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This is essentially going to be a love letter to my old flame, so if you don't want to hear it bail out now.
I remember one of the biggest complaints people had about starting EvE (aside from the learning curve) was the worry about never being able to "catch up" with veterans because of the real time skill system. This is somewhat true, but many others on this board have done a good job explaining how a properly specialized character can compete with any veteran in one particular aspect of the game. I have recently realized that there is another "ray of hope" for people wanting to try EvE now, even after it has been growing for a decade.
EvE is the greatest game I have ever played. I made lifelong friends from 3 continents during my years as a capsuleer. I started a corp, built a small empire, took part in wars, got completely crushed and lost everything but the Velator on my back, rebuilt my small empire... and it was all emotionally and intellectually inspiring in ways that I NEVER imagined a game could be. I still say I learned more about economics and human nature from EvE than I ever did in undergrad classes in economics and psychology. The massive complexity of New Eden is responsible in large part for great gaming experience that it provides, and I believe it will carry the game for another 10 years at least. This complexity is also, I believe, responsible for a natural cycle of life and death that is unique to EvE.
As I became more involved with the game, I got to the point where I enjoyed it most when I was completely saturated with the experience- simultaneously running three accounts, managing huge industrial interests, fighting our way through nullsec and w-space, testing my skills as a diplomat and a spy, learning to make money trading on the market... it was WONDERFUL. It was also unsustainable. I realized about a year ago that I would never again have the free time (thanks to work, family, and an annoying need to actually sleep occasionally) to play this game the way I loved- with my whole heart and my whole head. Casual play is certainly possible, but for me that felt like going to Hawaii on vacation and watching movies in my room instead of taking advantage of the wonders around me. I decided that it was time for me to end my nearly decade-long affair with EvE online.
I biomassed all of my characters. Some from 2004, some from 2005 and later. I gave away unimaginable billions worth of assets, capital ships, faction towers, officer mods, etc. It still breaks my heart sometimes but it was absolutely the right thing to. It was largely a gift to my wife. I know for a fact that I would have returned to EvE many times over the last year if my characters had been waiting there in "cold storage" for me.
So my point? I think in many cases there is a natural lifespan for eve players. It is SUCH an amazing virtual world that really taking advantage of it requires a lot of time, and as most people grow with family and career this becomes prohibitive. There are, of course, massive and glaring exceptions to this rule. Honestly, if I ever win powerball I may sit in my villa on my private island and play EvE for hours and days on end.
So those of you feeling like it is too late to give the game a try, I say GO FOR IT. If you are tough enough to handle being crushed and humiliated and smart enough to find the way to greatness afterward, I promise it will be a great gaming experience for you. Possibly, as it was for me, the best you will ever have.