"I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the skyAnd all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by"
John Masefield, Sea Fever
From a space station circling a moon of the third planet in a non-descript system, a mining frigate emerges. It clears the structure, makes a slight bank turn, then accelerates rapidly, its warp engines propelling it toward a gate - one that leads to an unprotected system. The frigate makes the jump and immediately engages shield boosters upon entering the system. Another warp to an asteroid field rich in ore, and rife with danger. The frigate targets a small rock and launches several mining drones. The drones attack the rock with lasers, extracting valuable ore.
Back aboard the frigate, the pilot starts calculating the value of his haul. He is pleased with the profit he stands to make from this excursion, but before he can gloat his sensors jump to life. Several hostile ships are detected from behind! Quickly he targets them while sending word to his drones to return to the ship. Two...three...four bandits approaching rapidly. He targets one and launches missiles from each of his two turrets. Quickly he scoops the drones back to the bay. Another missile salvo at the second pirate. Pirate one explodes in a splash of fire. The other two are getting too close for missiles, so he targets one and aims his lasers. BANG! Several strikes weaken his shields. The second pirate ship explodes as the last of the missiles strikes true. Only two attackers left, but the lasers are not enough of a defense to gamble the ship. He engages warp engines and streaks away as several more shots destroy his shields. A close call and only a fraction of the ore he was hoping to cull make this a disappointing run. Jumping back to a safer system, the pilot decides to upgrade his weapons for his next journey - for there will most definitely be a next time.
Thus is the universe of EVE Online, a massively multiplayer space simulation that combines aspects of role playing, space combat, economics and empire building into a huge, highly complex game. Huge is no overstatement, either. EVE's universe boasts 5000 distinct star systems, each of which contains a number of planets, moons, asteroid fields, space stations, and/or featured locations, and each of which is populated by numerous player ships and NPC ships, both good and bad. All of this fits into a single environment. In other words, there are no shards in the world of EVE. Everyone is playing in the same universe.
Life, the Universe and Everything
And what a universe it is! This is no set of stars with exotic-looking beings merely dropped in. The elaborate backstory concerns a wormhole between our solar system and the stars of EVE which collapsed, stranding humans in this newfound sector of the universe. From the ashes of the bereft settlements rose five mighty empires, once at war,but now maintaining a fragile peace. It is into this shaky accord that a new player finds himself. He must choose from one of four empires: Amarr, Caldari, Minmatar, or Gallente. (The fifth race, the mysterious Jove, is not playable.) After choosing his allegiance, the player has a great deal of latitude in customizing his portrait, from skin color to hairstyle to jaw shape. But despite the choices, the character still retains the distinct look of his race. A Gallente is a Gallente and there's little chance a person familiar with the races will confuse him with a Minmatar.
Each step in the character creation phase includes a good description of what each choice means to the character. If a player chooses the State War Academy, for example, he will start with a set of skills more suited to combat than would a player who might select the School of Applied Knowledge. Once the creation phase is done and a brief, yet informative tutorial is complete, the game begins.
Possibly the most difficult choice a player must make at the outset is what exactly he will do. There are many options in EVE, even for new players with beginner ships and little money. Every player starts with a ship equipped with a mining laser, a pulse laser and a small cargo hold. Most players start by heading to the nearest asteroid field and mining, which is an easy way to make a little money. Others study the market and try to identify lucrative trade routes where they may haul goods between stations for profit. Still others may choose to speak to the local agent and run a mission or two. Each of these allows the new player to discover a different aspect of the game.
Although the portrait is the face of the player, it generally remains out of view. The true avatar with which a player will become familiar is his ship. Each sovereignty has its own fleet with specific advantages and weaknesses and as the player progresses, he will find himself flying bigger, faster, more powerful craft. Depending on his chosen career path, he may equip it with combat lasers, missile launchers, mining lasers, shields, disruptors, or a number of other options. Each ship has a number of slots, separated into low, medium, and high power. A beginning frigate will have only two high power slots where a battleship may have eight. Some ships can carry more cargo than others, perhaps at the expense of firepower. If one wants to mine for a living and wants to carry as much ore as he can on each trip, his ship may not be the best in a dogfight. In this case, a player needs friends.
Corporations are the player organizations in the world of EVE. A corporation functions much like a guild, but there is more structure than in a typical MMORPG. There are a number of NPC corporations which players may join, but the real power is in player-run corps. This is where the political side of EVE manifests itself. Corporations form alliances and fight for control of unregulated space. Massive battles have occurred in remote systems with scores of player-controlled ships on either side participating in an all out melee for control of lucrative mining rights. Venturing into an unsecured galaxy means certain death unless one has the right friends.
Fortunately, new players need not worry about that at first. Each system has a security rating from 1.0 (completely safe) to 0.0 (no protection). Players start in the core of the universe surrounded by systems with ratings above 0.5. It is only as one ventures out into the far reaches of space that the Concord Police become scarce and powerful pirates and protective corporate agents become a threat. New players will find plenty to do in the safer areas as they learn the game and determine what corporation they want to join. Corporations are always recruiting and becoming a member of a player-run corp will open the new player to benefits he will not see in a NPC corporation. Many corporations provide ships and money to young players in return for duties assigned to them. In short, players are hired by corporations and are expected to do their jobs.
't expect to see a newbie flying a capital ship at first, though. A player has to build skills to be able to accomplish advanced tasks in the game, such as pilot large craft or research advanced items. Skills are trained in real time and continue to train whether one is playing or not. For example, if a player has the skill Caldari Frigate rank 1, it may take 1 hour 30 minutes to train to level 2. He can start training and then do something: mine asteroids, hunt pirates, log off and take a nap. Regardless, unless he specifically tells it to stop, his skill will train in 1 hour and 30 minutes. Only one skill may be trained at a time, however, so it is advantageous to always have a skill training, especially since the higher one advances, the longer the training takes (training Caldari Battleship from 4 to 5 takes almost 40 days!). Advanced skills often require prerequisite skills to be trained to a certain level before they may be trained, and skills, particularly advanced skills, are bought and sold like any other commodity. A player may have to travel halfway across Amarr space to get that Long Range Targeting skill, so he'd better make sure he's got his prerequisite skills trained before making the journey.
If the player stops training a skill, it stays where he stopped, so if he gets a skill halfway trained and switches to another one, it will still be halfway trained when he comes back. Smart players use this to their advantage. For example, a certain advanced skill will take 4 days to train. The player starts training it before he logs off. A day later he logs on again and still has three days left, so he switches to a different, less advanced skill which takes 2 hours to train. After two hours of playtime, he is notified that the skill is complete. He then switches to another low level skill that needs 1.5 hours to train. Once that skill is complete he switches back to the high level skill and logs off. This is on way to maximize time usage, for in EVE, even non-playing time should be used wisely.