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Eve for Noobs, Part 1

I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for a while, but seeing my buddy dive in head first, with little experience with non-console gaming and no experience with MMOs, has kicked my butt into gear. However, I haven’t really taken the time to properly organize my thoughts, and I’m far from an expert at Eve, so this is going to be a bit haphazard as I get going.

Your First Five Tenets of Eve Online

I figure lists are a good thing, and it’s how I keep my focus, so here are five basic things to keep in mind as you load up Eve for the first time:

  1. Losing can mean winning.
  2. Leave your dice bag at home.
  3. Game mechanics rely on utility mechanics.
  4. Eve is a sandbox.
  5. Trust me when I say you can’t trust anyone.

Now let’s try to figure out what I’m trying to say in each of these…


Losing Can Mean Winning

Ships get lost. ISK gets lost. Eventually your pod, including your current clone along with any expensive implants you might have plugged in, gets lost. In fact, if you haven’t been keeping up with your clone you could even end up losing some experience. That’s just the way the game plays, and it’s something you’ll want to come to grips with early on. This isn’t the typical MMO where dying means you respawn with a temporary stat or gear penalty. You will lose whatever you are flying. This leads to one of the most-referenced dogmas of Eve: Fly only what you can afford to lose.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the important lesson to make of this is that it’s okay. When you lose a ship, even if it had some awesome fittings you had spent the last month training and saving for, it’s not the end of the world. Sure, it can be frustrating, but if you got there once you can do it again, and likely quicker. I just recently took a starter character through some missions, mining, and tutorials across a casual two weeks and ended up with more than 40M ISK in my pocket. So don’t sweat it. Learn from it. Think about what happened and what could have been done to prevent it. Maybe there’s a better fitting you could try, or maybe you should wait a bit until you’ve skilled up, or maybe you need to warp out before you go into hull.

The System Info in the top left shows our current location, while the Show Info details are displayed for our current Solar System, Constellation, and Region.

The System Info in the top left shows our current location, while the Show Info details are displayed for our current Solar System, Constellation, and Region.

Some practical knowledge to take with you for your first few days:

  • The Eve universe is divided into Regions. Regions are made up of Constellations. Constellations contain Solar Systems.
  • Each Solar System has a Security rating. This ranges from 1.0 down to 0.0, or even below. High-security space is anything 0.5 and up, and is where I would personally suggest a young pilot to spend their first few days or weeks as it is the only place that you cannot be attacked freely by other players without retaliation from the NPC police faction, CONCORD (by which point you would be dead).
  • The lore behind the game is that each player exists as an immortal Capsuleer, respawning into a new clone each time you die. The Capsuleer is the pilot, not the ship, and when your ship is destroyed you appear in your Pod — a single-occupant vessel housing your current clone. When this happens you have a chance to escape, if you are quick, and save your current clone. NPC rats will not shoot at your pod, but other players can and will.
  • If your pod is destroyed, the Clone inside — your current body, if you will — is destroyed as well. When this happens you are downloaded to a new clone automatically. It’s important to buy a new clone each time you are killed, or “podded”. The way this works is that the backup clone you purchase from a Medical facility will cover a certain amount of Skill Points (SP), with any deficit leading to lost SP when you die. You want to always make sure your clone will cover the SP of your character.
  • You can read more about character death here.


Leave Your Dice Bag at Home

Chances are, if you are new to Eve, you will be a bit bewildered by the character creation process. First of all, it’s gorgeous. Second of all, you get a lot of choices. The big surprise? It doesn’t really have a lot to do with anything once you get into the game. To some extent the choices you make when creating your character will impact your initial path into the game, but any character can learn any skill and fly any ship with enough training. There are two primary aspects to your character:

  1. There are four Races to choose from, each with three different Bloodlines. Your Race will determine what racial ship skills you start out with. Additionally, if you partake in Faction Warfare (Eve’s version of world-vs-world PVP) your Race determines your side: Minmatar & Gallente fighting the Caldari & Amarr. [EDIT: As pointed out by Fuzzysteve, you can actually join any side of FW provided your standings are high enough.]
  2. Each character is made up of five Attributes: Intelligence, Memory, Charisma, Willpower, and Perception. Though these may look like your typical RPG character stats, they are used much differently in Eve. First off, all newly created characters start with the exact same Attribute values. Down the road you may choose to specialize or boost your Attributes by remapping or using implants. Additionally, Attributes have no direct impact on gameplay. Damage, speed, defense, etc. — these are all based on your character’s Skills, not Attributes. Where Attributes come into play is when training skills. Each skill has assigned a primary and a secondary Attribute, and the time it takes to train a skill is dependent on the values of these Attributes.
A selection of skills, from within the Shields category, available for purchase on the Market.

