For the first time since the game launched in 2003, CCP has announced that EVE Online will allow players to enjoy a limited experience in the game for free. The new option is coming in a planned game update for November.
"We've been looking at how we could do this for a while, because we want more people to enjoy EVE," said EVE Online executive producer Andie Nordgren in the announcement video. "We know that the mandatory monthly subscription is a big barrier for new players and it's also one of our most common cancellation reasons for those who leave EVE. At the same time, EVE was very much designed as a subscription game from the start. It has been a challenge to change that without also messing with the fundamentals that we really love about EVE. We think we have found a great path."
The new free-to-play tier comes through the new Clone States feature. Players with a subscription or PLEX account will have the Omega Clone State, meaning their avatar in-game can learn every skill in the game. It's essentially how the game plays now. Accounts without a subscription will have the Alpha Clone State, meaning they can only learn a specific, limited list of skills in EVE Online. Alphas are limited to one faction, can only fly tech one Frigates, Destroyers and Cruisers, and they even train skills at a slower rate compared to Omegas.
For new players, they start from square one and work their way up. For returning players without a subscription, who may have skills and equipment beyond the Alpha limit? Those abilities and ships will be locked away.
"If you have skills trained on a character in Alpha State, which are not part of the Alpha skill set, those skills will be locked and unusable until Omega state is reactivated," said the company in its dev blog regarding the change. "Many players coming back to check EVE for free will have played before and they might have last logged out in any number of situations which an Alpha could never have found itself in, like behind the wheel of a Titan for instance. We won't be moving ships around or cancelling your jobs and orders. Instead, benefits from skills that require Omega state won't be applied and modules requiring those skills will go offline."
Players in Alpha State with ships outside of that level can fly their ship until the next time they dock. Any Omega-level skill already in the training queue will be paused until a new Alpha-level skill is chosen, or the player re-subscribes to the game.
"Characters will start the game with the same 400,000 skill points as they do now and will be able to train freely within the Alpha list," CCP added. "By specifically selecting skills in this way, we can ensure that the EVE ecosystem and the value of Omega state are both protected, while still providing a wide-ranging, exciting EVE experience for Alphas," The clone state prevents access to powerful skills like Cynosural Field Theory and Cloaking, and limits farming through skills that control scaling and efficiency. We are also able to react to unexpected issues by refining the Alpha clone skill list further, should the need arise."
To differentiate Alpha and Omega players and for incoming new blood, CCP is also taking a crack at updating the UI for the game's skill menu. The first shot is shown below.
"We are extremely excited about the Clone States feature," said the company. "Soon, New Eden will be inundated with a flood of wide-eyed capsuleers eager to explore the world we've been building together for the past 13 years. And you will be able to shape their experiences. Are you going to help them fit a PVE destroyer? Or maybe have them point that destroyer towards the waiting ranks of a rival alliance? Or might you perhaps share a few rounds of that famous low sec hospitality? The choice is yours."