The series was created as a joint effort between several people and groups. Matt Burch programmed all three games in their entirety except for the registration system and various libraries. He also devised and created the scenario for the first game. Ambrosia Software, headed by Andrew Welch, managed marketing, registration, and distribution, as well as providing several external libraries used by the games. Early test versions of the game went by the name 'Merc' (short for 'mercenary'). Peter Cartwright wrote the scenario for EV Override and the Australian company ATMOS created the scenario of EV Nova; both originated as plug-ins for the preceding games before being picked up by Ambrosia as sequels. The fighter pilot voices in the original game were provided by Patrick Delahanty. A plug-in of additional phrases was also created and later included as part of EV Override.
Although speculation occurs quite frequently, the developers indicate that there are no plans for a fourth game in the Escape Velocity series.
Similarly, the developers pay no heed to the near-constant requests for multi-player and/or 3D version of any of the three games. In addition to the amount of work that would be required for the original developers to produce one, the developers believe that a multi-player or 3D version would not be compatible with the gameplay of the series.
This series follows the general licensing rule for Ambrosia Software. All three games are shareware. Ambrosia's shareware system allows most distribution of unregistered games. Copies of the first two Escape Velocity games will work without limitation for 30 days. Afterward, the player is simply reminded at startup that they have not registered, and told how many times they have run the game, as well as for how many hours it has been run. There is also the character called 'Cap'n Hector' (named after Ambrosia's mascot and office parrot) who reminds the player to register. During the trial this is done by flying by the player's ship and sending a message. After the trial period has expired, the character starts attacking the player, but in EV Override, Cap'n Hector also steals the player's credits. Players can not destroy Cap'n Hector
An unregistered copy of EV Nova is more limited. In addition to the attacks by Cap'n Hector, certain ships and technologies cannot be obtained after the thirty-day trial ends, and even before then, the game's story lines stop about two thirds of the way through, and plug-ins are not supported. Once the game has been registered, Cap'n Hector and all of the other restrictions disappear from the game.
The entire series features a very open-ended plug-in architecture. This allows the scenarios to be completely rewritten or significantly added to by those in no way associated with Ambrosia in terms of graphics, plotline, ships, missions, etc. This technology is based on the Macintosh resource fork format, making it possible to develop plug-ins without using any purpose-designed editors (though several editors exist and are popular since they make the task much easier). Since Windows does not support resource forks and it is therefore impossible to preserve them when transferring files to Windows-based computers, an alternate format and a conversion system were devised for the Windows version of the game.
Most systems contain stellar objects such as planets and space stations. Players can land on these objects, where they may be given the option to trade, gain missions, and purchase new spaceships or add-on outfits for their current spaceship. Plotline is advanced through missions available from facilities on planets as well as NPCs flying through space.
The series prescribes very little limitation as to what the player can do. They can choose which missions to follow and which governments to form a good relationship with or to be entirely neutral. They can choose to be a trader or a mercenary or an asteroid miner among a number of things or a combination of several.
The three games are alike in gameplay only; the universe and plot are completely separate and unrelated between the releases. Each release's engine contains improvements on the previous version, although by far the most significant improvements were made in the third release.
The universe and plots of the second title, EV Override, are significantly larger and more complex. The major conflicts are between the humans of the United Earth colonies and the warlike Voinians to the galactic west. Also present are the Miranu, a nation of peaceful traders; the Emalgha, a primitive race also opposed to the Voinians; and the warring Strand races: the Igadzra, Zidagar, and Azdgari.
In the third title, EV Nova, there are six unique major factions with which the player may side, along with numerous smaller groups. These factions include the Bureau of Internal Investigation (part of the Federation), the Rebellion against this Bureau, the Heraan House of the Auroran Empire, the Polaris, the telepathic Vell-os, and the Association of Free Traders. See EV Nova for more information.
The Rebellion is the other main government in Escape Velocity. According to the game, after winning the war with the aliens, the Confederation did not relinquish its naval power and began exploiting the resources of the outer worlds. Those worlds eventually seceded, provoking a civil war. The Rebellion is in turn criticised for its aggressive nature, support of quasi-criminal organisations, and attacks on civilian shipping and liners. The Rebellion uses four ships in their campaign against the Confederation including the Manta, the Rebel Destroyer, the Rebel Cruiser and the Escort Carrier, the last of which is seen only when the player is working for the Confederation.
The Cydonians of New Cydonia and Letheans of Lethe Prime occupy two systems in the galactic southeast of the galaxy and are also locked in a war over water rights at the start of the game; more specific information regarding the conflict is never provided. Both sides utilize the Defender, the Argosy, and the Corvette when fighting in space. The Cydonians also use the Lightning, whereas the Letheans supplement these ships with the Rapier.
The game also includes several trading corporations, including Starbound Shipping, Consolidated Express, and United Galactic Express. Starbound Shipping and United Galactic Express are both in direct (and sometimes violent) competition with Consolidated Express, and are therefore de facto allies. Astex Mining Corporation is a mining company that works exclusively for the Confederation, and as a result is often targeted by the Rebellion and its sympathizers.
The Artemis Group are a family run organisation devoted to eliminating pirates as well as ensure the galactic order remains balanced. They attempt to prevent either the Confederation or Rebellion from winning the civil war.
The starting planet, Levo, which is in a system by the same name, has a militia patrolling it to defend it from Pirates, though Pirates never appear in the system except when following the player because of valuable cargo in his possession.
There are a number of Pirates in the game, who immediately attempt to destroy any non-Pirate ship they spot, with the exception of the player once they have achieved a high combat rating. The Pirates do not plunder their targets due to limitations in the game; the player, however, is allowed to board ships, and may from there steal money, cargo, fuel, or ammunition, or attempt to capture the ship for use as their own or as an escort. In EV Nova, Pirates do board and plunder ships, including the player.