Tag Archives: Blog Banter

Blog Banter 68 – Rig Check

This month’s EVE Online Blog Banter, number 68 in the series, is titled This is my Rig.

This is my Rig, There are Many Like it…
What do you play Eve on? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours! Are you pew-pewing on a laptop? Plotting universal domination on a 12 monitor set up? Mining away on a 50″ TV? Is your set up located where your other half can speak to you or do you lock yourself away for hours in your Eve themed shed? How do you play your important internet spaceships?

So I looked at my desk setup and realized that not much has changed over the last few years.  I did a post on a very similar topic back in 2007 and found that not much has changed on my desk.  So much so that I am not going to bother taking a new picture, because the old one still pretty much reflects my desktop situation.

The table is unusually clear in this picture

The table is unusually clear in this picture

Also, I would have to clean up the stacks of papers that tend to accumulated on either end of my desk for a decent picture.

But otherwise I have the same Dell 20″ 1600×1200 (4:3 ratio) monitor (still with the same desktop pattern), the same Logitech G15 keyboard (though the back lighting is going out on half the keys), the same Kensington Expert Mouse (though the ball was marred when one of the cats decided that biting it was a good idea), and the same Logitech speakers (which now have a loose wire in the volume control so I have to wiggle it sometimes to get sound).  Even the power strip and the holder for envelopes are the same more than eight years later.

EVE Online Jump Gate

Desktop picture for many years…

I am a couple of headsets down the road, though I still have the pair in the picture, a Plantronics .510 set, I just use it at work for VoIP calls rather than at home.  At home I have a Logitech g930 wireless headset, which I wrote about in another post, and which I am only moderately fond of.

And I have gone from a 3rd generation iPod to a 3rd generation iPod Nano, which I purchased not long after that picture was taken, so there is no longer an iPod dock on the desk, just a cable with the old style connector which works with both the iPod and my iPad 2.

What is under the desk has changed a few time since that picture was taken.  The big purple Alienware case is long gone.  The Velocity Micro system I got at the end of 2007, with an early Intel Quad Core processor, replaced my wife’s last computer and is still mostly suited to her needs.

The big black and well ventilated Cooler Master case from the system I built back in 2010 is still there.  However, after the big disaster of a year ago, when a power supply I had been thinking about replace went out and took almost everything connected with it, there was a pretty substantial rebuild.

So here is what is driving my gaming today:

  • Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H motherboard
  • Intel Core i5-4590 3.3GHz Processor
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 960 video card with 4GB of VRAM
  • 12GB of RAM
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 240GB SSD for the OS
  • 2TB internal HDD for storage
  • 2TB of external HDD for backups (all those screen shots gotta live somewhere)
  • 1 BluRay/DVD/CD Read/Write unit that survived the power supply incident

All of which is enough to give the system a Windows 7 experience score of 7.6 on a scale of 1 to 7.9… because why would we do something crazy and use a 1 to 10 scale or something. (The scale is different on Windows 8 and Windows 10 if I recall right.)

Windows7ExpScore

I also like how your score isn’t a weighted average or anything, but just the lowest item on the list.  I smell a marketing decision.

All of which gives me sufficient resources to run most games I play with the graphic settings turned up pretty high.  Specifically, I can play EVE Online in pretty graphics mode in a big battle with two clients running and things seem to run okay.  Windows 7 does insist on turning off the Windows Aero desktop graphics when I run two clients, but that is fine by me.

So that is what I am running.  Ergonomically I am still playing in 2007, while under the covers I do have enough horsepower to play what I want to.  I’ll probably need a new keyboard at some point, and I dream of a bigger monitor some day, but for now I am still set, and there are a lot of other things on the list that come ahead of new toys for me.

Others participating in Blog Banter 68:

Call Me CCP Ishmael…

This month’s EVE Blog Banter, number 67 in the series, asks us to assume that, through some tragic yet unspecified set of circumstances, we have been vaulted into the leadership of CCP and now have our hand on the tiller of EVE Online.  We are then to chart the course for the company from there.

Oh, and we were supposed to pick our official CCP handle.  I probably put more thought into that than the rest of this post, eventually landed on CCP Ishmael.  The Ishmael from Moby Dick, not the Old Testament Ishmael.

And so I have set myself up to beat to death both a metaphor and a literary allusion in a single post.

Hilmar never looked so good...

Hilmar never looked so good… wait, that’s Ahab…

Because, if nothing else, you could spin the story of CCP and EVE Online as one of overriding obsession, the search for the white whale that is perfection in balance and fun and savagery in New Eden.

Remember Incarna?

Remember Incarna?  A white whale if ever there was one…

Furthermore, like Ishmael, I have found myself something of a narrator of the progress of the game as the years have gone by.  Like Kirith Kodachi and EVE Hermit, my main character recently passed the nine year mark, and over that time I have written a lot of words about the game and spent a lot of time in my internet spaceship.

And, like the Ishmael of the book, while I am part of the story, and reflect upon it frequently, I am still on the outside of what really goes on in the brains of those steering the ship.  I can speculate, but I can never really know.  This is pushed further by my own tendency to be a tactical, rather that strategic, thinker.

