EVE Evolved: It’s never too late to start playing EVE

    
56

Any time an in-depth discussion pops up about EVE Online, it’s never long before someone pipes up with the complaint that new players just can’t compete with veterans. EVE has been out for over 12 years now, and thanks to its realtime skill training mechanic, there are players who seem to have up to a 250 million skillpoint head start. Existing players have also had years to build up wealth, join together in huge alliances, learn how all the game mechanics work, figure out the best ship fittings, and get a lot of PvP practice. Actually catching up to the veterans in every way is next to impossible, but the truth is that you don’t need to. You can be very effective in PvE and PvP with just a few months of skill training and practice, and you can still contribute heavily to fleets with cheap tech 1 ships.

As EVE has been in constant development for 12 years, its history is full of moments when the rules of the game changed and the gulf between newbies and veterans suddenly shortened. When a new major feature comes out and changes the game in a significant way, new players and veterans alike must adapt and effectively have the same challenges and opportunities. We could be approaching one of those moments with Tuesday’s patch, which will turn sovereignty on its head by allowing small groups to potentially steal star systems from larger alliances. There’s a lot of theorycrafting left to be done on strategies and fleet compositions in the new system, and anyone who implements a good strategy before anyone else will get a significant advantage.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at several moments in EVE‘s history when players found themselves suddenly competing on a more even playing field and ask what lesson older games can learn from them.

shieldgenEVE is a new game every few months

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of 4X games like Civilization and Master of Orion II, so much so that I’m even making one of my own. The big appeal of 4X games for me is how replayable they can be thanks to procedurally generated maps and other random variables that are outside your control. Every new game starts as a blank slate filled with potential, and every player has roughly the same starting setup and a particular strategy in mind.

When you’re winning in a strategy game, it’s particularly satisfying because a combination of your choices and maybe some good fortune ultimately led to that victory. Since everyone starts fresh with roughly the same starting opportunity, you can take pride in the fact that your victory is because you outsmarted or outplayed your opponent. If things don’t go your way and you start losing a 4X game, the loss doesn’t feel final because you know that you can start a new game and get a clean slate again.

EVE Online has had several of these “fresh start” moments in the past with the introduction of major features players had to figure out or balance changes that really shook up the PvP landscape. I used to joke that EVE Online was a new game every six months because each expansion would introduce something new that would make some of our previous knowledge of things like ship fittings obsolete, but this has also always been an opportunity for newer players. Maybe you didn’t figure out wormholes quickly enough to make billions of ISK per week before it dried up, but you knew that if you waited a few months, then you could get in on the next big trend. Now that the game has switched to an iterative release schedule, those changes are smaller but more frequent and require constant adaptation.

side-0Fresh start moments in EVE‘s history

The most obvious fresh start in EVE‘s history would be at the end of beta when people started new characters and corporations and began grinding toward their first cruisers. When player owned structures were introduced, we had a similar moment as people began scanning moons for minerals and building industrial infrastructure.

All you needed was access to nullsec and a few hundred million ISK to get started, so the barrier to entry was fairly low. Nobody had any idea which moons would be most valuable, how to efficiently set up industrial structures, or how to best attack and defend a starbase. There was a race between players to figure out the best strategies and put them into action, and those who managed to adapt quicker than average were at a significant advantage.

When outposts and titans were introduced, they were designed to be industrial megaprojects that no individual player could realistically afford on his own. Few alliances had enough ISK in the wallet to make an outpost or supercapital ship immediately, and there was also a ton of work to be put in hauling minerals and operating shipyard starbases. A genuine arms race kicked off with alliances running mining fleets, escorting freighters full of low-end minerals into nullsec, and raising ISK via other means to fund their projects. The Interstellar Starbase Syndicate even ran the the world’s first MMORPG IPO to raise the ISK for a publicly owned outpost. Some small alliances rose to power because they figured out ways to take advantage of the new state of play, and some old ones started losing ground because they didn’t.

