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EVE Online Introduces new Trial Structure – “Free-to-Play Light”

EVE Online Causality

Now don’t freak out EVE players, this doesn’t mean the game is circling  the drain quite yet. For those that are wondering what I’m talking about, CCP has announced plans to move EVE to a Free-to-Play model with the release of a new DevBlog entitled Introducing Clone States and the Future of Access to EVE Online. In it, CCP laid out a plan for a two-tiered system of ‘Clone States’ which will allow new and returning players access to the game for free, while retaining incentives for subscribing or PLEXing accounts. The changes will appear in the next named expansion, due out in November. I prefer to think of the new system as an extended trial, because that’s effectively what it is.

The Clone States exist in two forms, Alpha and Omega. Alpha Clones will operate similarly to current Trial accounts with skill and ship/item usage restrictions. The biggest new element for Alpha Clones comes with old accounts with no active Omega subscription. A character who is logged off when their subscription expires will immediately be shifted to an Alpha account. They lose access to all Omega skills immediately, and if Omega skills are present in the training queue, the queue pauses. Modules will go offline, and if docked, the character will not be able to undock in a hull that is not available to Alpha Clones. If undocked – as is likely in the case of Titan or Supercarrier pilots – the character will still be able to pilot the hull, but will not have access to any of the capabilities or modules requiring Omega skills.

This new system is an evolutionary step that many subscription-based MMOs are either taking, or have already taken. Separating out the more valuable parts of the game in terms of player engagement and putting them behind a paywall won’t really change much for the players who already pay for the game. The biggest change will come in the form of player acquisition and retention, an area where has been struggling for a long time.

These Clone States drastically change the very early game for any EVE player. Early solo PvP in T1 hulls and early mining is now even more accessible. This change now gives new players an unlimited timer to try EVE Online, rather than the 21 day trial that currently exists. Although the new Clone States make the New Player Experience even more vital, as we’re likely to see players spending a lot more time trying out the features available to the Alpha Clones. CCP has said the November release will include changes to the NPE. So it will be a hopefully welcome set of tools that new players can engage with to add variety to their gameplay.

It will be interesting to see what changes CCP make to the referral system as well with this new system, as PLEX is likely to increase in value by at least a small percentage. I’m excited enough just to see the economic impact of the speculation that will occur ahead of these changes. I wouldn’t be surprised if CCP introduced a new limited timescale for upgrade rewards to be claimed to cut down on dead account clutter.

Overall, there is a definite risk here for CCP. The switch to a soft limit and away from a hard paywall may payoff handsomely, or it may be disastrous. It all depends on how much the new players contribute and maintain within the game. EVE is a very cyclical game, even the oldest veterans take a break from it once in a while. The important thing to remember is that the longer a player sticks with EVE, the more invested they become, and with the Clone States system in place, the more likely they are to subscribe. It’s hard to make accurate projections without solid metrics, but I’d wager that CCP isn’t making this change because they feel like it. There is likely a numerical incentive to doing so that they can see in said player metrics. The writing on the wall if you will.

Player reaction to the change seems to be hinged on two major themes. One is excitement, the other dread. a lot of veteran players are already discussing ideas of how to take advantage of this change for ganking, mining and Faction Warfare. And plenty of these players see the change as an opportunity for the game to grow exponentially. Some players are also hoping for the release of a new “This is EVE” trailer to coincide with the launch of these Clones in November.

There are always those in the EVE community who will take the contrarian position though, and this new set of changes is no different. From the more tame suspicions that these features will cause chaos due to bugs; to the doomsayers who assume that this will begin a slow descent into the kind of F2P hell that plagues games like ArcheAge. I personally doubt that CCP would go that far. EVE already has plenty of revenue streams that will benefit from an injection of new blood, like Skill Injectors and SKINs, I can’t see CCP tarnishing the reputation of EVE by destroying the quality of the game in favor of money. Especially given that they’ve already seen what happens when changes anger enough players.

But enough doom and gloom projections, lets talk about what new players can expect with these changes.

With the new skill restrictions, players can easily train a few alts, or open old accounts, and kick their passive training queues into effect to easily create baseline skillsets in a few weeks. I’ve already seen chatter among players brainstorming new ways to take advantage of the influx of new players. From massive hordes of T1 frigs being pushed more often, to organized efforts to engage players in industry. So any new player will likely receive a torrent of offers to join player corporations and alliances. I wouldn’t be surprised if roaming High Sec recruiting becomes even more common.

