A newbie's guide to EVE Online

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Now that EVE Online is going to be out in the Mac world (in just a few hours from when this article will first appear online), I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are trying the game for the first time to get some background information to help you settle in. The universe of EVE is very, very daunting for the uninitiated—it’s both the game’s greatest strength and its greatest curse.

The basics

Right off the bat, I’d recommend bookmarking the EVE Online Player Guide to help you understand the basics of the game’s interface and gameplay mechanics. It also spells out the rules for you—things you can and can’t do, what to do when you’re first starting out and more.

EVE Online’s forums can often challenge even the most experienced forum visitor to find the signal through the noise, but a handy place to start is the Ultimate New Player Guide Collection. It’s a round-up of guides, tips and tricks to help new EVE Online players, from the greenest n00b to the most seasoned MMOG player, and features everything from primers on ship weapons systems to explanations of how the contract system works, how to build new ships from blueprints, and much more.

With five years of continuous development under its belt, EVE Online has developed a cadre of very seasoned players who speak in their own vocabulary. So don’t be surprised if you have absolutely no idea what people are talking about in the EVE Online forums and in the in-game chat. To that end, bookmark the EVE Dictionary.

The EVE Dictionary contains definitions of some of the most common parlance in EVE: Truncations like “Eff” for “efficiency” and “Isk” for “Interstellar kredits,” the in-game currency (itself a veiled reference to EVE Online developer CCP Games’ own local currency, Icelandic Krona, known internationally as “isk”).

Another running thread in the EVE Online forums, the Abbreviation Glossary, fleshes this out in even greater detail. You’ll quickly learn that “BOB” is “Band of Brothers,” an alliance of gamers who often like to fight against “Goons.” (Goonswarm, that is—the resident “griefers” of the game; they’re troublemakers, miscreants and general ne’er-do-wells… or lovable rogues, depending on your affiliation.)

Another resource to look forward to in the future is the Evelopedia. It was announced in passing by the game’s executive producer, Nathan Richardsson, at this past weekend’s Fanfest, and it’s going to be a Wiki repository of all things EVE-related. It’s not available for public consumption quite yet, but make sure to keep your eyes peeled for it in the months to come.

When two tribes go to war

EVE Online at its simplest is a space trading, exploration, and combat game, although calling it so really only scratches the most superficial aspect of what EVE is all about. The game possesses a huge backstory that explains the different “races” in the game — five different factions of the human race that have colonized a galaxy far beyond the Milky Way and have long since fallen out of touch with their origin homeworld.

These races are the Amarr Empire, the Caldari State, the Gallente Federation, the Jovian Empire and the Minmatar Republic. Of those, only four are actually playable within the game (the Jovians, for now, remain an elusive and mysterious bunch that want nothing to do with other humans in their shared section of space).

The Amarr—the largest of the empires in EVE—is an authoritarian regime that rules through a combination of bureaucracy and religious obedience. They’re technologically sophisticated, but also rely on slavery—in fact, the Minmatar Republic was created by former slaves of the Amarr who have rebelled against their masters.

The Caldari State is a rigidly structured society ruled by a few mega-corporations that exercise near dictatorial control over certain aspects of their society’s growth and development, though they’re very consumer-focused. This has led to the development of fiercely competitive military and trade arms.

Distant descendants of French interstellar colonists, the Gallente waver between being pompous, self-righteous and progressive. They’re the defenders of liberty and of free enterprise, kings of entertainment and mass production—an amalgam of the very best and the very worst that today’s United States and European Union has to offer.

The Minmatar are the game’s resident Klingons, if you’ll pardon the Star Trek reference. They’re aggressive and fiercely independent, although they subscribe to clan and tribal affiliations. They’re excellent engineers, and while they often lack the aesthetic sensibilities of the other EVE races, their vehicles are often the fastest and most brutal of any found in the game. They’re also most often the pirates, smugglers and criminals of EVE.

Very little is known of the Jove, except that they have a technological superiority that puts the other races to shame. They’re closed to all but a very, very few outsiders, and they’re knowledge junkies, collecting what they find out about the other four races in EVE, selling their own advanced technology to the highest bidders.

