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

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

A whoooole lot of calculations.

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, we were ready for anything.

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

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

The answer?

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

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

“My name is John Crichton…”

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

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

That changed a week ago.

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

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

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

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

I kinda love em.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After that, things got a little crazy.

(More soon…)

EVE Online: Crafting. In. Spaaaaaace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eve Online: The Mystery and Allure of the Alt

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

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

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

Like, for instance, four years ago.

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

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

I could…

I… didn’t know what to do with them.

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

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

EVE Online: Missions, Agents, and earning Faction Love

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

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

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

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

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

My response? “Meh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not go back.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how it went.

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