Saturday, May 31, 2008

Second Life and EVE Online: to game or not to game

Second Life is a social, virtual 3D world, as most of you undoubtedly know. It offers a means to act out your creativity and fantasies - within certain (legal or ethical) boundaries, these days. If you want to, you can be yourself, but you can also assume a role and become part of a role playing game in Second Life. There's a lot of RPG's going on in SL: steampunk, 19th century pilots, medieval midgets, greenies, but also musicians (imitating real world bands), clubs, Gorean, raunchy stuff most of us wouldn't probably want to do in real life - and much, much more. It's all possible in Second Life: "Your world, your imagination", Linden Labs used to say.

This means that Second Life is, in itself, not a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game); there's no plot, no central gameplay. It's a platform that can be used to do RPG, and even MMORPG, but it certainly isn't one in itself.

For some people that's exactly what makes Second Life difficult to grasp. You log on, enter Second Life, and then what, they ask? Well, what do you want to do, who do you want to be? It's up to you!

Eve Online on the other hand is definitely an MMORPG. Even though it has a Second Life like freedom to choose your own direction, profession, activities and targets, it has an overarching gameplay and is, as such, governed by a set of principles that guide most in world activities. I can't imagine EVE Online as a venue for music, or a business meeting for instance! In this regard, EVE Online is a much more limited environment, which also requires a lot less fantasy or creativity from the players. If the SciFi setting or the gameplay do not appeal to you, there's really no reason to be there.

In short: Second Life is a platform, EVE Online is a game - that sums it up quite nicely.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An SL resident tries Eve online

Earlier I wrote about my decision to try out Eve online, a scifi themed virtual universe, where mining, manufacturing and trade thrive, where corporations negotiate and alliances rule, where peaceful explorers and arrogant pirates engage in fierce battle. At almost any time, some 25.000 to 30.000 players can be found online, usually engaged in one of these activities. And for the past ten days, I've been amongst them! So, what does a Second Life resident (or a Twinity citizen) think of Eve Online?

In his book "Synthetic Worlds", Edward Castronova describes several types of players in Virtual Worlds. One of those is: the explorer. Someone interested in beautiful vistas, finding out new stuff, discovering and learning. I recognized quite a lot of myself in Castronova's description, and as such I am drawn to a universe full of stars, planets, asteroids, nebulas, stations and ships. I think you can spend days travelling from region to region, stargate to stargate, without seeing the same station twice. This quality thorougly appeals to me!

And Eve Online makes it possible to be an explorer, too. Eve online and Second Life share (at least) one thing: they both don't have a defined story line. There are no predefined goals, levels, no grind, no endgame. As a commenter in one of the Eve online forums said: play *your* Eve! It's you, a couple of flying machines and a galaxy to explore. Now go and have fun! Choose your profession, and if you don't like it - just switch. Sell the mining barge, buy a destroyer and go shoot bad guys, if that's what you like.

Mining or gathering berries - what's the difference?
But make no mistake: most players in Eve are there with a goal in mind, as Eve seems to revolve around power and money - how surprising :) Gathering as much ISK (the local currency) and wielding influence through corporations and alliances is, for many, key to the game. You could say that the whole space thing is just a facade, a setting for a large political and economical game. In Eve, capitalism rules without restrictions, with a touch of violence added for good measure. The game could just as well have been set in a rainforest: early humans gathering berries or nuts, and hunting animals or enemy tribes instead of future mankind doing mining, manufacturing and space battle. It would have lacked the scifi and tech appeal, but the game could have been, essentially, the same. Come to think of it, CCP could even have used the same name!

To be human, or not to be..
As a Second Life resident, I am used to being a human shaped avatar. I have a body, which I can shape to my liking; I can keep it natural or, as Cory Linden did, go for the extreme. You can't be in Second Life without having a visible, physical body of some sort! But after ten days in Eve Online, I haven't seen my avatar yet. There's a mugshot of someone supposed to be me on my Eve login page, but I have no connection with it. My SL avatar is, at times, me; this picture in Eve Online doesn't have that appeal. "I" am a space ship, my avatar is supposed to be in there somewhere - but I don't know how it looks. This makes Eve a less immersive environment than Second Life or Twinity.

In itself this doesn't have a real impact on the game, but after a day of hard mining work, I would have liked to step out of the ship, go to Quarks' bar, and have a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster with other miners and space cowboys. This is not currently possible in Eve Online as far as I know.

