INTERVIEW: CCP Games Talk Starting Out In EVE Online

It's a big ol' galaxy out there.

Eve Online
Eve Online

Multiplayer sandbox games are a tough genre to break into, often leaving new players lost in all the features and options available. EVE Online, being a sandbox space simulator, takes that even further by placing as few restrictions on the player as possible while still being a competitive MMO. The choices come early on, and it can leave a lot of the new players, including myself, lost in space, wondering where to take all of this freedom.

Luckily, I got some help on my first steps into New Eden. Páll Bjarnason is an associate PR and marketing specialist at CCP Games who sat down with me during the tutorials to discuss the early choices, combat in EVE Online, and sage advice that beginning EVE pioneers should try and follow.

The first thing you do when starting EVE Online is build a character, and that immediately forces you to choose a starting faction. How much does that choice impact the game?
Your character creation is purely an aesthetic point of view. The factions and bloodlines, all that stuff. The only differences that I can actually think of … are that you’re going to start off with some very, very basic skills.

As an example, when selecting the Amarr ship, while you develop your skills and stuff like that, you’ll see that you kind of start with an Amarr-biased skill base, but effectively getting onto the same level as somebody who started as Caldari is going to take you a matter of hours of passive training.

Besides that, the only noticeable difference is where in space you start. For example, you as an Amarr character start somewhere in the Amarr Empire, and geographically speaking that may or may not have some kind of difference. The short term may change a bit, but there are no long-term consequences.

Each faction seems to specialize in a certain weapon type. Can you explain the bigger differences in all the weapon types?
Say you’re taking a frigate class, or an attack-based frigate designed to be doing a lot of damage, and you equip them for max DPS, then they will all put out, relatively speaking, similar if not the same amount of damage. What really changes between the weapons are the more nuanced characteristics.

So, missiles have a flight time. They will take longer to approach a target, and their range is based on their velocity and flight distance, like fuel capabilities they might have. For example, you will say I want to attack this target, then you have to wait a couple seconds as your missiles actually go and deal damage. Missiles can basically do any damage but only a singular damage type at a time.

EVE Online
EVE Online

But then you look at energy weapons and they’re locked to EM and thermal damage, but their damage is dealt instantly, as with all turrets. They also have the benefit of being able to swap ammo types instantly, so ammo in the case of turrets will dictate their range more than with missiles. Missile ammo will dictate the damage type you’re dealing.

Autocannons are rapid-firing, close range, but their optimal range goes over a vast distance, so they are very versatile in where they are able to deal damage at a reasonable rate.

Hybrid turrets are split into railguns and blasters. Blasters are effectively just the shotguns of the game as they are extremely close range and high damage– you do not want to get a ship with blasters in your face. Railguns are more sniper oriented with a high rate-of-fire, versatile range, and so-so damage. Then you have artillery that are high alpha and slow rate-of-fire, but if you go up against a fleet of artillery ships, they could wipe out a few of your own with just one volley and that can be damn scary.

It sounds like there are a whole bunch of different roles in combat. Is that accurate or do people rotate out equipment more as a jack-of-all-trades?
That’s an interesting question, actually. If you look at it from a very high-level perspective, it depends on the fleet size you’re running in. For example, the meta right now, as well as it will scale before they have to bring in capitals and supercapitals, is heavy assault cruisers, and generally speaking, autocannons and missiles are kind of the flavor of the month these days just because of the versatility they offer. Actually, it may be railguns and artillery. Generally speaking, you want to be as effective in one range rather than being this jack-of-all-trades.

It’s a constantly evolving dynamic, but I know the Eagle and Muninn, which are two ships used heavily for this type of stuff, are very popular and quite versatile. They’re quite flexible, able to kite while they have support vessels, such as interdictors and interceptors, that will not only help keep them away from the enemy, but also slow the enemy down. Within all of that, you’ll also have logistics ships that serve as a kind of space cleric, keeping the fleet healed up and combat able. The nuances of fleet combat are kind of staggering when trying to learn them.