Don’t reward the existing winners

The biggest fresh start moment for me was in 2009’s Apocrypha expansion, which opened wormholes to completely new and unexplored star systems and sparked an immense gold rush. This time the barrier to entry was as low as you wanted to make it, with individuals able to solo the lowest class of wormhole system and larger corporations investing in permanent expeditions with starbases and capital ships.

Nobody had a clue how wormholes really worked, which star systems were most cost-effective to colonise, or how best to tackle the sites found in them. Corporations and individuals took on the risk and competed to figure out the secrets of wormhole space quickly enough to profit on them, and those who figured it out quickest became rich in the process. This was a feature designed to reward small but dedicated groups, and having very deep pockets or hundreds of pilots at the ready didn’t really help that much.

All of the moments I described above have one big thing in common: They minimised the advantage conferred by longevity and your existing success in the game. You couldn’t throw billions of ISK at wormholes to unlock its secrets before everyone else, and you couldn’t throw manpower at a shipyard to make a titan build faster. As long as you met the minimum barrier to entry, you would be participating in this new feature on roughly equal footing to everyone else. New features and ship types also frequently come with new skills that nobody could possibly have pre-trained, so everyone who meets the new skill’s prerequisites is on equal footing there too. In contrast, the old sovereignty system did the exact opposite of this principle, accidentally maximising the advantage of having mountains of ISK and so putting more power in the hands of existing alliances.

toolate-endAlthough EVE Online has been out for over 12 years, it’s definitely not too late to get into the game now. Veteran players may have millions of skillpoints, plenty of ISK, and a lot more experience to draw on, but the release of a major new feature often helps to level the playing field. When there are new skills to train, mysteries to solve, and strategies to formulate, a six-month-old player could stand just as good a chance of leading the pack as a ten-year veteran.

The idea of getting a fresh start every now and then is something that’s been incidentally present throughout EVE‘s development, and I think it’s actually a big part of what makes people stick with the game for years. Perhaps the big lesson to take away from EVE‘s history is that it’s not just acceptable to make old gameplay obsolete; it might actually be necessary. Reinventing the game periodically seems to help keep the playing field level between newcomers and veterans, and it’s the player who adapts quickest that survives.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Zennie
Guest
Zennie

When someone gets podkilled on the way to our nullsec, we make our best effort to explain him how to not get podkilled. We scan down wormholes for our newbies so that they can safely(ish) travel down to us.
I’ve never heard about the behaviour you’ve described. What kind of people have you been with? PL?

annoyedbadger
Guest
annoyedbadger

Nyphur annoyedbadger Boardwalker advocate2001 Oh I’ve nothing against eve, I quite enjoyed it back when I played it.
But, I think its incredibly punishing for new players. You do have to train a fair amount to be anything but cannon fodder, and that requires you to know what you want to do, without ever having experienced it. And if you change your mind, or just want to play as a something different instead of focussing on one thing…..well, months more training before thats viable.

schmidtcapela
Guest
schmidtcapela

stiqy redtoadsage 
Real life, and games like WoW, offer ways to catch up, to get to the point where those that came before don’t have any advantage over you at all. EVE doesn’t.

Some people don’t care. Some people are put off by it. I’ve personally given up on games before because of veteran rewards, and how it would take me over a year to get to the same rewards old players were receiving now, without any way for me to close that gap, so you can guess where I stand in this.

If you want to bring people like me into old games, you need to offer me a way to catch up with the front of the pack. It might require dedication, it might take a long time, but I want to have some way to bring my character and account into parity with those that had been here since the game’s beginning, at least when it comes to anything that has more than a mere cosmetic effect. Without that, I’m far less likely to consider playing the game — and, if I do play it, I will likely play the game as if it were a single-player game, ignoring others that might be more advanced than me.