Social aspects
Does this mean there is no social interaction in Eve? On the contrary. I haven't got much experience with it yet, but interactions certainly do happen. Players unite in corporations and alliances; they mine, trade and fight together. In the Eve Online trinity client, the Local, regional and corporate chat window is open at all times, meaning you can chat with every other pilot in the neighbourhood as well as your peers in corporations and such. There's an in game mail system, and apparently people use voip applications to be able to use voice during complicated operations. And because the community is still rather small (compared to Second Life), it's still a community where many experienced players know their peers. The forums buzz with activity!

The funny thing is: in these forums, many of the complaints often hurled at Linden Labs can be heard here too. This time, obviously, aimed at CCP, the creators of Eve Online!

One big difference between Second Life and Eve, is the price. I have used the Second Life free basic subscription, to my satisfaction, for quite some time; only when I wanted to buy land, I switched to a 75 dollar a year premium account. This means that SL currently costs me less than 50 euro per year. Eve online, on the other hand, is bought in days: 30, 60 or 90 day time slots can be bought at several reliable sources, be it CCP or external companies. Thirty days sets you back 15 US dollars; 90 days goes for 38.85 at the time of writing. This means that I can buy 6 months of Eve game time for the price of an annual premium SL subscription - which most players don't even need. At the bare minimum, Eve costs you twice the money the most expensive SL account costs. Eve knows no such thing as a free or basic account with limited rights; it's all or nothing.

This is quite a barrier for a casual player. The trial subscription is fourteen days; in these days (in which I also have to work, do other things, attend to my family..) I have to decide whether to spend money on this game or not. Fourteen days is way to short to get a real feel of Eve, which is much more of a long term thing than SL. SL can be rewarding quite instantly (ok, after you get off introduction island that is), where Eve requires more effort on behalf of the player to become rewarding. You need time to build up a suitable capital, something to work with, to buy the right ships and stuff. In the forums, there's talk of weeks, even months before you might get to this point! After a couple of days, I have come to the conclusion that, perhaps, CCP isn't really interested in casual users; CCP apparently goes for the dedicated, committed player.

Finally, if you decide to buy, you might not get online. Yesterday, I couldn't login because "the server was full". After a minute I got on all right, but still.

Verdict: enticing environment, I like it, but not sure whether to buy or not.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mining with the Imicus

Mining with the Imicus, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

Tonight I discovered one of the big drawbacks of EVE Online: someone shot my spaceship to pieces when I wasn't paying attention. So I had to buy a new one, the Imicus - just when I thought I had earned enough money to buy myself some nice free game time :-/

Monday, May 19, 2008

EVE online and Twinity on Wine - almost..

Yesterday I booted into Windows - for the first time in weeks - to try out EVE online, because I couldn't get the 'native' Linux client to work, and Wine wouldn't do either. I kept getting a black screen after EVE Online started - quite frustrating, as I had implemented all solutions I was able to find using Google! Today I upgraded to Wine 1.0 RC1, and suddenly EVE Online started to work! Not flawlessly, but at least I was able to get in.

There is, however, another Windows bound game I'd like to run on Wine, and that's Twinity. I have been active in the beta for some time, but as I'm really almost exclusively using Ubuntu these days, my Twinity activity - never that much to begin with - has dropped to virtually zero. Hence todays' attempt to get it running on Wine!

I think I'm almost there; after downloading and installing the Twinity client, I soon found out I had to install the Visual C++ 2005 redistributable libraries (msvcp80,msvcr80 and the accompanying manifest file) to get it to work; the package is called vcredist_x86.exe. After that I still missed vcomp.dll; copied that one from my windows partition and pasted it into Twinity's bin directory. Upon starting, it now throws these errors:

me@laptop:~/.wine$ wine "C:\Program Files\Metaversum\Twinity\bin\twinity.exe"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC80.CRT"
err:module:attach_process_dlls "MSVCR80.dll" failed to initialize, aborting
err:module:LdrInitializeThunk Main exe initialization for L"C:\\Program Files\\Metaversum\\Twinity\\bin\\twinity.exe" failed, status c0000142

I have the Microsoft.VC80.CRT file, I'm just not sure where to put it!

