Category Archives: EVE Online

New Eden For Sale?

The hot rumor of the day, fanned by a post at Bloomberg, is that CCP is looking to sell out, having a couple of potential bidders lined up, with the value of the deal being rumored at near one billion dollars.

CCPlogo

What does CCP have that is worth a billion dollars?  Let’s see…

  • EVE Online, along with all the hardware to run it in a server farm in England.
  • A contract with a Chinese firm to run EVE Online in China
  • EVE Valkyrie and EVE Gunjack, which run on a variety of devices in the fragmented, kiddie-pool sized market that is VR today
  • The source code for Dust 514
  • A monument by the sea in Reykjavik
  • A bunch of copies of Hættuspil
  • Hilmar’s collection of Lazy Town video tapes
  • The largest stash of Quafe in the known universe
  • Something else?
Hat tip to Rhavas...

An untapped resource?

Basically, EVE Online and the VR titles… and word is that there isn’t much money in making VR titles currently, so unless CCP has some real special tech in that regard, New Eden is the biggest asset.

Meanwhile, CCP also has a couple investors in the form of Novator Partners and General Catalyst Partners.  CCP isn’t in the Daybreak situation of being wholly owned and bent over by an investor, but those two companies aren’t in because they like video games.  They are both invested in order to get paid.  And selling CCP is a way to get paid.

While there is nothing concrete so far… the initial report says that a sale isn’t the only option being explored… there is enough out there to make you believe it could be true.  For example, CCP has been moving operations to the UK.  That makes a bit of sense for an Icelandic company due to logistics.  But if you want to sell a company, it makes a lot more sense for it to be in an international market hub like the UK than the economic backwater that is Iceland.

And then there is the rumor itself, which got floated somewhere for some reason.  Is it a trial balloon to see how the Icelandic government reacts?  An attempt to get a few more bidders primed?  Or did somebody leak that to put pressure on CCP to close a deal?

Of course, in all of this, the big question is about the buyer.  Who is going to put out a billion dollars for CCP and its rather slim list of assets?

My money is on China, and specifically Tencent Holdings Limited, the firm that owns Riot Games.  They have the money for it and the stomach to buy a game like EVE Online.  After all, only League of Legends has a reputation for players worse than EVE Online.  Also, Riot has been the destination for a number of former CCP employees, why shouldn’t the company follow them?

I cannot see a US company like EA or Activision-Blizzard having any interest in CCP, if only because of the reputation EVE Online has.  Maybe some European company like CodeMasters might have some interest, but I don’t think they have the cash laying about.

It could be some other Chinese company.  I could see Perfect World Entertainment showing some interest.  But my knowledge of Chinese companies is sparse enough that I cannot come up with another option that clearly has the money and isn’t tied into some other deal that might make the acquisition awkward.

So that is the hot item of the day.  Who do you think wants to buy CCP, if anybody?

Others covering this topic (to be updated as posts show up):

Top Five Problems with EVE Online

It is like New Eden editorial week here at TAGN.

With Wednesday’s rambling rant I foolishly used EVE Online as an example of focus.  It was foolish because any mention of EVE Online will seem like an invite for somebody to come and hijack the comment thread and to complain that the game is dying because CCP is neglecting their little corner of space.

Revelations - November 2006

My first EVE Online expansion

“EVE is Dying” is a favorite topic in the community, and the reason is usually, as noted above, because CCP is neglecting some corner of the current user base.  But it is a long running MMORPG and one of the ways to keep an MMO from dying is to attract new players.  CCP has launched into that with Alpha clones and a revamped new player experience.  But there are still things standing in the way of new players joining the game.

The Name

It sounds like a porn site, or maybe something to promote feminine hygiene products.  What it doesn’t sound like is an internet spaceship MMORPG.

Yes, you and I know it is a biblical reference and that is used to include “the second genesis” in the title just to make that clear.  But absent that insight, if you were looking at a list of MMORPGs and wanted to play something in outer space, which are you going to look at first, something named after a popular science fiction franchise (SWTOR or STO maybe) or something that shares a name with one of the co-defendants in Apple-gate?

2003

That was the year that EVE Online launched.  Consoles of the time were the PlayStation 2, the original XBox, the GameCube, and the GameBoy Advance.  That was back when the first Call of Duty was launched, when Toontown Online kicked off, when EverQuest only have five expansions, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a big deal.

That make EVE Online pretty old in gaming years.  And while it has been pretty much constantly updated over its life, the years still weigh on the game.  An outside may dismiss it because of its age.  Some players like the game but simply wear out over time.  Bitter vets hang on, looking for one more high point, another good fight or memorable event that will make a story.  The rich get richer in ISK and skill points and new players can feel daunted entering a universe with a hierarchy often dictated by age time with the game, where corps and alliances can easily have a decade of history under their belt.

Oh That Reputation

Where to even start on this?  Be the villain?

EVE Online is a PvP MMORPG.  There is no flagging, no care bear server, no safety once you undock your ship.  PvP games have a reputation for attracting the worst people to start with.  The joke back in early EverQuest was that SOE rolled out PvP servers to concentrate all the assholes in their own corner and away from the rest of the player base.

Of course, CCP didn’t stop at simply making their game PvP  They allow things that would get you banned in WoW, all in furtherance of the sandbox.  They push that ideal so far that they can seem unsure as to whether or not you can cross a line, as we saw with the bonus room scandal or, more recently, anti-Semitic symbolism in the alliance tournament.

So the game has a reputation built on some bad events and enhanced by a legion of people who hate the game… or who hate the idea of the game, because they’ve clearly never logged in… and who clog up comment threads on gaming sites whenever a story about the game runs.

I was in a Facebook group for old Air Warrior players and at one point somebody put up a post asking what games everybody was playing currently.  I put EVE Online on my response, and another guy in the group just lost his head about it being a horrible game where people swat you to steal your stuff.  Now, granted, this guy was a Star Citizen fan boy who was dedicated destroying all other space sims to further the cause of his God, Chris Roberts (he eventually killed the group by spamming it with Star Citizen posts), but he wasn’t going on about how horrible Elite: Dangerous players were, just that it was a shadow of what Star Citizen would eventually be.  But he knew that hitting EVE with its reputation was an easy shot, something that would scare people away from this threat to his precious.

