Dungeon Raiding 101

Had a fun evening that ran a little later than expected, doing something I haven't done in a long time.

Or ever, depending on how you look at it.

I did a group dungeon run in an MMO. Haven't done that in a long time.

I did it with two of my kids, so… yeah. That's new.

The vehicle for this bit of virtual heroic was a perennial game around our house: Pirate 101.

Now, we've been playing stuff from Kingsisle Entertainment for quite some time – http://randomaverage.com/index.php/2010/04/my-daughter-the-wizard/“>Kaylee played Wizard 101 for the first time back in 2010, before she turned five. The game's in-house popularity comes and goes (personally, I enjoy it, and there's enough going on with the pop-culture jokes, storyline, and card-building combat system that I don't get bored), but it's installed on our machines far more than not (and it runs on everything but the tablets and chromebooks, which is nice).

A few weeks ago, Kaylee started making noises about how she missed playing Pirate101, which shares the same basic setting as Wizard101, but with different classes, and more tactical, turn- and grid-based combat system (sort of a big-pixel version of X-Com combat, with cool animations when it plays out), and I was getting a leeeeettle tired of Sean's obsession with Overwatch, so I stuck both Wizard 101 and Pirate 101 back on, and let the kids go to town.

![Move-planning grid.](https://s.blogcdn.com/massively.joystiq.com/media/2012/08/pirate101-board.jpg "Move-planning grid.")

![Resulting animations.](https://edgecast.pirate101.com/image/free/Pirate/Images/Slideshows/combat3.jpg "Resulting combat animations!")

Sean enjoyed watching his sister rock the Pirate thing, but spent most of his own play time as Sean Bearhammer, young wizard.

…until a few days ago, when he decided he wanted to try out the Pirate side of the Spiral – where there's a bit more action in combat, and EVERYONE has a crew of cool anthropomorphic animals fighting on your side. Yeah. Hard to see why THAT was a draw.

It took him a few days to really figure out the combat system (and I have to force myself not to watch him play, because he make sub optimal choices GAHHHhhhh…), but by yesterday he was caught up to where Kaylee and I had gotten on our main guys, if not just a bit ahead.

So, in lieu of regular bedtime activities, we teamed up (Sean as his combat-heavy Buccaneer, Kaylee as her magic-hurling Witchdoctor, and me playing a sort of support & tactics Privateer) and headed to a (if not THE) lost city of gold, where we fought a lot of dinosaurian bad guys and, a BIT too late into the evening, decided to take down the final dungeon.

So… yeah. That was the evening – dungeon raiding with my kids for sweet loot and new skills.

It was pretty great.

Random Update: What am I playing?

I’ve accidentally taken a fairly long break from gaming, whether you are talking about table top or computer games. The last thing I played with any kind of regularity was the Infinite Crisis MOBA, with Kaylee, over the summer. When that game’s cancellation was announced, it kind of took the wind out of my sails – both mine and Kaylee’s, to be honest.

It seems silly to mourn a game as relatively content-free as a MOBA, but Kaylee and I were really enjoying ourselves with it, and enjoying our time together. After that, the only thing we’ve been playing that I might sort of consider a game is Minecraft. Fun, especially once we got a home server set up, but very intermittent. (There was a point where basically everyone in the house was playing Minecraft, everyday, on one platform or another, but some of us lost our taste for the pocket edition when Sean accidentally deleted a few important world’s off our tablets.)

For all intents and purposes, we went through most of the summer without any gaming, with the exception of some Dungeon World.1

Ironically, the looming arrival of the new free to play model for Wildstar is what got me back to doing at least a little bit of online gaming, if not tabletop. I say ironically, because while Wildstar was what brought the idea back to my mind, that particular game remains barely playable for me, even weeks after the roll out of the new FTP platform. In other words, I would get in the mood to check out Wildstar, fail to be able to play, then log into something else. That went on long enough that I started getting excited about playing the other games, and still haven’t managed to actually get back to Wildstar.

So what have I been playing?

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I was very excited about this game when it first came out, and enjoyed it fairly well, but it never really clicked for Kate and I, and following the huge disappointment of Mass Effect 3, it was pretty easy to let this fellow Bioware-title fall off my radar a few months (maybe just one month) after it went live.

In the intervening time – almost 2 years – the game has switched to a free-to-play model and generally improved the play experience. It isn’t anything groundbreaking, and I’m not even sure it’s really Star Wars in the same way that something like Disney’s Rebels is, but lately I’ve been getting a yearning for a galaxy far away, and enjoying playing all these characters I haven’t seen in several years.

The game developers have done an especially good job at streamlining the leveling experience, to the point where you can essentially play only the storyline quests that are specifically related to your class, ignore everything else, and have no problem leveling through the content appropriately.2 This makes the entire leveling game a very repeatable experience, since all of the cutscenes and story are different for each class, even if you are going to the same planets and adventuring against the same backdrop. I certainly have no problem repeating content in BioWare games – I played through all of the Mass Effect series with six different characters and all of the Dragon Age series with 3 or 4 different characters – but basically having no repetition in the story in an MMO is pretty sweet.

Amusingly (for a Star Wars game), I really really don’t like playing most of the force users. The melee classes are a bit of a pain to play in any case, and to be perfectly honest Jedi with lightsabers don’t really feel like they’re hitting very hard, so the whole thing isn’t very satisfying. 3

By comparison, the mundane classes like Imperial Agent, Scoundrel, and especially Trooper and Bounty Hunter are tons of fun to play. Bounty Hunter/Trooper is definitely my favorite for game play, but I do have to give props to scoundrel for getting me to actually enjoy a stealth class, and Imperial Agent for a storyline that really makes me feel like I’m playing an MI:5-style espionage game. It is remarkably easy to work out backstory and motivations for all the characters I’m playing, which lends depth and interest to the (otherwise cosmetic) choices Bioware throws in my way.

EvE Online

I let my subscription to Eve lapse about 6 months ago (I really had no interest in doing any gaming while unemployed between permanent positions, which is a whole blog post in and of itself), and I haven’t really jumped back in with both feet yet, but I am playing a little bit and paying a bit more attention to the changes coming down the pipe between now and the end of the year.