Be all that you can be

Creating a character in EVE Online is unlike other massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) like World of Warcraft. Specifying your character’s race is only the start. There’s no “class” alignment, per se, but you distinguish your character’s educational background, aptitudes and other attributes that affect their learning skills, proficiencies and focus in different areas of the game.

One of the most unique aspects to EVE Online is that your character can continue to learn skills (using cybernetic implants) regardless of whether you’re online. Once the training of a skill begins, the process continues in real-time, even if you log out.

EVE Online also has a unique graphical interface for character generation. Rather than a full-body design, you’re working more on just the torso and face; It features morphing technology that lets you build a really custom-looking appearance, apply different hair styles, clothes, jewelry, tattoos and other adornments. You also need to come up with a name for your character. (And you’re truly on your own for this. There’s no random name generator.)

“Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production”

There are also quite a few organizations that work within each race and work outside of the usual political boundaries, too. Each of them has many affiliate corporations, corporate divisions and gangs, and new players would do well to remember to join a corporation as soon as they can.

Typically once you’ve soloed enough to have a good understanding of the game’s basic mechanics and a clear idea of how you want your character to progress, joining a corp is a good idea. Corporations provide protection for players, alliance, guidance and support, the same way that “guilds” do in World of Warcraft.

A big, big chunk of EVE is spent with its economy. More than simply trading, you’re producing new technology, harvesting resources and providing services you can sell on an open market that rivals the New York Stock Exchange for sheer complexity and weirdness in how it operates on a daily, commodity-trading basis.

In fact, the economy is run by the players, and has been almost from the start. It’s the players who determine the prices worth paying for commodities—everything from raw ore to ship parts, technology, stolen or salvaged goods, and more.

The economic end of EVE Online has become so complex, deep, and challenging, it’s entirely possible for players who run or are senior executives within these virtual corporations to never have to go in to space to battle or do anything else—running their companies from behind a virtual desk much in the same way they would in real life. And some business execs say that the experience is every bit as valuable as their own real-world experience has been in teaching them how to understand how to adapt to a changing and challenging market in real life.

The sun never sets on EVE Online

Since the game was first released in 2002, EVE Online has gone through seven major expansions. Once or twice a year, CCP Games has increased the game’s capabilities, adding new features and functionality.

At this point, the game features more than 5,000 individual solar systems within a persistent, single online universe, and all of those expansion packs and enhancements are open to Mac users.

EVE Online is on the cusp of releasing a new expansion in 2008 that seasoned EVE players are champing at the bit to get their hands on. It’s called EVE Online: Trinity, and it represents the most work that’s been done on a EVE Online expansion to date, more than two years’ worth of effort.

The game will get a major facelift with Trinity, which will redo the game’s graphics engine to provide much more sophisticated imagery than what it’s currently capable of producing.

Initially Mac and Linux users won’t be able to see those new effects, but fortunately, the other content, logic improvements and game enhancements that are coming with Trinity will be available for the Mac as well, just as they will be for Windows users who won’t be able to take advantage of the new “Premium” Trinity features.

CCP Games and its development partner, TransGaming, are both certain that those changes will be made available to Mac and Linux users in the coming year, though, and are tentatively shooting for the first quarter of 2008, sometime shortly after the appearance of Trinity on Windows.

The particulars

So for now, Mac users are jumping in with the release of Revelations 2.3, an update to the Revelations II expansion pack for EVE Online. That’s scheduled to be available for play on “Tranquility,” the EVE Online server, sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. GMT (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET, 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. PT).

Regardless, you’re welcome to try EVE Online on your Intel-based Mac now. You can download the client from the EVE Online Web site beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007. Minimum system requirements are as follows: Mac OS X v10.4.9 or later, 1.8GHz or faster Intel-based Mac, ATI X1600 or Nvidia 7300 graphics chip or better (not Mac minis or MacBooks, although the game may indeed run), 1GB RAM or more and 6GB hard disk space.

Recommended system requirements skew a bit higher: a 2GHz or faster Intel CPU, ATI X1900 or Nvidia 7600 or better 3-D graphics, 2GB RAM and 6GB hard disk space.

You can download and try out EVE Online for 14 days for no charge. No credit card is required to get the code—just an e-mail address. The game costs $14.95 per month to play, though the first monthly payment is a one-time fee of $19.95. Players can also purchase time through online payment services, and can buy time in bulk at a lower rate through the online EVE Online store.

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