Ships are the mainstay of the EVE universe. While it is possible to play the game without ever undocking your character from a station, most of the gameplay in EVE revolves around piloting a ship in space. This page serves as a basic introductory guide to ships in EVE and as a portal to the detailed ship articles on this wiki.
Ships in EVE are organized by two primary facets: hull type and tech level.
Hull types are generic ship categories, grouped mainly by size. The hull types correspond directly to the first level of categorization under the "Ships" category when browsing the market in EVE. As the ships get larger, they get more expensive and require more training to fly. These are the generic hull types, from smallest to largest:
- (small) frigate
- (small) destroyer
- (medium) cruiser
- (medium) battlecruiser
- (large) battleship
- (xlarge) capital ship
There are also three role-specific hull types:
- (small) shuttle - fast and cheap ships used for travel
- (medium) industrial ship - cargo ships capable of hauling large volumes
- (medium) mining barge - ships optimized for mining
In addition to the hull type, ships in EVE have a tech level. In fact, almost every usable item in EVE has a tech level, or more accurately, a meta level which gets grouped into one of several tech levels. The meta levels give an indication as to the item quality relative to other similar items. Items with higher meta levels are usually better, worth more, and often require more skill training to use. While meta levels for items can get quite complicated, for ships it breaks down to these simple tech levels:
- tech 1 (T1) - the "standard" subgroup in the ships category of the market
- faction - the "faction" subgroup in the ships category of the market
- tech 2 (T2) - the "advanced" subgroup in the ships category of the market
- tech 3 (T3) - there is currently only one ship class at this tech level: Strategic Cruisers
Every ship has a niche to fill. The answer to the question "which ship is better?" is always "it depends on what you want to do with it". Just because a battleship costs more and can do more damage than a frigate does not mean it is better than a frigate. It might be better than a frigate for running high level missions, but it's certainly not better than a frigate for scanning down wormholes.
While larger hull types are not "better" on any absolute scale, the story is a bit different for tech levels. For any given role, you can usually fit a T1 ship to do the job, but there is almost certainly a T2 ship that can do the job more effectively. This is because the T1 hull types are fairly generic, while the T2 hulls are sub-divided into highly specialized ship classes that require a lot more training to be able to fly.
One way to get a better understanding of the different roles a pilot can have is to look at the many specialized T2 ship classes available: Assault Ships, Covert Ops, Electronic Attack Ships, Interceptors, Interdictors, Blockade Runners, Deep Space Transports, Exhumers, Heavy Assault Ships, Recon Ships, Heavy Interdictors, Logistics, Command Ships, Marauders, Black Ops.
Despite the specialized nature of T2 ships, don't get caught in the trap of thinking that since a T2 ship can do a job more effectively it must be a better choice. If you are trying to fill a role adequately, cheaply, and as quickly as possible, a T1 ship may still be the better option. In fact, entire E-UNI fleets are built around the principles of "plentiful, cheap, adequate". In short, there is no need to rush into T2 ships; the T1 ships remain useful even for experienced players, let alone those just starting out.
In order to fly ships in EVE, your character must train the Spaceship Command skills required by that ship. This is not the actual Spaceship Command skill itself, but rather the many individual skills under the Spaceship Command category.
The skills for larger hull types and higher tech levels usually require some skill training in smaller hull types or lower tech levels first. In order to fly a T1 cruiser, for instance, you are first required to have some training in a T1 frigate command skill. Likewise, the command skills for T2 frigates require a lot of training in the T1 frigate command skills.
In most cases, the prerequisites required to fly bigger ships (by hull type) are faster to train for than the prerequisites required for higher tech levels. As a result, newer pilots may find themselves in large T1 ships (battlecruisers or battleships) long before they can fly a T2 ship of any size. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, though. It's perfectly reasonable to train straight from T1 frigates into T2 frigates, for instance, without ever training the skills required to fly larger T1 ships, if that is your goal as a pilot.
Many of the ships in EVE, especially the T1 ships that you will likely start out with, are built by one of the four main races: Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, or Minmatar. Likewise, many of the Spaceship Command skills required to fly these ships are also race-specific. For instance, the command skills for T1 frigates are "Amarr Frigate", "Caldari Frigate", "Gallente Frigate", and "Minmatar Frigate". The command skills for frigates, cruisers, battleships, industrials, and most capital ships are all race-specific. However, there are also a lot of race-neutral command skills too, and many ships (especially T2 ships) require more than one command skill in order to fly them. For instance, T1 battlecruisers require training in a race-specific T1 cruiser command skill AND training in the race-neutral "Battlecruisers" command skill.
On the whole, there is no single rule about which command skills are required for which ships, nor about which ones are race-specific and which ones aren't. The distinction tends to be historical and is based in large part on when different ship classes were added to the game. It's always a good idea to look carefully at the Prerequisites tab of any ship you wish to fly in order to see which skills are required.
Within a given hull type and tech level there can be many ships available. Some ships in a ship class might require more training in their command skills than others. Alternatively, some of these ships might have been added to the game at different times, and may be slightly more powerful than their cousins even though they require the same amount of training. These rather fuzzy distinctions are sometimes called a ship's tier, which should not be confused with the ship's tech level.
For instance, each race has two T1 battlecruisers; one requires level 2 training in the Battlecruisers command skill and one requires level 3 training. The ship that requires level 2 training is sometimes called a "tier 1 battlecruiser", and the ship that requires level 3 training is sometimes called a "tier 2 battlecruiser".
It is not particularly important that you know the tier for any given ship, but it IS important that you are aware of the term so that when you hear it used you do not confuse it with the ship's tech level.
Being able to fly a ship, and being able to fly a ship well, are two very different things. While the command skill may let you get into a ship and undock it from a station, this is only the first step in using a ship properly. In addition to the skills you will need to fit all of the guns and mods you want to use, there is an entire suite of Support Skills you should read about as well.
Ships are merely empty hulls just waiting to be equipped with all of the guns and modules that enable them to do a job. The process of equipping a ship is known as "fitting" the ship, and it's an expansive topic. The Fitting Guidelines is an excellent place to start learning about fitting a ship.
However, one basic concept is worth mentioning here as it ties into the ship sizes listed earlier. The ship sizes are grouped into small, medium, large, or xlarge. When browsing the market, you'll notice that modules and weapons are also grouped into these same sizes. When fitting a ship you normally want to use modules and weapons that are in the same size grouping as the ship size. This can sometimes be confusing, especially with weapon systems, as many items may will say "medium" in the name, but actually belong to the "small" size group in the market categories. What matters for ship fitting is that the market category size group matches the ship size, not any terms found in the item name itself.
There are several useful categories containing many more detailed articles about ships: