EVE Online Crafting Review

This is going to be a hard review for me. EVE Online is radically different from other MMO games I've played. As such, it's very difficult to compare it to other MMOs in a meaningful fashion. One might say this major departure in gaming style is a good thing. For me I'm afraid that really wasn't the case. I was very curious about it, and also somewhat intimidated about certain portions of the game. It claims to be an open-ended game where players can do whatever they choose. For me this turned out to be more of a flaw than a feature. More than any other review I've done so far, this one is going to be touching on all aspects of the game. That's because crafting is such an integral part of the game that it's very difficult to separate them from each other. At least that's the way I experienced it.


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.

6 comments:

  1. Having recently 'hung up my hat' in Eve Online myself, after 4.5 yrs of dedicated game play and over 60-million skill points learned - mostly in Industry & Science, and Spaceship Command/Missile tech, I have to say that your five days in, mirror my own experiences and disappointments.

    I've experienced it all, and it all boils down to supporting an pvp-centric game style - you're crafting mostly to bolster your own offensive pvp capabilities as well as defensive posture. I had it all - Jump Freighters, Player-owned station (Hi and Low-sec), Exhumers, T2 Battleship and T3 Advanced Cruiser, 1000's of researched BPOs and BPCs, Invention, Wormhole exploring and loot, alliance creation, running a very large corporation, training new and veteran players, etc.

    I recently left the game as it offered zero-fun factor outside of PvP. Having been active in WoW since late 2004, I have avoided PvP, Battlegrounds, and Arenas -- With Eve Online, I strived to co-exist in the game outside of PvP as much as possible, but unfortunately, the biggest bully wins, and you have no control over griefers that come along to wreck your day and your efforts - if they want to declare war on you for no reason at all, then you have to wait it out, fight them off, or turn off the game till they go away. Having zero control over the CHOICE to pvp was the reason why I finally left, and after umpteen pvp-centric expansion packs, CCP has yet to fully address non-pvp'ers with any fun game play mechanics.

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  2. Thank you for your insights into the game - I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. I really wasn't sure how much of my experience was relevant to the long term play, so it's nice to hear that I wasn't totally offbase. It's just unfortunate that a game with such an interesting crafting system was lacking in a strong PVE game to attract the players who would most appreciate the design work that went into their tradeskill system.

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  3. Wow. i have to say that i am shocked you think so little of EVE. i have been playing it for quite a long time in tandem with WoW, and the two are indeed VERY different in style.

    Now first of i agree that EVE has an extreme learning curve, some call it suicidal. i don't know if you've already stumbled upon this picture, but i almost have to show you :)
    http://www.eve-pirate.com/uploads/LearningCurve.jpg

    Second i think that you missed a VERY important part in the early game - the beginner chat channel. this is a place where voulunteers who know A LOT about the game sit and answer questions from people all day long about which missions they should be doing and what stuff they should be putting on their new cruiser etc. The community in EVE is really very helpfull, and most people don't mind helping out a newbie. of course there are griefers in EVE too, but generally it has a very helpfull playerbase.

    When i started playing EVE i got to the point you mentioned where i had no idea what i was "supposed to do", but the problem here is that when you reached that point you just reached "end game" which, as you said, is supposed to be open. As soon as you get to that point you really can do whatever want. You can grief other players, rob coorporations of their fortunes, craft stuff to sell on the market, commence in PVP, become a stock trader, play the markets for profit, run missions for profit and salvage, salvage other peoples mission generic wrecks and so on. the possibilies are almost endless.
    Anyways, to get back to the point i was there too. But then i decided to join a coorporation, and this changed it all. They have taught me so much about EVE. Without them i really don't think i would have been playing the game for much longer than you..

    The point here is, that you say that you think you have been fair to the game, but i think that you really haven't tried it at all yet. Out of what i can read in your post you really haven't talked to anyone else than your boyfriend so far at all. This is an MMORPG afterall - you are supposed to interact with the community.

    You write that you think the gameplay is boring. I can agree that it might seem boring at first glance to just target something and wait for it to die, but that really isnt the challenge in this game. The challenge is to get to the point where you can actually do that, and then have the skill to get out of the situation again if anything doesnt go according to plan (you die faster than the ship you are shooting at). When PVP'ing in this game it is really always about catching your opponent at the right time and at the right place. Away from his comrades and at his most voulnerable. Most of the time, if no backup arrives, the fight is over the moment you get a lock on whoever it is you were chasing.

    Now i don't know much about your blog or what it's about apart from WoW economics and i don't want to bash you too much, but i really think it is unfortunate that you write such a review on EVE after _only_ playing it for five hours since this game has much much more to offer than anyone can experience in five hours. to be honest i highly doubt that you have even completed all of the tutorial yet.

    Sorry if this came out a bit rude, i just had to get it off my chest since i think this is such a great game with a heap of potential, and i think that it is too bad if people don't feel like trying it out after reading your review of your first impressions.

    Regards, Anon

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  4. Thanks for stopping by Anon, I appreciate your comments as a seasoned EVE player. You make a lot of valid points that I had every intention of exploring during my test drive of EVE. Let me see if I can respond to the major issues you bring up:

    1) Learning curve: As much as I wanted to put in more time, the steep learning curve really got in my way. I think that's something new users should be aware of as an obstacle. You mentioned the chat channels as a source of information, but honestly my WoW experience with chat channels prevented me from attempting to participate. Maybe it's not fair of me to put my WoW hangups on EVE, but I suspect other MMO veterans will have the same instinct. It's unfortunate, but also a fact of life that prior experience will often influence someone's expectations when they try something new.

