Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

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. 
Categories
Links & Resources

A few thoughts on EVE, a static playerbase, and how I'd fix it

Reshared post from +Doyce Testerman

A few thoughts on EVE, a static playerbase, and how I'd fix it.

(Also: the new home of my Life in Eve #gaming posts!)?

Stay Awhile and Listen: Growing the EVE Population with a Good Story
Some of EVE’s current zeitgeist is currently swirling around the topic of New Players. Getting them. Keeping them. Breaking into demographics only thinly represented in-game at the current time. I want to talk about it a bit…

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

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.

Categories
MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: Illustrated Thought for the Day

There is no way to conduct corp recruitment in Eve without it coming off slightly creepy.
Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

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.

Categories
Game Design MMO & Computers Musing

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?

Categories
Links & Resources MMO & Computers

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.

Categories
Links & Resources

Semi Eve-related, semi book-related

A few weeks ago, I noticed a call for book reviewers over at themittani.com, a website that focuses mostly on sci-fi MMO gaming, especially Eve and Dust and things of that nature.

They asked potential reviewers to write up a ‘test review’ and submit a list of what we thought were good books, so they’d know if our choice of reviews was going to be terrible.

So I wrote up a review of Altered Carbon, put together my desert-island list, and sent it off.

A few days later, this:

You own. Your sample review owned, the Altered Carbon trilogy is a favorite of mine, and you’re hired.

So I got all set up, the CSS for the book review template was wrestled into shape, and today my review — the same one I submitted for the application — is up. I’m glad I got to open with Altered Carbon; it’s one of my all-time favorites and a fantastic examination of what one’s “self” means in a era of body- and clone-swapping. Highly recommended, even if you don’t play a certain internet spaceship game.

Check out the review, if you like, and let me know what you think! I’m really looking forward to doing these in the future.

 

Categories
Game Design MMO & Computers Musing

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.

Categories
Game Design MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (2.5/4) — Answering Questions and Comments

The last couple posts have attracted some good questions and feedback, and raise some points I want to address before I move forward.

The questions came in from all over, however, so apologies if I don’t attribute the questions to the right speaker in all cases.

Narol Decyg:

I would personally LOVE for missions to get harder.

That’s… fine, but it’s really not what I’m talking about. When I said the mission NPCs should get about 10 times harder, I also said there should be about one-tenth as many of them. That isn’t about difficulty, but about teaching players in missions that five ships can be a credible and dangerous threat, so that when they see five players coming at them, they don’t think “oh, I can tank 50 NPCs — I’ve got this in the bag.”

More about his further into the post, actually.

Druur Monakh

One core aspect of PvP is evaluating and taking a risk against ultimately unknown odds – namely your human, unpredictable opponent. No AI will ever be able to emulate that, no matter how PvP-like the mechanics are. PvE would have to simulate the inventiveness of real players to clear this hurdle, and I don’t see it happening in any game.

Absolutely. There’s really no way the AI is going to get as good or as hard as playing against another good player (it can easily simulate fighting a bad player, though) — you can rebalance the NPCs to be generally harder to defeat, however, and use fewer OF them, to teach players better threat recognition.

Also, far more of what I’m talking about for these missions is about what the player’s are called on to do, not what they’re going to fight. Missions right now are stupidly, stupidly simple: go in, kill everything, and (sometimes) grab A Thing and bring it back or (rarely) deliver a thing to a box. It’s fucking terrible.

More on that further down.

Niamh Aideron

… or move more missions to low sec but increase the rewards to reflect the increased risk from PvP ambush.

Two thoughts on this:

1.

I don’t personally believe that moving currently-highsec missions to lowsec will do any good — ultimately, I think it will harm the game, to be honest, because there are people playing the game who, if forced to travel to Low or Null sec to continue doing what they enjoy doing (missions), will simply quit playing. Most of us know we don’t want that, and the people that say they do are idiots. Multiplayer games only work with multiple players.

With that said, I do think missions in low-sec should have higher payouts than they do currently. Missions given in highsec but going to lowsec should pay better than highsec going to highsec, and lowsec-located agents sending you to lowsec should pay very well indeed — in Loyalty Points, especially.

I don’t believe in forcing players a certain direction, but I do believe in luring them. 🙂

2.

What I’m advocating in this series of posts are mission changes that call for techniques and ship fitting philosophies that have use and merit valuable in areas of the game OTHER than PvE.

I don’t care where people live. At all. I definitely don’t see the ‘natural flow’ of the game to be High -> Low -> Null. That’s just group-think from a (very) organized minority in the game.

What I do care about is whether or not players feel as though they are suitably equipped to take a weekend roam into low-sec, or spend a month ‘deployed’ to the constellation controlled by Mordu’s Legion. Missions don’t do that right now, they could, and really they should.

MBP

I don’t agree that you can improve EVE PVE content by making it more like PVP. PVE players and PVP players want different things and trying to turn one into the other will just annoy both.

There is already one type of mission in the game which meets most of your criteria: the universally reviled low sec courier mission.

Forcing some hi-sec distribution-mission-running hauler to go into low-sec for a mission isn’t “making the missions more like PvP” — that’s just taking someone and throwing them into an environment where they don’t know what to do. That’s not what I’m after at all.

As I said, I have no interest in trying to force all high level missions into more dangerous space. That is often the solution that people talking about this come up with, especially if they just happen to be from nullsec. I think, personally, it’s a bad solution.

What I’m talking about is changing the design of PvE missions so that they can be completed following the same basic approach and fitting philosophy as PvP. For instance:

  • Mission runners should know the difference between a Warp Disruptor and Warp Scrambler, why you’d want one over the other in different situations, and how it interacts and/or complements a Stasis Web… or a tracking disruptor… or whatever. More, there should be missions that call on players to use one or the other (or, for a real challenge, both at the same time on two different targets).
  • One of the primary design differences between PvP and PvE fittings is Cap Stability, or how long you can run everything on the ship before you run out of juice. Standard Mission Fits go for 100% cap stability forever, because slow and steady wins the day. In the process, however, you sacrifice so much on your ship fitting that your ship is laughably easy to destroy in PvP. PvP ships, conversely, aim for about 2 minutes of functionality in a solo or small-gang situation, and if they get more that’s either a specialty-fit ship or a happy accident. Active Capacitor Booster modules are a mystery to Mission Runners, because why would you use something that only keeps you Cap Stable until the charges ran out… and fill up your hold with the Charges in the meantime? THAT’S WHERE MISSION LOOT GOES.  Conversely, passive Cap Rechargers are horrible, horrible things to see on a ship that’s intended to be used against other players, and I see them on people’s ships ALL THE TIME. I think Sleeper-killing PvE ships are quite close to a happy medium between the two — closer to the sweet spot for PvP-teaching PvE content than anything else out there right now: my alt’s Drake can run everything on the ship for about eight minutes, which is just about enough to clear a Class Two sleeper site, solo. If I’m not solo, it’s even easier, because I can flip off some of my tank in between, and more to the point, I’m fit in such a way as to be a semi-credible threat if I happen to get attacked while running sites.

Those are a couple examples. I’ll have more in part four of the series.

The point of all that is this: when a pilot decides to join some friends for pvp roam, and the FC says “Just bring something fast with short range guns, MWD, scram/web, and a buffer armor tank”, the pilot in question can say something besides “Whut?”

Gor

Your posts got me thinking about one of the things I’ve always disliked about Eve.

5 low investment, low cost ships can and will demolish far more massive and expensive ships.

To this day I think that the cost of ships is out of balance in Eve. If a ships material cost is going to be 10x more than another ship, it needs to bring the firepower, armor and abilities at 10x the magnitude. Eve doesn’t do this, except in PvE.

I don’t know if you agree or disagree, but I’d love to hear you address the ship size/cost imbalance in PvP.

Man, there is so much to talk about here that it could easily be its own post, but I’m going to stick to my guns and get all these comments addressed.

So let me just break this into tiny parts and talk about each one.

5 low investment, low cost ships can and will demolish far more massive and expensive ships.

First, I will challenge the term “low investment.” If you’re talking about skill points, Frigates use EXACTLY the same gunnery, missile, and tanking support skills as battleships. Especially when it comes to tanking skills, a well-skilled Frigate pilot and well-skilled Battleship pilot are IDENTICAL.

Further, with the skill tree changes, there is very little training time ‘distance’ between a well-skilled frigate pilot and a well-skilled battleship pilot in terms of just flying the ships around. The Navigation skills for a good pilot of either are identical, and training distance from level 4 Racial Frigate to Level 4 Racial battleship is ~12 days.

So the only truly significant difference in training time is the guns, because right now, if you want to shoot tech 2 large guns, you need to train both tech 2 small guns and tech 2 medium guns. I think it’s important to mention that because once the new expansion drops, guns will be only thing in the game that works that way. Missile systems and Drones have never worked that way, and all the Ship skill trees that work that way today (you need tech2 Assault Frigates to fly tech 2 Heavy Assault Cruisers) are being changed in a month or so. I think it won’t be long before the Gunnery skill tree changes as well — it sure as hell should change, because it’s stupid to have it work differently than everything else in the game.

Anyway, ignoring guns (which I am), you’re talking about less than two weeks of training time between a well-skilled frigate-only pilot and well-skilled battleship pilot, so I’m dismissing the idea of “low investment” in terms of skills, because in the “five frigates versus one battleship” example you give, the amount of training represented by either side is — all other things being equal — vastly in favor of the five frigate pilots.

What about cost?

There’s a tendency, when comparing ships, to just look at hull costs, and that’s terribly misleading, because ships have fittings, and those fittings narrow the cost gap between ships immensely, even if you fight on a budget.

For example, almost every one of the frigates I fly — all of whose naked hulls cost about half a million isk, give or take — will be worth about 12 to 13 million isk once they are fully fitted and supplied with appropriate amounts of ammunition for PvP (read: enough for two reloads, most of which will never be used before the ship explodes). If I’m flying a Fed Navy Comet (which I can acquire for rougly 1.5 million isk via Faction Warfare, but which retails on the open market for roughly 13 to 14 million for just the hull), the value of the ship goes up to about 22 million, all told — roughly the same value as the Destroyers I fly.

(Yes, you can fly them cheaper. You can also fit them more expensively. I’m using my fitting standards as the baseline, because it’s what I know.)

By comparison to my average Comet, this Vexor we killed is actually the cheap ship — the hull plus fittings were only 15 million. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost Tormentors  more expensive than that, and I don’t really even like Tormentors.

“But,” you protest, “that’s a bargain basement fit for a cruiser. That’s hardly a fair comparison to your frigate, which is fit with mostly tech 2 modules.”

Sure. This Thorax is closer to 40 million — about the cost of three of my frigates or two of my destroyers, and as a general rule I would think it fair to expect it to BEAT or drive away three of my frigates or two of my destroyers in an otherwise-even fight.

But if three frigates brought exactly what they need to fight a thorax (read: a lot of tracking disruptors and enough webs to keep me from jumping a gate), I might die without killing any of them. That’s just preparation on their part and poor target-selection on mine: that particular thorax is a terrible choice for fighting frigates, and in any case that’s not what I built it for. (I didn’t build it to fight two battlecruisers and two tech 3 cruisers either, unfortunately, even though that’s what I ended up facing.)

On the flipside, I might take a Vexor (which is now entirely comparable to and a better brawler than the thorax) against worse odds — three destroyers, for example — and hope to kill one and escape the other two. These things happen.

Let’s get to bigger ships, though. How about this Myrmidon? Aside from some changes I’d made to the tackle modules, there’s really nothing wrong with that fit as far as PvP goes — it’s a fairly traditional triple-rep Myrm, and comes in at right around 105 to 110 million isk. (I’m adding a bit, because of the drones he was attacking with that don’t show up on the kill.) Based on the value of the ship, that should be the match of 8 to 10 of my 12-13 million isk frigates, right?

Maybe. Or maybe it really isn’t that hard to find a single frigate that’s worth just as much. Are those two ships comparable? Could one kill the other?

Is the Isk value any kind of indicator of the correct answer?

Of course not.  That’s no more relevant than the fact that Guardians in LotRO have really expensive gear and Loremaster’s armor is relatively inexpensive by comparison. Remember one of the Principles from yesterday: You are not your ship.

To this day I think that the cost of ships is out of balance in Eve.

Bottom line: don’t try to tell me that the Isk value of the ship’s naked hull is any relevant indicator of its threat level. If you point me at a Battleship, I’ll point you at a frigate that cost more, and I won’t even have to look that hard — that fight was last night, and frankly I’d rather try to solo the Armageddon than the Hawk.

If a ship’s material cost is going to be 10x more than another ship, it needs to bring the firepower, armor and abilities at 10x the magnitude.

The fittings on the ships level out actual difference in ship values in many cases, and even if they didn’t, ISK value is no indication of actual worth, any more than Plate Mail should mean that you always beat the guy wearing the robe. It helps, but it doesn’t determine the winner.

Second, when it comes to little ships killing bigger ships, I have two words for you: Star Wars. Here’s another two: Battlestar Galactica. How about…

Actually, no: it’s easier to say that the idea of smaller ships being able to hurt larger ships if they can get in close enough to get “under” their larger, slower guns is one well-established in the genre, and leave it at that. Big ships expecting to fight smaller ships either need support from smaller ships, or need to fit themselves in such a way as to be able to deal with little ships.

Which brings me to…

Third, when you’re talking about battleships getting demolished by five frigates, your usually not talking about a PvP-fit battleship — you’re talking about a PvE fit battleships who think they are badass and are actually incredibly poorly fit for PvP.

