Gameplay of Eve Online
Eve Online is a player-driven persistent-world massively multiplayer online game set in a science fiction space setting. The Eve Online universe consists of several thousand interconnected star systems.[dead link] Players create their characters by choosing characteristics such as race and bloodline that define starting attributes and skills. Over time, players advance by training skills in real-time, whether they are logged into the game or not. The game's open-ended sandbox-like design allows players to set their own goals without the need to follow pre-defined missions.
The game's developer CCP Games continuously adds expansions free of charge that change game mechanics and add features.[dead link] Since the game's release in 2003 the expansions have added gameplay elements such as more ship classes and advanced missions for players to master.
Eve Online runs on a supercomputing cluster known as "Tranquility".[dead link] Several smaller clusters are used for public and in-house testing including the public test servers "Singularity" and "Multiplicity". The servers require a daily downtime for maintenance and updates. Tranquility's downtime (DT) is scheduled between 11:00 and 11:30 GMT.
The playing environment in Eve Online consists of about 7,500 star systems, almost all of which can be visited by the player. Each system is connected to other systems by one or more stargates, and in this way neighboring systems are organized into constellations and constellations are in turn organized into regions. In total there are 64 regions. The central regions make up most of the so-called high-security ("high-sec") space with some low-security ("low-sec") systems in between. Surrounding these are regions with no security, or 0.0 ("nullsec" or "zero-zero"). (See section Security status system for more information). In some systems a player might be alone, while in others up to 3200 players might gather, e.g. for a fleet battle or to use a trading hub. Different systems contain different types of celestial objects, making them more or less suitable for different kinds of operations. In a typical system the player will find asteroid fields, stations, and moons, the latter two most often orbiting planets. Players can use moons to anchor their parent corporation's structures for production and research or for moon mining. Since the 2010 Tyrannis expansion (see Expansions of Eve Online) planets can also be mined for resources. Asteroid fields can be mined for minerals. Other objects that can be found in systems are the aforementioned stargates and dungeons (known ingame as complexes or "plexes") for exploration. Occasionally a player may even stumble across a historic site, e.g. one where another player's Titan-class ship was destroyed and the wreck now floats in space.
2,500 wormhole systems were seeded in the Apocrypha expansion. These systems can only be travelled to through unstable natural wormholes and have no static links to the normal (known space) systems.
In addition, an area of the galaxy is occupied by the Jovian Empire, and is currently not accessible by players.
Eve Online is different from MMOGs such as World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and EverQuest II because the player characters do not gain experience points through actions or by completing tasks. Instead, the player learns skills by training a specific skill over time, a passive process that occurs in real world time so that the learning process will continue even if the player is not logged in. As a result, new players are generally unable to gain more skillpoints than existing players who continue to train. Each skill has 5 steps, or levels and the time required to train a skill to a particular level is determined by the player's attributes and how many skill points a certain skill requires, determined by a skill's rank. The skill training system is connected with five attributes: Intelligence, Perception, Charisma, Willpower and Memory. Each skill has a primary and secondary attribute, thus the higher these attributes, the faster skills that use them are trained. There are also implants that can increase attributes.
Low-rank skills trained to a low level may represent a few minutes of training whereas high levels of high-rank skills may represent several months of training.
Since training time is directly related to a character's attributes, a player can lower the training time of skills by using Implants to boost attributes. A previous group of skills, "Learning" skills, which improved attributes, was removed from the game in December 2010 and replaced by extra attribute points being set across the playerbase to make it easier for new players to train practical skills.
Due to the sheer number of skills available to characters, it is not realistic for a character to acquire perfect skills with all ships and weapons systems. As each skill level takes over five times longer than the previous (a geometric progression) while the bonus it provides almost always scales linearly (e.g. 5% bonus to something per level, with level 3 providing a 15% bonus, etc.), a new player has the option to either acquire acceptable skills in many fields, or perfect skills in a relative few.
