Send In The Clones: EVE Online Going Free-to-play

Space-bastard MMO EVE Online [official site] will go free-to-play in November, devs CCP announced today. It’ll introduce a new limited character type that anyone can play for free, keeping The Good Stuff for people who pay a subscription fee. Which is probably a good way to get more people into EVE. It has brought us exciting space-stories of grand betrayals, bankers funding wars and maybe destabilising EVE, propaganda, blockading trade hubs, notorious space-lords, and more than I can reasonably fit in this one sentence, but EVE is not an inviting game. This might help.

November’s update will introduce characters who are free for everyone to play but who can only train certain skills. This ‘Alpha Clone State’ rabble will be able to learn to basic skills, flying low-level ships – Frigates, Destroyers and Cruisers – from their faction along basic weapons and modules, but won’t get to play with the really fancy stuff. They’ll also learn skills slightly slower (remember, EVE doesn’t use XP to level, instead training specific skills passively in real time).

If you want a proper character who can learn and use anything like EVE spacemen can right now, you’ll want ‘Omega Clone State’. This can be earned by paying a subscription fee or cashing in a PLEX timecard (which can also be bought in-game for in-game cash). Alpha characters can pay to upgrade to Omega, naturally. Omegas will fall down to Alpha if they don’t keep paying, becoming unable to use skills and items (and ships!) beyond the Alpha limits until they go back up to Omega status.

Given the way EVE works, analogies to other MMORPGs are tricky. Alpha characters will definitely have fewer options but they’ll be able to do a fair bit and find useful roles in high-end play – you couldn’t say, for example, “it’s like a level 20 character in a game with a level 80 cap” so I won’t. Here’s what CCP say:

“By specifically selecting skills in this way, we can ensure that the EVE ecosystem and the value of Omega state are both protected, while still providing a wide-ranging, exciting EVE experience for Alphas. The clone state prevents access to powerful skills like Cynosural Field Theory and Cloaking, and limits farming through skills that control scaling and efficiency. We are also able to react to unexpected issues by refining the Alpha clone skill list further, should the need arise. Of course, Alphas also have enormous freedom. They will be doing everything from rampaging null sec in Caracal fleets to exploration sites in high sec to playing a major role in faction warfare.”

EVE has offered free trials for yonks but they’re not quite long enough to get much of a handle on what the game is or what you might like to do. It sounds like this will be a lot better. EVE will still be mighty unforgiving and full of space-bastards, of course, but at least it’ll give you a better idea of if that’s something you want.

I’m curious to see how established players and organisations will try to use/weaponise/scam this influx of new players. Newbies aren’t necessarily useless – I know the Goons used to (and maybe still do?) get their newbies joining operations very quickly as irksome fodder to snare enemies. Enough newbies on free accounts itching for those there space-fights they’ve heard so much about might lead to interesting things, or at least entertaining stories.

I only played EVE for a few months but I’d recommend going Minmatar then buying yourself a Rifter (that cool spaceship in the middle ↑ up there) to engage in a gentle spot of low-level mischief and piracy. I still miss that mean little scrapheap.

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55 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    FWIW it might be a good way to level up as many base-level skills as possible, and figure out what/how you want to play. EVE has such a learning curve (well into 3-4 months of game time) for figuring out what’s fun to spec, how to spec it, and then either getting/buying/trading/building up to the skills needed for that spec. The official news release says that they’ll allow skill injecting for alpha/free accounts, which is kind of cool, as an incentive to get your character to where you want to be – train all the way up to whatever pre-requisites you need.

    On the other hand, for me personally, training to get to whatever is necessary was such a time-wasting chore that even free to play isn’t worth it. Oh well.

    • LewdPenguin says:

      For someone coming into the game new they’re pushed pretty hard down a straight combat route by the skills allowed. Sure mining is technically possible but only in a mining frigate or cruiser (well ok mining in an industrial is possible too, and I’m sure there will be some that do since there always has been and will be), and exploration skills are open too but at levels that would probably make anything bar the easiest hisec sites a pain in the arse to do. Trade and industry skills are seriously limited due to the obvious potential for making alpha’s actually useful as alts, so those areas of the game are realistically closed in terms of much chance to get a taste of what they’re like.
      Still possible to get an ok set of rookie skills for a combat character though, max out everything allowed on that path and someone would be on a reasonable path to continue training if they upgraded, if pewpew is their thing it’s a free first few months of training during which the only loss is RL time efficiency due to the lower training rate.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        I had the most fun gas mining in wormholes. Something you do in a mining frigate (at least until you have a lot more SP and decide you really want to focus on it). It involves a bit of everything, but the pvp is more flight than fight. You do probably need a good months worth of skills, but for what you can earn it’s nowhere near the SP investment of a mining barge, and a lot more fun to boot.

