Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Force me once, force me twice.. count me out

It's been a while since I blogged here. I wanted to comment on a blog, but since the proprietor of that blog doesn't allow comments, I'll have to dig up this here old thing and publish my thoughts here.

I was reading Namamai's blog and happened upon this quote:

My suspicion is that wardecs (and the peacedec/minedec/tradedec ideas) are offensive to people not because they’re asymmetric, or even because that they force you into a different play-style.  They are offensive to people because they are inherently competitive, and not everyone enjoys competition — of any kind.

He may have a point, for all I know. Miners are often pretty peaceful, minding their own business, sometimes banding together for the sake of Orca boosts. But to me, the issue with wardecs/peacedecs and to some extent griefing, afk cloaking and such isn't the competitiveness, but indeed 'that they force you into a different play style'.

From experience I know that Eve has a diverse population. Some pilots are still in school, college or university, while others have a day job and a family. Yet others are retired: pensioners flying spaceships! Pilot ages vary from 8 to 72 I'd wager.

I fall into the '40 something guy, employed, with a family' cohort. And in these turbulent economic times, having a mortgage and a family to support isn't exactly a stress free exercise. At my work, reorganizations and layoffs seem to be the rule lately, rather than the exception; it's been ongoing for over a year and is set to last until 2016 at least.

So when I log in at night - one of those increasingly rare nights when I find the time and energy to actually do so - I really could do without 'being forced into a different play style'. My stress levels are already too high, and all I want to do is relax and have a good time with my corp mates. If there's PVP, I will probably join (and I don't mind losing a ship), but if there's nothing going on I might shoot red crosses for a bit, while admiring the work of the Eve art team. But I don't want to spend my gaming time being someone else's content.

Ripard once pointed out that CCP is in the business of selling fun. I am their customer, I am paying to relax and enjoy myself. If I can't get that (reliably) in Eve, I'll have to look somewhere else.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blog Banter 51: some get out, some don't

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 51st edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

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EVE Online can be a game of heart-pounding, palm-sweating, adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy or agony. Sometimes over the years those reactions dim and what was once a panic inducing situation becomes commonplace routine. For some, the shakes never go away.

From Druur Monakh (Twitter: @DruurMonakh) we get the topic of this banter: what was your most nail-biting experience in EVE Online so far? It could be PvP in a 1v1 or 1000v1000, your first fight or your latest one, a scam so close to being uncovered too soon, a trap almost sprung on an unsuspecting victim or the roles reversed and you desperately try to escape.

* * * * *

This is a nice question and it plays into one of the core strengths of Eve Online: the ability to make you shake and sweat in your chair! I remember reading someones' tale about how he got stranded in a wormhole and managed to get out with some friendly help - and how exciting it all was. That experience convinced him to subscribe to the game, right there and then!

Most Eve pilots have had those moments. For me, there's a couple that stick out.


Just a few percent structure left..
I have written about this one before. While in LEGIO ASTARTES ARCANUM alliance (a -A- ally, back then) we had neutrals and hostiles coming through our space every day or so. Usually we'd have a nice fight at a gate or at a station and that was that. This time however, I was very lucky to get my Hurricane out in one piece!
We encountered the hostiles (two Cynabals and a Stiletto) at an out gate and for a while, the fight went back and forth. I get primaried and pointed, and the incoming damage threatens to overwhelm my shields. It's obvious I can't tank this for long, so I set a course away from the hostiles (aligning to a safe) to try to get out of their warp scramble range.. but it isn't going fast enough! Shields down.. armor down.. taking hull damage and still I am pointed! At that moment I resign myself to my fate: the Hurricane is going to die. Oh well. Not a biggie.. shame though. Somewhat detached now I await the moment of explosion, while these thoughts go through my head. And while I am thinking that, I completely miss the fact that I am in fact no longer pointed! Suddenly the fact hits me.. I'm free to warp! With mere seconds to get out, I hit warp and I wonder whether the Hurricane will explode before warping off.. But my ship enters warp, with a just few percent structure left:


Says one of the hostiles, in local: "That Hurricane pilot is one lucky bastard". I wholeheartedly agreed!

Here's another one. It's not an 'escape' kind of story, but it was exciting and - for us at least - hugely funny.

Station games
A few months ago, our alliance Mildly Intoxicated did a lot of hotdrops in the Providence and Catch area. I didn't quite like the concept of hotdrops but my corp mates convinced me to join a fleet to try it out, and to my surprise I found it a lot of fun! You wait and wait, and then suddenly.. cyno up, GOGOGO! You land somewhere in the midst of a mining fleet, on a ratting battleship, on an unsuspecting freighter somewhere.. and immediately the fight is on. Sometimes you get the kill and you move out safely, other times the intended victim has friends nearby and you lose your stealth bomber. It's all part of the game and I loved it. Quick, unexpected, exciting.
One time our hunter (the hotdrop pilot looking for prey) decided to take a look at a station in Providence, in X-4WZD, home to Apocalypse Now. alliance. There was a carrier on the undock, a Nidhoggur, and of couse our intrepid hunter yellowboxed him to see whether he would bite. We didn't expect the carrier to aggress - after all, by the time this is happening we have quite a reputation for hotdrops in this area. After a few seconds the Nidhoggur yellowboxed our hunter too.. and then the carrier aggressed the hunter! He did it! As soon as the yellowbox turned into a red box, the cyno was lit and we poured in. With half of our fleet still in our staging system the cyno died, but the pilots that made it began hammering the Nidhoggur with all we got, the FC tersely and repeatedly admonishing us to overheat.. overheat.. overheat! Another cyno was lit, the rest of the fleet jumped in and it was a race against the clock to see whether we could kill this Nidhoggur before his aggro timer expired and he would be able to dock up. I have no idea how close it was, but under our withering fire the Nidhoggur melted and exploded. I jumped up from my chair, pumped my fist and yelled out loud, startling a few innocent family members :-) It was my first capital kill and I loved it! I still wonder how many seconds of aggro the Nidhoggur pilot had left, before we killed him.. it must have been very close. No lucky escape for him!

The nice part: can view this incident for yourself. It starts at 1.39 in the video below!



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fighting in 10% Time Dilation

I have to be upfront: I am not a 'big fleets' guy. But sometimes.. they just need to happen. And so, last night, I found myself in KW-I6T in an N3 fleet, fighting against, well, everyone and their dog basically. It was Nulli Secunda, Northern Coalition, PL and others (such as ourselves, Mildly Intoxicated) against SOLAR, -A-, Black Legion, assorted CFC forces and who nows what else.

