Daily Archives: October 9, 2013

CCP to Attempt to Explain EVE Online to New Players

The CCP euphemism for it is apparently “…the vast sophistication that is EVE Online.”

But people who have played the game know what they really mean.  EVE Online has a hellishly steep learning curve.

Google “EVE Learning Curve” and you get this

The game explains itself poorly, hides critical information from you, and after a meager tutorial (which is still vastly improved from when I started!) sends you off with a “Good luck storming the castle!”  You are on your own after that.

CCP has at times been quite proud of this state of affairs in a “we meant to do that” sort of way.  HTFU and all that.  But there has also been an ongoing attempt to file down some of the more egregious things making the game incomprehensible to new players.  With Retribution, for example, we got visible timers and useful hover help information about ship modules.

Heavy missile skills

Back when the Drake ruled

I still can’t tell you how much ammunition a given weapon holds without loading it, but at least I don’t have to go to a third party utility to determine critical information like range any more.

In the end though, when a new player comes out of the tutorial and is faced with the… um… vast sophistication of New Eden, life is pretty grim if they don’t have friends or some other support group to get them going.  You can probably run a PvE mission from an agent, or mine a little ore, but if you want to fit out a ship and get into PvP… well, how do you get started down that path alone?

One of the great success points for the Goons is not just that they have a community from which to recruit, but that they have a path to get people up to speed and people committed to supporting new players.   Here is a skill plan.  Here are some skills.  Here is a newbie ship, don’t worry about losing it, we’ll give you another one.  Here is a channel to ask newbie questions.  There is a regular “WTF Fleet Ops” class to make them feel like they are contributing by actually training them for an important role in fleets.  And if they are “lucky” enough to get into a DBRB fleet they’ll get some campfire stories about Goon history in EVE and probably a pile of ISK thrown at them.

All of which gives the new player the confidence and security in the game to go out and get blown up in new and hilarious ways.

Well, CCP is going to try to give the new player introduction a bit more meat.  According to a recent Dev Blog, they are going to hold New Player Training Sessions to introduce players to some of the finer aspects of the game which the tutorial does not cover well.  Or at all.

The initial schedule posted for this covers PvP combat and is timed as part of the run up to the Rubicon expansion, which will no doubt invalidate something that was taught during the sessions, which in and of itself is a lesson about the game and what happens with expansions.  But if anything needs better coverage, it is PvP basics.

Track: Player vs Player Combat

  • October 15, 17:00 UTC – Modules
  • October 17, 17:00 UTC – Fitting Your Ship
  • October 22, 17:00 UTC – Earning ISK
  • October 24, 17:00 UTC – The Overview and UI
  • October 29, 17:00 UTC – Piloting Your Ship
  • October 31, 17:00 UTC – Skills
  • November 5, 17:00 UTC – Crimewatch (Featuring live demonstrations)
  • November 7, 17:00 UTC – Combat Basics
  • November 12, 17:00 UTC – Teamwork
  • November 16, 17:00 UTC – PVP Fleet
  • November 18, 17:00 UTC – Progression: What’s Next?

This looks like a good start as it has the potential to cover what is really a huge gap in the tutorial.  You can join the sessions in-game.  Or, if you are at work like I am during every single one of the Tuesday/Thursday sessions, they will be recorded for later play back.

I look forward to seeing what CCP has to offer on this front, as well as how the old pros in the community respond to the advice given.

Stellar Emperor Remake

I have written a bit in the past about the Kesmai game MegaWars III, which ran on CompuServe, and its twin on GEnie, Stellar Emperor.

It always raise somebody’s ire when I call them twins.  They were, in fact, as close as twins when I was playing Stellar Emperor back in 1986, back when I was actually winning in online games.  (It has been all down hill for me since then.)

Once they called ME emperor!

However, Stellar Emperor began to diverge from MegaWars III not too long after that, and by around 1990 they were as different as chalk and some sort of dairy product.

MegaWars III basically sat still in time and remained pretty much the same through to the end of its run… and the end of CompuServe’s run… in 1999, thus spanning about 15 years online.  So when, a couple of years back, Crimson Leaf Games decided to recreate MegaWars III, it was pretty recognizable to those who played the original.

I'm in space! Can you even tell?

I’m in space! Can you even tell?

Meanwhile Stellar Emperor changed.  GEnie seemed much more interested in getting graphic front ends into their online game offerings.  Things like Air Warrior were the direction they wanted to go, and Kesmai seemed keen to oblige them, bringing Stellar Emperor along for the ride.  By about 1990 Stellar Emperor would have been practically unrecognizable to a MegaWars III player.  Game mechanics were changed, ships were slimmed down to a series of pre-set sizes, not unlike what Kesmai did in Stellar Warrior (which is the game some MegaWars III players think I am referring to at times when I write about Stellar Emperor), commands were changed or simplified.

