Monday, April 12, 2010

The EVE experiment

Following suggestions from mbp and other readers, I started playing EVE. They have a special offer until Wednesday where if you *didn't* play the trial version, you can get the full game plus the first month for 14.95, instead of 19.95, to compensate for the free trial days. As I last played EVE during the beta and the first two weeks after release, my knowledge of that game could use some update. Specifically I want to find out how EVE Online plays for the "average guy", as opposed to the small elite at the head of mighty corporations planning great wars and betrayals, which usually make the headlines in the MMO blogosphere. I doubt I'll play EVE for a very long time, but you never know, I'm certainly attracted by the economic part of the gameplay.

Opening an account was easy, and EVE Online accepts Paypal as payment method. Downloading and installing the game was likewise very smooth. The first real difficulty was creating a character, as you are given various choices for race and origin, with no clue how or whether these choices make any difference to gameplay. I so hope my random choice didn't gimp me in any way. After that you get right into your first epic battle - with the user interface. The default font for everything in EVE online is set to 10 point size, which probably was the right size back in 2003 when people were playing on 800 x 600 resolution, but which is unreadably small on the 1680 x 1080 resolution of a now more typical 22" screen. It took me a while and a Google search to find how to increase font size in EVE Online, but the sad news is that the biggest font on offer is 12 point plus wide mode, which makes text at least marginally readable, but is still rather small.

While some people compare part of EVE Online's gameplay to playing with an Excel spreadsheet, that sort of complexity doesn't turn me off, although I admit I'm still very much lost and will have to learn a lot to play this half way intelligently. I saw that on the market data display there is actually an option to export them as file, so apparently some people *do* play EVE on Excel. As "new player" I certainly found that this isn't a jump in and play game. But fortunately there are a lot of tutorials, and by default you are in a chat channel for "rookies", where I could ask stupid question like "where do I see how much ISK I have", and got a polite and correct answer. You try asking something basic in WoW city chat and compare the results.

I didn't play much yet, only did the "crash course" tutorial with two agent missions and looked around a bit. Combat feels weird, with your ship on auto-orbit and your laser on auto-fire, with you doing nothing. And the third person view isn't great for combat, I need to find out whether there is a cockpit view, or maybe just try to zoom in so far that I get into first person view. The tutorial is helpful, but not perfect. At one point for example I got a skill book as reward, for "refining", but to learn "refining" you need "industry 1" as prerequisite, and the tutorial hadn't explained how you got skill books. I managed to buy one on the market for 18k, but have no idea whether I was supposed to do that or paid far too much.

While looking at the market data I saw the buy offers for PLEX, which is the officially sanctioned RMT of EVE Online. I could buy a PLEX, which is a virtual one month time card, and sell it for 275 million ISK. I don't even have 275 thousand ISK yet, so for just 15 bucks I could become incredibly rich, from the point of view of a new player. But as in EVE there are no xp or levels, and skills are gained in real time, gathering ISK is basically the only progress indicator I have. Buying those 275 million ISK would completely destroy the feeling of progress I hope to get from actually playing the game and earning the virtual money the hard way.

The current plan is to play a bit more during the week, and then more intensively next weekend. I should also go and look for EVE newbie tips somewhere on the net, anyone have an idea where to find such a thing, or give me some advice on things I should absolutely do or not do?

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