Alpha Clones will be limited to T1 Cruisers and down in terms of ship hull size, and roughly the same basic skills available to current trials with some needed additions.  Training a low-investment FW alt looks pretty feasible with the new skill list.

The full list of skills that can be trained by Alpha Clones is as follows. Please read the DevBlog itself for information on what level each race can train each of these skills to. This list differs notably from the current list of skills available to Trial Accounts.

  • Acceleration Control
  • Advanced Weapon Upgrades
  • Afterburner
  • Amarr Cruiser
  • Amarr Destroyer
  • Amarr Frigate
  • Amarr Industrial
  • Anchoring
  • Archaeology
  • Armor Layering
  • Armor Rigging
  • Astrometric Acquisition
  • Astrometric Rangefinding
  • Astrometrics
  • Astronautics Rigging
  • Biology
  • Broker Relations
  • Caldari Cruiser
  • Caldari Destroyer
  • Caldari Frigate
  • Caldari Industrial
  • Capacitor Emission Systems
  • Capacitor Management
  • Capacitor Systems Operation
  • Connections
  • Controlled Bursts
  • Corporation Management
  • CPU Management
  • Criminal Connections
  • Cybernetics
  • Diplomacy
  • Distribution Connections
  • Drone Avionics
  • Drone Durability
  • Drone Interfacing
  • Drone Navigation
  • Drone Sharpshooting
  • Drones
  • Drones Rigging
  • Electronic Superiority Rigging
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Electronics Upgrades
  • EM Armor Compensation
  • EM Shield Compensation
  • Energy Grid Upgrades
  • Energy Pulse Weapons
  • Energy Weapon Rigging
  • Evasive Maneuvering
  • Explosive Armor Compensation
  • Explosive Shield Compensation
  • Gallente Cruiser
  • Gallente Destroyer
  • Gallente Frigate
  • Gallente Industrial
  • Gunnery
  • Hacking
  • Heavy Assault Missiles
  • Heavy Missiles
  • High Speed Maneuvering
  • Hull Upgrades
  • Hybrid Weapon Rigging
  • Industry
  • Jury Rigging
  • Kinetic Armor Compensation
  • Kinetic Shield Compensation
  • Launcher Rigging
  • Leadership
  • Light Drone Operation
  • Light Missiles
  • Long Range Targeting
  • Marketing
  • Mass Production
  • Mechanics
  • Medium Drone Operation
  • Medium Energy Turret
  • Medium Hybrid Turret
  • Medium Projectile Turret
  • Mining
  • Mining Connections
  • Mining Frigate
  • Mining Upgrades
  • Minmatar Cruiser
  • Minmatar Destroyer
  • Minmatar Frigate
  • Minmatar Industrial
  • Missile Bombardment
  • Missile Launcher Operation
  • Missile Projection
  • Motion Prediction
  • Navigation
  • Negotiation
  • Power Grid Management
  • Projectile Weapon Rigging
  • Propulsion Jamming
  • Rapid Firing
  • Rapid Launch
  • Remote Armor Repair Systems
  • Remote Hull Repair Systems
  • Repair Drone Operation
  • Repair Systems
  • Reprocessing
  • Rockets
  • Salvaging
  • Science
  • Security Connections
  • Sensor Linking
  • Sharpshooter
  • Shield Compensation
  • Shield Emission Systems
  • Shield Management
  • Shield Operation
  • Shield Rigging
  • Shield Upgrades
  • Shield Upgrades
  • Signature Analysis
  • Small Energy Turret
  • Small Hybrid Turret
  • Small Hybrid Turret
  • Small Projectile Turret
  • Social
  • Spaceship Command
  • Surgical Strike
  • Survey
  • Tactical Shield Manipulation
  • Target Management
  • Target Navigation Prediction
  • Target Painting
  • Thermal Armor Compensation
  • Thermal Shield Compensation
  • Thermodynamics
  • Trade
  • Trajectory Analysis
  • Warhead Upgrades
  • Warp Drive Operation
  • Weapon Disruption
  • Weapon Upgrades
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ISKMogul is a growing video game publication that got its start covering EVE Online, and has since expanded to cover a large number of topics and niches within the purview of gaming.