Another side-effect of this is that an unusual number of Eve players have two or more accounts since specializing into more than a few areas is impossible within the timeframe of a few years and skills needed for different professions often don't overlap. A character specializing in mining, manufacturing and trading will have minimal overlap of skills with a character focused on combat, navigation and exploration. Currently (2011) it will take around 22 years to train all the skills in EVE so there are no "perfectly trained" characters in EVE.[original research?] Another reason that so many players use more accounts is that some playstyles and ships greatly benefit from the presence of other ships; it's not uncommon to see players with 5 miners supported by a transport ship or Orca mining support vessel or have a capital ship pilot have an extra account to make transport to other system possible as they can't do that on their own. CCP actively encourages this with buddy programs and "the power of two" advertisements.
There is a single currency unit in Eve Online, the InterStellar Kredit (ISK), whose ISO code is ISK. Players can barter between themselves for items, use the in-game market system for ISK-based transactions, place and accept contracts between players for assets and services or use a Loyalty Points store.
The Loyalty Points systems allows one to use non-transferable Loyalty Points in combination with other assets to purchase standard items at a reduced rate or to acquire otherwise unattainable items.
A large proportion of the in-game economy is player driven; non-player character (NPC) merchants supply some basic blueprints, items and trade goods. Players, through the use of blueprints and in-game skills, can gain the ability to build items ranging from basic ammunition to cutting-edge capital ship hulls and space stations, and manufacture them for personal use or for sale. Pricing and availability of goods varies from region to region within the Eve universe. These aspects contribute to an economic environment influenced by factors like scarcity of resources, specialization of labor and supply/demand dynamics.[dead link] The economy is closely tied with the (also player driven) political aspect of the game. Player corporations (the Eve equivalent of guilds) rise and fall as they struggle for market dominance as well as territorial control.
From a technical point of view, the economy in Eve is known as an open economy, that is there is no fixed amount of money or materials in the universe. CCP did attempt to implement a closed economy (that is an economy where there is a fixed amount of currency and therefore materials) early on in the game's existence; however, it proved too difficult to balance the effects of new players entering the game with the capabilities of older players able to earn more ISK or obtain more materials. The current open economy is automatically balanced by introducing extra materials in underpopulated areas to encourage an even spread of players.
Eve's End User Licence Agreement forbids the exchange of ISK for real currency (a practice referred to as real money trading or RMT); however, Game Time Codes (GTC), bought from CCP with real-world currency, can be converted into in-game Pilot License Extensions (PLEX), which are items that can be traded for in-game currency. The purpose of PLEXes is to mitigate the effects of RMT.[dead link] Similarly, selling and buying characters (but not accounts) for in-game currency is allowed.
On 27 June 2007 CCP announced that an economist had been employed[dead link] to assist in the development of the economic side of the game. Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson is responsible for compiling quarterly economic reports for the community and providing ongoing analysis of the economic facets of Eve, along with coordinating research with other interested parties.[dead link] Information from Dr. Guðmundsson's reports has been used to make some development decisions regarding the economy. For example, in his second dev blog post[dead link] he observed that availability of shuttles for a fixed price from NPC merchants, which could then be recycled into tritanium (a sellable mineral), placed an artificial cap on the price of tritanium, indirectly impacting the price of every good manufactured using tritanium (which is almost all of them). This eventually led to a decision to remove NPC sell orders for shuttles.[dead link]
Combat in Eve is a mixture of both tactical intelligence and spontaneous decision-making using a point-and-click interface. While every race has certain tendencies for different battle tactics, a character's combat capabilities are determined by skill levels, the ship being piloted and various hardware modules fitted into it. Outside of decisions involving targeting and selection of weaponry, combat is, to a certain degree a 'hands off' affair, the player decides on the targets, distance at which they want to keep their target, the speed of their ship and the weapons and modules to use. Once activated, the computer runs these tasks until the player intervenes. An extreme example of this is that, if appropriately configured with defensive modules, drones and sufficient capacitor recharge, a ship can perform some certain missions without any intervention from the player past initial deployment to the battlefield.
