Clone States: The Future of EVE


This article is written with the assumption that the reader has read and understood the dev blog about Clone States and the accompanying Q&A. If you haven’t, I highly encourage you to take some time to read through it, as many of your most burning questions and concerns will likely be answered in the process.

Let’s admit it, EVE, despite its numerous expansions and dedicated fanbase, is getting old; thirteen years old as of this May. As a monthly subscription-based MMO, EVE has always been limited in terms of its potential playerbase compared to one-time purchase and free-to-play titles, the latter of which have become the dominant force in the gaming world. Furthermore, EVE has been niche compared to its subscription-based brothers, given its unforgiving nature and unparalleled complexity, limiting it to a much smaller player and subscriber pool. So when I say that the introduction of Clone States is the best possible thing to happen to EVE short of deleting frigates from game, please take a moment to appreciate the potential here.

If EVE was ever going to go Free-to-Play in any capacity, this was the way to do it

My initial reaction to Clone States when it was revealed to the CSM in a Skype meeting just three days ago was stunned silence as I read through the details of the Dev Blog and Q&A. The atmosphere in the meeting was giddy to say the least, as CCP Seagull and the rest of the team grinned with excitement waiting for a reaction to this massive secret that they had kept to themselves for, presumably, months. It was the mother of all bombshells to drop on us, especially with only three days notice before going public, and the first Command Bursts devblog having only just been released. However, after a few questions and brief feedback session, I came to the realization that If EVE was ever going to go Free-to-Play in any capacity, this was the way to do it.

A massive injection of players into the system is the goal of Clone States, and it is crucial if we want to see a renaissance

I think it’s fairly well accepted in the community that EVE has been trending downwards in terms of activity and player count in the last few years. We can argue over what graph or statistic is the most accurate all day, but the key take away is that the game is gradually losing players faster than it is gaining them, meaning stagnation at best or slowly receding at worst. New player retention, despite the best efforts of the community (Pandemic Horde, Brave Newbies, This Is EVE trailer, etc), has been poor. This is a real shame, since there really has never been an easier or more accessible time to start playing. For this reason, the player base has become increasingly distilled, leaving us with an active core player base, but one ripe with an extremely concentrated cocktail of unproductive cynics, bittervets, and trolls. Large numbers of players logged in, especially new active ones, are essential to the future health of New Eden, affecting both the quality and quantity of content and gameplay. A massive injection of players into the system is the goal of Clone States, and it is crucial if we want to see a renaissance and revival in EVE rather than stagnation and recession.

Some may ask how this is any different than the current system of free 21 day trials. Currently new players are put on an artificial timer to decide if they want to continue playing ‘for real’, and are not really free to explore what the game has to offer outside the scope of that trial. The Alpha clone is much more expansive in terms of ships and skills available, with a racially focused skillset of approximately 5mil SP, with the obvious benefit of persisting. What this means is new players can take their time learning the game at their own pace, and won’t have the creeping doom of needing to subscribe looming over their heads the whole time. It will be clear by the time that they max out their Alpha clone if they want to upgrade to Omega to access more advanced ships/mods, continue at Alpha levels for the time being, or decide that the game isn’t for them. Overall, the flexibility in this timing allows for player corps to ‘hook’ newbies into the fun parts of the game, without the worry that their trial will expire and that it was all for naught. Although naysayers may doubt that this really lets Alpha players fully experience the game for free since it locks them to a race and a max of T1 cruisers/mods, I have to disagree. New players will still be able to participate and affect the same fights, sov-wars and market that everyone else does, and that is something that no other game can really boast.

Another benefit is that returning players will be able to access old accounts and check out what is going on in the game. In the past, CCP has sent out 3-5 day reactivation trials to old accounts, but the same problem as trials happened here, it simply wasn’t enough time. Given how much has changed in the game since many players went inactive, the Alpha clone gives returning players to check out where their old corpmates are are, what the game looks like now, and experience (albeit at a limited Alpha level) new gameplay. Furthermore, this is a pretty important boon to existing players that go inactive for school, jobs, military, health, or financial reasons, since they will still be able to log in and participate in the social aspect of EVE through the Alpha version of their character even if they don’t have the time or money to play at the full Omega level at that moment. It’s hard to underestimate the potential impact of this social aspect, since many-a-player has wished that their semester break from EVE didn’t come at the cost of losing contact with their ingame friends.