The video’s sadly been taken off Youtube because of the background music used (which is stupid: that background music encouraged me to buy three of that band’s albums), but I’ve seen a solo Dominix pilot fight a gang consisting of a Brutix, Hurricane, three Rupture cruisers, and a Stiletto interceptor, kill all but two of the ships, and leave the field intact.

Would I do as well in such a ship? No, obviously, but that’s on me, not the ship — I’m bad at Eve. With the introduction of the Micro Jump Drive, battleships really have a new lease on life in solo and small-gang PvP, because they can force engagements into their best effective range (where things like Heavy Neuts can be applied to pesky small ships) or, if their opponent won’t come in and hold them down, they simply leave the field with the MJD. And all of that really ignores the updates coming to the Battleships with the summer expansion.

Battleships are better than frigates. Frigates cannot be fit in a such a way as to deal with every eventuality, from fighting a battleship to fighting frigates. Battleships can be – making them quite literally a bristling island of threat versus whatever they might face.

Can they deal with 50 opponents at a time, like they can in PvE?  Of course not, because PvE missions are incredibly misleading.

If a ship’s material cost is going to be 10x more than another ship, it needs to bring the firepower, armor and abilities at 10x the magnitude. Eve doesn’t do this, except in PvE.

This is where a tremendous amount of the disconnect comes between PvE missions and PvP. Missions set a terrible expectation for new Eve pilots, and the first time a PvPer shows them the reality of the situation, it is a cold slap in the face.

The problem is, I know exactly why the missions are set up the way they are and (worse) given the reason for it, I can even understand and conceptually agree with it.

The thing you ABSOLUTELY MUST remember about current mission NPC is this:

You Are Not Fighting Capsuleers

Now, as soon as I say this, everyone who knows anything about the lore of the game will nod their heads and say “right, right…” but how often do you really think about that in the game? Almost never.

But the fact of the matter is, YOU are playing someone who, with little or no crew (depending on the size of the ship) is controlling a space craft the way you would control your own body. It is your body, for all intents and purposes, and when you face mundane ships crewed with mundane humans, who all have to do everything so incredibly slowly, you fucking destroy them, because you are quite literally a god among mortals — an adult challenging first graders.

This is you.

Yes, you are the match for fifty or sixty or even more of these insects. Good for you.

The problem is, you kick the shit out of grade-schoolers for months on end, and you start to think this is normal — that this is how the whole universe matches up to you — 50:1, with the advantage to the 1.

Suddenly you run into someone else like you.

They aren’t slow. They aren’t weak.

And they haven’t been spending their time fighting seven-year-olds at recess. They’ve been fighting with other grown-ups.

I call this the Amberite Issue — a tribute to the Amber series by Roger Zelazny — also known as “What do you mean there are other gods?” In short, you are immortal and impossibly powerful to nearly anyone you’ll meet in whole universe… except for the other people like you. To them, you’re just another young punk who needs to get his ass whupped a couple times to learn some respect and actually become marginally useful.

NOW this is you.

I know why CCP does this: you are a god, and you should get a chance to feel like one. I get that. Some of those ridiculous “50 vs. 1” missions need to stay, if only for flavor.

But when they come, they should REALLY be pointed out by the mission agent.

“Listen, they have an entire fleet defending this base — support craft, battleships, missile batteries, everything — but they don’t have any capsuleers, so really this is going to be a walk in the park.”

(I mean, that’s why Sleepers are so nasty — they’re almost capsuleers.)

Then do a mission where the whole defense force is, say, “a small squad of five novice capsuleers” and have it be just as hard as the full fleet of normal pilots.

When that’s done, make sure the mission agent mentions that while that was hard, at least they weren’t actual full-fledged capusleers like yourself.

Make sure they say that, and make sure they say it a lot.

That, plus getting the pilots some experience with tactics and modules, might help with the shock of trying PvP.

That’s it.

More soon!

Categories
Game Design MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (2/?)

So here’s the premise:

  1. PvE mission content in Eve comprises some of the weakest PvE content in any MMO, and is inarguably one of the weakest, least-fun parts of Eve itself.
  2. PvP in Eve is pulse-pounding, adrenaline-dumping, heart-beating-like-sneakers-in-a-clothes-dryer stuff.
  3. We can improve the PvE in Eve by adopting some of the fundamental guidelines of PvP, and in the process make it much less of a shock for a PvE-experienced player to PvP.

In the last post, I talked about how a couple of the fundamentals mentioned by Jester can apply to missions, specifically:

Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose 

Bigger is not always better. In Eve, going Bigger can be a wildly inappropriate and/or stupid choice. Missions should call for lots of different sized ships, depending on the mission and irrespective of the LEVEL of the mission: there is no reason we can’t have Level 4 missions where a tech 1 Atron frigate is a viable option — maybe the best option — and many good reasons why we should have them.

Assume what you’re flying is lost the moment you undock

Variations in mission content should surprise pilots routinely and cost pilots resources beyond ammo. Sometimes ships blow up. Some missions (like the one in “Advanced Combat” Tutorials) should require a ship be sacrificed for the greater good.Truly demanding missions where death is likely should have commensurate rewards if you can pull it off without losing the ship.

In fact, why not get rid of the idiocy of Ship Insurance and just have missions with a high chance of ship loss pay out at least as well as Platinum Insurance on the most appropriate class of ship for the mission? That way, you’re compensated if you lose the ship, and dancing a jig if you don’t.

“But what if the pilot brings friends?”

YES. WE SHOULD PROBABLY TEACH PLAYERS THAT BRINGING FRIENDS TO HELP WITH TOUGH FIGHTS IS A GOOD IDEA.

90% of PvP in EVE is preparation

PvE players learn no sense of PvP threat scale from doing PvE: they tank 15 battleships, 20 cruisers, and 10 frigates in a mission and can’t figure out why five condors flown by regular players can kill them in about three minutes. Back-of-napkin calculations suggest PvE mission opponents should be ten times more dangerous and one tenth as numerous, ballpark.

But that’s just the last post. What about Jester’s other fundamentals?

Don’t blame others for what happens in PvP

I’m not really sure what you can do with this in PvE, except shutting down appeals for losing a ship to a mission you had no business taking. HTFU, people.

I know someone who lost a cruiser when they charged into their first Level 3 mission. They appealed it, and the GM replaced the ship.

I was, in a word, appalled. I’m plenty new-player-friendly, but come on. The player fucked up, they should deal with the consequences. Obviously. If they don’t want to lose ships, they should stay docked.

If you are flying with an FC, the FC’s word is law 

This isn’t even that complicated: LOTS of MMOs have complex instructions for their missions; by comparison, the missions in Eve are insultingly simple and boring. Give the players complex instructions for missions and either penalize the HELL out of their rewards if they screw it up or (just as acceptable) provide large bonuses if they get them all right — think of it as Hard Mode for a mission, with rewards for better performance, and the stuff the agent asks for is the same stuff that is routinely required in (say it with me) every other part of the game:

“Shoot only Target X. Leave everyone else standing. Yes, even the annoying bastards webbing you. Focus. Fucking. Fire.”

Sneak into the complex. Stay cloaked. Get within 10 km of Your Target, decloak, and Activate your [Mission Cyno]. Try not to die until the Module stops running, then warp out, but even if you get blown up, mission accomplished.  Forgot to stay cloaked, or just tried to kill everyone yourself? Everyone warps away, and you fail.

“Shoot Target X. STOP! Shoot Target Y! STOP! Shoot Target X again! X! X X X! Now Z, but keep a web on X! WEB ON X! STOP SHOOTING Z AND KILL X! KILL! X! GOOD! X is down! NOW RUUUUUUUUUUN!”

Movement is life

This goes back to ideas for several of the other principles. Small, fast ships should sometimes be the perfect solution for high-level missions. Also, with mission NPCs should be tougher, harder hitting, and less numerous, making movement more effective as a defensive measure.

PvE mission runners should understand that sometimes just getting to Point B as fast as possible is “Winning”, and they should learn that even when you bring a big ship, slow = dead. Afterburners are just as much a damage mitigation module as they are movement boosting.

Related to this, get rid of the 40-minute slugfests. Any “real” fight in Eve that a solo pilot or small gang has the slightest chance of winning  is going to be Nasty, Brutish, and Short. PvE pilots should have the same expectations in this regard as PvP pilots: if a fight goes past 5 minutes, it’s probably because something is going wrong, and they should consider getting out before reinforcements arrive.

(Yes, I know big fleets are sometimes different, but solo PvE teaches solo PvP in this case, right?)

Maintain situational awareness

Since we’ve got fewer NPCs on the field, we can make them meaner. More Neutralizers. More Webs. More Scrams. More Ewar. (Fewer ships on field mean that even the much-hated ECM NPCs can be dealt with with some Eletronic Counter Countermeasures ‘tank’ and target prioritization.)  Teach the pilots to pay attention to everything that’s happening and react to the problems in order of threat level, not just “shoot the biggest guys first.”

You are not your ship. You are not your pod

This just goes back to not flying what you can’t afford to lose. Ships are disposable, when it comes right down to it, and while losing them always sucks, quite often the win you pull off by sacrificing your ship makes the loss MORE than worth it. Big rewards for ‘sacrifice’ missions will take the sting out of it, I suspect: people are running missions to make isk, after all.

Learn from your defeats. Learn from your victories

Mission-writers can do some heavy lifting here. If the pilot takes a mission where ship-loss is highly likely, but saving the ship is possible, and the pilot fails to save the ship, have the mission-agent offer some tips and advice on how NOT to lose their ship the next time – yes, this is an opportunity to talk about transversal, spiral approaches, gun tracking, optimal ranges, and other such advanced stuff.

But That’s Not All…

I suspect this series will be in four parts. Part Three will cover the five Stages of a Mission, and I’ll wrap up in Part Four with suggestions for new missions, stolen directly from common solo and small-gang PvP scenarios. See you then.

Categories
Game Design MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: You Play How You Practice (1/?)

When I first started playing Eve in earnest (which does not count the attempt some seven years ago) I went through all tutorials (this was only a few years ago, right after the new avatars, but before Incarna, so the tutorials weren’t as utterly terrible as they had once been), then did the Sister’s Epic Arc, and then started running missions.

I mean, that’s what you do in MMOs, right? Tutorial, then the mission chain the tutorials send you to, then take missions from whoever seems interested.

Mostly, I did those missions on my own, but I was sometimes joined (and often advised) by Gor, who was a veteran of High-sec PvE and any-sec industry. I remember the first time he actually rendezvoused with me in a system (Nine jumps away! The vast distance! Travel takes so long!), stoically floating next to my trusty Vexor cruiser in his slowly pulsating Megathron Navy Issue battleship. Many times, he would lead the way into a mission, knowing the massive bulk of his ship could handle virtually anything the NPCs could throw at him, and that I could safely proceed to pick off the small stuff without fear of reprisal.

Time passed, and I became interested in Exploration and eventually Wormholes. Once I’d gotten to what was probably the absolute BARE minimum level of skill for handling the most basic of Wormhole anomalies, I went hunting for them, and convinced Gor and CB to come along on a little daytrip into the first uninhabited system I found.

Gor brought one of his mission-running battleships.

It wasn’t pretty.

Gone was the idea that anyone was ‘safe’ in the site. Anyone on the field was a valid target, because the Sleepers switched primaries randomly, and even if they hadn’t, none of us could really handle the incoming damage: if you had a hole in your defenses – ANY kind of hole – the sleepers found it, bored in, and tore you to pieces from the inside.

After a dozen attempts at the site, we finally prevailed, looted the field, and limped back to known space. I’m fairly sure most of us were on fire.

Gor was, to put it mildly, peeved. Insulted, really. The way the sleepers had manhandled one of his best mission-running ships was just… well, it was clearly broken, is what it was — it was just ridiculous — he hadn’t been that close to losing a ship against an NPC in years.

Eventually (it didn’t even really take that long) we figured out how to fit ships that could handle sleepers, and we adapted our play to their little foibles as well. There were some painful losses along the way (and not all or even most to Sleepers), but we managed. Eventually, it all became routine — even the most challenging of PvE in Eve is pretty predictable, manageable stuff.

Later, I dropped into a random site in known space and was struck (shocked, really) by how EASY it was — compared to Sleepers, these known-space NPCs were a walk in the park. I even ran a couple missions — easily destroying objectives in an Ishkur frigate that I had once struggled to complete in a Myrmidon battlecruiser. Some of that was my increased training, yes, but far more was the simple fact that I’d been forced to up my game.

“I understand your frustration now,” I said to Gor. “These guys don’t prepare you for Sleepers in the least.”

“I know,” he said, sounding disgusted. “I almost didn’t come back to wormholes when you wanted to try again.”

Now imagine how much worse the shock is if, as someone new to PvP, you jump into a fight thinking that missions have prepared you for what’s to come.

You expect this.
You get this.

What’s that going to be like for the new PvPer?

Well, they’d be insulted. The way the other player(s) manhandled their ship was just… well, it’s clearly broken, is what it is — just ridiculous.

And that impression is not the fault of the PvP — it’s the way in which missions (and really any of the currently designed PvE) completely fails to prepare you for everything else in the game.

So how can you fix that in such a way as to make the PvE suck less (it is, honestly, quite poor — ironically the worst 10% of the game, yet all that 90% of new players ever experience) while preparing players for the sorts of the gameplay you’ll regularly encounter in PvP?

You Play the Way You Practice

Recently, Jester started up a PvP 101 series that I’m going to use as a sort of brainstorming blueprint for improving PvE in Eve. Jester’s guide is very good, and the things he mentions a player needs to consider are important regardless of what you’re doing in the game, so why not use the missions to teach those lessons, since that is where players coming in from other MMOs will start anyway?

