Category Archives: Books

Kickstarter – One Day Left for Empires of EVE Vol II

The eventual success of Andrew Groen’s Kickstarter campaign for Empires of EVE Vol II was never really in doubt.  The original was a success, selling more than 15,000 copies, so there was little in the way of surprise when the project funded quickly, making the modest $12,500 goal in just a few hours.

Fully Funded

Currently the total pledged has passed the $150K mark.

As the campaign went on, new tiers were added, including an option to get the original and the second volume as one package.  The latest update announced that backers would be getting a digital art book titled A History of the Great Memes of EVE Online as part of the deal.

However, the campaign is coming to an end.  So if you want to support the project and secure a first run copy of the next chapter in Andrew Groen’s history of EVE Online, the time to act is now.

It will be for sale through Amazon eventually, but to get it soonest, to support the project, and to get the book of EVE Online memes, you have to back the project before it ends.

Go here to pledge now.

Addendum:  The campaign is now closed, having exceeded the campaign for the first book by bringing in $169,160 from 2,643 backers.

The first book brought in $95,729, though it had more backers, the number landing at 3,116.  I guess we were willing to spend more this time around.

The promised release date for Empires of EVE Vol II is May 2019, so call it August 2019 at least before it is done.

Kickstarter – The World of Warcraft Diary

Note: See addendum at the bottom for campaign status.

I’ve been down on Kickstarter after my first blush of enthusiasm something like six years back.  Apparently just because you and a few hundred to a few thousand random people give some stranger money it doesn’t mean that they’ll do what they said they would and it almost assuredly doesn’t mean they’ll do it when they said they would.

Still, I have gotten a couple of Kickstarter deliveries this year, and on the MMO front no less, the least reliable projects from an unreliable source, so I am feeling a little more charitable towards the crowd funding idea I suppose.  Also, this involves MMO design and history, and I am all over that.

So I am going to put it out there and support The World of Warcraft Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development Kicstarter campaign.

The quick summary is that this is an inside look at the development of World of Warcraft.  From the Kickstarter page itself

The WoW Diary provides a candid and detailed look at the twists and turns inside computer game development. Its author was WoW’s first 3D level designer and he writes about the people behind the game and the philosophy behind their work.

The WoW Diary will be a hardbound journal with over 95,000 words and 130 images across 336 varnished, full-color pages of high-quality paper stock printed in the U.S.A.

Sounds great.

The WoW Diary

So why am I suddenly keen to back another Kickstarter given the somewhat sordid history of my backing experiences?

  • The topic is one I quite enjoy. One of my favorite sessions from last year’s BlizzCon involved old hands telling stories from the early days of various projects.
  • Book projects are pretty reliable on Kickstarter.
  • The book itself is already done.  These are essentially pre-orders to get the publishing process in gear.
  • It is just $40

All good right?

Well, the downside is that I suspect that this Kickstarter will fail.

The groundwork to get this Kickstarter campaign into the public eye hasn’t gone very well.  I only heard about it due to a mention in a forum post on Icy Veins that I saw referenced on Twitter.

So Wilhelm’s rule of Kickstarter campaigns, that if you can’t line up your supports to get to 20% of your goal in the first 24 hours you aren’t going to make it, appears to apply here.  The campaign is three days in and, while the rate of backers is picking up, it still isn’t that much.

Project Status early this AM

Give that, Kicktraq has a rather glum trend line for the project.

I could not get both with the same dollar amount

And then there is the amount of money that is the ask; $400,000.

That isn’t the biggest dollar amount ever for a Kickstarter campaign, but for a literary project that is pretty damn big.  Back when The Fountain War fiasco was unfolding as a slow motion train wreck, one of my main objections was that $150,000 was way too big of an ask.

Not only that, but Andrew Groen went on to write and publish Empires of EVE after getting $95,729 (on a $12,000 initial ask), a project that still needed to be researched and written.  So the pitch for $400,000 to get an already finished book published has problems to my mind.

Finally, there is the pledge increments.  Since the author has eschewed any special bonus give away things, there is exactly one pledge level, $40.  You can give more.  Some people have, as dividing the amount pledged by the number of backers will indicate.  But the average is still just $46, so the campaign needs close to 10,000 backers to succeed.

Currently that number is below 200.

And there are 12 days left to go, because… I guess the author felt 15 days was all he would need.

Also, he can’t ship to Canada.  So yeah.

