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A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online April 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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Andrew Groen, who has written for Wired and the late Penny Arcade Report, has decided to take on the history of EVE Online.

In order to fund this project, he has launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Of course he has.

The campaign is to fund the printing costs of such a book.  He needs $12,500 to print the minimum run of 1,000 copies.  Given that he is already past the $9,00 mark, just hours after the campaign opened, it looks like he will make his goal.

His introductory video, which is something that Kickstarter really pressures you to have, is actually worth a watch.  WordPress.com won’t let me embed video from Kickstarter (they only like YouTube) so here is an awkward screen grab from it.

Andrew tells his story...

Andrew tells his story…

He has been working on the history for six months and, while there is work still to be done, he is now setting himself up with an eye towards printing and distribution.

The book itself will focus on null sec, where the wars of sovereignty have created so many stories.  From the Kickstarter details:

This book will take readers from the very first day the servers switched on to the formation of the first regional alliances, through the Great Wars of 2004, 2007, and 2008, and into the modern era of huge power blocs of coalitions. It’s a journey through the politics, warfare, and culture that have shaped Eve into the game we read about in the headlines today.

This is, of course, the part of EVE that separates it from so many other games.  Raids, battlegrounds, quest chains, or even one-time events like GuildWars 2 has run for the last year, don’t garner the same sort of attention as the ebb and flow of politics and war in the outer ring of stars in New Eden.

Interestingly, for the “Risks” section of Kickstarter information, there is none of the usual “things might go south” or “I might just walk away with your money” sorts of statements.  Instead, Andrew seems more worried about the nature of the content he is trying to produce.

Deception: I’ve been warned by members of the Eve community that there are some who will attempt to deceive me into writing their own version of events to make their organizations look better. The Eve wikis are proof of this fact as they’re often rife with hyper-partisan history. The only way to counteract this is through extensive reporting and interviewing. Only by getting multiple perspectives on situations can you dig through partisanship. I’ve dedicated myself to doing dozens of interviews to make sure all information is as balanced as possible.

Jargon: When discussing the high-level events of Eve it’s easy to get bogged down in jargon that the average person – and even many committed Eve players – don’t understand. Some accounts of Eve history are so riddled by jargon that they’re illegible to anyone without years of in-game experience. In my work, I always place an emphasis on making sure everything is understandable for everyone without dumbing things down or making writing boring for experienced players. To that end, I’ll be working with a team of editors from both Eve and non-Eve backgrounds to ensure I’m getting a variety of input before publication.

We shall see how that works out.  That he already has endorsement quotes from The Mittani and Helicity Boson might make the first goal a bit hard to swallow.

The Kickstarter itself has only two tiers.  For a $10 pledge you will get a .pdf or Kindle version of the final book.  For $25 you will get a softcover book and a .pdf or Kindle version, though you’ll have to kick in a bit more for shipping outside of the US.  I am in for the softcover book.

The campaign is set to run for 30 days, finishing up on Sunday, May 25th.

Addendum:

Well, that didn’t take long.

But you can still pledge to get a copy of the book in either format until the end dat.

The Long Road to Draenor April 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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13 comments

Back in September, a few of us returning to World of Warcraft felt like returning home to the comfortable, familiar game we had enjoyed for so long.  It was a happy time and we were happy to be back.  Happy. Happy. Happy.

A little later, after the BlizzCon announcement for Warlords of Draenor, the full instance group jumped back in to the game and picked up where it left off with the main group, way back at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, where we left off back before Cataclysm.  That was back in late 2009.

Victory over King Ymiron

At the throne of King Ymiron

And it was good.  And it remains good.

The instance group has moved along at a leisurely pace, knowing full well that we had to get to at least summer on Cataclysm and Pandaria content.  Not because we thought we might see WoD during the summer… I, rather optimistically in hindsight, figured September would be the drop date for the expansion based on some vague napkin math… but because we tend to go on hiatus during the summer as travel and other real life events take over.

Outside of instance nights, we have all been busy little beavers.  We have been leveling up alts, collecting mounts, going after achievements, running old content, getting the guild up to level 25 (finally there!), and generally immersing ourselves in Azeroth.  Fun, fun!

Or fun for a while.

Now more than six months back, with the guild taken care of, three level 90s at my disposal, having run all the level 90 LFR content at least once, and being exalted with all but two factions in Pandaria, I am starting to feel sympathy for those who really had their hearts set on a much earlier release for WoD.

My enthusiasm for logging in to work on yet another set of dailies or to get another mount towards my goal of 150 (I am at 132) has begun to wane some.

I still log in daily.  I tend my farm at Sunsong Ranch, though mostly for item I can sell at the auction house in order to build up my gold account.  I am working on a couple of low level alts, including a Panda monk with full heirlooms, just to see how ridiculously fast I get levels in a given play session.   He leveled three times doing Shadowfang Keep at one point.

