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An Introduction To EVE Online
November 26, 2007 | Jason Sims

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On November 6, 2007, Iceland-based CCP Games opened up its massively multiplayer universe known as EVE Online to Mac and Linux users everywhere. Previously only available for Windows, the game was first released in May 2003, and over the years has seen a steady stream of upgrades to the relatively basic set of features in its initial release. What began as an open-ended "sandbox" has expanded outward in every direction, into a game as vast and complex as the universe in which it takes place.

As a complex game that defies simple description, EVE Online can be overwhelming at first. Mac users will be diving into a universe that has already gone through many stages of evolution, and may find themselves a little bit lost, so we decided to write this overview of the game to help get readers up to speed on the past, present and future of the EVE universe. To that end, IMG met with CCP developer Arend Stührmann during the EVE Online Fanfest earlier this month in Reykjavik, Iceland, to get some in-depth insight into the complex, multi-faceted and ever-changing world of EVE. We also sat in on a few sessions at the conference, and spoke with several other CCP developers and the TransGaming guys about the new Mac client, the upcoming Trinity expansion pack, and the future of EVE.

What's going on here?
Essentially, EVE Online is a game of intergalactic exploration, combat and conquest, but this description falls far short of painting a clear picture. For longtime Mac users, perhaps the closest comparison would be Ambrosia's classic Escape Velocity series. If you're not familiar with Escape Velocity, think of Star Control or Wing Commander. And if you're really old school, think of the classic game Elite -- the one that started it all -- which CCP developer Nathan Richardsson said was the key inspiration behind EVE, in a 2005 interview with Gamasutra.

In EVE you are the commander of a single ship, looking to make a name for yourself as a small fish in a very big sea. Much like Escape Velocity and the like, there are several ways to do it. You can try to make money by accepting jobs as a courier, escort, or bounty hunter; you can be a pirate, attacking other ships for fun and profit; or you can fight the good fight, upholding the peace of fragile interstellar politics. All the while, you spend your profits on new ships and ship upgrades, adding weapons and utilities that help you in your various endeavors.

Though EVE was born with these basic concepts, the massively multiplayer nature of it has seen it evolve like the organic, living thing it is, and this is where it departs from previous titles in the genre. One of EVE's most unique aspects is that all of its 200,000+ members are playing in a single game world (except those living in China, who must play on their own, separate copy of the universe as a result of certain Chinese laws) -- whereas other MMO games have dozens or even hundreds of "copies" of the game world on independent servers. The entire EVE universe is evolving as one, and everyone who is involved in it is taking part in the same epic experience.

And epic it is. EVE's universe is a complex web of more than 5000 star systems, connected by hyperspace jump gates. When the game first shipped, it had only half that many, but CCP continually pushes back the edges of the EVE universe to accomodate the ever-increasing number of players.

In addition to new features and content delivered by CCP in a series of updates and expansion packs, the EVE universe is always changing as a result of players' actions. Mighty corporations and alliances rise to power while others fall, shifting the political and economic landscapes on small and large scales. Ambitious leaders seek to rise through the ranks to extend their control and influence. Spies and secret agents infiltrate corporations and betray them from within, stealing important trade or military secrets, or shutting down defense systems, leaving ships vulnerable during carefully-planned assaults. Unlike most other games, in EVE, you don't participate in a pre-conceived storyline; everyone involved is collectively writing the story and shaping the universe through their actions.


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