There are a lot of people out there eager to say bad things about New Eden, and a number of them are people paying to play the game.

The User Interface

The EVE Online store features a T-shirt that says, “How do I warp to something?” that would be very funny were it not so true.

I will grant that CCP had a serious problem in trying to represent three dimensional space travel on a 2D screen where there can be dozens to hundreds to thousands of things in space and around you.  The camera, brackets, the tactical overlay, and the overview work together to try and get you what you need to know.  And sometimes it is just the right balance and it works.

And then you hit bracket overflow and it is killing your performance so you have to turn them off, which makes the camera just a source of pretty pictures.  Meanwhile the overview has 50 pages of information in it so you sort by distance, but the FC wants you to sort by name and target somebody with a name close to yours alphabetically, only your name starts with “W” so you’re trying to find that and then another hostile fleet warps in range and now you aren’t sure who to target then the FC, realizing this, tells everybody to go to a destroyer only overview, but you scroll down the long list of overviews and find you don’t have one, but you have a frigate overview which includes destroyers so you select that and the enemy completely disappears because it is an old overview and doesn’t have T3 or command destroyers selected because when CCP adds new stuff it is off by default in overviews so you’re digging in the settings trying to find the right boxes to check and the FC tells the fleet to align but you’re almost there and you check them and suddenly the overview is populated by hostiles yellow boxing you and then the FC warps you off but you’re not aligned yet and are dead before you get off grid and the FC wants to know what they hell you were doing and you say, “Sorry, phone rang” and slink off because the real story is too much to say over coms and finally somebody pods you so you can log off.

True story.  And I had been playing the game for about 8 years when that happened so I was able to tell what was wrong and try to fix it on the fly.  To paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw “The overview is like the working class, if you cannot control it, it will seek to destroy you.”

And the overview is just one part of a UI that is often very unhelpful about telling you what you need to know to do what you want to do.  And not being able to do what you want to do because the UI isn’t helping can be hugely frustrating.

Ship and Module Complexity

I would love CCP to give us a count of how many people have that damage table about what damage type to use against which NPCs.  That so many people feel the need to put that there to remember what sort of ammo to load is a pretty clear sign of something.

As with the UI, CCP has a problem in that equipment in the game doesn’t map to most other entries in the MMORPG space.  Medieval fantasy is so popular in part because the gear is easy.  A helmet protects your head.  Some number shows you how well, and you can compare that to other helmets to see which one to wear.  A sword does damage.  Another number tells you how much and you can compare your sword against new ones.

Spaceships and the equipment for them though… a little more complex.

I consider myself lucky in that I started as Caldari back in 2006.  Missiles were a weapons option and missiles are easy.  I tinkered with rail guns, the other Caldari weapon system of, but went back to missiles.  There are only four basic flavors of missiles, one for each damage type, heat, explosive, kinetic, and electro-magnetic.

Missiles have flight time, so they do not apply damage immediately like the other options, but they don’t miss due to transverse movement.  No tracking worries, just get something in range, have the right flavor loaded, and shoot.

Of course, a new player picking ammo still have a slew of choices if they look up light missiles on the market.

Not shows, defender light missiles

Not shown, defender light missiles

Then there are rockets, which are the shorter ranger but higher damage alternative to light missiles which have their own parallel ammo selection.  And then there are the various flavors of launchers, modules which can enhance missile damage, hulls with bonuses to missiles, and even implants to improve missile performance.

Such variety exists for all the basic weapon systems for each empire, and that is just offense.  There is also defense, how to beef up your ships defenses or keep them repaired as well as mobility and targeting and stealth and scanning and probing and fleet boosts and probably a few more things I am forgetting.  The idea of giving Alpha clones access only to their own empire’s ships makes more sense when you look at all of this.  At least your Gallente pilot is just going to have to learn about drones and hybrid weapons, since lasers and projectiles won’t be an option.

Now, such complexity isn’t a bad thing from one angle.  There is enough rock-paper-scissors going on that there isn’t one absolute winning doctrine we all fly.  Theory crafting fits is a viable pastime in New Eden.  But for the new player… or the player that just wants to undock and shoot something without learning the fine craft of fitting… it is a serious issue.

Bonus Item: Terminology

POS, station, starbase, outpost, citadel, complex, depot, welp, gate, jump, cyno, beacon, bridge, bomb, smart bomb, hictor, dictor, tank, alpha, Alpha, point, web, scram, tackle, bubble, drag bubble, camp, gank, FC, anchor, logi, perch, scan, probe, and so on and so on and so on.

When EVE Online players speak or write about the game, we often drop into the jargon of the game, made more dense by our own shorthand for in-game concepts, that makes understanding what is going difficult for the outsider.

And sometimes it is difficult for the insider as well.  Earlier this week CCP announced that after next week’s patch players would no longer be able to deploy outposts.  I was pretty sure that meant the deployment of what we generally call “stations” in null sec, but I went and read it carefully to be sure.  But that didn’t stop people in the forums from jumping on this announcement thinking that CCP meant Player Owned Starbases, those structures built around a tower that have been, among other things, the only way to mine moons and build capital ships up until now.

Problems versus Problems

Having removed the barrier to entry that was the subscription (sort of) and assuming that the updated new player experience is no longer going to drive people away, those are what I see as the top five problems with EVE Online because they are barriers to getting new people to try the game and to help replace the attrition that any MMORPG faces over time.  To me that trumps most bitter vet complaints that are generally balance and mechanics issues.

Some of my list can’t be fixed.  The game will always be from 2003, and changing the name would cause more problems than it would solve at this point.  Other items on my list are double edge swords.  The reputation does bring some people to the game, as a challenge if nothing else, while the complexity of ship fitting gives the game depth and does lead to interesting choices. As for the UI… well, that has been a work in progress for 13 years.  It is better now that it was when I showed up in 2006.

But the fact that you can’t fix a problem, or can’t fix it easily, or can’t fix it today, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

Anyway, those are my picks.  I am sure you have your own ideas about what is wrong with EVE Online.  I won’t even argue with you in the comments.

Addendum: Or maybe some new masters will change some of these points.