This feels a lot like somebody’s theory of Kickstarter that they haven’t bothered to test against the data available.

Anyway, lots of problems and not a lot of hope of success unless the online game media picks up the story.  Still, I am in for $40.  We’ll see if it happens this way or not.

If you want to check it out, the Kickstarter page is here.  It also has links to the author’s own site which includes further details.

Addendum:  This was posted by the author as a comment on the campaign a little while ago:

Yeah, this campaign isn’t going to happen. LOL. I had some really bad advice. I’ll reboot it with 1/10th of a target and give it 30 days to clear. Thanks for your support. If you sign up to to my email list, I’ll send a notice to you when it begins again. (And I promise not to spam you with constant updates).

So it looks like this will be starting over again with a better plan.

Addendum 2: An update to the project has been posted.  For some reason the author is going to let this campaign run out despite the fact that the campaign page will not go away if he cancels it. (You can, for example, still find the failed Project: Gorgon and Pantheon campaign pages on Kickstarter.)   Anyway, look for this project to return in the next 1-4 months.

Empires of EVE in Audiobook Format

Empires of EVE started off back in 2014 as the Andrew Groen Kickstarter project to write a book about the null sec wars of EVE Online.

I was in as a backer, as were more than three thousand other people from the EVE Online community.

Two years later, the book was out and I had my nice hardback copy, which is currently sitting on the desk beside my keyboard.  The title, originally A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online, had been slimmed down to Empires of EVE, but the content was in no way trimmed.

How much more black could it be?

The book follows the formation of the first null sec corporations and alliances from the launch of the game in 2003 through what is called The Great War and the eventual downfall of the Band of Brothers alliance in 2009.

The book went out to the backers of the Kickstarter as well as going up for sale in both physical and ebook formats.  At last update, Andrew Groen has sold more than 12,000 copies of the book.  Not bad for a book about an obscure game with an odd name in a small segment of the video game market.

To promote the book Andrew Groen has given presentations at various gaming event, such as PAX.  If you get a chance to see one of his presentations, you should go.  He is an engaging speaking and remains enthusiastic on the topic.

So I was quite happy to hear that he had produced an audiobook version of the work and that he was the narrator.  It is available from Audible.com.

Audible.com is a subsidiary of Amazon

Having had an “any two titles” per month subscription with Audible.com since 2000, I put it in my queue and picked up a copy with my August titles and just finished listening to it.

It is not perfect.  Having seen Andrew Groen present about EVE Online and Empires of EVE, the book does not live up to that sort of experience.  This is not Andrew in front of an audience gushing about a topic in which he is invested, this is Andrew reading a book in a measured and even tone.  That was a minor disconnect for me, though I did get used to it quickly enough.  It just doesn’t seem like him.

Then there is pronunciation, something that plagues just about every audiobook.  How do you pronounce things in New Eden?  I remember during the Casino War being confused to find that CCP pronounces the region of Deklein as if it were the work “decline” and not “Deck-lynn” as I had always heard it pronounced.  In Andrew’s case, among other things, he pronounces the region Venal, which I always say as though it were the sin (which seems appropriate for null sec), as though it rhymes with the word “fennel.”

Also, hearing a written work read aloud tends to call attention to awkward phrasing and word repetition.  That is why it is an oft used self-editing technique.  At one point Andrew uses variations of the word “history” three times in a single sentence.  Reading that to yourself you might not notice it, but on hearing somebody say it aloud and it draws a cringe and an audible correction from me.  I talk back to my audiobooks in the car.

Then there is the recording itself, which is not optimal.  It was not recorded in a professional studio by my estimation, given the minor echo that runs throughout the book.

Finally, with the audiobook you do not get any of the maps of visuals included with the physical book.  The reason that my hardcover copy is next to me was that I pulled it out a couple of times to look at maps. (I also spent time at DOTLAN looking at regional maps.)

Still, these are not insurmountable issues.  And there is something very helpful or comforting about having somebody telling you about these events as opposed to reading the text off of a page.  The events wash over you and the threads and overall arc of the story become more important than whether or not a fight too place in the system C-J6MT.

I burned through the book in a few days, mostly while playing Minecraft or doing things in EVE Online like tend my PI farm, move ships, and rat.  The work is solid and enjoyable.

Furthermore, the work maybe be just the start.  Andrew Groen wrote in his update about the audiobook production of Empires of EVE that it was a learning process as much as anything with an eye towards being able to tell more such stories in the format.  So this may be the start of something.

