My Long Courtship of EVEMelos Exelion
I have long been a distant admirer of EVE. The game first came to my attention during the Great War, and I followed the various gaming news sites and blogs for what little information was available to outsiders regarding that sprawling conflict. At the time, I rooted for Goonswarm. BoB seemed this powerful, monolithic and unbeatable establishment, while Goonswarm were the plucky, daring underdogs, using innovative tactics to make up for the imbalance in quality and skill. The Goons’ eventual victory over BoB in a complex web of deceit and betrayal was an ending so epic I had to be a part of it.
I grabbed a trial account, logged in and. . . immediately logged back out again. The interface was impenetrable, the quest system dry and unrewarding, the mechanics of flying a starship unengaging, and the barrage of information on pilot skills, ship stats and game mechanics completely overwhelming. Like many others I sighed and decided that EVE was going to be a game best read about, not experienced first-hand. I went back to flying 109s in World War II: Online, at the time my subscription MMO of choice.
The fact that battles of such lasting consequence could break out over such mundane accidents delighted me.
Time passed. I heard about the ongoing upheavals of EVE; the collapse and rebirth of Goonswarm in the years following their victory in the Great War, the battle of Asakai – started over an errant Titan jump, and the Halloween War, and the Bloodbath of B-R5RB – fought because of a missed bill payment. The fact that battles of such lasting consequence could break out over such mundane accidents delighted me. I regularly read The Mittani’s insightful commentary regarding the fate of EVE’s empires and the difficulties for those who would rule them, laughed at Goon and TEST propaganda, sat through all of Scott Manley’s “The Fountain War,” watched every episode of Rooks and Kings’ “Clarion Call” I could find, and listened with half an ear to the arcane discussion of ship fits and damage types from some of my friends who played the game themselves. I’d been rebuffed by EVE already, and knew she wasn’t for me.
In 2014 I was working in an office with a member of LAWN, who would regularly regale me with the exploits of his alliance in EVE, while joking about my (admittedly excessive) financial commitment to Star Citizen. As a result, I began to feel that maybe I hadn’t given EVE a fair shake. And then the “This is EVE” trailer hit. It floored me. To this day I consider it one of the best game trailers ever made. I immediately grabbed another trial account and. . . ran headlong into the same problems as before. Menus, quests, skills, gameplay, information, confusion.
Alone and frustrated, I logged back out again.
There was a tutorial now, at least, but it was a firehose of information, and tedious besides. None of my gaming friends remained subscribed to EVE, but one of them warned me that if I signed on with the LAWN and the CFC he’d never speak to me again. Besides, my co-worker was deep in nullsec, and that was a long and terrifying trip. I managed to figure out how to set a waypoint for the star system I knew he was in, set a course, and made my way into nullsec. I was floating by a stargate checking the map when suddenly an unknown ship approached. I typed a greeting in chat. He opened fire. I instantly exploded. Alone and frustrated, I logged back out again.
More time passed. I continued to follow the development of Star Citizen as my spaceship game of choice as EVE fell out of the news. It seemed the days of Interesting Times in New Eden were over. Then in late March of 2016 I saw a crosspost on the Star Citizen reddit about the outbreak of a new Great War in EVE. Intrigued, I sought more information, and before I knew it I was immersed in bank heists, bounties by shadowy financiers, viceroy programs, the forming of Voltron, guerilla war in Fade, battles against all odds in Pure Blind and Lonetrek, and the growing drumbeat of war on a scale the internet had never seen. EVE was doing something epic again, and I couldn’t just continue to watch jealously from across the room. I had to be a part of it!
Third Time’s The Charm
I breezed through the new character creation, picking random options
I logged back in one last time. This time, however, I brought wingmen. My friends who played EVE had long since moved on, but the Northern War (as people were blandly calling it at the time) came with an extended welcome back offer. They grumbled a little, but I enticed them with promises of “Grrr Goons!” and they agreed to return. I’ve always had a thing for carriers, and one of my friends told me Gallente had the best drone ships, so this time it was space democracy for me! I breezed through the new character creation, picking random options and naming my capsuleer after my character in a Pathfinder game. I didn’t expect him to survive all that long and couldn’t be arsed to think up something more original for him.
As I spawned in at Duripant, I noticed a difference immediately. Rather than being in a station surrounded by tabs and windows I was hanging out in space and the game looked much better than I remembered. There was a menacing asteroid formation beside me, with my little Velator frigate backlit by a picturesque sweep of glowing nebula in the celestial distance. It was all quite pretty. As I was taking it in there was a “ding” and an automated advisor popped up, walking me through the game’s new Opportunities system. After refreshing me on the camera and ship controls, the advisor was soon telling me to enter the nearby asteroid formation and murder some NPC ne’er-do-wells hiding in the rocks. I lit the engines and chased them down, slaughtering them with my little blaster one after another, as they exploded in cinematic balls of fire.
And then all of a sudden there were all these yellow boxes around the enemies, and a moment later my Velator died.
