EVE Online is one of the most popular games globally, and with good reason. Originally released in 2001, the free-to-play game has maintained a steady global following ever since. It’s available on a variety of platforms, including PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, and it offers various gameplay modes including skirmishes, large-scale battles, and sandbox exploration. It’s recently been updated with a new resource system and a revamped weapon/armor crafting system that offers a more streamlined experience for players.
The basic concept of EVE Online is simple: players form teams, engage in skirmishes with enemy vessels, collect bounties, and upgrade their ships and weapons in order to better fight for cash. Along with this streamlined gameplay, the game offers a robust, character-building experience that players continue to engage with even after years of gameplay. The variety of content within EVE Online ensures that new players will always have something to engage with, while hardcore fans will have plenty to keep them occupied for hours on end. This combination of an engaging gameplay experience and robust character progression has made EVE Online a veritable financial haven for its players. According to data from Statista, as of 2019 around 125,000 people around the world were earning an average of $61,000 per year from playing EVE Online. This amounts to a little over $500 per month. For comparison, the average annual income in the United States in 2019 was $56,400.
EVE Online isn’t just popular because it offers an engaging gameplay experience and ample character progression; its popularity comes from the fact that it truly is a game that anyone can play and enjoy. It doesn’t require any previous experience, and it doesn’t require an inordinate amount of time to learn how to play. This accessibility means that even those players who are new to the game can enjoy the content and progress quickly thanks to the game’s easy to follow leveling system. In fact, with the exception of some tutorial missions, all players start off being equally equipped and can learn to play the game solely via basic tutorials and in-game guides. This ensures that even new players can get a good feel for how the game works and begin to understand the fundamentals of combat within the blink of an eye. As a result, even those players who are new to the game can begin profiting from their time in space.
While EVE Online is an extremely popular game, it isn’t without its issues. One of the most prominent criticisms of the game is the unoriginality of much of the content within it. After all, if you’ve played any classic PC role-playing game (RPG), you’ll know what I’m talking about. EVE Online takes this originality criticism one step further by essentially accusing players of being copycats who simply recreate the same gameplay experience over and over again. This is a common complaint among gamers who have played the game from the very beginning. The accusation is that players are trying to cash in on the popularity of EVE Online by re-creating the same gameplay experience without necessarily contributing any new content of their own. Even worse, some gameplay elements within EVE Online are deliberately designed to be as inefficient as possible so that players have to grind for profit rather than work on a gradual character build-up or use items that provide a benefit to every character within the game.
Optimizing Profitable Play
Since the introduction of the resource system within EVE Online in 2018, there has been a noticeable shift toward players profiting more from gameplay and spending less time farming. This is primarily because mining and resource gathering (mining specifically) no longer provide the same efficiency gains that it once did. Back in the game’s early days, collecting resources was relatively simple and required zero skill: all you needed was a mining laser and the coordinates of a planetary body. You’d point your laser at the ground, hit ENTER, and you’d start mining. It was easy money, quick to implement, and straightforward. These days, however, extracting resources from planetary bodies is a lot more complex and requires a lot more skill. It also doesn’t provide the same efficiency gains as it once did because of the added interference from hostile players who want to hinder your attempts at mining. This is why, at least from a financial perspective, players are moving away from planet-based resource collection and toward direct engagements with other players.
Character Progression Inefficiencies
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the inefficiency of character progression in EVE Online. One of the primary culprits is the lack of character variety: every character in the game is basically the same apart from their appearance, with no discernible differences in stats, skill set, or equipment. This makes it difficult for new players to determine which character is best suited for their play-style or the role that they want to play within the game. There’s also no skill growing per character like you would see in, say, a Wizardry or a Fallout game; instead, you have one set skill point per character, which can only be raised through experience or items that provide a character-specific buff. Finally, one of the biggest roadblocks to efficient character progression is the existence of level caps: every character in the game is locked at a maximum level of 10, which severely limits their growth and potential for profit. This isn’t a problem for newer players who don’t want to over-leverage themselves (run up a big financial debt), but it can be frustrating for more advanced players who want to see how their characters would perform at a higher level.
Another area of concern within EVE Online is the way that some of the game’s more prominent players are exploiting the system. Essentially, these players are engaging in pay-to-play schemes: they create artificial markets for certain in-game commodities, restricting access to these markets to those who are willing to pay. For example, Arkadia, a prominent Russian player, controls the market for low-quality resource gathering nodes, shielding crystals, and low-quality fuel, which he then sells at a premium price. As a result, new players who aren’t part of these schemes are unable to access these items and have to grind for profit instead.
These kinds of schemes are incredibly controversial within the EVE Online community because they directly conflict with many of the ideals that the game is built upon. EVE Online is a game that is supposed to be accessible to everyone, and these pay-to-play schemes directly contradict this by making certain items available only to those who are willing to pay for them. It also doesn’t do much to encourage ethical gameplay; after all, the moment that you decide that you want the benefits of this limited gameplay, you’re immediately faced with a substantial financial hurdle in the form of the payment that you need to make to access it. Even more concerning is the fact that these items have been known to be arbitrarily and manipulatively policed by Arkadia and his accomplices, meaning that not only do you have to worry about paying to play, but you have to worry about getting punished for not being a part of their cartel.
EVE Online isn’t perfect. No game is, especially when considering that it’s been around for so long and has been played and loved by so many. The good news is that most of what is bad about the game can be fixed. The resource gathering system was an attempt at streamlining gameplay and improving efficiency, but it was poorly implemented and has caused more problems than it’s solved. The same goes for the armor and weapon crafting systems, which were overhauled in an attempt to make creating your own unique gear more accessible. However, it seems that CCP hasn’t learned its lesson and has continued down a similar path with the introduction of a new, character-specific resource called Dilithium. Just like its predecessor, the new resource is heavily policed and restricted, meaning that it will be available only to those who are part of a pay-to-play scheme. The system also doesn’t seem to offer the same efficiency gains as its predecessors either, so it’s likely that we’ll see more and more people turning toward direct engagements with other players in order to collect the resources that they need to survive.