The following offering is the fifth in a series of articles intended to showcase the powerful potential of having an open mind while exploring EVE online as a brand new player. During the course of this project I will be assuming the guise of a new Caldari player. I am playing without skill injectors, PLEX, and the massive mound of SP which I am generally used to.
We have come a very long way from our humble beginnings as a new player. Rising up to find a niche in the harsh but adrenaline-producing action of Faction Warfare PVP and PVE, we have now reached an initial plateau that roughly coincides with the first month mark of a pilot’s life in New Eden. Players have come to a point where they know how to make some ISK, and have chosen their career path. The game is enjoyable, but it is at this very moment that the game makes or breaks a trial account. The reality that most players who haven’t utilized skill injectors to augment their natural SP won’t have the ability to earn the ISK to pay for a 30-Day PLEX will scare off the uncommitted who thought the game would be free-to-play. The players who do stay will continue on because either the game is engaging to them, or they’ve developed a sense of belonging with a community of friends.
In today’s article, I want to discuss the importance of branching off from your initial skillset and discovering activities in the game outside the initial career path that can help serve to keep a player engaged. Additionally, we’ll review some lessons learned on the way here regarding the development of skills to suit your tasks, a common stumbling block for the new player.
Career Flexibility: How to Plan Your Plan B
EVE Online is a game that completely owns the first M in MMORPG, because Massive is the only way to accurately describe the scope of all there is to do. To get a sense of this, all one has to do is open up the map and look at how many star systems there are in the game. The vast majority of them have someone in them attending to one activity or another, be it gate camping, mining, Planetary Interaction, refueling Player-Owned Stations, destroying NPC rats, exploring scannable sites, or building fleets of ships. This only serves as the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
With a world so full of opportunity it is a shame to keep yourself so specialized that you don’t get a chance to try anything else. This leads me to suggest that players, upon reaching plateaus, consider stepping outside of their comfort zones and try something new. Focusing one’s talents early on is a sure way to play catch up with established players, and as I look at my nearly one month old character, I can plainly see that within another month I would be easily able to fly T2 frigates with at least one type of T2 weapon systems and tanks. This puts me on par with any dedicated frigate pilot in the game. This is a great goal to set for a PVP enthusiast, but what else can I do?
I will warn you, Faction Warfare can be a lot of fun when you’re fighting, but you will quickly come to a point where you may unintentionally fall into a cycle of plexing for a certain amount of time, fighting for a bit, and being slightly bored and not wishing to go back to plexing sites. This is pretty natural; EVE as a game does not stand well as a one-trick pony. Even the most industrious miner often opts to increase his gameplay options by becoming an equipment producer or market trader. As a combat-focused new pilot, I have quite a few options available, but I’m going to focus on the two most popular side activities chosen by new players.
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it:
Combat skills are quite universal. If you can run missions, theoretically you can PVP with only a few extra skills that already come trained on new characters. The inverse is true as well. After testing out my capabilities in PVE railgun-fit Merlin, our one-month-old PVP pilot can obliterate Level 1 and 2 missions with relative ease. The skills are all in place and progression through the Mission Running ships could lead me to eventually run Incursions, a hybrid of large PVP-style fleets running anomaly-style mission sites for serious cash.
Mission running is much-maligned in EVE online due to its heavily repetitive nature, but remains a top source of player ISK and mineral generation. Loot and salvage from mission wrecks can be sold off wholesale to producers for reprocessing into minerals, or for the creation of rigs for ships. Missioning is quite popular in that it has a definitive skill to ship progression that is not difficult to follow, and missions are fundamentally scripted and easy to follow by rote thanks to sites like EVE Survival, which provide detailed instructions on how to complete each task.
The Mission Ship progression follows in line with standings gains, meaning usually by the time you’re ready to move up into a new level of missions via Agent Standings, you’re trained into the next ship or nearly trained. At least, that’s the theory. In reality, all too many new players rush into bigger and better ships without training the correct tanking, weapons, and support skills to match their larger vessels. This leads to situations where players will attempt to augment the ship via ISK where the skill points fail them, inevitably producing loot piñatas like Officer-fit Ravens for gankers to feast on. Over the years, I admit that I too have been guilty of flying an almost full Caldari Navy-fit Navy Raven, but time and common sense has prevailed as I teach new players to work towards T2 fits and only carry a minimal amount of bling to get the job done.
Exploration: Lost in Space
All new characters come with the rudimentary skills for scanning. A day dedicated to boosting these skills opens up a solid start in the Exploration career. This path offers players the opportunity to strike out and find various types of scannable sites, all of which have a random chance of being filled with true treasure like POS blueprint copies, or junk barely worth hauling back to sell. Exploration is organic, with sites spawning just about everywhere you can imagine, and seems slightly less repetitive than most PVE. In lowsec and nullsec locales, there is a need to need to avoid capture by the inhabitants as you plunder the tombs and hack the mainframes of their territory.
The scanning profession is also undergoing a bit of a renaissance thanks in no small part to avid spokesperson and player personality WiNGSPANTT, also known by his in game name Chance Ravinne, and his excellent guide to Exploration. In darker times within New Eden, scanning was an archaic and poorly understood activity, undertaken by few pilots, but with changes to the UI and a revision of the system, now the field is full of fierce competition, and there’s as likely a chance to make a fortune as have it stolen right out from under your sensors.