All of which means that if you put me on that ship in a position of responsibility, it is as likely a not to go under, with me floating around on a coffin or in a pod or some such.

Gold pod away!

A small pod in the vast ocean of space

Anyway, this Blog Banter seems designed to let people come up with broad, sweeping strategic changes… why else would I need to be put in charge… to fix null sec or low sec or industry or simply to chart a new path forward into the future, as oppose to tactical level features and the like.

But all I have got is tactics.  If you ask me to fix Fozzie Sov, all I have is tweaks and adjustments, most of which have been brought up already.  The only one I haven’t seen is to have attackers dispense with the Entosis Link module and just shoot command nodes when they come up in order to take an objective, so we get to go with guns and kill mails as opposed to the magic laser ship.

I have a platform and no real big agenda.

So I am going to go back to tactics and request a feature I want.  Or, I guess that since I am in charge in this scenario, make CCP implement it.  Go me.

A while back CCP added in icons above your capacitor display to indicate if you were being jammed or webbed or pointed.  Something debilitating, aside from damage, is being applied to your ship and a red highlighted warning icon comes up to notify you.

A great, simple feature, necessary information put somewhere you can see it.

What I want are some additional icons.  Icons for non-debilitating items.

I want an icon to go up when you are getting shield reps, another for armor reps, a third for hull reps… heh…, an icon to show when you are getting capacitor, and that sort of thing.  Highlighted in blue or green or some other non-red, generally means good, color.

I want to know when good stuff is hitting me as well as bad.

Yes, you can see that if you have enough free space open on your screen and are zoomed in on your ship.  But a lot of people fly with their screens nearly covered and zoomed out far enough to see the whole battle as opposed to individual ships.

I don’t want an individual icon for every person hitting you, just one icon showing that you are, for example, getting shield reps which you can mouse over to list out who is applying reps to you.

This is, of course, a small and very tactical feature from somebody who flies logi most of the time, so it scratches an itch for me.  I want people to know when they are getting reps so they’ll stop pounding on the “need shield!” button and I want a quick visual indicator as to whether our cap chain is running or not and if the right person is chained up with me.  All things that I could figure out in other way, but which I want up front and easy to see.

That’s it.  That is all I’ve got.  Clearly if CCP ever had to depend on me, it would be doomed.

Anyway, others are taking a crack at this topic as well.  I will list them out below.

Not for Attribution

Posted as part of Blog Banter #65.

Attributes.  They are an ingrained feature of our role playing games.  I am sure they were around long before Dungeons & Dragons, but that was the starting point for many of us when it came to the concept.

It was an attempt to quantify the essentially unquantifiable.  Sure, Strength seems easy enough to translate to numbers I suppose… in Tunnels & Trolls you could carry ten pounds of whatever for every point of strength you had… and maybe Intelligence as a general measure, if you believe in IQ tests I suppose.  But Constitution or Dexterity, that gets a little trickier.  Charisma?  I think that delves into the human psyche too deeply to be represented by the result of a 3d6 roll, and what constitutes Wisdom in any case?

Still, we rolled with it… ha ha… because it was what we had and at least numbers were solid, which gave some of us the thin edge of the wedge from which to launch an ongoing career in rules lawyering.

And while the whole idea did not begin with Dungeons & Dragons, it seemed to multiply from there and soon some set of attributes that guided ability and access to classes or roles or whatever seemed to be in about in force.  There were variations, and sometimes even multi-tiered systems where basic attributes allowed one to derive secondary abilities or stats.

So it went, and when role playing games came to computers, attributes were not far behind.  After all, numbers are what computers do best.  So the tradition of “rolling up” a character carried on in electronic form.

The actual importance of stats in various games varied.  I remember writing up a character rolling script and letting it run for hours in TorilMUD, so important were your starting stats in the game.  And, just to make things a bit more tricky, the stats were obscured.  You couldn’t see the actual numbers, just a description that indicated the range they might fall into.

Do I take Heroic strength?

Do I take Heroic strength?

Heroic strength sounds great for a warrior, but the hierarchy of importance for all characters in the game put constitution first, as that influenced hit point gain as you leveled.  At level 20 the game relented and actually showed you the stats.

A Barbarian warrior of mine... 484 years old!

A Barbarian warrior of mine… 484 years old!

You’ll see by the table above that I was content with merely “good” strength, because +str gear was very common, but insisted on”mighty” dexterity (affected hitroll) and agility (gave an armor class bonus), while holding out for “heroic” constitution.  Plus there was a hold dynamic of how racial stats, where 90 str for a barbarian was equal to 100 str for a human and so forth.

The attributes were important, but there was a shadow of the future in that.  I let strength slide a bit because I knew warrior gear would eventually include some +str bonuses as I got into higher levels, so that attribute would be rounded up eventually.

As late as the launch of EverQuest we were at least pretending that base stats mattered.  I remember going in and tinkering with the points allocated to attributes with my first few characters because gear with attribute bonuses were not all that common.

