The dev blog is quite wordy, and if you're a lore nerd, there's a lot of backstory about this particular change of the game world that we won't be going into here. In terms of the game mechanics, capsuleer clones will be split into two different classes: Alpha Clone State and Omega Clone State.
Omega Clone State is reserved for existing subscribers or accounts with an active PLEX (Pilots License Extension). If you're playing the game today as a subscriber through either system, your clone will be considered "Omega," and absolutely nothing is going to change. In either case, every account will be limited to three characters and only one character will be able to train skills at a time.
The Free-To-Play option being implemented by CCP is the Alpha Clone State. Alpha Clone States does not require a subscription or PLEX, but they have a number of restrictions on them. The majority of restrictions are centered around the skills that clones will be able to use. Alpha Clones will only be able to fly Tech One Frigates, Destroyers, and Cruisers. All characters on an account share this state, so you'll either have 1-3 Alpha Clones or 1-3 Omega Clones, depending on your subscription status.
Alpha Clones will only be able to fly Tech One Frigates, Destroyers, and Cruisers. They will start with the same 400,000 Skill Points as everyone else but they will be capped at around 5,000,000 Skill Points total based on the skills they can potentially train. Skills for Alpha Clones will also be limited to specific factions; for example, if you have a Caldari character you will only be able to train to fly Caldari ships and related technologies. The full list of skills per faction is at the end of the dev blog.
Players may find themselves in a situation where they are currently piloting a ship that requires an Omega Clone but their clone is an Alpha Clone due to their subscription not being active. For example, an Alpha Clone may log in deep into null-sec piloting a Titan. In these cases, any modules requiring Omega Clone skills will simply be offline and any skills requiring an Omega Clone will be inactive and unusable. CCP plans to be very hands-off in how they will handle these particular situations.
This change will also include an update to the skill tree system in terms of its UI. CCP maintains that nothing here is necessarily final and several issues, such as multi-boxing with Alpha Clone State accounts or the exact skills available, are still being debated. These changes are expected to launch sometime in November.
I had about a year and a half of time in EVE Online and piloted the Dominix (otherwise known as the Flying Nose). A quick glance over these changes leads me to believe that you'll be able to get a decent sense of the game as an Alpha Clone State. However, you'll be restricted from most of the real "meat" of the game, especially in terms of the potential to make a profit. It remains to be seen how the dynamics of the game world will change, though - small ships are not dangerous on their own, but many a fleet has brought ruin to larger ships by simply swarming 30 cruisers around their target and pinpricking it to death. I'm curious to see how this will change the world of EVE Online.
What do you think of how EVE Online will be implementing its Free-To-Play model? Do you think the restrictions on Alpha Clone States are reasonable for free players or are they too overbearing? How do you think this will impact the game world and economy? Let us know in the comments below!