Developed by Iceland's CCP (Crowd Control Production), Eve Online : The Second Genesis is Simon & Schuster Interactive's first shot at publishing a MMOG (Massive Multiplayer Online Game). Oh no, not another multiplayer online game, I hear you say. And yes, that was what I initially thought when heading off to the San Francisco press event/launch party on Wednesday.
Still in full development, "Eve Online : The Second Genesis" (henceforth referred to as EVE) has already gathered an impressive fan base, and over 200 corporations (probably better known as Clans, to us common folks) are already in existence. Next week, CCP and SSI will start with the official beta test, and over 60,000 people have already signed up ... so get in line!
With an already overcrowded multiplayer market, EVE claims to be the first of a new breed of computer games. Played online with thousands of other players, EVE draws people into what is essentially an alternate universe set some time far in the future.
From the system of New Eden where the gate of EVE that once led to the old world lies, humans expanded in all directions at a great pace, exploring and colonizing. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the EVE gate collapsed, ruining the New Eden system in the process. Thousands of small colonies were left in isolation to fend for themselves.
Of those surviving colonies, five were to rise up and become major empires that hold between them the balance of power in the world of EVE today. For more than a century the five empires have lived together in harmony and relative peace. Recent technological breakthroughs in FTL travel and the ensuing increase in space travelers, has shaken but not broken the fragile peace, at least not yet.
And thus the game begins....
One of the first and cool features of the game is the fact that, after choosing one of five races (only three were available in the preview version), you get to "shape" your character, represented by a face. You can change and modify hair, skin and eye color, but you can also give your character the most outrageous tattoos, pins coming out of their bodies, borg-like cybernetic implants, backdrops, tint, lighting, and plenty more. Since the entire game is played from within the spaceship, this "icon" will represent you when you encounter other players in instant messages and bulletin boards. Then you move onto a slew of character definitions, such as skills (perception, willpower, charisma, memory and intelligence) which you can assign to yourself based on a point system (you get 10 points which you can distribute among certain skills). You can gain extra skill points by giving your character certain "flaws," such as behavioral (trigger happy, etc.) and health flaws (epileptic, etc.).
Next, you select your profession (miner, bounty hunter, courier, etc.), set your background, and choose your spaceship. EVE is totally based on economics and trade so everything costs you in one way or another. You will start out with a pretty weak, simple, and SMALL ship (especially when compared to some of the other cruisers and battleships flying around), which you can upgrade once you actually start making money (or purchase a new one). You select your mission, and off into space you go ...
Simple missions range from tracking down, mining and selling natural resources, to serving as a courier, flying from one place to another. Of course, more valuable resources are harder to find and are located in low-security zones. CCP has implemented a nice system to allow newbies to get familiar with the game without advanced players blasting them into little atoms as soon as they start. Spawn points are "high security zones" and can only be entered by either new players or people with high security clearance. If somebody goes berserk and starts blasting people just for shits and giggles, several things will happen : he loses skill points, gets punished by police drones, and his security level will drop a notch. This means that the learning curve is pretty high, you won't – and can't – keep on killing new people. On the other hand, in the low security zones, there will be no law and plenty of pirates looking to steal your valuable cargo.
The entire game occurs in real time, meaning one hour of gameplay will actually equal one hour of time in the EVE universe. Learning new skills can take a few hours or several days, but that does not mean you will actually have to be online during that period. Docking with a space station allows you to disconnect and log off with the clock still running. To stay on top of things, the game will have its own instant messenger, internal email and bulletin board services where people can get in touch and spread the word.
Graphically, EVE is VERY impressive, especially for an online game. The universe is immense, the planets look real, and the spaceships are highly detailed. When you switch over to warp (to quickly move from one solar system to another), it's reminiscent of a Star Trek episode. The more damage you have taken during your quest (or by flying too much at warp speed), the bumpier your ride will be. Explosions are brilliant bursts of yellow, white, and orange, while the screen image "shakes," as if you were caught in the middle of the maelstrom (you've got to see it to believe it!). When attacking other spaceships, you can actually see your weapons move, aim, twist and turn ... WAY cool! When flying around, your engines ignite, burn, and leave a trail of smoke which looks very realistic.
All of this can be achieved with minimal requirements of P2 450, 56k modem, Geforce2, and 128mb ram (WinXP will need more ram). Apart from the Matrox Parhelia (which will support 3 monitors), there will be no specific advantages to any graphics cards. The CCP development team has strong roots in the online server world so they have designed the game with the smallest possible packet size in mind so regular modem users will still be able to enjoy this promising looking game.
When we first started playing the game, we were completely lost and frustration began to build when our spaceships just sat around like sitting ducks. It is a fact that this game is deep, complex and will need some serious exploring. Tutorial missions will be included in the full version, helping us mere mortals understand the ways of the trade. Some of the CCP developers/SSI people gave us a helping hand, and all became clear.
Our interest has been piqued so we will be eagerly awaiting August 28th so we can participate in the beta test and bring you up-to-date news and developments.