Friday, May 14, 2010

New Blog

A friend of mine just started his blog. You can check it out here. Not sure if it will be any good, but I figured it didn't hurt to give him some press.

The Hits Keep Coming!

Have you heard the news? Live events are coming back to Eve! Not that I was around for the good old days, but I'm glad to catch the revival. This is just another example of what I think Eve needed being implemented. The idea of bring back these epic storyline driven even events that can change the shape of our universe is a wonderful thing. I know that in Eve we love the fact that much of what goes on in the world is entirely planet controlled, but it also means that we are beholden to ourselves. And while there are small battles that rage on every day throughout null sec we don't see the larger wheels turn. The Gallente and Amarr simply go on being Gallente and Amarr. We see hints of it in the fiction, but we don't see it in action.

This is about more than just developers jumping in ships, this is a chance for CCP to do some driving in terms of storyline. Imagine a dev fleet laying siege to various systems under the guise of a new pirate or NPC group that is going to have a larger part in an upcoming expansion. Or perhaps a group of planet dwellers take offense to planetary interaction and rise up in opposition either hiring pirates to do their work or taking to vessels themselves, forming blockades around their planets and actively hunting down those who attempt to steal the riches of their land.

There are so many possibilities for the developers to help make this universe even richer. One thing Eve lacks is that major change. Patches introduce new concepts and features and mechanics, but to have in game events to go with them, that would be amazing. For those who played WoW, remember when Naxx floated above the Azeroth in the days of L60 Cap? Who saw the opening of AQ on their server? These events are fantastic and wonderful and I think Eve should steal what is good from WoW while leaving what is bad. Hopefully these live events will do just that.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hiding in Plain Sight

This post is an installment of Friday Flash Fiction - something that is run by Ecliptic Rift. Here is this weeks prompt: "This week, we turn our attention to the Syndicate region.“Formed by a handful of Intaki exiles in the wake of the first Caldari-Gallente war, the Syndicate today runs a thriving region of the same name on the fringes of Gallente space, providing a useful haven for less savory Federal citizens and outright outlaws. Denied the right to colonize planets in the region, the Syndicate instead operates exclusively from its network of autonomous stations, each of which is run by a station manager who is undisputed master of his own fief.” Here is my submission. I hope you enjoy.


"They say you can run but you can't hide. I say fuck running, and I say fuck hiding too."

Alehandra's Hulk pulled into station along Jamal's Orca. Disengaging from her pod she made her way off the ship. "Get these unloaded and into my storage." She gestured to both ships as she talked to Neelan. "Just the ore and the salvage, leave the drones and the crystals. The dock worker nodded. Alehandra started to walk away when Neelan called out to her. "Hey, there was someone here earlier looking for you."

Alehandra froze, turning around slowly. She was not used to unexpected visitors. "Who?" was all she could manage to ask. Her face a blank mask trying to cover the apprehension dancing in her eyes.

"I don't remember his name. Some Gallente, Harke-something I think. Said he had some news about your sister Illyena. He said he'd be around the station and he'd just track you down later." Neelan cocked his head slightly to one side, "

Alehandra turned and started to walk away muttering under her breath. "That was a long time ago."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A little smugness never hurt...

So if you haven't seen the Tyrannis trailer by now you need to watch it. I recommend viewing it in HD if possible with the sound way up and the lights way down. You might need a cigarette afterwards, or a cold shower. Go ahead, I'll wait.

(YouTube Link Here)

I'd like to think that trailer accomplishes exactly what a trailer should accomplish. It made me salivate a bit and very excited to play the next expansion. Obviously, the game play isn't going to be exactly like the trailer on the screen, but that is what it is going to be like in my mind. I can already picture Alehandra mapping out worlds and setting up remote stations on planets, controlling the harvest from afar. It oozed polish and awesomeness.

