I’ve been screwing around with EVE Online here and there for almost a couple of years now. My progress has been pretty pathetic, since I tend to play for only a few weeks at a time before letting my subscription lapse, then coming back a few months later to accomplish just as little as I did last time. Rinse and repeat at irregular intervals as I get bored with other games. But recently, they offered a free five days to check out the state of the game, along with a reduced price two-month plan, so I went ahead and reactivated my subscription. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with myself for the past week and a half.

Despite my lack of commitment in general, I’m just going to put this out there: EVE Online is a fantasic game, and the developers (CCP) are probably (in my experience) the best of any MMO developer for the level of really genius thought they put into the game systems and, in particular, the ridiculously complex economy. There’s so much to do in this game, that it’s truly unlike any other MMORPG that I’ve ever played. Upon any given log in, I could, for example:

  • get in my mining barge and fly out to an asteroid field to strip mine them for raw materials;
  • check out the current price points on items for which I own blueprints and run off a few production jobs on items that are selling at a good profit (to my shame, I actually do maintain a spreadsheet);
  • sometimes I like to just mess with somebody who’s trying to corner the market on a particular product;
  • flip between characters sitting in different regions to compare buy and sell prices on high volume items, and determine a hauling plan that will make me money trading from one place to another;
  • hop in my mission ship and just run the NPC quests to build up my loyalty points and standings with the various NPC corporations;
  • take out my probe ship and scan for cosmic anomalies like wormholes or salvage and hacking sites;
  • or fit my probe ship with combat scanners and use it to probe down other players who are doing missions in Deadspace, and then when they’re found, fit my destroyer with salvage modules and go “ninja salvaging”;
  • go “ratting”, looking for NPC pirates in asteroid belts and killing them for the bounties;
  • look over the current public contracts for courier jobs and move product from point A to point B for a small profit (usually not enough to make it worthwhile, sadly);

And the list goes on. I haven’t even mentioned PvP, which is something of a hallmark of EVE, but I haven’t done any of it yet and I’m not sure when I will. I’m considering pirating as a profession someday, but I might be too chickenshit.

That said, EVE isn’t particularly a game that I would recommend to anybody. I’m not sure why, since many activities have a fairly low barrier to entry, and even if you don’t feel like dedicating your life to understanding the compexities of the economy, at least you can go out and run missions and never have to think too much about anything. But the thing is that EVE is a massively deep game. This is evidenced by the sheer number of third-party tools that people use to optimize their gaming experience. For example, the ones I use are:

  • EVEmon, which is great for planning out your skill training and monitoring your characters while offline;
  • EVE Fitting Tool, which is useful for deciding which modules you’re going to fit to your ship to get the best performance from it (this is a complicated activity because you can’t just put anything on your ship owing to CPU and powergrid requirements).

Then, of course, there are the billions of websites, like EVE-Central, which is good for finding profitable trade routes and price checking. Or any of the websites that let you know what sort of damage types various mission NPCs use so that you can fit your ship with the proper resistances. And so on. EVE is the epitome of a game that takes minutes to learn but months, and perhaps years, to really master. Hence, me not recommending it. But it’s an amazing game if you’re the right sort of player.

Oh, and on a final note, I’ll say also that it’s a beautiful looking game. You can’t believe that this game has been around for years, because they’ve been continuously upgrading the engine, and it shows. EVE Online has been around forever, and it could easily be around for a long time to come, especially in light of upcoming releases like the Incarna expansion, which will allow players to finally leave their ships and walk around inside stations as their avatars; and Dust 514, which will be a console-based first-person shooter that will integrate with EVE, but will be a separate game. I mean, these developers are super clever, and they’ve built up a game with real staying power that shows no signs of player attrition.

But again…strangely difficult to recommend.