Intrigued by the Alliance Tournament season, Gareth Harmer goes out on patrol
In EVE Online, the player is everything. Being a sandbox, there are no dungeons to grind, no raid bosses to master. While there are NPCs and missions, they don’t dominate the game. As senior producer Andie Nordgren once told me, as long as you’re undocked, you’re also content for other players to discover.
One strong example of this was the bitter end of the Fountain War, a drawn out battle over many months between two coalitions of alliances. The last hurrah had over 4000 players taking part, will redraw the political map of New Eden and even influence the player-driven economy.
And yet, for me it was something that almost felt like a different game. I’d enjoyed the propaganda wars played out on the different forums, but I couldn’t wrap my head around what it would be like to participate. Providing some explanation, GameSkinny described actually participating as “something in between a turn-based strategy and a play-by-mail game.”
I’m inclined to agree. As I tuned in to a fan-provided livestream of the battle on Sunday evening, it was as if I was watching two water balloons collide in slow-motion.
The other example of players as content happened that same weekend, while watching the Alliance Tournament XI. I’ve never been a big fan of eSports, but this had me hooked from the start. Fighting in 10 minute battles, two small teams representing the best of their alliances fought it out for glory, prizes and nothing more.
As I saw the ships being called out, the tactics being discussed and the teams being compared, I found it absorbing. Even as a newcomer, I knew some of the ships and what they were capable of. I recognized some of the alliances, had flown through their space or spoken to them in local chat.
Even more powerful is how I could relate it to my own experience with EVE Online.
I always thought that PvP in EVE would work in the same way it does in the open world of World of Warcraft, RIFT and so on. You prowl around looking for a weak or unprepared target and pounce on it. While that’s definitely possible, EVE has a whole next level – the roam.
Roaming involves forming a large fleet of ships in order to explore low security space and go looking for trouble. Sometimes, trouble can be a little elusive, while on other occasions it’ll warp straight into your lap. And, after two weeks docked up for training, Mister Reckless would be tagging along.
Instead of every ship being fitted for firepower, some were chosen for electronic warfare tasks like target jamming, or logistics roles like remote armor repair. My job would be tackling other ships in a destroyer, rushing ahead to pin down a target with warp scramblers and webifers to stop them from flying away.
The biggest difference, however, was flying under the instruction of an experienced fleet commander. By marshalling together on TeamSpeak we worked as a single unit, traveling with precision, calling out targets and supporting wingmates.
This wasn’t something that we could predict, like some raid dungeon with a known layout and predictable bosses. We had no idea what would lay beyond each stargate, which made it even more enticing.
As a newly formed alliance, much of the patrol was getting used to each other, understanding our strengths and what each of us brought to the fleet. For me, it was all about learning the lingo and understanding just what the various ships could be used for. I was flying alongside people who had been playing EVE for years, and was determined to soak up as much knowledge as possible.
My experience of the roam meant that the ATXI was accessible to me. I had I deeper vicarious experience, purely from the seed planted earlier in the week. And, as I’m still very much a rookie, the ATXI gave me a feel for what I should be doing as a tackler.
After being exposed to this style of play, New Eden has changed for me. While the industrial path provides me with plenty of Minecraft-style crafting opportunities, the combat path gives me closely co-ordinated fast-paced gameplay. It was almost like the space sims of old, except that the frigates and battleships weren’t flown by NPCs. Now that I’ve had a taste for it, I don’t want to give it up. I want to dominate it, in whatever way possible.
Next weekend, the ATXI finals are live on Twitch. I’ll be watching, laughing and making the occasional note. Join me, and don’t worry about ruling the galaxy.
Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Senior Contributing Editor
Follow me on Twitter @Gazimoff