While it would be extremely arrogant to take any credit for the new trailer I will take a bit of smug validation. In the recent blog banter about women in Eve I stated in my submission, "What Women Want (in Eve)", I had stated that one of the biggest problems with pulling in new players in general, and especially women, was the poor job Eve did of advertising elements of the game other than combat. I had said that CCP needed broaden and retool their tutorial system to highlight the diversity of gameplay options, they also have to broaden their ad campaign to include other elements such as roleplay, industrialization, player run corps, mining, etc.

Less than a month after I penned those words (or typed I guess) CCP releases a trailer where the primary focus is creation and industrialization. Obviously they have been working on that trailer for months and they didn't have someone in their marketing department running down the halls screaming "Stop everything! We are doing it all wrong! Quick read what this amazing intelligent blogger has to say!" However, it does make me feel as if my observations are being somewhat validated by CCP's trailer choice. They could have easily gone for a trailer that focused just on the space combat element, they obviously had that bookending their trailer already, but to devote the majority to mining, industrialization, and planetary interaction shows their willingness to highlight the other parts of the game.

I hope that the banner ads that seem to flood the internet have the same angle in the near future. I think CCP should also consider an ad campaign that uses real player events in game, and perhaps real players, to help sell their product. Imagine if select [AAA] members were allowed to tell the story of the massacre in Providence, or imagine the victors being allowed to talk about their righteous victory, driving back the invaders from their domain.

Heck, even do both and have a whole "There are two sides to every war, but only one victor" as a slogan. Have another campaign where a market mogul talks about her rise to power, a pirate who speaks out on the honor of piracy, a miner who shares the tranquility of an asteroid belt. There is a veritable gold mine of PR representatives in the game itself that CCP could tap, most of whom would be willing to work for free - or at most a PLEX.

So if you marketing gurus ARE reading my blog, feel free to hit me up for that miner spot. I look forward to working with you.

Uneven is not Unfair

The topic of asymmetric gameplay came up recently in a blogger who has gained a bit of notoriety in the Eve circles. Tobold has recently been posting about Eve and the problems he has with Eve's mechanics. From the tenor of most of his posts I have come to the conclusion he doesn't like Eve, but I also believe he has some pretty backwards notions about game play mechanics and game theory.

He's made analogies such as:
Much is being made of EVE being a sandbox game, but in reality the new players are just playing in the dirt on the outskirts of the playground. The sandbox with the fine sand and the nice toys is occupied by bullies, and if you even get close they are going to beat you up and kick you out. So the goal in life for EVE players is to become strong, gather friends, and be able to beat up the bullies, kick them out of the sandbox, and become the bigger bully.
This over simplification of null-sec combat is really idiotic. He makes several assumptions about how battles are won and lost. Anyone who follows the chronicles of some of the fights in null-sec and low-sec space can easily come to the following conclusion, it is not just about numbers and it is not just about gear. A smaller fleet with superior strategy can take down a larger foe. Numbers help, and if all else is equal number can carry a day. But with sloppy intel and poor fleet command entire battles can be lost. The carving out of null-sec space by large corporations involves far more negotiation and political intrigue than anything else I've seen in an MMORPG. Furthermore, Tobold assumes that you need to be a big bully to enter nullsec. What you need is to join a corp in null-sec and there are plenty of options there.

In other posts Tobold said:
That is a principal problem of PvP MMORPGs: MMORPGs by definition have character advancement, in one form or another. Whether it is time played, gear gathered, real time skill training, or skills used, a player of a MMORPG is always getting better with time. Which doesn't matter all that much if he is facing PvE challenges, which can be scaled to his current power level. But if he is facing PvP challenges, the new player is at a fundamental disadvantage versus the veteran player.
The point of flying into nulsec was to show that this asymmetric PvP in EVE is the rule, not the exception. And just about every EVE player commenting on that thread confirmed that in different words: Being ganked when entering nulsec is "normal". EVE is institutionalized bullying. There is no fair PvP in EVE 
 Here we truly get into the idea of symmetric vs. asymmetric gameplay. In a symmetric gameplay system all players are operating with the same advantages and disadvantages. There are plenty of games you could use as an example from Chess to a standard FPS Deathmatch. All players, typically, have the same traits and what determines the winner is luck, strategy, and physical ability. Most sports, board, and card games follow this model (poker, football, etc).