In Which I Ramble About Being All Things to All People

Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man

-The Dude

If you asked me what the most egregious flaw in MMORPG development has been over the history of the genre, I would say it was a “lack of focus.”

All together now, "Stay on target!"

All together now, “Stay on target!”

Overreach, trying to have too many features, trying to appeal to too many different audiences, listening to too many voices saying that they will give you money if only you support their pet feature, has ended up with a lot of time wasted on features that did not enhance a given game over time.

Vanguard is probably the poster child for this, a game that launched with too much breadth and not enough depth. (Star Citizen could claim that crown from Vanguard, save for the “we’re still in Alpha” loophole that will be going on for the foreseeable future.)  All those races, all those starting zones, PvP and different types of PvP servers, huge landscapes devoid of content, all running on server code not ready for prime time.

The game wanted to leap past day one EverQuest and be EverQuest five expansions into its life.  Instead it jumped down a well and was on life support for the next seven and a half years, finally being let go when even a free to play conversion couldn’t make it economically viable.

That trajectory might have been different had the vision for launch not been so grandiose.  A few races, one continent, and a focus on content around that might have led to a different outcome.  Maybe.  They still would have needed more time on server code, but maybe with less emphasis on a huge world they could have spent some money on the underlying mechanics.

When Brad McQuaid showed up again with his Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign three years back, I was happy with his vision… back to the core of what made EverQuest a success… and doubly so at him saying that the plan was to keep things small and focused.  And then people started pestering him about features they wanted to see in his new game and vision creep seemed to have returned.  When he caved in to a loud corner of players and said PvP would be a thing, I gave up on following the game.  What attracted me to it was his statement about focus, and once that was gone the project ceased to be special to me.

Not that I am anti-PvP.  I have enough posts about EVE Online here to show a commitment to that as a play style.  But I am not convinced that PvP needs to be a feature in every single MMORPG.  It needs to be an integrated, core feature and not something tacked on in the hope of a few more box sales.  That is where it works, where it is good.  However, there is a loud group of players who will show up and rant about any game that dares not have PvP on its feature list.

EverQuest II is my favorite example of time wasted on PvP.  It is a game where the core feature set and audience is PvE that spent way, way too much time trying to make PvP viable by tacking it on to the game in all sorts of ways.  There battles with avatars, and arena battles, and battle grounds, and different servers with different rule sets over time, and eventually there was a point where they redid all the gear so that it have both PvE and PvP stats.  And, in the end, after attempt after attempt to make PvP a thing, they finally gave up and went back to focus on the core game play, the PvE questing and dungeons and raiding, that keeps its main audience going.

Of course, I have a flip side example for EQ2 in EVE Online.  There has always been a persistent rumbling from people about making New Eden more PvE friendly or making high sec completely safe from non-consensual PvP.  CCP has admirably stuck to its vision of the game on that front, but they nearly slipped at one point.

When we speak of the Incarna release, a lot of people jump straight to cash shops and monocles and the insider talk of selling “gold” ships or ammo ala World of Tanks.  But the cash shop still exists and monocles are just as expensive today as they were five years back.

That was all fluff.

The main issue was the captain’s quarters and the diversion from flying in space to avatar based game play.  That was what was rejected after Incarna, but only after a dismissive attitude from CCP about ship spinning… something that was even in their CSM summit statement…  and the like.

But results trump attitude, and after Incarna we got a renewed focus on flying in space with the Crucible expansion that started a long series of reworks of broken or ignored features that were part of the core game play, after which the game reached its subscriber peak.  They seem to get that they have a core they need to maintain. (Which they even mentioned in an interview today.)

And yet there remains a loudly vocal group of players who insist that EVE Online needs avatar based game play, the dreaded “walking in stations” crowd, despite it being such a non-core feature that to make it viable CCP would have to essentially develop another game within EVE Online in order to make it any sort of real attraction.  And to do that it would need to shift resources away from space, which is where everybody who plays the game today is invested.

Arguments about avatars attracting new players are all pie in the sky wishful thinking, while ignoring core game play and the primary audience for the game simply cannot be justified.  But still somebody brings up “walking in stations” every time the future of the game is discussed.

Straying from your core audience can be a win, but only if you know the demand is there, and there is no evidence that an investment in avatar based game play would add a single player to New Eden.

You can point your finger at me and rightly say that I am not a game developer, so how would I know.  And it is true, I work in a different segment of the tech industry, enterprise software.  It pays better and is much more stable.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sack full of stories about companies with solid products that bring in 99% of the revenue ignoring them to chase some pie in the sky vision because the VP of sales heard some analyst at Gartner say that the future was in “nano-plastic biometric IPv6 reporting schemas” or some other nonsense feature.

And let me tell you, the urge to stray from your focus is tested a lot more by a fortune 50 retailer telling you that they will only consider your product for their seven figure RFP if you support crazy feature X than by any number of gamers grumbling in your forums.

So I certainly have a sense of what happens when you lose focus along with a series of “no customer ever used” features I on which I worked for my resume.

All of which makes me a bit more optimistic about the MMORPG market these days.  WoW clones attempting to appeal to all demographics are dead for now.  Even WoW has felt the pinch for being too much of a bland reflection of early versions of the game.

Instead we have a range of “niche” titles in development, games that set out to be smaller and so can focus on what makes them what them special rather than feeling the have to have every feature ever present in any MMORPG ever shipped.  We wait upon Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained, Project: Gorgon, Crowfall, and probably a bunch more to validate once again that an MMO can be small and focused and successful.

But if you’re still out there shouting that every game needs to support your pet feature, you’re might want to reflect on whether you’re actually part of the problem that got us to the grim state of big MMORPGs in the first place.

Losing 600 Billion ISK on Your Own Cyno Beacon

I have to laugh at us in the Imperium.  The past weekend’s big story was the huge, hours long time dilation Keepstar battle in M-OEE8 that had over 4,400 people in system at one time and where an estimated 266 billion ISK in ships were destroyed.  That was Sunday.

And then on Monday the Imperium lost ~600 billion ISK in ships destroyed in its own staging system on its cyno beacon, including a Revenant super carrier, the second one we’ve lost in a week. (The first one.)  Remember when losing a Revenant was a rare and newsworthy event?

