The Timesink to End All Timesinks
Whenever I speak to a friend about getting on board with EVE Online, I almost always get the same response – that EVE is way too much of a time commitment, even for an MMO.
When I first subscribed, that’s exactly what I was prepared for. While I was distracted by fond memories of wrecking people on the internet and laughing at absurd personalities in comms, in the back of my mind I was quietly lamenting the demise of my social life. But strangely enough, that never happened.
The myth that EVE Online cannot be played casually is perpetuated, both within and outside the community, largely by people who seem to look down on the concept of casual gamers. But as my second favourite Bob says, the times they are a changin’. Responsibility tends to follow on the coattails of age, and analytics senpai CCP Quant shows us the EVE playerbase isn’t a young one – as of December last year, there were more 50 year olds playing EVE Online than there were 16 year olds.
I only have a couple of hours at the end of the day before naptime, but I damn sure make the most of them.
Casual Gamers Anonymous
My success with EVE Online as a casual gamer hinges on two key concepts – interestingly enough, two of the concepts often brought up in the arguments for EVE as a monolithic timesink. I haven’t discovered anything revolutionary, and hundreds (if not thousands) of people play the same way I do – it just doesn’t seem to get talked about much.
One of the more interesting and unique aspects of EVE is the player economy. The vast majority of all items in the game are manufactured by players. This brings to the surface some fantastic dynamics between individuals, corporations, and areas of space. Additionally, there is – in essence – an exchange rate between in-game currency (ISK) and real world money, due to the ability for players to purchase their monthly subscription with ISK.
This fortunately works both ways, and players are also able to sell their monthly subscription – which conveniently appears as an in-game item known as a PLEX – for a reasonably large amount of in-game currency. For players who don’t have time to spend time generating an in-game income to fuel their ship-exploding habits, dropping $20 on a PLEX is a great alternative.
Developing character skills in EVE online is slightly different to the model embraced by most MMO’s. Instead of an experience grind, where performing actions rewards you with progress toward a new level and new abilities, EVE has a skill queue. You load a skill into the queue, and wait. A few hours, days, or weeks later, your freshly baked skill comes out of the oven as a gleeful blue notification in the bottom right corner of your screen. For people actively playing the game for many hours a day, this is an incredibly painful process. That shiny ship in your hangar can’t be launched into space by anything other than patience. For people like me, the thought of my character gradually improving while I’m chained to a desk is a happy one.
Never Not Undock
During my stay in New Eden, I’ve had two distinct experiences. For the first few months after I subscribed, I was flying with Brave Newbies Incorporated, part of the HERO Coalition – a new player focused organisation with one of the largest member counts in the game. Brave did an amazing job at showing me the ropes, getting me to undock, and most importantly – getting me to explode.
Most of the larger corporations and alliances in EVE run an out of game notification system, where Fleet Commanders can ‘ping’ members to log in, or swap characters, for particular fleets and activities. This ranges from the destined-to-fail funfleets, to pings for stratops hours or days in advance, to ragepings for immobilised supercapitals and titans.
While providing an efficient method for leadership to summon hordes of bloodthirsty pilots, this process also allows casual gamers to log on when they know content is afoot. On more than a few nights I would be working from home, see a ping entitled ‘BAD IDEA FLEET, ALPHA COMMS’, and decide that whatever I was working on could wait until tomorrow.
A Call To Arms
After moving to Low-Security space in an effort to experience different parts of New Eden, i discovered Faction Warfare and awoke the dormant part of my brain that drove me to spend hundreds of hours killing nerds on the internet. And it feels fantastic.
The Faction Warfare system allows players to join one of the four NPC factions in EVE Online, and fight for territory on their behalf. Each faction is allied with one other, with the contesting pairs fighting over separate regions of space. Players are put into a corporation with hundreds of faction militia buddies, eager to give advice and lend a hand with making things other than you explode.
The resultant chaos creates some of the most consistently available content in New Eden. For those of us who don’t have hours to spare stumbling through empty regions of space or carefully scanning wormholes, the cheerful recklessness of flying low-cost frigates in Faction Warfare space is both convenient and wallet friendly.
We Never Really Grow Up
The times of sacrificing entire nights of sleep to raids, waking up at absurd hours to fit into time zones, and clicking that goddamn next turn button in Civilisation III are over for many of us. Money goes from being something nice to something necessary, and getting up in the morning is no longer optional.
I belong to a generation that won’t stop gaming, for so many good reasons. But for us to keep going, we need games that don’t require huge time commitments to enjoy, but still test the skills and intelligence we’ve honed over years and years of gameplay. Farmville isn’t going to cut it folks.
EVE Online is deceptively casual-friendly, while still offering the depth, content and camaraderie so many of us enjoyed in the glory days of the MMO. The sandbox universe of New Eden offers dozens of diverse roles and playstyles to suit almost any gamer, casual or otherwise. The trick is to ignore that voice in your head telling you not to try.