I took the titan jump from the Nulli staging system I-NGI8 as part of a Proteus fleet. When I landed in KW-, it seemed time had come to a standstill.. there were some 1400 guys in local and time dilation stood at 13%. It rapidly fell to 10% and remained there, more or less, for the four hours I spent in the system.

Titans in KW-I6T
For those new to Time Dilation (TiDi for short): when the server that runs the solar system becomes too busy to process all incoming commands quickly enough, it slows down the time in the system. This allows the server to process all actions (a ship warp, weapons being activated against a target, a ship that is exploding, ship and drone movements et cetera) in the correct order and everyone has a reasonably fair chance that his or her action will be executed, and even in the correct order! This is a nifty way of dealing with heavy load and it usually works well.
But when tidi is at 10% it can take minutes for your actions to be effected. I selected a fleet member to warp to and gave the warp command, got up from my chair, went to the toilet, got myself a new drink, briefly spoke to my wife, sat down again - only to find I moved 500 kilometers in that time, instead of the 7 AU I should have moved!

Finally I landed at the fight and quickly discovered I could barely do any damage to the targets the FC would call. My grid and overview didn't load: the FC was calling targets I didn't even see. When my grid finally loaded.. I was at first too shocked to comprehend what I was seeing! Hundreds of ships, blobs of grey, red, blue and orange ships shooting one another at point blank range. One big swirling cloud of ships, drones, missiles, laserfire.. It was overwhelming and my overview settings (a separate tab for hostiles and one for hostile battleships only) were far from adequate to work under these circumstances. I had a hard time locating targets from the overview, but once people stopped to spam the fleet broadcast with incorrect targets we could target from there which was a relief. I really need to do some work on those overviews!

People where (slowly) shooting and getting shot, ships exploded in stately flowering balls of fire, we were outnumbered, but discipline on voice comms remained excellent. FC's calmly ordered what to shoot or to repair, where to move, and they smoothly took over from one another when one of them got destroyed. Of course there were moments of irritation or elevated stress levels, that's unavoidable I think, but I was impressed by the professionalism these FCs exuded under the circumstances.

Occasionally I would succeed in targeting something before it exploded and I managed to get on one genuine kill. Then I was targeted myself and I had to warp out.. in 10% tidi.  Slllooowwwllyy my cruiser would begin to align.. some incoming damage.. nothing for a few minutes... ah there's the warp. And when I got to my safe after a few minutes, I had to move back at the same speed. Basically, I was out of the fight for ten to fifteen minutes, every time I had to warp out.

At times it was like I was watching a painting being painted: everything is there and it all happens, but just very, very slowly. (edit: see this comment on Reddit!)

In the mean time, the number of participating pilots had risen to some 1800 which doesn't help when the server node is already overwhelmed, and we began to notice that the server began to get out of sync.

After a while the FC ordered everyone to deaggress and dock up. Hilarity ensued: deaggressing and docking in 10% tidi took well over 30 minutes for some pilots! Unfortunately for me I got stuck in the gaggle of capital ships on the station undock, and with just a few more meters to go, a few hostiles managed to kill my ship. Such a crappy way to lose something..


I died somewhere in there
When you're docked in station, there's no way to tell what's going on outside. I had high hopes for Incarna: I wanted to have windows I the station! Wouldn't it have been glorious to watch such a large fight from within a station bar or your captain's quarters? Unfortunately Incarna never got that far and so we resorted to watching the stream on Mad Ani who was broadcasting live.

Then.. suddenly supers. Black Legion dreads landed on grid and the fight quickly escalated to a super fight, when N3 jumped Titans in to get the BL Dreads. BL Dreads die, N3 Titans get bumped, Doomsdays are being employed and the fight now officially goes from 'good fight' to 'epic fight'. I want to see what's going on so I undock in my pod and enjoy the view from the undock ramp..


Bubblewrapped Titans

Bubblewrapped Titans
 By this time it's 01.20 AM and I really, badly need to go to bed. Reluctantly I logged off. The following morning I learned that the fight had raged for hours more, but finally the server node crashed, effectively ending an epic supercapital and Titan fight before one of the Titans could die: TheMittani battlereport.

Mad Ani put recordings up: part 1 and part 2.

Edit: corp mate Valkyr Eupraxia had some very nice screenshots here. This one is remarkable:

One of Valkyr Eupraxia's screenshots of the KW- capital fight


From a technical point of view, it's remarkable that CCP is capable of allowing 1800 man battles in a single shard MMO. I will not belittle that, it's quite an accomplishment, even if the server node finally dies after five hours. On a high level, the game play works: a battle is happening and someone is losing or winning it. But for an individual pilot, there's not much joy to be had in such battles, apart from the fact that you can claim: "I was there!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Two kills, two pods, and happy with them too

It’s great to live in Catch, these days! The Initiative has vanished from our area of operations and sovereignty is being taken bij -A- (welcome back!), Squee and others. CVA and others roam the area. It’s a target rich environment! Since we joined Mildly Intoxicated we kind of missed the gatecamp/small roam kind of pvp we were used to. Of course we participated in the coalition level deployments to the north and more recently to the southwest, and some of our guys liked the large fleets, but prefer smaller fleets. I’m very happy to report we’re seeing more and more of the small gang stuff right now!

Yesterday evening a small group of NOFAD pilots - just four of us - set up a few drag bubbles in TA3T-3, put a few cans on the landing points at the bubbles and began camping. Some neutrals and hostiles travelled through, but none on a path that would have them land in the bubbles. Soon, however, a CVA Nemesis entered and sure enough, he landed in the bubble and was uncloaked by a can.. 8 km away from me. I think he didn’t realize he was uncloaked until we locked him, but my missiles had some trouble finishing him off quickly enough. Corp mate Simon Jenkins (a.k.a. Ez) helped me do the job: one dead Nemesis.  The pod got away, but hey I wasn’t complaining: 100 million ISK in loot isn’t all that bad for this kind of kill. I’m still looting the wreck as, all over sudden, the pod reappears at the exact same location! Huh? Second attempt via the same route..? Still forgot to bounce off a celestial..? Whatever the case may be, the pod dies too. I quickly bring the loot back to station and swap ECM-drones to Warrior II’s.. I need more DPS.