But the fires had faded some.  I have joined the ranks of those who are starting to feel that Azeroth might need a little something to carry us through to the expansion at the end of the rainbow.

That feeling was enhanced this week with the Noblegarden holiday, for which I got all the achievements back in 2009.  I do not have the mount that was added in 2012, but I am not sure I can bring myself to run the holiday events even for that.  We’ll see.  And then next week is Children’s Week, the one holiday event keeping me from the holiday meta achievement because I refuse to do the battleground achievements.  Clearly some bitterness on my part there, and certainly not something that is going to raise my enthusiasm for WoW at the moment.

On top of that, we had what was effectively a narrowing of the gap as to when WoD will ship.

Previously Blizzard had said “Fall 2014,” conspicuously pointing out that “Fall” lasts until December 20th.  But the optimists in the crowd could at least console themselves with the thought that Fall stars in late September, so WoD wouldn’t necessarily have to be a “week before Christmas” launch.

Well, Blizzard has rained on those hopes, at least in my opinion, with the announcement of the dates for BlizzCon.

BlizzCon2014

BlizzCon will be November 7th and 8th of this year.  And, as Liore pointed out the other day, you really have to be a cross your fingers and toes optimist to think that Blizzard is going to launch their big expansion of the season BEFORE BlizzCon.  Who would let their thunder roar before the big convention?

It seems likely that we’ll get the pre-WoD patch before BlizzCon, which will give some people plenty to chew on as they work through the changes in order to be ready for expansion to drop.  But that is still likely to be out in October at the earliest, and that still leaves us with the window for actual new content somewhere between November 7th and December 20th.

Which is probably going to leave a fair number of people in the odd position of having purchased Warlords of Draenor in advance, yet considering unsubscribing until it actually launches.    How strange is that?

I suspect that, unless Blizzard has something up their sleeve, it is going to be a long summer of declining subscriptions.

That whole Azeroth Choppers thing… that isn’t going to be enough.

 

Civilization – The Center Cannot Hold April 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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4 comments

The third week of our Friday night Civilization V game saw us all online together, but we were going to have to test something new.  Loghound was with us, but would have to drop out of the game almost immediately to take care of a domestic issue.  From what we had read, the game should allow him to drop out, at which point the AI takes over, and then return to the game.

As Loghound departed I started putting my threatened Drang nach Osten together.  I opened up diplomatic relations with the Mayans, the remaining AI run civilization, and got them to agree to attack Potshot and his Ottoman empire with me after 10 turns.

After the turns had passed, I declared war and launched my forces into the heart of Potshot’s territory with an eye towards taking Istanbul.  The Mayans however, totally reneged on their deal, and everybody else, including the AI running Loghound’s Japanese empire, declared war on me.

War were declared

War were declared

That wasn’t actually as bad as it sounded.  Mattman was on the other side of the Pangea continent, so couldn’t really get to me easily.  I had the same problem getting over there when we destroyed the Mongols last week.  Japan was a bit closer, but didn’t have many troops it could bring to bear, and those that came my way were technologically outdated.  I was rolling out with US Civil War level technology (cavalry, riflemen, and cannon) while Japan was fielding pikemen.

So it was mostly a grapple between Potshot and I.  Like most armies, I found that I did not out number the enemy by the ratios I had hoped, but I was technologically superior.  Potshot’s knights, crossbowmen, and Janissaries wore me down, destroying some of my forces.  But I was able to cut off his capital from the mass of his forces and hold them around Edirne while my guns headed towards his capital.

Battle Opens

Battle Opens

There was a short, sharp battle around Istanbul… once I figured out how the simultaneous turned worked… sort of… there were times when it wouldn’t let me move units that I ought to have been able to… eventually I figured out that persistent double-clicking gets things done…  but I was able to pound it into submission, taking it and renaming it Constantinople.

You can't go back to Istanbul?

You can’t go back to Istanbul?

I was able to push further and take Ankara, just to the south of Constantinople as well as a small city Potshot had dropped on the northern coast of the continent, closest to Berlin of all cities, and in something of a cul de sac.  I marched a small army out to take it and then found I couldn’t really go anywhere from there, so the portion of the army not set to garrison the town had to march back to Berlin and around the mountain range to get to the main front of the war, only to find peace had been declared.

Potshot sued for an end to hostilities and I accepted.  He then did what any nation still possessed of military might but which just lost a war would do; he looked for somebody else to kick the crap out of in order to redeem national pride.  He proposed an alliance with me, which I accepted, and then declared war on Mattman and his Spanish empire.

They began a decades long battle over the former city-state of Almaty.

The Ottomans hold it today...

