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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What's my reaction to playing EVE Online for the first time?

In a word: "intimidated".

Let's back up a bit.  The last time I bought a new computer was almost a decade ago.  It's not that I'm a luddite or anything like that.  Mainly it's that I like to get my money's worth out of something before upgrading.  And also the little matter of spending a lot of that time driving across America, looking for a new place to hang my hat.  With that done a new computer seemed "just right" to further stake my claim on what has become a new shot at life.

So yeah... I took the twelve hundred bucks of "coronavirus stimulus money" and plunged a chunk of it into a new rig.  Completely built in the U-S-of A.  Doing my part to help the domestic economy and all that.  It's a super nice setup too.  I should be good to go for the next five years of writing, blogging, graphics work, video editing (hint: something new may be coming sooner than later), whatever good-natured mischief that all two of this blog's readers have come to expect.

And of course, gaming.

Yesterday a copy of Fallout 4 arrived.  It takes almost an hour to go through the character creation in that!  But now that my 'toon is out of the vault and back on home turf (or the ruins thereof) the game proper should be about to commence.  I also have been having some fun with Diablo III: a game that I once swore never to play because of the "always on" requirement.  Call me a liar but, that one is also a lot of fun.  And four years after getting in on its Kickstarter, I'm finally playing BattleTech: the tactical adaptation of the beloved miniatures game.

All of this in between working from home of course.  Which incidentally is nowhere as enjoyable as one might imagine.  This is now the third week of having to be at my... emphasis on "my"... desk every morning at 9 so that I can call patients from my living room.  COVID-19 cannot burn itself out fast enough.  But anyhoo...

With the firepower to handle it now in my possession, there was one item of computer gaming that I've wanted to investigate for awhile: EVE Online.  That massive multiplayer thingy from the good people at Iceland's CCP Games.  The one that has everyone playing on a single server and has become notorious for betrayal, backstabbing, Ponzi scheming, outright theft...

... and CCP practically encourages it.  EVE Online is like a Randian dystopia writ large across the cosmos of its setting New Eden.  Almost anything and everything goes.  And sometimes it goes bigly.  A few years ago the so-called "Bloodbath of B-R5RB" snagged major headlines for costing more than $300,000 worth of real-world money (it's based on how EVE's economy has a real fiscal correlation through it's PLEX and just roll with me here okay?).

The B-R5RB or BR-549 or whatever massacre is what piqued my curiosity.  I knew: as soon as I could, I would jump into EVE and experience it for myself.

A few days ago I finally installed EVE Online's client, created a character, and proceeded with the tutorial.  And from the first moments the reality came crashing down that I'm in waaaaay over my head.  EVE's learning curve is legendary for being steep, almost completely unforgiving.  Now I have witnessed how that reputation is well deserved.  The appellation this game has earned in being called "Spreadsheets in Space" is just as merited.  I've played MMOs before, beginning with Star Wars Galaxies (was THAT an awesome experience or what, at least before the "new game enhancements" turned it into "Star Wars Costume Party").  MMOs aren't the typical computer game, but they're not unapproachable either.

EVE Online is a looming dark monolith of mystery and frustration.  I'm looking at it and wondering if I should proceed further after eventually completing the tutorial.  I can't even pilot the ship as I "normally" always have with a starcraft simulator (going old-skool with fond memories of X-Wing and Wing Commander... and didn't we have fun taunting those pesky Kilrathi back in the day).  There are like 27 different windows all open at the same time demanding that I orbit or warp or swap out turrets or get a message from someone called CONCORD... who in blazes can keep up with this stuff?!?

Yet my client reported that over 23,000 people were logged in on the server when I was doing my second session of EVE tonight.  More than twenty-three thousand people, all in the same sandbox.  See that ship off in the distance?  That's a real person flying it.  It could be a guy or a woman.  They could be anywhere from thirty miles away to somewhere in eastern Europe.  Everything in game, apart from tutorial assets and other things of that sort, representing a player and their handiwork.

It's... fascinating.  And complex.  Just as real life.  In that regard, EVE Online might be the most accurate depiction of human nature ever engendered by online gaming.

Intimidating.  Very intimidating.  But it's also oddly gripping.  And, it must be said, exceptionally beautiful.  The graphics are pure loveliness to behold and the background soundtrack is so peaceful that I could see using it for periods of relaxation and stress relief.  EVE Online is a masterpiece in almost every way.

And it's been around for closing in on seventeen years now.  That's quite a lot of other people who seem to readily defend it, despite the nature of the game.

I'm probably going to try it out some more, and maybe begin a small-ish in-game career as an explorer, or maybe a miner.  Dad worked for a long time in a granite quarry, so maybe there are some asteroids out there that I can drill into and sell on the market.  In the meantime, even if I don't pursue it any further, EVE Online is going to still be something that I'm glad exists.  It's a testament to human ingenuity and a monument to human nature.