I got a bit in to what makes EVE different from other more traditional MMO’s in my last post. In this post I plan to cover a bit more of how you actually play EVE and some of my initial impressions of the game. If you already know how to play EVE, most of this post won’t be that interesting to you I imagine (but do feel free to still read it). I won’t be going in to every detail about the game, but I hope to hit on some of what I consider the major points of interest. As I stated in the previous post EVE is in many ways a sandbox MMO where users are free, or certainly more free than other MMO’s, to play the way they wish. I’m certain that there are cool things you can do in EVE that I’m not even remotely aware of. Keep in mind that EVE is still a video game with limits and restrictions though, so you can’t do everything you ever dreamed of doing in space. But let’s start from the very beginning: being a brand new pilot in EVE.
EVE Character Creation Screen
In the beginning of EVE you start by creating your character (avatar), like in many other MMO’s. The character creation tool allows you to pick from four different factions, choose your family background within that faction, and gives tons of tools to alter your appearance. The character creation tool is quite robust in EVE, and you can adjust down to the fine facial details if you care to (and even your pose, eyebrow height, and smile for your game icon picture). In games I tend to pick the stock character models or hit random until I find something I like, but having all these options available is never a problem. The race you chose does confer certain bonuses to your ships (what types of weapons are best for instance), but most of the game is spent in a ship so the impact of your appearance is somewhat limited (aside from your in game icon).
In Game Tutorial Giving you First Missions
You start the game in one of your faction’s space stations with just a capsule to your name. I think it is fair to say that EVE basically drops you right in to the game. No introductory video or text blurb about who you are or where you came from, just you and a space station. Luckily, soon after you begin an in-game AI character named Aura starts introducing you to the game and its core mechanics through a set of pop up text windows and simple missions (quests). These go over basic concepts such as navigating the menus, finding your first ship, fitting that ship, and researching skills. This is a nice feature because at first EVE’s interface can be overwhelming. Overall my impression of the interface, after the initial learning period, was that it did not feel overly flashy or colorful (not much ‘wow’ factor), but it was pretty easy to customize, navigate, and did a good job of keeping the tools and information you need nearby without consuming too much screen real estate. Most menus and information comes from the ‘docking panel’ located on the left side of the screen, and important menus also minimize to this area.
After players complete the introductory tutorial, the game recommends that you find training agents (NPC’s who give out missions) to learn about the primary professions in the game: exploring, mining, business, warfare, and manufacturing. I chose to go through all of these missions to get a better idea of what you can do in the game. These tutorials give you more information on subjects such as combat, how to fit your ship and what different equipment does, types of ships you can pilot, how to mine minerals, how to manufacture equipment, and how to scan the galaxy for sites that might contain valuable items. I felt that all of the information was useful and gave a good introduction to some of the most fundamental activities in EVE. Many of the activities, like manufacturing and exploring systems for items, were interesting to learn, but felt more like activities I might do to mix things up once in a while.
A Small Fraction of the Skills in EVE
Skills enable you to do such things as fly ships, use weapons and equipment, buy and sell items more efficiently, and improve your relationship with in-game factions. Skills are researched in real-time and can take anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks (possibly longer) to research (skills menu shown above). The game has, I believe, thousands of different skills, so it is nearly impossible to be an expert in everything. When you look at all the skills available, you may have your first feeling of being overwhelmed. This is not your typical MMO progression of unlocking skill X at level Y, or working your way through a set skill tree (though there certainly is an element of progression and needing a set of skills to get a new one). Skill acquisition and progression can be approached in a variety of ways. You can’t start by researching the skills required to pilot a battle ship right away, but you can choose to just research skills that make one type of ship better or quickly move to skills needed to pilot more advanced ships (or not research combat ships at all). EVE is a game with tons of options in it, and the best approach may be to just digest each new piece of information as it comes and take things one step at a time in the beginning.
On the other hand, you might want to plan out what you want to do in EVE from the beginning so you can get the skills you desire for your profession in a reasonable amount of time and not feel like you never have the skills you need. Since there is no overall set path for skills research and the game does not lock you in to a certain track, the player can in a sense make ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ skill choices. Basic skills research quickly though, so you have some opportunity to try things out before you get higher level skills that take a long time to research. I found some enjoyment in this mechanic because it often gives you something to work for and look forward to. The downside is that you might have to wait for skills to finish researching before you can take part in new activities, and you can’t speed them up by investing more time in to the game. As you can see the skill tree in EVE is very flexible but can require much more planning than in other MMO’s.