The goal is three-fold, and the results are all beneficial: reduce or eliminate the profound culture shock that players experience when moving from missions to PvP, actually familiarize them with the skills and techniques they’ll use in that environment (beyond just “this is what a web is”), and improve the missions themselves by making them more interesting and engaging.

But… why?

Jester said this best, so let’s just let him explain it:

Player-versus-player combat in EVE is a rush that is very difficult or impossible to duplicate in other games. Your first few times in PvP battle, your heart rate will go up, your hands will shake, and you will have a visceral emotional reaction to what’s going on. Even after months or years, from time to time you will still have this reaction. When you are killed, you will feel compelled to obsess about why it happened and when you succeed, it is something that will cause you to smile for hours or days afterward.

Compare this to Eve’s PvE experience, which involves missions so boring that players routinely fall asleep if they run them for too long, and win anyway.

General Principles

Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.

One of the first and most profound differences between PvP and PvE in Eve is that, with PvE, Bigger is Always Better. This calls back to most traditional MMO designs in which the bigger and badder a mission is, the bigger and badder you need to be to defeat it. Think of any MMO where someone figures out how to beat a high-level mission on a low-level toon, and that method will quickly be labeled an exploit, a patch will be applied, and the innovative player in question should count themselves lucky they weren’t banned.

That’s… not how Eve works.

First of all, innovation in play is sort of the point.

But more importantly, this idiotic ship progression requirement in missions is teaching players the best ship for any given situation is the biggest fucking thing they can undock, and that is simply not the case in any other part of the game. Sometimes, you need something small and fast. Sometimes, you need something tough, and damage doesn’t matter. Often, you need something that’s got a bit of a bonus for a particular role.

Some faction warfare missions kind of work this way: in almost all of the highest-level faction warfare missions, the best ship for the task is the incredibly fragile stealth bomber frigate. That’s a fine start, but it’s ultimately a bad example, because it’s still just one ship type that must be used.

There’s a mission, for example, called The Reprisal, where you have to kill a commander flying a battleship. It’s one of several missions of this type in Faction Warfare, but in this case the target you need to kill flies quite fast (reducing the damage sustained from the bomber’s torpedoes) and actively repairs damage (eliminating what little damage he does take).

The solution to this problem in every other part of the game would be to get a fast interceptor or attack frigate to haul ass after the target, get a web and a warp scrambler on the guy, and pin him down while the bombers do their work.

Doesn’t work. NPCs don’t work like real ships, and can just go as fast as they like for as long as they like. Scramblers don’t work to shut down the high speed of the target, and without that a web doesn’t work nearly well enough.

So: the mission fails to teach players anything about how every other part of the game works.

How do the players deal with it?

They just decline the mission, because it’s terrible. Not worth the effort, and introduces no interesting game play.

Solution: change around the missions to let pvp modules (and pvp-style fittings) have significant impact. Have agents offer hints and suggestions to that effect. Level 1 missions might be as simple as flying a tackle frig in and holding down a target until the NPC battleship can land and take him down… but the exact same mission can be offered at level 4, except now the target in question has a web he uses on you, a heavy neutralizer he uses to cap you out, and let’s say five aggressive frigates flying escort that you need to deal with WHILE keeping the target pinned down.

That would be interesting. More, it would mean that the best solution for a level 4 mission isn’t whatever damned battleship you have in the hangar. Sometimes you need an Ares interceptor.

Assume what you’re flying is lost the moment you undock.

And sometimes, you need something cheap and very, very disposable, because you know you’re going to lose it.

THAT is the thing that all but one mission in the whole game fails to teach:

Ships blow up. Pods blow up. They aren’t you and it isn’t the end of the world. You are immortal, so act like: reship and get back in the goddamn fight.

Frigates are just like any other consumable, and roughly as durable as these soda cans.

Missions should have unexpected twists and unknown triggers that may result in ship loss. To be somewhat balanced, those unexpected twists should happen more often when (a) the best ship for the mission is cheap and/or (b) the mission level is higher, or where the threat is clear and obvious in the mission text.

Adjust rewards to compensate, if you like, but ship loss should happen, and it should be no big deal.

90% of PvP in EVE is preparation.

Thanks to the eve-surivival website, you can prepare up to your eyeballs for missions, but the preparation you do is completely unrelated to the preparation you do for any other part of the game.

Missions set up some of the most unrealistic expectations in terms of your ship survivability.  How many level 4 missions in the game involve warping into a site and seeing a kitchen sink collection of fifty ships on your overview, from frigates to battleships?

You know what mission runners do in that situation?

Target the closest guy and start firing. They already know they aren’t going to lose the ship.

You know how that same fight goes in a PvP situation?

Without support, your ship will be scrap before you lock your first target.

Imagine the culture shock when some experienced mission runner jumps through a gate, sees five pirates on his overview, and those five ships — one tenth the number of NPCs he just destroyed in his last mission — wipe him out before he can even get back to the gate.

“Unfair. Broken. Unfun. Impossible. Never going to do PvP.”

Solution: First, change up missions (again) so you aren’t always bringing your biggest, most expensive ships. Second, use the missions to set realistic expectations. That means cut the number of opponents in missions by a factor of ten, but increase the relative difficulty of “pure combat” missions by 10%, overall. A player familiar with missions should have learned how to assess threat levels in every other part of the game by participating in missions — it should be fun, but it should also bestow relevant experience.

There’s a mission — I think it’s the second to last mission in the Sisters of Eve epic arc — that kills a lot of ships. It’s a tough fight, especially for one player in a tech1 frigate.

And it’s just one guy.

Just one.

“One guy,” this mission says, “can be a credible threat.”

It’s a good mission. It has value.

… and then you get done with the arc, and you go to normal missions, and get something called The Barricade and learn you can ignore all that “single ship is credible threat” bullshit.

But Wait, There’s More

This post is going on a lot longer than I’d expected, so lets break it up into multiple posts and see where we end up.

More soon.

In the meantime, grab a frigate, look up a friend in game who does that scary PvP stuff, and see if you can tag along.

Believe me, it’s not that bad.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: Same War, Different Front

“So this is a done deal?” CB sprawled across my couch, watching an animated children’s show on the main display screen, the sound either muted or piped directly through his Aura VI interface.

“Pretty much,” I sat at the desk, tapping my way through a briefing document that I should have sent out several days ago.

To help us through the move to the Gallente/Caldari front (hereafter the Caliente Zone), I’ve put together a basic guide with what little I know or have picked up about the war zone, both in terms of population and —

“Did everyone vote in favor?”

“Yeah.” I stopped, thought about that for a second, then shrugged. “Or voted ‘I don’t care.’ Same difference really.”

CB scratched at the collar of the formal jacket he insisted on wearing whenever he wasn’t in his pod. “Rather be shooting Caldari anyway.”

“Good,” I replied. “Then you can start figuring out how we’re going to deal with all the frakking Condors these bastards fly.”

People We’re Likely to Find Ourselves Shooting At

I frowned, trying to remember the rules of grammar I’d gotten drilled into me several lifetimes ago.

People at Whom We’re Likely to Find Oursel —

“Well that’s terrible,” I muttered.

“Didn’t you and the guys kill something like ten Condors in ten minutes last night?”

“Five,” I corrected. “In five minutes.” I couldn’t quite keep from grinning. “Pretty good start to the night.”

“The Rupture was more fun.”

My grin stretched. “Yes it was.”

CB, his back to me, raised his glass, mostly empty. “Welcome to the warzone.”

“Welcome to the Warzone,” I repeated.

Our Opponents

In addition to the Caldari and Amarr, there are quite a few solo/small gang/pirate groups active in the area. The two best known are probably The Tuskers and Black Rebel Rifter Club — both groups we’ve studied in the past. I’ve flagged these corps so everyone can easily recognize them in local, not as a warning, but to point out an opportunity for a fight. They generally embrace solo and small gang combat, and scorn the same practices we dislike. I’m excited to see them in the area.

The Landscape

Placid Region makes up the majority of Gallente half of the warzone. It connects to three different null-sec regions (Syndicate, Pure Blind, and Cloud Ring), which we’ll be making use of, and to Stacmon and Orvolle, minor high-sec trade hubs.

Black Rise is the Caldari’s largest —

“Where we heading tonight?”

“Everywhere?” I shrugged. “I’m just going to point us toward systems where stuff’s exploding.”

“Nice plan.”

“Whatever.  I haven’t memorized the map.”

“Yet.”

“Yet,” I agreed, since it was probably inevitable.

I looked around my new quarters, not missing the rust-chic of our mothballed Auga office nearly as much as I’d expected. The room shouted “Gallente” from every contoured chrome corner, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it felt good to be back under familiar stars.

I suspected we’d be here awhile.


Gambit Roulette is now flying under the auspices of the Federal Defense Union, the Gallente version of Matar’s Tribal Liberation Force. Some stuff we moved, but most of our pilots fly light enough it was easier to simply duplicate supplies and hangars in our second home in Essence, and leave jump clones and supplies in Auga.

Basically, this isn’t so much changing sides as it is moving to the other front in the same war. Some new faces to shoot at (and some old), different tactics from our opponents, new stars overhead — that’s the short term benefit. The long-term: by duplicating rather than moving our office, we’ve basically doubled (or more) our arena of operation.

Feels good.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: Junkies

 

March was a really, really good month for our corporation. By most any standard, it was the best month the corp has had since it was formed, and aside from the dry statistics, there’s the more interesting fact that we had gotten fairly well-known in the warzone.

“Props to you and your guys, Ty,” said one enemy pilot in local comms. “You guys always bring a fight.”

April… has not gone so well.

Really not a fan of this month.

Here’s a sample of our comms this month:

“Can I take on a Hookbill in this Atron?”

Answer: no.

“There’s a dragoon in the medium complex… can we even fight that?”
“Let’s… give it a shot… I guess?”

This was two guys in slashers. The Dragoon had backup.

“They only outnumber us by two.”
“And they have gang boosts –”
“And they have boosts, so really it’s worse than that.”
“By a lot –”
“By a lot. Yeah. Should we engage?”
“…. yeah.”

We did. It ended about how you’d expect.

“It’s horrible odds, but… whatever. We’re only two jumps from Auga to reship.”

Good argument. Then…

“We’re only three jumps from Auga to reship.”

Which was funny.

“We’re only four jumps from Auga to reship.”

Still funny.

“We’re only five jumps from Auga to reship.”

Less funny.

“We can always fly back to Auga to reship.”

And now it’s just grim.

In fact, in the last couple days, everything is grim. Tone of voice. Topics. The sense of desperation.

The desperation of a junkie.

In April, so far, the Corp has already racked up about a third of the losses we had all through March, and have snagged about one-twentieth of  the kills (my personal ratio is even worse, at least in terms of losses).

It seemed due to the simple fact that there are less fights available: the Amarr have been particularly scarce, especially in groups anywhere close to the size/composition we can realistically engage, and when we get anything that looks even sort of doable (if you cross your eyes and squint), we go for it.

Most of the time, though, what we decided was ‘sort of possible’ was really nowhere near that, but we go for it anyway.

Because March turned us into junkies, and April is making us go cold turkey.

Consider: in March, I was involved in at least one hundred fifty fights, give or take. Not all of them were recorded, because one side or the other ultimately managed to escape, but that’s a (low) estimate of the number of times a fight loomed. Probably, it was closer to two hundred, so let’s split the difference and call it one hundred eighty.

That works out to six fights a day, give or take, during March. Every day, six jolts of adrenaline (yes, adrenaline dumps from MMO PvP: an experience — for me — all-but unique to Eve).

A guy can get kind of addicted to that kind of thing.

We’ve got guys in the corp who, in February and March, have gotten in more fights than all the rest of their time in Eve, even if you count shooting NPCs.  It’s fun. It’s exciting. There is really nothing else in the game like it.

Then it just… stops. You are left with only bad opportunities to get your fix. Very bad opportunities.

And we’re taking those chances anyway. Of course. We’re junkies.

It’s not… good.  The frustration from not finding fights is bad already, and coupled with the stream of bad fights ending badly…

Yeah. Not good.

Time to make some changes.

Categories
MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: Voting for CSM 8

The elections for the eighth Council of Stellar Management (the CSM: a  group of players elected to represent player interests, face to face, with CCP) are coming up, and I wanted to talk about them a little bit; something I haven’t done with past CSMs.

Does the CSM even matter?

One of the common threads of complaint about the CSM is that it’s all just a smokescreen for CCP: the CSM doesn’t have any real say, they aren’t taken seriously as stakeholders, they squander their influence on stupid things, or gain influence only in exchange for shilling for CCP to the player base at every turn.

Maybe that’s all be true, or maybe none of it’s true.

Doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the mere existence of the CSM is an unprecedented thing in the MMO industry. It may not be the perfect iteration of elected player representation and/or conduit to the developers, but the first company to try something very rarely gets it all right. The point is, it’s an opportunity that very few players in very few MMOs are given at all, and Eve players would be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

Eve players are not known for being stupid, nor are they known for passing up the chance to take advantage of any possible opportunity.

Put another way: get off your ass and vote.

Speaking of which, what’s up with the Trickle-down voting system?

There’s a new voting system in place for this year’s election. It’s a bit odd: the only thing I’ve seen that even kind of sounds like this is the way Oscar voting is handled, which may be the only overlap on a Venn Diagram of “Oscar Race” and “Eve Online”, ever.

Basically it goes like this.

