It was a quiet Sunday morning. The Intel channel was barely alive, just a few isolated sightings of lone ships. I had spent the last hour going back and forth between the station and a nearby asteroid belt, slowly delivering giant payloads of ore. At the hour mark, I calculated the price for my ore, created a contract for it, and watched it disappear into the market. I leaned back in my chair a moment and realized something: I was utterly bored and wanted to play something else.
"Man, is this all there is?" I frowned. The initial rush of learning about the game was fading, and I knew enough to make money at a steady, but boring, pace. I don't play games to make money in them, though.
I shut off EVE for the time being; I needed to recharge my batteries. "Maybe it's time to try other ways of making money here."
A day later, a fellow Kite Co. member asked if I was busy. "I'm doing an Incursion here, and I'm leaving behind a hundred wrecks. You want to salvage them?"
"Sure." I outfitted a Probe with Salvagers and Cargo Hold Expanders and jumped to the system they were in, where I spent the next hour trailing in their wake, looting every single wreck they left behind. At the end of it, I had 20 million ISK worth of salvage; not a bad haul, especially compared to my mining. It was just as boring, though, and required more attention: each wreck had to be manually targeted for salvage, so I couldn't spend much time reading other things. I decided I liked mining better, although I'd probably salvage whenever the situation came up again.
Exploration was more exciting, and sometimes more profitable, but it got old quickly too. I quickly fell into a routine of scouting the system for Relic or Data Sites, warping there, and playing the hacking minigame over & over again so I could loot them. It was something to do, but it wasn't much fun. It was enough of a change of pace, though, that I installed survey probes onto my Mining Venture ship and kept an Explorer ship nearby to visit any sites I found while mining. It was a decent source of profit, and was diverse enough to keep me semi-interested, but I was still hungry for entertainment...
"When do you get into the endgame content of Eve?"
My fellow KiteCo members pondered that question a moment.
"Good question. Some people never reach it. There's plenty of players content to just do PvE in HighSec systems to outfit their ships in rare modules, but I don't think that's endgame content."
"I think you reach it once you enter NullSec," another corp member chimed in. "You got into it within days of starting."
Someone else had been silently pondering it and finally decided to speak: "I think the endgame content starts when you realize you can do anything you want. Find your niche, stake your claim, and go do something crazy. That's when you get into the endgame."
"Mining Barge Level 1 learned."
I grinned when that notification popped up. After 2 weeks of flying around in Frigate-level ships, I was ready for something bigger & new. The mining barges enticed me with high-profit yields, mining a few million ISK worth of resources in a few minutes. It didn't hurt they were big and cool-looking, too.
I quickly bought the most durable Mining Barge I could find, the Procurer, and spent an hour mulling over how to outfit it. Once it was outfitted, I waited until the system was clear of hostiles and carefully navigated it to a nearby Ice Belt. I turned on the Ice Miner and waited. Fifteen minutes later, I returned to station with a haul worth 6 million ISK, nearly 6 times what I would make in the same time with my Venture. Soon I would be rolling in the dough!
After the first day or two, though, the ice belts were depleted of the expensive ices. I had deployed the Procurer in BOVRIL space, and since BOVRIL specialized in mining... there was often 3 other Procurers mining ice alongside me. I was also a half-dozen systems away from KiteCo's station, too far away to join them for roaming or defending the region. With a frown, I put my Procurer away and got on a Shuttle back to KiteCo's Pancake House to join the defense fleet there and shoot invaders while I pondered what to do about mining...
"...Wait, there's a station here?!"
I blinked and looked again at my Overview. Sure enough, there was another station in the system right next to us. We had chased a few fleeing invaders out of our home system of CZK into the neighboring CNC system to blow them up, and in the aftermath I noticed the station icon in the Overview.
"I'm going to check it out quick."
I warped to the station and checked its info. It was owned by the Spaceship Samurai, allies of ours. Could I dock? I could dock. I checked the Station Services available. It had a refinery; I could process ore into minerals here. After the rest of KiteCo withdrew back to homebase, I was the only one left in the system. And a quick probe revealed... two ice belts. I had only seen one per system before. They were filled with rare, expensive ices. And I was the only one in system.
The only problem was it sat right next door to FAT system, which was where NC gathered for most of their raids against us. Although the system was usually empty, occasionally an enemy ship would come through looking for a kill. Sometimes, there would be 10, 20, even 80 of them warping through system. A lone mining ship would be tempting for them. Was it worth the risk?
A hostile ship warped into the CNC system. I quickly alerted the rest of KiteCo in chat. They gathered up around the CNC gate in CZK and obliterated him when he jumped through it.
Yeah, I thought, this is worth the risk.
I moved my new Procurer out there once I found a scout for the trip (I didn't want to fly my brand new 40mil ISK ship there blind) and set up shop. My week spent mining alongside BOVRIL served me well; as soon as I saw a hostile or neut in local, I aligned towards a warp point and powered up my engines. The moment they popped up on Local Overview, I hit Warp. I was gone before they could react.