The Secret World

TSW is always there for me, much like Lord of the Rings Online (I’ve got a lifetime subscription to both), though they scratch very different itches. I haven’t needed the LotRO itch scratched much, lately, but TSW’s conspiracy-laden world? That’s good stuff.

What am I not playing?

That’s really the big question, and the simple answer is I’m not playing any table-top or Hangouts/Roll20-based role playing games right now, which is a pretty big failing, as far as I’m concerned, since there’s so many I would like to be playing. My roll20 subscription is entirely up to date, and I really ought to be making use of it. More on that in another post.


  1. Great system, but the GM (me) had an obsession with using the Dragon Age setting that chilled player interest. 
  2. To use LotRO as an example: this would be like changing the XP rewards so that you could level up doing nothing but the “Book” quests and ignoring everything else, except that in The Old Republic, everyone classes “book” story is different. 
  3. The only exception to this is my Sith sorcerer, since she sits back and range and smites the entire landscape with lightning. 

Wildstar Tabletop Gaming, by way of FAE/Jadepunk

“You should do a Wildstar game,” opined my daughter.

“Sorry?” Her comment confused me, both because Wildstar is an MMO and because I was distracted at the moment due to the fact that we were both playing Wildstar at that moment.

“Like you did with DC Universe,” she explained. “A Fate version of Wildstar. That would be cool.”


I’d actually already had the idea, and had muttered incoherently about it to Ryan M. Danks while we jawed about his new FAE game Jadepunk over on the Googles. Ryan’s played a bit of Wildstar, and easily spotted the parallels between the MMO and his game.

SO, prompted for a write-up by a now-overwhelming list of two whole people, here’s a quick-and dirty hack of Jadepunk for running a Fate version of Wildstar… probably the … well, one of the most edge-case, limited-audience thing I’ve ever written a blog post on, and the competition in that arena is stiff.


Disclaimer: I’m really not much of a game hacker/designer. It’s not that I don’t have any inclinations in that direction, but for me it’s more rewarding to take a game as-written and make it work for a particular setting than it is to change a game around until it’s a perfect fit. For example, most “using Fate to run a supers game” hacks leave me cold, as it always feels like a lot of extra fiddling for something you can do with the game-as-written.

So… there won’t be many changes to baseline Jadepunk, here; this is more a mental exercise in using what’s already there to do the thing you want to do.

What We’re Starting With

At some point, I’m going to actually write about Jadepunk itself, why I like it, and why I didn’t think I would, but for now let’s just focus on what it is:

Jadepunk is a sort of elemental wuxia/gunslinger/steam- clock-work/Legend of Korra mashup built on the lovely, powerful-yet-lightweight Fate Accelerated system. My impression (which may differ from others) is that the primary differences between it and vanilla-FAE are:

  • A slightly different focus for the five main character aspects.
  • A reskinning of the six character Approaches, adding flavor and intent that matches the setting.
  • A more structured, “ads/disads/point buy” system for building “Assets” (née Stunts/Extras) for your characters.
  • A lot of world flavor that informs/constrains the ways in which Fate’s (intentionally) loosey-goosey Stunts/Extras/Aspects are implemented in this iteration of the rules.

If you love the loosey-goosey build style (I do), then the Assets system may be a bit of a culture-shock, but luckily I also love fiddly “build-it-yourself” power systems, so it didn’t take me long to both grok and enjoy playing with that system.

The titular jade is one of the main rules-constraining setting elements: it (via the five basically elemental-themed colors) functions as both magical power source for strange effects and technology-analogues (see: white-jade-powered wireless telegraphs, or red-jade shell casings) and conflict driver.

Finally, you’ve got the default setting of Kausao City, home to the rarest kind of Jade (black, a sort of magic omnigel) and a kind of Shanghai-meets-Babylon-5, ripe with the sort of corruption that sees the wealthy strangle the middle- and abuse the working-class. The PCs are (by default) assumed to be those who’ve decided to fight against those wrongs in a very “you have failed this city” kind of way.

Note: I don’t in any way need to reskin this game to Wildstar to make it worth playing – the rules, setting, and setup all make me quite happy – it’s good stuff.

Where We’re Trying to Get

Wildstar, by contrast, is a far-future sci-fi setting. The basic idea is a bunch of sentient races that have all been (to greater or lesser degrees) messed with by a elder, hyper-advanced race (referred to as “The Eldan” to make it easy to remember), now loosely divided into two “Alliance vs. Browncoat” factions.  The Eldan have long since vanished, and both of the sides in this conflict have recently discovered the planet Nexus, initially thought to be the Eldan homeworld but, in reality, more likely the site of the Eldan’s great (and apparently “successful”) multi-pronged attempt to achieve a technological singularity that (if nothing else) shuffled them off the perceivable wavelengths of our mortal coil.

Having found this place, both sides of this perpetual war are now poking around the remains of these massive Eldan experiments, trying to recreate the whole bloody mess, while shooting at each other, because what could possibly go wrong with that?

Similarities to Jadepunk include:

  • Similar “approaches” (professions)
  • Similar wild west, cobbled-together-tech feel
  • Similar elementally-themed power sources for said technology
  • The kind of setting that lends itself to the Assets system that Jadepunk uses.

Differences:

  • Class- and level-based character progression.
  • “Magic”
  • Different story focus: Jadepunk is a game about doing the right thing; Wildstar is a game about unlocking mysteries perhaps best left buried.

So Here’s the Hack

Differences aside, let’s say I want to run a quick and dirty Wildstar game. What do I do?

1. Throw out the idea of Wildstar classes, profession, and trade skills.

We’ll get there, but we’re going to come at things sideways. Read on.

2. Leave Character Aspects (p. 31) as is.

You’ll either need to fill in a lot of history for the players, or they’ll need to be familiar with the Wildstar setting, but once that’s done, it’s really no problem coming up with Portrayal, Background, Inciting Incident, Belief, and Trouble aspects that work.

