“Multiplayer” doesn’t mean “joined at the hip onscreen with 5 other players” — it means “playing with lots of other people in the game at the same time,” whether you’re grouped with them or not. Solo /= antisocial, despite what the hardcore groupers seem to believe. I’ve been arguing that one for years.
I have a tendency to solo in my MMOs. Not because I dislike grouping, quite the contary, but because my play time and availability tend to be incompatible with group play. My personal circumstances are such that, whilst I get quite a lot of play time, I tend to need to be able to leave my desk for minutes at a time throughout it. My attention will not always be on the screen, and whilst I’ll try to be somewhere safe before going afk, it’s not fair to ask groups to wait for me whilst I go away for some time, especially as it is often without warning. So, I’ll solo for the majority of my time, or group in an activity that supports “step in/step out” play. The battlegrounds in WoW were always good for broken play, as there is relatively little responsibility to one’s fellows, as even if you have to leave, there is always a ready replacement waiting.
So, how do I see this panning out in Eve?
Thus far it has become apparent that combats are often longer than you might expect. Especially when missioning, the baddies seem to have a tendency to warp a bunch of their buddies in to join them. A dust up with a half dozen naughty Guristas can soon turn into a chug through 2 dozen! So, some care is required there. Clearly, going afk part way through the fight is a bad idea; but it only take a couple of mins to warp back to the nearest station, and the pirates seem to be obligingly waiting for you to return. So missions aren’t too much trouble.
Clearly fleet action is going to require some dedication. I would imagine that once you are a part of a corp fleet or an alliance fleet and you have an assigned duty to attend to, that going afk for a quarter of an hour may be frowned upon. No, not for me the grand sweep of fleet vs fleet, at least not with any regularity. Small pack engagement is probably the same, but with fewer participants it should be easier to make clear the time constraints that apply, and to adjust to any necessary breaks in play. Generally, PvP should be fine, assuming that I can find a bunch of people who understand the pressures on my time and the restrictions around it, and are prepared to make allowances.
Travelling presents no problem, nor does mining or ratting. Play until I need to go, then dock until I am good to play again.
But best of all, and the area into which I intend to put my efforts, is exploration. Once I can fly Cov Ops, and have my Astrometric skills up, I can then go solo explore the universe. I can find anomalies, and either take advantage of them myself, or turn to my corp mates to make use of them. I can hide out in space, should I need to, using the cloak; and can dock for longer periods away. Through exploration I hope that my particular play time constraints can be circumvented and that I can prove a valuable asset to my Corp. And on the occasions where I do have the time clear and no interruptions expected, I can go scout for the Alliance fleet and pop Cyno fields to help people out.
Eve seems, thus far, to be one of the most solo-friendly MMOs out there. Time will tell if first impressions are correct.