Eve Online: Final Thoughts

By Shamus
on Feb 18, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

In my previous post I mentioned that for my first real job in the game my employer sent me on a mission of certain death that ended with the destruction of my first ship. After playing all weekend, I’m still stuck on this very first newbie mission*. I’ve upgraded my ship twice and upgraded many skills, and I’m no closer to success than when I first started. I’ve experimented with different ships and weapon loadouts, messed about with different defensive configurations, and even tried doing the mission at different times of the day. No matter how I play it, the enemy fighters usually take half of my shields before I can get off my first ineffectual shot.

When I arrive at the spot where I’m supposed to kill the pirates, there are two groups of ships. One is in the distance, and one is right on top of me, so that they establish a weapons lock as soon as I drop out of warp. Perhaps the distant group is my intended target, and the other is a stronger force which is there for other reasons? My ship is now strong enough that if I’m really quick and begin warping out the moment I arrive, I can escape with only minimal damage to the structure of my ship. There is one last level of ships available to me in the demo. If I train skills for four more days, and earn another couple of million dollars (about two days of steady work) then I’ll have access to the next grade of ship. Still, I’m so far outclassed that I don’t think it would be enough. In any event, I think by that time I will have spent over two and a half million bucks beating a mission with a $67,000 reward.

Welcome to the game, newbie!

Dangit, there is a reason most games are built on top of a steady upward slope of increasing challenge instead of a mild incline followed by a sheer, smooth wall. A game which has sharp upward spikes in the danger level, and which gives the player no way to appraise that danger in advance, is a game which is more or less designed to kill characters. It’s not so much a game of stats-building as a giant, Massively Multiplayer Online Russian Roulette. (MMORR)

I’m sure I could ask for help on the rookie channel and find a high-level buddy to help me take take these guys out so I can proceed with my quests. I could start another character from another part of the galaxy, where I probably won’t get this particular mission. But I shouldn’t have to resort to this sort of thing to get past newbie mission #1. Is it bad balancing? A bug? Poorly placed bad guys? I don’t really care to diagnose the problem further. The game threw me to the wolves, and I think I’ve wasted too much time on it already. I can see in the Rookie Chat that I’m not the only person to find themselves in the deep end tied to an anchor. My problem isn’t an aberration or a one-time fluke. There seems to be a steady supply of newbies being daunted by early missions.

I was hoping to get a little further so I could talk about the more in-depth aspects of the game, but that isn’t going to happen.

Here are some final thoughts:

The mining is very lackluster. I played Earth & Beyond a few years ago. (The E&B servers shut down in 2004, and the game is now gone.) Now that game had fun mining. Asteroids had luminous crystalline formations jutting from their surface that gave you a clue as to what minerals they contained. While probably not realistic, they looked compelling and were fun to work on. You would chew on it with your mining beam for twenty seconds, then move on to the next rock. There was always the hope that the next rock would have a nugget of really valuable minerals inside. It was like opening presents, or doing scratch-off lottery tickets. There was always the hope that the next one would be a winner. Even if it wasn’t, you were still making steady progress. By contrast, all of the asteroids in Eve Online are dull grey lumps with nothing in the way of surprises. You hit it with your beam for three minutes , then fly back home and sell it. The intervals of player interaction are too far apart to keep the player interested, but too close together to let them go do something else in the meantime. It’s very dull, and there isn’t anything to do while you’re waiting for the beam to do its thing. Yawn.

The ships are dull, dull, dull. I own several now. They are all mangled pointy things painted the same industrial rust color as everyone else’s. I think each race has a single color for all of their ships, but beyond that it’s just the same crap, over and over. Again, the ability to stick a few pointy bits onto the ship or give it a custom paint job would have been really welcome.

The Market system is a portal into a realm of pure madness. It’s so powerful it’s paralyzing. You can buy items in other star systems, which you must then visit if you hope to take custody of your new purchase. There are numerous types of ammo and several sizes of each of those types, so finding an item that you need, which you can afford, and which doesn’t require forty-five minutes of flying to obtain, is a real challenge. I made lots of mistakes and bought a lot of wrong stuff. This is a classic problem in any game. You want depth to make the game compelling and offer more gameplay, but that same depth makes learning the game daunting.