  • Every active player account gets a Single Transferable Vote, or STV.
  • Instead of voting for a single candidate, you pick up to as many as 14.
  • Whoever you put in your #1 slot will get your vote unless they don’t need it (either because they’re already in the top 14, or they have no chance in hell of getting into the top 14).
  • If they don’t need your vote, it will slid down to the 2nd person your list, and keep sliding down through your list until it gets to someone who can benefit from the vote, or your list is exhausted.

Some people will tell you that it’s important to fully fill out your preference list to 14, to ensure that your vote does something, but I disagree with this. For me, this system breaks the candidates into three groups:

  1. Candidates I think would really bring something special to the CSM, especially given the new design strategy that CCP is using for their upcoming releases, who might not get on the CSM without my support and the support of non-bloc voters.
  2. Candidates I don’t want to get my vote, who I refuse to put on my list anywhere, because I don’t want to run even the slightest chance they will bring their input to the CSM.
  3. Candidates who I don’t feel need my vote, because they should be able to get on the CSM with the help of their support base, or not at all. In short, this means that while I personally think Banlish is a good CSM candidate, I’m not putting him on my list because he’s the official TEST candidate and frankly if he can’t get his Alliance all pointed the right direction at the voting booths, that speaks to his overall effectiveness — it’s not a hole I’m going to dig him out of.

So who am I looking at?

  • Candidates excited and motivated to participate. Every election, the CSM seems to acquire about 5 active members, and 9 hunks of deadwood.
  • Candidates that bring a strong, coherent vision of the game that is different from the inevitable nullsec bloc candidates.
  • Candidates that are knowledgeable and communicate well about many aspects of the game.
  • Candidates that aren’t there to represent a single aspect of the game. CCP is now rolling out expansions with broad themes that will encompass changes to all aspects of gameplay in New Eden: there will be no “Wormhole Expansion” or “Nullsec Expansion” — as such, a single-flavor candidate is too one-dimensional for me, so no wormhole candidates or other specialty candidates with no obvious knowledge of other aspects of the game are getting my vote.

So here’s my picks.

#1: Ripard Teg

The number one position on my list is going to go to the person I think is an absolute must-have on the CSM, and that means Ripard. One only has to read a fraction of his blog to realize that he’s hugely invested in the success and growth of the game, has great skill as a communicator, and knows a great deal about many different aspects of the game: He’s a small gang pvper who pays his way with Industry efforts far more complicated than anything I’ve ever even tried; he’s done Incursions and PvE content extensively; he’s lived in wormholes for a good stretch of time (and did mining and other industry therein); he’s lived as a Sov nullsec resident. In short, he knows the game as well or better than any other candidate.

Best of all, while I don’t always agree with everything he says (he’s got a weekly feature on his blog that now ends with a disclaimer he added because of a long argument we got into), I can always understand why he sees the topic the way he does, and why he came to the conclusion he did. Sometimes he even changes my mind.

#? Ali Aras

Ali’s running on a platform aimed at improving new player experience and getting new players to move into currently-dreaded areas like Nullsec. Also, not for nothing, she’d be a feminine voice on the CSM, which I personally think is something both the CSM and Eve desperately needs. I like her views on the game, and I like her ideas on how to get new players into nullsec. If Ripard doesn’t need my vote, I’d be happy to see it go to Ali.

#? Mike Azariah

Mike may be perceived as more of a high-sec carebear roleplayer, but the fact is he’s done pvp, he’s done Nullsec soldiery, he’s even done some wormholes. His commitment to the game is clear. I think he’d be a really great workhorse for the CSM.

#? Roc Weiler

Roc’s a tough candidate to love, as his in-game persona is a little… off-putting. That said, the player behind the character is smart, knowledgeable, has a lot of relevant real-world experience, and obviously communicates well. He meets all the criteria I have for a good candidate, and he hope he makes it on — I just want Ripard on more.

#6 Mangala Solaris

To be blunt, Mangala will be my catch-all candidate. I’ve flown with the guy, I know the kind of play he represents as, basically, the RvB candidate, and I know I agree with a lot of what he has to say about the game. That said, he’s not my first choice, mostly because his stance on many topics seems a little half-formed. He’ll probably do fine once the rubber hit the road, but maybe not, and I don’t feel like risking higher-ranked votes on that chance. Like true bloc candidates, he may not need my vote, but if he does, and no one else does, he’ll have it, and be (at least) one voice on the CSM that doesn’t represent Nullsec power blocs who think everyone else in the game is a 2nd class citizen.

And That’s It

Only five candidates, but the candidates I’ve picked are those I feel strongly about and who I think are going to need my votes. Realistically, only one of these will have the votes it takes to make it on the CSM, let alone the coveted “always going to Iceland” top two positions. I consider it HIGHLY unlikely any of my votes will be wasted — someone on this list should need them, and if they don’t, I’d rather the votes fly off into the void than strengthen the position of anyone else on the field.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Live in Eve: March in Review

So with March in the bag, I thought I’d look back and see how the corp did, both in terms of killboard statistics as well as the harder-to-track but far more useful non-metrics of mood, morale, and accomplishments.

Corp Numbers

Our ship losses for march were pretty much the same as February — just breaking 125 — though overall the total value of the ships lost was lower. I’m completely happy with this — it reflects the high level of activity in the corp right now — most nights, someone was flying and fighting, and that feels like a good thing to me.

Conversely, our kills for the month nearly doubled, and the value of the enemy assets we destroyed tripled and very nearly quadrupled.  This left us about 78% efficient for the month, and made March by far and away the most active month our corp has ever had, even compared to the month of fights in the Eugidi cluster.

It’s worth considering our losses compared to our wins for another reason: while we lost about as many ships in March as February, our spike in destroyed enemy ships means that we are selling our lost ships far more dearly.

We also saw a nice spike in solo kills: March tripled our number of solo kills over the next highest months, which speaks (I think) to growing pilot confidence and a willingness to engage and make something out of what looks like an bad  situation.

In short, we’re flying smarter and being a little less careful.

We certainly have our bad days, but all in all, it's been great.

Top ships flown:

Frigates. There are a (very) few cruisers mentioned, because of one abortive op we went on with Daggers, but that’s it. We didn’t get a single kill in destroyer all month, either. I have no plans to change that drastically, but we will be flying at least some bigger stuff this month.

How about me, personally?

I had a pretty weak couple of months in January and February, so March was pretty good for me in a lot of ways. I broke 100 kills for the month (102: a personal best), and lost exactly the same number of ships as last month. Of those 102, 93 were actual fights as opposed to destroyed capsules, 11 were solo fights, and I managed to be top damage on 40.

Had you watched each fight, you’d have seen me in a Slasher about one third of the time, the Executioner and Atron a distant second and third, and the Tormentor and Incursus coming on strong in the last week as I fiddled around with different ships. Lots of other stuff saw at least some use: I flew at least 15 different types ships during successful fights this month, and possibly more — I finished four fights in my escape pod, so I don’t know what I was flying before the explosion.

And what about the War?

March was a pretty good month for Minmatar. While it was never hard to find Amarr willing to fight, many of those fights were in entrenched systems where the slavers have set up a lots of support in the form of off-grid fleet boosting and the like. We can manage fights there, but we need to kill and get out in a hurry, because the follow-up wave in those systems is usually some kind of ridiculously overwhelming response. (My personal favorite is the gang that attacked our six-man tech1 frigate fleet with armor-boosted cruisers and an assault frig (vexor, maller, enyo), and then brought in an Ashimmu when they lost two ships and couldn’t kill us. GF?)

Anyway, the result of this tactic has been a downswing in fights in random locations around the war zone, and the Amarr down to about seven controlled systems out of 70. I’ve seen some 20+ Amarr fleets flying around, but I honestly don’t know what they’re doing or who they’re fighting, if anyone; most of LNA seems to have gone to sleep again, and I don’t know who else in the TLF is fielding fleets that size.

I’m not thrilled about this development, as it limits the level of activity we see from the other side. Early in the month, the Amarr and Minmatar were dead-even on warzone control, with both sides maintaining tier 3 for nearly a week, and I couldn’t have been more pleased: it seemed the best situation possible to encourage high activity in both factions, and I’d hoped it would last a lot longer.

A few days from the end of the month, Minmatar managed to push warzone control the highest level — tier 5 — the first time that’s happened since CCP made their most recent changes to the Faction Warfare control system.

Nice feather in the cap, but ultimately more trouble than it's worth.

This event triggered a rash of one-day-old alts flooding Minmatar faction warfare to leech Loyalty Points while the rewards were increased 225%. Gambit Roulette tried to go out and capture plexes during this time, but we kept getting distracted with good fights and — I believe — never actually collected an LP payment during the entire Tier 5 period. Whoops.

We also may, here and there, have pointed some unaffiliated pirates in the direction of particularly obvious LP leech pilots who needed a good ass-whupping. I consider it a community outreach and beautification project. Related: if any Amamake residents want to know who likes to boast in Minmatar chat about flying ‘combat’ ships with warp core stabilizers and cloaks on, give me a ping: I have a list.

And that’s about it! We’re planning to start April off a resounding thud of stupidity: who knows what’ll happen after that.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: Local is Fine, and Here’s How to Fix It.

First, a brief background, for the non-EvE players:

Like most MMOs, Eve has a number of text-based chat channels built into its user interface. The ones likely to see the most use are whatever corporation and/or alliance you’re part of, any player-made channels created for specific purposes or interests…

And Local.

Now, to the outsider, the concept of a “local channel” doesn’t seem that big a deal: most games I’ve played have some version of this: a channel that can only be seen by the people currently visiting a particular city are common, for example (though there’s usually some question about whether or not anyone pays attention to it).

In Eve, that Channel is called “Local.” It’s always on, always there, and always includes whomever is currently in the same solar system as you.

The reason this matters (for the purposes of this post), is that all the channels in Eve have a Member List displayed alongside the chat window.

Like so.

In some less-common situations, the member list only shows people who have actually spoken in that channel since you logged on, but in most cases, including Local in all of known space, the member list automatically updates to show everyone who’s currently in the same solar system.

This means that, in Eve, within known space (wormholes work differently), the very second that anyone enters the same solar system you’re in, you know, thanks to Local.

As a result, Local — specifically, Local’s member list — is more often used as an intelligence gathering tool than it is a means to chat with the unwashed masses of whatever backwater shithole you happen to be flying through at the moment.

I actually shrink the window so that the member list is the only thing I see.

Not everyone likes this.

There have been great fiery debates about whether or not Local’s member list should remain immediate (like it is now) or delayed (the way it works in Wormholes and some private channels, where no one knows you’re there unless you say something).

Which led to this conversation today:

“Man,” Em said. “I really wish we didn’t have automatic local out in the war zone. It’s so lame to have that much intel at your fingertips. It’d be so cool to see guys on directional scan in a complex and have NO idea of they were friendly or hostile — no Local list to compare it to and say ‘Well, I see three ships, and there are only two hostiles here and three friendlies, so it’s probably friendlies.'”

“Sure,” I replied. “Though it would suck for us as well if they changed it.”

“We’d cope,” Em said. “Hell, we already deal with that every day up in the wormhole.”

“Definitely, but that’s the wormhole. Things should work differently up there. I mean…” I pondered. “We’re in low security space, but it’s still Empire space, you know? The infrastructure is kind of messed up, but it’s still functional.”

“Empire?” Em replied. “Why would the Amarr or Minmatar or… hell, anybody provide intel about their own troop movements to anyone and everyone who can see the Local member list?”

“Well… they wouldn’t,” I said. “But I don’t think it’s really up to them — that’s just part of the deal with the technology. I don’t think they control it.” I shrugged. “Maybe CONCORD controls it.” I frowned. “Actually, I think it’s tied to the stargates somehow — like they’re relays or something — which is why the member list breaks out by star system, and why there’s other channels like one just for the local constellation of systems you’re in, and why it works the same way in High sec and Low sec and Null sec — all the same stargate technology.” Finally, I added, “That’d be why it doesn’t work that way in wormhole space — no stargates.”

Bringing people together in more ways than one.

There was a pause in the conversation. I turned back to the ship fitting I’d been assembling.

“You know what would be cool?” Em said, voice almost dreamy.

“I –”

“What would be cool,” he continued, “is if Local didn’t add you to the member list until you either used the channel… or used a Gate.”

I stopped, turning that idea over, then offered my analysis. “Huh.”

“I mean…” it didn’t even seem as though he heard me. “If it’s all attached to the stargate tech, and you didn’t use a stargate to get there, then…” He shook his head. “MAN that would be cool.”

“Wormholes,” I said, picking up on the idea. “You could — I mean, when you dropped out of a wormhole into a system in known space…”

“No one would know you were there,” Em completed the thought. “It’d make all those shitty class two systems with exits to Null sec SO much more fun.”

There's a hole in your sky...

“It’d be like having a black-ops drop capability for people who can’t fly black-ops ships yet.” I blinked. “Actually…”

“… black-ops jump bridges bypass gates.” Em finished.

Widow likes the idea. (It's smiling - trust me.)

“Regular Titan bridges too,” I said. “I mean –”

“– you’d see the beacon go up, but–”

“– you wouldn’t know who came in, or how many, without more recon. You’d just know a jump bridge happened.”

"Who left the door open?"

We were quiet for a while.

“Wow,” I said.

“Not like wormholes,” Em said, “still it’s own thing, and for most people flying around, it’s basically like nothing really changed, because as soon as you use a gate to jump into system, you’re loaded into Local, but… better than it is now.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. I shook my head, blinking. “You know what?”

“You’re going to write about it.” Em sounded amused.

