EVE Evolved: Can EVE be played casually?

We’ve heard a lot recently about huge territorial wars raging in EVE Online with thousands of pilots taking part, which some consider to be the ultimate endgame of EVE. PvP on that kind of scale and with real consequences and territory on the line is certainly one of the game’s primary draws in an MMO space that is getting more crowded every year. The problem is that the kind of time investment and commitment required to be an active member of a large territorial alliance that’s under pressure can be excessive. The average PvP operation in EVE lasts several hours, and some players even set alarm clocks to get up for battles in the middle of the night.

The demands placed on fleet commanders, corp organisers and community leaders are even more intense, to the point that they may spend all of their free time engaged in EVE-related matters. Those of you who remember my early EVE days from 2004 to around 2012 will know that I used to play EVE pretty hardcore, doing everything from helping to run a nullsec alliance and managing public corporations to running investment schemes, faction warfare groups, incursion fleets, and lucrative wormhole expeditions. I probably spent over six hours per day playing EVE during that time, but like many players, I’ve found my available play time each day has decreased over the years. Nowadays I find myself doing something that many people outside of EVE say isn’t feasible but that is actually far more common than they think: playing EVE casually and enjoying it.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the split between the power players of EVE and its not-insignificant casual playerbase, and I discuss a few of the most casual gameplay activities that can fit into very limited play time.

casual-shipThe power players of EVE

I’ve always thought of EVE Online as a sandbox game in which you’re limited by only your ambition and ability to follow through on plans. It’s a very long-term focused game where you can set your own goals that could take months or even years to achieve and then claw your way to them by any means necessary. Everyone starts off fresh with a new character and limited knowledge of the game, and over the years some players find their places as the heads of powerful corporations, popular fleet commanders, and revered community leaders.

EVE is an enormous social sandbox, and the ability to influence people or build communities that make people feel like they belong can be potent assets – but only if you’re willing to sink a lot of time into the game. One new player named Chribba entered the game as a fresh character just like everyone else and went on to become the most universally loved and trusted member of the entire EVE community. Another named Lenny Kravitz2 built a gambling empire, became possibly the richest player in the game, and went on to fund a successful war to take down the game’s largest military coalition. There are hundreds of other influential power players throughout the EVE community running corporations that give people a home in the game, writing for fansites and EVE news websites, organising community events in real life, or running popular streams and podcasts.

casual-mission2Most people play casually

The power players of EVE serve a vital role in building a community and giving others a place in the world to belong, which is the single biggest factor in whether a player sticks with EVE in the long term. While the existence of such towering characters can inspire new players to reach for the stars (literally), most have no such lofty ambitions. The vast majority of players join existing corporations rather than founding their own and take part in fleets and events organised by others rather than creating or leading them.

These are the people who play casually, whether they treat EVE as a hobby and sink a few hours a night into it or even just jump on for 20 minutes of shooting at NPCs now and then. Casual players may have limited play time, and when you’re sitting down to an hour of gaming after a hard day’s work, you just want to cram some guaranteed fun into that time. The problem is that EVE‘s a tricky proposition on short timescales as many parts of the game require play sessions of several hours and may not give a decent reward.

On any given day, you might have no guarantee that your alliance will have a PvP fleet up during your free time, and there’s no guarantee that any actual fighting will happen before you have to log off. There’s nothing worse than spending your limited free time sitting in a station waiting for something to happen, so it’s no surprise that people frequently choose to play shorter session-based games like MOBAs and shooters instead or just have EVE in the background until something important happens. So what kind of gameplay can you get into in EVE if you have only an hour or two to play?

casual-mission1Mission-running and other PvE activities

There’s a reason that high-security mission-running is still one of the most popular PvE activities in the game despite the feature being pretty neglected over the years. Missions are quick and easy, they can be completed solo or with one or two friends, you’re guaranteed to make some progress during your short play session, and they’re also very safe in high-security space. The same goes for other quick PvE activities such as ratting at anomalies in nullsec or running sites in wormhole space, which require very little organisational effort and let you log in and smash away at some NPCs for 20 minutes or so while catching up on anything that’s happening in-game.

Mission hubs such as the Dodixie system play a key role in this activity by providing both a place for mission-runners to congregate and focused mission services. All of the popular mission hub systems contain multiple level 4 agents, and you can decline a mission from each agent once every four hours without any penalty. This means people with very limited time can grab a mission from each agent and just do their favourite ones while declining the others, minimising wasted play time.

These star systems have also become minor market hubs and bustling social areas, with players getting to know their neighbours and making comfortable homes for themselves in EVE even without joining a player-run corporation. PvE is getting a lot of attention at CCP right now, and I hope that the developers can successfully replicate all of the benefits of mission-running and mission hubs to casual players in any new gameplay.

casual-hauling2Industrial and market gameplay

These days I often find myself spending more time playing the market, manufacturing, and sometimes even idly mining in highsec while browsing the internet or chatting with friends. These are far less active playstyles than PvE or PvP but can still be pretty rewarding. If you have limited play time, I would advise against trying to trade high-volume items in a trade hub such as Jita or Amarr, as there are people who spend hours each day babysitting their market orders so they get all the sales.

My advice would be to find items with lower trade volumes but good profit margins so that you’ll need to adjust your market orders only once or twice per day, and to consider trading outside of a main trade hub. Buying commonly used items such as ships, modules and hardwiring implants in Jita and then selling them further afield (such as in the highsec systems near faction warfare zones) with a substantial markup can make some nice ISK. Similarly, setting up region-wide buy orders for loot and then using courier contracts to ferry it to Jita for resale can be profitable with very little time invested each day.

There’s also always ISK to be made by manufacturing items for sale yourself if you have the industrial skills, though fluctuations in market prices mean that some items will actually produce a net loss at any given time. To help figure out which items you can produce and how much profit you can make, I’d recommend grabbing a copy of the community-built third-party companion program EVE ISK Per Hour.


Though the stories we hear about EVE players are always of huge personalities such as Machiavellian alliance leaders or the gambling kingpin who took on the largest coalition in the game and won, EVE has a lot of room for casual players. The power players of EVE who create corporations, organise events, and help to give other players a place in the world are enabled by the general masses for whom EVE is a pretty casual hobby. Some even treat EVE as more of a social sandbox than a game, spending most of their time in-game just chatting and catching up with in-game friends.

There are plenty of things you can do in EVE with limited play time that will ensure you always have something to do when you log on. You can set up a market character to make some passive ISK while you’re offline or park yourself in a mission hub to provide drop-in PvE whenever you have 20 minutes or so to play, but those are just two of the ways I personally choose to spend my time. Lowsec exploration can prove fruitful with play sessions as short as an hour long, for example, and in faction warfare you can often drop into PvP within 20 minutes of logging in.

I put the question to you: Does EVE Online provide good gameplay for casual players, and how could it improve?

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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