A selection of skills, from within the Shields category, available for purchase on the Market.

So how does this impact the way we approach the game? Thankfully it means we can choose the look and background of the character that most excites us, without limiting our gameplay choices. That’s pretty big. It also means that a character grows into a unique individual through the choices of what skills to train, what level to train them to, and how to use them.   Some initial skills I recommend young pilots invest in (many of which can be obtained as rewards for the tutorial missions), at least up to level 3, include:

  • Armor > Hull Upgrades, to improve your ships’ armor
  • Engineering > Capacitor Management, to improve your ships’ Capacitor capacity (allowing your modules to be used for longer periods of time)
  • Engineering > Capacitor Systems Operation, to speed up your ships’ capacitor recharge
  • Engineering > CPU Management, to improve your ships’ CPU (making it easier to fit modules to the ship)
  • Engineering > Power Grid Management, to improve  your ships’ powergrid (making it easier to fit modules to the ship)
  • Engineering > Weapon Upgrades, to reduce the fitting costs of weapons
  • Gunnery > Gunnery, to improve your weapons’ rate of fire
  • Navigation > Afterburner, to improve the usage of your afterburners
  • Navigation > Evasive Maneuvering, to improve your ships’ agility
  • Navigation > Fuel Conservation, to reduce your afterburner Capacitor usage
  • Navigation > Navigation, to improve you ships’ speed
  • Navigation > Warp Drive Efficiency, to reduce the Capacitor usage when entering warp
  • Resource Processing > Salvaging, allowing access to valuable wreck salvage
  • Shields > Shield Management, to improve your ships’ shields
  • Spaceship Command > [Racial] Frigate, to improve the effectiveness of your frigate ships
  • Spaceship Command > Spaceship Command, to improve your ships’ agility
  • Targeting > Long Range Targeting, to improve your targeting range
  • Targeting > Signature Analysis, to improve the time it takes to lock a target
  • Targeting > Target Management, to increase the number of simultaneous targets

Beyond that, there are still many more useful skills you’ll want to look into. For instance, the different racial ships tend to focus on different weapon systems, and each is supported by a number of relevant skills (Projectile Turrets for Minmatar, Energy Weapons for Amarr, a mix of Hybrid Weapons and Drones for Gallente, or Hybrid Weapons and Missiles for Caldari). Similarly, some ships utilize Shields while others focus on Armor. Outside of combat, if you are looking to try out mining you’ll want to invest in Resource Processing skills, or Science and Production skills if manufacturing is your thing, or Social skills if you plan on spending a good chunk of time running missions. You’ll even find a number of specialized skills that will be essential for PVP.

My main character's Skill Queue as he trains Hacking to level 5.

My main character’s Skill Queue as he trains Hacking to level 5.

Finally, a related aspect of the game design which may feel foreign to new players is that skill training takes place across real-world time, whether you are in the game or not. For instance, I may choose to train one of my Missile skills to level 3, which might take a little over 7 hours. Once the skill begins training, I know that it will be done once those 7 hours have passed. I can spend 7 hours in the game shooting stuff, or I can log off and go read a book, eat some lunch, watch some TV, and then come back to the game 7 hours later for the exact same result. Note that this means it is in your benefit to make sure your character always has a skill training. The skill queue allows players to queue up multiple skills to be learned, as long as all of the skills laid back-to-back start within the next 24 hours. When your training is running low, aim to get into the game and queue up more training, even if that’s the only activity you have time for at the moment.


Game Mechanics Rely on Utility Mechanics

What I mean by this is that in order to do anything in the game you really need to know the how, which oftentimes boils down to the where. Eve is a UI heavy game, and the tutorials really don’t do a good job of explaining them. Without understanding the options, the UI, and how to use them, the game can be a very frustrating uphill battle. The good news it really only needs to be dealt with once.

I’m not going to cover everything here. My intent is to call out the items that will be most helpful for first-day players. As I continue more dedicated and specific tutorials I’ll touch on some more advanced items. Also note that you don’t have to do everything I suggest, but it’s still worth knowing that it can be done.


Game Options

To start, let’s look at the game’s options. Hit the Esc key to bring them up, and click on the left-most tab, “Display & Graphics“. Here you can set your resolution, toggle various visual effects, and specify your graphics quality level. There is one useful item hidden here as well:

  • UI Scaling: If you are on a big monitor, you can use this to shrink your window sizes a bit, or vice versa.