Some time after that, a lonely Hurricane enters TA3T-3. He comes through the gate behind the bubbles, so there’s no way he’ll end up in them. He warps off but remains on dscan. After a bit the Hurricane disappears from local and it turns out he jumped to E-YJ8G which is a dead end system which we also own. I follow behind and wait for him at a tac off the TA3T-3 gate and indeed, after a few minutes he appears at the gate.. but he doesn't jump. I want to push him through because our guys are waiting on the other side, so I warp to him, lock him up, web him and begin pummeling him with missiles. Sadly I don’t have a point on this thing.. he doesn’t return fire but waits until he hits half shields, at which point he warps off. Some other alliance guys join in the hunt and the cat and mouse game continues: he warps to gate, sees one of our guys, warps off, warps back to gate and so on. Finally he smells his chance and jumps through to TA3T-3, directly into our impromptu gate camp on the other side. Dictor bubble goes up, I lock him up again and then.. he just vanishes. Turns out he had a cloak! He didn’t use it until then and it took us completely by surprise. His speed should be something like 24m/s under cloak but still be don’t manage to uncloak him, to our embarrassment. When he finally does, about ten minutes later, he’s back at the E-Y gate and he quickly jumps. Back to square one! We wait for a long time and just as we’re ready to call it quits, he warps to 70 km off the TA3T-3 gate in E-YJ8G, on a direct line from the station and cloaks there. That was too easy! Our interceptor Magister Wu repeats his warp and lands in the same spot. It takes him about 30 seconds to decloak the Hurricane. Multiple dictor bubbles go up and the area is swarmed with drones to prevent him from cloaking again. This time the Hurricanes destruction is certain, and indeed, it explodes shortly after. His pod dies too, after we make sure everyone will be on the killmail.

Four kills. I know it’s nothing spectacular, but it was a lot of fun and a refreshing break from the large coalition deployment fleets. Happy to be back in Catch!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blog Banter 48: suspension of disbelief

This month's topic is a request from CCP Sisyphus who wants to know: how important is lore in EVE Online?
How important is “fluff” in Eve online? Would eve online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?
For more entries, see here.

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Many media related activities, such as watching tv or movies, require some sort of 'suspension of disbelief'. We know that those hideous monsters on the big screen don't really exist, but we consciously ignore that fact, especially when we are immersed in the story. Good camerawork or well done special effects - good visuals - make it easier to immerse ourselves, reinforcing our ability to suspend our disbelief.

Unless it is too scary for the kids: in that case we willingly break the suspension of disbelief and the immersion: 'don't be scared, it's just a movie, it's not real!'

Eve Online lets you create and experience your own stories. It's one of the sandboxy elements that make it stand out, when compared to many other games. And that's probably the main reason why even major mainstream news outlets print stories on the battle of Asakai or 6VDT, as they are original, player made stories. But it's the lore and the scifi backdrop that provide the screen upon which Eve pilots create these stories, it's the frame or reference, the canvas they paint upon. The lore and the detailed scifi data available give us pilots a reason to suspend our disbelief and the gorgeous visuals help us immerse ourselves in this otherwise obviously fake universe. New Eden would be meaningless without lore and it's scifi backdrop, and why would anyone care for something meaningless? Why would we want to create our own stories there?

CCP can be proud of the level of immersion and suspension of disbelief it is able to evoke in their customers. It's something to cherish and if possible, improve. It should never be ignored!

So what about the mechanics? Well, when I just began playing Eve, I began to learn these mechanics, and thought that, in itself, these could be repurposed for other games. You could create a sandbox game about primitive hunters/gatherers, surviving on some earth like planet. Mining would be gathering nuts, fruits and roots to eat, or flint and other raw materials to fashion spears and such. Industry: making those spears, bows, wooden shields or other usable objects. Missions would mean fighting with wild animals or scavengers, and nullsec could be about conquerable hills or caves to live in. Wormhole space? How about large marshes with ever shifting paths and ways? It would be a totally different experience but the mechanics could be pretty much the same! So in my opinion, it is the lore, the scifi background and the beautiful visual aspects of New Eden that make Eve Online what it is, not the numbers and mechanics.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Live streaming the Fountain war: the impact of Mad_ani

For us in The Netherlands, CNN became famous when they covered evens such as the fall of the Berlin wall and the 1991 Gulf war in Kuwait and Iraq. The fact that you could watch history unfold, live on TV, was still new to a lot of people back then. For a while, CNN became the household name for live coverage of 'breaking news' evens and to some extend it still is - although I get the latest news facts through Twitter, these days.

For Eve Online, many war stories have been told (and told well I have to say) and some events were frapsed so that we could view them on Youtube later. But as far as I know, there has not been a lot of live war coverage.

This has now changed significantly. Basic live streaming Eve via Twitch.tv doesn't require a lot of effort anymore, and many people have dabbled in it. Personally I have done some 'Jitacam' and 'AmarrCam' streams, and I tried to do some live reporting on Burn Jita II, but it never really got anywhere. Still, I am planning on doing this more often, when I have the time to do a proper setup.


Mad_ani (aka Simon, DJMad) however has, in recent weeks, really taken Eve streaming to the next level. I first saw his live streams during the N3 vs Solar war in the east, and he's grown a lot since then. One key advantage that Eve streamers have over real world news outlets: in Eve, you often know when a fight will happen, due to the way sovereignty works. This means an Eve live broadcaster can attempt to get in position well before the anticipated fight begins, create the necessary bookmarks etcetera. During the current Fountain war, Simon has done a great job of attending those timers, meaning he has been able to show a lot of fights and significant events. As a result, his (appreciative) audience is growing rapidly. At the moment of writing, there isn't a lot going on so the stream just shows the TEST and CFC staging stations, and there's still 800 people watching!

That audience includes many people who are clearly new to Eve Online: there are often newbie questions in the Twitch live stream's chat room. Live streaming a war might be a good way to lure new pilots into New Eden, and I bet CCP is happy with the attention Simon is generating for Eve Online.

Update: just spotted this on the Twitch chat box, and it's precisely what I mean:

fritzfantom: i just clicked on this stream by browsing twitch, stayed for the music and now exploring eve - thanks ani <3

As for myself, I now routinely view Mad_ani's twitch page before reading other Eve news sources, and it's something I keep an eye on whenever I can. The way I experience a war in Eve has changed significantly. Simon really is the CNN of New Eden, at the moment! I suspect we'll see many more live streams in the future though, opening up more of Eve for interested pilots and outsiders alike.

All in all, I am amazed by what is happening, and I congratulate Simon with his current success! Follow the man on twitter: https://twitter.com/SimonakaDJMad
Or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimonakaDJMad
In case you missed the link above, his Twitch.tv page: http://www.twitch.tv/mad_ani

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dust 514: All you need is LAV

It's been three weeks since I began playing Dust 514 and two weeks since my one week evaluation of this new game. As I wrote then, Dust is my first FPS and I must say I've learned a lot, even though I lacked the time for long gaming sessions. But, Dust allows you to do something meaningful in a short timespan and I like that. There are also things I really don't like about Dust.. Let's talk about those first.