But somehow in the five and a half years between the launch of EverQuest and the launches of World of Warcraft and EverQuest II, gear changed.  Rare now is the piece of gear that drops that does not have some attribute bonus to it.  Within two score of levels, your base attributes start to seem insignificant compared to your gear bonuses, and at the highest levels… in WoW, at least before the great stat squish… individual pieces of gear start being worth more than your initial attributes.

Back when EverQuest II removed weight as a concept in the game… you would no longer be weighed down by carrying too much coin or too many banker’s boxes… I pegged the change as being related to the inflation of basic attributes through gear.  Your average character’s strength grew so much through gear progression that weight essentially lost its meaning anyway, so the whole concept only had impact on low level alts and new players that hadn’t progressed far enough.  Why punish new players with something most of your player base doesn’t even think about, having essentially geared their way past it?

All of which, some 700+ words later, brings us to EVE Online.

EVE Online, now past its 11th anniversary, was created during the age of attributes, when we still seemed believed such things were essential, almost literally a requirement, for a role playing game.  And so, EVE Online characters have attributes.  You can see them in my character sheet, which I have grabbed from the Neocom iOS app:

Wilhelm Arcturus

Wilhelm Arcturus

There are all my current essentials.  Down to almost 2 billion ISK, my training queue is over two years long, being largely made up of level V skills at this point, I’m down in the Curse region in a Tengu, and at the very bottom are my character attributes.

My attributes are flat.  I leveled them out over a year ago because I was going to train up a series of skill that would be all over the map and so favoring one attribute over another would potentially help me on one skill only to hurt me on another.  So I figured making them all about the same would even out the hills and valleys.

Because here is the strange thing about EVE Online attributes; unlike World of Warcraft or EverQuest or TorilMUD or Tunnels & Trolls or Dungeons & Dragons, those attributes at the bottom of that screen capture have absolutely no direct impact on how my character performs in the game.

Having greater perception won’t make my guns track any faster, having more willpower won’t make my missiles fly any faster, having immense intelligence won’t make my shields hold out a moment longer, and having all the charisma in the world won’t let me talk my way past CONCORD once I shoot at somebody in high sec space.  None of those matter once I undock from a station.

Yes, sure, they matter indirectly before I undock.  Those attributes affect how fast a given skill trains on a character.  That impacts what ship I undock with and what modules I may have mounted on it, but when I actually undock that is all history and does not affect the here and now.  You undock with the ship you can fit now, not the ship you may wish to fit at some later date.

So this month’s Blog Banter, number 65 in an ongoing series, asks the question:

Does Eve need attributes? It’s been discussed a lot recently. Unlike other MMO’s your characters attributes don’t make a difference in day-to-day gameplay. They simply set how fast you train a skill. Is it time to remove attributes from the game or totally revamp their purpose? Do they add a level of complexity to the game that is not needed? If you really need to use a 3rd party application to get the most from it should it be in the game? Should they be repurposed with each attribute adding a modifier to your ship? Are attributes a relic from the past or are they an important part of Eve – You make your decision and deal with the consequences?

My gut response is “No.”  They should go the way of learning skills, now five years gone from the game.  They are an excess complication that does not add anything to game play.

But I am not so sure when I think about it further.

Yes, I have spent a bunch of time fussing about attributes.  You only get a neural remap once per year, which lets you adjust your attributes, so I have set out training plans in EVE Mon and tried for an optimized configuration.  But the next training plan that I don’t interrupt almost immediately with some new skill I suddenly feel I need will be the first.  I often can’t go a month without changing it up, so asking me to commit to a year is impossible.

And then there are implants.

CCP maps out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain

CCP mapped out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain

You can boost your attributes… and thus speed up your skill training… by inserting implants.  I have a clone with a set of +4 implants in high sec and when I know I am going to be off for a few days I will jump to that clone to boost my training.  But implants cost ISK, and good ones cost a lot of ISK, and when your ship gets blown up and you get podded, those implants go with it.  A set of implants can be worth more than the ship you lost… a lot more… if you get podded.

So balancing against my gut feeling is a sense that there is a certain amount of strategic planning and depth that goes with attributes.  You can optimize them, if you’re willing to commit for a year, to get ahead faster in an area of training you wish to focus on.  Or you can flatten them out if you want to play a more conservative game.

Likewise you can speed up your training as long as you don’t mind flying around with millions of ISK plugged into your pod.  Losing your pod without implants is essentially free, but you start plugging some in and, as noted, you’re head can quickly become more valuable than your ship.

So while attributes cease to have any direct impact once we undock… our choices are made when we hit that button, and the skills we have are what we have… I am going to fall on the side of attributes being, if not strictly necessary, at least very much a part of the makeup of the game.  The planning and commitment aspect of the training queue along with the risk versus reward part of the implants are, for lack of a better term, very EVE Online.

Of course, that also sounds a lot like “but we’ve always done it this way!” something I wouldn’t condone.  They cause us to make choices… are they interesting choices or not is more the question I suppose.