“We need to tell people about this,” I replied. “This is a good idea.”


TL;DR: Wouldn’t it be cool if, in known space, you stayed off the Local member list if you could manage to bypass the stargate when you entered the system? As soon as you use a gate (or talk in Local), you show up, but until then…

Not quite how it works now. Neither is it the way it works in wormholes. Provides a really neat way to work around the current system, in-character.

Dunno about you, but I like it.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: Gambit Roulette

Regardless of the game, I’ve never been particularly drawn to stealth classes. Rogues, Burglars, Assassins… you know the type. The long setup. The slow creep. The careful maneuvering. The final violent burst of action that was, for all that, almost anticlimax to the preparation that got you there.

I could do it well enough. I just didn’t enjoy it all that much, or at least not as much as I did other possible options. I got my ‘single bullet kill’ achievements in Hitman II, but there were at least as many missions where I crashed the game because the engine couldn’t render that many dead sprites at the same time. That one where you dress up as the fireman? With the axe?

Oh, bank lobby killing spree: you complete me.

Which brings me to wormholes.

About a year ago, I started to get… itchy, when it came to living in a wormhole full time (which I had been doing for roughly a year and a half). As interesting and inspiring as blogs like Tiger Ears were (and continue to be), I found myself increasingly dissatisfied.

To be fair, wormholes aren’t for everyone. Wormhole living requires a lot of specialized knowledge about certain areas of Eve: the perpetual scanning; the living out of a player-owned-starbase that feels like camping full time out of twenty-year old modular tent with missing pieces; the ritual-and-requisite paranoia. No, it’s not for everyone. It’s not even for most.

But that wasn’t really my problem. I’d just gotten tired of playing a stealth class.

There are certainly examples of other kinds of combat that happen in wormhole space, but day to day, for most pilots, that’s the exception rather than the rule. In the life of a dedicated wormholer, pvp is about finding a target and, having found them, doing something with that knowledge before they know you’re there.

The slow creep. The long step up. The careful maneuvering. The final burst of action. Stealthy stuff. It had taken me awhile to recognize it, but when I did it was a bit obvious.

So I left.

Well, Ty left, anyway, and CB decided to come with me. The wormhole stayed just as active as it had been, but we were off to explore other options, which led to Gambit Roulette: our foray into Faction Warfare.

Gambit Roulette: A convoluted plan that relies on events completely within the realm of chance yet comes off without a hitch.

If your first reaction to seeing the plan unfold is “There is no way you planned that!”, then it’s a gambit roulette.

The reason for giving the corp this name was straightforward: I didn’t know what I was doing. Anything that looked like intentional success was obviously going to be, in truth, blind chance.

The first month of the corp’s existence wasn’t exactly draped in glory. I think we destroyed two enemy ships and lost seven.

I did a lot of solo flying in the months that followed, and managed to turn the kill/death ratio around, though never by any particularly stunning amount. 21:7. 18:4. Then right back down to a mediocre 11:9.

Through the early months, I was struck by the fact that, while there were obviously many groups flying around the warzone, I wasn’t *in* them, and getting in — becoming someone known and trusted — was going to take time.

“How’s that faction warfare thing going?” asked my buddies in the wormhole.

“Pretty good,” I said, and it was true, for all that I mostly on my own. “There’s always something to do.”

“Nice,” came the reply. “Maybe I’ll bring an alt down and join you or something.”

“Sounds cool,” I said, because it did, but at the same time I thought: I need to pave the way for my friends — to find the way into the good groups, and learn which are the bad groups — so they don’t have to do that slog work.

Something of a breakthrough came in that next month, as a veteran FW pilot I’d flown with a couple times invited me to a channel he seemed to use to sort out newer pilots he thought were worth the time.

He got me in my first fleet with the Order of the Black Daggers, a group of pilots who had fun, didn’t get too riled up when things got hard, and (most importantly) had a good leader and times when they regularly and reliably “did stuff.” I was happy – thrilled, really – to fly with them. Gambit Roulette ship losses per month increased by a factor of three; ship kills increased by a factor of six.

On fire, half dead, and limping away with the stuff off the other guy's wreck.

More importantly — FAR more importantly — I had found a group of good people to fly with. If my friends from the wormhole ever decided to check out this Faction Warfare thing (they did, and not on alts), I could simply say “these guys are with me,” and that would be that. (And it was.)

First, we were two.

Then another guy joined us. A stranger, though someone who’d read the blog, started in a wormhole, and wanted to try something else.

“If he wants in the wormhole,” CB said, “hell no. But if he wants to come out here? Sure. Blood for the blood god.”

Then our old corp mates joined us. Em and Div and Shan and the rest, with a few particularly dangerous souls staying behind to keep the lights on back in Anoikis and destroy the unwary.

We joined Daggers in their alliance – Ushra’Khan – and joined the fight for the Eugidi constellation: the first time the war really felt like a war and not a roaming free for all.

After days of fruitless efforts to find an Amarr opponent, Em got a fight with a neutral pilot in a complex — a guy who just wanted a fight; wanted to try something new in the game.

“Recruit him,” I said.

“Already talking it over with him,” he replied. “Going to get his buddy in here too.”

That recruited pilot got in on a Titan kill a few weeks later.

We have our up months and down months. January was quiet, with many of us traveling.

February, which saw two new pilots join — former wormholers looking for something different — was not quiet. Record number of ship losses, and if the number of kills didn’t spike by quite as much, we’ll chalk that up to the learning curve. We still destroyed as many enemy assets as I did the month I started flying with Daggers.

More importantly — far more importantly — we’d found more pilots we really clicked with.

And suddenly it’s now, nine months since this thing started, and we are the small group of pilots “doing stuff” on most nights.

This month, halfway through, we’ve nearly doubled the value of destroyed enemy assets from last month, with half the losses. Ignoring that crazy titan kill, it’s already our second most productive month, behind only the Eugidi war.

And best of all, it’s fun. It’s fast.

And we rarely need a cloaking device.


The five-character Corp ticker for Gambit Roulette is IMPRV.

Some people read that as “Improv” and assume we’re just making things up as we go.

Some people read it as “Improve” and think we’re all about trying to learn and get better.

I think: Why not both?

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: Tys R Us, now open in Sinq Laison and all points East

So about a month ago, it became evident that the pilots in our corp would need to get into replacement ships often, and probably in a hurry.

It also seemed as though, while all the pilots were pretty smart at building interesting ships, sometimes we didn’t need ‘interesting’ as much as we needed ‘good and effective’. There was nothing wrong with the ships we were flying, but there was some functionality I often wished we had in the fleet that simply wasn’t occurring to anyone.

At the same time, I wasn’t (and never will) hand down some kind of ‘directive’ on what people can and can’t fly.

So, with all that in mind, I flew over to a market hub and spent most of an afternoon and evening buying the parts for about 50 ships, hauling them a few jumps away from the warzone, putting them together, and setting them up on corporation-only contracts, at cost.

The goal was two-fold:

1. Make it quick, easy, and cheap to get back into the action if you lost a ship.
2. Increase the odds someone would be flying one of those go-to ships I often wished we had.

And at the same time, if someone wanted to do their own thing, then no problem: this was in no way stopping them.

I got everything all set up, and Ty sent out a corp-wide message informing everyone that the storefront was open.

I probably shouldn’t have used the word “storefront.”

I also probably shouldn’t have left the default name (mine) on every one of the ships I’d assembled.

Because this happened:

Our pilots love their terrible puns.

I’d like to say it stopped there, but of course it didn’t.

I have a habit (I think it’s a good one) of reminding everyone to turn on their Damage Control modules as we drop cloak and warp toward a fight. Mostly, I’m reminding myself, but if it saves someone else’s ship, then all to the good.

Apparently, I say it often enough to be noticed.

And it’s not always about me. The most recent addition to the advertising campaign celebrates how March has been going.

Personally, I like the duck.

I also like that it doesn’t specify whether it will be our ships or the opponent’s that will blow up — whether the Slasher pictured is more deadly to the target or the pilot. This is what’s known as “Truth in Advertising.”

Nice work, Div.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: In Like a Lion

I want to say the month really got going when we got the escape pod with a set of low-grade Slave implants. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice surprise, but it’s not as though that was a particularly tough fight. It’s pretty hard to catch a pod in low-sec — the guy clearly wasn’t paying attention.

I kind of want to say the month started with Xyn and Ty taking down a Dramiel (and his Merlin partner) in a pair of Slashers. That was pretty sweet.

But no. For me, the month started with the very first time I undocked. I was starting late, and everyone else had already set out. There were enough pilots that they’d split into two smaller groups, both of which were kind of far away, so I set out on my own: hopped in a Slasher and headed into the warzone.

Right off the entry star gate, I see a Merlin. I want a fight. So does he. We go at it. I dock up afterwards, repair, and head back out.

Next up, I find a Rifter tucked into a complex. Good fight, good fight, and then got an Incursus on the way back home.

Not that any of these fights were easy (well, okay: the pod-kill was easy). All the real fights are close, heart-pounding things. Whether I’m solo or in a small gang of corp mates, someone has to re-ship or repair when the smoke clears: that’s just how it works when you’re in a bunch of frigates: even if you win, you’re probably on fire.

Frigate Combat: I'm on fire? That just means I'll do more damage!

I’m not good at this. I forget basic stuff in the middle of a fight. I burn out modules I desperately need, or forget to turn them on. Or I get out-piloted, pure and simple. Or I try to fight stuff I should really leave the hell alone.

Sometimes I get lucky.

The pilots in my corp are pretty much same.

Sometimes we're in the zone.

Like an eight on eight fight where we were outgunned, outshipped, took down all targets, and only lost a single frigate.

... and sometimes something that looks fine goes horribly wrong.

Even so, it’s been a pretty damn good month so far.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: Post-February Grab Bag

 

No time or inclination to put up an organized post, so instead you get a bunch of random stuff I’ve been meaning to share.

We did a lot of shooting this month.

February was our corp’s second-highest kill total since the corp was formed. Only December (when we were part of Ushra’Khan and involved in many fleets violently and constantly clashing over the Eugidi constellation) was higher, and only barely. February was also (no surprise, really) highest in terms of ship losses, though we still came out well ahead in the end.


FNGs: We’ve brought in quite a few new pilots – mostly guys recovering from post-boredom wormhole syndrome – and they have taken to Faction Warfare like ducks to water.

Shark-ducks, swimming in bloody, chum-filled water.

Anyway: welcome to the corp and quit making the rest of us look like we’re fucking afk. Jesus.


Our monthly combat efficiency would be better if we hadn’t lost a bunch of pods early in the month (I was certainly not immune, and I have the newly-retrained Battlecruisers 5 to prove it 🙁 ). That got a lot better in the second half the month, so I’m going to chalk that up to a string of bad luck and smart-bombs.


My dislike of ECM system has been replaced by the broken mechanics around off-grid boosting alts. It’s getting harder and harder to find a fight with anyone who doesn’t first “need” to get their their half-billion-isk tech3 cruiser in-system to hide at a safe spot and provide ridiculous boosts to a pack of shitty little frigates.

You seriously need your armor booster alt following around to support your solo punisher roam?

The guys in our corp could do off-grid boosting — we certainly have the skills required — but we don’t because off-grid boosting is (in terms of risk to reward) broken, and I don’t like using broken mechanics.

Following a particularly ridiculous fight with whatever I.LAW is calling itself this month, Em and I have established a new policy with regard to boosters: if you want them on the field, great. If you bring them in system and hide them off-grid, you are not going to get a fight. Period. Full-stop. No exceptions.

So: if your goal is to have everyone avoid you and have nothing to do, then congratulations – you win. If your goal is to actually play a PvP game and doing PvP things within that game…

You will have to find your entertainment elsewhere.

One way of looking at this is that it’s just good target selection. To quote a certain FC: “If I see a fight, and know we have no chance of winning why should I fight?”

But it’s not really about that, it’s about rewarding certain kinds of behavior. To go back to my playground analogy, if you’re trying to organize a dodgeball game, but you always bring a medicine ball and the flubber-enhanced sneakers, no one’s going to play with you. Sure, it’s legal. Yes, it’s currently ‘working as intended.’ Fine.

But it’s not behavior I intend to encourage. Sometimes, I censure my kids’ behavior by simply walking out of the room — if they want to be fucking annoying, that’s fine: they’re 2 and 7, their brain chemistry is ridiculous at that age, and maybe they can’t help it. But I don’t need to subject myself to it, and I’m not going to. I find the same sort of response is the easiest option for me in Eve as well; there are people who don’t roll with off-grid boosting bullshit every day, and I can easily go and find them. Denying known off-grid booster addicts a fight doesn’t hurt my game at all.

You want to leave the medicine ball at home, you’re welcome to rejoin the rest of us. Until then, you can pound sand.


… and that’s it.

We now return you to the regularly scheduled warzone, already in progress.
Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: Jesus Wept

Tormentor, Inquisitor, Fed Navy Comet all in system. All in different complexes. All with the same ship name. Hmm.

Tormentor’s complex is hell and gone away, so I warp over there, hit the gate, and engage. I figure I have time to respond if both his buddies come, and maybe just the inquisitor will come in and I can kill him quick. Or “maybe” he’s a multiboxer and he’ll mismanage his backup. Whatever. I just want a fight.

I land, close, lock, TD, warp scram, start shooting…

And he leaves. Nothing but warp stabilizers in his lows.

Because having remote rep support and additional DPS on hand wasn’t enough of a security blanket against my big scary slasher — let’s make sure you can run as well.

The only thing that redeemed the roam for me was a punisher pilot who had the opportunity to run (55km away in open space), thought about it, and said “You know what? Fuck it, let’s dance.”

