Friday, January 28, 2011

Such a Pretty Explosion

Fun thing happened yesterday.

I tried soloing my first level 4 mission, but I got a particularly difficult one and decided to go for it anyway.

It didn't go well and after destroying the big ships, but my guns being a load of suck that couldn't track small, fast moving cruisers, I had to call in a friend. Once the cruisers went down, another bunch of battleships spawned, but I couldn't get through their shields. I chased a battleship for a good 10 minutes in one direction and then 10 in the other. Finally, the friend showed up and bailed me out. We finished it together.

Today, I upped my skills a bit and went for it again.

It worked! This time, it was an easier mission, with only a dozen or so battleships. It took a good 3 hours, but I got it done. I'm a 2.2 million skillpoint character in a game where 4.5 million is barely enough for a battleship. I flew a battleship that was particularly bad at PvE against enemies my shields were particularly weak against and it worked.

Salvaged and sold to bring me back to 185 million, skills are all going up and I should be able to get something really nice out of this within 2 weeks. My gametime ends on the 25th of February, though so I need to hurry it up to hit my goal of 350 million.

It's a great feeling. I can reasonably call myself independent, now. Just waiting up for a friend to log in more often so we can run mission together.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Space is Lonely

Okay, so it only took 2 weeks, but my application into E-Uni finally got accepted. I just have to wait in another queue because I opted out on joining in the middle of war and preferred to join afterward, so I have to stand in line with every other guy who left for the duration of the recent war and came back.

Mining's boring, but I took some time off to run a level 4 mission with a friend. It ended disastrously because my skill for flying the Rokh sucked and I wasn't adapted to switching ranges. Any ship in EVE sucks without good skills.

I am now about 500k away from my 2.3 million goal and have Drone skills lined up. Drones are basically separate little ships you launch from a drone bay which can be sent to harass and cause damage. The basic ones don't do that much and are only good for whittling down one or two enemies, but the T2 variants will smash entire squadrons alone and I'm aiming for those. A combination of railguns picking off battleships and drones supporting against lighter ships will pull me through. The main weakness on my ship is the lack of damage and versatility at close range. It's a sniper that's almost useless at less than 20km.

The highlight of the weak would have been taking a new player on missions. She's been playing for 2 weeks and got herself into a rather good battlecruiser, but doesn't quite have the skills to back it up yet. I took her on some level 4 missions and tanked, whilst she dealt with frigates. I let her keep the loot and salvage afterward.

It worked out pretty well, even though we're both new to this sort of thing. I've never tanked in level 4 missions in my life and she'd never been in a level 4 before, so it was a learning experience for both of us. She picked up on supporting fleets and aggro management whilst I got the experience of tanking in a level 4.

Back to the indescribably boring grind, until I get the skills done and meet my goal. The plan after that is to hit up the Sister of EVE Epic mission arc, which is a very, very long series of missions intended to give newbies a head start. Problem is, I never finished it when I was a newb and only got the first few done. The arc is intended to be completed in ships cruiser and below, so I don't think my battleship will be in any real danger.

Of particular note is the Arc's final boss, a battlecruiser with extremely strong shields that can take upwards of 10 minutes to break. I intend to charge in with a full armed battleship and a swarm of drones, just to backhand that bastard on behalf of every newbie who couldn't get past his shields.

Also have pictures! The first is my old portrait, the second is the new one. There's also a big one with various ships and size comparisons, but a few ships are missing. I got the do-over for the portrait I wanted, but failed at making my character the handsome, disciplined guy, so I went straight for the arrogant, overly patriotic, racist bastard who won't even look you in the eye as you kneel to take the picture.

I think I nailed it the second time.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Unarmed Battleships

@Lady Dragon

EVE Online expansions are free, like Jagex' updates. All you have to do is update your client to get the new content. Trial accounts play on the main server with everyone else, but with some skills, ships and features unavailable, but not far behind everyone else.

The character creator is out and it is very, very good. I'm not posting my character's portrait because he looks like I ass and I'm gonna petition for a do-over.

Thankfully, a number of players got the bright idea of messing around with the character creator to do fun stuff. My favourite is Barack Hussein Obama.

I took 2 days off to run some missions and boost my income a bit, as well as to get away from the mines. It's a lot like Runescape in space, clicking on rocks and waiting for your containers to fill up.

I also got scammed and then killed.

In EVE Online, anything within game mechanics is permitted, with very few exceptions. This includes scamming and exploiting game mechanics to make a profit.

For instance, many miners use a method called jetcan mining. Jetcan mining occurs because a ship's cargohold may be too small to make taking minutes off to warp to the station and come back. When jetcan mining, you jettison a load of ore into space in a cargo container. This container has 27000m3 of space, far more than most ship cargoholds. The can floats next to you for an hour whilst you continue mining and depositing into the can. When the asteroids are mined out, you return with an Industrial ship which has plenty of cargo space and pick up the ore.

The problem with jetcans is that they're not locked. Anybody can steal from a can, but this is registered as stealing in the game and the victim and his corporation will have 15 minutes during which he may kill the thief without intervention. More than that, they often deposit an item of their own into the can, thereby making the can and all contents their own.

This means they're stealing from generally unarmed miners, costing them cans full of ore and are able to avoid intervention simply by docking and waiting out the timer.

Now, I get can flipped whilst I was turning in a load of ore. When I came back, the can was no longer mine, but the belt was empty and I was alone, so I moved in and stole everything back. This counted as stealing on my part and gave the thieves kill rights. At that point, they both decloaked within the asteroid and shot my ass off.

Moral of the story? Let the angry men keep your stuff, in exchange for your life.

