Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Eve Online: at first glance

I go to The Escapist website each week to check out the latest episode of Zero Punctuation, and each time I am assaulted with ads for Eve Online inviting me to play online for free. 
Eve had also been recommended by some friends as an alternative to World of Warcraft in a cool space-setting. 



Straylight and I played WoW for a few months when we first moved to London.  The problem was that it was horrendously addictive, but it was also a bit dull for me.  Combined with this, the PvP aspect was completely, unforgivably biased against anyone on their first characters.  Seriously, if you didn't have a Twink, you were in for an entirely frustrating time.  The only alternative being to spend actual Great British Pounds on virual Gold to buy special equipment for your character, which is fine for some and all due respect to them, but that didn't fit into the scope of what I wanted from a video game. 
The final straw was that in April of this year we had a string of gigs including a Plague Sequence gig in London, 2 Crystalline Effect gigs in Holland and 1 in Budapest, which required alot of rehearsal and preperation.  So we stopped playing in order to prepare.  After the tour was over, we realised that a month or two had gone by and we hadn't even logged into WoW.  It was out of our system, and we took the opportunity to cancel our subscriptions and uninstall the game. 

Anyway back to Eve.  I recently succumbed and followed the links from The Escapist.  After an easy sign-up process the exe started downloading.  It was a total of 600ish-mb and was coming down at a steady 240k/s (I love English broadband), so was down in about 40 mins.  After a quick install, and my free 14-day trial account being successfully set up automatically, I was in. 
I'm mentioning how easy it was because I was merely curious about the game and if it required any more serious effort I may not have bothered. 

Unfortunately I had a bad feeling straight away.  Character creation felt incredibly long-winded, with the only thing to guide me being thumbnails and long text descriptions.  The character attibutes were mostly arcane and there was no real sense of what set my choices apart and what impact they would have in the game.  The long, un-animated, slideshow-style intro had my hand hovering over the escape button with tedium, but I stuck with it, and was eventually launched into the game. 

I was looking at a ship hovering in space.  This was me.  You'd think space would allow a sense of freedom but the movement system is based on a series of tedious menus.  After a lengthy tutorial I learned that I can't just move around, I have to find an object and double-click on it to approach it.  I can't circle-strafe a target, but must right-click and click on the "orbit" sub-menu and then select in feet the distance from which to orbit my target.  To then stop my ship I must right-click on the ship and select "stop" from a menu.  WASD is clearly for the unevolved, i.e. me. 

At this stage I was hoping to see other players zipping by, to give me a sense of community, as this was an MMO after all.  Not once did I see another player.  I was just stranded in space, struggling with a clumsy ship, with only the promises of long-winded transits, extended mining sessions, and dull battles ahead. 

The game looks reasonably stunning, and given the cool, futuristic setting I can understand why it's the 2nd biggest MMO after WoW.  But I found it so difficult to get into and felt so unwelcome in the Eve Online universe, that I get the impression that after the amount of hours I'd have to put in to make the game start to feel rewarding, I'd want to move onto something more familiar and accessible like WHOnline, which comes out in a couple of months.