Stick and Rudder: Gaining traction as a newbie in EVE Online


EVE Online has a reputation for being difficult for new players. The varied, complex systems, some of which are a product of the era when EVE launched and some of which have been accumulated over time, do indeed present a steep learning curve for a pilot attempting to jump right into New Eden. While I did not find my first month in the game daunting, I have flown bow-first into the difficult question that many new players ask themselves once they’ve mastered the basics: Now what?

Ask this question of any EVE veteran, and it will likely be met with something along the lines of “whatever you want,” an answer that is equal amounts true and unhelpful. I should say that it’s mostly true. While most EVE careers can be sampled at lower levels, it’s difficult to be effective without proper character skills and ship fitting, two things that take time and money to accomplish. So where does that leave the newbie?

While EVE has done some things to help speed up the skill-building process (such as skill point boosters), my feeling is that the EVE Online experience is intentionally slow. I’ve been playing the game for six to eight weeks at this point. In other MMOs, I would be deep into the leveling process and have a good basic understanding of the systems the game has to offer. But in EVE, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of the living, breathing world that envelops my every visit. And each time I think “I’d like to do x, today” I find out that x requires a certain number of days of training various skills, which forces me to find something else to do in the meantime.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, forcing me to spend more time learning the basics is likely protecting me from jumping into something that will end in loss of life, ships, and ISK.

Another common bit of advice given to new players in EVE is to find a good player corporation to help you along the way. Corporations really are the lifeblood of EVE. They drive the economy, gather materials, create ships and weapons, wage war, occupy systems, and form alliances. Unfortunately, selecting the right corporation may be the most daunting of all beginner tasks. In my short time in the game, I’ve joined and left one corporation, nearly joined another, and finally have settled on an industry-focused high-security corp. I’m still not completely convinced that it is the best place for me, but I’m settling in and making do.

Why is selecting a corporation so difficult? For one, corps specialize in different things. It’s hard to pick a specialized corporation when you don’t know what you want to specialize in. Also, the level of expected commitment varies greatly. Some fleet-centered corporations require a certain number of fleet participations per month. Some corporations have a newbie training branch. Others forego the typical tax rate on goods sold. Some corporations are new to the scene, but thanks to EVE’s age, many have been around for several years. The age of the corporation and the longevity of members could influence the overall culture: Old vets have a lot of knowledge to share but maybe a bit grizzled and curmudgeonly, while newer players might be excited to jump into action but short on knowledge, ISK, and supplies.

Basically, it’s tough to make a decision that could have such an influence on your game experience when you don’t know what you don’t know.

Once you do select a corporation, you can choose to specialize in whatever the corporation does, which may help your learning cure, or you can go your own way and try something different. I started with some beginner missions to get the feel for the PvE side of EVE. They were good for learning to navigate Eden and figure out how fetch and combat quests worked, but they soon got repetitive. Certainly, I’d recommend all new players work their way through the Sisters of Eve mission chain once. I might go back and do some additional agent missions at some point, but I can’t see myself dwelling there too long.

Once I’d tried out the PvE missions, I decided to go on a couple of mining expeditions with my newly found industry corp. Getting into mining is easy; a starter mining frigate is provided early on, and basic skills are quickly trained. Plus, when you mine with a corporation, the enormous mining barges provide buffs to ships in the area while corp-mates and drones provide safety from NPC interference.

At first, watching the mining laser pierce an asteroid as your ore bay slowly fills up is mildly satisfying. Unfortunately, after a few hours, the novelty wears off. The tedium might be tolerable if the payoff for raw ore were decent. But it really isn’t, at least not in comparison to nearly any other activity. I liken mining in EVE to fishing in other MMOs. It’s laid-back and a bit mindless, which some gamers do enjoy. It’s just not something I can spend a lot of time doing.

Not water.

Thus, after a few tries and misses, I finally landed on exploration as my first career path. In EVE, exploration is a combination of picking your target systems, stealthily scanning down cosmic signatures, and hacking into interesting sites in the hopes of coming away with valuable loot. Each step requires a slightly different skillset, and because most exploration ships are heavy on scanners but low on gunnery, the player is dependent on making smart decisions on where to explore and stealthy technology like cloaking devices.

Granted, exploration is probably the most solo-oriented activity in EVE, but it can also be very lucrative. A new player can get into a nearly disposable frigate to start learning the basics of exploration within a few days. Once these basics are learned, explorers can start to branch out into more dangerous territory (like wormholes) for the chance at even more valuable scores. But explorer hunting is a thing in EVE, so players quickly learn to keep one finger on the directional scanner and one eye on local chat to assess the level of danger.

After a couple of months in EVE, I’m happy to report that I finally feel like I have some direction. At this point, the plan is to continue progressing my exploration skills and to eventually earn enough loot to buy bigger and better exploration ships. I’ll be honest, I’m somewhat relieved to have found an activity with a good mix of interesting mechanics and decent payout. EVE is truly a “find what you like to do” kind of game, but sometimes it takes a little time to figure out exactly what it is that you like.

It’s a big wide universe out there, and the MMO industry is busy filling up the space between the stars – with sci-fi MMORPGs! Join the MOP team here in Stick and Rudder for intermittent voyages into all the big space-trucking, dog-fighting, star-flighting MMOs of the moment.
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