Eve Online

I really love the graphics and music. I am going to miss that feeling of cruising through the void, embraced in a massive cloud of azure gas as the naked sun illuminates the nearby sea of silent, drifting asteroids. This part of the game was deeply satisfying. Likewise, the raw visceral speed of warp travel was a palpable thing, and it took actual effort to avoid saying “engage” when I gave the command to enter warp.

Lots of fans of the game spoke up for it, and their comments here, here, and here give a more complete view of what this game is like, long-term. Almost all of their motivations for playing are things which I would classify as drawbacks. It depends on what you’re looking for in a game, really.

As I mentioned before, you can play the game for 14 days without needing to spend a dime. You can download the client and create an account without even the promise of money changing hands. So it’s pretty risk-free from a monetary standpoint.

* For the curious, the mission is in the Abudban system. The pirates are blockading a stargate, although I couldn’t tell you which one. I’m flying a Slasher. The mission in question is called “The Blockade.” Lots and lots of people are also having trouble with the “Worlds Collide” mission. Most of the advice offered by higher-level players can be boiled down to “get a better ship” and “stop sucking so bad”.

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From the Archives:

  1. Malkara says:

    Honestly, I can see what you’re talking about, I just started playing again about 4 days ago (on a free trial atm), and was actually kinda O_o when I saw that you had similarly started trying the game out. I died a couple times at first, losing my newbie ship, which wasn’t too big of a problem. I eventually managed to buy the next level of ship, and with the use of missile launchers (and fleeing every time I came close to dying), I eventually managed to clear out a good number of missions. Now, with my Kestrel, and a bunch of missiles, I haven’t died at all, and have managed to make 2 million (which I guess isn’t alot, really, but I haven’t been playing all that much) solely from missions, bounties, and loot.

  2. Robert says:

    Well, it’s a shame you haven’t been able to enjoy the game…you do know that you can blow off your agent and just find other people to work for, right?

    Re: mining, it is indeed deadly dull. I think most solo miners mine when they feel like chatting – open a chat window and talk to your buddies, and meanwhile farm some rock. The hardcore people do it as a business – big gangs of exhumers and freighters pop into extremely dangerous space, wipe out the pirates, and hold a perimeter against other players while the mining ships go to work. It’s a bit more interesting when you do it like that.

  3. Phlux says:

    I played this game in the first closed beta. I’ve never been big on MMO games, but my friend in college who was a huge Ultima Online player got me excited about it. I like space games and this one looked amazing.

    A lot of your complaints haven’t changed at all since the first beta. Granted I haven’t played it since then, but your compaints are all the same ones we had way back when. I’m kind of glad I didn’t sink any more time into it.

    I wish I could take its graphics engine and make a sweet single player game out of it, though. Like you the only thing I miss about the game is the enviornment.

  4. Adam Bloom says:

    Re: The Blockade

    As I recall, this is one of the tougher level 1 missions. It’s not, by the way, the first newbie mission. Once you get out of the tutorial your missions are randomly chosen from a pool. You could quit the mission and get a new one (from the same agent, or from a different one) and probably have better luck.

    >There is one last level of ships available to me in the demo. If I train skills for four more days, and earn another couple of million dollars

    This isn’t exactly true. You’re flying a slasher, which is only the second tier frigate. The rifter, which will only cost you 260,000isk, can easily finish any level 1 mission (including world’s collide, if you know the trick). The skills will take you under 8 hours, but you probably already have them.

    Re: Mining

    It sucks. That’s all I can really say.

    Re: The Market

    It is quite complex, and it gives the game a bit of a learning curve. However, the depth is uncomparable. You may not realize this, but 80-90% of the market is driven by the players. So I would argue that yes, the learning curve is a bit steep, but the end result is worth it.

  5. Cineris says:

    Kind of disappointing to hear you are giving it up so soon. Strangely, I’ve felt pretty compelled to play this game from what you’ve said about it. I may try to do the free trial next weekend if I have some time.