The Ottomans hold it today…

The battle appeared, from my perspective, to consist mostly of rolling cannons up to each other and blazing away in an all consuming hail of lead.  Losses were staggering.  The city changed hands several times.

About then Loghound got back, was successfully able to rejoin the game, and aside from being at war and finding me picking off his pikeman units one by one, found his empire in better shape than when he left it.  He asked for peace, which I agreed to primarily because our empires were positioned such that coming to grips with each other was going to be a problem.  I think his half-sherpa pikemen spent more than a century getting over the mountains and to my frontier.

Which left me in a similar position as last week, with a war raging far to the east, obscured by fog, and decades away for my troops.  My only real point of contact with Mattman was via a city I dropped on an island towards the end of the last session.  My city shared the island with the city state of Singapore, which was an ally of Mattman’s Spanish.  I figured the city was a lost cause, as it was half way around the world from most of my empire and right on Mattman’s doorstep.

Mattman poured a pile of troops onto the island and I expected to go down fighting in a few turns.  I continued to send supplied to Potshot to keep his war going while starting to build some early armored cruisers in order to keep Mattman away from my coast.

However, the flaw in the “blast ‘em” warfare taking place in the south came into focus on the island.  Mattman dropped cannon and Gatling guns, which proceeded to pound my city.  My only unit consisted of riflemen, who would sally out from the city to attack one of his units and then retire to heal up.  While Mattman proceeded to beat down my city defenses, he soon realized that he had not brought along a unit capable of actually capturing a city.

Then my armored cruisers started showing up, sweeping him from the sea like Dewey at Manila Bay and keeping any reinforcements at bay.  I was then able to get some lancers and cannons onto the island and was able to destroy all Spanish forces.  After a bit more build up, I was able to take Singapore, giving me an outpost off of Spain’s northern coast.

Island secured

Island secured

I sent some of my units across to the mainland to scout and pillage, but Mattman had begun building submarines in earnest.  Those were able to intercept most of my troops so my attempt to disrupt his war effort was not successful.

The bloodbath around Almatay meanwhile had sapped Potshot’s martial spirit.  He and Mattman ended their war as the evening was winding down.  That just left Mattman and I skirmishing on the high seas now and again.

My empire, turn 239

My empire, turn 239

We decided to call the game for the night at turn 240.  Amongst the victory conditions we set was a turn limit, so that the person with the highest score will win at turn 330.  That leaves us just 90 turns left to play.  The game could wrap up in the next session.

At the end I was out in front in points, though not by a huge margin.

Score at Turn 240

Score at Turn 240

The contest appears to be between the two coastal powers.  I am on the west coast of Pangea, while Mattman holds the east coast.  Those in between us suffer, and likely will continue to suffer, due to our conflict.  There has been a certain amount of talk about who is going to get what when nukes appear on the scene, though we are a ways off from that.  While I was ahead of the historical curve at one point, with Gatling guns and Riflemen in the late 1600s, we are now at 1940 and are working on 1915 technologies.  We will have to see if we can even get to nukes in the next 90 turns.  But if we do… well… I chose the name of that island city for a reason.

The demographics show Germany holding its own on most fronts.

Turn 240 Demographics

Turn 240 Demographics

I solved my lebensraum problem with my attack into the Ottomans.  My approval rating is sagging, but I have been investing in the order social policies to stem that.  The oppression will continue until happiness increases!

Technologically I believe I still hold a small edge, though Mattman has been deploying units that are up to mine in tech.  Somebody stole one of my technologies during this round.  Oh no!  But the game doesn’t tell you who committed this vile act.  However, it just so happens that Loghound got the achievement for stealing a technology during this session, so I think that mystery has been solved.

As noted, there is a chance we could wrap this up coming Friday.  Then we will have to decide if we give Civilization V another go or not.

I am going to guess that we will play Civ V again.  But what settings will be used the next time around?  There was a suggestion of setting up a game with a lot more AI civs and joining together to destroy them all.  That could work.  And then there is map size and all the fiddly little settings.

The one setting that is going to cause contention though is turn time.  We are currently playing with a 2 minute limit on turns.  Mattman complains about the lack of time to finish his moves every couple of turns.  On the flip side, 90% of the time I am done with my turn inside of 30 seconds and spend the next minute and a half waiting for the turn to end.  I automate a lot of stuff.  So we’re going to have to have that discussion.

But otherwise, the end is in sight for this match, though who will win is still in contention… just not for the civs in the middle.

On the iPad: Hearthstone and QuizUp April 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, iPad.
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3 comments

It has been a while since I have written an iPad app post.

That is probably because, in the end, I tend to use the iPad to read news and Twitter and to text my wife from the office.  The iPad screen has nice big buttons that I can mostly hit correctly with my big fingers.  So I am still playing DragonVale and Candy Crush Saga in dribs and drabs along with Ticket to Ride. (I am stuck on level 165 of Candy Crush Saga, a level I could easily win… if only I would pay… and I haven’t been able to get DragonVale to even launch in the last few days, so I might be done with that.)