So I will say that I would rather keep attributes than just eliminate them wholesale.  But if somebody can come up with a plan for an alternate use for attributes or how to make them more relevant to the every day capsuleer experience, or the choices surrounding them more interesting (for whatever definition of “interesting” you prefer), I am all ears.

Meanwhile, others have added their opinions to the mix.  You can find the Blog Banter #65 launch post over at Sand, Cider, and Spaceships, the new host for Blog Banter, along with these other posts on the topic:

Like Walking in L.A.

I don’t know could’ve been a lame jogger maybe
Or someone just about to do the freeway strangler baby
Shopping cart pusher or maybe someone groovie
One thing’s for sure, he isn’t starring in the movies.
‘Cause he’s walkin’ in L.A.
Walkin’ in L.A., nobody walks in L.A.
Walkin’ in L.A.
Walkin’ in L.A., only a nobody walks in L.A.

Walking in L.A., Missing Persons (1983)

The Blog Banter question of the month is about walking in stations and what the future of this feature should be in EVE Online.

This, of course, requires us to step into the Wayback Machine and visit EVE Online of about four years ago, back in June 2011, when we knew Star Wars Galaxies was going away, Star Wars the Old Republic was coming,  SOE’s Station Access was finally coming down in price, Team Fortress 2 was going free to play, LEGO Universe was doomed, and Richard Garriott was a still just a nut interested in making games on Facebook.

And into that, CCP launched the Incarna expansion in New Eden.

The Incarna expansion is probably the most controversial expansion ever to grace the game.

(I wish Sugar Kyle’s history of EVE Online expansions had an entry on Incarna, but it is only up to Dominion at this point.  Waiting for that one.)

It wasn’t ALL bad.  We got a decent agent finder out of it.  But overall, the expansion was not well received.

You can tell when outsiders, people who did not play EVE Online, talk about the Incarna expansion, because they jump straight to “monoclegate” and babble on about costly items in the cash shop as though that were the sole problem.

Monocles, as I have said before, were barely an issue and people who bring that up are only exposing their ignorance of the situation.  Yes, there was a sudden, and loud, backlash against the pricing.  But the fact that monocles are still in the cash shop and still cost as much as they did back then, yet nobody complains, pretty much takes the air out of that idea.

Yes, it did not help that CCP kept talking about monocles long after everybody else moved on.  CCP showed itself to be remarkably out of touch with its players during Incarna, blathering on about knowing what people want in the cash shop while failing to hear the swelling complaints about the REAL issue with the expansion.

The problem was the Captain’s Quarters.

Your new home

Your new home

For years, the fact that you could never get out of your pod and see your actual character was talked about as an issue in EVE Online.  This made the game different than World of Warcraft or EverQuest or other popular MMOs.  It is easier to be social if you can see a human avatar, or so the argument went.  People would regularly ask if we would ever be allowed to get out of our ships.

So when CCP started talking about “walking in stations,” there was some clearly some excitement.

Unfortunately, in keeping things close to their vest, CCP did not do a lot to manage expectations.  People projected prodigious visions of what “walking in stations” would mean in New Eden.  There was talk of role playing events and setting up casinos or stores and being able to see your ship from the outside.  But the biggest theme seemed to be the ability to just interact with other people as avatars rather than ships.  They even gave us a shiny new character creation tool a few months early.  This was going to be great.

And then Incarna hit and everybody’s projected vision of the future quickly vanished.  Rather than an open station environment or any of the backdrops people seemed to dream about, we got the Captain’s Quarters, a small, 3D environment that you alone could occupy.  No social interaction was possible with your new 3D avatar.

All you could do is move awkwardly about your “one size fits all” quarters or sit on your couch and watch some game information scroll past.

What is on Space TV today?

What is on Space TV today?

Okay, you could walk out and look at your active ship as well.

Behold the mighty Sushi Boat!

Behold the mighty Sushi Boat!

But the functionality was pretty minimal, the benefits were tiny, and the whole thing was a resource hog.  Many people, myself included, turned the Captain’s Quaters off very quickly, only to find that the old hangar view, where you could see which ship was active, had been replaced by the now infamous door.

The Immobile Hanger Door

The Immobile Hanger Door

This lead to another “CCP being tone deaf” moment as they mocked the idea of “ship spinning” as being an important feature.  People were angry.  Complaints about these new features began to pile up.   There were problems… serious problems… with the game.  There were features that had been implemented and left to stew for years without revision.   Yet CCP chose to invest their time in this “do nothing” feature?

Then there was a leak of an internal CCP newsletter with its “Greed is Good” theme that explored the idea of selling “gold spaceships” that would be better than player produced items and the lid just came off and the so-called “summer of rage” began.  CCP went on the defensive while in New Eden people protested by flying around the monument in Jita, shooting at it and demanding CCP listen.  The CSM, as impotent within the rules back then as they are now, took their message out of school and The Mittani became a very vocal champion for change.

CCP went from a “we know best” dismissive stance to trying to figure out how they could get a very vocal segment of their player base to calm down.  A special CSM summit was held, with a few members being flown out.  It was an adversarial event and while there was a resolution, the two sides could not agree on wording for a summary statement, so issued two different versions, with attempts to save face apparent on the CCP side of things.