3. Reskin a few of the Professions (Approaches)

  • Engineer, Explorer, Fighter, and Scoundrel are fine.
  • Professions aren’t Classes. Treat the Professions like sliders that indicate what your character is focused on. A warrior will probably lead with Fighter, sure, but so might a combat-focused Engineer (who ranks Engineer and Explorer at 2) while another “similar” gear-head goes Engineer 3, Scientist 2, Scoundrel 2… and is all about raiding old Eldan laboratories. You could have a whole party of “Stalkers” who play very differently…
  • Rename Scholar to Scientist, make a note that it’s a go-to profession for using Create Advantage to identify/create Environmental aspects during a conflict (“Hey, if we bombard these big flowers with gamma radiation, they create a remarkable low-gravity field…”), and carry on.
  • Replace Aristocrat with Settler. Settler has all (or most) of the same social applications, and is also used for building stuff that isn’t some sort of new invention (Engineer) or discovery (Scientist), all of which overlap or enhance one another in various ways.

The Settler creates social networks (villages, townships, even outposts), often by building the infrastructure that supports them. Despite their life on the “lonely frontier,” a Settler is a social creature, willing to speak up at a town meeting, step out on the dance floor at the next hoe down, negotiate trade agreements and land rights, and stand up for a new settlement in the face of a Red Sun Mercenary gang looking to shake down some farmers.

Overcome: Settler is used to influence others to do work together (or for you), either through charm or coercion, and to establish connections with others. Storytellers charm their audience, deputies interrogate suspects for information, and store owners barter their goods or services.

Create Advantages: Use Settler to create advantages representing infrastructure improvements (barricades, town walls, armament emplacements, hardened power grids) or populace-wide emotional states (Enraged, Emboldened, Shocked, Hesitant, Joyful, or Excited). You could give a speech to Inspire, stir a crowd into a Crazed Mob, find someone Talkative or Helpful, or get everyone working together to get the Jury-Rigged Missile Defense System operational before the Dominion air support shows up…

Attack: Settler only performs attacks as part of social duels.

Defend: Settler defends against any attempt to damage your reputation, change a mood you’ve created, tear down the infrastructure improvements you’ve built, or make you look bad in front of other people.

4. Do pretty much everyone else you want to do with Assets

Want your Granok to have extra tough skin? Want your Aurin to be especially good sneaking around in natural surroundings? Want to specifically emulate one of the skills from the MMO? Do all that with Assets.

  • Scanbot: Ally (Professional: Scientist 2 , Explorer 1, Sturdy 1, Resilient 1, Independent, Troubling: Easily Noticed) – basically a scientist teamwork-bonus following you around
  • Taunting Blow: Technique (Exceptional: Reduce damage shifts by 2 to apply “Taunted” aspect to target that can be used either to compel target or as a defensive boost to anyone the target attacks, other than the character.; Situational: Only on Success with Style; Situational: Only with Melee weapon/or/Only with arm-mounted Plasma Blaster)
  • Bruiserbot: Ally (Professional: Fighter 2, Explorer 1, Sturdy 2, Resilient 2, Independent, Troubling: Random Aggro)
  • Spellslinger’s Gate: Technique Focus: +2 to Explorer: Create Advantage – Stunned on Target(s) you either appear next to or which you were next to before you gated away.; Flexible (sort of) Create Advantage roll (less the +2 bonus) also counts as Overcome for character moving to adjacent zone (line of site required); Limited: Once per scene)

And the Assets system doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be limited to combat. Assets are a great way to address some of the bonus skills provided by professions, or Wildstar’s trade skills… though some of those might be easier to do with a basic FAE stunt, with no Flaw. (“Because I am a Relic Hunter, I get a +2 to Overcome with Explorer (or: Scientist) when extracting useful resources from otherwise useless/broken Eldan artifacts.”)

A Word about Healing

Several of Wildstar’s “healing” classes focus on creating (or restoring) temporary shields around the targeted character, and I’d focus entirely on that for the Fate version: make Create Advantage rolls to create “Refreshed shields” effects that your ally can invoke for free on their next defense roll, for example. Assets along these lines might allow for a Create Advantage on an ally when you Succeed With Style (and take -2 shifts) on an attack on an adjacent enemy (or vice versa, for the defensive-minded)… or even create a temporary “device” asset on your ally with Sturdy: 2.

One of my favorite Medic abilities (the healing probes) would be something like “Exceptional: affects all friendlies in zone; Sturdy: 2; Limited: Requires Resonators; Situational: Success with Style; Troubling: Angers any enemies in zone (aggro).”

And that’s it

No, seriously, that’s about it. Most of tweaks are in character generation – once you’re playing, it’s pretty much just Fate as-written, and focusing on “tell me what you want to do, and we’ll figure out what to roll later.”

Life in Eve: Pretty Good Weekend

Like most ten-year-olds, EVE celebrated its birthday on the nearest weekend (just past), rather than the actual date (today), in order to maximize the fun.

I’m pretty glad they did.

My mom-in-law’s in town, the kids had a cool brass concert to go to, I’m wrapping up a bunch of MFA projects at the moment, and had a book review go up at the Mittani — all of which meant that while I was at my computer a lot this weekend, it wasn’t as often as it might have been, and I wasn’t always logged into the game.

But I tried.

Saturday was the Tuskers third Frigate Free For all, which was extremely conveniently located all of one jump away from one of our lowsec staging systems. I brought over one ship (a super-long-range Atron that lived a lot longer than I expected), and after that I made use of the prefit ships provided by the Tuskers for the event, trying my best to fly ships from every faction, and as many different kinds as I could. Some of the prefit ships were a little kooky (or shamefully short of ammo), but they were all fun in their own way (probably the most fun was a microwarpdrive + blaster fit Incursus), it was SO NICE to just dock up and say “give me something Gallente” and just get it, and I had a ball, as did the other pilots from our corp who joined in.  A couple mis-clicks cost me a few decimal points of security status, but I’ll live.

I could only stay for about one-sixth of the event’s duration due to aforementioned kid’s brass concert, so I left my corp mates to the carnage and headed out.

(You know: CCP really needs to make it easier to get into a new ship after you lose one. For a lot of pilots, it isn’t the loss of a ship that’s the problem: it’s the pain in the ass logistics of getting together the parts and assembling a new one. Even if you pre-fit a bunch of ships to be ready for whatever happens, all you’re really doing is time-shifting that preparation effort, and you always end up with ships you never fly.  Some way to click on a saved fitting and say “Give me one of these, purchased from THIS station, and already assembled. Go!” I can’t help but think that would make it easier for people to jump into space and take a fight.)