Sir Edmund's Revenant on the field in happier times

Sir Edmund’s Revenant on the field in happier times

I was at work when all of this went down, and I haven’t seen anybody try to sum things up in a single post anywhere yet, but the story on comms seemed to run liked this:

-There was a known hot dropper in the system watching the cyno beacon (a POS module that allows jump drive capital ships to jump to it, which makes it an obvious spot to watch) waiting for some unsuspecting capital to jump in, at which point he would light a cyno and his buddies would drop in and kill it.

-Knowing this, somebody decided to bait the hot dropper with an empty industrial of some sort.  I saw a jump freighter mentioned, but am not sure if that was true or not.

-The camper took the bait and cyno’d in his team.

-We responded with a huge overkill force including titan pilots looking for kills.

-Pandemic Legion, which had bought a pile of dreads that TEST left behind after Progodlegend’s  ill fated “let’s attack Delve” campaign earlier this year, dropped the whole lot, with some support (e.g. faxes and tackle Rorquals), on the fight.

While PL lost their entire force, which was expected, they managed to take out 3 titans, 4 super carriers, 2 carriers, a fax machine, and some small stuff including a number of fighter squadrons, which count as kills.  That left a battle report which summed up as:

D-WF70 - Dec. 5, 2016

D-WF70 – Dec. 5, 2016

My summary is probably off.  There was something about how the forces were positioned that helped out PL, but nobody has written up yet that goes through the battle in detail.  Reddit is just full of well earned smugness at the moment.  I’ll update this with links should somebody break the situation down.

But the net result is that the Imperium lost a lot of ISK in the form of supers yesterday.  We would own the whole “most valuable kills in the last seven days” banner on ZKill if it hadn’t been for Wolverine007Miner’s Viator.  Meanwhile, most of the initial hot droppers got away.

So that was a moment worth noting.

The Mittani has been saying that since Ascension and the update to Rorquals, we have been mining the shit out of Delve, an assertion supported by the November economic report, which shows over 2 trillion ISK in value having been mined out of the region.  The next closest region was The Forge, in high sec and close to Jita, which saw 1.35 trillion ISK in mining.

With all those minerals, and the new engineering complexes, which let you queue up many super caps for production, it seems like super proliferation is going to be a worse issue than ever.  I am sure we will be adding to the problem.

Other posts about the battle:

Addendum: Jay Amazingness (Sir Edmund) and the video of his Revenant loss.

Targets of Opportunity in Tribute

As I noted the other week, the once simmering war in Tribute came to something of a boil recently as Circle-of-Two saw themselves driven out of system after system as NCdot, Pandemic Legion, and assorted allies marched towards their capital in M-OEE8.

Tribute - December 5, 2016

Tribute – December 5, 2016

CO2 lost their capital on Friday, leaving them with only a couple of systems in the region, plus their holdings in Vale of the Silent, where they have the constellation DMXN-3.

There was some war news the week before last on the Meta Show when guests revealed that Pandemic Legion had decided they did not want to move to M-OEE8 any more, the ostensible reason for the whole conflict.  Back in October they were saying how great M-OEE8 would be, now they are not interested.

However, despite that news, NCDot, Pandemic Legion, and their allies planned to continue to prosecute the war, including taking down the Keepstar that CO2 had raised in M-OEE8.  CO2 moved their capitals to low sec, within jump range of their Keepstar and the fight for the massive citadel was on.

Killing a citadel takes three attempts.  There is the shield timer, the armor timer, and then the final battle to kill the structure.  If the attackers fail at any step, it is back to the start again.  The attackers did the shield round successfully, and it was time for the armor timer yesterday.

Yesterday was round two

The system after yesterday’s fun

The armor timer was nicely timed as it was set to come out around 19:00, putting it in the Sunday sweet spot between Euro and US time zones, allowing the maximum number of players to pile in on the fight. Of course the Imperium wanted to drop in on the action as well, so an op was set to form up at 17:00 to take the trip north to shoot all the things.

Asher had warned the jacket pals to have Cerberus fleet ships ready to go for the expedition, and when the ping for the fleet finally went out it filled up fast… so fast that a second frigate fleet had to go up to take the overflow.  There was a bit of wrangling to get the right people into the fleet, but fleet formation has simplified somewhat since boosting was separated from the fleet hierarchy, rendering the roles of squad commander and wing commander superfluous. (But they are still there just to confuse people.)

Form up actually went smoothly.  The Cerberus doctrine ships on contract ran out quickly, but the fleet was not lacking for number.  There were a couple of special items we were asked to carry, and a few of us X’d up to fit remote sensor boosters to enhance the targeting abilities of Asher’s Loki FC ship, but nothing big got in our way and we were soon out and in range to the titan atop our own Keepstar and bridging out to the first leg of our journey north.

Bridge up, everybody jump

Bridge up, everybody jump

From the cyno, we had a free burn for a few jumps and then held to group back up again, at which point we were guided to a wormhole.

Waiting to go through

Waiting to go through the wormhole

Boosters and logi went through first, then the ships of the line.  But we need not have worried, as the hole was fresh and still looked good after we passed through.

The hole put us in Daras, a low sec system not too far from M-OEE8.  We moved along together, then held up at the station in Taisy, the low sec connection to M-OEE8, and docked up for a final set of bio breaks and drink refills.

Once set there, we undocked and warped to the gate.  From there we had only to jump to enter the fray.  The fray and time dilation and lag and all the issues of a big fight.  You could see the point at which you ceased to be in Taisy on the jump and were part of the load on M-OEE8.  The warp tunnel itself slowed dramatically as we passed through into the maelstrom.

On the plus side, CCP had clearly been notified that the fight was pending and had reinforced the system.  It appeared to be on its own node and not bringing down the surrounding systems.  If you were in Taisy, for example, you might not know what was going on next door, aside from the high amount of traffic passing through the system.

On the other side however, the time dilation began.

It actually wasn’t so bad when we landed in the system, hovering in the teens.  But the timer hadn’t run down yet, so the shooting had yet to begin, and there were still people piling into the system.  Asher warped us to a perch on the Keepstar grid and we could see the forces arrayed about the citadel.  And the time came and the universe went to hell.  More people piled in.  I saw Local go above 4,400, though I tried to keep that window closed as it was both full of the usual spam and processing that text was causing a noticeable drag on frame rate.