This was a turning point for CCP.  The next expansion was Crucible, and it started what became a longer term focus on fixing and improving the features of the game.  This was a good thing, or such is my view of the world.

Which brings us back to the question of what CCP should do about walking in stations and the Captain’s Quarters.

The answer is “nothing.”

I honestly do not think CCP could generate sufficient interest in the player base to focus on such a feature without getting people riled up.  I would be interested to see some stats on Captain’s Quarters usage, but unless it is hugely popular, I think CCP walking away from the feature was the right decision, nor do I think they should try to return to it.  Doubly so since World of Darkness is out of the picture, so they can no longer piggy back development on that project.

A problem with MMOs, and especially subscription MMOs, is there is a strong desire to be all things to all people, because every player is potentially more money in the bank every month.  So you get games like EverQuest II, which has a perfectly good PvE environment, spinning its wheels for almost a decade at this point trying to introduce some sort of viable, popular PvP aspect to the game.  SOE has copied just about every idea out there, but it has never amounted to much because PvP is simply not a core feature that most EQII players want.

Likewise, people getting out of space and out of their ships and walking around in an avatar rich environment in a station can never be a core feature of EVE Online.  It would always be a side item, a distraction, a place where people would go to escape the core of the game rather than join in with it.  And with a company CCP’s size, to go after walking in stations would require them to stop working on core aspects of the game.

Fortunately, the team at CCP seems completely focused not just on the core aspects of the game, but in transforming them into something greater than they are now.  And until that journey is done, I think we are safe from talk about walking in stations.

EVE Online is already the most social MMO I have played.  All that angst way back when about never being able to get out of your ship seems, in retrospect, to be worrying about something that wasn’t a really problem at all.

Nobody walks in L.A., or in New Eden.

Of course, I am sure somebody will disagree.  Those participating in Blog Banter #62 “ReIncarnated” are listed below:

 

This is EVE and EVE is Different

What would we encourage ALL new players to do in their first month to get them to subscribe long term, if we had to give out one set of advice for everyone (which we do if we’re giving general advice)?

The Question for Blog Banter #61

Well, the first thing I would tell a new player is how easy they have it these days with their “warp to zero” and their agent finder and their fancy fitting interface that is all easy to use and informative!  Back in my day the game was actively hostile towards you, ships looked like they were made out of beer cans, and asteroids appeared to be so many potatoes floating in space…

What was that?  Get to the point?  I was getting there!  Kids today, always in such a damn hurry.

Advice?

EVE Online will not meet your expectations.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’re going to come charging in with some ideas in mind and EVE just isn’t going to line up with them.

Part of this is because of our desire to categorize things.  We stamp “MMO” on the side of the EVE Online box and drop it in the bin with World of Warcraft and EverQuest and Wizard 101 and call it a day.

And yes, if you pull back far enough, all of those games share similar characteristics.  For somebody who doesn’t care about MMOs, “WoW in space” is probably a sufficient characterization for EVE.

But even if you are just a mild MMO fan and do not suffer from the affliction of the connoisseur and bristle when somebody describes Lord of the Rings Online as “WoW in Middle-earth” because you can name fifty significant (to you) differences between the games, EVE Online is still an odd duck.

If you look at blogs from people playing World of WarcraftBelghast, Alt:ernative Chat, Kinless, Ysharros, or whoever… our posts tend to be about similar things.  Right now we’re writing about garrisons and leveling up and equipment and interesting sites in Draenor and items that pretty much cement that we are all playing the same game.

If you look at blogs from people playing EVE OnlineKirith Kodachi, Rixx Javix, Sugar Kyle, Gevlon, EVE Hermit…  things can be quite different.  Sure, some days we are all talking about the same thing, like the latest expansion.  But there are times when we clearly aren’t just playing in different areas of the game, but it seems like we might be playing totally different games.

EVE is an MMO the way a Swiss Army Knife is a knife.  If you really want just a knife… which we’ll define as a WoW-like NPC driven set of goals… it can be used for that, but you wouldn’t want to carve the Thanksgiving turkey with it.

I’ve posted this chart before.  The source site has the chart hooked up so clicking on a box brings you to semi-appropriate, somewhat out of date information on that particular aspect of the game.

What to do in EVE Online - A Chart

What to do in EVE Online – A Chart

That is a guide to a series of possible professions or goals or whatever in the game.  Each is a deep well which you could spend months, if not years, exploring and perfecting.  Or you could lightly explore a few at once, mix and match, or whatever.  And this chart is a few years old, so there are probably a couple more boxes that could be added at this point.

And like the Swiss Army Knife analogy, none of boxes are probably the best  experience possible for a given activity.  Some are crude, silly, or seem tacked on at times just to say that there is such a thing.  But you don’t buy a Swiss Army Knife because you need a single-purpose tool, and you don’t play EVE Online because it offers a single, linear experience.

