EVE Evolved: Would EVE Online make a good survival game?

EVE Online has practically dominated the sci-fi sandbox MMO niche for nearly 14 years, with its harsh PvP-oriented gameplay and massive single-server universe combining to provide something that’s remained compelling in an ever-changing industry. From its humble foundation as a mostly empty sandbox with a smattering of people and limited resources has sprung political intrigue, war, espionage, charity, theft, and economics that often mirrors the real world in startling detail. In over a decade of virtual history, we’ve seen the rise and fall of massive empires, the birth and collapse of industries, the emergence of heroes and villains, and the forging of thousands of real life friendships.

While EVE‘s long-term success can be attributed partly to the absolute persistence of a single-shard universe, I often wonder what would happen if a fresh server opened today. What could players achieve with a level playing field and blank slate for all, and what would the EVE universe even look like without 14 years of accumulated wealth and skillpoints behind it? A tantalising hint of what that gold rush might look like comes from survival sandbox games such as RUST and DayZ, which have hundreds of small servers and very little focus on persistence. It’s got me thinking about what a shorter-term survival sandbox game with EVE‘s core gameplay would be like, and I honestly think it could be amazing.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I make the argument for an EVE Online survival sandbox game and the massive gameplay opportunities that periodic server wipes can present.

A fresh start every month

In EVE‘s earliest years, it wasn’t uncommon for players to mine all the minerals for a new ship and build it by themselves. I recall spending long nights mining in an Imicus for the minerals to build my first Thorax, even risking heading into nullsec with some friends to mine for the Zydrine required. People banded together into corporations, specialising in roles such as refining or production as needed by the group and working toward common goals such as getting everyone into battleships.

This became less necessary as EVE‘s economy matured, and today practically everyone just farms for ISK using their method of choice and buys ships and modules from producers on the market. There’s a lot of old money in EVE today, with mega-rich individuals now dominating the markets for highly traded items and the larger alliances sitting on impossibly large war chests. Those early days of emerging corporate arms races, low population density, and self-reliance were part of a transitory period in EVE‘s history that can never come again, though we’ve seen shadows of it in early wormhole expeditions.

A similar dynamic emerges in the first day or so after a server wipe in RUST, as players frantically farm assets or hunt the farmers to steal what little they have. Action RPGs Path of Exile and Diablo III do the same thing with game seasons, and a wave of players always returns at the start of each new season to play with a fresh game economy. There’s a sense of opportunity in starting fresh like this, because if you and your friends play really well then you can get a leg up on everyone else and have a great season. An EVE survival game could keep this going by wiping the servers every month or so, prompting groups to rush to establish themselves and work out new strategies for the next wipe.

A lack of persistence

EVE Online is a fundamentally long-term game, with many players having years of play under their belts and the training time for some skills measured in weeks. Players invest heavily into their characters and possessions over the course of years, and the largest alliances can accumulate enough funds to build colossal projects such as Keepstar citadels and supercapital ships. The fact that the EVE universe is persistent encourages long-term gameplay in which players make steady progress toward goals, whether it’s a single player grinding up the ISK to buy a ship or an entire alliance waging a territorial war over the course of months.

An EVE survival game that gets reset every month or so would present the opportunity to short-circuit all of the slow gameplay, turning everything up to 11 for a much faster-paced game with shorter-term gameplay. Imagine mining yields and cargo capacities multiplied by a factor of 10, drop rates of all loot and NPC bounties massively increased, manufacturing rates increased, warp speeds increased, and skill training speeds of 100 million skill points per month.

Since you know that the server will eventually be reset, there’s no problem with assets accumulating to crazy levels. A new player could farm the materials to build a fleet of cruisers or a couple of larger ships in their first few hours, so losing a ship wouldn’t be such a big deal. You could also do things you could never accomplish on the main server, such as piloting a titan or owning a Keepstar citadel.

Building and raiding bases

The current development focus for EVE Online is on world-building mechanics, with the recent deployment of Citadel structures and the upcoming release of drilling platforms later this year. With a fully persistent universe, CCP has to be careful to balance the price and destructibility of structures so that they’re useful but aren’t just spammed everywhere. Citadels accomplish this with short vulnerability periods every week during which they can be attacked and an asset safety system that prevents ships and items inside them from being destroyed or stolen.

If you throw the idea of long-term persistence out the window for a survival server that resets every month or so, suddenly all of those considerations vanish and you can be a lot more brutal. RUST has an interesting angle on destructibility and world-building in a temporary world, with basic structures being super cheap to build but players having to farm resources to upgrade their defences. The servers are usually full of abandoned and destroyed structures by the end of the month, and a few large groups will have emerged victorious with practically impenetrable bases, but that’s OK in a game where the server is periodically wiped.

In an EVE survival game, all structures could be permanently vulnerable and drop full loot when destroyed, and there might be no safe NPC stations to live in at all. The increased rate at which players can gather assets would help to mitigate the loss and let people rebuild or counter-attack when they lose their home. You could have small structures like depots that anyone could deploy for free, and then a system for upgrading them to larger citadels when you store the required resources inside, plus additional structures like turrets. Every wipe would eventually end up with one group emerging as the clear winner on each server, and that’s OK.

There will be those of you who groan at the mere mention of survival sandbox games, but EVE Online has essentially always been that type of game; It’s just a very long-term one. The core of EVE Online is putting players in a box with limited resources the tools to smash each other over the head, and that works equally well on long and short time scales.

