Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ways to Learn Faster

Okay, today we have a break from the ongoing Low Security Space series to talk about the various ways to accrue those all-important skill points a little faster.

Your learning speed is based on your attributes (found on your character sheet). Interestingly, your learning speed is the ONLY thing that is based on your attributes. Having a high Intelligence won't make you better at science, it will just make you better at learning to be better at science. Someone with 3 intelligence and the Science skill at V performs just as well as someone with 20 intelligence and the Science skill at V, but it took them a lot longer to get there.

As a starting character, your attributes should all be 8. Different skills are based on different attributes. Each skill has a primary and secondary attribute. You can find out what they are by right clicking on the skill and choosing "show info". The only was to learn a skill faster is to improve the relative attributes. There are three ways to do this:

1. Implants. These go from +1 to +5 and you can plug in one per attribute. The +1s are relatively cheap and a full set of the +5s can value at hundreds of real world dollars given current isk/USD exchange rates. The down side to implants is that if you get killed, you've got to buy a new set. You will get a couple of +1 implants as rewards if you do the tutorial missions, as well as the skillbook (Cybernetics) that you need to train in order to use them. You should plug in the +1 implants as soon as you get them and then not worry too much about losing them. They are cheap enough to replace. Eventually, when you get your hands on more expensive implants you will want to start thinking about keeping two clones, one with high value implants and another with cheap or no implants.

2. Attribute Remapping. There's a button on your character sheet in the attribute tab labeled "Neural Remap". Doing this will allow you to shuffle around your starting attribute points, taking from one and adding to the other. The trick is that, as a new character, you get to do this twice and then, after that, you can only do it once per year. most of the combat related skills use Perception and Willpower, so there's something to be said for just maxing out those, but I guarantee that, if you do, you are going to curse every time you want to train something like Engineering (increases the power grid of your ship, allowing you to fit better modules) or Hull Upgrades (gives you more hit points and allows you to fit better armor modules), both of which are Intelligence/Memory skills. Of course, like every RPG, the Charisma attribute is practically worthless, so unless you're opposed to min/maxing or the idea of being a virtual boor, a good idea might just be to push that down as far as you can and sprinkle those points around. Then you can play for a while and see what training direction you want to go in before using your second remap.

3. Learning Skills. These are horrible. The game would be better if they didn't exist. However, being as they do, we need to talk about them. The learning skills are just regular skills that increase your attributes and thus make other skills faster. There is one skill called "Learning" that affects all attributes and then there is a basic and advanced skill for each attribute. The terrible thing about these skills is that they give you no benefit other than faster training time and, of course, time spent training them is time not spent training something actually useful. The end result is that training them basically amounts to making a gamble on how long you're going to play the game for. For example, if you train all the learning skills to V, you will then have to spend about three years training other skills before you will have saved more training time than you sank into the learning skills in the first place. Even if you are only going to play the trial, though, it makes good sense to train "Learning" and all the basic attribute skills (except charisma) up to II.

My advice would be to train no learning skills at all during the first day you play and then to buy the "Learning" skillbook just before the end of your play session. Fill up your skill queue with skills to last you until your next play session, then drop "Learning I" and "Learning II" in at the front of the queue. You should see the total training time actually decrease. I'd hold off on actually buying the skillbooks for the individual attributes until you have decided if you're actually going to keep playing or not. Fussing with learning skills is decidedly un-fun. Once you start thinking of your time in New Eden in terms of weeks and months, rather than hours and play sessions, then it is time to download Eve Mon and figure out a good training schedule for the learning skills. Until then, train skills that will maximize your fun rather than your skillpoints.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Low Security Space - Part 3

If You Do Get Blown Up: If your ship gets blown up in EVE Online, it's gone forever. About half of your modules and cargo will also be destroyed, the other half will be left behind in the wreck. Chances are very good however that your attacker will loot your wreck long before you can get back in anything with a cargo hold, so the stuff that wasn't destroyed is probably a write-off as well. Still, it's not so bad.