By the way, the easiest method to install these libraries is this script: winetricks. It's a great tool! Copy it from the site, paste it in a new file, e.g. '', and save it. Set it to executable for the user (chmod 755 your_username) and execute it: ./ It presents you with a nice gui box that lets you select the correct packages, downloads them from Microsoft, and installs them for you. Good job!

Unfortunately, though, it didn't solve the problem above. Wine and Twinity do start, but there's a runtime error, and in the console the error above is still printed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

First flight @ EVE Online

First flight @ EVE Online, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

Using Wine, I managed to install EVE Online on Ubuntu; but when it starts, all I get is a black screen. I've implemented all the suggestions I googled; no luck. So I booted into Windows and started EVE Online from there.

It's a bit weird to be a total n00b again; I feel clumsy and sometimes I am unable to complete parts of the first training. I haven't seen my avatar again; after setup is done, you start in a spaceship for these first training missions.

It's a 14 day trial subscription; let's see how far I can get in those two weeks. If only I had more spare time ;-)

EVE online: worth the hassle?

I've been active in Second Life now for quite some time, and yesterday I decided to explore other worlds as well. I am simply curious as to how these other worlds function and wether they have something different to offer. After checking out what other worlds are available on Linux, I decided to go ahead with the 14 trial of EVE Online. There's a native Linux installer for EVE Online, based on Cedega, which I wanted to try out.

Downloading the install/config tool was easy, as was registering. But, unfortunately, I have not been able to get the installer running! It always yields errors about Python versions, missing runGUI files etcetera. It seems more people are suffering from these, but Google doesn't have a solution for me - so far.

Any experiences out there, with running EVE Online? Is it worth the hassle?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Landing at a Kelly auditorium

I'm usually flying at Caledon, but I've discovered it's quite funny to fly elsewhere - for instance at corporate sims where a sandbox is available to rezz stuff, like Kelly Services headquarters. There was no one else around at the time, so I deemed it safe for a quick flight!

This is one in the series 'weird landings where no one got hurt'. While flying around Kelly Services sims, I accidentally flew in this auditorium while my SL screen was blocked by another application's popup; my avatar landed his plane there all by himself.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Landing on a Bay City road

Landing on a Bay City road, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

This was actually not an easy landing, between all those lamp posts. There were no other motorists on the road, however..

Uploaded by seredwoollahra on 11 May 08, 12.46AM CEST.

Flying over Bay City

Flying over Bay City, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

Of course I had to try this: flying over the new Bay City regions. I was able to rez the plane at Barcole, and managed to fly a few rounds over the main Bay City sims, before the 1.20 RC6 viewer crashed on me - again.

Uploaded by seredwoollahra on 11 May 08, 12.28AM CEST.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bay City - urban SL

The all new and shiny, double primmed Bay City area is now open for avatar inspection. Quite a lot of visitors, but still a lot of empty spaces - as was to be expected, it's brand new after all.

Before visiting Second Life, I thought of it as a big city, an urban environment. Instead, it turned out to be much more park like, with lots of green, and open spaces. But now it looks like Bay City is intended to be the urban environment I once thought SL was.

Monday, May 5, 2008

OT: should I be using Picasa?

This is probably a bit off topic, but I wonder if anyone can tell me: who owns the rights to pictures posted on Picasa web albums? Recently, I've been using Picasa Web Albums to store some pictures of a holiday; mostly because it's so easy to upload them using Picasa on the desktop (yes, on Ubuntu too).

Now, I have used other online picture sharing sites (see for instance Flickr, Panoramio) and there's one big difference between Picasa and those others: the rights of the content owner are not explicitly mentioned on Picasa.

Panoramio explicitly mentions: "© All rights reserved by 'username'". By default, Picasa only says "download album" and "order prints"...that's completely the other way around! And will I be reimbursed when someone orders prints of my pictures (highly unlikely, I know)? I guess not, but obviously if prints are ordered, someone is making money off my pictures. I guess that would be Google, not me.

If you peruse the Picasa ToS, it only talks about the relation between Google and me, the Picasa web album owner, and how Google is allowed to use my pictures 'for promotional situations'. In the Picasa web album help, there is one chapter that deals with copyrights, but it only covers complaints of copyright owners who claim their pictures were uploaded to Picasa illegally.

So where does that leave me? My rights as content creator and owner should be mentioned explicitly somewhere, shouldn't they? Should I not be using Picasa?