Seagull CS

CCP are certainly taking a calculated risk here by opening up the option for people to play for free. Going from a pure subscription wall to limited free-to-play is a major shift for how their business operates, but I think the gamble will pay off, both in the quality of EVE and actual profits. The key to this in the Clone State system is that even the pure free player will still at the very least be producing content and participating in the market, which is a boost in the quality of the game for paying Omegas whichever way you look at it. Vanity items such as skins will also be available to Alpha players, meaning that even if someone sticks to T1 cruisers and below, they may participate in the NEX store by getting a shiny skin for their Caracal. Additionally The snowball effect of playbase expansion is also what I hope happens as a result of this, with returning players and newbros dragging in more of their friends, and the game getting more media attention as a result. At the end of the day, if CCP make the same money in the future from 75k-100k logged-in as 20k logged-in now, the former is the obvious way to go just because the game is so much better when there are more people playing it.

EVE players always try to find a way to abuse or maximize a feature

As for potential exploitive gameplay impacts such as gank alt spamming, I want to assure readers that these kinds of things are on the CSM and CCP’s radar and will be discussed heavily at the upcoming summit. The new system is planned to launch in November, so there will be plenty of time for feedback and tweaks. CCP knows EVE players, and EVE players always try to find a way to abuse or maximize a feature, so feedback regarding potential problems and exploits is welcome. This also is meant to work in conjunction with the future revamp of the New Player Experience, which will seek to teach and retain these new players, rather than see them slip through our fingers.

As a veteran player of 11 years, I truly hope that Clone States and this new model of EVE succeeds. I want to be able to go into previously uninhabited swathes of space and see cute newbros spreading their wings in their T1 destroyers. I want to see new player friendly groups like Horde, E-Uni and Brave flooded with new recruits. I want to see the players logged in count on the launcher hit 50k again, hell maybe even 75k or 100k eventually. Most of all, I want to see EVE not only survive in its second decade, but thrive, so that this universe that we – for better or worse – all love continues to entertain us for years to come.



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Tags: Clone States, dev blog, F2P, free to play, Mr Hyde113

About the author

Mr Hyde113

Mr Hyde is a 11+ year veteran of the game and is an avid solo-pvper and video maker. He currently serves as a permanent attendee on CSM XI and enjoys discussing PvP & ship balance with the community.

  • Dirk MacGirk

    Good article. I see no reason (yet) why this is a problem. I say “yet” only because I’m sure something will crop up as players seek to take advantage of the free accounts in some way. But for now, I think the potential benefits far outweigh any potential drawbacks given the details as presented. I know some players are concerned about whether this is merely the prelude to an eventual expansion of the F2P model, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

    One concern I have, and it relates to truly new players, is whether they have sufficient information available to them in the character selection process, to choose an appropriate race. Currently, it doesn’t matter much, but in this scenario, they are locked in on that character should they desire to play for free for any period of time. I know that it wouldn’t be hard to re-roll a character if they decide they made a mistake, but in the meantime they will have potentially wasted time. Not sure what can be done to help educate them. Was just a thought.

    • I think that better information about the races, both in the character creation process, and from community guides will fight this. Some NPE improvements will come in November as well, so perhaps these can be covered in there as well. However if an Alpha maxes their Caldari character, but learns and experiences enough in the game to think they like Minmatar better, I feel like its the perfect incentive to sub and go Omega, since they will hopefully be invested in their character identity, and some skills will be transferable. Remember the end goal here is to give people time to try and like the game and then hopefully sub when they care enough and are invested. Wanting to fly different races seems like a good incentive to want to sub.

      • Noaga

        or we add a in game item like the Pilot’s Body Resculpt Certificate.

  • Dirk MacGirk

    Tinfoil: Hyde likes this because he has already formed his battalion of Alpha Voters for next year’s CSM.

    Jokes aside, has that been considered?

    Q: Will there be things I used to get as part of my subscription that I will now have to pay separately for?

    A: No – if you are subscribed to EVE Online, you will have all the same benefits and resources available to you as you always have as a subscriber.

    Does “subscriber” mean paying Omega accounts, or is it a looser term now with regard to benefits and resources of all accounts?

    • Regarding CSM voting, I brought it up and my thought was that it is something that should be limited to Omega accts as it is limited to subbed accounts now. The thought being that the potential for vote brigading and manipulation outweighs the importance of involving Alphas in the CSM process. Its something that the CSM and CCP is open to feedback on, but I feel okay saying the majority of the people at the meeting agreed with me.

      • Dirk MacGirk

        There is no way they can be allowed to vote. Not trying to disenfranchise minority voters or anything, but that would be insanity.