After the concert, I found out the FFA was still going on, having upgraded to destroyers in my absence, so I ran over to our staging station and picked up a sniping catalyst that has been gathering dust in my hangar and flew around sniping at random stuff, which unexpectedly led to a fun 1v1 fight between me and someone from Black Rebel Rifter Club, above a lonely moon on the edge of the system. Good fight, and I called a personal end to the event with that.

Final tally: due to my limited participation, “only” racked up 60 kills and 14 ship losses. Two of my corp mates made the top 25 killers for the event (one in the top ten), and our corporation registered 252 kills (including a Thanatos carrier) and 49 cheap-o losses. So much fun.

Saturday night, I decided to take the advice of someone from the EVE303 google group (Eve players in Denver) and did a long haul across enemy territory to HED-GP, a null-sec system where “things happen.” I noticed a lot of pilots from Bombers Bar in the system, and as I’m known to them, I joined their fleet and spent a little time plinking at various TEST pilots and trying to save as many tactical bookmarks as I could. (Meanwhile, back in our normal stomping grounds, Meg and Sthaz took part in massacring a pirate Battlecruiser fleet, so probably I selected the wrong activity for the night. Oh well.) I left the bomber in a station over in that area, in case I feel the need to terrorize TESTies again, and headed home.

Sunday was a big day, with lots of activities planned around New Eden to celebrate the game’s ten year anniversary. The big one was the Flight of 1000 Rifters, in which Marlona Sky arranged to sacrifice a super-carrier to whatever pilots showed up to take the ship down.

Red vs. Blue planned to be there, and started up the day with an early roam/ship move once the location of the event was announced — I joined their fleet simply to have a couple hundred allies in the impending brawl. Having flown in the Free For All the day before, I wanted to make sure I’d have more than enough ships on hand, and risked a cheap hauler to bring twenty executioners into the just-announced system, then hopped into an Ares interceptor to join the RvB gang on a roam to kill time until the 1000 Rifters event.

After a bit of meandering, the fleet managed to intercept a CCP Developer Fleet that was flying around in brand new Gnosis battlecruisers (prize ships given out to pilots for the 10th year anniversary). Many, many ships exploded, and honestly I’m not as happy about the CCP devs I got to shoot as I am about this ship loss.

I’ll say this about the Dev fleet (led by, I’m assuming, CCP Fozzie): they had good target discipline. I was locked, targeted, and then single-volleyed off the field at the precise moment one of the Devs managed to pull my into a hard turn that slowed my Ares down juuuust enough to hit. POP goes the interceptor.

Once we got done shooting devs (I logged a shameful number of CCP kills in a rookie frigate I picked up after losing the Ares), it was time to get to the supercarrier killing.

How to sum this up:

  • Pretty cool.
  • 2300 people in system.
  • OMG so much lag.
  • Frigate Free For All: brought 1 ship, used 14. Thousand Rifter event: brought 20 ships, used 1. Oops. (Also: now I need to move ~20 frigates back out to somewhere more useful.)
This is how Eve players light a birthday cake. (The time dilation lag left people lots of time to take screenshots.)

Most of the shooting wasn’t really directed at the supercarrier as much as the other pilots (in true Eve style), so many many ships exploded, none of which were mine (surprisingly).

Somewhere in there, Eve set a new record for concurrent connected players, just north of 65 thousand players.

I’m glad I did the 1000 Rifters event, but it was not nearly as fun (thanks to time dilation and unavoidable lag) as the (admittedly smaller, with “only” 300 pilots) Free For All the day before.

Logged out, played with the kids, wrote some more of my final paper, watched Doctor Who, and saw an email from CB that we had some visitors to the wormhole. No one was in comms when I logged in, but I spotted a few unfamiliar ships on scan. After about 15 minutes of stalking, I found a Noctis salvaging ship sucking up wrecks in a Sleeper site, and watched as his four battlecruiser bodyguards warped out and left him all alone.

Welcome to the Wormhole. Watch that first step.

Ooops. I crept up on the Noctis in a stealthy little Tengu strategic cruiser named (of course) Bad Penny, and a half-dozen volleys later I had a dead ship, a hold full of sleeper loot, and a nice little bow with which to wrap up the weekend.

Happy Birthday, Eve Online. Here’s to the second decade.

Life in Eve: April Fools

April got off to a rocky start, so I wasn’t really sure how things would look as the month wrapped up. Let’s review.

After a really, really excellent March, our hunger for good, challenging fun led us to take a lot of fights we probably should have avoided. Adrenaline withdrawal had set in, and the junkies did not react well. One week into April, we’d racked up about a third of the losses we had all through March, and one-twentieth of the wins. Ouch.

It wasn’t, in my opinion, that we were flying any worse, but we were making poor decisions, often fueled by desperation for some action. Everyone has nights like that in Eve, I think, but in this case we had about eight days of it, and it had gotten a little ridiculous. Familiarity had bred too much contempt, I suppose — it seemed the (vanishingly few) Amarr-held systems were full of nothing but off-grid fleet boosters, up-shipping nonsense, or (most often) pilots who simply wouldn’t engage.

Our long roams looking for something to fight were exercises in frustration.

In short, we felt we knew the enemy’s standard ploys and found them tiresome.

A change of scenery was called for. New territory, new faces, different pirates to shoot. Tuskers and Black Rebel Rifter Club active in the area — generally always a plus. Gallente loyalty points to earn. More familiarity with the whole war, and basically doubles the space we can effectively roam.

Battlefrogs are go.

Everyone seemed to agree, and off we went. Carriers were unlimbered, beacons were lit, and the HMS Marmoset set out for the “other front” in the war.

Things went moderately well. Probably at least two weeks were chewed up trying to figure out where the best options lay in terms of good opponents, but we slowly managed to pull ourselves out of the hole we’d gotten into.

There were also some cultural shifts to deal with.

  • Gallente seem to think actually capturing vulnerable systems is too much work, and are content to sit at a relatively weak level of war zone control, earning decidedly ‘meh’ levels of LP for their efforts, when they could easily upgrade.

    Nous sommes trop fatigués,” come the whispers. “Eet ees too hhhhard.”

