Life in a Wormhole: What do you mean, “Neighbors?”

There was a moment of stunned disbelief following CB’s question. I hit d-scan several times on several characters and got nothing at all that looked like some other tower in the system. Questions shot back and forth, and after a few tweaks to my settings, I scanned again and saw it, plain as day.

Some other corp’s tower, already set up. In OUR wormhole.

My first reaction was anger at whoever had set up the tower. Our alliance mate who’d first gotten me the location of the system had verified that it was clear of any habitation, and that was less than three days ago. Worse, the tower had been renamed from it’s default, and that name began with specific ascii character — one that Tira had seen the day before in this system, prepended to the name of a couple ships visible for few minutes while scanning, but which had later vanished — I’d assumed they were explorers or tourists from known space and forgotten about them.  My initial thought on making this connection was that this tower was being set up by some kind of wormhole griefer — a guy with a couple alts who waited in empty systems until some new group started setting up, then set up and harassed the newcomers for fun.

Secondly, I was angry at myself for not noticing the tower — I had been using a very specific filter for my directional scan: one optimized for PvP activity (for obvious reasons). It was a set up that I’d gotten while working as part of pvp training with OUCH  (Open University of Celestial Hardship), and while it was great for spotting incoming ships, it didn’t show towers at all, so while Tira and Bre had been diligently scanning for interlopers while Ty and Gor and CB assembled supplies, I’d completely missed the tower going up, which it seems have to been happening for the last day or so.

This impression was confirmed as soon as I located the tower, orbiting one of the many moons surrounding the gas giant at the outskirts of the system. Knowing what I now knew about the time it took to set up a tower, and seeing that there was no one online within the tower defenses at the moment, it was clear that this thing had gone up at least a day previous, and that I should have seen it.  While the tower wasn’t as large as our own, guns and other defenses were definitely online and armed.

So Now What?

At this point, our situation was such that it would take more time to undo everything than it would to finish putting the base together, and quite frankly we were emotionally invested in the project now, not just invested in terms of time and faux money. A quick show of hands was all it took to make it clear that not even the most conflict-adverse wanted to leave; to be blunt we were ready to take the opposing tower down “manually”, and we put out a call to allies throughout known space to see who was near the front door of the system and interested in a little violence.

Truly, we were fearsome.

While potential forces assembled, we continued to bring tower modules online as quickly as we could (the new neighbor certainly provided motivation) and did some research. A bunch of digging both inside and outside the game told us a few things about the corporation behind our neighboring tower.

  • They were relatively small.
  • They were closely integrated with a somewhat larger (but still smallish) alliance, all of whom seemed to be primarily interested in industry and some mission running.
  • They were German. (This was good, or at least better than some other options, from our point of view. Russians players, for example, have a reputation for ready violence.
  • On the possible-plus-side, they seemed to have a bit of a sense of humor (judging by the names of their ships and the tower), and the names in their membership roster were generally “In Character” and blessedly free of “xxXDeathXLordXxx”s and “Killxor”s.

By comparison, our own corp was larger, and part of a considerably larger alliance that, while it included a number of ‘carebear’ corps, also counted no less than three mercenary-for-hire and nullsec corps among it’s membership. (And it didn’t hurt that one of my characters was friends with a fair number of… “PvP Enthusiasts” in the Curse region.) Also, thanks to all the stuff we’d decided to bring in the way of tower defense, we were better defended in the system itself.

I looked this information over, reviewed the number of folks wiling to drop everything and come out here to blow up a tower (not that many on a late late Friday night leading into a holiday weekend), and keyed the voice comms.

“I’ve got a radical suggestion,” I said, “it’s stupid, but it just might work.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m going to talk to them,” I replied, “and suggest we share the wormhole.”

“Share…” they said, “in Eve?”

“It can’t really hurt,” I said, “and dammit, no one EVER tries talking. It’s irritating. They’re wormhole runners and industrialists — they’re like us — they probably aren’t going to really want a long, drawn-out fight any more than *we* do. They aren’t that big, *we* aren’t that big — and there’s more than enough stuff to do in here that we can all have fun and turn a profit.”