I think there are more apps on the iPad for my daughter than for me at this point.

And then suddenly last week there were two new apps to download.

The first was Hearthstone which, after an exclusive engagement in Australia and New Zealand… presumably because the deserve something first now and again… the iOS version of the game finally showed up in the US iTunes store.  I hadn’t played since the second I got my Hearthsteed a few weeks back… I have more games on my PC than I can possible play already… but the iPad seemed like the right platform.

HearthstoneWhite_450

And given that Hearthstone became a top downloaded app in the store almost immediately, I guess I was not alone in that though.

I was wondering what changes or compromises Blizzard might have to make in order to work with Apple and iTunes.  A lot of smaller devs avail themselves of the Game Center approach, which worried me.  I did not necessarily want another Blizzard account.

But my worry was for naught.  When you bring up Hearthstone on the iPad, you log into your Battle.net account exactly the same way you do on Windows.  That does mean that you need your authenticator to hand when you log in, which makes sense but which also means I won’t be playing Hearthstone on the road.

The real problem was getting it away from my daughter.  Fortunately, with the standard Battle.net login, we could share the device and play on our own accounts.

So, I thought I had the new app to keep me happy when a friend suggested I grab QuizUp.

QuizUp is a trivia game for iOS and Android.  There are dozens and dozens of categories to choose from.  There is a competitive element in that you always take a quiz (all of 7 questions) in competition with another player, so there is a win/lose thing at the end.  And for each quiz you take in a given category, you earn experience (more if you win, but still some if you lose) and level up and earn titles for that category.

Did I mention there are a lot of categories.

So clearly there is something simple but compelling for the achiever in this one as well as the PvPer.

I found it amusing, showed my wife the music categories… where she excels… and then she downloaded it as well.  Now we can challenge each other across the living room.  She kills in music, I am ahead in science fiction, and we are neck and neck in logos.

The nifty thing is that you can challenge somebody and play against them without both of you being live and online at the same time.  You challenge, take the option to go ahead, and do the quiz.  Then when the other person shows up, they take the quiz as well and you get the results.

The killer/tie breaker is that there is a time element to answering the questions.  The longer you take to answer, the fewer points you get for a correct answer.  In random games against strangers, time often fails to be a factor.  But when head to head against somebody who is up on the topic, tapping the right button instantly for the full 20 points can be the difference between winning and losing.

One point difference

One point difference

Which can be annoying when your finger darts out like lightning to tap the correct answer and then, as you smile smugly to yourself on a job well done, you realize that the damn touch screen didn’t register your tap and you’ve lost a couple seconds and now you are going to lose.

I am pretty sure that is what happened in the game above.

Anyway, that was a good start.  And then, just this weekend, a new category opened up:  EVE Online trivia. (Under games, category EVE.  Why not EVE Online? I don’t know.)  And then I spent a bunch of time focused on that, often in competition with Mark726 of EVE Travel, against whom I tied three time running at one point.

Meme abused for QuizUp

Meme abused for QuizUp

It is actually interesting to see when a new category shows up, as people will jump on it just to earn titles and maybe get a world/regional ranking by playing early and often.  The top player in any category gets a “world’s best” rank which, considering you get points for just playing as opposed to playing well… and you can buy a points multiplier, which is how they monetize… lends those titles a dubious air.  But I guess you should reward persistence.

And, of course, as you play a category for a while, you start to see questions repeat.  So if you have the memory for it, you will eventually do well.  But when you first start off, get ready to lose.

You have clearly never played EVE

You have clearly never played EVE Online

I can only play in short bursts, so will never be a contender, but there are people out there who are obsessed… and probably paying money too.

So that has been the iPad focus for the last few days.  If you want to friend me and/or challenge me in QuizUp, my handle is Wilhelm Arcturus.

Know my avatar and background

My avatar and background

I actually had the EVE Online background set before there was an EVE Online category.  Call it being prepared.  And my title is from hitting level 10 in the WWI category.  While I already have two titles from the EVE Online category, the titles suck.  “Nooblar” was the best somebody could come up with?

Now my only question out of this is, why is there no World of Warcraft category on QuizUp?  That seems like a natural!

Of course, if I want WoW on the iPad, I suppose I could go play Hearthstone.

Burn Jita 3 – April 25-28 April 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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9 comments

As I mentioned, it is coming.

The Mittani sends... well... you know

The Mittani sends… well… you know

The official announcement for Burn Jita 3 has been posted over at The Mittani… because The Mittani.