I personally opted to engage in Exploration, as it allows me the chance to stretch my legs and check out the other areas of space. The ISK dividends are less sure than Missioning, but the freedom to do something other than more shooting makes it appealing. The fact that entry-level ships are simple frigates and having your frigate skill to 5 greatly helps your attempts at the hacking minigame are also great reasons for a seasoned frigate pilot to buy a cheap exploration ship and give it a go.
It’s All in Your Head: Skill Selection
Groucho Marx famously said, “Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” In EVE, Skill books and the judicious application of time in training can make or break your ability to compete in the career path(s) you’ve chosen. New players are welcomed into the game with a generous head-start compared to the heady days of my main character’s youth, receiving nearly half a million skillpoints upon their first login. These skills will let any new player join in a gang and be capable of pretty much every basic task you could ask of a frigate pilot, but eventually you need more.
Plenty of veteran players will give the conventional wisdom that there are benefits to focusing on one thing at a time off the bat, it’s solid advice that I’ve been sure to follow during our experiment. I moved directly from upgrading my gunnery, to directly training frigates, moving over to drones for additional damage, and tank for defenses. My focus being combat, I want to pick skills that augment and improve the effectiveness of my chosen ship types: Hybrid Weapon Frigates (a decision which was covered in depth in the prior article). Having a game plan for what you want to do, and doing a bit of research on what ships you’ll want to do it in is invaluable in the next step: setting up a training plan.
CCP provides players with a pretty useful tool to gauge what they may need to learn to achieve their goals in comparison with the now-defunct training certificate system (which served as a catch-all for various related ship functions) by giving us the Ship Mastery system. By browsing ship info on the Ship Tree and selecting the Mastery Tab, players can easily see mastery ratings from one to five, each with skills that the developer recommends to train to get the most out of that particular ship. Mastery is a solid way to hand-pick skills to train when looking to either pick up a new ship, or to increase the abilities of one of your existing vessels. Some skills listed will require prerequisites trained, all which usually augment the ship in question for the better, and many skill cross over to other hulls as well.
It is worth noting that players may wish to use the Mastery system as a base template but not follow it too rigidly, instead using the tool to get a solid idea of where to go next rather than a hard and fast guide. Many masteries at V have little extra effect towards any particular ship hull, and players might be better served leaving several masteries at III and IV before moving onto the next hull in order to operate more ships.
This particular notion begs the question of when to stop specializing. The simplest answer to that is to change things up when you tire of a particular hull or playstyle. EVE Online rewards players who can carefully balance maintaining specialization with utility, and this notion is well reflected in many of hulls. Finding one’s particular line in the sand may be difficult at first, as it was when my new character opted to dive directly into PVP without initially worrying about PVE.
Personally I have found that when I find myself becoming comfortable with myself, and able to achieve a goal minimally, it is time to change gears and look for something that shares a bit of synergy with what I’m currently working on. This form of training leads to natural progression and continual progress not just on new skills, but reinforcing and improving the paths I go before. A prime example would be choosing a specific weapon system, and working on its support skills while training the weapon skill itself, moving up to larger variants of the weapons systems and continuing that support training.
Some skills have little to nothing to do with a ship at all, but instead provide useful perks in navigating the game and its various systems. Masteries fall short of teaching players what to train for activities like Market Training, or all important Social skills which govern the Byzantine Standings section, which in turn handles security status, taxes on market trades, mission availability and the ability to fly through enemy territory unmolested by NPC militia. Neurological skills serve as a means to increase skillpoint training and augment existing skills via implants, as well as enabling the player to specialize not only their skill queue, but clones as well with Jump Clone skills.
Taking the time to peruse the skill list in the market tab can reveal a plethora of ideas for what to train next, but remember we want you to play for the long haul. You don’t have to train everything right now. When choosing to train outside of your career path, don’t fret. Simply train a little here and little there as you go.
The Perils of the Deep
Risk doesn’t always pay off, but there is a lot to be said for living on the ragged edge of your seat. There is a lot to be said for taking a step back and recalling the lessons you learn as you go, and in the spirit of that, this article has been more informative. As I become more solvent in my profession as a Faction Warfare pilot, I can reach out with a bit more expensive fits. As I train my core skills to improve my ships, I find moments to take a break and train scanning skills or my jump clone skills. I have indeed reached that plateau where players can review what they’ve done so far and looking out on what I’ve reached.
Instead of being bored doing the same Faction Warfare sites, I find myself looking for what else this amazing game has to offer. I turn back over my shoulder and look up to see that this is simply not a plateau, but a steppe mesa, each higher tier something to reach for in order to find that better view.
I don’t know about those who cast aside this great game after this pivotal moment. Perhaps those players simply dislike the flavor of their grand adventure, maybe instead they never felt like they had an adventure at all, that they needed to train some mystical skill to begin enjoying the vastness of EVE Online. I do know that I genuinely feel sorry for that lot, because truly, they are missing out. I do realize that Faction Warfare for me is only a waystation. The chat between corp mates inevitably turns to mention the expanses of no-man’s land. I’m told it’s dead out there, that the occupants claim to help newbros but only turn them into the meat shield of their wars. Some say it’s a place where fortunes are made, and where the end game has driven older players mad with greed. I can’t help but wonder what this place holds for the crazy brave and stupid new. I stare across the jump gate into HED-GP.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Roland Cassidy.