EVE Online: Missions, Agents, and earning Faction Love

The most striking thing about EVE Online is the way in which the game is not like its digital brethren. Unique can be a good thing: when you're sick to death of the same-old-same-old, something that works completely differently can be a real breath of fresh air. It can also be a bad thing: sometimes, the reason that everyone solves a design problem the same way is simply because it's actually the best way to solve the problem. "Unique" is a risky balancing act -- when you get it right, it can set you far above your competition -- get it wrong and you've set yourself up for mockery and painful failure.

Say what you will about EVE, it's definitely not a game that's ever been afraid of being different from everyone else. Sometimes that works out well, and sometimes it makes players want to kick innocent puppies to relieve their frustration. Today, in the /diff files, I'm going to take a look at EVE's version of the MMO-ubiquitous "quest" mechanic: Missions -- and see which end of the spectrum they end up on.


Four Years Later: A Newbie's Return to EVE Online

A few months ago, a couple of my kinmates on Lord of the Rings Online - one of them, our kin's leader - mentioned that they played EVE Online and that should any of us want to try it out, they were available for tips and assistance and just general hijinx.

My response? "Meh."

Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy doing stuff with the folks in my kinship -- they're a great group of people, regardless of the context. But I had tried EVE in 2007, attracted by the hard(ish) sci-fi experience that the game seemed to offer, and had found the experience somewhat... lacking.

Lacking what? Instructions, for one thing, or any kind of easily-located guide on how to do esoteric things like... I don't know... fly around.

"This is a space-travel sci-fi game in which you cannot leave your ship," I remember thinking, "and I can't figure out how to make the bloody thing go. Judging from the other motionless ships around me, I'm not alone. That's a problem."

I eventually did figure out how to make my terribly fragile-looking shuttle move around at what felt like glacial rates of speed, but then what?

"Mine ore," suggested the not terribly helpful 'help' channel (after a half-hour of silence following my query). "You can figure it out. It's a sandbox! Do whatever you want!"

Then someone blew my ship up while I was reading a fan-written mining guide (translated via Babelfish from the original Hungarian), and I decided to log out.

I did not go back.

"Sandbox" is all very well and good, but when the sandbox is the size of an entire city and the only available toys are discarded VAX terminals, broken bottles, and shivs fashioned from rusty springs dug out of a discarded mattress, that sandbox may not provide the kind of fun that appeals to a broad playerbase. The new user experience for the EVE of 2007 was a bit like sitting down in a Beginner's Linux course in which the instructor says "Just read the MAN pages," then leaves. Given that history, I wasn't keen to return to the game.

But the seed of the idea had been planted, so when I started to see news articles on EVE's new Incursion expansion (as one does when one writes for MMO Reporter), I took the time to actually read them (as well as information on the last few updates like Tyrannis). What I saw intrigued me: revised character creation, updated player tutorials (implying that there now were player tutorials), and (most intiguing to me) the titular Incursion itself -- raids and attacks throughout the EVE galaxy by an enemy that reads like a combination of the Borg, angry Cylons, and those guys from that Pitch Black sequel that I streamed on Netflix that one time.

And if you think that didn't count as a plus, you don't don't know me.

Frankly, I was shocked: EVE was getting something dangerously close to a noob-friendly metaplot. I mulled it over for a bit, trying to decide if I should give the game another try.

What finally decided me was that original post from my kinmates. "This time," I thought, "I'll have someone to give me tips. Someone who can explain the more obscure stuff. Most importantly, someone I can blame." On January 22nd (only a few days before my new son would be born), I downloaded the game client for the second time in four years and signed up for a 14-day free trial.

Here's how it went.