  • Running missions is much more challenging — not impossible, but trickier. Basically, no one in the Gallente forces runs them, and honestly many of our own guys avoid them as well, as they are the quickest route to tanking personal standings with the Caldari to the point where (compounded with our anti-Amarr activities) pilots would be locked out of half of all known space even if they left the war.
  • Our opponent’s ship selection is quite different than the Amarr we’re used to. Assault Frigates are as thick as gnats. Someone is making a killing on selling Corax destroyers, I imagine. Caldari Navy Hookbills have always been a go-to ship for many pilots, but they are (perhaps understandably) everywhere in Caldari space, as are Condors.
  • Pirate presence and activity in this warzone is much higher.
  • Random visits from null-sec gangs is more common, as the Gallente-Caldari warzone has at least four connections to null-sec space, while the Minmatar-Amarr front has… zero.

Eventually (following another smaller move where we settled into more permanent digs), we found a hot pocket (heh) of Caldari resistance that seemed to suit us right down to the ground. It called for a fairly significant shift away from frigates and into destroyers, but we’d wanted to try that sort of thing out anyway. The tail end of April saw us back in the brisk business of explosions.

Corp Numbers

Our ship losses for April were down slightly from March and February, and the total and average value of the ships lost was lower, even though we’ve started flying larger classes of hulls. Our wins for the month didn’t match the ridiculous totals we tallied up in March, but they beat February both in raw volume and value — the first truly active “post Ushra’Khan” months. The rough, rough start of the month hurt us, and it took us awhile to find our feet in the new war zone, but we still ended up ~65% efficient for the month. Several pilots went inactive when we moved to the Gallente front, which affected our numbers slightly, but our active pilots certainly picked up the slack.

Solo kills were down a bit, which I attribute to a general unfamiliarity with the war zone and not knowing if an apparently solo opponent was actually solo or just bait, but started to pick up near the end of the month.

Top ships flown:

Friga — wait what? Actually, the most-flown ship for April was a destroyer. We racked up almost three times the number of wins in a Talwar then we did in any other hull type, and five other destroyer hulls made the list as well, whereas in March we didn’t (successfully) fly any.

Once again, escape pods made the Top 10 list for “ships flown by a pilot during a successful fight.” I call this the “putting skin in the game” statistic.

How about me, personally?

My statistics pretty much mirror the corp. April was all right: not my best month, but easily in the top three. I lost a few more ships than I have in the previous two months, but at the same time April marks the third month in a row where the total ISK value of my lost ships has gone down. Overall, I pulled my all-time efficiency up.

I didn’t fly quite as many different ships has I have in previous months, but I did vary a bit more in ship classes. Talwars topped the list, followed by Fed Navy Comets. I got wins in some other types of destroyers, one quite memorable fight in a Vexor cruiser, a couple in a Prophecy battlecruiser, and a single very special kill in stealth bomber that earned me both a bounty and a string of invective-filled evemails that culminated in this zinger:

“I hope you die of cancer.”

And what about the War?

I’ve already talked about the differences between the Calliente war zone versus the Minmatar/Amarr, and why our old stomping grounds got a little bit too trampled to bring the fun. I still don’t know if I love the new area, but we’ve got stuff to shoot at, and maybe some null-sec roams in our future, so we’ll see how it goes.


Could this be you?

As a side note: if you’re interested in trying this kind of gameplay out, drop me a comment. The corp has no assets, no bank account, and no intel worth the effort of a spy, so we’re pretty welcoming to anyone interested in learning how to blow up, take some guys down with you, and have fun as you explode. So far, our ‘new’ recruits include former wormholers, ex null-bloc soldiers, people we’ve blown up and then recruited, and one random guy who opened comms with me as we flew through the system he was in and shouted “Please take me with you!”

Generally speaking, just don’t be dick, don’t talk in local, don’t whine when your shit blows up, and we can talk.

Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice – Putting the Play into Practice (4/4)

Whew.

Okay, let’s see if we can pull all this musing into some kind of coherent plan for missions. There’s a lot here, so let’s boil it down.

Here are the parts of the topic already covered:

  • Part 1 and Part 2 talked about the fundamentals of PvP in Eve (as broken down by Ripard Teg), and how those could be applied to new missions.
  • Part 2.5 answered some questions that parts 1 and 2 generated.
  • Part 3 talked about the ways Ripard’s “stages of PvP” could map to “stages of a mission.”

From that, I want to boil down some of the rules and guidelines for making new missions based on the precepts of Eve PvP.

  1. Current PvE missions are kind of terrible. Outside of the UI, it is in PvE mission content that Eve truly shows its age: dated, primitive, simplistic, and boring.
  2. Aside from being boring, all but a few of the missions teach piloting behavior at direct odds to every other part of the game. Yes, running missions will teach you how to interact with Eve’s UI, but in all other respects missions actively train that player in ways that makes them demonstrably and steadily worse at every other kind of play in the game, including:
    • Poor ship selection. (Bigger is better! Battleships beat everything! Gear determines success!)
    • Poor ship fitting choices. (Cap rechargers! Propulsion modules are pointless! What’s a Warp Scrambler?)
    • Poor target selection/situational awareness. (Shoot the battleship first: it’s got the biggest bounty. What do these icons over my HUD mean? Nevermind, don’t care!)
    • Poor threat assessment. (There’s only fifty of them and one of me. No problem!)
    • Poor or non-existent manual piloting skills, let alone an understanding of transveral and/or signature/speed tanking. (I’ll just approach the next acceleration gate and slowboat that way as I kill everything.)
  3. I’m not talking about missions getting harder, unless by “harder” you mean “requiring some preparation and thought.”
  4. I’m not talking about replacing all the old missions, because the old missions form a backbone of salvage that the market needs. That said, those missions where you’re fighting 50 on 1 should CLEARLY MENTION that you’re not fighting a credible threat like capsuleers, and mention this OFTEN.
    • Corollary to this: mission agents should be dismissive of the threat of normal fleets to a capsuleer, and if anything overreact to the possible threat from even a small group of ‘capsuleer’ NPCs in a mission.
  5. Higher level missions do not automatically (or even often) equate to ‘you need a bigger ship’.
  6. The level of the mission should determine how much “ship fitting” hand-holding the player gets beforehand.
    • Level 1 and any Training missions: “Okay, this is the situation, in Detail. Because of those Details, that means you need a ship that can do X, Y, and Z. So: get a ship of [this class] and [this role], which includes ships like the [names here], and make sure that it has [this module], [this module], and [this module]. If you don’t have that stuff, you’re going to have a bad time.”
    • Level 2 missions: ”This is the situation, in Detail. You will need to do [These Things], which probably means [this general ship class] with appropriate modules to perform [X, Y, Z]. I leave it up to you to make sure you can perform as needed.
    • Level 3 missions: “This is the situation, pretty much. This is what you have to be able to do. Handle it.”
    • Level 4 missions: ”This is what little intel we have. Further instructions once you arrive and can give us eyes on the site. Good luck. We trust you.”

