20 Years In Space - EVE Online


20 years ago, as the MMO craze was about to begin, a small company in Iceland wanted to try something new. The MMOs that started the craze were focusing on the Fantasy genre, the exception to that rule being Anarchy Online. EVE however was a different take on MMOs, with a focus on space craft instead of the actual character.

At launch the game was arguably the best looking MMO on the market, graphically and today can still lay claim to being a beautiful game to play. EVE has received regular graphics updates over the years and even some new graphics tech like FSR.

The premise of the game is that Mankind has colonized another region of space thanks to a wormhole appearing near Earth. After a massive colonization movement, the wormhole collapses with catastrophic results. The Humans that had made it through found themselves fighting for survival with no way back to Earth. The game is set a few thousand years later with Humans doing what they always do, dividing into factions and fighting over who should have control.

While other MMOs at the time were story driven, EVE was an attempt at a true sandbox. The game allowed the players to fight for one of the various factions or create their own. There was no class system, meaning you could be anything you wanted to be. The game offered the chance to mine resources, build ships and modules, fight wars, bounty hunt criminals, and so much more limited only by your imagination. You were not locked into these choices either, you could switch any time you liked and switch back again, it was all in how you wanted to play.

This open ability for play styles was made possible by a skill-based system instead of the traditional RPG class system. The skills determined what ships and modules you could use. Rather than being able to grind out levels, the game made all skills advance in real world time. This slowed down play a lot compared to traditional MMOs which involved power leveling.

I was introduced to this game shortly after launch by accident. I was in a local liquidation store, you know the kind, and they had recently gotten a shipment in from a computer game store that had been damaged in a fire. Sitting on the shelf was a box with a spaceship on it. I have always been a nut for Scifi and space and so this caught my attention. The description of the game sounded interesting and while I was already heavily invested in Everquest, I was looking for a change and this sounded interesting, plus it was being sold for $5. How could I pass that up? And so, for the next few years I fell down the EVE Wormhole 😊

EVE has quite a reputation among gamers, a bit of a love hate relationship. The game is pure PVP environment. What this means is the economy, the wars, and every aspect of the game is done with other players competing against your efforts. There are things you can do that have a PVE aspect to them, but the game is primarily about player interaction.

There are a lot of memes and jokes out there about how hard EVE can be to play. Those memes are hard fought earned; the game does have a serious learning cliff. It does not hold your hand, it gives you a small ship, a quick lesson in flying that ship and then drops you into space, all on your own. While it points you in some directions it does not give you a traditional quest line, you have to find your own way.

When it launched the game was amazing to see graphically. Over the years the developers have made numerous upgrades which has allowed EVE to still be an amazing looking game. Deep space nebulas, planets, stars and some amazing ship models, the game is full of eye candy.

Graphically is not the only changes made over the years. New skills, ships, mission types and more has been added, taking a game that already gave you a wide variety of play options to one nearly insane in allowing you to play the way you want.

Players have not just a choice of various things they can do in game, they have a choice of where they do things in game. The EVE Cluster has over 5000 systems to explore. This has been further enhanced with Wormholes leading to other sections of space to add even more places to explore.

The EVE Cluster is divided into 3 basic areas:

  • High Sec which is space controlled by the 4 primary Factions.
  • Low Sec which is space controlled by the factions but barely, the systems are lawless and operate much like the old TV shows portraited the old west.
  • Null Sec which is space outside of the Faction control. This section allows for players to lay claim to the space and create their own little empire.

The High Sec systems are generally safe for all pilots. Piracy is less common and swiftly dealt with by law enforcement. This is where beginning pilots start and has numerous activities. It is also where the games trade hubs are. These are places where players bring goods they produce or minerals they have mined for sale to other players.

Low sec has rarer ore options so there is value in being able to mine these systems. The big draw of some of low sec, right now, is something called Faction War. This is a game system based on the games lore, where the various Factions are fighting a proxy way through the players for control of various low sec systems.  Faction War serves as a good introduction into combat PVP as well as small fleet tactics.

Null sec has many vast and dangerous encounters from rare ores to dangerous complexes for pilots to run. The most dangerous thing about Null sec are the players. Players are divided into corporations and alliances, laying claim over various start systems. Unless you are part of their group, you are not welcome in those systems and will be hunted down. These factions do not just stop people from visiting their space, they fight with other factions for control or more space.

The actual game play has a progression mechanic that is unique among MMOs. First there are no levels in the traditional RPG sense. Instead, the game has a skill system, you need certain skills to use various items and do various things in game. The points used to train those skills are not acquired via game play, but instead accumulate over time. This real time passage of skill acquisition has the effect of slowing down the game play. Do not worry, however, if you’re in a hurry, as the devs offer various options to acquire skill points quicker to help progress a little faster.

Also, unlike the level systems in other MMOs, the skill system is a bit of an equalizer for play. Even a brand-new character can attack and destroy a 20-year veteran if the right circumstances and ships come into play. In fact, many of the in-game groups value new players for their ability to use the lower skilled hardware, allowing them to develop group tactics using that hardware with more advanced players flying bigger ships.

The game play, instead of working toward that skill grind, is used to earn ISK, the in-game currency. This income can be used to buy better hardware and ships. The game play therefore goes into day to day needs and skill grind takes place quietly in the background.

This ISK grind is important as unlike other MMOs, when you die you lose what you have. That pretty new ship you just bought was blown up. Time to buy another. This real risk of lose in the game is another unique aspect of Eve and led to the oldest in game saying, “Never pilot what you cannot afford to lose.”

If all of this sounds daunting, well it can be. Remember that joke I mentioned about a learning cliff. Unlike most MMOs which want you to play solo for a while, EVE begs you to start with a group of friends as soon as you start the game. While you can go it alone, many have and done well, the game is at its finest when you have a group of friends all working together toward a goal.

There is so much more I could go into about the game, but I want to leave some surprises and not write a 10-part article.  The good news is you can try the game for yourself for FREE. An Alpha (free account) is good for about 5,000,000 skill points and allows you to explore a lot of the game. There is no charge, just jump in and play. If you find that the game appeals to you and you desire access to more ships, weapons and options then the subscription fee can be bought in monthly, 3-month, 6-month, 1-year or 2-year increments, each larger increment reduces the price.  If you decide you would like to try EVE Online for free, use the link below to create your account and receive a 1 million skill point kick start for your space adventure.


I have been playing EVE now off and one for most of the 20 years it has existed. I have run companies grinding ore out of asteroids, used resources to build starships, supply ammo for wars, do missions for various in game NPC Corporations and Factions, fought for dominion of regions in Null Sec and now fight for my faction of choice in the Faction Wars.

I have piloted everything from mining barges to large haulers, frigates to battleships and beyond. The game has frustrated me, ticked me off and given me a ton of fun over the years. I have played for a while, left for a few years and always come back. I have amassed in game fortunes, lost them and regained them many times.  So, I can personally attest to my own experience finding this game a ton of fun.

Like I said above what do you have to lose? Click the link and sign up for an account, it’s free. Try and game out.  In the meantime, I am heading back into space. I am commanding a Frigate squadron on a raid into enemy space. Hope to see some of you in space soon.

The articles content, opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in SAPPHIRE NATION are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of SAPPHIRE Technology.

Edward Crisler
Edward is the definition of an “old school” gamer, playing computer games as far back at 1977. He hosted a tech talk show for 20 years and is now the North America PR Representative for SAPPHIRE as well as SAPPHIRE’s unofficial gaming evangelist. You can follow him on Twitter @EdCrisler.