It a strange feeling, logging into EVE Online for the first time. The interface is as crisp and responsive as any you’ve ever used before. A map of the galaxy appears, and you hear a voice. It a woman — an AI. She highlights the histories and traits of the 4 factions in New Eden. You only hear a little of what she saying, but after a minute you think you’ve found the one that sounds most like you and move on to select your race.
The character creation menu that follows, properly introduced and fully realised in the controversial Incarna expansion, is as surprising as it is expansive. It offers you customisation that ranges from the size and position of your cheekbones to the location and style of the piercings in your lower lip — and it gorgeous. You don’t hear her voice anymore, so you begin to explore the UI alone. Some time passes; you’re not sure how long you’ve been here, but you know you need to move forward.
“You understand truly, for the first time, why they call it space.”
You awake in a dimly lit room with a large, futuristic television screen on the wall. The voice returns, accompanied by a tutorial window. She says her name is Aura, and she here to help you get started in the world of EVE Online. She does. Before long, you’ve learned that you’re a capsuleer; an immortal demi-god, that through the use of clones, can never truly die. You’ve learned about the skill training queue, which allows you to ‘load’ hundreds of skills that continue to train in real time, even while you’re offline. And you learn that you’re currently docked in a space station, and must use a small pod to locate your ship. You undock, and you see it for the first time. It incredible. It beautiful. It”¦ really, really big. You understand truly, for the first time, why they call it space.
Aura continues to explain the various uses of the UI, and how to use it to effectively navigate the solar system via a warp drive, and you board your ship. You’re feeling a little confused. It a lot to take in, and you know it only just begun. Aura directs you through an Acceleration Gate to an area she calls ‘Deadspace’ — and uncharted region outside the safety of civilisation — and teaches you how to defend yourself against a wave of attacking pirates. That confusing, too, but your enemies quickly become little more than silent explosions tangled within the web of space. Before long, you dock back at the space station where you first began. You see you character again. You feel at home.
“That when the fear takes hold again.”
You have a better appreciation for your Captain Quarters now. You notice that you can interact with a lot of the furniture — the large screen warns you of others players spotted in a nearby sector with a bounty on their heads, the mirror allows you to re-enter character creation and a small holographic model of your ship allows you to access your ship fittings and cargo hold. It all very cool, and you still have no idea what you’re doing, but the fear is less intense now. You feel like you’re starting to get it.
Aura tells you that she needs you to deliver a package to another solar system. Sounds easy, you think to yourself, as you undock from the station once more. Aura teaches you how to set your destination, and shows you how to use a Stargate. You’re flung instantaneously into another system, it even bigger than before, and the star in the centre is a bright, piercing blue. Awesome, you think, before activating Autopilot and opening up the map.
“Tracking down cosmic signatures becomes infinitely easier, and the rewards equally sweeter.”
That when the fear takes hold again. That when you see how far you’ve really travelled; when you realise how much further you’re going to need to go. Your appreciation for the size of New Eden is renewed once more.
Sometime later, you arrive back at home. Aura congratulates you on the completion of your new pilot training, and introduces you to 5 Agents — the quest givers of New Eden — briefly explaining how each of them specialise in different careers. You decide that you want to begin with exploration. That sounds like fun, you think to yourself as you relocate to a new space station to meet with your Agent. You were wrong.
“You want to explore space forever”¦”
It isn’t fun — at first — but the longer you spend positioning your scanning probes across the solar system, the more you start to understand how the process works. Radar, Ladar, Gravimetric”¦ it isn’t long before you know them all. Tracking down cosmic signatures becomes infinitely easier, and the rewards equally sweeter. You like it now, you want to explore space forever, but you know you have to move on.
You try your hand at mining next, and quickly learn how to fit your ship with quality drilling lasers and adequate cargo space. A minute later, you’re orbiting a Veldspar Asteroid in deep space, dual-mining lasers drain its life as your cargo hold fills with hundreds of cubic meters of raw ore. When you’re full, you dock back at the nearest station and learn how to refine the ore into various materials that you use to build yourself a new ship.
“A system with a security rating of 1 is very safe.”
When you’ve finished learning how to mine, you decide that it time to try your hand at security — the tenuous art of blowing things up before they blow you up — and you’re taught about the most important element of survival in New Eden: Security Ratings. Each system, you learn, has been given a security rating ranging from -1 to 1. A system with a security rating of 1 is very safe, well-guarded by CONCORD, the law enforcement of New Eden, and as you delve deeper, into 0.9, 0.5, 0.2, your safety is less and less ensured.
Sating your hunger for curiosity, you pass through a system with a 0.4 rating, and it isn’t long before a small group of Pirate players scan your ship for useful cargo and pin down your location. You don’t even get to lock onto their ships before you’ve been blown apart, left stranded in your pod deep space. The pirates open a line of communication: “You’ve lost your ship, but are you willing to lose your life, too?” they ask, “Deposit 5 Million ISK into our account and we will spare your life. You have 5 minutes to comply.”
“You’re also reminded about ship insurance, and wish you’d thought to grab it earlier.”
Frightened and confused, you fumble for the Wallet menu on the left of your screen. 1,645,301 ISK, it reads. Screw it, you think to yourself as you find your feet and regain your senses. You open the communication window: “Burn in hell.” There a flash of bright, green light, and a moment later you awaken in your Captain Quarters.
Aura greets you warmly, and explains the situation. You’ve been pod-killed, a process that can only take place when interacting with other players, and as such, have used a clone to return to life. You need to purchase a new clone now, to ensure that you’re able to return to life the next time you are killed. You’re also reminded about ship insurance, and wish you’d thought to grab it earlier. Next time, you think, as you change ship and refit. You’re surprised at how fast you’ve become. It all making sense, at last.
With your new ship and fittings in tow, you undock from the station once more. Again, you stop for a moment to observe the galaxy. It even more beautiful than you remember. With a tap of the right-click, you open your contextual menu and set your destination, and for the first time, you begin — really begin — to play EVE Online.
All images were taken in-game by Cody ‘NerA’ Hargreaves, Daniel ‘Winterswolf’ Owens and Jay ‘Tobias Masters’ Orton.