EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s free-to-play upgrades are pretty damn generous

You’ve probably heard by now that EVE Online is giving its free-to-play alpha clone characters a massive boost in power in December about a month after the launch of the Lifeblood expansion. The news has been spreading through the gaming media since it was announced last week at EVE Vegas 2017 and the reception online has been generally positive. Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free, or that the new skills might be abused to create an endless army of ganking alts.

There’s no doubt that the changes will help to close the power gap between subscribers and free players and will open up new avenues of gameplay. Free players will finally be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and even battleships, and cross-training for multiple races will unlock multi-faction ships such as the Sisters of EVE exploration ships. Alpha clone players will also finally be able to use tech 2 weapons and fly many of the ship setups flown in massive nullsec wars, though the way that the new skill limit is being implemented may actually benefit old and returning players more than new ones.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the free-to-play changes, briefly examine the power gap between free and subscribed players, and look at who will benefit most from the change.

Summary of the changes

Alpha clone characters are currently limited to a mix of tech 1 and tech 2 equipment and a single race’s tech 1 frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. The final skill list for the December alpha clone overhaul isn’t public yet, but the announcements at EVE Vegas 2017 were pretty extensive. Free players will soon be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and battleships, and will also be able to train multiple races of ship on the same character. This helpfully opens up the possibility of flying ships that require multiple race skills to fly such as the powerful Angel Cartel pirate ships or the Sisters of EVE exploration ships.

Alphas will also gain access to tech 2 small and medium weapons, which is an even bigger deal than it sounds. Not only are tech 2 weapons slightly more powerful than their tech 1 counterparts, but they can also use specialised tech 2 ammo such as the long-range Scorch crystals for pulse lasers or Tremor ammunition for artillery cannons. These ammo types are essential for certain ship setups and not having them limits the tactics free players can employ, restricting them from using many standard solo and fleet PvP fittings. The new alphas won’t get access to tech 2 large weapons for their new battleships, but this is unlikely to make much of a difference as standard battleships aren’t very popular in PvP today and most alphas will probably use them for PvE.

What’s the catch?

The new alpha clones will have access to up to 20 million skill points that would take over a year to train, but the catch is that you can technically only train up to 5 million skill points for free. Once you hit that number, all skill training will stop and you’ll have to subscribe or buy skill injectors from the market to raise it further. No matter how you get the new skills beyond the 5 million skill point limit, you’ll retain access to those new skills whenever you’re a free alpha clone player.

The good news for prospective players is that it’ll be possible to cram some very powerful sets of skills into the free skill training limit with the help of focused training plans, especially if you deliberately limit yourself to one race or play style. Player-run training corporations will often produce skill plans for new players to help them maximise their time in-game, and I’m confident that we’ll see some killer 5 million skill point training plans when the changes go live.

Interestingly, CCP is considering adding a new microtransaction item to the store that will let alphas train beyond the free training limit for a period of time and give them double skill training speed. That would put players on par with omega training speed without them giving access to the omega skills. This item would be considerably cheaper than a full subscription and players will inevitably re-sell them on the in-game market for ISK, so the average free player should be able to buy their training boosts for an achievable amount of in-game ISK. Having access to these new ships and tech 2 weapons also means alphas should be able to farm for that ISK a lot faster, making it more feasible than ever to be a purely free player.

Examining the power gap

I examined the power gap between max skill alpha and omega clones back when the free option was first released, and I found that the difference between similar ships and setups was a maximum of around 25% on paper in stats such as effective hitpoints, active tanking, and damage output. The difference depended on which ships you compared and came mostly from small bonuses from support skills alphas can’t train to max level and from being forced to use tech 1 weapons and ammo.

I originally reasoned that this discrepancy wouldn’t be such a big deal in PvP where individual ship stats don’t matter so much, but it turned out that restricting alphas to tech 1 cruisers or below severely limited the types of PvP and PvE they could do. Just giving them battlecruisers and tech 2 guns is going to be massive for opening up those opportunities, as most large PvP alliances run battlecruiser fleets and the power gap in these fittings between alphas and omegas will be pretty marginal.

Alphas will be to fly tech 1 battleships (including faction battleships) capable of doing level 4 missions with relative ease, and they can use the Sisters of EVE ships for exploration (albeit without cloaking devices). CCP has also hinted at the possibility of allowing them to fly tech 1 mining barges, but they’ll be able to mine nearly as much in some battleships as they could in a large mining barge anyway. Taking the updates into account, the power gap between a year-old omega character and a fully trained alpha in everyday gameplay is going to be very low and players will be able to do a lot more of EVE‘s core gameplay without subscribing.

