Continuing my adventures in finding an MMO to get hooked on before the new ones come out in 2014, I turned to venerable EVE, the best-or at least the most popular-game I’ve never paid for. With reckless abandon, I bought 3 months of time and downloaded the client.
I haven’t played EVE in five years, when I played for a week or so during a free trial. Surprisingly, my character from the free trial was still there. I have no idea what “level” he is or if EVE even has a measurement for that. I didn’t get very far past mining with him.
In any case, I decide to make a new character. I find myself in an amazing character creation screen that wasn’t there five years ago. It’s one of the best custom character creation implementations I’ve ever seen, and yet I can’t help but wonder why it’s in a game of spaceships, because I have no memory of ever seeing my character’s face in the game at any point.
It turns out that you get to see your character when you’re docked. He stands in a room with a flat panel television and a couch that you can sit on. It takes me about ten seconds to realize that this is entirely pointless and adds nothing to the game. Okay, whatever. It doesn’t hurt I guess.
At this point I turn to the tutorials, because I remember from my previous experiences with EVE that this is an incredibly complicated game that is impossible to figure out without help. My memory is correct. I’m led through undocking in a coffin-sized capsule and warping to a place where I can find my newbie ship. I install some newbie guns and newbie armor and destroy a newbie target dummy. Some of these things are familiar and it’s starting to come back to me.
After the newbiest of the tutorials, I’m led to another system where I dock at another station. Here I get to choose a new path of Agent missions. (Agents are sort of like the quest-givers in EVE.) I pick the Explorer path because I haven’t done it before and searching for ancient relics sounds cool. At this point I’m introduced to sensor probes. Even after the tutorials, I have no understanding of how these things work. Sometimes they’re in my inventory. Sometimes they’re in the probe launcher. They keep going back and forth. Somehow I launch them into space. There’s a neat-looking solar system view where I can sort-of change the pattern of the probe launches. Somehow they go places and find things, and there are these percentages in a window that go up every time I launch probes. Except sometimes they go down or disappear. Anyway, when the percentages get to 100% I can click a button to warp to a place and do a hacking mini-game, or collect something. I really don’t understand any of this, but I notice that about 99% of my interaction with the game is clicking “go” buttons and watching what happens, and there are so many windows on the screen I can’t really see the super-awesome space view much of the time. Eventually the Explorer Agent tells me I’ve passed all the tests and finished all the missions and I’m ready to go. And the Agent stops talking to me.
Leaving me with no clue what to do next. This part seems very familiar, too.
Did I mention that the game looks really amazing? Warping through space looks cool as hell. (It’s unfortunate that you have to keep covering up your view with an endless number of little windows. I spend quite a lot of time moving windows around so I can see things better.)
So is the game different from five years ago? Not really. Not at first, anyway. I think the font might be slightly better. But there’s still a whole lot of down time. It’s a great game for people who don’t have much hand-eye coordination, though. Maybe that’s why people like it. In my meager experience so far, you spend most of your time watching the screen and not interacting with it very much. Most of the game is finding the right place to click on the screen.
I don’t know if EVE is going to “stick” any more than any other MMO. As I remember from before, it’s a game best played on a secondary computer that you only glance at from time to time. (EVE actually runs decently on my MacBook Air so maybe that’s what I’ll do.)