Thursday, January 28, 2010

Second Life: Dutchie's houseboat

House boats are a common sight in larger Dutch cities, where many an old ship spends it's days converted into someone's living quarters. On my way to the office, I pass quite a few of them; some old and squalid, some pretty and well maintained. Dutchie decided to bring this local specialty to Second Life, and I must say I'm impressed with the results. The interior is beautifully done, the style matching what I'd expect a dutch houseboat to look like. I have owned houses before, but nothing comes close to this one! I am already looking for a place to put one, perhaps for rent via TBRentals. I think it looks best if there's a bit of room around it, though. Too bad I haven't got 1024m left in my tier or I'd do it immediately. Here's some snaps:

More snapshots: at my Koinup page. Want to see the houseboat for yourself? Pay a visit to Dutchie!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eve Online: what's the appeal?

In a special edition of the Eve Blog Banter, CrazyKinux asks: Why do you love Eve Online so much?

Good question. I have been active in virtual worlds from mid 2006, when the Second Life hype hit. IBM went head first into virtual worlds, and I, being an IBM watcher and corporate blogger, followed suit to see what the fuss was all about.

I never was much of a gamer. I don't own a console and never bought a PC game; I never really made it past Minesweeper as far as PC gaming goes. And yet I have been in Eve Online for nearly two years, and I'm not about to leave; because Eve Online is, to me, one of the most interesting and advanced virtual worlds currently in existence. Let me explain why.

Tranquility's single shard model allowed Eve Online to develop a coherent mythology, that is relevant to pilots every day. It's not just a nice backdrop for staging internet spaceship fights; New Eden wouldn't be the same without the lore. But this mythology not just found in the CCP written official history of New Eden; it is created anew, time and time again, by the pilots themselves. Epic clashes between major alliances, infamous heists, notorious characters, battles won and lost! It all adds to the player created lore. These are tomorrow's myths, to be narrated to n00bs in local and corp chat for years to come. It's possible in the continuum that is New Eden, but only there.

But other than impressive stories, the single shard has also given rise to an advanced economy. One of the things that make Second Life interesting, is that SL residents design unique objects. But there is no such thing as geographical distance which would necessitate transport, or which would allow trade hubs to evolve. And: in SL you can create anything out of thin air, meaning there's no raw materials to build from; there's almost no initial cost. New Eden's economy doesn't know unique objects, but distances really count, and raw materials are needed. Sources of these raw materials need to be exploited, ores transported and sold before goods are made, which can then be sold off. Hence the need for miners, freighters, industrialists, all making a living off the production of goods. It's much more developed and realistic than other virtual economies I've seen. All in all, I'd say Second Life has a market, but Eve Online has an economy.

Corps and alliances
Lots has been said about the social side of the capsuleers' universe. Here, too, the single shard design is instrumental in bringing about something special. New Eden's player driven infrastructure of corporations and alliances - and the dynamics of trade and conflicts between those - is what's keeping Eve Online alive and vibrant. It facilitates a lot of interesting and meaningful social interaction, and it also provides the framework of much of the player driven mythology mentioned above. And again, it wouldn't be possible - not on this epic scale at least - in a sharded environment.

World view
Another interesting point is Eve Online's world view. It's not pretty, but much of the real world - unfortunately - isn't either. Second Life has more of a sixties love & peace vibe, and while it's entertaining it doesn't always feel right to me - because I don't think humanity, in itself, is like that. Eve Online shows this darker side of humanity.

While writing this down, I realised I'm missing something here. There's more! Eve Online, interesting, fascinating, gritty and dark as it can be, is also beautiful to see, plain engaging, and often fun. In the end, that's what seals the deal, that's why I love Eve Online.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eve Online: A different mindset

Helicity Boson penned a long, expletive filled rant detailing how much he hates the average carebear miner in Eve Online. I'm not a miner, but here's my thoughts on the subject.

Eve Online is often touted as a sandbox environment. Everyone’s free to choose their own direction! One of which is: being a miner. Miners provide much of the raw ore that keeps Eve’s industrialists occupied, and as such it’s one of the cornerstones of Eve’s economy – of which CCP is quite proud. I can’t state it with any certainty, but I don’t think Eve Online could sustain a meaningful economy without the miners. Yet the most vocal inhabitants of New Eden are those who chose a completely different career: the PVP pilots and pirates who insist it's fun to blow up these same miners.