Who will this help most?

While new players will get a lot of increased use out of free accounts come December, the people who will benefit most from the upgrades might be veteran players who already have the full alpha skill set trained. Old lapsed accounts will now be able to take their places in PvP roams with battlecruisers, and some people who subscribe just to farm PvE content can probably drop their subscriptions altogether now and just fly something like a faction battleship.

There are some compelling reasons to stay subscribed though, such as the fact that you can’t log into an alpha clone account at the same time as any other account. Anything you can do with a free account, you can do a lot better with multiple subscribed accounts. Alphas also have no access to Planetary Interaction and extremely limited access to manufacturing and the new reaction lines in Lifeblood‘s refineries that are sure to provide some great passive income. Alphas also have no access to t2 and t3 ships or cloaking skills, so they’ll be at a distinct disadvantage when taking on wormhole content or exploration in lowsec and nullsec.

“Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of ‘new players’, that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players.” — Malcanis’ Law
There has been some concern from players that giving alphas access to battlecruisers will lead to rampant suicide ganking, but CCP claimed at EVE Vegas that the stats just don’t support that conclusion. Free players can already fly gank destroyers dealing over 500 DPS and yet gankers still prefer subscribed accounts. The new alphas will of course be able to deal over 1,000 DPS with a more expensive gank battlecruiser, but you can still only log in one alpha account at a time and gankers obviously prefer to multi-box accounts for maximum damage. If people didn’t roll endless disposable gank alts with the first incarnation of alpha clones, the risk added with this update would appear to be pretty low.

The original intention with alpha clones was that a certain proportion of the playerbase would remain as free players indefinitely, but that never really happened. CCP’s stats show that most people treat alpha clones as a free trial and subscribe soon after starting if they’re interested, and the plan to fix it is to make the set of available skills less restrictive. This will open the free option up to a lot more of EVE‘s core and even endgame PvE and PvP gameplay, while the login limitations for alpha players should avert the large-scale abuse current players are worried about.

I think this is definitely a positive step for EVE, but the fact that alphas train skills at half the speed of a subscriber still creates an opportunity cost that grows the longer you wait to subscribe. It remains to be seen whether CCP can solve this with new skill-training microtransactions and create a new class of permanent free players as originally intended. It’ll also be interesting to see whether a large number of veterans will opt to cancel their subscriptions and become free players. Either way, we can only hope that corporations continue to invite alpha clone players into their ranks and EVE can continue to thrive for years to come.

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!
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

39 Comments on "EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s free-to-play upgrades are pretty damn generous"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
chriskovo .

Doesn’t sound very generous when you have to buy skill injectors for leveling after 5mil points and said skill injectors are like 850 mill ISK each.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
zeko_rena

You can get pretty damn far on 5 million skill points if you choose to specialize in a certain field.

Reader
Necromonger

To do something in Eve you almsot 100% have to give up all your free time.

I wanted to set up shop with me lady in a Wormhole, the adventure lasted 4 days before we got evicted as i coulnt attend the timers to defend and even if i could have attempted to defend my wormhole i was overwhelmed as the kill reports showed 22 pilots -_-

Eve is a great game, the economy is mindblowing, but the required tiem investment makes it just to high and even tough i played Eve since 2006 on and off and seen everything the game has to offer i just cant dedicate the time to it anymore.

90% of my time was in Nullsec and i had a blast.
I hope one day we get a more pve friendly space game with less ganking.

Looking at you Robert….

Reader
Aaron Weddle

space dad ? is that you ?

OneEyeRed
Reader
OneEyeRed

About sums it up completely. It is why I quit playing as it became such a chore. F2P at this stage seems like a recipe for disaster. No Freep is going to ever keep up or challenge veteran players. It will be a lesson in humility, aggravation, and loss.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

I have 50 mil character who ran out of sub. After update goes live I’ll have 5 mil available and will have to buy injections to make it 20, right?
Brandan, how much isk you think those injections will be?

Aelzen
Reader
Aelzen

If the skills you’ve trained are the same ones that new alphas will get, you’ll get full use of them. The 5/20m thing is for people wanting to train skills beyond 5m. If you’ve already got those skills trained you’ll still get their use.

Reader
Arktouros

Didn’t see no mention of muh Industrials.

ಠ_ಠ

Reader
Mush V. Peets

What’s your point? EvE is, or at least will hopefully be, still a subscription game. If alphas get access to too many things, they’ll have to start adding more and more P2W bullcrap just to keep the game afloat. You don’t want that.