I opened up my in-game email client and started putting together a message in as straightforward and easily-translatable vocabulary as possible.

“You think they’ll listen?” CB asked. “They wake up and log in and see a new tower on their doorstep, and the new guys want to share?”

He had a point. It wasn’t exactly fair. That said, we weren’t terribly interested in fair at that point, or at least not “100% fair as agreed upon by a neutral third party”; we’d put a lot of work into this in a very short period of time and as far as we were concerned “fair” involved us realizing some benefit from our effort. Yes, they were here first, but we had a deeper well of potential allies in the event of violence, and we were negotiating from what would be (once the damned GUNS were online) a stronger position.

Besides, this was EVE, after all.

It’s not like you get to call Dibs.

Life in a Wormhole: Time to Get Lost

Gor has advocated for starting the trip further into the evening, so as to avoid the prime hours of activity for the sorts of players who might find it amusing to blow up an Obelisk to see what’s inside, and that seemed like a pretty good idea.

Friday afternoon came, and it was all hands on deck to make the move to wormhole space.

The only problem was, the wormhole wasn’t cooperating. Tira had scanned it down and discovered that it was nearing the end of its lifetime (a wormhole will collapse for several reasons, one of which being old age), so we were stuck waiting for the thing to die and be replaced by the new persistent exit to known space.

We waited…

And waited…

Several hours passed (during which we made even MORE last minute impulse purchases), and still the old, feeble wormhole lingered. We were stuck; given how long it would take us to travel to the current exit system, the odds were very good that there would BE no exit by the time we got there, or (even worse) that it would collapse after we started the process of moving into the system, leaving some or most of our stuff stranded who-knows-how-many jumps away from the new front door.

We’d just about decided to fly a large ship over to the dying wormhole to try to get it to collapse manually when, wonder of wonders, the thing finally vanished on its own. Tira started scanning and we all crossed our fingers in the hope that our new entrance would be much closer to our current location.

No such luck. 27 jumps to make in a freighter. Ouch.

Still, the whole trip could be managed without leaving the relative safety of highsec empire space, so we called it a win and got flying. All in all, the trip was fairly uneventful — potential pirates were inexplicably nonplussed by the Obelisk flying past them, even though they showed a remarkable (albeit nonlethal) interest in CB’s industrial hauler and my battlecruiser.

Once we got to the ‘front door’ system, Gor docked the Obelisk and started unpacking the massive ship so that we could start moving things into the system.

That was our first hurdle: the Obelisk freighter was far too massive to fit through the wormhole itself, so everything had to moved into smaller, nimbler industrial haulers and taken into the system over the course of many trips.

How many?

Well, the haulers we were using were all configured to carry roughly twenty thousand cubic meters of cargo at a time. The Obelisk was packed to the gills, every bit of its over 800 thousand cubic meters put to use. You do the math — it was like unloading a cargo ship into a series of moving vans.

What Goes in First

It didn’t make much sense to bring anything into the system unless there was someplace to put it, so the first thing to go into the wormhole was our Tower — a miniature space station that would form the core of our base of operations. Gor did the honors for this, with CB hauling in the fuel that the tower would need to power both its shields and all the other modules we planned to bring online. Everyone else was busy flying overwatch for this critical operation.

Critical and SLOW operation, I should mention. Once launched into space from the hauler, the tower had to be anchored to a static location in orbit around one of the system’s many moons (a process that took a half an hour), and then fueled and brought online (another half hour). Our expectation was that once the tower was up, we could bring the support modules online much more quickly, simply because there were so many of us around to make that happen. (We would later get that expectation crushed like a delicate butterfly.)

After some initial confusion, we decided on a more central location for the tower; given the size of the system, it would be possible for our directional scanners to reach every celestial body, which maximized the chance that we’d spot any unwelcome visitors and unpleasant surprises.

Speaking of Unpleasant Surprises…

So let’s do a little bit of math.

We’ve already spent almost three hours waiting for a brand-new wormhole to coalesce, roughly two hours to fly to the ‘front door’ and unload the Obelisk at the nearest station in known space, and well over an hour to get inside the wormhole, figure out where we wanted the tower to go, and get it anchored and online.  On any normal night, we probably would have been close to the point in the evening where we’d start making preparations to log out.