        However, running would be fine since CCP technically vets them.

    • Bill Bones

      And how about the forums? I know they’re increasingly irrelevant and neglected compared to reddit, but, will the forums be open to Alpha spammers?

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  • DireNecessity

    “If CCP make the same money in the future from 75k-100k logged-in as 20k logged-in now, the former is the obvious way to go just because the game is so much better when there are more people playing it.”

    Only a fool would argue with such a succinct, powerful statement. I am not that fool.

    • Viince_Snetterton

      OK, I am willing to be that fool. IF they were actually having PROFITS that are the same as today, sure.

      But that is not what is going to happen. If they in some alternate reality did ramp up to 75-100K online, the bulk of them would still be unpaid accounts. Meantime, their capital costs have gone up (need more powerful servers), their bandwidth may need to be increased, and they are going to need as whole lot more GM’s, among other people. So new costs will far outstrip new revenue.

      Not a great business model.

      • Brusanan

        I’m pretty sure being so active that they need to upgrade their servers to sustain it is a problem CCP would love to have.

        • noonereally

          not if majority are not paying customers they wont

          • Brusanan

            F2P games are typically sustained by the 10% minority who pay to play them.

            But Eve has both a subscription model and a ton of microtransaction options available, and you can guarantee they will be expanding on their selection of items on the AUR store. Even without spending real money the free players will still be helping CCP every time they buy an AUR item on the market.

            There’s almost no chance of this not working out well for CCP.

        • DireNecessity

          From a game play perspective, only a fool would argue against a more active universe. I’m no such fool.

          From a business perspective, only a fool makes financial claims sans financial reports. I’m not that fool either.

      • Dermeisen

        I believe we can pretty confident that those that reach the alpha skill ceiling will, by that point, be excited to explore the content that is only available with T2 ships and modules.

        This is a genius move and I would be surprised if it doesn’t achieve the anticipated results. My only worry is the pve content, which is an inevitable stop on the way to ‘addiction’ , it is so damned antiquated that many will immediately leave without the essential Eve experience.

        • Druik Arbosa

          That has to be the hardest thing about EVE, helping people engage in PVP and have fun doing it.
          Edit; I should add, that PVP can be very unfun if you don’t have experience, or backing.
          You end up just being meat for someone else’s BBQ.

        • dumbdumb

          I totally agree. I really hope there is more coming out other than, hey guys we have just been working on a free to play model for the game, and no new content or bring our existing content into this decade. Oh but we threw you bone with off grid boosting nerf. I hope you enjoy us hopefully making more money!

      • Free can

        If PCU goes up to 100k I will eat a hat on stream. This is the exact detached from reality delusional thinking that means eve can never address its real problems. Makes incarna days look like a oasis of sanity.


        Players not paying subscription fee’s can still be leveraged through -I almost hate to use the word- micro transactions. One may not be inclined to sub, but instead buy that shiny new ship skin, or buy a plex not to pay a sub but just to have some ‘walking around cash.’ I am not arguing that this is a ‘great business model’ but I don’t think we can just arbitrarily write it off as a ‘poor one’ either; at least not until it has been tried. It’s kind of the trend of the industry. Plus it is an angle to get the ‘more casual’ gamer involved in the New Eden universe. Scared me a bit at first, but I think I am on board. I can bring my other account back into the game now.

    • noonereally


  • Talvorian Dex

    This is a great summary. I, too, see lots of potential for this kind of system. In recent talk about restoring walking-in-stations, the only real benefit was to get people interacting with the game again. Alpha clones accomplishes that without the drift in focus a theoretical WiS would do. Ultimately, what’s needed is to lure players in by reducing the barrier to entry as much as possible. Alpha clones accomplishes that in a really neat little way.

    • Bill Bones

      People don’t have a problem to get into the game. They seem to have a massive and unresolved problem to stay inside.

      Frankly, always since Incarna CCP teached us that we should not trust their words, rather look at what they’re doing. And what they are doing is to end the year with a spurious surge in server activity by removing a psychologic roadblock to trying the game..They will not capitalize on that surge with a better retention scheme.

      Maybe someone is trying to put lipstick on a pig…?

      • Drahma Lhalma

        I would like to see the Races offer a free ship replacement service just like the big Alliances do. If SRP hadn’t been a solution to getting people to log in and fleet up then Alliances would have ended the practice a long time ago. There is clearly detail to be worked out to avoid breaking the Eve economy. Perhaps the Casino’s will start a Alpha Corp that offers SRP and hooks players early, keeping them using the casino sites and possibly signing up to Fleet Ops that meet the Casino backers in-game objectives – this is the better sandbox solution.

