One of EVE’s primary draws is that every player, from the lowest veldspar mining newbie, to the leaders of coalitions, all play in the same sandbox galaxy (that is, the Tranquility server). However, that’s not a completely true statement; there exists another EVE Realm, named “Serenity”, that hosts the Chinese playerbase of EVE.
A few background facts: the Chinese Ministry of Culture requires every foreign MMO to establish a contract with a domestic company to host and maintain the game. In addition, the creation of a game account on Chinese realms requires a Chinese government-issued ID and service to non-Chinese servers for some MMO’s are blocked.
Luckily, EVE Online is not one of the blocked MMOs; if you find yourself in China for some reason or another, you can happily log on to Tranquility to set skills, manage markets and PI, and even fight; the latency from China (in my experience) averaged 500ms or so: not optimal for most games, but enough for EVE.
(Chinese airport internet, EVE, and Ramen)
Looking at Serenity is like looking at an identical twin separated at birth; you see obvious similarities, as well as possibilities of what Tranquility could have become. Without further ado, let’s jump into examining the world of Serenity.
One of the most common complaints about nullsec today is that everyone is blue to everyone else; complaints of big blobs in null, NAPs, NIPs, and having to make 50 jumps to find someone not blue to shoot. With that in mind, here’s what null-sec Serenity looks like.
(courtesy of the ever awesome Verite, http://dl1.eve-files.com/media/corp/VeriteChina/Cinfluence.png)
And here are the member counts of those alliances.
(Alliances on Serenity, ranked by member count)
Forget having only blues for 50 jumps, they are in their own alliance's space for 50 jumps. While the Serenity server is somewhat smaller than Tranquility, with max log-in capping at 16000 (more on this later), the lack of fragmentation is profound. Speaking as a Chinese immigrant, the Chinese culture and mentality places more emphasis on stability and loyalty than “the West."
The nullsec alliances recruit openly from highsec, looking for people to bolster their ranks as happens on Tranquility. Recruitment, however, is not necessarily focused towards PVPers for line combat, but towards ratters, the primary source of alliance income. From there, a player moves up in the alliance hierarchy, his every need fulfilled by other members of the alliance. With their immense size, many services are internalized; ships are built within null-sec or the adjacent empire areas instead of being shipped in from the trade hub (yes, there is only one true trade hub in Serenity). The alliance market hubs within null-sec are much more active than even VFK or 6VDT and players are expected to hand over low grade ratting loot to be reprocessed into ships for the alliance hangers. It’s very much a cradle to grave experience, with loyalty and participation being somewhat valued more than competence. My cousin notes, with some humor, that this closely mirrors the experience of joining the communist party and bureaucracy.
As stated above, ratters comprise the bulk of the alliance member counts and provide the majority of the alliance income, far above and beyond PI or moon minerals. As such, here is the heat map of rat kills on Serenity.
With nullsec recruitment being more open, and even more alliance space to buffer ratters from gankers, Serenity null ratting is a larger percentage of total rat kills, with Dekelin and Fountain both having more NPC kills than any region outside of Caldari Highsec. Surprisingly, botting in Serenity is not widespread or attractive, as the major alliances see no need to bot when legions of alliance ratters are willing to play for hours to earn ISK.
We all know that EVE’s trade hubs (Jita, Amarr, Rens, Dodoxie, and Hek) developed naturally from player interactions, rather than developer placement as in other MMOs. When Serenity was deployed, CCP was quite curious to see where the trade hubs of Serenity would develop, as well as the scale of those hubs. The answer was revealed within 6 months from the start of the server.
(Serenity server, pilots docked in station)
Yep, it was Jita. When Serenity was introduced, Jita was released in its original form, with agents and asteroid belts. In no time at all, traffic forced the removal of these agents and belts.
(Jita 4-4 undock)
Funny enough, Jita 4-4 Caldari Navy Assembly Plant carried over as the most trafficked station in all of EVE. Featuring massive numbers of ships on the undock, Tornados camped behind the station, and spammers in local, it feels just like home. Venture out of Jita, however, and the market situation is much different. The system with the second most docked pilots is Couster, with 85 docked pilots. Dodixie, Rens, and Amarr are all as empty as our lowsec, with a grand total of 2 in local when I visited Amarr; Dodixie was primarily used as a mission hub, and I couldn’t actually find Rens. The Chinese love for centralization and stability appears to have struck again; everyone goes to Jita because they can find the best prices there.
The mission runners I talked to in Amarr, Gallente, and Minmatar space reported that they either ship their loot to Jita, or sell them to the nullsec alliance buy orders at border stations. A similar situation on TQ would be if the CFC posted buy orders for stuff at Torrinos and mission runners in Lonetrek sold to those. The self-sufficiency of nullsec alliances also comes into play here, as they have less need to voyage into high-sec to purchase goods.
While the undock is the same, once you get nice and comfy inside the station, you will find the markets are dramatically different from ours. Those differences seem to indicate telling differences between the way pilots behave on Tranquility and Serenity, a topic which will be explored later.