4,400 and 10% TiDi

4,401 in system and 10% TiDi

The thing with time dilation is that it can slow actions down to as low as 10% of normal speed, but sometimes that is not enough.  This was one of those times.  When you go beyond that, the system load manifests itself in other fun ways.

Modules fail to activate or deactivate.  One of our problems was simply being able to get the fleet to activate missile launchers, launch a volley or two at a target, and then deactivate them in order to switch targets.  The launcher modules would site there blinking red at us for ages.

Sometimes user input would just be missed or ignored.  At one point I was trying to put missiles on a target but the launcher activated on Asher, who I had locked up in order to use the remote sensor booster on him.  I turned them off after one volley, but this is why I ended up on his kill mail. (Along with a couple of other members of fleet running remote sensor boosters on him.)

At one point Asher asked on coms why I was broadcasting “Enemy Spotted!”  That is one of the least useful fleet broadcasts, which I turned off ages ago.  The default key for that is “Z” in the settings.  I have the toggle UI option set to Alt-Z.  However, the systems was losing my keyboard inputs (I had to make several attempts each time I toggled the UI) and it was sometimes just catching the “Z” causing me to broadcast.  I went and turned that off, but for a bit I was “that guy” in fleet again.

Then there was the UI, which has a good chance of drawing incorrectly in such situations.  I totally lost the Route view in the upper left of the screen, which I only noticed when we were leaving.  My overview ended up with a couple of ships stuck on it at 0m that simply were not there.  And when warping the UI didn’t always match up.

Warp drive active at

Warp drive active at 2,382 m/s?  It said that for most of my failed warp.

And sometimes the client would just give up.  There was a moment when the point defense system on the Keepstar was activated and it was reported that a couple hundred people were knocked offline.  I was knocked offline a few times during the fight, including at the point defense activation.  The first time it took me 15 minutes to get back into the game.  My ship had been warped off to a safe, so I had to wait while it slowly warped back.  Fortunately our fleet hadn’t moved too far so I was close enough to catch Asher’s next warp, which got me back in the ball of Cerbs again.

The next time the client gave up, I was back into the game in about five minutes, as I was still in formation, targets still locked, and providing remote sensor booster support to Asher.  Great!  And then a bit later the ship did its disconnect routine and warped off the a safe and then back to the grid, leaving me off on my own again.  Fortunately Asher would slow down every once in a while to let people catch up.

But for all of that, it was an epic battle with sights you do not see every day as multiple fleets of sub caps flew around the grid, dreadnoughts dropped on the citadel, and the defense batteries blazing away.

Somebody even grabbed some video of us swooping through the fight with the Keepstar in the background.

We were there for targets of opportunity, willing to shoot either side in the conflict as they came into range.  The only thing we were not there to shoot was the Keepstar itself.  Since it was just the armor timer, there would be no kill mail, so we were not inclined to waste missiles helping the attackers.  They had plenty of firepower on hand, once they brought it to bear.  There was a gap when the repair timer started its 15 minute count down and when the attackers got enough damage onto the citadel to halt it.

Timer past half way and still running

Timer at the half way point and still running

But at just shy of the four minutes left mark the damage stopped the clock and there it stayed until the armor was slowly stripped away.

There is a conspiracy theory going about that the Imperium was there to support CO2 and TEST, but it has no basis in reality.  Apparently somebody in CO2 temp blued us, which makes sense, because we were not there to shoot the Keepstar, so why bother with us?  And still, that didn’t keep them from killing Xenuria.

Our first target was a CO2 machariel, after which we took shots at a PL Typhoon fleet, various bombers that landed in the vicinity, and then a fleet of dreads that dropped on grid for the fight.  As it happened, our targets tended to be the attackers, as the defenders were sticking close to the Keepstar while we were hunting out along the periphery.

Then, after the fight had dragged on, the defenders started pulling back, the armor layer looked to be well on its way destruction, Asher had been alpha’d off the field, and it looked like time for us to head home.  Corbzilla took over the FC position and tried to get us to the Taisy gate.  This ended up taking about half an hour, and not merely because the warp was 104 AU.  Several of us had problems just getting the ourselves into warp.  I ended up in the strange warping but not warping state which actually moved be about 30 AU and then stopped.  Eventually I was disconnected and then had to warp away, then back to the Keepstar (at which point my overview was totally hosed, as it showed nobody on grid with me besides the citadel), and then off to the Taisy gate.

And still I was not the last fleet member through the gate.  The fleet was holding on the far side and there was a rush of joy as the slow warp tunnel suddenly sped up and spat me out into low sec.  In some ways it was like being able to breathe again.

Corbzilla moved us back to Daras and the wormhole back south.  It was still there, so he had the boosters and logi move through first, then gave the word for the rest of jump, but the wormhole collapsed before the whole fleet got through, so some of us had to move through high sec while others had a much shorter ride home.  I lucked out and got through the hole.

Of course, nothing is ever easy.  An incursion had dropped in the constellation where our wormhole put us, so Plaid Rabbit shepherded us through that until we were clear to fly freely back to our staging.

Approximately six hours after we undocked to get on the titan I docked back up in our Keepstar.  It was a long day, though I still had time to put the Christmas lights up on the house afterwards.

I don’t mind a long op like that for an epic fight, but it isn’t something I can do every day.  Still,  the draw of the fight helped boost the player count past the 50K mark again, though we didn’t pass the high water mark of two weeks ago.

Still, not bad for a Sunday

Not bad for a Sunday, but not quite 50,958

And now we have a six day wait for the final timer on the Keepstar in M-OEE8, which comes out on Saturday.  I suspect that the system will see even more people in local as they try to get in, shoot some people, and get on the Keepstar kill mail.  We shall see if I can make that.  Not sure I have another all day fleet op in me this week though.

For a timeline of events, there is a post up over at Imperium News that has you covered.  I haven’t seen any battle reports yet, as zkillboard seems to still be digesting the battle and trying to handle all the people hitting it looking for a battle report.  I’ll link whatever else shows up here later.