But this wasn’t a normal night. In this case, we were just getting started, but we were committed to the endeavor at this point and, even knowing we’d be up for many more hours, we were pretty excited about how things were going.

“Okay,” Gor said, “the tower’s up, and the shield is recharging. What should be online next?”

“Guns,” came the unanimous reply.

Gor didn’t argue, and we started our second supply run for more tower modules. He managed to get the first gun anchored and coming online before announcing two frustrating facts:

1) Placing the tower modules was a huge pain in the ass, and took twice as long as actually onlining the module once it was in place.

2) Only one module could be brought online at a time, regardless of how many people were there to help, because it was the tower, not the characters, that was doing the onlining.

Point #1 was handled easily enough by putting me in charge of the placement and anchoring process, since it was an interface cosmetically similar to other portions of the game I was quite familiar with. Point #2 was bad: it effectively tripled the amount of time we’d estimated it was going to take us to get from zero to “fully armed and operational battle station”.

This was going to require the special java.

Still, we persevered. Weapons and shield hardeners slowly started humming to life, followed by warp scramblers and a pile of ECM modules guaranteed to ruin pretty much anyone’s day. We had poured somewhere between 1.5 and 2 billion isk into this undertaking; we definitely wanted to protect our investment, and we didn’t want anything going wrong.

So, when CB said (somewhere about halfway through our defenses coming online) “Does anyone ELSE see the Minmatar tower on D-scan?” You can bet I was not happy.

(More soon…)

Life in a Wormhole: The Adventure Begins… with shopping.

A flurry of communications followed my initial email about the empty wormhole. Questions. Queries. Calculations.

A whoooole lot of calculations.

The response surprised me a little bit, because we hadn’t talked about moving into a wormhole system for quite some time and had, until VERY recently (read: the day before) been making plans to join the rest of our alliance in the nullsec Catch region.

My first visit to the Catch system in question had left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, however, so when I heard about this other opportunity, I thought I’d at least ‘squat’ in the system for a few days or weeks — something I was personally well-equipped to do, thanks to already living a pretty nomadic lifestyle. One of my alts follows my main character around in an Orca-class industrial command ship (originally designed to lead mining operations) that I’ve repurposed to function as a mobile, stealth-capable space station, stocked with all the ships I was most likely to need and the ability repair and refit everything on the fly.  With a setup like that I figured it would be pretty simple to hop through the wormhole the next time it connected to a convenient system and basically live out of a suitcase until I got tired of it, got blown up, or the hold of the Orca filled up with too much loot to carry.

What my ‘mates were talking about, however, was a full-blown move: setting up a stationary tower with formidable defenses, storage, manufacturing facilities, and a supply of ships sufficient to keep us operable without support for a very long while indeed.

In the end, that’s what we decided to do — largely because it was the coolest possible option available.

The next couple of days leading up to the weekend involved a lot of prep work. Gor (the corp’s CEO and the most veteran EVE player by five years or so) unlimbered a few of his assets that he didn’t often have much need to fly — specifically, he pulled an Obelisk-class freighter out of drydock — a ship so massive that it could haul virtually everything we needed or wanted to bring with us in one trip, with quite a lot of room to spare.  Gor and I dumped most of our liquid assets into the corp wallet, and it was time to go shopping.

Clearly, we were ready for anything.

(The only problem with the shopping was that once we got the essentials into the Obelisk, we felt compelled to fill up the REST of the space in the ship with ‘nice to haves’ that, in hindsight, we maybe didn’t exactly need. Ahh well.)

Every day, I had Tira scan the system, make sure it was still unoccupied, locate the current wormhole connection to known space, and poke Smilin’ Jack’s head out to see where the system’s connection was — all of which gave us a pretty good idea of where we’d have to fly to reach the system and how long it would take.

The answer?

“Pretty far” and “a damn long time.” The Obelisk is a hell of a hauler, but one thing it isn’t is fast.  Conservatively, just getting to the wormhole entrance was going to take us well over an hour. Maybe two.