Now let’s click on the next tab over, “Audio & Chat“. Here you can set your volume levels and adjust settings related to the built-in voice chat feature. Some quick items to note:

  • Master Level: By default this sometimes seems to be set relatively low. If you feel the game is too quiet, try bumping this up first.
  • Eve Voice Enabled: If you don’t want to be bothered with the in-game voice chat, go ahead and turn this off right away. As you become more familiar with the game and join up with other players, you’ll find some groups will use this feature while others will rely on third-party programs such as TeamSpeak or Mumble. If and when you do end up using voice comms in the game, I highly recommend specifying an out-of-the-way push-to-talk key.

The next tab over is “General Settings” and it contains a wealth of useful items to click:

  • Context Menu Fontsize: When you right-click items in the game you’ll get a little pop-up context menu full of useful actions and options. Here you can increase the size of this pop-up so it is actually readable.
  • Lock Windows When Pinned: This is a useful feature that I recommend enabling. We’ll explain the usage of it later on in the post.
  • Show Tutorials: If you know your way around, or have decided that my write up is more than decent, you can disable the modal tutorial popups from automatically appearing here.
  • Small Station Service Buttons: This is more of a convenience item, but with the UI already feeling overwhelming I like to keep this checked to reduce clutter by reducing the size of the bank of buttons that appear when docked, even if it’s only a slight adjustment.
  • Merge “Items” and “Ships” into Station Panel: Another convenience setting, this is kind of nice because it embeds these two menus, which list all of your belongings at the current station, into the main station interface. They’ll appear as two new tabs next to your Guests, Agents, and Offices tabs.
  • Auto Target Back: If you only look at one option ever, make sure it’s this one. This should always, always, always be set to “0 Targets”. When flying your ship you first must lock a target to act on it — lock an enemy to shoot it, lock an asteroid to mine it, lock a friend’s ship to heal it. If you lock onto something you didn’t intend to, such as another player’s ship, you could accidentally shoot it. Other players may try to take advantage of this by locking you, hoping that your setting automatically locks them back and that you accidentally start shooting them, which would usually result in your ship being destroyed, either by the other player or CONCORD.  Recent updates to the game have made it tougher to accidentally shoot another player, but it’s still best to be safe.
  • Radial Menu Delay: As we’ll talk about below, Eve provides a number of ways to get at the same information or interactions. One of those happens to be a radial menu which appears when you click and hold on an object in space. If you are fond of using the radial menu I’d recommend shortening the delay here so that it’s quicker to use.

I’m not going to go through the next tab, “Shortcuts“, in detail. However I would recommend reading through all of the options under its sub-tabs. There are plenty of game interactions which are mouse-driven only, but for those that have keyboard shortcuts you can save a lot of time by using them.

That’s about it for the game’s options, save one essential item: In order to quit the game, click the “Quit Game” button in the bottom-right of the options screen.

It's worth the time to become familiar with the settings available within Eve.

It’s worth the time to become familiar with the settings available within Eve.


Essential User Interface Crash Course

As you’ve probably noticed by now, there are a ton of menus in Eve. For now, let’s just focus on the most important menus and interactions.

By default, your Neocom appears along the left side of the screen. This grants access to just about all of the game’s menus. If you are looking for a menu, chances are you can get to it from here. You can resize it by grabbing its edge and dragging out, and alter its behavior by right-clicking the empty area at the bottom. The top displays your character portrait, and the very bottom displays the current in-game time.

The other side of the screen, by default, displays either the Station Services window, while docked at a station, or the Overview if you are flying about in space. While docked you’ll use the buttons along the top of the Station Services to make ship repairs, refine minerals, and update or your clone — basically everything you’d want to dock at a station for. Below that you’ll find a list of Guests (other players docked at the station), a list of Agents (from whom you may request missions), and player corporation Offices located at your current station. If you followed my game options advice you’ll also find a list of your Ships and your Items currently stored at the station.

The Overview, on the other hand, provides a snapshot of your surroundings in space. You can filter what type of objects are shown — other players or NPC ships to avoid or attack, wrecks to loot, and stargates with which to travel — as well as what information is displayed for each. Because the Overview is only shown while in space, you also need to be in space to adjust it. I would strongly recommend new pilots install Sarah’s Overview Pack, which provides a great set of pre-defined Overview profiles to choose from. Use the infographics on the site (hidden in the “Spoiler” tags) for instructions on the install, and note that the instructions for the Mac install fail to mention that the .xml file needs to go into a folder called “Overview” inside of the “EVE” folder — if that doesn’t already exist go ahead and create it. I’ll do another post describing the Overview in more detail later on, but for now I’ll continue assuming we’re all using Sarah’s Overview Pack.

