How to get into EVE Online, gaming's most savage and rewarding MMO

EVE Online is the most difficult MMO you could ever attempt to play—and I'm not being at all hyperbolic here. It's obtuse, incredibly complex, and steeped in a culture built around the philosophy of the strong feeding from the weak. At the same time, learning to play EVE Online has been one of the richest, most defining moments of my years of playing games, easily making it one of the best MMOs ever. In 2017, EVE added a free-to-play update, so there's very few reasons why you shouldn't try stepping into the virtual galaxy of New Eden to see if that bloody boot fits. Once you've created a character and played through the tutorials, here's what your next steps should be. 

Join a corporation as soon as you can 

In most MMOs, playing by yourself is pretty easy, but taking that same approach in EVE Online is a shortcut to boredom and self-loathing. You can read a million of these guides and learn everything about EVE Online in the process, but nothing will help you grasp the game faster than flying alongside real players. Just about everyone in EVE understands how crucial new blood is to its health, and as a result, there's never been a greater number of organizations aimed at helping newbies get on their feet. You can now hop into EVE and, within days, participate in the massive, empire-destroying wars we've all heard so much about. If you want to go from scrub to scrapper as soon as possible, consider joining one of these groups.

Pandemic Horde: the new-player offshoot of Pandemic Legion, EVE's biggest group of badasses. Pandemic Horde is huge and lacks the intimate structure of a smaller corporation, so you'll need to work hard to meet friends and not be afraid to pipe up and ask questions. In exchange for a looser atmosphere, you'll also join a fully-fledged null-sec entity who hits just as hard as any of EVE's veteran alliances. Ever hear about Goonswarm and The Imperium, the biggest empire in EVE Online history? Yeah, Pandemic Horde was instrumental in their downfall. 

Karmafleet: Speaking of Goonswarm, they also have their own version of Pandemic Horde known as Karmafleet and it is every bit as capable as their competitors. A big reason for joining Karmafleet is access to one of the most well-built alliance infrastructures in EVE Online. The Imperium is still one of the richest, most well-organized groups in EVE, and they've turned playing into a science, maximizing fun and minimizing tedium.

Dreddit: If you have a Reddit account older than 45 days old, consider joining Dreddit, the biggest Reddit community in EVE Online. Don't make the mistake of thinking that it's a group drowning in cat videos and 'dat boi' memes, however, as Dreddit is the founder of one of the biggest alliances in EVE history.

EVE University: The above recommendations have all focused on getting out to null-sec, the regions where player-empires battle for sovereignty. But if being a soldier doesn't appeal to you, EVE University is where you should look. EVE University is a fully-fledged educational alliance that can teach you about every aspect of EVE through hands-on classes and live lectures. Whether you want to be a pirate, salvager, or an industrialist, EVE University has you covered. They also have a huge repository of information that you should be looking at regardless of who you join.

Get blown up sooner rather than later 

EVE Online is a game about conflict, and while some players do everything to avoid it, you're far better off learning to embrace and dish out violence in good measure. Shooting space rocks as a miner might make a decent paycheck, but it's dueling a pirate and barely escaping alive that'll get your blood pumping.

When you first start playing EVE Online, you're likely to encounter any number of frustrations as you try to comprehend its complicated rules and social protocols. But one of the biggest sources that causes players to quit again and again is losing a valuable ship and not having the money to replace it. Welcome to the one rule of EVE Online: Don't fly what you can't afford to lose and replace multiple times. 

Instead of thinking about ships as a reward, like gear earned in World of Warcraft, think of it as a resource to be expended in pursuit of fun. Simply put, learn to love dying. The biggest mistake you can make in EVE Online is playing for six months, saving up for an exorbitantly expensive ship you can't replace, and never learning to cope with death. Because when death finds you (and it will), it will be devastating.

Once you feel comfortable piloting your ship and shooting at NPCs, do something bold and reckless and have a hell of a time with it. Go to low security space with a corpmate and try and set ambushes, or piss off a gang of local pirates and play cat and mouse with them. Whatever you do, learn to enjoy watching yourself explode and EVE Online will always be fun. 

Figure out what you want to do 

Once you've joined a decent corporation, learned the basics, and lost a few ships, start thinking about what you want to do long-term in EVE Online. In most MMOs, you'd rarely think a year ahead, but EVE Online's skill system rewards those who specialize in a few key areas and are intentional about training the right skills. You can be a jack of all trades, but I highly recommend working towards just one thing before expanding outward. 

This chart does a wonderful job of laying out just about every kind of niche that exists in EVE Online, and even within the more combative professions there is plenty of room to specialize. Some players fit expensive ships and run 'incursions' for huge rewards, while others brave the unknown frontiers of wormhole systems that are so dangerous that only the most hardcore players tend to survive there.

Once you've figured out a path you want to take, spend some time researching and talking to other experienced pilots to get their opinions on that niche and whether you'll find it fun. And while it's immediately accessible from the start, avoid mining like the plague unless your ideal night is sitting in space watching your cargo hold slowly fill up for an hour. Down the road there's opportunities where mining can be enjoyable (especially if your fleetmates are all drinking together), but avoid it for now. 

Take every opportunity to learn 

Like your attitude toward losing your ship, you should also shift your attitude toward learning. EVE is the rare kind of game that values resiliency, and being able to pick yourself up after a crippling loss and figure out how to be better is going to be crucial in growing as a player. Everyone, no longer how long they've been playing, has at one time done something so bone-headed and stupid that it nearly ruined them. For some, that means losing thousands of real dollars because they thought no one would notice if they moved their very expensive treasures in a cheap ship. Others have fallen victim to scams or gambled everything on the market and lost. It happens, and no amount of preparation will save you.

But instead of throwing your hands up in frustration and quitting, what you can do is take that experience and learn from it. Hell, you could even use that experience to then ruin someone else's day the way someone ruined yours. That's what EVE Online is about.

As I mentioned, the EVE community values new players, and while that won't stop them from killing you without mercy, it does mean that most are also willing to help you out after they've had their fun. If you die and don't know why, message the player that killed you, explain you're new and ask them what you could do better. If you're genuine and respectful, most players will take the time to help you out and some will even go beyond that. New Eden might seem scary, but it can also be incredibly friendly.

Figure out all the technical mumbo-jumbo 

There's no escaping the overwhelming complexity that comes with playing EVE. The steps above address the biggest hurdle I see in new players: having the wrong mentality about playing. But those steps won't make you an amazing pilot. You don't need to take the time to learn how every ship and module works, but you do want to be an asset to those you play with by being competent in the captain's chair. For the most part, finding a good group of players and not being afraid to ask questions will arm you with a good foundation of knowledge, but a little research never hurts, right?

For beginners, YouTuber Scott Manley has a series of guides that will walk you through your very first steps in the game and can be a great resource if you feel lost. There's also ISK: The Ultimate Guide for EVE Online, a daunting 800-page guide across two volumes that covers every aspect of EVE Online in detail. Don't feel like you need to read the whole thing, but it can be a great reference. And finally, get involved on the official EVE Online forums and the subreddit, as both of which are ripe with great information like r/eve's tips for newbies guide. EVE Online has a very social culture, and you're missing out by not participating.

You're not going to master EVE Online over a single weekend. Hell, I've been playing for five years and there's still times I do things that make my corpmates regret being friends with me. But that journey is what makes EVE so fun and exciting. It will never be a game that appeals to everyone, but if you can learn to how to appreciate EVE, you'll also begin to understand why its players are so dedicated to it. 

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.