Good fight, you filthy slaver.
Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: Losing While Winning

This is one of those blog posts that says “I haven’t been writing about playing Eve very much, because of how much I’ve been playing Eve.”

So, yeah. Pretty much that. Despite Em being out of town and Shan being pretty busy and Dirk and me both dealing with the academic tsunami, the corp has stayed pretty active, and we’ve added a few new pilots — many of them former wormhole pilots looking for something with a bit more ‘instant-on’ kind of gameplay. We’ve all been learning a lot (especially me).

It's a good time to be flying internet spaceships.

This isn’t to say we aren’t blowing up hilariously on a pretty regular basis, but given that we’re flying basic frigates and destroyers right now, that hasn’t actually been a very crippling issue — when we look back at an evening’s hijinx and see that any one of the enemy ships we destroyed represents twice the value of all the ships we lost, it’s easy to feel productive. The corp has destroyed 50 billion isk worth of enemy ships since joining the war.

It can still be a little demoralizing to run through a lot of ships in a single night (I build my Slasher attack frigates in packs of 10 right now), but with a little practice you learn to deal with it and focus on the fun.

"Hey guys! I got a new ship! It's really swee--"

One of our pilots commented “I’ve killed more ships just in February, so far, than I did in the two years I played Eve up to this point.”

Maybe that doesn’t sound like fun to everyone, but it definitely is for us, the pilots we fly with, and (I assume) the pilots we fly against. Sometimes the explosions are ours. Sometimes theirs. Often, both. These things happen. Sorry you broke your ship.

Get in something cheap, and let’s go again.

Categories
MMO & Computers

Eve Online: The Point of a Frigate

I don’t much care about my character’s (or my corp’s) killboard (the term for API-powered websites that list and analyze your PvP combat statistics in Eve). It is (and I hope always will be), something that’s inadvertently and unmindfully produced as a result of my play — just something that happens, not something I play toward. I think that the day that those numbers (my kill/death ratios, efficiency, et cetera) alter my in-game decisions should be the day I stop playing.

That said, sometimes it kind of fun to use those boards to take a look at what I’ve done, even if I don’t think it’s a good way to see “how I’m doing.”

For instance, here’s a fun fact: I recently lost by 100th ship in the game (I’m currently at 123). Interesting? Perhaps.

More interesting: 93 of those ships (75% of the total) have been lost since joining Faction Warfare (many of them frigates). This might make faction warfare seems like a bad idea, maybe.

Maybe.

Depending on which killboard you look at (they all count things a bit differently) I’ve blown up somewhere between 261 and 321 enemy ships. I’m going to go with 261, since estimating low keeps me humble and I suspect some of those other ‘kills’ are actually structures I helped blow up.

So: of those 261 explosions, 235 of them (a whopping 90%) happened since joining faction warfare. (Most of them weren’t frigates.)

Now, with that second bit of information in mind, how do those ship losses look? To me, they look like I’m getting more out than I’m putting in: I wish everything I invested my time in yielded a better than 2.5:1 reward ratio.

All of those deaths have been about having fun, enjoying my play, experiencing all that Eve has to offer and learning something new. Training skills, fitting ships, flying with your friends, getting into new ships, these are all important things. But risk is the ultimate reward in Eve.

RISK = REWARD.

— Rixx Javix, Dying Over 400x

A few nights, ago, I was out and about in a cheap little frigate – a slicer – capturing a couple plexes in heavily contested systems. There was a war target in the system, so while I wasn’t surprised to see a ship warp into the complex and come at me, I was a little surprised to see that it was a neutral pilot, unaffiliated with the war. More, he clearly wanted a fight, as he target locked me and started firing from long range.

Long story short, I engaged, managed to outmaneuver him and get in under his guns’ ability to track me, and won. More of a surprise: he didn’t have a pile of friends he called in once I’d committed to the fight. it was a proper 1 v 1. (Heartfelt salute to that pilot: o7.)

After his escape pod warped off, I took a look at the kill information and quietly send him the ISK value of the ship he’d lost. Between that and the insurance payout, he should be slightly ahead after losing his ship. Why did I bother? Because he gave me the chance to have more fun (a lot more fun) than I would have otherwise. I didn’t have much time to play that night, and it was likely going to be nothing but me capturing a couple complexes, shooting a few NPCs, and logging out.

Instead, an exciting 1 v 1 brawl.  We sometimes forget that half of the people we ‘play’ with every night aren’t the guys on comms, but the dudes shooting at us – just as a chess match or poker game or a board game fails without opponents, so too goes Eve; in a lot of ways, it’s much more like a typical game than most MMOs, because most games are player vs. player.

The only big difference is the adrenaline rush — I was amped for at least a half hour after that fight. I’ve never had that kind of experience from any other game.

Now, maybe he didn’t have as much fun. Maybe he was looking for a win and was really pissed he lost a ship. He’s a long-time player, but he hasn’t gotten many kills lately. Bad luck, maybe, or getting used to the new/old ships.

I don’t want him to have a bad time. I want him to keep playing. So: a little donation. I’ve got the ISK, and it’s just the cost of a frigate.

“It’s just a frigate.” I hear that a lot.

Frigates in Eve are like healing potions in other games, as far as I’m concerned: if you’re not using them up periodically, you aren’t really playing hard enough.

Make sure to show up for the fight with sufficient consumables.

We bring a lot of pilots into faction warfare from other areas of the game. Null sec. Wormholes. High sec. They like to make jokes about frigates — shake their head in disbelief that they’re flying such a cheap little ship. They miss their carriers, their Tengu strategic cruisers, their blinged-out Kronos marauders.

Here’s the thing, though. I can fly a strategic cruiser. I’ve got… three of them? I think? Maybe four. Any one of them costs 100 times more than that slasher I was flying.

And there’s just no way I’m going to get 100 times more fun out of one.

I mean, I fly LOTS of different stuff, but love jumping in a frigate. They’ve given me the freedom to try crazy stuff. To blow up 93 times. To blow up 235 other guys. To have fun.

Which is really the point of a game.

Categories
Game Design MMO & Computers Musing

Life in Eve: Heavy Hangs the Head

This bit of reflection came out of a (sadly) half-finished conversation with Dave and Margie, where we were talking about my time with Faction Warfare in Eve, and their time playing Ingress.

The Minmatar/Amarr faction war zone has been a little crazy the last few months. Amarr units have been on an organized tear, capturing a sizable chunk of territory — more than I’d ever seen them take over, actually — enough to have a clear advantage in terms of system control. More, they’ve held onto it for quite some time.

Disconcerting, but also (weirdly) a bit of a relief. The last few months prior to that push, our group had been involved in occupying and defending a constellation of systems that, to be honest, we just didn’t have quite enough people to manage, especially in the face of the previously mentioned Amarr offensive. We held on fairly well, and even managed to push our side’s war zone control back up to tier 4 (out of five) for awhile, but it was exhausting, and eventually we just wore out and retreated to an area where we had more allies and fewer systems to worry about.

Now, with the pressure to hold ground gone, we’re left fighting roving battles across a landscape that, thanks to Amarr taking a bunch of systems, suddenly presents many more targets of opportunity. This, like the rest, is a new experience for me. I came into the war at a time of Minmatar dominance (selecting Minmatar over Gallente primarily because I wanted to shoot slavers more than I wanted to shoot corpo-fascists), and often had to wander over to the Gallente/Caldari war zone and fight with my allies, because with the Amarr holed up in fewer than five systems (out of ~70), there just wasn’t much to do. Things have changed: with half the war zone in Amarr hands, the question isn’t what to do, but what to do first.

The current situation has given us many opportunities for spirited autocannon debate.

And in some cases, “what to do” ends up being “recapture lost systems.” This opportunity arises because (as we’ve learned and the Amarr presumably are now discovering) holding big chunks of territory is kind of… wearying, and that seems to be by design.

See, a lot of the ‘draw’ of being on the winning side in a conflict is the idea that you’ll reap nice benefits. This is true in faction warfare… to a point. It turns out dominating the whole war zone isn’t really a good use of anyone’s time. As you approach high levels of war zone control, it becomes far more difficult to hold it and/or capitalize on advantage. The costs of system upgrades increase exponentially, until you get to a point where holding the highest tiers of control cost more than you’re making — you’re better off dropping down to a less resource-intensive, easier-to-maintain, albeit slightly less profitable level.

In short, achieving total dominance is a hollow victory: it’s costly to keep up, the rewards gleaned at the highest levels don’t justify the effort, and if you’re just logging in for some quick and easy fun, the fact you pretty much own everything means (thanks to little enemy territory and a demoralized foe) you have no options for entertainment… which is rather the point of a game.

Conversely, now that the Minmatar are behind the Amarr in terms of war zone control, we have lots to do, but still have a good resource base to work with. It doesn’t hurt that many of the main Amarr groups don’t seem to have much patience for the slog of territory ownership — the lure of a good fight usually prevails, and it feels to me as though they’re getting bored with the drudgery of being on top.

That’s okay: we’ll seesaw our way to the top, if they’re sick of it, then they can take it back, and on and on in perpetual, bloody, entertaining motion. I’ve seen far worse designs.

CCP has struggled to achieve this balance for a long time in Faction Warfare — as my friend Dave has observed, it’s not a problem unique to Eve — and they’ve made more than a few slips and trips on the way, but it seems to me as though they’ve finally hit very near a sweet-spot that reminds a bit of Conan:  Lots of fun and rewards in the midst of struggle, but heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, and how willing the king becomes to throw down scepter and rejoin the fray.

I can’t imagine CCP could wish for much more.

Categories
Game Design Musing

Life in Eve: How I Learned to Love Hating “Safe Zones” in New Eden

I didn’t intend to write any more stuff about CCP and the development direction of Eve; it’s not really what I do.

However, I was having a good discussion on Reddit about yesterday’s post (someone put it up there and I dropped in to say hello), and one of the threads of conversation gave me what I think is kind of a cool idea. It started like this. Someone asked:

But don’t you worry that it [restriction on non-consensual PvP] could compromise the unique identity that EVE has built for itself?

I think it’s clear from yesterday’s post that the personal answer I came to in regards to that question is ‘no’. I said:

I love the scams, the free for alls, the Asakai’s, the alliances disbanded from within, the wormhole ambushes, bomber’s bars, freighter ganks on the way to Jita, and the 70-minute logi-assisted lowsec complex brawls. I love it all. But looking at it from CCP’s point of view, I believe they’ve got to be asking hard questions about whether or not they can introduce a few [safe] systems in New Eden… like… hell, I dunno, the 1.0 and 0.9 systems and training systems, or something. That might be all it takes to reduce the number of “tried it, hated it, everyone’s fucking evil on that game” guys who leave four hours into the trial period. If I’m CCP, and I have any faith in the game at all, I have to believe that if I can keep that trial guy around even a little longer, I’ll secure another player.

Except I didn’t say [safe] systems — I said “Mandatory Safeties Green” systems.

Because that’s all it would take, isn’t it? Certain systems where everyone’s safeties get flipped green and locked there until you leave the system. Easy, easy code.

More importantly, it gave me what I think is kind of a cool idea for building a storyline around this. Stay with me.

1. We have pirate rookie ships on the test servers right now.

Pretty cool, no?

2. Based on the existence of pirate rookie ships, we can assume (for a moment) that CCP is seriously considering a way for players to switch their allegiance to a pirate faction.

Y’see,  there’s no way to get rookie ships of a particular faction in the game unless someone in the game is a member of that faction. So it follows that if these rookie ships exist, there’s going to be some way for players to join those factions, sort of faction warfare style.

3. If that happens, imagine a significant number of pilots will do that, and damn the consequences.
I really don't think this is a very difficult thing to imagine, knowing our playerbase.

4. Let’s further assume that being in a pirate faction is more than just vapid window dressing.

If the certain mechanics in the game are slightly different for pirate faction players (such as the stuff Jester suggested a few months ago), you see a sudden and serious upswing in player-on-player violence. I’m thinking specifically of the idea of pirate faction players getting paid bounties by their pirate faction not for killing NPC rats, but for killing empire players — kind of like how faction warfare rewards you with loyalty points when you kill war targets — and paying out especially well against those players with high sec status.

High sec status: that’s important. It means that a veteran carebear who should know how to protect his shit is a far more attractive target than a two-day-old newb in his first catalyst.

5. In response to this upswing in “terrorism” (which, ironically, CCP engineered), CONCORD implements highly intrusive, insulting levels of “security” in certain high-profile areas of New Eden.

CONCORD reveals the ability to remotely lock a pilot’s ship system’s safeties to Green, something they’ve perhaps always been able to do and haven’t had a good excuse to try.

It’s security theatre, and offers no demonstrable levels of increased safety for anyone, but they do it anyway.

As an American who flies frequently, I'm sure I have NO IDEA what that's like.

6. People hate this new restriction, but (at least for the most part), they hate CONCORD for it, not CCP.

This effect can be ensured if CCP drops hints that it’s just a “storyline” restriction — a yoke we will be able to throw off later, if resistance in-game is high enough. In addition to player resistance, you can have some empire factions that rage against it (Gallente, Minmatar), some that seethe quietly (Amarr), and those that openly embrace it as a natural fit (Caldari).

The Amarr: great seethers.

7. The story concludes in summer of 2014 with some kind of in-game event.

In this event, capsuleers band together to say “This is not how New Eden works!” and shuts this CONCORD restriction off.