It's easy to become overwhelmed with Eve's menus.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with Eve’s menus.

As for the many many other menus, here are the essential menus you’ll want to know about during your first few days, as well as some tips on using them (remember, all of your menus can be accessed from within the Neocom):

  • Character Sheet: Clicking your portrait at the top of the Neocom will open your Character Sheet, where you can see all sorts of details regarding your character. Most notably you’ll see your current Skill Points and your current Clone Grade (with its Skill Point coverage).
  • Training Queue: Access this by clicking the “Open Training Queue” button, on the “Skills” tab, within your Character Sheet. Here you can schedule and adjust your skills training.
  • Inventory: This will show your accessible inventory — what’s in your ship and, if you are docked, what is stored at the station.
  • People & Places: This can be most immediately useful for keeping up with your Agents.
  • Fitting: Allows you to equip weapons, armor or shields, and other modules to your current ship. You can also save and load your fittings from the Fitting Management window, accessible here.
  • Market: Here is where you buy and sell your ships, modules, skills, and more. It’s entirely player-driven and can make for a very deep topic of discussion.
  • Map: This is the best way to find systems, set flight paths, and check statistics of particular systems. There’s a lot here and I’m not going to cover it right now.
  • Assets: This is similar to your Inventory, however it displays a list of all items stored across all stations. This can be very helpful to track down where you left a needed item and quickly set its station as your destination.
  • Journal: This will track the stuff you have going on in the game. Early on this is typically most useful for tracking your current Missions.
  • Help: This is important early on because it allows you to call up any tutorial on demand, in case you miss something.


And some promised quick tips for using the game’s menus:

  • The “E” button at the very top of the Neocom provides access to even more menus. You can browse through it and will likely find some useful items — like a web browser.
  • At the top-right of each open window you will find a small circle button, labeled “Pin” when you hover your mouse over it. This will lock the window’s position and make it transparent. Keep in mind that if you have locking of pinned windows enabled in your settings, you will need to unpin a window before you can resize it.
  • As a new player you will automatically be placed in the “Rookie Help” chat room for the first month. You can close this window but be prepared for it to reappear each time you sign into the game.
  • You can clean up your interface by dragging a window’s title tab (at its top) into the title bar of another window. This essentially docks the windows together and allows you to switch between them as if you were switching tabs in a web browser. This is extremely helpful for combining chat windows together and utility windows together, for instance.
  • Double-clicking on a window’s title bar will collapse the window so that only its title bar is showing.
  • You can view details on many things in the game — including items, players, ships and entities in space, etc. — by simply right-clicking on them and selecting “Show Info”. Don’t ever underestimate the power of information.
  • Right-clicking on the title tab of a chat window will allow you to disable it from blinking when new messages come in. You will find additional helpful settings just below the title tab of each chat window.
  • At the top-left of the screen you will find a few contextual overlay options, such as the “System Info” (represented by a small sun icon). These are really helpful and represent just one of the many ways Eve provides its players with quickly accessing essential information — for instance you can quickly get at all items in the current solar system if you have the System Info displayed. I recommend always displaying System Info. You may also find your Route info, Mission info, and more here, depending on where you are and what you are doing.
  • Some menus include options specific to them. One example is the “Eve Mail” window, which has options accessible from the top-left, including your CSPA charge — a fee charged to all players who send you in-game mail. It’s generally advised to set this to 0 ISK unless you have reason not to.


Eve is a Sandbox

This was going to be the biggest section of this initial guide, however seeing where things are at, and this is the last bit I’m getting down, I’m going to just tackle it at a very high level.

The game lets you do almost anything you could want, creating a huge barrier of entry to new players (well documented here), so let’s provide some focus by looking at the basic game loop of a typical mission you might run during your first days. We’ll use this as an example on how you might actually play the game.

