Five months ago, I embarked on my EVE experience, figuring I’d spend a month learning basic gameplay mechanics to further benefit my skills as an MMO writer, then move on to another game. I never watched Star Trek, or even the original Star Wars movies; I’ve never had any strong connection to the grit of the Sci-fi genre. Yet somehow, here I still am: enthralled in the progression and complexity of the EVE universe and intrigued by the community that lives within it.
One of the big contention points of EVE gameplay – hot or not? – is the skill/progression system. In World of Warcraft or Everquest, you spend three hours playing and gain (or lose!) experience during those three hours; your progress or lack thereof correlates to the effort you put in. In EVE, your skills progress based on a real-time clock. A skill that takes 5 days, 15 hours, 16 minutes, and 31 seconds will take that amount of time whether you are at the computer or logged off for the entire time. These training timers can be altered based on character stats – determined via starter stats, cybernetic implants, and some skills – but you can’t will a skill to train faster.
The upside to this is that the casual gamer can keep up with the more hardcore, providing they find some sort of income to buy the skillbooks (and the ships they learn to fly) and remember to update their skills when needed; the downside is that a hardcore MMO player can’t start EVE and earn their way to the top. Some of the top corporations even have a minimum skill-point level to join up, effectively barring new players despite any skill they possess. After c. five months or so I’m up to 4.3 million SP; some corps had requirements of 20 million or more.
For me, this really hasn’t been too big of an issue; sure, I’m slightly jealous when I see another player fly by in a Vargur (Tech 2 battleship) and realize it’d take me 93 more days to be in their shoes, not counting support skills. But at the same time, I can fly a smaller ship like a frigate or destroyer with relative competence, and I’m not too shabby in my Tech 1 battleship, either. When it comes down to it, you need years of experience to fly a capital ship or be a jack of all trades. But as a newbie, you can do one thing fairly well fairly quickly.
In EVE, your skills dictate your progression but your ship dictates your purpose. The average pilot will have dozens of ships lying about with different strengths and weaknesses; a ship’s size, fitting capabilities, and special abilities dictate its best use. For example, a battleship has a lot of shields and armor, and can put out a lot of damage, but it’s a slow mover and its guns are too large to accurately hit small ships. A frigate, on the other hand, has the speed and the accuracy but it blows up if you sneeze in it too loudly.
Some of these ships have even more specific uses dictated by their special abilities. The Osprey, for example, is a cruiser with a 20% bonus to mining laser yield per cruiser level, a 10% bonus to capacitor use of shield transporters per cruiser level, and a 500% bonus to the range of shield transporters: this makes it a good mining ship or a good shield repair ship. The Rupture is also a cruiser but its bonuses are 5% bonus to Medium Projectile Turret firing speed per cruiser level and a 5% bonus to medium projectile turret damage per level – this ship is obviously meant to do damage. There is, in my experience, no “perfect”, well known ship set up, but its pretty obvious what general path you should take with each ship.
With the lack of class-based progression, “what should you do” in EVE translates easily to “what do you WANT to do?” Players have various options in PVP, PVE, and economy-centered activities. For the non-EVEers out there, though, let me take a necessary moment to describe the galaxy setup.
EVE is divided into three types of space, rated by “security” on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0. Space rated 0.5 to 1.0 is considered “hi-sec” (for high security), and is patrolled and operated by NPC nations. Randomly shooting at other players in high security space will get you blown up by local police force CONCORD, though be warned that there are always work-arounds to start trouble in EVE. Space rated 0.1 to 0.4 is considered “low-sec.” There is no CONCORD here, and players are free to engage others in PVP combat; that being said, there are guns on the jumpgates that will shoot you if you engage too close to them. And finally, there is 0.0 space, where there are no guns, no CONCORD, and often no stations. 0.0 space can be occupied by player corps and this is where most of the explosions happen. And of course, as is only appropriate, more risk = more reward; most forms of PVE are viable in hi-sec, but its more profitable to do it in dangerous 0.0.