Other games are based of an asymmetric model. In an asymmetric model all players are not created equal, they have unique traits, talents, characteristics, or rules that do not apply to the other players. An example of this would be games like Team Fortress, Dune, or even Wow (racial traits make an Orc and a Tauren Warrior different). Pandemic is another great example where depending on the players role in the game they have unique rules that apply only to them.

Frankly, game theorists both love and hate asymmetric gameplay. It is much harder to model because the rules and conditions can be so varied. But Tobold doesn't seem to quite grasp what asymmetric gameplay is entirely, and he certainly doesn't grasp how it can impact all gameplay in Eve.

The first error Tobold makes is in his understanding of the skill system. I am obviously a miner, I have over 17,000,000 skill points and the majority of them fall in non-combat skills. Even through I have been playing Eve for over a year I could be taken out by a pirate who has been playing the game for less that 4 months. If Tobold's thesis was correct then I should easily be in the awesome sandbox with the bullies after playing the game as long as I have with my skill points, but he forgot a fundamental point of the design of Eve.

There are so many skill paths and options that the game requires you to specialize. Unlike WoW where all characters of an equal class level and gear level have the same access (primarily) to spells and talents, Eve is based off the idea of having countless options. Skill points, which equates roughly to character age, has no bearing on player ability within a specific skill set.

The second huge mistake Tobold makes is in his understanding of the combat mechanics of the game. When I mentioned Eve was asymmetric I meant it, in countless ways. Every single ship you can fly in the game has benefits and weaknesses. I am not just talking about the fact that different ships are weak against different types of damage and if you don't know what charge your enemy is using it is hard to pick out hardeners. I mean that even through I may be flying a battle cruiser I could be in a tight spot in I get swarmed by a bunch of frigates who can beat my tracking speed.

Sure, Tobold got popped at a gate camp, so what? I've been ganked outside of Southshore in WoW countless times. It certainly doesn't prove his point about the nature of asymmetric game play in Eve. That would be like if he sat down to play chess with Kasporov and was surprised when he lost, or if he marched in to Ulduar and was surprised when his raid didn't take down Freya on their first try. Getting podded in null sec was not a result of asymmetric game play, it was a result of lack of skill and knowledge about how to safely negotiate null-sec.

In closing Tobold said
Personally I don't like unfair fights. There is a deeper philosophical discussion to be had about the moral dimension of liking unfair fights in your favor against other players. But for now it suffices to say that I think it isn't very good game design, based on the assumption that good game design produces a maximum amount of fun for a maximum number of players.
 The notion that fights must be 'fair' is a strange one. Games have always been about a meeting of luck with wits and skill and knowledge. As I've demonstrated above Eve is not about Fair Fights any more than any other game. If you want a game that has 'fair fights' then stick to games like death match and go fish. These games have one thing in common, like most symmetric games they are simple. However, when you want to get into more complicated, more engaging, and more interesting game play then you need to enter into the realm of asymmetric games.

While Tobold may not find Eve 'fun' I think that is due to a lack of appreciation and understanding or an inability to the more complex concepts of the gameplay. But to the many people who play Eve the challenge of perfecting small skill sets and developing an understanding of game tactics that extend beyond "stay out of the fire" and "mash these buttons in this order" this is fun.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Faster than a Gallente Shuttle

I didn't get much time to either play Eve or blog on Friday evening because I was busy building my new computer. It is a massive beast, and while it isn't top of the line (I can never justify the cost) it is pretty close. Here is the spec sheet of what I got:

  • G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL
  • EVGA P55 FTW 200 SLI 141-LF-E658-KR LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard
  • EVGA 012-P3-1472-AR GeForce GTX 470 (Fermi) SuperClocked 1280MB 320-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
  • Antec TruePower Quattro TPQ-1000 1000W Continuous Power ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified
  • Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80605I5750
  • LITE-ON 24X DVD Writer Black SATA Model iHAS424-98 LightScribe Support
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive (For Storage and non-gaming installs)
  • Crucial CT128M225 2.5" 128GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) (for OS and select Games)
  • Antec Twelve Hundred Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case
All said and done the build was just over $2000.00 USD with shipping included (I'll actually get a bit more back when I fill out rebate forms.) And holy hell is it a wonderful machine.

