arm that rotates around the center of the vessel. It looks about what a spaceship should look like. You can even see a well-lighted command deck toward the front of the vessel. Perhaps by this time next year, we will be walking around inside of it. Perhaps not. Even so, that's the best reason to fly a primae: because it looks great.
The primae is pretty as heck, but lacks a real use for non-trial characters. At least, aside from being a collectable vanity ship.
This accessibility to new players is the primae's primary purpose is: to allow trial players to experiment with the new mechanics of Planetary Interaction, which require quite a bit of hauling goods between planets in order to be effective. It has a second and third cargo bay, each accessible by right clicking on the ship while in space. One is used for transporting command centers, with a 1600m3 capacity that is usable only for that. The second cargo bay is usable only for products produced on planets, and has 1000m3 capacity usable solely for that purpose.
So it's great for new players interested in Planetary Interaction. But for others?
Why Not To Fly The Primae
As of this writing, the primae already fetches 20mil ISK on the contracts market. This number is likely to only go up, as the ship is a one-off collectors' item, and other such items have fetched a premium over time, as well. The unfortunate nature of dissemination means that only a finite amount will ever be introduced into EVE Online. Because it is a gift, there are no blueprints nor other ways to obtain new primaes. If one blows up, another can only be procured from a player that got it during the giveaway. So that's kind of a bummer for a lot of players, who live by the old EVE Online adage to "never fly what you can't afford to lose."
It also has some problems: the cargo bays are finicky or, more likely, bugged. The planetary materials hold will not accept common planetary staples like Heavy Metals, Water, and Non-CS crystals. Possibly others. This may be intentional and based on some arbitrary decisions, but more likely is just CCP being sloppy. Items are of the same "tiers" of production are sometimes included, sometimes excluded, so it seems unlikely to be a design feature.
The other thing is that training a racial industrial skill (like Caldari Industrial) takes very little in the way of pre-requisites. Any race's industrial has superior tonnage to the primae. So there's that. Never mind that the amounts that it can carry are too small to manage a respectable empire.
In short, it's a newbie ship.
The Biggest Problem
You're suicide bait. Pirates know that there are only limited supplies of the primae, and they know that the primae cannot defend itself. So they will shoot them. Whether they have cargo or not, they will shoot them. Eventually, they will be a rare sight, as the fools lose them and the paranoid people never undock them. Such is a the life cycle of a pretty newbie ship. Ah, well.
The primae has four low slots. It doesn't have medium or high slots, nor rig slots. Basically, your best best for fitting one for use in high-security space is to try and prevent suicide ganks. This is not a serious sacrifice because the extra cargo bays are not affected by any cargo expanders that you might fit. If the ship actually went into low-sec or null-sec space, where planetary interaction is actually profitable, you would want a "Warp Core Stabilizer I" and so forth. Nor are there often NPCs at planets to worry about. But it isn't equipped for danger. It's equipped to zoom around high-security space while looking pretty. So your threats are twofold: war enemies, and suicide ganks.
If you use the primae when war targets are in your solar system, you deserve what you get. It is absolutely defenseless. In hindsight, you may find yourself reflecting that you did not really deserve to have a primae.
As mentioned above, suicide ganks are a more serious problem. What you can do is reverse gank: if you tank your primae, a suicide ganker may find that his firepower is insufficient. In such a case, CONCORD will blow him up, and you can then dock and taunt you foolish adversary.
People that gank you will probable be using some combination of explosive and thermal damage, because these are the primae's weaknesses. In particular, it only has a base 10% explosive damage resistance for armor. This dovetails nicely with Minmatar ships, which can huge volleys of explosive damage and are all the rage for suicide ganks.
So the idea is to have best-named plating to get a bunch of extra armor hit points, then to use best-named armor hardeners and a damage control to toughen that up. You have a much better chance of survival with such a tank, though depending on the exact situation it may not suffice. If a battleship opens up on you, then things are grim. Even with CONCORD on your side. If someone really wants you dead, they will get a friend and attack with two ships at once.
If All Else Fails
Well, it was good while it lasted. You flew your primae for a while, but eventually some jerk out there decided he couldn't live unless he got another killmail. Ah, well. You can either spend 20mil or more ISK on getting another one, or you can spend 1/20th of that cost on a more effective (though less pretty) industrial, and call it a day.
Personally, I am just going to mothball them. Someday they will be worth more than 20mil. If I were a newer player that had already trained an industrial skill, I'd probably just sell my primae after taking a good look at it, and spend the money on something with more function than form.