New Dust mercs can go to the battle finder, select the Instant Battle and they will be dropped into whatever fight is available at the time. Ambush, Domination, Skirmish.. it can be anything and you don't know up front. That means you get to see and experience lots of different areas of the game, which is good for a beginner. It really helped me on my way! After a while, my scores improved somewhat, I died less often. I had the idea that I was finding my footing in the FPS, getting into the swing of things, pulling out better scores and victories as time progressed.
At a certain point, however, you 'graduate' from this uniform instant battle finder. The next time you open the instant battle area of the battle finder, you get a list of available battle types and you have to choose which one you want to play. Or, should I say, 'which one you want to be massacred in'? Because, these battles are much more difficult than the previous ones! My results are back to absolutely horrible. I have a hard time scoring any kills and war points, I keep dying again and again, barely adding any value to my team. Are people specializing in certain types of battle, perhaps? Making it easy for them to kill anyone who isn't as focused, for instance a casual player such as me? I don't know but I am not having a lot of fun these days. I can appreciate a challenge (I learned Eve all by myself, it was my first MMO back in 2008), but my patience is being stretched, to be honest.

One reason why these battles seem to be so lethal, is the higher quality gear everyone seems to be using. I get killed by people who don't show up on radar, I get killed by snipers I can't even see, I get killed by weapons I have never even heard of, I get killed by cars and tanks, I get killed by insanely heavy weaponry. Apparently, there's no such thing as 'overkill' in Dust.. I hit targets with everything I've got and they won't even blink, but hit me once or twice and I'm dead.  Sometimes I can't even aim and shoot after respawning, before dying again! My performance is pathetic, really. Or is the game just unbalanced? Is the step from the beginner instant battles to the next level too steep?

Of course I could also buy that nice gear and perhaps that would help. But between all the deaths I suffer I would lose a lot of that equipment! Compare it to Eve Online. A new pilot might lose ships incidentally, and those losses hurt. But the usual n00b does not lose dozens of nicely fitted ships a day! Yet that is exactly how often I die in Dust, if I play for a bit. I don't see myself buying all that gear to be honest, it would make playing Dust a more expensive proposition than playing Eve.

But maybe it's just me. I am, after all, still relatively new to the FPS genre. I could really do with an extended stay in the newbie instant battles, or some sort of PVE training grounds.. But of course that doesn't exist in Dust. There is no PVE or training mode. I have no choice but to keep trying to learn something while being killed again and again, or give up on Dust altogether.

Speaking of gear: a special word for the LAV. The LAV looks a bit like a classic army jeep, but it is much, much more agile.. too much in my opinion. It doesn't behave like a vehicle: it's obviously something controller guided, zipping here and there seemingly without inertia or delay, even with one or more mercs on board (one of them standing upright in the back of the car, behind the machine gun). I've seen LAVs do stuff that nothing on four wheels should be allowed to do! Some relevant imagery can be found here, although this clip doesn't show how fast, erratic and unlogical LAV movement looks from an infantry point of view. I have tried killing LAVs with anti armor guns, but they were usually gone before I could even get a lock. In my opinion, LAVs are currently overpowered. They should behave more like actual vehicles, which are slower and less agile. It takes time for a massive object to grind to a halt or to accelerate. It takes time for someone at the steering wheel to turn a vehicle, or to shift gears!

A suggestion for CCP: I really like the view from the war barge, hovering over the planets just before us mercs are deployed to the surface. Can't you put a war barge near a point of interest, for instance the Jita 4-4 undock, and allow us to visit and enjoy the view whenever we want? Or, alternatively, incorporate this technology in existing Eve stations, and allow us to meet in those spaces? Even if it's only restricted to Dust mercs, it would still be a step up from where we are now: alone in our merc quarters, with 'the door' (tm) firmly locked..

Dust 514 really has potential and I (still..) do like it, but it has a lot of rough edges. CCP Shanghai has their work cut out for them, I'd say. In the mean time, you get to be part of New Eden, the beautiful sandbox CCP is building for us. You get to walk on the surface of the planets you've always seen from space. You get to experience all that if you have a few minutes of spare time. And you are challenged to overcome the odds.. and kill the enemy before he kills you. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my PS3..

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dust 514: the one week evaluation

..It is a really weird feeling, to gaze out of the windows and see the planet hanging there in space. In a few moments, we will be deployed to its surface.. me and the other mercs. We stand here and wait that final minute until deployment, flexing our muscles, or making last minute adjustments to our combat gear. We will walk on that planet, on it. Walk, run, drive.. and we will probably die on it as well. We die a lot! But that's ok: we are Dust mercs and there is always a next clone. You know that song? "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away"? Not so anymore. We don't fade. We clone..

Speaking of experience: Dust 514 is my first real FPS game. I am normally an Eve pilot (and have been since 2008) and while I tried CoD I couldn't get used to it. If Dust were just another FPS I wouldn't have given it much thought, even if it were made by CCP. But the fact that Dust 514 and Eve Online exist in the same virtual universe, on the same monstrous server cluster.. that makes Dust 514 stand out. I've flown past hundreds of Eve planets, often ignoring them but sometimes admiring their beauty. And now that I am given the chance I sure am going to set foot on them!

And so - much to the delight of my son, who's also an Eve pilot, I bought a second hand PS3 and proceeded to load up Dust 514, for free. We (meaning my son and me) have now played Dust for about a week. Here's my first impressions!
  • "Eve Online is hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror". It may not always be true, but the usual Eve pvp pilot will have experienced this some time, especially when they are involved in sovereignty warfare. But in Dust 514, combat is always readily available. With thousands of mercs online there will always be instant missions or mercenary contracts to execute.
  • Gear you buy is just as easily lost in Dust as in Eve! Losses, like in Eve, are permanent. But as a n00b I fight a lot of instant battles in starter gear and I have a lot of fun without having to worry about losing that, as your new clone will always have the same starter gear. I also don't have to worry about loadouts, I just use default starter fits now. Which also means I am not bothered by the microtransactions side of Dust.
  • Apart from the loss of gear aspect, a kill in Dust doesn't mean much. You certainly can't put it on a killboard. Kills are just stats.
  • Instant battles are usually uncoordinated, spontaneous fights. No leadership, no organized squads, no strategy: everyone just dives right in. This kind of Dust can easily be played solo, but I figure it gets boring over time. For me, as an FPS n00b, it's great fun and a nice learning ground. I think the execution of regular merc contracts requires more coordination, communication and effort.
  • In line with the previous bullet: in instant battles, there's almost no usage of chat channels, voice chat, Skype or anything like that.




