By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
When you are looking for a sandbox game where the sky is not the limit, then the well-known EVE Online must be the game for you. In this player driven persistent world MMORPG, you will be able to do almost anything you want. From being a miner, to doing logistics, or fighting in space with a well fitted ship, EVE Online offers many ways to find enjoyment in space. If, and this is key, you’re willing to face its very VERY steep learning curve. But if you have patience and are humble enough to admit that this game requires some study to do well in, then you may be well overdue to give EVE Online a try. As there is just nothing quite like it in the MMO realm.
Before I tell you more about this awesome game I will warn you again. The game has a very steep learning curve. Getting a grasp on every aspect of gameplay might feel like climbing Mount Everest without any training… or clothes. Let me reassure you that only the first day, maybe two, will feel this way. Soon you will recognize that knowledge is power in EVE Online, and each trick you pick up will set you that much closer to causing some real changes (or chaos) in the world of EVE Online. Simplifying combat to the extreme, one can compare it to advanced rock, paper, scissors. You will always find a weapon type that beats out another, and the more you learn of this strength/weakness tree, the better you and your allies will fare. Picking fights you can win based on this knowledge is key early on, as you’re a small fish entering an ocean flooded with some well-fed whale sharks. And likely you will remain a small fish for a number of months or years before you can catch up to the blue whales.
One of the limiters on this progression in EVE Online is training skills. In order to fly a ship of certain rank, your skill needs to match up. Skills are acquired through books and training these skills will take time. At the first few levels you aren’t really looking at a lot of time; most of the time the first levels take around ten to thirty minutes of training. Skills can go up to level 5, and the last two levels in particular take the longest, mostly taking days and in rare occasions even weeks. But don’t be afraid that there is some arbitrary time wall blocking you from having fun. There’s still plenty of ship variety available to newer players, and even most advanced players tend to fly around in frigates so they don’t risk losing their juggernaut ships due to cheap massive ganks.
Once you’re through the initial wave of “oh my god what is this?!” it’s time to settle down to decide what you want to get out of EVE Online. This involves figuring out your persona and deciding what steps to take to get there. In case you haven’t noticed, this game revolves around lots of planning. For example, if you want to be a miner and just mine in the higher security zones, you will need to train specialty skills to maximize revenue and resource acquisition. This differs from a pirate who will be spending their research towards new ways to blow people up, skills that a miner typically won’t feel are beneficial when spending more of their time in a slow ship with basic turrets. Some players choose to go with a more neutral path until joining a corporation, the EVE Online guild system. Corporations usually are part of a bigger alliance of corporations, and own a bit of space somewhere on the map. Depending on the corporation, they might have specific needs for you, and will reward you for filling your assigned role. That is why you might want to look for a corporation before you start planning your training.
There’s more to EVE Online though than just profit margins and serving older players’ interests. Unlike most sandbox games, EVE Online has a pretty well constructed and believable universe for you to impact. You start playing in a high security zone in one of the regions that your faction is living in. There’s plenty of backstory on the various factions, but in terms of gameplay they do little to limit your progression, except for impacting your starting ship and perhaps a few skills. You’ll likely end up learning them all if you want to PvP at end-game, but that’s something you can worry about once you’re more established.
Let’s focus on the security zone system. Think of this as the Empire in Star Wars, being the safest high security location in the galaxy. This is enforced by the CONCORD Police, serving, protecting, and preventing lowbie ganking. So long as you don’t pick a fight with the Police, they will be your best friends. In High Sec areas you will find most of the trading occurs, as this is where the community typically gathers in giant hub locales. As a new player without direction, CCP Games offers somewhat of a guiding hand with missions offering ISK (the money currency) to get your feet off the ground without needing to make enemies in the process.
After a few weeks you might get ballsy and want to trek out into the low security zones. Expect a fight almost every time you do. These zones represent the trenches of galactic factional wars, which means there’s plenty of people here PKing with no other reason other than racking up faction points. Points that they can then use to buy something with or exchange for ISK.
Players looking for a more PvE oriented experience might stick to the high security zones for a while longer though. Just be aware that CONCORD Police will protect you most of the time, but not always. Even in these safe zones, it isn’t uncommon for pirate pilots to take a stab at you. If your favorite spot is getting camped, and you still want to make money, exploration offers an alternative. Exploration is still pretty new to the EVE Online scene, and you need to pick up one of a select few ships to participate in it. With the use of probes you will find relics, artifacts or special combat sites that can earn you a lot of money. As you might expect, the further into the uncharted and unpoliced zones you go, the higher your chance of finding rarer artifacts. All this plus bartering to play the market offer plenty of ways for non-combative players to still thrive in EVE.
Last but definitely not least is null-sec, perhaps the biggest areas in the game where most of the corporations hang out. These zones tend to be claimed by larger corporations, establishing mining operations and more across vast regions. Even if you aren’t cross with a corporation, you risk being blown to bits if they think you might impact their operations in the slightest. Everyone defends their own space, and even if you own just a few systems, you will still have to defend those systems from the rest of the world. And thus when you live in null-sec you are bound to find some fights, but these fights are rarely against a single opponent, and mainly against small groups. If you bring an organized raid party, you occasionally get the joy of experiencing large fleet warfare!
As a long time player, I spend 90% of my time in null-sec space, in a relatively large corporation that owns a fairly large area in the universe. And every day there are neighboring groups of people, mainly other corporations, entering our space trying to pick a fight. This isn’t simply because everyone in EVE Online are assholes. No null-sec space hides the rarest items, that are worth risking a few ships to obtain more of. EVE Online is all about high risk, high reward, and the sandbox nature of players acquiring and managing these resource zones makes the game exciting for all involved.
EVE Online is a very big game, and in my opinion stands as the best persistent world sandbox. While some newcomers threaten EVE’s throne, I don’t see it losing substantial popularity any time soon. The game has steadily been building a fervent community since 2003, and there is a reason why a lot of people stuck around and are still playing it almost twelve years later. I personally started playing this in 2008, and have tried it out a lot of times during then and now. I have left a few times as my impatience got the better of me, but continually find myself returning to get my fix. Unlike other MMORPGs, every action you make here impacts the world in one way or another, and that feeling can get quite addicting.
EVE Online can be seen as a second life for some people. There are several reasons why a lot of people get sucked into this game and will play it almost the entire day. No matter what I’m up to throughout the day, EVE is always open in the background building my progress. EVE Online is THE sandbox game, and its permanence offers a feeling of security that few titles in this incredibly indie genre can offer. I am amazed by the numbers signing in every day, despite its harsh initial learning curve. CCP Games has never stopped pushing new content, and lately their updates have been at a fever pitch. If you don’t mind most of your day to day content being created by player interaction, and enjoy having a role in major guilds, then EVE Online has the potential to suck you in big time. Everyone is very helpful to newbies, the average player maturity blows away other MMOs, and you will find yourself getting a lot of donations to start you off in most corporations. So please, find a new corporation if you get bored, or have no idea what to do. The corporations are key to maximizing the EVE Online experience, an experience which will leave you craving more long in the future.