When I started Eve, I already had a group of friends playing and experienced and they took me under their wing right from the get go. My Merlin and I were out fighting along side them and learning the ropes. It was good times.
But what if I had been alone? Just me and no one else to guide me? I think I would have floundered and suffered and struggled for a long time. Remember people, when I started new players got 5000 skill points, not 800K. It was a long haul to the Merlin with rails and missiles much less a cruiser.
So here is a new player guide for those starting in Eve without the benefit of mentors.
On your first day your goal is to create a character and play the tutorial. Seriously, do the tutorial. As for what race and bloodline to pick, the best answer I can give is that it does not matter. Anything and any ship you want to fly is available to you with training so don't get bogged down in questions like "who's the best for PvP?" and "I want to make things, what race should I be?"
The profession you pick when creating a character only determines your starting skill set. You are not bound to continue that profession when you start and you can switch professions (by changing what skill you train next) at any time. The best bet is to pick a profession in the military streams for combat skills so you can start killing rats.
When assigning attributes, there are two prevailing methods. The first is to balance your stats (with the exception of Charisma which many pilots simply ignore) so that your character can train any skill with the same ease. The second is to assign your attribute points such that you have two skills maxed out that you intend to train a lot of skills that benefit from them. (You see, the amount of time a skill takes to train is dependent on the ranking of the skill and two attribute values of the player, the higher the appropriate attributes, the faster the skill trains). Players intending to be simply combat pilots would stack points in perception and willpower while the industrial players would go more for intelligence and memory.
I prefer the former method (and I think ignoring charisma too much is not wise either) so that your pilot is never hampered should he decide to diversify into other professions. Allows players to keep the game fresh.
Additional "phase one" activities is to visit the eve-online forums and read the stickied posts in the New Citizens forum. In fact, for the first two months of playing Eve I visited that forum almost daily. Its almost like a second tutorial.
OK, by now you should have a ship, know how to get around, target the NPCs (aka rats), and kill them for money (aka ISK), and check the wreck for modules and ammo to take (aka loot). Also, your tutorial agent should have given you directions to another agent to start your career. Go there, run missions.
Missions have three good things about them: they are challenging without being impossible, they give you ISK from the rat bounties, loot, and mission rewards, and they give Loyalty Points and standings with the NPC Corporation the agent belongs to. While running missions, you can train up some skills to get into a cruiser which will become your ship of the line for the foreseeable future.
Also during this time you should be getting a feel for the Eve lingo and ideas from the forums and forming ideas of what you want to do with your career in the game. Mission runner? Pirate? Corporate bodyguard? Miner? Near the end of Phase Two you should be comfortable enough with the game and the mechanics to be able to browse ship setups on the forums and have an idea of how that ship works in space and how you compare.
Eve is a multiplayer game. You will not last long by yourself in almost any endeavour. Even high sec mission running is dangerous simply from boredom. No, Eve is best experienced in the company of friends.
You should have been looking at player corporations and alliances by now and know the big names: Burn Eden, Band of Brothers, Goonswarm, Red Alliance, Triumvirate, and so forth. Some players make the big jump and try to get into the biggest alliances right off the bat. Personally I think that is crazy but it has been done and nothing in the game mechanics prevents you from doing so.
But realistically you are too green to be out in the Great New Eden War. Instead consider Empire based corporations willing to help new players get on their feet. There are some philanthropic corporations like Eve University and Agony Unleashed which exist solely to instruct new players in the finer art of piloting ships. And there are hundreds of other player corps accepting applications of new players, just view the Alliance and Corporation Recruitment forums and you'll see what I mean. And remember, just because you join a corp doesn't mean you can't keep looking for the right fit.
When in a corp, be friendly, chat up the other pilots, and make friends. Flying with other people is so much more enjoyable than flying alone and the most boring tasks are fun with good company.
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And that is it. Once in a player corp you are no longer alone in the vast universe and you can ask corp mates for help and advice.
How long do the phases take? It depends on the player and his time playing the game but I would say within a couple weeks to a month you should be done all three phases and well into the game.