Eve is unique in that it directly allows a player to pay for their monthly subscription, with actual game money. Players of other games can and have done similar things by converting games currency and/or items into real money by selling them over the internet. Some games don't allow this. Other games tolerate it but officially frown on it, and still other, but fewer, games actually overtly allow it and encourage it. In Eve, the ability to fund your game account with said gameplay, is directly related to your ability to earn iskies. At the beginning, it takes a lot of grinding out missions to earn 300 to 400 million isk for the mighty PLEX, but I suppose it is possible with some due diligence. The upside is, that depending on how you start playing, you have either 14 or 21 days to get a head start before you have to start paying. When I started out, as I have a suitably decent job that allows me to pay the cookie bill and still have a few bucks left over for discretionary spending on MMOs, I didn't worry too much about isk for PLEX. Now though, as my skills get higher and my ability to generate isk improves, using isk for PLEX is a smart move whether you can afford real money or not. And that Virginia, is where alternate accounts come in, as opposed to talking about "alts" as in the other two character slots that come with each account - but I have an idea about them too :)
With alt accounts, people complain that it's "cheating" or that their computard can't handle it or that it is too expensive, and there are more complaints too. All, some or none of these complaints might be relevant, but if people stopped to think about it, alt accounts might be more feasible than they thought and could actually accelerate their progress in Eve.
The first real problem might be hardware. Lots of complaints about all the latest upgrades, and how people's machines will no longer run the game. Well, bummer, but that's reality. Games need to, and will, adapt and get more complicated (notice I didn't say "improve", as that is a purely relative and individual assessment :)) With those adaptations and changes comes more complicated code, more features, better animations, etc etc, and with those changes, comes the need for better hardware. Hardware companies are always coming out with new features and ability to allow "better" features and funkier software to run, that couldn't be run or run as well, before, and then coders write software that can take advantage of these new hardware features because people like new bells and whistles, and then the hardware boys make improvements on that, and it spirals upwards and onwards as software chases hardware chases software. While people whine and moan, that spiral was what allowed Eve to be made in the first place. People convenient rail against the machine when they get what they want, but ignore what happened to get what they want. Uhh, so WTF am I on about . . ? Oh yeah, alts and hardware. So, if due to Eve updates a person's computer can barely run a single client now, even two clients are out of the question. When I started playing, I had everything set as high as I could in the graphics department (except for the microscopic text . . Like, really, WTF is up with the font size??) and the guns and missiles and ships and explosions, and the nebulae and everything, were pretty damn awesome. So, ok, but after a month or two, an orbiting shooting ship is an orbiting and shooting ship, but it doesn't do much for me if I cap out, or blow up. The overview, my control panel, damage notifications, etc, THOSE are what I care about. The INFORMATION, not so much the graphics. So as I approached that point, I could turn down the graphics a fair bit if it meant I had less lag or chop when I hit high population systems. Running the graphics in the memory saving mode, means that I can comfortably run 6 clients on a straight out-of-the-box, 2 year old HP Pavilion that cost me about $800 at Future Crap. I didn't start at 6 clients of course. I had to wait til the first alt toon was out of trial (because you can't run a trial AND a full account, at the same time, on the same machine) , and then without having to do anything funky to the Eve configuration, or tweak the O/S (as much as people cry that Vista is a POS O/S, it might be, but I can run Eve on it, so it's a win in my book :)), I could run two Eve clients in almost full screen. As I came to value information over graphics, and slowly crept up on simultaneous clients, I went to 1024 x 768 and can window 4 clients on one 22" screen and two more on the 2nd 14" screen. "Wow, two screens?? Must be nice". Yeah, well I never throw out old hardware unless it is completely trashed, and the stock HP video card came with dual output, plus HDMI if I want to try it on a flat screen TV too. So, while everyone might not be able to afford big or multiple screens, or a new Pavilion, you obviously don't need as much horsepower as I have if you only want to run two, and I could comfortable run and manage three toons, windowed, on a single screen. A couple hundred bucks on even a used computer with any hardware that is even 5 or 6 years old would be more than enough, and old computers are dirt cheap.
Well, the hardware is fine, but I can't afford two accounts. Well, that might not be the case either. If you have an account, you're already affording Eve. If you send yourself an email invite for another account, you get a 21 day trial account, AND you also get a free month/PLEX for your main account if the 2nd account is made a regular account. So, what that means, is that you now have a month, plus 21 days, with 2 accounts, and it isn't costing you anything more than your original account. So, what can you do with an alt account in ~7 weeks? A lot. While there are some skills that can't be trained on a trial account, and you can't run a trial and a regular account at the same time on the same machine, if you add a PLEX or game time to the trial account, you still keep the 21 free days, plus the extra time added. That means you can run both at the same time, your NEXT month is free on the main account, and now your alt can train support skills for your main. Skills like industrial transport, or mining barges like a retriever or a Noctis for salvaging, etc. With two accounts, even in high sec, you can make a lot of isk fast, and certainly enough to generate enough money to buy 2 PLEX for the third month without spending all day, every day on the computard. As I went from one, to two, to three accounts for myself, and then was given access to three friend's accounts as they were either away or couldn't play for a while, I slowly got used to running, 2, then 3, 4, etc. It's really not that hard to run three or four, even on one screen. As mentioned prior, I pointed things mainly at mining because it was low stress and allowed me to keep track of the multiple clients as their numbers and the information grew. Mining predominantly the lower end of high sec, with 2 hulks, 2 retrievers (on the way to hulks), and orca and a T1 transport, I can easily make enough money per month to pay for all the accounts with isk. This isn't spending all day, every day, online either. I also created alts on the accounts and trained them up to do PI as well, so that is triple the PI income, for each account - another easy and passive source of income.
Alt accounts are handy on a number of different levels.
- They are great for transporting high cost/high price items bought by your other toon, just in case someone is waiting to gank you once you've bought the item. they are also very handy to do reconnaissance and spying during times of war and conflict.
- A cloaky alt comes in very handy for scouting ahead and making sure the route is clear for shuttling the rest of the toons/ships/gear through dangerous space.
- Alts can help with pvp if you are coordinated enough for small engagements
- best part though, is the simultaneous training of a number of different game play directions without having to wait for the training time on a single toon.
As/when the other people start playing their toons again/some more, I'll still have my main and 2 alts to execute my plan of universal joy and pew pew goodness.
The Point? An alt account isn't really that hard to manage, with even a modest amount of time, and it can pay for itself in the extra iskies it can help you earn with your main.