I took a couple of days to run some missions and wait for the can flippers to get bored and leave my home system, during which I racked up another 50 million and bought an upgraded version of the ship I lost. Now, I'm back to mining and little over half way to my goal at 1.19 million out of 2.30 million. I'll also be able to (finally) equip actual weapons on my battleship tomorrow when the skills are done training, but I will leave at least another week or two of training while other battleship skills pick up. No use flying a ship and then losing it because of poor skills.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Playing the Waiting Game

Incursion is being deployed now and should be here within an hour.

CCP releases large expansions every 6 months to EVE. Each carrying new ships, major features, new content and client updates and patches. Incursion is particularly large and was split into 4 pieces. The first were some patches, engine updates and a new ship.

The second was a unique holiday ship and removal of a certain, obnoxious set of skills.

The third consists of a few extra ships, additional voice features, system and environment effects as well as an AI boost.T

The fourth and final part of Incursion is the Incursion itself. Incursions are a team based PvE events. NPC Sansha characters will invade systems effectively at random. The system will have negative increasingly negative effects on the players until the invaders are stopped by the players. The new Sansha NPCs feature much more advanced AI including remote repair, concentrated fire, targeting priority and large group tactics.

The part I'm waiting for most is the new character creation system. EVE's old character creation system has been in use since the beginning and the new system is part of the next expansion; Incarna.

Incarna will finally allow players to leave their ships and walk around a bit. Details are scarce, but the character creator will allow us to make real avatars for that expansion.

A major UI update is coming along with proper hotkeys.

I'll have my new character to ya'll as soon as possible.

EDIT: 'as soon as possible' appears to be about 24 hours. The new patch is a bit large.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rokh On

EVE Online here, I got my first battleship!

The usual progression of an average Caldari player...

Rookie Ship, which sucks. Go to something better soon.

The Condor comes in within an hour of play and is a useful stand-in for a combat frigate until a nicer frigate

Kestrel/Merlin. The Kestrel is a good missioning missile boat, the Merlin is tougher and sports turrets as well as launchers for versatility. Merlin is more popular as a PvP ship.

To Cormorant, the basic destroyer. Destroyers do well in level 1 and 2 missions, but are not often used in PvP.

That's the easy part, it happens overnight, with the Kestrel/Merlin and Cormorant both staying useful.

Then, the first cruiser, a Caracal. The Caracal is another missile slinging boat often used as cheap DPS in a fleet. It can sport battlecruiser sized launchers at ranged or be used with smaller launchers to deal with obnoxious little frigates.

Follow that up with the Drake, one of the best battlecruiser ingame. This thing has more defence than a battleship and enough firepower to stay alive, to boot. The Caldari don't have a very good battleship lineup compared to most, so most Caldari fleets consist of Drake spam. The Drake cannot usually stand 1 on 1 against a battleship, but costs at least 2 times less and doesn't require very high skills to field effectively, so we compensate with numbers of what may or may not be the most loved/hated ship in the entire game.

Going up here, most players start with a Raven. The Raven is one of the best missioning ships in the game and is a good way to settle into a battleship, as players can adjust to the new ship against NPCs, first. The Raven is not seen as often in PvP, due to the disadvantages of missiles, but is still the cheapest Caldari battleship and a very good start.

Thing is, starting with the Raven means flying a poorly tanked ship with plenty of damage that launches missiles. I like defence, I like steady advances over a rush and I hate missiles, so the Raven's description is a real turnoff for me.

Also, the Raven is ugly. It's not a dignified battleship. What kind of battleship has two wings and a cockpit?

So that leaves the Scorpion and the Rokh.

The Scorpion is not a real combat ship. It's an Electronic Warfare ship for fleet combat. This thing jams the enemy and takes a bit of heat off of your fleet. As a result, it is almost always shot first. Scorpions don't usually leave a battle alive. It also has poor armament and rather average defences.

So it's the Rokh or Raven. Which is great, because the Rokh is great.

The Rokh can fit a very good tank and still maintain a decent DPS. It also looks like a killing machine. It's basically a box with engines on one end and a dip in the structure where the engines are. It's blunt enough to be a true battleship.

The main issue with hybrid turrets (the Rokh's weapon of choice) is that they have trouble outside of their optimal ranges. If it's too close, your turrets have trouble and lose accuracy. If it's too far, your turrets have trouble aiming and lose accuracy. The only way to adjust for ranges is to switch out for a completely new type of ammunition. The shortest ranged ammunition for a Rokh with my fitting still equates to a 60km Optimal range, when most missions take place within the 40km bracket.

So the advantage of missiles is that they do the same damage regardless of range, whilst most PvP battles involve largely static fleets at a good range apart from side to side. Therefore, the Rokh is a good fleet support sniping battleship, rather than a line vessel.

I took the Rokh.

Maybe I just hate the Raven that much.

I love my Rokh and the corpmate who bought it very, very much. I got into a deal with the other player; He'd buy and fit out a mining Rokh and iff I could mine 800 000 m3 of ore in a Rokh, I could keep the Rokh. It's a rather tedious feat, considering the limited cargohold of the Rokh and thus, the need for constant warping to stations, but I took it on. The first week of ore mining goes to the corporation, with all further ore being sold for profit, to make up for the time I waste mining when I could be running missions for real cash.

The Rokh was delivered to the hangar last week and I finally got hold of it today. It's a lovely ship and absolutely wonderful, even when mining. I changed the fit slightly and added some mining drones to supplement my mining yield and got to work, cleaning out the asteroids in my home system.

The journey begins here. The goal is 800 000 m3, which is just over 2.3 million units of ore. I've already racked up 170k and can see at 220k before the day ends.

I got some real nice screenshots of the ship while I was at it. EVE's got real beautiful graphics once you get rid of the clunky UI and appreciate the pretty for a bit.

The other nice thing about mining is that it's an opportunity to get my skills up. See, EVE Online skill training is a whole different ballgame. You set up a queue with skills and levels you want and hit 'Apply', then it's just a matter of waiting until they're done. The wait can easily take anywhere from 10 minutes to months. Training is done in real time and happens even when you're idle, offline, client switched off, computer turned off, unplugged and buried beneath the Earth, your skills will continue rising.