Assuming you had platinum insurance (which you should always buy for every ship you fly), you will immediately get a payment in your wallet for the estimated market value of the ship at the time you bought the insurance1. Thus, you are really only out the cost of the modules and the insurance plan. All this, of course, is assuming that your escape pod gets away...

When your ship blows up, you appear in space in a pod. The pod is considered a new ship, which means that the people who had you locked and scrambled before will have to relock you. Pods however have much higher agility than any other ship in the game and can warp faster than any ship can lock. So if, as soon as your ship is about to explode, you click on a distant planet or station or gate or something and start spamming the warp button then, unless lag screws you, you will always get away.

In null sec your gooey bits are in a lot more danger because people can deploy warp disruption Area of Effect bubbles, but such things are barred from empire space (low sec and high sec).

If you do get podded, you will lose your implants and your medical clone and will wake up in whatever station your medical contract is set to. By default this will be the rookie system where you did the first tutorial mission, but you can change this by clicking the medical button on the right hand panel in any station. You will have to buy a new clone, which will get more expensive as you get more skill points. It is vitally important to always keep your clone updated. If you get podded with an out of date clone you are at risk of losing actual skill training time that can never be regained. The basic clone that you through your trial, at least. After that you are going to want to periodically check your character sheet to ensure that your total number of skill points isn't too close to the number of skill points covered by your clone (conveniently, the two numbers are displayed right next to each other).

Incidentally, you can set your medical contract to any station you have visited which has cloning facilities, no matter how far away from it you currently are. This means that you can, with a little planning, travel the length of the galaxy by self-destructing your pod. Just make sure that your clone is up to date and that you avoid expensive implants!

So, keep in mind that death in EVE can have more significant consequences than in most other MMOs. It's possible to blow a year's worth of Isk on a handful of rare items, put them in your cargohold and then have them summarily and irrevocably destroyed. Then, to top it off, you could get podded with an out of date clone and lose months of skill training.

At the same time, by taking minimal precautions and remembering the maxim "Never fly what you can't afford to lose," you can rob death of much of its sting. And this is a good thing, because the most fun (and profitable) experiences in New Eden are, almost without exception, also the most dangerous.


1. A note about insurance: The more advanced ships in the game (Tech 2 ships, Tech 3 ships, Faction Ships, etc.) can only be insured for a fraction of their cost. But it will be quite a while before those classes of ships make up much or any of your fleet.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Low Security Space - Part 2

Surviving Gatecamps:
So, despite your best efforts, you've jumped into a low sec system and found your overview decorated a jaunty red. Half a dozen pirates with propulsion jammers and a taste for blood. What you do next will decide if you're going home in your ship or your pod.

The first and most important thing is to... do nothing. When you first arrive in a new system, your ship has what is called a "gate cloak". Your ship should be transparent on your screen and, though you can see the baddies, they can't see you. They will have seen the gate activation, and they'll know who you are because your name will have appeared in the local chat channel, but they won't know what kind of ship you're flying or, more importantly, where you are. For thirty seconds you will be invisible and invulnerable, unless you drop cloak sooner by moving or activating a module. Take full advantage of that window of time. Appraise the situation as carefully as you can.

The first thing to do is look on your overview and see how far you are from the gate. When you jump through, you could appear anywhere within a 10km radius sphere around the gate. You can activate a gate from anywhere with 2.5km. So, if you happen to be close, you should seriously consider just jumping back through. But don't rush it! There's a thirty second session change timer during which you can't jump out of system after having entered it. Conveniently, this is the same length of time that your gate cloak lasts for. So wait for your gate cloak to drop on its own (or count in your head and start moving just a little early) and afterburn back to the gate before they can kill you.

Another thing to look for is how far away the baddies are. The furthest it is possible to warp scramble someone from is 29km and that requires tremendous skill investment. For most pilots the practical limitation is 20km or 24km. It's unlikely, but if all of the campers are further from you than this, you should seriously consider just warping off to the next gate. Even if they lock you, it's unlikely they can put enough damage on you to kill you before you enter warp.

