EVE Online is scary but its new EVE Academy website is a fantastic way to learn the basics

EVE Online is an incredibly difficult game to learn. Not only is it dense and complex, but EVE's sandbox universe has a life of its own where players make a lot of the rules. Everything from the in-game economy to the sovereignty of its star systems is decided by the thousands of pilots logged in at any one time. I've been playing for almost a decade and I still get confused by it now and again. But EVE Online's developer has just launched a new companion website aimed squarely at helping new pilots find their footing in New Eden—and it's actually great.

Though a beta version was available in May, during the PC Gaming Show developer CCP Games unveiled EVE Academy, a substantial resource that will help new players survive their first few weeks in EVE Online. It's pretty extensive and, unlike some community-made guides, CCP Games said EVE Academy will be continually updated as the game continues to evolve.

EVE Academy does a surprisingly good job of helping players go from absolute newbies to having a decent grasp of the basics.

The perennial problem with EVE is that it's an MMO that defies almost all the biggest genre cliches. There are no set classes and players are free (and encouraged) to get creative. There are also very few rules that govern how you can behave. Some people pull off elaborate heists, others play soldier in EVE's colossal battles, and a few poor souls spend their evenings shooting rocks for ore. But how do you go about teaching people what's possible?

That's the issue that's been plaguing EVE Online for years. Its new player experience has been overhauled several times since I started playing and it's still lacking. One of the biggest problems is teaching players how to carve out their own niche in the sandbox and start doing something that is actually exciting. EVE Academy tries to help, and I think it does a pretty good job of it—at least for brand new players.

Though EVE has no classes, EVE Academy pretends it does by grouping its tutorials into four possible career paths: Industrialist, Explorer, Enforcer, and Soldier of Fortune. The idea is you pick whichever job interests you the most and EVE Academy will give you all the tools and know-how to get started doing it.

There are video tutorials for each career path that will walk you through basics, but what I think is especially cool are the skill plans and ship fittings guides. EVE Online's skill system is complicated because skills train in real time and there's dozens of them. Knowing which ones are relevant to your goals is overwhelming, but EVE Academy shows you which ones you need and how to prioritize them.

The ship fittings are also incredibly useful to new players. Ships in EVE can be equipped with thousands of different modules, so having a tried-and-true template to follow will do a lot to help players sift through all that complexity and figure out which modules are useful and which ones can be skipped. And while I'm no ship fittings expert, I think CCP has done a good job of picking fittings that are well balanced and cost-effective.

From there, each path branches out into more granular topics related to each career, and I'm impressed how deep some of these rabbit holes go. There's also just some damn good advice in there, too. For the Soldier of Fortune path, for example, there's a whole video dedicated to finding a mentor who can show you the ropes of being a mercenary or pirate.

As any veteran EVE player will tell you (and as I repeat throughout our own EVE Online beginner's guide), making friends is the only surefire way to make it up EVE's steep learning curve. There's just no substitute for having a group of players you can learn from, and it's also much easier to get into adrenaline-pumping battles when you're not running solo. But I think EVE Academy does a surprisingly good job of helping players go from absolute newbies to having a decent grasp of the basics, and I like how it pushes players to actually interact with others in-game. If you've been on the fence about EVE Online (or tried to get into it but never could), EVE Academy might just do the trick.

You can check out the EVE Academy website here. 

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.