In the ten years of its existence, EVE Online has received a fair degree of attention and cultivated quite a reputation. The game took players into a whole new play space for an MMO, throwing them into the vast infinite of deep space. Outside of questing, EVE encourages players to carve out an existence by creating empires from the ground up through mining, piracy or exploration in order to carve out their own place in the world. What sets EVE apart from other MMOs like World of Warcraft is the relative hands-off approach from its developers, who allow the player base to mold and shape the in-game economy and player dynamic without fear of intervention or mod reprisal. In fact, EVE is the only MMO that has its own player-run council that talks directly to the developers at CCP. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that EVE would not be what it is without the players.
EVE is a great example of what can be accomplished in a videogame that maintains a “hands free” approach to player activity, which has led to the game earning well deserved infamy among outsiders. EVE is the MMO equivalent of the Wild West as players often exploit the game and its rules (or lack thereof) to accumulate vast wealth, greatly punish those who have committed slights or, as is the case with a particular guild, simply for the “lulz.” In a game where virtual credits can be earned using real money, EVE is a high stakes gamble. Accomplishing the seemingly straightforward task of building a massive battleship, managing player corporations (EVE’s guilds) or running a shipyard can take hours, days, even weeks to complete. And it’s so easy to see all that work vaporized by a player with a grudge or with nothing to do. Players going into EVE need to understand this fundamental level of freedom because CCP won’t interfere with griefing among warring player corps (unless the act of griefing is construed to be malicious and harassment).
The EVE universe is a harsh universe largely driven by such conflict and notice must be taken of the fact that nonconsensual combat alone is not considered to be grief play per the above definition - CCP Grief Play Policy
What has drawn me to EVE are the wild, incredible, and often times unbelievable stories of player conflict that range from large scale battles to smaller, personal vendettas that took months to plan. What excites me are the stories behind these skirmishes. For example, conflict between two corporations exploded into a 3,000 ship melee all because one player’s accidental mouse click. Then there was Goonswarm’s massive and hilariously reckless war with the (now defunct) Band of Brothers corp. Even more amazing is that real life Ponzi schemes that find their way into the game while CCP watches on. Reckless suicide runs, corporate raiding and sneaky hostile takeovers are easy to get wrapped up in and these wild antics are what led me to signing up for EVE’s free 14 day trial. I wanted to experience the Wild West for myself. In hindsight, I expected far too much. I knew going in that it would take some time before I could get to a point where I’d be constructing a ship-building business and experiencing epic battles, but I figured the experience would be a lot like World of Warcraft and Old Republic - once I got to a high enough levels, the real fun would begin.
I couldn’t have been more wrong!
With most MMO trials, 14 days is more than enough time for the game to really get its hooks into the player by introducing them to everything the game has to offer, be it leveling, PvP, questing and even a few raids. This is where EVE begins to show how drastically different it is from others in the genre. While browsing the “quick” start guide, I was caught off guard by a statement that read something like, “The first few days should be spent playing through tutorials.” Wait, what was that? A “few days”? The notion seemed ridiculous to me at first, was I really going to need days on knowing how to mine and “pew pew” other ships? Short answer? Yes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Like any good MMO, the player must first create an avatar. There are four majors civilizations to play for but each comes with three different groups of races (aka bloodlines). Choosing a side is rather difficult as each civilization exemplifies different value systems (the Gallente are harbingers of justice and peace while the Calderi are far more tyrannical) and in the end, I created a young Gallente woman who was part of the Intaki bloodline. Right off the bat, I was unable to figure out if any one bloodline had advantages or disadvantages over the others. When it comes to building and customizing the character, it’s as fun as any other character creator with the notable exception of being able to have control over the avatar’s pose and facial expression within the profile picture. Neat!
Happy with the design of my character (along with her snazzy Mass Effect-style jacket), I was ready to take on the challenges the universe had to offer. Instead of heading off to mine asteroids or shoot down pirates for NPCs, I was instead enrolled in EVE University in order to begin the epic task of learning how to play the game. This is where things started to get a little disappointing for me. All I wanted to do was fly out into space and earn credits by taking on quests that appealed to my chosen profession. Before I could even decide on a profession, I needed to play through a deep well of game tutorials that covered everything from warp drives and combat to navigation and cargo management. To EVE’s credit, there is a great deal of hand holding - a necessity considering just how complex the game (and its UI) can be. After taking off from starbases, its easy to get overwhelmed by the vastness of EVE’s universe as well as number of pop-up message, maps, navigation screens and chat windows. Numerous as they are, the tutorials are intricately designed so that the player can digest a lot of information.
Once I finished going through the general tutorials, I felt I was finally ready to go out into space and make a name for myself. The game’s AI suggested, however, that I head over to a new star system and select a profession. There were several options available to my class but I ended up choosing Exploration. Scanning and seeking out anomalies in the final frontier seemed like a fun activity. With this new profession came a whole new set of tutorials that covered the scanning and tracking of different cosmic anomalies for fun and profit. Scanning various parts of space using probes proved to be quite a challenge to me as I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the concept and spent far too much time doing it than I’d care to admit.
By the end of my 14 day trial, I really didn’t see much action as I stayed within “highsec” areas so that my fragile, newbie frame wouldn’t be utterly destroyed by EVE’s experienced veterans. With normal MMOs, a number of days given in a trial is usually enough time to get a real handle on the game and it’s systems by playing through some quests and level up your character. Heck, you might get in a raid or two. EVE Online is incredibly different. It can take days for anything to happen. For example, you can level up any character stat (although the idea is to upgrade those that are most useful for you class and play style) but doing so can take as little as two hours to as long as three days. Thankfully, the clock ticks down when you’re away from the game but that’s still a really long time, especially if you need a stat boost in order to accomplish a particular task. In my case (yours may vary) I felt that the trial simply wasn’t enough time to get the most out of the game because you’re constantly playing towards a long term goal. The bottom line? As much as I respect EVE Online for what it is, I find that it’s far more fun reading about it than playing it.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.