Anyway, my gripes all summed up were minor while my enjoyment of the book in audio format was huge.  I recommend it, and I look forward to what might come next.

Two Books about EVE Online

Recently two books about EVE Online have become available for purchase, so I thought I would take a moment to gesticulate in their general direction.

Empires of EVE

The first is Andrew Groen’s opus about the Great War in New Eden, Empires of EVE.

How much more black could it be?

How much more black could it be?

The product of a Kickstarter campaign almost two years back that funded almost immediately and went on to exceed all expectations, the result is a wonder.  It is a compelling read, a story well told that doesn’t require knowledge of EVE Online to enjoy. The only way to surpass the book is to hear to Andrew Groen talk about it (as I got to at EVE Vegas), as his passion for the topic clearly comes through.  And there are even a couple of screen shots I took as illustration, including one of my favorites on page 145.

Burning to the titan

Burning to the titan

The screen shot was from the DBRB fleet to attack Raiden capital ships in BWF-ZZ back in 2012.  Unfortunately, in the book, it is mis-captioned as a Machariel fleet when it is a Hurricane fleet.  But who am I to complain about minor errors?  I make more than my share.

Anyway, now that the Kickstarter backers have received their copies, you can get your own copy of the book.  There is a site setup that lets you purchase the book through Amazon.  I assume there is some benefit to Andrew in the purchase being referred from his site, so I would use that if only to encourage him to work on a volume II, because if there is a single problem with the book, it is that it leaves you wanting more.

There is also a video to go along with the release of the book about the siege of C-J6MT.

The book is available in hardcover, softcover, and Kindle format.

So we have that.  But wait, there is more.

Internet Spaceships are Serious Business

Launched a bit more quietly than Empires of EVE, this is a more academic look at EVE Online.

Serious business indeed

Serious business indeed

If Empires of EVE is the tale of a war, Internet Spaceships are Serious Business is a guide to what the game is about and the motivations of people who put enough into the game to make something like the Great War come about.

I grabbed the Kindle version over the weekend and started in on it.  It is welcoming to those uninitiated to New Eden and doesn’t assume you know much as it builds, chapter on chapter, about the game.

As with Empires of EVE, it is available in hardcover, softcover, and Kindle format over at Amazon.

So if you don’t necessarily want to play EVE Online but enjoy reading about it, here are a couple of chances to get immersed in the topic without even having to download the game.

The Conquest of History

Back in the 80s when I was still in school I hit a point after my sophomore years (working full time while going to school will do that) where I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to finish with my major.  While quite useful and practical… and it actually ended up being so after college, much to my great surprise… I started fishing around for something else, vacillating between things that would get me out sooner and things that were simply more interesting.

Fortunately I went to a large public university with many, many options to explore.

So it was that I wandered into the Soviet studies program for a few semesters.  I didn’t stop working on my major entirely, but it was deferred a bit.  It was great fun.  I am still hopeless at reading Cyrillic and a lot of what I learned is now more historical trivia rather than useful, applicable information, but I enjoyed myself.  The program itself was changing as, what was once a dry and taciturn nation to study started coming apart at the seams during the Gorbachev era as he tried to implement political reform while attempting to maintain socialist economic unreality.  There were a couple of courses where the syllabus was just thrown out and it became a twice a week Soviet current events discussion.

There was also a good deal of groundwork for the program.  Being a fan of history I went through all of the required and optional reading assignments.  I still have a lot of those books on my bookshelf or in boxes in my office. But I particularly recall reading Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Robert Conquest‘s The Great Terror.

Both spent time dealing with the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, but while Solzhenitsyn presented personal narratives, what it was like to be swallowed by the machinery of the state, Conquest attempted to assemble the broader story of what happened and nail down the details.  The original version, published back in 1968, had to make due with some sources of less than stellar repute.  There is a section in the book where Conquest detailed how much weight he gave to various defectors and other sources.

It was quite an eye opening duo to read.

Meanwhile, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union was disbanded, I went back to my major, and we spent several minutes trying to figure out how to spend this so-called “peace dividend” before packing up all our Cold War toys and taking them to Kuwait so we could use them at least once.  Gorbachev was wrong, you cannot give political freedom and keep a command economy.  China, on the other hand, proved (so far at least) that you can allow, and even promote, economic freedom while maintaining a repressive oligarchical machine.  China might be run by the Communist Party, but they are Socialist In Name Only. (Sino! Get it?)

