EVE Online is not an easy game to master. It is the bordeaux of MMOs, both challenging and rewarding. Because of the steep learning curve, new players can use all the help that they can get.
This is the first in a multi-part series dedicated to helping new players get into EVE right off the bat. I present to you five things that every new player should make a point of doing.
#5: Do The Damn Tutorial
Some games need no tutorial. If you fire up Peggle for the first time, it isn't going to be tough to jump right in. EVE is nothing like that. EVE is a very complex MMOG among complex MMOGs. In short, EVE is a complexity unto itself.
So, you need to do the tutorial missions. Really. People that don't do the tutorial play the game for years without noticing some of the basic game mechanics that the tutorial teaches. To ignore the tutorial is to deliberately remain ignorant of how to play the game. So do it.
#4: Don't Just Train Learning Skills
The learning skills are a necessary part of playing the early game. Without them, your character will gain skill-points at a depressed rate, making it take even longer for you to get into the end-game ships. But if you are just training learning skills for your first three weeks, you aren't going to have any sense of character progression, which stinks. Better to spend the first day or three training up the really basic learning skills, then start training weapon skills and destroyer or cruiser hull skills.
Don't just train the basic weapon skills, either, the fitting skills like Engineering, Electronics, and Weapon Upgrades (and eventually, Advanced Weapon Upgrades), are all important for being able to fit ships with the modules that they need to use in order to be effective. Without these skills, you are going to have a hard time fitting ships, and training them to level III or IV early in the game will make everything much easier.
Support skills for weapon systems are also very important. If you are using turrets, train a few levels of Motion Prediction, Rapid Firing, Motion Prediction, and Controlled Bursts. If you are using missiles, train a few levels each of Missile Bombardment, Target Navigation Prediction, Rapid Launch, and Missile Projection. The idea here is that you should not just be gaining access to bigger and better weapons, but that you should also be training skills so that those weapons will actually hit targets, and actually inflict damage. Training the skill to fly a battleship hull does you little good if you can't use any battleship-sized modules on it, and if your level 1 missions disallow ships that are larger than frigates from running them.
#3: Train The Social Skill
No matter what you are doing, high standings will eventually help you. Training Social to III (or IV when you get a chance) will pay off for the rest of the game, and take almost no time at first. The social skill increases the amount that your faction standings increase, any time you kill an NPC or complete a mission. Standings are basically how well your character is regarded by a particular NPC organization, and are one of the major things that EVE players grind to get.
High standings with an NPC faction cause them to charge you less ISK when using their station services such as repairing or market orders. Very high standings will allow you to refine at their stations without them taking a cut, or to use special services like leaving jump clones at their station. The higher your standings, the higher the level of mission that you will be able to access. Depending on what organization you are gaining standings with, you may eventually be able to use special R&D Agents that will give you datacores over time, whether you are actively running missions for them, or not.
The point is not that you should be worrying about any of this as a newbie, but rather that you should be maximizing your faction gains while still trying things out, so that by the time you are worrying about this stuff, you've already made significant progress towards them.
#2: Participate In EVE's Culture
EVE Online is a massively multiplayer game, but that doesn't matter all that much if a player keeps to himself and doesn't make friends. Join a corporation. Really. They will help you understand EVE faster. They will help you make ISK faster. Most importantly, they will help you enjoy EVE more.
Any aspect of EVE Online is improved by sharing the experience with other players. Whether it's a corporation of people dedicated to your particular raison d'etre, or posting on the EVE forums, or posting on another site dedicated to EVE Online, participating in EVE's wider culture will make playing the game a hundred times more fun. It will also give you a sense of where you fit into the larger continuum of player activity. If you don't participate, you won't see the big picture, and EVE won't be as fun.
Ten Ton Hammer has a guide that helps new players find and join a worthwhile corporation, here. I recommend this more than anything else. Experience isn't necessary. Run well, corporations are a support net that enriches their members EVE experience, literally and figuratively.
#1: Try Everything
Sure, you tried mining, production, and running missions, in the tutorial. But the experiences offered by the tutorial are a far cry from making an EVE career at any of these professions. And these isn't even a taste of PVP, except the occasion ship loss.
Try mining as your main source of revenue. Getting bored? Not making enough ISK? Move on. Enjoying yourself? Have you found a mining corporation that loves carousing over ventrilo or teamspeak during corporate mining ops, and makes a ton of ISK through collaborative effort? You may have found your calling.
Try buying a few blueprint originals for modules that you find yourself needing, and think will sell in whatever area you live at. Are you making decent money? Do you enjoy the thrill of hunting for market gaps and filling them? Are you rolling in ISK? Then this is the profession for you. Expand your market coverage as your skills and production capabilities increase, and you will
Try running missions for ISK. You're going to want to run a lot of missions for the same NPC organization, in order to get access to level 2 (or better) missions. As your cache of loot, ISK, and loyalty points increase, and you find yourself moving to better "mission hubs" with higher quality agents, as your standings improve, you should get a sense as to whether this is something you want to run with, or a passing diversion. If you find yourself thriving in this role, run with it.
None of the PVE activities offer the same level of invigorating excitement that PVP does. Every EVE Online player owes it to themselves to try it at least a couple of times. Try ganking in low-security space or, if you can make it, null-security space. Get together in low-sec with a few friends in reasonably priced tech one cruisers, and hang around until something runs into you. Do your best to blow it up. PVP is not a solo activity. Attempts to PVP with just one character usually end in failure, except for the most advanced players. And even they usually end up using two characters at once. Nor is PVP a foolproof science: things constantly go wrong, and victory is never certain. Especially as a new player. But learning not to fear PVP or to rue the loss of ships is in many ways the most valuable PVP skill that can be learned. If you enjoy the thrill of combat, this is a good path for you to pursue.
It is true that certain professions are arguably better than others, or at least make more ISK per hour. For example: done properly, level 4 missions will always make more money than mining the asteroids that are available in high security space. My advice is that, if you have tried everything and enjoy what you are doing most, then it doesn't really matter whether the other professions make more ISK. If you like it, do it. None of these professions preclude one another. You easily can mine or run missions while your manufacturing jobs are going on, and PVP in your spare time.
That's all for now. Be sure to check in on the Ten Ton Hammer forums if you have any further questions. We'll do our best to help you out.