As far as MMO Rerolls go, this was a rather unique month. If you recall, the whole reason I started going through the relics of my past is that there weren’t any new MMOs that I was interested in at the time. That means whatever MMO I pick to revisit is usually played in a vacuum. Sure, I played games from other genres and even participated in some MMO betas along the way, but my chosen MMO for the month doesn’t have any direct competition. This month, though, there was another MMO that I wanted to play. And I wasn’t playing just for funsies, either. I was playing it for a review.
That other MMO is Elyon (you can read my review here). Knowing that playing a new MMO for a review would take up most of my gaming time, I had a decision to make. Do I skip doing a Reroll for November, or do I figure out a way to still fit it into my schedule? I chose the latter. With that decision made, all I had to do was figure out how to make it happen.
I needed to pick the right MMO for the limited amount of time I had available this month. I thought about giving Dark Age of Camelot another go, a Reroll Reroll, if you will. I could easily come to the same conclusions in half the time it took the first go-around, but why put myself through that much pain (sorry, I couldn’t resist)? I have actually considered doing a revisit like that, but it would require more time, not less, to give DAoC a fair shake. Star Wars: The Old Republic? Lord of the Rings Online? Everquest 2? All three are MMOs I want to revisit, but alas, all of them would require more time than I had.
That’s when I figured it out. Eve Online was a perfect fit. WTF! How could anyone say they had limited time and then choose one of the most complex, open-ended sandbox MMOs of all time? Are you nuts? It’s okay, Charlie. I got an angle.
I don’t recall too much about my short time with Eve Online. I’m not even clear on exactly when it was I played. I know I wasn’t there on Day 1. It may have been in 2004 or early 2005 at the latest, so it has been quite a while since New Eden has graced my computer screen. One thing I remember is just how short-lived my time in New Eden was. Not really knowing what to do or where to go, I headed out to do some mining. Maybe it was an NPC that killed me on that initial voyage. Perhaps it was another Capsuleer; I’m not sure. I don’t even know if I was in Hi-sec or Lo-sec. All I do know is it was a harsh entry into the world of Eve Online, and it was enough to push me away. It really wasn’t the death so much that turned me away. It was more the lack of understanding and the lack of desire to figure it all out. I know, Carebear to the core.
That death so many years ago isn’t my only interaction with New Eden, though. Although I hadn’t given Eve Online another chance – not even when it went free-to-play – I always kept it in my periphery. And when Eve Echoes made its way to mobile devices, I was there to try it out. It was decent, too. I found a group of players to hang with, and I found myself making a living in a new New Eden. I lost a few ships, but I was still earning more than I was losing. Like most mobile games, though, my attention wandered. After a few weeks, I lost interest and moved on.
Long story short, Eve Echoes gave me the courage to give Eve Online another try. Even if I played non-stop, there’s no way I could even scratch the surface of what Eve Online has to offer in three or four weeks. What I could figure out is whether all the talk about how the new tutorial (it’s not really new anymore) made Eve Online a little more hospitable to a new Capsuleer. Would this attempt at a life in New Eden be closer to what I found in Eve Echoes, or was it going to be a repeat of my experience well over a decade ago? So, with limited time and an equally limited scope of work, it was time to start my MMO Reroll of Eve Online.
Free To Play?
Before I go any further, I want to address whether Eve Online can truly be played for free? Nah, not really. Sooner or later, if you’re going to be serious about playing, you’re going to have to pony up some cash and pay for an Omega subscription. It’ll take you a while to get to that point though.
Do I have any proof to back up that statement? Absolutely none. So far, I’ve put in about 20 hours, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Eve Online has to offer. Playing on an Alpha account (F2P) hasn’t hindered me in the least so far. Even so, there are ships I would want that require Omega. Some skills are also locked out if you don’t go Omega. When will I hit that point? I have no clue. But I am confident that one of two things will happen before I get there. One, I won’t get there. I’ll get tired of playing or won’t have enough time to feel like I’m being productive in-game. If that happens, Eve Online will go into the rotation, and I’ll never upgrade from free to play. Or two, I’ll play enough that I finally hit a paywall. And for me, if I play that much, then I don’t have any objections to paying for the benefits that Omega offers. And personally, if I am playing that much, I think it’s fair that I am expected to pay to get the whole Eve Online experience.