Which is great, but it's balanced by the fact that you have almost no ways of interfering to make skill training faster or less obnoxious. Implants can be plugged into boost your attributes and decrease training times by a percentage. That's it. The rest of the time, you're stuck waiting for the countdown to finish.

To while I waited weeks for the ability to sit inside my battleship and warp around a bit, I still have to wait...weeks, maybe? Before I can actually put guns on the battleship and fire them at stuff. So for now, I mine. In a battleship. There's a story to tell. Everybody else uses Mining Barges, Exhumers or Mining Cruisers, but everybody else is weak. I mine in a battleship and I welcome the occasional NPC pirate with open drone bays.

When my skills are up and I can fly this thing properly (you know, with actual guns), I'll use it in place of a Raven. I ain't doing no stupid ship.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Education is Kind of a Big Deal

Even in EVE. Because EVE is serious business.

@Lady Dragon

I know what Starcraft is. =P Amarr are just a tiny bit crazier than Protoss, but have some very pretty ships.

Back in the earlier days of EVE (early, not beginning), new players simply had no hope of catching up to old players due to the skill training system and a shoddy tutorial meant new players could hardly catch up to some other new players.

An organisations called EVE University was formed to combat this incompetence (developer and player). EVE University is a corporation that specialises in teaching all players about EVE. Every essential aspect of EVE is covered in the university. Live lectures are given via voice chat on basic subjects as well as live exercises performed out of hangar. Recordings of lessons are available from the website, though it's better to have the teacher on hand to answer questions.

One such lesson is Caldari Ships 101 and the full list of lessons is here, though the wiki is a very good source of information for new players on its own.

The university's chatroom should be one of the first destinations a new player goes to. By default, a chatroom called Rookie Help automatically opens every time you log in for your first month, but this channel is a crowded, immature mess. Close Rookie Help and gos straight to the university's chat named E-Uni.

This being EVE Online, the university regularly forms fleets of new and old to send to lowsec for live combat training. The university is well-known, meaning idiotic troll corps often declare war on it hoping for easy kills of new players or just to slow down the university. The university has a very complicated set of Standard Operating Procedure during wartime which must be followed. This SOP is designed to hinder and corporation declaring war on the university, generally by protecting the vulnerable players and ensuring any kills gained aren't worth the losses.

The university also provides very well for members, with stocks of ships available for rent and in case of war, fully fitted ships for combat pilots at no charge, as well as a skillbook wallet to pay for skillbooks (EVE Online skills must be bought in skillbooks before training).

EVE University is a very good place for any serious new player and I left my corp yesterday to join. My corporation is making a big move to bring itself closer to alliance territory and lowsec and I was going to be one of the few people to stay behind due to low skills and standings with people at the destination. I decided to join E-Uni to improve my skills and knowledge as things were getting quiet on the homefront.

The university being a very valued place, even joining is a nightmare. A large questionnaire should be filled out beforehand. After that, you line up in a queue of players waiting to speak to a Recruitment Officer. The recruitment officer will interview you and accept you based on your performance in the interview and then decide whether you get in or your wait was worth a whole lot of nothing.

My wait so far's been 4 days and I'm expecting at least another 3 before I see my interview. And I joined at one of the quicker times. Some of these people have been waiting for 3 weeks.

Everybody picks a race and bloodline before joining. The avatar is purely aesthetic and character creation only affects where your starting location is and what rookie ship will be issued. Picking a race of which you enjoy the look is a good idea. The only skills your avatar affects is a few levels of your faction's most basic frigate ship, which can be trained on another faction in a few hours.

There are playable 4 factions, each with their distinct opinions, philosophy and art style.

Caldari are a hypercapitalistic gone worse. The state is literally divided between the megacorporations, with government holding less than 15% of total shares. The corporations are in constant competition and police themselves. People are born into a corporation and being fired is equivalent to a death sentence or exile. Caldari are determined, disciplined and abide by rules and a very rigid society. Caldari ships are usually grey and blue, unbalanced and built for utility. Caldari favour long-ranged engagements with hybrid turrets and missiles.

Amarr are monotheists and the oldest and most numerous of the empires. Most fully endorse slavery and in their earlier years, enslaved all races they came across. They enslaved much of the Minmatar race prior to the uprisings and still hold much of the Minmatar population. The Amarr are also the source of the main humanitarian aid organisation in EVE, the Servant Sisters of EVE. Amarr ships tend to be gold with touches of black as well as ornate engravings and decorations present on hulls. They use long-ranged, lower damage beam lasers and mid-ranged, good damage pulse lasers with light drone support as their weapons of choice.

The Minmatar consist of many freed slaves. The nation's development has been stunted by Amarr slavery, but they are still amongst the brightest thinkers in EVE. Minmatar are driven and aggressive at defending their homes and livelihoods. Minmatar ships are usually rust red or brown and have a ramshackle, improvised appearance. Minmatar ships are the fastest ingame and the main weapons are long-ranged, high damage, slow artillery cannons and short range, high rate of fire, good damage autocannons.

Gallente are mix of almost every race in existence. A highly liberal society which accepts foreigners with open arms, they are a melting pot of refugees and immigrants from everywhere who will defend their freedom and rights to their deaths. Gallente are highly varied in culture, but are united in their love for freedom. Gallente ships are dark green and turquoise, front-heavy and rounded. Their primary weapons are hybrid turrets and large numbers of drones.

New player life in EVE isn't easy. You start alone in a cold and unfeeling world and your only known source of help is one of the worst help channels in the game. Rookie Help. Close it ASAP.

You first ship is the rookie ship. Arguably the weakest armed thing in the game. Your basic tutorial agent is in the system you are currently in. Do the tutorial, follow the agent's instructions to a destination of Career Agents. These agents will teach you the vast majority of EVE Online through a rather long tutorial process which will probably take the better part of an afternoon and part of an evening to complete fully.

