‘EVE Online’ Is Finally Going Free-To-Play

EVE Online is one of the most oddly enduring properties in online gaming. Everyone loves to hate it; it’s been called “Spreadsheets Online,” the game is often extremely competitive and toxic, it has an enduring player base of less than 100,000 people (and according to Destructoid, 96 percent identify as male), and it’s the last of the great MMOs to be entirely subscription-based. In the 13 years that EVE Online has been around, they have never changed from their 14-day free trial and $15/month subscription service — and it’s definitely contributed both to keeping the game’s population low and to keeping it alive through its dedicated player base and their multiple subscribed accounts. It’s nothing short of amazing that EVE has endured this long.

Finally, all of that is about to change. According to a report by Kotaku, Icelandic EVE Online developer CCP will be introducing a two-tiered “freemium” model in November, and it actually comes with a surprising amount of free.

EVE is a very special game…. Just like you, we’ve known this for a long time and, just like you, we’ve been doing everything we can to bring more people into our spectacular sandbox,” said CCP on their official blog.

“Part of our vision for the future of EVE has included more open access for some time, but with the interconnected nature of the game comes vulnerability. We knew that if the flood gates were opened in the wrong way, we could see anything from server meltdowns to the collapse of the EVE economy.”

The new “Clone States” system will put every EVE player into one of two tiers: paid players, the “Omega Clone State,” will continue to have access to everything EVE Online has to offer. Free players, or “Alpha Clone State” players, will still be able to explore the entire game and train/use a specific set of skills, including faction Tech 1 frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. If players have been subscribed at any point and trained subscription-only skills, they’ll retain those skills, but be unable to use them as long as they remain in the Alpha state; free players will also be limited to using their faction’s ships and technology.

My God. It's full of stars full of Merlins.
So, sorry for your luck, Caldari pilots.

Alpha players will also be able to train their skills up to the free limits; CCP says that a fully-trained Alpha character will have about five million skill points. The complete list of Alpha skills actually looks fairly generous, including not just combat skills but mining, rigging, industry, exploration, and more.

In theory, the new free-to-play model for EVE Online is intended to bring in new players, but it’s even more likely to bring old players back to the game. One of the biggest barriers to restarting EVE is that it requires money up front, it’s more than most peoples’ minimum price threshold, and that’s more than most people want to commit when they’re not sure if they want to return. And quite frankly, EVE‘s 14-day trial has never been enough to really get a feel for the game — it’s just not enough to hook new players, especially in a universe that’s so hostile to them.

For players who are already well-familiar with EVE, some important notes: while player clone state will be hidden — “We think that seeing the clone state of other players would provide too much strategic value to make it public” — Alpha players won’t be able to use jump drives or cloaking, and CCP has indicated that they may enforce Safeties for Alpha players if suicide ganking becomes a problem. Also, if you were flying a ship that requires Omega skills in the past and logged out in open space, when you log in as an Alpha account, you’ll still be able to fly your ship until the next time that you dock. So you may want to be very careful where you go to ground; nobody wants to leave their Loki docked in EC-P8R, and nobody wants to get caught in nullsec in a ship full of unusable equipment, either.

Or, you know, this bad boy.
CCP will also be flying the entire player-run Council of Stellar Management out to their Reykjavik headquarters next month to discuss the potential impact of Clone States.

For the full list of Alpha skills and more Q&A, check out the official EVE Online dev blog. Meanwhile, expect free-to-play EVE Online as of November’s expansion.

Meanwhile, Capsuleers, o7, Glory To The State, and we’ll see you on the battlefield.

[Image via CCP Games]