First Amarr Ship
As I stated above, in the beginning you have just a capsule that cannot attack or equip any items. So one of your first objectives is to find a ship (covered in the beginning tutorials). After this your priority is fitting your new ship. EVE has almost an overwhelming amount of equipment you can put on a ship (not all of it fits on every ship). For example you can buy ship weapons, but then you can purchase many different systems to alter the properties of these weapons or alter your ship so that you can install these weapons in the first place. Each faction’s ships typically have advantages with certain weapon types, so the choice becomes a little bit easier for weapons at least. The introductory missions will also make some suggestions for equipment to put on your ship. When you first look at the market to find parts for your new ship, you may feel a bit overwhelmed again. There are lots of categories of ship parts, lots of items within each of those categories (if not further category break downs), and then you have lots of different options for where to buy your selected item from (what space station). Your first ship’s equipment should be cheap and readily available though, so this isn’t an immediate problem for new pilots. The market place can be a bit complicated to navigate, but that complexity allows for lots of different ship builds and a dynamic player controlled economy.
Orbiting and Firing on Enemy Ship
Combat in EVE is not done through direct control of your ship from a cockpit view like a typical space ship action game. Here the interface is more strategic and ‘pulled back’, where control is sort of similar to that of a typical MMO with a 3rd person point of view. Much of the interaction with the environment is done through a navigation menu (by default placed near the top right), where you can interact with any near by objects instead of having to click on them in space (nearly impossible with some things). During combat you pick targets, use abilities, and move your vehicle through space. Combat for a frigate, the ship I piloted, typically involves locking an enemy (targeting), setting up an orbit around them based on optimal gun range, and then opening fire when in range. Combat can become much more complicated for more advanced ships or when encountering more clever opponents, and more advanced pilots will be looking at many factors while in an engagement (speed, position, enemy ship types, etc.). There are tons of different weapons to choose from, equipment that can slow down or trap other players, combat drones, subsystems you can run to improve your fighting abilities, and even electronic warfare tools that you can use to hack in to enemy ship’s systems. Being an effective combat pilot also involves being aware of factors such as a ships speed and positioning. Combat feels well paced, runs and plays smoothly, and appears to have a lot of room for unique player strategies.
What Might Happen to You in Low Sec Space
(possibly much less epic explosion)
One of the most important concepts of the game is the difference between High Sec and Low Sec space. High Sec space is the sort of ‘civilized’ galaxies in the game. In High Sec space you can still attack other players, but Concord (the High Sec police force) will hunt you down and destroy your ship. In Low Sec space there is no police force to deter players from attacking each other. This does not mean that people will never attack you in Low Sec Space though (maybe to steal some precious cargo for instance). I should mention again that in EVE if your ship blows up, it is gone forever. Many people will tell you that the real meat of the game is in Low Sec space. Here you can take part in activities such as Player versus Player (PvP) fights, take control of quadrants of space with your alliance or corporation, and have epic space battles, among many other player determined activities. Corporations and Alliances can hold (or have sovereignty) over areas of Low Sec space, so if you are allies with these groups you can travel through without the primary residences attacking you.
One of the big draws to EVE is group PvP (or fleet) combat in Low Sec. During these combat operations, a fleet commander tries to locate enemies to engage based on intelligence from other group or alliance members and sending out scouts to locate enemy ships. I would imagine that the usual goal is to find enemy fleets of equal or lower strength while not getting trapped by more powerful enemy fleets, sort of like a game of cat and mouse. Fleets can try to set up traps with various devices, bait enemies in to traps, and cut off or outmaneuver enemy fleets. Much of my fist time in a fleet was spent trying to find enemy fleets with very little success besides a few stragglers. At the end we got chased off by a pursuing fleet much larger than ours. Our fleet commander decided that he wanted to set up some ships with heavy guns at the entrance to our current system and then bait the enemy in to them. This gives you some idea of the open nature of battle in EVE allows for a lot of different strategies. You and your fleet-mates are free to design and fight battles in many different ways. I found the prospect of large-scale strategic battles in EVE very exciting, but do not enjoy the prospect of logging in some times to either never find a battle or only find battles that are very one-sided. I can imagine that this constant uncertainty you experience while flying with a fleet in Low Sec space does add an element of tension and suspense to every combat operation though. As with many other parts of EVE my experience in this area was also very limited, so I am sure there are many aspects of combat that I have not experience or do not understand.
After playing the game for a few days and learning some of the basics, I had an overall favorable impression of EVE. EVE provided a unique MMO experience unlike any other I had played. I felt like there were a lot of interesting directions to go in with your character, a lot of skills to research, new ships to acquire, and a lot of different and interesting ways to fit my ships. The EVE universe did feel complex, but that complex universe allowed for a more ‘realistic’ and unique approach to an MMO. At this point I was excited about all the possible ways to take my character and the many opportunities that awaited me in the EVE universe. But, would EVE ultimately leave me feeling satisfied and ready to spend my money on a subscription?
As I have said before, I doubt I will go it to this much detail with other MMO’s that have a more typical feel to them. As Always, thanks for reading!