Welcome to the Universe.
In November 2014 I subscribed to EVE Online. Most gamers will have at least heard of EVE, possibly alongside references to “spreadsheets in space”, or as a vastly intimidating time-sink.
Today I’m going to talk about why all the things that make EVE intimidating are the reasons people end up playing for years on end, graduating from fresh-faced newbro’s into bittervets who offhandedly drop their 5 years of subscription into casual conversation.
I’ll start with what initially hooked me on EVE Online – it puts off a great number of prospective players, but also happens to be what motivates thousands of people to keep the EVE universe alive.
Imagine standing underwater at the edge of a massive, pitch black chasm. With only a weak, flickering torch to illuminate your surroundings, you take a step forward and begin to slowly float downward. As you descend, you see the walls of the chasm are strewn with bright coral, and tiny, darting fish begin to appear. The deeper you get, the fish get bigger, and stranger. You have no idea where the bottom is, but as you sink, you appreciate the journey more than the destination.
Almost nobody gets to the bottom of EVE. Alongside the rich complexity making up the in-game mechanics, the meta-gaming and political intrigue that takes place between player factions means that true and complete immersion is akin to taking on a full time job. And make no mistake – for some people, that’s what EVE is.
For those of us who are already gainfully employed, EVE’s depth of content opens up dozens of inviting pools in which to dip our toes, and no restrictions around moving between them. A lazy Monday night mining asteroids in high-security space could be followed by a Tuesday evening of fleet engagements with hundreds of other players, fighting for sovereignty over player-owned nullsec. For gamers with dual monitors and keen multitasking skills, Wednesday night might be both.
Your Noobship Has No Training Wheels
EVE Online does not fuck around. Most MMO tutorials will walk you through the basics, give you a few starting items, and deposit you in a quest hub where you can be on your merry way. While the EVE tutorial does provide you with a few basic tools, it’s a lot like being woken up to a bucket of spoons being dumped over your head and told to make breakfast.
Almost all games have a ‘learning curve’, whereby players put in an increasing amount of time and/or effort to improve or progress. EVE Online has a ‘learning cliff’, where new players stare up at a monolith of techniques, knowledge, and jargon. Far too many people neglect to even start the ascent, contenting themselves with carebear picnics at base camp.
Those who dare to make the climb will find that not knowing a game inside and out even after weeks of gameplay is intensely refreshing. For games with softer learning curves, you might find yourself eking out crumbs of technique and strategy, safe in the knowledge of all the characters, skills and boss fights you have tucked away. EVE Online offers a steady stream of things you do not know, and for anyone who delights in learning and improving, this is a massive draw.
“The best ship in EVE is friendship.”
– CCP Guard, Community Developer for EVE Online
EVE Online is very much an MMO, in the definitive sense. Since 2009, EVE in peak times finds you in the company of between 30,000 and 40,000 players – in the same single server instance. The player corporation Brave Newbies Inc (disclaimermode on: of which I am a member) is the home to over ten thousand players. My twitter buddy Dante summed this up quite nicely:
Planetside 2 players want to get a record 1,100 players in a single battle for a world record. Meanwhile EVE players chuckle uncontrollably—
Dante (@nzaeon) January 12, 2015
As with most multiplayer games, the more the merrier. There’s a difference between flying solo and playing alone – having corpmates in voicechat to appreciate your expertly prosecuted ganks or massive exploration hauls is the difference between smiling briefly at your monitor and wearing a big dopey grin for days.
Pushing the Content Button
I’ve played a bunch of MMOs, and had a great time in many of them. But ultimately, they were all the same – content would run out, character slots would get full, and nothing would be new or exciting anymore.
EVE Online offers me the possibility of new experiences every single day. I treat EVE the same way I treat my music, and what I play depends entirely on my mood. The freedom it offers is a lot like leaving home for the first time – perhaps a little scary at first, being out in the big wide world, but you very quickly realise that being able to do whatever the hell you want is all you ever wanted.