They're also a very good isk and ship source. By the end of these, you should have a good frigate, a destroyer and an industrial, all as mission rewards or granted on mission acceptance. You may not have the skills to fly all of them, but I recommend the industrial and frigate. At this point, you can move out of your training system into a bigger world.

There are lots of corporations to join. Many of them take new players, but it's best to have a plan before you start the game, in the days before the client is downloading. I recommend downloading the 'demo' from Steam. Steam's reliable and the 'demo' is actually the full client and is offered at the low, low price of free.

Once you are out of your training system and have slipped comfortably into a station, with all assets nearby, you can go one of three ways;

1. EVE University. They always accept new members and are a first community for a lot of people. Their public chat is 'E-Uni' and is a good community with lots of good advice.

2. Join a corporation. If a corporation has an office in your station, it means they have a base of sorts near you. Read their description, player numbers and see how well their alliance ranks and submit an application.

3. Stay alone. EVE Online favours the player who goes out to find adventure themselves, but it is possible to fly alone and do whatever you want. Mine, run missions, roam in PvP. If your skills and wallet are solid, you can do it all.

Joining EVE University is a solid beginning for any player, as the university holds very regular events (happens when you have over 1000 players). Other corporations are more likely to accept a player if they have been through EVE University, as this is a mark of a competent player.

I don't elaborate much on new player life because it's so open. Telling you about what to do after the tutorial is tantamount to saying, "Do what you want." The best advice I can give you is to plan hard and early. EVE is a big place and it's up to you to make your own fun. The university just happens to be a very good start.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Well, see, this post was originally to be a good look at where a new player in EVE Online can go to for help and just how organised and useful the truly good players in EVE are, but school started and I saved a draft for later.

See, school started in down here in South Africa, you're allowed to pick which major subjects you take with you to your future career (to emphasise these paths and let people be more specialised in one area). You have 2 subjects to take from a total of 4. You may take on extras on the side.

The options are Physics/Economics AND Accounting/Life Sciences

So you can pick one from the left and one from the right. End of story.

We also have options for maths, here. You can take Mathematical Literacy or Core Maths. Core Maths is the standard mathematics including trigonometry and such people take to great careers. In fact, Core Maths in our high schools is just plain maths for the rest of you.

Mathematical Literacy is a shitty excuse made by an incompetent Department of Education to make their nation's mathematical literacy rates look better on the pie charts. Mostly because that our moronic Ministers of Education want to keep their jobs all the time. At one point, the minimal percentage required for a pass in a single subject was 40% fuckin' percent. For a lot of subjects, it still is.

Let me quote a little gem from this piece.

"In 2008, the pass rate for maths sat at 44.11 percent. It has jumped to 47 percent in 2010."


They blame Apartheid, of course. They blame 'the evil and strife this country has faced' in the past.

Guess what? This ain't your fucking Apartheid. I'm the next generation. I was born months after the nation went free. Hell, I am one of the minorities. I'm a part of the generation that will lead this nation long after your segregation is relegated to the history books where they belong.

Thing is, our idiotic Department of Education is too concerned with damage control, saving face and, too a greater extent, their jobs to worry about us. South Africa poured 165 billion Rands into the educational system. Approximately 24.0396 billion US Dollars.

20% of state expenditure goes to educate the masses and we have trouble getting beyond 50% in mathematics.

Where the fuck does that money go?

Back to me, because I shouldn't be spewing the same statistics my Department of Education is spewing. They've done enough damage. There's more to this than statistics.

There's an individual story here. While those idiot higher-ups are too busy working up another excuse for indescribable stupidity, we're losing down here.

In this case, the individual is me.

I picked Life Sciences and Economics. Planning to go into law. The joke is that half of my cases are someone getting hurt (link) and the other half is someone getting money stolen. That's the joke.

It is a joke. The first time I told the class, they laughed at the absurdity and common sense involved.

I'm dropping Economics ASAP and going Physics. Life Sciences + Physics = Profit.

It opens up a slew of opportunities and I can still carry on a possibly lawyering deal in peace. If I screw up my lawyering, I can run screaming to Engineering without stopping.

It's taken me far too long to work it out. This is my life. I'm in control. Not those idiots on the Executive Board. The Department of Education of South Africa is meaningless to me. I'm the only thing left in my life that can pull me together.

I am the next generation and I kindly request a more competent leadership.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Friday, January 7, 2011

EVE: It All Makes Sense

The nice thing about deep, intriguing backstory is the distinct lack of gaping plotholes.

EVE's developers explore the creation, effect and consequences of as many actions and items ingame as remotely possible. (theoretically) Weekly Chronicles written give insight into the consequences, benefits and effects of simple actions we perform on a daily basis, as well as insight into how we capsuleers affect the universe.

For instance, when we destroy a station of some sort in one of our missions, a crate is often left behind, including a survivor (or 10). This seems a bit odd at first, as you'd expect other means of escape. Rather than ignoring this and writing it off as a plothole, the writers turned it into a gimmick for one of their shorts. It takes an intriguing look at how one person onboard a station might have gotten into this crate, for us to pick up.

The ability of us players to change our portraits is explained in a chilling two parter.

The origin of Aura, the AI who gives you the tutorial is explored in-depth as well.

Each chronicle is a separate peek at the lives of the people in New Eden and it fleshes out the universe to make it a much deeper place to live in.

Depressingly, Jagex never seemed to get that from the start and in their bid to become World of Warcraft's competition and left curious players wondering things like, "How did I ever get my hands on a one-of-a-kind weapon the gods fought over in some of their greatest battles?" or "How come my opponent has that same one-of-a-kind weapon and is currently beating me to death with it?"

