Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My Fling With Eve

I decided to check out Eve Online, since they're offering a free 14-day trial period and don't ask for your credit card info (always a dealbreaker for me).

The client runs windowed. Not a bad thing, a little unfamiliar. I assume you can go full screen if you want.

After the tutorial I decide to keep it windowed.

This isn't a game, it's a diversion at best.

Well, it's a beautiful diversion, I'll give them that. Space is rendered with an amazing sense of scale, three dimensional clouds of gas and dust, enormous planets and distant stars. The ships are appropriately shiplike, moving in a compromise between the realism of 2001 and the maneuverability of Star Wars. There are thousands of corporations and stations and asteroid belts to mine.

It's a diversion because, like most space games, it's too large.

The time it takes to travel anywhere is insane. And traveling is monotonous.

Navigation is, however, incredibly easy. You right click and select a destination conveniently divided into groups like planets, stargates, stations. Then select warp or hit autopilot and . . . watch your ship go.

That's what you'll be doing most of the time. Enter station. Get mission. Leave station. Autopilot to destination. Complete mission. Return to station.

Not all that different from the format of most MMORPGs. Except that the travel time versus the actually doing stuff time is so unbalanced that the feeling of accomplishment is slim.

The skill system is interesting. Your character can learn any number of skills. Skill require real time to train. So, say you pick 'Missile Launcher Operation'. Train it to level one and it'll take maybe 30 minutes. When that's done, you can train another skill or go to level two, which will take more time. The time it takes to train higher level skills increases rapidly.

I'm not sure I like the system. On the one hand, it means that the grind isn't as prevalent, since you know how much time it will take to learn something. But then again, your skills aren't related at all to your accomplishments.

I found it ridiculous that skills were so incredibly focused. And pissed off. I couldn't use a missile launcher on my ship because I wasn't trained. Okay, that's fair, I guess. But after I trained it I couldn't use missiles because I didn't have the missile use skill. What? While I was training myself with the launcher I never actually loaded it with any missiles?

Pure fucking idiocy. That kind of frustration permeates, as you're constantly limited to what items are useful until you can train.

I also found that my assets were getting scattered all over the universe. I could understand not being able to transport goods instantaneously, but it would have been nice to order something on the market and have to wait to have it sent to where I was docked instead of having to take twenty minutes to fly to the one station that has my shit.

Of course, that would break their trading system. Which involves looking for something cheap on the market, flying there, buying as much as you can carry and flying to someplace that buys it for more than you paid. Whee.

It isn't a horrible MMORPG. The detail is amazing. The learning curve is a little steep, but things are laid out logically. There are lots of agents with lots of missions, and you can actually earn decent money doing NPC missions. You also don't have to fight to advance, so it's one of the few games I've seen where being a trader or manufacturer is a viable career option.

In the end, though, it's a whole bunch of spreadsheets linked together with a cool graphical interface. The combat is just okay, very Star Trek - maintain distance, fire when you can and try to get away if you're losing.

I don't mess with PvP and the problem is that Eve has no restrictions. There are safe sectors of space and NPCs monitor a lot of places, but it is possible to be destroyed by pirates or jerks at pretty much any time.

It doesn't get my vote as a worthwhile investment.

Still waiting on a space MMORPG (I'd like to check out Jump to Lightspeed, but I have no patience for the atrocity of SW: Galaxies) that is interesting and fun and new.

Fuck mining asteroids - let us set up platforms in the rings of a gas giant.

Screw the point and wait combat - add in the ability to hire and give orders to crewmen, constantly relaying orders and balancing systems and rerouting power and negotiating surrender. I want to have my ship smoking and sputtering, just barely limping into a nebula that blinds everyone's sensors, then sneaking out and trying to make it to a jump point.

Forget about the boring old space caravan - make it so that cargo ships can carry enormous amounts of goods and will affect the development of planets or whole solar systems. That tungsten drop-off you made just allowed a previously peaceful system to assemble a small fleet of war craft and now they're attacking their neighbors. That grain stopped a famine - now you're the savior of a station and they're clamoring to help you and have you help them.

I guess I'll do what I always do.

Play until the trial runs out. Admit that the experience has compelling elements.

Dream about an MMORPG that I'd actually enjoy.

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