You play EVE Online because it mixes all of those possible experiences into a single universe.  And it works… sort of… in a Rube Goldberg, this might spin out of control or go horribly wrong at any moment way.  The sum is greater than the whole of its, at times, rather mediocre parts.  It is an interlinked, living, breathing, system made up of a couple hundred thousand people doing their little space jobs and making things, moving things, or blowing things up.  All aspects are equally important in this mix as people go about their lives in space.

And the interaction with other people is a key, maybe THE key.  In no other MMO do I interact with so many different players, be it at the end of a laser, through the market, in my fleet, or just flying by in space.  All those people doing their thing.  You don’t have to join a corp or be in a big group or whatever.  You can play EVE solo, there being no wrong way to play.  But you cannot escape other people, good, bad, and indifferent.  The game is a fine mix of parts, each dependent in its own way on all the others, and people drive that.  Why I remember this one time I was in a system alone, way out in Omist and there was this other pilot… we were out there blowing up stuff that belonged to his alliance… anyway, there we were, both on the gate and he locked me up… and this really illustrates the dichotomy of man, the whole Jungian thing… and then…

What?  I’m rambling?  What was the question again?

What would I tell a new player to do in their first month to keep them subscribed in the long term?

That’s easy.  Go join Brave Newbies, get into null sec, and have a blast blowing stuff up.  The rest of the game is for losers.

Is it time for my nap yet?

Oh, here are some other people who tried to answer the same question.  They might have different opinions, this being EVE Online and all, and probably more useful than what I have had to say.

You Can Be Almost Space Famous…

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

The specific topic statement is:

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

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

Almost...

Almost…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why does CCP go with a player election?

Because they can.

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

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

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

All of which leads to something like a community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Horrible Community…

The latest Blog Banter in action right now, number 52, is looking at the current average online user plateau in EVE Online and asking what lies beyond it.  Is this just a breather in the game’s growth or is this a peak and are we now looking at the inevitable decline that afflicts all such games over time?  The main evidence of a plateau has been presented in the form of the concurrent online users graph from EVE Offline, which has stubbornly sat at about a 30K user average through a time of subscription growth and peak concurrent player records.

The Graph

The Graph

The answers from participating bloggers have varied.  While the most common response seems to be along the lines of “nothing new to see, nothing new to do,” other ideas have bubbled up.  There is no plateau.  The graph is a lie.  The pool of potential players isn’t big enough or MMOs in general have ceased to be a draw.

And there is my own view, which is the game is too hard and requires too much of a commitment to play for it to be a reasonable choice for most people.  That came up a couple of times.  And when you have to give lessons on how to play your game, that argument might have merit.

There is a reason I have been playing a lot more World of Warcraft than EVE Online lately.  It isn’t that I don’t enjoy EVE.  It is the fact that, with a limited time budget, I can log into WoW and accomplish something right away.  I have very few wasted evenings.  No hoping for a fleet only to find you can’t get to it or don’t have the right ship handy.   No waiting on a titan for an hour only to stand down because the hostiles went home.   No sitting on a gate hoping you’ll catch somebody coming through.  I can log into WoW and run an instance or do a few dailies or harvest or work on an alt.  There is a convenience factor there that is hard to beat.

So that is my response to the plateau question.  The game is difficult and niche enough to the point that you really have to love it to put up with it.  We ought to be surprised that at least 200,000 player can make that commitment. (Using the highest accounts to individuals ratio estimate I have seen, which was 2.5.)  We are not going to find a large pool of new players.  The best we can hope for is that CCP will add new features to the game that will get burnt out older players to return to the fold.

The upside is that I don’t think numbers are going to plummet barring any really bad move by CCP.  With EVE, once you have accepted the commitment it requires, you hate to give it up.

But out of all the responses to this blog banter, there was one response I expected to see repeated multiple times.  But only one post (now two) zeroed in on this.  I expected to hear a lot more about the EVE Online community.

Because it is pretty much an accepted point of fact that EVE Online is a terrible game for terrible people.  It is full of scammers and gankers and sociopaths whose sole enjoyment in life is ruining the game for other people.

So are we all blind?  Is this Blog Banter a demonstration of cognitive dissonance or some sort of mass blind spot we share?

Certainly EVE Online allows behavior that would get you banned in other games.  And you don’t have to go very far to find scams.  Local chat in any one of the key trading hubs, Jita, Amarr, Hek, or Dodixie, will have a constant stream of “double your ISK” and “Contracts for Nothing” scams in them.

But all in all, after more than seven years playing the game, player behavior that one might reasonably consider “bad” has been no more prevalent in  EVE Online than in any other online game I have played.  I have never fallen for a scam.  I’ve been suicide ganked once.  And I had my mining can flipped once.

For the suicide gank I was AFK hauling expensive cargo in a cheap ship and the can flip happened in a system that was the equivalent of a dark ally in a bad part of town for miners.  I basically stopped doing the former and moved over a few systems for the latter and was never bothered again.  Everything else that has happened to me in EVE has been done with the knowledge, or at least the acceptance, that risk was involved.

Compared to “bad” player behavior over my time in World of Warcraft, that is nothing.  People in EVE have, in general, been pretty nice to me.  Even people that kill you will often engage in a post action discussion about what happened.  But I also try not to be an ass.