Scouting for KiteCo became a crash-course in quick use of my DScan. I found an asteroid belt within 14 AU of the gate to FAT system and kept an eye on Local. The moment I saw hostiles appear, I mashed the DScan button. It was a race to scan the enemy ships & type out the intel to KiteCo before I warped out of range. Then it was up to them to prepare an ambush at the jumpgate, or dock at the station before they were vaporized by overwhelming force. I listened to voice chat and smiled as enemy fleets were obliterated the moment they stepped foot in our system. I wasn't mining as fast as I was in safer systems, but this was much more satisfying...
In the downtime, I grew my list of contacts out of necessity. Our allies occasionally contacted me about my intel. I sent Emails to Spaceship Samurai's diplomat when I was barred from the station one day. I brokered a deal to sell my ice & ore to Catch's Switzerland equivalent, the Black Pearl Alliance. I started correspondence with one of the veteran Fleet Commanders in BRAVE. I didn't just interact with Kite Co; I interacted with our Alliance, our alliance of Alliances, friendly enemies, and abrasive allies. The myriad deals & relationships surrounding the game were more interesting than the game itself.
"I used to play World of Warcraft," I mentioned to KiteCo while skimming through ship modules, "and it was much more fun than EVE. But I have more stories from less than a month of playing EVE than I did from 5 years of playing WoW."
One of my corpmates agreed. "I used to be in a top-tier WoW raiding guild, one of the guilds people on other servers knew about. But every week it was the same thing, we'd farm and grind and do the same raids everyone else did, time and again. We did it faster than anyone else, but we were still doing the same thing as everyone else.
"But this... we invaded & captured Catch. We've fought off enough fleets to make a planet-sized scrapheap in V-3. We're holing up and preparing to keep it. And we did it differently than the previous owners of Catch did, and we did it differently than whoever takes over Catch in the future will. Our story here is unique. Much more memorable than killing the same bosses for the 10th time in a row."
It began as rumors that someone had managed to flip V-3's sovereignty back to neutral. Hours later, I finally learned the truth: the UnthINKables found a vulnerable Catch system and were busy flipping it to their control. An emergency defense fleet were already fighting in the system, but a reinforcement fleet would soon get underway. I pod-expressed to V-3 and prepared to ship out; by this point, I had gained enough skill points I needed to pay ISK to keep all my skills after dying, but it was worth it to join the battle.
By the time we got there, though, the main fighting was already over. Not only had BRAVE brought over twice as many people to the fight as INK, but INK had made a major tactical mistake by warping their long-range support into point-blank range of our guns. They withdrew from the system, and I sighed at the thought of missing another large battle...
The day wasn't over yet, though. Although INK's territorial control units were destroyed before they could activate, we still needed to get ours online to flip control back to us. That process would take 8 hours. Most of us withdrew back to V-3 and waited; I logged off for a while to play with some friends, keeping an eye on the BRAVE IM alerts for any emergency pings as I read up on the basics of sovereign control. When I logged back in, there was still 2 hours left before the system flipped back to our control.
"Hey," I asked, "who's got eyes on that system?"
"I do, but I should really get some sleep before work tomorrow."
"Hmm, I could watch it instead. Just tell me who to contact if shit happens."
The previous scout gave me the contact info of the Fleet Commander on duty that night, thanked me for taking over, and went to bed. I settled in for 2 hours of sitting around. I read GiantBomb articles in a smaller window, keeping an eye on the Local chat, as I listened to the other KiteCo members dunk fleet after fleet trying to get through CZK.
"They just keep coming!" Matt squealed between bouts of laughter. "Why do they keep coming to die?! Oh God this is hilarious! So much content! I need to pee so bad but I don't want to leave!"
I smiled sadly and sat back; it sounded like they were having a great time, but someone needed to watch the system. I gazed at the nebula beyond, idly going over the tidbits of information I had gathered over the week, plotting what to do next. For 2 hours, I sat in one place in a game. It should've been the most boredom I've ever experienced in a game, but it actually passed quickly. In the last 10 minutes of the countdown, the Fleet Commander warped in with a relief fleet.
"Scout, we'll take it from here. You're relieved of your duty. Thanks, you really did us a favor here." As I warped out of system, the entire fleet saluted via emotes. I realized then why the past 2 hours weren't boring: I had done something unique, I had done something important, and I had chosen to do it. I had helped BRAVE keep the system. I contributed despite playing for less than a month just by being there. And I had enjoyed it.
Still, missing a large battle for the 2nd time annoyed me. Through poor timing and bad luck, I hadn't gotten into a good fleet fight since I started the game, and the lack of combat was grating. I looked down in the various plans and ideas I had scribbled down and thought to myself, "Perhaps it's time to take matters into my own hands..."