However, on the other end of the scale, players will often find that in player versus player combat they are required to play a massive role in their ships operation, as they will be giving / following orders, switching targets, maintaining target locks, damage output and/or electronic warfare while repairing damage and controlling speed, range and any other number of ships functions. There is a basic ability to freely direct your ship's flight by double clicking empty areas of space, but it is cumbersome at best, so most movement is conducted by selecting objects in space (player or NPC ships, asteroids, structures etc.) and telling the ship to approach, orbit or warp (only possible if the distance is greater than 150 km).
Eve's combat system allows ships of all sizes to be useful in combat. Large ships such as battleships are typically outfitted with heavy weapons allowing them to battle other ships of their size. Such weapons, however, lack the accuracy required to effectively damage smaller, faster ships like frigates. While a large ship can equip smaller weapons designed for attacking smaller targets, this leaves them at a disadvantage against other large ships. Drones can also be used against smaller ships, or in a support role such as providing extra defences for an ally or in a utility role such as electronic warfare. Small ships such as frigates may be unable to do significant damage to larger ships on their own, but can greatly affect the outcome of small group battles by employing tactics such as "tackling" (disrupting the engines or guidance computers of enemies thus reducing mobility or chance to escape), jamming enemy sensors, or attacking a larger ship as a pack.
The open player versus player combat system, and the tendency for ships to drop some of their cargo and equipment when destroyed, provides incentive for player piracy. Pirates risk being branded criminals by CONCORD, the NPC law enforcement agency. Such outcasts become open targets to all other players, as well as CONCORD in high security systems, which makes traveling around h-sec somewhat difficult. Players may even place a bounty on another player's head, providing monetary incentive for bounty hunters.
At the strategic level, the rich resources available in low security space reward large co-operative groups, particularly in null-security systems (officially lawless systems where CONCORD has no jurisdiction). Usually formed when several player-owned-and-operated corporations band together, these "alliances" can vary widely in size and strength. The network of stargates, which allows travel between star systems, includes a multitude of choke points, which careful alliances can garrison to restrict access to claimed null-security systems. Further, corporations and alliances have the ability to manufacture Player-Owned Structures (POS) that mine resources from moons in a system and can also provide similar services to an NPC space station, such as ship fitting and storage and goods manufacturing. Each POS requires substantial logistical support to remain in operation, but enables an alliance to effectively "live" in null-security space. It is also possible for corporations to claim sovereignty over a system and eventually a constellation.[dead link] The specifics of the sovereignty mechanics have historically dictated the strategies of alliance warfare to a great extent.[dead link]
Agents in Eve are NPCs from which the player receives a variety of assignments, depending on the division of the corporation that the agent works for: Internal Security agents give more pirate hunting missions, while Personnel agents give more delivery and trade route missions. Completion awards the player with money and various material goods. Agents also give various personal gifts for completing missions within certain bonus criteria, and award Loyalty Points from the Agent, which (together with money and other items such as enemy dog tags) can be redeemed for other goods. Completing agent missions also raises the player's standing in the corporation or group the agent represents, while lowering his standing among the corporation's competitors. Raising standing in a corporation allows the player to access more valuable and dangerous missions through higher level agents, up to level 5, the most difficult, which are nearly impossible for a solo player to complete if the mission requires combat. The player can also pay agents to provide manufacturing and research services.
Security status system
Eve features an open PvP system where combat between players can occur anywhere within the Eve Universe. To balance this "free aggression", Eve has implemented a "security status system". Every star system in the Eve universe has a public security status which ranges from 0.0 to 1.0. The lowest end of the scale is lawless space, and rules are set and enforced by player-run alliances. The highest end of the scale provides protection to players in the form of sentry guns and CONCORD, the NPC 'police'.
