Andrew Groen’s “Empires of EVE”

Synopsis: Every day, tens of thousands of internet spaceships do battle in real-time.  Politics, warfare, betrayal, and culture are all part of the internets only sandbox MMO, EVE Online.

EVE is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG).  Role playing is the name of the genre, and there is a fair bit of it inside the EVE universe. Although for some players, their online persona can be a wicked truth to who they really want to be.  EVE is a type of world known for its violent tendencies.  This goes far beyond the regular scope of video games.  With no developer arbitration, almost anything in the game goes (except real life threats).

When something is destroyed in EVE, it is lost forever and must be rebuilt.  Loss is real, and it’s what makes EVE a monumental game of risk.  It is also why the player base is so dedicated, and so unforgiving.

Diplomacy is strong in EVE, in fact its the backbone.  More so than the economy, and the players love to break it in half.  Alliances are so massive they require diplomats to act on their behalf, and sometimes the interactions between these diplomats can go terribly wrong, leading to thousands going to war.

Massive solar systems are fought over every day, for the limited or rare resources they offer.  This space, is referred to as null sec.  No rules, no developer interference.  A truly player run universe.

Wars are won and lost every day in EVE, but these are the ones that made history.  Some, even global headlines.

Groen takes us on a detailed journey through both the early stages of EVE, where as few as 3000 people played (800 logged in at once), to today where its user peak is around 38,000 (64,000 was the concurrent record in 2013, with hundreds of thousands of accounts).  All playing in one, seamless world.

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Outlook: When you have a personal interest in a topic, it makes the book that much harder to put down.  Empires of EVE is one of those books.  My experience aside, one can say that there has never been a game such as this.  One player, can have an impact on the entire universe.  Rising in the ranks of the games biggest alliance, getting access to the war chest (similar to a guild vault) and liquidating all the assets in minutes, or venting all the fuel (required to run stations) out into space.  With stations down, sovereignty is up for grabs.  These are how some wars start.

EVE Online is split into security systems.  1.0 is the safest, and patrolled by in-game AI, offering some form of protection.  0.0, known as null sec, has zero police interference and is where the game really comes alive.  Embezzlement, ransom, pirating, drug trafficking, murder for hire, espionage, it’s all in null sec.  All player controlled.

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Groen takes time to explain to the reader exactly what EVE is, moreover exactly what he is talking about.  EVE has a rich and highly dedicated subculture.  This is great for people who are new to EVE, and want to know more about these epic online wars.  The impact EVE has had on the gaming world goes far beyond some next-gen title.  It completely broke the mould for how a multiplayer video game should work.

There are no end bosses, no raids, no reputation grind or mounts.  It goes against the known tried and true recipe for MMO success.  Let the players do whatever they want? Nonsense! – “Here’s a ship, it has guns, go shoot something.”

Groen covers EVE’s early political ideas, and how they forged the way for EVE Online.  He explains how the first player driven governments were formed, how political icons rose to power, and how it all collapsed in early 2007.

What I didn’t expect from this book, was player interviews.  Some of the biggest names in EVE’s history gave their time to Groen.  Whether explaining their side of the tale, or fact correcting, players actively contributed to the development of this book.  This again ties into the dedication of the player base.

Everything in EVE happens in real-time, including your advancement towards new weaponry and ships.

“CYVOK” was the first player in the game to pilot a Titan class vessel.  The largest, most expensive ship in the game.  It instantly became a target.  CYVOK and his Celestial Horizon alliance was able to hold “Sir Molle” and his Band of Brothers at bay, but not forever.  CYVOK remains vigilant to this day stating that an insider deal, outside of the EVE world, led to its destruction.

A Titan class warship takes 3,500 hours to train for, and costs $7,600USD* of in-game materials.  CYVOK’s Titan required an entire alliance to pool its resources.  In 2006, this was the most prestigious enterprise an alliance could carry out.

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And yet, this is nothing of today’s battles which now clock in at weeks to months of real battle time.  When an armada of this magnitude is destroyed, the real world value topples $300,000USD*.

There are many more tales like this inside Groen’s book.  If you love science fiction, or political / psychological warfare, this would be one you couldn’t put down.  After reading Empires of EVE from an outside perspective, one could see how many people treat this as more than a game.  Real people, from all over the world, changing the face of a player driven universe.

As a retired EVE player myself, I can say that Groen’s research was not only intensive, but sound.  The amount of time it took to amass this history, from a video game no less, is nothing but impressive.  The lengths he went to in order to achieve complete accuracy is astounding.

Not in this book (because it technically wasn’t a war) was the infiltration, heist, and murder of “Mirial” and her entire alliance.  A fantastic, dedicated group of espionage pilots lead by the now infamous “Istvaan Shogaatsu”.  Article here from “Game Skinny.”

The images used in this post are all from within the EVE universe.  Every ship you see on the screen, is a real person.  Fighting for what they believe is right, or at least, their right to own.

The video below is just one of the many events you will read about in this book.

The EVE community successfully kickstarted Empires of EVE in 2014 raising $95,000.

Featured image and images inside this post courtesy of EVE Online

*This amount is calculated by the real-world value that items would have, if you could buy them outright in the game.*

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