It’s cool if you disagree. And that’s all I have to say about that. Now back to the scheduled programming.
Regardless of how I got to this point, my time with Eve Online kicked off just like it does every month – character creation. You start off character creation by picking one of the four available empires of New Eden. Instead of a full-fledged story detailing an empire’s rise to power, all you are provided is a single-sentence quote from each empire’s leader to help you ascertain their governing ideology. It doesn’t sound like much to go on, but with quotes like, “In our Caldari State, wealth and power comes only from loyalty to the Corporation,” or, “Our mighty Empire is built upon our faith in the Creator and loyalty to the Throne,” it isn’t hard for your imagination to fill in the details. Fortunately, if you’re short on imagination, your first selection is followed by a more lengthy overview that includes a sample of each empire’s ships, a summary of their offensive and defensive characteristics, and a glimpse at their political positioning in New Eden. Your initial selection can be changed at this point, and there’s no reason to be concerned since all you’re really doing is picking a starting point in the galaxy and your first ship.
With your starting empire out of the way, the next order of business is creating your avatar, starting with choosing a bloodline. This choice is once again more about flavor text than anything else, with each bloodline (three per empire) providing nothing more than a variety of slightly different ethnic bases to build your character upon. I’ve harped on several of the older MMOs for their lack of character customization, so you can imagine my surprise at this point when I was presented with a full-fledged character creation suite. Along with some standard choices for eyes, hair, scars, and the like, there are a total of 16 facial zones to adjust your character’s bone structure, along with seven zones for body features. Since you will spend the entirety of your in-game time inside your ship, all of this is for what? A character portrait for the user interface?
I like having the choice, but all of the character customization options feel like a bit of overkill, and I wish that you could instead put that much customization into painting your ships. Ships are your true identity, after all, and I can only imagine the number of hours players would spend creating a unique design if they were given the tools to do so. Even though the paint jobs wouldn’t be visible to anyone who didn’t have them loaded into their client, it would still be nice to view them on my screen.
The Tutorial – We’re Screwed
With a new character ready to go, it was time to jump into the cockpit of my new ship and learn the basics of space flight. You awaken in Eve Online as a new Capsuleer and are greeted by Aura, New Eden’s version of Cortana. The beginning of your training day is immediately interrupted by a devastating attack on your training station. What follows is a quick but intuitive introduction to your ship’s interface. Aura rushes you through the basics of movement, targeting, and attacking enemies. Your first day as a capsuleer isn’t a victorious one, and this portion of the tutorial ends with you sacrificing your life so the rest of the civilians in the area can escape your attackers.
Death isn’t permanent for a capsuleer, though. Your physical demise is always followed by your consciousness being transferred into a new clone. Part two of the tutorial begins with this rebirth, after which Aura acquaints you with some of the non-combat features of your user interface. You learn how to access your inventory and fit modules to your ship and are also introduced to the skill system, though only in its most rudimentary form.
This brief introduction to the life of a capsuleer is precisely what was missing when I tried Eve Online so many years ago. My abrupt death back then was a harsh reality check, and although I could have worked my way through it, I chose instead to cut my losses and move on to a different game. This time around, Aura’s calming voice was there to help me through the process of death and rebirth. More than anything, the first minutes of the tutorial taught me that death would be expected in New Eden, and there wasn’t any reason to fear it.
Flattening The Learning Curve
At this point, I’d already made it further than I did with my first attempt at Eve Online. There’s no denying that Eve Online is a complex sandbox MMO. Without any classes to help define your role in the galaxy, the next hurdle in the life of a capsuleer is figuring out a plan of attack. Do you want to focus on mining or production, or will combat be your path to glory and riches? Even if you already know the answer to that question, you still have to figure out the skills you’ll need to focus on to master your craft.
If I had to make an uneducated guess, the steep learning curve that you face as a new capsuleer is the most significant cause of player churn in Eve Online. I’d speculate that just the thought of trying to figure it all out on your own is enough to keep some people from even taking the plunge. I know it did for me.
Imagine my surprise then at all of the resources to help a new player navigate the mysteries of New Eden. As soon as I was back on a ship, Aura introduced me to the Agency. I don’t think this resource has always existed (was it always there, and I just didn’t know it?), but it has to be one of the best new player tools I have ever used in an MMO. Like a Google search filter, the Agency takes an overwhelming amount of information and cuts it up into more digestible chunks of knowledge.
The career agents and the short missions they offer are the perfect way to sample the generic career paths a capsuleer can take. Little by little, piece by piece, each mission introduces a new feature of the user interface or economic principle you’ll need to make your way in the galaxy. As for combat, you learn the balance between risk and reward at a pace that promotes confidence without completely erasing the fear and respect you need to show to the NPC and player adversaries that inhabit even the safest areas of space. The remainder of the Agency builds upon the basic foundation that the career agents provide. Regardless of what path or paths you ultimately choose, the other tabs of the Agency point you toward the more complex facets of New Eden.
Moving Past Hi Sec
The Agency can only take you so far, though. At some point, you have a choice to make. Do you continue your life in the relative safety of Hi Sec space, or are you going to embrace the challenge of the unknown and face the dangers of Low and Null Space?
What dangers did you ask? We’ve all encountered the PvP crowd in MMOs. You know who I’m talking about. Those players who want nothing more than to hunt you down and crush you like a bug under the sole of their shoe. And for a new player in Eve Online, those players have had thousands of hours to max out their skills and build massive fleets full of the most powerful ships available. And those are the players who will make your life a living hell in Low and Null Sec, right?
One of my many misconceptions about Eve Online was that Hi Sec is safe, and the rest of the galaxy is off-limits to all but the most powerful capsuleers. I mean, we’ve all read the stories about PvP battles that involved thousands of players, lasted for weeks at a time, and cost lord knows how many trillions of ISK. How could anyone with only a handful of Tier 1 ships and a few million ISK in the bank possibly survive out in the less civilized areas of New Eden?
Well, it turns out that the veteran players aren’t always ruthless killers. As a side note, I also learned that the enemy NPCs you encounter in Hi Sec aren’t always a pushover either. Anyway, the point here is that even though some players consider it their job to protect whatever area of space they call home, there are plenty of veteran players willing to give a helping hand to new players. Rookie chat and the other help channels were always full of helpful advice, and although not wholly devoid of toxicity, most of the other chat channels I entered kept things respectful. Yes, there are obviously some intense rivalries in New Eden, but there is also an overarching sense of community.
That same sense of community I found in-game carries over to the real world. Of course, I came across some of the usual vitriol in Discord and the official forums, but the sheer amount of helpful people and useful information I found was encouraging. There are also multiple Wikis to reference and countless hours of videos to scour for information on every aspect of Eve Online. Needless to say, if you can’t find a helpful answer to your questions or a group of like-minded players to join up with, you aren’t really trying.
Sometimes it’s easy to almost immediately dismiss a new game without ever giving it a real chance. That’s what I did with Eve Online the first time I played it. I don’t know if New Eden was really as cold and heartless as I perceived it during its infancy. If it was, then it has matured and grown into something completely different.
Eve Online is quite unique in the MMO genre. It has a slower pace than most MMOs, especially when comparing its strategic combat to the action combat that dominates most modern MMOs. When it comes to scale, I can’t think of any MMO that rivals the sheer size of New Eden. And while many MMOs claim to be a sandbox experience, I can’t think of any others that offer the same open-world freedom to build the enormous corporations you find in Eve Online.
Don’t get me wrong, Eve Online can still be brutal and show no mercy. But at least it gives you a fighting chance in the beginning. Even given its size and complexity, a new player can still find their way among the stars of New Eden. The initial tutorial and subsequent learning provided by the Agency are enough to give a new player a taste of what Eve Online has to offer. From there, the community is more than willing to take over and help you find your way among the stars.