I’ve seen a few comments around asking the question; “Isn’t Elite: Dangerous just an EvE clone?” Although most of these comments are off-the-cuff remarks, or simply trolling, usually in the comments to YouTube videos of Elite: Dangerous (ED) Alpha game-play, I thought it a good hook for a discussion of the differences and similarities between the two.
I love EvE, and I also love the Alpha 1.1 and what I have seen of, and read about, the later Alpha releases and the planned developments for ED. My EvE characters, however, hung up their helmets nearly a year ago, and may have retired for good. EvE will always have a place in my heart; it’s just that I seem to have found the limits to the type of game-play I enjoy there and the pull of ED is too strong to resist.
I tend to side-step the fan-boy/girl arguments about which game is objectively best, and would rather encourage people to research and/or play both to discover their own truths.
The BIG differences:
- ED centres on 1st person spaceship flight. EvE offers 3rd person point/click/command flight.
- ED has no ‘skill training’ or ‘leveling-up’ mechanics. EvE has an extensive and complex queue-based skill training mechanic that runs in real-time (as long as your account is active).
- ED has no subscription costs. EvE has a 1, 3, 6 monthly, or yearly subscription, (though it is possible to ‘earn’ sufficient in-game currency to convert to game-time).
- ED will offer a range of single-player and multi-player modes, with some relations between the two possible. EvE is multi-player only.
- ED’s galaxy will be MUCH bigger than EvE’s. ED will model the entire Milky Way as the game-play space (with some areas reserved for future expansions). That’s hundreds of billions of stars, and at least one hundred billion planetary systems!
- ED is not released yet. The Beta is due for release on May 30th, 2014, with the full commercial release planned for the end of 2014. EvE has been live since 2003.
The MAIN similarities:
- Neither game is simply a shooter. Both offer a variety of player ‘roles’, including trading, freight transportation, exploring, mining, bounty-hunting, piracy, and more.
- Missions against, or involving, non-player-characters (NPCs) are available in either.
- Both offer the opportunity for social game-play with friends/acquaintances.
- Both include the concepts of ‘policed-space’ and ‘lawless-space’.
- Ship types, variations, and equipment load-outs are an important aspect in both.
- Both clearly revel in the beauty of space and work hard on the quality of the visual experience and an attention to sci-fi detail.
- It is possible to visit and fly around multiple star systems in either.
- ED offers a ‘Newtonian-physics’ flight mode, as well as ‘flight-assisted‘. EvE uses a system of commands, such as ‘approach’, ‘orbit’, ‘keep at range’, which often appear somewhat ‘non-Newtonian’.
- EvE’s single server architecture offers the opportunity for huge space-battles and large volumes of traffic, with thousands of players present in single star-systems. This comes with the issues of lag, (greatly mitigated by system-specific time-dilation, when needed), and possible instant ship destruction from coordinated enemy fire. ED seems likely to cap multi-player traffic activity using its system of instances, with the result that lag and related issues will be minimized or absent completely.
- ED focuses on 1st person piloting; the main narrative of this game, since its inception in 1984. EvE, whilst allowing for solitary play and/or a focus on flying, is infamous for its player corporations and alliances. Composed of anything from two to thousands of players, they can effectively control whole swathes of systems and fight for territory. ED will probably allow for alliances between players and groups, but it appears unlikely this will have such an impact on game-play or the universe, as in EvE.
- By offering single-player and certain variations of instance grouping for multi-player modes, ED offers ways to avoid or minimize ‘blob-ganking’, (massively overwhelming smaller player groups with larger groups), and ‘griefing’. EvE offers no protection from repeated attacks, extortion, fraud, or any other potentially unpleasant actions that are within the game’s intended mechanics, (and this is seen as a plus point by many players).
- It seems that in ED ships will be relatively expensive compared to character income. To counter-balance this, the insurance pay-out for ship loss is likely to be far more generous in ED than Eve, making ship-loss less painful financially. This difference is hard to quantify, however, with the limited number of ships available, so far, and the lack of a full version of ED.
- Storage of ships will incur costs in ED, and large-scale hoarding of cargo/goods will be impossible or discouraged. EvE ship and item storage capacity is infinite and free at any NPC space-station, and large-scale hoarding of goods is a well-known way to manipulate markets and profit from scarcity/monopoly.
