Starting off on my first day in EVE I felt like a 7th grader who, by some error of the education system, had been transferred into senior year of high school. I was alone, very small, and quite unprepared for my future – all I had to my name was a lonely little pod, a handful of skills, and a very stubborn nature.
14 days ago, I downloaded EVE Online and registered for the trial. All the feedback and activity on our forums about this somewhat eccentric Sci-Fi game eventually ate away at my curiosity, and brought me to the game’s official website. I jumped into the game with a fairly casual attitude, choosing my race more by flavor text and appearance than anything practical – the EVE website has a (perhaps overly) thorough starter’s guide, but with only 14 days to explore, I wanted to shoot, not read! I decided that the in-game tutorial by my helpful electronic assistant Aura would be more than enough. Of course, at this point, I didn’t understand how important my somewhat hastily made character decisions were – I didn’t even know that different races piloted different ships!
That’s how I found myself sitting in my Ibis (the Caldari starter frigate) somewhere near Kisogo. I had some general knowledge of how to progress my character and how to pilot my ship, plus a courier mission sending me on to my first NPC agent, but not much else. I was a strawberry blond, and looked sort of like the girl from Spiderman. My cargo bay was full of Veldspar, one of the most common unrefined ores.
The sheer size of the game world was overwhelming; when your waypoints start measuring themselves in Astronomical Units (149,598,000 kilometers each), you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Even in my little starter system, Kisogo, I found myself warping up to 18.7 AU to reach a destination.
And that’s just one system. EVE’s world is made up of hundreds of systems.
I decided that the only way I’d get anywhere was to think small and focus on my progress, so I set to work on my tutorial missions and earned myself ISK (the game’s currency), skill books, and even a pair of new frigates. While traveling around space I browsed the ship and weapons markets to decide what it was I wanted to do, and what kind of ship I wanted to fly.
There are a ton of ship options. The starter ships are frigate class ships – they’re cheap, which is great, and each race gets about 5 frigate choices with varying purposes. Some are great PvE ships, with long distance missiles or strong armor; some have larger cargo holds for beginning mining, and some are quick and excel at “tackling” in PvP (I’ll explain tackling later in this article).
After piloting a frigate, players normally move on to destroyers. These ships are fairly flimsy and don’t have many missile options, but they have a bunch of turrets and are basically the anti-frigate ship in PvE or PvP. There are dozens of ship options which determine what role you play and what strategies you use in PvE and PvP. I won’t go into all of them, but it’s very, very… varied – some ships have speed, some can snipe from great distances; some have specialties like cloaking or the ability to drop anti-warp bubbles. Every day I had a new “goal ship”; it was impossible to pick one.
Through browsing, I also learned that ships weren’t race-specific but it helped to be a Minmatar when flying a Minmatar ship. Your starter skills in Ship Command and Gunnery are geared to your race’s specialties; to fly another race’s ship, even at the very beginning, would take at least a day of skill training and multiple days to become proficient at it. Unfortunately, I am a woman of great indecision. While my native Caldari ships had a lot of range with either missiles or turrets, the Minmatar ships had the speed and I like speed. I decided to spend a day training up basic Minmatar skills so I could try both ship types and decide which I liked.
Moving from my Caldari Merlin to my Minmatar Rifter, I lost a lot of shielding and distance, but gained a lot of that speed that I’d been craving. The Rifter is also one of the best PvP frigates, and I decided to check out the PvP world with an in-game friend I had met while running faction missions. There are three areas of space in EVE: Hi-Sec (high security), Lo-Sec (low security) and No-Sec (you’re on your own, buddy). While I wasn’t quite ready for No-Sec, my buddy brought me out to Lo-Sec space and taught me how to tackle.
Tackling is a beginning PvP technique where you basically bum-rush the enemy. EVE wars are always wars of attrition – the goal of each battle is to waste as much money as possible from your opponent’s team. This means blowing up the big, fancy, expensive ships…not the little cheap Rifters like me. My job was to equip a webber (a gun that debuffs the enemy’s speed) and a warp scrambler (a gun that prevents the enemy from warping away). I had to get close enough to my enemy to scramble it, then web it so my team could kill it and it couldn’t get away. Sadly, our Lo-Sec explorations were fruitless and I never had the chance to tackle an enemy.
I returned to running missions and eventually earned enough ISK and skill points to pilot a destroyer. As mentioned above, this ship is great at taking out frigates. As most of the level 1 missions are full of frigates, I was able to coast through endless missions, gaining agent and cooperation standing – but it was pretty boring. I decided to find myself a corporation to keep me company.
Looking for a corporation as a newbie is tough. First of all, most of the corps that were remotely interested in my membership were a little trashy. Everyone I spoke to asked me whose alt I was, and I felt like my search was hopeless. Then, lo and behold, someone in the recruitment channel recommends me to a corporation school.
Some of the larger corporations, as well as some independent universities, provided university corps for new players to learn the game. Some of these were casual groups of people willing to answer questions – others (like the one I joined) were more hardcore, and actually had scheduled classes and homework (ew, assigned reading!). Newbies are fairly cheap to upkeep, and this benefited the big corps for recruitment purposes. They could watch us little guys and pick out those of us who had potential.
The university gang was extremely friendly, and explained a lot of the nuances that Aura (remember, that’s the tutorial’s name) just couldn’t handle. For example, why was everyone asking me whose alt I was? As mentioned before, wars in EVE are all about attrition, and this is not limited to the battlefield. One popular technique in war-time was spying on or sabotaging your enemy. Make a new character and get access to another corp’s corp chat, or earn their trust and then rob their coffers blind. Everyone in EVE is automatically suspicious of new players.
The corporation also helped me out with ship decisions, and getting started on level 2 missions. They recommended I move into a cruiser once I had the required skills, and here I not only had missiles and turrets but I got access to my first drones!
Drones are the pets of EVE – small AI ships that are under your command (approach my target, attack my target, return to bay, return and orbit, etc.). My specific cruiser did not have a large drone bay, but playing around with one or two of them was endlessly amusing.
And this is where my first look at EVE ends. It’s a massively immersive world, with so many choices and options that there’s always something to do. It’s very, very hard to break in, and sometimes feels like a hopeless task; in a game where skill training is based on time, how do you keep up with the Joneses who’ve been playing for multiple years?
Still, the game has plenty of saving graces: you don’t have to mine, or fight, or trade – you can pick what you want to do, and what you don’t. Heck, you even have choice within your field…if your specific ship type isn’t needed, you can go hop in another ship (which is far preferable to class-restrictions in many MMOs, in my opinion). The community is cutthroat and war-hardened, yet there are also those pockets of nice, helpful people who make a “career” out of teaching and helping new players. I enjoyed my first look at EVE, and I’m sure it won’t be my last!