And, finally, I have a series of screen shots from the battle.

BB78 – Can The Slate Ever Be Made Clean Again?

After something of a vacation, it is time for another EVE Online Blog Banter entry.  This is number 78 in the series and it asks the following question:

Just for a moment engage your “willing suspension of disbelief”. Imagine that CCP, at downtime today, reset everything in Eve Online. Everything! When you logged in you were in a starter system with your character… but now with less than a million skill points, a mere 5000 ISK and a noob ship (now with civilian afterburner!). Markets are pretty empty other than a few seeded items. All Sov is gone. All player structures are gone. All PI infrastructure is gone. No corps or alliances exist. Nothing remains. New Eden is suddenly a completely level playing field and the next great gold-rush is on? Or is it? What happens now?

The great player wipe question.  I went directly there only a few months into the life of the blog, trying to split the difference between death and rebirth.  And I have been back there many times since.  It is a thorny question and not one easily dismissed, for each tired “obvious” response has its own set of counter arguments that you have to ignore in order to believe there is but one true path.

The pro-player wipe, or pwipe, side of things draws on a desire to relive the past.  Nostalgia is a more powerful force of nature… at least human nature… than people often believe.  Quoting Thomas Wolfe and declaring the very idea of being able to relive the past an impossibility ignores the flexibility of the human brain and memories.

I say this as one who has been on successful trips into the past.

TorilMUD, the Forgotten Realms based MUD I played for many years went through three distinct periods with pwipes in between and probably the best time I ever had in the game was after the third pwipe.  That was in early 2002 if I recall right, nearly a decade after I made my first character, so the game was not new to me.  There were no more feelings of first discovery to be had, no sense of wonder and anxiety in exploring the low level areas of the game.

But there was a huge rush of fun as everybody started out again at level one.  Many old players returned and there were lots of familiar names as we set out with our basic newbie equipment to slay orcs and kobolds and those buffalo outside of Waterdeep.  TorilMUD is very much a game that requires grouping and having ample low level groups to join is something that only happens at pwipe.  After enough time passes the usual thing happens and the regulars are all at the top of the level curve and those few lowbies you see online are often alts, twinked with good gear so they can solo.  If you start new then, low level zones tend to be dead and groups difficult to find.

The game had changed quite a bit since I started playing just after the 1993 pwipe.  But the mechanics do not matter as much as you might imagine.  There is a lot of fun/nostalgia to be had just being on a fresh server where everybody is starting over again.

As a follow on to that, I will point to the progression servers in EverQuest.  Back in the Fippy Darkpaw server era, Skronk and I had a great time running through old Norrath.  Granted, it helped that we started in Qeynos, the side of the world long in disfavor with SOE and so which still has old school graphics.  But even our runs to redone Freeport and The Commonlands were not spoiled by revamped visuals.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

And we were not bothered by the how much the mechanics of the game had changed over the years.  A few people were nit picking about how such and such a thing wasn’t like that back in 1999, but on the whole players seemed happy to just jump onto a fresh server with new players and old content in order pretend we were all young(er) again.

In the case of EverQuest, this is born out by the fact that of the three most popular servers running, two of them are nostalgia/progression servers, with the third being a community heavy role play server.

Not so many servers as the old days

Not so many servers as the old days

And, yes, the call of nostalgia is an emotional one, not a logical one.  But we are not logical beings.  I think the past election is proof of that.  I’ve certainly seen enough in life to support the assertion that people general make their decisions immediately and then find and weight facts to support that decision after the fact.  And I know I do it too.

So I can see the emotional appeal of just wiping that database and restarting Tranquility afresh.  Imagine New Eden with 40K rookie ships… erm, corvettes now… undocking.  A New Eden with now loyalty points yet banked, no faction yet earned, no huge piles of ISK socked away in wallets, no markets piled high with equipment, no sovereignty claimed, and not a tech II module or BPO to be found anywhere.  Everybody equal; the same starting equipment, the same amount of ISK, the same number of skill points.  A bright new universe of choices and second chances.  Alliances to be rebuilt, empires to be forged anew, fortunes to be sought once again.

It doesn’t have to be technically 2003 again… or 2006 for me… to feel at least some excitement at the prospect of a pwipe.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant docking back in the day

Of course, there is the flip side to all of that, wherein a pwipe would be very, very bad for CCP.

As human beings, we often get very attached to our “stuff,” and the distinction between real and virtual stuff is no distinction at all for some, regardless of what the EULA might say.  In fact, one of the draws of MMORPGs, the thing that keeps them going for beyond a decade, is often tied into our virtual inventories and accomplishments.

Stuff… be it bank tabs full of cosmetic gear and outdated crafting supplies or hangars full of ships and modules… is part of the link the tethers us to these games.  The sunk cost fallacy is alive and well as people will continue to play a game, even after it goes stale for them, simply because they have accumulated so much stuff.  And levels, experience, or skill points further cement that bond.

I don’t play EVE Online merely because I have 160 million skill points, but all those skill points and what they enable within the game do make me much more likely to log in.

And somewhere in between… at a different spot for everybody… is a balance, a spot where loss of stuff would break the tie between them and the game.  A good portion of people don’t want to start over again, and I am sure that some who do would find that wish challenged in the face of a rookie ship reality.

Of course, CCP knows this.  Every decent MMORPG company knows this.  This is the reason they don’t clean out the character database regularly, why you should worry too much about what it says in the EULA about when they CAN delete your account, because when they actually WILL delete it is a different story.

For CCP to do a pwipe, especially one as described, would be insanity given the current state of the game.  It would be throwing out a known situation in hopes that an unknown situation might be “better,” for whatever definition of the word you wish to choose.  “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens!” is not a viable business plan.

So it ain’t gonna happen in New Eden.  Or not any time soon.

And neither is a fresh server.  Leaving aside the cost of setting up and maintaining another live server, one of the lessons from the EverQuest and EverQuest II is that, while some people will come back for a fresh/retro/nostalgia server, a large part of those who will play them are already subscribers.  One of the forum complaints about the Stormhold server in EQII was that it stole enough players from live servers as to make forming groups for raids a much more difficult task.