And for a brief time there, between Gorbachev and Putin, the Soviet archives were accessible and Robert Conquest got to essentially fact check and revise his book.  The Great Terror: A Reassessment was the result, though the sub-title could have easily been “I told you so!” from what I understand.  He was substantially right in almost all regards.

I have had a copy on my bookshelf for years and have never gotten around to reading it.  I have read other works by him, including Reflections on a Ravaged Century and just last month Stalin: Breaker of Nations.   But I never quite got back to The Great Terror.

And then the news came up that this past week Robert Conquest had died at age 98, having seen first hand much of what caused him to call the last century a “ravaged century.”

So I have picked up my copy of The Great Terror: A Reassessment and launched into it.  It isn’t often that you get to read a historian who got to write not only the first draft of history, but then was able to get in the second draft as well.

The Return of Tunnels & Trolls

The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.

-Tom Cargill, The Ninety-Ninety Rule

While I know the pain of that in software development, I think it applies to most artistic endeavors as well… certainly any project with multiple people working together.

Back in March I did a run down of the Kickstarter projects I have supported over the years.  Not a huge list.  But one of the common threads on the list was projects running late.  Some of them were a little late… Defense Grid 2 missed their mark by a mere month, or almost no time at all in software development… while others were wandering onto the scene a year or so after being promised, such as Project Eternity and Planetary Annihilation.

But the champ for lateness looked to be Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.  Promised “conservatively” in August of 2013, it was still off in the distance when I did that post.

But last night I received a note that the book was finally off to the printer.  So I still don’t have what I pitched in for yet.  But I did get a PDF copy of the rule book.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

It is nice that I have the PDF.  I can look through it, see the updates and what art was carried over from older editions and what is new to this edition.  But it isn’t very satisfying.  RPG rules are meant to be in a physical book form so you can easily flip between pages or find a table in the back quickly, something no electronic book format has ever been able to come close to duplicating.  It is a physical thing, where you can just feel in your finger tips if you have gone back far enough through the pages.

But at least I know the creative work is done and there is just a printer in Arizona and some delivery time between me and the live physical copy.

The next item on the Kickstarter list I expect to see is A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online, which was due in May and which is alleged to be close to done, though we didn’t get an update in June and here it is July already.

Addendum: And this just in, “We spent all week correcting minor typos (and adding page 31). Please get the updated version now. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Three Science Fiction Series Starters

I do love me a good science fiction series… or even a not-so-good one as long as it knows how to keep my attentions… as I have written in the past.

I tend to try them out in audio book form as they are especially good for passing the time in the car during the commute to and from work.  Because of my ancient, grandfathered, pre-Amazon acquisition Audible.com subscription, I get two audiobook titles a month as part of a “use it or lose it” plan.  Sometimes I have my purchases planned out months in advance, sometimes I just grab something that looks shiny.

Over the summer I decided to try out a few new series from authors I did not know.  So I picked out the starter book from three different science fiction series that were available.

ThreeSciFiSeriesStartersThis is my report on what I found.

Steel World by B.V. Larson (2013)

Summary: Earth is small part of a giant galactic empire.  The empire expects planets to provide something and grants each one a franchise on what they do best, and woe be to those who don’t have something worthwhile or who impinge on the franchise of another planet.

Earth, being backward and savage, provides mercenaries for use in conflicts within the empire, which the empire allows because… I don’t know, maybe they think it keeps people busy.  These mercenaries, which are organized as Roman legions… because… Romans are cool I guess… make Earth a respectable part of the empire and earns Earth credits so they can buy fancy space technology.

One of the technologies Earth buys lets them backup and restore dead mercenaries, within certain parameters. (Very EVE Online)  You have to be confirmed dead before you are restored, which becomes a plot point the way transporter malfunctions do in Star Trek.

Anyway, this means that Earth’s legions have an practically endless supply of soldiers.  Meanwhile, Earth is overcrowded and if something bad happens and you lose your job, you are in bad shape.

Such is the case of James McGill, who due to family issues loses his ability to pay for college.  He was a huge gamer, so he sells his elaborate console and goes off to join one of Earth’s legions, something akin to somebody today selling their XBox One and running off to join the army because they were really good at Call of Duty.  Hilarity ensues.

