You've installed and logged in to EVE and you're completely confused. So little seems to correlate to your every experience with MMOs.
While EVE Online is definitely very much different than the theme park MMOS, it also shares quite a bit in common with them too. There are certain gaming tropes that even EVE cannot escape, though it does a fair job of obfuscating them.
Let's start from the beginning. (I'll toss in links for additional reading. This will not be an in-depth tutorial, but rather an overview and guide.)
Character CreationFirst you'll choose a race for your character. This is purely an aesthetic choice. The various races offer no in-game advantage, other than a few starting skills (a savings of maybe three or four hours.) Choose Caldari, you'll start with Caldari Frigate. Choose Gallente, you'll start with Gallente Frigate. There are other skills you'll receive depending on which sub-race and school/discipline you choose. But again, nothing more than a few hours advantage versus skilling them from scratch.
Then it's on to the character creator. Spend some time here, for sure. It is definitely the best character creation system in any MMO currently on the market. The amount of customization you can do to your character is overwhelming; just fiddling with the different muscle groups alone will have you tweaking for quite awhile.
But there is an irony here. Create a gorgeous character, but it is likely the last time you'll see that character again, for at least the next year or two. There's the captain's quarters to be sure, but in a couple weeks you'll disable those and set your hangar to the default view while docked (I've only ever seen the Minmatar and Caldari quarters. I still have no idea what the Gallente and Amarr quarters look like.)
One day, CCP will get Walking in Stations right, and that beautiful character you created will see the light of a station.
Character LevellingUnlike other MMOs, you don't gain experience points for killing stuff. You don't have points to expend on skills. You don't improve only while logged in and playing. EVE Online utilizes a very different system of character improvement. It revolves around the skill queue.
Basically, you add skills to your queue, and you learn them. The only function to learning is time, and you can affect the time it takes to learn a skill by altering your attribute scores. You alter your attributes by remapping them and through the use if implants.
The only use for attributes is to affect the time it takes to learn new skills.
The unique aspect of the skill queue is that you continue to learn, online or offline. Insert a skill onto the queue that takes 24 hours to learn. Log out. Log back into the game 24 hours later, the skill will have completed.
At this point, you're probably thinking, "If skill learning is all time based, then I can never catch up to the older players." That is true, but EVE Online is a game that goes well beyond the numbers. Being a successful player is more than just the skills you've learned, it's about experience, and tactics, and wherewithal. A player with 5M skill points, specialized in frigates, can quite easily beat a five year old player with 100M skill points who might be flying the same frigate. Whereas the skill points you have in various disciplines will play a factor, your personal aptitude playing the game, figuring out the weaknesses of your opponents, will play an even bigger factor.
Class RolesYou've come from the standard MMO field, where there are the classic roles: tank, damage dealer (DPS), healer, kiter, crowd control, and buffer. These tropes are not missing from EVE Online, though they are obfuscated and there is much bleed over between them.
Tanks are generally the big ships, like the battleships or the heavy assault ships, but these are also prime damage dealers. The true damage dealers are the ships with high alpha damage, such as the tier 3 battlecruisers, lots of fire power, not much defense. The healers are the logisitics cruisers, they specialize in remote armour and shield repping. Crowd control can be played with the fast frigates with their webifiers and warp scramblers, but also the destroyer-sized Interdictor with their warp disruption bubbles. Kiters are interceptors and Dramiels, though many other ships can be fit for speed. Buffers are usually the command ships, with gang link modules designed to boost certain statistics fleet wide, also leadership skills play another role in fleet buffing.
Other roles, perhaps more unique to EVE Online than other games are the scouts, played with the covert ops ships. And of course the bait, which are generally heavily armoured to survive long enough to get a warp in for your friendly fleet.
Character Classes"Okay, " you're thinking. "You talked alot about class roles, but you never mentioned character classes only the ship we fly. What's up with that?" You're anxious to roll a Miner or a Bounty Hunter and start playing EVE Online. Keep reading, you're in for a bit of surprise.
Your standard theme park MMO is the log ride. You choose a class, and that's your role going forward. There is no deviation from that choice. You're on a single track. Once a tank, always a tank.
EVE Online offers no such limitations. There is nothing so strict as character classes in EVE. When undocked, your class is determined by the ship you are flying and the modules you have fit to that ship. You can change you class as easily as jumping into a new and different ship. Your skills exist mostly to allow you to pilot a wider variety of ships and to fit a wider variety of modules to those ships. In essence, you have a few hundred character classes to choose from, and you can play them whenever the mood strikes you. Be the healer one hour in a logistics cruiser, and then damage dealing the next hour in a battlecruiser. After that, maybe playing crowd control in a fast agile frigate. The next day, you might be a miner in an exhumer.
This is why EVE Online is often referred to as a sandbox, the entire field of play is open to you.
The only limitation to the character classes (or roles) you may play are the skills you have currently learned, but there is no limitation on your choice of skills. The longer you play, the more skills you learn, the deeper and broader your choices.
Next Time . . .In part two I'll discuss game content, how it very much differs from the theme parks, your role as a content creator as well as CCPs role. I'll then discuss why getting attached to stuff could very well lead to a great deal of frustration with the game, and why letting go will increase your enjoyment in EVE Online immeasurably.
If any readers have any topics they think should be discussed and/or covered in a future Theme Parker's segment, post it in a comment.
The Entire SeriesPart One