Finally, even if you're exactly 10km from the gate and they're all right on top of you, all is not lost. for them to pin you down they have to get a lock on you and activate their warp scrambler before you enter warp. Smaller ships have higher agility and thus enter warp faster and they also have smaller signature radii making them take longer to get a lock on. The net result is that, if you're in a frigate, you're generally going to be in warp in less than four seconds from when you click "warp to" and the fastest locking ships in the game won't be able to lock you in much less than 3 seconds. When you add in reaction time, lag and the fact that not everyone is in the perfect ship, frigates can almost always just push the pedal to the floor and fly screaming, hair on fire, right through a gate camp. Destroyers too, though at a somewhat higher risk. By the time you're in a cruiser it's a much less feasible option.

You can improve your chances at blockade running in any ship size by fitting the right modules. Particularly, either Nanofiber Internal Structures (which increase agility and speed) or warp core stabilizers (which allow you to ignore a certain amount of warp scrambling). Both are low slot modules. On the face of it, the warp core stabilizers might look like the more attractive option, but it's important to note that they cripple your combat ability (dramatically reducing your maximum range and ability to lock onto other ships) and that each one only protects you against one point of warp scramble strength. The baddies will likely have multiple warp scramblers and some scramblers provide more than one point of warp scramble strength. On small ships I'd say it is almost always much better to go with the nanofibers.

If You Do Get Scrambled:
In all honesty, you're probably going to lose your ship. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go down fighting. There will be a little blue icon on the overview over the name of whoever is warp scrambling you. Target that person and open up with your guns. Your goal isn't really to escape at this point, but the initial tackler is usually in the flimsiest ship and you might just manage to take someone down with you.

There is also the chance that they will try to ransom you. Basically, if a pirate scrambles a ship that they know they can kill easily, sometimes rather than doing so, they will start a conversation with the pilot and offer to let it go free if a certain fee is payed. Feel free to negotiate and certainly don't pay anything that is higher than the cost of your modules and a new insurance policy (the base cost of the hull will be covered by the insurance I hope you remembered to buy). Of course you should also feel free to answer the ransom demand with your guns. And though you in my experience most pirates honour ransoms, you should definitely remember that there is no game mechanic forcing them to do so. Taking a large payment in exchange for safe passage and then promptly blowing up the person who payed you is considered valid gameplay in eve.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Low Security Space - Part 1

Low security space, or low sec, is the collective name of all systems with security status higher than 0.0 but lower than 0.5. Low sec gets a bad name for itself, but it can be extremely fun and rewarding. I can't stress highly enough the advantages of getting a taste of low security space early on. Even if you decide that you don't want to make your home there, you should at least get comfortable with passing through. There are a surprising number of players who have been in the game for months--even years--and have never left high sec. To hear them tell it, you would think that every gate is camped by pirates using smartbombs that not only destroy your ship, but also destroy all other assets you have in the game and give your character syphilis.

There are two primary dangers in low sec: gate camps and roaming pirates. if you're just passing through, then you will simply be warping gate to gate so you only have to worry about the former.

Avoiding Gate Camps:
By far the most heavily camped gates in low sec are the ones that border either high sec (0.5+) or null sec (0.0). Presumably, you won't be passing through null sec just yet, so the main system you need to worry about being killed in is the one you enter when you first leave high sec (more on why you don't need to worry so much about the low/hi border at the other end of the trip later).

The star map is your friend here. Press F10 to bring up the map. If you're in solar system mode, click the "toggle map" button on the map control panel to switch to galactic star map. If you've already set a destination, then your route should be highlighted, and the names and security status of the systems you'll be flying through should appear down the left hand side. Look for the first system en route that has a security status less than 0.5 and locate it on the map (you may find the "flatten map" button on the map control panel useful or not, depending on how good your 3d visualisation is). Now, in the control panel, click on the "star map" tab and then the "color stars by" subtab. In the "statistics" folder, select "Ships destroyed in the last hour". Obviously, if the system you're looking at flying into lights up like a carnival, you might want to reconsider your travel plans.

