More Than a Decade Later, I Gave Eve a Second Try
Around 2004 I ventured into the world of Eve Online. I couldn't begin to tell you where I heard about it, but it was probably from some ad on some website. At the time I was heavily into playing World of Warcraft, and the idea of a scifi MMO was pretty appealing as something to do on the side. I remember there was a three-day trial, and that seemed like all the time I'd need to know whether or not I'd want to spend money on another gaming subscription.
I was right. That was all the time I needed. The game sucked. I don't even remember finishing my second day before I uninstalled the game and decided it wasn't for me.
At the time, the New Player Experience (NPE) was rough. It went something like: Welcome to Eve. Here's a ship and a mining laser. If you die you have to buy a new ship. Ok, have fun now!
And that was pretty much it. They gave you a crappy little ship, a method to make a little bit of ISK (the in-game currency) and then shoved you out of your starter station where you quickly died to other players or to NPC pirates who took umbrage with your newness, or mining the nearby ore, or whatever it was.
Unlike WoW, my only real MMO experience at the time, there was no safe zone for newbies. No flag that said, 'Ok, guys, I'm now ready for PVP, come at me bro!' that could be turned off. Eve was, and still is, a wide-open world where all things are possible in all places and there's no way to consent to PVP. If you're online, you're fair game.
Anyway, I uninstalled the game and never looked back. At least, not until 2018. In April of 2018, sitting at home on a Saturday while the rest of the family was asleep, I was bored enough to load up Eve again. It's moved past a 3 day free trial and entered into the realm of free to play (though you'll have slower training times and limited options unless you subscribe). It was, at the very least worth a look to see what they've done.
Enter: Erika Fidard, Minmatar Capsuleer.
The New Player Experience
Right off the bat, I could tell that CCP had used the decade-plus that I had been away to make some much-needed improvements to the game. The first thing you'll do is design your capsuleer (the immortal persona that you adapt, one of the exclusive, richest pilots in the Eve universe that can send their consciousness to a medical clone, across the galaxy, should their ship explode on them). This was probably one of the most intricate character builders I had seen in a game.
While CCP has given the standard selection choices where you can scroll through some preset options, select body types, and hairstyles, etc, the Eve character generator goes further. You can select muscle groups in the character model itself and drag them larger/smaller. You can change the facial expressions of your model. You can dress it various outfits. You can spend a very long time just playing around with the CG options. Which, really, is a little weird considering you'll never walk around a station, set foot on a planet, or see more than a headshot of the character.
Once you find your way through the basics of character creation you're thrust into the heart of the New Player Experience. This has been revamped into an actual guided tour scenario of the game where you wake up from an attack by rogue drones and are contacted by your chosen nation's military command. An "advanced" AI is unlocked who will then guide you through basic commands in the game and move you from story element to story element. Over the course of an hour or two, Aura (the AI) will help you discover how to fly, how to loot, how to kill and get you introduced to some of the meta-story of the game itself.
And then the tutorial tries to teach you that death isn't something you should fear and that you will lose ships. It has you go on a suicide mission. Literally. You wake up in a new station, are gifted a new (less impressive) ship as thanks for your service, and are left on your own with a couple million ISK to get you started.
This was a much better introduction to the game than the one I had experienced previously.
What's more, though, is that you're also given advice to seek out Career Agents (NPCs with "quests" for you to do). These career agents will have 10 successive quests (5 in the case of Exploration) that not only show you ways you can make ISK and spend time in Eve, but will also grant you at least one new Frigate (or hauler) related to the work you're doing. Finish all of the Career Agents and you'll have 10-12 million ISK and a handful of ships to get you started. Finish the Advanced Military agent and you'll have a Destroyer at your command too (and another suicide mission under your belt).
All new characters in Eve are also subject to automatically being joined to an NPC corporation (guild) and to the Rookie Help channel (which you can't leave for 30 days). So not only are you exposed to various elements of the game and given a decent starting payout, the multiplayer elements are handed to you as well. You can start chatting, see answers to questions you might be too shy to ask, etc.