With some big changes, EVE‘s core gameplay could be used to produce an amazing seasonal PvP game with small servers that get periodically reset. The grindy gameplay elements could be eliminated, different rule sets and mutators could be applied to different servers, new procedural maps could be generated, and new gameplay changes could be tested in a microcosm of the real EVE. It would just be EVE Online turned up to 11 and given a big shake every month, and that could be amazing.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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15 Comments on "EVE Evolved: Would EVE Online make a good survival game?"

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Lateris Ablon

I would rather see a new aspect of New Eden game play that is not based on space. But really all the aspects that you discuss should already be in the current game. What ever happened to PI and keeping you populations happy? The devs could easily have zones that reset. Or even instances. But doesn’t this all lead to …avatars! LOL

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Melissa McDonald

Q: “Would EVE Online make a good survival game?”
A: Isn’t it?

zennie001
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zennie001

I don’t understand this idea. Basically you want to remove persistence, which means that no one has to bother with
– maintaining his reputation
– building stuff that takes ages to make or to train into – keepstars, titans
– maintaining sov in null
– long wars going for months or years
– spying campaigns going for months or years

Additionally, gaming communities that are organised on a level other games can only dream about would obviously very quickly thrive, while newbies would be still as confused as they are now.

You CAN beat those oh so great alliances with deep warchests, as seen in WWB, and as seen again in recent Tribute war or still ongoing Southern war (or whatever the name is). You CAN create a new alliance and jump into nullsec politics, but it takes bloody time to build such alliance and create a network of contacts all over New Eden.

I don’t see anything that would monthly or even yearly reset achieve and EVE is unsuitable to be played on thousands of servers like other survival games, unless we find couple of extraterrestrial civilisations and show them how to use our computers. Whoever wants to play EVE like that can happily play on SiSi (and there actually are some people who do just that).

I mean, do you seriously play just factional warfare or PL’s way I-log-in-only-for-super-kills and nothing else? Because then I understand… :-D

You can literally replace spaceships and stations with horses and castles, the idea would still work (a bit modified), but you can’t take away persistence. I’ve been playing a couple of other sandboxes and the most attractive thing , at least for me, was the community and the persistence. I can walk through certain areas in Wurm Online and tell you the stories I’ve been a part of. But I can’t be a part of new stories there – that possibility was killed with the introduction of Wurm Unlimited. Yes, there are now much more servers and mods and whatnot, but the community on official servers is dead, and there is no okay PVP server on official neither unofficial servers. There you go, this is your answer to what would happen when a sandbox goes RUSTy way.

zennie001
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zennie001

I’ve actually re-created this account to write this comment… On a completely different note , EVE players are absolutely not fanatical about their game :-D

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Oleg Chebeneev

Brandon, I dont understand, why you insist on server resetting? MMO crowds who get invested in their characters hate constant resets. You can achieve the old spirit without montly doomsday. Just need to created a server with tweaked rules like no capital ships, no insurance, less minerals, longer production times, lighter CONCORD influence in Empire space. Maybe even permadeath mechanics where you have to buy special item to prolong your clone.

I like the idea of EVE server with more hardcore setting (although it would split community, thus CCP will never do this). But I dont like monthly resets suggestion

Reader

I think a seasonal EVE server or small scale private server with accelerated gameplay would be quite fun. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will ever happen. Even if there were some interest in a seasonal EVE server, I think ultimately CCP will not do this because it would be self-competing. Remember how CCP didn’t want to release DUST for PC because of self-competing? This company is really uncomfortable with that.

While a different genre of game, Path of Exile does something similar, with the general league / seasonal league / race league system. The idea is you can try all sorts of crazy stuff in the short races (30 minute leagues!), or earn rewards in the seasonal league (usually to promote new mechanics) to bring back to general league. An EVE equivalent would probably to give some rare ships or implants to winners in the seasonal league to bring back to the main server. While it works great for the PoE playerbase, I do not see the same thing working out for EVE. The EVE playerbase seems to greatly value persistence, as demonstrated by the other commentators. Also there would be lots of resentment by players who do not want to play in seasonal.

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Armsbend

No, the game is a niche piece of shit developed by a shit developer. Trying to keep it growing by tacking on more successful genres that CCP would never be able to implement is just sad.

The game will have a decade of death throe – if you enjoy the game; enjoy the game. Don’t worry about CCPs survival they have no ability what-so-ever.

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Bruno Brito

I really want to get over the salt in your comment, to see the reasoning behind it.

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Scrungle

Probably got scammed at Jita.

Mattaui
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Mattaui

Despite having some PvE content (and way more now than it used to), EVE has always primarily been a game where your biggest opponents were other players, and you fight over scarce resources with a high price for failure. Pretty much the definition of a survival game, and one of the first.

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Armsman

Um – have you PLAYED EVE Online? I ask because for all it’s offline backstory (which I’ve always enjoyed) – in the end, it’s EXACTLY what it is for Plyers in Nul Space.

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Rheem Octuris

So, Crowfall in space?

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Bryan Turner

I thought Eve was already a bank box?

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starbuck1771

Brendan where have you been the last fifteen years? EVE has always been a survival game. Your trying to survive the NPC’s as well as the other players.

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