But the essential information is that it will start after downtime on April 25, 2014 and is slated to run through April 28… unless it gets extended… which is what happened last year.

click to enlarge

Conflict in Jita

The first Burn Jita blew up 518 billion ISK worth of ships and had everybody claiming victory, while the second passed the 573 billion ISK mark.

What will this year bring?

You Can Be Almost Space Famous… April 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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6 comments

In partial fulfillment of Blog Banter #55, which fame in EVE Online.

The specific topic statement is:

Write about somebody who is “space famous” and why you hate/admire them, somebody who isn’t space famous but you think should be or will be, or discuss space fame in general, what it means, how people end up so famous, is there a cost of being famous in EVE, and if so, is it worth the price?

That is a pretty wide net.  You can go most anywhere with that one.

Almost...

Almost…

When I proposed this topic to Kirthi Kodachi back in September (*cough*) I actually had somebody in mind to write about, with a post mentally sketched out.  And then time passed, other monthly topics were proposed, and since I never bothered to write down my notes my post disappeared to wherever thoughts and memories fade to when they are gone.  Does science know what happens to the things I forget?

Anyway, another reminder to always write things down now.  I tell myself I’ll remember, and I never do.

But here we are, my topic has been picked up for the blog banter this month, so I figured I had best have something to say about it.

EVE Online is currently involved in ones of its measures of space fame, the elections for the 9th Council of Stellar Management.  You have just one more day to vote if you are a subscriber.

CCP tries to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of the CSM, to the point that you might legitimately question why would they would trust something of value to the whims of the player base?

Players are notoriously selfish and short sighted, as customers of any business tends to be.  As Henry Ford was purported to have said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Other MMO companies have official player advocacy groups, but they have always been cherry picked by the companies involved.  Turbine has been asking people to volunteer for its DDO and LOTRO player councils but they pick who gets on. SOE has had at various points throughout its history some sort of guild council or player advisory group, always by invite only.  Blizzard has solicited the input of major raiding guilds over the years, but you had to be a major raiding guild that got their attention.

So why does CCP go with a player election?

Because they can.

Sure, there was incentive for CCP to have a player council that at least had the appearance of not being completely in their pocked in the wake of the T20 scandal. (An aspect from the origins of the CSM which turned to irony during the Ishokune Scorpions brouhaha last summer, when we saw that people who get free things from CCP are surprisingly unsympathetic to complaints from people not getting free things from CCP about other people getting free things from CCP.)

But it is the very nature of EVE Online that allows something like a player election.  The fact that the game really needs cooperation, which spawns corporations and alliances builds bonds.  That it is a sandbox where PvP is always an underlying aspect of what you do makes your fellow player content, so you tend to know them or know who to avoid.  That travel can be long, annoying, and dangerous tends to keep people focused on “their” part of space, so they get to know their neighbors.

And the very difficult nature of the game, which seems disinclined to teach you anything by the most basic skills, means that new player have to seek the advice of others… both in-game and out… just to figure out how to do things.

All of which leads to something like a community.

And I am not talking about the fractured mini-communities that spring up in a game like WoW, where you can pretty much ignore the people you do not like and live in a happy little bubble.  EVE Online is more like my neighborhood.  I know some of the neighbors well, some are good friends, some are wave-from-the-driveway acquaintances, and some are just jerks.  But they are all in my neighborhood so I make do, because I am not going to pack up my belongings, sell my house, and move to avoid a couple a block over that yells each other so loud that you can hear them with the windows closed or that guy with the circular saw that seems to think that 11pm on a weeknight is a good time to cut wood.  I have lived enough places to know that such things come with the living in any sort of community.

So, as I wrote before, when people talk about EVE Online having a horrible community, I often get the feeling that they are objecting to having a community at all.  And clearly some people like to espouse the ideal of community while being intolerant of actually having one, or having one that is anything beyond happy agreement on all points.  They don’t want any drama.  But frankly, drama is what happens when you put people together.  If you don’t have some drama, you probably don’t have a community.

And if you don’t want drama, that is fine.  Some people just want to play a game, hang with friends, and avoid all conflict.  This is recreation time, and sometimes you just want to relax.  But I am not sure you can go that route and then complain about a lack of community without looking like you don’t really know what community is.

Anyway, it is this stewpot of things that allows people to become known or famous in the EVE community.  And while there are people who are clearly infamous, I am not sure that is as cut and dried as some would make out.

The Mittani is space famous, primarily for being the leader of a large alliance in game.  You may not like him, but a lot of people do… or he would be running that alliance and accepted as the head of a coalition of alliances… so does that make him famous of infamous?