  6. Jim says:

    Sorry to hear the game didn’t do it for you.

    FWIW, I think you stumbled onto the weaker parts of the game by setting out to be a miner. As Adam Bloom said, mining sucks. It’s boring, it’s non-interactive, and it’s not even all that profitable in Empire space. The best that can be said for it is that with the right setup, you can mine while doing something else as long as you’re able to click a button every three minutes.

    If you start a combat character, it can have access to better ships right away, and will be every bit as good at mining as a mining character. A mining character’s advantages don’t come out until later, where higher-level skills make mining and processing ore faster and more efficient. Of course, it would be helpful if the game had a way of telling you that from the start.

    Also, if you’ve run the tutorial missions, you should have plenty of money for a better ship. The way I think things run is:

    1. Tutorial runs you through how to play the game, sends you into some very basic flight, then hands you off to the tutorial agent.

    2. The tutorial agent gives some basic missions (lots of courier, then some fighting at the end). When all that’s done, you get a nice reward – usually an implant that’s worth 500,000 – 1,000,000 ISK.

    3. Then you’re on your own to find any agent. At this point you should have enough money to fly something that can finish almost all level 1 missions.

    Agents give different missions depending on who they work for, too. Agents for your starting corporation are sometimes good choices, because they’re more likely to give courier missions and more likely to give skill books as rewards (which saves you from buying them).

    Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to run missions. You can hunt pirates in asteroid belts — the higher security the system, the easier the pirates are to kill.

    Finally, it’s okay to tell agents to bugger off if a mission is too hard. Unless you do it too often, they’re not going to stop talking to you. Once you start recognizing the missions, you can reject the missions before you start them, which costs you no standing (as long as you don’t do it more than once every four hours or so).

    I started playing EVE when I dredged up Starflight and remembered how cool it was. EVE sounded like an online version of Starflight, but it’s not. It’s Tradewars 2000 with a (somewhat) fancy interface.

  7. perianwyr says:

    Yeah, there’s really two different EVE Onlines. One is mining stupid shit in empire (space that is greater than 0.4 security rating) and dying to NPCs in missions in your Slasher, and the other is rocking out in a 2000 man alliance, blowing up things worth about as much in real world money as a good used car.

    I think EVE’s real failure is that the alliance game is so awesome, yet the learning curve is so steep and the newbie Empire game is horribly lacking.

    I’m enjoying being in one of the major factions in the current intergalactic war going on (pretty much everyone living in 0.0 is in on this in some way) but if I was in Empire I literally would have no idea of all the stuff that the real me was up to. Also, monetary rewards for activity in 0.0 are vastly greater than those of Empire- so much so that you ask yourself, why bother.

  8. ArchU says:

    EVE Online has some very good aspects and some very bad aspects. You’ve pointed out most of the good aspects already so I’ll just highlight my own thoughts on these:

    For the good – the game is constantly being updated with new content. Updates are free and must be downloaded before you can begin play. Fortunately most of them are small patches.

    Bad – the game is constantly being updated with new content. Keeping up to date with the changes can be very daunting and some of the changes detract from the enjoyment of the game and have a tendency to overcomplicate things.

    Good – you can bookmark warp points to make system travel quicker. Some people even sell “instajump” waypoints which you can add to your bookmarks and travel instantly from jump gate A to jump gate B (effectively landing right on the jump gate instead of 15 kms out). Bookmark mid-warp to create a little safe-haven within a system when you need to avoid those pesky pirates.

    Bad – travel can still take a long time, especially in uncharted territory when you have no instajumps bookmarked. Pirates exploit this every time.

    Good – the skill set is very diverse and an effective control mechanism to direct a character and eliminates the social diversity of a level-dependent system.

    Bad – the skill system is fundamentally flawed. Have either a time multiplier OR prerequisites when learning a difficult skill but not both. Learning to run isn’t that much more difficult if you already know how to walk. The person who developed this mechanic of the game was a genius for figuring out how to keep people playing (read: paying) for so long.

    I played EVE for 4 months and eventually wrenched myself away, mostly based on this last point. It was enjoyable, especially playing with people I knew and communicating in real time with a VOIP-style system.