Aura, Come Back!
Space is vast and just flying across a single system might take you a while. You've spent the first few hours of capsuleer life taking orders from an AI and interacting with various military members and scientists. And now it's over. The breadcrumbs have lead you here, the AI has abandoned you, and you're left alone in the cockpit of your ship with some techno or metal jams playing.
You see, Eve isn't like most MMOs that you've probably played. It's a Sandbox. There aren't levels to gain, nor quests that will take you towards endgame content. In many ways, you're on your own now, able to do as you please. You can do it alone, or you can find a group. You can mine, you can fight, you can explore the vast abyss of space, or you can sit around on the station and play stockbroker. The choice is really yours and facing those choices can be mind-boggling. The game spoonfeeds you only for so long, and then it's all up to you.
There are sites that will help you decide what you can do. Eve University, one of the premier newbie organizations, has a Careers 101 page that will even point you to an Epic Story Arc that will net you even more cash. At some point though, you just have to decide which of the career options are for you.
I can usually find something to keep myself entertained in Eve for a bit on my own, but I do keep in mind that Eve is a multiplayer game. Specifically, it's a Massively Multiplayer game. Some of the most fervently expressed advice on any new player guide will be that you should join a corporation. In other words: Interact with other players.
Right behind that is a warning that you should take everything you read and see in Eve with a grain of salt, and that scammers and griefers are not only to be found... it's a legitimate form of play in Eve. It's a weird message to give new players: Go out and play with other people, but beware because all the other people are probably just out to get you anyway.
I will say that I've found a lot of very helpful people in the community. The ISDs (player volunteers) in Rookie Helo, many of the streamers, and other players in the game or on Reddit are super friendly and helpful. You can find video guides on youtube for about anything, and Even University has a wiki that's a great starting point.
You'll also find people that invade high sec just to shoot down your shitty, valueless ship for fun, will provide wrong answers on channels, and an entire nullsec (player controlled space with no NPC police force) empire created by a group specializing in trolling.
This is the first, and really only place, that I've had trouble wrapping my head around something in Eve. There is a very active community in the game that gets very heavily invested in their own efforts. In this sandbox environment where PVP is allowed everywhere, where all strategies are valid, and where spies frequently convince someone to steal a corporation's assets and turn over major starbases... people can really get upset. There are even documented cases of betrayed corporations threatening to doxx their betrayers. The separation between in game and out of game can be pretty thin.
There is, to put it bluntly, a high degree of toxicity found in some of the Eve community. Players that wrong-shame others for how they wish to play the game, or can't separate the in character actions from the out.
For most of us, content creators in games are those that create Twitch Streams, blogs, Youtube videos, etc. In Eve, a content creator is often someone that creates conflict and starts fights. These are fleet commanders and corporate CEOs that lead their friends and corp mates on roams through the galaxy looking for people to PVP. In Eve, creating content means helping your friends find someone to PVP.
Some of the toxicity I've seen in Eve has come from the concept of, "I'm creating content." When content is viewed only as a PVP activity, the mindset automatically starts to invalidate the choice to abstain from this. I find the idea really weird in a sandbox where everything is supposed to be valid, but there is a large portion of the game's population that derides those who prefer to live in the supposedly safe High Sec and avoid PVP as carebears that need to go play My Little Pony Online.
That said, there are people who go about seeking out PVP without coming across as complete dicks. Wingspan, for examples, offers amunition, torpedo, and "party drone" delivery services and requires their members to have top notch customer service...while killing you, the customer, with their "deliveries." Others seek to confine their PVP content creation to areas of space where it's explicitly going to be part of yoru daily life (worm holes, null sec, etc).
So what's next for Erika Fidard? Will this Minmatar capsuleer continue to fly or bow out?
While I have some problems with Eve (see above), and it's been prone to disconnects of late due to DDOS attacks, I'm enjoying myself more than not. My husband has started playing and we'll be looking to join a corporation soon. I'm exploring low sec and wormholes, making some ISK with exploration, and nearly a month in, I've only lost my ship twice to players.
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