Many people who've tried EVE Online report that playing it feels less like playing a game than it does struggling with an Excel spreadsheet. Indeed, some hard-core players apparently don't even bother to look at the cool space visuals, choosing instead to concentrate on the overwhelming multitude of lists and displays the game presents.
My own first impression was not that negative, although I can certainly understand why people are turned off by the game's complexity. Later, when I learned more and eventually joined a useful corporation, I began to appreciate and (gasp!) even enjoy playing. Recently I joined the ranks of the nullsec ratters, by which I mean that I locate and destroy the many server-controlled bad guys infesting asteroid belts in most systems. Kill 'em and salvage their stuff: fun, if repetitive.
But there's just one problem: even in systems owned by - and heavily populated by - people in my corporation, there are always hostile human players hanging around, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting players; particularly inexperienced players. No mercy is shown at all, ever. Your ship will be destroyed, your escape pod destroyed, and all your stuff taken. Even the smallest mistake is often rewarded with this extreme form of punishment.
Hostile human players that lurk in enemy systems, waiting for these kinds of mistakes, are so common as to render safe travel in nullsec space essentially a long-forgotten dream. Often, these hostile players are cloaked, so even if you can round up a gang of other players to go after them, they are essentially impossible to find. Yes, of course, we are all warned about this, and to a large extent I expected it.
But the thing I just realized is that this behaviour - in any other multiplayer game - is known as 'griefing'. A griefer is someone who plays online with one goal in mind: to disrupt the game for other players. On most multiplayer game servers, griefing is not only strongly discouraged, it results in a swift and often permanent ban. That certainly goes for the servers I run. But in EVE Online, this behaviour is simply accepted. The EVE universe is so hostile, so unforgiving, and so relentlessly nasty, that I'm starting to wonder why I even bother. The answer is simple: despite this major failing, it's still a very cool game - for those who enjoy the 'blowing things up in space' genre - as I do.
Still, I'm going to have to re-evaluate my subscription. My own servers are for co-operative play only, with human players teaming up to kill computer-controlled players. This type of server has none of the abuse and name-calling so common on other servers. People who exhibit nasty, uncivil, or unsportsmanlike behaviour are simply eliminated, permanently. This can never happen in EVE Online. Do I really need this kind of stress and abuse? If I did, I would just go to work.