- ED appears committed to developing flight from space to planetary surfaces, with characters able to explore on foot and enjoy ground-based adventures. EVA’s to repair ships, multi-player crewing of larger ships, and the ability to walk around ships and stations are also all under discussion, though the development time-scales remain unannounced; (please comment to correct me, as new developments emerge). EvE has promised such developments for years, but so far has managed only station-based captain’s quarters and a view of one’s docked active ship, with no significant related game-play improvement, and a ‘cooperative’ link-up to a separate planet-surface based game (Dust 514), to mixed reviews.
- The ED galaxy will comprise celestial bodies that move relative to one-another realistically, (mainly orbiting one-another), and these movements will be visible in real-time in-game. EvE’s celestial bodies are fixed and do not orbit one another or otherwise move.
- FTL travel, not only between star systems, but also within them, is integral to both titles. In EvE, systems are entered and exited via wormhole gates, or rather more ‘hidden’ naked wormhole mouths. Most ships need to use these gates or mouths to enter systems somewhere at the edge of a 15km radius spherical volume of space, centred on the gate/ wormhole mouth. Systems typically have between 1 and 6 gates. This means ‘gate-camping’ is a regular and viable activity in EvE, particularly in low-sec and null-sec systems, which have reduced or no law-enforcement, respectively. Players can wait in ambush, alone or in groups, to attack others who may often be ‘jumping blind’ into the system. ED does not use a gated system structure, with ships needing to fit drives specifically for the longer inter-system jumps. Instead, they will have insertion points somewhere at a predefined distance from, say, a planet. These insertion points will certainly move between instances, though I am unclear whether they will move within the lifespan of an instance, or even if this is decided yet. Thus, ‘camping’ these points may involve long waits, sat staring into the dark void, as pirates and bounty-hunters wait for their prey. In fact, they may wait in vain if they are not in the same instance as their intended targets, for example!
Image: I reckon it’s safe to jump! A gate camp in EvE Online. (See point 9, above, for more details.)
There are significant differences between the two titles. ED will present a more personalized, first-person pilot experience and narrative. It is, therefore, more preoccupied with providing enjoyable and exciting flight mechanics and an interface that caters to this. EvE permits, perhaps, more of the full range of human behaviors to be revealed in its game-play; both the good and the bad, with all the fun and frustrations this may entail. It also has a larger investment in large-scale battle tactics, inter-corporation/alliance politics, and a realistically volatile marketplace. Although it’s too early to be sure, I would hazard a guess that PvP will remain a more significant aspect of EvE than it will prove to be in ED. This will probably result in a greater in-role interaction between players in ED, as opposed to the prevalence of the ‘EvE character as a representative of a PvP player with a kill:loss ratio of X:Y’.
Of course, there are also many similarities. Both games appeal to the sci-fi leaning gamer. Multi-player is possible in each title, although not necessary in ED. It is possible to play either game and largely, or completely, avoid interacting with other players, focusing only on interacting with NPCs and ‘missions’. The concept of a complex, dynamic, and multifaceted ‘open-world’ is vital to both. Elite was one of the pioneers of this type of game, and EvE has helped drive forward the scope of such gaming universes. This, perhaps, is truly the greatest similarity; the level of complexity and scope of each is so vast that the player is expected to soak up information from a variety of sources, to develop skills over weeks rather than hours, and will often choose to share his or her knowledge or opinions in some way. In both games, a player will tend to use, create, or participate in community resources as a natural and integral enrichment of the gaming experience.
It seems that ED will suit my playing style better than EvE. Although I had many a happy hour, or day, playing EvE in groups of online players, I preferred operating alone or in a pair. The corporation and alliance aspect never put me off, and I would happily go for an adrenaline-filled, usually ultimately suicidal, run through their ‘territory’. I just generally found the politics of large corporations and the annoying, or just plain obnoxious, attitudes of some group members outweighed the social aspect for me. This is probably more a reflection of my personality than a measure of one game against the other.
This post is long, but could have been much longer. There are many related issues to explore, such as; monetization (or ‘buying progress’), piracy vs. ‘griefing’, differences in demographics and player cultures, the fictional back-stories, differences from the many other great spaceship games that have existed, or will appear over our virtual horizon (FreeSpace, StarWars, DeadSpace, Homeworld, Freelancer, X, Star-Citizen, to name but a few). I hope to explore many of these issues, and more, as I glean more information about the development of ED and as I begin to play a more complete game, following the release of the Beta version. Roll on the 30th of May!
*** Please, feel free to comment to correct, update, or discuss the points I make. ***
All constructive input will be gratefully received.