And then there was the front end software.

If I recall right, you could still play the game from the terminal interface like the original… at least you could the last time I tried, which would have been in the 1990/1991 time frame.  But the front end client could be used and was there to make the game both more visually interesting and accessible.  And given the state of gaming as viewed from the command line interface these days… what do we have, MUDs, some Roguelikes, and maybe a few other retro experiences hiding in various corners… it was the way to go.  Friendlier graphical user interfaces were the way to go.

And that is about where my personal timeline with GEnie and CompuServe ends.  Oddly, that is about the time where I started dealing with them professionally, but that is another tale altogether and does not involve any online games.

So my memories are of a time when these games were as about as sophisticated as minimal vt52 terminal emulation would allow.  I think of the blinking cursor and arcane commands like “imp 200,100” and text scrolling off the top of the screen, never to be seen again.  And it seemed quite natural, from a nostalgia perspective, to recreate such games from that era with a command line interface, though with the web you can always put in buttons for those of us who cannot remember all of those old commands.

Buttons! I need something to help with scouting though

Crimson Leaf Games added buttons

And who wants to create a new GUI client for this sort of thing which must have a pretty small audience?

Well, somebody does.  I managed to wrest a message from the horrible new Yahoo web mail interface sent to me to announce that there is a remake of Stellar Emperor under way.  And it is not an attempt to redo the original, 1986 vintage command line version either.  This will be a shot at the GUI client version of the game that ran through the 1990s until the game was shut down by Electronic Arts in 2000. (Electronic Arts motto: We buy game studios and kill them.)

Cosmic Ray Games, LLC is the name of the group working on this project.  They have a site up, the game is in beta, there is a client you can download, and a reasonable amount of detail is available.  Their FAQ describes Stellar Emperor as:

Stellar Emperor is an online 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) MMORTS strategy game. It maintains a periodically (usually 4 weeks) persistent universe in which a player colonizes planets and forms teams to compete against others real players. You Explore the galaxy to find planets to manage and build your resources, form teams or alliances to help further your survival, gather intelligence on your enemies, and use your resources to defend yourself or to weaken or eliminate your enemies.

There are several elements that make Stellar Emperor a fun and unique gaming experience, which include:

  • You only play against other real people, no NPCs to waste time on grinding.
  • A periodically persistent universe.
  • All events occur in real-time, whether you are online or not, no waiting for turns.
  • The world has a strict time limit in which you have to earn your way to winning any of the various titles.
  • All players start each war on an even basis. The game can only become uneven for the duration of an individual war, not eternally.
  • You command several planets to do your bidding.
  • You can build for growth and score, or you can build for war to take from others.
  • Build ships or supplies to defend yourself, attack others, or gain an advantage in combat.

You can win a specific title in a war:

  • Emperor – Leader of the winning team.
  • President – Player with the highest planetary score.
  • Warlord – The player with the best overall adjusted combat score.
  • Ravager – The player most successful and attacking other player’s planets.

Combined, these elements create an environment where players must work together to achieve their goals and overcome adversities presented by the other players vying for the same goals, winning the game! You will see expansive battles, strategy execution, conflict, and teamwork as all players battle their way for the top spots.

Given the speed of the game, I might not describe Stellar Emperor using the “RTS” acronym.  It may literally be true, but when you think of an RTS game, you are more likely to imagine StarCraft, which takes minutes to hours to play as opposed to a game that runs out over a four week time frame.  But then it isn’t like an ongoing, persistent universe MMO like EVE Online either, since it does reset every four weeks.

The update I received reported that the game was at about 95% functionality.   There are some screen shots, which I stole, and guides to playing the game on the media page of their site.

While I am interested in general about this sort of nostalgic revival of older games, I am probably not going to jump on this one quite yet.  As noted above, this is really a poke at something that was after my time with the game.  And EVE Online seems to be filling my need for internet spaceships at the moment.  But I will keep an eye on this and will be interested to hear if anybody else gives it a try.

If you want to take a look yourself you can find the game here.

West Karana Abides

With the release of the latest EverQuest expansion, Call of the Forsaken, I felt just a tinge of anxiety.  One of the new zones listed for the expansion was West Karana.

I wondered if SOE might have tinkered with one of the most iconic zones in my history with the game.

West Karana all on One Map

West Karana all on One Map

So I had to patch up and log in to check.  Of course, it was night time.  That made for better atmosphere, but worse screen shots.

There were a couple of new guys at the entrance to the zone, working a bonfire or conducting a book burning or some such.

Roast a marshmallow with us?

Roast a marshmallow with us?

But otherwise the zone appeared to be still intact and as I remembered it.  Angular terrain, horrible textures, towers and buildings lit with that warm glow, bandits camping, scarecrows prancing, beetles clacking, and beasts wandering.

West Karana is still safe tonight, which seems surprisingly important to me at the moment.