So I went and Googled variations on the phrase “Horrible Community” and found that somebody out there thinks just about every game has a horrible community.  Some results:

  • This community is horrible – World of Warcraft
  • Horrible community destroying awesome game – FFXIV
  • Great game but the community is horrible – League of Legends
  • DotA 2’s Horrible Community – DotA 2
  • COD4 = Horrible community!!! – Call of Duty 4
  • Great game, horrible community – Tribes: Ascend
  • Horrible community – Rust
  • Great Game… Horrible Community… – Path of Exile
  • Minecrafts HORRIBLE community – Minecraft
  • You People are a HORRIBLE Community – Killzone
  • Rift community is horrible – Rift
  • Horrible community – Heroes of Newerth
  • pvp community is horrible – SWTOR
  • Horrible People In GW2’s Community – Guild Wars 2
  • The community here is something horrible – TERA
  • Why is the TW community so horrible? – Total War: Shogun 2
  • GTA Online has a terrible community – GTA Online
  • Possibly a good game, ruined by the horrible community – Tibia

Not at all a scientifically valid set of results, just what bubbled to the top of searches.

Oddly difficult to find for that particular term was EVE Online and EverQuest.  The top variation I came across for EVE was on the site I Hate MMORPGs, which is a great idea for a blog, but I wasn’t sure how much weight that should be given.

And EverQuest… well, I know EverQuest had community problems.  I think its absence is just a matter of that game having peaked so far back that we’re all sporting rose colored glasses on the topic to a certain extent.  We certainly saw a return to bad behavior on the Fippy Darkpaw server with players and guilds resorting to all the same tactics that were used back in the “good old days.”  And SOE had to fall back on the same responses it did back then.

Basically, all communities are horrible, if you define horrible in all the ways that were used in my list of results.  The reasons communities were called horrible ranged from  “nobody will do my heavy lifting for me” to “people say annoying things in general chat” to “somebody told me I was bad at the game” to “my personal, unpublished, and anything but universal set of etiquette rules was violated” to “people insist on speaking languages other than my own.”

When people are allowed to interact, there will be friction.  Don’t get me started on the local PTA, homeowners associations, or cross-functional project teams.

And while there are legitimate gripes about gaming communities and what we sometimes tolerate when perhaps we shouldn’t, the most common complaints sound like a bunch of old ladies complaining at the grocery store checkout.  Sorry, was that misogyny? We seem to gloss over a lot of that.

Or such is my view of the world.  I am sure somebody will come by and tell me I’m wrong.  That is part of the whole community thing.

Here are some of the other responses to Blog Banter 52:

In Space You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Well Tanked

Blog Banter #49, wherein Kirith Kodachi asks, “What is ‘rich’ in EVE?”

WholeLottaISK

I remember being in 8th grade and the class being assigned a project about careers.  It was a standard assignment and the library had all sorts of government produced information about various careers, what education you needed to get into the right path, and how much they paid.

As 13 year old boys are wont to do, we tended to fixate on what seemed cool and what paid well.  Plenty of potential astronauts were recruited in that project.  I recall my own plan being to go to the Air Force Academy, then to flight school.  I’d fly something cool.  I liked the idea of the newly-in-service A-10 at the time.  Then I would retire from the Air Force and become an airline pilot and live the good life, well paid and respected.

Not an impossible dream.  A friend up the street did pretty much exactly that.  But a few weeks after that report was turned in, we got to go to the brand new lab that Apple, just down the street, donated to the school.  It consisted of maybe half a dozen straight-up Apple II computers complete with monitor and cassette tape storage.  I had no idea how much a career in computers would pay, but I was on that path from there forward.

Still, I remember wondering what life would be like if I made as much money as some of the careers I read about.  Certainly if you had told 13 year old me how much money I would make as an adult in Silicon Valley, I would have assumed I would be living in a mansion, with an expansive car or two in the driveway, rich beyond cares.

Continued after the cut.

Continue reading

Blog Banter #48 – You Want the Lore? You Can’t Handle the Lore!

Mrs Caldari Citizen 561237412,

We deeply regret to inform you that your son, Caldari Citizen 564752873, was killed in action on July 28th. His ship, the Dongs Dongs Butttes Dongs, self-destructed for unknown reasons.

A Board of Inquiry was formed to address these issues. Captian xWeedLordXxXGoku420x was found to have acted properly on all counts when the court learned that he was 27 jumps from home and his ship was a stock-issue Slasher. He has been provided a new crew and Slasher.

In deepest sympathy,
The Mittani
CEO Goonwaffe
(signed on his behalf)

In partial fullfilment of Blog Banter #48, which asks, “How important is the lore in EVE Online?”

Not very important at all.

There, am I done yet?

No?

Okay, some of the lore does get impressed upon us at.  The tutorial explains the EVE Gate and how humanity ended up in New Eden, though it never quite gets to why I feel the need to write “EVE” in all capital letters.  It isn’t an acronym.  It is just the way that CCP styles it.  But back to lore.  I bet some of you can even tell me which system in EVE Online the  EVE Gate resides in.