Little did we know that that would be the quickest and easiest part of the move.

“My name is John Crichton…”

I haven’t been compelled to write about the sorts of things going on with my time in-game with EVE up to this point.

Yes, I’ve written about EVE as an MMO, because I find it interesting both how different and how VERY SIMILAR it is to other MMOs, but as far as writing posts on ‘this is what I’ve done in the last week — well, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt compelled to do that in any game, let alone EVE — the fact of the matter is, I’m basically running missions, making money, buying ships, and basically breaking even without a tremendous amount of risk involved. I’m having FUN — let there be no doubt about that — but none of it felt like something I wanted to record in any kind of journal.

That changed a week ago.

A week ago, someone on our Alliance channel said “Hey, I just found this completely uninhabited Class 2 wormhole system — does anyone want access to it? It’s got a persistant exit to high security Empire space, and another persistent exit to a random Class 1 wormhole system.”

Now, I should explain. Wormhole systems are, from the point of view of the average EVE player, weird. There are no stargates connecting them to other systems. In fact, there are no empire-supported communication networks in the systems, no obvious means of either getting in or getting out… no structures associated with civilization (such as space stations) of any kind, and if you aren’t skilled with survey probes, you’ll never ever get in or out.  What exits you CAN find are unstable wormholes that last less than 24 hours, connecting randomly to other systems in the universe, only to be replaced tomorrow by a new wormhole, somewhere else in the system, connecting somewhere else in the universe.

And oh yeah, these lost wormhole systems are inhabited by sentient AI ships — remnant watchdog ships that hate all human lifeforms.

They’re like living in a solar-system-sized Tardis that you don’t know how to drive, with Daleks wandering the hallways.

I kinda love em.

Perhaps it’s because of the wild rules surrounding them, or perhaps it’s because those ancient drone AI ships have components that sell for a LOT of money. Either way, one of the main reasons I learned how to use scanner probes and do exploration early on in the game was to find these wormholes and check them out.

But I’d never lived in one. Partly this was because when I found a good system to inhabit, I didn’t yet have the means to do so, and partly because since then, I’d never found one that didn’t have some corporation already set up inside; Wormhole living (based out of a player owned and operated (and constructed) tower)  is quite popular with a certain subset of Eve players who are a little more independent; who don’t mind be fairly isolated from the rest of New Eden, and who are damned territorial.

So when this alliance member mentioned the unoccupied wormhole of a class that wasn’t so horrible that I could probably live there, I shouted “Me me me!”

Since our first forays into wormholes, Gor and CB and I had talked about going back in and settling one semi-permanently, but the upshot of that planning was that we’d decided we needed a certain amount (read: a lot) of money and resources to make it work, and somewhat better training in certain areas.

But that discussion had taken place months ago, and I suspected we might be close to where we could make it work. I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least get the location of the wormholes current entrance just in case.

So I contacted the alliance member, checked out the current wormhole’s entrance location… and found out was nowhere near me; not “inconveniently” far; too far..

What it was, though, was really close to a character that Kate had made up to try out the game — one that I knew had most of the skills necessary to survive in the wormhole as a stealthy forward scout — someone who could play forward recon while we decided if this wormhole thing was going to work.

So, with Kate’s permission, I got Tira over to the highsec empire entrance, sent her and her trusty cruiser “Smilin’ Jack” into the wormhole, checked to make sure it really was as empty of other player habitation as my alliance-mate had claimed, and shot a message off to Gor and CB entitled

“I think this is what I’m going to be doing this weekend.”

After that, things got a little crazy.

(More soon…)

EVE Online: Crafting. In. Spaaaaaace.

“A million and a half? Are you joking?”

Wyl glanced over his shoulder at his corpmate, who sat across the room, flipping through screen after screen of Sinq Laison public market reports. “Troubles?”

“I’d rather be shot at,” muttered Ty. He tapped one screen closed and pulled up local private contracts available for the same products, but judging from his reaction, Wyl guessed the results weren’t any better. “At least with pirates, you know what’s going on: you want to kill them, they want to kill you. Simple. With this…” He flipped the screen to the side and spun in his chair, watching the ceiling. “I can’t tell if the prices on some of these modules are that high because people are stupid, or greedy, or if there’s actually a good reason.”