  1. Accept the Mission: NPC Agents provide missions and in order to accept them all you need to do is be at the same station as the Agent, meet the standings requirements for the Agent, and initiate a conversation with the Agent. While docked at the station select the “Agents” tab from the Station Services window, identify an Agent that is listed as being available to you, and click the talk bubble next to its name. A window will appear with conversation and story at the left, and the details of the mission at the right. Review the mission and, when ready, click the “Accept Mission” button.
  2. Outfit your Ship: Different Agents provide different types of missions and it’s important to make sure your ship has what is needed to complete the mission successfully. Read the details of the mission and verify what is needed, then fit your ship by dragging your modules from your station hangar (the “Items” tab of the Station Services window) onto your ship’s Fitting window. In particular, you may be facing one or more of the following:
    • Pick up a specific item or items and return it to the agent. Note the amount of space (listed as m3) in the mission description and verify that you have enough cargohold within your ship, either in the Fitting window or the Inventory window, to fit the required items.
    • Deliver a specific item or items to a destination. This is similar to the above, however the item is given to you when you accept the mission. Look in your station hangar to find the required item and place it in your ship’s cargohold using the Inventory window.
    • Mine a specific amount of minerals. Ensure that your ship is fit with mining lasers using the Fitting window. You may want to make sure you have a weapon on board as well, in case there are rats (NPC pirates) nearby to the asteroid belt.
    • Complete a specific task, such as hacking. Use the Fitting window to make sure you have the required modules fitted to your ship. When running the tutorials, you are provided with tutorial-only versions of these modules that you should be using. You can find them in your station hangar.
    • Explore or scout out a point in space. This is typically no different than combat, detailed below.
    • Find a specific NPC. This is typically no different than combat, detailed below.
    • Fight or destroy specific NPCs (it’s usually best to assume combat is always part of your mission). Make sure your ship is fitted with weapons (preferably all the same type, so that they have the same range) and some sort of tank — either shield or armor depending on your ship’s bonuses. If you are uncertain of how to tank your ship check its “Show Info” option; or assume that more low slots than medium slots in the ship’s fitting indicates it should be armor tanked rather than shield tanked, and vice versa.
  3. Set your Destination: Now that you are ready to fly you should set your destination to the mission’s encounter or location. This can easily be done using the “Agent Missions” overlay option at the top-left. Alternatively you can right-click the destination within the mission briefing window. Note that if the mission takes place in your current system you don’t need to set it as your destination. Take a quick look at your Route to be sure you are traveling through high-sec space and, when ready, click the yellow “Undock” button at the top of the Station Services window to enter space.
  4. Reach the Encounter: If your destination is in a neighboring solar system you will see the appropriate stargate highlighted in yellow within your Overview. Click it and click the “Jump” button in the Selected Item window, above the Overview. Continue this until you reach your mission’s solar system and dock at the target station, if applicable, or select “Warp to Encounter” from the Agent Missions overlay (or by right-clicking in open space).
  5. Complete the Encounter: Now that you have reached your encounter location scan the Overview for your targets — other ships, asteroids, etc. — and take care of business. If the mission includes an encounter in space (whether it’s combat, mining, or exploration) control-click your targets in the Overview to lock onto them before activating your ship’s modules. When in combat do your best to stay at an appropriate range from your targets, which is determined by the weapons in use (you can see your range by hovering the mouse over the weapon modules), and keep moving to make yourself more difficult to hit. If you are destroying ships be sure to loot the wrecks afterwards, and salvage them if you can. If the mission requires you to return with a specific item make sure you place it in your cargohold.
  6. Return to your Agent: Set your destination to the mission’s Agent Base and fly back.
  7. Complete the Mission: Talk to your Agent once more and click the “Complete Mission” button. This is also a good time to sell or refine any loot you’ve acquired.

That hopefully provides a general sense of what a simplified version of basic gameplay might look like. Obviously that will change from mission to mission, or for other activities such as PVP, but the core approach is similar: identify your plan, determine your route, travel, and engage in the chosen interaction.


Trust Me When I Say You Can’t Trust Anyone

I’m not going to linger on this, and I personally kinda hate this saying because it can have negative connotations that may scare players from facets of the game, but I want to say it now and get it out of the way. Eve allows players to do what they want in the game. Sometimes this means players will scam others out of their hard-earned ISK. Sometimes it will mean tricking other players into one-sided combat. Sometimes it may mean planting oneself as a mole within a player-run corporation for months, or even years, in order to cause the collapse of the entire entity. There are also plenty of great players in the game, and some amazing organizations that will go out of their way to help new players. One prime example is the player-run corporation Eve University.



Okay, so that was way longer than intended, and much more technical than the quick “read me to survive your first day” sort of approach I had intended. To balance that out I’m putting together a more practical tutorial run through which I’ll have up soon. I hope the above was useful to at least someone. It’s by no means a be-all end-all for the game, but if I wrote it all down for you there’d be no fun in exploring. And if I even knew it all myself, I probably wouldn’t be here documenting half of it.


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