  9. AJ says:

    I still love the game. Usually people take those early missions on expecting what they saw in the tutorial and get shocked. I didn’t get any help when I first started either and although it took me a day, I was able to get into a Rifter and set it up with a nice grouping of autocannons. Add an afterburner for speed and an armor repper for when I’m getting stomped and the rest is just icing.

    Point being, it’s not about the power of the ship. I can fit a frigate that can beat a cruiser depending on how it’s fit, and so can most players who’ve been in for a bit. The learning curve isn’t like other MMO’s where at level 4 you can handle anything that’s “grey” or whatever color scheme they’re using. Your skills in Eve give you new options and the rest is up to the individual to figure out. Joining a corporation to have friends who’ve already beat their heads against a wall learning some things helps too. You can’t be “power leveled” so the best you can do is talk to other folks and it’s always enough to keep moving along.

    Also, as a miner, I enjoy the peace and quiet (well, it’s quiet after you get things rolling with a friend distracting all of the “rats” (pirate npc ships) in a belt. You don’t need a lick of combat skill for it and the guy who operates Eve-Files doesn’t even leave safe space to mine. I would hope you could keep giving it a go, but if not, enjoy NWN2 and the subsequent violence levied upon your computer monitor :-)

  10. Shamus says:

    Okay, after examining this mission a bit more:

    There are TWO bugs in play. One is that there are high-level rats close to low-level ones. The ones I’m supposed to fight are the Gisti Rogues.

    But as soon as I warp in, I’m ganked by Gisti Nomads and a Gisti Ambusher. The ambusher is the bad one: He’s nailing me with missles that (with my first ship) killed me before I could escape, then (with my Slasher) barely let me escape and finally (with my rifter) I can take him out, although finishing off the rest of the gang means jumping in & out.

    The SECOND bug is that among the guys I’m SUPPOSED to be fighting, the leader (my target) isn’t there. I managed to finish off the nomads (I lost a lot of money, for repairs between each ship) and it took a long time. One the nomads were gone, I went for the rogues, who were pushovers. I can put them down in two or three “rounds”. The problem is, I killed them all and the leader wasn’t there! I’d cleared the area, all rats dead, and the mission is still “incomplete”. The leader I’m supposed to kill doesn’t exist.

    This game hates me.

    I’m starting to hate it back.

  11. Adam Bloom says:

    I could be wrong, but I think the Blockade is a two-part mission. Is there an acceleration gate somewhere in the mission area?

    Just a quick note (and you may have figured this out already) but do you have your rifter armor-tanked with a armor plate (prefereably 200mm) and a small armor repairer? I don’t remember how tough nomads are, so it may just be that they take some run-and-gunning, but a good armor tank can help a lot.

  12. Michael says:

    The learning curve in Eve is a brick wall, and not enough is done to address the issue, for the obvious reasons. That said it is the only mmrpg out there that is more than an upjumped hybrid of Diablo and Baldur’s gate. It sounds like you need to move onto a second mission area, check to see if another mision bookmark has been added. If you want to get past this pareticular incident, try finding another agent to get missions from, preferably from a non-military corp.

  13. David says:

    I’ve been playing EVE for almost a year now, and I’m quite thoruoghly hooked. It’s best and worst feature is that the game is so huge, and there are so many things to do. It’s great for obvious reasons, but bad in that there is no way they could make an effective guide to cover all the possibilities, so it’s up to the player to figure things out.

    The problem you are having with the blockade comes from two things: first, it’s one of the hardest missions in the game, period. At each “level” of mission, the blockade is basically equivalent to the next level. So you’re getting a “level 1” mission, which really should be considered “level 2”. Second, when you selected your starting “profession” you went for “miner”, but then you turned around and talked to an NPC agent, so you’re following the “mission runner” profession path. They really goofed by not having NPCs that would give you missions relevant to your chosen career, like “go mine 1000 omber for me”. (You can get missions like this, but they’re few and far betweenn, and usually they just annoy the people who want combat missions.)

