Even if you've never played it, CCP MMO Eve Online sounds absolutely brilliant.
Don't believe us? Read PC Gamer's coverage on the 'Burn Jita' incursion last week, or the series's ambitious plans to expand on to PS3 with Dust 514, or even on the way industrial espionage took down the game's biggest corporation. The game sounds like something straight out of science fiction; mammoth space battles, empires rising and falling, sneaky politics.
But Eve is also a daunting experience. It's so daunting that most of the games journalists I know haven't even tried it. Those who have may have ploughed through an hour or two of the tutorial - which often puts them off even more. Why? Well, there are things you must know about Eve.
First, the backstory - in our distant future humanity travels through a wormhole to a new part of the universe, 'New Eden' - is more or less irrelevant to the universe's real, player-generated history. The various factions in the universe have changed somewhat over the years but the in-game history is wracked with war. Empires have risen and fallen, hundreds of days of work have gone up in a few hours fighting, and irreplaceable mile-long battleships have been lost forever.
Second, it's not for the faint-hearted. If you want to join Eve, do not assume you'll be able to come in and be able to be a solo hero - the developers have admitted to us that you'll just be bored and vulnerable if you attempt that. Instead, join one of the free training courses given by recruiting corporations; these will give you the skills necessary to compete in the game as well as contacts who'll be happy to add you to their team, and perhaps equip you with a better ship. But you'll need to put the time in for them to trust you with this, so do the tutorials and learn the systems. Before you know it, you too could be spending hours mining asteroids whilst browsing the internet!
Thirdly, it's a serious universe, with some not very serious people in it. Players in Eve are organised into corporations; a bit like clans for other games, but with internal hierarchies and corporate structures. These included a diehard corporation of Russian players called the Red Alliance, who played a hacked version of the game that only let them talk in Cyrillic - making them as alien as any Star Trek alien. Or the forumites of troll-haven Something Awful, who joined the universe as the Zerg-like Goon Swarm, a huge swarm of internet-spawned horrors who are happy suiciding their ships by the thousand to create player-driven events like Burn Jita.
The universe is divided into sectors, which are allocated security ratings - high ratings mean that any aggressors with be attacked and destroyed by AI 'police'; low security ratings have no defenses at all and are the Wild West of space. Various corporations (and alliances of corporations) can have control of these mid to low security sectors, along with the mineral resources, planets and stations therein, and can hold them for years.
Similarly, a lot of people spend a lot of time in the game just mining, processing, manufacturing and trading. Eve's craft economy is a genuine economy; ships need to be built, which takes time and money, and take time to move around, which leads into my fourth point; it has a real economy. Canny players can make a profit trading goods between the systems. For example, when a recent patch announced that a way of resource-gathering from AI enemies was to be phased out, there was a market run on the raw materials they dropped.