My iPhone pinged nonchalantly, and I glanced over at the screen. The EVE Portal app alerted me that one of my character's skill training queue had ended.
I was a bit surprised. I had set an extra-long skill training regimen in motion for that character months ago, when I realized my passion for EVE Online was fading. He was a utility mining and industry alt that I hadn't used in ages. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I had logged in on that account.
Prompted by EVE Portal's gentle nudge, I fired up the launcher on my PC, and logged in.
Faithful readers of this blog know that my activity in the game has waned over the last few months, due to Real Life distractions. I have been taking a break from logging in regularly, in hope that one day my enthusiasm would return after CCP Games had added enough new features to make flying Internet spaceships in New Eden feel fresh again.
My character was sitting in a Retriever in station. I clicked on the character sheet icon.
"What's all this now?," I blurted to myself. While I remembered that CCP had changed the character sheet interface some time ago, I realized that I had never really used it. Now I was confronted with something new, and I had to spend a few moments studying the screen, figuring out how to inject skills and refresh the training queue.
Sometimes, little things can make a big difference. I played around with the tabs in the character sheet interface, and experimented with a few actions to see how they worked. Once satisfied that I understood it well enough to accomplish my task, I set about deciding which skills I should set to continue my character's development.
An hour later, I was still fiddling about, reviewing various skills and what they were required for, which led me to investigate new items that I'd not yet discovered that had been recently introduced to the game.
Suddenly, I realized I had fallen once again into the rabbit hole of EVE Online's depth and complexity - the same depth that had captivated me over seven years ago. I found new things to learn and master, and enough change in semi-familiar features to make me question my assumptions about how they worked.
And I was having fun.
I smiled at myself. I realized I was back playing EVE Online once again, and enjoying it.
Kudos to EVE Portal, despite flaws
While my enthusiasm for EVE Online had declined somewhat, my interest in the game never died. I knew I'd be back eventually. I just needed a break for a while.
Perhaps CCP did not intend this, but my decision to back away from the game was actually made easier by the introduction of EVE Portal, a handy app for reviewing character status, e-mail, skill training and notifications. The app allowed me to periodically check on my dormant characters and scan relevant news bulletins, without having to log into the client. With EVE Portal, I could monitor my characters from a distance, knowing I could intercede should anything happen that required my direct attention.
The app still has a few bugs. Sometimes I can't get access to my mail. Or it tells me that I have an infinite number of unread messages. And sometimes it repeats the same notifications over and over in an endless loop. I find that cancelling the app and restarting it usually fixes these glitches, but not always.
Nevertheless, I find EVE Portal to be a handy application, and I became dependent upon it during my hiatus to maintain a virtual tether to my characters in New Eden. If for nothing else, the alerts for critical notifications, such as war declarations, or as I described previously, training queue completion, make it invaluable.
When the app works - and it usually does - it works well. I've tolerated the intermittent bugs, hopeful that CCP Games will eventually squash them. I'm beginning to worry, however, as the app has been available for a few months. If we don't see any fixes and enhancements soon, I'll start to rethink my allegiance to EVE Portal.
But for now, CCP can rest assured that EVE Portal enabled me to maintain a connection to the game, and also is a major reason why I've now become re-engaged in EVE Online.
Hello, old friends
After I fixed my utility alt's training queue, I decided to do the same for my other characters as well. I logged into Neville, and once again found myself floating in a comfortable safe spot in Thera. I checked the Signal Cartel chat, and found our corp CEO, Mynxee, and other familiar Signaleers there. I waved hello.
"A wild Neville suddenly appears!", one of my corpmates replied.
"Welcome back!", Mynxee added with enthusiasm.
Returning home is always a good feeling. I could almost feel the virtual hugs emanating from my screen.
I spent the next half-hour catching up in chat, while updating my skill queue and checking on my in-game assets. I regretted having to shut down, in order to update my other characters.
"I'll be back very soon," I typed in chat. And I meant it.
What's old is new again
I undocked one of my alts in a mining barge, just to shake off the cobwebs and get familiar with flying in space again.
Wow, NPC stations look different. The landing lights, the spinning sections, the little dots of traffic flying from tower to tower - it felt... alive. I spent ten minutes just gawking at it, remembering how the old stations looked like lifeless derelicts. Now they feel as animated and populated as citadels.
Cool. Nice work, CCP.
I headed for a nearby belt, admiring the new skin of my barge. CCP did a nice job with these, too. It felt dirty and mechanical - like mining equipment should look. The animated flames and moving gearworks are a nice touch, too.
After gathering some ore, I docked up. Then I tried some ghost fitting. I had played with this when it first came out, but not in any serious fashion. Now I set about learning how to use this tool in earnest.
After getting deeply absorbed in testing various fittings, I realized that an hour had passed. I decided I like the ghost fitting feature - a lot.
Sometimes, little things can make a big difference. A ping from an app, a greeting from some old friends, a refreshed look, a new feature - individually, they don't seem like much. But altogether, they can alter our perception and make what was old and familiar seem like new. And that can be enough to draw us in and hold our fascination once again.
It's good to be back.
Fly safe! o7