  • Messiah Complex

    Needs to be limited to one active alpha clone per IP address (or hardware ID, or whatever). Otherwise, it’s fine.

    • This already exists with Trial Accounts now, in that there can’t be more than 1 trial account client logged in at a time. The CSM and Community seem to be leaning towards keeping this limitation in place and CCP is open to our feedback on this topic.

      • Bill Bones

        That’s a must, since new players will not benefit from it and will open many venues to abuse by veteran players

    • Luke Antra

      Definetly needs to be per machine, not per IP. Otherwise 2 people in the same house who want to try eve are fucked.

  • noonereally

    The numbers will increase for sure – at least 3-4x just from existing players making alts.
    Some activities like highsec ganking, or cloaky camping will also be essentially free now.

    I can see how this may bring new players and I hope it does, but it also has the risk of breaking the game completely if CCP is not careful.

    • Mr Banden

      Cloaking not available with alpha accounts.

    • Cret Lee

      Cloaks (and cynos) are specifically not in the alpha skill set. The hi-sec ganking though… could be a problem.

    • I mean high sec gankers already have access to alts, they just have to pay for them. Limiting Alphas like current trial accounts to having 1 trial/alpha account client running at a time is already on the table between CSM and CCP

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  • noonereally

    So would it not be possible then to start a new “free” account and use injectors, or PLEX to increase your skills to a point where you can do whatever that character was intended to do and then after the PLEX expires just play for free forever?

    • Cret Lee

      As long as you keep the plex coming it works. As soon as it runs out, any skill not available to alpha gets disabled.

  • Cret Lee

    So CODE just got access to infinite, free, disposable catalyst alts.

    Don’t get me wrong, CODE does God’s work. But you want some limits on that kind of game play.

    • I mean they already have access to “infinite” alts, they just have to pay for it, what is key here is “free”. The CSM and CCP have already said we are leaning towards the same trial account limitation for Alphas: 1 trial/alpha client at a time.

      • Cret Lee

        Sure, but it sounds like Alphas are a very large upgrade over trial accounts. Someone should crunch some numbers.

        More to the point: I like the idea of a lot more new people running around on one alpha account. What worries me is what happens when a clever vet get’s his hands on a dozen or a hundred. You keep talking about a 1 alpha/client rule and it seems like a good rule if you can enforce it.

        The number of clients running can be disguised on the users machine using VMs and shells, and can be disguised from the server using IP forwarding and VPNs. Maybe it’s not worth the trouble to run a dozen trial accounts, but if Alphas are as much better as they sound then maybe it will be. And if that happens the CCP is essentially putting their enforcers up against every real money trader and exploiter out there, with the survival of EVE in the balance. It’s concerning and you should probably be talking about it.

  • Drahma Lhalma

    There is likely retention data that is sophisticated enough to point at an extended trial period being required to hold onto players. Also, it’s entirely possible that new players are happy with what they can do with Eve Light until they aren’t – at this point they may choose to invest real money, or understand more clearly how to Plex their way to a free game but with more options to play. I would never play any kind of game on light mode but if I think back to when I got hooked on Eve early in 2004 my skills were certainly on light mode and it was the social aspect that kept me playing when all I could do was collect the loot from rats the BS, that was piloted by the CEO and chief miner had killed. Skilling to fly a Titan never felt as good as skilling to fly my first Battleship – something I built from my own mining efforts…… maybe the hook is still there for those newbros if they can ignore the faggotry from politics and epeen.

  • Slowdive

    I wouln’t worry so much about omegas exploiting the system. I’m worried that for a game like EVE, the skillset that an alpha gets, is way to limiting to be atractive enough for new players to stay on. They will play the game, see they can’t compete with omegas, (no matter how hard they try) get bitter and leave. In my opinion you get much more subscribers if you offer new players a satisfactory experience instead of a hard problem they can’t solve. Eve has always been a hard game, it got easier with time, but the beginning is real challange. Maybe that’s a key part of the NPE we need to change in order to get new players – that stay!

  • Bill Bones


    CCP Ghost stated that EVE doesn’t haves a problem to attract new players, rather to retain them. Famous is the quote of half of the new players quitting within the first 2 hours.