Wyl nodded, only half listening while he pulled up some production schematics. “Bet on greedy. You still trying to fit that old Vexor for the Duvole outpost?”

“It’s a tractor beam!” Ty threw his arms toward the ceiling. “I could understand a big price tag for the weaponized version of the tech — ship webs are a hot item, I get that — but an industrial tractor beam? For a million-five? It’s like someone misplaced a decimal point.”

“Mmm,” Wyl said. He’d pulled up two armor repair schematics he’d planned on loading into the station factories today, but frowned when he saw the production and material efficiency ratings — no one had optimized the blueprints, and it was going to cost them more than the corp was prepared to pay if he ran them as they were.

“Then there’s the new cargo containers,” Ty said. “CONCORD says we can’t haul passengers in airtight, vacuum-sealed environments, but I don’t see the problem. I mean it’s not like they’d spoil.”

“Mmm,” Wyl said. Maybe he could get Shoi on comms and see if she had some room in her schedule to tighten the plans up before they ran them. She was some kind of wizard with production research. They could…

“And even if they did go bad,” Ty continued, “that’s what the jettison button’s for, am I right?”

“Sure…” Wyl murmured, turning back to his terminal to pull up Shoi’s contact info. Halfway though the call code, his fingers stopped. “Wait. What?”

“Finally caught up to the rest of the conversation?” Ty smirked. “We’re both rubbish when we got a screen in front of us.”

“Sorry.” Wyl rubbed at his eyes. “I’m distracted. We’ve got to do something with these blueprint originals before we –”

“Hey!” Ty sat up. “Blueprints! Can we get a tractor beam blueprint?” He didn’t wait for the answer, spinning the chair back to his own terminal and pulling the market scroll back up. “Oh… yes we can. Hellooo, purchase order…”

“Ty,” Wyl began. “My production queue is pretty full right now.”

“Not a problem,” the pilot replied. “I’ll handle it.”

“Y–” Wyl coughed. “Sorry. You’ll handle it?”

“Sure.” Ty confirmed the purchase and sat back, lacing his hands behind his head. “I do run production jobs, you know.”

“I know,” Wyl was forced to agreed for the sake of accuracy; what his friend said was, technically, true. “But pulling into random stations with a cargohold full of looted serpentis wrecks and melting the components down to make more railgun ammo isn’t exactly the same as managing a whole factory op.”

“Hey, I’m not trying to step on your toes,” Ty smiled, raising his hands. “But I don’t want to clog up your workflow. I’ll deal with the tractor beams.”

Wyl’s brow creased along familiar lines. “Are you sure?”

“Sure I’m sure,” Ty popped out of his chair, looking far more comfortable in motion than he did hunched in front of a terminal. “It’s like they said back in Academy training when I was putting those Navitas frigates together: ‘Anyone who knows which way to hold the blueprint can build a battleship.'”

“Well…” Wyl said. “I suppose that’s technically true, but –”

“Sure. I know. It’s not that simple.” Ty shrugged. “I just want some tractor beams.” He grinned. “Maybe I’ll even make some extras and undersell those thieves in Dodixie.”

“That…” Wyl struggled for a suitable reply. “That would be nice. If that happened. Yes.”

“Excellent.” His friend rubbed his hands together. “Time to go get some raw materials. CB!” He shouted down the hallway.


“Feel like a mining expedition?” Ty winked at Wyl and strode out of the room.

Wyl watched him go, the corner of his mouth twitching in the very faintest hint of a smirk, quickly supressed.

“He’ll learn,” he murmured, then turned back to the comms window to call Shoi.

The crafting system in Eve is complex and not readily accessible without doing some research and having more than a few question and answer sessions between you and more experienced players.

But on the surface, it looks pretty much like any other MMOs crafting system:

  • Collect the raw materials.
  • Process the raw materials.
  • Get the “recipe” for the item you want.
  • Use the recipe to make the item you want.
  • Repeat.

