EVE Online Diary #2

Article

posted 10/16/2006 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
My Caldari frigate, a tier-one Merlin class fighter, cuts a v-necked silhouette against the blue Sobaseki sun. I’ve warped past the star a dozen times on various missions (courier, seek-and-destroy, trade) but indeed I’d thought it was only a background graphic of sorts. Its size shifts unhurriedly, its apparent magnitude never implying anything more than it being a photogenic but otherwise ineffectual prop. Then, in an inexplicable fit of wanderlust, I determine that I’m going to soar into the sun.  I fly to the planet nearest Sobaseki, curve my ship toward the star, and warp to that seemingly non-functional center of the solar system.
 
Surprise grips me. The warp engines cut out at a healthy 150,000 km distance, but Sobaseki flares and churns under its own fiery tentacles, looming larger than ever. Apparently, the stars are set to scale. I veer my Merlin onto an approach vector. This will be the ultimate ride into the sunset.
 
Until, about 30 minutes in, I do the math. I pull up EVE’s in-game calculator (handy for large transactions and, now, time-distance calculations) and find that at 275 meters per second -- not a bad speed considering my lack of afterburners or micro warp drives -- I will reach the sun in approximately …
 
…eight days. Not eight sped-up day and night cycles as most MMOs proffer. Eight real world days of constant no-logging-out progress. 
 
Suffice it to say, I’m convinced of this system’s spatial authenticity, and I abruptly abort my ride into the sunset. I’m trying, but wrapping my head around the sheer immensity of the EVE universe and its 5,000+ star systems is simply impossible at this time. The dimensions of the galaxy just keep on expanding.
 
There is a multiplicity of reasons why EVE Online is not the game for you. Reasons that have been dutifully carved out over the short history of massively multiplayer online games by disgruntled forum posters and disgruntled game reviewers. Reasons that butt heads with nouveau MMO mantras swearing against grinding, swearing against free-for-all PvP, and swearing against painful death penalties.
 
And yet, so much of what EVE does well flies in the face of these arbitrary standards supposedly cementing the MMO genre in place. The designers at CCP have got their MFAs in Reverse Psychology, and, critics be damned, their ideas work. You can adhere yourself to a single agent, say Internal Security, that bestows mission after mission of combat action; and you can grind away to your heart’s content, building up your standing with the agent and, subsequently, the attached corporation (which translates into higher quality agents, exponentially growing monetary awards, et cetera). Or you could look into the job variety handed out by Legal, Command, Astrosurveying, Mining, and Marketing agents. There are more. You could settle into the expected #1 money-maker in EVE and start strip mining asteroid belts. A regular 9 to 5 in piracy or bounty hunting is not uncalled-for either and has great leads for adventurous types. 
 


With the larger-than-life corporate tools handed down, I’ve found respectable employment as a Human Resources Assistant and Public Relations Manager…
 
Excuse me?
 
Who the hell wants to play a “game” in which you settle comfortably into the damnably white-collar shoes of an HR Assistant?
 
Well, the option is there, and the ability to establish such roles (no matter how seemingly trivial and/or banal) is just one more thoroughly conceived convention within the garage-sized toolbox that pushes EVE onto a higher shelf than too many other MMOs: MMOs that don’t think of it, don’t feel they need it, or don’t have the capacity to implement it. And, trust me, when I’m not correlating spreadsheets that coordinate the Card Shark’s signing bonuses and division-of-labor setups, there’s plenty of time for fraggin’ rats.
 
Why else might this not be your cup of Earl Grey? Because death can hurt in EVE. It can hurt big time. If you’re cocky enough to fly around your spankin’ new Scorpion class battleship without insurance … or impulsive enough to forget to upgrade your clone (consider it medical insurance) … then you will quickly feel the sting of how permanent loss is in the EVE universe.
 
Consider what would happen if -- take World of Warcraft, for instance -- getting killed in a fight meant losing all your armor, weapons, and magical items, too. Consider what would happen if this could take place anywhere, anytime, with zero delineation between safe ground and no-man’s land. Consider, if you will, the gravity of every decision you make in a world like that. No, in EVE you don’t do a corpse run, or take a small experience hit, and then get right back into the swing of things. Again, without the wherewithal to keep your ship insurance and clone up to date, you’ll find that the galaxy can reach deep into where it really hurts: your wallet … and your time invested into skill training.
 
The brilliant training system is set up to continuously build points toward a selected skill. Even when you’re offline, the clock is ticking and your character is gaining in ability. Lower skill blocks may only require half an hour to train. Higher skills, ones that are a good distance up the learning tree (and with plenty of zeroes and commas attached to their price tags), can take over a month to complete. Whether or not you are out in the space lanes blasting away at pirates, or casually hovering inside of a trade station and scanning the chat channels, your skills are accumulating.
 
Why this training system hasn’t spawned copycats in other MMOs is utterly baffling. It is, bar none, the most satisfying skill progression I’ve witnessed in an online game, and it’s simultaneously one that makes every single minute count -- and makes every single minute try your patience. In most cases, it’s simply a matter of a watched pot never boiling.
 
As we speak, I’m trying not to watch the pot boil on my training to get into a tier-two frigate, otherwise classified as an assault ship. I appreciate the speed and maneuverability of smaller ships too much to give it up for the slower, meatier vessels. Sure, I could’ve prematurely dove into destroyers and then into cruisers by now -- but I wouldn’t have had the skills to equip one properly. A common rookie mistake is to go headlong into piloting bigger and bigger hulls at the earliest possible opportunity, but then lacking the skills devoted to purchasing and operating higher caliber and higher quality equipment. The result? It’s like driving a Dodge Viper … with only a 4-cylinder engine under the hood. Most people will be intimidated by the body of your car, sure, but the moment someone decides to test you will be your ugly and immediate downfall.
 
As Cypress Hill once said, “I ain’t goin’ out like that.”
 
Oh, I have no doubt that, one day, death will come a-knockin’. But I’ll be waiting for him, grinning, with Prototype I Gauss Guns and Sabretooth Fury Missiles locked and loaded.
 
There is no other space simulator like EVE Online. Stop looking.