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Eve Online beginner’s guide: finding your feet in the game’s newly F2P universe

EVE Online beginners guide

In case you haven’t heard, Eve Online is now free-to-play, which means there’s never been a better time to try out the behemoth MMO. But getting to grips with Eve Online is no mean feat thanks to thirteen years of updates and development that have ensured it’s the most complex, deep and, in certain areas, obtuse single-player MMO out there. If you’re willing to put in the hard work however, you’ll find there’s a lot to love about Eve Online, like gargantuan space battles with thousands upon thousands of participants. Failing that, you can always make a peaceful existence as a miner. There’s something for everyone, which is fitting for a game that’s practically as big as space itself.

For more adventures in the great unknown, check out the best space games on PC.

So in order to make your introduction to Eve Online as seamless as possible, I embarked upon my very own space journey through the game’s lengthy tutorial and slightly beyond to deliver you this beginner’s guide.

Eve Online races

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Right off the bat Eve Online will ask you to make what seems like a fairly huge decision, offering four very different races to play as: Caldari, Amarr, Gallente and Minmatar. If you don’t ever intend to pay the subscription fee then you’ll be locked into using the ships and weapon types of your race, which adds some weight to this decision. Thankfully picking a bloodline has almost no bearing on gameplay other than what NPC Corporation you automatically join after the game’s opening.

As a rough guide: Amarr ships favour energy weapons, which means they have unlimited ammo but limited damage output; Minmatar ships have conventional firearms that offer various damage types, but require some forethought about what ammo type you use to be at their most effective; Gallente and Caldari ships use hybrid weapons, the former being suited to high damage in close-quarters, the latter capable of long-range combat. The Caldari and Minmatar also have missiles in their arsenals, while the Gallente and Amarr can deploy combat drones.

Most of these differences won’t become clear until you’re much further into the game so if you’re just looking to get started as soon as possible, simply pick the race that you like the look of – you can always create multiple free accounts if you want to experiment with the different weapon types.

Eve Online UI

Eve Online 4k UI

MMOs are known for their tricky menus, and Eve Online’s UI is particularly troublesome. There are innumerable interfaces to work with at any one time, and if you’re not hot on closing them manually when you’re done with them, your screen will fill up very quickly – not ideal when you’re in a dogfight.

Fortunately, most menu work will be done within the safe confines of a space station, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to clear up open windows without having to watch your back. Right-clicking everything in sight will usually produce the option you were looking for, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for don’t be afraid to turn to the Rookie channel of the chat tool where an army of veterans will usually answer pretty much any question you have for them, no matter how foolish it may seem.

It’s also worth noting that menus and processes do get stuck, so if you find yourself screaming at Aura, your instructional ship AI, because what she’s told you isn’t being reflected in the menus, try repeating the process or closing and reopening the offending windows before googling how to kill her.

Navigating Eve Online’s UI is even more troublesome if you’re playing on a 4K monitor, where the default 100% UI scaling is totally unreadable. To alleviate this issue, head into the settings menu and select the Display Setup tab, then simply head down to the UI Scaling box and change the scaling to 150%. This can still be tricky to make out, especially if you’re not close to your monitor, but it’s the highest setting available and should improve the experience considerably.

Eve Online combat

Eve Online eases you into combat by giving you incredibly soft targets to take down during the tutorial. It also gives you a simple protocol to use when facing any target: lock on, orbit, activate weapons. You only need to activate each of these once per enemy, so no need to spam the weapon buttons as this will just turn them on and off repeatedly ensuring you deal absolutely no damage to anyone.

You can also activate manual flight by using the arrow keys. It’s much trickier to get the hang of but it’s extraordinarily helpful in PvP bouts where seasoned foes will be able to exploit the predictability of your orbit path. Just be sure that you’re locked onto an enemy ship rather than asteroid in the distance.

A reticule of what objects and enemies you’re locked onto will appear in the top-right corner of the screen, which makes switching between targets much easier. If you find your weapons aren’t switching to your new target, try reactivating them – I ran into this problem a number of times when facing clusters of enemies in the tutorial. The tutorial will also hand you a repair module, so make sure you always have this fitted to your ship and active during fights; you’ll be able to handle a proper beating with this equipped.