From my point of view, there's a deeper difference in mindset separating the pirates from the miners, that's causing the strife between the two. Allow me to elaborate - I'll try not to be as long as Helicity, I promise ;-)

A while ago I read Edward Castranova's "Synthetic Worlds", which deals with virtual worlds, MMO games and such. Dating from 2006 it was, as far as I know, one of the first attempts at a scientific explanation of the MMO/virtual world phenomenon. Castranova describes four typical categories of inhabitants of these worlds: explorers, socializers, achievers and controllers. Explorers want to discover beautiful and new vistas, the new, the unexpected, "to boldly go..". Socializers seek the company, corp chat, doing stuff together. Achievers want to build value, hoard wealth, get somewhere the peaceful way. Finally, the controllers want to be in charge. They compete, defeat, dominate and if necessary decimate. And yet, in Castranova's words, "to them, it's all a sport".

I consider myself an explorer. I'm in New Eden to find out what's there, to try new things every now and then, to enjoy the scenery. I'm also a socializer, as I like the company, and I'm an achiever insofar that I want to be wealthy enough to replace anything I might lose. Most miners and industrialists (and mission runners) definitely fall in the socializers and achievers category. And pirates, well, I hate state the obvious, but they are of course the controllers of New Eden.

Speaking in Castranova's terms, socializers and achievers are really of a different mindset than the controllers, and these differences in mindset and character have always been a source of irritation between 'carebears' and 'griefers', in many an MMO game and perhaps in real life too. It's nothing new, really.

I recognize this difference, also. To me, personally, reading Helicity's rant is like reading the utterings of a completely alien mind. I can't for the life of me understand what's so funny about blowing up miners, why it's fun to deny some harmless n00b miner his achievement. I can't understand why he hates these people so much (apart from the insults hurled at him, that is). I don't understand why anyone would enjoy inflicting harm on (and triggering anger in) those hapless miners who are explicitly not looking for pvp. The whole concept is just alien to me. And frankly, I really doubt whether it's healthy to display so much hatred while, at the same time, saying 'it's all just a game, people' (as any controller would) to those who are angry with him.

So, even while I may not agree with Helicity - because I really don't recognize anything of his motives and urges - I can, in the framework of Castranova's descriptions, see where he's coming from. And I can also understand why an achiever type pilot would be hurt and confused with someone like Helicity blowing up their stuff. Achievers and controllers differ so much in mindset, world view and game perception, that they are almost mutually exclusive.

For achievers, the bad news is, that in the setting of New Eden, much of the game mechanics are geared to accommodate the Helicities, the controllers of space. There's (some) room for explorers and socializers, but achievers are, however important they may be for Eve's economy, very low on CCP's priority list. This is not an accident; this is by design.

CCP may probably have a low new player retention for achiever type pilots because of this, and because my own instincts are more akin to socializers/achievers than to controllers, I'm not happy with that. I have, earlier, advocated more protection for new players, perhaps in 1.0 space only. I still think CCP could financially benefit from that: it would make the learning curve more of a curve than, well, a virtual graveyard. But at the same time, I recognize it may be very hard to balance achievers and controllers in a better way, without hurting the whole premise of New Eden.

In the mean time.. fly safe, all :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eve Online: Roaming through nullsec

I rarely leave highsec. Lowsec is definitely not appealing; it's dangerous and not very rewarding to visit. Why even bother? Nullsec however is different, and I've wanted to visit it for a long time. I first went there a few months ago, and I made it a few jumps in, until I ran into Wensley who quickly ridded me of my vessel, pod and clone. He did, however, give me some advice on how to avoid warp bubbles the next time!