If you want a little more information, also check the "average pilots in space in the last 30 minutes" option. If there are no or few ships destroyed, but more than about ten people in space, you might want to consider the possibility that a gate camp is in the process of assembling. Likewise, if there were a ton of ships destroyed, but there are now only a few people in space, it's possible that a gatecamp has recently disbanded. Either that, or that a large fleet battle recently transpired and everyone is now licking their wounds (which can make for some really good ninja looting if you're bold).

Most of space is empty, but don't get too spooked just because there are a few people in the system you're passing through. A lot of them will just be minding their own business (or will be roaming pirates without the logistics to set up a gate camp). It takes generally at least three people to set up a decent gatecamp (one heavily tanked battleship to get aggro from the gate guns, one logistics ship to keep that tank ship alive, and at least one DPS ship). In practice, most gatecamps will have at least 7 or 8 people, because anything too minimal is just begging to be busted by an anti-pirate pvp fleet (a single logistics ship can be destroyed rather easily if you're well prepared), and after that the gate guns will help chew through the rest of the camp very quickly), so if there are fewer people than that in space you can feel relatively secure passing through.

If you decide to bypass a specific system, right click on the star in the map and choose "Avoid solar system". A new route will automatically be plotted for you. Keep in mind that the avoided system will stay on your nav computer avoid list until you remove it in the "avoided systems" tab, so you'll want to clean that out occasionally.

Still, despite your best efforts, you'll sometimes find yourself greeted by a dozen or so bright red bars on your overview when first entering the system. All is not lost.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Discussion of Frigates (with a focus on Gallente)

As a new character, you start with your racial Frigate skill at 2. This gives you the ability to fly all but one of the Tech 1 frigates for your race, a total of 6 ships. Training the frigate skill to 3 (which you should do at the earliest opportunity) will give you access to the seventh ship. Each of the four races has a different fleet of ships with their own strengths and weaknesses. Today, I'll focus on the Gallente frigates.

Velator: The rookie ship. Gets bonus to damage. No matter what role you can think of, there is another Gallente frigate that fills it better. You have a free and inexhaustible supply of Velators, however. The same cannot be said of the other frigates.

Navitas: This is a hybrid combat/industrial ship. Can fit decently for combat, but gets bonuses to cargo capacity and mining yield. Also, has a remarkably long locking range but, with frigate sized weapons, it is difficult to take advantage of this.

Atron: Nimble combat ship. Gets bonuses to damage and range. Can't put out or take as much damage as the Tristan or Incursus, but is the fastest Tech I Gallente ship of any class.

Maulus: Electronic warfare ship. Gets bonuses to damage and to sensor dampener effectiveness (dampeners reduce enemy range and increase enemy lock time). Has a lot of CPU output and decent powergrid, and so can fit the most varied and esoteric modules.

Imicus: Scout ship. Gets bonuses to scan strength and drone control range. An ideal scout, but can make a surprising effective combat ship with good enough drone skills. Is, however, frigging ugly.

Incursus: Combat ship. Gets bonuses to damage and range. This is the primary Gallente brawler frigate. Can put out quite a lot of damage and is relatively fast.

Tristan: Combat ship. Gets bonuses to damage and range. Has both the most hit points and the highest raw theoretical damage output of any Gallente frigate. However it's also the hardest to use because it's damage potential is split between three different weapon types (turrets, drones and missiles) all of which have their own skill tree. Also has the problem of being unusually slow for a frigate, which can be a thorny issue when you consider that to maximize its damage output the Tristan needs to fit short range guns.

