Although we had significant PvP experience under our belts, the exercise proved to me that skill training and ISK weren't the absolute minimum requirement they were thought to be. I firmly believe that all it takes to successfully PvP from the outset is some patient direction from older players and perhaps a little generosity to help you afford some early ship losses. In my experience with introducing new players to EVE, I've always found the EVE community to be more than willing to provide both of these in abundance. I'd say that not only is it possible to try out PvP within the 14-day trial period, it's highly recommended.
In this opinion piece, I explain some key things you can do as a new player to get into PvP right from day one of the EVE free trial.
On a completely new character, your choice of ships will be limited to cheap frigates. Resist the temptation to train your way to something bigger like a cruiser or destroyer before getting into PvP. They cost significantly more to lose than frigates, and you'll greatly benefit from your experience flying frigates when you do decide to upgrade. Common frigates used in PvP include the Gallente Atron, Incursus and Tristan; the Caldari Condor and Kestrel; the Minmatar Slasher and Rifter; and the Amarr Executioner and Punisher. PvP setups and tactics for popular ships can usually be found on the EVE Ships and Modules forum or EVElopedia, but there's nothing better than just asking players for advice in-game.
If things are going well toward the end of your free trial, upgrading to destroyers or cruisers is a viable option. Remember that these ships aren't inherently better than a well-piloted frigate, they're just designed to fulfill different roles. Destroyers make good anti-frigate ships but poor tacklers, for example. Another important factor to keep in mind is skill training time. As EVE skills train in realtime, there's a fundamental limit to what can be trained in your first day of play or over the course of a free trial. This naturally encourages new players to take up in PvP gang roles like damage-dealing, scouting or tackling rather than more skill-intensive ones like electronic warfare specialist.
As the damage output of frigates is relatively low and scouting is best left to pilots with cloaked ships, new players are often encouraged to fill the role of tackler. Using warp disruptors and stasis webs to hold enemies in place and so prevent their escape, the tackler is one of the most essential fleet roles a new player can fulfill. Tackling is good combat experience, and I highly recommend it. The only skills you'll really need for it are Propulsion Jamming I and Afterburner I so you can fit warp scramblers, stasis webs and an afterburner to help get in warp scrambler range. For further training, it's advised to get Afterburner III, Navigation III and High Speed Maneuvering I. This will let you fit a 1mn microwarpdrive, an incredibly fast but power-hungry afterburner.
Finding an organisation
While some pilots opt to go it alone in EVE, PvP can be particularly brutal and unforgiving to solo pilots. For new players, racing off into the unknown with dreams of hoisting a pirate flag is probably a big mistake. There's always a bigger fish out there, and the best way to even the score is to get into a group. The most vital step in making your way into the world of PvP is finding a good PvP-oriented corporation. Unfortunately, finding one willing to recruit new players can be difficult. Most well-established PvP corps can't spare the time and effort to train completely new players in the fine art of smashing spaceships to bits.
Since EVE's release, some key tools have arisen to help new players get into PvP. The playerbase's contribution to those tools comes in the form of player training corps and academies. Of all the corps in this field, EVE University is possibly the longest-running and most successful. With classes ranging from ship fitting to fleet commanding, EVE University has always been a great way to learn the ropes.
Joining a militia
In June 2008, CCP added another helping hand for new players with the Empyrean Age expansion and its faction warfare feature. This was intended to act as a stepping stone for players who want to get into PvP on a casual basis but weren't sure what to do. New players interested in PvP can now sign up to join an NPC militia corp and get stuck right into the action. Joining the militia requires a minimum of 0.5 positive standing with your chosen race, but this is easily acquired by completing the full tutorial mission series. As the tutorial series is essential anyway, it makes a lot of sense to complete it.
The most obvious and potentially rewarding way to get into faction warfare PvP is to simply throw caution to the wind and rush out into the contested regions with guns blazing. With so many pirates and gangs roaming the stars, however, this may prove to be a costly and largely one-sided training strategy. Alternatively, you could form small roaming gangs or raiding fleets with other members of the militia. Providing that members of a gang stick together and co-ordinate well, they can accomplish much more than any pilot could on his own. You'll find fleets forming throughout the day in the militia chat channel, but there's nothing stopping you and a few friends from starting your own gang, hopping on EVE voice and getting stuck right in.
In contrast to conventional wisdom, an EVE pilot's ability in PvP isn't derrived directly from trained skills and equipment. The biggest factor in a player's competence in PvP will be his actual combat experience, which teaches everything from how to deal with emerging situations to common PvP ship setups. One key thing to keep in mind when starting out on your PvP adventure is that you're going to die repeatedly. Every player goes through this initiation period during which he's lucky to score a few hits or a kill before being blown up. Even veteran players consider their ships as good as dead when heading into dangerous territory.
By analysing each death, you'll gain valuable insights into what went wrong and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It often pays to ask the players who just killed you what you could have done to prevent it -- you'll be surprised how many respond helpfully. As long as you can afford a few replacement ships, being blown up isn't the end of the world. Many players mine or run missions for ship funds, but this can take days and isn't really necessary on the trial. I recommend just making some friends and asking other pilots for a little ISK. Remember that what seems like a lot to a new player is very little to an older one. A fully kitted-out tier 1 tackling frigate like the Atron, Condor, Slasher or Executioner can cost under 100k in total, and some of that will be reclaimed on death by insurance.
Many player-run PvP corporations will provide new members with cheap pre-insured ships for free. Members of a faction warfare militia will similarly find many pilots are more than willing to spare a few frigates or a little ISK to have you as a wingman. Once you're out there in space, don't forget to check the wrecks of any enemies you kill and stash the loot somewhere nearby. Older players tend to fit expensive tech 2 modules, each of which can sell for over a million ISK. If you're still using cheap frigates, destroyers and cruisers, the loot from one wreck can be enough for several ship replacements.
I've heard it said that there's a minimum length of training time or amount of ISK a pilot must have before he's ready for PvP, but that couldn't be further from the truth. EVE's PvP is primarily a group experience, and a new player can be an effective part of those groups with very little training time. Ultimately, the only thing stopping new players from diving straight into PvP is themselves. With a willingness to ask questions, work with other players and learn, I firmly believe that anyone can PvP right from day one.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.