Runescape feels like much more of a singleplayer game, where you are the great hero destined for a place in history; so where do the thousands of other great(er) heroes fit into this picture? Why did my adventurer friend just break the wonderful news that he stopped an ancient demon named Delrith from causing Varrock's destruction? Didn't I stop that same demon a month ago?

These small things pile up slowly and only start to prove Runescape as content-based MMO. Every player eventually follows the same path as the other guy before him and Jagex keeps adding on to these paths, never allowing us enough room to branch out and do what we want. Faruq's tools was a step in the right direction, giving us players tools and letting us run free with it. If more options were available to us for customisation, we wouldn't be cooped up in this box anymore.

Realism and justifiable interaction are all cornerstones of a good MMO. I can suspend my disbelief if the Grand Exchange delivers items to essentially anywhere with a bank instantaneously, even though items are always handed in at the Exchange first, but justify it with a network or something. Don't just leave us hanging at where some guy got a bullhorn and a Renaissance outfit and set up a giant trading plaza in Varrock which sprung out of nowhere.

These kinds of things are explained in EVE Online. The currency is isk. The InterStellar Kredit. Fun joke, isn't it?

It ain't no joke.

How much does it cost to travel into space with our technology? In the dozens of millions (of US dollars, standard Earth currency). Even with space-faring races in a highly resource rich universe, this sum is still obscene. The amount of planetary currency needed to buy an armoured and shielded frigate would be obscene to calculate, and then you move up the queue. I say planetary currency because there are so many currencies. Empires have currencies, planets have currencies, individual nations have currencies, the sheer amount of effort involved in conversion and customs would make it useless once us capsuleers attempt to spread to the stars, only to found our Amarr Throne is not accepted in Minmatar territories, where they only accept Matar Grands and our exploration gets stonewalled by bureaucracy.

The isk is a standardised currency, bought in by CONCORD (United Nations, but competent and in space) who act as mediator between the major factions. A single isk is worth incredible amounts of planetary currency due to the obscene amounts of cash needed for effective space travel. It's given a humourous nod in a mission where you are told to deliver ransom money. Thankfully, the incompetent kidnappers asked for planetary currency, which is near useless. You are given the money as an item to deliver. The item in question is 'A Lot of Money'.

Let's take an example; the Caldari Chimera Class carrier. It costs approximately 950 million isk. Would 950 million dollars by you a space carrier with built-in faster than light travel, crew, a complement of top-of-the line drones, logistics equipment and so advanced that you can interchange modules as you like, with minimal issue? You can turn your carrier into a repair specialist, supporting your fleets and repairing damage from dozens of enemies on your own or become fleet support, using warfare link to coordinate attacks and bolster allied defences. You can switch between these if you have the modules and are docked. Would 9.5 billion dollars even buy you that? That's how much an isk is worth.

Even our in-universe equivalent of the gold coin is explored in depth, with effects and consequences examined. One could comfortably retire to any planet in the universe with a few isk in their pockets. Each of us can easily earn our first million on the first day. That's why I always make unfunny jokes about how the missiles I launched in the last battle could feed an entire starving nation (if you read those 'A single cruise missile fired during the War on Terrorism cost...' things or hear about them on the news, you get the idea.

Stellar Dawn promises to bring "rich sci-fi storyline" with it, but that will be for nought if the rich sci-fi never extends past a single player. The interactions of ALL players and their consequences on the universe. Look to one of the previous posts entitled 'News from the Front'. There's a link to a story about players attempting to ferry 59 million isk in strippers and over 2 billion in booze to their fellow pilots. That freighter was destroyed, taking most of the cargo down with it. 2 billion. That's dozens of fully-equipped battleships, multiple high-tech ships, 2 full carriers in alcohol that's what happens when players get too much money and freedom. That even wasn't a hindrance on backstory or realism, that was an opportunity to tell a story about capsuleer wastefulness, our enigmatic actions and the damage we cause over trivial things. What kind of Alliance diverts a fleet to escort a ship full of strippers and booze?

The sermon's over. On my end of the spectrum, I hit the jackpot yesterday. I was still at 101 million (spent 10 million on an implant) and a friend offered to let me join on a very lucrative mission. I collected 11 million in bounties from the kills alone. In a magnificent stroke of luck, I accepted the same mission right afterward and we went through again. I took the mission, so I got the salvage from that mission. By the end of the day, I had gone from 101 million to 156 million.


Regards, IVIilitarus

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Content, Goals and Dreams

@Lady Dragon

My corp leader said if you can fly over to our base and join us for a bit and if you fit in well, we'll let you sign up. All's left is for you to decide to play the game.

I'd like to give special thanks to The Mittani on TenTonHammer for inspiring this post with this article on content and sandbox MMOs.

Runescape isn't a sandbox MMO. It's a content based MMO, like a slightly uglier version of World of Warcraft. The difference between content and sandbox MMOs is that in content based types, the parent company gives you the fun. In sandboxes, you make your own fun and set your own goals completely unforeseen by the developers.

The problem with content based MMOs is that you run out of content eventually. The main hook of such a game is the thousands of hours of content involved and the hundreds of places to explore. Sandboxes tend to have more mature players, because in a sandbox MMO, you are forced to make your own fun. You aren't spoon fed goals and missions by the system and any major goal attained was probably set by yourself, in your mind.

Runescape delivers all of those thousands of hours of content as promised. There are hundreds of quests, enemies, dozens of skills; but what happens once you've explored them all? The best way to test if Runescape is sandbox or content was to use the old goals system. Many players will remember how it functioned and what was in it. Now try to set yourself a goal that isn't included in the list of goals provided and doesn't involve 'Perform x action y times'.

Not easy, is it? If you're a quite high leveled player, you'll have a very narrow list of goals available, and most things you can think up outside of the goal system are 'Perform x action y times'. They're not fun goals for you to go at.