That was the impression that I was left with after finishing the EVE new player tutorial several months ago, because the tutorial itself is kept simple: you are sent out to collect ore for a couple of very basic items, then led through the process of feeding a blueprint copy into the manufacturing queue in the tutorial station. In the end you have a few shiny frigates to sell on the market (probably to people who are going to reprocess them back into their component materials).

My experience with crafting in other MMOs is one that places the entire experience somewhat to the side of the “main” game — a nice-to-have (assuming it’s a good system), but nothing that will make you or break you if you ignore it, and (in many MMOs) so cumbersome and unbalanced that it often isn’t worth the effort.

Most importantly, in terms of drawing a comparison to EVE, in other MMOs the crafting system is something that can be entirely ignored by the playerbase in favor of simply killing bad guys, taking their stuff, and “repurposing” the best shiny bits as your own.

The reason I mention that last bit is because of the stark contrast it draws — if the players in EVE all ignored “the crafting system”, there would quite literally be no game to play. Miners would have no reason to mine. Scientists would have nothing to research. Pilots would have no ships to fly, no guns to mount on those ships, no ammunition for the guns, and (with the exception of NPC pirates) no one to shoot. Basically, no ships and almost no ship fittings enter the game if a player didn’t set out to build them. (With the exception of those fittings provided by NPCs via their violent demise.)

The daunting part of this isn’t in the basic system, but in the details. As I mentioned above, the core steps don’t seem to be any more complex than any other MMO: get stuff, melt stuff, remake the stuff into new stuff.

It turns out there’s a bit more to it than that.

Continue reading “EVE Online: Crafting. In. Spaaaaaace.”

PLEX for Good: EVE Players Donate In-game Funds to Real-world Disaster Relief

Your EVE character: tough, uncompromising, brutal... big into charities.

The economy of EVE Online is a strange one — possibly unique, in that the value of the game’s currency (ISK) has a verifiable, equivalent real-world value. This is due to the fact that CCP allows players to buy gametime codes outside the game (perfectly normal), and then use those codes to create in-game items: PLEX, or Pilot License EXtensions, which can be used by the original player or sold on the in-game market for ISK (something not seen in any other game of which we are aware).

This setup creates a couple of interesting effects. For instance, a player with a sufficiently profitable character can basically turn EVE into a free-to-play game, simply buying PLEX off the in-game market with their character’s wealth, rather than paying a subscription fee. It also allows people to report fairly accurately on the real-world monetary equivalent of the damages incurred by the latest hulkaggedon.

Most importantly, with the help of CCP, it provides EVE players with a unique opportunity to help those in need in disaster-stricken areas of the world by donating their character’s wealth to the cause.

Continue reading “PLEX for Good: EVE Players Donate In-game Funds to Real-world Disaster Relief”

Eve Online: The Mystery and Allure of the Alt

I experienced a bit of serendipity last night on the EVE Online website. I had reset my settings for Aura (a fantastic app for the Droid that helps me monitor my skill queue and look up gear and ships while offline) and needed reenter my character’s API key into the App to get things synced back up. I knew I could retrieve the key from the main EVE website but, as with most things on the internet, I wasn’t sure exactly where the page was located, so I did what I usually do: poke around and explore.

At one point, I was asked for my login and password and without really thinking about it I tapped out a familiar userid, hit submit, and was met with the following message.

This was an odd enough error to pull my attention fully back to the screen, and I realized that good old muscle memory had taken over — I’d entered in a different userid than the one I actually used in EVE, but one which I had used quite often in the past.

Like, for instance, four years ago.

My curiosity piqued, I told the site I’d forgotten my password, gave it a likely old-school email address, and a few minutes later I had a reset password for the defunct account sitting in my inbox. A few more clicks, a quick chin nod toward Paypal, and I had reactivated the long-abandoned account.

My mild curiosity had gone rabid — updating Aura was a distant memory — I logged into EVE with the new/old account information and was greeted by a dust-covered slightly resentful-looking capsuleer (who still had an insurance company’s condolence EVEmail in her inbox for her training ship getting blown up). More importantly, I was greeted by a character who predated the fairly recent changes to EVE’s skill system, and who had, as a result, accrued a double-handful of maxed-out starting skills and a significant pile of instantly-redeemable skill points to do with as I saw fit! I could…

I could…

I… didn’t know what to do with them.