Players committing illegal actions within "empire" systems (all systems with security status between 0.1 and 1.0 and some with 0.0) lose personal security standings with CONCORD. Loss of security status varies depending on the crime. Showing aggression will only result in a minor loss of standings, while the act of killing a ship that has not defended itself will result in a further drop in standings, and the largest loss of standings occurs with the intentional destruction of a player's 'pod'. As players lose security status, their ability to enter certain levels of secured space becomes more and more limited.
While breaking the law in high-security systems (that is, those with a security of 0.5 to 1.0) means certain ship destruction for the offender, this does not guarantee the absolute safety of the victim: a well-planned suicide attack can still successfully destroy a ship before CONCORD and sentry guns can neutralize the aggressor.
In lawless space (security status 0.0), CONCORD has no influence and the dynamics for player interactions change. Corporations band together into alliances in order to defend a region of space which they claim. These alliances often fight wars for contested systems and send gangs to raid each other. Although lawless space is dangerous and difficult to defend the rewards are much higher. Asteroids contain far more valuable ore and NPC pirates in lawless space carry far higher bounties.
In the event that a player's ship is destroyed, a wreck is left behind. Any cargo-hold contents, ship modules, drones and ammunition that were not destroyed in the explosion can be recovered by any player, and additional components from the structure of the ship can be retrieved by a player with the correct "salvaging" modules and skills. These components can be used to build ship enhancement modules known as 'rigs'. To (partially or fully) mitigate the loss of an expensive vessel, ships can be insured against destruction. Insurance payouts revalue themselves periodically based on a trimmed mean of the ship's manufacturing materials global market weighted average prices with a multiplier depending on ship type; for example, Tech 2 ships pay less than Tech 1. Basic 40% insurance is automatic and free while full insurance cost 30% of ship value and needs to be manually renewed every 12 weeks. In the Crucible expansion, insurance was changed so that a ship's policy is rendered void if the ship was destroyed by CONCORD. This has the effect of making high-sec piracy less lucrative against low value targets. Modules, rigs and cargo cannot be insured at all; any of these items may also have a market value equal to, or much higher than, the ship itself. Players have no possibility for indemnification with regard to losses sustained in this way.
When a ship is destroyed, the player is ejected in a pod. This pod may be destroyed as well, if another player chooses to open fire on it. This player death is known as "pod killing" or "podding". In this case, the "podded" player character will die and be revived as a clone at the player's chosen cloning facility. Non-player characters will never attack a pod. Any implants installed in a player are irrevocably lost when he or she is pod-killed, and implants cannot be insured.
Before the Rhea expansion, players needed to purchase upgraded clones in the event of pod death. Clones had varying levels of skill points they could hold, which scaled with cost. Upon revival in his or her clone, if the player's skill points exceeded their current clone limit, the player would lose a varying amount of skill points. In some cases, this represented more than a month's worth of training time and, because training is tied in with the monthly subscription, monetary loss. Therefore, the practice of "keeping your clone up-to-date" was imperative in order to avoid lengthy setbacks. With the Rhea changes, clone grades were removed entirely, in order to cease punishing new players for not upgrading and to entice veterans to risk death in battle more often without the threat of extremely expensive clone costs.
Expanding the cloning system further, jump clones were added in Red Moon Rising, and enhanced in Revelations, to allow advanced players to mitigate risking their cybernetic implants by using the Infomorph Psychology skill to jump into a cloned body in another station, without requiring their existing body to die to achieve this. The original body (complete with its cybernetic implants) remains stored in the original station and may be returned to via another clone jump (after a 24-hour waiting period). This method offers a way for developed characters to use expensive implants for skill training or economic pursuits, while still having the option to engage in dangerous combat operations without the risk of losing them or by creating jump clones with different groups of implants that control other aspects of the game such as shield support, enhanced damage capabilities or better targeting abilities.
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