    • Meester says:

      You do know you can buy skillpoints in the form of skill injectors using isk now don’t you? People use alts like cows now, milking the delicious SP using skill extractors.

  2. Rizlar says:

    Didn’t expect venerable old EVE to ever go F2P! This sounds great though, perfect for someone who might want to dip in and out of EVE without long term commitment of time and/or money.

    • Sound says:

      True. And by now, after years of iterating and learning, the big newbie-dedicated corps are very effective at catering to a low-investment player that just wants to try it.

      I’d recommend joining Karmafleet. They offer the best support, lots of cool tools, lots of fun activities, and tons of free shit. And they’re part of the most organized group in Eve. And to stay in, they only require people to log in and participate once a season.

  3. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Huh. Wasn’t expecting this (although in hindsight there were some hints).
    At least I can fire up my old character and go for a little cruise every once in a while without having to pay up.

  4. pack.wolf says:

    For a real newcomer I’d actually recommend going Amarr instead of Minmatar. The beginner ships are a little bit more sturdy, you almost can’t run out of ammo, and you can’t easily totally screw your fitting.
    Also lazorz.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Pssh well if you want to be froofy…

      • pack.wolf says:

        Now I have to go find my ‘nado to defend my wounded manhood against this ridiculous accusation in an honorable duel!
        I’ll park it waaaay over there though. Not because of the bad EHP, just because I like my honorable duels happening outside my personal space. Where the other honorable duelist can’t hit me.

    • FLoJ says:

      I’d disagree. Minmatar players don’t *really* need to train capacitor skills so save a ton of training time early on whilst a laser boat without cap is just a shiny trinket floating in space.

    • Sardonic says:

      I’d go Caldari personally, for the missiles.

  5. FLoJ says:

    As a middle-aged eve player (only 5 years old unlike some of those 13 year old vets), I think this is great for the game.

    Currently new players would do a 14/21 day trial and get to 1-2m SP, only grasping a minute fraction of the game and then have to reroll a new trial etc etc until they finally got far enough to decide whether they wanted to continue playing. Now they can play for a decent 2 months or so whilst skilling up and THEN continue playing on the same character instead of having to replay all the beginning missions and grind the opening skills/income all over again.

    There is an understandable concern as well that experienced players are going to manipulate this and loophole abuse it to further cement their own positions of power, I hope CCP manage to deal with these loopholes as best as possible.

  6. vorador says:

    Sounds more of a no time limit trial account than F2P. While it’s not bad since EVE is a game that takes time to fully reveal it’s cards, it’s far cry from a true F2P, since Alpha characters are completely gimped and useless.

    • LewdPenguin says:

      Agreed it’s really more of a extended trial than anything close to typical F2P, the hard level cap is extremely restrictive in the grand scheme of things, but still gives enough space I think for genuinely new people to play and train combat stuff for a few months without running too hard into the limitations.

    • Sound says:

      Alpha clones are in fact not useless. Tech1 cruisers are extremely versatile, and will be absolutely useful once the corporations’ doctrines adapt. Similarly, the difference between a tech2 interceptor and a tech1 frigate isn’t that large. They can scout nearly as effectively, and can participate in fights effectively. A number of youtubers have proven as much, and I’ve tried it too. To say the limitation makes one “Useless” is flat false.

    • Czrly says:

      This is why I don’t understand the skill-training speed nerf for Alpha players. Surely it would make more sense to let them skill up to the alpha limit as fast as they want to? That would get them to the “upgrade” decision faster, bringing in more cash, and make this basically a rebate on the price of EVE? It would simply save players the first few subscription payments and remove the need to be 100% efficient in a trial period.

  7. Sian says:

    Well, I’ve been thinking about getting back into EVE. I guess that’s one less reason not to.

