Header art by Major Sniper.
The alert came in – an allied Rorqual had spotted a possible threat and called for backup. And just like that, I had my chance. I strapped into my Cormorant, pulled up comms, and – for the very first time – joined fleet.
I’d arrived in Delve a few days before, a fresh-eyed newbee my first time out into null-sec. Up to that point I’d played Eve almost entirely solo, and entirely PvE, except for the few times I’d been tackled and burned down while ratting.
But what I really wanted was a taste of Eve’s famous PvP. I obtained an appropriately-fitted Cormorant (courtesy of the GSF Free Frigates Program) and I waited.
I missed the big fight on April 23. Sort of. I logged in after the call had already been active for awhile, strapped into my Cormorant, and launched out into space. But in my eagerness I’d forgotten several things. I could hear the fleet on comms, but wait . . . how does one join a fleet? I realized I didn’t actually know. And what does a jump bridge look like again? I’d never used one and I didn’t know that either (and as it turns out, I had them filtered out of my overview so it would have been a challenge to locate anyway).
So I settled in and listened to the battle on comms . . . which I’ve since discovered is a no-no due to the fact that it can inconvenience Fleet Commanders and carry OpSec risks. (Don’t make the same newbee mistake I did. Follow the rules and join comms only if you’re a part of the fleet so you don’t get in the way.) Still, it gave me a bit of a feel for how FCs interact with their fleets, and an idea of what I might expect when I got the chance to jump into the real thing.
I was also not entirely sure how my tiny Cormorant fit in with the doctrine in use by the fleet. So I read up on the forums to be sure I wouldn’t be breaking any additional rules by joining up.
The next night, I got my second chance. Another Rorqual was under potential threat, and the call went out again. This time I was better prepared: my Cormorant and I joined fleet, joined comms, and waited for the call to undock.
I still wasn’t quite sure how to use a jump bridge, but at least this time I could follow the other pilots to the right location – at which point I added it to my overview – and away we went.
As it turned out, there was no combat to be had this time out. The speed and magnitude of our response had, by itself, sent the attackers packing – wary of another punishing engagement like the one they’d endured the previous night.
But I’d had my taste. And despite the lack of action, I’d enjoyed it! I joined another op that evening under the same fleet commander. This one was a longer, more deliberate, and more involved affair that gave a small window into the level of detail the Imperium puts into its strategic planning. While the fleet dispatched a few opposing ships this go-around, my Cormorant and I never got close enough to the front lines to fire a shot – much less make a difference in the outcome. This time.
But this was just The First Patrol. And since that largely uneventful excursion I understand a bit more about why Eve is still going strong after 15 years even as other, more modern, more visually-enthralling MMOs have come . . . and gone: because in Eve you will never find your character sitting at the edge of a stream and gazing at the perfect, rippling waves beautifully rendered in the very latest gaming engine backed up by the most powerful GPU known to humanity. You’ll never spend hours agonizing over how to craft the most stylish Magical Super-Boots of Fire-Raining Death on your server.
But you might save the pilots next to you from having their ships shot out from under them. You might help your alliance defend its friends or expand its sovereignty – adding to the resources and the territory available for you and yours to navigate in relative safety (to the extent anything in null-sec is ever truly “safe”). You might just get a taste of one of the Web’s truly unmanaged worlds, whose inhabitants are responsible for their own actions and choices and consequences, rather than having them imposed by the Gamemakers. And in the process, you will most certainly experience the consequences – good and bad – of your own choices.
And in the process, you might just discover – as I am discovering – that there’s more to some games than just the game itself.