The best review I ever heard of EvE Online was from a guy who said that he wasn't going to pay $15 a month to be chased down and killed by some teenager with daddy issues in the Battlestar Galactica. Pretty much summed it up for me.
When I tried it out, it seemed like their were basically two modes to the game: either incredible boredom in safe space or getting constantly jumped and butt-raped in unsafe space. I guess there was some appeal in trading (kind of a much less satisfying version of the old trading routes in Elite), but it seemed like all the good routes were owned by the corporations and all that was left for the little guys were the scraps. In the end, it's even less rewarding than mining.
In short, EvE Online reminds me way too much of real life. And that's what I play videogames to avoid.
I may have been the guy who wrote that review—I certainly have passed up no opportunities to damn the game whenever the subject was brought up. Yet now I'm playing the thing again. Why?
Well, the number one reason is probably lack of something better to do. Also, I'm retired and now have a surplus of hostility that I can no longer vent on my boss. I had been playing the original Everquest from the day it started until about 9 months ago, except for the 3 or 4 year break I took to play Eve, World of Warcraft, and Aion. None of them held my interest, so I went back to EQ. Then one day, I just had my fill of EQ again. There's no attempt to keep the game improving or growing; Sony just wants to keep hold of the same few thousand players they have who stick around for the sake of nostalgia. I doubt whether Sony has more than one developer assigned to EQ, and his job is to create cut-and-paste "expansions" where the only differences are armor with higher stats that you have to do the same crap missions to get as every other expansions. Oh, and new spell levels that do basically the same thing as the old spells. Nostalgia is a powerful force, but it can only take you so far. Maybe some day I will feel nostalgic for EQ again.
So I popped back into EVE again just to remember how awful it was. And indeed, the awfulness is still there. To judge by the language people use, by the stuff they put in their character bios, etc. the players are still a bunch of 12 year old sociopaths with a fixation on anal rape. About half of them pretend to be girls, but you know they're not. Girls are too smart to play a game like this. (Besides, most females I've met have had a fairly limited interest in anal rape.) But I've been playing the game since early this year. Why in the world would I do that?
There are some very good things that have to be said about the game design of EVE and about the way it's run. First of all, the game is continually being improved, and the expansions are free. To get a new expansion, you just have to pay your monthly fee to pay, and that's it. There's no "free to play" BS where you get nickle and dimed to death for better sword models or whatever; you just pay your fee and you get the service you pay for. Some of the improvements have made the game more playable for me than it was before.
Eve has got a complex and fairly realistic economic simulation going (if you ignore the fact that the economy is propped up by the nightly re-seeding of minerals and NPC drops), so if you are one of those obsessive people with no other life who draw up complicated spreadsheets and calculate how to make money off manufacturing, and spend many, many hours buying and selling at the best prices, then you can be an EVE tycoon. I'm not one of those: I never did spreadsheets for work, and I'm certainly not doing them for a game. Still, it's a role some people like to play. The spaceship tech is well-thought out and complex enough to keep you working at coming up with a perfect "fit" for that cruiser or battleship you're flying. There's a lot of different kinds of things you can do in EVE, and the game doesn't force you to play one role over another, with one exception: the game is set up to make you either a victim or a predator. If you want to mine asteroids for minerals and then sell those minerals for ISK (in-game money), you can do that. However, to get at the really good minerals, you have to go to "low sec" (low security) space, where other players can "gank" (kill) you and your mining ship with impunity. If you want to do the missions handed out by NPCs, the best missions are in low sec...and guess what happens. You wind up fighting NPC pirates while players pop into your mission space and kill you. I think a lot of people who play these non-aggressive roles are new players who don't understand the true dog-eat-dog nature of EVE. They're basically fish food dropped into the piranha tank. After a while, they get frustrated and quit, just like I did. Or they go over to the dark side.
It's important to understand that EVE gankers don't kill you for economic gain, or any sort of tangible in-game advancement. They kill you because they like doing it. It gives them an adrenaline rush, and most importantly, they like making you feel bad. They live for "kill mails" (I'm not sure what those are...some sort of notification that you've killed another player? I only killed another player once, and it was an accident, so I'm not sure what it's like.) Many players talk about inducing "tears" in others by destroying their expensive ships; it's all about the joy of inflicting pain and destruction. (With lots of anal rape references.) If you ever built a sand castle in the playground when you were a kid, and some bigger kid came and deliberately stomped it and then laughed in your face, then you have met the mentality of the average EVE player.