In EVE, missions are simple quests, repeatable and pay consistently. They're not incredibly exciting, but I don't find them completely boring, either. A friend of mine ingame was shocked at my ability to grind so many missions. I'll admit, it isn't fun, but it's good money and I can keep at it. This friend repeatedly asked me over the course of the afternoon, "What you doing?" every time I throw back a, 'missions', he was surprised at my patience and resistance to boredom. I've looked at the other aspects of EVE Online and found that missioning is right down on the bottom in terms of fun, alongside mining and hauling. It's repetitive, but I didn't think so.

When I told him I played Runescape for a while and this sort of thing happens every day and is usually even less exciting that launching missiles and drones at clusters of NPCs, he was blown away by how boring it must have been and praised my dedication.

So this got me thinking a bit longer; how does the sheer boredom and grind of Runescape catch so many players? Accessibility and free-to-play are major aspects, but even freemium, browser MMOs tend to lose their playerbase after a while.

Then I worked it out.

Runescape is a very good content-based MMO.

Once people run of content, they leave. So as long as developers keep pushing new features and content out, they can keep their customers. The news archives are a good indicator of how much content we get. An average of a single ingame update per 1.5 weeks is a stunning rate. We don't leave because they keep giving us new stuff to keep us busy until the next update! As long as we're around to keep doing each update, we'll still pay. Runescape is so addictive because of the amount of content that keeps us busy. Veterans who quit come back to the game to catch up on new content. Updates are free. We don't buy expansions, so people who quit can come right back.

So what makes a sandbox MMO any better than a content MMO? It's the players. In EVE, the players are what make the game so unique. Alliance politics become a frothing mess of angry nerds seizing imaginary territory with their internet spaceships. There are plenty of space-based games out there, EVE's playerbase makes it special. Runescape isn't as much of a Multiplayer game as it could be. I've played without successfully joining a clan for my whole career. I've done everything (barring those 2 quests) solo. The only time I interact with players is when I'm forced to in minigames and chatrooms, otherwise, I thrive on my own.

In EVE, everyone pushes you to join a corp as soon as you're eligible. Pick carefully and sign up, because these people will help you, nurture you and teach you. In EVE, the players hurt you and help you most. The tutorial is very impersonal, as are all interactions with NPCs and only the players there can make the game fun.

I joined my corporation (and subsequently, alliance) several weeks ago and this is the first time I've felt so at ease in a player organisation. Runescape clans boil mostly down to a bunch of people working together because they have common goals and have to through the rather limited clan system (I can't wait for those clan updates to appear on Stellar Dawn).

All this means that EVE is special because it's well-done sandbox. The main thing interfering and aiding your game are the players.

Your game.

In EVE, you decide what happens to your character, your dreams and goals are manifest. EVE is the kind of place where you can get really, really creative with where you want your little avatar to be in a year.

I'm not constrained as much by levels and equipment as I was in Runescape, I don't have to grind missions and mine all day if I feel it. They're a means to an end, an end which you decide. Do you want to infiltrate corporations and scam the shit out of them, jacking all of their assets and laugh at them while you leave? Would you rather launch suicide attacks against miners in highsec who think they're safe and equip their ships with expensive modules? Perhaps you'd like to turn a trading corporation into an empire, utilising your wealth from the trade routes to hiring a mercenary corporation for seizing territory. Or do you want to earn a high place in your corporation and be elected as Fleet Commander, calling the shots and directing your peers in battles across the stars. The choice is yours. You don't grind to watch your statistics go up, you work toward a dream you set out for yourself. Every level, lump of cash and item is just a step in the direction you pointed yourself in.

For instance, any of my dreams or goals in Runescape would have consisted of some level. A level listed on a hiscore. Like the other tens of thousands on the hiscore tables above and below me. People don't speak of me as someone who made stellar changes in the game's history. Your goals and dreams aren't nearly as significant because thousands of people have already gotten there before you.

For instance, my dream in EVE is to be financially stable, fit mining lasers to a what is intended to be a sniping battleship and mine asteroids with it and one day, be at the head of a fleet in a carrier loaded with at least 50 exotic dancers and plenty of alchohol. Because I can. Why should I work to a ship? Or work for money? I want to do something unique with the existing game mechanics that too few others have thought of.

That is a sandbox.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

News from the Front

@Lady Dragon

My Trial expired sometime more than a week ago. I bought 60 days of gametime to get me on my feet. After these 60 days, I plan to sustain myself on PLEX. I suggest you download the client and start a 14 day trial first, just to see if you enjoy it. If you do, abandon that account, start a new one and I'll give you the 21 day trial.

EVE Online has a Buddy System for recruitment. One player invites another player for a 21 day trial. If the new player buys gametime, the player who invited them gets a free 30 days of gametime. Not that I'm greedy or anything, but it's useful.

EVE Online is a deep game and I suggest you read up on the various faction's ships and traits.

Just pick whichever race you like the look of and fly over, I don't recommend Gallente, though. Also, I'm looking into getting permission from my corp leader to let you in, though most corps are paranoid. Spies and such. TenTonHammer has lots of good guides on EVE. Read through those, but the ship fitting guides are out of date.

EVE Online developers are quite in touch with their players. If you encounter trouble, you may petition for a GM and these petitions are usually answered within half an hour. GMs regularly play on the test server to help players test new features. Due to EVE's scale, the developers let players write news in character about major events.

EVE Online's players being mostly young adults (the average age of EVE Online players is 26) and the number of available items can lead to some rather absurd news stories being written deadpan and completely objectively.

Recent gems include these two. The first doesn't seem all that amazing. Runescape's equivalent of the first would be a dangerous clan war wherein players 9 players in 3rd Age dying and losing their stuff.

Thing is, EVE Online is serious business. To draw more players, CCP implemented a PLEX (Pilot's License EXtension) system for people who don't want to pay for it in real money. Real life rich people can buy PLEX, each card with 30 Days of gametime and each transaction consisting of 60 days, split into 2 cards. The cards are ingame items which can then be sold for 350 million isk each for players to redeem and add gametime.