With all the basics out of the way, the Opportunities helpfully pointed me towards a station and some NPCs who would no doubt give me starter missions. My friends were getting impatient and dragged my little Velator into a fleet, giving me directions to a different star system where they were running much higher level missions (“Are you using Autopilot to get here? Jump on manual, it’s way faster!”). I linked up with them near the capital of the grand Amarrian space-empire, of whose NPC backstory I was only dimly aware. Warping to my friends’ location, I found them in combat with much larger NPCs in cruisers and battleships, in the shadow of a menacing asteroid formation that looked a lot like the smile of an evil clown. I futilely singed massively over-armed space-pirates with my little pew-pew laser, while a Jackdaw advanced destroyer and a Paladin battleship poured on the damage. And then all of a sudden there were all these yellow boxes around the enemies, and a moment later my Velator died.
They laughed; “It’s just a ship, go get another.”
Floating in my pod I was a bit miffed at my friends. Why had they let me die? Couldn’t they see these enemies were far too powerful for me? Screw them, and screw this stupid game! They laughed; “It’s just a ship, go get another.” And then the bounty payments for the past half hour of slaughter started to come in, and suddenly I had millions! I was space rich! I bobbed back to the Amarr trade hub in my pod, and before I knew it I was browsing the ship catalogues, asking questions about this ship or that ship like a lottery winner at the Ferrari dealership. But which ship and which fitting? Download EFT, my friends advised, directing me to a third party program for exploring and testing various ship loadouts. “It’ll save your life.”
I bought the most expensive ship I could fly (the Catalyst destroyer Reactant) crammed all the best gear I could fit into it, took it back to battle. . . and promptly exploded again. Well damn. And now I was out of money. Space poor again. “Don’t undock anything you can’t afford to lose,” my friends said helpfully, after the fact (along with some words about maintaining transversal velocity and not being so damn aggressive, which I ignored), and then gave me a one-time donation of five million ISK. I bought the Algos destroyer Galactichibi and spent the rest of the next few missions orbiting the Paladin and admiring the sights while I let my drone fighters fly around and do all the work, occasionally zipping off to loot the wrecks we were leaving behind. I listened to my friends chatter to each other about hardeners and primaries and damage types, clicking the mouse maybe once every couple of minutes, and wondering how long it would take me to get awesome ships like theirs while nameless NPC pirates exploded 50km away.
And then I realized I was having fun.
A different kind of fun, yes. Not the immediate hands-on-throttle-and-stick fun I’m used to in other games, but the longer term fun of risking perishable assets for concrete gains, and then seeing all the possibilities of EVE open up before you. Dangerous possibilities certainly, incredibly far away to be sure, but suddenly they were possibilities not just for others, but also for me.
A Harsh Mistress
So, for those like me who’ve occasionally eyed EVE but never had the courage to take the plunge, a few parting thoughts:
So long as you’re making gradual progress and learning from your mistakes, you’ll be fine.
First, EVE is still the same dense game it always was, although it’s also more accessible than ever because it now allows you as a new player more freedom to figure things out for yourself, while giving you enough of a helping hand that you’re not completely lost. Don’t get me wrong – EVE’s intro to the game for new players is still far weaker than those for other MMO’s, but it has improved markedly over the years. You still won’t understand 90% of what you’re doing, and the 10% of what you are doing you’re probably doing completely wrong, but you also have to realize that it doesn’t matter. You can’t learn it all at once. Don’t try. So long as you’re making gradual progress and learning from your mistakes, you’ll be fine. Even when those mistakes kill you.
Second, while EVE is dangerous, it’s still just a game. So long as you keep “It’s just a ship” in mind, and so long as you “don’t undock anything you can’t afford to lose,” there’s no reason to take defeat badly. In its willingness to deal the player permanent loss of expensive goods EVE follows different rules from those of other MMOs, but it just means you have to manage your ability to respawn yourself. Once you realize that, then there’s no need to be afraid of EVE (at least not for the newbie tooling around in frigates and destroyers). Oh, she acts all tough and merciless, but you can totally buy her love. This is one area where the new player missions are a bit of a trap. They feed you ISK at a meagre rate, and although they give you a spate of free ships they don’t really impress upon you how expendable those ships actually are. If you find yourself saying “These level 1 missions pay out like 300,000 ISK! Insurance doesn’t even cover the modules! How can I ever afford to lose ships worth millions?” be reassured that once you get rolling ISK can be earned in obscenely large quantities, particularly if you have help.
EVE is a social game, best played with others.
This brings me to the most important point. EVE is a social game, best played with others. Much is made of how EVE attracts the worst kind of gankers and griefers, but it also draws the most helpful comrades and allies. When playing with friends there is way too much to the game for them to carry you safely through it all, but they can help you avoid the biggest pitfalls (and share their amusement when you fall into them anyway and thus help you not to take it too seriously), answer your (many) questions, and help pick you up when you fall. Aside from your friends, there are any number of helpful players who have created invaluable third party sites and tools like EVE University and EFT and EVEMon, which others can point you to if you just ask them. EVE may still be scary, but you don’t have to go it alone.