Highs: The tech, the galactic situation, and the way the legions operate were enough to keep me engaged throughout the story.

Lows: Owes a lot to 50’s Heinlein, very “Johnnie Rico” at times.  Too cute by half McGill escapes from impossible situations.  Plot complications telegraphed well in advance.  Galactic situation, and the situation on Earth not very well fleshed out.  Only available on Kindle or through Audible.

Follow on Books: Dust World, Tech World.

Into the Black by Evan Currie (2012)

Summary: In the not-so-distant future, after a conflict that divided the world into two armed camps and pushed the US and Canada to form the North American Confederation, various technological breakthroughs have put mankind into space.  We follow Captain Eric Weston, former commander of the elite Archagels squadron and now captain of the newly launched NACS Odyssey as he takes Earth’s first faster than light capable ship on its shakedown cruise to likely nearby stars.

And, at their very first stop at another star, they detect tachyon emission that leads them to the site of a space battle where they rescue and alien from a life support pod.  From there, difficult questions ensue and the Odyssey ends up involved in the war, taking sides without really checking back to see if this is okay with Earth.

Highs: The tech is not the easy standards of the genre.  Book attempts to, if not fully explain, at least explain well the parameters of the tech.  That is some FTL drive!  Asymmetrical tech ideas work.

Lows: Owes a bit to David Webber.  Considering how much time is spent on how cool and elite the Archangels are, they really do not add that much to the whole story.  The early plot depends on a lot of really low probability events.  Would we just let our first FTL capable ship just go swanning about where the solar winds blow like this?  Boy, them friendly aliens sure put all their eggs in one basket.  Another “lost tribe” story.  Tachyon emissions.

Follow on Books:  The Heart of the Matter, Homeworld, Out of the Black

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos (2014)

Summary: In the not-so-distant future the world is divided into two armed camps with the US and Canada forming the North American Commonwealth, and various technological breakthroughs have put mankind into space.  Hrmm… that sounds familiar.

Earth is a mess, over populated, with the greater underclass confined to crowded, walled off cities.  If you don’t have a job, or lose yours, well you are stuck subsisting off of government handouts in a dirty, crime plagued corner of what passes for life for most people.  This too, sounds familiar.

The only way out is to win a lottery to a life on a colony world or join the military.  The story’s protagonist, Andrew Grayson, opts for the latter.  Insert somewhat standard boot camp scenario.  He has dreams of getting into space, but when he makes it through training but ends up in the Territorial Army, whose job it is to keep the peace here on Earth rather than head to space or garrison colony worlds.  He ends up back in cities again, this time fighting the masses of which he was once a part.

Still, where there is a will, there is a way, and Andrew really wants to get into space.  Meanwhile, aliens are on the move.

Highs:  Well paced, author knows when to skip the story ahead without feeling like you’ve missed something.  Doesn’t dwell on the tech beyond what is necessary for the plot. Really alien aliens.

Lows: Owes something to Heinlein, Haldeman, Harrison, and probably John Ringo as well, and it is hard not to draw the comparisons as you read.  Why is our future always a dystopian, over crowded, welfare state?  Detroit cannot catch a break.

Follow on Books: Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack (Due April 21, 2015)

What to Pick?

None of these titles were bad. I listened to all three to the very end, even putting the headphones on at home to continue listening to the stories outside of commute time.  Mentioning that a given story owes something to a past author’s work means that the desire to compare the two became a distraction, but that may be just a product of my own mind and having read far too much science fiction over the years.  Do not read too much into that.

l listed the titles in the order in which I listened to them, so Terms of Enlistment gets a couple of unfair “sounds familiar” mentions in its summery because it was the third in the queue.

But when I got to the end of the three books, I immediately went back to Audible.com and put Lines of Departure on my wish list.  I’ve already finished that, too, and am now impatient for Angles of Attack.

That said, at least it gives me time to pick up The Heart of the Matter.  While Into the Black didn’t thrill me as much as Terms of Enlistment, it still sunk a hook in me and I want to find out what happens next.  Maybe the Archangels will live up to their hype.

Which leaves me with Steel World.  As I said, it wasn’t bad, but it also didn’t leave me looking for a sequel either.  On the other hand, if you look at B.V. Larson’s Wikipedia page (the only one of the three authors apparently notable enough to have one), he has a whole slew of other titles, so there are some avenues worth exploring.

Anybody else on board with these authors?