Daily Archives: August 29, 2016

Ten Years of Internet Spaceships

Ten years ago today I signed up for EVE Online, made a character… Wilhelm Arcturus… yes, EVE Who says August 30, but 03:58 UTC was still August 29 here in California… and undocked for the first time in New Eden.

Wilhelm Avatars Through the Years

Wilhelm Avatars Through the Years

Or tried to undock.  The freakin’ tutorial back in 2006 had me sitting in the station, in my pod, but kept telling me to open up the hangar.

Still, I somehow managed to get in a ship, undock, kill the elusive pirates, and advance into the serious business that is internet spaceships.  When I started the game was going strong, passing 100,000 capsuleers according to the old timeline graphic (and this dev blog).  Also, the game broke the 30K PCU mark!  The current expansion was the forgettable Bloodlines which, so far as I could tell, only really added a few character creation options.

Bloodlines - March 2006

Bloodlines – March 2006

Okay, tech II modules came into being as well with Bloodlines, along with a few other details.

But Revelations was on its way soon.

Revelations - November 2006

Revelations – November 2006

And with Revelations would come salvaging, invention, rigs, many bugs, and motherfucking warp to goddam zero, something that changed everybody’s lives.  Seriously, that was the end of the “uphill, both ways, in the snow” era for travel by gates.  (Sugar Kyle has a post up about that era and its events.)

It was a strange and wonderful time.  MMORPGs were a thing, World of Warcraft caused a lot of “if we build it, they will come” moments as its subscription base continued to climb, causing even Richard “Lord British” Garriott to say at GDC that you would be foolish not to be making such games. (As opposed to when he said that about Facebook games.)  Blogs and podcasts about MMOs were all the rage and a flourishing community of people seemed to coalesce around VirginWorlds to discuss and debate the relative merits of various entries in the field.  This blog was still two weeks from going live and I was still debating possible names.  A pity I went with the one that seemed the most amusing at the time.

EVE Online was in the thick of those discussions because back then, as now, there wasn’t really anything else quite like it.  And one item that kept coming up was the fact that you couldn’t get out of your ship.

We had long discussions back in the day about whether or not simply being unable to interact face to face would limit the appeal of the game.  Space is huge and very lonely and, even where ships congregate, a passing ship is just a cold machine that doesn’t even have a dance emote.  That was a hot topic and CCP was on the case even back then.  Of course, after seeing what more than five years of work gave us in the Incarna expansion, a lot of people (myself included) changed our minds on whether or not it was worth the effort.

No, a far bigger problem with EVE Online to my mind, the one that persists through to today, is the fact that in order to play the game effectively a capsuleer must avail themselves of the many external utilities that players have created to support the game.  If you want another variation on “EVE is Dying!” take a look at how things are going in that arena.  Battle Clinic has gone away, EVE Mon support seems to be tottering, EVE Fitting Tool was last updated back in May, Pyfa is likewise behind, and over on Reddit, /r/eve has sucked all the joy out of any discussion of the game by becoming the primary focus for several key groups and where a mass of howling morons are more interested in adding their voice to the comments than considering whether or not their comments adds any value.  It is Sturgeon’s Law run amok.  It makes me miss the Kugutsumen forums badly.

And in a world where if Wollari decides he’s taking down DOTLAN EVE Maps we’re all doomed, what has CCP been up to?  Back in 2006 I was pissing and moaning about the in-game map, which was pretty but useless for actually getting information you needed in any expedient way.  CCP has worked on that map for years and made it somewhat useful.  At least I can see where my fleet members are.  And after that, they rolled out a new map, which is even prettier but, in terms of usefulness, brought us back to 2006 or earlier.  I think even CCP realizes they fucked up there and I won’t be surprised to see a release note about how the new map has been removed from the game at some future date.  Wasted opportunities while the game remains as dependent as ever on the charity of players.