  8. 0over0 says:

    This could be fun.
    I’ve been in and out of Eve since it started, but always got tired of paying for what seemed, eventually, like a second job.

    The full skill range being abrogated might actually lend itself to more fun–no more worrying about grand plans that you’ll most likely never achieve (too much of that disappointment in RL), just live in the moment and shoot shit.

    Maybe an alpha only corp: Alpha Strike. No grand plans, no holding territory, no administration–just shooting shit.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      That’s the problem (and sometimes the strength) with eve, it only works when played as a second job. It’s not a fun game to play an hour of here and there, even if you’re not paying for it. Maybe if you wanted to station trade, it could kind of work.

      WoW was similar, but not as extreme IMO. You could feasible log into WoW and do a couple quick quests. Most things in EvE take 2-6 hours, and the things you can do in 30 mins are mostlly semi-afk activities like ice mining and hauling, which just wouldn’t be at all rewarding doing for 30 mins a day anyway.

      It works best when treated like a job, colleagues and all.

      • Sound says:

        Plenty of people are able to enjoy it on a more short term basis. But it definitely requires tailoring your gameplay to court that style. When I next log back in, I’m going to change up my style to be more short-term oriented. It’s very easy to fall into a long-term style.

  9. geldonyetich says:

    Multiboxing just got a lot more affordable. So did highsec frigate suiciders.

    That said, this is still probably a good move for CCP. I didn’t have enough time to play it and keep a subscription running, but maybe I’ll have enough time to play it without worrying about whether or not I can vindicate a subscription price.

    Now I just need to figure out if I want to play it. Seems to me like the game is 5% substance and 95% spectacle.

    • Distec says:

      Hopefully they place a limit on how many instances of the client can be run at once, if you’re a “free” player.

      • LewdPenguin says:

        Official answer to that right now is along the lines of “err dunno” so we’ll have to wait and see. From the devblog announcing this:
        Q: Are there restrictions on simultaneous log on for Alpha Clones?

        A: We have not decided whether the simultaneous log on restrictions from the current trial system will apply to Alpha Clones. The decision will partly depend on your feedback, as well as our technical investigations over the coming months.

        Personally I expect it will end up being limited to a single trial/alpha instance running at a time, so if you want to terrorise people/rocks with your free personal fleet it’ll require a bit more effort or a pile of laptops.

        • Hendrick Tallardar says:

          No, CCP and the CSM have stated they intend for there to be limits in the number of accounts you can run simultaneously just like how they have that limit in place for Free Trial accounts.

          • LewdPenguin says:

            Sauce on that please unless it’s in the main comments thread relating to the post (which I’ll get around to reading tonight probably), I’d like to see it confirmed by CCP and if there’s any particular caveats they’ll be applying. Whilst as I said I do expect it to be the case, what I posted was a direct copypasta from yesterdays blog and trusting unsourced claims about the game would be hilariously silly.

  10. Distec says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever been truly against EVE going F2P, but it’s never been something I’ve been very comfortable with. I’m not sure if that’s some holdover elitism from being a member of “sub club”, or if that’s because going F2P is often seen as a Jump The Shark moment.

    Will be interesting to see how this pans out. At the very least, I guess this means I can reactivate some alt accounts and let them build up some more skills, even if it is slower.

    • Distec says:

      My other concern (just popped in my head!) is that without a decent New Player Experience, this might not make too big a difference. If the game itself still isn’t appealing to the vast majority of newbies, then you’re just making more spaces for your existing players to muck around with and subvert (as they love to do).

      • Sound says:

        I agree, the new player experience(though improved from prior years) is still really raw and finicky. The attrition over the years that it’s inflicted is really sad. Could never get my buddies past the first few hours.

        But I think Eve is functionally immune to ‘jumping the shark,’ due to it’s fundamental difference from other games. I simply can’t think of any downsides to cramming more newbies into the game. Nor can I think of a way for Eve’s gameplay to get old, if one’s willing to adapt and change up, try something new. The pvp nature of it all makes the challenge constant. Assuming people don’t fall into the black hole of missions and high-sec mining.

  11. bamjo says:

    EVE players have a reputation for being devious and rather laissez faire with the rules. I don’t see how this is going to lead to anything other than rampant abuse.

