EVEntually I'll figure this out – Part I

Now that my MMO Resume is out of the way, I thought I’d dive into a post about my beginning experiences in EVE Online.

I hope to present a truly fresh perspective on the “New Player Experience” to EVE Online since I had never spent any amount of time in New Eden prior to 6 weeks ago. The most I’d seen of EVE was a few screen-shots and random reviews at various gamer sites across the net, but I’d never actually played the game.

As I was looking for a substitute to my World of Warcraft addiction I came across EVE. After reading countless posts to the tune of “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” for new players I was a bit put off, yet I figured heck I’m a logical guy, how hard can it truly be? So I downloaded the trial and dove in.

My first thirty to forty-five minutes were spent in the character creation wizard. It wasn’t too bad, with lots of options to tweak and contort various facial features and such. I was a bit disappointed in the fact that you could only design your face and to some extent the angle at which your characters faced as opposed to your characters physique, etc., I found the background option fairly cheesy. I was hoping to make a nice rotund pirate with a mustache, but alas I was left with a character with a fair amount still to be desired. I was eager to get to the meat of the action so I used my standard MMO naming convention and clicked ‘create’.

I then realized why there was little need to design anything but your characters face, since it was now reduced to a very static, very small thumbnail of what I just spent nearly an hour nit-picking. Ah well I thought, if in the end my character was simply going to be a small sticker image I better make it a bit more dramatic. Relog, delete said character, re-create. “We’re sorry, you must wait 24 hours before you can delete your character. Goodbye” Uh, what? Then it hit me, the masses sure weren’t kidding about EVE being so unforgiving. So there I was, knowing that I was going to (hopefully) be spending alot of time in New Eden attached to my character I’d just wait until tomorrow before official beginning his training. Until then I’d just mess around with some random’toon and get my sea legs, though I was a bit put-off by the experience.

After creating this new temporary ‘toon, I was there floating in space in my shiny new rookie ship. “Hello!” said the tutorial helper…next, next, next, close. Who actually reads those instruction manuals anyway? WASD…nothing, UpDownLeftRight…nothing. How the heck do I move around anyways? Guess I should have read that tutorial after-all, now how to get I get it back up? After a few minutes fumbling around I managed to find the tutorial again and read through the initial entries. Eventually I was slowing moving around in space.

Once I got the basics down my new EVE Mantra became ‘When in doubt, right-click’. The context-menu apparently controls the majority of actions you can perform. That doesn’t say much for user discovery, but it works I guess. I deducted that the ‘Overview’ was the meat-and-potatoes item of the UI so I spent some time getting familiar with it. I’m still a bit confused on how to save configurations and tabs, but I’ve managed to get by with the ‘Default’ setup so far.

Once I was done with the ‘Overview’ I moved on to the character pane. Without a formal explanation of the various pages the one ones that seemed the most relevant to me were the skills pane and, to some extent, the certificates pane. It wasn’t clear to me at first what good the certificates were, but then I realized it was more of a guide for standard character skill progression. Fair enough.

I then tackled the skill training queue. This was a little overwhelming given that there are hundreds of skills to wrap your mind around. Then I remembered reading in one blog post about EVEMon and EFT. These are utilities that help in skill planning and ship fitting. I skipped EFT for the moment (since I still didn’t have a clue what ‘ship fitting’ even meant) and downloaded EVEMon. I had it running earlier in the day at work but I had only given it a cursory look. Now, I figured, I’d plan out my characters skills! How grandiose a claim for such a newbie. I soon realized it was a wee bit more complicated than that. I spent nearly an hour fiddling with EVEMon and it still didn’t really make sense. It was hard for me to really see a general, set character  ‘career path’. Then I remembered that’s what certificate planning was for. But even after going over that I couldn’t surmise what it meant to be an ‘Industrialist’ for example. Ah well, in time I’ll get it all sorted out I thought.

I did a little research on the best possible ‘newbie build’ of skills and came across this post about Learning skills. This post mapped out all the skills a new character would want in order to shave down their training of skills through-out their life in New Eden. “Alright” I said, piece of cake. Makes sense I’ll queue them all up. Oh wait, this will take 40+ days to complete? Ouch, maybe not.

I tested a few builds using the newly acquired ‘Learning Build’ and saw that it did in deed save, in some cases, days of training. But what I still have trouble justifying is that if, in the long run, I save 7 days total on a skill plan that will take upwards of 6 months to complete if I have the ‘Learning Build’ all trained to level 5, it will take 40+ days just to get to that point. If I started the plan now, sure I may end up a week later than if I had the learning skills, but that would still be a net gain of 33 days. Ah well, I know it must be worth it so I begrudgingly queue up what I could of my learning skills. This was all made easier to swallow when I came across this post about a good core set of skills to work on first before you jump into the black-hole of newbie learning skills training. It helped alot, so that was the path I went down.

Back to my foray in tutorials. The other thing I discovered was the loot you get from doing them. After reading through a few pages I had some nice, shiny new skillbooks in my cargo hold. (Don’t ask how I finally figured that one out, I spent forever trying to find hot-keys for actions) So I burned through nearly ever tutorial I could find. In the end I believe I had 7 skills and 2 ships. Most of which I couldn’t use yet, which kind of torqued me off, but oh well, free loot is still free.

Eventually I found my way to a station and docked for the night. My first experience in EVE was a success, though there were some rough spots at times. The learning curve is definitely steep and even after playing for nearly 2 months I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. The nay-sayers of the new player experience definitely have a right to complain. It just felt to me that explanations of the various game components was lacking and didn’t impart a sense of lasting knowledge onto the user. Give a man a fish, feed him for a week. Teach him to fish…you get the picture. I heard this was even the re-vamped NPE. I would hate to imagine what it was originally like. Either way, a little persistence and a good dose of patience goes a long way. In the end it was an enjoyable time, enough so that I’m still here.

That’s good for Part I, it’s probably too long as it stands already. I will share a few more thoughts and some insight into my first taste of mission running and combat in Part II, stay tuned.


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