Spacegit MMO EVE Online [official site] is expanding its 'Alpha Clone' trial accounts. Alphas can play free forever but only with low-level ships and a limited number of basic skills. They're not useless but, as a returning EVE player with my own account lost to the sands of time and dead e-mail providers, I had fun with an Alpha for a few weeks then grew bored and stopped. Huzzah, then, that CCP are giving Alphas more to do. Later this year, Alphas will become able to fly Battlecruisers and Battleships too, as well as arm themselves with Tech II weapons. This should make Alphas able to join in at most levels of play.
Introduced in November 2016, Alpha clone status is a type of free account which has no time limits and can go anywhere, but can't fly, shoot, and use EVE's shiniest toys. Those are limited to Omega clones, people who are currently paying subscription fees. While an Alpha player can still really get involved and have a good time, as Sin Vega experienced, some parts of EVE are essentially off-limits as an Alpha and Omegas are clearly better.
"We want to bring Alphas a little closer to their Omega counterparts in strength," the dev known as 'CCP Rise' explained during CCP's convention in Las Vegas over the weekend. "Even though we're pretty happy with the power level that Alphas got, there are still big gaps, especially if you compare a full Omega pilot flying the same ship straight across against an Alpha pilot."
So! Alphas will get to use Tech II variants of small and medium weapons - better, more expensive versions of standard hardware, also able to use better ammo.
Alphas will also get to fly Battlecruisers and Battleships, two higher tiers of spaceship. Low-tier ships aren't useless in EVE, filling several useful roles, but this will broadly let Alphas go more places and fight more things. Both PvE and PvP will benefit from this. Alphas flying Battleships initially won't be allowed to use Tech II weapons, though CCP will consider enabling that later.
The skill pool available to Alphas will be expanded too. EVE Online's progression works by training specific skills, which progress in real time whether you're playing or not, rather than 'levelling up'. So far, Alphas have been quite limited, able to function but not excel. Giving Battlecruisers and Battleships to Alphas will obviously mean new skills to learn too.
All these new skills will come with a limitation, mind. All the skills currently available to Alpha clones amount to almost 5 million skill points. After these changes, they'll total over 20 million. However, Alphas will have a cap of 5 million skill points - after which training will stop, so they can't learn everything. If Alphas wish to train skills beyond that, they'll need to bump up to Omega status for a while or buy consumable Skill Injectors (sold on the regular in-game market) for a burst of skill points. Pilots who use either of these methods to get beyond the 5 million cap will be able to use Alpha-available skills no matter what, so some might fancy buying a month or two of Omega to train up then drop back to Alpha.
CCP are also considering selling Omega time in chunks smaller than 30 days, for pilots who only briefly want to go Omega for training.
For more on all this, you can watch CCP Rise's presentation on the archived livestream from 2:25:00.
These changes are due to arrive some time in December - not with the next free expansion, Lifeblood, which is due on October 24th.
Lifeblood will bring some changes relevant to Alphas, mind, with a rebalancing of many ship types popular among Alphas "to give them a little more punch, including a few slot layout and bonus changes that aim to shake up the combat meta a little, and provide new tactical options for these classes of hull."
Annnd while writing this, I logged back into EVE and queued some skills that'll be useful for Battlecruisers. You're never fully out.