Every one of these ships has a practical or tactical situation for which it is the correct choice. Yes, even the Velator:

However, on your first day, soloing the tutorial missions, your goal is going to be to get out of the Velator and into an Atron as soon as possible. They only cost about twenty thousand Isk and you should have banked that much from running the very first tutorial mission. Take the plunge. Nothing beats that new Atron smell. The Atron is more than capable of handling everything the tutorial missions will throw at you, but you should move on to either the Incursus or Tristan as soon as you can afford to. You'll find both the Incursus and Tristan to be very capable solo combat ships, and their lethality will only increase as your skills (both as a character and a player) develop.

Even if you aren't playing a Gallente character, the basic frigate progression is the same. A Caldari rookie running the tutorial missions should hop into a Condor immediately and then move on to either a Kestrel or Merlin. An Amarr rookie will go Impairor -> Executioner -> Inquisitor/Punisher. A Minmatar rookie, Reaper -> Slasher -> Breacher/Rifter.

One thing to keep in mind though that is that, while the ships of the different races can be quite different from one another, there are no intrinsic differences between characters of different races except that they start with a few days worth of skills in the ships and preferred weapons of their own race.

There is no "racial bonus" or anything for a Gallente character flying gallente ships. In fact, if you created a Gallente character and spent three days training Amarr starting skills and simultaneously created an Amarr character and spent three days training Gallente starting skills you would, in the end, have two characters that were functionally identical in everything except for mugshot and what ethnicity they tick on the census form.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Introduction to Security Status

Security status is an attribute of every star system in New Eden. Security status goes from 0.0 to 1.0 and basically represents the degree to which CONCORD (the police force of the eve universe) keeps crime in check. It affects both PVP and PVE play.

The lower the security status of the system the tougher the NPC baddies who will show up and the more ubiquitous they will be. In 1.0 and 0.9 space, NPC baddies will basically only show up in missions or other designated combat zones (dungeons, if you will... more on that another time); they will never randomly jump you. In 0.5 to 0.8 space you start seeing them show up randomly at asteroid belts to harass miners (or to be blown up by players who have gone to the belts for the express purpose of doing just that). Of course the baddies will be tougher in the 0.5 systems than in the 0.8 systems. once you go into 0.4 or below you'll start seeing baddies showing up everywhere: in asteroid belts, at stargates, sometimes even laying ambushes right outside of stations. Also, the lower the security status of a system, the more valuable the asteroids in it will tend to be and the better the reward payouts will be from the agents who make their homes there.

The rules of PVP engagement follow a couple of solid cutoffs relating to system security status. In 0.5 or above, if you shoot another player character unprovoked, the CONCORD fleet will show up shortly thereafter and completely obliterate you. CONCORD has more than enough firepower to destroy the most powerful player ships in the game. There is a 100% mortality rate for CONCORD fleet attacks. 0.5 and above is commonly referred to as High Sec.

In 0.1 to 0.4 (Low Sec), if you attack another player unprovoked you will get a red "global criminal countdown" in the top left corner of your screen for fifteen minutes. This means that CONCORD is out to get you until that timer runs out (they have short attention spans). Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) CONCORD's fleet doesn't venture into low sec, so you won't be immediately set upon. They do however control sentry guns at all the stargates and stations in Low Sec, and if you venture within a 100km or so of any of the sentry guns while your global criminal countdown is active they will unleash their fury upon them. The sentry guns do more than enough damage to instakill most smallish ships, however there do exist plenty of player ships that are capable of tanking sentry gun damage, so don't feel too safe in low sec just because there are sentry guns nearby.

In 0.0 (Null Sec) CONCORD has no presence at all. It's every man for himself and the only consequences for your actions are the ones that other players enforce upon you with their guns. Null Sec is the only part of space where player organizations can officially claim sovereignty and so it tends towards large scale fleet warfare, whereas PVP in Low Sec tends more towards solo piracy and small gang skirmishes.