Therefore, you can pay for your EVE habits with ingame currency if you don't like paying real cash. Though 350 million is a rather steep sum, and you can easily buy 6 fully fitted battlecruisers, but for kids with whiny parents, it's worth it.

Thing is, if you bought a single Titan using real money converted to PLEX and sold ingame, a Titan would set you back $12000.

See the connection between Serious Business and 9 exploding Titans? The second story speaks for itself. I for one applaud the alliance willing to supply its players with exotic dancers and booze. I only have a humble 20 exotic dancers to my name (long story). Short version? My long-term dreams for EVE Online are to fly a carrier loaded with at least 50 exotic dancers and go mining in a battleship.

The Noctis I bought in the last blog post has payed for itself and I reached 100 million isk for the first time last night. Even after losing a battlecruiser of 20 million and buying a Noctis for 54 million, my income is still perfectly steady.

Special thanks goes to a corpmate for buying me implants worth 30 million isk. I plugged them in and my training times have been drastically reduced, by up to 40%. Although he did threaten to hunt me down and destroy my ship if I tried to sell them. >.>

Regards, IVIilitarus

Monday, January 3, 2011

Here There be Salvage

EVE Online is complicated.

Even killing people and taking their stuff is complicated.

Checkit; first, you gotta kit out appropriate weapons and defences for the upcoming battle. This ain't one of those things where all you do is grab your armour and weapons and walk out the door. Each mission requires a specific set of defences and ammunition type. Ship choices, fittings, security status considerations, need for salvage, mission-specific tactics, aggro control, mission guides, potential loot, destination distance and penalties of declining over acceptance.

Then you leave the hangar.

Once the enemies are dead and whatever objectives are achieved, you can go on and loot/salvage.

See, this isn't one of those games where you can just walk over and click on the corpse for stuff. Battles take place over distances of dozens of kilometers and you don't know what's in the wreck until you get to within 2.5 kilos and open up the cargo.

Then the salvaging begins.

Cleaning up your mess is divided into loot and salvage. Loot is just opening the cargo and looking for intact modules/people/commodities. Basically taking whatever they were equipped with/carrying at the time.

Salvaging is using a special device to comb through the wreck for any leftover bits of crap that can be recycled for later use. Problem is, you need special equipment to do this. Special equipment you probably can't fit onto your normal ship. So if you wanna get anywhere with salvage (which you do), you need another ship just to salvage. So you kill everything, leave, pick up your other ship and come back for Part 2.

This sounds like a whole lot of work for a bunch of broken crap (salvage is always broken, no intact stuff when salvaging). Problem is, salvaging makes up literally 70% of my income, the other being loot and mission rewards. So you're stuck going through the extra effort or losing a good chunk of income.

Players tend to use destroyers when starting their salvaging careers. They're fast enough and have plenty of space for the required equipment.

Even with a dedicated salvaging destroyer, it's still freakin' slow. Main reason being there was no dedicated salvager and the destroyer was just us players improvising. So basically we de-fanged a capable warship and turned it into a space combat equivalent of the janitor.

Recently, CCP came up with the bright idea of giving us players a ship only good for salvaging. In walks the Noctis. Plenty of space for equipment and high powergrid and capacitor, so your equipment doesn't fizzle out because your battery ran out of juice.

I run missions as my main source of income, so getting one of these would speed the process up tremendously. Thing is, they're expensive and in my entire corporation of 20 people or so, there was only 1 person who regularly used a Noctis. This corporation runs missions almost exclusively, so that's a bit discouraging.

Me being me, I kicked common sense in the balls and bought a Noctis.

The hull itself with fittings costs more than twice as much as 3 battlecruiser hulls, so it was a bit worrying, but I could handle it. The Noctis, with fittings set me back 54 million (compare and contrast; my entire wallet prior to the purchase: 81 million).

Best. Decision. Ever.

The Noctis costs so much because it's incredibly awesome. The ship is top-of-the line, the only one in it's class and the best of its kind. So despite costing a third of my total wealth, I'll never have to worry about that ever again.

Now I have to contend with the fact that I set myself even further back on my goal of 340 million isk in 1.5 months.

Also amusing, I was salvaging earlier and left a trail of cargo containers as I finished salvaging each wreck. The trail was formed by wrecks moving with me via tractor beam and following my flight path whilst each salvaged wreck spawned a container of leftover loot.

Regards, IVIilitarus

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Why EVE Online is Special

A friend of mine started a petition to turn EVE Online into a singleplayer game.

Here's my response:

You know what makes EVE special?

The fact that it's player driven. All of the T2 and T3 (the good stuff) is player made. ALL of it. For the first few weeks, blueprints are spawned at random out in the universe. Players use those to make the newly released stuff. After those few weeks, the players have to copy and make new blueprints themselves.

How does that make it great? The fact that players start wars over blueprints for a spaceship. Trade routes are blockaded, people hold Dreadnaughts for ransom to get a new blueprint.

EVE Online is a game the players make great. You don't buy ships and weapons from shops. You get it from another player on the market or blow the shit out of some poor bastard in an escorted hauler and steal his stuff.

This is a game where player politics in Corporations (clans) and Alliances (really, really fuckin' big clans) go to hell and back. Read this:

This game is serious business. Pussies who're too afraid of 'politics' and 'thinking' and 'complexity' don't play this game. You want action. You know how EVE Online battles go? They go like this:

In EVE Combat works out as; You right click on target. You click 'lock target'. You wait while it locks on. Then you click on your weapons, once to fire them. Then you wait for the target to die. There's no fancy flying. If you get out of formation to do stupid things, the commander yells at you.