The lore also explains the four main factions of EVE Online, their background and political system.  And while I am sure players tend to skim over that sort of thing, I bet most can match up the faction with its political system.  Go ahead, print this out and drawn a line between the faction and the description of it’s primary political philosophy.

Amarr          Shareholder Rights
Caldari        Rounded Edges
Gallente       Worship of the Rust God
Minmatar       Aging Skinhead Rulers

And the lore of EVE Online does touch us nearly every day, influencing our decisions, shaping our goals.

There is the Consolidated Cooperation and Relations Command, better known as CONCORD. (As with the Amalgamation of Regional Militia (ARM), it sounds like the acronym came first, then some words were forced into place.)  CONCORD is part of the lore and it heavily influences how PvP happens in large parts of space.  Who you can shoot, what gates you can go near, how you fit your ship for a gank, and whether or not you are safe to fly in high sec space at all is influenced by CONCORD.

Likewise, the somewhat insane lore that dictates that you can insure ships influences behavior in game.  The reimbursement policy of many an alliance assumes that you will buy the Platinum Insurance Package for your ship before you fly off into battle.  I would love to see the balance sheet for the insurance system of New Eden.  It is probably so out of balance that we should consider magic money to be part of the lore as well.

And then there are ships and ship design philosophies, which is probably where lore comes closest to touching every single player in EVE Online.  Some of it is so ingrained that people might not even think of it as lore.  That the Amarr like phallic shapes, that the Caldari think asymmetry makes them edgy and modern, that the Gallente think green doesn’t make them look fat, and that the Minmatar have figured out how to make metal rust in a vacuum… plus the various armament and tanking philosophies… influence our ship choices.

But it emphasizes my front still, right?

Some (or all) of those philosophies end up becoming part of the game framework of any long term player.  And it is driven by lore.

So the lore is important to the degree that it does shape our play style choices.  But the lore doesn’t stop there.  No, it just keeps on rolling.

There are ongoing updates from CCP about the political struggles amongst the four major NPC factions, like that time… when that guy… crashed his ship into that station… and the Caldari and the Gallente went to war or some such… and the dead station was there in space for all of us to ignore as we went about our very important space business.  And then Factional Warfare was introduced, left to stagnate for a while, and was eventually spruced up and incentivized so people would play it.  And manipulate it.  Because this is EVE Online.  That was all part of one plan.  I think.

There are the back stories to all of those infinitely staffed and supplied rebel/pirate organizations, like Sansha’s Nation and The Guristas.  I am not sure how deeply involved with that back story anybody really gets when running missions or clearing anomalies, so long as there are more to shoot.

And then there are the lore details that most people don’t even get to.  Like the fact that, according to the lore, ships have crews.  That is canon right there bub, you do not fly alone.   Somebody has to tend the fedos.

People discover, dig up, or remember the crew thing every so often.  Jester wrote about it back in March, mostly to muse aloud about whether crews that live long enough ought to bestow benefits upon ship performance.  He also put up this nice little chart that I can never find when I look for it, so I am going to steal it right from him.

Ship Staffing Parameters

Ship Staffing Parameters

Somebody in the Something Awful forums stumbled upon the ship’s crew aspect EVE Online, and the game discussion thread devolved into an exploration of that bit of lore for several pages.  The quote at the top of this post is from one of the responses to the crew question, an example of the thousands of letters of condolence that one might imagine has to be sent out after battles like the one at 6VDT.  Boodabooda’s signature might have been stamped on as many as 25,000 such notes just for Prophecy crews alone after that battle, assuming a crew of 100 and a 30% survival rate.

And the discussion went on to wonder where all these crew members come from.  How do you recruit the thousands of warm bodies needed to work the internal systems of the ships in your fleet.  At 6VDT we had more than 900 Megathrons in the system, which could represent more than 270,000 crew members.  Who signed them up?  How did they get out to 4-EP?  Who feeds them?  What motivated them to join one side or another?  Are citizens of the various empires press ganged into serving?  Are conditions down on the planets of New Eden so terrible that a likely death in the vacuum of space seems like a reasonable choice and where most of your life is spent in a station in the middle of contested space?  And to whom do these crews hold allegiance?

Sometimes it might not be in your best interest to look too closely at the game lore.

But I will change my opening statement and grant that the lore is important, at least as a framework for our lives in New Eden.  It just is not that important in terms of the story of our own experiences in EVE Online, the tales we tell and the memories we create through playing the game.  In the end, player made lore behind a list like this:

2009-02-04
16:04 Alliance Band of Brothers has been disbanded
16:04 Corporation Keiretsu has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Relentless Construction has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Tin Foil has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Black Eclipse Corp has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Reikoku has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Destructive Influence has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation TAOSP has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Black Nova Corp has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation gettingaDeathSquad has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Justice. has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Evolution has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation FinFleet has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Oh Canada has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Umbrage Inc. has left alliance Band of Brothers

is far more important than where the Guristas came from (and why they keep coming back) or what happens to your crew when your ship gets blown up… again.

Other, more serious entrants in the Blog Banter: