EVE is a notoriously perilous universe where corporate espionage is intensified by real-world money scams and the innocent act of farming space rocks leads to “suicide ganking” as non-consensual PVP griefers unabashedly toy with the unwary, fully exploiting the game’s clone and security mechanics. The MMO’s developer, CCP, staunchly defends all duplicity and piracy falling under the open-ended software agreement, so no amount of clapping will restore the wings to billions of stolen ISK or real-world dollars. Knowing of its reputation and [entertaining] tales of dev-endorsed greed, I downloaded the trial and jotted notes during all 14 days of my experience within the villified EVE (Everyone Vs. Everyone).
Intent on not becoming victimized by a 9 year old with a low-end frigate, I cut my teeth on 3 sets of training missions and amassed a respectable fleet of Minmatar ships that would be a worthy stable should I be executed. I jumped at every shadow and fumbled with the traveling mechanic. I was soon armed with a mining vessel uncommitted to its craft and researching my basic skills that would aid my ability to use Afterburners, Hull Repair, Shields and the Piloting ability. Before too long, a user portrait with a WANTED tag rested not 20 yards off my bow, a cloud of drones erupting into space. This illicited my hasty retreat and a request for advice from the local Rookie chat. Instead of a clear course of action, two helpful denizens put a combined total of 500,000 ISK bounty on my head. With gritted teeth, I worked several hours to return the exact favor.
"Space mining" is more lucrative than a career in "space miming".
New Goal: The fear yielded from mere survival can not warrant a game, so I consciously put it in my head that Having Fun was top priority. To me this meant abandoning my Veldspar/Scordite endeavor, though I had just doubled my efficiency and “Mike Skullduggery” had leveled his production skills overnight. The hours spent monitoring a set of dual lasers and scanning the infinite horizon for player-killing scallywags paled to the variety of military and security missions. Space Combat is where it’s at. I sold ships built from spare materials and hauled my Venture out on ill-suited events of playing decoy and tracking rogue NPC pi”rat”es, of which exploded in satisfying finality. Perhaps most importantly, I dared to say “hi” to several passing pilots.
Military missions were the order for the day, which led to some capacitor/shield upgrades and a push towards an actual space-faring coffin designed for what I subjected it to. This, of course, happened to be suicide missions against 5 to 1 odds composed of heavy transporters and swarms of rats. I wiled my time with “Indie Game: The Movie” while attempting this last feat of the day, rage-quitting in a huff after failed attempts produced nothing beyond frazzled nerves from tangible death, mere seconds before the warp drives kicked in and flung me to the icy isolation of random space.
I think I see my house from here.
I felt my interest declining with the lack of perceived achievement, so a renewed vigor in character planning produced an earnest outline that was doable within the limitations of a trial. Skills became the focus as a quick trip to the market tab revealed what I would need to fly a Destroyer, an eater of frigates which I had become accustomed to latching onto and eradicating one by one. My Rifter was fun, but its speed didn’t seem a fortuitous exchange for armor or firepower when the going got tough. Obnoxiousness propelled me to discover the “block” button, my chat window eventually being minimized because of distractions. Though early security missions won’t make anyone rich, I found my “space legs” in navigating the UIs hotkeys as well as feeling at home in plotting a course through the 5000 star universe. In EVE, everyone wants to hear you scream.
I knew my first death was inevitable, but I still rode the euphoric high induced by wielding the Talwar destroyer. With giddy me at the helm of 7 rocket bays, the ship was the harbinger of rat destruction. No longer was pointing turrets necessary; my prey disintegrated in droves, paired volleys of Nova Rockets rotating in full 360 degrees. In scouring the player market for deals, I made a 10,000 ammo purchase from seven jumps away, leading to a lengthy trip that proved unnaturally tense despite its redundancy. Suddenly, without warning, the unimaginable happened as a direct threat broadcast to my com channel, but I chuckled through beads of sweat in recognizing an irrational AI pirate looking to bite off more than its malfunctioning circuits could chew.
It's a miracle that I left my ship without being ganked and shived.
The security missions were now easily handled by my new investment, the multi-million dollar ship (outfitted with the cheapest weapons available) tearing through drones and all manner of frigates like tissues. I did much more seek-and-destroy missions to generate a nest-egg, my standing with a couple Agents gaining traction, but I soon witnessed how lame the actual “story” missions could be. The writing for this game is generally flavor-less, but I was especially unimpressed by a specific briefing fragment that instructed my gunboat to perform an unimpeded 1-jump courier run.
Time to launch fireworks and take names.... and I'm all outta names.
I rested. Taking a break from EVE, I made sure to load up my character with enough flight and special equipment skills to plan out the next 2 days. I was looking forward to outfitting the Talwar with at least an Energy Leech to refill my capacitor before snuffing the lives from my languid prey.
Truly in patterned grind-mode at this point, EVE was just starting to sink its tendrils into my life, altering my behavior through repetition and positive rewards, a bevy of treasures, skills, and mystery just beyond my limited grasp. I thought about it everyday, researching the intricacies of Blueprint utilization and System Security Status during my work hours. During actual play hours, the game wasn’t any different today than the previous, but I polished off the same cycle of missions at greater pay, eventually vacating to the fringe of “safety” that defined the imagined line between civilized space and the dangerous outcasts. I felt as if on safari, and started to realize how little I knew.
Minmatar space is typically red, but stellar rainbow farts are pretty.
There’s always a bigger ship. In my mind I’d already achieved so much, but the internet and wikis insisted over and again in the benefits of a mid-level Cruiser: small enough that battleships can’t hit, but quick enough to traverse the galaxy with style. A Stabber would suit me just fine, being the quickest cruiser for the Minmatar race and a choice foundation for many PVPers. Since I didn’t plan on joining a corporation, the solitude seemed more managable in something with thrice my current speed and twice the armor. Visions of power danced across my dilated eyes, the persistent conversation occurring in the lower-left being more than just a distraction.
In Rookie Chat, some poor slob complained loudly, demanding help with every facet down to his inability to right-click an object for more info. I fought the urge, but the game was corrupting me, breaking me. I soon teased the trolling fool, thanking him for having at least enough sense to discover his keyboard to illustrate his stupidity. This went on for 20 minutes before I placed a sizable bounty on his pinhead and blocked any further communication to prevent the worst in me from resurfacing.
The brooding visuals amplify the mystery, and dangers, of exploration.
To combat a slippery slide into the assured perversion of this EVE experiment, I cast aside the siren song of community-supported asshole-ism and chucked my feelings of noob-superiority out the window. Today was spent mending the bridge between the PVE pilot I had become with 25,000 of my fellow trial-accounters. I watched the chat thread like a hawk, jumping on any question I could, rapid-firing responses with more detail than was expected or even desired. Rarely a thanks, never a reward. The security mission grind had become rote, though profitable, and I happily reached out to a community that obviously struggled to understand the mechanics as much as I discerned, many neglecting the training missions or in-window browser help.
To prove I still retained a mean streak, I imparted a bit more of my wealth to the jerks whom had painted my own WANTED target on day one. I wore it as a badge of honor even now, evidence of this society’s trial by fire, as I added another 500,000 ISK to each username.
The Level 1 security missions remained dull, easy. I had outfitted my cruiser well (with influences from select strategy guides) and although it performed admirably, simply aggroing my foes with medium turrets at long range before obliterating them with homing missiles was becoming unfulfilling. To boot, traveling from wreck to wreck with a salvage gun was lucratively tedious. I sought challenge and something new, an inflated ego gravitating towards densely heavy concepts of running merchandise and traversing low-sec space, secretly wanting to test my mettle vs. one of these fabled “human Pirates” that I had heard so much about. I could always just run away, right? For the time being, I settled on scanning my active systems for a Level 2 security agent while managing three warehouses in dumping salvaged junk into a saturated marketplace.
Like a spider, my stabber collected flies and supped upon their wrecks.
My Stabber was blown to pieces by a gate camper. On a routine run of purchasing cheap and jumping gates to acquire cargo, I navigated through .4 low-sec space en route to a station in high-sec. That little pocket of lawlessness concealed a battle-cruiser with his weapons trained on a warp disrupter and apparently some kind of capacitor-drainer. In 30 seconds, I was zapped upon arrival, made the mistake of firing back (you gain your own aggression timers), and had every piece of my hard earned space-bucks simultaneously dismantled in a concentrated blast of unmitigated terror. Crestfallen, I flew a civilian shuttle to my gravesite to collect the intended cargo and glean further information from my demise. The chat room cackled out a resounding “welcome to low-sec” as I shakingly picked the bones of my own clone, its haunting stillness drifting listlessly in a concentration of shrapnel that used to be my 12 million ISK ship and equipment. “It’s not a big deal.”, I said unconvincingly, “I’ll just buy another Stabber.”
…. I did. And it got blown up a second time! Not by the camper (whom had fled), but by an asteroid’s invisible collision box preventing evacuation for 10 minutes as I desperately pleaded, hurled insults, and cursed a pack of rats back to the confines of hell, them disobeying and happily shooting me through the translucent rock. ‘Tis a dark day in gaming since the 28 million ISK, hours of accumulated loss, almost defeated me.
I don't remember piloting nude, but it was a crazy 14 days.
But I bounced back. Now trained in drone tactics, my bankrupt character sailed the nebulae in yet another Stabber, finally able to equip a set of leveled turrets and to host a flurry of minions whom simultaneously shoot incoming fighters and salvage their wrecks. I rarely did much beyond acquiring targets, lying in wait as a web-bound spider, the blazing speed of hostile weaponry decimating droves of enemies, rank and file. It’s in doing this, triumphing over challenges and growing back stronger, that I realized the impending date that loomed closer…. ever closer. The EVE Online trial would end soon.
Do I purchase? Do I dare fund a hobby that consumed so much of my attention, a singular game that I’ll never own? It’s true that funding your subscription through a 550,000,000 ISK [monthly] license is possible, but I would never reach that dizzying height, nor would I want to devote that kind of time. That kind of effort. EVE could be a second job if I let it, but maybe the decision could be left to someone else. The soul-searching had gone on for a week if we’re being honest, as I became ever more entranced with the prospects of truly transitioning to MMOs, and the “big” one on top of it all. I told everyone: my co-workers, my family, my wife, always probing for someone to reveal the answer that I already knew. I didn’t WANT to get sucked into something like this, but I knew that it was quite possible, quite likely….
And with that, I quit.
I did have a little help on the last day since I found, and subsequently failed, a level 2 security mission, but by this time it seemed quite clear how EVE operated. I’m a solo-player, meaning I’m not in it for the comraderie nor the good of mankind. In fact, there is little “good” to be found in EVE’s mankind…. and rightly so. It’s simply way too easy to subvert your compassion in exchange for an easy buck or to hijack somebody’s good mood. Although this makes for riveting gameplay, there is a darker theme at work here.
Beyond my own limited trial (where I only experienced a single well-deserved lesson from a well-armed assassin), EVE Online is an experiment in and of itself, a fascinating ant farm of libertarian freelancers who carve out the fun they seek with the very tools provided…. including fellow players. You can be anything: a simple miner reaping the spoils of sitting in one place, a hot-shot mission-runner who thinks he could handle a live pirate; you can enlist in the military and fight off racial incursions or even work your lingual magic up the chain of an in-game corporation. You can lie and cheat a path across the universe and be applauded for it, rewarded for it, fusing and breaking alliances, real and fake friendships, drawing benefit when possible (or the lulz).
These couplings look primed to numb the beaks of a thousand Gungans.
The game supports these possibilities and encourages creativity within a player-driven market, corporate hierarchies, dynamic territories. And although I respect this universe (fear it even) I simply can’t spend real hours and dollars to traverse the trials of what feels like a giant “what if?” scenario. Instead of paying to perform the same lack-luster missions over and over until I’m gobbled by a bigger fish, I prefer to stay on the edge of the pond and glean the most fascinating stories and outcomes from the community, the true fisherman, instead of forcing myself to live the tales in order to be entertained.
The Bottom Line
EVE Online is an emphatically enthralling simulator, forged even stronger through Dust 514’s expansion into that same world via cross-genre FPS action. This game has much of what I’d love to see in other games: freedom, enthusiasm, excitement, and danger but it lacks a bit of the safety that might indeed unravel the very facets that I praise it for. Despite this and a host of smaller issues like the visual redundancy of space and the indirect method of piloting, EVE’s universe has reportedly improved each year since its advent a decade ago (it’s older than WOW). For this very reason, I personally expect the experience to be sharpened and honed beyond a razor’s edge, since CCP has proven capable (if unwilling) of sating the particular needs of various gamer types.
I just wish the subscription was cheaper and that I wasn’t apt to lose 12 hours in a single run. I’ll own the mistake of traveling a single jump through .4 space, but that asteroid thing is a flat-out blemish on EVE’s reputation. This game is a perfect excursion for those looking for something unique and challenging, guaranteed to appeal to many, to frustrate a few, and to destroy a handful. It is quite literally the most cohesive and daunting gaming experience that echoes the fundamental goals put forth by its developers, and a logistical behemoth powered by the players, for the players.
EVE is true to itself, if nothing else. Unfortunately, I am at too big of risk at losing my time and efforts (maybe even morality) within its inky, unfathomable depths. There’s just too much at stake for me to personally invest in it.
But, by all means, I encourage others to take a stab at making their mark on this fictional galaxy. (Bring two or three back-ups though, just in case.)
Take SPF 9,000 (or more.) EVE Online will bring the heat.