Likewise, you could make claims of fame or infamy for Gevlon.  He showed up in EVE Online and got noticed fairly quickly by injecting himself and his opinions into the community.  He rambled about doing various things, eventually deciding to become the nemesis of Goonswarm in high sec space.  I am not sure a lot of people like Gevlon… or that he cares really… but he has become a staple of the EVE community in something like a year of effort and is clearly space famous at this point.  Compare that to his years playing World of Warcraft, where I doubt he was known at all beyond a the blogging community and a small group of players on his server.  But why would he be?

In WoW you cannot really have an impact on other player if they do not want you to.  They can ignore you, move to a different zone or server or whatever.  EVE is much more like my neighborhood, for good or ill.  You get known for what you do, if you do anything at all.

And even in EVE, space fame doesn’t make you as famous as one might think.  There are always people moving into the game or who are fixated on their own little out-of-the-way corner of space who never really run across anybody else.  But the potential and ability to become space famous is one of the defining aspects of EVE Online, and all the more so because so much of what happens in the game depends on the actions of individuals which become the lore of the game.  You can become known to the community through your own efforts in a way you cannot in games like WoW or EverQuest or GuildWars 2 or whatever PvE focused game you choose name… or any randomly matched PvP game as well.

Which doesn’t make EVE Online better or worse than these other games, it just makes it different and gives it its own flavor.

Others bloggers writing about space fame in EVE Online for Blog Banter #55:

Remembering Our Time in Zul’Gurub April 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
Tags:
2 comments

Part of being able to blog regularly is having a routine.  There is a time I sit down and write and another when I review screen shots and so on.

For the Saturday night instance group, I usually sit down Sunday, start the post, sketch out what I will write, noting down some key events or interactions.  Later I go through the screen shots, which will usually stir up more memories. (Most of my screen shots are crap, but are often taken simply to capture some small detail that relates to the evenings events.)  Eventually I sit down and write the narrative out, insert the screen shots, and schedule the post.  (Anything that posts exactly on the hour here was likely scheduled in advance.)  Then Thursday morning rolls around, the post goes up, I look at it, gasp in horror at the typos, frantically try to correct them, and eventually let go and return to a stable state.

However, for the last instance group run, I totally forgot to do any of that.  Things came up at home, there were other games I wanted to play, other things I wanted to write about (I think I have had two posts a day running all week here, and I have a couple of fresh drafts I still need to finish… next week I guess) and suddenly it was a week and a half later and I found myself thinking, “Didn’t we to Zul’gurub just recently?”

Yes we did.

Now to try and actually blog about it well after the fact.

I do remember the line up… well, I remembered to take a screen shot of it.  We were:

  • Earlthecat – Level 86 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 86 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

And the destination for the evening was the level 85++ instance, Zul’Gurub.

The previous week we did the raid-turned-instance Zul’Aman, which turned out to be a just-about-perfect difficulty run in a sprawling open troll themed environment.    Its companion instance, Zul’Gurub, proved to be a worthy follow on.

What I actually remember from the run after the cut.

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A Quiet Tower Shoot at KDV-DE April 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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There was another chance to shoot things with lasers last night.  Reagalan was leading a fleet into Pure Blind to finish off one of the towers that had previously put into reinforce.  The destination was KDV-DE.

We were a little slow getting off.  There was a call to meet up at the staging POS, where those of us in Apocalypses and Megathrons were sent back to the station to grab an alternate armor resistance hardener to put in our cargo bay.  Then, at just about the point where we had all done that, the order was changed and we were sent back to the station to swap hardeners, removing one of the standard fits for the alternate.  Finally, after my third undock, we all ended up at the staging POS, ready to move out.

At the VFK staging POS

At the VFK staging POS

Then it was off to the titan for a bridge out to the target, where we warped in, spread out, and began the shoot.  Black Legion was reported online and there was the expectation that we would again face a Zealot fleet to contest our operation.

We moved in our orbits around the anchor shooting the tower, a bit tense, expecting that we would soon be switching from standard crystals, which are appropriate for a structure shoot, to higher damage crystals that we would want to use in a stand up fight.

But no Zealots showed up.   No masses of hostiles appeared in local chat.

The tower went down with the usual satisfying explosion.

Tower down

Tower down

Then Reagalan pointed us towards home.

Honestly, we were not all that far away.  There was a jump bridge a couple systems over that would bring us most of the way there.  But Reagalan was being very slow and deliberate and not a little bit cagey about moving the fleet.  He refused to say our align points or destinations in coms.  We stood still for minutes at a stretch.  Nothing happened very quickly at all.

Eventually we made it to VFK, at which point Reagalan linked us a kill mail in fleet chat that showed a Black Legion pilot in a cyno fit Devoter who just happened to die to a CFC bomber fleet in 6GWE-A while we were waiting to jump into that system.

DoomBunny popped

DoomBunny popped

The plan was apparently to drop on us as we returned from the op, catching us potentially unaware as we headed home.  Instead we cruised through the system unmolested and docked up without a fight.