    2) Avoidance of Social Networking: I tend to be a loner when in comes to the early stages of a game. I've never utilized general chat to ask questions in WoW, I like to figure things out for myself. I try different things until I work out a problem, if that fails I research the answer on the web. An MMO should respect multiple playstyles and not force me to tap into the social network as the main source of game information. If I knew in advance that the only way to learn a particular MMO was by hanging out in chat, I probably wouldn't even download the game. However, others may not have the same view on that and you've let us know that chat is a viable way to get information for new players.

    My primary reason for not joining a "corporation" was that I knew I would not be staying with EVE. I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to foster new relationships with people I planned to abandon when my trial account ran out.

    3) Boring action: You actually agree with me that the combat seems boring and then point to PVP as the antidote. As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, I don't really enjoy PVP, so this wouldn't make the game more appealing for me. My main purpose in reviewing EVE was for the crafting system. I knew I would be biased on the PVP front, but I did want to touch on the combat system since it was part of the tutorial I did. Mainly I wanted folks to know that harvesting uses a similar mechanic and they are both pretty boring once you've found your target. They are also slow, which I find weird from a pacing perspective. But in general I think EVE moves at a more leisurely pace, so I guess it makes sense that combat and gathering follow that dynamic.

    4) Testing too short: I agree with you that ideally I would have put in 10 hours at a minimum. But as you acknowledged in your comments, without the support of a corporation it's tough to get much farther than I did. I wanted to do more, I just had no idea what to do next. Plus I had no way of knowing if more time would actually provide me with additional useful information or just be a rehash of what I had already done. I fully agree that my time in-game was not optimal, but you agreed with me that I got as far as I reasonably could on my own.

    The focus of this review was on the crafting system, which I'm not sure I was able to fully experience due to other obstacles in EVE. I completely agree that 5 hours isn't enough time to fully review any MMO, but it should be enough time to learn the basics and get a feel for the crafting system. I suspect your average tourist wouldn't spend more than 5 hours on a game they're not enjoying, so from that perspective I think I was fair. I appreciate your comments and the insight you gave us into the "end game" of EVE, but I stand by my review. You've acknowledged that many of my points are valid and my main problem was not tapping into the social network. Now other readers will be aware that if they plan to try EVE, they should be willing to reach out to the community for help.

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  5. I had, at one time, 3 Eve account (a MUST HAVE deal with Eve if you're serious, multiple accounts!) I eventually sold 1 (legally) and parred down to 2. I built things, I LOVED building things. I didn't love mining but it was a price I paid to put hundreds of units of ammo or a couple small ships (or even, as I got more skills, capital ships) into the cooker and then sell them for profit. The learning curve was steep and the price to play (in terms of real cash and time invested) was huge, but I loved Eve.

    I got to the point where I was flying Carriers and Dreadnaughts, those ships are too big to fit through jump gates so you rely on someone else (a real person) to light a cyno (a beacon your ships jump drives can lock onto) and you jump to the new location. Yes, after two years of solid play on three accounts, I was relegated to a set of ships that REQUIRED another live person to help me move them through space. I quit. WoW is fun, but vastly different (and enjoyable in it's own way but will never match my experiences in Eve). My old alliance/corp mates still ask me to come back to Eve.

    Hroller

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  6. Hey,

    I am playing WoW for the last 1 year and half, and had played EVE for 1 year before that. From my experience, I can say that, while WoW is a mainstream game, EVE aims a very specific niche of players; players who have a lot of time, who can deal with ambiguity, and who have an abstract way of thinking. On the other hand, WoW is more hands on, more action oriented and visually more exciting.

    You pointed out many important points, and they are all valid. I just wanted to say that, EVE is a much abstract game than WoW, (a strategy game as you said), at least it starts like that. But once you find a purpose in EVE, it unfolds, and unfolds and on... and never stops doing that. There is no "end-game". It virtually becomes a second life. Just like the learning curve, the pleasure curve is steep as well, as hell.

    I just wanted to say a couple of things about production in EVE and its differences from WoW, as a former manufacturer-trader in EVE. It is much richer than WoW. Nothing is produced by NPC's, and only a small fraction of the items in market are dropped. This means you need to allocate special time for procurement of materials and production. It is not a byproduct of beast grinding or dungeon running.

    On top of it, when your ship is destroyed (when you die) you lose everything in that ship. your cargo, your equipment, even your precious and expensive ship. This is coupled by the fact that every single item sold in market is produced by a player. It makes the market much more meaningful and vibrant. this also allows them to manipulate markets, make huge profits with their wits.

    Once you want to produce more than just simple ships and equipment, you need to be backed up by a corporation (guild in EvE) because it will be impossible for you to gather, protect and process all the rare materials by yourself. This is what makes that game more human. Just like in real world, you need to find people, enter on an ongoing collaboration with them, secure your possessions and rights, and take precautions against burglars. And believe in me, it happens more often than guild bank robberies, and consequences are much more grave. And production is more essential is EVE than it is WoW.

    Finally, your choices for production is virtually limitless, and you can improve your production numbers, by increasing the efficiency of your blueprints (patterns, recipes in WoW). You can upgrade them to next tech level, and also create limited copies for immediate money by giving people more limited production capability. Well researched blueprint originals worth a LOT.

    So, why did I leave this wonderful game? Because it replaces your life after a while. The game is very slow, it takes a lot of time. If you run a corporation like I did, there is an insane amount of detail to hassle with, both social and technical.

    In conclusion, EVE and production in EVE are rewarding, you learn a lot: very fulfilling experience. More fulfillin than wow, I must say. but it needs a lot of time. It is not a game anymore, it is something else.

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