New Eden (the eve galaxy) is basically setup with a large nugget of High Sec in the middle surrounded by a small buffer of Low Sec and then a thick outer ring of Null Sec. And then there's wormhole space which is huge and uncharted and entirely Null Sec (but with no player sovereignty).

It's tempting to think of High Sec as being a No PVP zone and Low Sec and Null Sec as the PVP areas, but that's really not the case. As I've seen it astutely put in the forums: "There is a 'flag for PVP' button in eve. It's labelled 'undock'".

There are a number of ways that PVP can happen in High Sec:

Suicide Ganking: CONCORD punishes crime, they don't prevent it. The lower the Security Status of the system, the longer it takes CONCORD to show up and reprimand the offender. In 1.0 space, they arrive almost instantly, but in 0.5 it can take up to 90 seconds, which is more than enough time for a properly fit attack ship to destroy a cargo hauler or other flimsy vessel. Obviously the cost of this maneuver is high, so it doesn't happen very often, but it does happen (The general scheme involves one person in a hauler equipped with a cargo scanner and a second player in a cheap battleship. Once the hauler identifies a ship with a cargo load that is worth significantly more than the battleship is, the second player ganks the victim and then--after CONCORD has wrought its vengeance--the first player loots both wrecks.)

Can Flipping: Theft is not considered a real crime in the eyes of CONCORD, but they tacitly approve of vigilante theft prevention. If you kill an NPC or jettison a canister, then the contents of that wreck or can are considered yours but anyone can come along and steal from them. If they do, then they will get a yellow "aggression countdown" towards you for fifteen minutes and, for that time span, they will appear red in your overview. This means that you (and other members of your corporation) can shoot at them freely without CONCORD intervening. However, once you fire the first shot, they are allowed to shoot back.

War Declaration: A player corporation can declare war on other player corporations, thus giving those corporations free reign to fire upon each other anywhere regardless of Security Status. The corporation declaring the war has to pay a hefty weekly "War Maintenance Fee" (read "Bribe") to CONCORD to keep them looking the other way, so unless you really piss someone off or give them reason to believe that you are a lucrative target this is a relatively minor danger. Also, when you first join the game you start in a rookie corp which can't have war declared on it, so you don't have to worry about this mechanic right away anyhow.

The final thing that system security status does is dictate which parts of space pirate players may not enter. Your character has a statistic called a "security rating" (Unfortunately, this is occasionally referred to as "security status" within the game, but it's easy to keep them straight. Star systems have a security status, people have a security rating.) You start with a security rating of 0 and it can vary from -10 to +10. Each time you gank someone in high sec or fire upon them unprovoked in Low Sec your character's security rating will decrease significantly. Each time you shoot an NPC pirate your security rating will increase slightly. If your security rating ever drops below -2, you will be banned from 1.0 and 0.9 space until you kill enough NPC baddies to bring your rating back up. As your rating drops further you will be progressively banned from more and more of high sec until, at -5, you can not enter high sec at all and are marked permanently red to everyone even in low sec (meaning that if they blow you up they actually GAIN security rating rather than drawing CONCORD's ire).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Introduction to Ship Classes

In EVE, the ship you are flying and the modules you have fit to it denote your role and base abilities in much the same way that character class and equipment would in a traditional RPG. Ships in EVE have a boggling number of statistics (from structure hit points to capacitor recharge rate to sensor strength) and every ship can be customized with rigs, drones and modules to be used in any number of different ways. That said every ship has a set of unique bonuses listed right in it's textual description which give a good idea of the primary role the ship was meant to fill.

Further, ships come in a variety of size classes, each of which has it's own broad role as well. You start off able to fly only the smallest ship class: frigates. In many way the frigate is equivalent to the "Thief" character archetype in many RPGs. Quick, hard to hit and able to do an astonishing amount of damage in the right circumstances.

As you progress, you will become better at flying frigates, and you will also learn how to fly larger and more varied ship types. It's important to realize though that bigger ships aren't necessarily better in this game. Being able to fly them just gives you more options. You can switch from "Thief" to "Warrior" (Battleship) to "Cleric" (Logistics Cruiser) just by docking and changing cockpits, once you've got the skills and fleet for it.