How do real battles work? The captain orders an attack. Some minimal wage bastard pushes a few buttons. They wait while target lock happens as the ship tries to fight past Electronic Warfare. Then some guy pushes buttons and guns go boom. That's how battles in real navies go. That's how battles in EVE navies go. If you fell out of formation in real life, the commander yells at you. It's accurate down to the fact that in both cases, the commanders says, "STAY IN THE FUCKING FORMATION, COCKSHIT!"

Go through these articles:

Those are all written by a former player in one of the largest alliances ingame. Just click on the ones you like most, there's lots. Also, click on a few that sound like politics. Politics are serious business. EVE Online is a game where in order to blow up some guy's internet spaceship, there were plans to cut power to the guy's house so he'd log out and the ship couldn't defend itself.

The game is influenced so much by players that there was a corruption scandal earlier on. A company employee spawned some T2 blueprints (people start wars over these) for his corp. We found out. You know what happened? Each year, certain players are picked to go to the EVE headquarters in Iceland to represent players. These guys are basically like those town council kids at school (but these guys work with space battleships carrying 1400mm cannons, so they're infinitely more awesome). This committee pitches ideas because the company itself now has corruption issues. No player trusts the company. We trust the committee.

In contrast, what you want is Freelancer with better graphics. You wanna throw on your joystick and whip around, swamping battleships and beating on the trigger to squeeze a few more shots out. You go to a station to buy nicer stuff to stick on your ship. You don't go to the station to play the market and become a multi-billionnaire. You don't go there to dispatch messages to your corpmates so people across the galaxy hop into their battleships and blow the shit out of some poor hauler.

EVE Online is deep. You couldn't stand X3 because it was too complicated (neither could I. I uninstalled it a week ago because I still didn't work out how to sell stuff). You won't handle EVE because it's too slow. The battles are always boring You vs Some Other Guy or so fuckin' laggy that you're watching a movie on the side as the battle happens. Big battles in EVE aren't laggy. They're not slow. They're not slideshows. They're laggy, slow slideshows. That's what the framerate is like. You saw the screenshots. You take those pretty spaceships and stuff a thousand in once place and throw in voice chat from a thousand teenagers into it and see if your computer still works.

EVE is so player-driven that the company is surprised. Surprised to the point that one of their latest trailers is based on the players themselves. This one:

That's how battles work, but less actiony. Carrier begs for repairs and reinforcements so he can keep his own hide intact. Covert ops ship shows up and lights up a beacon. ENTIRE FLEET OF ANGRY NERDS JUMPS THROUGH THE BEACON. War starts. One side's busy forming up and holding at a gate. The other is getting shot to little bits.

The attacker's commander is busy calling primary target for the entire fleet to focus fire on. Ever get shot at by 150 battleships? That's what EVE is like. Let's see your Freelancer pull that off. Some idiot disobeys orders and jumps. Get killed. Fleet commander doesn't care. Reinforcements show up (too late) and start shooting. Attacker's reinforcements aren't seen. Russians kick everyone's ass. Yes. We even have codenames.

What? You've managed to read this far? Nice.

This trailer is one of the few trailers to stay true to the game itself. Only a few things are wrong.

1. There's no lag. That's bullshit. EVE Online lags.

2. The fleets are too competent and awesome sounding. Real fleets are run by angry American college guys alternating between, "Fleet, shut the fuck up! I'm talking!" and "Kill that fuckin' dreadnaught! Now!"

Seriously. Half of the stuff the commander says in real battles is telling us to shut up. The other half is screaming primary target into comms like a little girl.

3. It's too actiony. Real EVE is like every other MMO. You click on things and wait. The battles are a laggy mess.

You want EVE Online offline because you can't handle the players themselves. It's far too serious. You wanna take on your little AI's, replace your expensive battleship (you lost it because you suck, by the way) with a console command and jump back in. You want it offline because if you marched into EVE, you'd be on the bottom. You like being in control. Unstoppable ships, swearing into comms over the little guy you just beat up. In EVE, you're target practice for everyone else in a spaceship.

Or maybe you're gonna break out the "I like the universe and story." excuse.

Then great! I have DUST 514 for you.

It's an upcoming console FPS in the EVE universe. Here's how it works, in EVE, players can build colonies on planets (what? You think those planets were decoration?) When DUST 514 is released, corporations will be allowed to fight over these colonies. How do we fight?

We use you fanboys with your XBox's and PS3's.

The idea is that when a battle starts on a colony in the EVE universe, a server opens up on your XBox. You're a mercenary. You go with your mercenary clan buddies to fight the other mercs on this colony. If you win, the colony becomes the attacker's in EVE Online. If you lose, you lose standings, reputation and the colony.

You hear that? Us EVE Online MMO nerds will be pushing you FPS Console fanboys around to do our bidding. If we want you do to something, you do it because the servers are our colonies. Without our colonies, you'd be out of a game.

So here's your choice: work up the balls to take on real people face to face in the MMO rather than a mindless AI or roast in DUST 514 with the other 11 year olds in headsets whilst getting pushed around by us guys in the spaceships. DUST 514 is just Modern Warfare 2 in space. Sit around in lobbies and swear at 12 year olds who can swear better than you. Get noobtubed halfway across the map like all the other losers.

Or play a smart game. Play the game where a message in Windows Live can bring an alliance of thousands to it's knees. Play the game where you get to be part of a fleet where you cost some idiot $12000 because he sucked and his Titan blew up. Be part of the game where the frigate is just as much of a target as the largest cruiser*

*That's an exaggeration. Frigates get shot before cruisers. They're more of a threat.

If you're done whining about taking on other people as equals instead of a sever admin, and you're interested in EVE Online, the Massively MULTIPLAYER Online Roleplaying Game, call me up. I can get you a 21 day trial instead of the standard 14 day trial.

If you're still stubborn and want dogfighting in space with WASD and mouse, look up Jumpgate Evolution. It's like EVE Online for pussies.

Regards, IVIilitarus