Sunday, April 10, 2011

14 Days of EVE Online: Days 1-4

The universe of New Eden beckoned to me from the EVE Online's login screen. It looked glorious. Little ships, like stars in their own right, glittering against the blackness of space, dwarfed by celestial bodies more than ten times their size. It was breath-taking.

Unfortunately, the first message I was greeted with was a window telling me that I couldn't connect to the server because "The socket was closed." Multiple attempts were fruitless, so I ventured onto Google to try to find a solution. Apparently, because EVE is a single-shard game (that is, it has one server), any sort of latency can disrupt your connection to the server. Or, at least, that's what I gathered from the forums.

And since my university's wonderful Internet infrastructure is so advanced, I had the great luck of having 100% packet loss when I plotted my ping. So, quite disappointed, I turned EVE off and resigned myself to a couple hours of Guild Wars.

However, in what I thought was a final, futile attempt, I tried logging on again at about 11 PM and, miraculously, I was able to connect. I was taken through character creation where I spent a good part of the hour reading about the four empires, their bloodlines, and finalizing my choices. At about midnight, I had my finished capsuleer: a Jin-Mei of the Gallente Federation named Will Agatheon.

Having classes the next day, however, I had to turn in for the night. In the morning, before heading off to macro, I tried logging in just to see if the latency was still an issue. When the error message, "the socket was closed," came up, I took a deep, disappointed breath and left the dorm.

I had better luck later that night when I started the first tutorial missions. I had heard a lot about EVE's steep, unforgiving learning curve, so I paid close attention to the tutorial. I learned how to get my bearings in space, maneuvering, targeting, etc. The wealth and breadth of information you have to absorb is astounding.

Unlike other MMOs, EVE has an entirely player-run economy. Players harvest raw materials, refine it into resources, and manufacture goods such as ammunition, ship fittings, and even entire ships. Any capsuleer can find his niche in the system, whether as a miner, a manufacturer, a trader, etc. 

As much fun as it is to orbit space rocks and melt them with lasers, I finished the industry tutorial with gusto. I was eager to try out combat. Hopping into a more combat-oriented frigate that the tutorial agent was so kind to give me, I zoomed off into space.

Combat in EVE is similar enough to other MMOs that anybody with any MMO experience can learn it. It's obviously turn-based with some dice-rolling going on beneath the hood that calculates hit/miss and damage. To destroy an enemy ship, you must be able to reduce its shields, armor, and hull before it reduces yours.

However, combat in EVE is a bit more complex and adds depth to the turn-based convention. The game takes into account the speed of the ships. Combat is about maneuvering into optimal range of your guns while ideally keeping your opponent outside of his. This amounts to a sort of dance in space -- bigger ships, such as cruisers, battlecruisers, and battleships tend to pack heavier weapons, heavier defenses, but slower speed; while smaller ships, like frigates, can accelerate to much higher speeds, though with lighter armaments.

This leads to a tactic called speed-tanking. Armor-tanking and shield-tanking would be tactics that are more familiar to non-EVE MMO players, but speed-tanking is where a lighter ship can avoid damage from a heavier ship by simply moving faster than the heavy ship's turrets tracking speed. It's a mechanic that is very unique to EVE and what adds to the depth of its combat system.

As a final note for this post, I'd like to mention how beautiful the universe of New Eden is. One would think space to be a boring, black void, but the folks at CCP Games have crafted awesome vistas that ignore that notion. Ships and stations are extremely detailed. Visual effects, like the thrust of a missile as it launches from your ship or the detonation of an enemy vessel upon its destruction, are amazing.

The first four days of EVE Online, though punctuated mostly by tutorial missions, have been fun. It's the fun I haven't had in an MMO in a long time. Whether I'll be willing to pay to play, well, that's still up in the air.

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