Opening a fresh server would steal more players from Tranquility than it would bring in new players, and then we would end up with two servers with less players than the current one.

For a game that thrives on having a certain critical mass of players… any why else would you bring in Alpha clones than to try to keep the game above that level… a second live server (outside of China, which doesn’t count) looks like a non-starter as well.

So we shall plow on through space as before, all of us together aboard the SS Tranquility, for the foreseeable future.

Still, though, it is fun to imagine what we all might do if after some future downtime the whole thing came up fresh.  The reactions would range between sheer joy and utter rage I am sure.  I’d give it a shot.

Alternate titles I considered for this post:

  • You can sort of go home again
  • Playing with your old toys as an adult
  • Roll on rose colored glasses
  • Nostalgia is a can of worms
  • The clean slate
  • How to kill New Eden
  • Nostalgia is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell bad

Meanwhile, other bloggers tackling this month’s topic include:

November in Review

The Site

I got another WordPress.com achievement this month.

A thousand of you hit that button

A thousand of you hit that button

In the context of WordPress.com, a follower is somebody with a WP.com account that follows your blog so they can view updates in the WP.com reader.  This surprises me both because I am not all that fond of the WP.com reader and because I muted notifications about new followers a while back, so wasn’t really keeping track at all.  Also I turned off that little floating thing that has the “follow” button, so I am not sure how people even do the follow thing here at this point.

But now I have accrued 1,003 followers in the last 6 years, which is when “follow” became a thing on WP.com.  If you know how, you can find a list of all of your followers.  Mine is 51pages long and full of people I don’t recall.  But my third follower ever was Stargrace.  She has been pretty busy of late.  And follower 1,000 was Adam Harkus, who is a guitarist and travels.

Of course, a thousand isn’t all that many people and this month has actually seen another drop in page views.  The previous time I mentioned it, Google was the reason.  There was a date after which referrals from Google dropped by about 25% daily.

This month however Google has remained steady.  Instead the drop has come from referrals from other blogs and related sites.  I don’t know if the election and its aftermath has everybody otherwise occupied or if I am just wrote dull stuff this month… I certainly did not write much about WoW and haven’t been in a war in EVE… but on average a good 100 people a day simply aren’t clicking on links that lead to my site.  Life in blog lane.

One Year Ago

The launch of Fallout 4 caused a dip in porn viewing on the internet.

Nintendo announced they were re-releasing Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console.

BlizzCon was approaching and I laid out a “need vs greed” list of things I thought would happen at the event.  But before BlizzCon there had to be the Q3 quarterly results.  The big news was that World of Warcraft held steady and had 5.5 million subscribers.  However, Blizzard said they were not going to talk about subscription numbers any more.  They would be talking about Candy Crush Saga though, having purchased King for 5.9 billion dollars.

Then BlizzCon came and I had to score my list.

It also slipped out a bit early that the WoW Legion expansion would not hit until summer 2016, September 21 being the last possible date listed, which seemed a long ways off.  I wasn’t yet ready to return to the game.  I used gold to grab a WoW Token for 30 days of play time and spend the most of it just earning that money back running missions in my garrison.

I dipped my toe back in Lord of the Rings Online for a bit.

Still playing Minecraft, I finished up the Great Northern Road and highlighted the guardian farm that Aaron built.

In New Eden, the Parallax expansion was released, the last named monthly update in Syndicate to be released.  From then on names were reserved for big expansions while monthly updates were simply know by their date.

There was also the start of the ill-fated Fountain War Kickstarter campaign, which was plagued by hubris, gaffes, bad ideas, and “Grrr Goons” hostility.  Not that it didn’t deserve some of the latter as it was a clusterfuck and was not winning fast enough.  It was finally cancelled before the clock ran down, but it left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

There was also a Fountain War video which was better received… but then nobody was asking for $150,000 to produce it.

Meanwhile, another member of CSM X got cut.  Not a Goon.

CCP Quant took his EVE Vegas presentation and made it the first of the monthly EVE Economic reports to be publish.

And actually in the game, the Reavers were down in Wicked Creek to spar with TEST.  We were not there long, but it was one of those deployments that generated its own legends in the SIG.  We were called back because a small war was brewing in Cloud Ring against some foes, old and new.  Some had no sov and were hitting us from low sec.  We fell on them when we could in what was being dubbed the “Kickstarter War.”  Herein lay some of the seeds of what would be called the “Casino War” and, later, “World War Bee.”

Over at Daybreak, EverQuest II got the Terrors of Thalumbra of expansion while EverQuest got expansion number 22, The Broken Mirror.  There was the Phinigel “true box” progression server coming up for EverQuest.  The EverQuest II server consolidation was wrapping up, on Stormhold the Kingdom of Sky expansion was voted down, and the game turned 11, all of which I covered in a single post.

Daybreak also shut down Dragon’s Prophet, which lives on in Europe under another publisher.

Smed, gone from Daybreak, wanted to stop talking about money when it came to video games.

And finally, I had a test… a Star Wars test… for those wishing to date my daughter.

Five Years Ago

I looked back at the Star Wars Extended Universe novel Heir to Empire, which turned 20 years old. That might be my most coherent piece on the site.

In EVE Online, the upcoming Crucible expansion had a chance to remove the Incarna stink from the game. Oh, and ship trails were back. And Hulkageddon V was announced… about six months early it turns out.

I reviewed my 2011 MMO outlook. Rift appeared to be the unlikely winner, while DCUO had already gone F2P.

Speaking of going F2P in under a year, I had my first peek at Star Wars: The Old Republic in the beta. Pre-NDA drop, I used Star Wars Galaxies to describe the game as nothing new. Then the NDA dropped and I bitched some more. I did not find the game fun, cancelled my pre-order, and went back to Rift.

And then there was EverQuest II going free to play on all servers, which made me wonder what else in the SOE line up might follow suit.

Then, suddenly, Vanguard started showing inexplicable signs of life.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Scars of Velious was complete and the Luclin expansion went live. Also, breaking the retro aspect, Fippy Darkpaw players got the same new hot bars that all EverQuest players got with the new expansion. They actually worked like hot bars in other games.

In Rift, we made it to Meridian and then faced our first boss while learning the rules of their LFG tool. Oh, and the damn Yule rifts were up before Thanksgiving. I swear, it gets earlier every year.

