Lucky for me that a month back, Valve struck a deal with CCP and put EVE Online on sale for a weekend via Steam. With cash in my pocket and a song in my heart, I finally dropped the cash to pick up a game that I played at least 10 two-week trials of. It's here that I'm going to finally introduce the catch to this entire article -- I, up until about a week ago, absolutely, positively, hated EVE Online.
There's a reason I went for 10 trials of EVE Online; it's the fact that I felt I could not commit to that game in any shape or form. Who would want to just fly around the universe doing barely anything? Flying could be put on autopilot, making traveling anywhere just a useless time-sink. Battles could be easily predictable and could require either you to have a nice ship or have many friends. Trade was just you sitting on the market tab of your menu, looking at so many items and graphs that could make any economics professor squeal in some bastardization of joy.
EVE Online seemed like a game with so many different levels of boredom that I'd rather go play Daikatana. And if any game wants me to go play Daikatana, then it is a scary, scary game indeed. (I dare you to go play it on GameTap, it's a free game for a good reason.) But, for some odd reason, I kept being pulled back to EVE by what appeared to be a well designed, non-copycat game. My only gripe was that it was a boring, well-designed, non-copycat game.
When I flew in EVE, I wasn't playing another World of Warcraft clone, and I wasn't spending all of my time grinding mobs for exp and levels. I liked the whole "timed leveling" system because I thought it was a great way to give everyone the progression they desired and the balance everyone wanted. I always never liked it when my friend and I started a game on the same day, and they ended up out-leveling me because they play more than me.
Also adding to my pile of interest were the many stories that came out of EVE, like the "Great Scam" and "The Heist of Ubiqua Seraph." CCP was actually devoted to the black business aspects of EVE and maintaining the stuff I like to call "screw you functionality." Players were becoming famous/infamous in the game not due to stats or assets, but how darn smart and skilled they were. If you were devious enough, if you were skilled enough with your tongue, guns and mind, you could make a fortune at someone else's expense. I fully agree with CCP -- screwing over someone in EVE is how the game is played and is not a bug, or an exploit, or something you can run and cry to a GM with.
So I got back into EVE again, trying to find that elusive black business aspect that I was hearing so much about. This time around it wasn't boredom that was keeping me away, it was the darn learning curve. It's not everyday that I need to keep up 4 websites in the background of my game just to understand what was going on. I like to think I'm a smart person who can understand relatively complicated things, but EVE is something you can't just jump into and play well in 10 minutes or less.
At first I found this to be just relatively harsh. What is scan resolution? I need to care about my distance from the enemy? Does it matter how many rad/sec my turret can do? But, the more I played and the more I slowly learned, the more I began to appreciate it all. I found out that not all of EVE is rooted in numbers and damage, but also in skill, tactics, and placement. So, the commander in me was getting happier about the battle system, but I still wasn't digging the traveling or the market.
But, after finally picking up the game, I got myself into a nice casual corporation and made some friends in the process. It was at that point that the game finally opened up and started to become an extremely enjoyable experience. I finally got to see, thanks to my corporation, the side of EVE that gets people extremely interested -- the politics and social experience.
You can't walk into EVE with a level and damage mentality, it just doesn't work. The whole key to finding enjoyment and understanding EVE Online is understanding that your actions have repercussions. Blowing up a mining ship at half-health for kicks could start a long and deadly war. Undercutting the wrong people on the market might influence a bounty. The public contract you just picked up could be an invitation to a deathtrap.
There is an amazing level of depth and intricacy to EVE that is just not present in any other game I have picked up, and I can easily say now that it's that intricacy and learning curve that makes EVE an amazing experience. You may not have the joy of "dinging", but you will have the joy of learning how to play the market, broker deals, control land, gain tangible power. In my humble opinion, these things have much more of a lasting impact than a simple ding noise, lightshow, and increased stats. Plus, once you get some friends and have them show you what you need to know about EVE, it makes the game much easier.
The enemies you make are not the mindless computer controlled type, but real people who will strategize against you and pull their own strings throughout the universe. Who you know can be more powerful than the gun you carry -- a drastic change from most games on the market these days. And, finally, this is a game where information is just as important as bullets. Knowing where your enemy is, what he does, what he drives, and how he defends himself is information worth bribing some people and killing others. Plus... you just can't be blind (NSFW)...
Once you realize that there isn't one way to the top in EVE Online, and once you realize that while you can do what you please your actions will carry consequences, you will find an extremely amazing world that finally fits that odd persistence thing I was talking about before.
There are no heroes in this world -- just businessmen with guns.
Colin Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who's flying around with Kingfisher Industries in EVE Online. When he's not writing here for Massively, he's over running Epic Loot For All! with his insane roommates. If you want to message him, you can do so in Second Life (SL: Seraphina Reymont), or send him an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com.