After getting Windows 7 running I downloaded Eve (among other crucial apps). I took it for a test spin and was able to run two copies of Eve at max settings while still IMing, transferring files from my old computer via the home network, downloading ME2 through Steam, and watching some videos on Hulu. I haven't even started to consider over clocking potential, and this rig is made to be over clocked. We've had a bit of a heat and humidity spike here, so I might hold off on the overclocking till I break out the air conditioners or if the heat drops back down to respectable Spring levels again.

I promise to post some pictures of my gaming space later this week to show you my setup. I'm rather proud.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Descent into madness...

I was reading through my Capsuleer feed when I came across this post from The Planet Risk Show. It seems that their corp is looking for miners to join them in null sec. As I read through the post I found myself thinking, "I wonder what that would be like." I've been spinning my wheels in my current corp. Many of them have been exploring wormhole space and I'm not sure if I want to go that route.

So I talked to Merinid Dormer last night and the conversation went well. He gave me a brief rundown of what null sec mining is like. The only thing that might stop me is the inability to go out and handle mining on my own. With high sec mining I'm find with just my Hulk and my Orca. With the null sec mining fleet Merinid was talking about involved scouts doing recon, dedicated haulers, etc. It really sounds grand.

I've already talked to one of the CEOs of my current corp and let them know I might be making the move to Null sec. They are a great bunch of guys and I'd definitely miss shooting the shit with them in corp chat. I do also have a few real life friends in the corp as well. Also it would be kinda funny to go from high sec to null when the title of my blog is .5 or Higher!, but several bloggers have had the same issue before.

I guess I'll just have to mull it over. So what do you think? Any other null sec miners out there who can shoot me a few words of wisdom or encouragement, or perhaps a horror story or two to make me cry?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I cheat by following the rules...

The other night in the blogger channel the subject came up as to whether or not people use alts are cheaters. I didn't realize this was even a matter for debate, but apparently some hardcore players think you aren't a real Eve player if you have a second account. I wanted to address my views on this very briefly.

I personally think the notion that someone is a cheater because they have more than one account is bogus. There is one very simple reason for this.

It is allowed in the rules of the game, therefore, not cheating!

Throughout the course of my conversation I felt like I was dealing with someone who creates house rules to make the game favor them. It was like when I was told during a game of checkers that I wasn't allowed to simply leave my back pieces in place, or when playing baseball the winning team wasn't allowed to take more than a double. Similar to the people who create these arbitrary rules that differer from the established rules of a game this gentleman had all sorts of weak arguments, many of them the same as the arguments used by vindictive school children.

Argument #1 - "It unbalances the game."
First off, I would challenge anyone to provide proof that this is so. It may affect the game, Ore prices may be depressed because it is easier to mine if you have an Orca alt. Or Salavage prices might plummet, because having a salvager follow you around on missions saves you time and nets you more salvage. However, these are simply economic pressures that change the balance of the game. Or prices most likely fell when T2 mining vessels and Orcas were first introduced because they changed the balance of the game. Likewise, the upcoming planetary interaction may cause a huge market upheaval in terms of what is going to happen to established trade centers. There is a difference between altering the balance and unbalancing something. Furthermore, if the game is so unbalanced and broken, why keep playing?

Argument #2 - "It is not what the original intent of the game was."
This very well may be, but that doesn't change the fact that it is what the game is today. The game didn't originally have skill queuing. Does that mean that skill queuing broke the game? No. As I mentioned in another post, when you create a game there are always going to be unintended events. As a game designer you have to decide whether these effects reflect where you want your game to go or whether they are bugs. By creating PLEX and even promoting deals for people to open second accounts CCP has taken a very firm stance on how they feel about multiple accounts. If they wanted to restrict this practice they could do so, but they choose not to, which brings us to the next argument.