I had found that strangest of all EVE-creatures: an Alt.

Continue reading “Eve Online: The Mystery and Allure of the Alt”

EVE Online: Missions, Agents, and earning Faction Love

The most striking thing about EVE Online is the way in which the game is not like its digital brethren. Unique can be a good thing: when you’re sick to death of the same-old-same-old, something that works completely differently can be a real breath of fresh air. It can also be a bad thing: sometimes, the reason that everyone solves a design problem the same way is simply because it’s actually the best way to solve the problem. “Unique” is a risky balancing act — when you get it right, it can set you far above your competition — get it wrong and you’ve set yourself up for mockery and painful failure.

Say what you will about EVE, it’s definitely not a game that’s ever been afraid of being different from everyone else. Sometimes that works out well, and sometimes it makes players want to kick innocent puppies to relieve their frustration. Today, in the /diff files, I’m going to take a look at EVE’s version of the MMO-ubiquitous “quest” mechanic: Missions — and see which end of the spectrum they end up on.

Continue reading “EVE Online: Missions, Agents, and earning Faction Love”

Four Years Later: A Newbie’s Return to EVE Online

A few months ago, a couple of my kinmates on Lord of the Rings Online – one of them, our kin’s leader – mentioned that they played EVE Online and that should any of us want to try it out, they were available for tips and assistance and just general hijinx.

My response? “Meh.”

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy doing stuff with the folks in my kinship — they’re a great group of people, regardless of the context. But I had tried EVE in 2007, attracted by the hard(ish) sci-fi experience that the game seemed to offer, and had found the experience somewhat… lacking.

Lacking what? Instructions, for one thing, or any kind of easily-located guide on how to do esoteric things like… I don’t know… fly around.

“This is a space-travel sci-fi game in which you cannot leave your ship,” I remember thinking, “and I can’t figure out how to make the bloody thing go. Judging from the other motionless ships around me, I’m not alone. That’s a problem.”

I eventually did figure out how to make my terribly fragile-looking shuttle move around at what felt like glacial rates of speed, but then what?

“Mine ore,” suggested the not terribly helpful ‘help’ channel (after a half-hour of silence following my query). “You can figure it out. It’s a sandbox! Do whatever you want!”

Then someone blew my ship up while I was reading a fan-written mining guide (translated via Babelfish from the original Hungarian), and I decided to log out.

I did not go back.

“Sandbox” is all very well and good, but when the sandbox is the size of an entire city and the only available toys are discarded VAX terminals, broken bottles, and shivs fashioned from rusty springs dug out of a discarded mattress, that sandbox may not provide the kind of fun that appeals to a broad playerbase. The new user experience for the EVE of 2007 was a bit like sitting down in a Beginner’s Linux course in which the instructor says “Just read the MAN pages,” then leaves. Given that history, I wasn’t keen to return to the game.

But the seed of the idea had been planted, so when I started to see news articles on EVE’s new Incursion expansion (as one does when one writes for MMO Reporter), I took the time to actually read them (as well as information on the last few updates like Tyrannis). What I saw intrigued me: revised character creation, updated player tutorials (implying that there now were player tutorials), and (most intiguing to me) the titular Incursion itself — raids and attacks throughout the EVE galaxy by an enemy that reads like a combination of the Borg, angry Cylons, and those guys from that Pitch Black sequel that I streamed on Netflix that one time.

And if you think that didn’t count as a plus, you don’t don’t know me.

Frankly, I was shocked: EVE was getting something dangerously close to a noob-friendly metaplot. I mulled it over for a bit, trying to decide if I should give the game another try.

What finally decided me was that original post from my kinmates. “This time,” I thought, “I’ll have someone to give me tips. Someone who can explain the more obscure stuff. Most importantly, someone I can blame.” On January 22nd (only a few days before my new son would be born), I downloaded the game client for the second time in four years and signed up for a 14-day free trial.

Here’s how it went.

Continue reading “Four Years Later: A Newbie’s Return to EVE Online”