Of course some ships take longer to learn to fly than others, and some have narrow skill trees while others have incredibly robust ones. As you progress through the game, you will often find yourself having to decide whether you would rather learn to pilot an additional type of ship (and thus be able to, essentially, fill another character class "role") or continue to improve your abilities in one of the ship types you can already fly. One of the wonderful things about EVE's design is that this is almost always a genuine and difficult decision. Even after you are capable of flying battleships, frigates are surprisingly often the right tool for the job.

Rest assured that there are no shortage of ships to choose from. Combat ships are broken down into seven basic size categories. From smallest to largest, the combat ship classes in eve are: Frigate - Destroyer - Cruiser - Battlecruiser - Battleship - Capital - Supercapital

Each of the four races has multiple ships of every class. All of these ship classes except for Capital and Supercapital also have "Tech 2" and "Faction" variants which have more specialized roles, are more difficult to fly, are between 10 and 100 times more expensive and cannot be insured. And then there are the fantastically expensive swiss-army-knife Tech 3 ships.

Also there are plenty of non-combat ships in the game with hyper-specialized roles, mostly industrial. Although even these can be turned to non-traditional uses with surprising success. Witness the glory of the combat fit mining barge:

A note about how ship size affects combat:

Generally the smaller ships in the game are faster and better able to avoid taking damage, being particularly suited to hit and run tactics, while the larger ships are slower, harder hitting and better able to tank damage.

One on one combat among properly fit ships in EVE often comes down to a sort of complicated rock-paper-scissors. Say you have a frigate and are going 1v1 against a cruiser. In most cases, if you fly your ship properly, getting in close and orbiting at high speeds, you will win the fight because his cruiser sized weapons will be too slow to follow the movement of your fast moving ship. It will take a while for your smaller gun to chip through his shield and armor, but you'll have all the time in the world (unless his buddies show up), because he'll barely be able to hit you at all. Now, if the guy in the cruiser had known that he would be fighting a frigate, he could fit smaller faster guns and tear you apart, but that would leave him a sitting duck versus any other cruiser that was fit with regular cruiser sized guns.

This dynamic repeats itself as you go up through the ship classes. Of course, combat is much more complicated than that, especially between ships of the same class or when more than two people are involved and there are a lot of tactics that can be used to turn what should have been a loss into a win (or vice versa). Still, Sun Tzu's famous "The battle is won before it is ever fought" can be found oft paraphrased on the eve forums in the form of: "Most fights are won or lost at the fitting screen".

Let me leave you with an image (actually a link to an image, since it is far too large to display inline). This is a to-scale representation of most of the ships in EVE Online. About 95% of the ships in that image are player-pilotable. I'll freely confess that it was looking at this image for the first time that set the seed in my mind that this was a game I needed to play.

Here's the link: The Ships of EVE Online

Character Progression

The first thing you need to know about EVE is how character progression works. It's quite different from most MMOs.

One of the best things about EVE is that there are no levels and no "soulbound" items of any variety. There are only two real metrics (other than self-set goals) for character progression: Isk and Skillpoints.

Isk is the basic currency of New Eden. All Isk in the game is created equal and everything that can be had can be bought. You can sit in a rookie ship, mining Veldspar in the tutorial system for years on end and never firing a shot, until you have made enough Isk to buy the baddest, rarest, ships and guns in the game.

Or you can fly around market hubs trying to scam people by promising rare items in trade dialogs and slyly substituting common items instead (this, incidentally has been approved by the GMs as a valid playstyle) until you have enough money to buy a unique ship that was only given out once four years ago to the winner of a galaxy wide PVP tournament. Then, when you go to buy that ship, you can scam the person who won it all those years ago by creating a contract that they think says you will give them 100 billion Isk for the ship, when the fine print actually reads that they will have to give you 100 billion Isk to take the ship (also legit gameplay).