PvE in EVE is often hailed as pretty damn boring – a necessary evil to gain ISK and feed your PvP habits. Perhaps I’m an anomaly but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some of my PvE experiences.
Your initial options for PVE are somewhat limited by your skillpoints: you can mine, run missions or kill pirates at local asteroid belts.
Mining involves the harvesting of various minerals, gasses, or ices. You can mine minerals such as Veldspar, Omber, and a handful of others ranging from “common as dirt” to “dangerously rare.” All in all, I found mining to be about as fun as smashing my forehead in with a rock, but to each their own and I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad activity while AFK or on an alt account.
My favorite method of PvE has so far been mission running: NPC “agents” in various stations will give you missions to kill pirates, rescue stolen goods from pirates, rescue stolen damsels from pirates, perform several dozen more acts of violence against pirates, or bring cargo from one station to another (this last option is considerably more boring than the above options of killing pirates). NPC combat is fairly simple and I’ve adopted a method of shooting and flying away that works every time, but there’s some variety of tactics when it comes to different opponents. The wise mission runner refers to sites such as Eve Survivor (http://eve-survival.org/missions/) to guide them to the right damage types and tactics to succeed in a mission without getting blown up!
As a note to those who don’t want to kill pirates, you can also run missions for them and kill CONCORD instead.
If you don’t want to do missions, there are often pirates hanging out at local asteroid belts and sometimes even gates! While these ‘rats are fairly harmless in hi-sec and even low-sec space, the ‘rats you find in 0.0 pack a mean punch but a worthwhile bounty.
Once you’ve spent some time training skills, another PVE option opens up: exploration. Exploration involves scanning systems for unmarked anomalies or signatures of hidden systems or complexes. Exploring is more luck-based than your average pirate killing; one can go for days without finding a lucrative exploration site, then find paydirt in a complex worth upwards of 300 million ISK. One of the plus sides to exploration is that those scanning skills can be put to work in PVP, too, in scanning down enemy ships!
Which brings us to the PvP side of things. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t had much experience here, though I’ve hung around with plenty of PvP erudites and spent a passable number of hours waiting for a PvP target before getting bored and leaving. PvP can be divided into three segments: small gang PvP, Empire warfare, and 0.0 warfare.
Small gang PvP is often the life and trade of a player-turned pirate (not the NPC kind) in low-sec or 0.0; find some poor sap of a mission runner, blow his ship up, and take the spoils to sell on the market. If you’re an honorable pirate you might disable a ship and let the pilot pay a ransom fee to survive; if you’re a dishonorable pirate you might disable a ship and let the pilot pay a ransom fee to survive, then blow him up and take the spoils to sell on the market again. It’s an open-ended mechanic wherein players let their morals dictate their actions. This being said, not all small gang PvP is pirating; many players will patrol space in anti-pirate gangs, or hunt pirates down for their bounties (assigned by other players).
If you’re in a corporation – the EVE version of guilds – this opens up the option of warfare. Player corps can spend a fee (about 50 million ISK) to declare war on another corporation; this money is used to bribe CONCORD to look the other way as you shoot your enemies and they shoot you back. Wars are declared to settle disputes or target a corporation that harbors a known scammer or otherwise criminal, but player pirates will often band together into corporations and declare war on newbie or industrial style corps. This might not be the most noble form of gameplay in the MMO world, but it gives pirates a free pass to shoot at easy targets. Hence even industrial corps must keep some muscle on hand to beat the pirates down when they get cocky!
Lastly, the most famous facet of EVE PVP is the contest over space out in 0.0. Players are constantly jostling over control of different regions and systems; there’s a long-standing war, currently, between former 0.0 giant Band of Brothers and the zerg-like Goonswarm. These wars often involve hundreds of ships from each size, ranging from cheap little frigates to massive capital ships. View the latest galaxy map with color coded territories here.