source
  •  The fights take place on fairly large maps. They are diverse, with lots of variation: gullies, buildings, containers, obstacles of all kind everywhere. I don't feel I've played the same map twice, but that's probably just me. I do love exploring the landscape, but unfortunately that tends to get me killed pretty soon..
  • The hacking is nice. Sneak your way to an enemy object, proceed to hack it, and score war points.
  • I have a hard time scoring straight kills. Aiming, firing: I'm getting better at it. But it sometimes feels like I'm emptying clip after clip of ammo, all in vain: the other guy just keeps standing there! When he fires a shot at me, however.. I die. In similar situations my son does score the kill, and gets to walk away in one piece. The difference: FPS experience. I don't have it, he does.
  • Dust has lots of interesting and diverse weapon systems, from handguns to rifles to tanks and large, immobile railgun installations. Car sized vehicles (LAVs) are used to kill mercs too. My son had a blast shooting such vehicles using a large cannon: BOOM! Car gone. Heh.
  • Speaking of LAVs, I think those are overpowered a bit, because they are way too maneuverable. They turn on a dime, while any real vehicle would need more time and space to turn.
  • I've been in battles that had Eve orbital bombardments, but they weren't the 'carpet bombing', shock and awe, match ending events I thought they would be. Which is probably good.

  • The skill tree is absolutely amazing. So much more intuitive than Eve Online's skill system! You can instantly see how skills relate, what you need to train to achieve a certain goal. I hope we get something similar in Eve too, one day.
  • You get skillpoints in two ways: passive sp and combat sp. The latter are obviously earned by doing combat: each fight results in a certain amount of sp that will be added to the mercenary character you used for that fight. This means you can accrue sp on each of your three mercenary characters. Passive skillpoints are automatically accrued to one of them, and you can select (up front) which character will receive them. 
  • In Eve you have to select a skill first, and once you apply the skill queue changes, you will begin earning sp - but on that specific skill only.  Once the skill is fully trained and your queue is empty.. no more skillpoints for your Eve pilot. Dust works exactly the other way around: your selected character always accrues passive skillpoints, 24x7. Once you have enough points for a certain skill, you apply them to that skill to the desired level. Very useful, and no need to worry about skill queues going empty when there's an extended downtime or when you're away on holiday.


Wishlist:
  • When I'm in my Mercenary quarters, wouldn't it be natural for me to take off my body armour? I don't expect US marines to be fully battle dressed all the time either..
  • Easier way to see my own 'all time' stats (haven't found that yet)
  • I would love the ability to explore maps without combat.
  • Can't wait to see what Dust 514 combat looks like on lava planets, ice planets..
  • More kills for me :-)

Verdict
I like Dust, even though - and perhaps because? - I am not a typical FPS gamer. That means that getting the hang of this particular FPS requires some learning. But I can play Dust for 15 minutes and do something useful or meaningful, while Eve Online requires gaming sessions of considerable more length if you want some excitement. I like the concept, I like the combat.. Dust is a keep, for me.
If you have access to a PS3, give it a try! For some extended footage of Dust in action: there's plenty on Twitch.tv.

(edited for clarity, June 1st)

Friday, May 24, 2013

No lowsec for me

Sometimes, when I’m tired or not in the mood for nullsec shenanigans, I’ll break out my highsec mining alt and have her scoop some ores for a few hours. Usually one of my other (low sp) alts guards her in a battlecruiser; I’d rather defend myself than be an easy ganking victim. But I have to admit that mining in itself remains dull, and so I warped the guard alt to a very easy anom to relieve the boredom. And, well, what do you know, I got an escalation out of it!

..to a lowsec system. Hmm.. I once promised myself never to set foot in lowsec ever again, unless it was to move through to null. That was back in 2009 after some bad experiences. I tried to run some missions in lowsec back then, and I did not like it at all: it was very difficult to do pve there, when everyone else in the neighbourhood just wants to kill you. When you prepare yourself for a specific pve adversary, you’re usually not well equipped to deal with pvp at the same time.. and the risk/reward ratio of the pve involved just wasn’t good enough to justify the hassle.

‘But, hey, it’s four years later, lets give it another try!’I thought. So I got myself a cruiser, fitted it for the rats I was going to face, and set off. You probably can guess how this ended, right? Even though I used dscan every minute or so, I found myself pointed and scrammed when I was about to finish the first room. The Falcon that locked me dampened me effectively, meaning I had no way to inflict any damage at all. The Loki that warped in shortly after, brought the dps to finish me off, including my pod.

I’ve gone over the details of what happened a couple of times in my head, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. I checked the system out in eve-kill and dotlan, beforehand. It was quiet there; I was aware of who was in local; I never saw probes on dscan (even though checking only thirty seconds or so before being pointed) and once the falcon had me there was no way I could get out anymore.

Again, the problem is, if you’re a casual pve pilot and you get a mission or escalation to lowsec you’re always at a disadvantage. A local pirate will know the surroundings, he probably has ships and supplies nearby (in this case, in the local station) and while you’re pve fitted, he’s pvp fit and out to get you. It’s not really a match, is it? So unless you bring friends - multiple - doing pve in lowsec is, in my experience, an exercise in frustration. Now if the rewards were any good, it might still be worth it, but shooting red crosses in nullsec is much more profitable and much less risky. For this particular anom I could earn a few million, which is hardly enough to justify asking a few friends along, is it? The isk/hour ratio just doesn’t justify that. 

As far as I can see, lowsec is broken from a pve point of view and my pledge to avoid it at all cost has been renewed. No lowsec pve for me ever again, unless CCP significantly revamps the area.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fanfest 2013 - some thoughts

I'm sorry to say I wasn't in Iceland last week, but I watched livestreams and replays, read the blogs.. time to write down a few points that stick out for me.

Eve Online + Dust = ...
One of the driving forces behind Walking in Stations, was the vision of New Eden as the complete, immersive scifi simulator. Not just a 'Flying in space' game but much more than that. After this years' fanfest, I'm tempted to say that CCP is still working on that grand vision.. they are just approaching it from another angle. A New Eden that is populated by Dusties, Capsuleers, mobile device users and - who knows, one day - Evr pilots and whatnot. Seen in that light it's no wonder that Dust got the amount of attention it did: it's just another piece of the New Eden puzzle. A very important piece I might add: CCP hinted that in terms of concurrent users, Dust 514 is rapidly growing to around the same size as Eve Online. If this trend continues, pod pilots may soon find themselves a minority in New Eden!