Reader
Arktouros

I also don’t want an unlimited trial that lets you try parts of the game but not others especially as someone who was into the Industrial side of EVE. This offers me nothing.

There’s lots of ways to avoid P2W and give people options.

Reader
Mush V. Peets

They’re ‘offering you’ a subscription service. This isn’t supposed to give you all of the game for free.

Reader
Arktouros

If all you got is hyperbolic arguments that don’t represent what I’m even mentioning then why waste either of our time? Looking for bare minimum industrial ships like Barges is hardly the equivalent of asking for the “whole game.”

Reader
Mush V. Peets

It is, in a sense. EvE in its entirety is a game with many facets and many viable occupations and methods of obtaining income. Giving Alphas viable access to all of them – even if at a basic level – seems a bit much, to me. Also, wouldn’t allowing free players access to the resource output capabilities of mining barges mess with the game’s economy?

Reader
Arktouros

What would be too much is if they offered passive gains system like Planetary Interaction to work on Alphas. But since you can only have 1 Alpha account active whether you’re on a fighter or miner or explorer it shouldn’t matter because all require you to actively be there and playing.

The money you generate from high-sec mining is vastly inferior to just about every other form of income in game. Running T4 missions is going to inject more liquid ISK into the game than anything mining will ever add. One of the big reasons I quit however is running the most valuable missions will tank your faction rating to the point the NPCs will kill you on sight. With Alphas you can bypass that by having an X clone who can run one faction forever without leaving.

The biggest impact having mining barges on an Alpha would happen is a group might require their corp to have a Mining Alpha for mining ops and that’s about it.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
zeko_rena

It is kind of hard, I guess they could give you access to Tech I Mining Barges but the bots would have a field day.

However, with battleships being available to Alphas soon you could do the old school battleship miner fit as that used to be the best of the best way back in the day.

Only problem is the crap cargo holds, still they can fit a lot of cargo expanders

Reader
Arktouros

The craziest thing is this: It’s not even close to what I’d make running missions in my old cap stable boosted Typhoon. I mean I know running Missions is way more money/hr than high sec mining. Coming back and chain running level 4 missions would disrupt the economy a hell of a lot more than me mining. Conversely if I can mine, but lack the high end skills to really refine well, I’d likely end up selling thle raw Ores as well as needing to pay Freighters to haul my loads since I will lack those capabilities as a free miner. Both of those would benefit the economy compared to simply generating ISK out of thin air via missions.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
zeko_rena

You have a Miner II BPO?
I am but a lowly peasant mi lord
comment image

Reader
John Mclain

“but you can still only log in one alpha account at a time”

Wrong, wrong wrong wrong, WRONG. I know not “everyone” knows you can easily multibox a dozen+ alpha accounts, but the majority of people should by now. Is it against the rules? Likely, but people have been doing it for YEARS without repercussions.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
kgptzac

Alpha clones haven’t existed for “years”, and CCP always banked on people paying for multiple subscriptions. In the article it could have been said “you are only *allowed* to log in one alpha account at a time” though.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

“Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free…”
======
This sounds like empty threats and posturing. I can’t see how going from a paid status after years of playing EvE and all the benefits they’ve accrued (which probably most of the complaining vets are) are going to give them an advantage as a free player in a game where advantage really matters.

In just about every MMO that went F2P and vets threatened to “go free” that I’ve played, I’ve rarely seen any actually do it, or stayed as F2P after unsubbing because they missed out on all the benefits they were used to even if they already had tons of money and tons of alts built up.

Also, it’s not like new free players in 2017 with absolutely nothing starting out are going to overtake any gains veteran players have made after.. how long has EvE been out?… oh yeah, since 2003.

Guess they just want to vent at…something, anything because there is no way that CCP is going to take any of this whining seriously.

There is a hidden reason why CCP is giving these new players a boost; either they aren’t bringing in the new people in the numbers they hoped they would or they already realize new players are playing and quitting due to the imbalance of power.

Reader
John Mclain

It’s really simple actually, vets are not going to be letting their main account go alpha after the changes. (Well MOST won’t.) Whats going to happen is most of the vet’s “ALT accounts” are going to go from paid to free accounts. Thats not posturing, I “WILL” be letting at least 3 paid alt accounts go alpha, not in protest, but because I now no longer need them to be omega to fly pirate cruisers and battlecruisers. (Which was why they were omega.)

Reader
Castagere Shaikura

Its still a cut throat ganking game. Non of this is going to bring in alot of new players. They already quit and most of the Alpha players left are just alts of sub.players.

deekay_plus
Reader
deekay_plus

i mean considering most eve players rarely leave hi sec at all in the first place…

wpDiscuz