So I’m going through this tutorial, and there’s nothing too wild or anything. What’s it looking to accomplish?
No, absolutely. It’s mostly there to get the ropes of the UI and the interface, which we understand is a bit daunting, especially if they haven’t played many other games that are this hardcore, for lack of a better description. At the same time, you’re getting the rewards and it gives you the base knowledge of how things work in New Eden.

When you finish the tutorial segment in the Agency, you’ll be told to go to career agents. There are five career agents and they will give you these missions that basically break down these core elements of what you can do on a PvE level in the game. Whether it’s mining, industry, mission running, DED sites, or finding data and relic sites, it takes you through the basics of that to start with. It helps people get a better sense of what they want to do in the game.

For someone as an absolute beginner, what would you say is the best route to take early on? Like, what advice would you give me when it comes to making the money and upgrading my equipment?
It really depends on who you ask as there are differing philosophies. Some people will always say, ‘do this, this is how you make the most money, blah blah blah,’ but I don’t think I fall into that group. For me, take your time with the tutorial, the career agents, and do your research on what you learned from there so you can set yourself a goal. Have the ambition.

EVE Online
EVE Online

For example: You want to build this ship on your own, so you start to do your mining, and that is just what you do for a while. You acquire mining equipment and improve your industry skills so you can build it. First and foremost, you set yourself a goal. I know this is a very generic response, but you do what you find most fun. Do you want to play in a group? Then find a solid group that matches or aligns with your way of thinking and just have fun with it. I mean, that’s the best advice I can give.

You could get into certain areas of space after a while, use a cheap frigate and get into PvP and try that out. Sure, you’re probably going to get absolutely decimated by whoever finds you, but that is an adrenaline surge that I have never found in any other game.

Speaking of PvP, it being so spontaneous, is there an arena you go to, or do you just find people and start blasting?
It’s a bit of both. So, PvP is effectively something you consent to as soon as you undock, no matter where you are. High Sec space is relatively safe, but if you go to Low Security space, as long as you aren’t around the stations or the stargates, it’s kind of a free-for-all. You can shoot whatever you want, and you might take a hit on your security status, but some people aspire to get that as low as possible, like being a pirate.

We do also have the combat arenas in the Proving Grounds where you’re proving yourself as the best warrior. We change it up with regular seasons where you can only use this ship type, or you can only 1v1, or just 3v3. We continue to experiment with it to see what is a popular format and what people are enjoying, what works and what doesn’t.

EVE Online
EVE Online

We’ve done all kinds of them, and we recently changed it to the abyssal proving grounds where it’s 1v1 battle cruisers. That was just over the weekend, and then we’ll be changing to a different format. It’s for the people who want a quick fight or to prove themselves and get on the leaderboard and that’s how they enjoy it. If you just want to get in on the action right away before you have to go to a dinner party or whatever, it’s a perfect way to do that.

Is there anything you should avoid as a beginner? Like is there something that would be a real slog and slow you down?
I think the first thing that comes to mind is: don’t over diversify. You want to build up the core support skills that we call “the magic 14”. These are basically skills that improve ship capabilities for all ships and you kind of want to put them in the foreground. You don’t want to be like, “oh, I’m going to try a bit of mining, now I’m going to try this ship, and I’ll train into this ship”. Before you know it, you’ve spent all your time training to get into ships that you can’t really utilize fully. So take it one step at a time, and put some investment into one ship before you move on.

As for activities, I think there is no way to have a right or wrong answer. If someone likes mining, then they go mine. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you can’t really say “don’t go mining” because somebody might enjoy that and that’s entirely their right. So no, I don’t think there’s anything that you should specifically avoid besides getting lost in the skills and trying too many things at the same time. Take it at a decent pace, and if you like what you’re doing, then stick with it. There’s no right or wrong answer and that’s the beauty of the sandbox.

I ask because not every game has all the options to players just starting out, and perhaps you need some cashflow before getting into certain aspects.
Absolutely, and I suppose that applies to EVE Online as well. If you want to get into PvP, then go for it, but make sure you’re in a situation where you can recoup your losses. A general rule of thumb in this game is: never fly what you can’t afford to lose. That’s one of the mottos of the game — ask any veteran player, and that’s the first thing they say.

Check out Brian’s thoughts from his first space adventure here.

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