If World of Darkness would have gotten the airtime that was given to Dust, then I would surely have been annoyed. World of Darkness does not add to New Eden, and any energy spent on WoD, does not directly benefit us capsuleers. That said, a company with just one successful product is (almost by definition) a vulnerable company, and as such there is an indirect benefit for Eve Online and Dust players if WoD becomes a profitable game. A more diversified CCP, with income from several sources, is more likely to survive and thrive long term.

And this is also, I think, part of the reasons why CCP is expanding the Eve IP into other territories such as comic books and TV shows. Broadening the audience and potential customer base is a sound strategy, if they do it right.

Immersion
The Oculus3D EVR game was praised for its' immersive qualities and immersion is also a key driver behind CCP Soundwave's 'war on loading bars' and the system scanner revamp. Immersion is very important in a virtual world and I am happy to see very concrete improvements in this area. This, too, fits a 'complete scifi simulator' vision.

Odyssey
Odyssey style jump gate about to fire
The new, immersion improving jump gate effects and system scanner, the hacking minigames, Navy battlecruisers, the restructuring of ice and R64 moons, possibly even new life blood for nullsec industry, and more: I'm looking forward to it. Bring it on!

Politics
The CSM election turned out nicely, most of the people I voted for made it into CSM8. It's certainly not the CSM some of the nullsec blocs wanted to see.. and this too is a good thing. I'm pleasantly surprised by the huge response to Ripard Teg and the fact that a guy like Mike Azariah actually got elected.

CCP
I can't help but admire CCP. They are certainly able to host a significant event and throw a tremendous party, and seeing it from a distance certainly makes me more than a little envious :-) Especially via Twitter you get the feeling that Fanfest pumps a huge shot of energy and sense of togetherness the Eve community. The devs certainly play a positive part in this. Kudos to all involved.
Obviously there is a lot going on in the company, with John Lander moving to a new position and no replacement yet announced. Pressure will remain on CCP to get Dust 514 off the ground, both short and long term, WoD still in slomo development and a mobile strategy that has to be developed as well. Lots to do, but CCP has shown they are able to adjust and overcome, and I expect them to be able to continue doing so well into Eve Online's second decade.
The only thing that worried me, was that - until recently - if you searched for Eve Online on twitch.tv, it would list 'Sony' somewhere on the Eve Online page. It seems to be gone now, and I'm happy about that :-)

And if you want to see it all again, Twitch.tv is the place to go. It has all the broadcasts!

Agile/Scrum
In my RL job, I am a product owner in an agile/scrum team, working on creating and improving virtual channels for a financial services company. We have only begun to use scrum a little while ago, so I'm still learning.
In my role as 'PO' I'm especially focused on the backlog and how to deal with it. I've been taught that a product backlog contains user stories in different stages of development. The user stories scheduled for 'somewhere in the future' tend to be large, not well defined. They are more like general ideas, not yet ready for implementation. In due time (when the user story progresses through the backlog) the idea will be thought through, elaborated on, be specified, quite possibly broken into smaller, more concrete user stories which can, finally, be built during a sprint. So, as their implementation date nears, user stories will progressively grow more concrete and better specified.
Via Twitter I learned that CCP Seagull is product owner for Odyssey, and I just asked her if she is also the owner of the product backlog for the rest of Eve Online - if such a backlog exists, and my guess is it does. If so, it's not surprising that CCP is vague about the long term plans as detailed in the Seagulls' statements in the Eve Online keynote, which were repeated later in the CCP Presents keynote. These future visions are just the vague ideas and big chunks of unspecified work at the end of the backlog :-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fanfest 2013 Eve keynote: a short recap

Ok, this is a 'stream of consciousness' writeup of the Eve keynote that just finished on the main stage of the Harpa center. More thoughts later; this is just to recap the main news points.

It kicked off with a look at the history of Eve Online and CCP. Amusing and embarrassing pictures of very young developers, early builds, the first sketches of what were to become familiar ships: nice to see and hilarious to boot. Hilmar recounted how he lost a ship he loaned from someone, and how that moment brought home for him what Eve really was.. he got it, right then and there. A powerful story.

John Lander got to tell the story of Eve 2012-2013, the Retribution expansion, Dust beta etcetera. He also got to say goodbye, resigning from his current position, to chief of CCP's mobile division. He got a well deserved round of applause and seemed to be tearing up a bit, even.

On to Oddyssey, presented by Soundwave and Seagull. The latter explains how the theme for Retribution was taken from the very first Eve Online website. So what will be in Odyssey? Lots of improvements to exploration and scanning: the system scanner now scans space around you, you see it sweep across the screen and the results are visible directly in space. Immersive and looking good to boot. When Soundwave sent his ship through a stargate, the room erupted with applause: the new jump animation is simply gorgeous. It looks a bit like you warp through a planet: it's dark, but you're obviously moving and you really end in space on the other side! Immersive and looking good..? Definitely!
Soundwave then scanned down an exploration site (which will, by the way, no longer feature npc rats) where he had to hack his way into a wreck. Upon breaking into the computer he had to hack, it spawned several containers which drifted away in space. The message: do this together, you won't be able to recoup those containers all by yourself.
Other Odyssey points: CCP will 'look into R64 moons and T2 production bottlenecks'.. meaning the OTEC is about to be dissolved shortly after Odyssey is released.
Ice belts will be moved into new types of anomalies, which will only spawn in the systems that currently already have ice belts.

Then Seagull, who was tense, at times gasping for air, detailed some principles for future Eve expansions. They will be theme based, with stuff in them for several player groups: solo players, group players, instigators and enablers.
And then she asked the room to 'dream with me..' about new empires to build, space to explore.. and finally she said 'Now imagine you could build the right kind of stargate..' She was obviously hinting about acquiring access to new space! She also said something about '2014'. Those expansions might be interesting, too :)

By this time the room (and the commenters on twitch.tv) were quite thrilled already, but they were about to be completely blown away: Hilmar demo'd a short clip of an Eve Online client for the Oculus Rift: 'EVR' built on Unity3D. Think of it as a first person dogfighting experience in Eve! You see yourself being launched into space (again, no black screen, a real exit from station a supercarrier), you look through your window, there's a fight.. you join it! Very, very exiting stuff. The demo was barely done when Themittani already had an article up. Go give it a read! Guys in Iceland get to try the Oculus demo tomorrow morning. My envy knows no bounds.. UPDATE: this too is a good writeup of the EVR demo: Eve becomes virtual with Oculus Rift.

Viewer numbers on the twitch.tv stream topped a little over 13.000, which is very impressive too.