Important:  This is about bringing the skillset of the PvE pilot closer to skillset of the PvP pilot, so that acclimation from one mode of play to another is easier and, thus, more likely to see crossover.

This is not about moving higher level missions to low- or null-sec. Doing that won’t ‘force’ anyone in the game anywhere, except “out of the game.” It’s a GAME, people will play how they want, and if you try to force them, you’re just hurting the game.

Now, with all that TL;DR summary in place, let’s talk some specifics.

1. It’s Not the Size of the Ship…

Different ships fit different roles. Each class of ship has areas were they excel, and others where they are weaker. Bring only one type of ship to a fight, and you are that much more likely to encounter a “hard counter” that will annihilate you.

Missions should drive home an understanding of the strengths of various ship classes.

FF (Frigates): Excellent Tackle. Excellent Scout. Decent bait, provided support is nearby. Moderate to Good EWAR platform. Not-bad support option, in some situations. Reasonably good damage mitigation versus larger ships, thanks to high speed, but otherwise comparatively fragile. Comparatively poor damage.

DD (Destroyers): Serviceable tackle, if nothing else if available. Serviceable Scout, if nothing better is available. Decent bait, provided support is nearby.Generally poor EWAR platform. All but non-existent support capability. Moderate to poor damage mitigation (tank can be matched by some frigates, too slow to speed tank very well.) Comparatively OUTSTANDING damage: Excellent versus frigates or other destroyers. Excellent cost-to-damage option versus larger targets.

CC (Cruisers): Generally poor tackle versus smaller targets, good “heavy” tackle versus bigger targets. Not recommended for scouting, but often decent bait. Potentially excellent EWAR platform. Potentially excellent support capability. Good to great damage mitigation. Good to great damage (though you probably won’t get that AND good mitigation). Great all-around ship versus moderate resistance, and can tweak fittings to deal with many different types of ships. Best versatility for cost.

BC (Battlecruisers): Generally as a cruiser, but more so. Exceptions: poor EWAR or support except in gimmick small-gang fits. Even more flexible options in terms of modules makes it potentially more versatile than a Cruiser (giving up less to get what it needs) at higher cost that may or may not be worth it.

BB (Battleships): Poor tackle. Terrible scout. Obvious bait. Rarely used as ewar, except on dedicated ships. Support options are often somewhat gimmick fits. Great damage mitigation. Great damage (and can easily do both at once, by comparison to smaller ships), though applying damage to any smaller targets may require specific modules (webs, scramblers, target painters, et cetera).

One of the main reasons to make sure missions continue to ask for all classes of ship, regardless of mission level: it helps players understand that no class of ship ever becomes ‘useless’, regardless of the level of play you reach.

2. Your Role in this Mission, Should You Accept It…

Damage: We have a lot of missions like this already, and if any more are added, they should be against “capsuleer”- grade opponents, to teach pilots to access threats in way that more closely represents every other part of the game: one-tenth the number of ships for the same amount of overall threat.

1v1: Get capsuleers challenged to 1v1 “duels” versus NPC capsuleer opponents (or arrange for them to “challenge” an NPC via the agent). This can be balanced by level of mission, with ship restrictions to ensure the player doesn’t steamroll. Even better: don’t worry about the ship restrictions, and just have the NPC warp out if you show up in an inappropriate level of ship or bring backup. Have this sort of thing cause the failure of the mission, since the point is to get the guy to fight, pin him down, and kill him, whereas scaring him off will “set our pursuit back by months, if not years.” HOWEVER: if you can get a scram on the guy and THEN bring in backup, that should work. It does in the rest of the game. Honor-shmonor.

I’m not going to do more of these, because most of them show up in some other area: Damage dealing is requisite.

Wait, one more consideration: Range. Some missions should specifically call for sniper fits, mid-range fits, or brawler fits, and what the means should be different for different classes of ships.

Long range artillery: Awesome, though maybe not THIS awesome.

Tackle: Oh what fun we can have here.

First guy through the accel gate. Sort of like ‘cheating’ at the 1v1 above. The idea is to go in on an otherwise superior opponent and get a tackle, holding it until your (NPC) backup arrives. Higher level missions provide the NPC target with webs, neuts, scrams, smartbombs, backup of his own, and may mean the backup takes longer to arrive.

“I was there.”

Speaking of giving your NPC forces a chance to warp in, why the hell don’t we have a mission like this?

That would be cool.

“There are pilots camping our station in snipe battlecruisers.” – I’d love to see a way to do this right in high-sec, right on the station where the Agent is at. “Enemy” NPCs show up outside the station. You need to get tackle on them so NPC support can come in and finish them off. Instant-undocks can make getting away from the fire of the ship much easier (maybe an earlier mission walks the player through making one for a ‘scouting/lookout’ mission). Get tackle and let the NPCs mop up. All NPCs involved would be impossible for others to shoot without being CONCORDed, to prevent mission griefing.

In-mission variation: The mission is in a non-gated deadspace pocket, and the pilot is encouraged to warp in at range to land on top of the offending ship. Those that don’t do that get a quick lesson in how to spiral approach. 🙂

In fact, seeing the way in which the UI can be affected by the new scanner overlay coming out soon, I have NO DOUBT that a ‘how to spiral approach’ tutorial missions could be built, with blinky box overlays on the HUD to show where to manually pilot in order to keep from getting splatted by a distant sniper.