But my purpose wasn’t to rant about CCP’s stewardship of the game, though it is hard not to slip into that now and again, hindsight giving one such clear vision.  It was to meander a bit through what was going on a decade back in and around New Eden.

There was the great Intergalactic Bank scam, a ponzi scheme wherein somebody set up a bank, took deposits, promised to pay interest, paid some out of the ongoing deposits, and then folded up shop and ran off with more than 700 billion ISK.  Brent had a good summary on the VirginWorlds podcast (episode 27, with a follow up in episode 29), where he brought up one of the key post scam issues: How do you get back at somebody who doesn’t have a space empire, just a pile of ISK?  And this was before ISK casinos allowed a few people push their agendas through payouts while remaining immune to any response.  CCP was more interested at the time, as they are now, in any illicit RMT transactions involving that stolen ISK.  They were even hinting about a plan they had to make ISK selling obsolete, though it would be another 3 years before PLEX would land in the game.

It has also been almost ten years since CCP partnered with Vivox to bring voice coms directly into the EVE Online client, thus removing our need to use external voice software like TeamSpeak or Mumble.  Hah, hah, hah!  Seriously though, does anybody use the built-in voice?  Or does turning on sound still cause a big performance hit to the game?  I haven’t had sound on for years.  This was another topic covered by Brent on the VirginWorlds podcast (episode 29).  That podcast is a gold mine for anybody who wants to get a glimpse of the MMO scene a decade back.

My own history in New Eden has had its ups and downs.  I ended up cancelling my account after my first three months in game, then came back to it a few months later.  I created a second account 11 months after my first, when I started the great trek to master mining.  Two years in I created another blog just to post pictures of the game.

During that second period I ran missions, did manufacturing, invention, played the market, did some hauling, dipped a toe into factional warfare, learned to scan well enough to get in and out of wormholes (which I have since forgotten how to do), and generally stuck in high sec for about four years, after which I took a break.  I came back for Incarna and unsubscribed almost immediately upon seeing what was being offered, then came back again for Crucible, when CCP promised to actually start working on the broken stuff in the game.  About then Gaff offered me a chance to run off to sov null sec, and I have been there for almost five years now and have seen many of the most publicized moments from that time.

I have 1,080 posts up on the blog that focus on EVE Online in some way or another that cover topics from the big fight at B-R5RB to simply moving my ships from one location to another.

According to Zkillboard, up to this point I have been on 2,038 kill mails, a large portion of which are structures.  One of the things I did upon arriving in null sec was train up to fly logi, which I offer up as an excuse for my low total.  Also, I remain bad at EVE.

Still, there are some memorable kills on the list.  While my trophy page on Zkillboard shows I have never been on a kill mail in wormhole space, that I have never managed a solo kill (so close that one time), and that I have never killed any mining ships, I am on ten titan kill mails.  Those are always fun.  Oddly, I am also on ten super carrier kill mails.  One would think those would be easier to get.

And after all this time, EVE Online remains a strange game.

It remains a pain to get into.  It seems to dare you to like it.  You really have to make up your own story in order to stick with the game.  I think that one of the reasons null sec remains popular with outside observers… though not I would guess not as popular as we might think… is that it represents a long running space soap opera, a story of conflict and powers rising and falling.  It is an accessible story in a game that generally refuses to give you a story.  I know that being within the framework of that story has helped keep me interested in the game for the last five years.

Wilhelm - current avatar

Wilhelm – current avatar

Still, sometimes I undock just to look around in space and get a sense of its vastness and beauty, something I have done since I started in New Eden.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant Docking – Circa 2007

That isn’t enough to keep most people playing long term, but it is a hook that can get you on your way.

So here I am, ten years in and still playing regularly and planning to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Jacketpals unite

Me, being my avatar – EVE Vegas 2015

A pile of other MMOs have come and gone in the time EVE Online has been hanging about and being different.  Not bad for a game that has been dying for almost as long as it has been live.