Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Traversing the Black

Two weeks ago I chronicled my first proper sojourn into EVE Online, having abandoned the game twice before over the years. The collective galaxy of EVE holds so many stories, so many opportunities, that I am compelled to visit my own experiences again in the shadow of the universe. If the siren call of the stars remains, my collection of galactic tales may grow and these posts may occur with more frequency. In the mean time, here are more ramblings of a spacefarer.

The legends of EVE Online’s cutthroat community of players has populated the inky dark around my ship with phantoms. I imagine legions of pirates prepping their warships to dismantle and salvage the remains of “noobs” like me who stumble through an unprotected jump gate. Even worse, those players who troll the galaxy killing new players for the pure joy of it seem ever-present in the periphery, haunting the the galactic borderlands with gleeful madness. Thus, I have seldom strayed from safe harbor, only testing the waters of long-distance travel with one foot firmly on shore.

My cowardice has not hampered most of my pursuits so far. My missions take me no farther than four jumps or so from the space station I currently call home. A bright green number in the corner of my screen (.7) confirms that my safety is largely guaranteed in my high-security region of the universe.

I know I cannot hide in my safety bubble for long. As any hardcore EVE player will attest, the game does not actually begin until you have joined a corporation and engaged in PVP combat and espionage. The true EVE experience takes place in null-sec, the no-security (0.0) regions of space, where you can only rely on your allies, and sometimes not even them. Besides, I joined a corporation, and they live way out in black, some forty jumps away. They offer protection, camaraderie, financial aid and spectacle. Yet a long journey through the black separates me and my compatriots.

I will make the trip, one way or another. Apparently through some clever clone management, I can simply off myself and resurrect light-years away. This method skips what sounds to me like a rite of passage. I will make the trip through space, even if I lose my life. Sailors of yore must have felt my trepidation ten-fold.
Of course game death is temporary, but loss of possessions is permanent. My sense of value has become skewed in relation to other games. So rarely can one lose currency in games when not spent. Personal income is often related simply to time spent playing. How many jars can Link plunder before he can afford a new bag? In EVE space, property reflects not just time spent playing, but one’s financial literacy of a fictional market always in flux. Money lost is not always easily recovered.

I just spent nearly all of my ISK, EVE’s in-game currency, on a Minmatar Rupture, probably a junker to most players but a thing of beauty to me. I earned this ship. It is a testament to at least some amount of persistence. Returning home from the station in which I bought the Rupture, its cargo loaded with the contents of my previous vessel, I had to pass through low-security space. The green icon on my screen turned red and I populated the nothingness with my aforementioned nightmares. A moon might conceal a warship waiting to blast me out of the sky, sending me back home humiliated and poor. How could I take such risks so early? Haven’t I heard the stories? This is how foolhardy travelers are punished.

Safely docked at home, I laughed at my own paranoia. I then began fitting my ship with the vestments of a more daring pilgrim. Soon I will approach a jumpgate and pass through that door into darkened woods and the night sky.


  1. Fascinating. I am one of those many people who has never played EVE and is equal parts intrigued and intimidated by it. Posts like this make it harder to stay away from it, though.

    One thing I have never understood, though. How does EVE... work? I mean, in game terms. Do you actually fly around the universe in real-time? Or is it a kind of a map system where you jump between planets? Or something else? Everything about the game is so fascinating but I still don't grasp how the game itself works.

  2. There are roughly 5000 stellar systems. You can warp around between different celestial objects within one system, and can engage with other players when you're "on grid" with each other on a scale of one kilometer on the small side to a few hundred kilometers on the far side. When you're warping, you see your ship align to its destination, accelerate to a max speed, then you see your surroundings whiz by as you leave the area. When you're not warping from place to place within the system, you can fly around your ship in real-time and choose any direction. Or you can choose behavior that your ship will follow, like "orbit that other ship at maximum speed at a distance of 5000 meters" with one or two clicks of a button.

    In order to get into a different solar system, you need to warp your ship to an object called a stargate, that leads to one other stellar system with its own host of asteroid belts, planets, artificial stations, etc. And then "jump" through that gate, which will take you to that solar system next to a stargate leading to the one you just left.

    So systems are connected by this web of stargates. You can see how they're connected to each other on maps like this one: http://evemaps.dotlan.net/map/Fountain#sov

    That describes the geography of the game, but there's a whole lot more. Trade, politics, construction, espionage, stealth, deception, conquest... It's one of those games where you can play it however you want to play it and it just gives you the tools to do so.

  3. Yea, that is a pretty accurate description. Actually, a lot of time in-game is spent planning. Combat itself is not too frenetic, at least not that I have experienced yet. It actually feels a bit like a strategy game. You try to maximize your ship's fitting for the tasks ahead and execute combat with your allotment as strategically as possible. And if you fail, like I have a few times, you run away.

  4. You seem to be describing pve. Pvp can be pretty darn frenetic, though there's a lot less button-mashing than, say, WoW.

  5. I really, really love the sound of EVE. But as an ex-WoW raid player, I fear it. It sounds much, much better than WoW, and I spent 5 or 6 years playing WoW and almost nothing else. The notion of an authentic 'build up' of your power, ISK by ISK and ship by ship is an absolute fantasy of mine :P The authenticity of the experience is exactly down to that possibility of meaningful failure, something Warcraft never even gets close to.

    Maybe after my thesis is written...

  6. Thanks, Josiah! The 'geography' of the game, as you aptly called it, is precisely what I didn't quite grasp.

    I have read much about the politics, etc. that goes on in the game and have always found that utterly fascinating. But yeah, how the game 'works' I never quite got. So thanks!

    It is getting harder and harder to stay away from it...

  7. EVE is a game I'd be playing if it didn't demand a subscription. I like what they are doing with the game, so thanks for the articles on it!

  8. You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.

  9. @ Krystian

    Yea, it didn't turn out well. I ended up limping in, but it was worth it.