All in all.. I'm very impressed and thrilled. Reading the comments on the twitch stream and on twitter, I can tell I'm definitely not alone. The next ten years should be good ;-)

Update: the first relevant devblogs are already published: check them out!

(edited 23.20 CEST for clarity and spelling)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The official "This is not my month" month

Eight losses this month, and April isn’t even over yet. I’m just hesitant to undock at this point!

So how did I lose eight ships?

Less harmful damage
The first loss is from a corp death roam in the MTO2-2 area. We were bringing in a new corp member, which was a funny story in itself. We were moving from MTO in his direction, and he’s supposedly moving towards us. At some point we notice he’s not getting any closer, as a matter of fact he’s burning away! Turns out he was on his way to our PVE system in the southeast, not our PVP deployment area in the northeast. Oops. Twenty minutes and lots of jumps through deserted nullsec later we join up and move back in the direction of MTO. Via intel channels we hear of a hostile RAZOR fleet near MTO along our way, and we try to catch up with our guys chasing said fleet. That doesn’t work - we never find them - but we manage to get stuck in a bubble at a gate, together with the escaping hostile fleet. Most of our ships explode, including my Talwar; I get podded, too. Deathroam mission: goal accomplished.

About a week later, I’m in station in MTO2-2, bored and waiting for action. A hostile fleet is bouncing around the area, and a fleet is formed to do something about it. We undock and there’s some brawling at gates and such. We lose some, we kill some; I manage to survive but fail to score any kills (although I suspect some kills weren’t posted..)  after which our still sizeable fleet follows the FC deeper into Venal, in hot pursuit of the hostiles. Finally, at a gate we catch them, and the fight is on. I deploy drones and assign them to the FC, but pretty soon (well, immediately really) after that, the entire hostile fleet yellowboxes and subsequently redboxes me. Boom goes my Prophecy, and I’m podded as well.
The fight is, however, escalating: the enemy brings carriers on the field, and of course I want to get on those juicy capital killmails. I quickly reship to a Caracal, determined to lob missiles at said carriers from a bit of a distance, i.e. not within 5000 meters of our FC. As soon as I land.. here we go again: yellowboxed, redboxed, boom. I don’t think I successfully fired one missile! Ffs! As I float around the battlefield in my pod, cursing the hostile FC who apparently has it in for me,  I realise I forgot to upgrade my clone after the first podding. Crap. I am now suddenly trembling behind the PC.. please don’t pod me please don’t pod me please.. With a sigh of relief I make it out alive and return to MTO2-2 to upgrade the clone. Phew, lucky escape there.

I was angry that I didn’t score any kills, but suddenly two Megathron kills appear on our killboard, with my name on them. I can’t remember them at all. Of course these are from my sentry drones, they were assigned to the FC who shot at stuff while I was being exploded, so that’s what netted me two kills. I don’t feel good about it, at all. I didn’t see them or target them, I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the damage overpower the ships’ reps until it exploded. It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. But at least my kb efficiency is saved.. for what it’s worth.

Again a few days later, and the R3 hellcamp is in full swing. There’s talk of pvp and I want some real kills after those Megathron 'semi kills', so I hop into the coalition approved Prophecy, and make it to the Titan just in time to make the jump from MTO to R3.. but that’s not where I land. I didn’t know it was two Titan jumps, but here I am, 19 jumps out of R3, burning towards the second Titan whose bridge will bring me to R3 proper! It’s just that I really, really need a bio break now! So I warp to a celestial and go afk. When I come back a minute later (yes, I am that fast and that close to the sanitary stuff here) the second Titan pilot says ‘afk, back in 2 hours’ and is gone. Crap. Alone and 19 jumps out of where the action is I decide to go by myself; I am positively not going to hang around here for two hours. So I carefully make my way to R3, until - three jumps out of my destination - I land in a gate camp. Boom. At least I am able to get my pod out!
But you know what's really stupid? While I land in the gate camp, I notice something in the local channel: the lone blue in local said "watch out, gate camp at the out gate". Either I missed it, or I could have used the heads up a wee bit earlier :-)

Anyway, a few days later I log my main back on and make for R3. The final jumps are uneventful. In R3 however, I notice I can't get into the POS, and I can't dock I the heavily bubbled station either. So what to do? I warp from celestial to celestial, making bookmarks along the way. Warping between those bookmarks, I create a couple of safespots; when I'm done, I warp to one of them. Not contended with being in a safespot, I align to one of the other bookmarks I created and, with the pod moving, I begin reading mail and chatting with corp mates. Until all over sudden a Manticore appears on screen! Did he warp in? I have no directional scanners and can't detect probes, but who'd make the effort to scan down a pod? To be honest, I believe I accidentally uncloaked him in his own safe spot.. what are the odds of that! Anyway, he points me and begins shooting at me, but his torpedos aren't really suitable for hitting a pod at 3000 meters. I barely get any damage, but am afraid to call in help; it might be a trap, who knows. So after an unusually long period of being shot at with Scourge Rage torpedos, my pod dies and my R3 adventure is over.

Sick and tired of all the coalition deployment losses, I decide to jc back to our PVE area for some peaceful anomming. Barely halfway into my first Angel Hub, I notice intel reports of a neutral Arazu coming in, and a small fleet is arranged to try and kill him. We are aware that he might be a hotdropper; what Arazu would venture out so far into hostile territory, all by himself? I bring a Drake I happen to have there and set out for the Arazu, after being warned to remain outside of 30 km which, I am told, is probably his point range. That information proved to be incorrect. I am pointed well out of 30 km, and pretty soon I'm webbed too, and pretty soon after that, there's a dozen or so hotdroppers on my Drake. Kaboom. Drake dead due to misinformation and (perhaps) carelessness on my part. The guys who told me '30 km' feel bad about their wrong intel, and I receive generous gifts, enough ISK to buy two fitted Drakes back. Thanks guys.

And here I am, month not over yet.. I wonder if I'll make it to May without further losses!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Drums in the deep

Perhaps you know that scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie, the Fellowship of the Ring. While travelling through the mines of Moria, one of the Hobbits (that 'fool of a Took!') accidentally drops a bucket in a deep, dry well. It rattles down, chains and all, lots of noise ensues.. and then it gets silent. Nothing happens.. But just as the travellers are about to breathe a sigh in relief, a single low drum beat vibrates through the dark mines. And another one answers, and another.. Drums in the deep. The Orcs are coming! Battle is here!

Something like this happens in nullsec life too, every now and then. Rumors of a war begin to spread, tell tale signs of impending battle appear. And then, sometimes, for a while it just gets silent. Nothing happens. But just when you are about to breathe a sigh in relief (or boredom), hostile fleets are unleashed at your space, stations are reinforced, systems SBU'd. Hostiles are coming, battle is here!