Seems to me this would:

  1. Be a pretty neat story arc.
  2. Combined with the pirate faction stuff that offers ‘bounties’ for high sec status kills, simultaneously add ‘safe zones’ and make New Eden more violent.
  3. Sort of ‘build the brand’ of Eve – what a great story that would be for the news outlets, when all of New Eden rises up to state, as part of an in-game event: “Nowhere is safe, and we like it that way.” What a neat way to get players to band together: sort of an in-character Summer of Rage, with beneficial effects (press) for the company and the game.
  4. Give CCP a year-long window in which to cushion new players a bit.

I dunno. Seems kind of cool to me. Thoughts?

Categories
Game Design Musing

Life in Eve: Life on the Playground

My kids go to a charter school. This may not mean much to anyone reading this, so I’ll sum up what it means to me by saying that charter schools are basically public schools with limited enrollment, where the parents are encouraged if not in fact required to be more involved. There’s an after school program my daughter’s in that literally would not be running at all if her mom didn’t volunteer every week to come in and help the teacher with it, which she does because she feels it’s worth the time commitment.

And in any case, we have to volunteer: every kid’s family must log at least 40 hours at the school every year.

I do most of my volunteer time as a playground monitor for recess. I like it: I get to see my kids, meet their friends, play the gruff but affable grownup. Whatever.

And I get to watch the kids play, which is always… enlightening. The first time I ever did a session as a monitor, I found out that when my daughter isn’t doing kinematic dismounts off the jungle gym, she plays soccer. Impromptu, full-tilt, free-for-all soccer. On the concrete basketball court. And is – literally – the only girl out there, among a surging riptide of boys who clearly aren’t planning to cut her any slack. She makes her own choices. Good thing to know what they are.

During one recess, I spotted a kid making a different choice. Something of a reverse of Kaylee, he was one of the few boys not playing soccer. Instead, he’d found a railing to perch on, mostly turned away from the rest of the playground, and was eyeballs deep in a story, the hardback book about as thick as The Stand, though probably a bit less apocalyptic.

Oh man, I thought, I’ve so been that kid. And I had. Not always, but if I was in the middle of a really good story and recess rolled around? Kickball could fucking wait, you know?

Then, while I watched, a couple other kids crept over and dumped a backpack full of woodchips over the kid’s head, which kicked my level of empathy up a notch. I’d been there too, once or twice.

What did I, parental playground monitor, do? Nothing. To my mind, as much as it sucks, it’s not so very different from the challenging academic curriculum at the school — it’s the same reason I don’t make the soccer players stop when one of them comes over with basketball court road rash all up his (or her) arm. Choices. Consequences. Good stuff. In any case, the woodchip backpack dumpers didn’t repeat the assault, and the book reader just brushed off the pages and kept reading. If he wasn’t going to reward them with a reaction, I certainly wasn’t going to. A minute or so later, two of his friends (good friends, I think, one boy and one girl) came over and cleaned the wood chips off his head and uniform — he hadn’t bothered, not while anyone was watching — then sat down with him and kept an eye on his six while he read them parts he liked.

(Okay, maybe I wandered over and stood in more direct line-of-sight of the kid’s perch. But that’s it.)

Would I have got involved if the kids had come back with another backpack full? Probably. If the backpack had been full of rocks? Obviously. If the kid had come to me for help? Sure, if only to offer advice. Otherwise? No.

But let’s change the situation a little bit.

What if, instead of recess, this was some kind of independent after-school program: A massive playground, offering virtually every kind of activity any kid could want to do, but at a cost.

Further, I’m not a volunteer in this scenario, but an employee, and there are a bunch of other, competing, similar-but-different programs like this out there.

Does that maybe change the way I approach that situation? Of course it does. It’s not about letting the kids have a ‘tough love’ experience that will hopefully make them a more self-reliant person. It’s not, in fact, about education of any kind — it’s about making money by providing entertainment. It’s about retaining customers, which in turn is about making those customers — all of those customers — happy.

With me so far?

Okay, let’s talk about Eve Online.


The Eve Playground is a product — it exists to make money for those running it, and while as a product it might satisfy many other needs among its playerbase (most of them social), when you get down to brass tacks, the company that maintains it serves no other purpose higher than “Be a profitable business.”

And let’s be fair: Eve is a pretty good product. Eve players like to joke about “this terrible game” (and it’s true that at the end of a decade, parts are showing their age), but as far as full-featured playgrounds go, it’s got a lot to offer: pretty much everything to offer, really, when it comes to playgrounds, whether you want play in a prefab treehouse, build your own treehouse, conduct mock battles between tree house kingdoms, explore the vast woods out back, play dodgeball, crawl around on jungle gyms, play in the big playhouse with surprisingly accurate hardware and fully functioning Easy Bake Oven, or even sit off on the side, your back to almost everyone, and read.

“You can do any of that,” the pamphlet assures the prospective parent, and it’s technically true.

But there are problems.

2012 was about spending time dealing with the things which build up in a game that has been running for nearly 10 years.

That’s CCP Unifex, Executive Producer at CCP. To figure out what Unifex is talking about, look at what the company did with the game in 2012. I think a fair summary would be “make the game more accessible for new players, and give those same new players something close to a fighting chance against the kids who’ve been on the playground a lot longer.” Yes, some of the changes did other things as well, but ALL of them affected new players. All the ship classes immediately available to new players: buffed up across the board. Major “late game” mechanics like logistics, brought down to entry-level gameplay. Improved (if still not great) tutorials. Ever-so-slightly simplified systems. A UI more like the UI of modern software systems. A vastly improved Faction Warfare model (already one of the better new-player-accessible, NPC-‘controlled’ systems in the game).

It’s easy to see why to make the game more new-player accessible, but a lot of the effort with ships and so forth isn’t so much about immediate accessibility as it is leveling the playing field. Why is that a big deal?

Well, this playground is pretty fucking rough on newcomers when you get right down to it.

CCP has always adopted a very hands-off approach to their playground: technically, you have the right to sit off in the corner and read, but at the same time, that other group of kids “have the right” to play dodgeball, and on this particular playground, that “right” extends to the fact that some of those kids will include anyone they feel like in their dodgeball game, even if the kid in question is doing something else and doesn’t have the least interest in dodgeball.

Yes, if they come over and smash the book reader (or the jungle gym crawlers, or the kids playing cops and robbers) in the face with the ball, they’ll get a minor time out, but no one’s going to call their parents, and they will never lose their access to either the ball or the playground. Doing so would deny them the activity they want to engage in on playground, right?

Except their activity, the way they’ve chosen to play it, makes it impossible for those other face-smashed kids to use the playground their way.

To which the free-for-all Dodgeballer says “Fuck those kids. They’re fucking lame anyway.”

Fine.

Except those kids pay to use the playground, too.

In fact, there are a LOT MORE of those kids than Dodgeball kids, ESPECIALLY if you only count the dodgeball kids who forcibly include everyone on the playground in their game. That numeric discrepancy is a real problem if you’re the guys running the playground, because (a) some of those non-dodgeball kids will leave —

(“Fuck em” mutter the dodgeballers.)

— and more importantly, a bunch of potential kids who have never tried out this playground never will, because people talk, and what they say isn’t always good. “Come get a fat lip from a dodgeball while you’re innocently playing house,” isn’t a marketable ad campaign.

Welcome to Eve. Here's a free wrench.

(“Fuck em” mutter the dodgeballers.)

See, the kids on the playground are, collectively, pretty much shit at fixing this problem, because kids don’t want to stop doing whatever it is that is most fun for them. Even the most approachable dodgeball players can only go so far as to offer sarcastic advice about how to change the way everyone else plays, or point out how the book-reader’s habits made the face-smashing too much for a dodgeballer to resist.

“It’s really their fault, you see,” they explain. “If they were more like us, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

And they’re wrong, of course. There still would be a problem. If you’re the guys running a playground that says “Here is a place where you can play however you like, but you’ll have to respect this playstyle more than any others”, you will reach a point where everyone who’s likely to find that playground fun is already there.

That’s fine, if you’re playing dodgeball: you have enough people to play your game.

That’s not fine if you’re running the business, because businesses need to grow.

And it could be Eve has already reached that point of saturation. Forget dodgeball: heaven help you if you’re some kid who wants to build their own tree house (and really who hasn’t wanted that at some point in their lives?): all the tree houses are controlled by four or five major tween gangs, and they will gleefully curb stomp anyone who tries to join in without an invitation and/or humiliating servitude. Dodgeballers are a Hello Kitty birthday party by comparison.

This is, if you ask the treehouse guys, not really a problem at all.

So what’s CCP going to do?

Not what they ‘should’ do; I’m not arrogant or blinkered enough to pretend to know better than a company that’s managed ten years of success — I’ll leave that to other bloggers.

No: what are they obviously going to (or must) do?

EVE is a universe where you can do all sorts of things, and we will continue […] expanding on what’s available to do. We’ll do this with releases that are themed around some aspect of the New Eden universe.

This means […] we will find a theme that can connect features and changes that touch multiple play styles in EVE across a spectrum of activities like exploration, industry, resource gathering and conflict.

– CCP Seagull, Senior Producer, EVE Online Development

So: any expansions they work on, going forward, will (ideally) expand play options for everyone from the book reader to the dodgeballer to the treehouse warlord to the woodland explorer. Smart.

There are some people who […] enable others to have fun in EVE. […] We believe that helping these […] archetypes achieve their own goals is the best way to have the sandbox of EVE thrive. […] We want to make EVE more accessible […] as a way to find new features to develop for play styles or time requirements where we have gaps today.

– CCP Seagull, Senior Producer, EVE Online Development

Eve is a playground, yes. Play how you like, yes.

But Eve is also a product, and CCP needs that product to reach more people. In order to do that, they need to level the playing field not just between new and old characters, but between play styles.

And that means that at some point, it’s not the kid reading the book in the corner that’s going to need to adjust the way they play, for the continued growth of the playground.

Maybe – just maybe – that means dodgeballers find out that it’s a lot harder to involve unwilling participants in their game. Which, as a dodgeballer myself, I think is fine, because we hardly lack for willing players.

Maybe – just maybe – it will mean that it will become a lot harder to hold on to multiple treehouses, and a lot easier to hold on to just one. Again, I think that’s good, because war games are more interesting with more people involved.

Do I think there’s some place in Eve for a safe zone? I don’t know, and guess what: I’m not being paid by CCP to come up with a definitive yes or no answer. I do think it’s a question worth asking periodically: is non-consensual PvP really that big a part of what defines Eve and makes it a great game?

Food for thought: There were two big events in Eve last week, related to PvP — events that verifiably brought in new players when they got out into the larger news: a single-misclick that turned into one of the most massive super-capital fights that low security space has ever seen, and 28,000 destroyed ships in a pre-planned free for all in null-security space.

You know what those two events had in common? They were consensual PvP. Yes, one started because of a misclick, but it was a misclick that — even if it had been executed properly — was meant to start a fight. In fact, any of the really big stories that have come out of Eve in the last 10 years — the scams, the fights, the alliance-killing betrayals — all consensual PvP of one kind or another, as defined by where it happened, or the people and groups involved.

High-sec mining barge ganks don’t make the news; they don’t bring in new players.

What to nail me down on something? I do think consensual PvP is better. More interesting. More compelling. More sustainably fun in the long run, for the largest number of people. I’ve done both kinds, and when it all comes down to it, I’d rather play dodgeball with the other kids who came to play dodgeball.

I didn’t start out playing dodgeball, you know. I was playing cops and robbers in the ‘safe’ part of the playground, and played for long enough without getting face-smashed (much) that I got interested in everything else going on.

But I was lucky.

CCP really can’t rely on “lucky” anymore. They’re going to need a few more monitors stepping in if they want more kids paying the bills.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in Eve: The Perfect Storm

“Okay guys,” I said over voice comms. “I’ll be back in ten days. Don’t lose Isbrabata while I’m gone.”

I really should learn not to joke about things like that.

Not just any shit storm, either. The PERFECT shit storm.

Now, to be fair, when I got back from my residency, the Alliance had not lost Isbrabata… lots of people had done a lot of work to delay the inevitable, but that’s what it was: inevitable. When I was finally able to log in for a few minutes, my Inbox was full of messages from Alliance command that basically read like this:

Guys, we’ve had a good run, but the fact is we’re got too few people trying to hold too many systems, too far from the bulk of the rest of the militia forces to easily get help from other groups. The clock is ticking, so plan to move your stuff ASAP. Get on the forums, find the thread where we’re voting on where to relocate, and vote.

(Note: This is not the same poll as the other one, where we’re voting on whether or not to stay in Faction Warfare.)

I read that last line again.

What?

See, before I’d left for the residency (in other words, a couple weeks past) a topic had been started in the Alliance command area of the forum that basically started off with “Okay, Faction Warfare is STAGNANT and DEAD, and we need to decide how we’re going to HANDLE THAT.”

And the response to that thread amounted to a lot of people saying:

  • We like faction war.
  • Dude: This last month was the most successful and most active month of PvP our alliance has ever had, ever, in the history of everything. Seriously, go check the numbers. You’re high.

I had agreed with the people who deserved agreeing with and thought nothing more of it.

But apparently, not getting the response they wanted from leadership, the two people who really really really wanted to move to null-sec decided to put the subject up for an open vote in the Alliance.

I checked the thread and had to laugh, because the votes went something like 80% in favor of staying in faction warfare. (Pro tip: if you advertise yourself as a pro-Minmatar, pro-RP Alliance, and recruit people involved in Faction Warfare, you’re going to get a lot of people who want to stay in Faction Warfare and fight for the Minmatar.)