Catch that guy before he gets out of range! Basically, get scram/web tackle before the NPC leaves. The best idea here is if you have a mission where the enemy have set up a Stargate (See: “Halt the Invasion”) and the enemy ships appear through the stargate and land in your trap. If you get both scram/web, the target dies. If you get only one, he might make it out. If you get neither, he’s gone, and you fail.

EWAR/Support: Sometimes damage isn’t the point. In this situation, you’re asked to come in as support for an NPC gang or even a solo pilot. Specific types of EWAR will probably be called for, and the reasons for the need given:

  • “We need target painters to get a bead on those little bastards.”
  • “We need tracking disruptors so we can get under the guns of those big bastards.”
  • “We need energy neutralizers to break the enemy’s self-repair capability.”
  • “We need ECM so the enemy rages in local and leaves.”
Support modules (repairs, etc) are called for in something like one training mission to sort of ‘resurrect’ a damaged ship. It’s terrible. Missions for logi/support pilots should exist, and thanks to the new support frigates and tech1 cruisers, can start right away. The job is simple: wait for the NPC to shout for help, get in there and keep him standing. Alternately, warp into an ongoing battle and try to turn the tide of the fight with your amazing rep skills.
Medic!
Scouting/Bait

Setting up the conditions of the fight to be favorable to your side — a great player skill to train. This is an excellent opportunity to build missions around flying around a system “Looking like bait.”  Try to get the NPC enemies to engage you by looking helpless and alone, then tackle them when they show up and your backup jumps in. Level 1 versions of this mission might lead you by the nose, so you get an idea of what’s needed (“Warp to Planet 1 at 100. Now Align to the Sun. Warp to the Sun at 0. Now warp to the Asteroid belt on Planet 1 at 50. Now the Acceleration gate and jump through. Hold there. Here they come!”), while higher level missions merely tell you “Get their attention and lure them into the complex before you call us in.”

"Clearly, I am a harmless loon. Come fight me!"

Non-bait scouting might be more of a tutorial, and teach the player to use d-scan on 360 max range, narrow beam long range. 360 short, and so on.

Does anyone have a cyno ship handy?”

Combine any of the tackle/bait ideas with a “prototype (nee: civilian) cynosural field generator” and have the player call in their backup with a full-blown cyno. (No beacon in local, and ‘works’ in high-sec — hence “prototype”.)  This is a mission — one of the few — that should send the player to nearby space held by the enemy faction. Some missions might be a “bait, get them to attack, then light the fire and hope you live” situation, while others would be more of a ‘sneak our forces in behind enemy lines” scenario which, if done correctly, would result in no combat all. “Tiptoe in, tiptoe out. Like a cat, one might say.” Obviously, as with the rest of the game, any size ship might be appropriate for a cyno job, depending on the type of mission.

There is, not for nothing, an excellent opportunity here to tie this kind of mission into the lore of everything that’s happening in New Eden right now. Tensions between the empires are rising, and these sorts of behind the scenes sneak attacks would be great to get into the game.

Would it be cool to be able to call Hot Drop O’clock on an enemy force you tricked into engaging? Sure.

You know what else would be cool?

What if you take a mission from the Minmatar, and they want you to sneaky-cyno a fleet of their ships into Gallente space? No combat, of course — it’s all just ‘training maneuvers’ — completely legitimate. Still, probably better not to ask any questions, though you might be able to guess their reasons.

So…

All classes of ships used, in all levels of missions.

Jobs to perform that mirror the roles you play in PvP, and the play priorities.

Sometimes, the need to run after you win. Sometimes that means having missions where you kill a specific target and get out, and sometimes it means MANY missions should have stupidly overwhelming backup arrive on the field about a few minutes after the last NPC dies. Angry backup.

No real changes to the current missions. (Except making sure players understand that non-capsuleers are NOT in the same classes as the pilots “like you”… and making low-sec mission rewards actually provide rewards comparable to the risk/cost of living in lowsec, so they’re worth it.)

Fitting priorities and expectations more in line with every other part of the game. Basically, short and brutal fights where mobility, buffer, and burst tanks far outweigh the importance of cap stability, and tackle modules actually AFFECT THE NPCS. (I’m looking at you, Faction Warfare destroyers that fly 5500 meters/second while scrammed. So stupid.)

What do you guys think?

Eve Forever

I have trouble explaining to my non-Eve-playing gamer friends what it is about the game that I find so compelling. It’s everything. It’s one little thing. It’s that other little thing that I love, except when I hate it. It’s the people, because they’re awesome. It’s the people, because they’re horrible.

It’s… complicated.

I’ve been playing for two and a half years, and I still find myself sort of chuckling every few days as I mutter “I am so bad at this game.” I just try to enjoy the time I have and do better than the day before. There are worse things to take away from a game, I guess.

However.

If I am asked to explain it – to sum up the backstory, or to convey the adrenaline dump from a good fight, or the goosebumps I get when I catch a glimpse of the sheer scope of a game created as much by the players as the company – from here on out, I’m just going to show people the Origins video.

Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (3/4): Stages of a Mission

So let’s continue this conversation about how to create new PvE missions in Eve that are more engaging, interesting, and just generally “better” by applying the fundamental rules of PvP as explained by Ripard Teg over here. This is the last the of “mapping” posts; the final post will give examples of the kinds of missions we could get out of this method.

Stages of a Mission

From Ripard:

All PvP in EVE comes down to five basic stages:

  • Preparation
  • Travel
  • Engagement
  • Combat
  • Disengagement

Make no mistake: all PvP in EVE operates within these five stages in one way or another. If you’re not the one following these steps, your enemy is.

Preparation

This is where you decide what ship you’re going to bring for the job at hand, and a place where Eve Missions truly fail to reflect every other area of the game. Missions as they stand right now are simple: bring the biggest fucking thing you can squeeze through the acceleration gate. I if doing level 4 missions, just make sure you ship can put out some combination of sustained tanking + sustained damage that equals about 1000 dps. The end.

This teaches terrible lessons to a new player to the game in terms of making good ship selection for the task at hand.

“There are war-dec pilots camping our station in snipe battlecruisers.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“We have hostiles on our static wormhole in cloaky tech 3 cruisers.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“The FC is doing a frigate roam.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“There’s an enemy destroyer in the Medium Complex in system.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“Does anyone have a cyno ship handy?”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

“I need someone to scout ahead of the fleet.”
“I’ll get my battleship.”

