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EVE Online: The Second Genesis Preview

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After looking at the information that has been released on EVE: The Second Genesis, we're surprised that the small amount available hasn’t generated much wider interest. The information that we’ve seen has convinced us that EVE is perhaps the boldest of the second generation of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs). We expect EVE to provide tactical space combat combined with stunning graphics and an incredible emphasis on players interacting with other players in a system that is designed to support it from the outset.

To better set the scene, EVE is a game that is set in the future, among the stars. Following the advancement and expansion of the human race, a worm hole was discovered, and the technology and equipment to use it to travel developed. Unfortunately, a disaster of unknown cause destroyed the EVE gates and closed the worm hole in a cataclysmic fashion, leaving the pioneers who had ventured through the gate stranded far from earth with no way home, and lacking developed infrastructure, many of the early colonies collapsed and died out. Those that survived were isolated, and had effectively been thrown back into the dark ages. Many years of rebuilding followed, leading to the effective creation of 5 distinct empires among the stars surrounding the EVE gate.

While each of the races is human, their isolation and the differences in their culture have caused them all to develop uniquely. At the start of EVE, there are five races, four of which will be initially playable, the Jove (or Jovians) are the fifth, and will only be playable for players that have completed extensive tasks and earned that reward, which they will be able to then take advantage of by creating a new Jovian character in their account. The other four races (the Amarr, the Gallente, the Caldari and the Minmatar) will differ between their focus, aesthetics, moral code and ships.

You first get a sense that EVE is part of a newer breed of computer game when you realise quite how much background work has gone into it. Getting online and browsing through the official website, you’ll fine a considerable number of well written short stories that describe gameplay features, the history of the universe, the attitudes of the people in it and technology that they use, all in vivid detail. When you read through all of this material, you start to realise that there’s something almost unquantifiable, but more mature feeling to the game – it’s as if you’ve been reading books intended for six year olds, and have suddenly picked up the Lord of the Rings. Details are no longer luminously colourful, they’re gritty and pleasingly three dimensional.

Where the staple opponent in most of the MMORPGs to date has been the ‘mob’ or monster, EVE finally makes the transition to focusing on player interaction – as much as EVE is about player versus player gaming, it’s also about player with player gaming. Advancement in EVE principally comes in the form of money, not experience, and there are multitudes of ways you can attempt to take advantage of to make it.


While it will be possible to get by without interacting with other players, the emphasis that the developers are putting on the game makes it clear that they’re attempting to set up the same sort of conditions as exist in the real world in order to coax a market economy into being. In fact, all of the best items will only be available from players that build up the infrastructure to build them and sell them, so we truly expect that trade skills and trade skill specialists will play a much more valued place in EVE society than they have in previous games. Players will even be able to research new technology and sell the rights to manufacture equipment based on it.

While players will naturally be able to try and eke out an existence as pirates, players who have worked to get good security ratings will be able to apply for government bounty hunting and customs licences, respectively allowing them to make money from killing players who have committed enough crimes to earn a bounty on their heads and from scanning ships entering controlled space for illicit substances. At the present, it’s thought that the bounty system (which is distinct from assassinations paid for by players) will pay a percentage of the money that the person with the bounty on their heads will lose to the bounty hunter, to prevent abuse. A person may also be able to get multiple bounties on their heads, each one to be collected for a single, unique death.

Law and order in the galaxy is maintained by the DED, an NPC organisation that is the equivalent of a galaxy wide police force. The resources of the DED are limited, so each system in EVE has a security rating that determines how tight the security provided by the DED is. Higher security systems will be those nearer to locations of importance, like the centres of civilisation for each of the large empires, these systems will also be the ones where new players start, so they are effectively insulated from the more dangerous members of EVE society.

Players that repeatedly commit crimes will find that their personal security rating plummets, and that they’re denied access to the more secure zones, effectively keeping them away from new players. On the other hand, the opportunities for profit are always greater at the fringes of the law, so the wolves will always prowl at the edges looking for those tempted by quick profits.

Players will mainly develop their characters with skills and implants, skills improvements coming in the forms of skill packs, which can be bought and installed, but take a certain amount of real time to be activated. This system prevents people from creating new characters, being given a large amount of money and instantly having top class characters. Additionally, certain ship types and weapons systems take certain skill requisites before you can use them, so just because you own a small frigate class ship doesn’t mean you’d be able to fly a battleship.

Ships are the second main source of improvements that you can make. There are several classes of ship hull, and several of each in each civilisation, and then there are many different types of weapon, armour and countermeasure, each of which will have advantages and disadvantages against each other. Ships will range in size from small one man frigates to immense Titans, which are essentially moving stations, with all the associated docking features for other ships. A player will never actually leave their ship, even when docked in stations, and although a player can own several ships, they can only ever pilot one at once (the others must be left in storage). The design of the different ship classes is calculated to promote players working together – larger ships may mount devastating weapons that smaller ships may have no hope of mounting on their smaller hulls, but the larger ships may also be vulnerable to the speed and mobility of smaller foes.

As a ship’s captain, you get basic insurance that guarantees you a clone of the most basic type that will absorb your consciousness if you die. On the other hand, the cheaper the clone you have, the more skills you’ll lose when you die. Insuring yourself against nasty surprises, like everything else in the game, will cost you money. Likewise, you’ll need to replace your ship with all its equipment if you want anything better than the most basic model when you get back. There’s also no need to kill someone to part them with their cargo (or ship, if that’s your aim) – when your ship is blown up, the pilot is ejected in a pod and to kill you, the aggressor will specifically need to target your pod, which will have drastic effects on their reputation and security ratings.

Combat in EVE isn’t a twitch affair – it won’t rely on your reactions and connection speed to any large degree. Rather, the combat more resembles a game of strategy as you determine the capabilities of the opponent and attempt to use the strengths of your own against their weaknesses. Managing your energy in order to power your weapons and shields and other gadgetry will be crucial.

Greater strategic depth exists in EVE in the way that corporations are built into it – anyone is free to found a company and recruit members then to leverage the combined strength to improve their opportunities. Already, there are a significant number of corporations listed on the website, ranging from non-specialised companies to companies that only handle a single task, where all of them can be expected to form strategic alliances, contracts and competition for and against each other when play starts.

Finally, the graphics for EVE will directly parallel the concepts behind the game – they’re stunning vistas of currently unsurpassed beauty. Similarly, they’re not the clean cut and cartoon like the graphics that we have seen many times in the past – ships can range anywhere from elegant to menacing and industrial, all tied in nicely to the backgrounds of the races that designed them.

Simon and Schuster Interactive will publish EVE, which is being developed by CCP (http://www.ccpgames.com). It is currently in closed public alpha (early testing open to specially selected testers from the public) and is expected to go into closed public beta (later stages of testing) soon, the signup was at time of writing still available at http://www.eve-online.com. The release date is tentatively late 2002, but obviously depends on how well the testing goes, which from current reports is very well, but a little behind previous schedules. Pricing is expected to be about $10-15 US a month after the initial purchase of the game, which will come with a month’s free trial and three characters per account.

Daniel 'Inept' Speed (inept@the-nexus.co.uk)

 

Why should EVE interest you?

  • Focus on player interaction
  • Complex economy
  • Large number of possible proffesions
  • Detailed, visible history and background
  • More strategic than reaction based
  • Form your own corporations
  • Great possibilities for roleplaying and character growth

 

 


 

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