Right. I’ll just ignore that thread, then. It’s not like I haven’t got other things to worry about, like moving a hundred or so ships that evening. I logged in that night ready to get to work.

“We have a new tower in the wormhole,” Si reported.

“Please be joking,” I said.

“Nope,” Si replied.

“Please say you decided to put up a second tower for some activities,” I said.

“Nope,” Si replied.

“We have a new tower up in our system,” I repeated. “And it is not ours.”

“Correct,” Si replied. “And there are pilots from at least two other corporations –”

“Three,” Shan murmured.

“– three other corporations besides the ones who put up the tower, currently active in here.”

“So that’s the bad news,” Si said.

“Well I should fucking well hope so,” I muttered. “I’m on my way. How heavily set up is the tower?”

“That’s the good news,” Si replied. “They got interrupted by one of the other groups, I think. They lost a hauler full of fuel, and their tower – a small tower – doesn’t have any shield hardeners or defenses up. At all.”

“Really?” This was almost as unbelievable as the bad news.

“Yeah,” Si said. “We can’t quite figure out what they were thinking, either.”

Opportunities for education are everywhere.

The crew assembled, some of us grabbing new stealth bombers that got bonuses for the kind of damage the un-hardened tower would be particularly vulnerable too. This took awhile, and in the meantime, Shan and Si continued watching the wormhole.

“Umm…” Shan said. “We’ve got Proteus in system.”

“Lovely,” I said. “What’s he doing?”

“… shooting sleepers?”

“Ha,” I deadpanned. “Seriously. What’s he doing?”

“Seriously,” Si chimed in. “He’s shooting sleepers.”

“Do these people not even CHECK intel on these wormholes?”

“Apparently not.”

Dirk and Bre warped around the system, trying to get a good angle to grab the Proteus while the rest of us moved into position to dogpile on the strategic cruiser once one of them had grabbed it.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Bre said. “Is everyone else ready?”

Affirmatives came, and someone muttered “This is going to tell us really quick if there’s anyone else in system with us.”

Very true: One proteus strategic cruiser might look like bait and too risky to hit, but once Bre’s Tengu decloaked, the prize kitty would basically double.

“I’m going in,” Bre called. “Get ready to warp.”

The proteus didn't last long. At all.

So, with a half-billion ISK kill in our pocket, we reshipped and started the tower assault, fairly certain by this point that there were no other enemies around.

But that didn’t mean things were going to be simple.

“IF YOU’RE PART OF LEADERSHIP,” someone called out on Alliance comms, “COME INTO THE LEADER VOICE COMMS, PLEASE.”

“Okay guys,” I said. “I’ll keep shooting at the tower, but I suppose I better go hear whatever this is about.”

I switched comms.

“… so, since our corporation are mostly capitol ship and super-capitol ship pilots…” a voice was saying “… our guys are all really in favor of going to null-sec. We made an agreement to take over a couple systems out there, so we’re moving.”

“Umm… okay,” another voice said.

“… and since our corp is actually the administrative corporation for the Alliance…” the first voice continued, “… the alliance is going to null-sec, too.”

I heard someone say “So why did you even bother with that poll?” and I switched comm channels again.

I find myself unimpressed.

“Hey guys,” I said. “How’s that tower coming?”

“Getting there,” Em said. “Slowly.”

“Good, good… say,” I said. “We like faction warfare, right?”

“Love it.”

“Sure.”

“Ditto.”

“Okay…” I said. “Then we’re leaving Ushra Khan.”

“… do we still need to move out of Isbra?”

“Yeah.”

“And take down this tower, first.”

“Yeah.”

“Anything else?”

“Well,” I said. “To leave Ushra’Khan, we’re going to have to drop out of the war for twenty-four hours before we can join independently, so while we’re in the middle of moving, both sides may potentially be shooting us.”

Awesome.
Categories
MMO & Computers

Life in EvE: Year in Review

My actual anniversary with Eve doesn’t come for a few more weeks, but I’m going to be away from home and very very busy for most of January, so I thought I’d do this little retrospective now rather than much (much) later.

January 2011 marked my return to EvE. I’d decided to give it another try after failing to find anything of interest back in 2007.

It’s safe to say that I’ve found enough in the game to hold my interest on the second try.

For all intents and purposes, Eve has been the only MMO I’ve played this year. Kate and I did a bit of Star Wars when it came out, but that proved disappointing and frustrating. We have lifetime memberships with LotRO, but we can’t seem to arrange our schedules to play together right now, so that means more solo stuff, and I don’t normally play LotRO if I’m playing by myself. (Frankly, if my option for the evening doesn’t involve Kate, I’m going to pick a game we aren’t playing together.)

So what’s my second year of really playing Eve been like? Pretty darned good.

Back in January, I was still actively living in a wormhole that was part of Talocan United. I was heading out into known space on the weekends for casual roams, and making pretty good money on the side by scouting out and selling unoccupied wormholes. Reading about some of the stuff going on then reminds me of the intra-alliance drama that was doing its damndest to keep me from enjoying the game. Whoopee. We also had to defend our wormhole from a pack of cloaky attackers from Surely You’re Joking, though I didn’t write about that until (most of) February.

(Also, I see a post back then detailing how much I hate Low Security space. In retrospect, that’s funny.)

Outside the game, February and March was swallowed up quite a bit by Mass Effect 3, which I wrote about at some length.

March/April saw the return of cloaky ships from SYJ stalking the wormhole. At this point, I was pretty much done with getting targets painted on our backs because of trouble the alliance had borrowed, so we excused ourselves from the wormhole and the alliance and moved to a new wormhole. I wanted something more accessible from known space, with a good connection to higher-end wormhole space, and very friendly to passive income projects via Planetary Interaction. I threw quite a bit of ISK toward acquiring a system that met all my requirements, and managed to make that investment back well inside the first month in our new home.

We were not entirely willing to settle with something so simple, however, and spent a good month kind of puttering around high sec incursions and trying out membership in a class-6-based wormhole corp that seemed like a fun group of guys if you stood way back and squinted a lot. Didn’t work out.

Ultimately, we all ended up in the wormhole I’d set up. Of course, as soon as we all got set up, we picked up a stalker for about two months in the form of a cloaked-up bomber/scanning-alt duo we could never quite track down or evict. Not as much fun as it sounds, but it did teach us some good lessons when it comes to covering our less-skilled alts while they run planetary interaction tasks.

June saw me still restless with life in the wormhole. I spent a lot of time doing exploration in nullsec, roaming with Agony Empire, and generally just looking for something I could really engage with as soon as I logged in. Probably the tension of knowing a cloaked up bomber was hanging around in our home system put a damper on life in the wormhole, especially since he knew our membership list well enough to know if we were setting up an ambush. Pretty much everyone was lying low, or sitting in space, cloaked up and scanning repeatedly. Life in a foxhole is exhausting.

This search for a new direction culminated in Ty leaving the wormhole corporation and forming a new corp with the express purpose of checking out Faction Warfare without making life impossible for everyone in the ‘normal’ corp. CB came along with me. That was just about seven months ago now.

My time with Faction War has bracketed all the really big changes CCP has implemented with that part of the game. I wasn’t one of the folks who made stupid amounts of money off the (easily exploitable) first revision — I made enough to pay for all the little ships I was blowing up, which I suppose was what they’d intended — and I applauded the fixes that came in later and killed most of the truly parasitic levels of farming while promoting more fun PvP.

As a bonus, after a lot of research and a few missteps, I found some really fun people to fly with in Faction Warfare (though, weirdly, I’ve flown with them less since my corporation joined their alliance), which helped immensely.

About that: Right around the end of November, our little Faction Warfare corporation (now strengthened by several of the main pilots from the wormhole, plus some new guys we’ve recruited) joined Ushra’Khan, who can best be summed up as rp-light pro-Minmatar. Oldest alliance in the game, parenthetically.

A week later, I wrote on Google+:

I’ve killed as many ships in the 8 days since bringing my corp into Ushra’Khan as I did in the 192 days I was part of “Eve’s biggest wormhole alliance.” Is that a 24:1 fun ratio? Feels like it.

Another comparison. 163 kills since starting my FW corp (177 days membership), 41 kills with my WH corp (472 days membership). That a 3.9:1 kill ratio and a 1:2.6 time ratio. Works out to roughly a 10:1 “activity” (read: fun) ratio.

Conclusion: Faction Warfare was a good move for me.

To update those numbers a bit: even with spending most of November and half of December away from the game, Ty’s averaged just a bit over one ship killed per day since joining Faction Warfare. I don’t care much about the kill tally, except where it reflects the danger I’ve been in and (by extension) the fun I’ve had.

I like to have fun. And when I say “fun”, what I really mean is danger. For in danger, I find excitement, adventure, and ultimately fun.

Maybe it’s an odd way to quantify it, but I find myself agreeing with Rixx on this point (and several others) in his most recent post.

Where am I now?

Ty’s been working on rounding out his sub-capital ship skills. I like having options, and I don’t like having my options limited, so (especially in the last six months) I’ve really focused on being able to fly every class and faction of ship, fitted properly. This has meant a LOT of support skill training, and training to operate all the tech2 versions of all weapons systems that would fit on Battlecruiser-sized or smaller ships. At this point, I can fly virtually any sub-battleship hull, fit with tech2 modules from top to bottom, and I have battleship options regardless of the type of ships being fielded.

My current plans going forward are finishing the Battleship-sized weapons I don’t already have trained properly, as well as tech2 Heavy and Sentry Drones. That should take me to midsummer, give or take, and then we’ll just have to see.

Meanwhile, Bre’s been in the wormhole, and I’ve been at loose ends with her training for awhile now, because I don’t want to train her just the same as Ty and she’s already maxed out at the sub-capital stuff he doesn’t fly very much. So: she’s now training for Capital ships. I’m excited about this, because it’s not something I’m doing with Ty at this point, and really gives her a purpose. Soon, I’ll have a bonafide carrier alt. That’s just a weird thing to say.

Otherwise, I’ve been spreading the training love around a bit with my other characters. Berke’s got his leadership and other support skills as high as I need them, so I trained up a solid wormhole defender to bodyguard all our planetary interaction pilots, and finally trained up a Market alt and (more importantly) figured out how to run them properly and turn an actual profit.

What I’ve Done

I thought I’d found my version of the end game with wormholes. Turns out that the end game changes as you change — the game is so big and has so many different facets of play that it feels like I’m playing different-but-interconnected games, depending who I log in. Solo pvp. Small gang pvp. Fleet pvp. Solo and group PvE. Market trading. Manufacturing and other industry. Exploration.

Still no mining spreadsheets, though. There’s a mercy.

Categories
Actual Play MMO & Computers

Life in EvE: A Funny Way to Say Hello

Another virtual screen snapped to life in front of me, automatically arranging itself among the flickering three dimensional headshots of Em, Dirk, CB, and the pilot we’d started calling Geed.

“Guys,” Geed said, “This is Zen.”

“Hi… umm…” the new pilot’s eyes tracked left, right, up and down, taking in our images on his own in-pod display. “What’s… going on?”

I grinned. “Let me get you up to speed, Zen.” I pointed at one of the other displays. “About an hour ago, Em and Geed had a bit of a tussle.”

“A… tussle.”

“With bullets and missiles and explosions,” I explained, “which is kind of how we say hello out here, I guess.” I smiled. “Once that was done, they started talking.”

“As you do,” Em said.

“You do?” Zen asked.

Dirk shrugged. “Sometimes.”

“Anyway,” I continued, “we’ve been mostly swapping stories and explaining how things work in the war zone — the missions and objectives and such — we’re part of the Tribal Liberation Force. Geed seemed pretty keen on the whole thing and he mentioned his friend might be as well.”

“Meaning you,” Geed muttered.

“Nice.” Zen hesitated. “Does that mean you need to blow up one of my ships too?”

“Not today.”

“Excellent.” His face went deadpan. “When it comes time, maybe just shoot Geed again. He likes it.”

“Well,” Em murmured. “He came in looking for a fight, and stuck it out. That’s definitely what you need out here. I kind of overthink it sometimes.”

“I just shoot what they tell me,” Dirk added, as unnervingly cheerful as always.

“That’s an approach I understand,” Zen said. “Not sure I get how the whole war zone thing actually works, but I make a pretty good blunt instrument.”

“There’s some good folks in our alliance,” Em said. “They like explaining everything.” His eyes flickered my direction. “Especially Ty.”

“Especially me,” I agreed. “You can hardly shut me up.”

Veteran combat pilots, ready to share their knowledge and experience.

“So…” Zen glanced in Geed’s basic direction. “I take you guys have been talking about us joining you?”

“A bit,” I admitted, aware that surprise news could easily shut down his interest.

“I’ve been reading their recruitment page,” Geed added.

Em’s eyebrow rose. “We have one of those?”

Yes.” I managed an affronted expression. “We absolutely do. It part of my job as the… person who does things like that.”

“CEO.”

“Right. That.” I tipped my head, frowning, then turned to Geed. “… what’s it say again?”

Geed’s eyes tracked left to right, below the line of his display. “It says you’re gonna punch me.”

“OH! Now I — well, hold on.” I squinted, remembering the CONCORD form I’d had to fill out. “I doesn’t say that exactly.”

“‘Our recruitment policy:'” Geed read aloud, “‘Only trust people you can physically punch.'”

“Right,” I said. “And we can’t physically punch you, so we won’t entirely trust you.”

“I don’t even trust Ty,” CB muttered, “and I’ve known him twenty years.”

“Exactly.” I grinned, turning back to Geed. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t shoot some Amarr together.”


So… yeah. It appears we’re recruiting a little bit. Merry Christmas.

Time for a roam.