I'm going to start by being totally upfront and say that I'm female and my personal preferences do not run toward PVP or space environments. This automatically makes EVE less appealing to me as this is not the kind of game I would be likely to try on my own. That said, I went into the game with the best objective mindset I could muster. I was intrigued by the open-ended nature of the crafting system and looked forward to learning more about that. I also brought my hubby along to help keep me from being too overwhelmed by some of the more challenging aspects of the game.
The character creation process was interesting. There was a fair amount of customization but in general I would call the character builder "weird". Some of the options they give you are very odd (the ability to control directional lighting on your face) and some are pretty limited (hair styles). It was difficult for me to build a character I liked, but I was able to create one I was mostly comfortable with. My husband was not, which I think is strange because I'm pickier than him. From what I saw, the male avatars were more limited in options than the females. However, once you start playing this turns out to be a non-issue. I never saw my avatar beyond the creation/login screen. Basically all your time in the game is spent staring at your ship, not your character. After playing it, I'm not actually sure why they provide an avatar creation system.
The first thing you notice is the user interface, which is rather overwhelming. There's a lot of information on the screen and there are lots of options and settings for many of the functions. This is an important aspect of the game, because you do the vast majority of your actions through the interface. The only time you interact with the environment is when looting or targeting other objects. At least this was my experience through the early stages of the game. Since the bulk of your game interaction is done via the user interface, it's kind of a big deal when the user interface is hard to learn. I had more trouble figuring things out in EVE than any other game I've tried recently. They have a built in tutorial and Wiki, but this didn't provide the level of help I needed. Eventually I was able to get minimally competent within the game environment, but it took a concerted effort on my part. This can distract from the game experience. Depending on the proficiency level of the player it could also be a deal breaker.
Luckily they have some tutorials in the game that lead you through your first few quests and into the beginning tradeskill quest chains. This was very helpful, as I would have been totally lost without the tutorial guiding me. Even with the tutorial I had to research elsewhere for certain steps to avoid messing them up. I actually did mess up one step and had to steal stuff from my hubby's character to move forward. After that I started researching quests so I wouldn't make another mistake. If you're unable to complete a quest, you can lose favor with the quest giver. Sometimes they will stop talking to you for several hours or days if this happens. The quest text warns you of this consequence, but that doesn't help you when you've made a mistake that can't be corrected.
In my case I made an item with a blueprint that only had two "charges" on it. I made one for myself and put it on my ship (new loots!). When I went to make 2 more for the quest, I was unable to finish because the blueprint was gone. It was at this point that I realized I had messed up my own quest. I couldn't buy another copy of the blueprint and I still needed 1 more item. I tried removing the first item from my ship, but the quest didn't seem to care that it was back in my inventory. I had no way to correct this problem and if I dropped the quest I would be shunned by the quest giver. That's when I resorted to pillaging from hubby, since it was the only way to move forward. In my view this is bad quest design. Especially at early stages of the game, players shouldn't be hit with stiff penalties for messing up. Ideally I should have been able to abandon the quest and start over with no "faction" loss. It's fine to implement penalties at higher levels of content, but not in the first quest chain.
The early game seems to revolve around mining and doing FedEx style tasks for various groups. I'm sure there are other activities you can get into later on, at least I've read that there are. I started out working on the "Industry" profession and played through the quest chain for it. There are about ten steps, so I feel I got a pretty good exposure to the basic game mechanics during this process. I went out and mined ore. I came back to my station and refined it. I received a couple of blueprint recipes which allowed me to make a few items. The leveling process in EVE is unusual. You purchase skill manuals from the market (auction house), which unlocks new abilities that you can then level up. You don't make items to level up; you just "study" the next level. You have a queue in your character sheet which allows you to select abilities to work on. The first level of a skill usually takes 10 minutes to learn, then level 2 takes about an hour. After that it ramps up quickly to 4 hours, 9 hours, 24 hours, and so on. This process continues when you are logged out, so leveling is simply a matter of putting abilities in your queue and then refilling it when those items are complete. On the one hand this is great because you can set it and forget it. On the other hand, this would seem to indicate that new players are generally at a disadvantage to older players. Also, I suspect players who log in every day have advantage over those who can only log in once or twice a week, since the queue can only hold 24 hours worth of training requests.
