In his second report from New Eden, Gareth Harmer discovers the butterfly effect.
Choice can be intimidating.
In cuddlier MMOs, my choices after completing the tutorial would be limited to where I wanted to quest, or what type of hero I wanted to become. In the sandbox of EVE Online, my options were as vast as the universe in front of me. With enough time and skill, I could become anything.
It’s a choice that could wait for now. As mentioned in my previous article, I needed to start earning money so that I could afford whatever I chose to indulge in. For me, that meant mining. It would give me a chance to earn ISK (EVE’s in-game currency) relatively risk free, while giving me time to think about what I wanted to do.
Warping out in my small mining frigate, I left the starter area behind for a new home some distance away. It was a gamble to head out into unknown territory, but one that ultimately paid off.
Part of the lure of EVE is the sandbox – CCP provides the tools for players to interact with the environment and each other, and then lets us have at it. It means that behavior can be emergent – the ore that I sell on the open market might be bought by an industrial corporation that makes battleships and destroyers, which then sells them to fuel a war effort elsewhere.
In tandem with this sandbox is a lack of permanence – this isn’t like World of Warcraft, where your PvP gear stays with you after a fight. In EVE, if you come off worse in a scrap you’ll need to buy a new ship, new fittings and new ammunition. It can seem harsh to the uninitiated, but it also means that there’s a brisk trade in everything from construction materials to fully fitted fighters.
That said, mining is a slow way to make money, particularly if you’re in a small Venture like I was. It’s also not something that requires your full attention, which is why miners tend to be a fairly sociable bunch. They have their own rules and etiquette when out in the belts but, for the most part, they’re not worried about newcomers.
It’s out of one of these conversations that I ended up joining a corporation, EVE Online’s equivalent of a guild. After getting to know the pilots in my new system and asking for advice, one of them offered to help show me the industrial ropes. It was unexpected - much like CCP's 'butterfly effect' video - but it meant that I’d have some friendly veterans who’d be happy to advise a newcomer to New Eden.
With them helping to guide my skill training, I was soon packing the Venture into storage and picking up a couple of new mining barges. The Retriever would be my go-to ship for solo mining due to its vast ore hold, while the Covetor with a higher mining speed would come out when the corporation was mining as a group.
The corporation used a couple of different mining styles, depending on the size of the mining fleet. During small operations, our mining Covetors would surround an Orca mining platform, using the command ship’s large hold to store and haul the ore while getting a boost to mining laser range and speed. In larger fleets, we’d spread out to cover an entire asteroid belt or snake along it in a line, placing our ore into storage cans which the Orca would then tractor beam in. Our huge ore stockpile would then get hauled back in a cavernous freighter, keeping the operation going non-stop.
Of course, this is only possible because we were mining in a high-security system that was patrolled by Concord, New Eden’s police force. While there’s a risk that someone might try to destroy the fleet and salvage the wrecked ships, it’s balanced by the costs an aggressor would incur – it would likely lose its own ship in the process. Mining in low-sec, without the safety of Concord, is an entirely more dangerous affair.
Part of the peril with mining is shipping the refined minerals around to make a healthy profit. While selling them in my own system would make a reasonable chunk of change, I wanted to earn as much as possible. In this case, it would mean hauling it to Dodixie.
There are certain rules to observe when hauling cargo. Never haul something very expensive in a cheap ship that’s easy to pop open with a well-aimed railgun. Never haul more than you can afford to lose. And never haul while flying on autopilot, away from the keyboard and making coffee.
So, in a flash of inspiration, I did the most ludicrous thing possible. I bought an Iteron – a cheap tugger with a small cargo hold and little armor. I then expanded the cargo hold, reducing the armor even further. My metal tube became skin-thin, stuffed with precious ore and absolutely no defenses. I almost named it ‘Piñata’, but thought that would be asking for trouble.
In a moment of impulse, I launched into space and set a course for Dodixie, dreading what might lie behind the next warpgate.
I’m not sure how I made it unscathed. Perhaps the space pirates and gankers took pity on me. Perhaps they were preoccupied with larger prey while I scooted on by. Either way, I made it to the trading hub and unloaded my ore. The station attracts all kinds of characters, from scammers and con artists looking to make a quick buck, to mercenary squads looking for juicy targets to undock. It’s a reflection of the variety of players in EVE, and just how much they can get away with compared to other games.
As it turns out, cargo hauling is an unnecessary risk that I don’t have to take. The corporation offers freighter hauling free of charge, should I choose to sell the minerals instead of building something with them. While it’s nice to be protected from my own insanity, it leaves me with another question – what to do with all the money I’m accumulating?
While I was sinking training time into improving my skill in mining, I could hear the siren calls of Factional Warfare and mission running beckoning to me. My wallet was looking healthier by the day, and I couldn’t help but treat the marketplace as a kind of car showroom for spaceships, daydreaming about flying one of them into battle. I didn’t want to be that guy who has a garage full of Ferraris but never drives them – I wanted to buy a few exotic ships, take them into space and maybe get them blown up.
Choice can be intimidating. But as I sat in the asteroid belt and considered my options, I realized that it can be incredibly liberating as well.