So why am I playing this sick game again? Well, I decided to take it as a challenge. What if I could play the game and not get victimized? Am I not smarter than most of these bullies? Could I learn the game well enough to get rich (for my definition of rich, 1 Billion ISK was my initial goal), and get killed very infrequently, if at all? The way I see the game, the challenge is formidable: I am fighting not only the appalling barbarians who populate the EVE universe, but also, in a sense, the developers who have set up the game so that I must become a barbarian to win. I want to beat the game itself; not only the mechanics but the very spirit of the game.
At first, it did not go well. I lost about a dozen ships (heck, I'd forgotten how to fire the guns), but I had evidently left myself a stash of ISK from the last time I played, so I was able to recover by buying a battleship (Dominix, of course), and running level 4 missions. I found a mission-giving NPC in security level .5 space, with no lower security level space in the vicinity. That means I got the relatively lucrative level .5 missions, but did not run a high risk of being ganked, as in level .5 space you are still protected by the in-game police who respond if you are attacked. (Level .5 is the lowest security level at which this response occurs; don't be fooled into thinking that .4 space is more safe than 0.0 !) OK, but just running missions gets boring after a while, and the income you can make from missions isn't that great.
So I took up a new profession: exploration. This EVE profession had existed previously, but was revamped this summer to make it much more rational and doable. Basically, you launch "scan probes" from your ship in a solar system, and find certain sites that you can then exploit for what is sometimes very valuable loot. Naturally, the lower the security level of the space these sites are in, the more valuable the loot. Naturally. But that's not so much of a problem if you have an invisible ship, right? Especially if it's a very fast invisible ship, like my covert ops Helios. The way I have my Helios fitted, it has a probe launcher and a cloaking device that makes it undetectable to other players. Unfortunately, this leaves no room for guns...but I wasn't going to fight, I was going to make money.
One of the more pleasant surprises I encountered upon my return to Eve is that null-sec space is much more accessible than it used to be. In my ~2 years of playing EVE before, I never even made it into null sec. There would be massive blockades at the bottleneck entrances to 0.0 space, and I failed even in a Helios to get through them. Now it seems like there are more routes to null-sec, and with careful flying you can get into it every time. (Well, in a cloaked ship, anyway. And you have to know what to do if you come out of a gate and it's surrounded by a huge warp-inhibiting bubble.) There are also "wormholes" throughout EVE space now, and some of them lead to random locations in null sec space. Basically, the game is much more open now; it's not like the low-sec areas are fenced off private property, like they used to be. There are still "owners" of every null-sec system I've been in...but you know what...space is mostly empty! That's right, often the owners simply aren't home, and you can screw around their systems to your heart's content. I've gone dozens of jumps at a time in null sec and never seen another player. And whenever I come to an empty system, I do my scanning thing, and look for sites to exploit. Because you can't be cloaked while you're "hacking" the sites, I immediately stop and cloak my ship when somebody else enters the system. (That's the First Rule of survival: if you fly a ship without guns, you had best be invisible.)
I have since hit and surpassed my billion ISK goal. (I know this is not "real money" to Eve tycoons, but I set my own goals, that's part of the secret of winning.) I now fly a "Tech 3" cruiser that has actual guns and combat drones, plus it can make itself invisible and do all sorts of neat stuff. This, however, has brought with it a bit of a moral dilemma. Um...I guess I should have know that having guns kind of gives rise to the temptation to use them, eh? Several times now, I'm in this null sec system, and I've discovered a nice site to exploit. In pops a newby with maybe 2 months of EVE experience in a frigate without guns. He wants the site too. (I think a lot of veteran EVE players have made alts to take advantage of the new exploration mechanics.) He sees I'm in the system, but he's too stupid to run away. I twiddle my thumbs as I watch him earnestly try to scan down the site I'm already sitting at with his miserably low skills. So what do I do? Give him the site, and a kiss on the cheek? Share? Hah! I'm not that nice, it appears. I mean, this guy is threatening not only my immediate economic interests, but he's causing prices on the artifacts I recover to drop! He's bad for the economy! So a couple of times now, I've warped in on top of these young pups and started shooting at them until they warp away. But they just go on to another system to work their mischief, of course. So last night, I fit a warp scrambler on my cruiser so I can stop them from running away.
I have to ask myself: have I gone bad? Have I allowed Eve to seduce me; am I becoming a barbarian?