We learned of the real money auction house in Diablo III. An auction house focus for the game? I’m sure that will work out great.

And also on the RMT front was the Guardian cub pet in World of Warcraft. I did a couple of price checks on those, but somebody should probably go back and see how prices look a year later.

Oh, and WoW had lost 2 million subscribers. Remember when that was a big deal?  But it was still insanely profitable.

Torchilght II was delayed because we had other things to play, right?

AOL shut down Wow.com. That doesn’t mean what you think.

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

Google was pissing me off by changing up Google Reader. I am still annoyed by some of the features they axed, but at least they fixed the layout so you could reduce the huge amount of white (read: wasted) space in the new default layout.

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Ten Years Ago

Our World of Warcraft Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group finished up Blackfathom Deeps,The Stockades, Shadowfang Keep, and started in on Razorfen Kraul.

In EverQuest, I picked up The Serpent’s Spine and tried running a new character though some of the new level 1-70 content.  I also set out a minor goal of taking screen shots to compare Faydwer in EQ and Faydwer in EQII that lead to posts about Kaladim and Kelethin.

And in EverQuest II, the Echoes of Faydwer expansion came out.  Once I found a copy and got past the patching process and into the game, I made a fae swashbuckler and went to town.

the Revelations expansion hit in New Eden, my first expansion update in EVE Online.  I followed the general wisdom and made sure I had a long skill training the night before.

The Wii and the PlayStation 3 were both released in the US.

And the maker of the ubiquitous ZMud client announced a replacement product called CMud.  I tried the demo version, but since ZMud continued to work for me, I stuck with that.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Make My Alpha Clone
  2. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  3. EVE Online Passes 50K Players Online Again
  4. Election Night in Fountain
  5. The Demise of BattleClinic
  6. WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches
  7. EVE Vegas – Like Finds Like and Other Things
  8. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  9. Pondering That Legion Level 100 Boost
  10. Projecting on BlizzCon 2016
  11. Ascension Day in EVE Online
  12. Scoring My BlizzCon Projections

Search Terms of the Month

why isn’t torchlight 2 more popular
[There is probably a long post in that. For me, it just wasn’t as compelling as Diablo III was]

eve online goonsquad war even when “alpha clone” -state
[I really want to know what they were looking for]

minecraft 1.11 were do you find the new woodland mansion
[I think I actually answered that one this month]

swg source code download for private use
[They try to limit that to just scoundrels]

Spam Comment of the Month

Thank you for sharing superb informations.
[I just like the plural at the end there. Give me all your datas!]

EVE Online

I did not end up playing very much EVE Online this past month, which is odd, because we got the Ascension expansion. That was a big deal, with Alpacas and new explosions and such.  But it was also a month where the Imperium was mostly at peace.  I went on a couple of ops into Fountain where we take pot shots at The-Culture.  But otherwise Delve has been pacified, Querious filled, and anybody who wanders into our space gets caps dropped on them.  Since I often only log in for strat ops, quite times can often lead to low play times.

Minecraft

The surprise entry this month, as my activity there of late had been rather listless.  But it too got an expansion which spurred an exploration drive as I sought out a woodland mansion of my own and then worked to link it up with the rest of our infrastructure.  It is a game where having a project can make all the difference.  Now what to do with that mansion?

Pokemon Go

The double experience holiday event helped push things along for me, as have the new daily first and seven day streak bonuses.  And I got a Snorlax from a 10km egg, which is now my highest CP Pokemon, ringing in currently at 2,185.

Current end of month stats:

  • Level: 24 (+2)
  • Pokedex status: 99 (+20) caught, 129 (+16) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Ditto
  • Current buddy: Ivysaur

Pokemon Sun & Moon

A new game for the core Pokemon RPG fans.  And a pretty decent entry in the field, as it walks the tightrope path between sticking to the core essentials and bringing new things to the franchise… besides new Pokemon.  My daughter and I have been playing it, though I think she is up on it because a couple of her friends at school play Pokemon as well.  My influence wains, but I’ll take any play time I can get with her.  And at least one of her friends has said it is so cool that her dad plays Pokemon too.  Hah!

Stellaris

I started out this month gangbusters on Stellaris.  And then I got past the hump and figured out the early game, only to fall into the abyss of the mid-to-end game that can really drag on as empires settle in and wrestle with each other over the scraps, form federations, and then stare at each other while the victory conditions remain way out of reach.  The Civilization end-game problem writ on a galactic scale.

World of Warcraft

Azeroth has been rapidly falling out of favor around here.  I certainly played less WoW than any other game I called out this month, and at least one I did not. (I played some Age of Kings at one point.)  Part of that has been something of a reaction to the pre-flying achievements needing mythic dungeon runs or a crazy rep grind, depriving me of the sort of longer term goal that might keep me going.  And then Blizzard has been breaking things.  I was getting back into pet battles, right up until a patch broke the PetBattle Teams addon.  Without that, sorting through 500+ pets to make a team for a given fight is just too annoying.  And for some reason, I can no longer send things via email to my alts, breaking a crafting thing I had going on.  So WoW may be on its way out for me very soon.

Coming Up

The final month of 2016, the year that will be that year for some time to come, looms.  There is still time for and additional disaster and a few beloved celebrity deaths.  But still, there is limited time left, though I am still predicting some sort of horrible New Year’s Eve ball dropping fiasco that will take out Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin, Carson Daly, and Ryan Seacrest live on national TV.  Guy Lombardo never faced such peril.

Otherwise, what have we got for December?  Probably a Steam holiday sale, even though we just had a Steam autumnal sale.  Steam sales have lost their edge.

I’ve got the usual five posts to write, looking forward and back, reviewing predictions and making new ones, and generally wrapping things up for the year.

There is a rumor that Pokemon Go will get new Pokemon in December.  No Man’s Sky is supposed to get an update to make things better, though the current $60 price makes it too pricey for me to gamble on just yet.  There will likely be the usual EVE Online monthly update, maybe with a holiday event.  Holiday events will be going on in all the usual games.

And for some of us it will be wet and cold out, which will give is a fine excuse to stay inside and play video games.