Then, when you undock it, you can get promptly blown up by a suicide bomber gunning for a high prestige kill. And now that ship is gone forever from the game, never to be seen by you or anyone again (multiple unique and rare ships and items have already gone extinct this way).

Or you can take the more common path: killing NPC pirates for bounties, running NPC missions for mission rewards, running combat complexes for loot to use or sell and occassionally blowing up a PC hauler to pirate his cargo (or, more profitably, threatening to blow that hauler up unless you receive a huge ransom).

So there are a lot of different ways to earn Isk.

There is however only one way to earn skillpoints: set a skill to train in your queue and wait. It doesn't matter if you actually play the game or not. In a very progress-quest like way, your character will keep getting better. This does mean that older characters have an advantage that younger characters can never overcome. But the flipside of this is that someone who plays for eight hours a day doesn't have nearly as much of an advantage over someone who plays a few hours a week as they would in other MMOs.

Fortunately, player tactical skill makes a much larger difference in most situations than skillpoints or Isk do, so it's not as dire for new players as it might sound. Here's a video of an skilled player going out PVPing using a new character, hot off the presses:

And it is very much not the case that bigger equals better in EVE. It is possible for a new player to nearly max out their skills for flying a given race's combat frigates in a month or two and, in quite a few tactical situations, a frigate is still the best ship going.

What all this does mean though is that if you ever let your skill queue empty and thus spend time without a skill training, it's just lost time and your character will be a little worse than they could have been. Fortunately, the skill queue allows you to specify up to 24 hours worth of skills to be trained.

Now sometimes you don't want to log in every day to babysit your skills, but there's a convenient trick. Say you have 23 hours and 59 minutes worth of skills loaded into your queue. You can add one more skill, regardless of how long it's going to take to complete. So, if you add a skill that will take two days to complete, then you essentially have a 3 day skill queue.

When you're new this can be tough being as all of your skills complete relatively fast (because you don't have high levels in them yet, but also because new accounts get a 100% training time bonus for their first 1.8 million skill points). If you've got a new character and want to take a day or two off, the best thing to do is add the same skill to the queue more than once. Since each progressive level of a skill takes exponentially more time to learn, you can get an early taste of the joy of long training times.

If you're going this route, it's good to have a short list of skills that are always beneficial to train to a higher level. There are many many skills out there, and you will never have time to max out all of them. Which skill to train next will be one of the most significant decisions that you make time and again throughout your EVE career. There's a good chance that you will never need "Kernite Processing," for example, or that if you spend your first week training skills in the Leadership skilltree, you'll later wish you had the time back when you find that solo piracy is your thing. These following skills however are guaranteed to never be a waste of time, no matter what level you are training them to:

  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Energy Systems Operation
  • Learning (more on this in a later post)
  • Mechanic
  • Navigation
  • Evasive Maneuvering
  • Spaceship Command

There are many skills that you should almost certainly train in your early days that aren't on this list: Gunnery, Drones and [Racial] Frigate are particularly important. But any time you aren't sure what to train next, whether it's your first or thousandth day in space, so long as any of the skills on the above list are not maxed out, you have something to put in the queue.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

EVE Essays Introduction

Hi there. I'm just a guy who once tried to convince a good friend to switch from playing World of Warcraft to EVE Online. Our schedules didn't allow us to fly together much, so I ended up writing him a series of relatively extensive e-mails giving advice and pointers for making the most of New Eden as a new pilot. I focused mainly on those aspects of gameplay that are addressed insufficiently or not at all in the tutorials. I've since realized that some of these little essays might be of use to other players as well.

Disclaimer: EVE Online is a constantly evolving game. These missives date back to the summer of 2009. I've done what I can to make sure that they are still relevant to the game as it stands today, but make no promises. Also, I don't make any claim to being an expert, or even a particularly competent player. Just someone who loves the game and wants to help others love it as well.