    The way the blockade is supposed to work is that there are one or more sqauds of NPC ships blockading a stargate. One ship is a trigger, when you kill that ship another wave warps in, repeat 4 times and the last wave has the boss you need to kill. Normally you can figure out the trigger ship by looking at which ship is “unique”, ie you have a 3 angel raiders, 3 angel nomads, and 1 angel ambusher, the ambusher is the trigger. Sometimes it’s a little trickier, in that there are ambushers in both of the squads, but one squad is 3 ambushers, and the other squad is 3 nomads and an ambusher, so the lone ambusher is the trigger.

  14. jdhays says:

    My experience was very similar to Shamus’. After having a fun time during the tutorial, I bought and outfitted a Slasher. After a couple of easy “kill the pirates and spys” missions, my agent gave me a mission to kill four groups of pirates. I was quite surprised when the first group nearly blasted me out of the sky. Luckily I warped back to the station to repair. It took me four hit and run passes to kill the first group.

    The second group took no time in blasting me before I could warp away. So I upgraded to the next ship. It was eight jumps away and I made the trip in a pod! Outfitted it out nicely and went after those pirates. Got in one kill before they blasted my shiny new ship out of the sky.

    You would have to put the time and energy of a second job, in order to make it in this game. Between accountancy and Gnome Rogue, I just have got the time. I also didn’t like how the Gallic sounding empire is the only true democracy and the capitalist empire was a heartless businessman’s Sparta. Nowadays, people feel compelled to muddy-up a good game or story with petty politics. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

  15. Shamus says:

    Yeah I thought the “capitalisim” form of goverment was gibberish, too.Technically, the freedom-loving guys would have to be capitalist as well.

  16. Robert says:

    Hey, jfhsyd, just imagine how us poor Catholics feel! (The Amarr are supposed to be the offshoots of the Catholic Church, and are slavers, torturers, imperialist, etc.) I’m surprised Shamus didn’t mention that one.

  17. Shamus says:

    Robert: I totally missed the part where they were a Catholic offshoot. Yikes.

    They could have left the originating religion unspecified, which would let everyone put in the religion of their own choosing as the father of the bad guys. This would avoid stepping on anyone’s toes. Or, they could have made up some religion. We’re talking about over a millenia from now. It’s not like there isn’t room to be creative.

  18. Robert says:

    “You have offended my faith! Also, your framerate sucks.”

  19. Michael says:

    If you want a church with a giant creepy beaurocracy, its kinda hard NOT to model it on the Catholic church. They have the oldest extant beaurocracy in the world, which is no mean feat. The guys that make the game are European, they’re gonna have a European outlook on things. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t make for an interesting backdrop. I for one am a proud evil capitalist Caldari.

  20. jdhays says:

    I know they’re European and my country pride is a small part of it. But only a small part. It’s more of the case of “I’m tired of these old cliches. Bring me some new cliches.” Not just politics, but all the other things they harangue us about. It’s all going to seem dated in ten years.

    Then there comes a point where you demonize something so much, it stops being recognizable and starts to fall apart. Make the faction dog-eat-dog, but not evil. I want my character to be “born” in a faction that I can live with. I have problems with all four of them.

    That’s one thing that WoW does correctly. The Horde are not evil, they just are on the other side. The Horde and the Alliance are each working in the best interests of their people and those interests collide. I’d have no problem creating a character in any of the races and making a backstory to fit.

  21. AJ says:

    So, to clarify a few things:

    1) The Amarr are never specified as being Catholic in origin. It could be any number of things.

    2) There are indeed NPC’s that offer mining missions. You just need to work for a mining corporation. If you do some looking at the various corporations in game, you can usually find them. Also, agent works for a specific division, and that division will tell you what kind of missions you’ll run. Combat isn’t necessary in Eve: ever. You can play the entire game and never run into anything a newbie ship can’t spank. However, if you want to play the miner and also pick fights, it doesn’t work so well and you’re going to hit walls.

    3) Repair bills can be circumvented with repair skills. They’re under mechanic and it doesn’t take much to get armor repairers and even hull repairers available. Then, instead of spending isk to fix your ship, you just hang out in space and take care of things.