A few days ago I decided it was time for another go. I bought an Incursus, fitted it with cheap T1 stuff and set sail for Poitot, where Wensley killed me before. The first few jumps through lowsec and 0.0 were somewhat exiting as I had to dodge a few pirates, but pretty soon space became almost empty. Very few people in local, no chat, nothing. At one jumpgate a disabled mobile warp disruptor hung idle in space. In another system I got caught in a warp bubble again but there was no one to shoot at me; I drifted out of the bubble and jumped safely. Jump after jump, and nothing happens! Along the way I pick up some loot in an abandoned NPC wreck, which I put up for sale.

I stayed overnight at a station in A-SJ8X, at the edge of Syndicate, not certain whether to push for Cloud Ring or Outer Ring. Knowing I wouldn't be able to dock anywhere in Cloud Ring, which is currently owned by Ev0ke alliance, I opted for Outer Ring, which is an NPC region; anyone can dock there. But still, it was quite a trip as I had to do eleven jumps to get to the nearest Outer Ring station with a medical bay.

Leaving the station in A-SJ8X, I quickly jumped to the first Ev0ke owned system, 1-3HWZ in Cloud Ring. Most systems here are deserted; I noticed a few miners and an IT alliance pilot in local, but that was it. A few uneventful jumps brought me quickly and safely to IZ-AOB, the entry to Outer Ring. A few uneventful jumps. I pick up a few abandoned drones at a jumpgate. Then another series of uneventful jumps. Finally I am at my destination, 4C-B7X. This system seems to be quite busy; 26 in local, which is the most I've seen so far.

Frankly, I've been a bit disappointed by the lack of excitement. Most of the systems in Syndicate and Outer Ring I've visited, are more or less empty and there's just not that much going on there. Perhaps this is different in the other nullsec regions, but I haven't seen it yet..

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eve Online: searching for directions in 2010

Eve Online is, famously so, a sandbox environment which leaves almost all choices up to the pilot. What career to pursue, where to live and what to do: within the bounds of the setting of New Eden, you're in charge of your own destiny. That's why CrazyKinux, the Eve Online blogfather, poses the following question:
"As we begin another year in New Eden, ask yourselves "What Now?" What will I attempt next? What haven't I done so far in EVE?"

My answer, very short: I don't know - yet. I have been a miner for a short while, but for most of my Eve career I have been a mission runner. Recently I have taken up the habit of exploring systems with scanner probes, discovering hidden npc PVE sites. I've also, occasionally, spent some time in wormholes. But what's next? I haven't decided yet.

I have been offered a spot in a wormhole mining team. But while I haven't ruled it out yet, I don't exactly see myself as a WH miner in the near future. I can also keep doing what I'm doing now: run missions, scan down complexes and such, together with corp mates or alone. Having relocated to Everyshore recently, I think that will be the short term plan, but for some reason I don't feel quite at home in Everyshore; not sure I'll stay here long term.

I would very much like to spend some time in a 0.0 corp, perhaps as a miner/ratter with some incidental PVP when necessary, but I don't really have anything in terms of PVP experience. Also, given that I have a family, a busy job and loads of other stuff going on, I really need to be in a 'real life comes first' corporation and alliance, which severely limits the options when it comes to moving to 0.0.

Finally, I'd hate to leave the alliance I'm a part of. It's not that big, but I've known these pilots for quite some time, and I wouldn't want to say goodbye at this moment.

So - short term, 2010 looks like it's going to be an extension of 2009, but I'm open for new developments. Who knows what will happen!

Second Life rental update

Late last year, I bought new land in Lutestring in order to create more rentals there. I provided the land, but most of the heavy lifting was done by Tropical Beach Rentals, and together we created a new project called "Lute Harbour". When it was ready, I really liked it and pretty soon the first tenants arrived. But after that, it didn't really pick up pace. Tenants came, some stayed, others left and we never got the occupancy rates we wanted or even needed. After a while we gained a few long term tenants, providing a solid financial basis, but still it's not what we needed. So after some prospective customer feedback and scant deliberation, the TBRentals team took out two of the smaller existing houses and created a new, larger house with a higher prim allowance. Let's see if that works..

One thing I've noticed, is a difference in tenants in the several regions where I own land. The homes in Fortimus Harbour and Timandra are often rented for a short period: most tenants pay per week. The occupants of Lute Harbour however, tend to pay for multiple weeks, often a month in advance. It would be interesting to know why!