The player populace in EVE is largely served up on two heaping entrees: the player Pirates and the affectionately dubbed “Care Bears.” The names make it simple enough to distinguish between the carnivores and the herbivores. The herbivores enjoy a steady diet of leafy high-sec mining operations and vegetable-laden agent missions. The carnivores likewise sharpen their canines on NPC pirates, but -- for a slice of juicier meat -- they grab their steak knives and chow down on a steamy plate of Care Bear.
A measurable portion of the player base hugs the safe lanes. They keep CONCORD (essentially the EVE police) on speed dial. They steer clear of the zero-security, pirate-infested hinterlands. They invest their time and their wallets into increasingly expensive ship modules and they want to keep them, thank you very much. Raise your hand if you think this is an unreasonable philosophy.
But who protects the casual, law-abiding EVE pilot? Who hunts down the predators? Who turns the tables on the organized crime syndicates?
Enter the Card Sharks [again, not their real name], one more corporation of Caldari State loyalists who operate with the same deadly efficiencies and tactics that player pirates themselves employ.
To concentrate their anti-piracy objectives (and to step up their game) the Card Sharks recently consolidated the entire body of its corporation into a low-sec frontier. A bold move considering that, on average, pirates have more experienced players flying ships with more advanced hardware in these types of borderlands.
But there’s no better way to learn how to fight then to get into a fight.
We muster our online forces and tonight it’s an impressive fleet of eighteen ships, and they’re a good spread amongst the hull types. But many of us rank as “young” pilots who’ve less than three month’s experience in EVE … and no experience in PvP. Fortunately, the senior officers, of which there are four online tonight, chalk up nearly five years’ worth of experience between them.
We go hunting in the next system over, 0.4 security space, which is free of CONCORD’s watchful eye. And it’s a good night. We lose a couple frigates, a couple destroyers, nothing big. TeamSpeak is “radio silent” except for the officers calling out orders. We take down stray pirates. We take down small pirate gangs. We sink enemy cruisers, battle cruisers, and battleships with a force of predominantly smaller-sized craft. We dock after several hours, having chased out any and all characters with a negative security rating (the “bad guys”) and pass out compliments to one another like fortune cookies after some Chinese take-out. This was a set of stunning victories and an important first step in our aspiration to become a full-fledged anti-pirate firm.
The next day, war is declared on the Card Sharks.
The Inversion alliance, 100 members strong, is a collective of four pirate corporations working in tandem. The Card Sharks stepped onto their porch and additionally stepped on their toes in last night’s hunting party. Inversion threw down the gauntlet. Per EVE regulations, there is a 24-hour cold war period after war is declared. We’re safe to move around in our new system headquarters nestled in (relatively) safe 0.5 space. We spot members of the Inversion alliance and compile lists of names, ships, and times spotted. We add them to our address books in order to track them logging on and off. We also block communications with them so that any privately messaged smacktalk is ignored wholesale. We drain the local markets of ships, modules, and ammunition, each pilot pre-fitting ten and twenty ships to idle, newly unpackaged, in their hangar.
Because if there’s one thing we can expect in the coming days, it’s losses.
A package arrives in the mail today in plain brown wrap, taped up enough to be air- and watertight, bearing a return address from Reykjavik, Iceland, home of EVE’s producers, CCP.
The latest issue, #005, of E-ON magazine is in my hot little overseas hands. E-ON is the official quarterly Eve Online magazine with over 75 pages of exclusive articles, artwork, and fiction all beneath the glossiest cover this side of 50 Cent’s diamond-encrusted medallions. The horizon of information contained therein is enlightening. There’s something for players at every stage of their EVE development: Basic mission running, advanced moon mining tips, ship profiles, player profiles, developer interviews, and even coverage of EVE’s official collectible card game (think Magic: The Gathering. With capital ships.)
I have to admit, it’s surreal flipping through a magazine with advertisements for actual player-run corporations.
Subscribing to a full year of E-ON doesn’t earn you any expected discount, but the content does pay out its $14.95-a-pop price tag. Indeed, there’s a library of more up-to-date information on EVE’s website, but for those of us that still harbor a respect for the printed word, you won’t be disappointed in the least. CCP obviously puts E-ON through the proofreader grind a couple more times than their online content as well.
I disseminate DigitalCommunist’s profile of the Caldari Manticore stealth bomber to the rest of the Card Sharks. Impressed with the info, a dedicated cadre of players shifts their skill training to focus on the electronic warfare-centric design. Our resident PvP expert sniffs his nose at the outlines, pointing out one or two minor points omitted from the article, but doesn’t have any major complaints considering the profile’s 375-word limit. (The stealth bomber platforms from each of the other three factions are covered in similar depth.)
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CCP believes that the best way to introduce new game content is to do so incrementally -- not in colossal expansions -- so that the inevitable bugs can be singled out and zapped under manageable circumstances. A well-wrought strategy, considering CCP’s exponentially ambitious plans in the making.
And even though EVE tosses you a bone, letting you gnaw on a piece of storyline every sixteen missions, the lasting and meaningful content emerge from the players themselves. With the gaming world’s largest supercomputer keeping the single-server universe afloat, and with a subscriber base that has continued to multiply since its inception in 2003, EVE is still the hardcore sci-fi gamer’s MMO of choice. The wide open gameplay is already so unfastened it makes titles like Grand Theft Auto feel like a diagnosis of claustrophobia. And all the while, CCP’s ruthless expansionist regime pushes out EVE’s borders and gameplay in ever-increasing directions.
Even with a graphical upgrade in the works (which, frankly, is baffling since the artists treated every square inch of the universe like the Sistine Chapel) you can put good money on the idea that EVE will, in the very least, outlast the next two presidential elections. For those that sample the structure and concepts therein and actually get it, there is nothing comparable to it today. And it is -- let’s all say it together -- the best MMO on the market.