    If you need a hand, evemail 3rve in the game. That’s me and I’ll try to help as best I can. I’m usually busy during the days, but mornings and evenings are fine. I fly Minmatar as well so I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to make things easier for you

  22. Robert says:

    AJ, see the timeline for a specific mention of the church. It’s not a big deal, IMHO, but they did do it.

    But of you course you Minmatar rebel scum have always been troublemaker…;)

  23. greywulf says:

    I blame you on my blog, Shamus. Oh, and I review Eve Online too. Almost forgot about that.

  24. Wizzie says:

    I’ve been playing EVE online for a little over 9 months now, and have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. I’ve canceled my account twice (although I made sure to leave a month long skill in training), but keep coming back to it.

    I think the beauty of EVE, like most MMORPGs, is the player community that develops around it. What I like about EVE is that it takes the concept of “guilds” that most other MMOs use to describe organizations of players, and codifies them as true joint-stock corporations, which can own property, operate space stations, enter business transactions, stake claim on unsecured (read: 0.0) space, and go to war with one another. Playing EVE by yourself is a surefire way to get frustrated after the first week and uninstall it – the game is about making friends, and then working with them. For example, mining ore isn’t really a solo operation, it requires several people to be successful: a few to mine, a few to haul the minerals back to station, and a few to patrol the area for NPC pirates and other players whose intentions are slightly less than honest.

    Don’t let me forget the PvP experience. It’s why I’m addicted to EVE moreso than any other MMORPG since Ultima Online. For the first time since UO, victory in PvP depends more on player skill and strategy than being X levels higher than the other guy, or having gear worth 5x as much. A small frigate or two, properly equipped and piloted, can best a $50 million battleship. Combat depends not only on doing the most damage and taking the most hits, but incorporates electronic warfare, relative velocity/positioning, and energy management. Most combat occurs in small fleets of 5-20 ships of varying size and equipment, and depends on the skill of the fleet commander and the co-ordination of the fleet members. At the higher end of gameplay, fleets of 200+ ships clash for control of vast regions of space, and the fate of 1000+ member alliances are decided.

    I’m hardly an experienced EVE player, and my PvP skills are rather lacking (I started play as a miner, to be truthful), but I highly recommend giving EVE another shot. Start a new combat character (the character creation system has been overhauled in recent patches, it’s much harder to screw up), finish the tutorials, and head out into low security space (0.1-0.4) and start killing NPCs in asteroid belts. Make friends, get killed a few times by player pirates (or engage in some piracy yourself), and try out a few corporations until you find one that fits. By that point, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

    If you need some advice (or a little bit of isk, I’m rather poor), send an EVEmail to Trenai. I’m part of a great corporation that’s just moved into 0.0 territory, and we’re very welcoming of new members.

  25. Roleplay says:

    Wow! You should really give the new expansion a shot, and the game’s quality has nearly doubled since you gave this review.

  26. SeanMM says:

    As roleplay mentioned, Eve’s graphics have improved. Check that, they have been utterly overhauled!! The Trinity Patch enables an entirely new (and optional for those with older systems) graphics engine the pushes DirectX9.0c right to its limits. Eve used to look good considering the old engine was a product of 2003. Now Eve is brain blowing fantastic! at least in the eye candy department… Mining still requires the patience of a Tibetan Monk(while against EULA, bot mining is very very handy) and mission running is best done with friends lest you get blowed up.

    I still love it though. Im in space! woooo!

  27. HeroOfHyla says:

    I failed so hard at this game.

    I did fine in the tutorial (except the tutorial didn’t tell me I’d have to wait a long time between using a skill book and having the skill actually learned), and then decided to try some “exploration” missions. I have absolutely no idea what to do on the second one. Popups keep telling me that I’m not in a “rookie system,” but I think those are the tutorial attempting to restart itself for some reason.

    The instructions this mission gives don’t make much sense to me. “Proceed to the third room.” What does that mean? Did they forget this was set in space and call the zones rooms by accident? And it never tells me how to use the probes I found. Do I jettison them? I’m too nervous to try.

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