Landing back at VFK station

Landing back at VFK station

Which was a bit disappointing.  A good fight would have capped the night off.  But there are more ops planned and more towers to shoot this weekend.

As usual, tourist photos from the op after the cut.

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Quote of the Day – When You Have a F2P Hammer, Every Nail is a Microtransaction April 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
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The micro-transaction is so strong and it’s definitely a much better model. I think all companies have to transition over to that.

Tommy Palm of King.com, interview at IGN

IGN is becoming the place to talk about free to play and micro transactions.  And King.com, the new Zynga, certainly has reason to support that point of view.  They are making a lot of money and, true to Tommy’s word, you can “win” Candy Crush Saga without paying.  But they are also monetizing frustration, as has been pointed out by Laralyn McWilliams, which I am not sure gets them a lot of love.

Buy now or start over

Buy now or start over

People defend King.com by pointing out that a lot of people play through the whole game without paying or by noting how much money they make.  But I do not see many F2P advocates examining their monetization scheme (Laralyn McWilliams aside) and asking if that is the best approach.  The monetizing of frustration aside… which alone has kept me from giving a damn about any other game King.com has made… there is the question of buying progress.

Buying my way out of a level with their boosts… and as far as I can tell, there are no levels you cannot win on the first try if you have spent enough money… feels a bit like cheating.  It is like dealing out a hand of solitaire and then giving somebody $1.99 to tell you it is okay to re-arrange the cards so you win any given hand.  I would say that is, in essence, pay to win, except you are not actually playing against anybody but yourself, so I am sure somebody would take me to task.

So maybe it is more like pay to skip playing, in which case why bother playing?  That might explain why only 30% of players who beat Candy Crush Saga paid any money.  Where is the feeling of victory or the bragging rights if you paid your way through the tough bits?

Or to flip that around, I wonder how many of that 30% would admit to paying?  Sure, King.com knows they did, but would they tell their friends?

Anyway, you might excuse Tommy’s exuberance because of the corner of the market he is in and how much money his company is raking in.  They have likely spent more on TV ads for Candy Crush Saga than they did on actually developing the game initially.

But we also had David Georgeson talking about all games being free to play as well, and he definitely lives in a world where there is a lot of development expenses before you can start ringing up microtransaction dollars.

We’re effectively street performers: we go out there and sing and dance and if we do a good job, people throw coins into the hat. And I think that’s the way games should be, because paying $60 up front to take a gamble on whether the game is good or not? You don’t get that money back.

-David Georgeson, busking out in front of IGN

This is, of course, the utopian ideal, the big upside to the whole free to play thing, the idea that you only shell out money for what you like.

And I can certainly find examples to support this idea.

I spent a lot of money… bought the collector’s edition and a lifetime sub… on Star Trek Online, which ended up being a game I really didn’t enjoy playing.  A big fail on my part.

In comparison I spent no money at all on Neverwinter, which also ended up being a game I really didn’t enjoy playing.  But at least it was only time invested.

Those, however, are both negative examples.  Games where I was better, or would have been better off, with free to play.

But when it comes to the whole persistent world MMO genre, of which I am a big fan, I do not have any real positive examples where a free to play game really sold me.  Sure, I have played a lot of Lord of the Rings Online, even after they went F2P, and I was enthusiastic about EverQuest II Extended when it first showed up.  But those were converts from the old subscription model into which I had invested and I have had my ups and downs with both.  I think I am done with EQII, and if I return to LOTRO again, it will be because of Middle-earth and despite the microtransaction in every window nature of their business model.

So, while I am okay with microtransactions in many forms… I have enjoyed games like World of Tanks and War Thunder, and I think the iOS version of LEGO Star Wars has a great model where you get the base game and a few levels for free, then can buy additional content if you like the game… it doesn’t seem to work for me in certain areas.  The money-where-my-mouth is proof is the persistent world MMOs I am currently playing, World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

Fortunately, as small as the world of game development may seem, it still encompasses a broad spectrum of opinions on many subjects.  So while some are gung-ho on F2P, others are sticking with older models.  The Elder Scrolls Online just launched as a subscription model MMO, and WildStar plans to later this year.  Maybe EverQuest Next or Landmark or something else will change my mind, but for now I seem happiest with the alleged outdated model.

There is no one true path, and I always wonder and people who make declarations in defiance of that.  The industry cannot even decide on DRM.  We have had industry voices wondering while companies bother, yet just this week Square Enix was saying that DRM is here to stay.

Meanwhile, I hope we’re all spending our dollars on things we actually enjoy playing.

Lasers and Towers and Black Legion in Pure Blind April 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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The tempo of operations has picked up a bit in Deklein.  The rumor on coms is that The Mittani has returned from some press junket and is getting all the veterans of foreign wars, now loafing about the region, warmed up and engaged so that we are ready to go when all eyes turn towards Jita.