I touched on the game play but so far haven't really delved into it. In a word - it's boring. When you mine a node, you target it with your laser and then you activate the laser. The laser will zap at it repeatedly unless you turn it off or the ore is mined out. This can take 1 or more passes with the laser, a minimum of 45 seconds per pass (or "stack" collected). My limited experience with mining asteroids was that it takes around 3 passes to deplete one asteroid. Meanwhile you are staring at the screen, doing nothing. Combat is similar in functionality. When an enemy vessel approaches, you target it with your laser and turn it on. Both ships will zap each other repeatedly until one dies, I could not figure out any way to control the combat beyond that. My husband had the same experience with combat, neither of us was able to find a more interactive method to take out enemy ships.
When you're not mining ore or fighting enemies, you are docked at the station. While docked you can shop the market, chat with local quest givers or craft items. To make an item you simply create a job and kick it off, you can return later to collect the finished item. There are times when you fly from one station to another during "missions" or fly out to asteroids to mine ore. The act of flying itself isn't terribly interactive, you select a destination and your ship warps there. At no time that I could see were you controlling the ship manually. I thought this was kind of a bummer. Seems to me that one of the perks of a space-themed MMO should be the appeal of flying your own space ship like Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.
The upside to the crafting system in EVE is that you can learn any crafting ability. In most cases you only need to purchase a book to unlock it, although there are abilities that have prerequisites which also have to be met (other abilities that you've already unlocked). Even so, you're not limited to any particular number of skills. If you had the time and inclination you could try to learn them all. The leveling process is time consuming, as I mentioned above. It will probably take weeks or months to master a particular skill, mostly because you're locked into the real-time leveling schedule. I can easily see how this game could keep you engaged for a long time if you enjoy this style of play. There are a lot of professions and it would take a long time to learn them all. I'm guessing most players don't do that. More likely, they try a few trades until they find one they like and stay with that.
To me, playing this game felt more like an RTS than an MMO. There's a lot of micromanagement going on with your ship, your resources and the various activities you engage in. It seemed like I spent more time in the docking station navigating menus than I did out in space doing something. Perhaps this changes once you're more familiar with the interface and more comfortable with the game itself. I never reached that point with EVE.
I'd love to tell you how many hours I spent on this game, but I can't seem to find a command for that. I know I spent the bulk of one Saturday and a few more hours on a couple of subsequent days. I'd estimate that I spent at least 5 hours trying out EVE. I wanted to do more, but quite honestly after finishing the big quest chain I didn't know what I was supposed to do next. The only other quests that appear to be open to me are new quest chains for unlocking other professions. I'm not sure how to progress farther in my current profession. If I were playing this game for personal reasons, I would most likely just walk away at this point. As much as I want to give this game a fair shake, I don't think I can justify mindless tenacity. So I decided to hang up my hat at the five hour mark - sorry EVE.
That said, I don't feel that I was unfair to EVE. My hubby was ready to quit after the first hour. He's a pretty tolerant guy, but he pronounced it boring and had no motivation to continue. His take was that there was no game in the game, no part of it that was actually fun. Sadly, I agree with him on that. While I appreciate some of the concepts they tried to bring to this game, the execution is just not compelling. Now it may be tempting to assume that I'm just whining and being unreasonable because EVE didn't cater to my girly nature. I wish that were the case, but my personal agenda left the building sometime during the second hour. Beyond that it was professional courtesy keeping me going. I've been an advanced computer user for over 15 years and I've done UI testing and tech support at different times along the way. I've gotten pretty good at sussing out what the average user can and can't handle. I think the EVE folks missed the mark on making this game friendly and inviting. Perhaps that wasn't their goal and they're fine with the early game experience as it is. It's my view that anyone who's been playing for 5+ hours shouldn't be confused about what the game has to offer. And if you haven't grabbed someone by then, you probably aren't going to. I think this game has too much of a learning curve for most people. It's also lacking in fun factor. There's not enough help information available, even for folks who are actively searching for it (in-game or on the web). The tutorials aren't comprehensive enough to familiarize players with the major aspects of the game. The quests appear to dry up before players have a chance to get a solid grasp of the game or get significantly immersed in it. Much as I hate to do it, I would have to rank this game below "A Tale in the Desert" in terms of crafting. While it has a very large and complex crafting system which represents a core part of the game, it's just not an enjoyable gaming experience.