EVE Evolved: Losing yourself in EVE Online

Of all the things EVE Online has to offer, exploration is perhaps its most attractive lure. With around 7500 solar systems to visit and seven years of history enshrined amongst them, EVE offers players a very real and tangible universe to explore. There's something inherently attractive about getting lost in the depths of space and being absorbed into the stories woven around those thousands of little points of light on the map. While the official storyline of most MMOs can be seen all across their respective worlds, the sandbox nature of EVE adds significant player-determined influences to the usual developer-created storyline. In the colossal sandbox of New Eden, key battles and events have drenched areas of the game in a player-made lore that's ripe for discovery.

In the past, several players have capitalised on EVE's potential for exploration in order to craft for themselves a truly unique gameplay experience. In 2006, a new player by the name of Innominate Nightmare went on a roaming tour of EVE's lawless nullsec regions. In his travels, he talked with the locals and reported on daily events as they unfolded. The intrepid explorer soon discovered a New Eden fraught with war but at the same time bonded by it. Every space station and alliance-claimed system held stories of the blood spilled over its liberation, the good times pilots had together there, and the monumental efforts alliances had undertaken to carve a home for themselves out of the void.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I immerse myself in some of EVE's most unique exploration experiences and look at how you can become lost in New Eden's awesome sights and stories.

Lost in space

This week, I came across an incredible blog dedicated entirely to sight-seeing and travel in EVE. EVE Travel follows the explorative adventures of Mark726, with the occasional report from a guest contributor. In his trusty cloaked Buzzard, Mark visits some of EVE's most admired landmarks and reports on both the sights he finds there and the local lore. With an excellent writing style and some fantastic screenshots of the areas explored, EVE Travel is a perfect example of what it means to explore. Reading through the reports, I feel excited at the prospect of visiting those places and becoming enraptured by the local lore.

Many of the finds discussed on EVE Travel can be dangerous places to visit. Tough NPC military complexes and landmarks in heavily-pirated systems provide an interesting challenge in the evasive tactics that any explorer must come to live by. The megalithic nullsec alliances protect their borders well and tend to destroy everything in sight, but no border in EVE is impenetrable and no blockade eternal. If you find a gatecamp blocking your travel, try to find an alternate route to your destination system. Logging on immediately after EVE's daily downtime ends or during your adversary's off-peak hours can also help you slip through the net. Never let anyone tell you that you can't visit any of New Eden's systems.

Tools of the trade

Exploring EVE is something that can be done on a completely new character, even on a trial account. The starter ship or a cheap shuttle are all you need to start a tour of New Eden. If you tour EVE for long enough, you'll eventually stumble into the lawless nullsec regions or find yourself in a combat encounter, so it's best not to use an expensive ship. Players with access to covert ops frigates should definitely use them, as the ability to warp while cloaked provides a lot of survivability. Hit your cloaking device immediately after hitting the warp button to give enemies no time during which to lock your ship.

If you plan to visit nullsec, remember that warp disruption bubbles will put even a cloaked covert ops frigate at risk. If you've got ISK literally pouring out of your ears, a tech 3 strategic cruiser with the covert ops and interdiction nullifier subsystems provides the absolute best survivability for touring nullsec. Many of the combat sites and hidden military complexes in EVE have locked acceleration gates or keycard passes, access to which will require you to destroy some NPCs. If you're exploring using a trial account, ask the locals for help in accessing these areas. You'll often find players willing to help out, and you may learn things about the landmark from other players that you wouldn't if experiencing it first-hand.

Places to visit

If I were to list every system and landmark worth visiting in EVE, this column would reach a truly ridiculous length. There are so many worthwhile places to visit that it can be difficult to know where to start your journey. Many Official landmarks can be found by opening the EVE map and selecting DED Deadspace Report under the Stars tab. There are many sites and landmarks spread throughout the game, but each faction has one special constellation in which many of them are concentrated. These COSMOS constellations are an amazing place to visit, explore and take some holiday pictures of.

For those who have good standings with the local faction, COSMOS constellations contain special one-time missions that let you take an active part in the story. The Algintal constellation in particular has always held a special place in my heart. The sites here tell the tale of a Gallente tourism and industry empire now overrun by Serpentis pirates, smugglers, terrorist corporations and rogue drones. The skeleton comet in Deltole, the Canyon of Rust in Alsottobier and Azure Canyon in Colelie are all worth a visit. These sites tell of the Wirikomi corporation's negotiated takeover of Gallente business interests in the Sinq Liason region and the aggressive response by Serpentis pirates and Fon activists.

A final thought...

The promise of true exploration in an MMO is a lure that few can resist. CCP has done a good job of providing interesting landmarks to explore and a rich backstory to discover, but ultimately it's the player-made lore that lends EVE exploration its intoxicating draw. If you visit the wreck of the first ever destroyed titan in C9N-CC, you're seeing the event that led to the downfall of EVE's largest ever industrial alliance Ascendant Frontier.

Similarly, when you pass the Gallente administration outpost in KDF-GY, you're seeing something created by the collaborative efforts of hundreds of pilots -- an originally neutral outpost built as part of EVE's first ever public investment opportunity. As I tour EVE tonight in my cloaked Anathema, googling for information on all the oddities I come across and asking the locals for more details, I find myself becoming lost in EVE's living history. And I'm loving every moment of it.

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 brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.