It also leads to frustration on the part of anyone dealing with such a pilot, because they say things like:

“Man, I feel so cheap and ghetto in this frigate.”

Consider: the guys you’re flying with might spend 90% of their time in those ghetto frigates you’re talking about, successfully killing idiots in Battleships that think they can beat every other sub-capital ship in the game. You are not endearing yourself. Some of the best solo and small-gang groups in the game fly frigates ninety percent of the time, not despite the fact that frigates are twitchy, hyper-responsive, relatively fragile, and the ship class most unforgiving of mistakes, but because of that.

We can address this issue in new missions in a number of ways, but the main one is this: Disconnect the size of the ship from the level of the mission.

Instead, the level of the mission should determine how much personal research the player needs to do to figure out what sort of ship they need to bring to the mission.
  • Level 1 and any Training missions: “Okay, this is the situation, in Detail. Because of those Details, that means you need a ship that can do X, Y, and Z. So: get a ship of [this class] and [this role], which includes ships like the [names here], and make sure that it has [this module], [this module], and [this module]. If you don’t have that stuff, you’re going to have a rough time.”
  • Level 2 missions: “This is the situation, in Detail. You will need to do [These Things], which probably means [this general ship class] with appropriate modules to do [X, Y, Z]. I leave it up to you to make sure you can perform as needed.
  • Level 3 missions: “This is the situation, pretty much. This is what you have to be able to do. Handle it.”
  • Level 4 missions: “This is what little intel we have. Further instructions once you arrive and can give use eyes on the site. Good luck. We trust you.”

To quote:

Your first job is to understand what kinds of ships the FC wants and to comply with that. If the FC is asking for cruisers and below, respect that. Do not bring your battleship.

Some of the requirements of the missions may hinge on:

  • Flying style — “Hit approach and F1” should not be the only tactic people need to know.
  • Range of the engagement (brawling, point range, skirmish range, sniper range).
  • The job you’re supposed to actually perform.

Travel

Holy crap do some high-sec people bitch about having to travel a couple jumps. They’re like the New Englanders of Eve. Sometimes trouble will come right to you and you’ll fight in your home system. But sometimes you need to travel.

Why the HELL are the missions always defensive? If, in Gallente missions, I’m fighting Amarr anyway, why the hell am I not being sent on away missions to Amarr space sometimes? Genesis is, like, five jumps away! Take the fight to them once in awhile. Sheesh.

The way missions work right now sets up bad expectations in pilots encountering PvP for the first time.

“Where are we going?”
“Roam’s forming in Rens. We’ll check out twenty or thirty systems in Great Wildlands, then up into Curse and maybe Scalding Pass, then we’ll see how it’s looking by then.”
“I… think I’ll sit this one out.”

I’m not saying every mission should be 15 jumps away, but cut the fucking apron strings sometimes: take some cues from the Gurista and Sisters of Eve epic story arcs. Travel is a part of (say it with me) every other part of the game.

If you really want to do something unspeakably cool: set up a mission where the pilot gets to take a Titan bridge. That would be excellent. Bonus points if the mission agent chews you out for bumping the titan out of position.

And how about gate-to-gate-to-gate escort missions, designed on the lines of basic fleet scouting? Yes, some mission griefing is possible in that situation, but it could be mitigated by making sure Players shooting the escort NPC was a Concord-able offense.

Engagement

Setting up the conditions of the fight to be favorable to your side.

This is an excellent opportunity to build a mission around flying around a system “Looking like bait.”  Try to get the NPC enemies to engage you by looking helpless and alone, then tackle them when they show up and your backup jumps in. Level 1 versions of this mission might lead you by the nose (“Warp to Planet 1 at 100. Now Align to the Sun. Warp to the Sun at 0. Now warp to the Acceleration gate and jump through. Hold there. Here they come!”), while higher level missions merely tell you “Get their attention and lure them into the complex before you call us in.”

Try to look helpless.

Combat

We already have LOTS of fights where you have to kill everybody and their pet dog. Far more interesting and useful are situations where you’re getting messages from your Mission Agent about different targets. Level 1 missions start out with one guy you need to kill and can then leave, while Level 4s might get to the point where you need to tackle two different guys and put damage on a third to keep him interested until your NPC backup arrives, followed by methodically working through a randomized list of named targets.

EXPLAIN, IN THE MISSIONS, WHAT THE HELL “Yellow boxed” and “Red boxed” are, and what they indicate. Have Aura do a damned tutorial, with proper animations.

(Unrelated: for your colorblind players, the UI really needs to be updated so players can change the colors for “yellow” and “red” boxes… and damn near anything else.)

For Bonus Points:

Have fights where your job is logistics, with NPCs calling for reps. Start with Logi frigates and one guy you need to protect, to level 4 missions with Logi Cruisers, 30 friendlies on the field, and randomized broadcasts for repair (this would need some kind of UI additions, probably, but it would still be extremely valuable and pretty damn fun).

For MORE bonus points:

Have missions where you don’t get support from NPC repair ships without using your fleet “Broadcast” buttons and/or hotkeys.

Disengagement

Sometimes, winning means knowing when to get out. That means (a) having missions where you kill a specific target and GTFO, but it also means that many, MANY missions should have stupidly overwhelming backup arrive on the field about [rand(7-15)] minutes after the last NPC dies. Angry backup.

The enemy now knows exactly where you are, exactly what your composition is, exactly how many of your ships they have destroyed, and they are probably watching you. You are extraordinarily vulnerable at this moment.

Mission Agents will direct you to recall drones, “scoop loot”, and will be advised to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. If an allied NPC fleet of ships is on the field, they may advise you to stay fairly close to them until they’re “ready to leave.”

These new missions, the way they are structured, will not substantively add to the overall “NPC Loot” intake in the overall game: we have missions for that, so these missions are about ISK, Loyalty Points, and a few nice drops off a few key ships. These are not missions where it’s a good idea to reship into a Noctis.

Almost Done!

Did any of this give you cool ideas for new missions? Share them in comments, and I’ll add them to the fourth-and-final post.