As noted in the recent CEO update, the enemy is Triumvirate and Mordus Angels, who live in some of the NPC space in Pure Blind, because… well… because!  They like to shoot us, we like to shoot them.  They have towers in that space.  Attacking those towers forces them to come to their defense, giving us fights now and again.  It is the nature of the game.  It is the reason they are out there in NPC null sec.

So there was a fleet op called last night and I actually had time to go.  We had some towers to shoot and expected opposition from our foes.  I joined fleet as soon as it went up, jumped into my shiny new Apocalypse, undocked, realized I had forgot to insure it, docked back up again, got myself paid up, then undocked, ready to go.

DingoGS, the FC, herded us all towards the jump bridge to start our journey out to the first target.

Apocs landing

Apoc heavy Baltec fleet landing

We got a titan to bridge us out and made our way to the first tower in KLY-CO.

Arriving at the first target

Arriving at the first target

We spread out and started knocking down the defense module around the POS, at which point Triumvirate and Mordu’s Angels showed up, bringing along Black Legion to support them.

No, wait.  Looking at the battle summary, the previous sentence obviously isn’t correct.  Black Legion showed up with 60 ships, while Triumvirate and Mordus Angels could only scrape up 30 pilots between them to defend their own tower.  Let me fix that.

We spread out and started knocking down the defense module around the POS, at which point Black Legion showed up, bringing along some pilots from Triumvirate and Mordus Angels.  We’re back to fighting Black Legion again.  They were blue to us for a bit, when that gave them the sort of fights they were looking for.  That time has passed and now we give them the sort of fights they are looking for.

Anyway, there we were in our Apoc heavy Baltec fleet, ready to face the Ishtar menace that cause the switch from Megathrons, and the foe showed up in Zealots.  Lasers all around I guess.  So we went at them, bubbles went up, and we started in on a short, sharp skirmish that nabbed us a few quick kills, though we were unable to take down Elo Knight in his Damnation.  Not for lack of trying though…

Not for lack of trying though...

Elo Knight’s Damnation lit up

That seemed to end in our favor, as the other side retired.  We went back to shooting POS modules for a bit, then they dropped on us for a second round.  They went after our logistics while we started picking off Zealots about as fast as we could target them.  Their tactics proved to be quite effective, as went they went after our DingoGS, our FC, there was nobody left to rep him and he went down.  J Black then picked up the ball and began frenetically (though effectively) calling targets as though he was trying to will their destruction through sheer repetition.

Eventually Black Legion pegged on who was calling targets and J Black went down as well.  Things could have gone very badly for us about then, but other things were happening on the field.

A series of triage carriers arrived to support us with reps, and DBRB showed up with a bomber fleet just in time to kill all of our deployed drones in a couple passes.  I swear, I deployed drones when DingoGS called for them, they died within a minute, and when I deployed my backup drones, they were toast almost immediately.  Lots of bombs going off.

DBRB defeating the drone menace

DBRB defeating the drone menace

Okay, DBRB’s fleet got in some good hits, and such is the life of drones, but at the moment I was wondering what I had done to deserve that routine.

But the arrival of additional fleet units tipped the odds enough in our favor.  What started as a very even match turned heavily in our favor, so Black Legion extracted from the fight and we were left to put the tower into reinforce, with dreadnought support, unmolested.  You can see from the battle report that we paid a heavy price in Oneiros logistics support.

Battle Doc Summary

Battle Doc Summary

We were then able to move to then next few towers and put them in reinforce or knock them down at our leisure.  Then it was time to return home, our mission having been accomplished. (I found it amusing that Circle of Two had, appropriately enough, exactly two people in fleet, one of whom was J Black.)

I got to take my new Apoc out for the first time on a fleet op and shoot my lasers in what passes for anger in such situations.  And while I was happy that ammunition supply wasn’t a problem… you just need a long lasting frequency crystal for each laser… I did find out that capacitor management can be an issue.  With the right/wrong set of crystals, you can empty your capacitor pretty fast.  We had some capacitor logistics support, but it was on the order of six ships supporting a few dozen Apocs, so I ended up having to turn off some modules, ungroup my lasers to shoot with less than the full battery of eight, and swap to more efficient crystals to keep power constant.  It makes me nostalgic for the glory days of the cap-stable Drake fleet, just running my MWD at all times and spewing missiles like no other.

This fleet op also put me on the kill boards for the first time since January.  While I have been on a couple of fleets this month, I have either flown logistics or just sat on a titan until we were stood down.  Up to this point I had only been on six kill mails in 2014.  Granted, those six were titans at B-R5RB… but still, I have been slacking some this year.

Finally, I have a gallery of screen shots from the op after the cut.  Tourist Wilhelm abides.

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