Eve Online Career Agents

EVE Online career agents

After the reigns of the tutorial have been let loose you’re technically free to explore space, take potshots at asteroids and soak in all the Blade Runner-inspired space architecture. But if you want to keep on progressing, you should seek out a Career Agent. It’s worth noting that the missions proffered by NPC Career Agents are still very much a part of the tutorial process, but from this point onwards you can be attacked by other players.That means no more safety nets, so don’t head out in a ship you can’t afford to replace.

The game will suggest an Agent for careers in industry, business, exploration and the military. You’ll have to pick one – though you’ll want to eventually work your way through all of them – from the Eve Help window, travel to their station and work your way through their ten missions. Performing this for every Career Agent is time-consuming, but the rewards are some the best you’ll get from Eve Online’s tutorial phase, providing you with plenty of ISK (space money), ship blueprints and resources.

Not sure where to start? Industry will introduce you to the basics of mining, refining and the manufacturing of goods. Completing this career path gets you a free Venture mining frigate. Business missions open the door to Eve’s incredibly complex market, thereby allowing you to turn a profit while safely docked in a space station; you’ll also learn how to haul cargo between trade hubs, and get a standard industrial ship for your efforts. The Military career path will essentially repeat the lessons you learnt in the tutorial, showing you how to blow stuff up, loot the wreckage and sell for a profit: your reward is a Tech I military frigate of your race.

Exploration missions are some of the most unusual and interesting in the game, showing you how to make money through discovering valuable sites like wormholes, archaeological sites and deadspace pockets. As you’ve probably guessed, you’ll have a nice new explorer-type frigate to show for your efforts. Lastly there’s the Advanced Military career path, which is a tougher and more intricate version of the Military path. Despite the interesting new modules and ships you’ll get from this arc, it should only be tackled last as it’s by far the hardest to complete. Oh, and be sure to insure any ships you’re given during the Advanced Military career as some missions can only be completed by sacrificing your ship.

Eve Online navigation

EVE Online navigation

Perhaps the most mind-boggling part of starting out in Eve Online is figuring out how and where you need to go. It’s tempting to use your Autopilot to get everywhere early on, and that’s fine, but it takes longer and will probably get you killed by pirates when you’re out of the tutorial.

On the top-right portion of the screen is the Overview window. While you’re undocked this will be full of every nearby point of interest, from all the ships in your immediate area to Stargates and asteroid belts. Yellow markers will lead you to your mission objective, so just right-click and warp to these coloured markers to get around in Eve Online.

Why not Autopilot? There’s no denying how useful this tool is, letting you cover vast distances while in the shower, eating dinner or cleaning up after your dog, but it has its issues. The main issue is that it’s slow: Autopilot will warp you between Stargates, but will drop you 12 kilometres from said Stargate. Not only does it take ages to travel that distance, it also gives pirates plenty of time to scan your ship for valuable cargo, putting you under threat and your hard-earned ISK at risk.

Eve Online Corporations

Eve Online

This is the scary bit, but it’s also the most rewarding part of the game, and what’s kept it going for so long. While not mandatory, player-run Corporations are where all the fun stuff happens in Eve Online – fun stuff like taking part in a thousand-player raids on the stronghold of a rival Corporation.

There are many Corporations – big and small, serious and casual – to pick from and because they are player-controlled and offer benefits in exchange for loyalty, many Corporations want to know the person they’re recruiting. You can browse for Corporations in-game via the Recruitment chat channel, but be warned: many Corporations will ask for access to your API Key (Application Programming Interface) and additional details about your character as part of the application progress. To make an API Key you’ll need to loginhereand comb through the menus to ensure that what a Corporation is asking to see can be seen. Once you’ve done that, simply send it over as part of the Corporation’s application process – it’s generally used to check for irregular ISK transactions that might signal a spy. For more on API Keys, check out the below video guide from CCP:

For obvious reasons, don’t disclose your account details to anyone.

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to joining Corporations, so don’t just pick the first one that will take you or feel you have to sign up to a Corporation that specifically caters to newcomers. You can even create your own Corporation, if nothing out there appeals to you!