Nyphur
Guest
Nyphur

Styopa ark211049 Nyphur Actually, Styopa, CCP has done some pretty amazing work over the years to keep EVE’s server and client up to date. They’ve essentially rebuilt every part of the game code at one point or another, even funding research into stackless python and hiring developers to specifically pick apart undocumented legacy code that was keeping them from overhauling parts of the game.
The EVE server cluster is also a custom supercomputer run by IBM in London, and I think it’s still the largest supercomputer in use in the games industry. No other game has managed to match it in fitting the same kind of player scale into a single shard, even Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen are taking the easy way out with dynamic instancing systems that limit direct interaction to a small number of pilots.

DamnDirtyApe
Guest
DamnDirtyApe

Gibs DamnDirtyApe I’m a bit out of touch with the current state of Eve since I haven’t played in a while, but the goons were one example when I played.

Styopa
Guest
Styopa

ark211049 Styopa Nyphur Might want to back off a touch there, Mr Defensive.
The point was not to insult your favorite game.  It was just that we’re talking about a game that was written 10+ years ago. I’d say the same thing basically about WoW and EQ.  Of course portions of the code have been upgraded, but at a certain point you’re stuck with the girl you brought to the dance, no matter how much you pretty her up.

Kaloth
Guest
Kaloth

Nyphur Styopa There’s only so far SP can take you too. It doesn’t take much to fly one particular ship very well, and with the upcoming change to how much SP new players start with (2 million sp, iirc), it’s going to be that much easier to be effective. 
My 75 million sp character flies amarr frigates just as well as my 32 million sp character, which flies them only slightly better than my 10 million sp character. That 10 million sp might take a while to get, but if you focus on one particular goal and spend your time learning how to play that role, you’ll be better at flying that ship than someone who’s been playing 3x as long, flitting about with their skill queue trying to train this and that and whatever comes to mind on a particular day. Can’t recommend it enough, actually, actually flying (and yeah, probably dying in) a ship you want to fly before you’ve got perfect skills for it.

Kaloth
Guest
Kaloth

Nyphur Kaloth True that fits may be obsolete quickly, especially lately, what with the module tiericide and (what seems like) ship rebalancing every update. A counter to this may be to state why you choose a particular meta level of module. Is it because it’s got a lower CPU requirement so can just squeeze in, because it uses this much less capacitor so your cap level doesn’t deplete as fast, or some other reason? This way, when the fit does go obsolete, a smart player can work out an alternative based on the reasons behind each module.
As for other ideas for fitting ideas, anti-frigate-small-gang cruiser fits are good fun as it can bring balance to a 1 vs many fight. The ‘cockbag thrasher’ is also a long time favourite for blapping folks as they arrive at the acceleration gate in plexes (or as they undock or prepare to dock at a station), but there’s not much room for variation or innovation on that particular fit. Sadly, pve fits don’t really need much explaining beyond ‘fit resists to the rats you’re fighting and tank for X dps based on mission/anomaly level’, although there are ways to optimise pve fits, it’s possibly the easiest thing to fit for in the game (except exploring, perhaps). EWAR pvp frigates, while typically dependant on being in a fleet or any size, can be decent solo and brings the sweetest tears – if your target can’t lock you, they can’t hit you so take your time and whittle away their hp in your own good time.

All that said, I enjoy this column a lot and I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to do your job. I just miss the old fitting articles :-)

ark211049
Guest
ark211049

kgptzac 
i think a part of what you highlighted is the new MMO mentality of everything on a plate, to truly enter EVE and have a shot at it will time will require some research, backround reading about the structure of the game and then some planning on how to proceed
tbh i really dont think you need to already know players socially to succeed, if you have some diligence you can get yourself started then build up a understanding of the different types of communitys and find yourself the social circles/corp(guild)
ofc in todays mentality this is totally archaic and to most people crap, if its not just facerolling on the keyboard followed by purple drops/stat increase/top match ranking/whatever its just “bad”

MorpayneRADIO
Guest
MorpayneRADIO

It does matter what race you train into. I went minmatar and now loath it’s ugly ships, but training up another races ships would take months so I’m stuck.