Argument #3 - "CCP only allows it because they want your extra money."
Okay, so? The question isn't why the rule exists, it is whether or not the rule exists. The entire purpose of Eve PERIOD is to make money for CCP. So to state that just because CCP may make an additional $15 off a multiple account holder is irrelevant. Are people who buy PLEX to sell them for ISK cheaters as well? Whether or not you agree with these game mechanics, they exist.

Argument #4 - "It lets people who have more money to spend have an unfair advantage!"
Frankly I think if anything it merely balances the advantage that someone else may have had because they had no disposable income and lots of time. Just because I have an alt doesn't mean I can skill up any faster. Yes, I can spread some of the responsibilities among two characters if I choose. I can make one focus on mining while the other focuses on production. Or I could have one focus on trade while the other focuses on piracy. Ironically on his own blog the gentleman who was arguing against me conceded in a post on the topic that he didn't mind people multiaccounting if their characters didn't interact with each other. Why is this so important? Well, there is his last argument.

Argument #5 - "It eliminates the need for people to work together in the game."
I disagree sharply. No one has ever engaged in large fleet combat with nothing but alts. No one has ever created an epic empire solely on their own. Yes, in small ways it may make me self sufficient, but I am hardly hiding in a corner just playing the game alone. I have corp mates who I sometimes work with, mission with, mine with. I am still interacting with other people and having them build things that are beyond my capability. Eve is such a diverse game that while you could potentially create accounts to fill every single role you desire filled, (trading, hauling, mining, combat, piracy, production, probing, etc) it would be ultimately futile. While I agree there is a social element to Eve I don't feel that should be forced upon players anymore than players are forced to become pirates or forced to become miners. The effort it would take for me to find another pilot who keeps my erratic hours and schedule who is interested in working with me as one of us flies and Orca and the other mines would be monumental and would detract from my enjoyment of the game.

Interestingly this quote is taken from the blog of the other player
"I am one of those of the opinion that multiple accounts do take away from the game. Do I feel like forcing this posture on other players? No not really, but I would hope to encourage other players who do have multiple accounts to use them for different purposes."
The other night his words were more to the extent of "people who can't play the game for real have to cheat and use alts." That hardly sounds like the words of someone who doesn't want to 'force their posture on other players.'

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Tale of T2 Crystals

To use T2 Crystals or to not use T2 Crystals, that is the question. Actually, it is more likely an intensely debated subject. I've seen a lot of miners who fly their own Orca alongside their Hulk and have countless hours grinding the rocks who say T2 Crystals are useless. I've also seen countless people who think they are better than sex on a summer afternoon. I've typically fallen into the previous camp. I looked at the cost, the extra training time and heard about the break rates and decided they aren't for me. But now that I'm getting myself maxed out on pretty much everything that has to do with mining I find I need to revisit the issue.

It is kind of hard to complain about the cost of T2 crystals when I'm flying a Hulk next to an Orca I also own, I have an Obelisk in the hanger, and a Highwall mining implant shoved in my head. So here is an in-depth analysis based on nothing but the math. My apologies if I'm repeating information found elsewhere, but no where have I seen people really take the issue to the bottom of the well. They tend to merely harp on one or two things and ignore the larger issue. So dive with me into math and statistical analysis as I explore whether or note T1 or T2 crystal are the better choice.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What women want (in Eve) - Blog Banter

**DISCLAIMER** I am not a woman, I have no intrinsic knowledge as to what they want or don't want in a game. I am basing this entire article off what my experience with other female gamers has been.

This entry is part of Crazy Kinux's 17th Blog Banter where he asked "What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game?" This is a pretty heavy subject, so lets get down to it

With women making up less that 5% of the total Eve player base it is understandable why CCP might want to tap into this under represented market. One thing is clear, the must not sacrifice their current player base to do this. Even if they were able to increase the number of women playing the game by 300% it would be catastrophic if those same changes caused the male player base to drop by even 1/3. So the question shouldn't just be "How can CCP attract, and retain, more female players?" It should be "How can CCP attract and retain more female players while not diminishing it's current player base?"