  12. Baron Bacon V says:

    Huh. That actually sounds like a pretty good F2P policy.
    I might have to give EVE a shot. Always loved those gigantic (space) operatic tales of battle and betrayal. Maybe I take a swing at being the cannon fodder in one of em.

  13. ThePeon26 says:

    I say it´s about damn time if they wan´t new meat to shot at then this is a good way to get more people in to eve.

    Plus after playing eve on and off for 8 years I knew that the amount if players and how many left because they don´t like new stuff in the game. Having only p2p would not keep this game alive.

    But this won´t make me come back Im burnt out and kept away for a year finally and will proboly never come back maybe if the community becomes less childish and drama free but that will never happen.

    • Sound says:

      Childish in what way?

      • ThePeon26 says:

        Oh I don´t know all the drama people make or the oh I gonna drink your tears cearbears and what not man sounds like a bunch of kids that likes to bually people who don´t pvp or all the friendly comments you get during pvp when people get angry. Some times you wonder if they are 30-40 or 10 years old.

  14. Amake says:

    Finally, I’ll be able to log in without hassle and give away all my crap so I’ll never be pulled into the void again

  15. Stargazer86 says:

    Reminds me of what Planetside did back in the day with Planetside Reserves. They let you play the game for free up until BR6. What this meant was that you got enough certifications to specialize yourself and actually be relatively on level with the high ranking players. It gave people a good insight as to how the game was played, let them fight and be effective, but kept enough stuff locked that it encouraged them to subscribe.

  16. racccoon says:

    CCP are done in this cake war! This is a half baked idea! Its useless! and CCP never had the no how or the guts to go full hog! They have ended up with another soggy bottom of mush. Nice work CCP! Your on par to usual path of self destruction. Blonkers!

  17. Someoldguy says:

    It’s an interesting idea but it won’t be tempting me back. I’ll get my 20 minutes of enjoyment reading an article about EVE that condenses the thousands of hours of effort from thousands of players into something that makes it sound exciting.

  18. MajorLag says:

    I’m still not tempted to actually try EVE, but I am hopeful that an influx of newbies will result in some enterprising player forming a kind of children’s crusade to hilarious effect.

  19. pguyton says:

    Just logged back in I played 10 years ago … I’m finding it super fun , you can tell its polished – elite and star citizen could learn a thing or 2 from eve

    • Apocalypse says:

      You mostly about shallow gameplay. shallo mechanic and how marketing can make your player base still think they are doing something hard. ;-)

      But hey, hurray for more alts, exactly what eve needs. More untraceable founded avatars which can freely do whatever they want without any means to retaliate. Fuck, wow pvp has more consequences … nah even WoW PVE has build in a deeper consequences than EVE.

      All in EVE comes down to “don’t fly what you can afford to lose” and this includes your alts. In the end you never be able top stop anyone from farming up a few hundred million isk per hour per account and wasting time on combat always hurts your income more than actually losing ships.

      Such is the core of eve and it never will change as the core audience of eve never would except to actually lose anything meaningful.

      • Apocalypse says:

        Or let me rephrase this:

        The only meaningful resource in the game is fun. Wars are won by making it unfun for the opposition, all other resource acquisition is basically paid with not having fun and combat winners are basically determined who had more fun and who needs to do more unfun stuff afterwards.

        You can not effectively stop someone, but you can grief him a little at least. That is the core of eve and that is why EVE gets away with the most boring farm and pve experience in the industry, because that would be fun the whole rest of the game would literally brake apart.

  20. NephilimNexus says:

    Well, so much for EvE Online. It was fun but nothing good lasts forever.

    Up next: Lockboxes and Golden Bullets!

  21. Sam Lowry says:

    For anyone looking for a good bit of NullSec to start in I strongly suggest having a look at Providence. Provi is a very newbie friendly region with some great corps (“0rizen Irregulars” for me) full of helpful players and pretty much any activity you could want be in mining and space trucking all the way up to PvP. We also have one of the best intel channels in New Eden. We operate under NRDS (Not Red Don’t Shoot) meaning any player who has not already joined one of our enemy corps or commited crimes can visit without being blown apart by our own fleets.

  22. doublethink says:

    EvE represents the value of making friends with a gaming news outlet that will only every post positive stories about it.

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