    Now CCP is going to attract more new players to EVE than ever before, without adressing retention first. Like opening a tap full before placing enough buckets to gather the water, that’s just a waste. And what’s worst, the tap isn’t connected to a endless reservoir, but to a limited depot. There’s only so many people interested to try EVE at a given moment, and since they will come in faster, they also will dry out faster. But the final retentino will be as poor as has been since always and ingame numbers will show.

    Second, this non-solution for a non-problem will put a greater strain on the new player resources, like customer support or player driven NP tutorship. We know customer support currently is struggling to keep pace with paying customers, and as far as I know, there hasn’ t been a surge in the hiring of CS personnel (specially since training them takes up to six months, that’s not something CCP could sort by November).

    Expect CS to go way worst than what CCP vaguely states…

    • Luke Antra

      Actually, this change, combined with the confirmed revamp of the NPE, will most likely increase the new player retention.

      The NPE revamp will keep new players for longer by making the entry easier, and the removal of the alphas time restriction will allow them to learn at their own pace.

      • Bill Bones

        But the NPE is not in place, and the big surge in new players will be right after launch (unless CCP manages to not advertise it so it goes unnoticed…) Thus, the NPE of those players will be the current one. Whenever CCP releases a new NPE, the F2P surge will be over and most people who were deterred by the current system already will have tried the game… and quit forever.

        (Also, there’s more than the NPE to the abysmal retention, like the situation with PvE)

  • Tilda

    When I watched the CCP Seagull video yesterday evening I was excited. It hit me immediately that the Alpha-clone is the best, is an ingenious way to go.
    The limitations to the skill training queue need to be defined very, very carefully. Success or failure will fully depend on this list.
    Excluding all and every T2 ships and T2 modules (this already includes improved and covert cloaking modules), further all those skills which are currently not accessible for trial accounts and a limitation to the own faction ships sounds fair.
    Instead of a positive list of skills I would limit all remaining to either level IV or to a level with a maximum training time of (roughly) 36 hours, whatever hits first.

    I’m not so positive about a rapid increase of the player base. A stable community can’t be lured with a candy, it can only be a result of diverting and exciting gameplay. As long as you feel the need for month and month (if not years) of skill training to be of any influence, other games will be more attractive.

    But finally: Go out and play in the universe, all suns are shining!

  • heinricci .

    Yay!! Now all the scum from f2p is coming to Eve. + free alts for scout and region intel. I only see this working if those clones are restricted to hs and ls.

  • Zlocho

    I think Alpha Clones is a genius Idea. More time for newbies to experience this daunting place called New Eden can only do good. More people flying around will bring new reactive content and more potential instigators for a more proactive content.

    Said this, I also think that EVE Online needs a much better, refreshed PvE content, more stuff like “Oroborus”, Scope Network is also a good path to follow. We need more backstory, more involving Ark’s and why not one day WIS in order to increase our community.

    Hell, i am also thinking more safety to Highsec, this could grant really a lot of new potential subscribers. I am afraid less sandbox and more themed content is the only way to save EVE Online, the only path for EVE Online to go through it’s 2nd decade.

    What do you think guys? Can EVE Online survive without giving away a bit of its sand castles for some of the themed ones?

  • Baʕal Ander

    FozzieSov was just one huge contributing factor to subscriber loss.
    Content brought some veteran players back to Eve such as The War of Sovless Aggression.
    Play for Free will attract a younger and more immature demographic to Eve.

  • Nayl mkoll

    But the frigate menace will only grow exponentially! Rifters will blot out the sun once again

  • Fabio

    2004 Vet here. I believe it might work. HOWEVER, I’d have done it differently: give Alpha clones access to small guns specializations (tech 2 guns for frigates and destroyers) and a few core tech 2 modules (DC IIs etc) otherwise these newcomers won’t have much else to do but shoot red crosses in what is essentially a PvP game.

    If you try to promote EvE as a PvE game, it will fail again. EvE is a horrible, horrible game for PvE.

    • Nayl mkoll

      I assume the fear of giving them t2 guns could be abused for gank destroyers. But your point is still valid. I think it will still largely be on in game corps to grab these people and coordinate them. I’ve seen people already spitballing alpha clone fits that could be easy cheap fun docs for a group of them. But not likely favorable solo pvp content from a alpha level clone. They really need a good NPE revamp to release before or with this ftp model but like others have said opening the floodgates of new players won’t help much if most still quit early from lack of direction. Because if most quit in the first day (I know the quote is 2 hours) they were gonna quit whether it was a 21 day free trial or a ftp model. If they not making it 21 days giving more time won’t help that much

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