Fish-Like Squints And Candlelit Dinners: Or, First Impressions of EVE Online

In space, no-one can hear you … ask where your ship’s ‘on’ switch is.

I’d heard a lot about EVE Online and thought I should probably check it out. In all honesty I’d heard a lot of negative things about it but one crucial point made it stand out from the crowd: I could play it while doing other things. Great. Multi-tasking while working, what more could a gamer ask for? And I’m sure EVE will sell itself to me as a gamer, right?

I was fair optimistic about dipping my toe into the EVE universe. I snuck a look at yesterday evening and was greeted by a lack of selling points. There was no immediate connection. No “game meets new player, game takes new player out on candlelit meal, game and new player fall madly in love.”

Sure, I was there to try the 14 day free trial – but in this day and age I (somewhat grudgingly and jadedly) expect pretty signs saying “WELCOME! Come in, come in. YOU! Yes you! Must try this NOW! You’ll love it for these 20 reasons that might or might not apply to you. What are you waiting for? Click this IQ-test-huge-button and get these viruses route to sure pauperdom BENEFITS immediately!”

So, disappointed, I left EVE Online last night and came back to it today in the cold light of day. I read around the introductory pages and class types and downloaded the EVE game client.

It did its thing efficiently in the background while I wondered whether I’d feel any affinity to any one of the multitude of class/gender/race/prejudice types when I got to character creation. I wondered whether I was meant to: perhaps there were deliberately so many to choose from so that new players got intrigued. Or so that as you matured in the game, you warmed up to particular class and thereby playstyles, as I was used to in my native World of Warcraft.

Still puzzling I loaded up EVE Online and blinked. A lot. The writing was tiny. Lovely font and great layout on the login screen, but when I have to squint to read an options box, you’re doin’ it wrong. I spent about 5 minutes coaxing Eve to get its point across as plainly as it was comfortable with and then moved on to character creation.

Thirty minutes later and I have a character. I’m still not sure of her heritage or whether her eyes are facing an alluringly calculating or squigy fishlike direction.

We can hope the former but it doesn’t matter given she doesn’t interact with anything but her ship. I admit by the end of character creation I had a growing sense of appreciation at how clean EVE was looking. I do mean in UI – lots of little menus and pop up windows telling me tidbits of information, but I also mean the tidbits themselves, as they were clear and succinct. The voiceover summaries during character creation probably also helped my brain soak up interesting keywords.

Then I’m put in the game. In a ship. I gather I’ll be seeing a lot of this view. So, right, there’s a tutorial. Great. There are also a lot of menus and tabs on menus and buttons on… everything. And I still can’t read anything without imitating my character’s aquint. So, follow the tutorial. It’s comforting – again, very well written, step by step instructions. And doesn’t let you skip ahead, which for me is great but I imagine for experienced players is irritating.

The tutorial takes me through the basics. I mean the basics. I learn how to move – there seem to be three different ways to achieve exactly the same thing. I learn how to kill things – I suspect there’s more to know about that. I learn how to take missions – I still have to bend my neck unnaturally to read the text. And that’s about it. In fact, the tutorial got halfway through helping with careers and then upon undocking and deep space appearing, it went back several pages like someone had dropped it and flustered the bookmark back in at random.

Wait. WHAT? It’s finished?

What do the other four million buttons do?

How do I improve my ship?

What’s a good career for my class and bloodline, whatever those were again?

How do I do this quest you’ve just left me with?

You’re just leaving me like that with a half-hearted “remember you can get this tutorial up again by going to help”? I’ve read this one already! Where’s the love?

So, about two hours in, that’s roughly where I am. Were I being pedantic I’d say I have no idea where I am as I don’t even know how to find or use the map, but I suspect the “map” button has something to do with that.

I intend to keep playing around with EVE. I will – like any well-behaved gamer – to try to break the game, as upon starting the tutorial my newbie instincts had immediately told me that I must follow it to the letter and Bad Things would happen if I didn’t. I quite like the sudden freedom to prod the game mercilessly.

I suspect there are a lot of other tutorials to help ease into the game if I feel I need them, and I know the EVElopedia is there humming away in the background like a German spaceship. I know that there are Other Players, but frankly watching them in their native chat channels, they seem about as approachable as any experienced MMO playergroup. But the first tutorial’s rather sudden abandonment of me, leaving me quite literally in the grips of cold and dank space into which my ship’s drifted while writing this, really doesn’t inspire daydreams of candlelit dinners.

Actually, I first tested Eve out a couple of months ago so this is a little old now. I’m planning to have another go round the Eve installer so watch out for “second date” impressions, as well as posts detailing my first forrays into other MMOs.

What about you? Has Eve stolen your heart? Am I just a spoon fed woW philistine? Or are other games just never going to live up to WoW?