What follows can be epic, just like the fight in the movie 'the Fellowship of the Rings' was. Unexpected victories or losses, strange turns of fortune, exciting events: it is all possible, and you can be there to watch it. Better yet, you can participate.. or even cause it to happen. It's your choice!

The first time sov warfare happened to me, our corporation No Fixed Abode (NOFAD) was in Querious, in an alliance that rented some very nice space from IT Alliance. I've told that story before and won't go into the details again, but I remember strongly how lonely it got in our space, as soon as we heard the 'drums in the deep'. The guys running Sanctums in carriers all day long - gone. Our prolific belt ratters - gone. Our miners in the hidden belts - gone. Familiar voices vanished from TeamSpeak, and in some corporations, membership numbers started to fall pretty drastically. As it turns out, many alliance members were there for the ISK, grazing, earning fortunes in our perfect dead end ratting system; but they didn't care for the alliance itself. They never even undocked one single PVP ship when the alliance needed them badly. What a disappointment! How utterly cynical those guys were! And what cowards, too.

The second time sov warfare happened to me, NOFAD was part of LEGIO ASTARTES ARCANUM, living in Catch. The Drone Russian Forces wanted to get rid of -A- once and for all, and LEGIO was obviously also in the DRF's way. We fought, we lost our space, we retreated to LGK-VP with -A-. And we kept fighting! Guerilla style ambushes, reinforcing stuff left and right, deploying SBU after SBU.. and slowly but surely we won everything back we once had, and then some. This time around, most pilots hung in there, and those who did still pride themselves in what they accomplished. And rightly so! It was a struggle to remember and a memory to cherish. Not to mention it was a whole lot of fun, too..

Next time when you hear the 'drums in the deep', make sure to prepare for war. Don't bug out and leave, silently. Allow yourself the chance to be part of something potentially epic, something you'll remember for a long time, whether you win or lose. It's definitely worth it, and you'll be a better Eve pilot afterwards.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blog Banter 46: Eve's many choices

Blog Banter 46: the main event

"EVE Online is a unique piece of science fiction that is ‘participatory’." - CCP Seagull, December 2012

EVE Online is heading into its Second Decade with renewed vigour and a new development strategy. At the CSM Summit in December, Executive Producer CCP Unifex and Development Director CCP Seagull explained how future development and expansions will be broader in scope than recent "collections of features" stating that CCP "want to create something more inspirational, that players aspire to play."

With the return of Live Events such as the Battle for Caldari Prime, clearly the prime fiction of EVE
is back in favor as part of this new thematic approach to expansions. However, EVE's story is very much a tale of two play styles, with an entirely player-driven narrative unfolding daily in parallel to the reinvigorated backstory. Often, they do not mix well. How can these two disparate elements be united or at least comfortably co-exist in a single sandbox universe?"

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One of the main draws of Eve Online - at least in my experience - is that it is not ‘just’ a game, but a persistent virtual world. Its’ inhabitants may have begun their careers with a carefully planned development path in mind or they may have meandered through Eve, tasting a bit of this, doing a bit of that, sampling what’s on offer: the variations are legio.
Intertwined with all these career related developments, are a multitude of player interactions. These happen in countless corporation and alliance channels, open channels, TeamSpeak conversations but also out there in space, where player made choices pit pilot against pilot in pvp or in a struggle for resources (..ok, I mean guys mining together).

The combination of so many variables means that there are no identical Eve players. There is not really such a thing as a ‘level 45 paladin’ or ‘level 25 wizard’ in Eve; every pilot is unique, and so is his or her story.

Eve lore has always been part of these unique and different stories. Wormholes came, and some players adapted, ignoring them as much as they could, continuing with their own path through Eve. Others, however, profited from these new found sources of fun and profit. Factional warfare came, and the general population adapted while others jumped in, joining an FW corp. Incursions came, and the same happens: some pilots ignore them as much as possible, adapting to their occurrence every now and then; but others jumped on the Incursion running bandwagon (and made obscene amounts of ISK in the process).

These are clear examples of lore driven additions to game play have been beneficial for Eve Online, expanding the options and opportunities available; but some players dive right in while others don't.

And that's perfectly fine in a virtual world, a scifi simulator such as Eve Online. In a sandbox, you should be free to pursue your own path. Forcing lore based events on unwilling pilots runs contrary to that, and might be bad for business. And so far I think CCP has done a good job in this area.

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Other entries here: http://freebooted.blogspot.nl/2013/04/blog-banter-46-main-event.html

Monday, March 25, 2013

Odyssey, designed for emergent game play?

For a while now, we are seeing a passionate debate on the future direction of Eve Online. Everyone seems to be convinced something has to change: a rebalancing seems to be in order for several areas of Eve Online.
Yet, your perspective on what should change and how it should be changed, probably depends on your main source of income or your preferred play style. For instance, some nullsec dwellers say highsec is too safe and profitable, and should be nerfed. But other (overly paranoid) highsec pilots claim CCP is in a secret cabal with nullsec overlords and that this will prevent an 'obviously much needed' buff to security in highsec.
Some say industry belongs in nullsec, but what sensible megacorp would put its' production facilities in lawless outer regions? That would be akin to Volkswagen moving it's main factories to, say, Gilgit-Baltistan.. highly unlikely.  There's a lot of this armchair game design stuff going on: this should be adjusted and that should be moved, and Concord shouldn't do this or that anymore, and ganking should be encouraged or abolished, and..

I have to admit, I've been guilty of this myself: I too have written long blog posts proposing specific  changes to Eve. Yet I am feeling increasingly uneasy about some of that stuff I wrote myself and about suggestions I read from other players. But I couldn't really put my finger on why I felt like that, until I read this quote by Dee Hock:
Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex, intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.
 And that's it! Players often come up with tremendously complicated solutions to gameplay issues, usually designed to protect their own interests. But as the complexity of gameplay rules and regulations rises, people are more and more forced into following those rules and regulations like sheep. This, it seems to me, is definitely not what we want for New Eden. If you want emergent gameplay in the proverbial sandbox, overly complex rules and regulations should be avoided as much as possible. I think this Dee Hock quote, probably intended to describe business processes, perfectly  applies to game design intended to foster emergent gameplay.

CCP has announced Odyssey, the next expansion for the summer of 2013. It promises, amongst other things, "a rebalance of major areas of space from highsec to nullsec including changes in exploration sites, industrial resources, some types of NPC loot and more…" I'm eager to see whether those changes will be 'simple and clear in purpose and principle' or not.